I am just interested in the slightly-less-than-journalistic tone of the article, which seems to have been written by someone who can also see the irony of every single lobster on that truck surviving the crash only to be repackaged, put on another truck, and killed to be served for dinner. (An alternative headline: “Doomed Lobsters Receive Brief Reprieve”.)
Compare that to the neutral headline of the original article:
Using Wikipedia’s general estimate for size of an average adult lobster to guess each lobster weighs about three pounds, that’s about twenty thousand lobsters on that one truck.
Those boxes appear to be stacked about five high and five wide; guessing at their size using the men lifting the box as a guide, they’re about three feet long. A tractor trailer is about 48′ long, so there are approximately (25x (48/3))=400 crates in the trailer, with…fifty approximately 9″ long lobsters in each one. No wonder that’s a two person lift — each crate would be holding about 150 pounds of lobster.
Upon further research, my guess for the truck’s population might be a little high, likely because some of the lobsters weigh more than three pounds, and the crates are a little smaller than they look. Here’s a photo of one of the crates saying it is designed to hold “only” about 90 pounds of lobster. That’s still approximately thirty 9″ lobsters crammed nose-to-tail in a 32″ x 20″ x 15″ crate. Yikes.
I am more interested in the reaction of people to the ban: before it went into effect (it was actually passed in 2004 and had a seven-and-a-half-year “grace period”), people had culinary foie gras orgies, putting it on everything. While it was in effect, some restaurants gave it out for free as a way to get around the law. And now that the ban is over, foie gras, the “forbidden treat”, is now trendy, with restaurants scrambling to get it back on the menu. Basically, banning foie gras made it even more popular, rather like banning alcohol during Prohibition.
Clearly, simply making inhumanely produced animal products illegal is not the answer. What is the answer? Telling people how it is made doesn’t seem to help, although you’d think it would be primary (that’s certainly what convinced me not to eat it). I am completely perplexed by people who hear: “This stuff is made by repeatedly holding down a live duck and filling it with fatty food until its liver reaches eight times normal size” and respond with “I want to eat that!” — even when there are alternatives presented.
No answers today. Just a little “WTF?” as this goes by.
On the one hand, I completely understand wanting to find new ways to fix people who have been severely damaged. Much of this research is, obviously, going to support our troops, a noble goal, and as you can see in the publication archives, a lot of the research is being done to help children. I have absolutely nothing against these goals, and the scientific part of me completely understands that, in order to help some people who really need it, sometimes we have to do things which seem impossibly horrible. On the other hand, every single one of these experiments starts, essentially, by whacking a couple dozen (sedated) rats on the head to induce brain injury, or essentially draining all the blood out of several (also sedated) pigs to induce cardiac arrest. (If you are looking to cure traumatic injury, Step One in your experimental protocols is to create traumatic injury.)
There is something about this which is, to me, unspeakably twisted, but damned if I know an immediate solution to it. Using only consenting human subjects as they appear by random chance would set the research back years, and if my child were struck by a car I know I would want all the research going into knowing how to sew my child’s head back on; on the other hand, if I were struck by a car, would I want to know that 2,000 rats died so that they could sew my head back on? 20,000? Is there a minimum or maximum number of rats(/pigs/dogs/monkeys) that my life is worth? I know it’s worth a lot of rats to me, but am I the governing authority here? Cosmically, am I worth more or less than a rat? Ten rats? Is my contribution to society worth 2,000 lifetimes spent languishing in a little plastic tub in a research lab? Would I want to meet those rats? Explain it to them? Would I want to explain it to the pigs? The dogs?
No solutions here, alas — just a note to the world that this stuff is still happening. No idea how to make it right, but, somewhere, this stuff went seriously wrong.
I seem to be doing that “not post because I have nothing meaty to say” thing, so here’s something reasonably bite size:
Here is a cute “human interest” story about twin foals born on Easter Sunday. It’s pretty nondescript, and the facts are more or less correct (twin foals are pretty rare, because most mares aren’t quite big enough to carry two full size fetuses to term). I only got interested when I saw some screencaps from the video:
I don’t think this is a post so much about this specific situation, even, as it is about this: The reporter and photographer visited the site and took pictures and video and didn’t see (or at least didn’t mention) the mare’s condition. The primary editor at the TV station didn’t mention it, and neither did anyone else at the station which saw the story. Many, many news feeds reposted this article without even appearing to do so much as glance at the photos. What else are we missing, in other news articles on other topics? Consider this article on a “black phase coyote” shot by a hunter. What might the news outlets that covered this story have missed? (Hint, kids: that’s a husky!)
“Grumpy Cat” — whose actual name is “Tard“, theoretically short for “Tartar Sauce” — is just one of many “oh look at the cute animal” memes that have gone past my radar over the past few years. I’ve seen Sam, once voted the World’s Ugliest Dog; Thumbelina, billed as the world’s smallest horse; and an infinitenumberofcritters on sites like Cute Overload.
These are not happy animals. I cannot laugh at them, not even if they are humorously posed and captioned. They look the way they do because some humans got together and thought, Wouldn’t it be great if dogs/cats looked more like human babies? and bred siblings to each other until the offspring looked sufficiently funny. The fact that the animal can’t breathe, can’t see, and can’t eat is meaningless — look how cute it is! It almost looks human!
So tiger parts sell for more money than you’ve ever seen, but it’s hard to find them in the wild any more for some reason. What’s an enterprising businessman to do? Why, build a tiger farm, of course. Grab a few tigers, start a “conservation” operation or a “zoo”, and once you get 500 animals you can get a permit to sell your surplus to make “tiger bone” wine:
[Alas, this excellent article on the Asian tiger trade will not embed here. Please visit it in person (it’s free to view).]
Although it does certainly appear that people are breeding captive tigers to sell for parts (in what way does this significantly differ from modern cattle operations?), I have been unable to verify whether or not the farms are also, specifically, starving tigers to death to satisfy nebulous legal issues requiring that the animal have died of “natural causes” for its parts to be sold, as in the following image I found floating around today. The image appears to be a scan of this news article, sourced from this blog entry from the TigerTime web site, which appears to reference a paper called the Straits-Times but was written by a TigerTime employee with no readily apparent source.
This image was what originally made me look into this subject. It just seems too awful to be completely true, and it isn’t. The report quoted above does not mention any requirement in Chinese law stating that animals which have died naturally are specifically legal (it just requires that the parts be “legally obtained”), and research suggests that the starving tigers are a different, though quasi-related, event: the tigers in question appear to have been starved (actually, fed “cheap cuts of chicken”, leading to malnourishment) when the facilities handling them “went into financial difficulties”. Not that it’s much of a relief, especially to the tigers, but it does not look like they were starved specifically so their parts could be sold legally (although I suspect the facility owners did not object to the “happy” appearance of an “extra” carcass or two). It just looks like that’s a “normal byproduct” of their “farming” operation. (Why does that distinction matter to me? Is “inconceivably terrible husbandry practices” better in some way than “deliberately starving animals to death”? Is it even different?)
Just another place where minor curiosity (“Hmmm, that headline looks a mite sensationalistic”) leads to a major facepalm moment: even “wildlife” is being factory farmed. Everything is being factory farmed, somewhere — and factory farming is never pretty. (Check out that National Geographic photo gallery for a picture of what it looks like when humans “captive breed” snakes for the pet trade, if you’re interested.)
Another horrible thing wandered across my radar today, under the lively title “Orangutans being used as prostitutes!!” The attached text (which was written by a random Facebook friend, not a journalist) implied that hundreds of orangutans are being snatched from the trees and used as prostitutes in villages in Borneo. It included a link to a Care2 petition begging everyone to stop the orangutan prostitution industry.
So, some quick research. There’s a bunch of stories on this floating about, and they all seem to reference this story, written on October 3, 2007 by Jack Adams of the online magazine Vice, which appears to be something of a news outlet but whose main-page stories (as of 5/27/12) also include articles like “If You Don’t Like The Spurs, You’re A Wall-Eyed Moron” and “Dave Hill Wrote Some Stupid Book“. The orangutan story is extremely short (9 paragraphs, including the introduction) and does not go into a lot of detail. It also does not in any way imply that orangutan prostitution happens outside of this one incident.
Is the use of animals of any kind (and, arguably, of humans) in a brothel an unforgivable atrocity? Yes. Is it terrible that this happened (and it does seem to have happened), and that the perpetrators won’t be punished (there are no laws forbidding this kind of behavior in Indonesia)? Yes. Is this a sad, sad example of how low some people will sink? Yes. Are hundreds of orangutans being captured for use in Indonesian brothels? No.
An egg farm near Roggen, Colorado, owned by Boulder Valley Poultry, burned to the ground on April 30. The extremely brief article (which matches other, extremely brief articles in other papers) declares the event an accident, and winds up by reassuring consumers that their supply of eggs is unlikely to be affected.
Oh, yeah, and 470,000 hens died. In two barns.
What an interesting, unremarked, casual aside. These aren’t unbelievably huge buildings. 235,000 chickens in each one? To give each chicken one square foot of floor space in an open-floor plan (an extremely minimal investment), the barns would need to be 100 ft x 2,350 ft (almost half a mile long). How densely were these chickens packed?
Also, “many local producers have agreed to step up production”. How do you do that, I wonder?
A while ago I commented on the discovery, by a man flying a model aircraft equipped with a camera, of a “river of blood” behind the Columbia Packing Company, a Dallas, Texas meatpacking plant. I was interested that the immediate public reaction, in some forums, seemed to be not “What is that river of blood doing there?” but “Wasn’t that photo a violation of the packing company’s privacy rights?” I felt that that kind of attitude could make it difficult for anyone to document anything — including animal rights violations — which happened to be taking place on private property.
Ironically, both the pigeon hunt and the drone launch in this case were apparently perfectly legal. The shooting of the drone might or might not also be legal, but neither it nor the launching of the helicopter was probably the most enlightened way to make the feuding parties’ respective points.
Various news sources are telling me that a “cigarette-smoking chimpanzee” passed away on Saturday, December 10. The name of the chimp in question is Booee (or Booie), and this immediately pinged my memory: was that not the name of a signing chimp — one of the chimps that researcher Roger Fouts communicated with while he was raising Washoe, arguably the most famous of the signing chimps?
This particular chimpanzee could speak to humans. He used sign language to do so, but he could do so — one of the first of a tiny wave of “animals” which could speak a human language. He was part of the community that helped open the door between humans and their closest cousins, the great apes, and helped to start the (still ongoing) movement which is trying to get chimpanzees out of the laboratory. He is part of the snowball that started the avalanche of things like the Great Ape Protection Act, which would have been unthinkable when Booee was born. This guy is one of the founders of a little, slow, quiet revolution in the way humans think about animals.
And something like 90% of his obituaries say “he was on television once”, “he smoked cigarettes”, and “he begged for candy”. Why are those chosen as his defining attributes? Are they just the only ones the news outlets think we’ll understand? Booee is a historical figure. He did a lot for animal/human understanding and the promotion of the idea that animals are not just automatons with fur. It might be hard to encapsulate the meaning of what he was, what he did and the way he changed the world into a blog-sized sound bite, but “cigarette-smoking chimpanzee”? Is that all we can come up with?
–noun Law. The performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust).
I have more than twenty years' experience working with animals, and have always thought them worthy of consideration and respect. Imagine, then, my surprise when introduced to the field of animal research. From there I investigated meat production and other large-scale animal production processes. It's a scary world out there.