Researchers have long thought fish were heartless and cold, incapable of the relationships mammals cultivate, but new research among fish in coral reefs suggests fish can work in long-term paired relationships.
September 29, 2015
But in reality, marine researchers have long thought fish were a bit cold and self-centered. A recent study published Friday indicates that their temperament is warming by a few degrees.
Clownfish like Marlin and Nemo do have a symbiotic relationship with anemones, according to PBS, but another inhabitant of the coral reef – the rabbitfish – shows the first-observed signs of what researchers call reciprocal cooperation. This means one fish helps another, and the effort, no matter how small, is somehow returned.
Many of you may recognize that title as a line from a movie. It was one of the two great movies I’ve seen in the past few days, which seem to go together yet are completely different in style and content.
The first was an excellent documentary, Cowspiracy, which just came out in streaming Netflix form, in addition to DVD as well as a downloadable version on their website. This absolutely-must-see is not just an expose of the kind of cruelty that the human species is capable of and complicit in toward animals on a daily basis (as if that weren’t enough). It mainly focuses on the massive carbon footprint of animal agriculture (51% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions) and the fact that no one—not the powers that be, not the industry chiefs and spokesmen, not the current cattle flesh-food purveyors, not even the heads of major corporate environmental, household-name, supposed green groups, like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, NRDC or the rainforest action group—is willing to take a stand on or even acknowledge it. They were all too busy laying the blame for climate change on unstoppable oil companies, pinning all their hopes on renewable energies for everyone—all 7.4 billion and counting.
But as one interviewee pointed out, those energy sources won’t see the light of day in a big way for at least 20 years (sorry, we don’t have 20 years, people) and not until after 43 trillion dollars have been invested. Yet all we have to do, as this movie shows us (through the words of ex-rancher Howard Lyman and others) is stop eating animals today. (And stop breeding, I might add.) Problem solved. Then we just have to wait for the feed-back loops to play themselves out and hope that Mother Nature forgives us for our avariciousness in reducing all other animal life to fodder for our one-species-takes-all, suicidal free-for-all.
The issue of hunting was quickly laid to rest with the statement that back when humans may have been “sustainably” killing other species for their sustenance, there were only around 10 million people. Now there’s over 500 million on this continent alone. This is no time for a resurgence in popularity of the mindset that got us into this mess in the first place. We need to move forward, not back.
Meanwhile, a mouthpiece for the fishing industry tries to deny the ongoing collapse of fisheries across the globe by invoking a feeble economic analogy, hoping we’ll believe that every time they kill thousands of fish, they are replaced by even more new fish as if by some miraculous, infinite, deep-sea upwelling—like they’re only taking the interest, not the principal. The fact is, climate change is already warming ocean waters so fast that toxic algae blooms are rapidly replacing the traditional, edible phytoplankton—the basis of the ocean’s food chain. At the same time, run-off from animal agriculture is creating dead zones wherever once-fresh water meets the sea.
The other movie I saw recently (although it came out in 1977), Network, was also inspirational, in its own way. It summed up how I felt after watching Cowspiracy. Worked into the middle of the script were the lines of a newscaster run amok, who was trying to get the brain-washed, brain-dead sleepwalkers riled up by telling it like it is. It was the kind of shaking into reality that people need about what’s really going on nowadays.
Here are is a sequence from the movie wherein Howard Beale, a network anchorman played by Peter Finch (in an Oscar-winning performance), has mysteriously disappeared before he’s scheduled to go on the air with the evening news. He shows up just in time, stepping in from the pouring rain, wearing only his pajamas under a raincoat………………………………..
“—and, suddenly, the obsessed face of Howard Beale, gaunt, haggard, red-eyed with unworldly fervor, hair streaked and plastered on his brow, manifestly mad, fills the monitor screen.
HOWARD (on monitor):
I don’t have to tell you things are bad…shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter, punks are running wild in the streets, and there’s nobody anywhere that seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breath and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit and watch our tee-vees while some local newscaster tells us today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We all know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything’s going crazy. So we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we live in gets smaller, and all we ask is, please, at least leave us alone in our own living room. Let me have my toaster and my tee-vee and my hair dryer and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say anything, just leave us alone. Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to write to your Congressman. Because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and inflation and the defense budget and the Russians and crime in the street. All I know is first you got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more. I’m a human being goddamn it. My life has value.’ So I want you to get up now. I want you to get out of your chairs and go to the window. Right now, I want you to go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell. I want you to yell: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!’
[This is going out live to 67 stations across the country.]
HOWARD: (on monitor)
Get up from your chairs. Go to the window. Open it. Stick your head out and yell and keep yelling—First, you have to get mad.
(They’re yelling in Baton Rouge.)
HOWARD: (on monitor)
Things have got to change. But you can’t change unless you’re mad. You have to get mad. Go to the window, stick your head out and yell. I want you to yell: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Right now.
(A distant thunderclap crashes somewhere off and lightning shatters the dank darkness. In the sudden hush following the thunder, a thin voice can be heard shouting.)
THIN VOICES: (off screen)
I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!
HOWARD: (on TV set)
…Open your window…
(An occasional window opens and from his apartment house, a MAN opens the front door of a brownstone—)
I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!
(OTHER SHOUTS are heard.)
I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”
Now, substitute Howard Beale’s name for mine and exchange whatever he’s mad about for the issue we should all be talking (SHOUTING) about: the selfless message of animal rights and the conspiracy of silence that keeps 70 billion cows and other animals captive, as slaves, constantly bred and butchered as products of an industry that won’t even fess up to their enormous carbon footprint. To paraphrase Howard Lyman, it’s time to change—or else.
But first, you may have to get mad. If you’re not already mad—as hell—watch Cowspiracy.
From the chapter “Homo sapiens, Pinnacle of Evolution?” of Richard Leakey’s 1995 classic, the Sixth Extinction—Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind:
…Homo sapiens was soon to represent the ultimate product of evolution and to be separate from the rest of nature in some important sense, with the gradation of increasing superiority through the geographical races, from Australian to European.
For instance, Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-inventor of the theory of natural selection, believed that evolution had been working “for untold millions of years…slowly developing forms of life and beauty to culminate in man.”
In 1933, Robert Broom stated the following: “Much of evolution looks as though it had been planned to result in man, and in other animals and plants to make the world a suitable place for him to dwell in.” Broom clearly saw humans as special and separate, and the rest of the natural world ours to exploit as we please. Broom’s was not an isolated opinion; it accurately portrayed the contemporary thinking. Anthropologists of the time were in awe of the human brain and saw it as lord of all. Human progress through pre-history, according to the prominent British anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith, had been “a glorious exodus leading to the domination of earth, sea and sky.”
Examples of what by today’s standards we would condemn as blatant racism were legion in scholarly writings of the early decades of the century, which placed in an evolutionary framework what had been seen as the product of creation in earlier times. One citation will suffice by way of illustration. In his Essays on the Evolution of Man, the imminent British anatomist Sir Grafton Elliot Smith wrote the following in 1923:
“The most primitive race now living is undoubtedly the Australian, which represents the survival with comparatively slight modification of perhaps the primitive type of the species. Next in order comes the Negro Race, which is much later and in many respects more highly specialized, but sharing with it the black pigmentation of the skin, which is really and early primitive characteristic of the Human Family of Primitive Man shares with the Gorilla and Chimpanzee. After the Negro separated from the main stem of the family, the amount of pigmentation underwent a sudden and very marked reduction and the next group that became segregated and underwent its own distinctive specialization was the Mongrel Race…”
Overt racism of this kind disappeared from text by mid-century, with curious effect. Viewed as more primitive than white Caucasians, the “inferior races” formed something of a bridge between the ultimate expression of Homo sapiens and the rest of the animal world. When all races were regarded as equal, the bridge disappeared, and a gap opened up, making modern humans even more separate from the world of nature.
[In other words, speciesism became even more entrenched. The question now is, how many more centuries will the animals have to wait before examples of overt speciesism disappear from the texts and ultimately from people’s minds?]
After decades of being forced to endure pain and suffering in the name of science and entertainment, hope has finally arrived for our closest primate cousins.
As of Monday, September 14, all chimpanzees are now protected as “endangered species” — bringing an end to the most shameful era of normalized exploitation and abuse against these animals.
Under an earlier ruling from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, effective as of today, it is now against the law to harm, harass, kill or cause injury to chimps, both in captivity and in the wild. The significance of this classification is beyond measure for hundreds of chimps used in biomedical research across the United States, who from this moment forward, have been given reprieve from their lives of misery. Research labs were given the opportunity to apply for exceptions, but none chose to do so.
Prior to this ruling, the U.S. was the only developed country where chimps were still used as laboratory test animals, subjected to painful procedures and denied the most basic semblance of a normal life. Now, many, if not all of these animals will be sent into retirement at sanctuaries.
Additionally, chimps held captive as props for entertainment or sold in the exotic wildlife trade finally have relief as well. Under the new distinction, it is now “illegal to sell chimpanzees in the interstate pet trade or to engage in commercial transport of the animals across state lines,” as the Humane Society notes. Permits are now required for anyone wishing to deviate from the new protections, but will only be issued if it will benefit the survival of the species.
The closing of this shameful chapter couldn’t have come soon enough — especially for those who know the true nature of chimpanzees better than most:
“This decision gives me hope that we truly have begun to understand that our attitudes toward treatment of our closest living relatives must change,” said noted primatologist Jane Goodall. “I congratulate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this very important decision.”
In part one of this series, I spoke with a representative of the group 269 about their action on World Farm Animals Day, where they were branded with a hot iron with the number of an anonymous calf in an Israeli factory farm.
I was curious about how the group regarded the animal rights movement in Israel and the rest of the world, what tactics and strategies they felt were successful and which are not. What followed was a commentary that was more in-depth than could be digested in a single interview.
I am presenting this provocative and thoughtful response in its entirety, however, many readers will find it unpalatable and even antagonistic towards animal activists. Although it should go without saying, please note that the opinions shared are 269’s and not necessarily this blog’s or my own.
I’m very pessimistic about the chances of the animal rights movement to succeed. If you take into consideration just some of the parameters of the animal rights struggle’s condition and its enemy (almost all of the human race), you have to be pessimistic:
People are inherently selfish. The number of animals who are abused and killed is infinite. The Animal Holocaust occurs worldwide, in every culture, in every country. There are seven billion people in the world right now. Over the next few decades, this number will rise to around nine billion. 80 percent of the population is from undeveloped countries; in a few more decades this will rise to 87 percent. These populations are not open at all to the animal rights idea. Even the other 20 percent aren’t open to the idea, save a minimal percentage of them. 97 out of every 100 new people on the planet are currently born in developing countries. The life expectancy in undeveloped countries will rise in the future and their mortality rates will fall. Many undeveloped countries will be industrialized in the next few decades, which means The Animal Holocaust is going to double or triple itself in numbers.
If we judge reality with our open, objective eyes, we come to the conclusion that the situation is worse than ever. We cannot win, especially not with the path we are taking. I’m not familiar with every detail of the animal rights movement in the rest of the world, besides a few similar parameters every animal rights activist I’ve talked to has told me, and that is that the vegan community in their country is very small, there are too few activists in general from the vegan community, and that most of the activists are speciesists, who prefer humans over animals.
In order to win the animal rights struggle, we need people who will fight, and we need to be stronger than the criminals. As of today, we cannot force animal rights on the human population. There are too little of us, with too little money, and too much of them, with too many advanced technologies. So we need to convince them one way or the other to stop animal exploitation. But, we all know that we cannot convince seven billion people to stop enslaving animals out of their kindness, so in that front – we cannot win.
What we do have is just a bunch of people around the world, not too many, who care for animals, and need to think what can they do. Increasing awareness is no more than a nice way to expand this small circle, but it is sure not a solution to The Animal Holocaust. So we have to think outside the box, in order to beat the vicious enemy.
There are some examples of creative thinking that can lead to a better change in the animals’ condition. Some of them solve it from the root. Some of them can solve it quickly. Some of these ideas are illegal so I won’t write about them here (I’m not talking about ALF of course, it’s not a root solution and surely not a quick one. You can’t liberate 150 billion animals each year worldwide). Some of them are legal and we all should consider them.
For example: acting against human reproduction. It can be even more essential than convincing another meat eater to become vegan. It can also be very effective in underdeveloped countries.
Another way is promoting artificial meat research. I truly agree with David Pearce who said, “In vitro meat [is] perhaps our best hope of getting rid of factory farming everywhere by the middle of the century…I’d much rather everyone listened the moral argument and became vegan today. But we both know how hard it is to argue against moral apathy.”
These are just two examples in the legal pathway. My point is that anyone can find a much better way to achieve animal liberation earlier than by continuing in the failing way of approaching peoples’ kindness. If you appeal only to peoples’ kindness with ethical arguments, you won’t be able to convince many people to become vegan. Every animal rights group around the world includes arguments and campaigns about health, ecology, etc. in addition to the ethical arguments. So actually, by their actions, every animal rights group around the world agrees with me, whether they have the courage to admit it or not. I wouldn’t have a problem with making the world vegan by health reasons if it would succeed, but people don’t care about health, not in numbers that would make 95 percent of the world vegan, and not even 30 percent, but only a few percentage points at all, and only after a certain age (adults care more about health than teenagers).
So by reducing the power of our message from the ethical argument only, to ethical and health and ecology and any other selfish reason, there are two things that happen. One, more people become vegan for reasons other than ethics (selfish reasons). Two, the animal rights movement grows, but the concentration of non-speciesist, committed vegans falls. And that is a procedure that feeds itself, because more speciesist vegans, means more health/ecology campaigns from the animal rights movement, more speciesist people attracted to it, and so on.
The problem with that is what happens here in Israel (and I’m sure all around the world also): many of them stop being vegan after a few years. The ones who stay vegan, are very speciesist and selfish, so they don’t act much and/or won’t care to go far for animal rights even with effective ideas and/or won’t spend time thinking of revolutionary ideas etc. So what we have is an animal rights movement that has reduced its radical message to get the support of more people, but has become so soft and sterile that they are not a meaningful tool in the animal liberation fight. This is what happens when you think short term and not long term; when you are eager to get a few more vegans at any cost.
We are now just in the middle of this evolution of the movement, but as I see it, in the next few decades, the movement in Israel and in some other places (I don’t want to say everywhere as I’m not familiar with what’s going on all around the world will just be a lifestyle movement, very soft, just dealing with themselves and recipes, and here and there tries to convert meat eaters to become vegan, but surely not a revolutionary movement that will be able to make animal liberation happen. Also, if a revolutionary idea for animal liberation comes up, but it contradicts humans’ health for example, this idea won’t be executed by the animal rights movement because it contains too many selfish activists who feel that health of humans is more important for them than animal liberation (examples of this have already happened in Israel and all around the world). So one part of the speciesist activists in our movement are just ordinary people, who became vegan, but from selfish reasons not ethical ones – and they won’t be the key for ending The Animal Holocaust.
A speciesist movement in my opinion will not be able to stop the animal holocaust. If a great idea to liberate animals comes at the expense of humans, those activists won’t execute it. Speciesist people won’t try their best to liberate animals, not by time or money investment, and especially not by hardcore actions that can be effective. That is why it is an important mission for every one of us to try as much as possible to radicalize the animal rights movement, even if the cost is that some activists will be kicked out. Otherwise, we’ll get a kind of a movement that is itself the final verdict to animal liberation. For my opinion it is too late, but I hope I’m wrong.
We cannot liberate animals by appealing to people’s kindness. We cannot liberate animals by appealing to people’s interest in health/ecology. Although we’ll get some more vegans, but surely not significantly more, and the price for that will be ruining the animal rights movement ideology. That is very dangerous, because the only chance for eliminating the animal holocaust is by having a strong ideology-movement that will produce committed activists that will try to end the holocaust in some other ways than propaganda (that will not end the animal holocaust for sure).
