Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mum Elephant Saves Baby Stuck in a Pit

Amazing video of a mother elephant saving her baby from drowning when he can't get out of a waterhole he fell into, in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

The mum elephant persists in her repeated attempts to rescue the baby, not an easy task, and only stops when the little one is safe.

As a commenter said: "It shows that animals do have intelligence, feeling, emotions, and not just raw instinct. It shows that they have the ability to problem solve."

Female Leopard Saves Newborn Baby Baboon

Incredible video of a young female leopard who, finding a newborn baby baboon in the fur of his mother she had just killed, saves the baby, protects and licks him, forms a bond with him.

Maybe her developing maternal instincts were stronger than her predatory ones? We don't know, but what we know is that altruistic behaviour is more common in nonhuman animals than we may be inclined to think, and has been observed repeatedly.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Indian School Textbook on Vegetarian Health Benefits Wrongly Slammed

A textbook which has been used in Indian schools since 2008 says that meat-eaters lie, cheat, don't keep promises, steal, commit sex crimes and violence.

The book in question, New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises by David S. Poddar, is aimed at Class 6 pupils (11 and 12 year-olds), and printed by S Chand, a reputed publishing company which prints books used in hundreds of schools in India.

On page 56 the book says about non-vegetarians: "They easily cheat, tell lies, they forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes."

New Healthway also highlights the health benefits of a meatless and vegetable-based diet.

Although inaccurately describing the fish-eating Japanese as vegetarian, it says about them something that is correct about vegetarian or even mostly vegetarian nutrition: "They are vegetarians and live longer than most other peoples. The generous use of green leafy vegetables, soya beans and grams has helped the people to maintain vigour, strength and endurance throughout the centuries".

Epidemiological studies within the same country and across countries do show that vegetarians live longer and are less vulnerable to major killers like cancer and cardio-vascular diseases than meat-eaters.

New Healthway has received very harsh criticism and raised concerns in India about control over school textbooks.

"This is poisonous for children," Janaki Rajan of the Faculty of Education at Jamia Millia University in Delhi, who was part of the committee that prepared a report raising concerns about textbooks printed by private publishers, told the BBC.

The book has also been attacked by some self-appointed "guardians of science" against the dark forces of superstition, in a post which is full of inaccuracies itself. The article author has relied on the BBC report and has never consulted the original Indian source of the news, otherwise he (or it coud be she) would not write that "It’s not know [sic] whether any schools have bought the book, but those that do will have some ‘splaining to do", because he would know that the book has been in use in several schools since 2008.

For someone who respects the rules of science, sloppy and superficial research is not a good starting point.

The reason why the activist atheist site in question, called Why Evolution Is True (like a book by Jerry Coyne which in fact I have), even covers the topic of this Indian textbook lies in its Christain connection: "The strongest argument that meat is not essential food is the fact that the Creator of this Universe did not include meat in the original diet for Adam and Eve. He gave them fruits, nuts and vegetables," reads a chapter entitled Do We Need Flesh Food?".

This is similar to the basis on which the vegetarianism of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian denomination, is founded.

The irony is that, as far as health is concerned, science is on the side of this textbook's argument, however badly presented and stimulated by whatever inspiration, Christian in this case.

A book that promotes vegetarianism for ethical and medical reasons is a good thing, even if the style, admittedly, could have been more refined.

In fact, I would say that this book is very welcome and, despite its limitations, even necessary, if you consider this:
Despite a strong culture of vegetarianism and a religious taboo over beef-eating, Indians are consuming more and more meat as the country’s economy grows and consumers become better-travelled.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization last year said Indians’ per capita consumption of meat was running at 5.0 to 5.5 kilograms (11 to 12 pounds) a year, the highest since it began compiling records.

In short, India seems to be going the same way as China. Since we're on the subject, did you know that the much-vituperated McDonald's has announced that it will open two vegetarian restaurants in India next year, the first such outlets globally for the world’s biggest restaurant chain? McDonald's is trying to grow in India where it is still a relatively small presence and so is bowing to local demand.

Once McDonald’s has its first vegetarian restaurants in place in India, why not put pressure on the hamburger chain to open them elsewhere, indeed everywhere else?

Another assertion in the textbook that has given rise to controversy is in its life lessons, where it advocates marriage for girls between 18 to 25, adding: "To get married without a bad name is a dream of every young girl."

People could do much worse than follow advice of that kind. Again this book is attacked for the style and form in which it presents its arguments, rather than being analyzed for the substance of its content.

Unless, of course, someone thinks that it's preferable to have a high rate of teenage pregnancy, illegitimate births, fatherless families, sexually transmitted diseases, in short all the consequences of not stopping to consider whether sexual promiscuity is indeed the way forward.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Great News: Los Angeles Adopts Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday celebrity supporters

It may have done it partly for the wrong reasons (combat climate change) but partly, and importantly, for the right reasons (animal welfare and also human health).

It is great that on October 24 this resolution was adopted: "the Council of the City of Los Angeles hereby declares all Mondays as 'Meatless Mondays' in support of comprehensive sustainability efforts as well as to further encourage residents to eat a more varied plant-based diet to protect their health and
protect animals."

It is very, very good that, before this declaration, several Californian and US colleges and universities had added Meatless Monday menus in their cafeterias; in Maryland the Baltimore City Public School System had become the first US school district to adopt a 100% Meatless Monday policy in 2009, followed by other school districts in the States; the Council of the District of Columbia had designated Mondays as "Meat Free Mondays"; the City of San Francisco had designated every Monday as "Veg Day"; the Green Cincinnati Plan had recommended going meatless one day a week; and a growing number of American cities had passed "resolutions encouraging residents to explore vegetarian eating to help
protect their health, the environment, and animals".

Los Angeles has now become the largest city in the US to sign a Meatless Monday resolution.

The U.S. Meatless Monday campaign was launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Now the "cut out meat one day a week" program is active in 24 countries and growing.

A great number of celebrities are participating in the Meatless Mondays campaign: the picture above shows a collage of some of them.

To start Meatless Monday in your city, download the free Meatless Monday Community Toolkit.

Catholics already have a meatless day, Friday, and have been abstaining from meat on that day for centuries. This is to commemorate the day of the Crucifixion of Our Lord.

Some Catholics, like the blog Maxine, have proposed that the meatless day should be changed to Friday. I understand the rationale behind Meatless Monday: it is the beginning of the week, so we want to start it well, on the right foot. But I also understand the Catholics who say that they
believe it would be a nice gesture (changing Meatless Monday to Meatless Friday) that would allow our society to be on the same page - even if we are doing much of the same thing for different reasons.
It would be a good thing, bringing together people from different viewpoints, making Catholics nearer vegetarianism and vegetarians nearer Catholicism: both good perspectives on life.

Don't forget that Jesus banned animal sacrifices and Christianity is one of the very few religions that do not practice animal sacrifices.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Ways to Help Superstorm Sandy Homeless and Missing Cats and Dogs

The video shows the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Animal Rescue Team while it helps animals and families in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, that has left thousands of dogs and cats homeless.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, on top of the devastation to the city and the toll on the people in the area, thousands of pets from New York City and surrounding areas are missing.

While the storm raged, many people were parted from their pets. The Humane Society of the United States reported that around 15 million dogs, 14 million cats and 1.5 million horses were in the path of Hurricane Sandy's wrath.

In many cases, owners had to part with their pets when they evacuated their homes, while others tried to find accommodation where they could take their pets with them. Often the Humane Society collected pets for safekeeping, while the owners were evacuated to safety. But many were lost during the ordeal.

Shortly before the storm hit, New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg announced that all the city shelters were pet friendly and that around 70 pets had already arrived.
However, since Sandy passed through, there are thousands of pets desperately in need of shelter, as their homes have been destroyed, or cannot safely be occupied at present.

There are also many dogs and cats who simply panicked and ran when the storm hit and various lost and found pages are being set up on the Internet, including a Facebook page, Hurricane Sandy Lost and Found Pets.

Their "about" reads, "Posting photos of lost or found pets in the areas affected by Sandy, as well as posting animal shelters in need and temporary shelters that allow animals. We are animal lovers and advocates trying to help with networking to get animals reunited with their families."

Their photo feed of lost and found pets can be viewed here.

Craigslist is also getting many posts.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that New York and Long Island shelters became temporary homes to only around 400 animals, which is worrying to many desperate owners that cannot find their pets.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie announced on Friday that a rescue hotline has been set up for residents who had to leave their pets behind when evacuating. The number is 1-855-407-4787 and the hotline is open 24 hours a day. There is also a statewide pet hotline available: 1-866-407-4787.

There are many moving stories doing the rounds including one in Suffolk County. ASPCA chief Roy Gross told Long Island Press, “We had one couple who just left the shelter, they lost their house and their car, all they had left was each other and their little Pomeranian dog.”

“They kept thanking us over and over for everything,” he added.

Gross said that the agency has been staffing Pet Friendly Shelters around the clock since Sandy hit and asked for help: "Our biggest need is for supplies; dog and cat food; blankets; bowls leashes and volunteers," Gross said, adding that volunteers are also needed to help staff the Mobile Animal Hospital (MASH Unit) where dogs and cats are being sheltered. Volunteers will then be trained to staff the shelters in the event of another disaster.
With all the people, especially young, looking for a job, could not this be a golden opportunity to do some good, and at the same time get training and connections?

Neuter Your Cat, Not All Kittens Are as Lucky as Francis

This is the video of the rescue of a stray kitten left alone to freeze in the snow, who could not even see anything because of thick black goop covering his eyes, crying for his mother.

The good Samaritan who made the video took him in and healed him back to health.

He is now a happy and loved cat, named Francis, after St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

The maker of the video, though, reminds people that not all stray kittens and cats are so lucky, and that the best thing to do, if you don't want your cat's kittens, is to neuter your cat.