Getting Connected 5: Herbivores and Carnivores

Maintaining plant diversity is essential in order to maintain animal diversity and maintaining the plant diversity is the sole responsibility of herbivores.

Herbivory, like other types of disturbance, can help maintain species diversity in communities by removing plant species that compete intensively for resources, which allows other competitively inferior species to coexist.

Herbivores are important as they are the first link in connecting the energy locked within plants to the vast number of animals within ecosystems. Herbivory is important in determining the population abundance and dynamics of individual plant species as herbivores often eat or kill whole plants or affect how much a plant can reproduce. Additionally, herbivores often regulate the species composition of plant communities, the total amount of plant biomass in the ecosystems, and the magnitude of ecosystem functional processes such as primary production, decomposition, and transfer of energy and materials up the food chain.

Herbivores, both large and small, help disperse seeds and help fertilize the soil. Ironically, synthetic fertilizers are actually doing more harm than good; they’re a short term solution for a long term problem. It’s kind of like skipping breakfast and then when you realize what a mistake that was and decide to grab a candy bar on your way to work. It satisfies your hunger for a microsecond and you crash. Cow manure and other herbivores, especially large herbivores put nutrients back in the soil. Synthetic fertilizers put some nutrients in the soil, but because it’s composed of basically structured like salt it just soaks up the water. Also, the nutrients in this soil are water soluble, which means that you have to water. The more you water the more minerals are washed away. Microorganisms help decompose organic material (manure or compost) and that is how the soil gets its nutrients. If there is no decomposing material (manure or compost), there is no microorganisms then there is no nutrients. The cycle of needing to provide another nitrogen fix escalates as the soil fertility decreases. Certain lawn diseases worsen in the presence of excess nitrogen. Weeds may start to dominate the lawn, when the grass is thin to start with and the weeds are many. The list of problems that artificial fertilizers create goes on and on.

Carnivores also play extremely important roles. Without them the herbivores would strip the Earth bare of all food sources. The ecosystem would never be balanced without them. Populations of carnivores are often kept in check by other carnivores.

And then there is a controversy about hunting and whether it harms or benefits the ecosystem.

On the one side you have people saying there couldn’t be anything more natural and that it helps keep the ecosystem in check.

And on the other you have others saying that it’s morally wrong and creates an unbalance in the ecosystem.

I remember hearing a while back about the controversy of the damage wolves were doing in national parks in the north.

If I remember correctly, and I’m not totally sure I do but I’ll do the best I can, the problem was that there were too many wolves and they were eating too many deer and cattle and I’m pretty sure that some animal rights activists were involved trying to save poor Bambi.

I think I’ve made it pretty obvious that I love animals. I will also say that I hate death. I understand its necessary and it keeps me from being one of those crazy people who try to disrupt the ecosystem to save Bambi.  More than death, I hate suffering and that usually goes along with death, which makes death harder for me to handle period. But natural death is necessary. It provides nutrients and room for others to live. Even sickness and disease has its place because it weeds out the weak, tells us when there is a problem and is usually a symptom of overcrowding.

Natural death, which I define as how animals in the wild die when they are hunted by another animal or just death from old age, is the only kind of death that I will ever justify.  If people are going to eat meat no matter what then I guess hunting would be the best way, but people hunting is only natural if the humans are on even grounds. That means hunting like a caveman with only a bow and arrow, a spear made from trees in the forest or just your bare hands. Using a gun doesn’t make you natural just a coward. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you shouldn’t eat something if you can’t kill it and I can’t kill.

Gathering a bunch of cows in a pasture and locking them up doesn’t instill a great sense of courage to me either. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about whether vegetarianism is the right way to go. The books say that the animals that today are domesticated chose to become tamed because they understood that when they had a relationship with humans their race would always be protected. Let’s face it, cows, cats, dogs, chickens, pigs, whatever else you can find at a pet store won’t be going extinct anytime soon. A mutual relationship they call it. They say the cow knew what it was giving up when it signed up. It’s been said that cows and chickens have become so domesticated that they couldn’t live without humans. How this happened, I don’t know, but I sure feel sorry for them. But if the whole agreeing to be domesticated idea is something you can believe, which I do, but still I couldn’t kill a cow myself, then I guess it may seem like wolves are the bad guys. But maybe for a second we could look at the people who hunt the deer. Could it be that maybe, just maybe they’re the problem? If people aren’t leaving enough deer for the wolves then what are the wolves supposed to eat? It’s just the thought. I don’t have enough information about the numbers to see if this is a possibility. I do know that after people killed enough wolves that the deer population started to destroy the vegetation. And because it suited us we allowed the wolves to do what wolves do and help curb back the deer population. Could it simply be that we don’t know what the heck we’re doing and we need to let nature do what nature does and stop trying to control it. Could it be that we’re supposed to live with nature and not try to be above it? Could it be that one predator without the other or one prey without the other just doesn’t work? I don’t know. Just some thoughts.

Getting Connected 1

Every single living thing on this planet, in the universe is connected in one way or another. It would seem as people the more we use technology the farther we get from this concept. It’s becoming a concept so foreign that it seems impossible for people to grasp. We’re making decisions on a whim without a second thought of what destruction it causes.

As humans we have this fantasy that we can live without consequence that we don’t depend on anything, that we own everything, that everything lives for us.

Boy, we are mistaken about that. We can’t do anything but barely wipe drool from our chins. What? Just because we can though a couple of metals together, wire some wires and make some technology, which in the grand scheme of things is just about completely useless, we think we’re God? Technology is an impressive feat to be sure, but it doesn’t feed us, create life, well I guess it does now that we can create life in petri dish but even that, sooner or later, will become our demise. Humans can decide nothing that will not end up being our downfall.