The other part of the speciesist activists in our movement are the activists who also take part in human rights actions. This is a problematic and very crucial issue that I don’t want to get into too much because it is another whole interview, but I have to mention it. It’s unacceptable for anyone who consider themselves a non-speciesist vegan person to promote human rights. Can anyone imagine a partisan who fights at noon to liberate Jews from concentration camps held by Nazis, and at night to make conditions for the Nazis better? It’s a contradiction. We, as people who are committed to justice, cannot ignore that contradiction. We need to understand that theoretically, animals deserve rights just as humans deserve rights. Theoretically we are all equal in the moral status, but in reality, human rights come at the expense of animal rights. It’s a fact. As the socio-economic situation of people improves, more animals are abused and murdered. As more countries become free and developed, the more we’ll see industrialized animal agriculture. We mustn’t ignore this paradox. We need to comprehend that humans are the animals’ criminals. Theoretically, all humans deserve rights, but in reality, rapists’ rights come on the expense of women’s rights. We need to choose sides, the animals or the humans – we can’t choose both. Do we want to be on the victims’ side or on the criminals’ side?
This is one reason why we should invest all our time in promoting animal rights, and not be active for people.
The second reason why we should dedicate all of our time to the animal rights struggle is just by taking into consideration some facts. The amount of animals being exploited and murdered each year by humans is about 100,000-1,000,000 times (!) more than the numbers of humans who endure it. The suffering animals go through has no similarity to the human suffering (vivisection, animal agriculture, premarin from horses, gallbladder/bile from bears, hunting, clothing, etc.). The animal rights movement has much less money than the human rights movement and fewer activists than the human rights movement. The media deals with different human issues all day, every day. Humans can fight for themselves, animals can’t.
So after looking at just some of these parameters, combined with the fact that most people are responsible for the animal holocaust, I think it is obvious why every animal rights activist who fights also for human rights is a speciesist, and is making The Animal Holocaust worse.
I think that a simple example will demonstrate it best. Let’s imagine we are walking on a street and we notice 100 people injured. One of them is on the sidewalk, and he is white, and his injury is a cut in his leg because he slipped while he ran. The cut isn’t so deep, no danger of death, but he is bleeding. Also, there are 20 pedestrians near him helping him to cure.
Right next to him, there are 99 black men, lying on the road, injured because of a bus explosion that was caused by the white man above. They are dying, bleeding, screaming from pain, and only one person is trying to help them. What would you do? My answer is simple, if you’d go to help the single white person on the sidewalk, who has so much help, he is only one person, his injury is not severe, and he is the criminal who is responsible for the 99 people’s suffering – you are either a racist or a very, very stupid man. Let’s say, that no one is that stupid, so there is only one conclusion. Let’s replace in this allegory the blacks with animals and the white with the human population – and this is why animal rights activists who are also active for human rights are speciesists.
I know that now, some readers will give many excuses to justify why it is ok to waste time and money to help humans, and as I said before I don’t want to get to every aspect of it, but I still want to answer one popular argument about that, and it’s “but if we help people and better their conditions, they will be more open to the animal rights idea.”
Again, people are inherently selfish. They always feel like victims. They always want more than they have. We are programmed that way. Helping humans won’t make them be more compassionate for animals, so let’s save the time and help directly to animals, that way we cannot lose.
If this logic was true, all the rich people would be vegans, as they have very good socio-economic status, and we would see many countries that are not occupied and not in a war becoming vegan. But the fact is that we cannot find any vegan country in the world. Not even 50 percent, not even 10 percent. Moreover, we don’t even find such a big difference between different countries; it’s always about zero to two percent vegans, even though we’ve had propaganda campaigns for many decades worldwide. The point is, that even if we make the conditions the best possible, maybe we’ll get some more vegans, but surely not in significant numbers that justify fighting for it vicariously by helping people, and spending so much time and money on it. In my opinion, there is a five percent limit that no country will ever cross (especially not for ethical reasons), and for sure hasn’t been crossed yet.
We shouldn’t forget the big implication fighting for human rights causes. When we fight for human rights, and make countries more developed, and giving people better socio-economic conditions, we might get a few more percentage points open to the animal rights idea, but we sure also get industrialization, and more economic options for people that increase the amount of suffering of animals, and the numbers that are being produced and being murdered increase. So in total, more animals will suffer, because it is more relevant how many people are meat-eaters, not how many people are vegans (like if we want to calculate women’s conditions, we need to know how many people are raping, and not how many people aren’t).
The problem as I see it is that we have a speciesist movement that will become even worse as time goes by, and will have less and less real influence on ending the animal holocaust. I hope that this branding action we’ve done, will make activists in the animal rights movement think, and to try and look at the whole picture, and take into consideration all the parameters, and become more committed to the animal rights struggle. After many years in the animal rights movement, I’m not optimistic, but it’s not me who said that the difference between pessimistic and optimistic is that a pessimist is an experienced optimist.
So to sum it up, I want to say that we have to realize that we cannot end the animal holocaust by ethical propaganda (about 95-99 percent of the human population doesn’t care about animals), we cannot end the animal holocaust by health/ecology propaganda (most of the human race doesn’t care about it either, and it will ruin the animal rights movement), we cannot end the animal rights holocaust by forcing animal rights on the human population (as we are weaker than the enemy), and we cannot end the animal holocaust by ALF (as we cannot liberate 150 billion animals each year worldwide).
Also, we have to be aware to the reason that the animal holocaust is happening, and it’s not education (we are being educated since day one to help others, not to abuse animals, to be kind etc.), not our message, not lack of awareness, and nothing else but the simple horrible truth – we are facing about 7 billion selfish, careless people. Most of the human race doesn’t care and will never care for animals, no matter how many videos we will show them, and no matter how many times we will repeat that meat is murder. If we don’t comprehend that, we’ll not be able to end the animal holocaust. Ever.
Paul McCartney’s sentence is preposterous. The slaughterhouses ALREADY HAVE GLASS WALLS! People know that meat is a dead animal’s part. People, in the majority, know how animals get killed (throat slit), and the internet is full of videos and pictures shot at factory farms for anyone to see. So the slaughterhouses already have glass walls, and not everyone is a vegetarian – not even close.
So what can people do?
1. Become activists. Being vegan in this sick world, with this infinite holocaust, is just not enough. It is much more crucial to be an animal rights activist.
2. Be active as much as you can. We must dedicate most of our lives to the animal rights fight (and only to it), as there are too little of us, and too many enemies.
3. Understand that people don’t care about animals and that increasing awareness is not a tool for ending the animal holocaust, it is only to enlarge the small circle of committed animal rights activists. Therefore, we should only do ethics-based campaigns, without dealing with any selfish issues like health/ecology. We mustn’t reduce the power of our message just to earn another moderate, selfish vegan, as the importance of propaganda is to increase our small, non-speciesist circle. We have to radicalize our movement, even if brings less activists to it in the near future, they will be more qualitative and effective.
4. If you continue in the increasing awareness path, try and do campaigns like 269, with hardcore, radical actions, and deal only with the ethics of animal rights.
5. To realize that the sentence “Think globally, act locally” is very problematic, and indicates very closed thinking. We should “Think globally, act globally.” Make actions that have the potential to spread worldwide, with the investment of little money, time and activists have the potential to go worldwide. We lack resources, so we have to be very calculated. Every action must have the potential to be viewed by people in every country in the world. We have to be as efficient as possible to maximize our time and money, as they are limited.
6. Try to organize meetings only with non-speciesist, committed animal rights activists, and think about the big picture. Take into consideration all the parameters that we mention here, and try to think of creative (legal or illegal) solutions that can lead to end the animal holocaust, or maybe parts of it – forever.
7. Join the non-conventional paths I’ve talked about, like promoting artificial meat research, acting against human reproduction etc. I’m not sure we’ll be able to end the animal holocaust, it might be a lost cause, but for sure if we do have a chance, it’s only in the non-conventional ways.
Diets rich in beef and other red meat can be bad for a person’s health. And the practice is equally bad for Earth’s biodiversity, according to a team of scientists who have fingered human carnivory—and its impact on land use—as the single biggest threat to much of the world’s flora and fauna. Already a major cause of extinction, our meat habit will take a growing toll as people clear more land for livestock and crops to feed these animals, a study in the current issue of Science of the Total Environment predicts.
“It’s a colossally important paper,” says Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, who studies how human diets affect the environment, and who was not part of the study. Researchers have struggled to determine the full impacts of meat consumption on biodiversity, Eshel says. “Now we can say, only slightly fancifully: You eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot.” That’s because species-rich habitats are being converted to pasture and feed crops as the human appetite for meat swells.
But others disagree that livestock production is the leading cause of habitat loss. “They’ve created [a] stickman to be knocked down,” says Clayton Marlow, a grassland ecologist at Montana State University, Bozeman, “without accomplishing anything for either the ecosystem or the poor.”
Previous studies have explored links between modern livestock production and climate change, water pollution, and the loss of some herbivores and top predators such as wolves and lions. “But how is it impacting other species?” asks Brian Machovina, an ecologist at Florida International University in Miami, and the paper’s lead author.
To find out, he and his colleagues looked at studies that identified the world’s biodiversity hotspots—those areas that contain the highest percentage of endemic plant and animal species. Most are located in tropical nations. Then, the researchers picked out countries that are most likely to expand their industrial livestock operations, and determined where and how much land will be lost to grazing and growing crops to feed livestock. Using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization and other studies about the production of cattle, pigs, and chickens in these countries from 1985 to 2013 and the amount of land the livestock required, they extrapolated the likely future expansion of agricultural lands. Finally, they created maps of overlap.
Many of the places expected to see the greatest shift in land use from forest to livestock are in 15 “megadiverse” countries, which harbor the largest number of species, Machovina says. “By 2050, given current trends, these countries will likely increase the lands used for livestock production by 30% to 50%”—some 3,000,000 square kilometers—the researchers estimate.
The habitat loss is so great that it will cause more extinctions than any other factor, the study notes, particularly when coupled with other deleterious effects of livestock production, including climate change and pollution. “These changes will have major, negative impacts on biodiversity,” Machovina says. “Many, many species will be lost.”
The trend toward meat-eating is already having an impact, the scientists say.
Citing other studies, they note that more than three-quarters of the land previously cleared in the Amazon region is now used either as pasture for livestock or to raise feed crops for domestic and international markets. And the rapid deforestation there continues: Another 1898 square kilometers of forest were removed over the last year. Further, more than half of the Amazon’s Cerrado, a woodland savanna ecosystem known for its rare species, has also been cleared for raising cattle and soy. Habitats have also been—and continue to be—lost throughout Central and Latin America for the same reasons, the scientists say, who see a similar future for Africa.
By revealing where the most flora and fauna will disappear as lands are converted to agriculture for meat production, “the study equips us with a means to quantify the costs of our dietary choices in terms of species loss,” Eshel says.
The study also “suggests potential solutions that merit serious consideration,” notes ecologist David Tilman from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who was not part of the work. To stop the loss of biodiversity, Machovina and his colleagues recommend that people limit meat consumption to 10% of their calories; eat more fruits and vegetables; replace beef—the most land-hungry meat—with pork, chicken, and fish; and change livestock production practices. But Tilman warns this won’t be easily done. “The challenge is to find solutions that meet human needs and simultaneously protect remaining natural habitats.”
Meeting the challenge of “feeding the world’s growing population with a shrinking land base” can’t be done without “intensive animal and crop production,” says Marlow, who argues that the real problem facing biodiversity is the loss of arable land to development such as urban and slum sprawl. He adds that developing countries are adopting industrialized livestock production because it’s efficient and “the only way we can feed the world’s growing population.”
