Top Ten Animal Rights Issues

The top ten issues affecting the animal kingdom are:

1. Climate change

 

earth embroiled in climate change

Parched and flooded at the same time? Yes, it’s climate change.

Climate change is head and shoulders the top concern for animals. We are all familiar, by now, with the plight of the polar bear. But hundreds of animal species are at risk from changing weather. Climate change is not just warming the arctic home of polar bears and penguins. It has also depleted snow in areas where animals depend on their winter white fur to camouflage them against the white backdrop.

Climate change has fucked with animal migration. When the weather is inconsistent, birds and other migrators don’t know when to depart. Where climate change has disrupted breeding habitats, it has the potential to decimate an entire species in one generation.

 

 

What you can do: Drive a hybrid or all electric vehicle, limit travel, drive instead of flying when possible, ride a bike or walk to nearby destinations, eat fish and chicken instead of red meat. Eat vegetables instead of fish and chicken to the extent you are able. Insulate your house and lower your energy bills.

2. Suburban sprawl equals lost habitat

Some people would say that human overpopulation is the problem. But humans could have expanded their population while sharing space with animals. The problem is urban sprawl and development practices.

Instead of keeping the footprints of our houses small and building up instead of out, we chop down twenty trees just to build one McMansion. Then we pave half an acre for a driveway and parking pad.

Every time you chop down one mature tree, you are destroying the breeding habitat of twenty bird couples. Paving destroys any number of box turtles, lizards, and frogs.

What you can do: Limit your family to two children. If you are building your dream house, build it on two levels, take down only the trees you need to build, don’t put in a yard, create a white rock driveway and parking pad. Consider hiring a LEED certified builder to build your house to LEED standards.

3. Disastrous fishing practices

Albatross_hook

An albatross caught on a longline

Dragnet fishing, especially bottom trawling, is a disaster, plain and simple. It wipes out every animal in its path, including endangered turtles, whales, dolphins, and any number of other species that are not edible. Longline fishing also comes with a catastrophic by-catch of sea birds and turtles.

What you can do: Hook up with community-supported fisheries. Don’t buy any fish on the endangered list. This list changes frequently, so stay up to date on the most threatened fish species to inform your shopping choices.

4. Invasive species

Where invasive species have been introduced, they wipe out the local wildlife. The invaders eat all the food or they simply dine on the more fragile species that occupy that habitat by right.

The most dramatic example is the Asian carp that have taken over the Illinois river. They eat up all the plankton, leaving the native fish to starve to death. The fear is that they will take over the great lakes which is open to the Illinois river.

What you can do: Fish for carp and green mussels, and throw back all native species. If you like to hunt, kill and cook wild pigs.

5. Factory farming

Animal Rights Issues

There’s no getting around the fact that corporately farmed chickens are handled with extreme cruelty. They are confined to extremely small spaces, injected with hormones, and fed only on cheap grain. Many farmers cut off their beaks so they don’t peck each other to death.

chicken-1230969__340

But the evils of farming don’t end there. The methane produced by cows is a major contributor to climate change. The run off from farms pollutes waterways where it kills wildlife.

What you can do: Buy organic, free-range eggs and chickens. Buy your meat at farmer’s markets. Eat more veg and less meat, especially red meat.

nature-3276105__340

6. Feral cats and dogs

Overbreeding pets is a problem for the pets themselves and for the wildlife they destroy when they go wild and live outdoors. Dogs who run wild will kill everybody from turtles to baby alligators to frogs, lizards, and even birds. Cats do the same, and they’re particularly adept at killing birds.

What you can do: Spay and neuter your own animals. If you are feeding outdoor cats, take them to the vet and have them spayed or neutered. Make your cats indoor-only cats, and provide toys and other environmental enrichment to keep them happy.  If stray dog is terrorizing your neighborhood, ask the police to pick him up. If you find a friendly stray, take him to the vet, foster him, and then sell him to a good home on Craigslist.

7. Destroying predators

 

Eastern wolves used to roam the entire United States from the Atlantic coast to the mid-west. We have obliterated this species which is now only seen in remote parks of Canada. Eastern big cats, especially the panther, have also been decimated.

Taking out predators causes a collapse in the food chain which is devastating to other wildlife. For example, in Canada, hunters killed the wolves who were thinning the caribou herds, taking out the sick and diseased individuals. When the wolf population collapsed, the caribou population collapsed with it.

In the United States, taking out predators has meant that we are overrun with deer who, in turn, eat too much native vegetation. Other animals need that vegetation or they die of starvation.

What you can do: Don’t encourage fear mongering about a wolf, big cat, bear, or alligator that needs to share your neighborhood. Put up a fence to protect your children and pets. Encourage re-introduction of native wolves and big cats.

8. Pet euthanasia

 

According to the ASPCA, “Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized.” That’s a lot of animals dying unnecessarily.

What you can do: Spay and neuter your own animals. If a dog or cat strays into your yard, take him to the vet and get him fixed. Train your pets to behave so that you don’t have to surrender them to a shelter. Try to purchase a rescue animal rather than go to a breeder. Don’t buy a dog from a pet store, unless it is a rescue animal.

9. Destruction and displacement of service animals

On the battlefield, dogs take bullets for their soldiers. They sniff out bombs for their soldiers and generally alert their men to dangers. They save thousands of lives.

Then these brave and loyal beasts are rounded up in trucks, and their men are likely never to see them again. Some of them are commandeered by high-ranking military guys who work in elegant offices all day and never have to face a moment’s danger. Others are euthanized, against the will of the men they fought with.

What you can do: Tell your state lawmakers that you demand better retirements for retired military and police dogs. When a soldier has applied to adopt a dog, that bond should be held sacred, and the adoption should take place immediately. Demand complete transparency on the fates of decommissioned military and police dogs. Demand therapy and re-training for dogs with PTSD.

10. Animal experiments

Many animal experiments entail needless suffering, and the aim of the research may well be unrelated to human welfare. For example, there was an experiment that involved sewing shut the eyes of kittens. The purpose of this experiment was to study the effect of sensory deprivation on the kitten brain.  Obviously, this has nothing to do with making sure heart surgery on children is done safely and successfully.

What you can do: Call your local university and ask them what animal experiments they are conducting. If they are pointlessly experimenting on animals, let the local media know about that.

 

 

 

Animal abuse in zoos and marine parks | Animal Rights Channel

Are zoos really cruel? Is animal abuse in zoos actually common?

Answer: It completely depends on the zoo. Some zoos have gone to great trouble and expense to recreate habitats for the animals in their care. Most reputable zoos are staffed by people with university degrees in animal science.

As a society, we have come a long way since the days of caged tigers and chimpanzees.

Now zoo animals have constructed habitats that look like the savannas or rock formations in which those animals would exist in the wild. The animals are surrounded by real vegetation that would typically exist in their native habitat.

Zoo animals receive exactly the right foods in the right amount. And, if they are naturally social, they usually get to socialize with others of their kind.

Zoos have three important functions:

  1. To educate the public about animals in various parts of the world. When a zoo is doing its job, it posts a sign in front of the animal exhibit that tells you important information about that animal–where it is from and something about its lifestyle.
  2. To protect endangered animals, implement breeding programs to ensure the survival of the species, and create public awareness of the plight of endangered animals.
  3. Many zoos take in injured animals and save them. If the animal recovers without losing its wildness, it can be re-released to the wild. That was the story of a bald eagle who was dying of lead poisoning until a zoo nursed him back to life.

Zoos prolong life in many animals

Some animals that have made it into reputable zoos have basically drawn the high card. According to a 2016 study, eighty percent of the mammals at the zoo will live longer than they would have in the wild.

Zoos, you see, remove the threat of predation while providing medical care. Instead of dying of a bacterial or fungal infection, a white tail deer in the zoo gets a shot of antibiotics and goes on living.

It is true that zoos severely limit the range of animals that have the instinct to roam. Big cats, wolves, elephants, zebras, and many birds would typically migrate over thousands of miles.

But one might conclude that, for some animals, the benefits of expert medical care and freedom from predators outweigh the benefits of roaming.

Zoos are not right for some species

Does that mean that animal abuse in zoos is a thing of the past? Not really. There are some animals that should never be in a zoo or marine park. Polar bears, for instance, should never be in zoos, except as a last resort to save their lives. It is simply too difficult to recreate the freezing natural habitat of a polar bear. And polar bears will overheat to the point of psychosis in a zoo environment.

Similarly, sea turtles, dolphins and whales do not belong in a zoo or marine park unless they are so badly injured that they cannot survive in the wild. Dolphins and whales have big brains. They understand that they are captive.

While they might take some joy from performing, in general they are miserable. Captive dolphins who swim around their tanks with their eyes squeezed shut are testament to this fact.

We all need to welcome the recent trend of marine parks to quit acquiring new marine mammals.

Beware cruel roadside attractions

Meanwhile, there are a number of small, private animal attractions that need to shut down. These exhibits are sometimes called “roadside zoos.” The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have compiled a list of the worst of these zoos. These roadside attractions, sometimes billed as “adventures,” definitely participate in animal abuse in zoos.

One of these institutions kept a primate in isolation for decades, even though all primates are extremely social animals. Another one pits tiger cubs against chimpanzees for the amusement of visitors.

The downside to zoos is that they encourage people to see animals as entertainment. Animals have rights to live as they were born to do, independent of what they may or may not provide to humans.

What you can do:

If you are concerned about animal abuse in zoos, don’t spend any money at small zoos that are advertised on billboards off the highway. Instead, visit only zoos that have made every effort to create appropriate habitat for animals. Make sure that the zoo you support allows animals of a kind to socialize and does not isolate any social animals.

We need to start caring about plastics recycling again

Sure, recycling plastic is boring. But now we have a new reason to care about it. A new report says that eighty-nine percent of Indonesia’s coral reefs are struggling with disease. Diseases like skeletal eroding band disease that literally kill the budding coral that forms the reef’s spine.

And these diseases are not some mystery that science will have to investigate for ten years. It’s that plastic bottle that someone threw off a boat, times a million boats, times six bottles.

Australia is doing a pretty good job of containing its boat trash. Its coral reefs are under a manageable degree of stress. But coral reefs in Indonesia are dying. According to a recent study coming out of the Netherlands, “Indonesia produced 3.2 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, with around 1.29 million tons of that ending up in the ocean.”

Indonesia’s failure to manage its plastic waste is now an international problem. This problem is not an easy fix. It’s obvious that at least three things need to happen:

  1. Entrepreneurs need to invent new end products that can be recycled out of waste plastic and produced with a minimum of machinery and pollution. These end products need to stimulate Indonesia’s economy and provide gainful employment at the local level.
  2. Indonesia’s government needs to do a better job of sealing off the pathways that lead from the garbage mountain to the ocean.
  3. Private industry in Indonesia needs to step up to the plate and package products in biodegradable materials.

The health benefits of trees

By Lynn Hamilton

Most people want to live on a green leafy street with plenty of tree canopy, whether they live in the suburbs, the country, or the inner city.

But now it’s official: a greener street makes you healthier. Omid Kardan, a professor and researcher with the University of Chicago, conducted a survey of residents in Toronto, comparing the health of those who live on tree-rich streets to the health of those on streets more barren of trees.

The results might surprise you. Even in a big city like Toronto, residents in leafier parts of town reported better health. Specifically, their blood pressure was lower, and they were more likely to have a healthy weight. Blood sugar issues, such as overly high glucose, were also fewer in the tree covered streets.

That’s significant because high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity lead to a host of major health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, kidney failure, and liver failure, to mention the most problematic. Obesity, in particular, is a frequent predictor of death.

As we know, better health leads to a longer life. But it also gives you more energy and zest for day-to-day living. As few as ten additional trees on a city block give its residents a health boost equivalent to being seven years younger.

There are any number of ways that trees in a residential neighborhood can affect health. They trap pollution that might otherwise find its way into a home. Trees absorb noxious particulates as well as gasses. In 2010, a forester by the name of Dave Nowak found that trees prevented over 600,000 cases of respiratory distress and prevented at least 850 deaths in the United States.

Trees also reduce the chances of flooding and the myriad of health problems that arise from a flooded basement, such as mold and toxic bacteria. They reduce summer heat and encourage people to get outside and take a stroll or a run around the neighborhood. People who get such moderate exercise are more likely to be healthy, maintain a normal weight, and live longer, happier lives.

The recent Toronto study filtered out variables such as diet, age, income, and education. Kardan admits, of course, that he can’t screen out every variable. It could be the case that healthier people choose to live on more tree-lined blocks. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore his findings. And they are backed up by other studies.

Researchers in Japan studied the effects of time spent on Yakushima island, a locale known for its rich biodiversity and lovely tree canopy. These Japanese scientists found that trees and other plants throw off beneficial bacteria and oils that we inhale. When these beneficial elements enter our systems, they fight off toxins and malevolent bacteria that can, otherwise, make us sick.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation offers some further observations on the link between trees and human health. The beneficial bacteria that trees exude is called phytoncides. They are a sort of natural insect repellant. Trees throw off phytoncides to discourage termites and other tree-destroying organisms from dining on the trees’ trunks.

Because of these phytoncides, even a short, three-day stay in a forest increases the number of beneficial white blood cells, also known as “natural killer cells,” in a person’s body. The presence of these white blood cells improves a person’s immunity to disease and infection.

Admittedly, much of the benefit people derive from trees is psychological and emotional. But it is also well known that our mood and emotions directly impact health. Stress causes a whole list of negative health concerns including hypertension, accelerated heart rate, and overeating. Increased rates of cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream have been linked to stress. A walk in the woods or a stroll down a tree lined street definitely alleviates stress and increases a sense of well being, while providing very real and physiological health benefits. And you don’t have to hike in a remote, old-growth forest to reap the results. Even looking at pictures of trees is calming, though not as beneficial as a walk in a leafy neighborhood.

Trees are especially meaningful to children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD typically find it difficult to concentrate, and they often do poorly in school because they lack an ability to focus. For decades, children diagnosed with ADHD were routinely put on one or more drugs to help them succeed academically and socially.

Scientists and doctors now believe, however, that spending time among trees is a tremendous help in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. Such therapy has the advantage of being affordable and it doesn’t have the inevitable side effects of pharmacological treatment. Schools that are built near a small forest or which incorporate a forested area in their construction have the potential to greatly help students with ADHD.

You might be surprised to learn that trees are beneficial to hospital patients, especially people who have experienced a serious illness or undergone major surgery. Hospital patients suffer not just from the complications of their illness, but also from stress, lack of privacy, and fear. Even a view of trees out a hospital window can make a positive difference in a patient’s recovery. Patients with a view of greenery have fewer postoperative complications, science has discovered. They also have shorter hospital stays and don’t need as many addictive pain medications.

The United States had an unfortunate occasion for studying the impact of trees on health. Since 2002, the emerald ash borer, a tree destroying beetle, has devastated the country’s ash trees. Studies found that, in neighborhoods where ash trees had to be removed, there was a serious spike in lung disease- and heart disease-related mortality.

In fact, the Atlantic reports that trees are so important to human health, they save Americans $6.8 billion dollars in health care per year.

More research is definitely needed on the relationship between trees and human health. But, in the meantime, one of the best things you can do for your family and your neighborhood is to plant a tree.

 

 

Fabulous flying foxes are going extinct

FLYING FOXESYou may have caught the “Bill Nye Saves the World” segment on flying foxes. The featured scientist who studies them calls them “sky pups” because some of them look surprisingly like dogs. Others look like, well, foxes with wings. Their faces and necks are covered with reddish fur and they have small pointed ears characteristic of foxes, along with big, smooth wings. They look like foxes and, when resting, pose like Nosferatu, their wings closed around them like a cape. That’s the look of the Mauritian flying fox, also known as the fruit bat.

Mauritius flying foxes might have a chance at survival, except that their government keeps culling them–in the thousands. Approximately every two years, the government authorizes a “cull,” euphemistic word for mass slaughter, of flying foxes because they eat a few farmed mangoes. Farmers are perfectly capable of protecting their crops with sealed nets. But it appears they prefer to slaughter thousands of innocent mammals instead.

Unfortunately, all flying foxes live on islands, and all of them are going extinct. In Australia, laws have been enacted to curb hunting of these animals, but invasive species are still decimating them.

The foxy island dwellers have nowhere to go when they are threatened by hunting or habitat loss. Their boundaries are the seas that surround them. And flying foxes are the original inhabitants of the islands they dwell on. When humans landed on Australia’s Christmas Island, there were all of five endemic species. Humans and the exotic species they introduced, quickly dispatched four. The only original inhabitants are the flying foxes, and they are quickly disappearing.

Please sign my petition asking the Mauritian government to make the culling and hunting of flying foxes illegal.

 

 

The Economic Benefits of Trees

autumn-3043489_960_720By Lynn Hamilton

Cities that protect their trees have higher property values, expanding tax bases, and business prosperity. And yet, many cities have done little to nothing to protect trees on either public or private property.

One such municipality is Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville’s city council member Tom Hollander tried to pass a tree ordinance that would protect both street trees and “heritage trees” on private land. The originally proposed ordinance would have protected trees of a certain height and width, trees that provide shade and flood protection to several houses in the neighborhood, from being capriciously cut down by their owners.

But by the time council members and developers had chipped away at it, the tree ordinance passed is possibly worse than useless. It allows people to replant smaller trees than previously when they cut down trees on public land.

Every town and city needs a tree ordinance that protects trees on both private and public land, because trees positively impact economic development and protect neighborhoods from flooding and overheating.

According to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, “One hundred mature trees catch about 139,000 gallons of rainwater per year.”1

In many parts of Louisville, rain water truly has nowhere to go but directly to our basements or, in the absence of a basement, our houses. The city’s Germantown neighborhood is a case in point. One hundred year old houses, built only four or fewer feet apart, combined with near complete deforestation of street trees leaves people with flooded cellars on a regular basis.

Many of us are also suffering the high utility costs of a treeless neighborhood: “Strategically placed trees save up to 56% on annual air-conditioning costs. Evergreens that block winter winds can save 3% on heating.”1 Trees are also well known to buffer homes from wind damage.

A replacement sapling does not fill the place of a mature tree. In most cases, it will take a sapling at least twenty years to begin to replace a mature tree.

I know that the Louisville’s mayor’s office is very interested in what is happening with the municipality’s peer cities, so I did some research on the most economically successful of these cities and found that they have all taken measures to protect their trees.

Nashville, which has gotten far ahead of Louisville in terms of population growth and economic development, requires homeowners to plant trees to restore tree density to the area: 1. “Each property . . . shall attain a tree density factor of at least fourteen units per acre using protected or replacement trees, or a combination of both.”2

Indianapolis protects all flora of more than twelve inches in height on public property: “No person shall damage, remove, deaden, destroy, break, carve, cut, deface, trim or in any way injure or interfere with any flora that is located in or on any public street, alley, right-of-way, place or park within the city without the written consent of the division of construction and business services first obtained, except as may be necessary in an emergency to remove or abate any dangerous or unsafe condition.”5

Charlotte, North Carolina protects trees on public land and private land. They recognize heritage trees which were removed from the current Louisville tree ordinance.6

Cincinnati’s tree ordinance protects public trees.3,4  Columbus, Ohio plants 2000 trees every year to mitigate loss of trees through tree removal.7 Dayton, Ohio forbids removal of public trees without a permit.8

As you can see, there is every reason to pass a tree ordinance that protects significant trees on both private and public property. Today’s recommended action: Obtain a copy of your local tree ordinance. If you don’t have one, call a city council member and ask him to start the process of creating one.

If your town already has a tree ordinance, read it and offer suggested improvements to your local leaders.

 

References

  1. “Economic Benefits of Trees”. Department of Environmental Conservation. New York State. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  2. “SUBSTITUTE ORDINANCE NO. BL2008-328”. gov. City of Nashville, TN. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  3. “Urban Forestry”. com. City of Cincinnati, Ohio. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  4. “Urban Forestry”. com. City of Cincinnati. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  5. “TREES AND FLORA”. com. City of Indianapolis. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  6. “Chapter 21 – TREES”. com. City of Charlotte, North Carolina. Retrieved 27 November2017.
  7. “Recreation and Parks Department”. gov. City of Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  8. “City of Dayton, Ohio Zoning Code”. org. City of Dayton, Ohio. Retrieved 27 November 2017.