So, how exactly are we all connected? It’s called ecology, the study of the interactions between all living and non-living things.

Ecology is organized into five basic levels.

The first level, the smallest level, is the individual. It is any living being.

The next level is the population. It is a group of individuals of a specific species that live together in a geographic location.

The community is then all the living beings of all species that live in a specific area.

The ecosystem refers to all non-living and living facts that live in a specific area.

And lastly, the biosphere is the part of the Earth that is inhabitable by any living thing.

Then there are the organisms and their different functions within the ecosystem and this is called the food chain.

It starts with the producers, which are plants. Producers get their energy from the sunlight. Consumers are the rest of the food chain.

Consumers that eat the plants are called primary consumers or herbivores. The animal or bird that eats the primary consumer is called a secondary consumer. The animal or bird that eats the secondary consumer is called a tertiary consumer. At each level energy is lost.


Carnivores only eat meat. They eat other animals. That makes them secondary or tertiary consumers.

Omnivores eat both plants and meat. So when a squirrel eats acorns or fruits, it is a primary consumer; but, when it eats insects or baby birds, it is a secondary consumer.

Decomposers are the cleanup crew of life. They’re just carnivores and herbivores that like their food already dead. Like maggots, bacteria, fungus, earthworms and other scavengers.

The food chain can also be displayed as a pyramid with the producers being at the bottom with the biggest population and the carnivores being at the top.

The loss of energy at each trophic level also explains why there are usually fewer organisms in each higher trophic level.  The total number of plants in a particular area would generally be higher than the number of herbivores that the plants support and the number of herbivores would be higher than the number of higher order carnivores.

All of this may seem trivial, something you learned in fourth grade and some of it kind of is, but it’s the basics and foundation of what I’ll be talking over the next few posts.

Animal Testing: Part one

Animal testing. This is my last animal cruelty topic for now. I was a little apprehensive about this one because I really don’t know that much about it. The last few I was still apprehensive, but because I knew a little about it and I was thinking, ‘Gosh, how much worse am I going to find?!’ There was some tough moments in there, but I am glad that there are ways to fix it. So. On to animal testing.

Most everyone that things like cosmetics, detergents and chemicals should be tested—for the safety of people, animals, and the environment. This is where animal testing comes in. The usual approach is to pump a substance into an animal’s stomach or airways, or apply it to their eyes (Why they would do this, I have no idea. Anytime I get soap in my eyes there is a serious price. What are they going to learn by doing this? Of course it’s going to burn!) or on their skin. Most of these tests are crude, decades-old procedures.

Number of Animals Used

  • There are approximately 56 to 100 million cats and 54 million dogs in the US.
  • It is estimated that every hour 2,000 cats and 3,500 dogs are born.
  • Between 10.1 and 16. 7 million dogs and cats are put to death in pounds and shelters annually.
  • Approximately 5 billion are consumed for food annually.
  • Approximately 1.1% of dogs and cats from pounds and shelters, that would otherwise be euthanized, are used in research.
  • Only 1 to 1.5% of research animals are dogs and cats.
  • Only 0.5% are non-human primates.
  • There has been a 40% decrease in the numbers of animals used in biomedical research and testing in the US since 1968

According to the USDA, approximately:

  • 61% of animals used suffer no pain
  • 31% have pain relieved with anesthesia (Why don’t farm animals get this same treatment? I have no idea.)
  • 6% experience pain, as alleviation would compromise the validity of the data. Much of this work is directed at an understanding of pain.

  1. It’s impossible to know exactly how many animals are being used in research because U.S. laws do not require scientists to report how many mice, rats, or birds they use, but it’s estimated that 90% of lab animals are mice and rats.
  2. Since more than 1.4 million mammals other than rats and mice were used in research, and since mice and rats probably make up 90% of the animals in labs, we can guess that about 14 million rats and mice were used in research in 2002.
  3. In labs, small animals, like hamsters, rats and mice, are usually kept in clear or white plastic boxes about the size of a shoebox. Animals a bit bigger, such as guinea pigs, live in larger boxes about twice the size of a shoebox. Usually, more than one animal lives in a box.
  4. Larger animals like dogs, cats, and primates usually live in wire cages. Most animals stay in their cages all the time except when they are being used in experiments.
  5. Living in cages can be a big problem for intelligent animals like dogs, cats, pigs, and primates who become tremendously lonely and bored unless they have things to play with or ways to get more exercise.
  6. 489,262 animals that were used in research in 2002 (not including mice, rats, and birds—no one knows how many of these animals are used in research) were used in research that was either painful, distressful, or both. Most of these animals were given something that either helped take the pain away or helped them get over the pain quickly.
  7. 103,764 of the animals made to feel pain were not given anything to reduce their pain and suffering. Although some of this pain was slight—like getting an injection with a needle—some of it was extremely severe.
  8. Most of these animals are only used in one experiment, but sometimes the same animal will be used in more than one experiment. Most are euthanized shortly after being used in an experiment.

There are several routine tests that the scientists use to test each product and ingredient. These include:

Repeated dose toxicity

This test assesses whether long-term repeated use of a substance is poisonous. Rabbits or rats are forced to eat or inhale a cosmetics ingredient or have it rubbed onto their shaved skin every day for 28 or 90 days,

Reproductive toxicity

To test use of a substance and its effect on fertility, sexual behavior, birth and growth of the young, pregnant female rabbits or rats are force-fed a cosmetics ingredient and then killed along with their unborn babies. Such tests take a long time and use thousands of animals.


This test assesses how a substance is absorbed, distributed, metabolized and excreted by the body. Rabbits or rats are forced to consume a cosmetics ingredient before being killed and their organs examined to see how the ingredient was distributed in their bodies.

Skin sensitization

This test assesses whether a substance will make the skin increasingly inflamed and itchy each time it is used. A cosmetics ingredient is rubbed onto the shaved skin of guinea pigs and ears of mice to see if they have an allergic reaction.


A carcinogen is a substance that causes cancer or increases the likelihood that someone will develop cancer. To assess this, rats are force-fed a cosmetics ingredient for two years to see if they get cancer.

After every one of these tests, the animals are killed.

There are two sides to every story. This site paints an entirely different story. Both sides seem to be biased and they seem to claim that every testing facility is one way or the other. While I don’t believe that every single case in a testing facility is a horror show, I think that most of them are. How could they not be? They said that the negatives that most anti-cruelty programs exaggerate the cruelty, which I don’t doubt, but do they think this is exaggerated?


Or this:


Rabbit being held in stocks during testing.

Or even this:

Animal Testing Cages

Animal Testing Cages

Tests for different things cause different levels of pain. Ironically, the one we ‘need’ the most is the one that causes the most pain. Medication.

This site has tons of information on it and it talks about just about every aspect and question that you could have. It was an interesting read and answered most of my questions. The only problem I think it downplayed the problem.

The last thing I’ll say about this is that this crap isn’t necessary. If we wouldn’t try to pump everything full of toxins and chemicals, instead natural organic stuff that had worked for the years before we started trying to alter everything.  Even the medication testing could be lessened if we would grow up and start eating like we’re supposed to. And I say grow up because I feel like anytime I try to talk about eating better people act like they’re a bunch of children. “I don’t like that,” they’ll say.  Food can be our medication or it can be our poison. You get to choose and the animals have to suffer for it. Solutions for this will next time.


One question that I have is what happens to the males born on these factory farms. Are we only eating the poor mothers that have reproduced so many offspring that she is dried up and no longer ‘useful’? That appears to be the way it works. For the chickens I found the exact answer, males are thrown away at birth. I never found an answer for pigs, but for dairy cows, the males are sold and slaughtered for veal. There might be an exception in the beef industry, but probably those male calves are used as veal.

Shockingly enough, the first website that came up on my search was a place called Dairy Farming Today. I was prepared for a horrendous sight that would blind my eyes with pain and suffering because of the awful pictures I see most of them seem to be of a dairy cow. I guess because the oversized, swollen utters are a clear picture of a suffering animal. I was shocked again with something quite different. The site has a blue and green, grassy and fresh theme. They had videos, pictures, a dictionary, a Q&A which I’ll be using after I finish researching this and get a list of questions, a FAQ, explanations of what goes on at a dairy farm. As far as the writing content goes, it didn’t go into great detail and I wasn’t too impressed, but then I watched the videos and that changed. Had I just happened to hear a rumor that the dairy industry was a smelling a little iffy then I would be set. I’m no expert and I’m not sure what I should be looking for, but the place that was featured in these videos was just about spotless. They had pictures of cows eating grass, the greenest grass I’ve ever seen.  If I didn’t know anything about this subject, I could sleep peacefully for the rest of my life. I don’t know a lot, nor have I see a lot, but I know enough to understand that not all dairy farms are like this.

This site states that 99% of all dairy farms are family-owned and that most don’t have more than 200 cows. This may or may not be true. I haven’t been to them all to know.

My issue is that everything they do from what they feed them (some grass, but a combination of feed and they call themselves ‘recyclers of nutrients’. I’ve heard of everything from cement mix to same species meat to manure being put into the feed. So yes, they are in fact recycling) to the antibiotics that they give are so nicely described it’s hard to second guess. It truly sounds like cow heaven. While some places are probably this nice (I doubt any place is that clean which that is part of working with animals) and I know that sometimes animals just get sick, I’d like to believe that all farms are this peaceful, but I just don’t think that is the case.

So what is really going on in some of these dairy farms?

Resting Dairy Cows

Machines are used to milk the cows. If the machines are not properly maintained, they can send a painful electric shock though the udder several times a day.

In order for a cow to produce milk, they must be either pregnant or just have had a calf.  The mothers are kept pregnant their whole life. Each time she would be artificially inseminated on what the industry calls a ‘rape rack’ or with a farmer’s arm. Interestingly enough, I didn’t see very many calves in any of their pictures. That’s because the calves are taken away immediately after birth to avoid bonding between the mother and her child. A male calf is usually turned into veal.  Mother cows have been known to break down the stall door to find their calf.

While I was looking at videos, I saw one about dehorning cows to ‘protect the workers’. One guy commented that he had worked with cows for 30 years and that cows could be extremely aggressive. He had seen them barge through a barn door and not be the least bit phased and just kept running on their merry way. Could it be that they had a reason to do this? Could it be that they were running away from something or after something? I might be completely alone in this, but I happen to believe that most animals have a reason to do what they do. It’s called self-defense. Not always, but most of time animals have a reason for their violence. Especially in the wild. Wild animals are… well, wild. If a person gets killed by a wild animal it’s their own fault.

A cow’s natural life span is about 20 years, but most cows are lucky if they live three years. Despite the heavy use of hormones and antibiotics, usually by this time, they are ‘dried up’ and they’ll turn into what we call ‘ground up’ meat.

A male calf born to a dairy cow is the wrong breed to profitably be raised for beef. His fate, unfortunately, is much worse. Veal is the soft, pale, anemic flesh of a calf. Veal calves are kept inside in a crate barely bigger than themselves. Chained at the neck, they can’t even turn around. They are fed a liquid diet deficient in iron, so their muscles don’t develop properly. Many people recognize the cruelty in raising veal and will not eat it, yet are unaware of the intimate connection between the dairy and veal industries. Supporting one supports the other.

Veal Crates

Veal crates.

Tail docking is when up to 2/3 of a cows tail is remove either by getting it cut off or banded so the circulation is cut off and the tail falls off. This is suggested to promote cleanliness of the cow, utter health, milk quality and worker health. Study after study has concluded that these are not realistic results of tail docking.

Dehorning is something that was not mentioned. There are many methods used to dehorn cows. I don’t believe that this isn’t completely unnecessary because I’m sure that a person or another cow could be seriously injured by these accidently. But I do think that dairy isn’t essential to the human diet and if we didn’t drink it and didn’t cause other people to force themselves on a cow then we wouldn’t have to consider doing this at all. I also think that it’s horrible that cows are subjected to this horror while they’re awake and that the people removing them are so careless.

Like all the other animal sections of factory farming, these cows are treated cruelly. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase by up to 25% the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH. The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infections such as mastitis. This causes abnormally large udders and produce problems walking, so a cow’s legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Mastitis and other untreated infections injuries aren’t rare sights on these farms. Once the damages have taken their course and render the cows immobile, the cows are termed ‘downers’ are sent to be slaughtered. If you’ve seen Food, Inc. then you know that they aren’t treated very kindly at this stage either.


Downed Cow

And those are just a few horrors that you’ll find in some dairy farms. Stay tune because the next post will give solutions to some of these problems.


One of the worst animal cruelty videos I’ve ever seen was that of a pig farm. It was about a month ago, a regular day, a pretty good one and I saw this video. Whenever I see a video of this nature on any feeds from people that I follow or in my e-mail I always watch it. I believe that they deserve to have someone watch that. I’m always hearing people talk about how they can’t handle to watch something like that and it makes me fume. If it wasn’t for people like that then we wouldn’t half the problem that we have today. Seeing is what makes sane people want to do something to fix it. It doesn’t have to be this way. It only is now because we haven’t stepped up. We’re too busy turning our heads the other way because ‘we can’t handle it.’  As Albert Einstein once said, “The world won’t be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those watch them without doing anything.”

Businesses won’t sell what isn’t bought. We don’t have to stay away from meat forever. Once we got the change that we demanded then we could go back to eating meat.

For inspiration, I’ll be telling you a bit about the pig farming industry.

A sow whose life wasn’t meant for eating, but simply breeding spends most of her life in a gestation crate.

After impregnation, the sow is locked in a narrow metal gestation crate. The width of the crate varies from 18 to 24 inches, and the length is 7 feet, extending just beyond the sow’s own body. She is restrained in this unbedded, cement-floored crate for her entire pregnancy – nearly four months. She is unable to walk or turn around. She’ll be expected to have 20 piglets per year.

She is fed at one end of the crate, while her feces collects at the other. Some crates are so narrow that simply standing up and lying down require strenuous effort. On some factory farms, the sow is literally tied to the floor by a short chain or strap around her neck. Deprived of all exercise and any opportunity to fulfill her behavioral needs, she lives in a constant state of distress.

When in a natural environment a pregnant sow will isolate herself from the herd one or two days before delivering her piglets, so she can seek an isolated spot and build a nest.  Even when raised in the shelter of a barn, domestic sows who are given straw and room to move will put together a nest for their piglets. The mother and her piglets form strong bonds.

Near the end of her four month pregnancy, the sow is moved from the gestation crate to yet another restraining device, the farrowing crate. Against all her natural instincts, she must give birth to piglets, nurse them, eat, sleep, defecate, drink, stand, and lie in the same cramped space.

I’m not mother, probably never will be and I’ll probably never want to be, but I know that mother’s will go through hell and back in order to protect their kids. Even this pig, this animal, has the natural instinct to protect her young, to build a nest, a fortress for them and in a factory all she has is cement. Can you even imagine what that would be like? Mothers break down in Wal-mart because they can’t buy their brat the toy that they want. It’s their natural instinct to supply their child every need and want, no matter what the cost. Could you even imagine if you couldn’t even build your kid a safe place to be for the first two days of their life?

The piglets are taken from the mother to have their tails cut off to minimize tail biting, an aberrant behavior that occurs when these highly-intelligent animals are kept in deprived factory farm environments. One article I read even suggested that their teeth be cut out. I’m not sure if all farms, factory or not do this. I haven’t seen this anywhere else.

The nursing period is cut drastically shortened to 2-3 weeks by the premature separation of the piglets from their mother. The sow is immediately re-impregnated – and sent back to an even bleaker existence in the gestation crate. This vicious cycle is repeated over and over again until the sow’s “productivity” wanes, and she is sent to slaughter.

Poor air quality, extreme close-quarters confinement and unsanitary living conditions (In Iowa alone, hog factories and farms produce more than 50 million tons of excrement annually) combine to make diseases such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), swine influenza virus (SIV) and salmonellosis a serious threat to animal welfare.

In addition to their direct effects on animal health, several viruses are known to suppress pigs’ immune systems, leading to greater risk from opportunistic bacteria which further degrade health and result in on-farm deaths. These viral infections frequently go undiagnosed because they are masked by the overlying bacterial disease and testing is expensive.

The overcrowding and confinement is unnatural and stress-producing since pigs are actually very clean animals. If they are given sufficient space, pigs are careful not to soil the areas where they sleep or eat. But in factory farms, they are forced to live in their own feces, urine and vomit and even amid the corpses of other pigs.

In addition to overcrowded housing, sows and pigs also endure extreme crowding in transportation, resulting in rampant suffering and deaths. As one hog industry expert writes:

Death losses during transport are too high — amounting to more than $8 million per year. But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out why we load as many hogs on a truck as we do. It’s cheaper. So it becomes a moral issue. Is it right to overload a truck and save $.25 per head in the process, while the overcrowding contributes to the deaths of 80,000 hogs each year?

In June of 2008 when levees broke and torrential rains in the Midwest flooded massive hog farms. While some producers evacuated their animals, several others failed to have evacuation plans for the thousands of animals in need of relocation. Some opened their barn doors before they fled for high ground, leaving the pigs to fend for themselves. Others left animals locked in their pens and gestation crates to thrash in vain against the bars as the water rose inexorably over their heads.

Prior to being hung upside down by their back legs and bled to death at the slaughterhouse, pigs are supposed to be ‘stunned’ and rendered unconscious, in accordance with the federal Humane Slaughter Act. However, stunning at slaughterhouses is terribly imprecise, and often conscious animals are hung upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker tries to ‘stick’ them in the neck with a knife. If the worker is unsuccessful, the pig will be carried to the next station on the slaughterhouse assembly line — the scalding tank — where he/she will be boiled, alive and fully conscious.

Click here for some solutions.


Every once in a while I’ll see a road crew picking up trash along the highway, but beyond that I don’t see very much thought towards litter. I live outside the city limits, not quite in the country, but now in town either. There are two roads that I think about when I say this, one, is a main road and it’s kind of bad, but not too bad and then the second is a really crappy road. Driving on it is like asking for your tire to be ripped off. Everyone once in a while a crew will come in and patch it up with tar which is gone in like a day. Then there is a road just a few blocks down that run parallel and they fixed it up like brand new. Anyway, I see tons of trash, beer cans, cups, food containers everything when I go down this road. One time I decided to go and pick up the trash along the first road and then work my way down to the second. The problem in doing the first road first was that cars were whizzing by and I kept thinking I was going to die, so I chickened out of the second road because I knew that that road would be 100 times worse and I would probably die even faster because cars are so focused on dodging the pot holes instead of caring about my safety. That’s what seems to happen to most of the animals anyway. Litter is a horrible thing to keep around and here’s why:

1.) Litter in the streets and parks can travel through storm drains to bays and oceans, where it harms wildlife

  • 7 Billion tons of debris enter the world oceans annually. Most of it is long lasting plastic.
  • An estimated 100,000 sea mammals and turtles are killed by plastic litter every year.
  • A sperm whale found dead on a North American beach was discovered to have starved to death because a plastic gallon bottle which it had swallowed had plugged its small intestine. The animal was full of plastic material ranging from other plastic bottles to 12m of nylon rope. If it bring down a sperm whale, it can bring down us.

2.) Litter cost money. Removing litter cost everyone who pays taxes.

According to ,California spent the most tax dollars to pick up litter and they spent 62 million dollars picking up litter. West Virginia spent the least and they spent 1 million. Outrageous. Cigarette butts comprised the largest percentage of litter at 38 percent.

3.) Threat to Public Health. Attracts rats and other rodents and is a breeding ground for bacteria.

4.) Litter can be a fire hazard.

5.) Looks bad, and can affect the value of your home and business.

6.) Can affect local economy, especially in tourist locations.

7.) Litter breeds other litter. Sends out message that people don’t care.

8.) Harm or kill wildlife.

10.) It demoralizing and disgusting.

I found an article a while back, I hadn’t planned on writing about litter then, so I don’t have a link. It talked about the people throwing away the litter. The writer didn’t understand how they could be so selfish and apathetic. He used yell at people or he would pick up the trash and throw it back into their car. He was a brave and upity fellow until his friend, who also did this, had a gun pulled on him and had a bullet graze his head. Yes, you read that right. So that changed his mindset quite a bit. He decided that shame could be a better tactic. Anytime he saw people throw trash out their window he would walk right in front of them, pick it up, lock eyes and then throw it away. He talked about how shame is a much effective tactic. I wish had the link, it was quite an interesting read. Instead, I have a list of ways to prevent litter without getting shot.

How to Prevent Litter

1. Set an example by not littering.
2. Pick up one piece of litter every day.

3. Every week, pick up all the litter in front of your house, including the street

4. Ask your neighbors to properly dispose of their trash. Show them the difference between a clean area and an area spoiled by litter, and stress why it’s important to put trash in proper containers. (Do this nicely and without an attitude, it might have the possibility of being shot)

5. Make sure that your trash cans have lids that can be securely attached. If you have curbside trash service, don’t put out unopened containers or boxes filled with trash.

6. Carry a litter bag in your car. Ask local businesses to buy car litter bags and distribute them to customers. Encourage them to print their names and an environmental message on the bag.

7. Ask your neighbors and or friends to join you in cleaning up one public area where litter has accumulated.
8. If you or a member of your family is involved in a civic group, scouting, or recreational sports program, encourage the group to become involved in a cleanup.. Or have the group “adopt” a spot and maintained it on a regular basis.

9. Find out how you can plant and maintain flowers along a curb or sidewalk. People litter less where areas have been beautified.

10. Ask business owners to check their dumpsters every day to make sure tops and side doors are closed. If the business has a loading dock, ask them to keep it clean, and to put out a receptacle for employees to use.

11. Ask business owners to provide trash cans in front of their business with a sign.-Please do not litter

12. If you own a construction or hauling business, make sure your trucks are covered when transporting material to and from sites. Use snow fencing around construction or demolition sites to prevent debris from being blown into other areas. Put trash containers on every floor for construction workers.



Whose Side Are You On?

Ugh. Animals are my favorite. I’ve always been drawn to them for a reason unknown to me. I love zoos because it gives me the opportunity to see them in real life and its opportunity I would never get otherwise so this was a hard research to do. To see what I have been supporting all these years, but here it is.

First, I would like to say that I have no patience for animal cruelty and the humans treat animals is disgusting to me. Animals end up being our slaves, our entertainment, just something to abuse or ignore. And I won’t deny the fact that I have supported the many institutions that use animals as entertainment. It is something I’ve felt uncomfortable with for a while, but they’ve created somewhat of an addiction for me that I selfishly wasn’t quite ready to part with. But enough is enough and I’m ready to have that one less thing that I can’t stand about myself. I think animals have the ultimate form of innocence even above babies. Animals only kill to survive whether for self-defense (even against humans) or to eat, that never changes. It’s the circle of life, it’s how they live and people should learn to accept that. Do I like that they do that? No, I hate death and it makes me sad no matter what it is, but what they have to do to survive and I understand that. They should be protected above all else. I don’t have problems with babies besides that they’re just annoying, it’s the people they grow into that bothers me.  They all grow up and they all turn into regular people. Some babies grow up to be Mother Teresas, some prison occupants, and most somewhere in between, but there are no perfect humans. We all destroy something in some way. The Earth was made for animals. The ecosystem has a way of keeping everything in balance so that the prey that is doing damage is kept down by another predator.  Anything bad that happens in the world can be linked back to some kind of human involvement. That fact weighs heavily on my mind. I can be extremely judgmental and overly critical when it comes to my opinions of human nature and its work. This especially shows up when I’m talking about the way humans treat animals. I know this and I know that very few people will ever agree with me, but that’s okay. I said all that to somewhat warn about some of the opinions I have and explain why I have them.

Second, I would like to say that the ‘they have every need provided for them. It’s the best life ever’ is an argument that is a load of lies. People need to realize that wild animals are strong, independent, resourceful, and smart. They can get what they need and the evidence is in the fact that they do it every day. The only dangers are usually other predators (which is part of the circle of life so people need to get over it) and humans. You link back any endangered species back to the involvement of humans and the selfishness that they possess. Whether it’s because people want their body parts like coats or ivory so they can flaunt their money or whether it’s because of global warming (I have done very little research about this, but last summer was enough evidence for me and the fact that in every endangered species I looked up, overheating was the reason so many were dying.)

There are believed to be 10,000 zoos worldwide, although accurate numbers are not kept. Conditions vary greatly, with the worst being nothing more than concrete prisons holding very distressed animals. The better zoos make an effort to re-create a natural environment, even though this is never completely possible.

Zoos are supposedly good for many reasons. Zoos attract thousands of visitors each year. They allow people to see animals that they would never get to see otherwise. Other than a safari or dangerous face-to-face (during which I highly doubt anyone really appreciates the encounter) people may never get to see these animals in real life besides at a zoo. A visit to the zoo is believed to educate and entertain people about wild animals. Many zoos have breeding programs to try to supposedly help endangered species. No one wants to see the panda or the tiger become extinct, and zoos offer hope for the future survival of these animals. Breeding programs are not cheap, and collecting admission fees from visitors is the best way to fund them. Researchers may also use zoos to study animal health, develop technology that can be used to track wild populations, advancing veterinary medicine and developing animal handling techniques.

Some other reasons people like zoos are because animals can be closely monitored in a zoo, where any illness, injury or infection can be treated by a vet. Wild animals don’t have this luxury. There is also no threat of starvation or predation in a well-run zoo. Animals in zoos could not be safer, and they have their every need met. But like I said before, this is a load of crap.

While the reasons above are pretty good, but for every idealistic reason people have to support them, there is evidence to suggest the contrary.

Zoos Are Not Natural

One, when people visit zoos, they are not seeing wild animals, but captive animals whose families still live in the wild. The environment is not natural. For example, cheetahs cannot run at full speed. Could you even imagine being able to run up to 70 mph and not even being able to run 15 because you’re so closed in. I somewhat like to run and if not run at least exercise, but if I imagine being stuck in car for more than 24 hours without that exercise then I start to get very antsy. I’m not even a fast runner or a vigorous exerciser, but I know I would go crazy if I never got to do it. To be wild, I’m sure it would be thousands of times worse.   Primates cannot gather fruit from high up in the forest canopy as they would in their real homes. I would think that pretty much everyone hates going to the store, but if it was as natural to you as driving or walking wouldn’t make you crazy not to be able to do it? The truth is that these animals’ natural habitats can never be re-created, no matter how hard a zoo tries. And many do not try hard at all.

Most animals housed in zoos are not endangered. In fact, in 2007, the Born Free Foundation researched the largest zoos with charitable status and found that less than 25 per cent of animals (species and subspecies) held in British zoos are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as threatened with extinction in the wild. It is likely that smaller or privately-owned zoos perform even worse in this respect.

Animals in zoos are not free to express their natural instincts, whether that means roaming hundreds of miles, breeding with the mate of their choice or killing their own prey. They are disturbed by spectators every minute of the day, and there is increasing evidence that this can have negative effects on them. Animals suffer many psychological problems because of their captivity and may display stereotypic behavior such as repetitive pacing, bar-licking, rocking and head-bobbing.

If zoos are such luxurious places for animals, with every danger spared them, why is the lifespan of captive elephants, for example, less than that of their wild counterparts? Frustration, boredom, loneliness and unnatural conditions all play a part in their misery and consequent premature death.

Zoos are businesses. They may buy, sell and breed animals. When they buy them, they are not always concerned about where they come from or the cruelty that they have endured along the way. When they transfer animals, it may be to another zoo with atrocious conditions, to an animal dealer, for taxidermy or to a laboratory where the animals will be experimented on.

And here are the facts to back-up my opinions.

1. Zoos are miserable places for animals
A CAPS film, No Place Like Home, looked at UK zoos and found many examples of poor conditions for animals.

In 2010, a CAPS undercover investigator filmed sick animals left untreated and dead animals to rot on floors at Tweddle Farm zoo. CAPS had to take rabbits to a vet to have infections treated and after our expose local police confiscated a monkey who had been kept alone and given cake and other junk food to eat. (How’s that for having every need provided for?)

Think safari parks are better than ‘traditional’ zoos? Woburn Safari Park was keeping its lions locked into small enclosures for 18 hours a day. A DEFRA zoo inspection report in 2010 said: “The animals were very crowded and there was no provision for individual feeding or sleeping areas. There was no visible environmental enrichment. Some of the lions exhibited skin wounds and multiple scars of various age, some fresh, some healed.”

A government-funded study of elephants in UK zoos found “there was a welfare concern for every elephant in the UK.” 75% of elephants were overweight and only 16% could walk normally, the remainder having various degrees of lameness. Less that 20% were totally free of foot problems. (M Harris et al. The welfare, housing and husbandry of elephants in UK zoos. University of Bristol, 2008)

2. Zoos can’t provide sufficient space
Zoos cannot provide the amount of space animals have in the wild. This is particularly the case for those species who roam larger distances in their natural habitat. Tigers and lions have around 18,000 times less space in zoos than they would in the wild. Polar bears have one million times less space. (Wide roaming animals fare worst in zoo enclosures. Guardian, 2.10.03)

3. Animals suffer in zoos
A government-funded study of elephants in UK zoos found that 54% of the elephants showed stereotypes (behavioral problems) during the daytime. One elephant observed during day and night stereotyped for 61% of a 24-hour period. (M Harris et al. The welfare, housing and husbandry of elephants in UK zoos. University of Bristol, 2008)

Lions in zoos spend 48% of their time pacing, a recognised sign of behavioural problems. (G Mason & R Clubb. Guest Editorial, International Zoo News, Vol 51, No 1 (2004))

4. Animals die prematurely in zoos
African elephants in the wild live more than three times as long as those kept in zoos. Even Asian elephants working in timber camps live longer than those born in zoos. (R Clubb et al. Compromised survivorship in zoo elephants. Science, Vol 322, 12.12.08)

40% of lion cubs die before one month of age. In the wild, only 30% of cubs are thought to die before they are six months old and at least a third of those deaths are due to factors which are absent in zoos, like predation. (G Mason & R Clubb. Guest Editorial. International Zoo News, Vol 51, No 1 (2004))

5. Surplus animals are killed
A CAPS study found that at least 7,500 animals – and possibly as many as 200,000 – in European zoos are ‘surplus’ at any one time. I just want to point out that this wouldn’t be happening if zoos released the animals in the wild like so many people think they do.

In 2010, zoo trade bodies rallied to the defense of a German zoo which was prosecuted for breaching animal welfare laws after it killed three tiger cubs because they were not pure-blooded (hybrid). (Code of Ethics & Animal Welfare. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, June 2010)

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) said in 2007 that member zoos were being actively encouraged to kill unwanted animals, including tigers, if other zoos did not want them and if they were hybrids. It said that such animals take up space and keeper time. (Zoos kill healthy tigers for the skin trade. Sunday Times, 22.7.07l)

Animals are regularly ‘culled’ in UK zoos. In 2006 the whole pack of wolves at Highland Wildlife Park were killed after the social structure of the pack had broken down. In 2005 two wolf cubs and an adult female were shot dead at Dartmoor Wildlife Park. The vet reported: “Selective cull due to overcrowding and fighting in the pack” and “Further cull of cubs needed”. In 2001 a DEFRA zoo inspection of Dartmoor Wildlife Park in October 2001 found that “several significant dead animals” were stored in a food freezer “for taxidermy in the future”.

6. UK zoos are connected to animal circuses
CAPS exposed a UK zoo in 2009 that was a member of the trade body BIAZA (which supposedly upholds the highest standards) as having a breeding connection with a controversial animal circus. Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm had been breeding camels from the Great British Circus for several years and in 2009 obtained three tigers from the circus.

A female tiger at the zoo had three stillborn cubs and another who died at three weeks old. The mother also died.

7. Animals are trained to perform tricks
Many zoos train animals to perform tricks as if they were in a circus. Performing sea lions, birds and elephants can be seen at many UK zoos.

Some training of elephants has been done using electric goads. CAPS infiltrated a training session held at Blackpool Zoo in 1998 and filmed elephants being trained to lift their feet and head, hold sticks in their mouths and jabbed with elephant hooks in the shoulder and head.

In 2010 it was revealed that an elephant at Woburn Safari Park had previously been trained using an electric goad (Woburn admits it gave bull elephant electric shocks. Sunday Times, 27.6.10)

The movie ‘Water for Elephants’ pretty much ruined circuses for me. A small fraction of the reason for that was because Robert Pattinson was in it, but mostly because it showed how elephants were really treated. Water for Elephants was not a true story, but it was based on real life events. Not only that, but there has been video evidence released that shows how the animals were abused, in form of bull hooks and shock, in order to get them trained. Experts and animal activists claim that unless this abuse was used then the animals would not and could not be trained to do these kinds of tricks. Below is the link to the video evidence

8. Animals are still taken from the wild
In 2010, Zimbabwe planned to capture two of every mammal species found in Hwange National Park and send them to North Korean zoos. This included rhinos, lions, cheetahs, zebras and giraffes as well as two 18-month-old elephants. The plan was only stopped after international pressure by a coalition of organizations including CAPS.

A CAPS study found that 79% of all animals in UK aquariums were caught in the wild.

70% of elephants in European zoos were taken from the wild. [R Clubb and G Mason. ‘A Review of the Welfare of Zoo Elephants in Europe’, RSPCA, 2002].

In 2003 the UK government gave permission for the capture of 146 penguins from a British territory in the South Atlantic (Tristan da Cunha). Those who survived the seven-day boat journey from Tristan to a wildlife dealer in South Africa were sold to zoos in Asia (Taken by force. BBC Wildlife, February 2004).

9. Zoos don’t serve conservation
Zoos claim to breed animals for eventual release to the wild but breeding programs are primarily to ensure a captive population, not for reintroduction. Captivity does not count as wild. What is the point of having a population of anything if it isn’t natural?

Lions are a popular in zoos, but the vast majority “are ‘generic’ animals of hybrid or unknown subspecific status, and therefore of little or no value in conservation terms.” (Nicholas Gould, Editorial, International Zoo News, Vol 49, No 5 (2002)).

Zoo director David Hancocks said: “There is a commonly held misconception that zoos are not only saving wild animals from extinction but also reintroducing them to their wild habitats. The confusion stems from many sources, all of them zoo-based… In reality, most zoos have had no contact of any kind with any reintroduction program.” (Quoted in ‘Who Cares for Planet Earth?’ B Jordan, 2001)

Captive breeding is considered by some conservation scientists to be a diversion from the reasons for a species’ decline, giving “a false impression that a species is safe so that destruction of habitat and wild populations can proceed” (Snyder et al. Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery. Conservation Biology, Pages 338-348. Volume 10, No. 2, April 1996).

Zoos spend millions on keeping animals confined, while natural habitats are destroyed and animals killed as there is insufficient funding for protection. When London Zoo spent £5.3 million on a new gorilla enclosure, the chief consultant to the UN Great Ape Survival Project said he was uneasy at the mismatch between lavish spending at zoos and the scarcity of resources available for conserving threatened species in the wild. “Five million pounds for three gorillas when national parks are seeing that number killed every day for want of some Land Rovers and trained men and anti-poaching patrols. It must be very frustrating for the warden of a national park to see”.

I would feel differently if some of the zoos money make went to actually keeping the animals in the wild, but I couldn’t find any evidence of that. Zoos also justify themselves by saying that they educate. When I went to the zoo, I didn’t learn all that much. I learned some new names, but as far as education goes that was pretty much all. Which leads to my next point.

10. Zoos fail education
A CAPS study of UK aquariums found that 41% of the animals on display had no signs identifying their species – the most basic of information.

A US study found no compelling evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, or interest in conservation in visitors. The study authors urged zoos to stop citing a zoo-funded study which claimed an educational benefit from visits “as this conclusion is unwarranted and potentially misleading to consumers.” (L Morino et al. Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study. Society and Animals 18 (2010) 126-138)

The good news is that the AZA tracks the conservation efforts of member zoos with biennial reports on conservation science. According to the most recent report, AZA members participated in or supported 1,400 field conservation projects worldwide, and over 300 projects in North America between 1999 and 2000.

  • Developing species-specific resource manuals and standards for animal care
  • Requiring AZA zoos and aquariums to develop and implement enrichment programs.
  • Training USDA-APHIS inspectors
  • Lobbying the government for more funding for APHIS
  • Reducing the number of surplus animals by giving “do not breed” recommendations
  • Developing a system to track animals and setting policies that forbid the transfer of animals to substandard facilities and hunting ranches

In my opinion there are only a few things that could justify the captivity of so many animals.

  1. The donation of at least 30% of funds donated to a group that works for conservation or the reintroduction of endangered species into the wild.
  2. If all the animals featured in zoos were being rehabilitated to be released back into the wild.
  3. If the only animals that were featured in zoos were actually endangered (which there is plenty and there are all unique enough to keep people’s attention) and the zoos were breeding them and releasing them into the wild and a responsible manner so that they would have a fighting chance.

I didn’t find too many options for being able to really help endangered species beyond those in our backyard and like those we find in zoos. One thing you can do if what I have said bothers you is to stop giving your money to these types of places. Companies won’t sell what people won’t buy. If you do decided to support one, make sure you do your homework which will be hard because so many companies are dishonest about what really goes on behind their electric fence. Donate money to conservation groups. You can check out 12 Ways to Help Animals In Our Own Backyard for lists of conservation groups and ways to get your concerns to people in leadership roles.

It’s pretty safe to say that my standards seem to be too high for many zoos and so many I saw during my research have false claims that I wouldn’t be comfortable trusting any. I’d rather be safe than sorry.