Because THEY Are Worth It

Cover pic Cruelty Free International

L’Oréal

Imagine yourself in a focus group, being asked to blurt out the first words that come into your head when L’Oréal is mentioned. Would they be ‘beauty’, ‘skincare’, ‘make up’?
Or would they be ‘cruelty’, ‘suffering’, ‘inhumanity’? Because underneath the company’s flawless façade of glamour lies an underbelly of ugliness – brutal testing on animals.

In the EU, not only is testing on animals for cosmetics banned, but as from 2013 there’s also a blanket ban on the sale of any cosmetics and/or their ingredients tested on animals outside the EU. Similar measures have also been enacted in India, Israel, Norway, and Switzerland. More than 1.8 billion people can now only buy cosmetics that will never be tested on animals again. American cosmetic companies must already comply with these laws in order to sell their products internationally. Guatemala, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and four states in Brazil have also passed laws to end or limit cosmetic animal testing.¹

There is, as yet, no such ban though within the USA itself where untold millions of animals undergo extreme pain and distress in research for cosmetics, as well as drugs and household products. ‘Untold’ because the most commonly-used animals are rats and mice, which the USDA does not define as animals for the purpose of animal experiments. So they slip conveniently under the radar.

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L’Oréal and their ilk are rubbing chemicals into animals’ shaved skin, dripping them into their eyes, and even force-feeding the chemicals with a tube down their throats directly into their stomachs, for months at a time, to test for signs of ‘adverse effects’ like cancer or birth defects. All up till now sanctioned by US law.

L’Oréal clearly cares nothing for animal welfare. And such a huge corporation – featuring 198th on Forbes’ List of The World’s Biggest Public Companies, and reckoned to be worth $107.5 billion – can easily afford to forego sales to vegans!

But now there is a brighter side. Enter EpiSkin

What is EpiSkin? “EpiSkin is an in vitro, reconstructed human skin (just the epidermis) cultured on a collagen matrix at the air-liquid interface.”

L’Oréal are pumping some of their lovely big profits into the EpiSkin project. Not because they’ve seen the error of their ways, or out of the kindness of their heart, you can be sure, but because EpiSkin gives a “much better simulation of human skin than animals.” Which means beauty products tailor-made for the end user, rather than best-guessed. Which means increased profits. And as a spin-off, no more torture for the animals, we sincerely hope.

And there is more good news

L’Oréal is making this research open to all:

“EpiSkin models are also available to the global scientific community to support academic and corporate research and development activities across industries,” Charbel Bouez, vice president of advanced research at L’Oréal’s America Zone and president of EpiSkin, told CNBC.

And more

EpiSkin is not the only cultured human skin under research. It has a twin – EpiDerm launched by MatTek in 1993. MatTek does the ultimate in recycling: they use surgical waste skin from cosmetic surgery to grow its two adult humans worth of skin per week.

And still more

EpiSkin“already works so well that it’s outperforming animal testing in most scenarios.

Its applications could reach far beyond the beauty industry, hopefully into medical research. These two competitors, plus other research labs around the world, are looking to expand the technique to make cells for human organs, organs other than skin. This could make even today’s cutting edge technology of organs-on-a-chip obsolete.

For companies and institutions engaged in research, testing on cells in petri dishes is a huge financial saving on keeping those millions and millions of unfortunate animals in labs. Plus the benefits in terms of accurate results are off the scale.

And yet more

The United States itself is close to finally saying “no” to cruel cosmetics.The Humane Cosmetics Act is being reintroduced in Congress with bi-partisan support. This week is the week! The Act would bring US legislation in line with that of many other countries, as well as the EU. It would prohibit the use of animals to test cosmetic products and ingredients, and phase out the sale of cosmetics tested on animals overseas.

If you live in America please urge your legislators to support the Humane Cosmetics Act

#BeCrueltyFree

Hopefully the time is not too far off when we will look back at animal testing and will not believe how we could have been complicit in the barbaric torture of others, just because we could. That we were drawn into parting with our cash on products of cruelty that promised to magically transform us into an Eva Longoria, a Jennifer Aniston.

