Willie Nelson Lets 70 Horses Roam Freely At His Texas Ranch After Rescuing Them From The Slaughterhouse

WILLIE NELSON RESCUED 70 HORSES DESTINED FOR THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE

With his 85 years he is still visiting and has more than 30 flicks under his belt in addition to a number of books. He typically is traveling but when he isn’t you can find him on his ranch out in the Texas Hillside Nation. Willie is a vocalist, songwriter, poet and lobbyist.

When he heard that 70 horses were about to be sent out to the slaughterhouse and after that to an adhesive factory he rescued them in the nick of time. For the majestic animals it is a terrible fate. Sadly there are more pens than in the wild. Willie couldn’t see that occur as an enthusiast of steeds. His ranch in Texas is called Luck Ranch and is about 30 miles from Austin. He immediately moved the steeds to his ranch. The most of the rescued horses were destined to go to the abattoir. For minimum of for the horses the cattle ranch is certainly lucky. They have a lot of area to wander there. The horses are also dealt with like kings and queens as well.

Willie Nelson told ABC Information: “My steeds are possibly the luckiest steeds in the world. They obtain hand-fed two times a day. They were just all set to head to slaughter. That’s possibly the last pint they remember. They are more than happy steeds.’’ Willie’s love for animals is well documented and mentioned in many of his tunes.

WILLIE NELSON WITH ONE OF HIS RESCUED HORSES

The majority of people at his age place their feet up in a retirement community but this fabulous country music celebrity not. He still spends around 200 days a year traveling. Nelson likes nothing more than driving his old pickup truck around Luck Cattle ranch when he is not visiting. His kind work goes way back. In 1985 Nelson set up Farm Aid with Neil Young and John Mellencamp. They decided to do this to assist and raise awareness on the significance of family farms.

Nelson had his first concert in front of 80,000 people at the College of Illinois’ Memorial Area. Entertainers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B. B. King, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty and over 9 million household farmers for the United States. Nelson conserved around 70 steeds from shedding their lives over the course of the past couple of years. Instead of being sent to a butcher’s residence the horses can now appreciate spending their days strolling the countryside as well as eating routinely hand-fed meals. In the drive to prohibit the slaughter of wild steeds Willie has likewise been an energetic and vital voice. On behalf of the American Steed Slaughter Avoidance Act Nelson has actually contacted congress.

HAPPY HORSES

Willie reported: “As opposed to what some individuals are claiming massacre is not a gentle form of assisted suicide as well as these are not undesirable equines. The therapy of slaughter-bound steeds is most often savage as well as greater than 90 percent of those butchered are young and in good health. Lots of are marketed to abattoirs at closed auctions while others are stolen pets.’’ Nelson said he still can’t ride a horse in addition to he performed in his more youthful days. ‘The Love of Equines’’ is the name of his song from his most recent album. Look at the acclaimed video that is listed below.

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Ringling Bros Circus Returns – But Without Animals!

The iconic circus is set for a comeback after closing in 2017. But this time, it will focus on human feats and stories, and so sparing animals from having to perform.

RINGLING BROS CIRCUS RETURNS – BUT WITHOUT ANIMALS

The so-called “Greatest Show on Earth” is set to make a comeback, as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announce its return to the stage. 

The Ringling Bros circus stopped its 146 year-run back in 2017, after falling ticket sales and a long history of criticism and legal challenges by animal rights groups who condemned the circus’s use of animals. 

Now, the show’s big return – set to begin with a huge 50-city tour next year – will for the first time be free of animals, and instead focus on human feats and narrative story lines. 

“Ringling has always evolved: Logically, in order to be successful for 146 years, you constantly have to change,” Kenneth Feld, the chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, which purchased the circus in 1967, told The New York Times.

Ringling’s controversial use of animals had faced constant negative attention, with the circus forcing animals such as elephants, lions, and tigers to perform tricks, endure lengthy journeys across the country, and suffer many incidents of alleged animal abuse. 

