Animal welfare: if you want cheap knitwear, it’s the sheep that may suffer


Secretly filmed footage of a group of sheep shearers working on a farm makes for shocking viewing. Animals are kicked, stamped on and punched in the face. The abuse, uncovered by an animal rights group, is difficult to watch.

Broadcast by Channel 4 News, the footage was filmed by PETA Asiaduring summer wool shearing, when teams of contractors are typically paid “per sheep sheared”.

It goes without saying that animal cruelty and mishandling is unethical, and sheep farmers are understandably keen to stress that the footage is not representative of British sheep farming practises. But beyond the indefensible actions of some individuals lies a wider issue. In low margin industries, such as wool, there are limited incentives to invest in people with a high level of skill – or respect for animals.

Consumer demand for cheap clothing is part of the problem. Apart from what is used for carpets, mattresses and one or two other artisan sectors of the industry, the generally low price of wool makes it hard for farmers to prioritise processes like shearing. To do so is neither profitable nor productive.

The market for wool is particularly stringent. What was once a thriving component of the sheep farming industry is now a mere byproduct of the more profitable lamb market. Yes, wool commodity prices have increased over the last decade and there have been some niche successes in, for example, rare breed wool such as Herdwick fleece from the UK’s Lake District.

But for many farmers, wool production provides only a small fraction of their overall income. In terms of the invested effort in cleaning, processing and packing shorn fleeces, it is almost certainly loss making.

The sheep shearing scandal revealed by PETA comes at a time when there has been a sharpening focus on animal welfare issues. There have been policy pledges made by the UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, to bring animals into the political spotlight, for example by prohibiting sales of puppies and kittens in pet shops.

But these pledges may do little to reassure a public that takes a serious interest in animal health and that has seen myriad recent “scandals” in relation to contamination (horse meat), disease (foot and mouth, BSE, bird flu) and the ethics of animal treatment.

Animal ethics

Research shows that a large majority of people who work with animals do so because they find human-animal contact rewarding in some way. For some, it’s the prospect of improving the well-being of animals as a veterinary surgeon, or as a volunteer in a rescue shelter. For others, like farmers, the reward comes from interacting with animals as part of a particular way of life.

Even those employed in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants have been observed to display a generally unemotional “blankness” rather than outright violence when it comes to handling animals. It seems instead that acts of violence and cruelty are restricted to a minority, and research has shed light on the psychological links between animal violence and other forms of social dysfunction, such as domestic abuse. For most, animal work is either positively rewarding or routinely unemotional.

What is significant is that a minority of unregulated and probably unobserved individuals are allowed to engage in acts of cruelty that most would find repugnant and deeply upsetting. In the sheep farming industry, where farmers are working to tight profit margins in tough conditions, there is so little slack in the system that – at times like shearing – speed can be valued over other concerns.

It is this low margin, high speed culture which makes it more likely that self-employed contractors like shearing gangs will seek to cut corners or lose patience with their charges and react with violence.

There are no simple solutions to such problems. But continuing to expose and discuss animal cruelty is an important step in ensuring it remains on the agricultural and political agenda – and that it permeates the consciousness of consumers, too.

Consumer demand for wool is a driver of the price the farmer receives and, as the seasons change and magazine editors publicise jumpers and cardigans for the autumn and winter, now is a good time to raise awareness of the issue.

A happy Herdwick. Shutterstock

Greater regulation and surveillance is needed in the shearing industry to ensure rogue practitioners are prevented from finding work. Beyond that, however, sheep farmers also need to be able to secure greater returns for wool in order to maximise the care they take in its production. It needs to be worth their while to hire people who are paid fairly for the time they take to do the job well.

It can be done. In the UK, Herdwick sheep were once maligned for their particularly wiry wool. Their products have now been successfully rebranded as the breed’s longstanding connection to the beautiful Lake District has added a premium to their fleeces, now prized for their quality and durability in the production of mattresses, carpets and tweeds. Other farmers may well be able to follow their lead, providing greater opportunities for generating new value in this most ancient of commodities.

Animals Need, but Don’t Get, Shade and Adequate Water during Record Heat

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

Published 08/02/18

Bison at MarinelandPhoto: Born Free USA

As I mentioned in my last blog, after a 37 year hiatus, not ever wanting to return because I had been so disturbed by the terrible care animals were receiving during my first visit, I finally made my second visit to Marineland, and the horror of the place remains for me. I had been lured by advertisements for “Aviary Safari,” a new attraction featuring 100 acres of “free-roaming” birds. I’m a bird expert; I should take a look. But it was false advertising. The attraction does not exist.