Chief Program & Policy Officer, The Humane Society of the United States
The tragic death of Cecil the Lion — senselessly shot by an American dentist with a bow and arrow and left to suffer for hours before being shot again — has exposed the pay-to-slay subculture of wealthy people who spend a fortune to kill the grandest, most majestic animals in the world. The public outrage shows no signs of slowing down.
Virtually overnight, a cascade of major airlines has banned the transportation of spoils from the trophy killing industry — principally elephants, rhinoceros, lions, leopards, and buffalo, or the “Africa Big Five” sought for self-aggrandizement in the Safari Club International record books. Delta, United, American and others are all in flight from the destruction and death meted out by trophy hunters on the African continent.
But when will Congress get on board? Even now, there are lawmakers working quietly to appease the bullies and fat-cats of the trophy hunting corps. While most of the world is convulsed over Cecil, some members of Congress are springing into action to grant special favors for one of the smallest and most elite groups of trophy hunters in the world.
Walter Palmer is now a household name. What isn’t so widely known is that there are thousands of ultra-wealthy trophy hunters just like him, and that 41 of them are lobbying Congress for a wholly unprincipled bail-out that would blow a hole in the heart of the Endangered Species Act.
Bills in the House and Senate — the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act” sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and the “SHARE Act” sponsored by Reps. Rob Wittman, R-Va., Tim Walz, D-Minn., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Gene Green, D-Tex. — both provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 big-bucks, trophy-mad hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. None of these millionaire trophy hunters, who paid as much as $50,000 each to shoot a polar bear, ate the meat. They just went on a head-hunting exercise in the Arctic, and paid a fortune to do so — all for the head and the hide and the bragging rights that go along with it.
U.S. law bars import of these trophies because polar bears are in terrible trouble with their very survival at stake, thanks to climate change, commercial trade, and over-hunting. These animals were killed during expensive trophy safaris in Canada at a time when the Bush Administration had proposed listing the polar bear as a threatened species — the U.S.’s contribution to conservation. These fat-cat hunters proceeded knowing that the door would be closed to polar bear trophy imports, but confident that they could always call upon friends in Congress to do their bidding and get them an exemption.
Indeed, Congress has several times granted similar import allowances — a de facto repeal of the import ban — sending a message to trophy hunters that they can continue killing imperiled species and eventually exert their influence to get approval to bring home their trophies. The cumulative impact of this corrosive pandering encourages more reckless killing of these animals around the globe.
The whole sordid business is fueled by competitive killing programs that give “hunting achievement” awards and “grand slams” for kills in specific categories. For example, hunters at the Safari Club International compete for the “North American 29” award, which requires killing a minimum of 29 species and subspecies of animals, including the polar bear, in North American habitat. They also strive to earn the “Bears of the World” award, which requires killing five bears, such the polar bear and Eurasian and Siberian brown bears, on a number of continents.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering a rule to list the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Should all the Walter Palmers of the world seeking the “Africa Big Five” award now rush to be among the last hunters to bag the king of the jungle? That acceleration of killing inverts the very purpose of the law.
These trophy hunters don’t care that African lion populations and polar bear populations are declining fast. They don’t care that time is running out to slow the mortality of these majestic creatures. But Congress should.
Follow Michael Markarian on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mmarkarian
Lay Cecil the Lion to Rest on the White House Lawn
By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News
02 August 15
Blame for the death of Cecil the Lion lies squarely with the U.S.
government. For decades, the White House and its conservation agencies have
turned a blind eye to the well-being of wildlife in North America and
around the world. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that inaction
would lead to their endangerment and often extinction.
*The Fish and Wildlife Service Is Investigating*
From Laury Parramore, damage control specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the
circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil the Lion.”
Sounds like the FWS is keeping busy on this, but the fact that lions in the
wild have been critically endangered and face total extinction in less than
perhaps as little as 40 years
has been well known to the FWS for decades.
In searching for the truth, the Fish and Wildlife Service might well
investigate itself. As recently as October 2014, the FWS *rejected
Species status for African lions, saying that sport-hunting was “not found
to be a threat to the species at this time.” The Safari Club International
(SCI) was ecstatic. Their headline called the ruling a “Major Setback for