Undercover investigations repeatedly revealed the miserable lives of the animals, including the Ringling Elephants who spent most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants.

AN ELEPHANT BEING ‘TRAINED’ TO PERFORM BY TRAINERS WITH BULLHOOKS

As calls for better treatment towards animals have continued to grow over the years, Ringling’s latest iteration will reflect modern attitudes and instead focus on inspiring and exciting human performers. The circus has already begun worldwide auditions for performers in countries including Ethiopia, Mongolia, and the US, with the 50-city tour scheduled to begin on Sept. 28, 2023. 

Animal rights campaigners are among those welcoming the return of Ringling’s circus. 

“Feld’s decision to bring the circus back without animals sends a very clear message to the industry that the circus can dazzle audiences with willing human performers and that no animal needs to be exploited,” said Rachel Mathews, a director from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation, told the Times.

“What people see in the circus is a display of human dominance,” Mathews added. “The fact is the public doesn’t want to see that anymore.”

In 2009, PETA conducted a hidden-camera investigation into the treatment of Ringling’s elephants. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered Feld Entertainment, the circus’s parent company, to pay a $270,000 penalty to settle violations of the Animal Welfare Act for its treatment of performing animals.

Criticism of animal acts in the circus dates back to at least 1920s, when the Ringling circus, facing pushback from a growing animal rights movement, removed Lions and Tigers for about a decade, according to Greg Parkinson, the former executive director of Circus World Museum, in the Ringling family’s hometown, Baraboo, Wis. (The Sea Lion and Elephant performances stayed on.)

As Ringling Bros. announces an animal-free comeback tour after a five-year hiatus, PETA is offering it the group’s web domain Circuses.com, which was previously used to expose the abuse of animals used in its circus.

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South Africa’s Ivory Delusion. Why Selling Ivory Stockpiles To China Will NOT Stop The Illegal Ivory Trade

The values of Zimbabwe’s and Namibia’s ivory stockpiles have been grossly overstated, and their proposed sale would lead to another poaching epidemic.

In 2020 the world reacted in shock when Namibia announced plans to auction off 170 live Elephants to the highest bidder.

Despite criticism, the plans have continued to move forward — and that may just be the start. Tucked away in a press release justifying the auction was a rehash of the country’s oft-repeated desire to also sell ivory. The Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism’s stated:

“Namibia has major stockpiles of valuable wildlife products including ivory which it can produce sustainably and regulate properly, and which if traded internationally could support our Elephant conservation and management for decades to come.”

Namibia is not alone in this desire to capitalize on its wildlife. In Zimbabwe’s national assembly last year, the minister of environment valued the country’s stockpile of 130 metric tonnes (143 tons) of ivory and 5 tonnes (5.5 tons) of rhino horn at $600 million in U.S. dollars. This figure, which would value ivory at more than $4,200 per kilogram, has since been seized upon by commentators seeking to justify the reintroduction of the ivory trade.

Charan Saunders is an environmental accountant dedicated to ethical conservation, so she wanted to understand these numbers and how they motivate countries. In truth, she found not even full black-market value comes close to arriving at this figure.

Black-market values are, of course, often invisible to the general public, but the most recent data from criminal justice experts finds that unworked (or raw) Elephant ivory sells for about $92/kg on the black market in Africa, while rhino horn is currently selling for $8,683/kg.

Therefore, a more realistic valuation of Zimbabwe’s ivory stockpiles, using an optimistic wholesale price of $150/kg, would give a potential income of only $19.5 million in U.S. dollars.

This is a 30th of Zimbabwe’s estimate.

And even then, those numbers fail to account for the disaster that would happen if ivory sales return — as we saw in the all-too-recent past.

The One-Off Sales

SEIZED ILLEGAL IVORY

International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, following a 10-year period in which African Elephant numbers declined by 50%, from 1.3 million to 600,000. However, in 1999 and 2008 CITES allowed “one-off sales” of stockpiled ivory, to disastrous effect. The selling prices achieved then were only $100/kg and $157/kg, in U.S. dollars respectively, due to collusion by official Chinese and Japanese buyers.

The intention of CITES in approving the one-off ivory sales was to introduce a controlled and steady supply of stockpiled ivory into the market. The legal supply, coupled with effective systems of control, aimed to satisfy demand and reduce prices. This in turn should have reduced the profitability of (and the demand for) illegal ivory. Poaching should have followed suit and decreased.

Instead, the sales led to an increase in demand and, consequently, an increase in Elephant poaching. The 2008 ivory sale was accompanied by a 66% increase in illegally traded ivory and a 71% increase in ivory smuggling. An investigation in 2010 by the Environmental Investigation Agency documented that 90% of the ivory being sold in China came from illegal sources.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) comparison of Elephant poaching figures for the five years preceding and five years following the sale showed an “abrupt, significant, permanent, robust and geographically widespread increase” in poaching.

The problem has not faded away. Most recently the two African Elephant species (savanna and forest) were declared endangered and critically endangered due to their continued poaching threat.

ZIMBABWE ELEPHANTS

Still, some African nations look fondly at the 2008 sale and have long hoped to repeat it. The Zimbabwe Ministry’s 2020 statement follows yet another proposal to the 18th CITES Conference of the Parties (COP18) by Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to trade in live Elephants and their body parts, including ivory. The proposal was not accepted by the parties.

Why Didn’t Ivory Sales Work?

The one-off sales of ivory removed the stigma associated with its purchase, stimulated the market demand, and increased prices.

The ivory that China purchased in 2008 for $157/kg was drip-fed by the authorities to traders at prices ranging between $800 and $1,500 per kilogram. This meant that the bulk of the profits went to filling Chinese government coffers — not to African nations — and in doing so, created a large illegal market which drove prices even higher.

Raw ivory prices in China increased from $750/kg in 2010 to $2,100/kg in 2014. The market had been stimulated, prices increased and the volume of legal ivory available was insufficient to meet demand as the Chinese government gradually fed its stockpile into the market.

Japan, the other participant in the one-off sales, has systematically failed to comply with CITES regulations, meaning that there were (and still are) no controls over ivory being sold, allowing the illegal markets to function in parallel to the legal one.

In a very short space of time, criminals ramped up poaching and Elephant numbers plummeted.

What Has Happened to the Price of Ivory Since Then?

With no recent legal international sales, combined with the significant U.S., Chinese and United Kingdom domestic ivory sales bans, the price for raw ivory paid by craftsmen in China fell from $2,100/kg in 2014 to $730/kg in 2017. That’s when China closed all its official ivory carving outlets and theoretically stopped all official ivory trade.

The price currently paid for raw ivory in Asia, according to an investigation by the Wildlife Justice Commission, is currently between $597/kg and $689/kg, in U.S. dollars. Ivory sourced in Africa and sold in Asia has additional costs such as transportation, taxes and broker commissions. The prices paid for raw ivory in Africa have decreased correspondingly from $208/kg to $92/kg in 2020.

Those numbers pale in comparison to a living Elephant. A 2014 study found that live Elephants are each worth an estimated $1.6 million in ecotourism opportunities.

Funding Conservation

One half-truth is that the money earned from the legal sale will be used to effectively fund conservation.

One of the CITES conditions of the 2008 sale was that funds were to go to the conservation of Elephants. South Africa placed a substantial portion of the income from its share of the pie in the Mpumalanga Problem Animal Fund — which, it turns out, was well-named. An internal investigation found the fund had “no proper controls” and that “tens of millions” of rand (the official currency of South Africa) had bypassed the normal procurement processes.

Ironically, proceeds were also partly used for the refurbishment of the Skukuza abattoir, where most of the 14,629 Elephant carcasses from culling operations between 1967 and 1997 were processed.

All the while, Africa’s Elephant populations continued to decline.

How to Stop Poaching

In light of these deficiencies — and in light of Elephants’ recently declared endangered status — the very reverse of actual conservation can be expected if any nation is again allowed to sell its ivory stockpiles. The cost of increased anti-poaching efforts required from the consequent increase in poaching will outweigh the benefit of any income from the sale of ivory stockpiles.

