So How Are We Different?

From One Green Planet

“How we treat animals is often dependent on how they display characteristics we think are human.”

That is why London-based animal photographer Tim Flach focuses his lens on the close-up detail that “beautifully highlights the similarities between animals and humans. Flach told the New York Times that he wants his photos to engage people in debates about our relationship with animals.”

“If you go to the supermarket today, we’re more used to seeing packaged animals with no feathers and no head,” he says. He aims to show us how they should be seen. More and more we are learning about nonhumans’ personality, intelligence, and emotions, that are just like ours.

Animals display loving tendencies towards their young, their family, and their friends

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They have proven to be much more intelligent than we ever thought possible

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Though we feel like we are above or “better than” animals …

Photographer Takes Stunningly Simple Photos to Show Human and Animal Similarities

… they are incredibly similar to us in many ways

 

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Their emotional capacity is astounding

Photographer Takes Stunningly Simple Photos to Show Human and Animal Similarities

Even the animals we consider completely different from us have human-like qualities

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If you truly look at the animals around you …

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… you will find how much you have in common with them …

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… and how amazing they truly all are

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Please, please, please check out Tim’s website. I have rarely, if ever, seen such stunning photos of animals. The man is a genius!

 

Source

Photographer Takes Stunningly Simple Photos to Show Human and Animal Similarities | One Green Planet

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Humans’ Schizoid View of Animals Exposed in Subversive Art

“In addition to our household cat, I had numerous pets – frogs, lizards, rats, turtles, fish, a rabbit and a family of adorable ducks. My childhood was replete with books about animals, animal toys and images of cute and cuddly animals… There I was, like most children, growing up believing I loved animals yet I was consuming animals daily. Whilst my love of animals was fostered, my taste for animal products was simultaneously cultivated.”

New Zealand-born prizewinning vegan artist Claude Jones describes her childhood – conditioned like every typical child into sustaining two completely contradictory ideas about animals at the same time in one brain. What we now, of course, call cognitive dissonance.

“My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”

Her work which appears quite simple, has a lot going on under the surface. She employs a deceptively innocent fairytale style, delicately drawn and in soft colours, as if for kids’ storybooks. The animals she depicts are anthropomorphised just as they so often are in children’s books. But our minds struggle to make sense of what our eyes are telling us – the shocking incongruity of the actions they are engaged in. Rabbits, universally viewed as timid and gentle, are seen wielding knives against other animals. A dog is bullfighting, or acting as circus ringmaster to a performing elephant, or experimenting on a hapless rabbit. Any given animal can appear as either perpetrator or victim. And yet all of them portraying ‘normal’ human activities that are not only legal but culturally acceptable, and accepted.

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But let Claude continue her story: “For some time [as a child] I could only assume that we ate animals when they had died of old age. … we attempt to compensate for the murder of our fellow sentient beings in bucolic images in stories and animated films of happy, healthy farm animals grazing and sunbathing in lush fields, joyously bounding about, scratching, sniffing the earth, cuddling their human companions, and so on. I soon came to understand the brutal truth and simply could not reconcile my love of animals with harming them, let alone killing them. With plenty of other food options to choose from, at age 16, I decided to become a vegetarian.”

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“Much later, in 2010, I finally made the connection between all animal products and animal suffering and decided it was time to shift from vegetarianism to veganism.”

Claude-Jones_Bull-terror_2015_mixed-media-on-paper_15x15cm“I find myself simultaneously fascinated and frustrated by our contradictory treatment of animals. Our human-centric perspective of the animal world positions rabbits, for example, as both cuddly companion animals but also as, laboratory specimens, meat and fur “products”. We support an industry that raises millions of pets that are accepted members of families yet trap, cage, torture and kill billions of animals annually for food, fur, leather.  My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”Claude-jones_Bullies_2015_mixed-media-on-paper_85x141cm

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Much of Claude’s work reveals her concern about modern science’s meddling with nonhumans. In an earlier post  I wrote about the science of gene-editing, CRISPR. Using CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) humans can now edit the genes of both animals and plants to ‘custom-build’ them in any way considered desirable and/or profitable. So already you can for example, if you have the money, order yourself a designer dog with black and yellow stripes – or brown with red spots – yes really. Maybe the creature Claude depicts here isn’t so very fanciful.

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Take a look at some of the other bizarre creatures of Claude’s imagination in her Gallery collection, ‘Hybrid”. At one and the same time amusing and nightmarish, I think you’ll agree. But too close to present day scientific reality for comfort.

Fantastical hybrids appear in many world mythologies. The ancient Greeks, for instance, told of the dread Chimaera, a flame-belching monster made of body parts from three different animals. Nowadays the all-too-real ‘chimaeras’ don’t breath fire, but are every bit as monstrous – gene-edited pigs made to grow up with human hearts, ‘harvested’ at the right time to remedy the shortage of human-donated organs for human transplants.

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“Jones questions the domination of humankind over all animal life, and our assumed right to meddle with the natural order of other species.”

Simon Gregg, Art Curator

For me Claude’s powerful art epitomises the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It speaks volumes about Man’s rationally untenable, schizoid relationship with his fellow creatures.

Visit Claude’s website to learn more, and browse through her gallery of disturbing and thought-provoking pictures. There’s a good chance you will feel the need to fix a conflicted mind (and soul, and life), the inevitable result of attempting the impossible: making sense of schizoid presumptions about our fellow animals that are, unhappily, conventional wisdom today.

If that resonates with you, you could do much worse than trying vegan. It’s not hard and the rewards are great. As great as bringing your life into sweeter harmony with Life. I guarantee it.

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3 Genius Ways of Helping Rescue Dogs – & Cats – But Mainly Dogs!

“This was just a small, tiny, organic, nice gesture of kindness and it’s resonated with people all across the country. Anybody can do it. It doesn’t have to a be big thing; it can just be walking a dog.”

Luis Escobar, coach at Californian high school St. Joseph’s one day surprised his runners with a bunch of four-leggers super keen to join them on their run – pooches normally cooped up in the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter.

Fun was had by all, regardless of leg number. Luis made this little video.

