Russia is mass producing the world’s first coronavirus vaccines for animals. /VETANDLIFE.RU/Reuters
Russia has started mass producing the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines for animals, with its first batch of 17,000 doses soon set for local distribution.
The country’s agricultural watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, announced the achievement on Friday, saying that while the jabs would initially be used at home, foreign firms had also shown interest in them.
According to the regulator: “About 20 organizations are ready to negotiate registration and supply of the vaccine to their countries. The file for registration abroad, in particular in the European Union, is under preparation.”
Russia, the first country to come up with the animal jab, registered the Carnivac-Cov vaccine in March 2021, after tests showed it generated antibodies against the coronavirus in dogs, cats, foxes and mink.
The county’s regulator said the inoculation would protect vulnerable species and thwart viral mutations.
It added that companies from Germany, Greece, Poland, Austria, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Lebanon, Iran and Argentina had inquired about purchasing the vaccine.
According to local media, production capacity is at around 3 million doses per month and is expected to increase to 5 million.
The race to find such a jab became urgent following multiple reports of animals contracting the virus early on in the pandemic, with the World Health Organization expressing serious concern over the risk of transmission with other species.
Companion animals such as cats and dogs have tested positive for COVID-19, but there have also been cases in big cats in sanctuaries, gorillas in zoos, and several other mammals.
Last November, Denmark was forced to cull its population of up to 17 million mink after a mutated strain was discovered in sick animals in the country’s fur farms.
With other countries reporting similar infection spikes among the species, concerns over the virus’s impact on the livestock industry have grown.
However, the impact of the novel coronavirus has not been as deadly for animals as diseases such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), better known as bird flu, or African Swine Fever (ASF), the latter of which led to the deaths of around 8 million pigs. Source(s): Reuters18
Should humans try harder to protect even wild creatures from predators and disease? Should we care whether they live good lives? Some philosophers and scientists have an unorthodox answer.By Dylan Matthewsdylan@vox.com Updated Apr 21, 2021, 10:00am EDT
TheThe most emotionally difficult moment in Michelle Graham’s life was when five snakes in her lab died.
She had started a doctoral program studying jumping and flying snakes. There are several species of snakes that not only live in trees but can leap heroically from one to the next. Scientists still aren’t totally sure why they jump, but what Graham wanted to know was: How? How can an animal with no arms and no legs jump at all?
In hopes of observing them fly, her lab purchased from a reptile dealer several snakes collected in southeast Asia, then placed them in an improvised snake jungle gym fitted with GoPro cameras. The team wanted to learn how the snakes could curl up and then launch themselves toward tree branches and other targets, adjusting how they’re coiled to land each jump.
Graham loves animals. Horrified at the treatment of animals in factory farms and the torturous short lives they endured on their way to supermarkets and restaurants, she was, and still is, a vegan. She was comfortable, though, taking those snakes from the wild and putting them in her jungle gym, figuring that their life spent simply being observed would be no worse than in the wild. So she kept up her experiments.
And then, she recalls, it went “horribly wrong.”
Five snakes Graham’s research group purchased didn’t take well to life in captivity. One after another, they died, no matter what Graham and her colleagues tried to keep them going. “I felt like I killed them,” Graham says. The root biological cause of their deaths, whether starvation, stress, or illness, wasn’t important to her sense of guilt and responsibility. She bought them, and they died, and if she hadn’t bought them, they might have lived.
She was anguished by the loss. “I was thinking about quitting my PhD,” she recalls. She sought to figure out exactly what happened.“I needed to understand how stressed they were by the research I was doing,” Graham says. It was noninvasive, for the most part. “You still have to paint markers on the snake to track the body position over time, [which] involves holding them still. You have to move them around from one cage to another,” she explains. “How much does that bother them? What would their life have been like in the wild? Better or worse than it is in captivity?”
The short answer Graham got from the scientific literature was this: Nobody knows. Few people have studied what it’s like to be a wild animal. “I just felt really let down by how little the existing science told me about the welfare of these animals,” she says. “We know nothing about what their lives are like in the wild, from an animal-focused perspective.”
Graham is finishing up her PhD, but two years ago,she got a full-time job running a group called Wild Animal Initiative (WAI), which funds scientists interested in answering the questions that have long vexed her about animals in the wild: What brings them pain, and what brings them pleasure?
Agricultural scientists working in the industry or at research universities have learned tremendous amounts about how farmed animals live in captivity, mostly from the perspective of those farming them. Ecologists have learned a good deal about how wild animals interact with each other and contribute to overall ecosystem health, as well as why biodiversity is important for humanity and the overall fate of the planet.
But a genuinely animal-focused perspective toward wild animals — one where snakes and birds and fish and rodents warrant care not because of their contributions to their ecosystems, but because they are beings worthy of moral concern in their own right — is rare in both science and animal advocacy. And it’s often regarded as outright bizarre in the broader world.
But in the past decade or so, a smallmovement of philosophers and zoologists has coalesced around the idea that wild animal suffering is a very serious moral problem, that the pain suffered by a jumping snake plucked from the jungle matters the same as the pain of a chicken in a factory farm, the pain of a cat in an apartment unit, and even the pain of a human being. Once one accepts that pain matters, wild animal suffering advocates argue, what, if anything, can be done about it becomes an urgent concern.
Many of us are aware of threats to wild animals, particularly when they are threatened by human activity: Think of the koalas and bears dying or suffering in climate change-linked wildfires in Australia and California; or the wild turtle in Costa Rica with a plastic straw stuck up its nose.
But those who’ve adopted the cause of wild animal suffering believe we ought to address even the problems that exist when humans aren’t around. If humans suddenly vanished tomorrow, flesh-eating screwworms would still infest deer, slowly eating them alive from the inside. Lions would still hunt gazelles and violently wrench the meat from their still-moving bodies.
The suffering of animals from predators, disease, and starvation is truly massive in scale. By one estimate, some 24 billion animals are alive and being raised for meat at any given time. We have only the vaguest idea of how many wild animals there might be in the world, but we know the number is high: anywhere from 100 billion to 1 trillion mammals, at least 10 trillion fish, and another 100 to 400 billion birds. Factory farms start to look almost like a rounding error next to the pain and suffering of all the fish in the sea.
“We should reduce the suffering of the literally trillions of animals living in the wild” is a utopian idea, one that flies in the face of ecologists’ general assumption that human intervention is a malevolent force in nature, and that we should leave natural habitats be. The wild animal suffering movement is aware of this reaction, and Wild Animal Initiative has taken a pragmatist turn.Graham and others want to answer more basic questions: What sort of factors make for a good life for a jumping snake? What’s it like to live as an owl in a city? They’re trying to do the groundwork for interventionsthat do more good than harm.
If Graham’s near-term goal is modest, the long-term project is not. The wild animal suffering movement wants nothing less than for humankind to totally reconceptualize its relationship with the natural world and fellow members of the Kingdom Animalia. It envisions a decades-long moral awakening that takes us from feeling sympathy and resignation when the baby chicks of March of Penguins starve to death, to feeling outrage.
It’s a project that, if successful, will end with the jumping snakes Graham loves leaping from branch to branch and feeling as little pain as possible.
WildWild Animal Initiative is a very small group, but it’s growing fast. It spent a little under $350,000 in 2019, and then nearly as much in just the first half of 2020. Its two main funders have been the Center on Long-Term Risk and the Centre for Effective Altruism, both groups affiliated with the broader effective altruism movement, which tries to bring rigor and evidence to bear in allocating charitable dollars. Effective altruists have long considered animal suffering — especially the suffering of animals in factory farms — a top priority, and it’s a movement with an unusually high tolerance for odd-sounding ideas and experimental nonprofits. Wild animal suffering very much fits the bill.
Graham doesn’t like it when I suggest that her group’s focus on improving the lives of wild animals is counterintuitive, or strikes most people as outlandish. Normal people like to help animals in the wild, she notes. They worry about endangered species and human encroachment on animal habitats.
But that worry often comes in the form of an urge to preserve the natural world, either for its own sake or for humans. “Traditional conservation might have this focus on maintaining the viability of species and preventing extinction, or maintaining these systems working for the sake of humans,” says Francisco Santiago-Ávila, an environmental ethicist at the University of Wisconsin Madison. “Whenever there has to be a decision made between the welfare and well-being of individual animals versus the viability of a certain population or human interests, the interests of individual animals usually get dismissed.”
Allowing culling with no consideration for how it affects the well-being of the wolf is wrong, Santiago-Ávila argues. “There’s no indication that the well-being of individual wolves, who might lose a pack member, a partner, an uncle — [is] taken into account in these decisions,” he tells me. “There’s no balancing of the interests of wolves with the interests of people.”
A newer approach to conservation ethics, fittingly dubbed “compassionate conservation,” has tried to take these concerns into account. Advocates urge conservationists to find ways to maintain stable populations and prevent damage from invasive species without killing. “Where foxes are being killed on a small Australian island because they are eating rare little penguins, the compassionate conservationist installs guard dogs to look after the penguins and scare away the foxes,” the Atlantic’s Emma Marris explained.
But even compassionate conservation doesn’t quite get at the point Graham and other wild animal suffering advocates are making. Their issue isn’t that the wild world can get along just fine without humans killing off living, feeling animals. The issue, these advocates say, is that even if humans did nothing at all, the wild world would be full of brutality and suffering.
This is an understanding many naturalists havecome tobefore. “There seems to me too much misery in the world,” Charles Darwin wrote in a letter to Harvard botanist Asa Gray in 1860, explaining his crisis of faith in the wake of developing the theory of natural selection. “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”
The example of the Ichneumonidæ is instructive. A kind of parasitic wasp, the Ichneumonidæ spreads by female wasps planting their eggs in cocooning caterpillars. The larval wasps bide their time, nibbling at their host. Then, entomologists David Wahl and Ian Gauld have explained, “When the caterpillar is almost fully-grown, the ichneumonid consumes its insides entirely and breaks free from the caterpillar skin, subsequently spinning a cocoon under or next to the host larval remains.”
This kind of cruelty is more the rule than the exception in nature. But the idea that it could present an ethical problem for humans has been marginal in the modern animal rights debate. Critics of animal rights haveusedthe ostensible preposterousness of intervening on behalf of wild animals as an argument against protecting the welfare of any animals.
“Animals are not moral beings,” the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton wrote in 1998’s On Hunting. If they were, “Lions would be murderers, cuckoos usurpers, mice burglars, and magpies thieves.” If you’re not willing to string up Stuart Little on larceny charges, he essentially argued, you shouldn’t feel any guilt for your chicken McNuggets.
But even philosophers interested in the suffering of farmed animals have dismissed wild animal suffering as intractable, not worth worrying about even if wild animals suffered greatly in nature. Intervening by, say, giving antibiotics to wild animals suffering from bacterial diseases, could upset the balance of nature and do more harm than good,they argue.
Scientists have been even more dismissive. “Most commentators in the biological sciences simply assume that nature should not be policed, without offering any rationale,” economist Tyler Cowen noted in a 2003 paper on wild animal suffering. “Through casual conversation I have found that many believers in animal rights reject policing out of hand, though for no firm reasons, other than thinking it does not sound right.”
InIn the past decade or so, however, this consensus has begun to shift, due in no small part to the efforts of Oscar Horta. A philosopher at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and a co-founder of the group Animal Ethics, Horta has spent the bulk of his career trying to get fellow philosophers and animal activists to reject their images of nature as an idyll in which we cannot interfere.
Our first mistake, Horta often notes, is thinking primarily of adult wild animals. We imagine happy adult gazelles roaming free in the savannah, fearful of lions, of course, but with plenty of sources of pleasure in life. That’s among the happiest existences that nature has to offer, Horta argues. Many animals, like turtles, frogs, and most fish, are born in huge batches of hundreds or thousands of animals, only a tiny fractionof which survive. That means that the typical member of those species lives a brief life, likely cut short by a painful death; living long enough to mate is the privilege of a select few.
“A typical individual is destined to starvation, capture, or struggling unsuccessfully for mating,” Yew-Kwang Ng, a Singaporean economist and one of the first researchers to try to estimate the extent of suffering in nature, observed in 1995. “It is difficult to imagine a positive welfare for such a life.” This is the core of Horta’s argument that most animals in the wild live awful lives.
Horta tells me that when he started making this case sometime around 2008, “It was basically just a few people, and by ‘a few people,’ I mean a few people all around the world. I could count with the fingers on one hand, probably, the number of people I knew who cared about this topic.”
But studying wild animal suffering as a discipline has grown dramatically in the subsequent decade or so, from the pet interest of three or four people to the focus of entire organizations. Horta founded Animal Ethics to promote the idea of “welfare biology,” a term coined by Ng for an interdisciplinary science of animal well-being. A younger generation of philosophers including Catia Faria, Eze Paez, and Ole Martin Moen has embraced the topic and turned it into a blossoming subfield of animal ethics.
Clare Palmer, a prominent environmental ethicist at Texas A&M who has argued against a general duty to help wild animals on the grounds that wild animals lack morally significant relationships to humans, says that concern about wild animals’ suffering has “exploded” within her field since she first wrote about the topic in 2010. It’s become a key pedagogical tool for her.
“These arguments seem to be strongly counter-intuitive for almost everyone, and easy to respond to by saying ‘How absurd!’ (as my students do every time these arguments come up),” she writes in an email. “And yet if you follow the reasoning, they are also simple and powerful arguments, rather like [Peter] Singer’s famous argument for global poverty relief: ‘if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.’”
Horta’s argument for saving wild animals has a similar visceral power to some people. Faria, a Portuguese philosopher working on animal rights and feminism at the University of Minho, came to the topic of wild animal suffering from her own emotional revulsion at the brutality of nature, a feeling that could not be more foreign from ecology and conservation.
“Throughout my life, I have been appalled by the horror of natural events, particularly predation and natural catastrophes,” she writes in an email. “Nature has never been a place of enjoyment for me, not even aesthetically. I just couldn’t disconnect from my (at that point) intuitive repudiation of nature as a place of conflict and suffering.”
More senior researchers in the field have embraced arguments for intervention to defend wild animals, too. Martha Nussbaum, the celebrated University of Chicago moral and political philosopher, was the first to jump in, embracing the idea of intervention to protect prey from predators even before Horta, in 2006’s Frontiers of Justice. Jeffrey McMahan, the current holder of Oxford’s White’s Chair of Moral Philosophy, went even further in a 2010 op-ed in the New York Times. The moral problem of predation, he concluded, was so severe that we must consider the possibility that carnivorous species must be rendered extinct, if doing so would not cause more ecological harm than good.
In 2015, philosophers Will MacAskill and Amanda Askell went still further, arguing the death of Cecil the Lion in an infamous poaching incident might not be such a bad thing. Cecil was, after all, a carnivore — the bastard.
IfIf this all sounds preposterous, even infuriating to you, you’re not alone. The entire history of conservation, and the field of environmental ethics that has grown around it, pushes us toward a view that accepts or even embraces the suffering of animals in the wild. At worst, it treats animal suffering as a “sad good,” in the words of environmental philosopher Holmes Rolston III — a tragic but inevitable fact of nature.
“Morality is an artifact of human culture, devised to help us negotiate social relations,” food and environmental journalist Michael Pollan observed. “It’s very good for that. But just as we recognize that nature doesn’t provide an adequate guide for human social conduct, isn’t it anthropocentric to assume that our moral system offers an adequate guide for nature?”
This is why Graham and Wild Animal Initiative want to focus the wild animal suffering movement more on identifying specific ways, from birth control to disease management, to help wild animals.
Graham has little patience for philosophical flights of fancy like McMahan’s. She hated the article defending the killing of Cecil the Lion. “One consideration that’s really undersold is how much apex predators maintain ecosystem stability,” she tells me, sounding very much like a normal conservationist. “If the apex predator disappears, and the gazelle has a massive population spike and eats all of the food, then they will have to deal with stress due to resource competition, and stress due to their babies dying because they’re starving.”
“Which of those is worse? Is there a middle ground that avoids both those problems? I have no idea,” she says. “This is why we need data.”
And her institute is working very hard to get it. The goal is to build welfare biology into a real, thriving discipline.
Her institute is trying, for example, to get a research project on pigeons off the ground. The main problem for pigeons in many cities is the same as the gazelle’s: There are too many of them, competing over not enough food. Cities have tried to control pigeon populations, traditionally, by poisoning them. Avitrol, for instance, is a neurotoxin marketed to animal control agencies as a “chemical frightening agent” to deter pigeons and other birds. Some cities like Portland, Oregon, have banned it, not just because the brutal convulsions and deaths it induces are inhumane, but because it caused birds to fall out of the sky onto a terrified citizenry, creating a scene of sheer Hitchcockian terror.
Wild Animal Initiative wants to test OvoControl, a kind of birth control bait, and see if it can reliably reduce pigeon populationanother way. If it does, “a larger fraction of the nestlings will grow up without sibling competition, which will allow them to obtain more food and care from their parents,” per WAI’s research proposal, improving life for baby pigeons. The hope is that will improve the pigeon population’s well-being.
Other research initiatives funded by WAI are further along. Davide Dominoni, an ecologist at the University of Glasgow, is using WAI funding to study the effect of light in urban areas on the well-being of feral animals, particularly owls. His goal is to attach radio tags or perhaps even more sophisticated devices to owls, to track them and see where they go and how they evolve as they face more or less light in their habitats.
Samniqueka Halsey, a computational ecologist and assistant professor at the University of Missouri, is using WAI funding to build a model estimating the welfare effects of different interventions to prevent disease in animal populations. Diseases cause a great deal of pain, and the aches of inflamed body parts or gnawing of flesh-eating bacteria could be significant factors making wild animals’ lives worse. Halsey told me that while most funders are only interested in animal diseases that cause public health problems for humans, WAI encouraged her to look at the full scope of diseases.
This is all much more real than philosophical speculation about ridding the world of predators.
I once asked Graham if she cared, morally, about insects. We know quite little about what kind of consciousness, if any, insects have, but there are some indications they feel pain. Graham told me, honestly, that she wasn’t really sure. “One thing that you do need to answer is what animals have feelings at all,” she told me. “Like, can an ant have a really good day or a really bad day? We don’t know the answer to that.”
Giving live animals as Easter gifts has been a tradition for decades, as a child I received a rabbit one Easter and baby chicks the Easter after. And beside my anecdotal evidence of the chicks wreaking havoc in my family’s backyard, there are serious humane and public health reasons to stick to chocolate gifts this Easter.
Year after year hundreds of human illnesses and agonizing deaths for baby chicks, ducks and rabbits are caused by this gift giving tradition. However, this has done nothing to curb the practice.
From 2000 through 2018 there were 76 Salmonella outbreaks linked to live poultry. Those outbreaks sickened 5,128, resulting in 950 hospitalizations and 7 deaths. The number of individual cases of Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter and other infections from children playing with live chicks, ducks and bunnies is unknown.
Part of the problem is that children are among the most likely to not observe good hygiene around the animals and children don’t have mature immune systems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that children younger than five years of age shouldn’t handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other poultry, as young children are even more likely to get sick from germs like Salmonella.
In 2020, CDC and public health officials in all 50 states investigated 17 multistate outbreaks of Salmonella illnesses linked to contact with poultry in backyard flocks. The number of illnesses reported this year was higher than the number reported during any of the past years’ outbreaks linked to backyard flocks.
As of Dec. 17, 2020, a total of 1,722 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella were reported from all 50 states — 333 people were hospitalized and there was one death. Twenty-four percent of ill people were children younger than five years of age; 576 of the 876 ill people interviewed reported contact with chicks and ducklings.
People reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including agricultural stores, websites and hatcheries.
Humane societies and animal rights groups across the U.S. advise against purchasing these pets as Easter gifts. A leading concern among these groups is the risk of animal “dumping.” This happens after the child has lost interest in the pet and the parent releases the animal into the wild. This can lead to tragedy on part of the pet and is an ecological concern.
For instance, domestic rabbits are not prepared for life in the wild and make easy prey for predators. They also will compete with other rabbit species in the area, potentially destroy native plants and can reproduce rapidly. Domestic rabbits can also carry and spread diseases, such as the RHD virus, to the indigenous rabbit species.
For more information on handling chicks safely watch the short video below.
About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.
Anyone who has handled live poultry and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.
Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News,click here.)
But one animal raised and killed in higher numbers than any other hasn’t quite become encompassed in that growing moral circle: fish.
Manyanimal welfare advocates consider fish farms to essentially be “underwater factory farms,” where fish are overcrowded in tanks, generally grown in terrible conditions like factory-farmed chickens, increasing their stress and susceptibility to disease.
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It’s unsurprising that fish have been ignored. They live underwater, so we rarely interact with them. They can’t vocalize or make facial expressions, so it’s much harder to understand them than mammals and birds. And research has shown that the further animals are from us on the evolutionary chain, the less likely we are to try to protect them.
But as momentum grows for better treatment of farmed animals, we need to make sure that fish aren’t left behind. Continuing research into fish pain has given us greater insight into them than ever before — and has bolstered the moral case for caring about fish. Beyond the moral case, there’s an urgent environmental case to be made not just to improve fish welfare on farms but to scale back on fish farming altogether. That’s because over the course of their short lives, most farmed fish are fed anywhere from a few to over a hundred wild-caught fish — depleting fish species that play important roles in our oceans.
For advocates, the successes of the anti-industrial farming movement provide a road map. “We can learn from [the animal welfare movement’s] past successes and failures, and go from there,” Haven King-Nobles, a co-founder of Fish Welfare Initiative (FWI) — a new organization that advocates for higher animal welfare standards in the fishing industry — told me.
In January, FWI announced a project in India (ranked third in global fish farming) that could improve the welfare of several million farmed fish each year. The group plans to work with Indian farmers to improve water quality and set caps on how many fish can be kept in each tank or pond, among other changes. At the same time, investors are pouring millions into startups working to make plant-based and lab-grown, or cell-based, fish.
Industrial fish farming is a hugely consequential part of our food system. Yet it has received a fraction of the attention in our discussions on fixing the global food machinery. That needs to change.
Fish farming, explained
Industrial fish farming, or aquaculture, is relatively new. Humans have farmed fish for millennia, but it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that we saw industrial fish farming take shape, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that it really took off. Now we eat more farmed fish than wild-caught fish, and about 90 percent of them are farmed in Asia, primarily in China, Indonesia, India, and Vietnam.
We don’t have good data on how many fish are farmed or caught in the wild, since fish production is measured in weight, not the number of fish farmed or caught. Estimates of farmed and wild-caught fish vary, from hundreds of billions to trillions total, and there’s even a website dedicated to trying to figure this out. While the number of fish caught in the wild hasn’t changed much over the past few decades, fish farming has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the food industry.
The rationale put forward for fish farming is simple: It’s a solution to overfishing. Populations or “stocks” of fish in the wild are thought to be overfished when so many are caught that their numbers plummet and they can’t recover fast enough. It can disrupt delicate marine ecosystems, not to mention decimate fish populations.
Then there are the animal welfare problems associated with fish farming.
In commercial ocean fishing, the welfare concerns are mostly relegated to the final minutes or hours of a fish’s life — they’re typically left to suffocate to death on deck, which can take under an hour or up to several hours. (Dylan Matthews did a podcast on a more humane way to slaughter caught fish.)
In fish farms, a different fate awaits the animals.They suffer for months, and for some species over a year, before they’re slaughtered. Fish farms come in many setups — some are tanks that look like big aboveground swimming pools, some are in ponds, and others are set up as offshore cages. But whatever the type of farm, three of the biggest welfare problems are the same as those on factory farms on land: overcrowding, disease, and rapid growth.
To get as much meat as possible in as little space, farmers cram a lot of fish into their tanks and pens, just like chickens in a barn. Overcrowding in fish farms can lead to poor water quality (from fish waste and antibiotic usage), higher injury rates, increased aggression, and susceptibility to disease. (Here’s a good overview of welfare issues in fish farms.) GRID VIEW
1 of 5A sturgeon farm at the Da Mi hydroelectric resovoir lake in Tanh Linh district, Vietnam’s central southern province of Binh Thuan. Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP via Getty Images
Poor water quality can also compromise fishes’ immune systems, which means more fish will get sick or die when disease spreads. One common problem found on fish farms is sea lice infestation. Sea lice are parasites that cause painful lesions on fish and are typically treated with harsh chemicals that further degrade water quality and fish health. When sea lice infect fish farms set up in offshore pens, those chemicals can leach into larger bodies of water and kill off other marine life.
Other welfare issues include rough handling and the inability to express natural behaviors, like migration and nesting.
The fish pain debate
A big obstacle to fish welfare has been the question of whether fish feel pain. For decades, the thinking went that because fish lack a neocortex — the part of the mammalian brain that processes sensory perception, consciousness, spatial reasoning, language, and motor commands — they are not conscious, and thus can’t feel pain.
In one of their experiments with rainbow trout, the researchers dropped Lego blocks into a tank to see how the fish would react. Normally, trout would avoid novel objects like Lego blocks out of fear. But when injected with a shot of acetic acid, the trout were less likely to avoid the Legos, as they were focused more on their own pain than avoiding a potential threat. When injected with both the acid and morphine, the trout avoided the blocks as they typically would.
In another experiment, the researchers found that when they injected the lips of rainbow trout with acetic acid, the trout would rub their lips against gravel rocks or the side of the tank, the way we might rub a toe when we stub it.
Their early work on fish pain inspired others, and there are now labs around the world that have built up a large body of research concluding that fish do in fact feel pain. One of the bigger findings of the past two decades has been that fish have nociceptors, sensory neurons that detect and respond to damaging or threatening stimuli — a strong indicator they experience pain. Sneddon, one of those early fish pain researchers, says the biology of the nociceptive system of fish is “strikingly similar” to that of mammals.
There are still some skeptics. One of the more outspoken is Brian Key, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Queensland in Australia. In an email, Key told me that “fish just don’t have the brains for pain.” He says that in experiments that supposedly demonstrate fishes’ capacity for pain, fish are just automatically reacting to harmful stimuli but that their brains don’t register it as pain the way ours do.
But Key is an outlier on this question. Dozens of researchers responded to his 2016 paper “Why fish don’t feel pain,” most of them in disagreement with his conclusion.
“We now know that fish have changes in brain activity in relation to potentially painful events that are different from non-painful events,” Sneddon told me when I asked her about fish pain skeptics. “In my opinion, research shows beyond a reasonable doubt that fish experience pain.” She also pointed out that the skeptics have only published reviews and opinion pieces — they haven’t conducted experimental research.
Much of the debate comes down to the simple fact that we can’t ask a fish — or a dog, or a chicken — how they’re feeling. But just like with other species, researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that fish behave differently in adverse conditions (for example, they limit eating and activity) and stop these behaviors when pain relief is given.
These largely modest and symbolic developments are setting the floor for fish welfare, but aren’t as far along as the animal welfare standards for farmed birds and mammals (which are also far from perfect).
One reason for this delay in protections is the sheer complexity of fish production.
The factory farming of land animals is pretty uniform; a few kinds of animals are farmed, and an egg factory farm in the US is going to look pretty similar to an egg factory farm in India, or just about anywhere.
But there’s much more diversity in fish farming — many more species (and thus different welfare and dietary needs) and many more types of farming setups.
Despite these challenges, in the past two years, some older animal welfare organizations have made efforts to change things and have begun to document conditions inside US fish farms. And two new groups have formed to take up the issue — the aforementioned FWI, and the Aquatic Life Institute.
FWI plans to keep building relationships with farmers in India and other countries that farm a lot of fish, and hopes to work more collaboratively with the fishing industry, compared to the mostly combative relationship between the animal welfare movement and the egg, pork, dairy, and chicken sectors. “We have a blank slate for this movement, and I see potential for us to start on a good note with industry,” King-Nobles of FWI told me. “There’s talk about welfare in the industry already, and it’s not even demanded or fought for by people like us.”
Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) looks to fill other gaps. One area where it sees a lot of promise is in working with seafood certification programs, most of which look at environmental concerns and not animal welfare. ALI scored its first win in late 2020 when Global GAP, a seafood certifier with 2 percent market share, agreed to adopt some of its recommendations to improve fish welfare.
ALI also sees opportunity in working with researchers and industry to change the composition of fish feed. As noted earlier, much of the food fed to farmed fish is actually wild-caught fish, and ALI wants to make more fish feed fully or partially plant-based in order to reduce the overall number of fish caught in the wild.
Animal welfare advocates in Asia are also beginning to address fish welfare, though the movements there are still relatively small.
Last month, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations released the results of its investigation into 241 fish and shrimp farms and reported high levels of lead and cadmium in fish farms, high use of antibiotics, and poor animal welfare. Varda Mehrotra, the group’s executive director, told me in an email that the group plans to use its extensive findings to push for changes in the nascent and largely unregulated Indian fish farming industry.
Growing interest in plant-based and cell-based fish
If the fish welfare movement is coming on a bit late, especially compared to other animal welfare campaigns, it’s not quite as behind when it comes to producing plant-based fish meat.
At present, there are more than two dozen startups developing plant-based or cell-based fish with a lot of investor interest. Last month, BlueNalu, a California-based startup growing fish from cells, raised $60 million (the biggest funding round yet for cell-based fish) to advance its regulatory review with the Food and Drug Administration and open a pilot production facility.
There’s still a long way to go. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are getting pretty close to making plant-based beef that tastes like the real thing, but plant-based fish startups are still far from nailing the taste of fish.
However, there is a lot of interest from the traditional seafood industry to narrow this gap. Thai Union, a major global seafood producer, was an investor in that recent round of funding for BlueNalu, and the company also plans to sell its own plant-based shrimp this year. Bumble Bee Foods, an iconic US seafood brand, has a distribution partnership with Good Catch, a plant-based fish startup. And VHC, another major fish company, has formed partnerships with a lab-grown fish company (Avant Meats) and a plant-based fish company (New Wave).
Industrial fish farming has become a dominant force in the food industry in just a few decades, recreating some of the environmental problems it was supposed to solve and creating a whole new set of animal welfare issues. But considering the progress made for farmed mammals and birds, there’s every reason to think the fight for fish welfare will become part of the anti-industrial farming movement. It’s the obvious next expansion in humanity’s moral circle, and it will gain even more momentum as the next generation of meatless substitutes gain purchase with consumers the world over.
The PAN party have delivered a draft resolution that recommends to the Government that “animal welfare” must be taught in the subject of citizenship and development, “preferably in all study cycles of basic education”.
The draft resolution, whose discussion in plenary was scheduled for the 18th, recommends that the Government “review the National Strategy for Education for Citizenship” so that the domain of ‘animal welfare’, currently optional, becomes “mandatory, preferably in all study cycles of basic education”.
The party also appeals to the executive to “develop an education framework for animal welfare autonomous and independent from the current Environmental Education Framework for Sustainability or any other framework of education, in compliance with the provisions of the Decree –Law No. 27/2016, of 23 August“.
The PAN parliamentary group also recommends the creation of a working group “for the elaboration of this framework, which integrates relevant professionals and citizens from the areas of Education, Psychology, Veterinary Medicine, among others, as well as specialists in well-being and animal behaviour, including representatives of animal protection associations”.
The PAN party argues that “recent episodes have brought to public knowledge, in Portugal, environmental and animal massacres that demonstrate the failure of the State to protect ecosystems, species and pets” and argues that, “to help to combat this reality, there is an urgent need to ensure the awareness and education of all in this area”.
The deputies recall that, although the “need to guarantee ‘the integration of concerns with animal welfare within the scope of Environmental Education, since the 1st Cycle of Basic Education’ was established in a decree-law, after four years it is said that this has been manifestly insufficient and pedagogical references that implement the legislation in question are not yet known”.
Catching fish for food is something that has been done for, well, pretty much since the dawn of mankind, but fishing as a hobby or sport is a relatively recent wrinkle. Sportsmen who fish simply for the enjoyment of it often adopt strict catch and release policies to ensure that fish populations remain robust, sustaining their pastime in the future.
The study focused on the damage caused by hooks in the mouths of fish that were previously caught. When hooked, the tissue around the mouth of a fish is often damaged, sometimes severely. The long-held belief that fish don’t feel pain in the same way humans or some other animals do is often enough to assuage the guilt of tearing up the lip of a fish, but the study says that’s not the real problem.
“Using high-speed video and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), we asked whether injuries around the mouth caused by fishing hooks have a negative impact on suction feeding performance,” the researchers write. “We hypothesized that fish with mouth injuries would exhibit decreased feeding performance compared with controls.”
Well, as it turns out, their hypothesis proved to be true. The suction feeding mechanism used by many fish to suck in and secure prey is indeed hampered by injuries to the mouth caused by hooks. Fish with hook injuries are less reliable feeders, which might put their overall survival prospects at risk.
“Fishing injuries in nature are likely to depress feeding performance of fish after they have been released,” the scientists say.
While the focus of the study was on feeding performance and the results are very clear, the actual impact on the survival of hook-injured fish was not followed. A subsequent study could shed more light on the overall impact on survivability of fish with hook injuries, but the fact that such wounds make it significantly more difficult to eat suggests that the long-term results could be dire.
After freeing the “world’s loneliest elephant” from a life of misery in a Pakistani zoo, the singer Cher has turned her attention to the plight of another animal: a gorilla who has spent the last three decades at the top of a Bangkok shopping mall.
Bua Noi was brought to Thailand in 1988, and has spent almost all her life in an enclosure at Pata zoo, a private zoo that has long been criticised by animal welfare campaigners.
Cher has joined those calling for the gorilla’s release, and has written to Thailand’s environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, to express “deep concern” over Bua Noi’s living conditions, and those of other primates.
Campaigners say the animals have little stimulation and are confined in unnatural enclosures at the zoo, which is on the top floors of a department store. Bua Noi’s mate died more than a decade ago, according to the Bangkok Post.
Free the Wild, a charity co-founded by Cher, has offered to fund the transfer of the gorilla to a sanctuary in the Republic of the Congo that would be “a home of peace and dignity where she could live out her life in a natural environment and companionship with other species”.
Other animals at the zoo, including orangutans, bonobo and a gibbon, had been offered a home with the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, Cher said in her letter to Varawut.Advertisement
Writing on Twitter, she called upon the “good people of Bangkok” to help her “stop the torturing of innocent animals”. “It Is a Sin. Please Help Me Bring Peace to these Animals. &Free Them From Pata Zoo … Shopping Mall,” she said.
The owner of the zoo, Kanit Sermsirimongkol, could not be reached for comment on Friday but has previously rejected claims that the animals are poorly treated.
Last week, Cher travelled to a sanctuary in Cambodia after a successful campaign to relocate Kaavan, described as the “world’s loneliest elephant”, from a zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan. Animal rights groups had expressed alarm at the care and conditions at the zoo.
Kaavan had been found to be severely dehydrated, while his keepers were accused last year of stealing his food. Wild boars had also been found to be breaking into his enclosure and stealing his bread and fruit. Kaavan had no companions, despite elephants being sociable animals.
He is now living in a wildlife sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey province, north-west Cambodia, where he will live with about 600 other elephants.
I’m about to give you some information you never knew you needed. This information was hard to find, took substantial screen squinting, rigorous reading of gruesome details and required me to deal with statistics. I hate statistics! So, you’re welcome!
I’m kidding. It was my curiosity that drove me to research and write this article. There seems to be a perception that our local wildlife is causing much human harm. If an alert goes out that a coyote, bear, or cougar was seen, the familiar refrain is, “Watch your kids and pets!” It is repeated so often that new residents become fearful, and even long-time residents think these animals are frequently killing and eating people.
Ask anyone what they think the number one killer animals of people in the state is, and you usually get a familiar answer: “Well, bears/cougars/wolves, of course!”
But is this the truth?
There are places on earth where people are in real danger of dying by some non-human related cause. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the top worldwide animal killer is the mosquito. “The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 405,000 in 2018,” with 93% of those deaths in Africa. Southeast Asia is home to the Indian Cobra and responsible for an estimated 1.2 million deaths in India in the last 20 years. The sweetly named Kissing bug kills an estimated 20,000 people each year in Mexico, Central and South America by infecting them with Chagas disease.
According to the CDC, Washington State isn’t the state in which you are MOST likely to be killed by an animal. That honor goes to Montana. But it isn’t the LEAST likely either; that prize goes to Massachusetts. We fall somewhere in the middle. Surely with all our wild spaces and animals, our deadliest animal has got to be a bear or wolf, right?
Let’s start with our furry wild land mammals: These critters are the most talked about, after all, and should be near the top of the list.
Wolves: A recent hot topic in the area. Folks warn there was a reason our ancestors wholly extirpated this vile creature. The Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2019 Annual Report showed 108 wolves in 21 packs, of which 10 were successful breeding pairs in 2019. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation had 37 wolves reported. The 100-year count for fatal wolf attacks? Zero.
Coyotes: The coyote has historically resisted all efforts to exterminate its kind and flourishes in Washington with approximately 50,000 adults. Despite that high number, there have been no fatal coyote attacks in Washington, and only one confirmed in the United States ever.
Bears: Arguably, the most locally discussed animal. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) estimates their population to be about 25,000 statewide. In the past 100 years, there has been one fatal black bear attack in Washington.
Cougars: One of the most feared wild animals in the entire state. Local tales sometimes tell of school children being picked off at the bus stop. The latest WDFW census numbers estimate 2300 independent cougars (18+ months old. Adults are 24+ months) in the state. The last 100 years have seen two fatal attacks in Washington.
Well, that eliminates the big four worries. So, what are the animals most likely to cause your death in Washington State? I can’t give you a numbered list without going blind staring at the CDC wonder website, but I can tell you the most likely suspects.
Dogs: I started to count all of the fatal attacks over the last 100 years but didn’t want to read anymore. We have about 1,849,218 dogs in Washington State. There were 36 deadly dog attacks nationally in 2018
Hooved animals such as deer, elk, horses and cows: This number is likely higher nationally in places with more ranching, but our deer/elk caused traffic fatality average is about 1.5 a year. Nationally the number is about 122.
Bees and other stinging insects: Considered to be the country’s most lethal animal, bees and wasps account for 100 deaths annually nationwide. According to the CDC, the leading cause of animal caused death in Washington State.
There is one animal left, one that causes more deaths in Washington than any other. As of April 1, 2020, we have an estimated 7,656,200 people in the state. Our homicide mortality was 275 people. With an estimated 400,000 people dying every year from homicide, we had better take care we don’t catch up to mosquitoes and become the deadliest animal on the planet.
So, the next time someone regales you with how you should fear bears, cougars, and wolves, take care: you may be talking to a dangerous animal.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to ban live animal exports as soon as Britain officially left the EU. But an upcoming court case is spreading doubt about whether or not he will follow through.Reading Time: 4 minutes
UK animal welfare campaigners who saw a vote for Brexit as an opportunity to end live farmed animal exports are perplexed by recent government efforts to defend the trade.
Told for years that European Union laws prevented a British ban on live exports, campaigners reasoned a pro-Brexit vote to leave the EU was the solution. That belief was backed by promises from Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. In June, Johnson reiterated his promise to ban live exports as soon as Britain officially leaves the EU on December 31st this year.
But an upcoming court case is spreading doubt about those promises. The case, taken by British welfare group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), seeks to end the export of unweaned calves from Scotland. A win, said CIWF lawyer Peter Stevenson, could have repercussions throughout the EU.
The problem for campaigners is that both the British and Scottish governments have taken recent steps to oppose CIWF’s case—due to be heard again in October—effectively protecting live exports.
On the British side, Stevenson said, opposition to CIWF’s case comes in an official document, submitted to the Scottish court by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In Scotland, the government has appointed a barrister to fight the case.
Campaigners abhor live export for many reasons but top of the list is the experience of farmed animals in transport. Calves and sheep exported from the British port of Ramsgate spend many hours in ‘roll on, roll off’ trucks taking them from collection points to the port, onto ferries, and then to different parts of Europe.
For calves, the misery is compounded by a lack of liquid milk replacer. Other concerns include the rate at which the trucks fill with feces and urine, poor access to water, extreme heat in summer, cold in winter, cramped conditions, and the risk of injury or trampling.
Last year, official figures obtained by welfare organization, Eyes on Animals, show almost 3,500 unweaned (or milk-reliant) calves left from Ramsgate, a small port town in southeast Britain, along with 17,000 sheep.
Asked about the apparent contradiction of promising an end to live export, while fighting CIWF in court, DEFRA refused to comment on an ongoing legal case. In an email, however, a DEFRA spokesperson said the British government “has committed to improving the welfare of animals during transport and ending excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening.”
A Scottish government spokesperson replied in a similar vein, saying it “would not be appropriate to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.” The email added that “our preferred policy intention is not to support unnecessary long journeys involved in the export of livestock.”
CAWF patrons include high-profile politicians and peers, among them Lord Zac Goldsmith, recently appointed as Minister of State at DEFRA; Theresa Villiers, Minister of Parliament (MP); Sir Roger Gale MP; Sir David Amess MP and Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s partner. “And they are very vocal,” in support of a live export ban, said Platt.
Asked if she remained optimistic about ending live exports, despite the opposition to CIWF’s case, Platt said yes. “We never give up hope. There is great political will to end this. Boris Johnson wants to end it. And his partner Carrie Symonds and his father Stanley Johnson.”
She added that CAWF is equally hopeful that Brexit will lead to further animal welfare initiatives, notably bans on imports of fur and foie gras.
Other protesters variously described government opposition to CIWF’s case as frustrating, strange, illogical, or hypocritical. One, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation by farmers or live export companies, wondered whether politicians had gone soft. “I understood that with the Brexit vote, the ban on live exports might not be immediate. But now they are defending [the CIWF case] in court. We think they are trying to wriggle out of it, or they lied,” the protester said.
The protester is one of many regulars at the Ramsgate demonstrations, which can draw crowds of up to 100 people. The demonstrations are organized by KAALE – Kent Action Against Live Exports. KAALE’s secretary is Yvonne Birchall. She too voted Brexit in the hopes of ending live exports.
Speaking the morning after a July 9th Ramsgate protest, Birchall said that despite government opposition to the CIWF court case, she believes a ban will happen. “Boris won our votes on the promise of banning live export. If he breaks that he won’t get re-elected by us,” she said.
There are other reasons for optimism, added Birchall. One of those is an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that could ban live exports for slaughter and fattening tabled by Baroness Fookes, Conservative Party member and Life Peer in the House of Lords. “We think there will be cross-party support for that.”
Birchall said the previous night’s protest had been tough. “[The police commander] was very aggressive. The lorries [carrying animals to the port] came round the roundabout [where the protesters stand] at high speed – too quick for the conditions and the number of people. Our video team started to film, as we always do, and then the police were trying to stop us. That does not normally happen. I was shocked.”
Birchall added more details in a Facebook post and told Sentient Media she had a “sneaking suspicion” the police were trying to prevent filming “because we have been finding so many things wrong.”
Responding to Birchall’s criticisms, Kent chief inspector Alan Rogers said while police understand the “depth of feeling” protesters might have, they are “impartial and officers have a duty of care to keep everyone safe.” Rogers added that officers are specially trained “to respond proportionately to peaceful protest, prevent crime and disorder, and allow businesses to go about their lawful trade.”
The lawfulness of trade is, however, exactly the issue protesters want to see examined in court, using the evidence—provided to CIWF for their case—collected over many years by what Birchall calls KAALE’s “machine of people” that bear witness at the port.
Fireworks and other explosive materials, whose reactions can produce sparks, flames, and fumes, cause various harms to nonhuman animals. These often affect animals who are human companions, and whose reactions we can easily see. They also harm the other animals who are around us, both in urban environments and outside them, as well as those who are on farms or confined in other spaces.
Physical damage to the hearing organs of animals
The hearing of many animals is much more sensitive than it is in humans, so the explosions of fireworks are not only more disturbing to them, but they can damage their hearing more severely. Fireworks can emit sounds of up to 190 decibels (110 to 115 decibels above the range of 75 to 80 decibels where the damage to the human ear begins). Fireworks generate a higher noise level than firecrackers, gunshots (140 decibels), and some jet planes (100 decibels).
Noises caused by fireworks and firecrackers can lead to loss of hearing and tinnitus. Dogs are known to suffer irreversible hearing loss caused by proximity to the noise of gunfire.
Fear and stress
In addition to these harms, the noises caused by fireworks harm animals by causing fear. In fact, repeated exposure to unexpected, unpredictable loud noises can cause phobias in many animals, increasing panic reactions to loud noises in the future.1
It is estimated that one-fifth of disappearances of animals who are companions to humans are due to very loud sounds, mainly fireworks and storms.2
The effects of fireworks on animals can be observed very clearly in zoos.3 It has been shown that the noise of fireworks makes animals such as rhinos and cheetahs very nervous, also visibly affecting others such as elephants, while rodents continue running minutes after the noises cease.4
Harmful effects by chemical particles
In addition, firecrackers are poisonous, and their explosion releases harmful particles such as fine dust (PM10) that is toxic to inhale. It can worsen existing diseases and cause others. Therefore, fireworks represent a danger both to animals who live in areas where they explode, or in relatively distant locations when the wind transports the particles.5 There is also a risk of ingestion of the residue of fireworks and firecrackers.6 The proximity of the animals to the areas where the firecrackers are made often causes burns and damage to the eyes.
The chemicals are also dangerous for cats and dogs, just as they are for humans with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Careless use of fireworks can also cause mutilations and fatal accidents in animals near the event, as well as causing fires that harm animals. When accidents of this type occur that affect humans, it is common for us to talk about it, but we must remember such things often affect animals of other species even when humans aren’t badly affected.
Ways different animals are affected by fireworks
Dogs are able to hear up to 60,000hz, while humans can’t hear anything above 20,000hz, which is only a third of the capacity of dogs. This auditory acuity of dogs is one of the reasons the sound of fireworks can be so harmful to them. They show signs of overwhelming anxiety as they are unable to escape from the sound.7
Dogs, like many other animals, also suffer from other phenomena that produce loud sounds, such as storms. However, in the case of storms, the noises are accompanied by previous warning signs, so that animals can perceive them in advance. This can cause them anguish in anticipation, but it does not cause them the unexpected fright caused by fireworks, which are sudden and not identifiable.8 The fear of noise among older dogs is more common.9
Many urban dogs suffer negative symptoms from the explosions of firecrackers. Common reactions are freezing or paralysis, uncontrolled attempts to escape and hide, and tremors. Other more intense signs may also be present, such as salivation, tachycardia, intense vocalizations, urination or defecation, increased activity, hyper alertness and gastrointestinal disorders. All these signs are indicative of great discomfort.
It has been pointed out that the reaction of dogs to the sound of fireworks is similar to post-traumatic stress in human animals. However, this effect could be much more harmful in dogs, because they do not have the ability to rationalize their anxiety, or the possibility of an immediate cognitive response that allows them to respond to their fear. It is likely they experience a deeper and more intense form of terror. This is in addition to the noise phobia which can be greater in some dogs due to personality differences. It is important to keep in mind that in the first years of their lives, dogs are especially vulnerable to the development of phobias, and exposing them to sounds like fireworks contributes to future fear responses that they might not otherwise have had. It has been estimated that one in two dogs has significant fear reactions to fireworks.10
The effects of fireworks on cats are less obvious, but their responses are similar to those of dogs, such as trying to hide or escape.11 However, regardless of the fear they have, they have a higher risk of being poisoned. Many cats who are near areas where firecrackers are made ingest them or their parts. In addition, they can go blind or be seriously injured by the explosions of firecrackers.12
Horses can easily feel threatened by fireworks due to their hypervigilance since they are constantly on high alert due to possible predators.13 Horses also act quite similarly to dogs and cats, showing signs of stress and fear, and trying to flee or escape. It is estimated that 79% of horses experience anxiety because of firecrackers, and 26% suffer injuries from them. Sometimes they react to fireworks by trying to jump fences and flee to dangerous areas where they can be run over by cars.14
The noise of firecrackers can cause birds tachycardia and even death by fright. The high degree of stress birds experience is indicated by the fact that birds may temporarily or permanently abandon the places where they are.15
In areas that are aircraft flyover zones, Creole ducks grow more slowly and have a lower body weight than Creole ducks who live in areas with little noise. Snow geese affected by these noises spend less time eating during the day and try to compensate during the night, which entails shortening their period of rest and sleep, gradually reducing their survival rate.16
Disorientation and panic from fireworks can cause birds to crash into buildings or fly towards the sea. The colonial species of birds who nest in high densities, such as silver gulls, are at greater risk of this during explosions of firecrackers. Many birds who flee from their nests due to the sounds do not know how to return to their nests once the noise ends, which leaves many of their young helpless.
Invertebrates and small vertebrates
The harms caused to invertebrates and small vertebrates have been evaluated much less than those caused to the animals discussed above. Presumably, these animals can do little to avoid harm if the explosions occur in areas near where they live. Keep in mind that for these animals fireworks are very large explosions, so the harms to them can be much greater than in other animals.17
Alternatives to the use of fireworks
There is a growing acceptance of alternatives to fireworks, such as laser light shows. One notable case is in the city of Collechio (Italy), one of the first to program silent fireworks, with the message that it is possible to enjoy fireworks without causing panic among the nonhuman inhabitants of the municipality.18 However, there is the possibility that this type of show may affect birds negatively.
Some might think that administering a soothing drug to animals could be the solution, but this proposal isn’t satisfactory for two reasons. First, the use of drugs to calm animals could cause harmful side effects. Second, we wouldn’t be able to reach almost all of the animals affected by fireworks. The animals who live with human beings are not the only ones harmed. Even if we only consider domesticated animals in urban areas, there are animals who live in the street or are alone. In addition, domesticated animals are the minority of animals affected. We must take into account all animals who live outside the reach of humans, whether in the wild or in urban environments, as well as those on farms and other places where they are exploited. For this reason, the only really satisfactory solution is to reject the use of fireworks.
Gahagan, P. & Wismer, T. (2012) “Toxicology of explosives and fireworks in small animals”, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small animal practice, 42, pp. 361-373.
Overall, K. L.; Dunham, A. E. & Frank, D. (2001) “Frequency of nonspecific clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia, alone or in combination”, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 219, pp. 467-473.
Shannon, G.; McKenna, M. F.; Angeloni, L. M.; Crooks, K. R.; Fristrup, K. M.; Brown, E.; Warner, K. A.; Nelson, M. D.; White, C.; Briggs, J.; McFarland, S. & Wittemyer, G. (2016) “A synthesis of two decades of research documenting the effects of noise on wildlife”, Biological Reviews, 91, pp. 982-1005.
3 In one case, the noise caused by nearby works were a cause of stress for snow leopards kept in zoos. They withdrew to the most remote parts of their exhibition area, and spent more time sleeping than on the days when there was no noise. We can imagine the harm caused by much more thunderous sounds, such as those caused by fireworks. Sulser, E.; Steck, B. L. & Baur, B. (2008) “Effects of construction noise on behaviour of and exhibit use by snow leopards Uncia uncia at Basel zoo”, International Zoo Yearbook, 42, pp. 199-205.
4 Rodewald, A.; Gansloßer, U. & Kölpin, T. (2014) “Influence of fireworks on zoo animals: Studying different species at the zoopark erfurt during the classic nights”, International Zoo News, 61, pp. 264-271.
6 Stanley, M. K.; Kelers, K.; Boller, E. & Boller, M. (2019) “Acute barium poisoning in a dog after ingestion of handheld fireworks (party sparklers)”, Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 29, pp. 201-207.
7 Blackwell, E. J.; Bradshaw, J. W. & Casey, R. A. (2013) “Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors and co-occurrence with other fear related behaviour”, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 145, pp. 15-25.
8 Franzini de Souza, C. C.; Martins Maccariello, C. E.; Martins Dias, D. P.; dos Santos Almeida, N. A.; Alves de Medeiros, M. (2017) “Autonomic, endocrine and behavioural responses to thunder in laboratory and companion dogs”, Physiology & Behavior, 169, pp. 208-215.
9 Storengen, L. M. & Lingaas, F. (2015) “Noise sensitivity in 17 dog breeds: Prevalence, breed risk and correlation with fear in other situations”, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 171, pp. 152-160.
10 Hargrave, C. (2018) “Firework fears and phobias in companion animals – why do we let owners take the one in two chance?”, The Veterinary Nurse, 9, pp. 392-392.
16 Conomy, J. T.; Dubovsky, J. A.; Collazo, J. A. & Fleming, W. J. (1998) “Do black ducks and wood ducks habituate to aircraft disturbance?”, Journal of Wildlife Management, 62, pp. 1135-1142.
17 Morley, E. L.; Jones, G. & Radford, A. N. (2014) “The importance of invertebrates when considering the impacts of anthropogenic noise”, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281, 20132683. Studies have also been conducted on the effects of noise on marine invertebrates, due to their economic interest. Hawkins, A. D.; Pembroke, A. E. & Popper, A. N. (2015) “Information gaps in understanding the effects of noise on fishes and invertebrates”, Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 25, 39-64; Nedelec, S. L.; Radford, A. N.; Simpson, S. D.; Nedelec, B.; Lecchini, D. & Mills, S. C. (2014) “Anthropogenic noise playback impairs embryonic development and increases mortality in a marine invertebrate”, Scientific Reports, 4, p. 5891.