Kenya shuts slaughterhouses over loss of donkeys to China

Donkey slaughter has surged in Africa as demand for ejiao has jumped 10-fold to about 6,000 tonnes a year in China

Donkey slaughter has surged in Africa as demand for ejiao has jumped 10-fold to about 6,000 tonnes a year in China
Image: 123RF/Silvia Cozzi

Kenya’s agriculture minister has ordered donkey slaughterhouses to be shut down as concerns rise over the theft of the animals by gangs seeking their skin for use in Chinese medicines.

Kenya has become the epicentre of a fast-growing industry in Africa to supply donkey skins to China, where a gelatin called ejiao made from boiling them down is used in a traditional medicine believed to stop ageing and boost libido.

Kenya has four licensed donkey abattoirs — more than any other country on the continent — which slaughter about 1,000 donkeys a day, according to government data.

But growing Chinese demand for ejiao has led to a black market with gangs hired by skin-smuggling networks to steal donkeys, inciting anger in communities who depend on the animals for livelihoods, farming or transport.

“We want to stop that criminality. We want to stop that brutality,” Agriculture Minister Peter Munya told reporters on Monday after meeting protesting donkey owners in Nairobi.

“(We want) to restore the donkey to its rightful place in our society — that of supporting livelihoods and providing crucial transport that is not easy to get, especially for the lower echelons of our society.”

If the trade continued, donkey populations would be decimated, he said, adding this would hit the country’s economy. The slaughterhouses have been ordered to close within a month.

More than 300,000 donkeys — 15% of Kenya’s population — have been slaughtered for skin and meat export in less than three years, according to the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

More than 4,000 were reported stolen over the same period from April 2016 to December 2018, KALRO said in a report in June last year.

The report warned the animals were being slaughtered at a rate five times higher than their population was growing, which could wipe out Kenya’s donkey population by as early as 2023.


Donkey owners who have lost their animals to the trade welcomed the decision, but expressed fears it would continue underground.

“God is good. He remembered the poor people in Kenya who have nothing but their donkeys,” said John Nduhiu Kuiyaki, chairman of a donkey owners association on the outskirts of the Naivasha, 100km north of the capital, Nairobi.

“We have lost a lot of money from the theft of our donkeys — this has impacted everything from being able to send our kids to good schools to our inability to buy land.”

The group of 30 owners used to have 100 donkeys, but thefts over the last three years left them with only 50, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Animal rights groups said the decision by the Kenyan government could encourage other African nations to follow suit.

“This move by the Kenyan government is game-changing,” said Mike Baker, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary.

“Countries like Tanzania have only engaged in the trade because they were losing donkeys in numbers into Kenya. They now have no reason to allow donkey slaughterhouses to operate either and we call on them to follow Kenya’s lead.”

Donkey slaughter has surged in Africa as demand for ejiao has jumped 10-fold to about 6,000 tonnes a year in China whose donkey population — once the world’s largest — has plummeted to 4.5 million from 11 million in 1990, United Nations data shows.

Once a luxury for the elite, ejiao, which comes as a tablet to dissolve in water or in anti-ageing cream, is now widely used by China’s increasingly wealthy middle class and diaspora.

Prices have surged to over $780 (R11,900) a kilogram from about R460 in 2000, according Chinese state-run media reports.

Coronavirus outbreak reignites bushmeat debate

The epidemic has led to renewed calls for an outright ban on the consumption of wild animals.

Seized pangolin scales at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Experts have suggested that consumption of bamboo rats or pangolins may have enabled the coronavirus to transfer to humans. Image: USAID Asia, CC BY-SA 3.0 By Wang Chen, Chinadialogue Feb. 10, 2020

There is growing pressure for fundamental reform of China’s policy on the trade in wild animals following the outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which to date has infected over 31,000 and killed more than 600, with numbers rising.

The early cases of coronavirus were clustered around the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Was the market’s trade in wild animals the source of the virus? One early study published 26 January in the Lancet suggested otherwise. Nonetheless, calls for a ban on the trade in wild animals have reached new highs.

On 26 January, the forestry, market supervision and agricultural authorities announced a nationwide ban on the trade in wild animals, including placing captive-breeding facilities under quarantine, for the duration of the epidemic. These have been described as the toughest restrictions ever enforced on China’s wild animal trade.

But the ban has a time limit. A similar crackdown was also seen 17 years ago during the SARS epidemic. With China now tackling another major virus outbreak, there is pressure for far-reaching policy changes.
Bushmeat and viruses

The latest research shows the genome of the new virus is 96% identical to a coronavirus found in bats, making them the most likely source – as was the case with SARS. It is not yet clear how the virus made its way into the human population. Zhong Nanshan, head of a National Health Commission expert panel and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has suggested bamboo rats or badgers may have been an intermediate host.
Research published on 7 February by the South China Agricultural University claims that pangolins – one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia – could also be a link. There is as yet no definitive conclusion, but close contact between humans and an intermediate host would have allowed the virus to jump the species barrier.

A price list from the Huanan market, circulated online, shows that prior to its closure on 31 December, meat from animals such as the bamboo rat and civet cat were openly on sale. The civet cat is believed to have been the intermediate host in the SARS epidemic.

Bushmeat is an important part of the cuisine of the mountainous south-east of China. Consuming wild animal meat to improve health is also connected to traditional Chinese medicine. But this tradition has been taken to extremes, with beliefs that the meat of animals with certain characteristics, such as strength, will boost that characteristic in the consumer, and that the “wilder” an animal is the more health benefits it provides. Civet cats are the most prized of all.

As well as encouraging the hunting of wild animals, this demand has also led to some bushmeat species being farmed at scale and sold through established channels. A China Central Television programme on money-making has promoted bamboo rat farming more than once – most recently in June last year – saying that 500 grammes of bamboo rat meat, described as “popular online”, can sell for 80 Chinese yuan (US$11).
Farmers featured on the programme were earning up to 10 million yuan
(US$1.4 million) a year.

Popular internet celebrities, the Huanong Brothers, became famous for filming the process of farming – and eating – bamboo rats. They have a presence on all of China’s major streaming sites, tens of millions of fans nationwide and are seen as typical of the farming boom in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province. Many other underdeveloped areas are now hoping to enrich themselves through bamboo rat farming.

Wu Yu, a blogger for online magazine Elephant, writes that the definition of “wild animal” in Chinese legislation is fuzzy, covering all animals not traditionally considered poultry or livestock – even when, as with the bamboo rat, there is a mature farming sector. An outright ban on the trade in wild animals would harm the legitimate interests of those farmers, he said. “It’s hard to prove that these herbivores, raised in captivity, are more dangerous than poultry and pigs, which have already given rise to bird flu and swine flu.”

But Zhou Haixiang, a member of the Chinese National Committee for Man and the Biosphere, told China Dialogue that the majority of wild animals traded have been obtained illegally. He was also sceptical about farmed
animals: “Even if the farm is properly run, where did the animals originally come from? They’ve been domesticated, but aren’t they descended from animals caught in the wild? There’s still a risk of infection.”
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Zhou thinks there is huge money in the wildlife trade, but also “potential public health risks”. He argues the existing Wild Animals Protection Law and Protection Measures for Wild Land Animals leave too much room for the large-scale commercial use of wild animals.

Current regulations mean bamboo rats can be farmed once licences have been obtained.

The lessons from SARS did not dent appetites for bushmeat. Consumption bounced back less than a year after the 2003 epidemic, and in Guangdong grew into a “high-class” pursuit. Policymakers started to look for a balance between market demand and regulation, and in August 2003, the forestry authorities produced a list of 54 animals suitable for commercial breeding and farming, setting out qualifications for entry to the sector, a quota management system and a labelling system. The aim was to regularise the practice rather than ban it.

This was the first official recognition that wild animals could be farmed, and businesses making “reasonable use” of these animals started to grow legitimately. Once a farm had health certificates and breeding and business licences in place, they were free to operate.

But many of these farms are “laundering” wild-caught animals. Lü Zhi, a professor at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences, said that these farms “briefly place wild-caught animals in a licensed farm, before sending them to market”.

The debate between “protection” and “reasonable use” has been ongoing ever since the SARS epidemic. It reached a peak in 2015, when the process of revising the Wild Animals Protection Law started.
Unfortunately, “reasonable use” remained written into legislation, and more policies encouraging the sector appeared. A key document in 2018 called for China to “accelerate the growth of the farming and display of wild animals”, and the wild animal sector was linked with the promotion of rural economies. In 2019 the forestry authorities proposed increasing wild animal breeding capacity to boost market supply.

“Allowing for reasonable use is an error in the Wild Animals Protection Law’s approach,” said Zhou Haixiang. He points out that although wild animals have been bought and sold for decades, and even generate billions of yuan in income for some provinces and cities, this approach to protection does nothing for ecological balance and public health.
Revision providing opportunity

The coronavirus has strengthened calls for a complete ban on bushmeat, with universities, research institutes, independent political figures, NGOs and the media calling for the law to be changed. But there are different ideas on what that ban should look like. The current focus of debate is on how to protect the interests of those who are already operating legally.

Zhou thinks public health concerns mean all breeding, farming and trading of wild animals should be banned. This may lead to losses for some legitimate operations, but is nevertheless “essential” to stop illegal hunting.

“The industrial and commercial authorities, which oversee the market, don’t have the necessary specialist knowledge to distinguish captive-bred and wild-caught animals,” he argues.

Lü Zhi’s proposal leaves more room for manoeuvre. She thinks eating bushmeat is the most dangerous way to utilise wild animals, and it is also an unnecessary luxury. She suggests expanding a ban on the consumption of protected species to cover all wild animals, putting an end to the bushmeat trade.

But she also suggests reclassifying those animals already successfully bred in captivity and accustomed to their new environments as “special livestock”, to be regulated in a similar way to common poultry and farm animals. Both Lü Zhi and Zhou Haixiang think this distinction between wild animals and farmed animals should depend on whether a species can live and breed well in captivity, and if the risk of disease can be managed.

For Liu Kejun, a senior livestock specialist at the Guangxi Institute of Animal Farming who has been researching the breeding of bamboo rats for over 20 years, “farmed animals shouldn’t be a problem”. “Captive bamboo rats eat bamboo, sugar cane, elephant grass stalks and cassava stalks.
The farming process is very hygienic,” he said.

“As consumer awareness develops, we can expect the market for bushmeat to fall,” says Lü Zhi, but establishing a new category of farmed animals and gradually reducing available licences could give these farmers time to diversify and reduce losses.

Shortly after the 2003 SARS epidemic, 22 members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences called for a change to the law to halt the misuse of wild animals. Lü Zhi is more confident of success this time round: “This time it’s not just public opinion, the authorities are also keen. Things will change, we’ll just have to wait for the legislative process to conclude to see exactly how.”

New species related to humans discovered in cave

New species related to humans discovered in cave


New species related to humans discovered in cave 01:15

(CNN)Ancient bones and teeth found in Callao Cave in the Philippines have led to the discovery of a previously unknown species related to humans called Homo luzonensis, according to a new study. The fossils belonged to two adults and one child who lived between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago.

This time frame means luzonensis would have lived at the same time as Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo sapiens and the small-bodied Homo floresiensis. Like other extinct hominins, luzonensis is more of a close relative than a direct ancestor.
In 2007, a single foot bone was found in the cave and dated to 67,000 years ago. During excavations in 2011 and 2015, researchers found 12 additional hand and foot bones, including a partial femur and teeth, in the same layer of the cave. The researchers have named the new species luzonensis because of where it was found on the island of Luzon.
They are now the earliest human remains found in the Philippines. Previously, Homo sapiens remains were found on Palawan island and dated to between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago.
But what makes luzonensis different from other species? It’s all in the distinct premolar teeth, which vary considerably from anything identified in the other species belonging to the Homo genus.

Callao Cave on Luzon island, where the fossils were discovered.

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The seven premolars and molars are smaller and more simplified than those of other species. Although some of the characteristics can be compared to Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, the teeth and jaw features remain distinct as far as the odd features they combine.
This factor, along with the fact that the researchers haven’t been able to remove DNA from the fossils, makes it difficult to determine where luzonensis fits, evolution-wise.
The two hand bones and three foot bones also show a unique anatomy.
Although separated by millions of years of evolution, luzonensis’ toe bone strongly resembles that of Australopithecus afarensis, or the famed “Lucy” fossil. Australopithecus lived between 2.9 million and 3.9 million years ago.
The finger bone also resembles that of Australopithecus, as well as early Homo species. The finger and toe bones are curved, like those of early hominins, likely suggesting that climbing was important to their lifestyle and survival.
“If you take each feature one by one, you will also find it in one or several hominin species, but if you take the whole combination of features, no other species of the genus Homo is similar, thus indicating that they belong to a new species,” said Florent Détroit, study author and paleoanthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

Complications in the evolutionary tree

Luzonensis presents a bit of a mystery because, as with the discovery of Homo floresiensis, previously unknown hominin species complicate the evolutionary tree. This also shifts the idea of which species migrated.
Given that Africa is regarded as the “Cradle of Life” and Homo erectus was found on the Indonesian island of Java, the idea is that erectus migrated out of Africa and helped disperse the species.
Floresiensis, nicknamed the “hobbit” species, have been found only on the island of Flores near Indonesia and were discovered in 2003. They lived between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago. And although they stood only around 3½ feet tall and had brains about one-third the size of a modern human’s, they made stone tools and hunted elephants.
It is believed that floresiensis was more diminutive in stature due to its island environment and limited resources. The same may be true for luzonensis, the researchers said.
Both of these species lived on islands that would have been reachable only by crossing the sea. And there is evidence of animal butchery on Luzon that dates back 700,000 years, but the researchers don’t know whether luzonensis is responsible.
The finding does build the case that hominins were already present on the island. They could have been luzonensis or the species descended from them, or perhaps they descended from another unknown group, the researchers said.
Seafaring could have happened by accident as they drifted on rafts or due to intentional navigation, the researchers said.
“We have more and more evidence that they successfully settled on several islands in the remote past in Southeast Asia, so it was probably not so accidental,” Détroit said. “Another important thing to have in mind is that you cannot successfully settle on an island with a single event of arrival of only few people, you need several individuals of course, and you need several arrivals, at least at the beginning, so that you have enough founders settled on the island.”

More exploration to come

So how did they evolve, and why do they share such varied characteristics with more ancient hominins? The answer may lie in more excavations and discoveries yet to be made on the islands of Southeast Asia.
“Our picture of homin evolution in Asia during the Pleistocene just got even messier, more complicated and a whole lot more interesting,” Matthew Tocheri wrote in an accompanying News and Views article. Tocheri, the Canada Research Chair in Human Origins at Lakehead University in Ontario, did not participate in this study.
The researchers are planning studying the biomechanical aspects of the fossils and how they may have moved, as well as more excavations of the cave or identifying new potential sites.
“As we can see now, Southeast Asia, and especially their islands, is a fantastic place for studying hominin evolution, and conducting fieldwork to find more sites with ancient archaeology and hominin fossils,” Détroit said.

‘Terrible way to go’: Humane society wants changes after hundreds of cows killed in blaze

Animal welfare group says barns no longer are mandated to have certain safety requirements

Firefighters battling a barn fire northeast of Steinbach on Monday morning. (Steinbach Online)

An animal welfare group is calling on Manitoba’s provincial government to review how animals are being housed, after 800 cows were killed in a barn fire northeast of Steinbach, Man.

Brittany Semeniuk, an animal welfare consultant for the Winnipeg Humane Society, spoke on CBC Radio’s afternoon show Up To Speed, one day after the devastating blaze at Pennwood Dairy. She said the prevalence of such events drives home the need for changes.

“They do occur in a very high frequency and I mean I don’t need to convince anyone that perishing within a fire where you’re trapped in a building is a terrible way to go,” Semeniuk told host Ismaila Alfa.

Pennwood Dairy was one of Manitoba’s largest dairy producers. Of its 1,000 cattle, only 200 lived through the blaze, according to the Steinbach Fire Department.

Fire chief Kelvin Toews said the fire was the “probably the largest barn fire” the department has ever had to deal with.

“We’ve had barn fire where we’ve lost one or two barns, but this is quite a sizeable loss,” he said.

Manitoba previously had its own farm building code, but Semeniuk said in 2017 the general Manitoba building code replaced it.

She said the problem started with recent repeals and amendments of security and fire protection requirements in low-occupancy buildings, which are recommended in the dairy industry, but not always practised.

“They follow the codes of practice for their own industry which is governed through the National Farm Animal Care Council, but within these codes of practice none of these codes are mandatory,” she said.

Semeniuk said in the past 10 years about 40,000 hogs have bee killed in barn fires, and just a few months ago almost 27,000 chickens were burned alive.

“A thousand pigs or a thousand chickens could still be qualified as low human occupancy, despite having a large number of animals, but because barns proved to be a lower safety hazard than human health, it was generally accepted to remove a lot of those previous precautions,” she said.

Semeniuk says protecting animals from fires isn’t the only reason for such precautions — allowing them to enjoy a certain quality of life is also important.

“They can’t perform their basic behavioural needs like foraging and flying and rooting and things like that,” she said. “It is currently not required to provide dairy cows with any sort of access to the outdoors.”

Simply put, Semeniuk said the humane society wants better living conditions for animals and to provide them basic welfare requirements.

Regulations for barn standards are put into place by the fire commissioner, who will routinely provide updates and necessary changes to how new barns need to be constructed, according to David Wiens, a member of the board of directors for the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.

“As we go along, there’s new regulations that come in place. New barns that are being now have fire barriers within the barn to prevent the rapid spread of the fire,” he said.

Wiens isn’t entirely sure of the makeup of the barn that caught fire, but said four barns were attached to one another.

The Officer of the Fire Commissioner of Manitoba said they do not keep track of livestock losses. The fire is still under investigation.

Humans, not glaciers, likely doomed Ice Age cave bears

Analysis of genetic material from dozens of prehistoric bears shows that their decline neatly matches the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe.

Neanderthals lived in Europe for thousands of centuries, and during that time, they had to watch their step. Mammoths, woolly rhinos, and saber-tooth cats were common in the region, and the caves these human relatives would sometimes enter for shelter were often already occupied by cave bears, the heaviest adults of which may have weighed over 2,000 pounds.

Today, controversy swirls around the question of why all these large animals eventually disappeared. Some scientists think they were victims of the last glacial maximum, which peaked around 26,500 years ago. Other experts have argued that the appearance of a new human species with a knack for hunting, Homo sapiens, could have driven the unfortunate beasts to extinction.

Now, research presented in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that in the case of cave bears, humans most likely played a crucial role.

“If not for our arrival in Europe, I don’t see any reason why cave bears should not be around today,” says study coauthor Hervé Bocherens, a paleobiologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany who has studied cave bear remains for 30 years.

In some ways, the result may foreshadow the situation of today’s brown bear, which currently has a stable population but may soon be at risk due to conflicts with humans in an increasingly crowded and warming world. (Find out why living brown bears retain traces of cave bear DNA.)

Clan of the cave bear

Bocherens and a team of researchers led by Verena Schuenemann at the University of Zürich in Switzerland collected the remains of 59 cave bears found across Europe to extract what’s known as mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA. These small bits of genetic material are only inherited from an animal’s mother and can reveal genetic relationships between animals found at different locations. Crucially, however, mtDNA can also provide clues to past population sizes.

“Models of the genetics of populations tell us that the more diverse the mtDNA found in fossils from the same period, the larger the population must have been, allowing us to estimate the number of bears at any point in time,” Bocherens says.

GENETICS 101What is a genome, and how are traits passed from generation to generation? Learn how pea plants helped launch the study of genetics and how the field of genetics research has evolved over time.

When the scientists ran their analysis, the data suggested that the cave bear decline started some 40,000 years ago—long before the last ice age set in. This also means that cave bears thrived throughout a number of earlier periods when temperatures significantly decreased. Instead, their downward trend starts right about the same time that our species began to spread across Europe.

“There is some evidence suggesting some modern humans may have set foot in Europe even earlier,” Bocherens says. “But as far as we know, they only really populated the continent around the time the cave bears start declining.”

Though Neanderthals were probably killing cave bears as well, modern humans may have used more advanced hunting techniques and were probably more likely to venture into caves, Bocherens argues. Soon, anatomically modern humans became much more numerous than Neanderthals had ever been, sealing the cave bear’s fate.

The work “represents the maximum amount of information we can get from mtDNA data,” says Michael Knapp, a paleobiologist now based at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Knapp was not involved in the present study, but he published an earlier paper based on a more limited dataset that found similar results.

Bear necessities

Humans may have killed cave bears not just for their meat, but also for their fur or even simply because they were perceived as a threat. And as more humans settled in Europe, cave bears may have had a harder time moving into milder climates when it became cold, or finding the abundant plant foods required to sustain their large bodies. Remnant populations survived only in remote corners of Europe, such as the Italian Alps, where the most recent remains appear to be about 24,000 years old.

“Yet as these populations grew more and more isolated, they became genetically impoverished, as it was increasingly difficult for animals to travel between populations to find a mate,” Bocherens says. This may have weakened their offspring and could have made the bears more vulnerable to disease.

Meanwhile, brown bears survived into the modern era, perhaps because they were smaller and had more flexible diets that included meat they probably scavenged from large predators. Still, the decline of the cave bears carries a warning for brown bears, Bocherens says.

“First of all,” he says, “it shows that the most isolated populations are at risk, and that we should do whatever we can to allow some exchange of individuals between them, even if that means moving animals around ourselves.”

Perhaps even more importantly, he adds, the climate is again changing drastically, this time due to the actions of Homo sapiens, and that meansit is not enough to have nature reserves where the animals are left alone. In a world increasingly cluttered with roads, railways, fences, and buildings, we must also preserve the bears’ ability to travel around and keep their populations healthy and diverse.

“Species may survive a changing climate if they can track the changing temperatures,” Bocherens says. “But as the example of the cave bear shows us, climate change can be a very big problem if you cannot move.”

Seal meat takes centre stage at Quebec culinary festival

Chefs say food hypocrisy has no place at their tables

Chef Jean-Philippe Bourassa-Caron serves seal meat for brunch during Seal Fest in Quebec City at Chez Boulay restaurant. Bourassa-Caron’s dish: seal terrine on mushroom purée topped with a bordelaise sauce and poached eggs. (Jane Adey/CBC)


Chef Jean-Philippe Bourassa-Caron prepares poached eggs and a bordelaise sauce for a new feature at his Chez Boulay restaurant in Quebec City.

The sauce and eggs complement an unexpected part of this brunch dish, a meat terrine made with seal.

“I really like to work with seal because it’s a nice taste,” said Bourassa-Caron.

Chez Boulay is one of 20 restaurants in Quebec City, Lévis and Montreal taking part in the second annual Seal Fest, a 10-day culinary festival celebrating seal meat.

Seal terrine (similar to paté) is served with bordelaise sauce, poached eggs and beets at Chez Boulay during Seal Fest 2019. (Jane Adey /CBC)

Bourassa-Caron says he knows some customers might have negative attitudes about the Canadian seal hunt, but he says those attitudes might need to be updated.

“You need to challenge your mind. You need to open your mind and give (it) a try.”

Seal Fest is a promotion by a Quebec company, SeaDNA, which sells seal meat and seal oil capsules, and by the Seals and Sealing Network, a national non-profit organization that promotes sustainable use of seals.

Frozen harp seal meat is harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. Seal in French is ‘loup marine’ or ‘phoque.’ (Jane Adey/CBC)

Both the federal government and the provincial government of Quebec are supporting the event.

Andy Guffroy, head chef at L’Intimiste restaurant in Lévis, has prepared seal charcuterie for customers to try served with cheese, mussels and figs. He’s keen to expose foodies to seal meat and help educate diners about the hunt.

“I think we are a little bit hypocritical about meat. We go to the grocery stores and we buy the final product. We don’t see where it’s comes from. We don’t have any idea,” he said.

“So when we did research about the seal (hunt) we discovered that it’s very responsible in the way it’s done. It’s the way that needs to be done and there’s nothing horrible about it.”

Restaurant L’Intimiste in Lévis, Que., serves seal charcuterie and seal rillette (a thick meat spread) with cheese, mussels and figs during Seal Fest 2019. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Harp seal is harvested near the Magdalen Islands but most of the meat used during the festival is harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates the current harp seal population to be 7.4 million animals, almost six times what it was in the 1970s.

“There is some evidence to suggest that the Northwest Atlantic harp seal population may be reaching levels close to its natural carrying capacity, which is the maximum number of individuals of a particular species that can be sustained by that species’ ecosystem,” reads DFO’s website.

Andy Guffroy, head chef at L’ Intimiste restaurant in Quebec, likes to educate customers about wild meat, including seal. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Seal tataki is on the menu at Le Renard et La Chouette. Chef Sarah Arab serves pieces of seal loin, lightly seared and rolled in Nordic shrimp powder she made from shrimp shells and herbs. She says she’s enjoyed learning more about the seal population and how they’re harvested.

“It was pretty eye-opening for me. I was more curious about it, naturally,” said Arab.

Her customers are curious too. Monica Oliver of Toronto sampled the seal tataki at Le Renard et La Chouette.

Chef Sarah Arab prepares seal tataki for Seal Fest 2019. Tataki is a dish consisting of meat or fish steak, served either raw or lightly seared. (Jane Adey/CBC)

“I got to say, it is an amazing dish,” she said, admitting to feeling some trepidation when she saw it on the menu.

“Growing up, it was definitely [the feeling that] seal hunting was very bad. I think Canadians definitely do need to hear both sides of the story and then make their decision.”

Felix Bajeau of Quebec City ordered up a seal meal during the festival too. He said he particularly enjoys eating wild meat.

“My brother is a hunter, so he hunt deers. If you eat meat it’s probably the same as eating beef or pork when you eat seal and maybe it’s even better because the animal lived a happy life in the wild before being eaten,” said Bajeau.

Chef Sarah Arab served the tataki rolled in herb crust and lightly seared, with parsnip purée, anchovy and za’atar vinaigrette with clams. (Jane Adey/CBC)

At Le Pied Bleu restaurant on Rue Saint Vallier in Quebec City, chef Fabrice Quenehen cooks up typical French cuisine inspired by his home in Lyon, France. For Seal Fest, Quenehen made a seal saucisson — or sausage — and served it in a lentil stew with a mushroom and red wine sauce.

“I really enjoyed to cook with this meat,” said Quenehen.

He encourages more chefs to experiment with seal and especially chefs in Newfoundland and Labrador. He says he’d like to see a seal cookbook that helps Canadians understand how to use this particular protein.

Fabrice Quenehen, originally from Lyon, France, is head chef at Le Pied Bleu in Quebec City and known for his cuisine using things like heart, liver, kidneys and glands. During Seal Fest 2019, he prepared seal saucisson for customers. (Jane Adey/CBC)

“We can eat this meat because the population is healthy enough to sustain it,” said Quenehen.

The quota for harp seals in Newfoundland and Labrador is 400,000 animals. In 2018, 60,000 animals were taken from that quota, far fewer than is allowed.

Seal Fest began March 21 and runs until Sunday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Lab-grown meat: Taste-testing chicken of the future

Where’s the beef? Actually, it’s a chicken nugget.


Chicken nuggets usually get a pretty bad rap. Whether they’re filled with mystery meat or come with a mouthful of additives, they also involve slaughtering an animal. But the nugget I’m about to eat from San Francisco-based Just was grown in a lab, using cells taken from a living chicken. It’s cultured meat (and cruelty-free).

Carnivores, breathe a sigh of relief.

Watch this: Trying a lab-grown chicken nugget

Unlike entirely plant-based products such as the Impossible Burger, the Just chicken nugget is actual meat.

Cultured meat, also called lab-grown or clean meat, starts with the collection of cells, usually done through a biopsy so the animals aren’t harmed. Just says it has also been able to get cells from a chicken feather. The most viable cells are chosen and then given the right nutrients they need to grow in a bioreactor. In the case of this chicken nugget, those nutrients are plant-based.

Not only does cultured meat avoid sacrificing animals, it could take fewer resources to produce than traditional livestock. Around 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. But one study questions how environmentally friendly clean meat products could be if the process is energy-intensive.

The chicken nugget once plated with Just’s plant-based mayo as a dipping sauce.



Just’s cultured chicken product takes around two weeks to grow in a bioreactor. The team of chefs plays a major part in creating the product once the scientists have developed the biology. “They are really the ones that can assemble everything and come up with the ideal ratios of cell types,” says Vitor Santo, director of cellular agriculture.

So what does it actually taste like? The crunch from the breading and the smell from the fry was exactly what I expected from a good chicken nugget. But I was pleasantly surprised at how similar the cultured chicken itself tasted compared to the real deal, even if it didn’t look like your typical KFC or McDonald’s nugget. You can watch the video to find out more.

Just’s next cultured meat product will be wagyu beef. Several other companies are also developing clean meat derived from animal cells, like Memphis Meats (chicken and duck) and SuperMeat (also chicken).

If you’re hankering to try your own cultured chicken nugget, you’ll have to hold tight a little longer. The nugget needs to get USDA and FDA approval in the US, but Just says it’ll first be available in selected high-end restaurants in Asia later this year once it gets regulatory approval.

The video on this page is an episode of Beta Test, the show that puts you in the front seat with me as I test out crazy tech products and experiences. Check back each month for a new show! You can also find the series on YouTube.

Why I’m Still Vegan and Wish You Were Too


As people are deciding daily, there are countless good reasons to go vegan, but the core motive for me hasn’t changed since I finally saw the light 20+ years ago. I don’t eat animals because of the mindless atrocities and injustices that so many millions and billions of non-humans are subjected to each and every day of the year.

It’s true, going vegan is healthier for us and the planet, and we wouldn’t be in this runaway climate change predicament if humans weren’t such a successful, over-crowded carnivore. But even as things seem dire for the future of humans’ survival, thoughts of eating the flesh of others is as repugnant and repulsive as ever for this thinking, feeling human being.

It may not save the planet or end all suffering if I bow out of hedonistic carnivism, but it makes my conscience that much clearer each time my hunger is assuaged without resorting to causing unnecessary suffering.

Hope of saving the planet aside, part of the reason I wish our species would wake up from their self-inflicted universal nightmare and decide to stop killing and eating animals is simply the respect I could have for my fellow humans if they could collectively realize there was no future in this race to prove we are the worst blight the Earth has ever seen. No plague of locusts or termites has ever been so destructive as to cause their own ultimate demise; and no team of Tyrannosaurus could ever match runaway humans’ impact on all other life.

Whether we want to keep living or just be able to live with ourselves, it’s time for humans to lay down their arms and proclaim their love for Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. The time for proving we can be the worst tyrant is over—now we should try to prove we deserve to live yet another glorious day.

To be brutally honest with you, I don’t really care what you do to yourselves. That’s not the point. On my skis is a sticker modeled after an anti-smoking slogan that reads: “Go Vegan or Die.” It’s not so much of a warning to spoil your fun as a plea for the sake of others…

The trouble with meat: Why climate scientists are targeting beef

Taoiseach’s comments on eating less meat draw ire from farming industry but he has science on his side

The average amount of meat consumed per person per year globally has nearly doubled in the past 50 years. File photograph: H Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty

The average amount of meat consumed per person per year globally has nearly doubled in the past 50 years. File photograph: H Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is not the first politician or international figure to commit to reducing their meat consumption in making a contribution to tackling climate change.

At Fine Gael’s think-in on Monday, in response to a question on what he was doing to reduce his carbon footprint, Mr Varadkar said he was “trying to eat less meat – both for health reasons and for reasons of climate change”.

He defended these remarks in the Dáil on Tuesday after angry criticism from a number of opposition TDs who said the farming sector is already under threat from Brexit.

In the Irish context, he joined ranks with former president Mary Robinson, a prominent climate justice campaigner.

Not all politicians have been so clear. In October, UK climate minister Claire Perry told BBC News it was not the government’s job to advise people on a climate-friendly diet. She would not say whether she herself would eat less meat. She was accused by Friends of the Earth of a dereliction of duty as they insisted ministers must show leadership on this difficult issue.

Already, Mr Varadkar has been accused of not acting in the national interest and of undermining a €12 billion agriculture industry notably by rural TDs such as Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Fitzmaurice. Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association president Patrick Kent described his comments as “reckless in the extreme”.

