Eating too many hot dogs is linked to mania, study finds


According to a new study, beef jerky, hot dogs, and other cured meats may contribute to mental health disorder, mania.

Media: Buzz 60

Watch out, Joey Chestnut.

A new study by scientists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has linked eating too many hot dogs and salamis with the onset of mania.

ALSORuth Bader Ginsburg issues controversial ruling that hot dogs are sandwiches

The study, published Wednesday in Molecular Psychiatry, found that the nitrates present in processed and cured meats like hot dogs, salami. bacon and beef jerky may contribute to mania, a high-energy mood state that can manifest as part of bipolar disorder or, more rarely, schizoaffective disorder.

In order to qualify as a manic episode, a mood disruption must last a week or more and go along with some combination of decreased need for sleep, inflated grandiosity, a surge in talkativeness, racing thoughts, heightened distractibility and agitation, and excessive involvement in risky pleasure-seeking activities like sex and spending money, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Mob slaughters 300 crocodiles in Indonesia following death of local man

The mass killing was in retaliation after a villager was recently killed by crocodile.
by Associated Press /  / Updated 
Image: Local residents look at the carcasses of hundreds of crocodiles

A mob slaughtered nearly 300 crocodiles at a breeding ground in retaliation for the death of a local man, officials said Monday.Olha Mulalinda / Antara Foto via Reuters

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A mob slaughtered nearly 300 crocodiles at a breeding ground in Indonesia’s West Papua province in retaliation for the death of a local man, officials said Monday.

A total of 292 crocodiles were killed by hundreds of villagers on Saturday following the funeral of a 48-year-old man who was killed by crocodiles after entering the area around the breeding pond, said Basar Manullang, the head of the local Natural Resources and Conservation Agency.

The man was believed to have entered the sanctuary in the Klamalu neighborhood of Sorong district to cut grass for his cattle.

“Since killing the crocodiles is illegal, we are coordinating with the police for the investigation,” Manullang said.

The agency said in a statement that the villagers were armed with machetes, hammers, shovels and other sharp weapons. They killed two large crocodiles of up to 13 feet and many babies measuring 20-60 inches.


Witnesses said about 40 policemen came to the scene but were too outnumbered to stop the mob.

Police said about five witnesses have been questioned but no suspects have been named.

Police are encouraging mediation between the victim’s family and Mitra Lestari Abadi, the company that operates the sanctuary.

Report: meat industry responsible for largest-ever ‘dead zone’ in Gulf of Mexico


Most people know by now that a plant-based diet is better for one’s mental and physical well-being. But did you know that reducing your consumption of meat — whether from bovine, chicken or pig — can also benefit the environment? It’s an important revelation, one more people need to learn, as a new report reveals that toxins poured into waterways by major meat suppliers have resulted in the largest-ever “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf of Mexico, dead zone, animal agriculture, meat, pollution, toxic, waterways, ocean, algae blooms,

The report was conducted by Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman. It was determined that toxins from manure and fertilizer which companies are pouring into waterways are contributing to huge algae blooms. This, in turn, creates oxygen-deprived areas in the gulf, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake bay.

As a result of the pollution and worsening algae blooms, it is expected that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) will confirm that the Gulf of Mexico has the largest ever recorded dead zone in history. Concerned environmental advocates predict it to be nearly 8,200 square miles or roughly the size of New Jersey.

The report blamed American citizens’ vast appetite for meat for driving much of the harmful pollution. Small businesses, as well, are “contaminating our water and destroying our landscape,” said the report. Said Lucia von Reusner, campaign director at Mighty, “This problem is worsening and worsening and regulation isn’t reducing the scope of this pollution. These companies’ practices need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely necessary to reduce the environmental burden.”

Gulf of Mexico, dead zone, animal agriculture, meat, pollution, toxic, waterways, ocean, algae blooms,

To determine the findings, Mighty analyzed supply chains or agribusiness and pollution trends. It was found that a “highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system” is primarily responsible for converting “vast tracts of native grassland in the midwest” into mono-crops, such as soy and corn. When it rains, the stripped soils can easily wash away, resulting in fertilizers entering streams, rivers, and oceans.

Related: Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” in 2017 could be the largest on record

Tyson Foods, which is based in Arkansas, was identified as a “dominant” influence in the pollution. This is because the company is a major supplier of beef, chicken, and pork in the United States. The Guardian reports that every year, the supplier slaughters 35 million chickens and 125,000 cattle every week. Its practices require five million acres of corn a year for feed. Unfortunately, Americans’ appetite for animal products is only expected to increase in future years, which spells trouble unless the majority of the United States adopts high-quality, organic plant-based diets which require fewer resources to grow and are less detrimental to the environment.

Mighty is urging Tyson and other firms to use their influence and to ensure grain producers, such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, implement practices that reduce pollution in the waterways. These changes include not leaving soil uncovered by crops and being more efficient with fertilizers so plants are not sprayed with so many chemicals. While more action needs to be taken, the report, at the very least, raises awareness about the pervasive issue which demands attention.

Via The Guardian

+ Mighty

Images via WikimediaPixabay

Meat glut in U.S. a fear in trade war

By Nathan Owens

This article was published today at 4:30 a.m.


Arkansas farmers, ranchers and producers have been hedging their bets and bracing for the fallout from a potential U.S. trade war with China.

After the decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products, the U.S. singled out China with plans to impose duties on $34 billion in Chinese imports. Chinese trade officials have said they are prepared to impose an extra 25 percent tariff on 500 U.S. products, including beef, pork and soybeans.

Travis Justice, chief economist of the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said he fears the tariffs could lead to a domestic meat glut. When production surpasses demand because of higher prices — an oversupply is common, Justice said.

“Because of the huge reliance on China, it’s going to make feed costs lower, which will be supportive of raising more beef,” Justice said. “I see a meat glut coming in response to this.”

While slipping beef and pork prices are a concern to Arkansas, Justice said “the biggest impact is on the row-crop and soybean side. Roughly half of those imports or more go into China.”

Soybeans account for more planted acreage in the state than rice, corn and wheat combined, according to the Arkansas Farm Bureau. Arkansas ranks 10th in the nation in soybean production, and China is the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans.

[FULL LIST: Chinese products that will be subject to additional tariffs + more products under review]

Arkansas-raised meats, by comparison, do not rely as heavily on China’s market. Citing data from the International Trade Administration, the Arkansas World Trade Center said almost half of the state’s exports go to Western Hemisphere nations. The bulk of Arkansas-raised meat — $2.1 billion — goes to Canada or Mexico, data show. Agriculture accounts for 43 percent of the state’s exports to Mexico (27 percent) and Canada (16 percent), followed by Haiti (10 percent) and Hong Kong (6 percent).

China is the third-largest buyer of U.S. pork, but the Arkansas’ hog production is not what it used to be. Cash receipts attributable to hogs fell from $100 million in 2007, to just under $57 million in 2016, according to the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

U.S. chicken products were also placed on China’s tariff list, but U.S. chicken products have been banned from import in China because of a bird-flu scare three years ago. According to the National Chicken Council, the ban is still in effect.

Meanwhile, consolidated food companies, such as Tyson Foods — with beef, pork and poultry operations across the nation — fear the loss of their competitive edge because of the ongoing trade dispute.

“With the current volatility in trade relations, we’ve experienced day-to-day uncertainty in our ability to deliver products and services to customers,” a Tyson spokesman said in an email. “With countries imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, Tyson Foods as well as others in U.S. food and agriculture, will lose our competitive advantage in critical export markets like Mexico, Canada and China.”

A sliver of the total beef raised in Arkansas goes to China. U.S. beef accounts for 1 percent of China’s imports after regaining access last summer, when a 14-year ban that stemmed from a mad-cow disease scare was lifted, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Justice did not have state-specific numbers for Arkansas beef exports, because most of the cattle raised in Arkansas is processed elsewhere.

According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas-raised cattle account for 14 percent of the total value of U.S. beef exports. These include exports to the state’s largest trading partners: Mexico and Canada. The latter enacted additional tariffs on U.S. beef at the beginning of July.

Dan Wright, a member of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said he’s been involved in the beef industry for 45 years. Wright, 57, raises poultry and produces hay on his farm in Waldron.

“I don’t see anything happening until some of this stuff can be hashed out,” Wright said. “What’s really going to affect our prices is the NAFTA deal.”

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $339 million of exports from Arkansas are threatened by the trade war. A recent study, which compared each state’s top three annual exports, shows that cotton ($12 million), aluminum scraps ($2.8 million) and bone-in, fresh or chilled bovine ($211,000), are the top Arkansas exports targeted for retaliatory tariffs by China.

