Placing Animals Part II

March 31, 2015

Much of the second half of placing animals covered a lot of what was already talked about in previous books; farming and how it has changed has been pretty thoroughly covered in eating animals. Similarly, the last chapter dedicated a good chunk of itself to talking about the changing definition of ‘wild’ and the way that humans tend to romanticize certain animals or ecosystems more than others, which is a topic I feel like we have already talked to death.

I did think, however, that the last chapter brought up a couple interesting scenarios that sort of question our conception how humans and animals interact, and how we should interact with animals. The chapter talked a bit about efforts to try and protect certain of species of animals under trade agreements, and went on to mention how this caused problems with certain groups of natives who were accustomed to hunting ad eating some of the animals listed as protected. Is it morally okay to opt to try and protect and endangered species if hunting and eating that species is a key aspect of some indigenous culture? Personally, I think part of it depends on the ability of the natives to hunt the animals sustainably. Many countries seem to have problems with overhunting or overfishing; it seems that as humanity’s ability to capture animals en masse increases, animal populations are unable to keep up and many people are too blinded by the big hauls to be concerned about animal populations in the long run. Having people go in and evaluate the natural resource use of natives seems like a good idea, as opposed to passing widespread animal protection bills that overlook the culture specific interactions that locals have with their animals. This will not only protect animal populations, but help out the locals in the long term by making sure they don’t overhung and run out of food in the future.

Another interesting topic the book brought up was the notion of ‘an authentic wilderness experience’. The book lists two instances of this, in one case a country imported elephants to attract tourists and make it seem ‘wild’ even though elephants are not a natural part of the ecosystem, as well as whale-watching trips in which the whales are very closely monitored and tracked, as opposed to simply going out into the open ocean and hoping to to see a whale appear randomly and surprise you. By turning things that are ‘wild’ into an attraction, do we devalue them somehow? Does mass appeal of an authentic experience make it lose its authenticity. I think so. This is something we observe in a lot of different things; some niche trend or thing becomes more watered down the more popular it becomes, not only because people will try to mass-produce it and cash in on it, but also because part of the appeal of such niche things is often the fact that it is so new and unique. Is seeing an elephant really so exotic and ‘wild’ if everyone can do it? Part of the appeal of wilderness, I think, is the stark separation from our everyday life it represents. Nothing about it is manufactured; nobody is trying to cater to you. You are just taking nature in, unprotected and in the open.

Placing Animals Part II

March 31, 2015

So I just chose random parts that I found interesting in the reading….

In this class and the environmental ethics class, we’ve been discussing a lot about how people are disconnected from the food we eat. Being disconnected makes us blissfully unaware of how the animals are treated and how unhealthy meat is. They have no idea about how unethically farm animals are treated in factory farms, which constitute 99% of meat and animal byproduct production. However, I thought this disconnect would have originated when factory farming started because that way we could block out the inhumanity of it. However Urbanik suggests that the divide between humans and farm animals began during Victorian London. The trend of domesticated pigeons, pets, and mice beginning to come into the city while the agricultural animals were being pushed out of urban society. The livestock used to roam the streets of the city, but people began saying that the animals went against standards, morality, and safety. People did not want to see the slaughter or abuse of the animals occur inside the city. Instead of addressing the problem, they sent them out of the city so they did not have to witness the problems. This is what they believe is the first disconnect between humans and animals.

A tool they use in the agricultural industry for making products that I did not know existed was the estimated breeding values (EBV). EBVs are measurements of genetic value, which is based on performance traits so breeders can choose the best genetic quality to ensure better products through generations. The performance traits they can select for is gestation length, birth weight, mature cow weight, milking ability, and calving ease etc. ( I knew that farmers were selective in their cattle to produce the best product, but I did not know the amount of control they had over the animals. Like they can sell genetic material to either genetically modify or clone a cow. At what point will the producers realize that the cattle cannot keep being genetically modified? We have domesticated pigs so much that the domestic pig is its own species in the taxonomic family Suidae (Urbanik, 116). Before we know it a cow will not be the same cow because we are getting so far away from what the original species was.

I really liked the part when they say “healthy animals means healthy humans” (125). The quote is so simple and makes complete sense, yet it appears so hard for our culture to change farming animal practices. Today factory farming has taken over with unethical treatment of chickens in battery cages or pigs in gestation crates. We put so much money into this industry for a crappy product in return. Especially when 8% of our global water supply is used just to water the crops that are fed to livestock (Urbanik, 129). While not being aware is a big issue in why there is not more backlash towards the meat industry, it amazes me how money hungry producers are that they are not concerned that their treatment of the animals makes for bad quality products. Thus this products are making us sick without us even realizing it.

Placing Animals Part 2

March 31, 2015

To be honest, the second half of the book wasn’t as good as the first half of the book. The second half started talking about the geographies of animal parts and about the first animal welfare legislation at the turn of the 19th century in England, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). The interactions of farmworkers and farm animals were talked about and how farmers felt like the only power that they had was over the animals and the powerlessness over human that they were feeling resulted in violence towards the animals.

We are accustomed to how we prepare our food today and how it is prepared. It hasn’t always been like it is now and the process of accessing water and food, the ability to protect and control a herd of animals, and breeding practices have changed dramatically. Post WWII period, the Western world changed the way animals were raised. With improvement in industrial technology, more animals were able to be confined in smaller living quarters, medicine was made to keep the animals from getting sick, and breeding was done that allowed for larger scale production. This led to what we have already talked about before, factory farms and how the mistreatment of animals in these farms have caused worldwide discussions about the mistreatment of the animals in the farms. We have really only talked about farms in these factory farms, but there are other animals as well. The bear for example is also used for their bile that the Chinese have been using in their medicine for thousands of years. Bears are the only mammal to produce ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), and demands for it are high, even though it can be produced synthetically now. China is actually the highest number of farmed bears today. As well as having the most bred tigers in their tiger farms, which is more than all the members of the six subspecies combined still in the wild.

Millions of animals are being kept on fur farms in North America, Europe, and Russia and are kept alive long enough to use their pelts for fashion. Animals are electrocuted so the coat is not ruined, which is wrong, especially since after all the talk about the mistreatment of animals.

Fox struggling before being electrocuted for its fur.

To know how they mistreat animals just to get their fur is wrong in so many ways. In the book they actually talked about how many animals that need to be killed just to make one fur coat. Here are just a coupe of the numbers, at least 55 wild mink, 35 ranched mink, 40 sables, 11 lynx, 18 red foxes, 11 silver foxes, or 100 chinchillas. Just these numbers alone surprised and upset me to realize how many innocent animals they kill just for a fashion statement.

Animals can predict earthquakes

March 31, 2015

They say animals can tell when a disaster is about to happen. Turns out it’s scientifically proven true! Some scientists set up some cameras to monitor animals behavior, and noticed that 23 days before an earthquake hit, animals activity began to quickly drop, until a week before the earthquake hit the cameras were picking up zero animal activity in the once very active Yanachanga national park in Peru. Supposedly this is due to molecules on the earth’s surface becoming electrically charged due to pre-earthquake activity, which in elevates Serotonin levels in the animals bloodstream for some reason, causing them to become restless and anxious and leave the area. I wonder why this doesn’t seem to affect humans?

Week 12: Pt 2 Placing Animals, Article, Project Update- SP

March 31, 2015


My favorite chapter in this part of the book was chapter 5, Down on the Farm: Geographies of Animal Parts. It made me feel like I was reading “Eating Animals” all over again. I’m not really sure how I felt about rereading the part about the inhumane acts towards the animals- It was reassuring in a weird way because it reinforced my renewed vegetarianism; However, it was sad (not surprising) to remember how horribly the animals are treated. Urbanik poses a few questions at the end of the chapter, one being: Can you be an environmentalist and consume CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) products? From a strict environmental point of view I would say no. It doesn’t make sense to be against a product or act but then support it by buying or consuming it. That would be hypocritical.But then aren’t we all a little bit? I try not to support CAFO or factory farming, but sometimes it’s a struggle. That would make me un-environmental then wouldn’t it? I can accept that. It’s funny how people can get a new hybrid car, shop locally, and reduce waste, yet still consume factory farmed/CAFO meat. The two concepts just don’t mesh.

He also asks the question: In a previous chapter we discussed the problem of pet overpopulation. What would you think of sending surplus dogs and cats to places around the world where they are consumed as a form of recycling? Thirty minutes before I read this question I saw a dog and thought of this exact same thing. It weird to think that in other countries its totally normal to eat dogs. At my dads house I eat pretty “weird” things according to a typical American, but I don’t think they’re weird because I grew up with it. I think as long as the same thing or even better than how we manipulate and treat animals for consumption in our very own country! If people knew what was going on behind the scenes at factory farms then maybe eating dogs wouldn’t be such a bad sounding idea in their heads. If I had a pet cow I sure as hell wouldn’t want to eat it, but since I am distant from it I am more likely to eat them. It’s all about how we have been conditioned to think. If you think about it, American do things that would be weird from a different cultures perspective. Here is a list that I found on an article about 93 things weird things american do.

  1. HUGE portion sizes of food.
  2. Flags everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
  3. Wearing the flag as a bikini.
  4. Price tags without tax included. “How do you know how much you’re spending until you get to the cashier?”
  5. Tipping is confusing.
  6. Advertising for prescription drugs, as in “ask your doctor for brand x.” In the U.K., “your doctor tells you what drugs you should take, not the other way around.”
  7. Everything being designed around cars.
  8. The “sheer amount” and lack of quality of TV commercials.
  9. Aerosol cheese.
  10. Americans saying “oh, really?”, which to us is a way of saying “Interesting, can you elaborate?” In other parts of the world, that phrase is generally meant to imply that what they’re saying is being challenged.
  11. Toilets that are too close to the floor and have “massive gaps around the door so that people can see in.”
  12. Pickles given with everything.
  13. College football players being treated as celebrities. They are “students that do an extra-curricular activity.”
  14. Jaywalking is a crime.
  15. The bread in the U.S. is very sweet.

Another one of his questions is: What makes it so difficult to consider widespread adoption of a plant-based diet? I think its because of tradition! I also think America is part of this traditional aspect as well. As an american you NEED meat in your diet- duh. Traditional American BBQ’s are focused on hotdogs and hamburgers- one can’t argue with that. We also tend to traditionally buy a Turkey every year at thanksgiving, a Christmas tree on Christmas, valentines day presents for loved ones, eat corned beef and hash on St. Patricks day. But if you ask any average American why they do these things they will say, “because its tradition.” Well the environment doesn’t benefit from tradition thats for sure. I am part of this culture as well– I am a traditional american sometimes, so I guess I’m not an environmentalists in that aspect either. So back to the question, it would be hard to make most people eat more veggies because people like meat and they have been raised by a culture that includes it every single meal. The sad part is is that this American meat culture continues to grow. This just reminds me of fast food. I always remember meat as fast food for some reason- which is kind of scary that my mind wouldn’t think of a traditional farm setting right away. It’s just disgusting how most people live today.


Recycle vs Trash: How people categorize paper

We all know that our landfills and the stuff in it isn’t getting any smaller. When people recycle, a study shows that we tend to recycle flat paper instead of crumpled paper. Our brain tends to “instinctively miscategorize” paper objects when they change size, shape, or appearance and tend to throw them out with regular non-recyclables. Three individuals at Boston University did a study on the environment and behavior. The way our brain works is by categorizing objects on a simple level to be able to get around in the world i.e. friend vs enemy, big vs small, circle vs square etc. When it comes to trash, our brain categorizes crumpled paper as trash and flat paper as recyclable- weird. Our brains work in strange ways.


Project Update:

I am meeting with Gene at 11:30 tomorrow morning to discuss plans for possible funding resources. Hopefully the funding can be part of his idea that will go along with the reusable containers and dishwasher idea. It seems like things are moving in the right direction.

“Let’s meet next week and brainstorm on this. It is very likely that we will get a new dish machine and I am working to figure out where to pull together the funds to purchase a supply of green reusable containers. That would be a far more beneficial focus to reduce landfill waste, but we can look at the spork idea and see how that can fit into the overall plans.”

Salamander Update!

March 31, 2015

A date is set for the Salamander clean up! It will be part of green week on Sunday April 12th at 11am.  I need to know if i need to ask for dumpsters or something from anybody.  Today, Tuesday March 31st, Kristin and I collected the pH and temperature from 4 spots starting upstream going downstream.  Starting upstream the pH ranged from 7 to pretty close to 8 where each spot increased in pH a little.  Starting upstream, the temperature went from 48 degrees fahrenheit, to 45 then the end of the stream was 56 degrees fahrenheit.  She mention if we are interested we should do a recent oil test but she said it could be pricey.  They send their samples to a company called Alloway in Marion to test the oil to save money, she mention we might want to do this in the future.  We saw a lot of sheen where we think its oil throughout the whole stream but more at the end.  We need to think about what else we want to look at, like the ORAM score.

News Update: A Former Trainer for Seaworld writes a book about Seaworld’s Cruel Treatment of Orcas

March 30, 2015

Former senior trainer for Seaworld, John Hargrove, wrote a book called “Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish”, that talks about how he wants orcas to stop being in captivity and to stop Seaworld cruelty against orcas.  He mentions the death of Dawn Brancheau by the orca Tilikum and how SeaWorld denied that Tilikum was ever showing aggressive behavior.  John uses this example to show that we need to remember these animals are still killer whales that can make the decision any moment. John also mentions how Seaworld has been threatening him since November with legal action so he has this whole legal team and great attorneys to fight Seaworld bullying because they been stopping trainers for decades from saying how they felt about Seaworld.  John mentioned that the orcas can’t go into the wild since they have been inbred, so he came up with a solution that their should be sea sanctuaries like the Ringling Brothers are sending their elephants to elephant sanctuaries in 2018.  (I did this article because a lot of people are into Blackfish and stopping Seaworld, plus we talked about this topic in Environmental Ethics).


Trainer John Hargrove performing a stunt at SeaWorld of California.

Heat-tolerant Beans in the Face of Global-Warming

March 29, 2015


CGIAR global agriculture research has save the bean, an important global food staple, from the threat of a global-warming death. Thirty new varieties have been developed with breeding and gene splicing to withstand higher temperatures for when greenhouse gases begin raising global temperatures.

“As a result of this breakthrough, beans need not be the casualty of global warming that they seemed destined to be, but rather can offer a climate-friendly option for farmers struggling to cope with rising temperatures,” said Andy Jarvis, a CGIAR climate change expert.

This breakthrough has been a global effort with the following countries donating to CGIAR for this project: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India,

Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,

United Kingdom, United States. Still, since the bean is the “poor” food of the world, many countries that grow and use this product most could not donate. Hopefully these varieties will be cheap enough for farmers to afford it where it’s really needed.

Current Event: Climate change ‘biggest threat’ to National Trust land

March 27, 2015

A woman with a clipboard counting snowdrops

  • `The National Trust is a charity located in Swindon, England
  • The National trust is unveiling a 10-year plan to “nurse the natural environment back to health”
  • The trust has more than 4.2 million members
  • The trust looks after about 600,00 acres of countryside
  • They noticed there had been an alarming decline in wildlife
  • Time is running out to avoid more harm
  • According to a RSPB study over the past 50 years, 60% of UK wildlife had declined
  • The trust plans to spend 1 billion pounds over the next decade on conserving its houses, gardens and countryside
  • The money includes 300 million pounds for clearing a “backlog of repairs”

Week 11: News Update/ Project Update

March 25, 2015


Cell phones may invade the wilderness more than they already do. If nobody speaks up, then $34 million fiber optic network could run through Yellowstone National Park. As a big advocate of solitude in the outdoors, I would NOT agree with this. What is the purpose? To be more connected with nature buy disconnecting ourselves? Or how about not missing out on that funny cat video huh? It will not only ruin their experience, it will ruin mine! If the purpose of this is to attract more people to the wilderness, I don’t want to go. That is the whole reason for it in my opinion. To live and feel the connectedness with nature rather than the hum and bussle of the city and most importantly, people. Of course at the end of the day, the purpose is all about the money and the benefit of the producer. Gross. The main driving factors are the young staff that work at the snack booth and the lodges and the interactive camp centers. So much for solitude.


Waiting for money situation. Or at least a suggestion of where to get it! I don’t need 5 million dollars cash up front- I just want to know a possible funding source.