Is Lab Grown Meat Vegan?
Veganism is all about reducing the harm we cause to sentient beings to the best of our ability. This is why we don’t eat animal products. It’s impossible to take the body part or secretion of a living being without exploitation and pain.
Or is it? If meat and other animal products could be made without harming animals, would there finally be such a thing as vegan meat? [tweet this] When it comes to lab grown meat, there are vegans on both sides of the debate. With the potential for massive reductions in the environmental impact of animal agriculture and an end to the suffering and death of trillions of animals every year, why wouldn’t every vegan be championing the cause for test tube meat?
Well like most topics I set out to cover, cultured meat production is far more complicated than it may first appear. We’re going to cover some of the pros and cons of cellular agriculture and why it’s a hot button within the vegan community.
As always, I’ll be barely scratching the surface, so you can dig into the citations and resources at the base of this post for more information.
The concept of growing and maintaining muscle outside of the body is not new. Starting in 1912, biologist Alexis Carrel kept cells from an embryonic chicken heart beating in a nutrient bath in his laboratory for more than 20 years. In 1931, Winston Churchill wrote in a predictive essay optimistically entitled Fifty Years Hence that, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”
Over the decades from NASA-backed fish fillets made of goldfish cells to the 2013 taste test of the first lab-grown burger, the cultured meat, well, culture, continues to grow. [See a brief but thorough timeline in the ‘In-Vitro Meat” section of this essay]
The advantages of this method of meat creation are obvious. Despite the efforts, hopes and dreams of vegans and activists alike, the global demand for meat is on the rise with India and China leading the charge.
With animal agriculture contributing as much as 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, using a third of the earth’s fresh water, up to 45 percent of the Earth’s land, causing 91 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction and serving as a leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, and habitat destruction, the environmental implications alone could be staggering. [tweet this]
A 2011 study concluded that, “cultured meat involves approximately 7–45% lower energy use … 78–96% lower GHG emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82–96% lower water use depending on the product compared.” While these numbers sound promising, the study was largely criticized for basing its numbers on a not-yet-proven method of cultured meat growth.
While still theoretical, a 2014 study accounting for other potential production methods found that energy use for cultured meat actually exceeded current levels for beef production, but had significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and land usage and was only higher than poultry in water usage.
The reality is that the actual environmental impact of cultured meat remains unknown because it’s still in such an experimental phase. The ground meat grown for 2013’s seminal burger was a relatively simple creation of pure protein. It lacked any of the fat and blood that give meat its flavor or the firmness of once-active muscle tissue. In order to create meat products of more substance, the muscle, which is what meat is after all, has to be exercised and provided with artificial blood flow, oxygen, digestion and nutrition.  Some scientists speculate that this increased energy demand may negate any reduction in land usage and agricultural input. 
Basically, when it comes to the environmental benefits, it’s still too early to know.
Here is where cultured meat has the potential to shine.
There are several significant hurdles to overcome before lab-grown meat can be called anything near “cruelty and animal-free.” The major issues on the ethics end are establishing self-renewing stem cells and finding plant-based materials for the growth medium and scaffolding.
To understand what that means, I’ll give a very simplified version of in-vitro meat production. Initially, cells are taken via biopsy from a living animal and deposited into a growth medium where they proliferate and grow. Eventually, in order to produce meat products with more structure than the ground patty, they will need a form of scaffolding to hold their shape.
The first ethical issues arise when considering the long-term viability of the initial harvested cells. Professor Mark Post, the man behind the famous taste-tested burger, has said that, “the most efficient way of taking the process forward would still involve slaughter,” with a “limited herd of donor animals” kept for stock. Others in the movement envision the establishment of a self-renewing stem cell line, meaning only an initial biopsy would be required at which point the cell line would replicate indefinitely.
Yet another concern is that, given humanity’s love of the new, different and exotic, we may start breeding specialty animals for cell harvesting, which would still require the confinement and reproductive control of sentient beings.
As a side-note, Post’s famous burger was made with egg powder to enhance the taste, introducing another level of animal suffering. This is by no means, however, a necessary practice.
The second major ethical issue and one that isn’t widely addressed in most of the news reports on cultured meat, is the growth medium into which the cells are deposited. At the moment, the most widely used medium is bovine fetal serum. Fetal serum from an array of animals is commonly employed in a wide range of experiments, including those for tampons, which I covered in my “Are Tampons Vegan?” video.