To stop poaching, all international and local trade must be stopped.

Repeating this failed experiment will send a message that it is acceptable to trade in ivory. Ivory carving outlets in China will re-open and demand for ivory will be stimulated. The demand for ivory in an increasingly wealthy and better-connected Asia will quickly outstrip legal supply and poaching will increase.

Meanwhile, the management of a legal ivory trade requires strong systems of control at every point in the commodity chain to ensure that illegal ivory is not laundered into the legal market. With recalcitrant Japan continuing to ignore CITES, “untransparent” Namibia “losing tolerance” with CITES, and Zimbabwe ranking 157 out of 179 on the corruption perceptions index, not even the basics for controlled trade are in place.

Therefore, aside from the strong theoretical economic arguments against renewed one-off sales, the practical arguments are perhaps even stronger: If international ivory and rhino horn sales ever again become legal, the cost to protect Elephants will skyrocket and these culturally valuable animals will plunge into decline — and possibly extinction.

About the author: Charan Saunders grew up in Cape Town and studied genetics and microbiology and then went on to qualify as a chartered accountant. She has worked in London in the forensic science field and was the chief financial officer of a major vaccine manufacturer for six years. She now serves as a financial director in the field of conservation.

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Life At 30: The EU Project That Has Saved Species From Lynx To Flying Squirrels

The Life programme, which celebrates its birthday this weekend, has poured billions into saving Europe’s most vulnerable creatures.

THE IBERIAN LYNX

“It has been a miracle,” whispers biologist Gabriel Llorens Folgado as he studies a tumble of granite boulders for any signs of movement. The miracle is that Spain’s Lynx population has been saved. Today, in the wildflower-coated hills of the Sierra de Andújar in southern Spain, Folgado is looking for Magarza and her four cubs. “When I first saw a Lynx, 20 years ago, there were fewer than 100 in just two places in Spain. I never stopped hoping, but I thought they might disappear,” he says.

AN IBERIAN LYNX IS RELEASED IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE ANIMAL PROGRAMME ‘LIFE IN TOLEDO

The Iberian Lynx was the world’s most endangered cat 20 years ago, but after a number of EU Life projects, today there are more than 1,000 across Spain and Portugal. Carmen Rueda Rodriguez from the conservation group CBD Habitat, who has been working with the Iberian Lynx since 2014, says the EU funding programme has been a gamechanger.

“In the 1990s everyone knew the Lynx was in decline but no one knew how to stop it,” she says. “The first projects started looking for Lynx and that led to realising there were fewer than 100 left.” What followed was “Lynx intensive care” – capturing some of the few remaining Lynx and putting them into a breeding programme, alongside rebuilding myxomatosis and haemorrhagic fever-ravaged wild rabbit populations. Building on that success, the aim of the fourth phase, Lynxconnect, is to link up populations established across Spain and Portugal to improve genetic diversity.

In 1992, when the EU agreed the habitats directive and launched Natura 2000, the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world, the EU Life funding programme came into being. In the last 30 years it has supported 5,500 projects and spent €6.5bn (£5.5bn) up to 2020, with a further €5.4bn pledged for the period 2021 to 2027.

Threatened species that have benefited from Life projects include European Bison, Marsican and Cantabrian Brown Bear populations, the Siberian Flying Squirrel, European Mink, various Vultures and Raptors, Yelkouan Shearwaters in Malta, Capricorn Beetles in Sweden and seven species of Sturgeon in the Danube river system. Some projects build ecological knowledge, others implement conservation measures; many promote knowledge of endangered species and foster public support.

A MARSICAN BEAR

In Spain, it is not just the Iberian Lynx that has benefited from Life projects. The Sierra de Andújar is also home to the Spanish Imperial Eagle. Endemic to Spain and Portugal, in the 1960s the birds were reduced to 30 pairs, mostly due to poisoning, collapsing rabbit populations and electrocution. José Luis Sánchez, a biologist at Iberian Lynx Land, says: “The main problem was electrocution. When Eagles perched on pylon towers their wings spanned the wires on both sides and they were killed.” Life projects enabled about 15,000 electric pylon towers to be modified with rubber to insulate the wires, while agreements with private landowners generated more than 22,000 hectares (54,353 acres) of new eagle-friendly habitat. Now there are thought to be more than 1,000 of the Eagles – Spain’s national bird – breeding across the Iberian peninsula.

“Getting the baseline science right is key,” says Hall-Spencer, “but the whole point of Life projects isn’t primarily scientific, it’s social.”

THE FUTURE OF THE IBERIAN LYNX

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Asian Elephant Mom Carries Dead Calf For Weeks, New Eye-Opening Videos Reveal

Asian Elephants, like their African cousins, seem to mourn their dead.

Female Elephants are very protective of their calves, and when youngsters die, some mothers continue carrying their babies’ corpses. 

Asian Elephants, like their African cousins, seem to mourn their dead, sometimes even carrying their lost infants in their trunks for days or weeks, new research finds. 

Whether Elephants  understand death in the same way humans do is unknown — and probably unknowable. But Asian Elephants are social creatures, and the new research adds to the evidence that they experience some sort of emotional response when they lose one of their own.

“Understanding Elephants’ response to death might have some far reaching effects on their conservation,” study co-authors Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and Nachiketha Sharma of the  Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study, wrote to Live Science in an email. “We have personally observed that when people witness an elephant responding to a dead kin, there will be some sense of relatedness, compassion and empathy towards the species. Therefore, anything which instantly connects people might pave the way for coexistence in elephant ranging countries.” 

Death ritual

African bush Elephants have long been observed reacting emotionally when a herd member dies. They might approach the body and touch it with their trunks, kick at the corpse or stand nearby as if on guard. Asian Elephants, however, are less well-understood. They tend to live in forested habitat, so they are harder to observe in the wild than savanna-dwelling African elephants.

“They can be 100 feet [30 meters] away from you, and you might not see them because the forest is so dense,” said Brian Aucone, the senior vice president for life sciences at the Denver Zoo, who was not involved in the new study. .

To get around this, Pokharel, Sharma, and their co-author Raman Sukumar, all of the Indian Institute of Science at the time, turned to YouTube, where remarkable animal videos are a staple. They searched the site for keywords related to Asian Elephants and death, and uncovered 39 videos of 24 cases between 2010 and 2021 in which one or more Asian Elephants were seen reacting to the loss of a herd mate. Eighty percent of the videos showed wild Elephants, 16% captive Elephants and 4% semi-captive Elephants (typically, semi-captive Elephants are animals that work in the timber industry or in tourist parks in Asia).

Some of the most striking behaviors seen in the videos occurred when a calf died. In five of the 12 videos showing a deceased calf, a female adult — likely the mother — was seen carrying the calf. Based on the state of decomposition of the corpse, it appeared that this carrying behavior went on for days or weeks.

Indian Forest Service ranger Parveen Kaswan uploaded one such video in 2019, showing an Asian Elephant dragging the body of a calf across a road in what he likened to a “funeral procession” in a post on Twitter at the time.

“I think they’re holding on and trying to grasp what has happened, and there’s something happening there with their interaction with their offspring, just like it would be with us,” Aucone said of the behavior.

Other commonEelephant reactions seen in the videos included restlessness or alertness when near the corpse; exploratory movements such as approaching or investigating the body; or touching and smelling. Elephants communicate through scent, Aucone said, so the sniffing is not surprising. In 10 cases, the elephants tried to lift, nudge or shake the body, as if to attempt to revive their lost comrade. In 22 cases, they seemed to stand vigil over the body.

AN ELEPHANT STROKING THE DEAD BODY WITH HIS TRUNK AS OTHERS STAND GUARD

“We’ve seen some of this before ourselves,” Aucone told Live Science. When the zoo euthanizes older Elephants due to illness or infirmity, the staff give herd mates a chance to say goodbye, Aucone said. The survivors often sniff the deceased Elephant or lay their trunks by its mouth, a social behavior.