Justice said he expects to see the fallout from a trade war later this year, when calving season starts and soybean farmers harvest their crops. He has seen prices for beef, pork and soy dip lower with each updated forecast.

“The ramifications come in the prices,” Justice said.

Business on 07/06/2018

Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

Groundbreaking assessment of all life on Earth reveals humanity’s surprisingly tiny part in it as well as our disproportionate impact

Cattle farm at Estancia Bahia, Agua Boa, Mato Grosso, Brazil
 A cattle farm in Mato Grosso, Brazil. 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock. Photograph: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet.

The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

The new work is the first comprehensive estimate of the weight of every class of living creature and overturns some long-held assumptions. Bacteria are indeed a major life form – 13% of everything – but plants overshadow everything, representing 82% of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, to fish and animals, make up just 5% of the world’s biomass.

Another surprise is that the teeming life revealed in the oceans by the recent BBC television series Blue Planet II turns out to represent just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface.

“I was shocked to find there wasn’t already a comprehensive, holistic estimate of all the different components of biomass,” said Prof Ron Milo, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led the work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I would hope this gives people a perspective on the very dominant role that humanity now plays on Earth,” he said, adding that he now chooses to eat less meat due to the huge environmental impact of livestock.

The transformation of the planet by human activity has led scientists to the brink of declaring a new geological era – the Anthropocene. One suggested marker for this change are the bones of the domestic chicken, now ubiquitous across the globe.

The new work reveals that farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.

“It is pretty staggering,” said Milo. “In wildlife films, we see flocks of birds, of every kind, in vast amounts, and then when we did the analysis we found there are [far] more domesticated birds.”

The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s four billion year history. About half the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years.

But comparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the oceans.

“It is definitely striking, our disproportionate place on Earth,” said Milo. “When I do a puzzle with my daughters, there is usually an elephant next to a giraffe next to a rhino. But if I was trying to give them a more realistic sense of the world, it would be a cow next to a cow next to a cow and then a chicken.”

Despite humanity’s supremacy, in weight terms Homo sapiens is puny. Viruses alone have a combined weight three times that of humans, as do worms. Fish are 12 times greater than people and fungi 200 times as large.

But our impact on the natural world remains immense, said Milo, particularly in what we choose to eat: “Our dietary choices have a vast effect on the habitats of animals, plants and other organisms.”

“I would hope people would take this [work] as part of their world view of how they consume,” he said. ”I have not become vegetarian, but I do take the environmental impact into my decision making, so it helps me think, do I want to choose beef or poultry or use tofu instead?”

The researchers calculated the biomass estimates using data from hundreds of studies, which often used modern techniques, such as satellite remote sensing that can scan great areas, and gene sequencing that can unravel the myriad organisms in the microscopic world.

They started by assessing the biomass of a class of organisms and then they determined which environments such life could live in across the world to create a global total. They used carbon as the key measure and found all life contains 550bn tonnes of the element. The researchers acknowledge that substantial uncertainties remain in particular estimates, especially for bacteria deep underground, but say the work presents a useful overview.

Paul Falkowski, at Rutgers University in the US and not part of the research team, said: “The study is, to my knowledge, the first comprehensive analysis of the biomass distribution of all organisms – including viruses – on Earth.”

“There are two major takeaways from this paper,” he said. “First, humans are extremely efficient in exploiting natural resources. Humans have culled, and in some cases eradicated, wild mammals for food or pleasure in virtually all continents. Second, the biomass of terrestrial plants overwhelmingly dominates on a global scale – and most of that biomass is in the form of wood.”

Police arrest pet owner who killed dog hunter in China

  • Tribune Desk
  • Published at 11:45 AM January 21, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:33 PM January 21, 2018
Police arrest pet owner who killed dog hunter in China
Screenshot of the CCTV still posted taken from Asia Wire via Metro. It shows the assailant shooting the dog and leaving

The pet owner is now being questioned by police

Police arrested the pet owner who reportedly killed a dog hunter at Yangzhou in Jiangsu province of China.

The dog hunter has allegedly killed the detainee’s dog with poison dart.

The pet owner chased and slammed the assailant “into a brick wall [of a shop] with his car” when he discovered his dying dog.

Meanwhile, the deceased is accused of killing half a dozen dogs using the darts, according to the Metro.

CCTV footage, which was shared online, reveals the dog hunter on his scooter shooting a dog with the dart gun and leaving.

Yangzhou city police confirmed that the man died at the scene.

The pet owner is now being questioned, they added.

The owner’s family have reportedly claimed that he got “the pedals confused as he was driving and did not intend to ram the suspected dog thief with his car.”

In December last year, eight gang members were reportedly arrested after 200,000 dogs were poisoned. The vendors hunted dogs and traded dog meat in restaurants, reports The Telegraph.

The dart, which instantly kills dogs, contains a large dose of muscle relaxant suxamethonium which could harm people who ate the dog meat.

Fossilized footprints tell a story of how our ancestors hunted giant sloths

giant sloth hunting

There’s plenty that archaeologists and paleontologists can learn from the bones and other artifacts left behind by ancient creatures and mankind’s own ancestors. Researchers can figure out what they looked like, where they lived, and who ate who, but painting a detailed picture of more advanced behavior is much more challenging. How ancient humans hunted, for example, is a huge topic of interest for many scientists, but evidence to support any theories is pretty rare.

A newly-discovered collection of fossilized footprints is giving researchers a rare glimpse into the past and helping them tell the story of how our ancestors once brought down a now-extinct creature that would have towered over them: the giant sloth.

The footprints, where were discovered at the White Sands National Monument, part of which is a US military testing ground. Today, the dry, barren location is a great place to test missiles without the risk of casualties, but 10,000 years ago it was the site of an epic battle between ancient humans and a massive ground sloth.

Giant sloths went extinct thousands of years ago, but at one time they were the target of human hunters. The reason for the species’ extinction is still debated, but some scientist blame overhunting as the cause. What these new footprints tell us for sure is that our ancestors seemed to have a pretty good idea of how to take them down, with circling footprints of multiple hunters surrounding one such sloth distracting it while others presumably attacked it with spears or other crude weapons.

“Geologically, the sloth and human trackways were made contemporaneously, and the sloth trackways show evidence of evasion and defensive behavior when associated with human tracks,” the researchers write in the study, published in Science Advances. “Behavioral inferences from these trackways indicate prey selection and suggest that humans were harassing, stalking, and/or hunting the now-extinct giant ground sloth in the terminal Pleistocene.”

Whether violent confrontations such as this were ultimately the cause of the giant sloth becoming extinct will likely never be conclusively proven, but the evidence that humans hunted these so-called “megafauna” on a large scale is mounting. Maybe that’s why modern animals are so darn small?

Has humankind driven Earth into a new epoch?

Our mark on Earth is so profound that some argue it’s time to bid goodbye to the current geological time period — the Holocene — in favor of a new one: the Anthropocene.

In the thousands of years that modern humans have trod the Earth, we have wreaked stunning changes on the planet — the rising CO2 levels fueling climate change, novel and long-lived radioactive particles from nuclear activity, depleted water resources, toxic waste buildup, desertification and more. To reflect our impact on the globe, some geoscientists and biologists have advanced the concept that we are living in a new geological time period: the Anthropocene, or the epoch of humankind.

The current geological epoch, the Holocene, began 11,700 years ago, after the last major ice age. But in the last 15 years, geologists and other Earth scientists have debated whether we have left enough of a mark on the world that it makes sense to bid the Holocene goodbye.

One proponent of the Anthropocene concept is Yadvinder Malhi of the University of Oxford in England, whose research on tropical forests has revealed the cascading ecological consequences of human-caused pressures such as logging, fires, invasive species and climate change. He reviewed the history of the Anthropocene idea, and debates that surround it, in “The Concept of the Anthropocene” in the Annual Review Environment and Resources.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s your definition of the Anthropocene?

It’s a term for a new geological epoch that signifies an age where the planet is dominated by human influence. But others wouldn’t agree. They say any significant modification of the environment would count — it doesn’t have to be complete domination.

And so one big debate is whether the Anthropocene is recent, say, starting in the mid-twentieth century, or whether it’s been going on for centuries or even millennia. The debate pivots on whether it’s a continuation of a process where humans have been altering the environment since we started using fire, or with early farming, or whether something dramatic has happened more recently where we started dominating and rupturing the environment in fundamental ways. Something so significant that it’s altering geological records.

For example, the spread of wet rice farming in Asia thousands of years ago may have increased global concentrations of methane, and this may have delayed the onset of the next ice age. Others argue that the extinction of megafauna, like mammoths, in which human hunters probably played a role, may have caused reflective and snow-covered high-elevation grasslands to be replaced by dark, heat-absorbing forests, leading to local warming. These would suggest human alteration of planetary processes, but not the domination of them that we’re seeing today.

What more recent changes would you point to that argue for a distinct Anthropocene epoch now?

The underlying issue is that human activity is so large because there’s so many humans and because of how active they are in consumption and waste production. We’re over-harvesting fisheries and the ocean, and we’re converting large parts of land from natural ecosystems to croplands or pasturelands. Part of it comes from our waste products. Climate change comes under that, through excess CO2 in the atmosphere, swamping the natural capacity of the carbon cycle to absorb it.

Excess plastics in the ocean are starting to alter food chains of ocean ecosystems, and excess nitrogen in our fertilizers is causing dead zones in lakes and estuaries.

Humans have always affected local environments, depleting resources or putting too much waste into it. There’s little evidence that early civilizations were more sustainable than contemporary ones; they just worked on a smaller scale. The challenge now is that we’re a global, interconnected civilization, so our activities are starting to alter planetary functioning.

Are there geological arguments against formally designating our current period as the Anthropocene?

Some geologists question whether geological time scales are the best forum for what is essentially a political framing or advocacy term. It’s also a challenge that a mid-twentieth-century start date is so recent that a clear stratigraphic signal is hard to distinguish.

The Anthropocene Working Group, a collaboration of mostly scientists, recommended in August 2016 to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the authorities who decide on geological time periods, that Anthropocene should be a formal epoch, and they suggested traces in rocks and sediments to mark it — things like radioactivity and plastics. What’s the status of this?

The working group has converged on a starting date of the Anthropocene in the mid-twentieth century, often termed the “great acceleration,” and the group is spending the next few years building up a strong stratigraphic case for this. If you look at concentrations of atmospheric CO2, the amount of tropical deforestation, numbers of rivers dammed, the amount of fish harvested, as well as the total human consumption of food and raw materials, they all show an increase over time but an uptick in the mid-twentieth century.

Would you say the Anthropocene concept has been more useful for scientists or in a public, cultural sense, drawing attention to the impact we’re having on the planet?

I think both. The Anthropocene provided for the sciences a unifying framework that didn’t exist before, drawing together multiple fields to describe the processes changing the Antarctic, tropical forests, the climate, biodiversity, and the ozone layer.

Culturally, it’s even more useful than framing issues just around climate change because it brings in the underlying issue: the metabolic signs of humanity. Our activities, relative to the size of the planet, have become so large that they’ve changed the way we think about ourselves and our history and future. That’s got a huge cultural and political resonance. It’s the zeitgeist, it’s hit a raw nerve of something people felt was there, but needed a way to describe it.

The Anthropocene framing recognizes the world is finite. A century ago, when London and the river Thames were polluted, it led to the realization that the river isn’t infinite, you can’t just dump waste and forget about it. It comes back to bite you. With climate change, if you keep pouring waste into the atmosphere, at some point it feeds back.

This is a way to think about the world around you in a really fundamental way. That’s where you can start imagining different futures. It leads to challenges like, how can an economic model built on perpetual growth fit within a finite planet?

When you’re thinking of global problems, like climate change or species extinctions, which ones could cause the most damage?

It depends on what you think is a threat. For human civilization, I’d say it’s climate change. If we pass some threshold, like if we see Antarctic ice sheets melting and other irreversible tipping points, that would have a huge negative impact on much of humanity.

For the biosphere, the acidification of oceans could prove critical. On land, it’s the loss of large areas of forests, especially tropical forests.

Have you thought about global solutions, whether it be changing consumption patterns in industrial countries, or things like geoengineering to tackle climate change?

There’s a whole gamut of solutions. For me, an ideal mix includes changes in the fundamental economic model, the mass consumption society, coupled with behavioral change at the societal level, along with redesigning our energy systems — with renewables replacing the fossil-fuel economy. Technology plays a role, but also rethinking our priorities as a society.

I’m cautious about geoengineering. It may be necessary at some stage, but it presumes we know more about Earth’s systems than we do. It carries a bit of hubris around it. We could inadvertently do more damage, rather than reverse it.

Are there sociological or moral criticisms you’ve come across of the concept of the Anthropocene?

Some argue that the Anthropocene is a broader environmental concept that concerns us all, rather than just a geological one. It’s about how we think about our relationship with the natural world, how we manage living on a human-dominated planet.

There are criticisms within the social sciences. Political scientists ask, what is this “anthropos”? It creates a sense of all of humanity in this together as a force altering nature, and the term’s ignoring that only a subset of humanity caused the Anthropocene. People outside the West and industrialized Asia played little role in creating it. It diffuses responsibility away from the core that’s responsible.

Others argue that it creates a sense of inevitability, like this geological age was going to come to pass, ignoring that perhaps political or economic decisions, such as the creation of the capitalist world system, lie behind this, by creating a resource-intensive exploitation of the world.

What are the next steps for research on the Anthropocene?

The really interesting questions are not how we define the Anthropocene, but how do we navigate it?

I’ve been reading work on “doughnut economics” by Kate Raworth, who describes herself as a “renegade economist.” She thinks about how we can reach this goal of getting enough people out of deprivation — the hole of the doughnut is the inner circle of deprivation — while staying within the outer ring. It’s this challenge of reconciling human improvement and welfare while maintaining the environmental stability of the planet and leaving enough space for other organisms that live on it. How do we stay in that doughnut? It’s a mixture of research and policy action.

Will the Anthropocene just continue indefinitely?

At least for some time in the future. We’re currently in the Cenozoic Era, which started with the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. That was planet-altering. Perhaps the alterations we’re doing now, if they played out for a century, if we pushed climate change beyond tipping points so that it accelerates, then “Anthropocene” — an epoch — is too modest a designation. People argue that what’s happening now is so substantial and profound it should be something like the “Anthropogene” [a period] or the “Anthropozoic” [an era], since the scale of the change may be so large that “epoch” is too low in the geological hierarchy of time scales to be appropriate. It’s too soon to decide that.

Winter Olympics shines spotlight on dog meat trade in South Korea


2.5 million dogs are bred each year in South Korea for human consumption.
Combating the dog meat trade in Korea
2.5 million dogs are bred each year in South Korea for human consumption.

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – As the Winter Olympics approach this week, figure skater Meagan Duhamel still shudders to think the dog she rescued from South Korea might have ended up on someone’s dinner plate.

Duhamel, a Canadian, is a contender with Eric Radford in the pairs competition and heads to Pyeongchang in search of gold, as well as another dog that she can save from slaughter.

Nami Kim, a prominent campaigner based outside Seoul,

Nami Kim, a prominent campaigner based outside Seoul, has sent more than 1,200 rescued dogs to the United States through her Save Korean Dogs program.

Eating dog meat is common and legal in Korea, as well as many parts of Asia, and is mainly eaten by older people. Dotted around the country are thousands of restaurants serving “gaegogi” dishes that, according to folklore, have strengthening and medicinal properties.

“It is just sad because when the world is watching the Olympics little is known or spoken about the (Korean dog meat trade),” Duhamel told USA TODAY Sports. ”There are hundreds of dog meat farms tucked away and nobody is talking about this. The buzz will be about the Olympics.”

More: Go behind the scenes at the 2018 Winter Olympics Athletes Village

More: Lindsey Vonn’s Olympic dreams driven by need for speed

According to The Associated Press, restaurants “nearly in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium” are still selling dog meat meals. According to the Humane Society International, around 2.5 million Korean dogs are killed for their meat each year.

The Korean government, realizing the issue is sensitive for foreigners, has offered money to restaurants if they stop serving dog meat during the Games and has requested that signs advertising the meals be covered up or removed.

“This is an Olympics story,” Marc Ching, a Bay Area activist who founded the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, said. “I am half Korean. Koreans are very proud of hosting the Olympics. Why this has to be tied to the Olympics is that the government itself is actually paying to hide this from the world. Maybe if … they just said ‘this is part of our culture,’ it would be different.”

In this photo from December, dog meat menus that explained

In this photo from December, dog meat menus that explained the dishes in English, Chinese and Japanese, are seen at Young Hoon Restaurant in Pyeongchang.

Animal rights activists claim that dogs, as well as cats, in the meat trade are subjected to horrific conditions and insist nothing is being done to end the practice. That is despite Korean President Moon Jae-in being a dog lover who recently adopted a pet saved from a dog meat farm. Campaigners are determined to use the Olympics to raise awareness and hope that support from athletes and international pressure may spark a change in legislation.

However, it is a difficult subject and, perhaps understandably, some athletes prefer not to speak out about something that is both culturally sensitive and controversial.

More: Vomiting illness spreads at Winter Olympics

More: Go behind the scenes at the Athletes Village

“Every country and every culture has different traditions and we are always respectful of those,” American ice dance skater Alex Shibutani said. “I can’t speak too much because I’m just not familiar with their culture.”

According to Ching, the issue is less about the consumption of dog meat, and more about the stomach-turning practices that are used to slaughter the animals.

“In Korea they usually put a noose around the dog’s neck and take them out back, hang them and beat them,” Ching said. “Another method is they just smash their head open. Sometimes they do electrocution. They shock them and burn them or de-fur them. With electrocution many times they are still alive. It is terrible.”

In many parts of Asia, dogs are often tortured and beaten before they are killed as it is believed that the adrenaline makes the meat more tender. Korean farmers defend their right to keep dogs packed in cages and to treat them as any other animal being raised for human consumption.

“How can we sell (them) when we’re training and communicating with them individually?” Kim Sang-young, president of the Korean Dog Farmers Association told the Hankyoreh news site. “They’re just livestock. We raise them with affection so they don’t suffer, but the purpose is different.”

On Monday, USA TODAY Sports sent a message requesting comment to the official press office email account of the Pyeongchang organizing committee and to Nancy Park, spokesperson and director of international media relations for the 2018 Olympic organizing committee.

USA TODAY Sports received a reply from the news desk of the organizing committee, with its “official statement on dog meat consumption.”

The statement read: “We are aware of the international concern around the consumption of dog meat in Korea. This is a matter which the government should address. We hope that this issue will not impact on the delivery or reputation of the Games and the province and we will support the work of the province and government on this topic as needed. Also, dog meat will not be served at any Games venue.”

Ben, a rescue from South Korea, was fostered by the

Ben, a rescue from South Korea, was fostered by the Peck family in Irvine, Calif.

Pets stolen for meat

Nami Kim, a prominent campaigner based outside Seoul, has sent more than 1,200 rescued dogs to the United States through her Save Korean Dogs program. Several have been fostered by a family in Irvine, Calif., Lana Chung Peck, her husband Kevin and their two young children.

Chung Peck said that the mental scars of mistreatment run deep. When the dogs first arrive they are often unaccustomed to positive human interaction. That was the case with their current foster, a Jindo named Julie.

“She would be frightened of anything in front of her,” Chung Peck said. “Any human, any dog, any sudden movement.”

“At first the dogs who come are almost feral,” Kevin Peck added. “They don’t want to walk, don’t want to be touched. But within weeks they are almost like a puppy.”

Four years ago, dog protection became a major issue during the Winter Olympics, with the plight of the strays of Sochi touching the hearts of visitors. Gus Kenworthy, a slopestyle silver medalist in freestyle skiing, rescued several animals. So did members of the United States hockey team. Kenworthy did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The Korean dog farming industry tries to draw a distinction between dogs as pets and dogs as food, but Ching says some dogs that end up in restaurants are stolen from family homes. Ching has rescued dogs from slaughterhouses and found microchips embedded in them.

He also highlighted the enduring popularity of “gaesoju,” a potion manufactured by boiling a dog whole, in a pot mixed with herbs. Ching says that because the dog’s intestines are not removed, fecal matter remains inside them. He and Nami Kim also say that dogs are kept in such poor conditions that many of them are dying and terribly sick.

“It takes a truly disgusting mind to treat dogs in this way,” renowned dog trainer and author Tamar Geller, who trained Oprah Winfrey’s pets, said. “Receiving such cruelty is not just a torture of a dog’s body but also its mental state. Some of these animals know nothing but fear from the start to the end of their lives.”

Olympics highlight issue

Internationally, the issue of Korean dog meat has not been widely publicized. The Olympics, however, has a habit of bringing things to the fore.

“It’s an industry that – even in Korea – the vast majority of the population is against,” actress and animal rights campaigner Pamela Anderson said via email. “Removing the signs is great but I’d like to see them remove the restaurants altogether. If you’re visiting Korea for the Olympics, they do have some great vegan restaurants.”

Duhamel, meanwhile, is focused on trying to achieve her Olympic ambition but hopes that her stance will encourage more people to adopt. Olympic visitors may also be able to volunteer to transport dogs back to North America, such as Duhamel is doing with Toronto-based Free Korean Dogs.

At first she thought her current dog’s name Mootae, had some symbolic significance as he had been rescued by a Buddhist monk. In actual fact, Mootae just means “not big.”

The issue, for those who care about it, is anything but small. Duhamel is deeply conscious of Korea’s cultural differences, even though “it is so removed from our reality.”

But eventually the matter bothered her so much that she decided to take action. And whether she wins gold or not, she will be taking something precious back home.

View|9 Photos
Olympic flame begins journey from Greece to South Korea for 2018 Games


Originally Published 5:15 a.m. PST Feb. 7, 2018

Updated 7:08 a.m. PST Feb. 7, 2018

To save the planet, scientists figured out how to fix cow farts–The secret to “climate-friendly” cattle

By Marlene CimonsNexus Media 4 hours ago


Moo-ve over, methane


Raising cattle contributes to global warming in a big way. The animals expel large amounts of methane when they burp and fart, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. beef production, in fact, roughly equals the annual emissions of 24 million cars, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. That’s a lot of methane.

Researchers think there may be a better way. Rather than ask people to give up beef, they are trying to design more climate-friendly cattle. The goal is to breed animals with digestive systems that can create less methane. One approach is to tinker with the microbes that live in the rumen, the main organ in the animals’ digestive tract. These tiny organisms enable fermentation during digestion and produce the methane released by the cattle.

Scientists in the United Kingdom last year found that a cow’s genes influence the makeup of these microbial communities, which include bacteria and also Archaea, the primary producers of methane. This discovery means cattle farmers potentially could selectively breed animals that end up with a lower ratio of Archaea-to-bacteria, thus leading to less methane.


Cattle raised for beef


“The methanogens — or Archaea, which produce methane — are totally different from bacteria, so we could determine their abundances in the rumen samples,” said Rainer Roehe, professor of animal genetics at Scotland’s Rural College. Roehe studied the composition of microbes in sample animals and established that the host animals’ genes were responsible for their makeup. “The higher the Archaea-to-bacteria ratio, the larger the amount of methane emissions,” he said.

His study, which appeared in PLOS Genetics, recently won the journal’s prestigious genetics research prize. The journal called the work “the first step toward breeding low-emission cattle, which will become increasingly important in the face of growing global demand for meat.” The research identified specific microbial “profiles,” that is, combinations of microbes, which could help determine which cattle digest their feed more efficiently, and emit less methane.

“These can then be used as selection criteria to mitigate methane emissions,” Roehe said. “The selection to reduce methane emissions would be permanent, cumulative and sustainable over generations as with any other trait, such as growth rate, milk yield, etc. used in animal breeding.” This, over time, “would have a substantial impact on methane emissions from livestock,” Roehe said.

U.S. methane emissions by source. Enteric fermentation (i.e. cow farts) is the second-largest source of methane emissions.

U.S. methane emissions by source. Enteric fermentation (i.e. cow farts) is the second-largest source of methane emissions.

Environmental Protection Agency

He predicted the approach not only would reduce the environmental footprint of beef production, but it would also enable farmers to produce meat more cost effectively. It also likely would improve animals’ health and improve the quality of meat, since rumen microbial fermentation enhances the production of omega-3 fatty acids, he said.

He and his colleagues tested 72 animals — eight descendants from each of nine sires — in order to predict the effect of their genes on the microbial community, Roehe explained. “The only common factor of these progenies was its genes inherited from its sire,” he said.

“Archaea and bacteria are available in the rumen of all ruminates,” he said. “What we determined are the abundances of these Archaea and bacteria in the rumen of each animal and then calculated their ratio, which was correlated to methane emissions.”


Cows aren’t great for the planet


They analyzed the samples and found that inherited genes “influenced significantly methane emissions [and] the Archaea-to-bacteria ratio,” he said. They determined that more than 80 percent of the methane emissions could be explained by the “relative abundance” of 20 genes, he said. Even with different diets and different breeds of cattle, the outcome remained the same. “That means that the animals’ genetics shapes the composition of its own microbial community,” he said.

There also likely are biological factors involved, including salvia production, which influences pH in the rumen — “and thus the living conditions of the rumen microbial community” — the physical size, structural differences and contraction of the rumen, which affects the rate at which digested food passes through the rumen, and even “crosstalk” between rumen microbes and other cells, he said.

In practice, breeders would need rumen samples from many animals to determine their genetic makeup. While the research still is in the experimental stages, Roehe said, “we are working with breeding organizations together to prove the efficiency of the system under practical conditions.”

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture.