Cattle, as individuals or as a herd, possess many unique traits, the most distinctive being their social disposition. They are extremely social animals and rely heavily on "safety in numbers"— herds can form with up to 300 animals. Each animal can recognize more than 100 individuals and will closely bond to some herd members, while carefully avoiding others. While the bond between mothers and daughters is particularly strong, calves also maintain lifelong friendship with other herd members.
It is thought that cattle were first domesticated in 6,500 B.C. from wild cattle in Europe and the Near East. Only in the past two centuries have cattle been differentiated into breeds raised for beef or milk. Some cattle still exist as "dual purpose" breeds.
People often refer to all cattle as "cows." Technically, cows are actually adult females who have, usually through having babies, developed adult physical characteristics. Heifers are young females who have not yet had babies or developed the mature characteristics of a cow. Male cattle can be divided into three groups: bullocks, steers and bulls. A bullock is a young, uncastrated male who has begun to display secondary sexual characteristics. A steer is a castrated male, whereas a bull is a mature, uncastrated male.
Cows are sturdy yet gentle animals. They are social animals and form strong bonds with their families and friends that can last their entire lives. The bond between a cow and her calf is especially powerful. If a mother cow is caught on the opposite side of a fence from her calf, she will become alarmed, agitated and call frantically. If they remain separated, she will stay by the fence through blizzards, hunger, and thirst, waiting to be reunited with her baby. This bond continues even after the calf is fully grown.
Cows "moo" to each other fairly frequently, allowing them to maintain contact even when they cannot see each other. But when they can see each other, they also communicate through a series of different body positions and facial expressions.
Cattle usually stand between 4 feet, 9 inches and 5 feet, 6 inches, and “beef cattle” range from 850 to 2,500 pounds depending on breed and gender. In non-commercial herds, cows have been observed nursing their male calves for up to three years.
Cattle have almost panoramic vision, which allows them to watch for predators or humans. They can see in color, except for red. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can detect scents more than six miles away.
Cattle are ruminant herbivores and will swallow vegetation whole, then later masticate their "cud" (chew their partially digested food).
The scientific name for the cattle group is "bos taurus," a subfamily of the bovidae family, which includes other hollow-horned animals.
Interestingly, bulls are much less likely to use their horns than cows. However, the level of aggression can be influenced by the degree of confinement.
Cattle will learn from each other's mistakes: If an individual is shocked by an electric fence, others in the herd will become alarmed and avoid it. If a herd is confined by an electric fence, only 30% will ever be shocked.
Cattle enjoy swimming and running in the moonlight, as they have been shown to remain active for a longer period between their two sleep sessions when the moon is full.
The lifespan of cattle averages 20 to 25 years. However, the lifespan of cattle raised for beef is significantly shortened. These animals are typically weaned at 6 to 10 months, live 3 to 5 months on range, spend 4 to 5 months being fattened in a feedlot, and are typically slaughtered at 15 to 20 months.
Chickens form strong family ties. A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks before they are even born. She will turn her eggs as many as five times an hour and softly cluck to her unborn chicks, who will chirp back to her and to one another. After they are hatched, the devoted mother dotes over her brood, teaching them what to eat, how to drink, where to roost, and how to avoid enemies. Male chickens (called roosters) are most famous for greeting each sunrise with loud crows, often acting as alarm clocks for farmers.
Chickens are fascinating creatures. They have more bones in their necks than giraffes, yet they have no teeth. They swallow their food whole and use a part of their stomach called the gizzard to grind it up. Chickens actually have many similarities to humans: the majority are right-footed (just as most humans are right-handed), they see a similar color range, and they love to watch television. Many also enjoy classical music, preferring the faster symphonies to the slower ones.
Having a private nest in which to lay eggs is extremely important to hens. The desire is so strong, in fact, that a hen will often go without food and water, if necessary, to use a nest. The nest-building process is fascinating. A hen will first scratch a shallow hole in the ground, then reach out to pick up twigs and leaves, which she drops onto her back. After she has gathered some material, she'll settle back in the hole and let the material fall off around the rim. She will continue to do this until her nest is completed.
As highly social animals, chickens can bond very closely to other animals, including humans. They will fight to protect their family and will mourn when a loved one is lost. When they have bonded with a human, chickens will often jump into his or her lap to get a massage that they enjoy fully with their eyes closed, giving every indication of being in ecstasy.
"It's just a chicken" is a retort heard often when concern for the welfare of chickens is exhibited. This comment reflects just how misunderstood these animals are. Chickens are just as deserving of our respect and compassion as are all other animals.
The horse is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as the endangered Przewalski's horse, a separate subspecies, and the only remaining true wild horse.
Horse breeds are loosely divided into three categories based on general temperament: spirited "hot bloods" with speed and endurance; "cold bloods", such as draft horses and some ponies; and "warmbloods", developed from crosses between hot bloods and cold bloods.
"Hot blooded" breeds include "oriental horses" such as the Akhal-Teke, Arabian horse, Barb and now-extinct Turkoman horse, as well as the Thoroughbred, a breed developed in England from the older oriental breeds. Hot bloods tend to be spirited, bold and learn quickly. They tend to be physically refined - thin-skinned, slim, and long-legged.
Muscular, heavy draft horses are known as "cold bloods". They have a calm, patient temperament; sometimes nicknamed "gentle giants". Well-known draft breeds include the Belgian and the Clydesdale. Some, like the Percheron, are lighter and livelier. Others, such as the Shire, are slower and more powerful. The cold-blooded group also includes some pony breeds.
"Warmblood" breeds are a cross between cold-blooded and hot-blooded breeds. Examples include breeds such as the Irish Draught or the Cleveland Bay.
There are more than 300 breeds of horse in the world today.
Horses are herd animals, with a clear hierarchy of rank, led by a dominant individual, usually a mare. They are also social creatures that are able to form companionship attachments to their own species and to other animals, including humans. They communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering or whinnying, mutual grooming and body language. When confined with insufficient companionship, exercise, or stimulation, individuals may develop stable vices, stereotypies of psychological origin, that include wood chewing, wall kicking, "weaving" (rocking back and forth), and other problems.
Horses are also prey animals with a strong fight-or-flight response. Their anatomy enables them to make use of speed to escape predators. Their first reaction to threat is to startle and usually flee, although they will stand their ground and defend themselves when flight is impossible or if their young are threatened. They also tend to be curious; when startled they will often hesitate an instant to ascertain the cause of their fright, and may not always flee from something that they perceive as non-threatening.
Related to this need to flee from predators is an unusual trait: horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. In an adaptation from life in the wild, horses are able to enter light sleep by using a "stay apparatus" in their legs, allowing them to doze without collapsing. Horses sleep better when in groups because some animals will sleep while others stand guard to watch for predators. A horse kept alone will not sleep well because its instincts are to keep a constant eye out for danger. Unlike humans, horses do not sleep in a solid, unbroken period of time, but take many short periods of rest. Horses must lie down to reach REM sleep. If a horse is never allowed to lie down, after several days it will become sleep-deprived, and in rare cases may suddenly collapse as it involuntarily slips into REM sleep while still standing.
Horses are grazing animals, and their major source of nutrients is good-quality forage from hay or pasture. They can consume approximately 2% to 2.5% of their body weight in dry feed each day.
The horses' senses are based on their status as prey animals, where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times. They have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and are lateral-eyed, meaning that their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. This allows horses to have a range of vision of more than 350°, with approximately 65° of this being binocular vision and the remaining 285° monocular vision. Horses have excellent day and night vision, but they have two-color, or dichromatic vision; their color vision is similar to red-green color blindness in humans where certain colors, especially red and related colors, appear as a shade of green.
Their sense of smell, while much better than that of humans, is not quite as good as that of a dog. It is believed to play a key role in the social interactions of horses as well as detecting other key scents in the environment.
A horse's hearing is good, and the pinna of each ear can rotate up to 180°, giving the potential for 360° hearing without having to move the head. Noise impacts the behavior of horses and certain kinds of noise may contribute to stress.
Horses have a great sense of balance, due partly to their ability to feel their footing and partly to highly developed proprioception - the unconscious sense of where the body and limbs are at all times. A horse's sense of touch is well developed. The most sensitive areas are around the eyes, ears and nose. Horses are able to sense contact as subtle as an insect landing anywhere on the body.
Horses have an advanced sense of taste, which allows them to sort through fodder and choose what they would most like to eat. Their prehensile lips can easily sort even small grains. Horses generally will not eat poisonous plants.
Female horses, called mares, carry their young for approximately 11 months, and a young horse, called a foal, can stand and run shortly following birth. They reach full adult development by age five, and have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.
Horses are highly intelligent animals. They perform a number of cognitive tasks on a daily basis, meeting mental challenges that include food procurement and identification of individuals within a social system. They also have good spatial discrimination abilities.
They excel at simple learning, but also are able to use more advanced cognitive abilities that involve categorization and concept learning. They can learn using habituation, desensitization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. Domesticated horses may face greater mental challenges than wild horses because they live in artificial environments that prevent instinctive behavior while also learning tasks that are not natural.
The wild horse (Equus ferus) is a species of the genus Equus, which includes as subspecies the modern domesticated horse (Equus ferus caballus) as well as the undomesticated Tarpan (Equus ferus ferus), now extinct, and the endangered Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii). The Przewalski's Horse was saved from the brink of extinction and reintroduced successfully to the wild. The Tarpan became extinct in the 19th century. Since the extinction of the Tarpan, attempts have been made to reconstruct its phenotype, resulting in horse breeds such as the Konik and Heck horse. However, the genetic makeup and foundation bloodstock of those breeds is substantially derived from domesticated horses, and therefore these breeds possess domesticated traits.
The term "wild horse" is also used colloquially to refer to free-roaming herds of feral horses such as the Mustang in the United States, the Brumby in Australia, and many others. These feral horses are untamed members of the domestic horse subspecies (Equus ferus caballus).
THREATS TO HORSES
Horses are exploited by the unethical horse racing industry. Commercial horse racing is a ruthless industry motivated by financial gain and prestige. Cruelty, slaughter, injuries and accidental deaths are common. Horses are pushed to their physical limits and beyond, all for profit. Some horses are raced when they are under three years old, leading to fractures. Horses are drugged so they can compete with injuries, or given prohibited performance enhancing drugs. Jockeys often whip horses. The racing industry breeds thousands of horses looking for its next champion, contributing to an overpopulation crisis. Loosing and winning horses are commonly sent to the slaughterhouse when their careers have ended.
While no horse slaughterhouses currently operate in the United States, American horses are still trucked over borders to slaughtering facilities in Mexico and Canada. Horses suffer horribly on the way to and during slaughter, often shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest. Horses are often injured even before arrival due to overcrowded conditions during transport. The methods used to kill horses rarely results in quick deaths: they often endure repeated stuns or blows, and sometimes remain conscious during their slaughter.
Horses are forced to pull oversized loads by the animal entertainment industry. Carriage horses are forced to perform in all weather extremes. They face the threat and stress of traffic, often working all day long. The horses suffer from respiratory ailments from exhaust fumes, and develop debilitating leg problems. Carriage horses also face the threat of heatstroke from summer heat and humidity. Living conditions for these animals are often deplorable. When the horses grow too old, tired, or ill they may be slaughtered and turned into food for dogs or zoo animals, or shipped overseas for human consumption.
The animal entertainment industry also uses horses in rodeos. They are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank area. During bucking events, horses may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death.
Each year, hundreds of wild (feral) horses are rounded up by United States government agencies using inhumane methods. The horses are put in holding pens where, for a small fee, anyone can "adopt" them. The lucky ones are adopted by people who love and care for them, but many are traded or sold at auctions. Some are sent to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered for their meat.
The Horse Protection Act is a federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions. Soring is a cruel and abusive practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait. It is accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs with chemical irritants (such as mustard oil) or mechanical devices. The Horse Protection Act also prohibits drivers from transporting sored horses to or from any of these events.
Humans like eating meat more than the thought of eating animals. Scientists conclude that humans choose not to really think about what we eat, because if we do we lose the appetite.
When we eat beef, chicken wings, hot dogs or spaghetti bolognese, we do it in denial. Already by referring to what we eat as “beef” instead of “cow”, we have created a distance between our food and an animal with abilities to think and feel.
“The presentation of meat by the industry influences our willingness to eat it. Our appetite is affected both by what we call the dish we eat and how the meat is presented to us”, says Jonas R. Kunst, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo.
Kunst and his colleague Sigrid M. Hohle conducted five studies in Norway and the U.S. In the first study, chicken was presented at different processing stages: a whole chicken, drumsticks, and chopped chicken fillets. The scientists measured participants’ associations to the animal, and how much empathy they felt with the animal.
In the second study, participants saw pictures of a roasted pork – one beheaded, the other not. The scientists examined their associations to the animal, and to which extent they felt empathy and disgust. They also asked participants whether they wanted to eat the meat or would rather choose a vegetarian alternative.
Participants felt less empathy with the pig without a head.
“Highly processed meat makes it easier to distance oneself from the idea that it comes from an animal. Participants also felt less empathy with the animal. The same mechanism occurred with the beheaded pork roast. People thought less about it being an animal, they felt less empathy and disgust, and they were less willing to consider a vegetarian alternative.”
In a third study participants saw two advertisements for lamb chops, one with a picture of a living lamb, another without. The picture of the lamb made people less willing to eat the lamb chops. They also felt more empathy with the animal.
Philosophers and animal rights activists have long claimed that we avoid thinking about the animal we eat, and that this reduces the feeling of unease. This mechanism is described by the “disassociation hypothesis”. Celebrities have spoken up for the animals as well. Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, ate only self-slaughtered meat for one year, claiming, “Many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat”. Vegetarian Paul Mc Cartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”.
Kunst and Hohle are the first scientists to test the hypothesis empirically, and it gains support from all five studies. We do have a tendency to distance ourselves from the thought of what we actually eat; this reduces discomfort and increases the willingness to eat meat.
In the three first studies, the scientists examined processing stages and presentation. In the next two studies, they investigated the use of words and phrases. They found that replacing "pork" and "beef" in the menu with "pig" and "cow" made people less willing to eat meat. The choice of words also affected feelings of empathy and disgust. Lastly, researchers investigated the effect of using the word "harvest". Traditionally the word has referred to plants, but in the U.S., it is now increasingly replacing words like "slaughtered" or "killed". The scientists found a clear effect: When the word "harvest" was used, people felt less empathy with the animal.
In total, more than 1000 people participated in the studies, and most of them were meat eaters. For some of them, eating meat was difficult, for others less so. Everyone disassociated meat from animals in their daily lives, but those that spent the most effort on disassociating were more sensitive when the presentations and descriptions of meat changed.
“We did not test whether these sensitive persons ate less meat than others in general. However, we all have a sensitivity in us, but this sensitivity is rarely activated because of the presentation of meat,” said Kunst.
He is not a vegetarian himself, but during these studies, he has become more aware of his meat consumption.
“The science results support a line of philosophers and animal rights activists who have said that the way meat is presented and talked about in our culture, makes us consume more of it”, said Kunst.
The results are published in the journal Appetite and might help authorities limit people’s meat consumption.
“For instance, authorities can influence people’s diets by presenting pictures of the animals in meat advertisements or contexts where meat is consumed. However, the will to do this is probably limited, since there are strong financial interests involved,” said Jonas R. Kunst.
One of the top causes of world hunger is the focus on the production of animal-based foods. A breathtaking 925 million people all over the world, mostly in the underdeveloped and poor countries of Africa and Asia, are suffering from hunger. Out of those, 870 million are suffering from malnutrition. The 925 million hungry outnumber the current population of the European Union, United States, and Canada, combined.
The world contains so many people plagued by hunger to almost fill up two continents. On a yearly basis, more than 2.5 million children under five years old lose their lives due to starvation.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that the Earth can provide enough food to nourish every last person on the planet. But, if that is so, how is it that people around the globe keep starving? A big part of the answer has to do with the production of food that is based on animals, such as dairy, meat, and eggs. Although there exists enough plant-based food to nourish the entire human population, most of the crops are fed to livestock for rich nations – not excluding the crops grown in starving countries. Add the fact that it takes a lot more plant food to produce animal-based foods causes a compromise of the food supply chain, ultimately leading humans to starvation.
For example, consider the food (mostly comprising grains) that a cow consumes in its 18 to 24-month life (that’s when most cows are slaughtered for meat on average). If you could pile up all that food, you would end up with a mountain of food provided to the animal to live all those months. It gave him the required energy, it restored his cells, grew his muscles and bones, and allowed his heart to beat and his lungs to draw air. Now, imagine that cow is slaughtered and cut into pieces of meat. If you place the meat on a pile next to the first one, which one would be enough to feed more people? The pile of meat that comprised the cow’s body, or the mountain of grains that fed and nourished it? This equation is the basis of the unsustainability and irrationality of animal farming.
The production of soybeans and corn globally accounts for millions of tons. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of the corn and 80 percent of the soybeans are directed towards feeding animals that are to become human food.
In a study conducted by researchers from the Institute on the Environment and the University of Minnesota, scientists investigated agricultural resources and the problem of world hunger. It was found that if humans consumed the crops instead of feeding them to animals, the world supply would be enriched by approximately 70 percent more food, which would adequately support another 4 billion people. The surplus alone would be sufficient to feed more than half the Earth’s population, many times more than the 925 million hungry people of our time.
Livestock is doing a poor job converting the food they eat into muscle and energy, which is evident from the need to feed 13-20 pounds of grain in order to increase a cow’s muscle mass by 1 pound. The direct consequence is that 13 to 20 times more people could be nourished if those grains were simply consumed by them directly. In the same manner, approximately 7 pounds of grain are required for one pound of pork, and 4.5 pounds of grain are needed to grow one pound of chicken.
The animal agricultural system is even more flawed if you think that cows and other grazing animals, which provide dairy, meat, and leather, were never evolved to eat so much grain as the farming industry feeds them. They were meant to consume grass instead. But since current demands for animal products are so high, and farmers are compelled to increase their production quota and speed, they feed the animals immense amounts of grain like corn. That’s why industrial farming only needs 18 to 24 months to get a cow to the desired weight and then kill it. A constant grain diet (that could have fed many more humans instead), and growth hormones, make this possible.
Still, grass-fed livestock is far from a viable option. Grazing puts native and endangered species at risk through displacement and destruction of their habitat, while also causing erosion that can create deserts out of fertile farmland. According to reports by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut and burned so that cattle can have more grazing space. In the end, regardless of being used to grow feed crops or to feed grazing animals, when land and other natural resources are exploited to produce animal food products, horrible inefficiency takes place.
Economic and political experts are projecting that water, food, land and other precious natural resources that humans need to survive will be the reason for future wars. As the human population has grown past the 7 billion mark in an ascending trend, it is only natural that resources will become even scarcer. The time for a solution to world hunger, a global crisis, has come, and what should be done is self-evident. If we want to ensure that every individual can be fed, we must contemplate deeply and pick the most healthy, compassionate and sustainable path. Veganism.
Only pigs in movies spend their lives running across sprawling pastures and relaxing in the sun. On any given day in the U.S., there are more than 65 million pigs on factory farms, and 110 million are killed for food each year.
Mother pigs (sows)—who account for almost 6 million of the pigs in the U.S.—spend most of their lives in individual “gestation” crates. These crates are about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide—too small to allow the animals even to turn around. After giving birth to piglets, sows are moved to “farrowing” crates, which are wide enough for them to lie down and nurse their babies but not big enough for them to turn around or build nests for their young.
Piglets are separated from their mothers when they are as young as 10 days old. Once her piglets are gone, the sow is impregnated again, and the cycle continues for three or four years before she is slaughtered. This intensive confinement produces stress- and boredom-related behavior, such as chewing on cage bars and obsessively pressing against water bottles.
After they are taken from their mothers, piglets are confined to pens until they are separated to be raised for breeding or meat. Every year in the U.S., millions of male piglets are castrated (usually without being given any painkillers) because consumers supposedly complain of “boar taint” in meat that comes from intact animals. Piglets are not castrated in the U.K. or Ireland, and the European Union is phasing out the practice by 2018.
In extremely crowded conditions, piglets are prone to stress-related behavior such as cannibalism and tail-biting, so farmers often chop off piglets’ tails and use pliers to break off the ends of their teeth—without giving them any painkillers. For identification purposes, farmers also cut out chunks of the young animals’ ears.
Farms all over North America ship piglets (called “feeder pigs”) to Corn Belt states such as Illinois and Indiana for “growing” and “finishing.” When they are transported on trucks, piglets weighing up to 100 pounds are given no more than 2.4 square feet of space.
Once pigs reach “market weight” (250 to 270 pounds), the industry refers to them as “hogs” and they are sent to slaughter. The animals are shipped from all over the U.S. and Canada to slaughterhouses, most of which are in the Midwest. According to industry reports, more than 1 million pigs die en route to slaughter each year. No laws regulate the duration of transport, frequency of rest, or provision of food and water for the animals. Pigs tend to resist getting into the trailers, which can be made from converted school buses or multideck trucks with steep ramps, so workers use electric prods to move them along. No federal laws regulate the voltage or use of electric prods on pigs.
A typical slaughterhouse kills about 1,000 hogs per hour. The sheer number of animals killed makes it impossible for pigs’ deaths to be humane and painless. Because of improper stunning, many hogs are alive when they reach the scalding-hot water baths, which are intended to soften their skin and remove their hair.
Because crowding creates an environment conducive to the spread of disease, pigs on factory farms are fed antibiotics and sprayed with huge amounts of pesticides. The antibiotics and pesticides remain in their bodies and are passed along to people who eat them, creating serious health hazards for humans. Pigs and other factory-farmed animals are fed 20 million pounds of antibiotics each year, and scientists believe that meat-eaters’ unwitting consumption of these drugs gives rise to strains of bacteria that are resistant to treatment.
Each factory-farmed pig produces about 9 pounds of manure per day. As a result, many tons of waste end up in giant pits, polluting the air and groundwater. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agricultural runoff is the number one source of pollution in our waterways.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Stop factory-farming abuses by supporting legislation that abolishes intensive-confinement systems. Reduce or eliminate pork from your diet.
Goats seem to have been first domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by goatherds who were frequently children or adolescents, similar to the more widely known shepherd. These methods of herding are still utilized today.
Goats, like cows, are ruminant animals. They have a four chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Goats are shy at first, but will show adoration and devotion once you have gained their trust. They're frolicsome and have a gentle disposition, but when angered, they can retaliate quickly with a strong head butt. Goats are also clever animals who have been known to use their horns to open gates and feed bins, create and enlarge holes in fences, and batter down boards in confined areas. They also use their horns as back scratchers. Goats are most comfortable in groups, which are known as "tribes."
Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. Contrary to this reputation, they are quite fastidious in their habits, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad leaved plant.
It can fairly be said that goats will eat almost anything in the botanical world. Their plant diet is extremely varied and includes some species which are toxic or detrimental to cattle and sheep. This makes them valuable for controlling noxious weeds and clearing brush and undergrowth. They will seldom eat soiled food or water unless facing starvation.
Goats do not actually consume garbage, tin cans, or clothing, although they will occasionally eat items made primarily of plant material, which can include wood. Their reputation for doing so is most likely due to their intensely inquisitive and intelligent nature: they will explore anything new or unfamiliar in their surroundings. They do so primarily with their prehensile upper lip and tongue.
In some climates goats, like humans, are able to breed at any time of the year. In northern climates and among the Swiss breeds, the breeding season commences as the day length shortens, and ends in early spring. Does of any breed come into heat every 21 days for 2 to 48 hours. A doe in heat typically flags her tail often, stays near the buck if one is present, becomes more vocal, and may also show a decrease in appetite and milk production for the duration of the heat.
Bucks (intact males) of Swiss and northern breeds come into rut in the fall as with the doe's heat cycles. Rut is characterized by a decrease in appetite, obsessive interest in the does, fighting between bucks, display behavior, and, most notably, a strong, musky odor. This odor is singular to bucks in rut; the does do not have it unless the buck has rubbed his scent onto them or the doe is in actuality a hermaphrodite. It is instrumental in bringing the does into a strong heat.
Gestation length is approximately 150 days. Twins are the usual result, with single and triplet births also common. Less frequent are litters of quadruplet, quintuplet, and even sextuplet kids. Birthing, known as kidding, generally occurs uneventfully with few complications. The mother often eats the placenta, which gives her much needed nutrients, helps staunch her bleeding, and reduces the lure of the birth scent to predators. After kidding, the kids conceal themselves in small places and lay immobile for hours at a time while their mother feeds. Upon her return, she calls for them and they come out to nurse and play.
Some of the most charismatic and versatile domesticated animals, mules have been used by humans for millennia, working as load-bearers, cart-pullers, and even racing mounts. The exact origin of the mule as a species isn’t known, but it’s likely that the first mules were the result of pairings between wild asses and horses that lived in the same habitats; this is a rare occurrence, though, and nearly all mules throughout history and up to modern days have been domestically bred by humans.
Mules were first popularly bred by the ancient cultures of Paphlagonia (a region that’s now part of Turkey), and they were used as valued pack animals in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. The mule was also seen as a highly valuable mount in many societies, often being reserved specifically for the use of royalty or nobility.
Christopher Columbus first introduced the species to the Americas in 1495, breeding together donkeys and horses that he had brought with him to the New World for the Conquistadores’ explorations.
The word ‘mule’ itself typically refers to the progeny of a mare (a female horse) and a jack (a male donkey), who, although they belong to two different species, are able to readily breed and produce offspring. Interestingly, foals of jennets (female donkeys) and stallions (male horses) pairings are called hinnies, but they’re far more rare in number, since a jennet’s body is far more efficient at detecting and defending against foreign DNA than a mare’s body. Both hinnies and mules fall under the same species and tend to be classified together as mules.
Although the adage ‘stubborn as a mule’ is widely quoted, in actuality, mules are truly intelligent survivalists, and won’t willingly put themselves in danger from overwork. They’re also widely praised as being anecdotally more patient than horses or donkeys, as well as stronger, more compliant and more curious than their donkey sires, making them hardy, enduring companions. The size and appearance of a mule can vary drastically from individual to individual, and really depends more on the size and lineage of their equine dam. Mules can range from miniature sizes, to smaller pony-types, to tall and lightweight physiques, and even up to moderately heavy weights when they’re bred from draft horses. On average, though, the weight range for a mule is between about 820 and 1,000 lb. In appearance, mules tend to have the thinner limbs, narrower hooves and short manes characteristic to donkeys, but the height, neck length, tail appearance and hindquarters are horse-like, as is their coloration. Mules can appear in sorrel, bay, black or grey, as well as (less commonly) roan, paint, and Appaloosa variations. These personable beasts also have a unique bray, which often sounds different from mule to mule – a humorous combination of ‘hee-haw’ and ‘whinny’.
A fantastic example of hybrid vigour (a phenomenon where hybrid offspring improve upon their parents), and more able to resist common diseases and parasites, mules can survive off of less nutritious fodder, and also typically have a longer lifespan than either horse or donkey. Their skin is less sensitive to pressure and changes in temperature and they’re also adaptable and able to better withstand more extreme climate conditions. Mule hooves are also narrower in size, but thicker and harder in material composition than those of horses.
A mule’s diet (entirely plant-based) tends to depend on the work they do, but, like horses and donkeys, they can thrive mainly on timothy or grass hays, or fresh pasture grazing. Unless they’re frequently working for long periods, most mules don’t need to eat richer alfalfa or grains, since they tend to use the nutrients in their food more efficiently than their equine parents. Mules also tend to be far less likely to consume toxic plants, and won’t generally overeat.
The major growth spurt for mules generally happens later than with horses - around 3-4 years of age - and some mules continue growing in height until they’re 8 or 9 years old. Aside from their slower development rate, the reproductive characteristics of mules are perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these animals. Mules (and hinnies) have 63 chromosomes, which differ from a horse’s 64 and a donkey’s 62. This means that chromosomal pairing typically doesn’t happen correctly if a mule were to mate, meaning that most mules are sterile (not able to produce offspring). There are a few recorded exceptions, however; as historical records since 1527 show 60 cases where foals were carried to full term and birthed from the mating of mule mares with male horse or donkeys.
THREATS TO MULES
Although the use of mules has declined enormously in North America with the introduction of industrial machinery in the late 20th century, mule breeders continue to breed these equids. They are often forced to perform more work than their small bodies can handle. Mules are sometimes kept as "pets", often poorly cared for. Many are left to fend for themselves. They develop deformed and crippled feet, become emaciated or obese and suffer from dental problems and parasite infestation.
As the animal agriculture industry continues to take over the Earth's landmass, species rich habitats are being quickly destroyed. A frightening one acre of land is cleared every second. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, habitat destruction and ocean dead zones.
Animal agribusiness already occupies about 40% of Earth’s landmass and accounts for 75% of global deforestation. The rapid destruction is causing species to disappear, negatively impacting the biodiversity of native ecosystems and furthering our path into the 6th mass extinction of all species on Earth.
There are about 1.7 million documented species of flora and fauna. Over 86% of 10 million known species of flora and fauna have not been described or documented. The UN is reporting an estimate of up to 100 plant and animal species lost every day.
Our planet is about 4.5 billion years old. Through its ancient lifespan, Earth has encountered a few mass extinctions. 5 to be exact: Ordovician (444 million years ago), Devonian (375 million years ago), Permian (251 million years ago), Triassic (200 million years ago), and Cretaceous (66 million years ago).
Out of the billion years of our planet’s life, humans have only been here for around 6 million years. Of those 6 million years, the current human species (Homo sapiens) has been here only 200,000 years – with our current civilization a mere 6,000 years old. The industrialization of this civilization is only 200 years old, and in the last 500 years 1,000 species of animals have gone extinct. Presently, the rate of extinction is as high as 140,000 species each year.
Massive destruction is occurring in countries with mega diverse habitats that are home to some of the largest number of species. In the Amazon, 3 quarters of the rainforest have been (and continue to be) cleared for both international and domestic animal agriculture companies. In the US, where 260 million acres of forests have been cleared, 1 in 5 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction.
Animal agribusiness has also devastated our marine environments. Billions of animals are stripped from the ocean every year. The rapid rates of oceanic animal harvesting doesn’t allow species enough time to reproduce. The inability to recover their populations puts the planet at risk of fishless seas by 2048.
The facts and statistics are clear. The animal agriculture industry is killing our environment and putting every species on this planet at risk of extinction. The animal agriculture industry’s pollution of our air, water and land, along with deforestation and soil degradation, all contribute to habitat loss and species extinction. Like a domino effect, a multitude of aspects is leading to the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity.
Animal farming has become the greatest threat to the world’s plants and animals. The clearing of forests and rainforests for livestock pasture and feed crops is extinguishing Earth’s biodiversity, which allows life to continue in balance regardless of natural changes to the environment.
It all begins with the choices humans make and put on our plates, and that is also where it can end. Livestock farming is only in demand because of human consumption. By making healthier food choices that are more plant based, we can put a halt and reversal to the destruction of our planet and its animals.
The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years.
There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as “pets” in developed countries.
Domesticated donkeys are also used as guard animals for goats, sheep and cows against the threat of coyotes. Coyotes are the only natural threat to donkeys.
Wild donkeys, called burros, live in desert plains, where they survive on little food and water for long periods.
A male donkey or ass is called a jack; a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal. Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules.
Donkeys were first domesticated around 3000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world.
Donkeys vary considerably in size, depending on breed and management. The height at the withers ranges from 31 to 63 inches, and the weight from 180 to 1,060 lb. Working donkeys in the poorest countries have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years; in more prosperous countries, they may have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.
Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands. Unlike wild and feral horses, wild donkeys in dry areas are solitary and do not form harems. Each adult donkey establishes a home range; breeding over a large area may be dominated by one jack. The loud call or bray of the donkey, which typically lasts for twenty seconds and can be heard over long distances, may help them keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert. Donkeys have large ears, which pick up more distant sounds and may help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys can defend themselves by biting, striking with the front hooves or kicking with the hind legs.
A jennet is normally pregnant for about 12 months, though the gestation period varies from 11 to 14 months, and usually gives birth to a single foal. Births of twins are rare, though more common than in horses. Although jennets come into heat within 9 or 10 days of giving birth, their fertility remains low and it is usual to wait one or two further oestrous cycles before rebreeding.
Donkeys can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, and are commonly interbred with horses. The hybrid between a jack and a mare is a mule. The hybrid between a stallion and a jennet is a hinny, and is less common. Like other inter-species hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile. Donkeys can also breed with zebras in which the offspring is called a zonkey.
Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness. This has been attributed to a much stronger sense of self-preservation than exhibited by horses.
Although formal studies of their behavior and cognition are rather limited, donkeys are quite intelligent, cautious, playful, and eager to learn. Donkeys are affectionate animals and enjoy the companionship of people. Donkeys require companions or they become depressed. The donkey's favorite pastime is rolling.
THREATS TO DONKEYS
Over 40 million donkeys exist worldwide. China has the most, followed by Pakistan, Ethiopia and Mexico. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass and another relative, the onager, are endangered.
In many societies donkeys are regarded as low status animals and are commonly mistreated. They are forced to perform more work than their small bodies can handle. Since new donkeys are cheaper than veterinary care, ill and injured donkeys are often tied to posts without food or water and left to die.
In Spain and Greece, donkeys are used as "donkey taxis". Profit is placed above the care of the animals. They are exposed to temperature extremes with little or no food, shelter or water and are made to carry people too heavy for their bodies. At night their feet are tied together to prevent them from wondering off.
Donkeys are abused at live animal markets in China. Some restaurants offer fresh donkey meat where pieces of donkey are sliced off while the donkey is still alive.
Donkeys are sometimes kept as "pets", often poorly cared for. Many are left to fend for themselves. They develop deformed and crippled feet, become emaciated or obese and suffer from dental problems and parasite infestation.
Donkey basketball has been practiced in the United States since the 1930s. Donkey basketball involves human basketball players riding donkeys, usually as a fundraising event. The events typically take place in public schools where children are taught that animal abuse and humiliation is entertaining. The donkeys are often dragged, kicked and punched by participants who have no animal-handling experience. Unethical commercial firms provide donkeys and equipment, splitting the proceeds with the hiring party. Donkey basketball is inhumane and cruel to animals.
Donkeys are not protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act.
The ostrich is the largest bird in the world. Ostriches are also the fastest birds on the ground, capable of running up to 50 mph. Ostriches are flightless birds due to their size and weight. They use their amazing speed to escape threats.
Ostriches are found natively in Africa and, formerly, the Middle East. The ostrich is closely related to the New Zealand kiwi and the Australian emu. There are five different species of ostrich, most inhabiting areas around central and eastern Africa. Different species of ostrich vary slightly in color and size.
Ostriches have three stomachs. Unlike all other birds, ostriches secrete urine separately from feces. They have two toes on each foot, where most birds have four. The large nail on the larger, inner toe resembles a hoof. Ostriches have the largest eyes of any land animal, allowing them to see predators at great distances. The thin legs of the ostrich are perfectly placed so the body's center of gravity balances on top of the legs. Ostrich feathers hang loosely and do not hook together like feathers of other birds.
Ostriches do not use their wings to fly, but they do use them to shade ostrich chicks, in mating displays, to cover their naked upper legs and flanks to conserve heat, and to help them change direction when running.
Ostriches are omnivores, feeding on a variety of plants and animals. The ostrich diet includes seeds, leaves, grass, flowers, roots and fruit – as well as insects, small mammals and reptiles. Ostriches do not have teeth, so they swallow pebbles to grind their food. They can go without water for several days, using metabolic water and moisture ingested through their food sources, but they enjoy drinking and bathing in water.
It is a myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. Ostriches lie low when hiding from predators, stretching theirs neck along the ground. From a distance it appears the ostrich has buried its head in the sand. Ostriches also have a powerful kick they use for self-defense that can be fatal to most animals.
Ostriches often spend the winter months alone or in pairs. The rest of the year ostriches commonly live in large communities, or herds. Ostrich communities can consist of a dominant male, females (hens) and their baby ostriches. Ostriches travel together with other grazing animals, including antelopes and zebras.
Ostriches engage in fascinating, complex mating rituals. Males attempt to drive away all other males. Battles between males for females usually last just a few minutes, but can be fatal by competing males slamming their heads into each other. Males alternate wing beats until attracting a female. The two graze in synchronization, then the male excitedly flaps alternate wings while poking the ground with his bill. He will then violently flap his wings to symbolically create a nest in the dirt. While the female runs in circles around him with lowered wings, he winds his head in spiral motions. She then drops to the ground for him to mount her.
An alpha ostrich male constructs a large communal nest in the ground for his hens to lay their eggs. There can be more than 20 eggs in the nest, but usually only a couple eggs actually hatch as they are preyed upon by predators. Each female can determine her own eggs. Ostrich eggs are the largest of any bird species, 10 times larger than a chicken egg. Incubation of ostrich eggs takes about 6 weeks. They are incubated by the dominant female during the day, and by the male at night. Using the coloration difference of the two sexes, they attempt to prevent predators from detecting the nest. The drab-colored female blends in with the sand during the day, while the black male is more undetectable at night. Alpha male ostriches defend ostrich babies from danger and teach them to hunt for food.
Due to their large size and powerful legs, ostriches have few natural predators. The main predators of the ostrich are cheetahs, lions, hyenas and crocodiles.
Ostriches live up to 45 years in the wild.
THREATS TO OSTRICHES
Wild ostrich populations are declining drastically, with most ostriches surviving on farms or in game parks. The Somali ostrich is listed as vulnerable. As human populations grow, they expand into ostrich habitats. The construction of settlements and roads, and animal agriculture, are all contributing to ostrich habitat loss.
Humans are the main predators of the ostrich as they hunt and farm ostriches for their meat, eggs and feathers.
In some countries, humans inhumanely race each other on the back of ostriches.
There are so many delicious vegan dishes to choose from that you’ll never be short of ideas. How about Indian curries, spaghetti, pizza, enchiladas, Chinese stir fry, sausage and mash, falafel, vegetable casserole and dumplings, sandwiches, wraps, samosas, quiche, soups, pasta and pesto, spring rolls, lasagne, spicy bean burgers, risotto, hot and sour soup, Thai green curry, Moroccan tagine…and don’t forget dessert! Vegans can enjoy sponge cake, ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies and more that taste as good, as or even better, than their non-vegan equivalents. Rest assured that vegan food is just as tasty and varied as any other type of food.
You don’t have to be a genius in the kitchen or have loads of time to cook – quick and easy vegan meals include stir fries, pasta and sauce, chili, potatoes and burritos. If you do enjoy cooking, you can have lots of fun trying out new recipes and discovering new favorite ingredients and dishes.
WHAT ABOUT EATING IN RESTAURANTS?
Many restaurants offer vegan options and the choice is improving all the time. Some chain restaurants offer vegan options. Indian restaurants usually have a good selection for vegans, and Middle Eastern, Chinese and Thai restaurants often have vegan dishes as many of their vegetarian dishes do not contain milk or eggs. Just check with the staff to make sure there are no hidden animal ingredients, such as fish sauce in Thai food. Most restaurants can accommodate vegans even if vegan options aren’t on the menu. All you have to do is ask. You’ll often find that the cook or chef enjoys the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you!
IS VEGAN FOOD EXPENSIVE?
No more than any other type of food. In fact, meals based on vegan staples such as pasta, rice, beans and vegetables often work out cheaper than using animal products. Vegan meals in restaurants are often cheaper than the meat dishes. Products such as non-dairy milk, veggie burgers and vegan pesto are usually a similar price to their non-vegan counterparts and are available in most supermarkets. As with any type of food you can splash out on luxuries if you like, but that’s entirely up to you.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I REMAIN HEALTHY?
A balanced vegan diet meets many current healthy eating recommendations, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fiber and consuming less saturated fat and cholesterol. It can also decrease your chances of suffering from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Well-planned vegan diets meet nutritional requirements for all age groups and stages of life.
WILL I NEED TO TAKE SUPPLEMENTS?
Vegans need to obtain vitamin B12 either from supplements or from foods fortified with it. Our bodies produce vitamin D by the action of sunlight on skin, so depending on where they live, it may be advisable for vegans to consume vitamin D2 during winter through supplements or fortified foods (particularly in northern countries). Other than Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, all nutrients necessary for good health can be obtained from plant foods in adequate amounts.
WILL I MISS CHOCOLATE/PIZZA/ICE CREAM/CHEESE/CAKE?
No you won’t! There are vegan versions of or alternatives to many familiar foods, including all of the above. You will not have to give up that favorite food after all.
WHAT IF I EAT AT A FRIEND OR RELATIVE'S HOUSE? - I DON'T WANT TO BE 'DIFFICULT'.
Friends and relatives may not know how to cater for you at first but will soon get used to your new diet. To help them out:
Explain to them in advance what you do and don’t eat
Offer to take a dish to share with everyone
Offer to give them some recipes they could cook for you or suggest a few ideas
You may find that friends and relatives get into the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you and will look forward to having you to show off their latest efforts!
A bald eagle, as the nation's official bird, adorns the Great Seal of the United States of America. But if Benjamin Franklin had had his way, a turkey, not a bald eagle, might have famously gripped those 13 arrows and an olive branch as part of the seal. Franklin knew, like others who have spent time around this large bird, that it would have been an honor for the turkey to represent the U.S.
Originating from the Mexican wild turkey, the turkey was domesticated by Native Americans in prehistoric times and introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Early American settlers brought descendants of the Mexican wild turkey to the U.S. and crossed them with another subspecies of wild turkey indigenous to eastern North America to produce the forerunner of the modern domestic turkey.
Turkeys are usually characterized by large tail feathers that spread into a fan when they are courting or alarmed. Turkeys also have several oddly named appendages: the caruncle, snood, wattle and beard. A caruncle is a red fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of the turkey. A snood is the red fleshy growth from the base of the beak which hangs over the side of the beak. A wattle is the red, loose appendage at the turkey's neck. A beard is the black lock of hairy feathers found on a male turkey's chest.
Most turkeys raised for food have been genetically selected to have large breast meat, and they are unable to fly or reproduce without artificial insemination. They are fed a mix of corn and soybeans during their short life. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered for food each year, most at about 14–18 weeks of age. Commercial, domestic hens (or female turkeys) weigh 15–18 pounds by 14–16 weeks of age, and heavy toms (or male turkeys) weigh 25-32 pounds by 16–18 weeks.
Five subspecies of wild turkeys still inhabit much of the United States, with a population estimated at 6.5 million. The most prevalent bird is the Eastern wild turkey, whose forest territory ranges from Maine to parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Wild turkeys are smaller in size than their domestic counterparts, with a longer neck and body. They have a rich, brown-shaded plumage with a metallic or iridescent sheen, and white and black bars on their primary wing feathers. Toms can stand up to 4 feet tall and weigh more than 20 pounds, while hens are about half that size and weight. Wild turkeys eat nuts, greens, insects, seeds, and fruit, and can live 3–4 years. Their predators include human hunters and animals who disturb their nests, such as crows, raccoons, skunks, snakes and opossums.
Hens begin nesting in late March or early April, laying one egg a day until the clutch reaches 10–12 eggs. They nest on the ground, in a hidden area in the forest or fields of tall grass. Incubation lasts for 28 days, and hatching occurs over a 24–36 hour period in late May or early June. Poults, or baby turkeys, stay near the nest until they are about 4 weeks old and can fly 25–50 feet. This allows them to escape predators by roosting in trees for the night, usually near their mother. By three months of age, turkey groups will begin to form a social hierarchy, and an established pecking order is set by five months of age, at which time groups show subdivision by gender. As full-grown adults, wild turkeys can fly at 55 mph and run at 25 mph.
Hens are protective of their young. They will hiss and ruffle their feathers to scare away trespassers, and will only abandon the nest as a last option. Hatching begins with pipping, where the baby rotates inside the egg, breaking the shell in a circular pattern with its egg tooth (a sharp spike on its beak). Hens cluck as they check the eggs, beginning the critical imprinting process. Social cohesion among the babies is evident the first day after hatching, as is attachment to the mom. Vocal and visual signals are used to maintain close contact. This facilitates the learning of certain important activities, particularly feeding. Turkeys are social animals who prefer to live and feed together in flocks.
Wild turkeys are not protected by legislation. Commercial turkeys are not even included in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, although poultry make up over 95% of the animals killed for food in America. They are raised in crowded factory farms where they are not able to nest or feed like their wild cousins.
Water buffalo, or Asian buffalo, are believed to have originated in Asia, but have been introduced to Africa, Australia, Europe and North America. Wild water buffalo inhabit tropical and subtropical forests. They live in swamps, grasslands, savannas, lowland floodplains, glades and mixed forests – never far from water.
Water buffalo spend much of their time submerged in muddy waters to keep cool and to remove parasites, flies and other pests. Water buffalo hooves are spread out to keep them from sinking into the mud. They are large members of the Bovidae family, the same family as wild cows, the American bison, the African buffalo, the zebu and the yak. The water buffalo is the second largest wild cattle species in the world.
Water buffaloes are black or white in color. They have large, distinctive, curved horns. Males have larger horns than females and are about a third larger than female water buffaloes. The horns of male water buffaloes are crescent-shaped with a ridge along the body of the horns.
Water buffalo live in herds of a few buffalo to hundreds of buffalo. Living in communities provides better protection against predators. Wild buffalo communicate using low grunts and calls. Water buffalo are social animals and are not territorial. Herds are usually led by a dominant, older, female – often accompanied by a single adult male. Water buffalo can be active during the day or night, with feeding usually occurring in the late afternoon and evening.
Water buffaloes are herbivores, feeding on a purely vegetarian diet. Water buffaloes eat aquatic plants when they are in water, but often leave the water to find grasses, herbs and leaves.
Water buffaloes once engaged in long-distance seasonal migrations. They now occupy stable home ranges. Water buffalo travel in single-file, lead by a female adult with calves in the middle and the remaining adults in the rear.
Water buffalo mating season takes place during the rainy season. Males may be aggressive with each other to earn females. After mating, a female water buffalo will chase away the male. The male water buffalo will then seek other females to mate with. Female water buffaloes have one baby every couple of years, following a gestation period of 9 to 11 months. Baby water buffaloes stay with their mother for several years. After about three years, male water buffaloes join all male water buffalo communities. Female water buffaloes often remain with their mother's herd. Older males may lead a more solitary life, or live near female communities.
Water buffalo are preyed upon by large predators including lions, tigers and crocodiles. Their horns are used to protect them against predators. Water buffalo can also run very fast when faced with danger. They are extremely protective of their calves. Female water buffalo will form protective lines in front of their young when threatened by predators. If the threat continues, they flee into forests, tall grass or water.
Water buffaloes can survive over 25 years in the wild and in captivity.
THREATS TO WATER BUFFALOES
Wild water buffaloes are an endangered species due to loss of habitat and hunting, with less than 4,000 remaining. Their numbers are also diminishing as they are interbred with domesticated water buffalo.
The water buffalo has been domesticated by humans for thousands of years and is inhumanely used to pull heavy machinery, carry heavy loads, plow and transport people. Water buffalo are commercially farmed around the globe for their milk, skin, butterfat and meat.
The domestic sheep is the most common species of the sheep genus. They probably descend from the wild mouflon of south-central and south west Asia. Sheep breeders refer to female sheep as ewes, intact males as rams, castrated males as wethers, yearlings as hoggets, and younger sheep as lambs. In sheep husbandry, a group of sheep is called a flock or mob.
Sheep are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Sheep like to stick close to one another for comfort and security. Either black or white, these animals are incredibly gentle. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, but they have also been known to bond closely with humans. If a person hangs a piece of clothing outside, a goat who has bonded with that person will run to it for safety when frightened.
Some breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior. This was used as an example to Israelites in the Christian bible to instruct them to obey their shepherd, or master. Flocking behavior is advantageous to non predatory animals; the strongest animals fight their way to the center of the flock which offers them great protection from predators. It can be disadvantageous when food sources are limited and sheep are almost as prone to overgrazing a pasture as goats. In Iceland, where sheep have no natural predators, and grasses grow slowly, none of the various breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior.
Sheep flocking behavior is so prevalent in some English breeds that special names apply to the different roles sheep play in a flock. One calls a sheep that roams furthest away from the others an outlier, a term originally used to refer to someone who lives far from where they work. This sheep ventures further away from the safety of the flock to graze, due to a larger flight zone or a weakness that prevents it from obtaining enough forage when with the herd. Another sheep, the bellwether, leads the others. Traditionally this was a castrated Ram (or wether) with a bell hung off a string around its neck. The tendency to act as an outlier, bellwether or to fight for the middle of the flock stays with sheep throughout their adulthood; that is unless they have a scary experience which causes them to increase their flight zone.
Being vegan does not stop at what you put in your body. What you put on your body needs a bit of thought too, as animal products seem to find their way into the most unlikely places. Vegans also attempt to refrain from purchasing household products made or tested on animals, and from exploiting animals by boycotting animal entertainment. With so many humane alternatives, why not choose vegan options?
MAKE-UP & TOILETRIES
Many cosmetics and toiletries have been needlessly tested on animals and often contain ingredients like beeswax, lanolin (from wool), silk, animal fat or slaughterhouse by-products. Most health food stores sell vegan toiletries.
Every year, millions of animals are subjected to the most horrifically painful experiments just so people can have a new brand of shampoo or a differently scented perfume. Eye irritancy tests - commonly called the Draize test, involve a substance applied to the eye of a rabbit to see if irritation or damage ensues. During the test, the animals are given no pain relief, they are held in stocks to prevent them from touching their eyes and the test may last for several days causing great pain and suffering. Rabbits are used because they have very poor tear ducts in their eyes so they cannot wash away the substance.
Skin irritancy test involves shaving the fur off an animal and applying the test substance to their skin. The skin is then observed for signs of irritation e.g. swelling, reddening, bleeding, cracking or ulceration.
Toxicity tests - such as the LD-50 (Lethal Dose 50%) involves substances fed to the animal and they are observed for signs of poisoning e.g. tremors, bleeding, vomiting or loss of balance. The test may last for several days causing great suffering. Those animals that do not die during the experiment are killed at the end for autopsy.
Animal testing of cosmetics is entirely unnecessary. Over 8,000 ingredients have already been established as safe and there is no reason why manufacturers need to use any new substances. Where new ingredients are used, the law requires them to be safety tested - this need not involve animal testing. Cruelty-free alternatives such as testing on reconstructed human skin, using computer modelling and enlisting human volunteers are often more reliable than using a different species, with a different biology to test products for human use.
CLOTHES & SHOES
Many shoes, jackets, belts and bags are made from leather, suede or silk. Happily for us - as well as for the animals - there are cruelty-free options.
Each year more than 40 million animals are senselessly tortured and killed to satisfy the dictates of fashion. Wild-caught fur is obtained by setting traps or snares to capture fur-bearing animals. Once an animal is caught it may remain in the trap or snare for several days starving or slowly strangling. Farm-raised fur comes from animals kept in tiny, filthy cages, deprived of adequate protection from the elements. As a result, animals develop stereotypical behavior, including pacing, head bobbing, and self-mutilation. The techniques used to kill animals on fur farms vary. Small animals such as mink are killed by neck snapping or "popping." Larger animals such as foxes are electrocuted by placing a metal clamp on the snout and forcing a rod into the anus, and then connecting the metal to a power source. Some animals are forced into bags or boxes and gassed with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.
Sheep raised for wool are subjected to a lifetime of cruel treatment. Lambs' tails are chopped off and males are castrated without anesthetic. In Australia, where 80% of all wool comes from, ranchers perform an operation called "mulesing" where huge strips of skin are carved off the backs of lambs' legs. This procedure is performed to produce scarred skin that won't harbor fly larvae, so that the rancher can spend less time caring for the sheep. The shearing of sheep at most wool ranches can be a brutal procedure, as workers are encouraged to shear as quickly as possible. As a result, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year from exposure. Sheep that are no longer useful for their wool are sent to crowded feedlots and then transported to the slaughterhouse.
By-products of the beef industry are defined by the parts of the cow that are not consumed by humans. These include hooves, some organs, bones, and skin. Skin (leather) accounts for about half of the by-product value of the beef industry. Like meat, leather is a product made from animals that experienced the horrors of factory farming, transport, and slaughter. The leather industry uses some of the most dangerous substances to prepare leather, including formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, various oils, and some cyanide-based dyes.
Animals used in the circus spend the majority of the year imprisoned in small cages or on chains, traveling from show to show. The training endured by circus animals is almost always based on intimidation; trainers must break the spirit of the animals in order to control them. It is not uncommon for an elephant to be tied down and beaten for several days while being trained to perform, and tigers are chained to their pedestals with ropes around their necks to choke them down.
Horses and cows used in rodeos are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs, and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank area. During bucking events, horses and bulls may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death. During calf-roping events, a calf may reach a running speed of 27 miles per hour before being jerked by the neck to an abrupt stop by a lasso. This event has resulted in animals' punctured lungs, internal hemorrhaging, paralysis, and broken necks.
Once greyhounds begin their racing careers, they are kept in cages for about 22-1/2 hours a day. The cages are made of wire and are barely big enough for the dogs to turn around. Dogs that are considered too slow to race are sold to research facilities or killed (20,000-25,000 each year) -- very few are adopted. More racehorses are bred than can prove profitable on the racetrack. As a result, hundreds of racehorses are sent to slaughter every year.
While zoos and aquariums may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals. Many animals in zoos and aquariums exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of being deprived of their natural environments and social structures. Some zoos and aquariums do rescue some animals and work to save endangered species, but most animals in zoos were either captured from the wild or bred in captivity for the purpose of public display, not species protection. The vast majority of captive-bred animals will never be returned to the wild. When the facility breeds too many animals they become "surplus" and often are sold to laboratories, traveling shows, shooting ranches, or to private individuals who may be unqualified to care for them.
Deforestation causes drastic loss of tropical forest biodiversity, and most deforestation occurs due to animal agriculture. Remaining areas of undisturbed and recovering forest provide the last refuge for many species unable to withstand the impact of human activity.
As one of the most comprehensive surveys of the impacts of disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity ever conducted, an international team of scientists found where forests had been cleared for animal agriculture, plant and animal life was impoverished and remaining species invariably consisted of the same subset of the original flora and fauna. There is irrefutable evidence that biodiversity is declining across the tropics due to animal agriculture.
The rapid growth of animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation. 70% of the Amazon Rainforest has already been destroyed and is now occupied by pastures and feed crops. One of the main crops grown in the rainforest is soybeans used specifically for animal feed. Tropical deforestation and forest clearing have adverse consequences that contribute to climate change, biodiversity loss, reduced timber supply, flooding and soil degradation.
Deforestation through farming also has a major effect on species loss and simplification across large areas. The lower species diversity in degraded forests indicates that many species are restricted to undisturbed forests. And the way in which they are altered by human activity has an impact on which species survives.
To preserve maximum species diversity, we must shift from animal-based agriculture to plant-based agriculture. Already 56 million acres of land are used to feed farmed animals, while only 4 million acres produce plants for human consumption. It takes 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant based diet than it does to feed meat eaters.
Studies have also determined that reserves should not be concentrated in one part of a region, but as a widespread network of forest reserves. These should include secondary forests where no primary forests remain. While there remains a widespread assumption that concentrating conservation efforts on the protection of isolated reserves is the best way to safeguard biodiversity, areas of private land already disturbed – which dominate much of the tropics – need to be maintained and protected as a wide network of forest areas. Without such a landscape-scale approach, many species will go regionally extinct.
The unsustainable ways in which we produce eggs, meat and dairy is damaging our environment. Switching to plant-based agriculture results in significant reductions in climate change, rainforest destruction and pollution of our air, water and land.
Despite their reputation, pigs have many positive attributes including cleanliness, intelligence and a social nature. Pigs are indeed clean animals. Yes, they do roll in mud, but only because they can't sweat like people do; the mud (or water) actually keeps them cool. If available, pigs, who are excellent swimmers, prefer water to mud. Pigs also carefully keep their sleeping area clean, and will designate a spot as far from this area as possible for waste. Even piglets only a few hours old will leave the nest to relieve themselves.
Those who know pigs can't help but be charmed by their intelligent, highly social and sensitive nature. Pigs are actually more intelligent than any breed of dog. Like dogs, piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called. They are also very discriminating eaters, and are particular about their living space. Pigs enjoy novelty and are extremely active and inquisitive.
When free to roam, pigs spend much of their day enthusiastically smelling, nibbling, manipulating objects with their snouts and rooting ("nosing") about in the soil for tidbits. Rooting is so essential to a pig that some animal scientists say that "a rooting pig is a happy pig." Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. A pig's sense of smell is so keen that the animal is trained in France to unearth truffles. Using their snouts as shovels, pigs toss clumps of soil and twigs high into the air, searching for the rare and delicious fungus that grows underground near the roots of oak trees. They are also used by police to help search for drugs.
Few species are more social than pigs; they form close bonds with each other and other species, including humans. They are quite gregarious and cooperate with, and defend, one another. Adults in the entire social group will protect a piglet, leaving their own litters if necessary to defend an endangered youngster. If one pig starts to dig out tree roots, others invariably join in.
Touch and bodily contact are especially important to pigs. They seek out and enjoy close contact, and will lie close together when resting. They also enjoy close contact with people familiar to them; they like being scratched behind the ears and shoulders, and, at the touch of your hand, will grunt contentedly and roll over for a belly rub.
Pigs are vocal and communicate constantly with one another. More than 20 of their vocalizations have been identified. Pigs most often say "gronk" (more commonly known as "oink"), and will say "baawrp" when happy. They have an elaborate courtship ritual, including a song between males and females. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother's voice, and the mother pig sings to her young while nursing. After nursing, a piglet will sometimes run to her mother's face to rub snouts and grunt. Pigs also enjoy music.
When she is ready to give birth, a sow selects a clean, dry area apart from the group, sometimes walking several miles to search for a good nest site and to gather preferred bedding materials. She hollows out a depression in the ground and lines it with grass, straw or other materials. For several days after her babies are born, she defends the nest against intruders. When her babies are five to ten days old, she encourages them to leave the nest to socialize with the other pigs.
Weaning occurs naturally at three months of age, but young pigs continue to live with their mothers in a close family group. Two or more sows and their piglets usually join together in an extended family, with particularly close friendships developing between sows. Young piglets play with great enthusiasm, play-fighting and moving or throwing objects into the air. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction, too, as they have found their way home over great distances. Adults can run at speeds around 11 miles an hour, and can trot for relatively long distances.
Yet many pigs do not lead such noble lives; the hog industry confines many female pigs to farrowing crates, claiming these are necessary to protect piglets from being crushed by their careless mothers. Yet when given more room, sows are very gentle with their piglets. Before a mother pig lies down in a bed of straw, she roots around to make sure all the piglets are out, a safeguard against accidentally harming one of them.
Despite the rich diversity of foods found all over the world, one third of its population does not have enough to eat. Around 6 billion people share the planet, one quarter in the rich north and three quarters in the poor south. While people in rich countries diet because they eat too much, many in the developing world do not have enough food simply to ensure their bodies work properly and stay alive.
826 million people around the world are seriously undernourished - 792 million people in developing countries and another 34 million in industrialized countries. Two billion people - one third of the global population - lack food security. Today, some 12 million children die annually of nutrition-related diseases.
THE ROOTS OF HUNGER
The developing world hasn't always been hungry. Early explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries often returned amazed at the huge amounts of food they saw there. In parts of Africa, for example, people always had three harvests in storage and no one went hungry. The idea of buying and selling food was unheard of.
The Industrial Revolution changed all that. European countries needed cheap raw materials such as coal and iron ore that developing countries had plenty of. Through the process of invasion and colonization, Western countries could not only take the raw materials but claim the land as their own and make the indigenous people pay taxes or rent. Poor peasants (many of whom had never dealt in money before) were forced to grow crops such as cotton to sell to their new masters. Wealthy countries owned the land, all the food that was produced, and decided the price. After paying taxes, peasants had little money left to buy this expensive food and often ended up borrowing money simply to live. This whole process of colonization continued right up to the beginning of the last century.
Drought and other 'natural' disasters are often wrongly blamed for causing famines. Local people have always planned for freak acts of nature and although they may be the trigger that starts a famine, the underlying cause is the system of modern day neo-colonialism.
The land in poor countries is still largely not owned by the people who work on it and rents are high. Huge areas are owned by large companies based in the West. It is common for people to be thrown off the land, often going to the towns where there is little other work. About 160,000 people move from rural areas to cities every day. Many migrants are forced to settle in shanty towns and squatter settlements.
Much of this land is used to grow “cash crops” for export - like coffee, tobacco and animal feed - rather than to grow food for indigenous people. Countries agree to grow cash crops in order to pay off their crippling debts.
Why are countries in debt? During the 1970s, developing countries were lent money by developed countries for a range of projects, including infrastructure development (e.g. dams and roads), industrialization and technology. The World Development Movement (WDM) states, “Often the projects turned out to be unproductive.” The loans were either multilateral (i.e. the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund lending to one government) or bilateral (i.e. one government lending to another).
Then in the 1980s, interest rates rocketed because of the oil crisis, while at the same time, industrialized countries put high prices on many agricultural imports so that developing world farmers were not able to sell their produce. Consequently, developing countries were unable to pay off their loans and they have become increasingly indebted. These countries are paying back billions of dollars to the West in interest payments each year.
Often, the loans had conditions attached. When Costa Rica borrowed money from the World Bank, one of the conditions set was that they had to cut down rainforest and clear land for cattle grazing to supply rich countries with cheap beef. The destruction of rainforests is a disaster not just for its people and wildlife but for the world's climate.
Between 1975 and 1985, thousands of acres of forest were cleared in Thailand to grow tapioca to sell to the EU as feed for pigs and cattle. When beef and pork mountains meant that not as much meat was being produced, Europe no longer needed tapioca and stopped buying. This put Thai peasants into huge debt because they had borrowed money to spend on improving their farms to grow enough to meet demand. As a consequence, many people sold their children into child labor and prostitution.
IN THE HANDS OF THE RICH
After extensive lobbying, the IMF and the World Bank set up the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) in 1996 with the apparent aim of alleviating debt burdens. Some bilateral lenders have agreed to write off 100 percent of the debts owed to them when the countries in question complete the Initiative. When countries get half way through (called the Decision Point), they receive partial relief on their annual debt service payments.
In order to receive debt relief through the HIPC initiative, developing countries have to get a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) agreed by the IMF and the World Bank.
PRSPs replace “Structural Adjustment Programmes” (SAPs), which were imposed on developing countries as part of their loan packages. These forced governments to reduce public spending and promote their export industries, in theory releasing more money for debt repayment. Unsurprisingly, a number of studies showed that SAPs made people poorer. The UNICEF-sponsored Adjustment with a Human Face documented increases in stunting, underweight and low birth weight in the wake of structural adjustment policies in 9 of 11 Latin American, African and Asian nations surveyed in the 1980s.
PRSPs set out governments’ strategies to reduce poverty and must include plans for how the money freed up by debt relief will be spent - e.g. on education and health care. The indebted countries also have to agree to implement economic reforms. The WDM states, “As the IMF and the World Bank hold the veto, PRSPs are unsurprisingly turning out to be very similar to the Structural Adjustment Programmes they replaced”.
AID & REVOLUTIONS
Much of the aid given to developing world countries has been 'tied aid' - this means that the countries who receive it have to buy goods and services from the countries who give it. In this way, most of the money is simply returned to those who gave it.
During the 1970s, the US only gave aid to Nicaragua in exchange for the production of beef, causing the loss of 1,000 km2 of rainforest per year. By 1979, Nicaragua was Latin America's biggest supplier of beef to the US.
Lobbying efforts by NGOs like Action Aid to “untie” aid mean that tied aid is now declining. In an unprecedented move, the UK government has now agreed to untie all its aid. However, an increased proportion of aid is now granted as “technical cooperation”, which is excluded from the definition of tied aid. According to a World Bank report, “some 100,000 foreign technical experts are currently employed in Africa, tending to displace local experts... it has probably weakened capacity in Africa.” Action Aid says that technical cooperation, “ensures a steady supply of lucrative contracts for consultants in donor countries”. “Aid” to developing countries is often more concerned with providing financial support for the West.
Food aid is also excluded from the definition of tied aid. Action Aid says that, “the exclusion of food aid may encourage the provision of donor foodstuffs when locally available produce could be purchased”. While food aid can be helpful in times of famine it does nothing to change the basic causes of hunger. As rich countries eat more meat, more land in poor countries will be turned over to produce animal feed.
The “Green Revolution” of the late 1960s and early 1970s was billed as the solution to world hunger. Productivity was increased through farm machinery, pesticides and fertilizers, irrigation and the replacement of traditional crops with high-yielding varieties. It failed to benefit those who needed it. This “revolution” focused on boosting the yields of a narrow base of cereals - corn, wheat and rice. The gains in cereal production often came at the expense of cultivation of more nutritious legumes, root crops and other grains. This resulted in reduced dietary diversity and contributed to widespread nutritional deficiencies as well as depletion of the soil and wildlife loss. The “revolution” also favored wealthier farmers because they were the ones who could afford to invest in the new technologies.
Many countries in Asia and Africa have traditionally based their diets around rice, beans, pulses and vegetables, either following a wholly vegetarian diet or only including low amounts of meat and fish. This is exactly the type of nutritious diet that is now being promoted by health officials in the West in an attempt to combat diseases like obesity, heart disease and cancer - low in animal fats and high in fiber, vegetable protein and essential vitamins. Yet developing countries, keen to copy Western lifestyles, increasingly perceive meat-eating as a sign of wealth and progress. This shift towards meat consumption is being described as “The Livestock Revolution”.
The International Food Policy Research Institute projects that meat demand in the developing world will double between 1995 and 2020. Per capita demand for meat is projected to increase 40 percent. Growth in livestock farming is primarily taking place in the intensive pig and poultry sectors.
Intensively farmed meat is billed as being a cheap source of protein while the global picture - the “grain drain” created by increased meat consumption - is ignored. Demand for cereals to feed to farmed animals is predicted to double in developing countries over the next generation. Demand for corn will increase the most, growing by 2.35 percent over the next 20 years. Nearly two thirds will go towards feeding animals.
Meat consumption tends to rise as people migrate from rural areas to cities. The meat industry is naturally only too pleased by these new commercial opportunities.
THE INSANITY OF FACTORY FARMING
Breeding animals is an incredibly inefficient way to try to feed the world's growing population. Yet after food rationing during the second world war, intensive animal farming was actively encouraged as a way of ensuring our future “food security”.
Most meat in the West is now produced in factory farms which, as the name implies, are production lines for animals. To meet the large demand for meat, billions of animals are kept in cramped, filthy conditions, often unable to move properly and not allowed fresh air or even natural light. Unable to feed outdoors naturally, they are fed grain, oil seeds, soy, fish meal and sometimes the remains of other animals. High quality land is used to grow grains and soy beans - land that could be used to grow crops for humans.
The grain fed to animals does not convert directly into meat to feed people. The vast majority is either excreted or used as “fuel” to keep the animal alive and functioning. For every 10 kilograms of soy protein fed to America’s cattle only 1 kilogram is converted to meat. Almost the entire population of India and China, nearly two billion people, could be fed on the protein consumed and largely wasted by the United States’ beef herd.
Because of the demand for animal feed, a Western meat-based diet uses four and a half times more land than is necessary for a vegan diet and two and a quarter times more than for a vegetarian diet.
This increase in factory farming is creating huge problems. In Bangladesh, for example, which is one of the world's poorest countries, battery hen systems have become widespread. The country has massive shortages of food, many unemployed people and very little money to spare. Factory farming needs money for equipment, creates hardly any jobs and uses up much valuable plant food that could be fed to people.
Factory farming does not meet the needs of these people but it does benefit people in Western countries where much of the equipment needed, such as tractors and building materials, is made. When developing countries buy them they then become dependent on the suppliers for spare parts and repairs.
Poultry World magazine highlighted “the great scope for expansion” in Africa. It emphasized how African countries are largely dependent on Western countries for breeding stock, feed and pharmaceuticals. Poultry farming has grown so fast in India that they are producing more meat than their own people can afford to buy. Despite widespread hunger, they are exporting chicken to wealthy countries such as the Gulf States.
China has seen an enormous rise in pork production over the past decade and hence an enormous increase in its need for animal feed. The country has transformed from being an exporter of 8 million tons of grain in 1993 to becoming a net importer of 16 million tons by 1995.
If developing countries look to consuming the same quantity of meat per head as the average American, food shortages will become desperate. Yet rather than switch to vegetarianism, livestock scientists advocate boosting the “feed efficiency” of animals. A modern intensively raised chicken will put on 3 kilograms from the same amount of feed that in 1957 only yielded 2 kilograms. US scientists have discovered that pigs can be made to grow 40 percent faster on 25 percent less feed if they are injected with DNA encoding a modified, long lasting releasing factor for growth hormones. In livestock science, animals are perceived as unfeeling, unthinking, protein-making machines that can be tweaked and manipulated for our own benefit.
Exporting factory farming means exporting the overuse of antibiotics and the increased risks of food poisoning and diseases such as cancer and heart disease which are associated with increased meat-eating. It also means exporting the environmental damage caused by intensive farming systems, including the overuse of water and land degradation to provide the massive amount of crops these poor creatures are fed. Is this really what the developing world needs in order to “develop”?
The predicted shift towards increased meat consumption is still in its infancy. Even in China, which is at the forefront of the “Livestock Revolution” and where per capita meat consumption doubled between 1983 and 1993, people eat on average just a quarter as much meat as the average American. If we act now, we could still stop this cycle of insanity and move towards agricultural systems which would genuinely feed the world.
MALNUTRITION & OBESITY
For the first time in history, we have reached a situation where the number of overweight people rivals the number who are underweight, both estimated at 1.1 billion.
As countries grow wealthier, meat consumption tends to rise. Hunger problems are reduced but hospitals begin to see more cases involving illnesses such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer - all of which are linked to diets high in animal produce. China is at the forefront of the “livestock revolution”. The share of adults who are overweight jumped from 9 percent to 15 percent between 1989 and 1992.
The number of diabetics worldwide whose condition results from overeating is projected to double between 1998 and 2025, with more than three quarters of this growth occurring in the developing world. Some countries will be battling hunger and obesity at the same time.
In a nutshell: countries whose people are starving are using their land to grow grain for export to feed the West’s farmed animals. Nutritionally valuable food is being fed to animals to produce meat, which Western countries are literally gorging themselves to death on. Now, we are exporting factory farming to the developing world. Meat consumption is rising and so are the associated health problems.
SEND A COW
Charities have been set up with the specific aim of promoting livestock farming in the developing world - claiming they are working to alleviate poverty. While encouraging animal farming may temporarily alleviate the poverty of individual families, it can only contribute towards poverty in the long run. Promoting meat production can never be a solution to world hunger because it means promoting a diet which drains valuable grain stocks and devastates the environment.
The amount of land used to grow animal feed in Western countries is not enough to meet their own needs and more is imported from developing countries. Land in some developing countries, like India, is also used to grow grain for animals who are reared and killed for export.
Currently farmed animals eat one-third of the world’s cereal production. In the industrialized world, two-thirds of the agricultural land produces cereals for animal feed.
In the United States, farmed animals, mostly cattle, consume almost twice as much grain as is eaten by the entire US population. 70 percent of all the wheat, corn and other grain produced goes to feeding animals. Over 100 million acres of US agricultural land is used to grow grain for animals and still more is imported.
In Central and South America, ever-increasing amounts of land are being used to grow soy beans and grain for export - to be used as animal feed. In Brazil, 23 percent of the cultivated land is currently being used to produce soy beans, of which nearly half are for export. 25 years ago, livestock consumed less than 6 percent of Mexico’s grain. Today, at least one third of the grain produced in the country is being fed to animals. At the same time, millions of people living in the country are chronically undernourished.
Instead of promoting the growing of plant foods for human consumption, governments offer subsidy payments and financial incentives to livestock farmers, thereby actively encouraging meat production.
Fish farming, or aquaculture, is the fastest growing sector of the world economy and has been growing at 11 percent a year over the past decade. In 1990, 13 million tons of fish were produced but by 2002, this had risen to 39.8 million tons. 85 percent of fish farming is in developing countries. China accounted for 27.7 million tons of the 39.8 million tons of world aquacultural output in 2002, and India 2 million tons. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand are also major players in the industry.
Breeding fish in captivity is billed as the way to protect ever-diminishing wild fish stocks. But paradoxically, carnivorous farmed fish are actually fed wild fish - further depleting the oceans. It takes 5 tons of fish caught from the sea to produce one ton of factory farmed salmon. Wild-caught fish are also fed to halibut, cod and trout.
Fishmeal is made from fish or fish parts for which there is said to be little or no human demand. But the huge need for wild-caught fish on fish farms still places much additional stress on our fragile, overfished oceans.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 69 percent of the world’s commercial marine fish stocks are “fully exploited, overfished, depleted, or slowly recovering”.
Non-carnivorous farmed fish like carp and catfish are fed grain rather than wild-caught fish. Fish are said to convert grain more “efficiently” than cattle - they add a kilogram of weight with less than two kilograms of grain. But the global fixation with obtaining protein from animals means that the most efficient option of all - consuming the grain directly - is ignored.
GLOBAL WATER SHORTAGE
The massive quantities of grain required to sustain a meat-based diet are not the only problem. The meat production process uses up vast quantities of water in a world where water is in short supply. It takes 1,000 liters to produce 1kg of wheat and 100,000 liters to produce 1kg of beef. About three quarters of the water we use goes to growing food but vegetarians need less than a third as much water to sustain their diet as meat-eaters.
Living in the West, it’s easy to imagine that our water supplies are unlimited, but globally our fresh water supplies are being used up so fast that almost half a billion people already depend on nonrenewable sources. 7 percent of the world’s population has not enough water and by 2050, this will be 70 percent. The situation is so dire that battles over water supplies are predicted to become a major source of conflict.
Worldwatch Institute chairman Lester Brown states, “In consumption terms, 480 million of the world’s 6 billion people are being fed with food produced with the unsustainable use of water. We are already using up the water which belongs to our children”. The International Water Management Institute predicts that by 2025 about 2.7 billion people - a third of the world’s population - will live in regions faced by regular and severe water scarcity. Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will be hit the hardest.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario more sickening than a rich elite gorging itself on meat while the poorest third of the world’s population literally dehydrate. A shift away from meat consumption must become a global priority if we are to have a hope of meeting the basic needs of the world’s 6 billion inhabitants.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
Multinational companies promise us that there is a new solution to global poverty: genetically modified crops. Thanks to their life-saving research, we will soon be able to grow enough food to feed the world, they promise us. So what’s the real reason for their sudden altruism?
Don’t forget that there is already enough food to feed the world - on a vegetarian diet. What there is not enough of is animal feed - cereals to drive the predicted increase in meat consumption. The amount of productive land is diminishing through desertification and soil degradation, due largely - ironically - to intensive livestock agriculture. But the potential market for animal feed is huge.
The pharmaceutical giants who are pushing GMOs bank some $161 billion dollars between them every year. They walk hand in hand with agribusinesses and the livestock industry - often they are one and the same company. Intensive livestock farming accounts for over 40 percent of their income and these companies are responsible for producing the vast quantities of fodder consumed by farmed animals world-wide - as well as the cocktail of drugs, growth enhancers and pesticides which prop up intensive farming systems.
The driving need, therefore, is to make maximum use of existing land by destroying all weeds and wild plants which compete for nutrients, and to increase crop yields - hence genetic modification. Companies promoting GMOs are more interested in boosting the production of animal feed, and hence meat, than in feeding the world.
THE SOLUTION IS IN OUR HANDS
The fast growth of the world's population is a serious problem because it means there are more mouths to feed, resulting in more pressure on water, land, wildlife and so on. By 2050, the 49 least-developed countries will nearly triple in size, from 668 million to 1.86 billion people. By 2050, today’s developing countries will account for over 85 percent of the world population.
However, although this makes the hunger problem worse, it does not actually cause it. It is the growth of incomes and demand for 'luxury' items in rich countries that have triggered the hunger crisis. The world is a much wealthier place today than it was 40 years ago and as wages have risen they have encouraged large-scale meat eating in richer countries, heightening the competition for cereals between animals and humans.
A huge “consumption gap” exists between industrialized and developing countries. The world’s richest countries, with 20 percent of global population, account for 86 percent of total private consumption, whereas the poorest 20 percent of the world’s people account for just 1.3 percent.
A child born today in an industrialized country will add more to consumption and pollution over his or her lifetime than 30 to 50 children born in developing countries.
The decline in world fish stocks, the erosion of agricultural land and the limits of technology to boost grain yields mean we are fast approaching the limit of resources and the earth's carrying capacity. We need to rethink the way limited supplies of plant food are distributed and start feeding the world.
Eating meat is not the only reason for world hunger but it is a major cause. We must drastically change our eating habits if we are to feed the world adequately. People are going hungry while ever increasing numbers of animals are fed huge amounts of food in a hopelessly inefficient system.
By not using animals as meat producing machines, this food could be freed to help those that need it most. Veganism, by using up far less of the world’s resources of food, land water and energy, is a positive step that we can all easily take to help feed people in poorer countries.
HELP WITHOUT HURTING
Food For Life Global
Food For Life Global brings food to the needy of the world through the distribution of pure plant-based meals. Food For Life is active in over 50 countries worldwide, with over 1,500,000 meals served daily by volunteers at schools for the poor, orphanages, on the streets of major cities, and to disaster areas. Services include: food relief, schooling, nutrition, education, animal sanctuaries, orphanages, medical care, organic farming, housing and disaster response. Meals served by Food For Life projects cost on average 15 – 20 cents each.
All of Food for Life’s food programs are completely plant-based, providing a sustainable alternative to the environmental devastation and inhumane activities of the factory farming industry. Food For Life is a non-sectarian organization.
Food For Life volunteers, universally recognized for their selfless dedication, compassion, and bravery, can be found wherever people are suffering, bringing hope and relief to the needy. It's mission flows from its core values of charity and respect for all living things. Therefore its services are provided without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, community, or nationality.
Food for Life Global is funded by private donations, foundations, and corporate and government grants. With the support of its members and corporate sponsors, Food for Life Global seeks to maintain and expand its current programs to feed the world’s hungry and fight poverty by promoting health, education and sustainability.
Help make a difference...donate now or volunteer with Food For Life Global.
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) is an award-winning international nonprofit charity dedicated to planting fruit trees to alleviate world hunger, combat global warming, strengthen communities, and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water. Programs strategically donate orchards where the harvest will best serve individuals for generations to follow, at places such as public schools, city parks, low-income neighborhoods, Native American reservations, international hunger relief sites, and animal sanctuaries.
VEGFAM helps people overseas by providing funds for self-supporting, sustainable food projects and the provision of safe drinking water. VEGFAM funds ethically sound plant-food projects, which do not exploit animals or the environment: seeds and tools for vegetable growing, fruit and nut tree planting, irrigation and water wells. VEGFAM also provides emergency feeding in times of crisis.
Help International Plant Protein Organisation provides emergency relief for the hungry in the less developed world, but just as importantly it encourages people to grow their own food - not meat or dairy but plant protein. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) - made from soy - can feed 60 people from the same amount of land that would feed two people on meat - and is much more healthy and humane
Most Americans don’t know the true meaning of food labels like “cage-free,” “free-range,” or “grass fed” and falsely believe that farm animals are protected by laws or independent oversight, according to the results of a national survey released by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®).
The survey also showed that, despite their misconceptions, approximately three quarters of consumers surveyed are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food and are paying more attention than they were five years ago to food labels that indicate how those animals were raised.
Key findings of the survey:
There are widespread misconceptions about what common labels actually mean for animal welfare: For example, 65 percent of consumers surveyed believe the term “free-range” ensures that the animal spent most of its time in a pasture. But in reality, there is no legal definition of “free-range” for pork, beef or dairy products. On poultry products, birds must have access to the outdoors, but the size, duration and quality of that outdoor experience is not defined.
Consumers are confused about how animal welfare is monitored on farms: Nearly half of those surveyed believe that an independent inspector verifies the health and welfare of animals living on most farms. Actually there is no independent inspection or oversight of animal welfare on the vast majority of farms – a fact that sparked concern in three quarters of survey takers.
Consumers are willing to pay more for products from farms that were audited to higher welfare standards, and desire more options: Sixty-seven percent of consumers say they are likely to buy meat, eggs and dairy products bearing a welfare certification label with meaningful standards, even if it meant paying a higher price for those products. In addition, 75 percent of consumers would like stores to carry a greater variety of welfare-certified meat, eggs and dairy.
There are now over 9 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of which exist in inhumane factory-like facilities. Sales of ‘higher-welfare’ animal ‘products’ are rising each year, demonstrating consumers’ ever-increasing desire for animals to be treated compassionately.
But buying ‘higher-welfare’ animal products does not reduce animal exploitation. If consumers want to ensure that the food they buy is ‘cruelty-free’, by far the best way to achieve this is to buy vegan food. It is entirely possible and increasingly easy to have nutritious and tasty food and practical and stylish clothing without exploiting animals.