Why being vegetarian is good for you, for the planet and its wildlife

A very complete, very well documented and very convincing guide to all of you who care about the planet, about its wildlife diversity and ultimately about your own and your families health! Or for the ones wanting to learn more about the truth…

As per the author, being a vegetarian is a personal choice, and he is not directly trying to convince you to become one, but he offers the cold facts following extensive research and analysis of how/what the world is fed today (mostly by meat produced by factory farms, but as well as industrial irresponsible fishing), the inefficiency of the system, the misery and abuses incurred to animals all over the world (but mostly in developed world), the real cost of cheap meat and the growing ecological debt, how the biodiversity is killed in the process, how the “farmed” meat is impacting your health (author got motivated investigating and writing this book when learning he would become a father)…and this can only lead to clear conclusions (quotes from the book):

” The factory farm will come to an end because of its absurd economics someday. It is radically unsustainable. The earth will eventually shake off factory farming like a dog shakes off flees; the only question is weather we will get shaken off along with it…

There is something quite sinister about the scorched-earth style of “harvesting” sea animals. The average trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures as by-catch overboard. The least efficient operations actually throw more than 98 percent of captured sea animals, dead, back in the ocean.

The question of eating animals is ultimately driven by our own intuitions about what it means to reach an ideal we have named, perhaps incorrectly, “being humane”

To accept factory farm, to feed the food it produces to feed my family, to support it with my money – would make me less myself, less my grand-mother’s grandson, less my son’s father

Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the regular exercise of choosing kindness over cruelty would change us…Choosing leaf over flesh, factory farm over family farm, does not in itself change the world, but teaching ourselves, our children, our local communities and our nation to choose conscience over ease can…

We cannot plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular conscience.  We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?”

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And adding to the ethical, moral and ecological parts of the topic, is the scientific medical one as well. Do remember: “You ARE what you EAT” ! (click for the animation video for better understanding).

Think for yourself, if you are eating genetically modified, artificially fed (including pesticides), hormones injected and antibiotics saturated “farmed” animals with broken immune systems that are not even able to reproduce themselves, aren’t you passing all this to your body? There are diseases today which relate to what we eat that never existed before, and they don’t exist in the last tribes of people living in the forests (juvenile diabetes, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, obesity, …). Thanks God we are still having Olympics – to keep the standard visible – and some people who care – like author Jonathan Safran Foer and others – otherwise we would simply take new reality as is, becoming ourselves “farmed” people, in a world where individual doesn’t matter, for the sake of “progress” of the specie (and material benefit of few others), not being even able anymore to judge for ourselves what governments and corporations are telling us and how that impacts us personally! As not only our health is compromised, but also our ability to judge, easily measured by the well known IQ coefficient, which continues to drop generation after generation. Among causes, as per this study issued by World Economic Forum, we cannot blame genetics for kids being less intelligent than parents, but quality of food and environment, and today’s technological gadgets and changing culture, that take away from us the challenging environment one needs to think, and the high quality food and clean air to assure the fuel for our brain cells! To remember that our ancestors increased brain sized when fire was discovered, allowing them to move to a high quality protein diet that could be assimilated by our digestive systems,  within an environment full of competition where only the most intelligent survived by outsmarting the other predators and allowed catching their pray, in hunter-gatherers type of culture/environment. Today, as Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens puts it, just because we know how to scroll down the screen of a smart phone doesn’t make us more intellectually-challenged than a hunter-gatherer that lived more than 70.000 years ago, trying to escape predators and catch his prey, with his senses sharpen at maximum moving through and mastering its environment in his favor!

More summary and quotes from the books, specific to wildlife, in the Facts area!

Famous Wildlife migrations

Birds do it. Fish and mammals do it, even insects and reptiles do it. Animals across the globe fly, swim or walk in their effort to find food or a more hospitable climate or places to breed. Migration is the heart beat of the world! To be counted as a true migration, the movement of the animals should be an annual or seasonal occurrence. Migrants can use the sun, the stars, reflected light, the Earth’s magnetic field and their sense of smell to find their way.

The longest migration record is held by a bird, the Arctic terns, weighing in at less than 4.5 ounces (125 grams), flying around 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) from their Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back. But a few years ago, researchers fitted birds with miniature geolocators and discovered that some of them traveled more than 50,000 miles (80,000 km) in a year because of the meandering routes they took to exploit prevailing wind systems!

Arctic terns

Also famous in birds world, the Alaskan bar-tailed godwit, which apparently makes its eight-day, 6,835-mile autumn migration (11,000 km) from Alaska to New Zealand in one step, with no stopovers to rest or refuel!