But meanwhile, for everyone, everywhere:

  • Sign the Humane Society’s petition to Support Legislation to End Inhumane Cosmetics Testing on Animals here
  • Check out Cruelty Free International’s campaign page with 8 petitions to sign
  • Get ‘The Little Book of Cruelty Free’ handy pocket guide here
  • Or search here for Leaping Bunny certified cruelty free products
  • Sign up for CFI’s email updates
  • Donate here – every single donation received, large or small, helps animals in laboratories

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¹One Green Planet

Other Sources

The Humane Nation – Wayne Pacelle’s Blog

Lab-grown human skin might finally spell the end for animal testing – ZME

Cosmetics Tests That Use Animals – HSUS

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Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

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

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Calling All Rabbit-Lovers

Let Jackfruit Be Thy Medicine, Say California Doctors

With a nod to Hippocrates😉

Does your doctor’s practice give cookery classes?

What kind of crazy question is this, no doubt you’ll be thinking. But in California where, it’s true, anything can happen and often does, one health center is doing just that. And the cuisine they’re teaching is vegan.
Last week, Danish politicians going vegan for the health of the planet. This week, doctors and nurses promoting vegan for the health of their patients. Because more and more, “research is showing it [a plant-based diet] reduces inflammation and risks of chronic disease and cancer, and helps manage many chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.”

And as they’re not believers in the ‘Do as I tell you, not as I do’ maxim, the medics at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fresno “are helping their patients adopt a whole foods plant-based diet by making the switch along with them.”

No need for them to dive from their familiar omni diet straight into the vegan deep end though. Dietician Judy Meadows’ 21-day plan allows the novices to dip a toe in the water by starting with one plant-based meal a day, and building up from there.

And the in-the-workplace tastings and cookery classes demonstrate how making delicious wholefood plant-based meals really is a piece of (vegan) cake.

Where does jackfruit come into it? The world’s biggest fruit (this guy comes in two sizes – huge and huger) makes a satisfying, protein-rich, low-fat, low-calorie, natural and fabulously tasty meat-substitute. Jackfruit is the star of the Kaiser cooking classes – as it is of many a vegan recipe – and is proving very popular with the Fresno whitecoats.

Alongside the practical (the cookery sessions), Kaiser teaches the theory, in the form of a nutrition class, “Food for Health”.

The proof of the plant-based pudding can already be seen in Kaiser’s fitter, healthier workforce. After staff remove meat and dairy from their diets, Meadows says, “we’re seeing stress reduction, we’re seeing weight loss, we’re seeing fewer sick days, healthier families at home.” Not to mention lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

“First couple of days were a little challenging, but after that, I really embraced it,” Nurse Tammy Barigian, now 14 lbs lighter. “And I found new recipes.”

Did I mention the trove of yummy meat- and dairy-free recipes on Kaiser’s website?

Fresno doctors and nurses are fast transforming into the epitome of plant-fuelled vitality. What better way to show their patients the path to optimum health and wellbeing than by ditching the prescription pad in favour of the shopping list.

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As for me, I’ve yet to make the acquaintance of a jackfruit. Definitely one for the bucket list.


Scaling this up several notches:

“The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has estimated that over half a million deaths worldwide in 2015 were linked to diets high in processed and red meat, which the W.H.O. now classifies as carcinogenic and ‘probably carcinogenic,’ respectively.”¹

Recently, 200 experts in global health, medicine, biology, policy, and climate research signed an open letter urging the World Health Organization (WHO), an international organization concerned with public health, to address factory farming.

Soon, the WHO will meet in Geneva to select a new director general. The 200 experts are urging the candidates for the new director general to do just one simple thing: recognize and address factory farming as a public health challenge.

The letter (which you can read in full here) also includes a series of policy recommendations, such as:

  • Ban the use of growth-promoting antibiotics in animal farming and provide incentives to meat producers to dispose of antibiotics and animal waste in ways that prevent environmental contamination.
  • Stop subsidizing factory farming.
  • Adopt nutrition standards and implement education campaigns that warn of the health risks of meat consumption.
  • Finance research into plant-based alternatives to meat.²

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For the animals, for the planet, for your own healthTry Vegan

PS A plant-based diet keeps your wallet healthier too! Click here to find out more

 

Sources

¹ New York Time

² One Green Planet

These Doctors and Nurses Are Going Vegan to Teach Their Patients How to Do it – One Green Planet

Jackfruit may tempt you towards a plant-based diet – abc30 News

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Walking the Talk – Danish Politicians Go Vegan

To save the planet no less, last year the UN’s International Research Panel expressed its wish to see every meat animal removed from the face of it, and along with them agri industry’s monstrous environmental footprint.