The harvesting of bovine fetal serum is far from transparent. One study reached out to 388 harvesting entities with only 4% responding with any kind of methodology data. Five sources explicitly declared their harvesting methods to be confidential.
Of those that did respond, the typical procedure for fetal serum harvesting was “by cardiac puncture” meaning a needle directly into the beating heart of the fetal cow. They specify that, “Fetuses should be at least 3 months old; otherwise the heart is too small for puncture.” The general process is as follows:
“At the time of slaughter, the cow is found to be pregnant during evisceration (removal of the internal organs in the thorax and abdomen during processing of the slaughtered cow) … The calf is removed quickly from the uterus [and] a cardiac puncture is performed by inserting a needle between the ribs directly into the heart of the unanaesthesised fetus and blood is extracted.” This bleeding process can take up to 35 minutes to complete while the calf remains alive. Afterwards, “the fetus is processed for animal feed and extraction of specific substances like fats and proteins, among other things.”
The study continued with a detailed debate as to whether the fetal cows can feel this procedure and their possible slow death from anoxia, meaning lack of oxygen, from placental separation, and estimated that between 1 and 2 million fetuses are harvested annually for serum.
All in all, fetal serum from any animal is not, by any stretch of the imagination, cruelty-free. The good news is that the champions of the cultured meat movement seem to be invested in finding plant-based medium alternatives with both algae and mushrooms providing promising options. Fetal serum’s drawbacks don’t stop at the ethical line. There are scientific concerns as batches vary considerably in their composition. It also poses the threat of pathogen introduction, is not environmentally friendly and is cost-prohibitive. Dr. Neil Stephens of Cardiff University states that: “Everyone in the field acknowledges this as a problem … It currently undermines a lot of the arguments that people put forward in support of in vitro meat.”
This leads into two of the additional pros of cultured meat, both revolving around human health. Though I personally believe that health is the last worry when it comes to producing a possible alternative to mass animal slaughter, it’s worth noting that the composition of cultured meat can be altered to provide superior nutritional benefits. The level of fat and type of fat can be selectively controlled. The threat of food contamination and spread of pathogens would also be greatly reduced, as cultured meat would not involve all the biohazards of traditional slaughter.
So if scientists are able to create a self-replicating cell line, thus eliminating the enslavement and potential slaughter of animals, and find a suitable plant-based growth-medium and scaffolding, thus eliminating the cruelty of fetal serum and other animal byproducts, what objections remain against going after this concept in full force?
Two of the largest are cost and what’s best described as “the ick factor.” Surveys involving every range of dietary practice seem to indicate that the majority of people are put off by the concept of lab-grown meat. Interestingly enough, those people with the highest rates of meat consumption appear to be the most sensitive to disgust.
Of course cultured meat proponents emphasize that “lab-grown” is a bit of a misnomer. While in the testing stages, the meat is grown in laboratories. However, were it to go to commercial production, it would be made in factories just like all of our packaged food items, and some could argue, would be more natural than other chemical concoctions the public readily consumes. [see for an illustration of potential production methods].
Also, given what all we inject into our food animals from hormones to antibiotics, to our outright manipulation of their genes, one could ask just how natural “standard” animal products really are.
While cultured meat doesn’t require the use of GMO’s, it’s possible that genetically modifying cells may allow them to reproduce faster and thus prove more economical.
As with any new technology, the initial cost investments will be steep, but Post and others in the movement see cultured meat eventually attaining a competitive price to traditional products, though most likely not for at least another decade.
The vegan community is most dramatically torn on either side of this issue. [ See  for examples]Some feel that any product derived from an animal remains a form of exploitation. Others believe that with the insurmountable fight against the ongoing animal holocaust and more non-vegans being born every day, we need to search for practical and viable solutions to replace humanity’s rising demand for meat. The vegans on the pro-cultured meat side I’ve come across through my research say their motivation is putting the animals’ interests above all else. They believe it’s unrealistic to expect humanity on a global scale to cease or even reduce their consumption of animals. Thus, providing an alternative that not only looks and tastes like but actually is meat could be, with the proper harvesting method and growth medium, the most immediate path to animal liberation currently available. With the concurrent rise of research into milk and egg-producing yeast and leather and other animal byproducts, could it be that the laboratory and not the picket line will be the ultimate genesis of a vegan world? [tweet this]
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this hot debate in the comments below. Check out resources below for more on cultured meat and other animal-free animal products.