The longest migration made by a land mammal is that of the caribou, which can travel 3,000 miles annually, in North America!

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In Africa, migrating wildebeest know there’s strength in numbers. They travel close to 1000 miles in a herd of over 1.5 million individuals, along with hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelles, between Kenya and Tanzania.

On the other hand, the world’s largest mammal migration (in terms of numbers of individuals) occurs every October through December, when up to 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats migrate from the Congo to Zambia’s Kasanka National Park.

According to Guinness World Records, the leatherback sea turtle holds the record for the longest migration of any reptile. Astoundingly, a tagged turtle reportedly took 647 days to travel from its nesting site on the beaches of Papua, Indonesia, to its feeding grounds off the coast of Oregon in the United States.

Salmon fishes have one of most impressive migratory power in animal kingdom, they traverse between freshwater and saltwater. After hatching of eggs salmons remain in river waters for 2-3 years. During that time salmons undergo many physiological changes. These changes help them to migrate to seas waters without facing much obstacles. For next 3-4 years they prefer to live within salt water. Reproductive capacity within this species of fish will develop during that time. Then they migrate back to fresh water, the exact river where they born, return to home for spawning. The exceptional navigation power itself help salmons to make their return journey from saltwater to freshwater, their brain can detect exact magnetic field of their birth place. Their ability in jumping and sense of smell also help them during their extreme migration, will cover up to 3800 kilometers in a complete migration. You could then truly say the salmon’s live is one long migration route, with few preparation and transformation stages!

 

 

Demoiselle cranes have to take one of the toughest migrations in the world. In late August through September, they gather in flocks of up to 400 individuals and prepare for their flight to their winter range. During their migratory flight south reaching altitudes of 16,000–26,000 feet (4,900–7,900 metres), and along their arduous journey they have to cross the world’s highest mountains (Himalaya) to get to their over-wintering grounds in India.

DemoisselleCrane

Like nomadic humans, animals migrate because it’s often difficult to survive if you remain in the same place all year long. By moving from one place to another, these animals also give their environments time to rebound as well. Food supplies are often more plentiful when the animals return after a long absence. Migrations may be one way that ecosystems keep themselves in balance.

Migrations are the true animal kingdom marathons and triathlons, proving one more time that each living individual is a survivor and a champion of its specie, each year betting their lives on it, whereas in human world only few take lower scale equivalent of long distance body and mind endurance challenges! This is one extra reason for all humans to respect wildlife and try to learn from, and to assure the survival of these champion species in a natural unspoiled environment, and a continuity of their migratory way of life, saving their most important spots for feeding and breeding along these essential for survival migratory routes!

World’s most amazing migrations images HERE, and their amazing record keepers, by CNN. And a great book to read: Where the Animals Go, Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics! Enjoy!

Where the Animals Go

Happy International Day of Forests!

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Today, with the occasion of International Day of Forests, let’s take the time and review few of most important well known benefits of forests for humanity and wildlife alike, to understand importance of fighting for for their long term preservation, in their actual state, limiting current intensive exploration by governments and private companies whose only short term and narrow minded objectives are material profits to benefit few!

Forests help us breath, also clean dirty air and keep the Planet cool: Trees absorb CO2 and emit Oxygen, essential for existence of life on Earth as we know it, whereas CO2 is stored in wood, leaves and soil, often for centuries, delaying global warming and maintaining a fragile ecosystem balance! Today’s combination of high CO2 human activity emissions and cutting down forests is leading to an accelerated global warming, with its associated disasters!

Home of biodiversity: Nearly half of all known species live in forests, estimated at 80% of biodiversity on land, including bugs and worms who work nutrients into soil, bees and birds spread pollen and seeds, and keystone top of the food chain species who keep herbivores in check, protecting on long term the well-being of forest!

Water regulator, as important part of water circuit in nature, refilling aquifers and important role in fighting floods: Large forests can influence multi-regional weather patterns, for example disappearance of Congo basin forest may impact climate on American continent! Regarding floods, tree roots are key allies in heavy rain, especially for low-lying areas like river plains. They help the ground absorb more of a flash flood, reducing soil loss and property damage by slowing the flow. Forests also act like giant sponges, catching runoff rather than letting it roll across the surface, but they can’t absorb all of it. Water that gets past their roots trickles down into aquifers, replenishing groundwater supplies that are important for drinking, sanitation and irrigation around the world.

They block wind: Groups of trees can also serve as a windbreak, providing a buffer for wind-sensitive crops and making it easier for bees to pollinate them.

They keep soil in place and clean dirty soil: A forest’s root network stabilizes huge amounts of soil, bracing the entire ecosystem’s foundation against erosion by wind or water. Not only does deforestation disrupt all that, but the ensuing soil erosion can trigger new, life-threatening problems like landslides and dust storms, or desertification. In addition to holding soil in place, forests may also help cleaning out certain pollutants. Trees can either sequester the toxins away or degrade them to be less dangerous. This is a helpful skill, letting trees absorb sewage overflows, roadside spills or contaminated runoff.

They feed us and give us medicine: Some trees provide fruits, nuts and other seeds and a wealth of natural medicines. The asthma drug comes from cacao trees, for example, while a compound in eastern red cedar needles has been found to fight an infection that resists many antibiotic drugs. About 70 percent of all known plants with cancer-fighting properties occur only in rain forests. Also many other medical benefits are yet to be explored and apply in practice, but large tropical forests disappear today faster than researchers have time to fully grasps all unexplored benefits!

They help explore and relax, reduce noise pollution and stress, lower blood sugar, help with better concentration, diminished pain and improved immunity for humans: Sound fades in forests, making trees a popular natural noise barrier, with just a few well-placed trees being able to cut background sound by about 50%! And because modern society is relatively a new born in evolutionary terms, humans may still feel natural in a forest, rather than a modern urban environment, supporting a multitude of hormones and natural process to occur in our bodies, making us happier people! It may even help us live longer!

Forests are pillars of human communities and here I am not referring to 1% richest of the planet, who probably could live happily in artificial underground palaces, if needed, but to majority 99% whose well-being and survival may depend on preservation of forests, on long term. I am sure through technology the problems as feeding the large population or shelter them may be over-come, but not sure you will feel happier, so it is in our majority interest to fight for a happier and greener future!

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Urban “Wildlife”

 

Urban and Wildlife seem from the start a contradiction, same as any other antonym words. Well, not really! As per Wikipedia, Urban wildlife is wildlife that can live or thrive in Urban environments! Different types of urban areas support different kinds of Wildlife (North America is famous for its coyotes, opossums of Virginia, moose in Anchorage, alligators in Florida, India and Africa for its urban monkeys, in Australia thrive more species of urban birds and insects), whereas some urban species have a cosmopolitan distribution, in some cases almost global. They include house mice, cockroachessilverfishblack ratsbrown ratshouse sparrowsrock doves, and feral populations of domestic species.

Urban areas range from fully urban – areas having little green space and mostly covered by paving, tarmac, or buildings – to suburban areas with gardens and parks. Pigeons are found scavenging on scraps of food left by humans and nesting on buildings, even in the most urban areas, as the tall buildings resemble their natural rocky homes in the mountains. Rats can also be found scavenging on food. Gulls of various types also breed and scavenge in various coastal cities. With an endless supply of food, more city chicks survive each year, and become accustomed to urban living. They in turn breed even more birds, with less reason to undertake a winter migration. The advent of these animals has also drawn a predator, as Peregrine falcons have also been known to nest in urban areas, nesting on tall buildings and preying on pigeons. The peregrine falcon is becoming more nocturnal in urban environments, using urban lighting to spot its prey. This has provided them with new opportunities to hunt night-flying birds and bats. Numerous animals can also live within buildings. Insects that sometimes inhabit buildings include various species of small beetles such as ladybirds, which often seek refuge inside buildings during the winter months, as well as cockroaches. Bigger mammal species like the moose seem to favor vicinity of people, especially when they have small calves, as they learned the predators won’t follow them in proximity of humans!

These animals living in urban areas sometimes come into conflict with humans, as some of them will open garbage bags in search of food, eat food left out for pets, prey on unattended pets, feed on prized garden plants, dig up lawns or become traffic hazards when they run out into the road.

Under natural conditions, boundless population growth is inhibited by stress, plagues, lack of food, and predation. These factors keep populations densities in balance with their environment. Birds, rodent and ape populations are known to employ drastic measures as self-limitation such as infanticide. In the sea, plankton blooms vanish once the least common nutrient – like iron or phosphate – is exhausted. Over-fertilization by sewage disrupts these simple feedback systems. In the periphery of man, numerous organisms multiply without control. Natural factors limiting population growth are inefficient under these conditions (image source below: Natural History Museum Vienna)

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Do animals have feelings or emotions?

More than half of world population lives in cities today. In the developed world, the percentage is much higher! And the urbanization trend will continue and accelerate in future, as cities give more opportunities for a higher living standard, to an increasing number of people. It means also that contact with nature and other species will be limited to sporadic country-side visits, exceptional contact with urban smaller wildlife or vacations visits to shrinking national parks, for most urban people. It is not surprising that younger generation today may have lived their entire life without constant basic contact with natural state of things, with nature itself, with wildlife and even with domestic animals, on which we ultimately feed.

A book I recently read and I think it might bridge the gap (as a starting point before real nature exploration) and would like to recommend is “The Inner Life of Animals“, which based on life-long observations of author and practical science easy for anyone to understand, presents animals (both domestic and wild) as beings capable of human-like emotions and feelings (e.g. pain, grief, gratitude, courage, happiness, empathy, altruism, fear,…), to help people better understand the subject through empathy, starting to see animals not as simply food or at best “creatures that experience only pale imitations of our rich range of sensations”, but as evolutionary complex beings, each very special in each own way, deserving human protection and a place in an unaltered nature, which they have earned along millions of years of evolution, a peer we should respect and learn from!

Author’s hope, which I share, is that humans which evolved in a world full of species (first human like ape, Lucy, is aprox. 3 Mil years old), and “had to survive despite them and with them”, by learning to read the intentions of predator species, or of animals we eventually domesticated, can quickly recover those traits and re-start the way we see the nature, and ecosystem, and the other species before they disappear, and to be able to take daily educated decisions on what we eat, how we treat animals, what negatively impacts nature and ultimately us, what to consume, and why bond with nature needs to be kept, which will assure preservation of a natural state of planet with its biodiversity, support healthy and moral humanity evolution and will ultimately make us humans happier!

Enjoy the reading!

The Inner Life of Animals Amazon hyperlink

Impact of today’s industrialized agriculture on Wildlife

“Together we’re growing more from less for generations to come”,
“Efficiently protect the environment and in same time make your farm more profitable”,
“We work on increasing world’s major crops by 20% by 2020, without using more land, water or inputs”,
“The more people that get involved, the better we can feed a fast-growing population”

 

The above slogans are copy-pasted from a marketing campaign of one of world’s largest crop chemical producers. Sounds like a good cause, right? Well, lets review the  Facts  together! This is a blog for wildlife, but we need to look at issues impacting wildlife in context, to better understand!

Firstly, we need to understand a bit the economics that is driving today’s society, I try to do this in simplified language. This is a free market system (with some arguments over protectionism applied by certain countries to protect their national interests), meaning market players (Businesses) competing for same consumers (you)! Business decisions, simply put, are driven by profit (Revenues from Sales towards consumers minus costs to produce the service/product)! You, the consumer, don’t get tricked, the Big Businesses (Corporations) are not charities, fighting for better world (as it may sound in above slogans), they are profit driven organizations, owned by shareholders, these are normally investors (people or other organizations e.g. investment funds, pension funds, etc) purchasing shares and building a stock portfolio which are supposed to maximize their profits at shortest term possible!

Secondly, we need to understand another stakeholder in today society, the government! They are the ones managing public money with scope of assuring welfare of its citizens , but lately being ever more influenced by the more and more powerful shadow sovereigns, the Corporations! Unfortunately governments, in context of capitalism and free market, use mainly one standard measure, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to asses wealth of a nation, but which has nothing to do with welfare/happiness/health of individual citizens! As per the GDP formula, the bigger the consumption of households, the higher the GDP! What is missing however in GDP formula is the real cost for destroying the nature, for polluting the rivers, burn the forests and exterminate all the other species!

And so, governments and corporations seem to going along just fine in their financial objectives and ignorance towards environment and ecologically sustainable practices!

When it comes to agricultural sector, this is also run today mostly by big private Corporations! I recommend reading below 3 books, to leverage from extensive research in the field and observations of the respectable authors!

51fXtS1vyaL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Project Animal Farm lynk Amazon online storeWildlife friendly Vegetable Gardener lynk Amazon

First book, DEAD ZONE, explain how industrialized agriculture today is surely and rapidly destroying bio-diversity and ecosystems the humanity is relaying upon! Around the world, through mono-cultures (either soya crops in Brazil, or palm oil in Indonesia, or corn plantations in United States) destroying wildlife natural habitats to make space for plantations, or its fertilizers and pesticides to boost productivity which are entering soil, rivers and oceans and create so called Dead zones by killing earth warms or plankton so useful in a healthy ecosystem, or over-fishing practices even with purpose of feeding salmon farms in case of smaller fishes captured, the planet resources and wildlife are being destroyed at an outstanding and unsustainable speed, under slogans of feeding the world, where in fact author calculates we could feed more than 2 planets with what we produce today, if we could only change today practices, by replacing industrialized farms of animals fed on crops which have a 3% yield of converting the crop in beef protein, and instead letting them graze naturally, and by removing all chemicals and rely instead or organic produces to feed directly people, without the need to remove wildlife in the process!

More arguments are provided in second book, Project Animal Farm, which is a MUST READ for consumers all over the world, to understand the misery in which industrialized farm animals are raised, how more loosely regulated “free range farms” are cheating consumer under slogans like “We work with Mother Nature, not against her”, and to convince you even more to turn to organic, strictly regulated, food products!

And because it is always safer to grow your own food, and you can do that in a wildlife friendly manner if you have your own garden, I recommend a third book Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener, whose practices should become your own, if you believe in a sustainable natural ecosystem is the way forward, where people will be more happy!

To conclude with, today industrialized agriculture is inefficient and dangerous, while there are sustainable alternatives to this! As consumers, if we want to preserve bio-diversity and protect this planet for our future generations, stay informed, read labels of the products you buy, act responsibly! Buy organic, don’t consume more than you need, don’t waste, favor organic products and those companies certified for producing responsibly, recycle as much as possible and more! We have no excuse for not doing so!

About hunting of Wildlife for trophies

Hunting is the practice of killing or trapping animals, or pursuing or tracking them with the intent of doing so”, as per Wikipedia definition (here). Evidence is showing that hunting was essential in survival and development of human species, our closest relatives the chimpanzees are displaying today troop hunting behavior and tools to hunt smaller species of monkeys and feed (Dr Jane Goodall dedicated her life studying chimps in Tanzania in early 1960’s, documenting for first time such behavior, essential in understanding our own human evolution). Also in some of the greatest civilizations, in Greek and Roman mythology there are assigned Gods to Hunting (Artemis in Greek mythology, or its Roman counterpart Diana as Goddess of the Hunt, or Greek God Pan, God of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain), highlighting how ever-present and valued this practice has been during our society evolution, and how wildlife, nature and hunting have been interconnected in human evolution.

Today hunting is claimed to give resource managers an important tool in managing wildlife populations that might exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat. However, in most circumstances carrying capacity is determined by a combination habitat and food availability. Hunting advocates assert that hunting reduces intraspecific competition for food and shelter, reducing mortality among the remaining animals. Environmentalists assert that (re)introducing predators would achieve the same end with greater efficiency and less negative effect, such as introducing significant amounts of free land into the environment. In fact, the nature has been re-balancing itself for millions of years, without any 3rd party involvement. Moreover, through our interference in nature through hunting, we are disrupting the laws of nature, negatively impacting the process of natural selection (trophy hunting is notorious for killing the fittest males for reproduction and passing on the winning genes to the next generations).

The fact that we are destroying anyway our planet through our current economic system and our actions, doesn’t give an excuse to hunters to continue killing other species with which we share this planet (morally unacceptable), even if giving in the process the incentive to hunters to assure the long term survival of some species preferred for hunting, or governments the incentive to assure wildlife survival for assuring a constant flow of income through hunting taxes, sales of hunting equipment etc. We like to think that we “progressed” since we were no more than chimps hunting for food, today society no longer justifies any need whatsoever for killing other species, for any other reason than someone sick pleasure or some commercially not viable and corrupt and immoral income.

Anyone today having a pet at home can confirm that animals have feelings same as humans do, and they can equally feel pain and stress (if in doubt, I recommend reading “The Inner Life of Animals“, by Peter Wohlleben, a comprehensive life-time observation study and practical science into the hidden world of animals, both wild and domestic). Wild animals are also having complex social behaviors, killing an alpha pair of wolves can lead to dismantling or starving the whole pack of wolves, or hunting of a male lion leads to killing of all its cubs by the newly taking over male etc…Even national parks are a kind of joke today, as invisible boundaries allow hunters to lure animals just few meters outside park and legally shoot the animals, or even if not lured, animals migrating to seasonal feeding grounds are also target to legal hunting, as it is the case of bison from Yellowstone National Park in United States.

Today technology also doesn’t give any fair chance to hunted animals, as it did in the time of our ancestors. Luring wildlife and killing it from distance and safety of a tree, or from safety of helicopter, the only limit to how many animals you can kill being the size of your bank account, this is not even “sport” or “game”. In a game, all parties should know the rules and give them a fair chance of winning.

Wildlife is not a commodity to satisfy today consumerism, to be priced and sold on the market! Its survival should not depend on human’s greed, consumerism preferences and obsolete and immoral preference for spending free time, in activities like hunting. As dominant species of this planet, humans have a responsibility of protecting other species and assure their survival, in a balanced ecosystem as they did for millions of years. We lost already too many valuable species and we harm too much this planet in the name of “progress”, and we should stop continuing doing so until it is too late!