Animal grief

Elephants aren’t the only social creatures that react to death, especially to the death of babies. Orca mothers have been observed pushing their dead calves around, as have dolphins. In 2018, an orca female named Tahlequah off the coast of Washington held on to her lost baby for 17 days. Other female orcas were seen huddled around Tahlequah and her dead newborn in the hours after the baby’s death in what looked like a circle of grief. Ape and monkey mothers sometimes carry around dead infants for weeks or months.

TAHLEQUAH PUSHED THE BODY OF HER DEAD BABY FOR 17 DAYS

In the case of the Elephants, which are devoted to caring for their young, the mother-calf bond is fundamental, Pokharel, Sharma and Sukumar wrote in the study, published Wednesday (May 18) in the journal Royal Society Open Science(opens in new tab). This is true of primates, as well, Pokharel and Sharma told Live Science.

“[T]he mother-calf/infant bonding in both Elephants and primates have some striking similarities as both nurture their young until they become strong enough to forage and defend themselves,” they wrote. “Therefore, this long lasting bond between mothers and calves/infants may potentially motivate mothers to respond towards their unresponsive calves. It is very difficult to predict the exact causations and functionality behind the dead infants carrying. But, some of the YouTube videos certainly provide evidence that some species may have some sense of death awareness.”

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PREGNANT ELEPHANT FOUND DEAD WITH ‘BLOOD COMING OUT OF ITS MOUTH AND ANUS’

THE PREGNANT SUMATRAN ELEPHANT IS SEEN LYING ON THE GROUND AT A PALM PLANTATION IN BENGKALIS, RIAU PROVINCE (PICTURE: EPA)

A critically endangered Elephant and its unborn baby were found dead in western Indonesia after a suspected poisoning.

Disturbing photographs show the animal with blood coming out of its mouth on the island of Sumatra.

Local authorities are now investigating the death of the pregnant Elephant, which was due to soon give birth.

Its corpse was discovered during a joint patrol by conservation groups on Wednesday.

Conservationists suspect the incident may be linked to the palm oil industry, which they say consider the animals a pest.

‘From the sign of changes in the shape of its internal organs, such as the lung, it looks like it is burning, black and oozing from the blood,’ said Zulhusni Syukri, programme director of Rimba Satwa Foundation, one of the groups that found the dead animal.

THE CARCASS OF A DEAD SUMATRAN ELEPHANT AND ITS UNBORN BABY IN BENGKALIS

Rimba Satwa strongly suspect the animal was poisoned as pineapple was found in its stomach, even though the tropical fruit does not grow in that area.

There are already fewer than 700 Sumatran Elephants remaining on the island.

According to Indonesian forestry and environment ministry, the number has gone down from 1,300 in 2014 to 693 last year.

This is why the species is protected under an Indonesian law on the conservation of biological natural resources and their ecosystems.

The decline has occurred amid a loss of more than 69% of the animal’s potential habitat in the last 25 years, the equivalent of one generation.

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Can Fungi-Based Foie Gras Help End The Cruel Force Feeding Of Geese And Ducks?


A GOOSE BEING FORCE-FED

Activists have long opposed foie gras for its cruel method of relentlessly force-feeding geese to fatten up their livers. Now, food entrepreneurs are searching for solutions to save birds from this horrific trade – and one of the leading answers could lie in fungi.

Foie gras has repeatedly come under the microscope for the ethical surrounds concerning the production process, which involves forcibly feeding geese and ducks – often through tubes inserted in their throats – until their livers become unnaturally engorged. 

Several countries across Asia and Europe have banned the production of the controversial product, with U.S. lawmakers also moving to restrict the dish in New York City and California.

Now, in efforts to provide a cruelty-free solution, this fermented meat specialist is turning to fungi, or more specifically mycelium, which is derived from the roots of mushrooms. 