Rob Laidlaw and I were there on July 5, the last day of a brutal, record-breaking heat wave filled with government-issued heat warnings, so not surprisingly our first stop was in the cool confines of an indoor exhibit featuring harbor seals. The seals, as reported previously, all had their eyes tightly shut due to the chlorine in their tank.

Then, we went in search of the aviary that did not exist. After being told by an employee that there was no such display (for which, given how animals are cared for in Marineland, I’m grateful), we wandered off in search of other animal displays in what is, to my eyes, just a grubby theme park that happens to be located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, near Horseshoe Falls, a world-famous tourist attraction.

What we were horrified to find huge pens with no trees and very little, if any, shade, housing various hoofed ungulates, such as bison, red deer, and the closely related American wapiti. There were some improvements over the last 37 years. There were fewer bears and they were in a larger, cleaner compound, and I was pleased that the petting compound, filled with fallow deer, was not open, presumably because of the intense heat. The animals were forced to huddle in a few square feet of shade cast by the fencing.

But, what I saw in the other compounds left me sick with sorrow for the animals. Above are two photos taken of the bison compound. It was just an open, sun-blasted expanse, with but a single source of water, about the size of a pail. I’ve included a photo of a bison calf, about the size of a cow calf, so you can see the size of this water source. No place for the herd to drink; no place for them to wallow in the mud; no shade for them to cool off.

Please don’t tell me to complain. Animal protectionists have been complaining, for decades, and The Ontario SPCA once laid charges, but somehow missed what to my eyes – and those of various experts who have written reports on what they found – are the most concerning situations. And, for our troubles we are labeled, of course, as extremists. Here are the photos. Judge for yourself.

Keep Wildlife in the Wild,

U.S. House approves bill to allow killing sea lions

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House passed a bill Tuesday that would allow tribal managers and government fish managers to kill limited numbers of sea lions in the Columbia River to improve the survival of endangered salmon and steelhead populations.

The legislation passed by a vote of 288 to 116.

Under the bill, designated officials would be able to remove some California and Stellar sea lions from specific areas where they are posing the most harm to endangered native fish runs.

The bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

“For the salmon and steelhead fighting to make it upstream, today’s vote in the U.S. House significantly improves their chances of survival,” Beutler said after passage of the bill.

“The passage of my bipartisan bill signals a return to a healthy, balanced Columbia River ecosystem by reining in the unnatural, overcrowded sea lion population that is indiscriminately decimating our fish runs.”

Beutler said supporters of the bill are “not anti-sea lion,” adding, “We’re just for protecting a Pacific Northwest treasure – salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other native fish species iconic to our region.”

A companion bill is moving through the U.S. Senate now, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Joe Stohr, acting director of the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, supported the passage of the bill.

“We appreciate today’s action by the House of Representatives and the efforts of Representatives Herrera Beutler and Schrader to secure the bill’s passage. Sea lion predation on salmon is a complex issue, and we thank them for recognizing the need for action to help recover threatened and endangered populations in the Columbia River.”

Why would anyone want the “real” thing?

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Clearly, vegan sausage–just like any other type of meat (animal-death) replacement or “substitute”–is far healthier than the rotting flesh it replaces. So why do so many people still choose the “real” thing?

Perhaps there’s something else wrong with the majority of people, besides their outward appearance or cholesterol level. There’s certainly something wrong with the way they think if they would willingly ask that animals be caged and trucked to slaughterhouses because they imagine they taste better than some plant-based “imitation”.

Worse yet, they think it’s wierd that we care that:

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Sixty senior rabbis call for end to ‘evil crime’ of live animal shipments

Chief rabbi of Beersheba says every rabbi should join protest; anyone
buying such meat is complicit in activity that is against human and Torah

One of Israel’s most senior rabbis has ruled that anyone buying meat from
animals shipped from overseas to Israel for slaughter in cruel conditions
is a partner to a crime.

In a letter released Thursday by animal rights activists, Rabbi Yehuda
Deri, chief rabbi of the southern city of Beersheba and a member of the
Chief Rabbinate’s Council, called on every rabbi in Israel to protest the
long-distance shipments of sheep and cattle for fattening and slaughter in

He said he planned to raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of the council.

“It is clear… that whoever buys this meat is a partner to and helps those
committing an evil crime, ” he wrote. “Every rabbi in Israel must take part
in this protest until the issue is resolved.”

The letter was released along with a petition against the shipments signed
by 60 leading rabbis from across the religious spectrum.

“It is clear… that whoever buys this meat is a partner to and helps those
committing an evil crime, ” he wrote. “Every rabbi in Israel must take part
in this protest until the issue is resolved.”