These are the damning facts
  • 45% of Earth’s land is occupied by livestock
  • 33% of arable land is devoted to growing feed for that livestock
  • 23% of the world’s fresh water supplies goes to livestock farming
  • 14.5% (a conservative estimate – some estimate as much as 51%) of GHGs are emitted by the sector.
  • And Florida’s International University didn’t even try to sugar the pill when their 2015 study published in the Science of Total Environment Journal revealed meat-eaters as the number one cause of worldwide species extinction.
With a growing world population and the increasing demand for meat and dairy in developing countries, as well as in the US, we have to change our ways – and fast –  if we want a planet left to live on.

The Danish Council of Ethics agrees, and recommends Denmark adopt the UN proposal of levying a tax on meat. It’s “an ethical obligation” to “send a clear signal” to the Danish public that their eating habits have to change – urgently.

Now politicians in Denmark from both the Alternative and the Red-Green Alliance parties are giving up animal products for 22 days to highlight how much damage intensive animal farming does to our planet.

Uffe Elbæk, leader of the Alternative party told the Metro“Western food production has an enormous climate footprint. Political action is needed, and I find it important that we, as politicians, take the first steps and begin to ‘walk the talk’.”

Maria Gjerding, the Red-Green Alliance’s environmental secretary, agrees, “We need to take action on both a personal and political level in order to address the serious issues of climate change.”

The Danes are following in the footsteps of Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment, who recently banned meat at official functions.


Meanwhile, Bill Clinton is not the only ex-POTUS to stamp his seal of approval on plant-based eating: at the Global Food Innovation Summit held in Milan last week Barack Obama spoke of the need for societies worldwide to reduce meat consumption and find more efficient ways of producing protein, which are good for the health both of the planet and individuals. The former president though, might do well to follow the Danes example and walk the talk, because he ended on something of a a downer, “What is true is I am not a vegetarian. I respect vegetarians, but I am not one of them.”

Pretty hard to understand why two environmentally and socially conscious people like Barack and Michelle have yet to align their lives with their visions. What a blessing they could be to our planet. We live in hope.


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This political leader may not be quite as high profile (even reproduced here 21 times!) as America’s ex-Commander in Chief, but he is vegetarian and has been so all his adult life. Here in the UK we are in full campaign mode for a June 8th general election. And on Tuesday Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party tweeted, “We are announcing plans to aid plant-based food manufacturers later this week.” Can’t wait to hear that announcement!


Check out here some of the other countries, organisations, multinationals and investors who’ve figured out meat is the bad guy and are already busy shaping a more plant-based future.

So. Ready to start eating green for the planet? Follow these 3 simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to giving Earth and all the amazing life on it real hope for the future.

#EatForThePlanet

1. Replace: Try to swap animal-based products in your daily diet with vegan alternatives (milk, butter, mayo, cheese, grilled chicken, beef crumbles, sausages, cold cuts, etc.)
2. Embrace: Add plant-based whole foods (local and organic when possible) to your diet like greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins like lentils, nuts/seeds, beans, tofu, etc.
3. Moderate: Limit consumption of your favorite meats like beef, lamb, pork, etc.

There, that was easy wasn’t it? Now go vegan for the animals, for your health, for the environment and most of all for this jewel of the known universe, planet Earth.


Sources

Politicians in Denmark are Going Vegan to Help the Environment – One Green Planet

Politicians in Denmark are dropping animal products and going vegan to tackle climate change – the Metro

Barack Obama Urges World to Eat Less Meat – PETA

You Won’t Believe What This UK Politician Said – One Green Planet

Related posts

When Everyone is Telling You Meat is the Bad Guy

Another Nation Trims Meat From Diet Advice

 

 

 

On April 29, We March for the Future

This is ‘From Truth to Justice’ Week. From the March for Science on Earth Day to the People’s Climate March this Saturday.
‘The Science March Was About Respecting Science, the People’s Climate March Is About Acting on It’
The president of the USA – who would be a joke if he weren’t so capriciously dangerous – may not care about what climate change is doing to the planet, but we do.
It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest 
thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin. In the past year, we’ve decimated the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on Earth. In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day.
PolarBearFamily_iStock_160X150As for wildlife, look no further than the tragedy of starving polar bears. Which is why, just maybe, you should come to Washington, DC, on April 29 for a series of big climate protests that will mark the 100th day of Trumptime. Maybe the biggest thing ever is worth a day. Bill McKibben for The Nation

For some of us Washington DC is too hard to reach, but not to worry, we can still hit the streets and make our voices heard for the planet at any one of hundreds of the Peoples Climate Movement ‘sister marches’ all over the USA, and indeed, all over the world. Click here to find one near you.