As you can see, all relished being out in the big wide world, though one was a bit of a tortoise. And Fred – well Fred preferred to travel in style (reminds me of my own rescue canine!) It proved for him a tactic with a payoff, because he scored himself a nice new home – runner and ‘Fred-carrier’ Josh Menusa and his family ended up adopting him.

As if this little story is not wonderful enough, after Luis posted his video on Facebook, his simple but genius idea caught fire and spread all over the country. And why wouldn’t it? Runners love to run, and so do pups – a match made in heaven.

Find out more here


Now for genius off-the-wall idea no.2 – books

A good run-out, yes that makes sense, but books? For dogs? Seems the mutts are particularly partial to a good animal yarn. But if you’re letting your imagination run wild with visions of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles”, “Lassie”, and “101 Dalmations” lining the walls in dog pens, let me bring you gently back down to earth. Dogs are clever but not that clever. Or maybe they are, because they let us do the work for them and in some choice shelters they have a child human read to them. Why keep a dog and bark yourself, is what they say.

The kids sit on the floor in front of the pens so it’s the dog’s choice how much he/she wants to interact. It’s a quiet gentle activity that seems to have a calming effect on stressed animals.

It helps shy and fearful dogs overcome their insecurities and increase their chances of being adopted.”

This little guy is rapt!

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Pic Humane Society of Missouri/Facebook

And everyone’s a winner:

  • The kids aren’t frightened of making a mistake reading to animals as they would be with people. It increases their confidence – animals are so nonjudgmental
  • A study at the University of California found that children who participated in a 10-week reading program at a shelter saw a 12 percent improvement in their reading
  • It is the perfect way to teach children the importance of compassion, and the need to adopt not shop
  • It helps create positive ties between a shelter and the community it’s in

Why not find out if your local shelter has such a scheme, and if not, suggest they might like to start one.

Plenty more lush ideas of how you can show your love for shelter animals here


Our third genius idea really is genius! Where do folk rustle up these amazing ideas? I wish I knew. Here you go – optical illusions

Under the slogan, “There’s always room for more. Adopt”, World for All in Mumbai, India commissioned these marvels that speak better than words because they speak to the heart.

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All 3 amazing pics by Amal Jadhav for World for All’s adoption event

What family could resist finding a place in their lives for a needy animal after seeing these? The pics’ impact was huge. Attendance at the adoption event was up 150 percent from the previous year, and saw 42 adoptions. The plan is to repeat the event yearly after such phenomenal success.

Thanks to the Dodo for that uplifting story


So there we have it – three stories of fun ways to help get animals out of shelters and into loving homes. When you decide to get a dog or a cat to make your home complete, ‘paws’ for thought, and ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.

Just look at these sad statistics:

  • The Daily Mail reported that the number of stray or abandoned dogs in the UK reached 110,000 in 2013, and that 21 are put down every single day.
  • The RSPCA rescued and collected 118,994 animals of all kinds in 2015 in the UK, and were only able to rehome 47,651 of those.
  • The ASPCA tells us that in the USA approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  • And that each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats)

And they are not just numbers. Each individual one an aching heart just crying out for a loving home. #AdoptDontShop Helping Abused or Abandoned Animals


To end on a brighter note, a bit of doggy fun for dog slaves everywhere.

The Amazing Abilities of Dogs – Take the Quiz here

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Animal cruelty-free testing methods will be tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“Animal testing is considered unnecessarily cruel by many, especially since new methods are being developed to take its place. The most promising are organ-chips that contain human cells and imitate the complexity of particular organs. Now they are on their way to being commonly used. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office has just entered into an agreement last Tuesday with the company Emulate that creates ‘organs-on-chips’ to develop and test the technology.

“Using these organ-chips could eliminate the need to test drugs or cosmetics on animals. These chips are much more accurate than animal testing, which is good for animals and for us. The chip is the size of an AA battery. It is transparent and made out of flexible polymers. The chip contains little channels filled with tens of thousands of human cells and fluid that imitate human functions and reproduce blood and air flow similarly to in the body. Therefore, chips can recreate breathing motions and muscle contractions.
“‘We are excited to begin this relationship with FDA as a potential first step toward accelerating the adoption of our Human Emulation System for broad application as a new testing platform for a wide range of products that are reviewed and approved by regulatory authorities to protect and improve human health.’– Geraldine A. Hamilton, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Emulate.”

Isn’t this epic? A fantastic breakthrough – not even so much the technology which has been around for a while, but the fact that Emulate has been able to forge this agreement with the FDA.

Though no-one knows exact numbers, it is reckoned that every year more than 100 million animals in the US alone, are subjected to chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests, as well as medical training exercises and experiments at universities. And that’s without including mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals, which actually make up more than 99 percent of animals used in experiments, but because they are not covered by even the limited protections of America’s Animal Welfare Act, go uncounted

Cruelty Free International tells us:

  • The USA heads the list of the top 10 animal testing countries in the world, which include Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil.
  • Animal experiments are sadly not in decline, and in many parts of the world are on the increase  (e.g. China) or remain at the same level as they were in the 1980s or 1990s (e.g. the UK, Europe).
Whatever, one animal being tortured in a lab – and it always is torture – is one too many.

The US Department of Agriculture is responsible for monitoring the application of animal welfare legislation for animals in labs. It’s not exactly renowned for the rigour of its oversight at the best of times. Then two months ago this headline appeared in The Washington Post:

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.”

So this latest news from Emulate and the FDA is all the more welcome – and surprising, considering the state of play in Washington DC right now.

Where the US leads, others are swift to follow. Let us hope this will indeed be the beginning of the end of animal suffering in laboratories.

Meanwhile, here are 10 animal research petitions you can sign, all on one page: Care2 Animal Research petitions

And urge the European Commission and the European Parliament for a moratorium on animal experimentation here

And read more about the new cooperation between Emulate and the FDA here.

Read more about biomedical research in the US here.

Other sources

Animal Testing 101

Facts and figures on animal testing

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

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Futurology Promises More Hopes than Fears for the Animals & the Planet

Futurology says you really can have too many bees!

Even the most indifferent to environmental issues and our native flora and fauna would have to be blind and deaf not to have registered the torrent of bad news about the dramatic and worrying decline in bee population numbers over the last few years.

So how could you possibly have too many bees?

We know of course that bee colonies are trucked all over the USA to pollinate crops as each comes into flower each year.

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But until I came to write this post, I for one was completely unaware that right now millions of bees are being shipped around the globe to work their pollination magic. Here in the UK it seems we import 40,000-50,000 colonies each year. And global bee commerce continues to expand.

This is a problem for at least two reasons:

  • The colonies – provided by a handful of global suppliers – are screened for diseases and parasites, but that screening is not foolproof. And the imported bees hosting pathogens can and do spread their unwanted ‘guests’ to the local populations with disastrous results. “The effects include killing bees outright, or harming their ability to learn, which is crucial in finding food. In Argentina, imported parasites are driving native species to extinction.”¹ As the trade exports the industrious little insects to ever more locations, the danger of harmful effects on native bees and food security increases.
  • As well as putting their local cousins at risk, the imported bees, by pollinating invasive non-native plant species, are likely to accelerate their dispersion with unknowable effects on local biodiversity.

So I guess the problem isn’t exactly having too many bees per se, but too many bees on the move carrying pathogens to all corners of the world. It’s ironic but perturbing that an industry that’s mushroomed in response to an ever-widening pollinator shortage, will likely itself exacerbate the downward trend.

A big conservation problem then. One of five recently identified as global environmental risks by an international team of experts in science communication, research and horizon scanning. Horizon scanning (otherwise known as Futurology or Future Studies) is a collaborative process of assembling all available data in a particular field to identify future trends, both positive and negative.

While in an ideal world the crystal ball would reveal zero future environmental risks, it’s good to know at least that this particular expert team – undertaking their horizon-scanning in the field of species and ecosystems pinpointed just 5 key risks, but twice as many hopeful opportunities. And as I’m keen to make this week a week of hope, I’ll list the remaining 4 risks in brief so we can get on to the good stuff.

1   Sand scarcity I don’t know about you, but this is one possible problem I wouldn’t have imagined. “Sand is used in a diverse range of industries and as the human population increases so does the demand for sand. Impacts of sand mining include loss of species, degradation of habitats and social conflict”.

2  Border fences affecting wild animals The impenetrable wall between the USA and Mexico promised by President Trump would adversely affect desert bighorn sheep, the endangered North American jaguar, the ocelot – now down to the last 50 in southern Texas and the cougar (pictured here).cougar-718092_960_720

In total it’s estimated that 111 endangered species could suffer as a result of Trump’s wall, as well as 108 species of migratory birds.” Sadly the trend is not confined to the USA. The increased use of border fencing in Europe and elsewhere will have similar detrimental effects on the movement, migration and survival of wild animal species.²

3  Changes in waste management affecting wild animals Another trend that wouldn’t spring immediately to mind – closing or covering rubbish dumps. That might sound like a positive, but will be bad news for wildlife scavengers habituated to this ready food supply.

4  Wind speeds at the sea surface are increasing data indicates, and so is the frequency of gales. The effect on seabirds and migrating marine animals is an unknown, but unlikely to be beneficial.

Bad news is always unwelcome I know. But even the bad can have its good side. If it throws the spotlight on to a problem, we can start looking for solutions. Take science’s revelation about the damage to marine life from plastic microbeads. The data that surfaced in 2010 was troubling to say the least, but bringing it to light did bring about quite speedy international action in the form of bans on their use.

Now that’s out the way we can, as promised, get to the good stuff – 10 new conservation opportunities opened up to us by advances in science and technology:

1  A new biological discovery: strains of Symbodinium (unicellular algae) found in coral reefs are resistant to heat and could hopefully be manipulated to protect reefs from the bleaching effect of rising temperatures in the ocean.

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2  An underwater robot called COTSbot has been very successful at controlling the crown-of-thorn starfish responsible for 40% of the damage to the Great Barrier Reef in the last 30 years. Robotics offer the prospect of more environmental wins. Watch COTSbot in action below.

3  The portable 3D-printed electronic ‘dogs’ nose, bizarre as it sounds, works even better than the real thing. It will provide a major new asset for sniffing out illegal wildlife goods, especially at border crossings, and offers the potential to disrupt major black market trade routes. That would be huge.

4  As a result of advances in genetic screening and engineering bacteria and fungi can now be used for biological pest control and growth stimulation treatments, averting the need to use artificial chemicals that harm biodiversity.

5  Ah, we’ve hit a snag. With this one it seems like risks and opportunities might be fairly equally balanced. We’re talking floating wind farms. Right now the biggest in the world is being constructed off the coast of Scotland. Though more efficient in supplying green energy than land-based, and good for fish seeking a refuge, they would be no better than their land-based counterparts at avoiding collateral damage to birds in flight. Plus there’s a chance they could entangle marine mammals.

6  The bionic leaf that makes fuel out of sunlight and water. Forget fitting solar panels to your roof. Just get your bionic leaf and make your own ready-to-use biomass. Watch the video to find out how.

7  Lithium-air batteries. Yet another technology entirely new to me. If produced commercially, these batteries could revolutionise the clean energy industry by enabling electric cars to run on a battery a fifth of the cost and a fifth of the weight of batteries currently on the market. This means you could travel from London to Edinburgh – just over 400 miles – on a single charge. Right now an electric car can only drive between 50 and 80 miles per charge. If you’re interested in the science, click here.

8  Reverse photosynthesis uses the sun’s energy to break down rather than build up plant material. It’s potential? To transform the production of biofuels and plastics and reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.

9  Carbon capture involves dissolving the carbon dioxide in water and injecting it into basalt rock, which is plentiful all around the globe. Once in the rock it undergoes a natural process. The basalts (volcanic rock) react with the gas-in-solution to form carbonate minerals. Hey presto, limestone! In the Iceland Carbfix project it took just two years for the  solution to solidify. Compare that with the hundreds or even thousands of years that was predicted. Only the lack of political will is holding this one back. Grrr.

10  bitcoin-1813507__340Blockchain technologyBy allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.”

In the environmental field, these could be: “establishing a currency market for trading carbon credits, improving supply chain traceability (e.g. for sustainable fish) and tracking illegal wildlife trade.”

Which all goes to prove there are few conservation issues for which science and technology cannot find an answer. Futurology is right to see the almost limitless opportunities they offer.

But it’s not human ingenuity that is ever in question. Humankind’s will to implement preventions and solutions most certainly is, both at political and individual level.