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Animals like gorillas and chimpanzees are closely related to humans. But they have no rights. Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics tells DW why great apes should be legally recognized and why animal interests matter.
Gorillas are critically endangered with fewer than 175,000 left in the wild worldwide, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The death of Bantu, the last male western lowland gorilla left in Mexico, brought the debate over animal rights back into the limelight, particularly with regard to those those who spend their lives behind bars.
DW had a chance to speak with Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University.
You are one of the co-founders of the so called Great Ape Project. What exactly is it all about?
It’s an effort to achieve basic rights for great apes, for chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans, in particular. We know that they are like us in many important ways: that they are complex beings with rich emotional lives, that they are capable of reflecting on their situation, of thinking, of problem solving, that they are self-aware, that they can think about the future. We argue, that in these respects they are so like humans, that we should give them some basic rights. Meaning rights to life, liberty and protection from torture. We would like to see them recognized in the law as people, therefore as beings who can bring a case in the courts. Obviously, through a guardian or advocate, as a small child would bring a case in the courts. But not simply (being seen) as items of property.
Are terms such as “freedom” and “captivity” not merely expressions of our own creation? Isn’t there a difference between humans and animals due to our capacity to think rationally?
That is certainly true. But you can’t explain these concepts to a two year old either, nor to someone with profound intellectual disability. Nonetheless, we do not lock them up and put them on display for others to look at. We don’t perform the kind of medical experiments on them, that have been performed on great apes. Although, fortunately, now medical research on great apes in many countries has been prohibited and that is, I think, partly a result of the work of the Great Ape Project. But given that we think all human beings have some basic rights, irrespective of their capacity to reason or reflect, or think about freedom as an abstraction, then to grant that to all humans beings, but to deny it to chimpanzees and gorillas is simply saying: “Oh well, they are not members of our species, and only our species has rights.” That is simply not defensible. We think it is very similar to racist or sexist ways of limiting the rights of non-european races, or those of women, as it has happened in the past.
Some argue that zoos serve an educational purpose. An irreplaceable meeting place for man and the animal, without which we would not care about them so much…
I am not aware of any evidence that looking at animals in captivity inclines us to care more about them. I suspect that one major lesson that people absorb through caged zoos is that we have the right to confine animals and use them as, basically, forms of entertainment. I think the educational lesson would be better, if they were kept in much larger enclosures where they can live a more normal life for their species. We would learn much more from that and we would also learn greater respect for them.
You are an advocate of the philosophical current called Preference Utilitarianism. What does this mean with regard to animals?
I am a utilitarian. I think that the right action is the one that has the best consequences. In terms of what those consequences are, utilitarians classically have referred to pleasure and pain. Preference utilitarians refer to the satisfaction of preferences. Whichever form of Utilitarianism we take, it’s clear that animals come in, because they do experience pain and pleasure and animals do have preferences, obviously for avoiding pain and experiencing pleasure, as well as perhaps many other preferences as well. And we are not justified in disregarding or discounting those preferences or those pains and pleasures, just because they are not members of our species. That is why from a utilitarian perspective, animals clearly do have a kind of moral status, that means that we have to consider their interests, and we should not regard those interests as less significant than ours, just because they are not members of our species.
In your book “Animal Liberation” (1975), widely considered to be a pioneer piece of work within the realm of the animal advocacy movement, you discuss the rule of man over animals. Does the apparent growth in interest around topics such as vegetarianism and the defense of animal rights reflect a shift in the greater public consciousness?
Today there’s a greater interest in animal rights, and in part that certainly has something to do with a shift in our diet. Particularly away from factory farmed animal products. Also, I believe there is an increasing recognition that this is environmentally not sustainable, and that it contributes to climate change. So I think that there are a lot of factors that are leading to a significant increase in interest in vegetarian and vegan diets. And I’ve noticed through traveling in many countries that vegan options have become available. Ten years ago you would not have found them.
You have often talked about your positions on assisted dying and suicide, pleading that one should be able to decide freely when to end his or her life. How does this apply to animals?
I think there are differences between different kinds of beings in their capacities to choose their own death, and this would be true with humans as well. You have to be of a certain age, and mentally competent in order to receive physician assistance in dying, in those jurisdictions in which it is legal, for example the Netherlands or Belgium or more recently Canada, and some states of the United States. Non-human animals don’t meet those conditions, and therefore others do have to make that judgement. Sometimes, and I think anybody who has had a cat or a dog might be aware of this, animals become ill and are clearly suffering, and there is little hope of recovery. Then we have to make a decision for them, and that should happen in zoos as well.
You travel a lot. Which general differences in the protection and treatment of animals do you encounter?
I have seen significant improvements in Europe over the past couple of decades, particularly with regard to factory farming. Some of the worst forms of confinement have been prohibited, for example the standard battery cages for egg laying hens. Those are advances which, to the best of my knowledge, do not exist in Latin America. So in general you’d have to say that the region needs to catch up with where Europe is on that kind of progressive legislation. Also on matters like the testing of cosmetics on animals. So there are problems, and not only in Latin America, but also in Asia. Very severe problems in China in terms of animal welfare, where there is really a national animal welfare war.
Why do you think is it so difficult to get through claims for better living conditions for animals in zoos, let alone a ban on keeping apes and other animals in them?
It is always hard to produce change against established interests, and zoos have been doing what they’re doing for a long time. Especially when you have urban zoos with rather limited amounts of land, it is very hard for them to change, because they just do not have the space to provide the proper conditions for animals.
They would have to greatly reduce the number of animals and the variety of different species that they have. For this they worry that people would not come to visit them anymore, so it is a constant struggle. I think we really need to get zoos out of these urban areas where they don’t have enough space, and move them outside cities where they can be more like a sanctuary or wildlife park, and provide dignified conditions for animals.
Interview: Nicolás Mandeau.
Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at the Princeton University and author of numerous books, including most recently: “The Most Good You Can Do. How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically”.
There is a perception in the animal rights community that fur consumption is declining when, in fact, it is on the rise.
- From 1990 – 2015, fur sales in the U.S. grew by approximately 50%
- From 2013 to 2014, U.S. fur sales grew by 7.3%
- In 2014, fur sales in the U.K. increased by 20%
- From 2011 – 2013, global fur sales jumped by more than 50% – from $16 billion to $36 billion
According to the Fur Information Council of America (FICA), the largest U.S. fur association, the number of designers who use fur has dramatically increased, climbing from 42 in 1985 to approximately 500 today. FICA also asserts that 55% of the people who buy fur today are under 44, dispelling the myth that fur is primarily consumed by older people.
“The fur industry’s statistics reflect what we’re seeing in the streets — that fur consumption is on the rise,” said Edita Birnkrant, Campaigns Director for Friends of Animals, an international animal advocacy group. “For the sake of the animals, we have to organize and take a more aggressive approach on their behalf.”
The increase in fur sales can be attributed to many variables, including high demand from China; the use of technology to make fur suitable for warm climates; the growing use of fur trim; the increased use of fur in men’s clothing; the growing practice of dying fur; and the consumption of fur among celebrities with a large social media following. According to Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Federation, “…with this increase in demand, farmers are deciding to invest more in fur farms and increase production.”
While the animal rights community appears to be losing the war against the fur trade (despite occasional victories), some activists have responded to the increased prevalence of fur by engaging in more provocative anti-fur tactics…..
Have you ever noticed how people who love country music are more likely to be right wing? Or how climate change sceptics are more likely to be anti-abortion? Throughout society there are examples of beliefs that seem to occur together, despite having no obvious conceptual link. The reason for this is because for most of us beliefs and world view are not the result of carefully weighing up the evidence, but are actually held as a way of belonging to a subculture. Holding a belief is often like waving a flag to show which tribe you’re in.The desire to belong
The human need to belong is one of our strongest drives, but modern society is too big and anonymous for most people to feel they are an important part of it. So we form subcultures within our society to give ourselves a sense of belonging. We support sports teams and get into fights with fans of other teams, we choose to follow a certain genre of music and sneer at other genres, or wear preppy clothes, goth clothes, hipster clothes, anything to define ourselves as part of a tribe. And, as well as applying this desire to the clothes we wear and the music we listen to, we subconsciously apply it to our ethical and political beliefs.When you think about it, there is absolutely no conceptual link between the arguments for high or low taxes, and the arguments for or against legalising abortion. Yet in the English-speaking world there is a rough correlation between people wanting lower taxes and being anti-abortion, and vice versa. The best explanation for this is that these beliefs are identified as flags for certain subcultures that people want to belong to.This view is supported by evidence that shows people respond differently to the same argument when attributed to different sources. One study presented the argument for vaccinating children and recorded people’s responses. Right-wing individuals were significantly more likely to agree with the argument when it was attributed to a well-known right-wing figure than when it was attributed to a well-known left-wing figure. Other studies have shown similar behaviour from left-wingers etc.Studies of the effects of wearing a chastity ring show just how powerful the need to belong really is. When a student is part of the chastity ring movement in a school where everybody else wears the ring too, he or she is no more likely to abstain from sex than an average teenager. And when there is almost no one else who wears a chastity ring in the same school, there is still no effect. However, when just the right amount of other students are also part of the local chastity ring movement, wearing the ring does marginally boost commitment to abstinence. This suggests that when everyone in the whole school is wearing the rings, no one feels like they belong. Equally, when almost no one else wears the ring, there is no tribe to belong to. But when there are enough others to feel like you belong to something special, you’re motivated to make the effort to stay part of the club. Such is the power of wanting to belong, it can even override the natural human desire for sex.It’s clear from all this that the desire to belong is a pretty powerful drive, so if you want to convince a large group of people of something, you had better not be working against their natural tribal urges by appearing to be from another side. The animal rights movement should have no “side”
I believe that one of the animal rights movement’s biggest problems is that we are associated with hippies, and that we’re seen as being on the same team as the New Age movement (whale song, homoeopathic medicine, and so on). I think this hinders us, because people who might otherwise be open to our arguments will close themselves off because they think we’re on the “other team” – a bunch of hippies who are anti-patriotic and probably anarchists too.I think the animal rights movement has to transcend subcultures and everyday political factions, because otherwise we’re only ever going to appeal to the counter-culture. But we really want to be changing the views of everyone, including mainstream culture. There are potential vegans across the political spectrum, if only we weren’t perceived as being part of the hippie counter-culture team. One of many examples is the type of conservative person who loves the countryside, hates to see it ruined by massive factory farms, doesn’t like to see traditional local species of bird disappear, and loves dogs and horses. Someone with views like that only needs to join a few dots between their beliefs to become committed to animal rights and environmentalism, but they’ll be less likely to do that if they feel they’re changing teams.
Another downside to being associated with the New Age philosophy is that this movement often conflicts with science. And unfortunately, a lot of people believe that Veganism and Vegetarianism conflict with science too. This is manifestly not the case, as there is an established scientific consensus that a well-balanced vegan diet can be very healthy, and indeed, a number of elite athletes, such as bodybuilders, Olympians and Iron Man competitors choose such a diet. Equally, vegetarians have longer life expectancies than meat eaters. Science, and the facts, are on the side of vegans and vegetarians, but we often get lumped in with wacky New Age diets.There are ways to change the perception of the animal rights movement. For God’s sake don’t play bongos at a protest! I’ve been to a few demonstrations and advocacy events, and I always make sure to dress as smart and as clean cut as possible, to try to subvert the stereotype, and to make it clear I’m not a raving hippie who can be safely ignored. I think everyone should make this effort as much as possible when advocating animal rights. And animal rights groups should try to promote spokespersons who demonstrate the ordinariness of being vegetarian or vegan. Perhaps a few less campaigns featuring skinny white bohemian artists, and a few more featuring people from other backgrounds, such as doctors, athletes and people of different races. We must also welcome people of all political persuasions – wanting low levels of immigration, for example, should be no barrier to being part of the animal rights movement.There will always be divisions in society, left-wing and right-wing, culture and counter-culture, liberal and conservative. If we want animal rights to be accepted by everyone, we have to transcend cultural tribalism.
Humane Society International has condemned the Yulin Dog Meat festival, which is set to take place in China’s southern province of Guangxi on June 21.
During the 10-day event, dogs are paraded in cages on their way to be slaughtered and then cooked for eating by festival attendees and local residents.
Protesters presented a petition with 11 million signatures to the representative office of Yulin city on Friday.
&amp;lt;img alt=”File image from the 2015 festival showing a butcher preparing cuts of dog meat for sale in Yulin (Getty)” title=”File image from the 2015 festival showing a butcher preparing cuts of dog meat for sale in Yulin (Getty)” class=”media-element file-full” src=”http://www.sbs.com.au/news/sites/sbs.com.au.news/files/styles/full/public/yulin4.jpg?itok=35f0zVWm&amp;amp;amp;mtime=1465806756″ itemprop=”image” /&amp;gt;
The petition, which was created by Humane Society International and addressed to China’s president Xi Jinping, asks for the end of the festival where animals “suffer enormously”.
“With the dog meat festival in Yulin causing such severe animal suffering, risking human health, damaging China’s global reputation, and involving widespread illegal behaviour, as well as breaching China’s own food safety laws, it is time for the Chinese Government to take firm action to end this event for good,” the petition stated.
In 2014, the Yulin government distanced itself from the festival, saying it was staged by private business people and did not have official backing.
&amp;lt;img alt=”File image of dogs in cages sold by vendors at the 2015 edition of the festival (AAP)” title=”File image of dogs in cages sold by vendors at the 2015 edition of the festival (AAP)” class=”media-element file-full” src=”http://www.sbs.com.au/news/sites/sbs.com.au.news/files/styles/full/public/yulin111.jpg?itok=3QHBf34y&amp;amp;amp;mtime=1465876118″ itemprop=”image” /&amp;gt;
Humane Society International’s China policy specialist Peter J. Li told SBS the festival was a liability for the Asian country.
“Modern governments are fully aware that they cannot endorse social and morally questionable acts,” he said.
“Instead, the Yulin government has the responsibility to foster new culture and to build the city into a truly modern society.
“Endorsing mass dog slaughter and dog eating as a festival shows that the local officials are out of touch with the changes in China.”
Launched in 2009 to celebrate the summer solstice, the festival celebrates the consumption of dog meat, which reached its height in China during the Han Dynasty (202 – 220 AD).
Mr Li said dog eating had been rejected as an indecent habit during the Sui-Tang dynasties (581 -907 AD) and that subsequent dynasties valued canines as hunting buddies.
&amp;lt;img alt=”endors tie a dog in preparation to butcher it at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, in Yulin, in southern China&amp;amp;amp;#039;s Guangxi province, 22 June 2015.” title=”File image from the 2015 festival of vendors restraining a dog (AAP)” class=”media-element file-full” src=”http://www.sbs.com.au/news/sites/sbs.com.au.news/files/styles/full/public/yulin444.jpg?itok=rSf4Z0hI&amp;amp;amp;mtime=1465806964″ itemprop=”image” /&amp;gt;
He noted that dog eaters represented a minority of China’s 1.3 billion population and the dog meat industry constituted “an insignificant part of the Chinese economy”.
“It is an eating habit limited to older males of lower social and economic status,” he said.
“It is a dying eating habit and a distasteful business.”
The campaign against the festival has received celebrity backing from British comedian Ricky Gervais and US actor Ian Somerhalder.
The hashtag #StopYulin2016 has been popular on social media.
Claire Fryer, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Australia (PETA), told SBS any situation where animals were slaughtered was unacceptable.
“The thought of killing, cooking, dismembering and eating dogs is enough for most of us to lose our lunch, but there’s no rational reason why that same revulsion shouldn’t exist at the thought of eating a pig,” she said.
“All animals about to be slaughtered feel terrified, and none want to die.”
Ms Fryer said Australians needed to take note of all animals that are slaughtered.
“Right here in Australia, sensitive, scared lambs, chickens, cows and pigs are killed as we willfully turn a blind eye to the fact that they are no different from the dogs we cry for,” she said.
“It’s easy to point the finger at other cultures, but let’s be honest enough and decent enough to question our own cruel habits.
SBS has sought response from the Chinese Embassy in Australia.
Oregon’s legislators and governor have a big decision to make regarding the future of wolves in the state. It is a litmus test on whether these leaders are honest, decent and wise and whether they serve the hopes and dreams of a clear majority of Oregonians, or other interests. Will these supposed leaders do the right thing for wolves and for a brighter future for Oregon or will they fall back on the dark side of Oregon’s history?
Honest science, healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, the public trust doctrine, basic decency and respect and the clear will of the majority, all favor wolf protection. 96% of Oregonians told the state wildlife agency they favor wolf protection. Additionally, Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife website makes crystal clear that the presence of approximately one hundred wolves has resulted in a near zero effect on the state’s 1,300,000 cattle, as depredation by wolves is barely out of the single digits per year. No honest person can claim with a straight face that Oregon has anything resembling a wolf problem because it does not have such a problem.
The truth is, just as in nearby Idaho, there is a people problem, but in Oregon it comes from a relatively small number of people. Their long held prejudices and their willingness to demonize and kill vital and innocent wolves while lying about them is well known. Some have no shame in spreading utter nonsense about ‘Canadian super wolves’, snarling monster beings and the end of the world triggered by…. fairy tales.
But Oregon is supposed to be different, isn’t it? Oregon is a green and enlightened state, where honesty, decency and justice rule, right?
I had the pleasure of visiting Oregon for three weeks in June and July of 2014. I arrived in the state with a high regard for its vast natural beauty, its magnificent native wildlife, lush forests and magical coast. The forward thinking reputation of its people resonated in my mind.
After an enjoyable week with a hiking club based in Portland, I rented a car and drove to the Wallowa Valley drawn by my respect for Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce people whose sacred homeland this had been for thousands of years. I hiked into the mountains and canoed, took lots of pretty pictures of horses and deer (they are everywhere), water and forests and people and their dogs. I explored and lingered for many hours in the very field where Chief Joseph gathered with his people as they prepared to flee their homeland, their very lives hanging in the balance. My heart felt heavy and sad, as if the unbearable heart ache of 800 innocent souls still hovers over this valley and the beautiful green field guarded by trees and mountains.
The Nez Perce were the peaceful native tribe who saved the entire Lewis and Clark expedition from certain starvation and death only seventy years earlier. President Jefferson personally promised, in gratitude, that the Wallowa Valley would never be taken from the Nez Perce. Later Presidents re-affirmed that promise, even as more white settlers invaded and threatened to steal the land from its rightful owners. The settlers kept coming and kept threatening. Gold was discovered nearby and the land was taken, the promises broken.
The ancestors of these white settlers are among the 8,000 people who call the Wallowa Valley home today. Some of these people are present day Wallowa cattle ranchers who mythologize and demonize wolves, pressure the state wildlife agency to take action, persistently lobby state legislators and the governor to do something about the wolf problem, the problem that exists in their own minds.
I visited the tourist town of Joseph and its wonderful museums, including the Maxwell Plantation Museum dedicated to African Americans who worked for a time as lumbermen in the region. There I learned that the founding state constitution of 1859 forbade the presence and citizenship of African Americans anywhere in Oregon.
Just east of the Wallowas, I explored the dusty, rugged town of Pendleton. On the Pendleton Underground Tour, I learned of the hard working Chinese men who helped build the early railways of the expanding United States. When their decades long hard labor was done and the rail lines complete, they were not wanted by the white settlers who had only recently established the new town of Pendleton. These human beings, thousands of miles from their native land, excavated a village beneath the streets of early Pendleton, a cavernous and dark place. There they lived, set up small businesses and did their best to survive from day to day. Above ground, it was legal to shoot a “Chinaman” for no reason. These poor souls survived in their underground village into the early 1900’s, which is not much more than a hundred years ago.
This not so distant history is part of Oregon’s past, or is it?
On behalf of ecologically vital, remarkably intelligent and social, deeply family-connected and innocent wolves, on behalf of the hopeful and decent majority of Oregonians you are supposed to serve and who have spoken clearly on this issue, in light of the facts and honest science, with full knowledge of your obligation to at long last live up to the public trust doctrine in which wildlife belongs to everyone and is to be managed (or left alone) accordingly, I am asking Oregon state legislators, the governor and the state wildlife agency, which Oregon will you be? The enlightened Oregon of your reputation or the dishonest, cruel and corrupt Oregon of your past?
“The protesters, from Minnesota-based Animal Rights Coalition and
Minnesota Animal Liberation, held signs displaying slogans such as
“Killing Isn’t Conservation” and alluding to the event’s connection to
Walter Palmer, the Minneapolis dentist whose killing of Cecil the Lion
in Zimbabwe stirred international controversy last summer. The
Minnesota SCI is not connected to Palmer, according to President Ryan
Burt, who said he “respects the First Amendment right to protest.””
By, February 3, 2016
Guest Post: Claudia Flisi visits the LiBearty sanctuary for orphaned and abused bears in Transylvania.
Did my guide know something I didn’t? Adrian refused to accompany me inside the LiBearty Sanctuary outside of Zărnești in Braşov County, Transylvania. He knew about the work of the sanctuary of course; he is Romanian-born and a professional guide. But he demurred: “My heart is too soft so I cannot go with you. Please understand.”
I did understand. Zărnești is in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, the crossroads of monstrous myths. Yet the back stories of the sanctuary’s shaggy residents are more unbelievable than Bram Stoker’s tales of Transylvanian vampires. Deliberate blinding, forced alcoholism, involuntary drug addiction, and calculated maiming – not to mention orphans sold into slavery – are oft-told tales at LiBearty Sanctuary.
The back stories of the bears at the sanctuary are more unbelievable than Bram Stoker’s tales of Transylvanian vampires.
The 69-hectare reserve is the largest refuge for brown bears in the world in area and numbers. Since Romania hosts 60 percent of all wild brown bears in Europe (not counting Russia) and also is home to the largest remaining virgin forest on the continent, the location makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is how the bears have fared in their proximity to man. LiBearty’s 80-some bears have suffered more cruelty and bestiality than the human mind can comprehend – never mind that humans alone have been responsible for such cruelty.
Take Graeme for example. Graeme and his brother were orphaned by hunters in 1994. They killed the cubs’ mother for sport, then locked up the two brothers in a small cage to serve as attractions for visitors to a mountain mining company.
As mining declined, the growing cubs fought for what little food came their way, and Graeme was blinded in one eye. A zoo took him away to pace for years in a wire enclosure, while his brother was abandoned to starve to death in his tiny cage.
Graeme came to LiBearty in 2013 and now, after 21 years of suffering, enjoys open spaces with trees, ponds, and grass, and an ursine companion from his zoo days.
Or Max. Born in 1997 and orphaned soon after, Max became a tourist attraction as a cub. He was chained near a castle in Sinaia so visitors could pay to have their pictures taken with him. To make sure he wouldn’t cause problems as he grew, Max was deliberately blinded and his sharp canine teeth and claws were cut off. Pepper spray was sprayed into his nose to keep him from reacting to smells, and he was drugged every day with tranquilizers dissolved in beer.
LiBearty rescued him in 2006. They couldn’t restore his sight, so they created a private acre-large enclosure for him, where he bathes in his own pool, hibernates in his own den, and spends his days enjoying the sun and the sounds of nature.
“Soon she began to recognize the sound of our car and would stand up to greet us when we arrived.”
Max’s story, his expressive face, and his gentle demeanor move visitors more than those of any other resident of the sanctuary. When I mentioned seeing him to Adrian after my visit, he blanched. “I knew that bear. I would see him in Sinaia when he was still a cub. I knew something was wrong, but there was no one to complain to, back then …”
The fact that “there was no one to complain to” is what moved Cristina Lapis to create the sanctuary in the first place. A long-time animal activist, Lapis is a former journalist from the city of Brașov, about 30 km. northeast of Zărnești. She and her husband Roger, France’s honorary consul to Romania, established the Millions of Friends Association (AMP) in 1997, focusing on the rescue of stray dogs. It is the oldest animal welfare NGO in the country, and today looks after 700 dogs in two shelters.
Less than a year after starting AMP, Lapis encountered Maya. The young brown bear was in a small dirty cage near the tourist attraction of Bran Castle in Transylvania. She had no regular food, no care, no stimulation, only the jeering of tourists and the occasional beer bottle.
Lapis recalls her “boundless rage against the people who could condemn such an animal to a slow and painful death like this.”
For the following four years, Lapis, her husband, and friends traveled 100 miles every day to bring food, water and companionship to the neglected bear. Results were initially promising: “We were able to improve her health and lift her spirits … Soon she began to recognize the sound of our car and would stand up to greet us when we arrived.”
The problem was that Maya had nowhere to go. Zoos at that time were not an improvement in space or cleanliness. There were no shelters for large wild animals, and no money to maintain them, had they existed.
Maya became depressed again, as animals do in captivity. She self-mutilated her right paw, ripping her flesh to the bone. She lost her appetite and the will to live. She died literally in the arms of Cristina Lapis, as the latter rocked her and stroked her fur, on March 11, 2002. Over the bear’s stiffening body, Lapis vowed that she would create a sanctuary for other bears so that they would not suffer a similar fate.
Lapis vowed that she would create a sanctuary for other bears so that they would not suffer a similar fate