If you really can’t make any of the marches, join the Virtual Wildlife Climate March here

Watch writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben, and his guests talk about climate change and climate action in this short video.

Week of Action From Truth to Justice: – Earth Day to May Day 2017

One amongst an exciting calendar of events in the Week of Action really caught my eye: an invitation to stand with the 21 youth plaintiffs suing the federal government for ‘perpetrating climate chaos’, in the case Juliana vs U.S.  It is predicted to be ‘the trial of the century’.

The youth plaintiffs will speak out from the steps of the United States Supreme Court – where their case may eventually be heard. Joined by their lawyers, supporting U.S. Senators and others, these youth will share the latest updates on their case, as well as song, fiery speeches and invitations to show your support.

Check out the full week’s program here

Find out everything you need to know about the Peoples Climate March here

Since farming livestock is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gases globally, you could do much worse than join the Plant-Powered Planet Protectors at the March. Says it all, in four words, doesn’t it – whoever dreamed up that group name deserves a medal! If you are serious about your interest in wildlife and in doing your bit to mitigate the grim effects of climate change – think polar bear – take the Center for Biological Diversity’s pledge to Take Extinction off Your Plate

Find out which species of wildlife are affected by climate change: USA here, UK here

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And when all the fun and flag-waving is over for the day, sign up for the free Food Revolution Summit, a week of illuminating talks from, amongst others, eminent doctors such as Michael Greger and Kim Williams. John Robbins kicks the whole thing off with “Lift-Off: Taking Action to Heal Yourself & the World”

Other experts, include Nathan Runkle who while still a boy of 15, founded Mercy for Animals. Nathan is an internationally renowned leader in the field of animal advocacy. He is talking on “How Mercy for Animals Can Transform Your Life” Check out all 24 visionary speakers’ profiles and their topics here.

For yourself, for the animals and for the planet

Happy smiles in the rain – people and posters from the March for Science here

Further reading post March for Science & Earth Day:

Julian L Wong advocate of ‘A Whole Person Economy’ tells us that science alone will not solve Earth’s problems for us. We need a much more radical solution – overturning ‘a political and economic system based on the indefinite and continuous extraction, exploitation, and wealth-hoarding of resources by the powerful few on a planet of finite natural resources. Addressing this root cause requires much more than advances in science and technology, but also requires significant advances in our understanding of how to shift patterns of human behavior on a systems and planetary scale (essentially, world cultures) so that, for instance, we collectively stop measuring success and progress through erroneous notions of “economic growth.”’

Read more of his fascinating piece here

This is of interest too Climate-induced species migrations could upend human society

But don’t get depressed! Mike Bloomberg, 3 times mayor of NYC gives us Six Reasons to Be Hopeful about Climate Change

For pics of the best posters and happy people smiling in the rain at Earth Day’s Science March, click here and here

Update

May 1st People’s Climate March Draws Massive Crowd in D.C. – Ecowatch

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Can You Help Save the Nineteen Billion?

A truly disturbing fact I never knew until now, maybe you did. There are way more hens than people in the world. Nineteen billion in fact, 3 hens to every 1 human. And the numbers just keep rising.
( I like to call these clever, social birds hens rather than chickens. Chicken is their flesh, not their personhood.)

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To mark yesterday’s National Poultry Day, and in the run up to Easter when chicks and eggs traditionally take centre stage, here’s what I’ve gleaned from three recent pieces about hens, and indeed chicken, the meat:-

First up

Will Brexit & Trump really force us to eat chlorine-washed chicken?

Well, that’s a pretty unpleasant sentence all round, isn’t it? And the implications are even worse. Certain farming practices in the USA such as the use of specific antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones, and yes, washing chicken in chlorinated water, are  banned on health and environmental grounds under EU law. Which of course applies to the UK at the present time – but in the future, who knows?

“That could all be set to change—at least in Britain. There are worries that the UK Government may be about to open the door to hormone-pumped beef, pesticide-treated wheat, eggs from poor welfare hens, and swimming pool chicken.”

Because right at the top of Theresa May’s wishlist as she negotiates the UK’s withdrawal from Europe is a trade deal with the States. Chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation Bob Young is on record as saying if any deal is to be struck, the UK will have to lift its current (EU) ban on US food products.

This is what we could be exposed to:

including the trauma endured by those millions of hapless hens.

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Did you know that in the USA

  • There are no federal laws governing the conditions in which farmed animals are raised?
  • The majority of farmed animal suffering is exempt from state criminal anti-cruelty laws?
  • Many individual state criminal anti-cruelty laws exempt “standard” or “commonly accepted” agricultural practices?¹

Let’s hope those pics of PM May holding Donald Trump’s hand aren’t an ominous sign of things to come.

Our premier says not:”We are committed to maintaining, where possible improving, standards of welfare in the UK”. But haven’t we seen politicians of every hue executing spectacular u-turns when under pressure?

And in Mrs May’s statement the sting is in the tail: “while ensuring of course that our industry is not put at a competitive disadvantage.” Mmm, seems she’s already feeling the hot breath of the National Farmers Union on her back. They’re demanding a level playing field for meat sales and if that means lowering standards to US levels, so be it, is their thinking.

Read more here

The answer of course is in our hands (see below)


Next

Crisis in the Chicken Coop

For the first time in 100 years those champion meat-eaters of the world, the Americans, are eating less beef. Sadly, although they are eating less beef, they are eating a lot more chicken. And it’s likely numbers will rise. By 2018 chicken consumption is expected to reach over 200lbs per head per annum in the US. There are at least 3 reasons for the trend away from beef to chicken:

  1. Health warnings. Folk are getting the message that red meat is linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They see chicken as the healthier option.
  2. The message of livestock farming’s extravagantly huge environmental footprint is getting through, at least to some.
  3. And the deal-clincher: beef prices are nearly double what they were a decade ago, and now more than double the price of chicken.

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If you think about it pound for pound of meat, in terms of hen’s feet on the ground this actually means an even greater number of individual nonhuman animals suffering at the hands of agribusiness for the benefit of consumers. This is why One Step for Animals focuses exclusively on hens. The numbers are the greatest. Therefore so is the need.

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Nearly all of those 19 billion hens live a life of appalling suffering that has to be kept hidden from the eyes of the chicken-eating public who have no idea of what is going on behind closed doors. In Defense of Animals describes it like this:

“In less than 50 days from the time she is born, her bones will break beneath her own weight. By that time her breast valued only for the quantity of its white meat and not the gentle animal inside will be so massive, she will no longer be able to walk to the water bowl. Left in her own urine and feces and the bodily waste produced by up to 60,000 other chickens in the warehouse, her skin will blister and burn until the day she is brought to slaughter.”

Help expose the horrors these gentle souls are made to endure by supporting IDA’s appeal to fund a secret Easter rescue mission that reveals once and for all how cruel and unnatural factory farming is for chickens, and documents the story of the chicks and chickens rescued to inspire others to choose alternative plant-based sources of protein.”

Donate here


But let’s wind up on a happier note – this is what you won’t be exposed to if you choose not to eat the flesh of the hen

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Maybe, just maybe, ‘clean meat’ will be the answer for those who still want to satisfy their chicken cravings – enter Memphis Meats’ first lab-grown chicken. Churchill’s prophesy was spot on:
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”— Winston Churchill, Fifty Years Hence (1931)
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©Memphis Meats

The company served its chicken and duck strips at an event in San Francisco last week and it passed the taste test. All the testers/tasters liked it and said they would happily eat it again.

A pound of the stuff at $9,000 is not quite as expensive as the first lab-grown burger which came in at $325,000. The plan is to bring the price tag down to the level of supermarket chicken by 2021.

Even so Memphis Meats will have its work cut out making significant inroads into the quantities of factory-farmed chicken the average American is currently eating in a year.

Clean meat is so much more environmentally friendly than the other kind. Studies show clean meat would potentially use 96% less greenhouse gas emission, 45% less energy, 99% less land and 96% less water than meat from animal agriculture.

Of course the meat though ‘clean’ in that it is grown from stem cells humanely harvested one would hope from live animals and only a few at that, is not vegan as the Beyond Burger grown in the lab entirely from plant cells most definitely is.

Read more here


What we can do

Help save the 19 billion by supporting the work of ADI here

Be prepared to resist detrimental changes to our welfare and environment law here in the UK when the time comes.

Best of all, stop eating animals & go vegan!

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¹Farmed Animals & the Law – ALDF

Sources

Crisis in the chicken coop – In Defense of Animals

Chicken More Popular Than Beef in US for First Time in 100 Years – Huffington Post

I just ate meat for the first time in 20 years – The Medium

Related posts

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Brexit – The Animals’ View

 


5 Facts About Animal Agriculture and Air Pollution That You Just Can’t Argue With | One Green Planet

Animal farms may produce food, but they also produce massive amounts of animal waste like urine and manure that emit around 400 different harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Source: 5 Facts About Animal Agriculture and Air Pollution That You Just Can’t Argue With | One Green Planet

Kids, Dogs, & Bob Marley

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


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

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

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

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

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

No surprises there.

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

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

ADOPT, DON’T SHOP.

Just look at these sad statistics:

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

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

On a more cheerful note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

Stressed dogs prefer reggae and soft rock – MNN

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Doctor Dog – the Power of Loving Licks

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The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Cover pic from Pedigree Dogs Exposed

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

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

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

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

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

Clustered   Regularly   Interspaced   Short   Palindromic   Repeats

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

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

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

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

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

dachshund-1532974_960_720

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man now has the power to gene-edit life itself

And that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

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

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

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

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

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

So what would you say to Organ Farms?

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

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

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

images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 eyes_collage

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

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

Update

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

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

Sources

Quote & pic Free from Harm

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

Medicine’s Big Breakthrough – Editing Your Genes – Panorama

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

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Meat to Come with Health Warning Label?

In a world first, California is about to decide whether to put health warning labels on packs of meat.

You know how supermarket oranges are packed in orange nets to make them look even oranger? Well, they do the same to meat, except that what they use to get that lovely red fresh blood colour are the carcinogenic chemicals, nitrites and nitrates. The World Health Organisation has placed meats treated with nitrites and nitrates (processed meats) in Risk Category 1 – as great a cancer risk as cigarettes and asbestos.

A daily 50g portion of processed meat – roughly 2 slices of bacon – increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Even nitrite- nitrate-free processed meats are carcinogenic, according to the WHO report published in 2015.

It just so happens that in California they have something called Proposition 65, which requires the state to keep a list of all substances known to increase the risk of cancer. Once an item is added to this list, it is up to the producer to prove that the product – processed meat in this case – is not dangerous enough to warrant a warning label. And California is about to put meats processed with nitrites and nitrates on the list.

Senior environmental health scientist Nathan Donley is adamant on the label issue: “There should be no question that all Californians should be properly warned .” 

Why stop at Californians? Shouldn’t everyone be warned? Or is it that meat-producers are protecting their interests with no regard for people’s health? Surely not!

Proposition 65 is giving major meat producers and processors like Hormel Foods Corp, of Spam fame, quite the headache. It’s not the prospect of their meat doing harm to their customers’ health they’re losing sleep over. Their worry is that the inclusion of nitrites and nitrates on California’s list may indeed lead to the state slapping health warning labels on their products – which, dear oh dear, might stop some people buying them.

On cigarette packs in the UK, large black letters proclaim, “SMOKING KILLS”. Just imagine picking up your pack of hot dogs, bacon or ham, or your can of corned beef and have similar large black letters staring you in the face: “EATING THIS MEAT KILLS”.  And what if this nightmare scenario were to spread to other states in the US?

If such a prospect weren’t apocalyptic enough for these poor unfortunate meat-producer giants, including their products on the carcinogen list could also open the door to their being sued by people diagnosed with certain types of cancer. Advice to shareholders: you might just want to start looking for somewhere else to invest your dollars.

You can be sure the battle lines are being drawn up as we speak. “Any move to add red or processed meat to the Proposition 65 list would be challenged by the industry,” said Mark Dopp, a senior vice president of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) which represents mega companies like Cargill Inc, Tyson Foods Inc and Kraft Heinz Co. The corporate opposition is not to be underestimated.


But Proposition 65 aside, there’s more bad news for meat on the health front. It’s not just cancer consumers need to fear from eating Hormel’s products. A whistle-blowing USDA inspector reported “that Hormel employees were not only poorly trained but that government standards were lowered, allowing defects previously identified as cause for condemning carcasses to now be cleared for sale to consumers. ‘This includes things like bile, bruises, bone fractures, scabs, toenails, and skin lesions.’

“It also meant much less concern about fecal contamination. When he complained to an older inspector he says he was told, ‘It’s not whether or not people are going to eat shit—they are. It’s just how much.'” 

Fancy a touch of E coli anyone? Or maybe a dab of Salmonella?

You’re not safe eating other producers’ meat either. Hormel is far from the only culprit.

“Federal health authorities have estimated that food-borne diseases sicken 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people), cause 128,000 hospitalizations, and kill 3,000 Americans every year.  Likewise, a number of studies have confirmed the presence of harmful bacteria in meat in the US. After collecting ground beef samples from meat processing plants around the country in 1996, the USDA determined that :

  • 7.5% of the beef samples were contaminated with Salmonella
  • 11.7% were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes
  • 30% were contaminated with Staphylococcus Aureus
  • and 53.3% were contaminated with Clostridium perfringens.  

“These unacceptable levels of contamination are caused by the crowded conditions in which conventional food animals are raised, as well as the high speed at which meat is processed. In order to maximize profits, meat processors have continually increased the speed of their production lines. Twenty years ago, meatpacking plants slaughtered about 175 cattle an hour, but due to increased line speeds, today plants can slaughter as many as 400 cattle per hour” – The Sustainable Table.

If you think that is old news and things are better now, they’re not – they’re worse.

“All ground beef eaten in US contains food poisoning bacteria”headline in The Daily Mail August 2015. “Consumer Reports tested 300 packages of ground beef from 103 stores in 26 cities across the country in order to test the prevalence of bacteria in the meat. Incredibly, every product purchased contained bacteria showing faecal contamination.”

Other health issues associated with eating meat:

  • increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • increased risk of high blood pressure
  • increased risk of stroke
  • increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • increased risk of osteoporosis
  • ingestion of deleterious hormones and antibiotics
  • shortened lifespan

I may have forgotten a few, but here is a new one – the noxious ‘icing on the cake’ for meat as far as health is concerned:

New research reveals a strong link between eating meat and autism. The increase in the incidence of autism between 1961 and 2009 is positively correlated with the steep rise in meat consumption during those years – the findings of a 2014 study carried out in China, the UK and Israel.

“The data show that per capita consumption of all three types of meat (bovine, pig, and poultry) is positively correlated with autism prevalence. The correlation is particularly strong in the case of poultry meat, and the authors note that ‘the correlations of AD [autistic disorder] with poultry meat consumption approach high statistical significance.'” – Faunalytics

So, after all that, will or won’t the world’s first ever health warning labels soon be adorning packs of meat in Californian stores? I can’t wait to find out. One thing is certain – they absolutely should.

PS If you’re still not convinced, look what happens to the animals – 21 shocking animal industry practices revealed

Updates

4th November 2016 Canadian government rebuffs pressure from meat industry to stop contributing to United Nations Research Agency that conducted the research on meat for the WHO – Mercy for Animals

21st November 2016 Is Some Store-Bought Meat Blasted With Carbon-Monoxide to Keep it Red & Juicy? – Inside Edition

22nd November 2016 The Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a suit against Hormel “alleging the company is misleading consumers through the advertising of its Natural Choice® brand of lunch meats and bacon. Contrary to Hormel’s branding campaign, the suit alleges, meats the company advertises as “natural” actually comes from animals raised in the worst factory farms that employ additives, hormones and antibiotics, and contain ingredients that constitute artificial preservatives.”

18th February 2017 Fears of ‘dirty meat’ entering food chains after 25% of abbatoirs fail tests in the UK- The Guardian

 

 

Sources

What the State isn’t Telling You about Processed Meat – Center for Biological Diversity via The Medium

Whistleblower USDA Inspectors on Hormel’s Pork Plants: It’s “Just Nuts” – New Republic

Health and Environmental Implications of US Meat Consumption – John Hoskins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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