The letter was released along with a petition against the shipments signed
by 60 leading rabbis from across the religious spectrum.

It came in the wake of an exposé by Animals Australia
broadcast on Australian TV’s “60 Minutes
<>,” into the appalling
conditions in which sheep were shipped to the Middle East on five journeys.

The petition says it is “neither the way of the Torah nor of human morality
to allow such cruelty to animals.”

The signatories include members of the Chief Rabbinate’s Council — Rabbi
Deri, Rabbi Ratzon Arusi and Rabbi Shimon Elitov; as well as Israel Prize
laureates Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, Rabbi Avraham Steinberg and Rabbi Eli
Sadan; and the late Rabbi Elyashiv Knohl, who died two weeks ago.

Among other names are Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall; Avigdor
Nebenzahl, a former chief rabbi of Jerusalem, who serves on the faculty of
the Yeshivat HaKotel and is rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in the Old City;
kashrut expert and veterinarian Dr. Israel Meir Levinger; Itamar
Wahrhaftig, a Bar-Ilan University expert on Jewish law; Ronen Neubert, a
co-founder of the Beit Hillel organization; and Shlomo Sheffer, Bar-Ilan
University’s rabbi.

“We were shocked to discover the harsh facts about the great suffering of
calves and sheep, God’s creatures, sent by ships from Australia and Europe
to be slaughtered in Israel,” says the petition, which reflects the biggest
rabbinical mobilization to date to stop the shipments, which, from
Australia, can take three weeks or more.

“The causing of such extreme suffering to animals solely to satisfy our
desire for fresh meat is not the way of Torah, and it is not human morality
to permit such harsh cruelty to animals… in addition to which, the meat
produced from them costs more than fresh meat that is imported to Israel

The petition concludes by saying that the shipments must be stopped.

Disturbing footage from the documentary, shot by a whistleblower on the
ship and subsequently broadcast on Israel’s Hadashot news, showed
overcrowding on board, with animals packed so tightly that many could not
reach food and water.

Unable to sit or lie down, most stood covered in their own excrement,
gasping for air in scorching temperatures — a sign that they were about to
die from heatstroke.

“They literally cook from the inside while alive during the journey,”
veterinarian Yuval Samuel told Hadashot TV news.

On one of the journeys documented, 2,400 sheep perished and were thrown

The rabbinical protest is being led by two Bar Ilan University professors —
British-born Sperber, president of the Higher Institute of Torah Studies
and a vegetarian, and Yael Shemesh of the Bible department and the center
for women’s research, a vegan — in conjunction with the animal rights
organizations Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live.

Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber at the June 9, 2015 ordination celebration of
the first cohort for Har’el Beit Midrash. (Sigal Krimolovski

Sperber said, “I have no doubt that anyone who sees these pictures will
find that this situation is completely forbidden by [Jewish law]. This is
indescribable animal suffering…it is so horrific and certainly absolutely

Rabbi Deri said in his letter that “there is no doubt that this phenomenon
completely contradicts the spirit of our Holy Torah and stands in complete
contradiction to certain mitzvot of what is and is not allowed and the many
[Jewish ritual] laws that followed in the Talmud.”

Deri went on to quote examples from Jewish law prohibiting cruelty to
animals and ruling that while Jews are allowed to eat meat, they must do
everything they can to minimize suffering.

Following the broadcast in Australia, the Australian Agriculture Ministry
said it would open an inquiry into the standards of livestock shipping from
Australia to the Middle East.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called for a complete halt, or at
least a significant reduction, to what he termed the “cruel” shipments.
Rabbi Yehuda Deri, April 4, 2011. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

He told Hadashot that there was insufficient supervision of the conditions
the long-haul voyages, and that all effort should be made to reduce or
preferably stop the shipments to Israel and the “serious abuse” of animals

The prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, took to Facebook to register her
“shock” after seeing the broadcast.

Last year, 499,265 live cattle and sheep were shipped to Israel for the
meat industry from Australia and various European countries — a slight
reduction from 2016, when 571,972 heads arrived at Israeli ports, but
nearly double the number for 2015 — 292,274, according to Israel’s
Agriculture Ministry.

Ships resembling multi-story parking lots carry from 1,000 to 20,000
cattle, or 100,000 sheep, or a combination.

