Cover pic Amazonian royal flycatcher by Rob Wallace
Just in case you missed these. (Click any image to go to the big beautiful originals)
Thanks to Garry Rogers for sharing these wonders.
Cover pic Amazonian royal flycatcher by Rob Wallace
Thanks to Garry Rogers for sharing these wonders.
As far back as she can remember Lori always wanted to know what it felt like to be in another animal’s skin. Then as a student, she hoped a class in the neurobiology of rat behaviour would help her find out. It did indeed prove fascinating, but unhappily, taking that class required her to intentionally damage the rats’ brains, and then kill them. Seeing the rats’ suffering traumatised her. It gave her nightmares.
After her first degree she won a scholarship to the very prestigious Princeton University to study for a PhD. No mean feat. But when she found out the work at Princeton would involve damaging cats’ eyesight and afterwards killing them like the rats, she knew she just couldn’t do it. Hard for her parents to understand how she could say no to such a great academic honour.
The questions about animal sentience and cognition she wanted answers to led her into the study of cetaceans. She’s spent more hours than she cares to think of measuring whale and dolphin skulls – ones no longer being used by their owners of course!
She was appointed by Emory University professor of cetacean neuroscience, and today Lori is the go-to expert on cetaceans, the one to be consulted.
(Need I say, Lori is a vegan.)
Lori combines a profound passion for nonhuman animals with the appropriate scientific objectivity in questions that concern them. And that gives her unique authority when animal advocacy bumps up against zoos and aquariums, or the law, as it frequently does.
Lori’s expertise featured in Blackfish, the documentary that’s had enormous impact around the world raising awareness about the plight of the captive killer whale Tilikum.
She was also consultant for another prizewinning documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine. Lori describes the film as a “unique project giving voice to those individuals – the cows, pigs and hens in factory farms, the dolphins in marine circuses, the rabbits, monkeys and chimpanzees abused in research laboratories, and all the other nonhuman persons whose suffering is the very foundation of our human society.”
She was called as expert witness in the trial of Anita Kranjc of Toronto Pig Save in November, sued for giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. Lori testified to the emotional and social distress pigs suffer in the factory farming system.
She continues to work closely with the Nonhuman Rights Project, fighting to obtain the status of personhood for captive chimps, for which her expert testimony is called upon in court.
“I can do it because I know the science. And because I have a Ph.D. You can’t imagine the power that title and hard data give you in court.”
“Person doesn’t mean human,” she explains. “Human is the biological term that describes us as a species. Person, though, is about the kind of beings we are: sentient and conscious. That applies to most animals too. They are persons or should be legally. There is abundant, unquestionable evidence for personhood for animals.”
Most of Lori’s work revolves around the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy of which she is both founder and director. The Center works hand in hand with Farm Sanctuary in The Someone Project, encouraging people to open their eyes to see that farmed animals are real persons, friends not food, someone not something.
Thinking back on her own experience as a student in neurobiology, of being required to harm and kill animals, Lori through the Kimmela Center, raises funds to provide students with research grants. All research is with domesticated animals at shelters and sanctuaries, and is entirely non-invasive. With Kimmela-funded research, it is most definitely a case of “No animal was hurt in the making”!
The Kimmela Center’s strap line? “Informed by Science….Driven by Passion.”
Six short words that perfectly sum up what Lori Marino is all about.
I’ve barely touched on all the outstanding work Lori has done and is still doing for animals. To find out more click here.
Add your name to the Declaration of Animal Rights here
Ok then. Well, we don’t think of ourselves as animals, but of course we know we are really. So let’s correct the myth and say ‘Humans are different from other animals’ then. That’s more like it, isn’t it?
Well, no actually. That is no better. That’s still setting us apart and above, when in fact ALL animals are different from other animals. Yes, we may have some unique traits, but so do many other species. We can’t fly like birds. We can’t change colour like chameleons and squids. We can’t walk on water like the basilisk lizard. We can’t regrow an amputated limb like an axolotl, and we absolutely can’t live forever like the immortal jellyfish. The list is endless.
Perhaps not. A mounting stack of research papers is almost daily uncovering other animals’ capacity to experience the same emotions we do, and communicate with each other in complex languages of their own.
Or that calling someone ‘bird-brained’ should be a compliment not an insult. Relative to their size, birds’ brains are large and remarkably similar to ours. Birds are smart! Watch this clever creature who goes by the name of 007, sizing up and solving an 8-stage puzzle with ease.
Again, sorry to disappoint, but many nonhumans have their own culture too. Culture is defined as ‘socially transmitted behaviour’. And there’s been “an avalanche of recent research” throwing up new discoveries of culture among cetaceans, fish, insects, meerkats, birds, monkeys and apes.
Whales, dolphins and songbirds, it’s been discovered, actually have local dialects. That means they’ve passed down through generations their own unique communication culture that differs from group to group, region to region – just like humans.
The New Caledonian crow makes incredibly precise and sophisticated tools to extract insects from the bark of trees. Research has established that over time, the design of the tool has become more and more refined – proof that it is always the latest improved blueprint that is handed on to the next generation. The exact model of the tools, again, varies from locality to locality.
Orcas can be observed working together as a pod, taking it in turns to dive down under a school of herrings, creating a circle of bubbles around the fish, forcing them up to the ocean surface in an ever-tightening ball. “Each whale has a role. It’s like a ballet [and] they move in a very coordinated way and communicate and make decisions about what to do next.” The strategy is called ‘carousel feeding’, one of several hunting practices developed, refined and passed on that scientists consider warrant the label ‘culture’.
A more bizarre example of cultural transmission is the trend among capuchin monkeys to poke each other’s eyeballs with their long, sharp fingernails. It’s believed this strange custom started small, but over time caught on in a big way among the capuchin population – who knows why!
A study from as long ago as 1964 showed that hungry monkeys would not take the food on offer if it meant other monkeys getting an electric shock. Likewise rats. And we are not alone in our ability to make character judgments by watching others’ behaviour. Chimps can too.
They can. Take the lyrebird of Central Australia who has the audio version of a photographic memory. He (it’s always he) samples not just birdsong from a variety of birds, but any other sounds he picks up from his surroundings: chainsaws, beaten nails, car alarms, human speech. Then he puts together the snippets he’s picked up in a unique continuous sequence of song. Exactly like a DJ sampling old recordings and creating something new. Absolutely an artistic endeavour, chainsaws and all.
Then there is the amazing bower bird, as seen in many a wildlife documentary. He crafts a sculpture out of twigs – the bower. And then designs a decorative courtyard in front of it, using flowers, leaves and pebbles, bottle tops, paper clips, plastic straws – anything colourful that’s to hand. He plays with perspective exactly as a human artist might, placing the largest objects furthest away. The effect is to make them look even larger than they really are. It’s what is called a forced perspective. Clever arty stuff, and all to entice the ladies.
‘Well but phff’, you may be thinking. ‘These guys are hardly in the league of Mozart or Michelangelo.’ But perhaps it is simply that we are deaf and blind to nonhuman animal art because our human superiority complex prevents us knowing where to look for it, and understanding what we are seeing when we see it. I believe the same holds true for their other abilities too. We even judge their ‘intelligence’ according to how closely or not it resembles human intelligence. Our perception of nonhuman animals is completely skewed by our own self-importance.
But back to art. Art News magazine believes there is still much to be discovered about nonhuman animal art. “Looking at the spectacular dams, nests, webs, and other elaborate constructions found in the natural world, it remains difficult to leave our art-world sensibilities behind. Indeed some scientists are convinced that animals have the emotional complexity to perceive beauty, make esthetic choices, and produce forms (or song) for art’s sake.”
We didn’t evolve from chimps. We and chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans all evolved from a common ancestor, most likely from the Nakali ape Nakalipithecus nakayamai, 8 – 10 million years ago in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The four evolutionary paths then diverged, and so we have the four different species now. We evolved alongside them, not from them. Man is, in fact, an ape.
Who knew, except biologists of course, that our bodies are actually made up of 90% microbial cells and only 10% animal (ie human) cells?! What a staggering statistic. It’s making me feel quite peculiar just writing that. Scientist working on the Human Microbiome Project have discovered 29,000 unique genetic proteins from only 178 bacterial species living in our bodies – and that’s so far. It could be the tip of the iceberg. Compare that with the human genome’s total of 23,000 genes.
It seems then, we are the perfect habitat for unknown numbers of bacteria, fungi and viruses, busily exploring our body’s landscape, and thanking us for our kind hospitality. Some are helping us, others are harming. We don’t yet know who does what. But we do know they far outnumber our simply human components. Eek!
We are not, as is commonly believed, more ‘highly evolved’ than bacteria. On the contrary, you could say we are less evolved than bacteria because they have been around longer. They have evolved continuously for the last several billion years. We are relative newcomers. There are, it is true, more and less complex life forms, but no higher or lower.
“All the species alive today that have evolved and adapted to find their way through the world long enough to produce offspring are ‘equally evolved’. In the context of biology, newer isn’t necessarily better: evolution isn’t a process of gradual refinement towards an improved version, but rather a question of stumbling along just well enough to make it into the next generation.”
So it is human arrogance alone that classifies creatures according to our own human-centric notion of their place on the ladder. The idea of a ladder at all, of a hierarchy, of higher and lower, is a human construct, nothing more than a thoroughly unscientific value judgment.
“Like every other kind of life on Earth, we may be unique but we are not special”
Evolutionary biologist Seeder El-Showk
It is we who place ourselves at the top, decreeing the rank of all other creatures by the measure of their likeness, or unlikeness, to us. A few rungs down the nonhuman apes, a few further the other mammals, continuing down through birds to reptiles, fish, amphibians etc. Bacteria just about the bottom of the pile. According to us.
But there is no bottom or top. There is no ladder, no up or down, higher or lower. Evolution has no hierarchy. There is no evolutionary or biological justification for this myth. We are just one among many.
Debunking this particular myth could hardly be of greater importance for our fellow animals, or for the planet itself. Our self-bestowed crown of superiority is illegitimate. We have placed ourselves on the throne so we can look down on all other animals and view them as existing just for us, the kings of creation. But our claim to the throne is spurious. We have granted ourselves the royal prerogative of making other animals our slaves, extracting whatever we can from them, carving up their bodies to satisfy our whims. As for those we choose not to eat or wear, once they cease making themselves useful to Our Royal Highnesses in some other way, or are simply surplus to our requirements, or just get in our way, become a nuisance to us, or a threat, they too are sentenced to death.
It is by perpetuating the myth that we are top of the tree that humans have stripped all other animals of the autonomy that is their birthright. We’ve reduced creatures that are miracles of nature to commodities. It is by this myth that mankind justifies – no, embraces without even seeing the need to justify – the most unspeakable cruelty. It is this myth that gives its blessing to the wholesale ravaging of wildlife and nature. And it is this myth that paves the bloody road to the slaughterhouse.
James Brabazon sums up Albert Schweitzer’s philosophy of Reverence for Life like this:
“Reverence for Life says the only thing we are really sure of is that we live and want to go on living. This is something that we share with everything else that lives, from elephants to blades of grass—and, of course, every human being. So we are brothers and sisters to all living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect, that we wish for ourselves.”
Science speaking in the voice of Evolutionary Biology agrees:
22nd November 2016 Ants behave as mini farmers in Fiji study – The Guardian
1st December 2016 Research shows Birds Have Skills Previously Described AsExclusively Human – The Scientist
23rd December 2016 “I am NOT an animal” video from the Kimmela Center
5 Common Biology Myths – ZME Science
How Orcas Work Together to Whip up a Meal – National Geographic
Six ‘uniquely human’ traits now found in animals – New Scientist
Can Animal Ever Be Artists? – IFL Science
The Genius of Birds – Jennifer Ackerman
Haunting pictures of animals trapped behind bars in Europe’s zoos have been captured by international wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation. The powerful exhibition was launched by the organisation to highlight, what they see as, the poor standards of animal care at many zoos in the European Union.
Keith Taylor, MEP and the Green Party’s animals spokesperson, said the images show the “urgent need” to improve conditions and regulatory enforcement, both in the UK and in the rest of the EU.
Elephant in Slovenian zoo
Taylor said: “The EU has been a positive force for so many animal welfare improvements in Britain and across Europe.
“It was the EU that first recognised animals as sentient beings and, consequently, introduced a blanket ban on cosmetic animal testing and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics, ended the use of great apes in research, improved welfare standards for farm animals, strengthened protections for rare and endangered species, cracked down on the illegal ivory trade, banned cat and dog fur imports, and stopped the gruesome trade in seal products. However, more must be done by the European Union to enforce the relevant EU laws and improve the lives of animals kept in zoos.”
The photos were taken by award-winning international photographers, Britta Jaschinski and Jo-Anne McArthur who visited several EU countries, including Italy, France, Germany, Denmark and the UK, this summer to document the conditions some animals are forced to live in.
Marmoset in Danish zoo
Virginia McKenna OBE, co-founder and trustee of Born Free, said: “I should be used to looking at captive wild animals, having done so for over 45 years, but these tragic pictures left me speechless. Please look into the eyes of the macaque, the bear – well, look at all the animals. They tell their own story more poignantly than any words of mine. And the message they give is simple. Help us. End this.”
Zoos are required under a European Council directive to satisfy animals’ biological requirements by providing species-specific enrichment and a high standard of husbandry. Born Free said it aims to show, through these photos, that “many zoos keep animals in sub-standard conditions and EU zoos are therefore not fulfilling their legal requirements”.
Chimpanzees in an Italian zoo
Polar bear in a Latvian zoo
Dolphin in a Lithuanian zoo
Tiger in a French zoo
Giraffe in a UK zoo
Part of Born Free Foundations Animals in European Zoos A Photo Exhibition
These pictures come at as a debate about zoos continues to divide opinion. Last week a Silverback male gorilla escaped from his enclosure from London Zoo. Fortunately, the animal was recaptured without any injuries, but this is not always the case.
Earlier this year Cincinnati Zoo was the focus of public outrage after Harambe, a critically endangered gorilla was shot dead after a child was able to enter his enclosure.
Daniel Turner, associate director for European Compliance at Born Free, said he hopes the collection will help to influence a “greater commitment to improving standards in animal welfare in Europe’s zoos”.
Copied from the article in The Huffington Post – Born Free Foundation’s Animals in European Zoos Exhibition
Personally, I hope these harrowing images will open people’s eyes to see that wild animals do NOT belong in captivity. I should say, open people’s hearts – to feel the loneliness, deprivation and suffering we have inflicted on these innocent creatures, and resolve NEVER to visit or take their children to a zoo.
Grateful acknowledgements to AwarenessHelps for bringing this important and remarkable exhibition to our attention.
JoAnne’s video about her new book “Captive”
This is a heartfelt plea from Dana Hunnes,
In this important article she urges us to take action, and suggests what everyone of us can and must do to help save our planet from the brink.
I recently spoke at the “March Against Extinction” event in Los Angeles as a way to call attention to how our diets, behaviors, and choices influence whether or not a particular species survives. While our individual choices represent a vote with our wallet, it is the policies and laws in various countries surrounding conservation, climate change, and agriculture that frequently play the larger role.
Right now in Taiji, Japan, dolphin hunts are underway. Every day from September 1 until March 1, dolphin hunters go out to the ocean and search for innocent dolphins, either to sell to amusement parks for hundreds of thousands of dollars, or to slaughter for “human consumption,” Yet, it is well known that dolphin meat has toxic levels of mercury, PCBs, and other chemicals; making this both a public-health and animal-rights issue.
The cruelty and injustice of these hunts cannot be understated. The demand for these dolphins comes from amusement parks around the world who want to “show off” dolphins and their “little tricks.” What’s more, dolphins are viewed as pests, competition for the fish that the world has overfished and removed from the oceans.
In sum: We take their fish, we make them toxic with chemicals that WE have dumped into their oceans, and then we blame them, and brutalize them.
These hunts, by the way, are sanctioned by the Japanese government.
Please share, and take as many of the actions she suggests as you can. Nothing could be more important.
With thanks to Care2
Did you know these? I only knew a couple of them. Live and learn, eh?
From lobsters’ love lives to the eating habits of bats, cats and rats, prepare to have your mind blown.
1. If you chop earthworms in half, both halves live.
Although it might not look like it, earthworms do have a head and a tail. If you chop it in half, the part with the head and all of its vital organs will survive and most likely regenerate its tail but the original tail, without its organs, dies.
2. Cows lay down if it‘s going to rain.
Who didn’t hear this one on a road trip growing up? If a cow is laying down, it means rain is coming. Unfortunately whatever adult fed the kids this piece of information was wrong, though. Dr. Jamison Allen, a livestock researcher that investigated when cows stood or laid down during the day, says that, “If an animal is left on its own in a pasture, it will spend a third of its time gathering food, a third of its time eating, and a third of it sleeping. If they’re lying down, it probably doesn’t signal much beyond the fact that it’s sleeping time.”
3. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
While the old adage may be a good metaphor on how to get people to take your side, it’s not real for actually catching flies. As it turns out, flies, specially the ones often found in homes, are very fond of apple cider vinegar and filling some containers with it and a tad of sugar is the best way to trap them. (Note from me: We WON’T be doing this!!!)
4. Pigs sweat a lot, hence the expression “sweating like a pig.”
Anyone who follows Esther the Wonder Pig on Instagram knows pigs do love a mud bath and a water bath, and that is because they don’t actually sweat. They do have a few sweat glands but that is not how their body cools off. The expression “sweating like a pig” comes from the process of iron smelting. When liquid iron was poured back in the day, the shape resembled a mother pig and her piglets. The process was done at extremely high temperatures and at one point, the air around the mould would turn into steam and the piglets would look like they were sweating.
5. Bats are blind.
Some bats can see three times better than humans.
6. Bats will suck your blood.
Nope, not true either. There are more than 1,300 types of bats and most of them are insect eaters. Vampire bats live in Mexico, Central America and South America and do suck blood but not human blood — at least not commonly. They feed mostly on cattle and are more like mosquitos than a Dracula-esque threat.
7. Mice like cheese.
Just about every cartoon features a big piece of cheese on a rat trap to grab the critter when it can’t resist the treat, but in reality Tom would have had a lot more luck catching Jerry if he had used cereal or fruits. Studies have shown that while mice will eat cheese if hungry enough, that’s not their number one snack choice.
8. Fish have a 10 second memory.
There’s only one fish with a short term memory and her name is Dory. However, studies show that all other fish can remember things like sounds five months later. They are also self-aware enough to recognize themselves in a mirror, they hunt collaboratively with others in a group, some of them like being petted and even “ask” for it from divers sometimes, and they have feelings and can feel stress.
9. #Cats like drinking milk.
When cats are not trying to catch mice with pieces of cheese, they’re usually drinking milk out of a bowl. What those classic images didn’t show was that the feline probably had terrible diarrhea afterwards. While cats will drink milk, their bodies can’t properly digest lactose, which means stomach problems will usually follow.
10. A bear will walk away from you if you play dead.
The National Parks Service does not suggest playing dead when seeing a bear. Instead it advises people to carefully and quietly walk away. In the case of a brown or grizzly bear attack, laying on your stomach and playing dead is an option but if the bear turns you over, the best option is to fight back. If attacked by a black bear, the agency stresses to never play dead. Can’t identify which type of bear is attacking you? Fight back and run for your life. Playing dead will most likely have you end up dead.
11. One human years equals seven dog years.
In reality the math is a little more complicated. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, for a medium-size dog, the first year equals 15 human years. The second year of a dog’s life equals about nine years for a human and after that each human year is equivalent to about five years for a dog.
12. #Dogs can only see black and white.
It’s a common misconception that dogs only see black, white and shades of gray. The truth is that they do see colors, just not all the colors. While humans can see all different shades, dogs see mostly yellows, blues and violets. That means greens and reds will appear to them as blues and yellows but it’s still more cheerful than black and white.
13. Bulls see red and attack.
The imagery of a matador using a red cloth to lure bulls in for the kill made this myth widespread but it’s not the color of the cloth that makes the bull charge for the matador (and on a good day to strike him). Mythbusters did a test with different colored cloths and found the animal doesn’t have a preference for (or a grudge against) any color. It’s the movement in the fabric that entices him to attack.
14. Dolphins will protect you from sharks in the ocean.
While a couple of dolphins have played heroes in the past, don’t count on all of them to do you a solid if a shark comes around. Dolphins have been known to also flee when approached by sharks. On top of that, even though we’d love to believe dolphins love humans, the truth is that they don’t.
15. Lobsters mate for life.
Sorry, Phoebe. Ross and Rachel might have ended up together but not because they were each other’s lobsters. The animals actually have multiple partners along their lives and they don’t walk around holding claws. The whole courtship is a lot less romantic than that — more reminiscent of a one night stand than a storybook romance.
Ah, what a shame!
Photo Credit: ThinkStock