Archive for the ‘Discussions’ Category

Dolphin personhood, and animals as persons

Due to their extremely high levels of intelligence and their self-aware mind, cetaceans (dolphins, whales, porpoises, and other marine mammals) have had a declaration of rights drawn up by philosophers and marine biologists.

This bill of rights would grant them protection and they could be defended by law. It will go as far as to grant them the status of ‘non-human persons’.

By granting cetaceans personhood, they would also be granted individual rights. A killing of a dolphin would therefore be equal to killing any other person, including human beings, both ethically and legally speaking.

The bill of rights includes that of liberty, meaning an end to their captivity for theme parks such as SeaWorld. To hold a cetacean captive would be equal to enslaving a human.

It would also ban any practice which ‘disrupts their cultures’ which could include the use of acoustic sonar and certain types of fishing.

This comes at a very important time for cetaceans, particularly when we look at Japanese treatment of the animals. Commercialised whaling has been a notorious part of Japanese culture for over a century now, and the practice of whaling itself dates back for many centuries before that.

Similarly, the Japanese treatment of dolphins has become infamous since the Academy-Award nominated documentary, The Cove. The film uncovered the horrific and frequent dolphin drive-hunts in Taiji, Wakayama.

One of the companies that financially supported these hunts (by buying captured dolphins) was SeaWorld Parks, a chain of theme parks in the US. Should this cetacean bill of rights gain enough momentum and support, there could be further bad news for SeaWorld too, as the parks controversially contain several captive dolphins and whales.

Fishing will also be affected in a fairly big way. Bycatch (the name given to unwanted catches during fishing) consists of a growing number of cetaceans every year. Tuna fishing is mainly responsible for this. Even dolphin-friendly labelled tuna does not mean dolphins weren’t killed in the fishing process – it simply means that the fishermen targetted tuna using other methods (the easiest method for finding tuna hotspots is to target a dolphin feeding area). Dolphins, porpoises and whales are routinely entangled in nets and drown, due to being mammals.

I have no idea what's going on here, I just Googled 'dolphin person' and this guy came up.

This is not the first time a non-human species has been granted personhood. Great apes have famously achieved such a status in some countries. New Zealand, in 1999, granted basic rights to great apes, and it is now illegal to use them for research and testing. 8 years later, in 2007, the Balearic Islands granted personhood to great apes. As an autonomous province of Spain, it has been fighting to convince Spain to follow suit ever since.

Renowned animal rights philosopher, Gary Francione, also argues for the personhood of all animals. As one of the fathers of the abolitionist movement, Francione believes that we have no right to use animals in any way, even if they are treated respectfully. Francione argues that all sentient beings should be granted personhood, with sentience being the only requirement. Cognitive abilities beyond that are not of significance. For Francione, veganism a moral baseline – the minimum one must do to avoid being harmful and morally wrong is be a vegan.

Even if you disagree with Francione’s approach towards animal rights, allow me to at least argue abolitionism from another approach. As it has been noted, the personhood of cetaceans is garnering support due to their cognitive abilities. However, it is increasingly becoming evident that a huge number of species are far cleverer than they are given credit for.

This can be seen in some of the tests done on the animals to highlight their intelligence. One such test, which dolphins performed successfully, was to prove that they are self-aware. If you would like to do this test for yourself then do the following right now:

  1. Stand up and walk over to the nearest mirror or reflective surface.
  2. Look into it.
  3. If you recognised that the image in front of you was a reflection of yourself, then well done, you are self-aware.

If on the other hand you looked at it and thought ‘WHO THE F@%! IS THAT?!’ then I am afraid you are less intelligent than a dolphin, a pig, or even a chicken, and therefore most people wouldn’t recognise you as a person (although thanks to the likes of Gary Francione and myself, there are people campaigning for you!). That’s right, chickens have been shown to be self-aware. Yet there is never any speak of chickens being granted personhood.

Another test to highlight dolphins intelligence was their ability to trick reward systems. Dolphins have recognised when a reward system is in place (i.e. do this and you’ll get food) and have found ways to trick them. Again though, this is common in other species too. See below for this occurring with a cow.

Again though, there has never been any talk of personhood for a cow.

Francione speaks of humanity as being ‘morally schizophrenic’. We can look at our cats, dogs, or any other animals close to us and love them. We would never dream of calling these animals unintelligent, and we see them as persons (even if they are not recognised as so by society as a whole).

I am not by any means disputing personhood for cetaceans, I fully support such an implementation. However, I am just trying to highlight the inconsistency here. As a supporter of Francione’s ideas and abolitionism, it surprises me that we still fail to recognise animals as beings and not just property to be utilised. These ideas to implement personhood to dolphins, whales, etc. simply begs the question of why stop there? Pigs, dogs, foxes, snakes, spiders, chickens, fish – any animal you can name has shown mind-blowing feats of intelligence, some which we don’t always understand.

And perhaps this strikes at the most important issue of all. We humans, as the dominant species on Earth, like to think that we are the be all and end all to animal intelligence, but the simple fact is that we aren’t. It is impossible for us to understand nature and its complexities in the way that we like to think that we can. Animals and their survival are dependent on their abilities to use their brain.

There are countless examples of intelligent behaviour developing within other species. From ants building fungus farms, to dolphins communicating verbally. The more we discover of Animalia, the more we are astounded. A matter of a couple of centuries ago we didn’t even think that other animals could feel pain, and now this has become universally accepted (with exceptions by some people towards some species e.g. fish).

A quote from Albert Einstein neatly sums this up. Sure, it’s taken out of context, but I think it is still apt (and in fact, more literal):

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Humanity, in its naivety, is at risk of becoming stuck up its own ass. By proclaiming ourselves as dominant, we have come to fail to realise not just that other species deserve rights, but to even comprehend other species as living, breathing beings. I am glad that these discussions are finally happening for cetaceans, but we have a long way to go before Francione’s ideals are met.

PETA – The vegan love-hate relationship

As a 15 year old kid, I was into a lot of punk and nu-metal, that whole thing. I listened to a huge number of bands, and followed them on Myspace and their email lists. For anyone who’s into similar music, particularly the punk scene, you will know about the large proportion of vegetarian and vegan musicians out there.

Some of those bands I loved (and still do love) who happened to be vegetarians/vegans included Rise Against, Goldfinger, and Strike Anywhere, to name but a few. Now, these bands had ties with an organisation called ‘PETA‘ and supported ‘animal rights.’

At the time, that meant very little to me. I mean, I thought hunting sucked, and people who wore fur were douchebags. But I ate meat and loved it, and wore leather without even considering that it was an animal’s skin.

I got an email through from one of the bands to sign a petition against Chinese fur farms on PETA’s website. Thinking ‘right, fur does suck, I’ll sign!’ I opened up the link, and watched the accompanying shock video. Two minutes later, cringing back in my seat from what I had just watched, I signed the petition and began browsing PETA’s site and resources. A couple of months later I was a fully-fledged vegetarian, and a few years after that, a vegan.

In the past week, PETA published this video and campaign:

This is yet another of a long string of offensive and obscure campaigns run by that same organisation that set me on the animal rights trail in the first place.

Other highlights from PETA’s past include a large string of misogynistic, sex-sells style adverts with nude female celebrities, holocaust comparison posters displayed in Germany of all places, and (my personal favourite) a number of anti-video game campaigns against the likes of Super Meat Boy, Cooking Mama, and, most bizarrely, Super Mario.

Tactful doesn't seem to be in PETA's dictionary

I want to ignore, if you will, issues with PETA supporting convicted animal rights terrorists as that opens up a huge ethical black hole surrounding animal testing and morality of methods used to stop it. I know where my opinions lie on these issues, but you should decide for yourself. Just so you know though, PETA has supported convicted members of the animal liberation movement in the past.

I want to primarily focus on PETA as a resource and as an associate of the vegan movement. In this regard, PETA is now something of a joke. The organisation is routinely ridiculed and parodied from all sides (including in an infamous South Park episode), and unfortunately this organisation is now the face of veganism and animal rights.

It’s not just embarrassing campaigns though. PETA is hated by vegans for their policies and treatment of animals. One incident which sticks out in my mind was over a device called the Crustastun. This device, which kills lobsters more quickly and humanely than boiling water received approval from PETA. PETA then hosted an event in which they invited a load of seafood fanatics to come and eat humanely killed lobster, but forgot to get the Crustastun devices shipped in time. So…

  1. PETA, a devout animal rights organisation, supports the killing of lobsters for consumption so long as it’s done humanely.
  2. They organised an event in which they’d use the Crustastun device to kill a few hundred lobsters for seafoodists.
  3. The Crustastun devices failed to turn up, so PETA used traditional methods to boil the lobsters alive, rather than cancelling the event altogether. Wouldn’t wanna upset those seafood fans now, would we?!

Face palm to the max

Despite all of this though I still find myself utilising PETA’s resources on a regular basis. Their animal testing database is woefully incorrect and often contains companies which use animal tested ingredients (I recommend Uncaged or BUAV for trustworthy lists), however it can often be a gateway to finding some companies which are worth supporting.

They also offer an excellent free vegetarian/vegan starter kit, which I still recommend to people looking to go veggie. They also have a great recipe database available online to browse.

Perhaps most importantly though, PETA has brought more light to some abhorrent issues in the world than any other organisation that I can think of. These issues include the Chinese fur farms, animal testing in cosmetics, and Canadian seal hunting. They have changed a lot in these areas, and drummed up a massive amount of support.

Their campaigns in these areas have been relatively mature, intelligent, and well-targetted. I’m sure there are actually very few who don’t back them. Yet then they go and piss themselves by claiming that Super Meat Boy is the most evil character in videogame history, and put together a campaign against the game.

Why does this happen? My thoughts are that, whilst some of PETA’s causes are easy to support, a positive thing is not actually that newsworthy. We love controversy, cynicism, and negativity. If someone fucks up, it’s fun to hate on them. They will be the centre of news attention. PETA is playing on this to grab attention for itself, but is damaging the animal rights movement in the process.

In the end, I feel PETA is kinda like that friend I’m sure we all have. The person you invite on a night out who gets obscenely drunk and makes a massive dick out of themselves (leaving you to apologise to all your other friends for his/her behaviour). However, when you’re in private, they’ve actually got a lot to them, and that’s the side of them that you wish everyone else would appreciate.

Anyways, that’s my personal stand on PETA, and I guess I’ll always feel like I owe them a little seeing as they turned me vegetarian in the first place, but I’d love to hear some more views. What do you think of PETA? And, to you, how important are they as an organisation?

FSA allows the selling of meat and dairy from cloned animals

Yesterday, the Food Standards Agency published its verdict on whether the sale of meat and dairy products from cloned animals should be allowed. The dispute over this issue broke out nearly a  year ago, when it was found that some butchers’ shops had been selling meat obtained from the offspring of a cloned cow and had been doing so without telling their customers.

It was uncovered that several farmers had been breeding cows with cloned parents in an effort to boost productivity of their cows and their size. Some have also hoped to create cows with better immune systems. The cows who were being bred from clones were not receiving any form of assessments either as to whether they were healthy or whether their products were fit for human consumption, despite requirements by the FSA.

An investigation into food products from cloned cattle and their offspring was launched last year, and discovered that there was “no substantial difference to conventionally produced meat and milk, and therefore is unlikely to present a food safety risk.”

Yesterday though, the FSA stated that there is no reason for products coming from cloned animals and their offspring to be an issue and that consumers should “definitely be able to eat these controversial products.” It said that licenses would still need to be acquired though. However, once again, there has been a failure to look at the wider picture. ‘So long as in the immediate future, humanity will be better off, then it’ll all be fine’ seems to be the view of the FSA.

Dolly, the first cloned animal

By allowing cloning into farming there will undoubtedly be a host of problems that follow it. Whether or not meat and milk is safe for human consumption is one issue, but the FSA seem to have completely neglected all of the others. My main concern lies with animal welfare. Once again, animals are treated as products, not as living beings. This isn’t like genetically modifying a tomato. A tomato is not going to suffer throughout its life by growing beyond its natural size. Meanwhile, cloned animals often develop health problems. Contrary to the idea mentioned above that cloning will develop better immune systems in animals, cloned animals often have horrific mutations, physical problems, and terrible arthritis. It is inhumane to raise these aberrations in the name of better productivity. Also, some of these clones are pumped full of antibiotics – surely there’s a health risk there somewhere?

But a bigger issue also lies here. Everyday, farming seems to become further and further removed from the stereotypical vision one has in their head. Nowadays, people don’t even tend to make a connection between the animal on a farm and the meat that’s on the plate. The world needs to be moving towards a greater understanding of what the consequences of what they’re eating are, but by introducing cloning into the mainstream then we are destined to move further away from this.

If you don’t know how cloning works, then read a little into it (you can watch a short video on this page). It’s an interesting process, but it strikes me as utterly bizarre and unnatural at the same time. It made me think of that scene in Jurassic Park, where they’re all sitting around having dinner and first discussing the park. Dr Ian Malcolm, talking to the park’s creator John Hammond, states that “genetic power is the most awesome force that this planet has ever seen, yet you wield like a kid whose found his dad’s gun.” I feel Dr Malcolm’s words ring true here too. Is it truly rational to accept this process into mainstream farming, just for the sake of allowing a few farmers to hold onto their prize cows for longer?

For more information on cloning and animal foods, please check out or go and have a chat with Dr Malcolm.

Magpie and Crow Cull 2011

I think it’s fairly safe to assume that if you’re a vegan or are reading this blog then you probably have some interest in the rights of animals. The UK is currently putting the final touches to a proposed plan of  a mass culling of avian predators. This is an attempt to rectify the issues with dwindling songbird numbers around the UK.

However, the plans are currently sketchy. With the proposals targetting magpies and crows first, the number of songbirds will be reevaluated after a few months of the action being in place. If it is found that songbird numbers are increasing again, then the cull will be expanded to target all avian predators, including kestrels, sparrowhawks and buzzards.

The method of culling the birds will be this: “The predators will be trapped using a cage that contains a live bird. Other magpies and crows will flock to the cage to see off the rival, only to become stuck inside. They will then be humanely destroyed.” (as read here) I question what ‘humanely destroyed’ entails for a start. Caging rival birds together does not exactly seem entirely humane either, and how long are the birds to remain caged before they are ‘destroyed’? Hours? Days? Longer still?

Perhaps the most dubious part of this operation is that no one is even clear if avian predators are having a damaging effect on songbird numbers. There is far more substantial evidence to show that it is actually due to changes in farming practices and habitat alterations (such as the destruction of hedgerows) which is killing off songbird numbers. Yet in what is essentially a trial run of a program that may not have any effect, thousands upon thousands of birds will be killed.

This cull has had significant opposition from various wildlife charities already. An RSPB spokesperson has said “The fall (in songbird numbers) is driven by changes in the countryside. Principally, a lack of nesting areas, a lack of food for chicks and a lack of food in winter.”

Meanwhile the head of the Wildlife Aid Foundation, Simon Cowell (not the Simon Cowell you’re probably thinking of though) has stated that “Killing predators in order to preserve songbirds is utterly illogical. It is man’s interference that has unbalanced the various bird populations to start with, and further interference will do much more harm than good. There is also a bigger animal welfare issue here as culling adult birds means leaving potentially tens of thousands of baby birds orphaned and in many cases unable to fend for themselves.”

Brian May’s organisation, Save Me (who we highly recommend you check out), has also shown opposition. Brian has said “Let’s help Simon Cowell fight this awful new barbarity. When will the human race learn to stop interfering?”

There is still time to fight this cull, even just by spreading the word. Simon Cowell wrote “We are calling on everyone who cares about Britain’s wild animals and birds to protest to Defra and the GWCT and to plead with them not to go ahead with this cruel and pointless cull. We must do our utmost to protect all wild bird species, not just the songbirds.”

For more information please click here to view the Wildlife Aid Foundation’s Press Release on the issue.

Otherwise please take five minutes out of your day to contact DEFRA and let them know what you think about the cull. You can contact them at

Thank you.

Daniel Andreas San Diego – Most Wanted Vegan

So, with Osama bin Laden having been killed this weekend, the FBI Most Wanted list is left with a gaping hole. One of the most infamous terrorists of all time has finally been removed as a threat. This shifts other wanted terrorists up a notch. Now, sandwiched between Al Qaeda supporter and activist Adam Yahiye Gadahn and founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Ayman Al-Zawahiri is a man named Daniel Andreas San Diego.

Whilst his counterparts on either side of him are responsible for many innocent deaths (one by supplying Al Qaeda with information and coordinating some of its terrorist activities, the other by playing key parts in the various US Embassy bombings of the late 1990s), Daniel Andreas San Diego has not killed a single person and is responsible for saving the lives of many animals.

San Diego is currently on the run after committing various acts of ‘terrorism’ (in this case, terrorism being the liberation of animals who are undergoing severe torture), which have caused $110 million worth of property damage (allegedly). With a reward of $250,000 on his head, it is fairly safe to say that he is a very wanted man. Sadly, something seems to have gone awry here if San Diego can be classed as a terrorist.

His Most Wanted description states that “San Diego has ties to animal rights extremist groups. He is known to follow a vegan diet, eating no meat or food containing animal products. In the past, he has worked as a computer network specialist and with the operating system LINUX. San Diego wears eyeglasses, is skilled at sailing, and has travelled internationally. He is known to possess a handgun.”

This does not seem very characteristic of the stereotypical terrorist (even the handgun – how many Americans carry handguns?). However, with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the mass murder of 9/11 gone, the FBI has turned its attention to Daniel Andreas San Diego, someone who has never even injured another human being. He now sits at number 2 on the list of Most Wanted terrorists.

Various photos of the FBI's second Most Wanted Terrorist... vegan activist Daniel Andreas San Diego

Korean Pig Slaughter

For those unaware (as I was up until a few days ago), South Korea has recently faced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. This disease is responsible for decimating animal populations in a variety of countries over the last century, and the number of animals which have suffered the fate of being culled in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease is well into the tens of millions. During the UK’s outbreak alone in 2001 the alleged death total was over 10 million.

The important thing to note is that foot-and-mouth disease is not the killer here though. Roughly 2.5% of cases of foot-and-mouth turn out to be fatal, although many animals who recover are left with permanent damage in the way of being more susceptible to future infections, heart trouble, fertility, and more. The main issue for humans is that it effects production of dairy. After cattle have suffered from foot-and-mouth disease, their dairy production rate may be significantly lower. Now, obviously this shouldn’t be a problem, but due to the multi-billion dollar animal-based food industry, it is. This leads me to say then that foot-and-mouth disease is a man-made disease due to the fact that its outbreaks are the result of farming animals in close quarters, and that of the incredibly large number of animals that have been killed due to foot-and-mouth disease, about 97.5% of them would not have lost their lives without man’s interference. Thus, without the meat and dairy industries, the cases of foot-and-mouth would be far fewer and have a far lower mortality rate.

So, I feel that if you are not vegan then you are supporting the industry that results in this disease and the holocaustic reaction which humans take in order to ensure that milk production continues to run smoothly once the outbreak has died down. Despite various containment methods, such as usual sterilisation of equipment, quarantines, and attempts at vaccination, the only real method of preventing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease is through mass culling – millions and millions of animals have lost their lives just to prevent a disease from spreading which is largely non-fatal, but may affect milk production. Does this not seem ludicrous?

I am aware that the disease is painful, and in some cases can result in disability (but this is mainly due to secondary infections which are a result of poor aftercare), but it usually lasts only 2-3 weeks. If these animals were pets then they would be cared for intensively, given effective aftercare, and would undoubtedly be fit and healthy in under a couple of months.

Which brings me onto the tragedy and inhumanity of the Korean pig slaughter over the last few months. Firstly, the degree of ignorance surrounding this disease has been astounding. There have been reports of people killing their dogs in fear that it could be spread via them. Key health experts have also feared that the disease could be transmittable to humans – something which is so incredibly rare that it is almost impossible.

The real problem with the recent South Korean cull though is the cruelty involved in it. Usual culling methods for food-and-mouth crises involve killing the animals before burning their carcasses. In South Korea, this was deemed too ineffective and expensive, thus, despite some efforts to vaccinate animals, others suffered horrifically being buried alive.

Live piglets being thrown into a pit, ready for burial

It was Gandhi who said that “the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated” and from this shocking exposé into Korean culling methods, we can safely say that South Korea is not so great. At least 3 million pigs have suffered this shocking fate so far, and over 100,000 cows have also been killed (although I’m not sure if they’ve been buried alive).

The disease continues to hamper North Korea’s meat industry, as laws have not been strict enough to prevent the sales of infected meat. To me the simple answer is to abolish the meat industry altogether. Whilst this may be a drastic option, it is surely the most harmless. I defy even the most hardened meat eater to watch the following video, filmed by Korean animal activists Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) and not be disturbed. But the important thing to remember is that this would not be happening were it not for the meat and dairy industry. It is time to end this, and it is time to go vegan.

People regularly give out their condolences to others when they face tragedy and anguish, yet even animal activists treat animal deaths as a statistic most of the time. So let me dedicate this post to the pigs who have died in Korea this year, and I hope they are never forgotten. It’s time we progressed though, as I find it hard to see humanity heading further backwards than this, although inevitably we probably will.

The Horse Racing Debate

The past week has seen four horses die for the sake of entertainment in the UK alone. Both the English Grand National and its Scottish counterpart have seen two horses lose their lives. These hugely publicised events are finally being called into question for their ethics, and let’s hope that at the very least the danger involved in these races can be reduced.

Recent Horse Deaths

In last week’s Grand National two horses were killed at the main race event itself (Ornais and Doonys Gate), whilst a third horse (Inventor) was killed after breaking its leg in another event during the same weekend. The following weekend, the Scottish Grand National saw one horse die of exhaustion (Regal Heights), whilst another collapsed from internal bleeding (Minella Four Star).

For a shocking insight into exactly how many horses lose their lives at these events then check out Animal Aid’s Horse Deathwatch, a website which tracks the number of racehorse deaths, and has been doing so for several years. At the moment it stands at 678 horses killed over 1497 days, averaging out to a death roughly every 2 days.

This year’s Grand National was particularly condemnable for a variety of additional reasons.

  1. The heat on the day left all the horses exhausted and close to dehydration. The four and a half mile race was truly gruelling. The winning horse, Ballabriggs, was too exhausted to even walk into the winner’s enclosure.
  2. The BBC’s coverage had some serious issues. One commentator described the dead body of Ornais as a further ‘obstacle,’ whilst the camera at one point panned over the track, showing Doonys Gate at the side being shot (or, in horse racing terms, ‘destroyed’). An image from this aerial view is below.
  3. One jockey, Peter Toole, was put into (but has now awakened from) a coma from a head injury sustained during the race.

Doonys Gate callously being filmed by the BBC

Blatent Cruelty

Since 2000, the Grand National course alone has claimed the lives of 20 horses, yet it still continues and nothing has been done to prevent the chaos that occurs from happening. Something that has always puzzled me is when people fail to realise the cruelty involved in horse racing. You only have to watch the first couple of minutes of a race to see piles of horses collapse on top of each other, as they all cram their way over the huge jumps at high speeds.

Those horses who lose their lives are often described as accidental deaths, although part of the idea of an accident is that something is unexpected and unforeseen. Given the steady correlation between the number of races and the number of deaths, I think it is fair to say that racehorse deaths cannot be described as an accident anymore. Animal right’s group FAACE described the deaths suffered by horses as “not only sad but inevitable” and this doesn’t seem to be recognised.

Those who are showing their support for horse racing seem to constantly refer to an argument that the horses are being offered the chance to become professional athletes and possibly winners, but this kind of argument cannot hold up when in reality the horses are offered no choice at all. They are bred into this industry and chances are that they will die in it.

Others, including Ornais’ rider, are under the opinion that the Grand National is something to be proud of, the pinnacle of horse racing, and a relic of British tradition. Yet that leaves me asking if the sport is justifiable at all if this is seen as the pinnacle. For those saying it is a relic of British tradition, I wonder if they’ve noticed the steep decline of dignity in the attendees, as highlighted by this article (which is well worth a look if you want to make yourself feel better about your life).

The disturbing sight of Ornais' body, covered up and still lying on the track. Or, if you're a BBC commentator, an "obstacle."

So, what can be done about this situation? If you oppose horse racing the simple thing to do is to boycott it. Don’t watch it, and certainly don’t bet on it. As tempting as it can be to get involved and place a bet, this carnage should be shown no support. Animal Aid are also running a campaign to ban the Grand National, which you can show your support for by clicking here. Support for horse racing is lowering with every year and every death, and this year will see this happen more than ever with major tabloid The Daily Mail jumping onto the anti-racing bandwagon (check out that subtle pun…).

It will be interesting to see how much longer this blatently cruel “sport” can continue for.

Live animals sold as trinkets in China

What is it with China and animal rights? China spends incredible amounts of money every year in an effort to reintroduce pandas to the wild through highly developed breeding centres, yet at the same time millions of cats and dogs are slaughtered whilst still alive just for their skins. The country is moving steadily into superpower status, yet its policies on animal rights could not be more backwards. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a piece of positive news come out of China in relation to its animal rights record, and this is the nation that invented tofu. Sort it out!

So, what’s China’s latest feat of stupidity in terms of animal rights? Well, you may remember as a kid going to fairgrounds and playing all those typical fairground games, and if you were lucky winning a prize which may have been a goldfish in a little plastic bag. The idea of this was to take it home and have a calming aquatic buddy who you could feed and care for until he/she reached a ripe old age, passed away, and was chucked down the toilet by a parent. I seriously question how many goldfish actually reach it home, let alone the ripe old age with this little practice of handing them out alongside generic teddy bears and giant lollies, and therefore the whole idea has always seemed a little weird to me.

If you’ve never been lucky enough to win at any of those games though, there is now another option. Take a quick flight over to China and you’ll be able to pick up a variety of different pets who have been sealed into airtight plastic sacks. Different fish and even small turtles are available to purchase on street corners and at subway stops all over China now, and they are said to live for several months as the bag also contains some nutrient-packed water (although the fact that most of these animals need to breathe in order to survive seems to have been overlooked a little, what with the airtight bags and all… although I’m sure the ever caring, empathetic and ethically motivated street vendors are working on this little hitch as I type this). Not only this, but they’re being marketed as keyrings, so you’ll be able to carry your little buddy around everywhere on your keys. Say hello when you open front door or your car to the little fella, and show them off to your family and friends (make sure you explain that the water is packed with nutrients though – wouldn’t want people thinking it was just an oversized cruel keyring).

Some of you may remember the ridiculous Beijing Olympics souvenir of a goldfish in a similarly airtight plastic sack, but sadly I really thought we’d seen the back of this disgusting issue. But now it’s reared its ugly head again. The worst thing is I don’t know of anything being done to stop it – it is completely legal under Chinese law. Which is why I’m posting this really – send this on to anyone and tell people you know (I’m not talking about just vegans and vegetarians – I’m sure anyone would find this appalling). Let’s get the word out that this is happening, that it’s a growing trend and it is popular, and with enough support let’s hope that something can be done to stop it, or that people will simply come to their senses and realise that buying these cruel trinkets is wrong and the market for them will die rather than the animals themselves.

For more information please check out’s article on the trade.

Vegetarian Couple refused the right to adopt child

This is an odd one, which stinks of the usual backward anti-vegetarian discourse that claims that no one can be healthy without meat and dairy. In Crete, Greece, a couple has been refused adoption of a child based on the fact that they eat a vegetarian diet. Now I may be able to accept that if the reasoning had been along the lines of “well the child must eat souvlaki, otherwise he/she is not a real Greek,” but sadly it comes from the usual tired vegetarians-are-unhealthy rhetoric that’s so abundant in seemingly everyone. Whilst I don’t mind my friends bullying me over living a vegan diet, and they can call me unhealthy all they wish, it’s a whole different issue when it’s Crete’s welfare services and Crete University’s medical school who are backing such statements, and when the effect is as drastic as disallowing a couple to adopt.

I think the statement that got to me more than any other from the article I read on the issue was from Antonis Kafatos. He said “A child needs to eat fish, seafood and dairy products among other things, without meat being essential.” Now, this guy is allegedly a paediatrician and a nutrition researcher, but that statement makes me wonder what the hell he has been researching for the past however many years. Here’s the thing, there’s certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that a child, and indeed any human body needs to survive and function properly. Yes, these requirements can be found in meat and milk, but they’re among many other things (most of which contain far less cholestrol, bad fats, and are generally better for the human body to digest than the animal products). To say a child needs meat and milk is ignorant logic.

Not only that, but who says that a meat and dairy-based diet is inherently healthy? I’ve seen some unhealthy vegetarians, but go and look in your local KFC and you’ll see several teen mums shovelling fried chicken and chips into their 3 year olds’ mouths. I know this situation is in Greece, but I’ve been to Greece several times and seen my fair share of obese Greek people, so I’m able to say I don’t think their diet is by any means the healthiest. The olive oil plays a hugely positive role in staying healthy, as does the sunlight, but the Greek diet is not necessarily a healthy one.

Pretty sure Stavros could lose some of that gut on a veggie diet

For more info on ridiculous anti-vegan arguments check wrosie’s post here. This decision is in the process of being examined, so hopefully it will be over-turned. In the meantime, perhaps Greece’s nutritionists should actually do some work?

Chickens lay eggs anyway…

Veganism can be hard to comprehend if you don’t look into its ethical reasoning. Vegetarians clearly oppose the killing of animals, but when it comes to veganism it’s different. I mean, no animal is killed for its produce, at least directly. Such a practice would be counterintuitive, right?

Let’s, for a minute, just forget the complexities of arguments to do with the life span of produce animals, their livelihood, and free range vs. battery farming. Let’s forget about what happens to dairy cows, the issue of whether milking is natural, and what happens to their calves. Let’s forget about conditions for chickens and issues with genetic modification and human intervention into the egg-laying process. All these issues are important to vegans and ethical vegetarians, but understanding the implications of many of these things and the processes that go on behind closed doors can be difficult and require plenty of time to get your head around.

For now, let me put to you a single issue within the egg industry that highlights to me why veganism is the only diet which minimises death through eating practices, and why ethical vegetarianism falls short, and also explains why around 40 million chicks are killed each year in the UK alone during egg production. In fact this issue is so difficult to swallow (as I’m sure eggs may be after we’ve talked about it) that I can put to you the best case scenario for egg production, besides keeping your own chickens.

First it’s important to note that farming is a business, and like any other business it needs to make money. It is due to this fact that I have yet to come across a farm that is, by my standards (which I don’t think are unreasonable), ethical. But picture the closest thing you can to this in your head. Picture a local, truly free range farm, where chickens are given ample space and are respected.

Now, first you need to realise that these chickens are probably there for one of two purposes – either meat or eggs. Notice that I said either-or. For the last few decades, there has been specialisation and cross-breeding to ensure that the most efficient chickens are used for each job. There are certain types of chickens which lay eggs infrequently and irregularly, but grow fat quickly – these are broiler chickens (i.e. they will be used as meat). There are others which don’t grow so large but lay eggs nearly every day – these are layer chickens. Now, the farm in your head will realise this and will be breeding specialised chickens for each purpose. It wouldn’t make sense to just breed one type of chicken because they would not be maximising their possible output as a farm in terms of either egg production or meat, and as a farm is a profit-making business it must choose specialised breeds of chickens. This is logic, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So, keep that picture in your head of your farm, with the broiler and the laying chickens. The farm is going to need to ensure that it breeds these chickens to keep their levels up, otherwise when the chickens die out the farm will be left without any. To do this, some eggs are fertilised from both the broiler and laying chickens. The broiler chickens will hatch, they will be grown until their slaughter date, at which point they will be killed for meat. The laying chickens also hatch, but here’s where the difficulty lies.

Only female chickens lay eggs. But there is no way to ensure that only female chickens are born. So, as with all birds and most of the animal kingdom, half of the chickens born are going to be female (and therefore can be utilised in egg production) whilst the other half will be born as males. This is where things get a bit depressing I’m afraid. There is no use for these male chicks whatsoever. Remember, the farm is a business. Keeping these chicks when they can’t perform the duty they were bred for, egg-laying, would be wasteful and has a negative effect on profits. Even the most ethical farm, that one you’ve hopefully been picturing in your head, would have a very hard time justifying the keeping male chicks for the sake of their lives when they have nothing to offer. These chicks are thus killed at birth.

Methods for killing the chicks tend to be through the use of mass-scale death machines. Some are dropped straight onto large electric plates, frying the chicks (who are barely hours old) alive. Others are gassed with their carcasses being utilised as reptile and snake food. The “humane” way (as recommended by the RSPCA and Humane Slaughter Association) is to drop the live chicks into a macerator – essentially a machine which minces the chicks into a paste, quite literally (not too dissimilar to the machine that destroys Preston at the end of the Wallace and Gromit film, A Close Shave). For arguably the least fortunate, they are simply placed in giant bin bags on top of each other and left to die, like the rubbish that the industry thinks that they are.

There is no farm that has any use for male chickens from an egg-laying specialised breed. This to me is the single biggest argument for veganism in terms of animal ethics. Whilst this focuses purely on eggs, it highlights to me why vegetarianism is severely ethically lacking. The logic behind the argument is obvious and strong, so please think about this when it comes to questioning the importance of veganism as an ethical movement.

For more information on the fate of males in the egg industry, please watch this investigation by Viva! Just to warn you though, whilst the footage is not gory it is nevertheless very distressing.

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