Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Unseen Cruelty behind Elephant Rides

Something very popular that almost all tourists will do when they are in Thailand is to ride elephants. What an awesome experience sitting atop a massive 9-foot tall beast while lumbering through deep rivers and pristine forests.
However, there is a very dark and disturbing truth behind how these gentle giants are used to make profit for the industry.
Out of the approximately 45,000 Asian elephants left in the world, almost 3,000 to 4,000 elephants are held captive in Thailand for the sole purpose of human entertainment.
Contrary to what most people have been led to believe, most of these elephants were not rescued nor bred in captivity. Instead, most of them were illegally stolen from the wild and from their families when they are still babies using pit traps because their spirits and independence can be easily broken.
However, this method, called phajaan, often result in high injury and mortality rates for the elephants. And because mothers are also very protective of their wild infants, this makes it difficult for poachers to capture them.
Therefore protective members of the herd who tries to rescue their child will be easily killed using automatic weapons while their infants are removed. Body parts from the slain individuals will also be sold for more profit.
Once captured, their training begins immediately. The babies will be tied down and beaten using instruments such as bullhooks. This is a method commonly used by all elephant rides attractions to crush the babies’ spirits so that they allow humans to interact with them.
Researchers have found that the elephants who were subjected to the merciless beatings often develop post-traumatic stress disorders and some don’t even survive the “training”. The elephants will often learn to obey their “trainers” in order to avoid more pain and further beatings.
Elephants in such attractions are also denied their natural lives. In the wild, elephants – who are highly sociable and intelligent creatures – live in herds. They spend their days foraging for fresh vegetation, playing, swimming, and communicating and exploring with other elephants.
However, in captivity, they have no control over their own lives. They are deprived of all that is natural and important to them. They are isolated and are unable to socialize with other elephants. They are forced to spend long hours chained up and can only walk in small circles or along a short path while carrying riders on their backs, even during the hottest days.
When the elephants are not working, the elephants are kept in sheds with hard concrete floors and a chain shorter than 3 meters bound around their feet.
Captive elephants are also denied nutritious food, adequate water, and veterinary care, especially for their feet. These elephants can be prone to conditions such as arthritis due to their lack of exercise and long hours spent standing or walking under the hard surface. Most elephants also die years before their average life expectancy is up.
But because public awareness of the cruelty done to these elephants is increasing, many attractions are now trying to fool tourists by adding words such as “sanctuary” or “rescue center”. However, the abusive training methods used for elephant rides are always the same. Real sanctuaries will not abuse and exploit their animals for human entertainment.
There are a number of ways you can enjoy your time with these magnificent animals which do not involve any abuse or exploitation by simply supporting real sanctuaries or organizations where former captive elephants are rescued, cared for, and rehabilitated.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Cruelty behind the Horse Racing Industry

You bet, they die.

Horse racing has a reputation for being an elegant sport, attracting many wealthy members of the public as they fill the audience - women with their fancy hats and designer dresses, and men with branded suits.
However, behind the romanticized facade of horse racing lies a world full of deaths, injuries, and drug abuse. As the spectators show off their fancy outfits, the horses, who are viewed as nothing more a commodity, are running for their lives.
Starting the race
Racehorses are usually started when they are just 2 years old, which is far too young an age. Their bones are still growing and their bodies are not yet accustomed and ready to handle the pressure of running full speed on a hard track. Due to this, they often suffer more injuries compared to older horses.
These racehorses have been genetically modified through selective breeding to be able to run 30 miles per hour on skinny legs and tiny ankles while carrying over 1000 pounds of their body weight. The skinner their legs are, the lighter the horses, and the faster they can run. However, this is a recipe for disaster and broken bones are often the result.
Behind the scenes
Horses who are forced to race are often threatened with harsh beatings with the use of whips and sometimes even illegal electric-shocking devices to sprint at speeds so fast. This leads to the horses frequently sustaining injuries and even hemorrhage from the lungs.
Due to the frequent and obvious injuries, it is no surprise when jockeys and trainers inject the horses with both legal and illegal drugs to cover traces of their injuries, making the horses numb so they are unable to feel the pain and can continue racing.
Horses who bleed from their lungs and windpipe, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, will be given a drug called Lasix or Salix to decrease the bleeding, instead of proper veterinary care.
These drugs will also enhance the horses’ performance and speed up their metabolism by forcing them to lose weight so they can run faster.
Many horses are also given liquid nitrogen to increase blood flow in sore muscles to soothe the aching muscles. However, this process, known as “freeze firing”, more often than not leaves the horse with deep surface wounds.
Mental and physical Suffering
Horses in the racing industry are also subjected to mental suffering. Horses are naturally herd animals. They live in large groups and graze together. However, in the racing industry, these horses are individually confined to stalls for up to 23 hours a day.
Without any social and environmental stimulation, these race horses can develop stereotypic behaviour, called stereotypes, such as crib-biting and even self-mutilation. These behaviours are a strong indicator that the horses are not receiving the proper care they need.
Many racehorses are also found to have suffered from bleeding stomach ulcers due to them being fed high concentration diets such as grains during their training period instead of letting them graze.
End of the race, end of their life
Every week, an average of 24 horses die on the U.S race tracks due to them sustaining skeletal injuries that are so extreme they cannot be healed such as fractured bones and torn ligaments. And this number does not even take into account the numerous other horses discarded by the racing industries when they can no longer make any profits for the industry.
During the race, if a horse suffers a traumatic fall, a screen is rushed to the track to shield the disappointed audiences from the brutal reality of the racing industries.
If the horse breaks a leg or shoulder, the bones will break into many little pieces, making it almost impossible for the vet to repair. Even if the injury can be treated, it is highly unlikely that the horse will ever compete again.
Even if the mare or stallion can be used as a stud for breeding, it is very expensive to restore a racehorse to what it was before and the industry is unwilling to spend that amount of money when there are cheaper ways to get new horses.
It does not get any better when these horses retire either. You may think retired racehorses graze on beautiful green paddocks, but that is just a mere fantasy. The vast majority of failed or older racehorses who can no longer run fast enough will be shipped to countries such as Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
Horses as young as 5 or 6 years old who do not bring in profit will also be discarded as nothing more than a commodity and sold for human or pet consumption directly through auctions.
The long-distance transport of the horses to slaughterhouses are not well monitored or regulated. The journey can take up to several days which can be very stressful for the horses. They are crammed into confined places designed for cattle and are starved until they reach the slaughterhouse.
Because horses are not designed for stability, they often lose their balance during the transport, resulting in injuries and bruises and are forced to endure the pain until their lives are ended.
This is the life of racehorses. They are viewed as money making machines. And once these “machines” stop working, they will be discarded and replaced.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Marine Pollution - Ocean Trash

An ocean full of life, or an ocean full of trash

The ocean remains as one of the largest, most mysterious and diverse places on Earth. Unfortunately, it is treated as a garbage dump and threatened by pollution from both man-made and natural causes.
The majority of ocean pollution is caused by the trash and litter in the ocean that not only paints a dirty view, but also has fatal effects on marine life.
Almost one million marine animals and sea birds are killed each year due to ocean pollution.
While some of this litter is dumped directly into the ocean on a daily basis, almost 80% of it makes its way into the waters from land-based sources via drains and sewers.
Oil from boats, airplanes, cars, and trucks or anything with a motor are also swimming their way into the ocean.
Chemical discharges from factories, storm-water, and raw sewage overflow from water treatment systems also play a part in poisoning the ocean.
Plastic Pollution
Plastic is versatile, lightweight, strong, and flexible. These attractive qualities have contributed to advances in healthcare and technology, and even helped millions of people suffering from poverty.
However, this is also the reason why the most common rubbish that enters our ocean is plastic, and that is where it will stay.
Plastic, unlike other trash, will not biodegrade, which means it will not be decomposed by other organisms or bacteria. At the current rate we are making and dumping plastic into the ocean, it is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.
So all the eight million metric tons of plastic that to dump into the sea instead of recycling, such as out grocery bags, water bottles, straws, and containers, will remain in the ocean and continue to pollute our beaches, entangle marine life like tortoises, sharks, and dolphins, and get ingested by fish and seabirds.
Impact on Marine Life
Fishes in the ocean can ingest up to almost 24,000 tons of plastic in just a single year. Ingesting plastic can cause intestinal injury which leads to death. This transfers the plastic up the food chain to larger fishes and marine mammals and can even be served on our plate.
Turtles living in the sea may mistake floating plastic for food and can choke and suffer internal injury, leading to death. Plastic littered around the beaches have also shown to affect their reproduction. Females are having difficulties digging a hole for their eggs on shore and many of the turtles that hatch are not able to make it to the waters alive.
Seabirds can also mistake plastic for food. Ingesting plastic reduces the storage volume of the stomach. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds that ingest plastic every year may starve to death thinking that they are full from eating plastic.
Marine mammals such as whales and seals can also ingest and entangle themselves up in the plastic trash floating around in the ocean. Many marine mammals have been found with plastic either entangled in their mouth or limiting their mobility. Large amounts of plastic have also been found in the habitat of endangered animals such as the Hawaiian monk seals.
Oil Pollution
The majority of oil that enters the ocean is a result of leaks during oil extraction, illegal tank cleaning operations at sea, and discharges into the rivers which then flow into the sea.
Waves and water currents can move the oil onto shore. When it reaches the shoreline, oil waste can cause contamination as well as erosion when it comes into contact and interacts with sediments such as beach sand, gravel, rocks, and vegetation.
Impact on Marine Life
Wildlife that thrive in the ocean including fish, mammals, birds, and amphibians, will all be affected and poisoned by oil waste.
Many seabirds can actually inject the oil when they try to clean themselves. The oil in their bodies will poison them, and also poison whoever eats the dead corpse.
Oil also renders fur-bearing mammals such as sea otters unable to insulate and destroys the water repellency of seabirds’ feathers. Without the ability to repel water or insulate from the cold waters, these animals suffering from harsh elements may die of hypothermia.  
Fishes, when exposed to or come into contact with oil, may suffer damages to their reproductive systems and behaviours and experience changes in heart and respiration rates. They may also suffer from reduced growth, enlarged livers, and fin erosion. This can lead to a drastic effect which impacts the food chain if a species population changes or disappear.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Marine Pollution - Ocean Acidification

What is Ocean Acidification?
One of the major contributors to ocean pollution is ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is the rapid reduction of the pH levels in the Earth's oceans over a period of time.
Ocean acidification is caused by the ocean absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide – almost 30 percent - in the atmosphere produced by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. As the amount of carbon dioxide increase, the pH level of the ocean decreases.
Oceans require a certain level of pH to maintain the natural biochemistry essential for a healthy ecosystem to remain unbroken for the different species living in the water.
Negative Impacts on Marine Animals
In areas where most life forms make up the majority of the ocean, the seawater is filled with calcium carbonate minerals essential for many marine organisms.
However, when ocean acidification occurs, corals and bivalves are negatively affected. As the acidic levels in the ocean rise, levels of carbonate decreases.
Bivalves such as mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops require calcium carbonate to build their shells and skeletons. The lower level of carbonate reduces the ability of these bivalves to produce and maintain their shells. It may also cause existing shells to weaken and dissolve, making them more vulnerable and increases their chances of being eaten.
Because bivalves are at the bottom of the food chain, once their numbers start decreasing, it will affect the entire food chain.  
Corals will also be affected as they build their own homes from calcium carbonate to form complex reefs and also provide habitat for many marine organisms.
Ocean acidification may limit coral growth as the existing coral skeletons will be corroded and it will also slow the growth of new skeletons. This weakens the corals hence they will be more vulnerable to erosion.
Not only will ocean acidification affect corals and bivalves, but fishes will also suffer. Fishes and other forms of sea life will be contaminated, thus they are unable to be consumed by other animals in the sea, and humans as well. The continuing rise of acidic levels in the ocean may also cause reproductive disorders in fishes.
Negative Impacts on Humans
Human societies, which depends on goods and services provided by the ecosystems, will also suffer the consequences of the changes in marine ecosystems.
Many economies worldwide depend heavily on fishes and shellfish as a primary source of protein. If the number of these marine organisms continue to decline, the society could face significant revenue declines, leading to a loss of jobs and livelihoods.
Ways You Can Help
Eat less meat. Acres of forests are being cut down to make space for agriculture and farming. Livestock is responsible for producing more greenhouse gasses that all the forms of transport. To feed the livestock, large amounts of fertilizers, fuel, and pesticides are used. Animal waste also contributes to the increase in greenhouse gases as they release nitrogen and methane that pollutes the air.
Reduce the use of energy at home by making sure your home is well insulated, especially around the windows. Turn off lights and unplug power sources when not in use and use shorter cycles on your washing machine.
Lastly, you can also contribute to helping the economy by reducing the use of plastic. Instead of using or buying bottled water, bring your own reusable containers or water canteens.
Let us all do our part in helping the economy and the marine ecosystems by starting out with these simple steps.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Dark Side of Dairy

The dairy industry has not only convinced us that we have the same nutritional needs as a calf, but also fed us with ideas of happy, healthy cows grazing on grass waiting to be milked. This, of course, is not true and the reality is that dairy is a product of cruelty.  Dairy is maternal life energy turned into a commodity for beings it isn't even made for. All dairy cows are milked by force and their milk is not to feed their babies, but to meet the human demand for dairy products.
Cows, like humans, lactate, which is the process of producing milk, to nurture their young. In order to cater to the world’s demand for dairy products, cows are forcefully impregnated each year from the age of 12 to 15 months in order to produce milk.
Bulls are typically manually masturbated by a farmer 2 or 3 times per week with 2 or 3 ejaculations per collection day. After which the farmer inserts his or her arm far into the cow’s rectum in order to position the uterus, and forces a semen filled instrument into her vagina.
After carrying their babies for nine months, just like humans, cows give birth and develop strong bonds with their newborn calves as the mother nurses them for a year. However, in the dairy industry, within just hours of birth, dairy calves are snatched away from their mothers and will never meet again. This is an extremely stressful procedure for both the mother and her calf. Grieving mothers can even be heard bellowing for days for their missing young and some can be seen pacing and searching in vain for their stolen babies.
If the calves are male, they are sold to the veal industry simply because they cannot produce milk. They are kept in tiny crates, sometimes even chained, for 18 to 20 weeks and fattened for beef, before they are slaughtered. Most of the calves raised for veal in the US are subjected to such confinement.
And if the calves are female, they enter the dairy herd to replace their worn-out mothers. An average cow can live up to 20 years but in the dairy industry, the dairy cows are killed at 4- 6 years when they are considered “spent”.
Once the calves are separated, dairy cows are milked up to two to three times a day in a robotic milking system, but that varies from two to four time depending on the lactation period of the cow. Changing from milking twice a day to milking three times a day has a marked increase in milk production.  Today, dairy cows are forced to produce up to 12 times more milk than they would naturally produce for their calf due to extensive biological manipulation and genetic selection.
As a result, dairy cows are worn out hence and this makes them more vulnerable to multiple diseases and infections such as mastitis. According to the US Department of Agriculture, at least 16% of cows used for milk suffer from mastitis, which is a result of a blocked milk duct.  Mastitis is fatal and one of the leading causes of death of adult cows in the dairy industry.
The horror does not end there. Dairy calves and adult cows are also typically exposed to painful processes such as dehorning and disbudding. These “animal modifications” are often carried out without the use of anaesthesia or painkillers as it is not illegal.
Dehorning is an extremely painful procedure where the cows have their horns removed using saws, sharp wires, hot irons, or even caustic chemicals. The animals usually struggle violently due to the severe pain and are therefore held still either manually or in a metal apparatus used to restrain a cow by the neck, called a “head bail”. The pain often lasts for hours and can become chronic. Disbudding is a different, but still painful process that produces similar results. It involves the burning of the skin and therefore prevents the horn buds to grow into horns.
Well, what about free range? Dairy cows too are taken to the slaughterhouse where the bolt gun is put to their heads and a knife across their throats when they can no longer produce milk. All dairy cows endure the process of being forcibly impregnated and watch their child as they are being taken away from them each and every year, whether they are brought up in a factory or a farm. All animals, whether they are cage free or free range, are bred into existence and killed many years before their average lifespan is reached.
Unfortunately, the dairy industry is not only limited to cows. Goats and sheep will often be forced to endure the same horrible procedures as cows. And just like calves, kids – baby goats – and lambs will be forcibly taken away from their mothers where the males will be sent to slaughter and females will most likely replace the ill and “spent” adult females.
If you are thinking about ditching dairy, the good news is that it is getting easier every day thanks to an increasing number of alternatives. More and more people stop paying for dairy products and support plant-based substitutes. Products such as soy milk, nut cheeses, and vegan butter will cater to all your milk, cheese, and yoghurt needs.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Dangers of Consuming Too Much Meat

Things you did not know about meat consumption

Is eating meat bad? The simple answer is yes. Well, many of you may only eat “a little” meat and cut back your meat consumption, the fact remains that eating any kind of meat, including “white meat”, processed or not, poses several serious long-term issues to your health.
A serious threat that eating meat poses is that it significantly increases your risk of cancer. Processed meats which include sausages, hot dogs, and bacon, is classified under Group 1 according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Foods given the Group 1 classification is carcinogenic to humans, which means it has the potential to cause cancer. While “red meat” such as pork, beef, and lamb are classified under Group 2, which means they are probably carcinogenic to humans.   
The World Health Organization has declared that eating processed meats increases your chances of colon or rectum cancer by 18%. A vast array of studies conducted by different universities and institutions around the world have also found that eating large portions of chicken, cows, and other animals frequently also promote cancer in different forms.
Eating meat also increases your chances of diabetes and heart diseases. Meat, eggs, and dairy products all contain cholesterol and saturated fat which increases your chances of getting strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes. This is the reason why Bill Clinton chose to go vegan.
Not only that, but you also have a higher risk of getting food poisoning. The number one food that causes the most outbreaks of food poisoning, is beef. You can get food poisoning by consuming contaminated animal meat. Animal products are often tainted with fecal contamination during slaughter or processing which increases your chances of getting food poisoning.
Another danger of consuming meat, and one that not many are aware of, is that it might contribute to erectile dysfunction in men. Medical evidence has shown that impotence can not only be caused by anxiety, but by eating meat as well.
Meat, eggs, and dairy products slow the flow of blood to not only just the heart but to other organs in the body as well as they clog up the arteries. One way to prevent artery blockage is to eat a diet high in fiber which includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A study has also proven that men who regularly exercise and eats a diet rich in flavonoids reduce their risk of erectile dysfunction by over 20%.
Another threat of consuming meat is that it makes your body more resistant to antibiotics. This is because factory farms use the antibiotics that we depend on to treat human illnesses are used to promote growth in animals and to keep them alive while they are kept in terrible and inhumane living conditions that would otherwise kill them. As a result, factory farms are now a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Not only does eating meat affect our health, but it also affects the environment. When land is used to raise animals instead of crops, deforestation occurs as trees will have to be cut down in order to provide space for grazing or factory farms. Over 260 million acres of forest have been cleared to make room for factory farming. This releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing the rate of global warming to increase by 50%.
Another effect factory farming has on the environment is air pollution. At least 37% of methane emissions result from factory farming as animals such as cows and sheep release methane during the natural digestion process. Not only that, but factory farming also releases other harmful compounds such as ammonia that can cause immediate negative health effects in humans if exposed for long periods of time.
So what next? How can you prevent these dangers from happening? Some argue that veganism is the only solution. However, there are other approaches.
In recent years, various campaigns are trying to encourage meat-eaters to cut down the amount of meat they eat to once a week. If this was adopted on a large scale, it would make a huge difference in reducing not only the environmental impacts but also reduces the health risks mentioned above.
Next time, think twice before you order a steak or a burger. Not only are you doing what you can to preserve our planet, but you are also saving yourself from long-term diseases!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Reasons Why Debarking is Inhumane and Cruel

What right do you have to rid your dog of a voice?

Debarking, or devocalizing is a surgical procedure that is performed on dogs to permanently prevent them from making any loud barking sounds.

During the procedure, their vocal cords are cut and a surgeon will remove the tissues. There is no way to reverse this though in many cases, scar tissues will build up that allows the dog to make a constricted, hoarse bark.
This procedure does not completely silence the dog, instead, it only lowers the volume of the sounds the dog makes.
Risks of Debarking
Barking is a natural behaviour and method of communication for dogs. However, debarking deprives the dog from performing this natural behaviour and prevents them from communicating as effectively.
This can cause destructive behaviour and increased physical and emotional stress to the dog which increases the risk of the animal harming themselves or others.
Dogs bark in order to tell you something, whether they are greeting you, excited, afraid, lonely, stressful or as a method of defence. Without this ability, the reason for their bark will be channelled into other ways such as biting and aggression, destroying furniture, or even auto-mutilation (self-harm).
After surgery, there is a high chance that the vocal cord tissues will regrow, called “webbing”. This can lead to respiratory problems in the future as webbing reduces the dog’s ability to clear the mucus in their throat which can cause tracheitis. Tracheitis is the inflammation of the trachea and can be life-threatening.
The formation of excessive scar tissue can also cause a dog to have difficulty breathing, chronic coughing, and noisy breathing in the long run.
Any procedure involving surgery also has a high risk of infections that can occur after the surgery.
Alternatives to Debarking
Because this procedure brings no benefit to the dog and is sometimes even ineffective, many veterinarians refuse to perform the surgery on dogs, and it is also a reason why many countries, including Britain, France, Italy, and Denmark, have banned this practice.
There are many alternatives to debarking, such as training and exercising. Tiring your dog out will make it easier for you to manipulate their behaviour and train them. They will also come home exhausted and ready to relax, which means they will less likely bark. You can also curb your dog’s barking by working with a professional trainer or behaviourist.
Soundproofing is another alternative. You can decorate your home with carpet and furniture that will absorb the sound and also try mounting soundproofing foams on your walls.