The economic stakes are high. In 2018, meat and livestock exports amounted to €3.97 billion. The reality of climate change would suggest, however, the cost of consumption as usual will be many times more.

A definitive study by a team led by Dr Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford concluded huge reductions in meat-eating were essential to avoid dangerous climate change.

Analysing the food system’s impact on the environment, it said western countries needed to reduce beef consumption by 90 per cent – Ireland is among the top consumers of beef in Europe; estimated annual per-capita consumption is 19kg.

The research found enormous changes to farming were needed to avoid destroying the planet’s ability to feed the expected 10 billion population by 2050. In contrast, Ireland has been justifying rapid expansion of its beef and dairy sectors on the basis of global population growth, and insisting (correctly) it is among the most carbon-efficient countries in the world in doing so.

Great damage

Food production already causes great damage to the environment, via greenhouse gases from livestock; deforestation and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution. But its impact will get far worse as the world population rises and global income triples, enabling more people to eat meat-rich western diets, the Oxford study concluded.

The animal agriculture industry is not only vulnerable to the observed and predicted effects of climate change (just look at how extreme weather triggered fodder crises of late); it is also a key contributor to the problem.

Farming of animals for meat and dairy products accounts for 16.5 per cent of global carbon emissions. The animal sector is responsible for a third of all anthropogenic methane and two-thirds of nitrous oxide emissions – potent greenhouse gases that trap more heat than carbon dioxide.

Ireland and New Zealand are unique in the world in having most carbon emissions coming from agriculture rather than heavy industry – while reducing emissions from the former is notoriously difficult. As meat consumption climbs steeply, it is likely to increase emissions and reduce biodiversity, other studies suggest.

High levels of meat consumption have been linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. The average amount of meat consumed per person per year globally has nearly doubled in the past 50 years.

There are indications some countries may have reached “peak meat”, with consumption rates falling slightly. However, middle-income countries, particularly China and others in east Asia, are still seeing a rise.

Moderates are not suggesting everyone should become vegetarian or vegan (though it is indisputable these diets are better for the environment, contribute less to climate change, and are healthier) or that governments should mandate limits on meat consumption.

They contend, however, the climate impact of what you eat and drink must be taken into account – and there is an ethical requirement on most global citizens to shift the balance away from meat.

Wildlife in danger as demand from restaurants rises

VietNamNet Bridge – Encouraged by profits, restaurant owners are hunting for precious wildlife and serving dishes made from animals listed in the Red Book.

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The image sent by a restaurant owner to reporters

Despite the ban on trading wildlife, restaurants are still selling dishes made of wild birds and animals. The restaurants are well known to people, and are reportedly known to the police and state management agencies.

Nguoi Lao dong’s reporters managed to contact Long, 49, a taxi motorbike driver at the Thanh Hoa farm produce market in Thanh Hoa district of Long An province.

Long is one of 10 drivers who specialize in carrying wild birds and animals from the market to restaurants in HCMC.

Long said he has four shipments to HCMC a week. He also told reporters, who acted as buyers, to call him if they wanted to buy pangolins, mink and snake in from sanctuaries, or come to the market and contact Hung, Ba, and Tu. The three men have supplies from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Despite the ban on trading wildlife, restaurants are still selling dishes made of wild birds and animals. The restaurants are well known to people, and are reportedly known to the police and state management agencies.

From Long, reporters got the mobile phone number of Khang, the manager of a restaurant in district 1, HCMC. Khang said on the phone that he has weasel, porcupine and black coot available, while the supply of pangolin has been interrupted for half a month.

Just some minutes later, Khang sent images of wild animals to reporters’ phones.

N is not the only restaurant that serves wildlife meat in HCMC. The other well known names include ones in district 3, 1, 7 and 3. However, only loyal clients or special guests can order dishes made of rare and precious animals.

Along Highway No 1, in Hau Giang province, there are two well known markets that sell fresh wildlife, including the Nga Bay snake market and the wild bird market in Cai Tac Town.

In the markets, some products are displayed in open air, while rare and precious animals are hidden and will be shown to clients after they accept the prices.

B.R Restaurant on Nguyen Thi Dinh street is the most ‘famous’ in Buon Ma Thuot City of Dak Lak province. The woman at the restaurant said she only sells real wildlife meat, and if clients want live animals, they should arrive 30 minutes early to see how the animals are slaughtered.

“If your group has 20 members, you should order one 3 kilogram of weasel, with which we can prepare three dishes, and one 3 kilogram cobra,” she said.

“If you want something more precious, you could order pangolin, VND4 million per kilogram. This is only affordable for the rich,” she said.


The workers who rescue and save wildlife

The largest vault of wildlife skulls and horns in Hanoi