Once in Israel, the animals are loaded onto trucks for journeys that can
take hours to slaughterhouses or to pre-slaughter fattening facilities.
They are treated with antibiotics against the infections that overcrowding

While the Australian exposé did not directly relate to shipments to Israel,
footage from a quarantine station at Kibbutz Eilot in the south of the
country released at the same time by Anonymous for Animal Rights showed the
same sort of abuse after ships’ arrivals to the country, with animals being
whipped through a narrow passage.
A worker filmed beating a cow at a quarantine station at Kibbutz Eilot in
Israel’s south after the unloading of cattle for slaughter at the Eilat
port.(Anonymous/Hadashot News screenshot)

Lawmakers from the Knesset’s cross-party Lobby for Animal Rights said in a
statement following the broadcast that despite “explicit promises” from the
agriculture ministry that live shipments would be reduced and imports of
chilled meat increased, “the investigation today shows that nothing has

At present, the government exempts totally or partially from tax the import
of live animals for slaughter while imposing ceilings on tax exemptions for
the import of chilled meat.

It has said in the past that it will gradually increase the amount of tax
exempt chilled meat allowed into the country and phase out live shipments.

Kangaroo Dies After Visitors At Chinese Zoo Hurl Rocks To Force Her To Jump

April 20, 2018

One kangaroo was killed and another injured at a zoo in southeast China
after visitors to their enclosure
sitors-throw-rocks/9682220> pelted the animals with rocks and other objects
in an apparent attempt to get the kangaroos to hop around. The abuse has
sparked fury online and prompted renewed scrutiny into the
-and-why-theyre-still-thriving> mistreatment of animals at Chinese zoos,
several of which have gained notoriety in recent years for cramped and cruel

Zookeepers at the Fuzhou Zoo in Fujian Province
<> told the Haixia
Metropolis News this week that at least one visitor threw “multiple”
sharp-edged rocks at a 12-year-old female kangaroo in March to compel her to
jump, leaving her badly injured and in “deep pain.” She died a few days
later of profuse internal bleeding, her caretakers said.

A 5-year-old male kangaroo in the same enclosure was reportedly also injured
last month after a visitor threw part of a brick at him. The younger
kangaroo was not seriously hurt.

“Some adult [visitors] see the kangaroos sleeping and then pick up stones to
throw at them,” a Fuzhou Zoo attendant told the Haixia Metropolis News.
“Even after we cleared all the stones from the display area, they went
elsewhere to find them. It’s abhorrent.”

Pics of the bricks that visitors hurled at kangaroos at the zoo in Fujian,
killing one and injuring another. Zoo staff say visitors often throw objects
at animals despite it being ‘prohibited’.

– Bill Birtles (@billbirtles)
<> 5:37 AM – Apr
20, 2018

12-year-old kangaroo at zoo in eastern China died after being stoned by
visitors hoping to make it hop <>

– Sixth Tone (@SixthTone)
<> 4:15 AM – Apr 20,

Netizens in China and elsewhere have
> expressed their horror at the behavior of the stone-hurling visitors.

The Metropolis News <> said on
Friday that their social media pages were flooded with readers’ angry
comments, with many calling for visitors who mistreat animals to be
“blacklisted” from zoos.

The Fuzhou Zoo said it had
applied for funding to install high-definition surveillance cameras to
better identify perpetrators. They added that now only three kangaroos would
be on display to reduce the risks to the animals.

Several Chinese zoos have made headlines in recent years for mistreatment of
animals. Last year, visitors were horrified when a
ers-zoo/> live donkey was fed to tigers at a so-called safari park near
Shanghai. In 2016, hundreds of thousands of people called for the
us_578c8b3be4b03fc3ee514af2> closure of Guangzhou’s Grandview Aquarium,
dubbed the “saddest zoo in the world,” after photos of the facility’s barren
enclosures went viral.

Such incidents have increased concerns in China about the country’s lack of
movement-calling-change> animal welfare laws.

Without such legislation, “we can only try to persuade people using common
sense and referring to animal welfare laws in Western countries,” Tong
Yanfang, an animal welfare advocate,
-and-why-theyre-still-thriving> told the South China Morning Post last year.

“For children and many adults who lack judgment, a wrong perception has been
built [in China] that animals are there for the entertainment of humans,”
Tong said. “When they see animals perform in a zoo, they won’t consider how
the animals acquired those skills.”

. This article originally appeared on
a572ce4b00a1849cf477d?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313> HuffPost.

Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-Species Social Justice

*Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

This new book of challenging essays by scholars and activists includes my
analysis of “The Disengagement of Journalistic Discourse about Nonhuman
Animals,” published online as Disengaged Journalism & The Disparagement &
Disappearance of Animals
The book’s Introduction provides the following
synopsis of my chapter to which I’ve taken the liberty of incorporating some
modifications of my own for emphasis:

Prominent activist Karen Davis draws on her long experience of defending
animal rights to consider how animals and animal rights issues have been
represented in mainstream media. In spite of the fact that mainstream
journalism has given more attention in recent years to these spaces of
abuse, Davis notes, “In my 30-plus years in the animal advocacy movement
has been virtually no analysis or critique of the coverage given to farmed
animals by the mainstream media.”

Karen’s analysis demonstrates that a particular type of ethical blindness
persists in which exploitation and violence are, paradoxically, “visible,
unperceived.” In a model of engaged scholarship, Davis exposes the
and rhetorical strategies that are used in media coverage of animal
such as the use of euphemisms like “humane” and “euthanasia” to describe
brutal and sordid violence in the service of profit. *She notes the
* criticisms of specific abuses that exist together with a ready
endorsement of*
* the broad system in which all these cruelties are conducted*. She argues
what some animal advocates consider strong critiques of animal abuse
operate to leave readers powerless and ineffective.

For example, even in cases where cruelties are noted, a jokey style that
comments on how “tasty” animals are serves to undermine any real critique
to condone the system that allows those cruelties to occur. [*New York
columnists Nicholas Kristof and Mark Bittman epitomize this method of
disengagement toward farmed animals, always reassuring readers that no
how much the animals suffer, “we” love our hamburgers and chicken nuggets
more than we care about them.]

Citing a number of cases, Davis analyzes how these rhetorical practices
operate not only in media reports but also in other types of texts and
act to
depoliticize animal abuse, disempower activists, and reinforce mainstream
complacency. Within this model of analysis, liberal opinion – in this
case, a
flaccid concern for “humane treatment” linked with fawning plugs for
“conscientious” omnivorism – plays an important gatekeeper role in
the system, as it acts to constitute the outer limits of acceptable ideas


Please join our campaign against the outer limits of “acceptable” ideas and
attitudes! Open the floodgates!

*International Respect for Chickens Day May 4 *

*Please do an ACTION for Chickens in May!*

*Stick Up For Chickens!*

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.

View this article online

The “Easter” Chick – A Lost Soul

By Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns

*Easter Egg Hunt and Egg Gathering*

The association of a hen’s egg with Easter and Spring survives ironically
in the
annual children’s Easter Egg Hunt, for the origin of this ritual has been
largely forgotten.

Traditionally, the finding of eggs was identified with the finding of
The search for eggs was part of farm life, because a free hen sensibly lays
eggs in a sheltered and secluded spot. Today’s children hunt for eggs that
laid by a hen imprisoned in a mechanized building, most likely in a wire
The widespread disappearance of the home chicken flock in the 1950s ended
gathering of eggs laid by a hen in the place she chose for her nest.
Page Smith writes in *The Chicken Book*, “My contemporaries who have such
memories of chickens from the unpleasant chores of their youth had
already the consequences of putting living creatures in circumstances that
inherently uncongenial to them.”

Wilbor Wilson provides the background to this change in *American Poultry*
*History*. He writes: “As the size of poultry ranches increased, the chore
of egg
gathering became drudgery instead of pleasure. Rollaway nests with sloping
floors made of hardware cloth offered a partial solution, but the number of
floor eggs increased when the hens did not readily adopt the wire-floored
This changed with development of the cage system which left the hen no

*The Hen as a Symbol of Motherhood*

In our day, the hen has been degraded to an “egg machine.” In previous eras
embodied the essence of motherhood. The First Century CE Roman historian and
biographer Plutarch wrote of the mother hen in *De amore parentis* [
*love*]: “What of the hens whom we observe each day at home, with what care
assiduity they govern and guard their chicks? Some let down their wings for
chicks to come under; others arch their backs for them to climb upon; there
no part of their bodies with which they do not wish to cherish their chicks
they can, nor do they do this without a joy and alacrity which they seem to
exhibit by the sound of their voices.”

In Matthew 23:37, the mother hen is evoked to express the spirit of
yearning and
protective love: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I wished to gather
children together, even as a hen gathers together her chicks.”

The Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi wrote of mother hens in the 16th

They follow their chicks with such great love that, if they see or spy at
distance any harmful animal, such as a kite or a weasel or someone even
stalking their little ones, the hens first gather them under the shadow of
their wings, and with this covering they put up such a very fierce
– striking fear into their opponent in the midst of a frightful clamor,
both wings and beak – they would rather die for their chicks than seek
in flight. . . . Thus they present a noble example in love of their
as also when they feed them, offering the food they have collected and
neglecting their own hunger.

*The Role of the Rooster*

The family role of the rooster is nowadays less well known to most people
the motherhood of the hen. The charm of seeing a rooster with his hens
in Chaucer’s portrait of Chanticleer in *The Canterbury Tales*:

This cock had in his princely sway and measure
Seven hens to satisfy his every pleasure,
Who were his sisters and his sweethearts true,
Each wonderfully like him in her hue,
Of whom the fairest-feathered throat to see
Was fair Dame Partlet. Courteous was she,
Discreet, and always acted debonairly.

In ancient times, the rooster was esteemed for his sexual vigor; it is said
a healthy young rooster may mate as often as thirty or more times a day. The
rooster thus figures in religious history as a symbol of divine fertility
the life force. In his own world of chickendom, the rooster – the cock – is
father, a lover, a brother, a food-finder, a guardian, and a sentinel.

Aldrovandi extolled the rooster’s domestic virtues:

He is for us the example of the best and truest father of a family. For
he not
only presents himself as a vigilant guardian of his little ones, and in
morning, at the proper time, invites us to our daily labor; but he sallies
forth as the first, not only with his crowing, by which he shows what
must be
done, but he sweeps everything, explores and spies out everything.

Finding food, “he calls both hens and chicks together to eat it while he
like a father and host at a banquet . . . inviting them to the feast,
by a single care, that they should have something to eat. Meanwhile he
about to find something nearby, and when he has found it, he calls his
again in a loud voice. They run to the spot. He stretches himself up, looks
around for any danger that may be near, runs about the entire poultry yard,
and there plucking up a grain or two for himself without ceasing to invite
others to follow him.”

A nineteenth-century poultry keeper wrote to his friend that his Shanghai
was “very attentive to his Hens, and exercises a most fatherly care over the
Chicks in his yard. . . . He frequently would allow them to perch on his
and in this manner carry them into the house, and then up the chicken


*KAREN DAVIS, PhD is the President and Founder of United Poultry Concerns

The Case for a Carbon Tax on Beef


CreditIgor Bastidas

Let me admit up front that I would rather be eating a cheeseburger right now. Or maybe trying out a promising new recipe for Korean braised short ribs. But our collective love affair with beef, dating back more than 10,000 years, has gone wrong, in so many ways. And in my head, if not in my appetites, I know it’s time to break it off.

So it caught my eye recently when a team of French scientists published a paper on the practicality of putting a carbon tax on beef as a tool for meeting European Union climate change targets. The idea will no doubt sound absurd to Americans reared on Big Macs and cowboy mythology. While most of us recognize that we are already experiencing the effects of climate change, according to a 2017 Gallup poll, we just can’t imagine that, for instance, floods, mudslides, wildfires, biblical droughts and back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes are going to be a serious problem in our lifetimes. And we certainly don’t make the connection to the food on our plates, or to beef in particular.

Paying the Price for Polluting

The production of beef has a larger impact on the environment than that of any other meat or dairy product. A tax based on carbon emissions could increase the price of beef by up to 41 percent in supermarkets.

The cattle industry would like to keep it that way. Oil, gas and coal had to play along, for instance, when the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency instituted mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions. But the program to track livestock emissions was mysteriously defunded by Congress in 2010, and the position of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association at the time was that the extent of the emissions was “alleged and unsubstantiated.” The association now goes an Orwellian step further, arguing in its 2018 policy book that agriculture is a source of offsets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture, including cattle raising, is our third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after the energy and industrial sectors. At first glance, the root of the problem may appear to be our appetite for meat generally. Chatham House, the influential British think tank, attributes 14.5 percent of global emissions to livestock — “more than the emissions produced from powering all the world’s road vehicles, trains, ships and airplanes combined.” Livestock consume the yield from a quarter of all cropland worldwide. Add in grazing, and the business of making meat occupies about three-quarters of the agricultural land on the planet.

Beef and dairy cattle together account for an outsize share of agriculture and its attendant problems, including almost two-thirds of all livestock emissions, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. That’s partly because there are so many of them — 1 billion to 1.4 billion head of cattle worldwide. They don’t outnumber humanity, but with cattle in this country topping out at about 1,300 pounds apiece, their footprint on the planet easily outweighs ours. 

The emissions come partly from the fossil fuels used to plant, fertilize and harvest the feed to fatten them up for market. In addition, ruminant digestion causes cattle to belch and otherwise emit huge quantities of methane. A new study in the journal Carbon Balance and Management puts the global gas output of cattle at 120 million tons per year. Methane doesn’t hang around in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide. But in the first 20 years after its release, it’s 80 to 100 times more potent at trapping the heat of the sun and warming the planet. The way feedlots and other producers manage manure also ensures that cattle continue to produce methane long after they have gone to the great steakhouse in the sky. 

The French researchers, from the Toulouse School of Economics, decided to take a look at a carbon tax on beef because the European Union has committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions more than half by midcentury — and that includes agricultural emissions. The ambition is to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, widely regarded as a tipping point at which cascading and potentially catastrophic effects of climate change could sweep across the planet. Their study found that a relatively steep tax, based on greenhouse gas emissions, would raise the retail price of beef by about 40 percent and cause a corresponding drop in consumption, much like the sugar tax on sodas and the tax on tobacco products.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to put a carbon tax on fossil fuel, a larger source of greenhouse gas emissions? You bet. But many people who now commute in conventional gas-fueled automobiles have no better way to get home — or to heat their homes when they get there. That broader carbon tax will require dramatically restructuring our lives. A carbon tax on beef, on the other hand, would be a relatively simple test case for such taxes and, according to the French study, only a little painful, at least at the household level: While people would tend to skip the beef bourguignon, they could substitute other meats, like pork and chicken, that have a much smaller climate change footprint.

The tax would also reduce the substantial contribution of beef and dairy cattle to water pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss and human mortality. (A 2012 Harvard School of Public Health study found that adding a single serving of unprocessed red meat per day increases the risk of death by 13 percent.) Those factors have already driven down beef consumption in the United States by 19 percent since 2005.

Zohra Bouamra-Mechemache, a co-author of the French study, readily acknowledged that the proposed carbon tax on beef has no chance of becoming reality, “not even in Europe” and certainly not in the United States. Our politicians continue to regard the beef industry as, well, a sacred cow. And even if the rest of us acknowledge the reality of climate change, we tend to put off actually doing much about it in our own lives. It’s a J. Wellington Wimpy philosophy: We want our hamburgers today, on a promise to pay on some future Tuesday, probably in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.

Still, the idea of a carbon tax on beef makes me think. I crave the aroma of beef, from a burger, or a barbecue brisket cooked low and slow. It’s just harder to enjoy it now when I can also catch the faint whiff of methane lingering 20 years into our increasingly uncertain future.

Action Alert: Yupik, Polar Bear in Mexico – emails needed to USFWS & Mexican Governor & Mexican Green Party (Secretary of Environment)


2 hrs · Toronto · 

Morelia Zoo and Governor Sabotaging Yupik’s Future

It is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news that last night Friday 23nd of February, just days before a massive multi-year effort was about to be finalized, the Parque Zoologico Benito Juarez (Morelia Zoo) and the Governor of Michoacán, Silvano Aureoles, abruptly breached the legal agreement with Zoocheck and the Yorkshire Wildlife Park to relocate Yupik, the Morelia Zoo’s solitary polar bear, to the United Kingdom.

Yupik has been at the Morelia Zoo for more than 25 years, confined in a grossly inadequate, outdated enclosure and locked away in a tiny off-exhibit area for the majority of each day. For years, Yupik has also been suffering from deteriorating health and serious dental issues.

When Zoocheck’s world renowned team of bear veterinarians and specialist Mexican veterinarians conducted a full medical examination of Yupik in 2017, they discovered that she had been left for years with painful broken teeth and exposed nerves, a result of abnormal stereotyped bar biting behavior. Her muscle mass was poor due to lack of exercise and she had lost her natural layer of blubber due to her unnatural diet and the extreme heat she has been forced to live in.

Zoocheck’s expert team conducted surgery to address Yupik’s dental issues, finally freeing her from the immense suffering and pain her broken teeth had caused. If not for Zoocheck’s intervention, she would still be suffering today as the zoo had no intention of correcting the problem. However, her other medical issues will persist if Yupik is left in Mexico.

The Morelia Zoo’s veterinarians had also misdiagnosed Yupik with a heart condition that she did not have, which the zoo used to bolster their claim that it would be dangerous to move her. This false diagnosis was dismissed by the veterinary cardiologist that Zoocheck provided who examined Yupik’s heart with specialized cardiology equipment, finding no evidence of any heart disease.

Yupik has been suffering for many years and her only hope for a substantially improved life was relocation to a more appropriate and professional facility elsewhere. The Morelia Zoo and Governor are now squandering an opportunity to improve Yupik’s life, for no apparent reason. Yupik is the only Arctic animal in the Morelia Zoo and she will not be replaced once she dies. The legal agreement included a statement wherein the zoo committed to focusing on native species animals.

Operating in good faith, the Yorkshire Wildlife Park spent $400,000 thousand dollars (aprox. over 7 million pesos) preparing for Yupik’s arrival, her new habitat was set to be completed next week. Yorkshire is an accredited member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). Their award-winning facility with its expanded space, natural grassy terrain and a natural deep lake, and the opportunity for Yupik to interact with other polar bears, would have made her life immeasurably better. Yorkshire is a collaborator in the polar bear research non-profit Polar Bears International and the Species Survival Comission from IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), with whom Yorkshire has developed critical research initiatives to conserve polar bears and study their adaptation to threats from climate change.

The research project that was submitted to SEMARNAT (Mexico’s Environment Ministry) in order to comply with the Mexican wildlife regulations was authored by researchers from the University of Lincoln and the University of Edinburgh, authors of hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and conference lectures. The research project as well as the assesment of the adaptation and acclimatisation of Yupik into her new home and more appropriate climate at Yorkshire Wildlife Park would have provided much needed data that could have been used to increase knowledge about the behavior and conservation of polar bears and their adaptation to climate change. This research was supported and encouraged by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Polar Bear SSP, the BIAZA, researchers at the Institute for Animal Welfare and Dr. Ian Sterling, one of the world’s most renowned polar bear researchers with 40 years of experience studying polar bears. Dr. Stirling said:

“I can say it is clear, from the delineation of the objectives of the overall project, that moving this bear from Mexico to the UK will provide the potential for some significant research on several aspects of polar bear ecology to be undertaken. The studies identified have the potential to contribute positively to the conservation of polar bears in the longer term. It is equally clear that there will be no scientific or conservation benefits to be gained by retaining this bear in Mexico, in conditions which may often be detrimental to her health.”

In 25 years, the Morelia Zoo has not conducted any scientific studies or produced any scientific publications that will benefit the conservation of polar bears, nor has any other Zoo in Mexico that has housed polar bears (now deceased) ever wanted to do a research project. And now, given this great opportunity for an international collaboration with reknowned scientists, the Morelia Zoo decided to dismiss it.

Zoocheck spent in excess of $50,000 and a great deal of time during the past year to facilitate Yupik’s move to her new home where she could enjoy whatever time she had left. Arranging medical assessments, sending a polar bear crate to Morelia, facilitating her training for transport, making flight and other travel arrangements, applying for permits, and all of the other aspects inherent in a complex move of this kind were handled by Zoocheck. Yupik’s relocation was literally just days away, until the Morelia Zoo and the Governor backed out of the agreement last night and sabotaged Yupik’s future.

Mexican celebrity, Eugenio Derbez stepped up to help Yupik by urging Mexican authorities to approve and expedite her export when it seemed things were moving too slowly. For doing that, he has been attacked viciously by members of the Mexican zoo community. Mr. Derbez is a hero for speaking out on behalf of Yupik and for trying to give her a better life.

Yupik was sent to the Morelia Zoo in 1992 on permanent loan under a Letter of Authorization from the United States. The authorization was contingent on the Morelia Zoo meeting certain conditions, including providing care that meets or exceeds US standards for polar bears. The Morelia Zoo has not satisfied these standards, so now we are calling on the United States to exercise their authority to recall Yupik so she can be transferred to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. She should not be left to suffer the remainder of her life in the substandard conditions of Morelia Zoo. Yupik’s last hope is for her home country to take action to give her the quality of live she deserves, so she can receive professional care, improved conditions and a better life.

Yupik is the most famous animal at the Morelia Zoo but it is important to remember that many other animals also endure poor conditions. We sincerely hope the people of Mexico will stand up for Yupik and the other animals at the zoo and demand that their conditions be dramatically improved or that they be sent elsewhere. We will continue to do everything possible to support that goal.

Zoocheck is grateful to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park for opening up their hearts, their facility and for committing the funds necessary to give Yupik a better life. They are an example that other zoos should follow.

Thank you to Eugenio Derbez for his thoughtfulness, generosity and willingness to get involved. He is a true Mexican hero for animals and his efforts should be applauded, not attacked.

Our sincere thanks also go to the various veterinary professionals, trainers and other experts who volunteered their services. They have improved Yupik’s life, alleviated some of her pain and gave her hope.

And of course, Zoocheck would like to thank the thousands of concerned activists and citizens of Mexico, Canada and elsewhere around the world who also spoke out on behalf of Yupik. If she could understand, we have no doubt she would be grateful.

We urge everyone to contact US Fish and Wildlife, the legal “owner” of the bear asking them to take immediate action to repatriate Yupik so she can go to Yorkshire. Contact US Fish and Wildlife at

Also please email the Governor of Michoacan and urge him to allow Yupik’s transfer to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park: