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Archive for September 2012

Stop the dolphin slaughter—stay away from marine-mammal parks

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By Paula Moore

Dolphins have rich social lives, brains that are as complex as our own and pod-specific cultural practices that are passed down from generation to generation. Some scientists argue that dolphins should be classified as “nonhuman persons” and that their rights should be protected. The resident dolphins of Toshima, Japan—about 100 miles south of Tokyo—are considered official citizens of the small island and are fully protected while in the island’s waters.

But elsewhere dolphins are in danger. Every year in Japan, thousands of these intelligent, self-aware animals are killed in violent hunts known as oikomi or “drive fisheries.” Others are ripped from their ocean homes to be put on display in aquariums and marine theme parks or used in “swim-with” programs. These industries are inextricably linked. If you don’t support the slaughter of dolphins, then don’t pay to see them perform in dolphin shows.

September 1 marked the official start of one of the most notorious dolphin hunts—the annual slaughter in Taiji, Japan, that was documented in the Oscar-winning film The Cove. Video footage of past hunts in this Japanese fishing village shows dolphins thrashing in their own blood for many agonizing minutes after being speared or having their throats cut. By the end of the slaughter, the entire cove is red with blood.

While most dolphins captured in Taiji end up as meat in Japanese supermarkets—despite the fact that dolphin flesh is so dangerously contaminated with mercury that some Taiji officials have likened it to “toxic waste”—every year, about two dozen live dolphins are sold to aquariums, performing-dolphin shows and swim-with programs across the globe. It’s these lucrative sales that keep the dolphin slaughter going.

A dead dolphin brings in only a few hundred dollars. But a single live dolphin can fetch $150,000 or more.

According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, dolphins captured during Japan’s drive fisheries have ended up in aquariums all over the world. Even countries that no longer allow the importation of dolphins caught during the gruesome slaughter may be displaying animals purchased before the ban or moved through other countries to disguise their origin.

Dolphins suffer immensely in captivity. Eight former trainers at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, recently spoke out to the Toronto Star about the substandard conditions at that facility. Among other abuses, the trainers claim that five dolphins had their skin fall off in chunks after they spent months swimming in water so green that they could barely be seen in it. Photos of the dolphins show them with their eyes squeezed shut against the filthy water. According to the trainers, some animals have gone blind at Marineland.

In the open sea, dolphins live in large, intricate social groups, swim together in family pods and can travel up to 100 miles a day. In captivity, their world is measured in gallons instead of fathoms. Dolphins communicate with each other through whistles and body language. In tanks, their vocalizations become a garble of meaningless reverberations. Most aquariums keep antacids on hand to treat the animals’ stress-related ulcers.

No animal deserves to be torn from his or her rightful home, locked up in a tank or cage and forced to perform tricks just for our amusement. But the plight of a captive dolphin swimming in endless circles in a concrete tank is especially heartbreaking. Please stand up to this cruel industry. Before you buy a ticket, remember that patronizing marine-mammal parks and swim-with programs helps to support Japan’s bloody dolphin hunts—and condemns intelligent, social beings to a lifetime of misery.

Paula Moore is a senior writer with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Don’t let the drought dry up your wallet–go vegan

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By Heather Moore

Dry enough for you? No one needs to be reminded that the nation is experiencing the worst drought in half a century, with nearly two-thirds of the continental U.S. suffering from drought conditions. The dry, hot weather is fueling wildfires, scorching lawns and sending food prices soaring—especially for people who eat meat, eggs and dairy products.

If you’re concerned about your grocery bills—or your health—now would be a good time to start buying vegan foods instead of animal-based ones.

Farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the grains grown in the U.S. It takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make just 1 pound of chicken meat and 7.3 pounds of grain to produce a pound of pork. Now that many corn, wheat and soybean crops have been damaged or destroyed because of the drought, feed prices are soaring. It’s so bad that some meat companies, including Smithfield Foods, have even started importing corn from Brazil. Guess who’s going to foot the bill.

Meat-eaters can expect to see a spike in prices in the coming months. Consumers who eat cheese will probably also have to pick up the tab for all the calves who died from heat stress on Midwestern dairy farms in July.

Shoppers will likely see higher prices at the chicken counter first, though. The birds are fed mostly corn, and since chicken farmers engineer them to grow unnaturally fast, chicken flesh tends to reach the market quicker than beef or pork.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that chicken and turkey prices will rise 3.5 to 4.5 percent and that egg prices will likely climb by as much as 4 percent. Beef prices are also expected to rise between 3.5 and 4.5 percent this year and then by 4 or 5 percent in 2013. Pork will cost more in the coming year as well.

It’s cheaper, not to mention healthier and kinder, to eat grains and soybeans—and all the foods that can be made from them—directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals to produce animal products. The amount of feed needed to produce one 8-ounce steak would fill 45 to 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains. And while shoppers will see a spike in milk and meat prices, they probably won’t see a significant increase in the cost of corn on the cob, cornflakes or other plant-based foods sold in supermarkets. The corn that consumers buy at the grocery store is grown differently from the corn that’s used to feed animals and isn’t as severely affected by drought conditions.

Whole grains, beans, vegetables and other wholesome plant-based foods are even more of a bargain when you factor in the medical bills that you might rack up if you eat lots of fatty, cholesterol-laden meats, eggs and dairy products.

Of course, choosing vegan foods isn’t just a good way to save animals or money at the supermarket. It’s also an easy way to help conserve water—you can save more water by not eating 1 pound of meat than you can by not showering for six months. Even a collaborative rain dance likely wouldn’t make that much of a difference!

Whether you’re watching your budget, your waistline or just the weather channel, it’ll pay to go vegan. But if you need some extra exercise, feel free to do a rain dance anyway.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm