Wild Wolf Wanders into Belgium – 1st in 100 Years

Canis Lupus, the grey wolf, “a fundamental element of our natural European heritage.”

So says the Bern Convention of 1979. The wolf was not always seen this way. Its image among the human population used to be more in line with the cunning and terrifying vulpine of Little Red Riding Hood: a danger and a scourge. Add industrialisation and urban sprawl to ruthless hunting, and by the beginning of the 20th century, the animal had all but disappeared from Western Europe.

Thanks to the work of environmental groups like Euronatur wolves are now recognised as an important apex predator; strategies are in place to encourage their recolonisation of Western Europe; and they have been granted the highest protected status in many European countries.

The animal is the keystone of a ‘trophic cascade effect’. To find out how astounding is the presence of wolves in bringing about an explosion of life, both plant and animal, watch this beautiful short video about wolves in Yellowstone. It will gladden your heart.

Belgium is the last country in mainland Europe a wolf has honoured with its presence. The environmental group Landschap announced the first sighting on Saturday. Can you imagine how excited the person or people who spotted it must have been?

The wolf, wearing an electronic tracker, made its Belgian debut in the northern province of Flanders. The tracker identified the beast as having come from Germany, via a tour of the Netherlands, travelling 300 miles in the last 10 days. Have tracker will travel!

Welcome news to lovers of Nature, but not everyone is so thrilled. Livestock farmers in particular are unhappy. In France for instance, 8,000 farmed animals were lost to wolves last year. In Spain, Italy and Switzerland, there are also tensions between the farming community and wolf protectors.

Interestingly, in countries that have always had wolves and learned over millennia to rub along with them, like Romania and Poland, loss of livestock to the predator is shrugged off as a natural misfortune, “like an accident, like a flock that falls into a ravine”, says Farid Benhammou, a specialist on predators.

If reintroduction/recolonisation plans are to be successful, getting that balance right between wolf protection and the interests of farmers has to be top priority. Schemes to compensate farmers for losses to predation are usual in countries blessed with a population of wolves. The Belgian government is now being urged to implement a similar scheme.

I hope 2018 will bring more good news about this intrepid traveller and his kind.

We can help wolves

Like & Follow the Save the Wolves Facebook Petition Site

Sign petition Stop the Killing of Slovenia’s Wolves here

In North America

Sign petitions

Stop the Unjustified Killing & Hunting of Montana’s Wolves here

Save B.C. Wolves here

Don’t Allow Slaughter of Any More Alaskan Wolves here

 

Sources

A wolf has been spotted in Belgium for the first time in 100 years

Wolf found in northern Belgium, first time in 100 years

 

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The Man Who Flies with the Birds

ICYMI

“The most beautiful thing is to fly in the heavens with the angels that are the birds”

says Frenchman Christian Moullec, and he should know. For the last 20 years he has dedicated his life to helping those angels with their migration.

It all began in 1995 when Moullec heard that lesser white-fronted geese were struggling with their migration from Germany to Sweden. He made it his mission to reintroduce the geese to the area of northern Sweden we know as Lapland. So he made himself parent to orphaned chicks, and acquired a microlight aircraft – like you do – to guide the youngsters safely to their destination.

One of his favourite memories is the 5-week trip leading the geese to Lapland with his wife – then 5 months pregnant with their first son – in the passenger seat of the microlight.

This delightful video show him teaching his ‘offspring’ a few vital goosey tricks.

You’ll be delighted to learn that his reintroduction plan for the geese was a success. He continues with his conservation work, taking to the air almost every day. For the last few years he has taken paying passengers with him, which helps fund his work for birds.

He explains, A third of wild birds have disappeared from Europe during the last 30 years, because of man. It’s a disaster. My beautiful images with flying birds should be used to tell this story. The famous French writer Victor Hugo said that the beautiful is more useful than the useful, so I hope that the beautiful images of my birds in flight will be useful to migratory birds and to humans.”

For him, and he believes for his passengers who he hopes will mirror his deep respect for the natural world, flying with birds is an overwhelming spiritual experience.”

The words of a gentle soul, true friend to, and lover of Nature.

If you want to fly with the birds, and who wouldn’t, check out Christian Moullec’s website. Or take a virtual flight and check out some of his mesmerising videos

 

Featured image – a snow goose

Source

Stunning Video Shows a Man Flying With Birds

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Throwing Wide the Window on Animal Testing – A Blessing or a Curse?

“Biomedical research using animals is a largely secretive process and the public knows little about what goes on in research labs.”

In my recent web meanderings, I stumbled across a site called AnimalTestInfo.
Apparently – I wasn’t aware of this, but maybe you were – in 2010 the EU issued one of its famous/infamous directives requiring every member state to publish open access summaries of animal research taking place in their country.
AnimalTestInfo is Germany’s response to that directive.  It takes the form of an online repository for those research summaries. As yet I haven’t been able to discover if and how other member nations have responded to the directive with their own open access websites. Maybe you have? (If this all sounds very academic, dry and dusty, please bear with it a little longer – it could possibly be a matter of life and death to millions of animals.)

What is Open Access?

“Open access is about making the products of research freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and increased use and understanding of research by business, government, charities and the wider public.” ¹

AnimalTestInfo’s emphasis is on the public. It describes its purpose as publishing generally understandable, non-technical project summaries of approved animal experiments in Germany.”

That has to be a blessing, right?

No more concealment behind closed doors. Anyone and everyone can access the information and see which animals are involved, what is happening inside those formerly secretive labs. The hope has to be that with free and open access to animal testing information, the public will be moved to rethink their support for it, and start demanding alternative cruelty-free methods of research.

And the gains for the animals may not be confined to a hoped-for shift in public perception. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), which authorises the animal tests in the first place, has done a pilot study of the summaries researchers have uploaded to the AnimalTestInfo site. The study matched the test summaries against the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems – the ICD system. This gives the BfR “a fine-grained overview of the use of animal testing”, which they claim will be an aid in minimising the harm to the animals in accord with the 3Rs:

  • Replacement – methods which avoid or replace the use of animals
  • Reduction – methods which minimise the number of animals used per experiment
  • Refinement – methods which minimise animal suffering and improve welfare

So that’s got to be good too. Hasn’t it?

Trouble is, national bodies that authorise the tests in the first place (like the BfR in Germany and the Home Office in the UK) are only too ready to trot out the 3Rs mantra – if you doubt my word, just write to your MP about animal testing and see what comes back. I’ll put on a white rat costume and lock myself in a cage in front of the Palace of Westminster on the day of 2018’s State Opening of Parliament if you get a response that doesn’t mention how hard the government is working to implement the 3Rs. (Maybe I should do that anyway.)

In reality do they pay the 3Rs anything more than lip service? Both in the UK and in the US the numbers of animals on which lab tests are performed continue to rise. And between 2011 – 2016 the rise in Germany was a huge 35%. So much for replacement and reduction.

The down side

AnimalTestInfo is of course in German, so maybe not that that easy for non-German speakers like me to navigate. It’s “Search” though clicks open to invite you to pick the particular lab animal you are interested in – and it’s a big and unhappy list:

Mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, Mongolian gerbils, other rodents, cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, other carnivores, horses, donkeys and crossbreeds, pigs, goats, sheep cows, lemurs, marmoset and tamarin monkeys, macaques, rhesus monkeys, meerkats, baboons, squirrel monkeys, other species of nonhuman primates, apes, other mammals, domestic fowl, other birds, reptiles, frogs, other amphibians, zebrafish, other fish, and cephalopods.

animal-1554745__340

That’s the first shock.

The second is that German scientists have been adding their summaries to the site at the rate of 3,000 per year. That has to be 3,000 too many.

The curse

And the third lies in this statement: that BfR believes its analysis of the summaries on the website will reveal

“new insights about animal testing ….[which] could enable the public to easily pinpoint who might benefit from controversial studies involving non-human primates.”

In other words, the belief is that if the great German public can see that this or that animal test is conducted in the cause of finding cures for horrible conditions like cancer, stroke or heart disease, it will strengthen public support for what might otherwise be seen as abhorrent abuse of nonhuman primates. It will be accepted as a necessity that no reasonable person could deny.

And will simply offer up on a plate to scientists a publicly-sanctioned justification for their continued abuse of sentient animals in nightmarish research – animals who experience psychological trauma, and feel pain, fear and loneliness as much as we do – to get test results that in all likelihood will never be replicated in humans.

Only time will tell which way the open access scales will tilt for our nonhuman fellow animals. Will the blessing outweigh the curse? I’d like to think so, but somehow I doubt it.


For facts and figures on animal testing click here An overview of testing in the US here And to look behind the numbers and see how to help click here


Postscript

On BBC iPlayer you can see the #ChimpSanctuary in Louisiana where more than 200 chimps used for medical testing in US labs have been retired to, and another 200 are due to arrive. Be warned though – there is horrifying undercover lab footage filmed by PETA, 33 minutes in.

But an absolute must-see (48 minutes into the program) is the first meeting of the female chimps with the males, who together will form a new family troop. Once they have bonded they will be released into a forested area of the sanctuary, to live out the rest of their lives in a way that is as near as possible to what would have been their natural life in the wild.

Disappointingly, in spite of the program revealing something of the trauma suffered by the chimps, and though the US National Institutes of Health have now drawn a line under the use of these primates, the assumption remains in the program’s narrative that it is ethically acceptable to use nonhuman animals in lab tests in the interest of improving human health. An assumption with which I cannot agree.


Sources

¹Higher Education Funding Council for England

Tracking planned experiments online could spot ways to improve animal testing

Action needed as numbers of animals used in experiments rise in Europe

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The Rights of Nature

“Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.”

The Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth

Nature has Rights! And not just in our wishful pipe dreams. Two countries hit the headlines recently with court rulings acknowledging the legal personhood of three rivers. In New Zealand the Wanganui River, and the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in India now have rights. On 31st March India granted Himalayan glaciers the same status. They are legal persons.

A similar judgment has been made in Costa Rican law courts for the planet’s second largest reef which happens to lie in their waters.

Costa Rica’s not too distant neighbour Ecuador was already well ahead of the game – in 2008, the first country in the world to embed in the nation’s constitution itself, the Rights of Nature. The constitution was then put to a referendum of the people, and they voted yes. Ground-breakers indeed.

Not to be left behind, Bolivia was next to achieve a milestone for Nature’s Rights. Half a century after the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma, drove forward the initiative to present the United Nations with a draft of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Since that time:

  • Nearly 40 municipalities in the US have adopted Nature’s Rights
  • The dignity of all beings is recognised in Switzerland’s constitution
  • Spain recognises the rights of apes
  • And Romania is in the process of doing the same for dolphins

The EU is lagging behind! But there is hope, as we will see. First, how law for Nature operates in most countries of the world now.

The law with reference to Nature at present stumbles along under one of three paradigms. All outdated, none holistic. Take your pick:
  • mechanistic – viewing the world as made up of separate unconnected objects interacting in a predicable way
  • anthropocentric – viewing the world as existing solely for the use of human beings – our own ‘natural resources’ or ‘natural capital’. Nature is judged only by its economic value to Man rather than on its own intrinsic value
  • adversarial – where one party wins at the expense of another. Guess who nearly always wins? It’s not Nature.
But we already have laws to protect wildlife and the environment – like our own UK Wildlife and Countryside Act. So why does Nature need legal Rights?

Generally speaking – though as we have seen there are exceptions – the law as it stands recognises only two kinds of ‘holders of rights’: humans and human-created entities such as corporations. Everything else – animals domesticated, farmed and wild, land and water, Nature itself – is ‘property’. Nature our thinking goes, belongs to us, is our possession. So laws of protection that come, can just as easily go, depending on the prevailing governmental winds.

The classic example is the USA’s iconic gray wolf, already extinct over most of its historic range. The wolf was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, delisted in 2012, relisted in 2014, and now once again loses  protection in Alaska, in national wildlife refuges fgs, under Trump. The man is hell bent on sweeping aside just about every protection U.S. wildlife and wild places – so hard striven for over decades – now enjoy. If ever there was someone out of tune with Nature….

Rights on the other hand give the highest level of legal protection.

Rather than treating nature as property under the law, Rights for Nature… acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.  And we – the people –  have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant [and in courts of law we can be its advocate].

And so we come to the ECI – A European Citizens’ Initiative for the Rights of Nature

vII8ChdUxsdMEueu8GoGHUsKT6xziUJ5k45bQMJKNm07IeMjECZMyq0pleanp1K3ViJy7gVg9qoqwzJo0jtlRpmUrAvHLW_lnSsI7h0k0O34H1o5KH6D9wTTRj5NsMGkHrS_3IUQ.pngThe European Citizens Initiative scheme was established five years ago with the aim of increasing direct democracy by enabling “EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies”. Now, a group of lawyers, environmentalists, academics and others from 13 EU countries have come together in a project to present the Rights of Nature to the EU Commission and get those rights enshrined in EU law.

Their Project Vision

Humanity flourishing in harmony with Nature.

Project Mission

To establish nature’s rights – legal personality and rights for ecosystems and other species – in law throughout Europe.

Project Aim

To launch a European Citizens’ Initiative to propose nature’s rights to the legislative agenda of the EU – see our Draft Directive.

Why This Initiative?

Ecosystems and other species are alive. Yet the law treats them as objects separate to us. This has wide reaching social and economic consequences that drive the environmental crisis. Rights of nature is a game changing solution that brings fundamental and systemic transformation to our legal and economic system by re-characterising nature – ecosystems and species – as a subject of the law with legal personality and tangible rights that can be defended in court by people. This ensures that economic activity operates to enhance rather than undermine the resilience of ecosystems so that humanity can thrive in harmony with nature. It forms a powerful counterbalance to corporate rights and a viable alternative to the financialisation of nature.  To find out more see this article – Rights of Nature – Why Do We Need It? and this TEDx Talk.

Nature needs us to create new legal systems that promote

  • respect for the profound inter-existence of all life
  • respect for the intrinsic value of all life
  • healthy relationships with all life
  • harmony with the universal laws that govern all life

Sadly, since the European Citizens’ Initiative first came into effect, only three ECIs have managed to collect the 1 million signatures required for a response from the EU Commission. And of those three, only one was approved for a follow-up proposal. (One of those rejected by the Commission was a proposal for the European Anthem to be sung in Esperanto!)

But with our support the chances for the ECI – Rights of Nature are hopeful. And here are ways you can help

If you have skills in the following areas and would like to be involved in co-creating this exciting history-making initiative, please get in touch with Mumta Ito, as representative of the organising committee, at mumtaito@gmail.com. The specific areas additional assistance is needed are:

  • Administration/administrative support; fundraising; accounting; research; IT/websites/social media; branding; education; advocacy; lobbying; project management.
  • Additional members to join the existing 13 country teams (UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Latvia)
  • People who would like to lead the initiative in the EU countries where we still don’t have people (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Austria, Estonia, Bulgaria and Greece)
  • We also have places for self-funding internships in Findhorn and Andalucía.

Offers of skills support could be in a purely ‘advisory’ capacity or more hands-on – (no offer of assistance is too small). To be kept in the loop subscribe at the Being Nature Project.

We look forward to hearing from you and to creating together the legal frameworks needed to form a more resilient, thriving world for all of our future generations.

Of course here in the UK we have Brexit looming. But until the two years after the triggering of Article 50 is over, we can still have our say and make our contribution.

Follow European Citizens’ Inititative on Facebook here

Sign the Global Alliance’s Letter of Commitment to the Rights of Nature here

GA-banner-hc-time2.jpg


It’s true UNESCO already has its own Earth Charter, approved at a meeting of the Earth Charter Commission in Paris in 2000. It lists four Principles. The problem for me lies in Principle Two :

a. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and protect the rights of people.

That strikes me as reinforcing the status quo, the rights of Man to treat Nature as property – more a denial of the Rights of Nature than part of a charter to protect them. I would like to see UNESCO replace the Earth Charter with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which places Man not bestriding the Earth, above Nature with the right to own it and use it, but as just one thread in the complex web of life, each part of which is every bit as entitled to rights as are we humans.

Read the full Universal Declaration here

And sign the petition to the UN for the Rights of Mother Earth here


Postscript

Two hugely important questions arise for me from discussion about the Rights of Nature.

The first, for those of us who are dedicated to Animal Rights: if we achieve legal Rights for Nature, what does that mean for nonhuman animals? Does it mean that animal advocates like the Nonhuman Rights Project should cease the legal battle to win personhood for individual chimpanzees like Tommy, and throw its weight instead behind the fight for Rights of Nature?

Does it also mean that if nonhuman animals have the right to live at liberty in their own natural environment without interference and exploitation from humans, that the farming of animals would cease?

That we would get the vegan world of which we dream? A sentence in the Declaration seems to say so:

‘Every being has the right to wellbeing and to live free from torture or cruel treatment by human beings”

Secondly, as the capitalist system is based on extracting Nature’s ‘commodities’ and exploiting animals, human and nonhuman in the pursuit of profit and ‘growth’, don’t we need a new paradigm not just for law, but for world economics too?

Maybe I can explore these questions further at a later date, but now I would greatly value your ideas and comments on this immense subject.

Related posts

Human Rights Are Animal Rights!

A Promising Way Forward for Animal Rights?

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Through Artist’s Eyes- The Wondrous Web of Life & Death

Sources

Being Nature – Extending Civil Rights to the Natural World – The Ecologist

Rights of Mother Earth

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

European Citizens Initiative – Wiki

ECI for the Rights of Nature – International Centre for Wholistic Law

ECI Project Summary – A European Citizens Initiative for the Rights of Nature

Revising the ECI: How to make it ‘fit for purpose’ – Euractiv

 

Dairy in Decline? It’s Not That Black & White

Down on the dairy farm, US farmers are weeping into their breakfast cereal. Because milk is hitting the headlines once again. Honestly though, when is it ever out of them? Not that that is surprising since we are drowning in a deluge of the stuff, here in the UK, in Europe, and in the US too.
american-flag-793891__340It seems that across the pond, people are losing their appetite for dairy. Americans are buying 37 percent less of it than they did 50 years ago.That’s quite a drop.
On the other side of the scales, plant-milk sales have shot up to a $1 billion.“Veganism has turned mainstream”, and plant-based milk brands are winning a huge customer base, admits the industry’s own paper, The Dairy Reporter.
This downturn in dairy and upturn in plant-milks no doubt have something to do with the US’s colossal ‘cheese mountain’.¹ It would take each woman, man, child, infant and babe in the country devouring an additional 3lbs of the stuff to make any significant impact on the surplus.

(Dave Schilling for the Guardian suggests a few absurd ideas of what to do with all the excess, such as towing it out into the Pacific Ocean to make a large floating island. “It’ll be a great place for cruise ships to stop for a cheesy photo opp. Plus, you can take a hunk of it home, like the Berlin Wall.”)

Meanwhile back in the US, dairymen with their heads screwed on have been quick to implement the ‘if you can’t beat’em, join’em’ principle, and are busy knocking down cowsheds and planting almond groves in their place. The number of Californian almond groves has nearly doubled over the past decade.²

But of course there are many who are simply not willing to bow to the inevitable and are putting up a fight. What they hope will be their weapon against the ever-growing unwanted surplus of their dairy products and rocketing sales of plant milks is the proposed Dairy Pride Act. Dairy Pride in case you didn’t know – I didn’t – stands for “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.” Hmm.

This would mean unless Almond Breeze, Silk, White Wave et al,  are “the lacteal secretion… of one or more healthy cows,” (yummy) you won’t be able to call them ‘milk’. Because calling them milk is so confusing to the poor consumer, right? They might buy almond milk thinking it comes from cows. (Heavy irony in case you can’t tell.)

Emily Byrd gives us Dairy Pride Explained, her witty assessment of the contentious issue. It’s well worth a read. She imagines a few alternative product descriptions if the DP bill passes into law:

  • Cream of Wheat might have to called “liquefied wheat”
  • Almond Milk  – “nut juice”
  • And my personal favourite, peanut Butter – “peanut sludge”
But Dairy Pride is more than just a joke. The Animal Legal Defense League sees its dangers:

It’s “a blatant attempt by the dairy industry to stifle the rise of plant-based products that many consumers choose as healthier and more humane alternatives by prohibiting such products from using “milk” or “cheese” in their names.”

And, “designed to discourage people from purchasing healthy and humane alternatives to dairy milk products and to ensure the continuation of cruel factory farming despite consumers’ growing interest in products that don’t require animal cruelty.”

 If you agree with them please sign & share ADFL’s petition against the bill here

Tell Congress to Dump the Dairy Pride Act here

The Good Food Institute lawyers call the Act unconstitutional. Read more here


dutch-flag-889734__340Meanwhile over on this side of the pond and across the channel, Dutch dairy farmers too are wringing their hands and crying into their porridge. The Dutch dairy industry, now at four million cows, has been told it’s got too big and bloated and the EU is not happy.

This time it’s not just about stemming the flow of the white stuff into the European milk lake. Brussels says dairy farmers need to put a lid on the spiralling levels of phosphates in feed and of nitrates in fertilizer use, both well over EU permitted limits for their country. What is the problem with that? Neatly explained for the layperson like myself here.

So on 1st March this year the Netherlands, Europe’s third largest producer of dairy, began a painful program of shrinking the industry by 5%, down to 2015 levels.

The Dutch government is paying dairy farmers to stop farming dairy – crazy world we live in! Wouldn’t we all love to be paid for stopping doing something? So much for the free market beloved of capitalists.

Is this enforced Dutch dairy slim-down good news? Of course it is. It means fewer animals to endure the life of suffering that is the lot of the dairy cow.

But the dark side of the program will see 100,000 of these gentle creatures sent to an even more untimely death than is the norm. I’m not sure that knowing they will be saved further suffering is much consolation for the sadness of seeing over the next couple of months those 100,000 individuals’ lives snuffed out.


globe-868846__340So yes, markets for dairy are shrinking in America and Europe. That’s the good news. Worldwide the picture is not so bright. The global trend for dairy is not down as it looks from our western perspective, but up. And up by a lot. According to the milk production facts from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO):

In the last three decades, world milk production has increased by more than 50%, from 500 million tonnes in 1983 to 769 million tonnes in 2013.

2020_symbolAnd global sales, though slowing a little, are expected to keep on growing. So while the US domestic market is shrinking, futurologists for the US Dairy Exporter Council (USDEC) actually forecast a positive outlook for their exports.

“We are encouraged to see that, despite the recent prolonged soft export market, long-term global dairy demand fundamentals are still in place that will again pressure available milk supplies,” said USDEC President Tom Suber. “This should bring both higher prices and a resumed export upside for U.S. suppliers.”

USDEC’s latest report says: “Growth will be driven by economic and population dynamics in developing countries.”

And it looks like Dave Schilling can forget about his fantasy cheese island in the Pacific, since cheese is identified as presenting “the most significant growth opportunity for the U.S. dairy industry.” Seems they are confident of shifting that particular mountain after all.

So the future is looking bright for the world’s dairy farmers. But bleak for the environment.

environmental-issues-in-the-dairy-industry-farm-level-assessment-10-638

Bleak too for those of us who are fighting for the environment and animal rights.
But most of all for the 264 million dairy cows in the world right now, and the even greater numbers to come.

.dairy_2D00_milk_2D00_infographic

Please don’t forget to sign and share those petitions. Thank you!

And please support the Vegan Society’s Grow Green plan for the future of food here

¹ A Cheese Glut is Overtaking America – The Wall Street Jopurnal

² It’s Finally Happening – Dairy Farmers Are Converting to Almond Groves – One Green Planet

Read more about the Dairy Pride Act here

March 18th 2017

Some good news: Large Dairy Company Ditches Dairy after 90 years and Starts Producing Plant-Based Milks Instead

Sources

Dutch dairy cull plan agreed by EU – Farmers Weekly

5 Global Dairy Trends for 2020 for U.S. Exporters – U.S. Dairy Export Council Blog

Statistics: Dairy Cows – Compassion in World Farming

Related posts

Will New Pea Milk Spell the Demise of Dairy?

Mountains of Cheese, Lakes of Milk, and What We Can Do about it

Why Cows Need Their Friends

I’ve seen you in the meat aisle

EU Animals Face Abuse And Torture During Live Exports | Care2 Causes

This is no less appalling for being not entirely unexpected. Who really would want to insist on buying chunks of our fellow animals’ tortured bodies to eat knowing they were personally contributing to such horror?

An investigation by Animals International has found that live animal exports from the European Union are subjected to inhumane treatment and conditions that have been described as abuse and torture. 

In an extensive exposé The Guardian reports on the Animals International operation that collected footage from various ports and abattoirs over an eight month period:

Dozens of undercover videos and photographs obtained by the Guardian show live cattle and sheep from EU countries being beaten, shocked with electric prods, held for days in overcrowded pens and covered head to toe in faeces as they are transported from Europe to their final destinations in Turkey and the Middle East in conditions that breach European law.

At their destination, at least some of the animals are slaughtered in appalling conditions. The footage shows cattle and sheep from France, Romania and Lithuania kicking and flailing violently as their throats are crudely cut or sawed at repeatedly, often in crowded street markets and run-down abattoirs.

The export of live animals has been a contentious issue for the EU for a number of years, with campaigners saying that not only is the practice unsound from a food safety point of view, it is deeply harmful to the animals and rife with abuse.

Please read on: EU Animals Face Abuse And Torture During Live Exports | Care2 Causes

When Everyone Is Telling You Meat Is The Bad Guy Revisited

If you are lucky enough to be invited to an official function of Germany’s Ministry for the Environment, you will be treated as from now to an all-vegetarian menu.

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Germany, land of sausages and schnitzels, is the latest to join our list of nation states and international organisations giving meat the black mark.

Meat features quite heavily in the German diet, the average citizen devouring 59kg of meat a year, quite a way behind America or Australia’s 89kg, but still a lot of meat.

Just this week Minister for the Environment Barbara Henricks threw a pebble into the calm pond of traditional German food culture when she instituted a ban on serving meat at all future ministry functions. As a well-informed Minister she is no doubt thoroughly versed in all the dietary advice and environmental policies for reducing meat consumption emanating recently from other nations.

She may well also be aware of a 2015 report published by Florida International University revealing meat-eaters as the number one cause of worldwide species extinction.

Unsurprisingly, the minister’s announcement provoked a backlash from the livestock industry. And she has other critics. Ms Henricks is a member of the Social Democrat Party. Members from the Christian Democrat Party (Angela Merkel’s party) have seized upon her pronouncement as a violation of personal freedom that demonstrates the SDP’s willingness to “infringe on the rights of private citizens.”

Shame on the CDP for trying to make political capital out of such an important issue – the fate of the planet no less. And what price the Environment Ministry’s credibility if it continued to dish up environmental destruction on a plate.

“We’re not tell anyone what they should eat,” the environment ministry said in a statement published by the Telegraph. “But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.

Something of an understatement Barbara?

In August 2016 Tecnocracy News’ headline ran:

The United Nations would like to remove every meat animal from the face of the planet if it could, and especially cattle

The UN is not alone. Alarm bells about meat are ringing in the European Union, in Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, China, and for big investors in global food companies.

Need I go on? You can’t look anywhere right now without being told that meat is bad news.

So let’s see what preceded the veg*anising of official events at Germany’s Environment Ministry, beginning at the very top with the UN – August 2016

What exactly is the problem with meat? The UN’s International Research Panel reports that livestock farming is the biggest single emitter of greenhouse gas globally, responsible for 14.5% of all emissions causing climate change. Few would now try to deny – apart from Donald Trump – that climate change is a serious planet-threatening problem for which we need a radical solution.

The UN’s answer? Tax meat until it’s too expensive to eat.

“I think it is extremely urgent.  All of the harmful effects on the environment and on health need to be priced into food products.” Professor Maarten Hajer of Utrecht University, lead author of the IRP report.

So here we are, still celebrating the good news of the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement. With nearly 200 countries committed to it, the agreement comes into force in just 3 weeks time, on November 4th 2016. But there is no way many of the signatory nations will be able to keep to their commitment if their people don’t stop eating so much meat. If humans want to keep a planet to live on, they must cut back on meat. It’s as simple as that.

Europe – August 2016

The European Public Health Alliance is calling the EU to account on the same issue of meat’s calamitous effect on global warming. Europe’s Chief Advisor on Sustainability points out that Europe’s new climate policy fails to address the problems caused by intensive livestock farming.

“Preventing dangerous climate change, reversing the rise in diet-related chronic diseases and neutralising the threat of antibiotic resistance are among the most pressing issues facing the world today. An academic consensus is emerging around the understanding that changes to food consumption patterns may well be key to solving all three. Main message: we can’t afford to continue eating as if there is no tomorrow.”

So says Nikolai Pusharev for the EPHA. “Current dietary patterns high in animal products are incompatible with the aim of avoiding dangerous climate change,” he adds. Eating a lot less meat means crops are grown for people not cattle, a change vital for sustainability. In such a scenario far less land under food production is needed, and pressure is taken off the world’s precious forests and endangered habitats.

Sweden – August 2016

Dr David Bryngelsson agrees with the EPHA. His new study concludes, “radically reducing beef and mutton consumption is unavoidable if Europeans are serious about emission reduction.” After exploring six possible scenarios, his researchers found that deep cuts of 50 percent or more in meat consumption is the only way to make the necessary cuts in emissions.

He and his team conclude that Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy which heavily subsidises the farming of animals, is no longer fit for purpose and needs a radical overhaul.

“The evidence is accumulating that meat, particularly red meat, is just a disaster for the environment. 

Rachel Premack, the Washington Post.

cattle feed lot balck & white cows factory farming emissions

Denmark – April 2016

The Danish Ethics Council which advises the government also agrees.“The Danes’ way of life is far from climatically sustainable, and if we are to live up to the Paris agreement’s objective of keeping global temperature rise well below 2°C, it is necessary to act quickly,” says the council.

Which is why the Danish Council of Ethics, like the UN’s IRP, recommends a meat tax. To begin with on beef, the biggest polluter. It’s “an ethical obligation” to “send a clear signal” to the Danish public that their eating habits have to change – urgently.

UK – November 2015

Key findings of report from the Royal Institute of International Affairs:

  • Our appetite for meat is a major driver of climate change
  • Reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below the danger level of two degrees Celsius
  • Public awareness of the issue is low, and meat remains off the policy agenda
  • Governments must lead in shifting attitudes and behaviours

“I don’t think it’s possible to keep on a course for two degrees global warming—to keep climate change to safe levels—without looking at meat consumption,” Laura Wellesley, report’s lead author.

Netherlands – March 2016

The latest dietary guidelines for the Dutch issued earlier this year say, in a nutshell, cut out most of the meat. The reason?  “The livestock industry’s massive environmental impact.”

China – June 2016

With that country’s huge economic boom, meat went in the space of 10 years from rarity to regular staple. China’s new affluence opened the door to adopting the ‘Western diet’, heavy in meat. The Chinese government’s latest dietary guidelines recommend its 1.3 billion people cut their meat consumption by 50%, in the interests of reducing emissions, and improving public health.

Canada – October 2016

Just last week at the One Young World Summit in Ottawa, the former president of Ireland Mary Robinson urged young people from all over the world to “eat less meat, or no meat at all. We need each of us to think about our carbon footprint. Become vegetarian or vegan.”


Money Talks! – September 2016

Dietary guidelines and climate change commitments are one thing, but money is another. It’s time for livestock farmers to start worrying when a group of 40 investors managing assets worth $1.25 trillion launch a campaign urging 16 global food companies to diversify away from industrial farming and into plant-based protein.

The companies targeted include food giants Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Unilever, Tesco and Walmart. The investors in the shape of the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return Initiative issued a report, “The Future of Food: The Investment Case for a Protein Shake Up.”

70% of meat is produced in factory farms. And factory farming is, says FAIRR’s report, a high-risk production method. In addition to problems from  emissions; rising antibiotic resistance; and deforestation, add the risk of pandemics like avian flu; unsustainable water use; water, air and land pollution; and soil degradation. Investing in factory farming is not looking like such a good bet.

“The world’s over-reliance on factory-farmed livestock to feed the growing global demand for protein is a recipe for a financial, social and environmental crisis, says Jeremy Coller, leader of FAIRR .

David Sprinkle, Research Director of Packaged Facts agrees:

“On a global basis, alternate protein sources will grow [as financial commodities] faster than meat and seafood, which will begin to wane in coming decades. Global production increases are expected for protein-rich crops including soy, peas, rice, flax, canola and lupin.”

Of course Big Food companies are far too savvy to have just sat back on their heels waiting for the FAIRR report. They’ve already taken a fair few paddles in that particular sea. Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison gives a figure of $8bn invested in plant-based brands since 2010. That’s quite some paddling!

And the market for protein-rich meat substitutes such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, textured vegetable protein, quorn and so on, is expected to grow by 8.4% a year over the next five years.

That brings us to October 2016 And the big story to hit the news this week is Tyson Foods’ purchase of a 5% share in Beyond Meat. Nearly everything about this story appears, on the surface, astonishing. Tyson Foods is one of the world’s biggest meat companies. And even big meat companies don’t come much more hard-nosed than TFN.

Beyond Meat, on the other hand, is a small independent relative newbie founded by vegan Ethan Brown in 2009 to produce plant-based foods indistinguishable from meat, to replace meat. The latest of BM’s products, the Beyond Burger which ‘bleeds” like meat has been something of a media sensation.

beyond meat beast burger vegan plant-based meat

But as I said, Big Food is savvy. On Tuesday, after news broke of Tyson Foods’ investment in BM, its shares on the stock market rose.

“Tyson Foods investing in us, is a sign of progress towards an increasing plant-based future,” tweeted Ethan Brown. You can be sure a giant like TFN will employ the very best futurists (yes, there really is such a job) to predict which way the wind will blow. Ethan’s assessment of the move’s significance is spot on.

It’s the same in Canada. A major Canadian packaged meats company, Maple Leafs Foods, has acquired Lightlife Foods, a company that produces plant-based meat substitutes, including tempeh, burgers, bacon and hot dogs, for $140 million, the deal to be signed in March 2017. President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods states:

“Expanding into the fast growing plant-based proteins market is one of Maple Leaf’s strategic growth platforms and supports our commitment to become a leader in sustainability. Consumers are increasingly looking to diversify their protein consumption, including plant-based options.”

According to PR Newswire, the plant-based protein market is now “estimated at US$600 million.”


If animal suffering is not enough of a motivator to make us give up or cut back on meat, we might like to take a look at this article in the New York Times: Close to the Bone – The Fight Over Transparency in the Meat Industry  October 2016

If that is still not enough to tip the balance for us, how about fear of a deadly pandemic arising from antibiotic resistance? Or, remember that 2015 report from Florida International Uni? Meat-eating is the single biggest cause of species extinctions – on the last 40 years we humans have caused the loss of 50% of the wildlife on the planet. Or fear of catastrophic climate change which could see the end of human life itself?

Well, maybe we won’t even have to make that choice for ourselves. Meat will likely become a luxury we can no longer afford.

In any case, I know where the smart money is. It’s backing a plant-based future for food all the way.


Transitioning your diet could not be easier. The supermarket shelves are stacked full of meat-free products as well as great fresh produce.

If you want to cut back on animal products for the planet, or go vegetarian or vegan, incredibly useful practical tips and recipes found here

And here


To read an interview with Ethan Brown re Tyson Foods, click here


Updates

Monday October 17 2016 Free screening of Cowspiracy for UNAIDS in Geneva All welcome

14th July 2017 Canada joins the long list of countries recommending a reduction in meat consumption. The latest official healthy eating guide recommends, “regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods, especially plant-based sources of protein.” The milk category has been entirely eliminated, and legumes placed above meat as a source of protein Canada May Tell Its Residents to Ditch Dairy and Choose Plant-Protein Over Meat – One Green Planet

9th October 2017 Belgium new food guidelines follow suit Belgium’s New Food Guidelines Put Vegetables and Plant Proteins On Top – Guess Where Meat Is… – One Green Planet

13th March 2018 Goodbye to German Minister who said “no” to meat at official events But she’s left a great legacy.

12th November 2018 Taxing meat would save lives and slow global warming

Sources

German government agency bans meat from official functions – ThinkProgress

Tax Meat Until It’s Too Expensive To Eat, New UN Report Suggests – Technocracy News

Europe Needs to Halve Its Beef Consumption in Order to Meet Its Climate Change Goals – Munchies

China’s plan to cut meat consumption by 50% cheered by climate campaigners – The Guardian

Why meat is unsustainable and what the protein chain of the future might look like – ZME Science

Investors urge food companies to shift from meat to plants – Reuters

Fortune Reveals Why Big Food is Investing in Plant-Based Brands – VegNews

Former Ireland President Tells Young Leaders to Become Vegetarian or Vegan – ClearlyVeg

China continues to eat more and more meat – and that is bad for everyone – Take Part

Major Canadian Meat Company Buys Plant-Based Brand Lightlife Foods – Clearly Veg


Related posts

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Another Nation Trims Meat From Diet Advice

USA: Meat is Murdering American Rivers – Will America Act or Have Another Burger?

German Meat Companies Are Investing in Veg Meats

Extinction is Forever: Why We Need to Change to Save Animals

Big Meat, We’re Making You History

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.

pear-1264581_960_720

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.

coral-reef-474052_960_720

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

Related posts

Hope for the Animals & the Planet?

There is Always Hope for the Animals & the Planet

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

How Drones Might Just Save Our Endangered Animals & the Planet

 

 

The Brexit Effect- What next for Nature?

“We’re calling on UK Governments to turn leaving the European Union into an opportunity to create a countryside richer in nature.”

Martin Harper for the RSPB

Earlier this year science proved, as it so often does, something we already instinctively knew: spending time in nature is good for our health, and for our happiness.

forest-907742__340The ’30 days of random wildness’ study conducted by Derby Uni and the Wildlife Trusts invited 18,500 people to get hiking, biking or whatever they had a yen for, out in the countryside, imagination the limit.
The results? Measurably significant improvements for them in “life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and [lowered] anxiety.”

Taking the kids out into Nature is even better. If we get them climbing trees, bug hunting, or just sploshing through muddy puddles, it helps raise their self-esteem and gives their creativity free rein. Fresh air, exercise and rosy cheeks are to be had in the park too. Even green spaces in cities do the business for us it seems, whatever age we’re at.

Our Nature, the ecosystems and the wildlife in them, are something we absolutely need to cherish, even if we’re only thinking of their benefits to ourselves.

But, and it’s a big but, barely a month ago the State of Nature 2016 report delivered its damning indictment – the UK is now one of the most nature-impoverished countries in the world. One in seven of our British species face extinction, and more than half are in decline.

And it doesn’t stop there. We “worryingly face losing much more if we don’t take action today and step up our efforts in the years ahead.”  Martin Harper

Right now, the future fate of our wildlife and environment all rests on two moves we are awaiting from Prime Minister May which will be truly pivotal for them. These are the post-Brexit Great Repeal Act, and the 25 Year Plan for the Environment. At this moment, we are standing on the threshold of history in the making.

swan-1412233__340But before you yawn and mumble that history is not your bag, just pause a minute to cast a quick eye over what this means for us, for our animals, and for our iconic British countryside. It matters. Those two enactments could be the making or breaking, environmentally speaking, of the UK as we know it.

First, a quick look at the Great Repeal Act

The Great Repeal Act will revoke the act that took us into Europe in the first place, the European Communities Act 1972. At the same time, the GRA will incorporate into British law all the laws passed since 1972 by the European Parliament.

When the European Communities Act was passed, all subsequent legislation from Brussels, obviously, became binding on us here in the UK too. (The press at the time was full of hysteria about Brussels bureaucracy – the EU will force straight cucumbers and bananas on us, and other such nonsense.)

From that entire 44 years of EU law, the Environmental Chapter which concerns us here, contains more than 200 provisions. It’s almost entirely these we have to thank for our cleaner beaches, cleaner air, cleaner countryside and cities, and protection for our wildlife. Before 1972, we could boast here in the UK only 27 beaches not polluted with sewage. Now in 2016 we can swim without fear of encountering something gross at more than 600 beautiful clean beaches around the land – courtesy of EU environmental law.

butterfly-1507031__340Some of those 200 provisions, for instance the EU-wide ban on the use of neonicotinoids, so deadly to our bees and butterflies, were actually opposed in Brussels by the Tories. It’s a fact that under EU law we benefit from some environmental protections our government did not want us to have.

You might be wondering, if all 200 provisions are going to be incorporated into British law anyway after the Great Repeal Bill, why should we be worried about the ‘Brexit Effect’ on Nature here in the UK?

The problem is that there are multiple ways the Tories will be able to simply  ‘lose’ EU provisions they don’t like. :

  • The Awkward Bits  Minister for Energy & Climate Change Andrea Leadsom says that there is between a quarter and a third of EU law it would be ‘impractical’ to move into UK law. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot of laws. Considering the Tories’ opposition to some of the EU environmental laws, there’s every chance those will find themselves on the ‘Impractical’ List.
  • Bits to Unpick  The Tory cabinet is keen on deregulation. Minister for Defra George Eustice described the EU Nature Directives as ‘spirit-crushing’, and has already declared, “The birds and habitats directives would go.” There will undoubtedly be other bits they want to unpick, such as planning restrictions in protected areas, to give business more of a free run.
  • Parliamentary Scrutiny  In “the largest scale legislation process ever carried out”, to have Parliament deliberate on every detail would just not be do-able. In consequence many decisions will be left to individual Ministers, bypassing Parliament altogether. Very convenient for the Tories.
  • Updates  Things change fast. The government may just not bother keeping pace with post-Brexit updates from Brussels to existing environmental law.
  • Money  Funding for environmental protections gets a high priority in the EU budget. Who knows what our government will do with the money it no longer contributes to Europe. If its track record is anything to go by, environmental and animal issues may soon be taking a back seat.
That’s the bad news. Let’s shine the light of hope into the picture and take a look at the 25 Year Plan for the Environment – “a chance to imagine a wildlife-rich natural world in the future.”

Catherine Weller for ClientEarth.

We don’t actually know yet what is going to be in the Plan. After Mrs May’s election to PM in July, publication of the Plan was put back until the end of the year. But we hope it will reference the Red List of Ecosystems, and the Green List of Protected Areas drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Closer to home, the UK’s biggest Nature organisations – the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and WWF-UK – have been working together to lobby the government with their ideas for a post-Brexit environment, farming and wildlife plan.

They think it should look something like this:

  • Replacing the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy with codes that give high priority to environmental standards in land management
  • Setting up an Independent Policy Commission for the environment that would encourage open debate and public input
  • Joined-up working for farming and environment in the government, with all future proposals measured against the 25 Year Plan
  • Keeping existing EU schemes that reward farmers for environmental work on their land

What we need at this turning point for our country, is the government to take a good hard look beyond its blinkers. To change its mindset. Protecting wildlife, the countryside and the environment is not an expensive nuisance, a luxury to be trimmed off the budget, or unpicked to free industry of ‘unnecessary’ constraints.

It’s tragic if money really is the only thing this government understands. Let’s at least hope they pick up on that health and happiness study, and that when drawing up the 25 Year Plan, the study results remind them to factor in Nature’s huge savings to the NHS.

No-one puts the value of Nature better than David Attenborough.

quote-it-seems-to-me-that-the-natural-world-is-the-greatest-source-of-excitement-the-greatest-david-attenborough-1-23-18

But true as that is, and wonderful as Sir David is, he is still presenting there the human-centred view of Nature – its benefits to us.

Even more than making our lives worth living, and in fact providing for our lives, Nature is something that does not belong to us. It exists for its own sake, and we have a duty to honour that, and protect its rights. My hope would be that our government might see beyond money, beyond even the UK population’s health and well-being, beyond what Nature gives to us. To see  “that our ecosystems – including trees, oceans, animals, mountains – have rights just as human beings have rights.”

We could not do better than emulate Ecuador: “By recognizing rights of nature in its constitution, Ecuador – and a growing number of communities in the United States – are basing their environmental protection systems on the premise that nature has inalienable rights, just as humans do.” Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

It’s time to stop regarding Nature as human property. Time to redress the balance –  a balance which has placed far too much weight on human interests, especially monetary ones, and nothing like enough on the best interests of other species and the land we share, habitats, ecosystems, the Nature we hold in common.

Petition the government:

Protect UK Environment & Wildlife – adopt EU legislation here

Keep the EU’s environmental protection laws for the UK here

Keep the EU laws that protect our environment here

As EU law is still binding on the UK until Article 50 is triggered, tell the EU to prevent a ‘Silent Spring’ here

Petition the UN:

Sign The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth here

Update

5th December 2016 New petition to Sir Julian King, UK Commissioner attending meeting of the European Commissioners on Wednesday 7th December. Save our nature laws. Click here

4th January 2017 Brexit legal changes ‘could put countryside and wildlife at risk’ – itv NEWS

Sources

Environmental law endangered – Wildlife and Countryside Link

How nature is good for our health and happiness – BBC Earth

Brexit would free UK from ‘spirit-crushing’ green directives, says minister – The Guardian

Our nature needs proper policies – RSPB

*The UK’s 25-year plan for nature – all eyes on wildlife – ClientEarthBlog, Catherine Weller

The Rights of Nature – Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

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Hope for the Animals & the Planet?

In the week WWF’s Living Planet Report disclosed the terrifying rate we’re losing life on Earth – animal and plant – we really could use some hope.

Well, hope might just be at hand in the form of ‘Natural Capital’, ‘Ecosystem Services’, the ‘Economic Capital of Nature’. But what does the jargon mean? And how can it help us save the planet?
What it means is bringing two enemies to the negotiating table. Two enemies who’ve been engaged in outright battle for decades: The Economy and Ecology.

One one side the ruthless aggressor, in the form of mega corporations like Dow, Monsanto, Walmart, Unilever, Nestle, Bayer, Exxon Mobil, for whom Nature exists only as the supplier of resources, “or worse still an economically costly distraction that gets in the way of economic growth”. They despoil the Earth in the pursuit of profit. I imagine them in black and red, the colours of blood and death.

In the defending army, naturally in green, the eco-warriors, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, The Wildlife Alliance, The World Conservation Trust, The Rainforest Alliance, WWF, and so on. Not forgetting the foot soldiers, we who care.

forest fire red black destruction reflection lake
Clearing forest for palm oil

The Greens fight valiantly, but limited resources mean limited success. The Black and Reds wield the immense power afforded them by almost unlimited cash – and the shameful abetment of national governments they seem able to mould to their will. So they continue to gain ground, leaving a wasteland in their wake.

Up against such odds, it’s time for the army in green to change tack. They must move the conflict off the battlefield and into peace talks. The problem is how to talk when the two sides just don’t speak the same language. In the words of environmentalist George Monbiot, the Greens talk ‘values’, and the Black and Reds, only ‘value’. There is only one language the latter understand, and it looks like this $$$$$$$$$$$.

“One source of hope comes from the growing realisation that nature is essential for economic development. That could soon lead to a new era of policy-making. One in which ecology and economics go hand in hand, but only if we have the tools to build bridges between these worlds that are so alien to each other. And that is where the economic valuation of nature can come in.” Tony Jupiter in The Guardian

It may go totally against the grain for the Greens to see “a tropical forest as a collection of ecosystems services for humans to use, rather than to see it as a priceless heritage.” But the truth is Capitalism understands nothing else. Jupiter again, “Making the moral case in the face of such [capitalist] beliefs won’t work. If, on the other hand, such scepticism can be met with economically compelling logic, then we might get a bit further.”

Natural Capital is that ‘economically compelling logic’. It means putting a price on Nature. So yes, it is the ‘commodification’ of Nature. But the potential prize is so great – saving the planet and its treasure trove of life no less – doesn’t the end justify the means? Shouldn’t we grab at this way forward with both hands?

The Green camp is split. Some like George Monbiot see it as the ultimate sell-out: “Rarely will the money to be made by protecting nature match the money to be made by destroying it. Nature offers low rates of return by comparison to other investments. If we allow the discussion to shift from values to value – from love to greed – we cede the natural world to the forces wrecking it.”

He has a point. It’s a sad world where a price tag has to be put on animals, people even, and Nature itself. But how else to appeal to Earth’s exploiters than by showing them what’s in Natural Capital for them?

Anyway, regarding Nature’s economic value Monbiot may be unduly pessimistic. Massimiliano Morelli in Voices for Biodiversity writes:

“One way to estimate the value of a tropical forest is to calculate the cost to replace what ecosystems do if humans had to perform the services. When ecosystem services are estimated in this manner, such services provide approximately twice the world gross national product. If we lose these natural ecosystem services, we are losing that much of the global economy.

Each time we harm ecosystems, we also harm our global economies. In addition, there are non-use values for nature and biodiversity. Mental health is maintained by a close relationship to nature. The cost to society of nature deficit disorder in children is now very high.

 

deer yellowstone national park snow wildlife natureNatural landscapes, national parks, zoological and botanical gardens, and recreational activities (e.g. bird watching, diving, eco-tourism, hiking, fishing, photography, etc), keep people not only mentally healthy, but also physically fit, and represent a significant and growing income for businesses and governments.”

So in truth we need the warring parties to see the light. Urgently. Stop fighting. Work together. Because like it or not the causes you fight for – Ecology and Economy – are inextricably entwined.

Now enter one of the ‘special envoys’ for those peace talks, The Natural Capital Project. The NCP is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, WWF, and the universities of Stanford and Minnesota, founded specifically for the complex task of quantifying nature’s benefits before we lose them all.

And good things are happening! These are a few of the Natural Capital Project’s success stories to date:

A five-year collaboration with Dow to help identify the true value of fresh water, clean air and other “green infrastructure” to the corporate bottom line – a perfect example of the two ‘armies’ laying down arms and working together for the benefit of all

More than a dozen water funds in South America where the water producers contribute to conservation, and 40 million people get fresh clean drinking water

Establishing scores of marine protected areas in the Caribbean and Pacific to safeguard coral reefs and other ocean life

Working with farmers in the BirdReturns Project, rotating crops with wetlands to improve habitats

Sustainable Rivers Project striking the right balance between using and protecting rivers

Working Woodlands managing forests for high quality ecological and economic values

Restoring oyster reefs, one of most endangered habitats on Earth, which protect coasts from storms, filter pollutants and create habitat for marine life

river washington state USA american shallows beauty spot waterThe NCP is not the only collaborative project implementing the idea of Natural Capital. Take Part cites the Elwha River Project in the USA, a joint venture between the National Park Service and the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe to quantify the economic capital value of restoring the river by removing two hydroelectric dams.

Environmental economics expert John Loomis calculated taking out the dams would generate $3.5 billion in non-economic benefits. “Once we incorporate those, we see that doing agriculture the cheapest way possible, or producing goods in the most profitable way, doesn’t incorporate these environmental costs. We need to shift our production and consumption to account for these costs [and] not squander that natural capital by treating it as having zero value.”

But what about here in the UK? Well, you may not have heard about it, but we have the SEA and the NEA. The first is the EU’s Strategic Environmental Assessment. The second our own National Ecosystem Assessment 2011, the most comprehensive assessment of the UK’s natural environment and resources ever undertaken. Its key finding was “that the benefits we derive from the natural world and its constituent ecosystems are critically important to human well-being and economic prosperity, but are consistently undervalued in economic analysis and decision-making.”

But where does this leave us as individuals who want to do our bit for the planet?

My first post on the Living Planet Report shows how each of us has the power to help the planet simply by cutting down on, or cutting out altogether, the meat and dairy on our plates. Or better still, cutting out animal products in every area of our lives. It’s not hard.

The Nature Capital approach to saving our Earth operates at corporate or even governmental level. So is there any way we can get behind this as individuals to make a difference? Well yes, there is. Here in the UK, we can support the Wildlife Trusts. You can be sure they will do all in their power to keep our government in line with the NEA. You can also join the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. They greatly value individuals’ input.

In the USA, there is the truly wonderful Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club. Both would welcome your support.

All of us also have votes. Natural Capital – a positive way to reverse the decline of life on precious Planet Earth. What do our electoral candidates have to say about that? It’s just about the most important question they need to answer. Shall we ask them?

Sources

Mass Consumption Is Causing Mass Extinction. Can We Stop Ourselves? – TakePart

The Economic Value of Nature – Voices for Biodiversity

Ecosystem Services – Science in Action

National Ecosystem Assessment – The Wildlife Trusts

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