The good news is, we have the power in our hands to act at both levels. In politics we can use our vote for the planet. We can also throw your support behind organisations actively engaged in protecting nature and lobbying governments or challenging them in courts of law.

In the USA for example, we have the altogether wonderful Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club amongst others.

Here in the UK, we can support the Wildlife Trusts. We can be sure they will do all in their power to keep our government in line with the National Ecosystem Asessment. We can also join the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. They greatly value individuals’ input.

On a purely individual level Friends of the Earth has a wealth of ideas and tips for living an eco-friendly life which is well worth exploring.

It is so beyond time to stop ravaging the Earth in the pursuit of our own selfish interests. We are currently pursuing a path that is not only irresponsible and disrespectful, but ultimately self-defeating. The real interests of the human race lie not in the rape and pillage of our precious planet and all the life in it, but in due reverence, regaining a sense of wonder, and careful loving stewardship. We can do it.

After all, there is only one Earth.

“I will not dishonor my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
I will honor all life,
wherever and in whatever form it may dwell,
on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.”

– Diane Ackerman

Read about last year’s projections here

¹Imported bees pose risk to UK’s wild and honeybee population – The Guardian

²Building Walls – Purr and Roar. Excellent post on this topic I would heartily recommend. Also Border Fences Aimed at Stopping Immigrants are Killing Wildlife – Take Part

 

Source

15 risks and opportunities to global conservation – Fauna & Flora International

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Kids, Dogs, & Bob Marley

Kids can love dogs more than their siblings, & dogs love Bob Marley, studies show.


If your dog thinks you’re the best, don’t seek a second opinion. So says the magnet on my fridge.
And that affirmation is pretty much what kids are getting from their furry friends, finds a new study coming out of Cambridge University.  It seems kids often feel closer to their pet than to their siblings – especially if that pet is a canine. Not really so surprising is it, when dogs do unconditional love so much better than people.

For kids a pet, especially a dog, is always eager to hang out with you, play with you, always has time for you, is always there to listen to your woes.

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True, confiding in your doggy pal is something of a one-way conversation. He may not get much of what you’re saying and you’re unlikely to get a reply. But isn’t that a good thing? He will know how you feel, and he’ll never laugh at you, never mock, never say, “serves you right”, and most importantly, never tell on you to the grownups. He’ll just gaze at you adoringly, because after all, You Are The Best.

Pets in general improve kids’ quality of life and have “a positive effect on children’s social skills and emotional health.” And “the social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life.”

Furthermore, the study reveals that households with dogs are more peaceable, with “lower overall levels of conflict and greater owner satisfaction compared to other kinds of pets.”

No surprises there.

It really is impossible to exaggerate how good it is for kids to grow up with a pet in the family, especially a pup. Or the joy a mutt brings to its ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, its ‘Mum’ and Dad’.

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But if all that good stuff makes you want to rush out and get yourself a pet, press the pause button a minute. And please,

ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.

Just look at these sad statistics:

  • The Daily Mail reported that the number of stray or abandoned dogs in the UK reached 110,000 in 2013, and that 21 are put down every single day.
  • The RSPCA rescued and collected 118,994 animals of all kinds in 2015 in the UK, and were only able to rehome 47,651 of those.
  • The ASPCA tells us that in the USA approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  • And that each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats)

These are awful, unimaginable figures. All those loving hearts just crying out for a loving home. #AdoptDontShop

On a more cheerful note

In Scotland at least, shelter dogs’ days are about to look up – with music. The Scottish SPCA announced on its website, “In the future, every center will be able to offer our four-footed friends a canine-approved playlist with the view to extending this … to other species in the charity’s care.” The idea is to create a relaxed atmosphere for the ‘guests’ and reduce their stress.

bob-marley-1888509__340The announcement stems from another piece of research, this time from Glasgow University, looking into how playing different kinds of music to shelter dogs affects their stress levels. Would you believe, Bob Marley and John Denver appear to have the edge over Motown in the mutts’ musical preferences.

For the research, “Shelter dogs listened to a wide range of music from Spotify playlists. The genres varied from day to day, with the furry residents listening to classical, reggae, soft rock, pop and Motown in a series of experiments.

While each genre was playing, the researchers measured the dogs’ stress levels by monitoring their heart rate variability and cortisol levels. They also kept track of whether the dogs were lying down or barking while the music was on.

The researchers found that regardless of what type of music was playing, the dogs were generally “less stressed” with music vs. without. They spent significantly more time lying down (versus standing) when any type of music was playing. They also seemed to show a slight preference for reggae and soft rock, with Motown coming in last, but not by much.”

It did appear though that one pooch’s musical meat is another pooch’s poison. Dogs are just like us – for them music is a matter of individual taste. But every dog will have his day because to avoid that oh-no-not-again feeling, the SPCA intend to continue rotating the musical genres each day. Anything that helps these fur babies to relax and so increase their chances of adoption has to be a good thing. Because they have so much to give.

Let’s give the last word on that to the wonderful writer Milan Kundera:

“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”

Sources

Children can become closer to pets than to siblings, study finds – ZME Science

Stressed dogs prefer reggae and soft rock – MNN

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The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Cover pic from Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Two news items clicked together in the brain one week last year: one on the surface at least quite frivolous, and the other of such profound significance it has the potential to throw a bomb into life-as-we-know-it and blast us into utterly uncharted terrain.

Let’s start with the harebrained one. Do you remember when designer dogs first became the must-have accessory? Or maybe they always were. But a few years ago, someone came up with the bright idea of taking established breeds and cross-breeding them with each other in the search for the cutest combo-pup. Nowadays, puggles, goldendoodles, labskys and cockerpoos are everywhere. There was, and still is, good money to be made and breeders are cashing in.

Of course, this is nothing new. Humans have been interfering with natural selection for centuries, cross-breeding both animals and plants in the worlds of farming and horticulture, in search of desired ‘improvements’: more productive milk cows; heavier meatier livestock; disease-resistant crops; or just prettier flowers.

But cross-breeding as a way of getting what you want, is so yesterday. Make way for CRISPR.

CRISPR is not a typo, as one might be excused for thinking, describing how omnivores like their breakfast bacon. It is, apparently, the acronym for

Clustered   Regularly   Interspaced   Short   Palindromic   Repeats

Gene-editing to you and me. In the simplest of terms that I can understand, it means cutting out a section of the DNA double helix (see below) with something called Cas9 – biological scissors, in effect – and replacing the removed section with a new piece of DNA- which can be just about anything the scientists want it to be.

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

What has made this biotechnology possible are the huge strides in genome mapping over the last couple of decades. Because of course, you don’t want to just cut out any old piece of DNA. Now, because each bit of the double helix can be identified, you can target the exact piece you want to remove, and replace it with the piece of your choice.

So your new designer dog can now be gene-edited any way you want. No more need for crossbreeding, lots more scope for innovation, and better control over results. Genetic-engineer James West has spotted the money-making potential. His Nashville-based firm AgGenetics engineered Angus cattle to have white coats instead of black or brown, to make them more heat-tolerant, thus doubling beef production. (And milk cows are already being gene-edited to be born without horns, so they no longer have to be burned off.)

Inevitably, it didn’t take Mr West long to realise that the change-the-coat-colour technique could be applied to other animals too. He tested his idea on mice, and produced poor little newborns sporting their little fur coats patterned with squares, stripes and spots.

dachshund-1532974_960_720

Maybe soon he will be taking orders for the customer’s choice of novelty designer dog picked from an online catalogue. There are so far four colourways: red, brown, yellow and black. And would you prefer squares or stripes, Sir/Madam?

Ludicrous as it sounds, gene-editing for striped dogs provokes serious questions. Who knows where it could lead, and what the implications could be – and not just for dogs?

And the designer stripey dog is one thing, but how about wiping out an entire species at will?

We ran across this even more worrying application for CRISPR earlier this year, in Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth? With CRISPR it’s possible, for instance, to delete the mosquito DNA involved in reproduction and replace that section of the sequence with DNA that makes the insect sterile. This ‘permanent solution’ for mosquitoes is being researched for obvious reasons – these insects carry malaria, zika and dengue fever, and by transmitting malaria in particular, have probably killed more than half the humans that have ever lived.

This seems to be the default human mindset: how can we use this new technology for the benefit of our own species before and above all others?

With CRISPR, humanity now holds in its hands the power of god, the power to gene-edit Nature. I’ll say it again,

Man now has the power to gene-edit life itself

And that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

In 2011 a group of geologists called for the recognition of a new era in the history of the Earth – the Anthropocene, to acknowledge the impact of humans on the planet. How much more apt now than it was just five short years ago.

So when we ask that question, how can these new technologies be used to further our own interests, there are other, and even more important questions that need to be addressed: Should we be doing this? What are the ethics controlling our ever-increasing powers? And who gets to decide?

This is what natural scientist and poet Melanie Challenger has to say about the new power we have, to deliberately wipe out a target species if we so choose (as opposed to accidentally wiping out random species which tragically, we’re proving spectacularly successful at)

If we start getting cavalier about the existence of a living being, if we start to think it’s OK to eradicate something because it’s a threat to us, we put other ideas about the sanctity of life in question”

Striped dogs, a world without mosquitoes, can it get any more bizarre and perturbing? Well yes it can – the Chimaera (chimera in the USA), already here. In Greek myth the Chimaera was a monstrous fire-breeding hybrid, a goat-headed lion with a serpent-head tail. These days, we’re more familiar with the electro-petroleum kind of hybrid on four wheels. But the very latest kind of Chimaera hybrid has more in common with the one of Greek myth – it’s a nightmarish combination of human and pig.

So what would you say to Organ Farms?

A while ago I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel ‘Never Let Me Go’. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it)  As you turn the pages you start to realise the horrible truth, that the young people we are getting to know as they grow up, are in fact clones. Then an even more disturbing truth is revealed – the characters have been created solely for their organs and will undergo a cycle of ‘donations’ until their bodies and their lives are consumed.

Well, reality is catching up with fiction once again. Only, as is always the case in the real world, it’s the infinitely useful nonhuman animal that humans deploy for the task. The unfortunate ‘donors’ will not be human but porcine. Pigs have drawn the short straw because their organs are about the size and weight of human organs. Not that they will be using the animals’ own organs though, because pig organs would be rejected by the human body. So what’s needed for the sick people on the long waiting list for transplants are proper healthy human organs.

No cloning here though – just CRISPR and the new Chimaera. This is what you do. You get a brand new pig embryo in your lab. You delete the genes responsible for the formation of, say, the pancreas. You introduce the appropriate human genes. You implant the genetically-engineered embryo into a female pig on your Organ Farm, and hey presto, there will be a lovely human pancreas ready to transplant into a human recipient in need. Farms of pigs incubating clean healthy human organs, and on demand.

images

Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, but that is where the research is heading. And it will happen. As the title of last night’s Panorama proclaimed, “Medicine’s Big Breakthrough”. The scientists are excited by CRISPR’s potential. So are the medical professionals. And who can blame those once considered incurably ill for holding on to such promise of a complete cure.

But what about the animals? And what about the planet? The waves in the wake of this technology could sink us before climate change gets a chance to.Just a final note to send you to bed with nightmares: there’s a guy in San Francisco selling Do-It-Yourself CRISPR kits online out of his garage, so everyone can do their own gene-editing at home. He calls it the democratisation of science. Sweet dreams.
Time now for an update

Above piece posted June 7th 2016, but there have been developments.

Gene-edited organs are on their way. Just last week (on the 26th January 2017) scientists in California were excited to announce a world first – Chimaera lives. They have indeed succeeded in making embryos containing both pig and human cells.

These so-called human-pig chimeras (which contained only a small number of human cells) were allowed to develop for several weeks in female pigs before the pregnancies were terminated, according to a new study.

“The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that,” study researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, California, said in a statement. “This is an important first step.” LiveScience

I don’t know about you but I find this deeply disturbing, and their triumphant announcement poses more ethical questions for me than it answers:

  • How exactly were the pregnancies terminated?
  • Did the sows give their consent? Silly question
  • What happened to the sows post-abortion?
  • Do we know the physical and emotional effect on the sows?

Scientists would dismiss such questions as irrelevant but that is exactly where the problem lies. Not only do they feel entirely justified in their research, but any thought that something could be horribly wrong here would never even come near to entering their heads.

How did the Nazis square their conscience over the barbaric experimentation they conducted on gypsies, Poles, Russian POWs, Jews, and even Germans if they were unlucky enough to be disabled? They were brainwashed by propaganda that created in their minds a ‘them and us’. Their victims were ‘other’, of a different and lesser order. They de-personalised them, designated them vermin. And of course, as we all know, nonhumans only exist for human use, human benefit, and ‘vermin’ are at the very bottom of the heap. For ‘vermin’, anything goes.

Last week the BBC news highlighted the terrible shortage of donor organs in the UK. Patients in need of transplants are going to Pakistan where they can buy an organ from the poorest, people in dire need of the money. And even worse, criminals are cashing in, lining their pockets trafficking people to harvest their organs by force.

The scientists at La Jolla are looking to forcibly harvest organs from the pigs. True, they’re not exploiting living beings for illegal personal gain like the traffickers. They would say they are doing it for science, for medicine, and indeed out of humanity. It is sanctioned by society. But only because society has also been indoctrinated into arbitrarily dividing animals into ‘them and us’, making the nonhuman animals other and lesser than the human animal, declaring, “We are not animals.” But we are. Bestowing on ourselves like gods the power over life and death. Holding the fate of those ‘others’ in the palm of our hands.

But cruelty, coercion and exploitation are always cruelty, coercion and exploitation. The end does not justify the means.

You might say to me, what if it was your son’s, your daughter’s life in the balance waiting for a transplant? A hard question to answer. But two things I can say:

  • There should be far better ways to increase the supply of donor organs. For instance, Wales now has an ‘opt-out’ system. If you don’t register as not wanting to donate your organs, you will automatically be considered as having no objection. Isn’t that preferable to harvesting organs for humans by violating pigs?
  • And secondly, are the sow’s powerful maternal feelings worth less consideration than ours? And isn’t hijacking her reproductive cycle in this way, as with dairy cows, as with laying hens, both sexist and speciesist?

Are we to accept any horror perpetrated on nonhuman animals if it is in human’s interests? Surely it is more than time to acknowledge that

“We are one species among many who share a common ancestry with all other species in the animal kingdom. The false dichotomy between us and them pits humans against the rest of the animal kingdom and reinforces the myth that humans are so superior from the other animals that it’s practically blasphemous to even suggest that other animals possess lives that matter to them in the way our human lives matter to us.” Robert Grillo

 eyes_collage

Postscript This is a huge topic with more ramifications than it is possible to imagine. I don’t pretend to any expertise and my descriptions of the science are just my way of getting my head around it a little bit. This is just skimming the surface of a technology of infinite significance that is surely ushering in the next Age of Life on Earth.

APOLOGIES – WORDPRESS HAS DONE SOMETHING WEIRD TO THE LAYOUT & I CAN’T SEEM TO CORRECT IT.

Update

23rd February 2017 – CRISPR promises a better way to stop mosquitoes spreading malaria, and without the need to render the insect extinct. Tony James from the University of California is “using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to create a ‘gene drive’ system that spreads an anti-malaria gene inside the mosquito population. The gene basically destroys malaria, and then spreads on to the next generations.”

It sounds like a very promising approach, but it’s early days and the strategy would not be without its problems. Find out more from ZME Science.

Sources

Quote & pic Free from Harm

Let’s Not Buy Into Genetically Modified Fur – Care2 Causes

Medicine’s Big Breakthrough – Editing Your Genes – Panorama

Human/Nonhuman Chimera – Do We Really Want to Go There? – The Kimmela Centre

Related posts

Get Your Pet Fox Here

Planet at the Crossroads

Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

The 3D-Printed Dog’s Nose that’s Even Better than the Real Thing

All of us who share our lives with a canine who spends what feels like hours deciphering all the gossip on the local lamppost, know firsthand just how much our bff is led by his/her nose. A dog’s sense of smell is apparently from 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours. Imagine that amount of odour-info bombarding your little doggy brain.

When humans pick up on spectacular abilities in nonhumans we could never match, we are quick to enrol them into our service, almost always, sadly, to the detriment of the animal involved. Dogs’ nasal capabilities are no exception. Sniffer dogs, mostly deployed in law enforcement of one sort or another, get sent into frighteningly perilous situations – better lose a dog than a man/woman, right? At least, that’s the culturally accepted view.

“Of course, the downside [of dogs’ amazing sense of smell] is that while saving human lives, sniffing out explosives is extremely dangerous for the dogs.”

Laura Goldman 

unknown392 days ago today a beautiful Belgian shepherd dog fell victim to man’s inhumanity to man, and yes, to man’s sense of entitlement over Planet Earth and all nonhumans on it. Last November, in a raid on the Paris bombers’ flat, the French police sent their service dog on ahead to sniff out explosives. She never made it through the door. She was shot dead by a terrorist. And she was just 7 years old. Remember Diesel?

Well, there’s nothing so passé as yesterday’s news, and Diesel was soon forgotten.

But this week’s good news brings the lovely girl to mind once again. It’s heartening, but at the same time utterly sad for Diesel that today there would no longer be a ‘need’ to expose her to such danger. Wind the clock forward 392 days and she would still be alive to enjoy all the years of life Father Time intended for her.

How so? Because scientists at America’s National Institute of Standards and Technology have perfected a 3D-printed model of a dog’s snout. And unbelievably, it is even better than the real thing.

If dogs only knew – perhaps they do, who knows – they would pity our pathetic sense of smell. Birds of prey would despise our feeble eyesight – “Can’t you even spot a rabbit 3 miles away from a height of 15,000 ft? Good grief.” And the immortal jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula would surely be thinking, “What do you mean, you die? You just cease to exist? What’s wrong with you!”

But one thing we humans are reasonably good at is sussing out exactly how clever creatures do the astounding things they do. Sometimes. Our biomimicry skills do draw the line at immortality.

The new artificial dog’s nose is far from being the first payoff from our ‘industrial espionage’ on the animals.

In the 2008 Olympics, gold medallist Michael Phelps created quite a splash with his go-faster swimwear mimicking sharkskin. (Now banned in major competitions.) Sharks’ skin under a microscope reveals countless tiny overlapping scales called dermal denticles, which disrupt turbulence and make for smoother faster gliding through the water. Reproduced in Phelp’s speedos.

And architect Mick Pearce’s lightbulb moment came from contemplating, of all things, termite mounds and the ventilation ‘chimneys’ the little insects form for internal temperature control. The result? His groundbreaking design for a green shopping centre/office block in Zimbabwe. The Eastgate Centre has no conventional air-conditioning or heating but thanks to Mick’s piracy of the termites’ know-how, the eco building maintains a constant comfortable temperature.

Nor is The Nose the only example of 3D printing to copy animal features or abilities.

One of the most improbable has to be synthetic rhino horn which, amazingly, is said to be indistinguishable from the real thing. The intention of making this seemingly bizarre product is to flood the market, bring down the sky-high price the horn commands, and by making the trade a lot less profitable for the black marketeers, reduce the incidence of poaching.

That would benefit a whole species, but 3D printing is also being used to benefit individual animals. The technology makes it possible to produce tailor-made prosthetics, like a shell for Cleopatra the tortoise, genetically unable to form her own, and a new beak for Grecia the toucan – the one he was born with was smashed by a gang of youths.

How heartwarming it is to see examples like these, developed purely in the interests of the nonhumans, rather than is so much more often the case, for human convenience.

But back to The Nose.

How would you even go about making a ‘fake’ dog’s nose that works? It sounds about as far-fetched as fake rhino horn. But it’s for real.

It’s all about the unique shape of dogs’ nostrils it seems, and the way that affects the fluid dynamics of the breathed air  – a felicitous benefit of evolution with which my canine companion tests my patience to the limit on a daily basis. Mechanical engineer Matthew Staymates outlines the science for us in this brilliant brief video:

This is The Nose that will rapidly propel Diesel’s bomb-sniffing canine colleagues straight into happy retirement, we hope.

I just wish it had come in time to save that beautiful girl too.

 

Source

3D-Printed Bomb-Sniffing Dog Noses Could Replace The Real Thing – Care2 Causes

Related posts

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Helping Animals

RIP Diesel

Diesel Makes the News Again

Dr Dog – The Power of Loving Licks

 

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My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

Hanna,  passionately vegan for nearly 50 years, is  founder and coordinator of the Global Vegan Registry, just one of her many achievements

Q:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Hanna. Let’s start with your earliest memories?  Where were you born? Did you have a passion for animals in your childhood?

A:  I, Hanna Golan, was born in Communist Poland in 1951 to a pair of Holocaust survivors, and that is where my vegan inclinations began to sprout.  The following are a number of evident scenarios:

1  At about 4 years of age, I recall accompanying my mother to the market where I spotted a caged dog.  I immediately broke into tears and begged to take the “jailed puppy” home.  Instead, my mother guided me to the fishmonger.  There she selected and paid for a live carp that, gasping and writhing, was tightly wrapped in a few layers of newspaper.  I cried all the way home.  As soon as we entered the front door I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the largest container I could find and filled it with tap water.  I then demanded that my mother release the fish and she obliged.  Once the poor creature revived, I became its instant guardian – feeding it bread crumbs, singing to it and vigilantly observing its every move.  Tragically, the next morning my mother fished my swimming charge out of the water, hit it hard over the head and proceeding to prepare it for dinner.  Needless to say, I would never again eat fish!

2  My father was off work one morning and both my parents took me for a walk down the street.  Suddenly we witnessed a horse-pulled carriage tipping over and trapping the horse under one of its wheels.  My screams for someone, anyone to help save the horse were met on deaf ears as people rushed to the driver while the horse was being ignored.

I loved being taken to the nearby park where, admiring flowers, butterflies and bees, I tiptoed gingerly lest I trample an innocent bug.

Q:  Can you tell us more about your family? Clearly you weren’t brought up vegetarian or vegan

A:  By the time I was 6 (1957), my parents and I emigrated to Israel to get away from the ever-growing antisemitism in Poland.  Sincerely believing that milk and eggs were healthy for a growing girl like me, my parents took me to a working farm where they attempted to nourish me with fresh produce.  All those years ago, I did not appreciate the exploitation behind eggs and dairy but I refused them because no one bothered to ask the hens for permission to take their eggs and, likewise, no one got permission from the cows to take their milk.  It just seemed like those were stolen goods.  Thus, I never consumed eggs or dairy ever again.

Q:  Was there a particular event that made you decide to be vegan?

A:  I continued eating and enjoying poultry and beef until at the age of about 10, when my mother accidentally cut her finger and my father exclaimed, “it looks like raw meat.”  That did it!  That is the moment I made the connection that meat (poultry or beef) comes from live animals and that I had no business eating them!  Unfortunately, when I refused meat my parents had a fit, “You won’t eat fish, you won’t eat eggs or cheese, you won’t drink milk.  Now you don’t want to eat meat?!  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to die?”  Being the good girl that I was and not wishing to upset my parents, I continued eating flesh for another 6 years.

At the age of 12 (1963), my parents and I moved to the United State – Los Angeles, California, to be exact.  I continued my struggle over my mother’s cooking but it wasn’t until 1968 (age 16) when I could no longer tolerate living that way.  I packed a bag of my school books and a few bits of clothing and moved out from under my parents’ roof.  I knew nothing about veganism back then but I was certain that I could never eat animal products again.  By then I also understood that leather, wool, silk and down feathers were products of cruelty and avoided them at all cost.  I relocated from one friend’s apartment to another while still going to school fulltime.  On top of it all, I had to get a job that would sustain me.

Q:  What was it like being vegan in 1968? Veganism was a very little known concept back then, wasn’t it?

A:  It took years before I met anyone as weird as me and before I learned the true meaning of veganism with its ramification of a holistic and all-encompassing plant-based lifestyle.  I couldn’t care less whether this was good for me, I just knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t contribute to the exploitation and abuse of animals.  I subsisted on real food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) back then because all the vegan alternatives that are so readily available today hadn’t yet been invented.

Still on my own, in 1969 I graduated high school with honors and transferred to UCLA to earn my Bachelor’s Degrees in biochemistry and mathematics.  I decided to do my postgraduate work in Israel where I got my Master’s in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science and my Master’s in mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  I fully intended to continue on to medical school but that was aborted by marriage and motherhood.

Q:  What sort of difficulties did you experience, practical, social, emotional? Did you ever waver?

A:  My parents and everyone else, including myself, my husband and my children, always considered me to be a nut-case, an oddball, an eccentric but none of that dissuaded me from my intended ethical path.  Except for mild chiding and teasing, people were mostly curious about what I’m doing and why and I was never shy or hesitant about giving them an earful.  As you might guess, I was a conversation piece at every gathering.  It wasn’t always easy or fun but I never wavered because I knew that this was what the Universe wanted me to do and who am I to argue with the Universe? Years later, by the way, my parents stopped eating meat and eggs although they still had some dairy.

In 1986, accompanied by my husband (whom I divorced since) and children, I moved back to Los Angeles County where I’m still living today.

Q:  You’re self-employed. Can you tell us about your work?

A:  Wanting to incorporate veganism more tightly into my professional life, I changed careers by becoming a freelance writer and graphic designer.  As of today, I’ve written and published:

  • vegan and veggie related books under my penname Hanna Getty (link here Amazon)
  • children’s books about animals under my penname Maya Lee Shye (link here Amazon)
  • and one book under my own name, Hanna Golan (link here Amazon)

I currently have 5 more vegan-related manuscripts that are awaiting publication.

Q:  What other vegan-related activities are you/have you been involved with?

A:  Attempting to spread the vegan message far and wide across the globe, I am very active on Facebook and manage multiple pages:

Hanna V. Golan
Sprout A Vegan
Vegan Blogger  & also here
Global Vegan Registry
Vegans in San Fernando Valley
Antelope Valley Vegans

In my spare time, I volunteer for a local rescue organization 2 to 3 times a week, I occasionally foster dogs and I host monthly vegan potlucks.

Q:  Are you ‘parent’ to any companion animals?

A:  I am a single parent to 4 special needs rescue animals (2 dogs and 2 cats).

Q:  Do you have hopes and dreams for the future?

A:  My dream is to establish a vegan outreach program that will be based out of an all-vegan, self-sufficient community that will strengthen vegan presence as well as increase awareness in the general public.

Q:  Finally, what would you hope to leave behind you as your legacy on this earth?

A:  The legacy that I wish to leave behind me is a world that is predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by humans who choose compassion over cruelty.

Thank you again Hanna for agreeing to share something of your life with us. Yours is an amazing story. You are a truly remarkable advocate for compassionate living, and an inspiration to your fellow vegans.

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Join the Global Vegan Registry here

Related posts – interviews with other remarkable vegans

A Picture of Compassion Chantal Poulin Durocher

Ama’s Story

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Ryan Phillips – Ambassador for the Animals Extraordinaire

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

Dale Vince – Vegan Tycoon of Unwavering Vision

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Together Forever

Who shares your home? Who shares your life? If the answer has four legs and a tail, or even two and a beak, my guess is you likely love that critter-person more than you love most human-people. Am I right? I speak from experience. Let’s face it, most animals are just nicer than most people.

There is just one problem with critter-people, and it’s a big one. Unless your critter-person happens to be a tortoise, he or she most likely won’t stick around for as long as you. They have this horrible tendency to leave us behind before we are ready to say goodbye, with a broken heart and a huge hole in our life.

I am trying right now, without success, to put back together my own broken pieces. I walked into Manchester Dogs’ Home 16 years ago, and an hour later walked back out leading a sweet friendly pup.

Here is my darling girl Holly, on holiday with us in Cornwall.

Kynance Cove – Version 2

I hope you won’t agree with the kid in the park that said, “That dog looks like a hyena.” I had to put my hands over Hols’ ears! No offence, hyenas. Of course you’re beautiful too in a hyena sort of way. Holpops’ vet did wonder if she would ever grow into those ears – and no, she never did.

Anyway the point is, from that day at the dogs’ home in 2001 until that heartbreaking Tuesday just 6 weeks ago, she and I spent every waking moment together. She would have slept in my bed too if the husband had allowed it. She did if he wasn’t around! There is nowhere I have been in those 16 years where she wasn’t by my side.

That Tuesday, as the final anaesthetic eased my beautiful baby into her journey over the rainbow bridge, I heard myself howling

“Don’t leave me!”

And so I joined the ranks of all of you who have gone through this searing grief.

 

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“Together Forever’ – the rose we planted in her memory

Did you know –  I didn’t until today – UK law permits us to make arrangements to have our darlings’ cremains included in our own burial? Or even, as in one Cornwall cemetery, have our loved ones interred and when our time comes, be laid to rest right alongside them. So it is possible for us to be together forever with our fur-&-feather babies.

Nothing could mark better the depth, the height, the strength of that bond we have with our beloved companions. How comforting it is to have that possibility.

Together in life. Together ever after.

“For many, the grieving process for a pet is no different to losing a member of the family”*

If you live in America, don’t fret. The U.S. is catching up. Just last month Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on Bill SO2582 that allows New Yorkers to include companion animals with them in their burial. Great news.

“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” said Governor Cuomo. Assemblyman James F Brennan agreed, “The pet/caregiver relationship is a very special one and I am happy that this relationship will finally be honored.”

And so am I. Isn’t it wonderful that something as hard and impersonal as the law can actually find a space for our deepest feelings?

That makes NY the fifth state after Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia to write this into the statute book. (But don’t worry if you live elsewhere in the States. It’s not unusual for funeral directors to sneak companion animals’ cremains into the casket with their carer.)

A law like this strikes me as momentous, and not just because it’s a comfort to us human-people. (Though that is huge.)

It’s significant because surely it must bring nonhuman animals a step closer to being recognised in law as persons. Anyone who has been close to an individual of another species knows that is what they are. This could take us a big step closer to recovering for all nonhuman animals, not just our companions, the rights that are innately theirs, just by virtue of their being a life.

As the good governor says, our companion animals are members of the family. And all members of a family have rights, even newborn babes. Even the unborn. So should, so must nonhuman family members too. And indeed all creatures – members equally with us of Earth’s great family.

If you agree, please sign the Declaration of Animal Rights here

And please share. It needs a lot more signatures.

*Vet Elaine Pendlebury

Sources

Owners pay to be buried with their pets – The Telegraph

New Yorkers can now be buried with their pets – Care2