California-based, The Better Meat Co., plans to introduce an analog of its foie gras, made from its mycelium-derived Rhiza protein, to restaurant menus this spring, according to the company’s co-founder and CEO Paul Shapiro.

“Because it is so controversial, and because it has been the subject of litigation and legislation throughout the world, it makes sense for us to create a version so that people who enjoy eating foie gras can experience that same joy without all the suffering,” Shapiro told Food Dive.

PLANT BASED FOIE GRAS

According to Shapiro, Better Meat’s mycelium foie gras will be able to be used as a mousse and pâté. The price has not yet been revealed, but he did note that it would be more affordable than its animal-based counterpart, which can sell for more than $50 per pound. 

Another foie gras alternative soon-to-be on the market has been developed by Prime Roots. Their vegan foie gras uses mycelium from Koji – the same fungi used to make products such as miso and soy sauce – and is set to launch in U.S. supermarkets and restaurants this year, according to its website.

Meanwhile, cell-based companies including Japanese startup IntegriCulture and French startup Gourmet, are also racing to create cultivated foie gras. Made from duck stem cells and grown in vitro in large stainless-steel tanks known as bioreactors, this cell-based pate is completely slaughter-free while being indistinguishable from the real thing. Both IntegriCulture and Gourmet expect to release their products once they receive regulatory approval.

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The Dancing Bears of India: Moving Toward Freedom

A thin shaggy bear tethered to a rope that is laced through the tissue of his nose waves his paws and moves spasmodically on his hind legs before an audience.

A ‘DANCING’ BEAR IN INDIA

It should seem unlikely that this sad sight could be accepted as enjoyable entertainment by anyone. But failures of human empathy are omnipresent, and many people are unable to understand that animals do not enjoy acting like humans—that, in fact, they have to be forced to do so, usually through cruel means. Like so many other kinds of animal performance, making bears “dance” has a long history stretching back to ancient times. Today the practice takes place mostly in countries of the Indian subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Almost invariably the bears are exploited by very poor people who have few economic options, so initiatives to save the dancing bears must encompass programs to improve the prospects of their human owners.

Sloth bears in the wild

A SLOTH BEAR WITH CUBS

The bears used in this trade are mostly sloth bears, though some Asiatic black bears are also used. The sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) is a nocturnal forest dweller native to the subcontinent, where some 8,000 exist in the wild. Another 1,000 or so (estimates vary from 500 to 2,000) are held in captivity and used as performers. Sloth bears are one of the smaller bear species, about 30 inches tall at the shoulder and some 5 feet long. They weigh on average 200 to 250 pounds. They have a long shaggy black coat with whitish or yellowish hair on the snout and on the chest, where it forms a distinctive crescent. Their primary diet consists of ants and termites, supplemented by honey, fruit, grains, and small vertebrates. In the wild a sloth bear can live more than 20 years. In captivity, however, a dancing bear rarely lives past the age of 7 or 8.

An international problem

Until recently, bears were also used in Europe for this purpose. Bulgaria was the last country in Europe to use dancing bears. As in India, the occupation was a tradition of nomadic tribes, in this case the Roma. The last three dancing bears in Bulgaria were surrendered to a sanctuary. However, in spite of the European law against the trade, several incidents were reported in Spain.

A PERFORMING BEAR AT A MEDIEVAL MARKET IN LOS MORALES NEAR SEVILLA

“I was really upset about it. How much pain did that animal have to go through to learn such unnatural stunts?” asked a witness who unexpectedly came upon the performance of a bear dancing, clapping, and rolling over for spectators at a market near Seville. The question is astute. In fact, the behavior that audiences are encouraged to interpret as “dancing” is the product of aversive training. The Roma training method involved greasing the bears’ paws and having them stand on hot plates while music played; the bears hopped on the plates to avoid the burning pain, which became associated in their minds with the sound of the music. Eventually, just hearing the music caused the bears to repeat this “dancing” movement.

The dancing bears of India are primarily under the control of a nomadic people known as the Kalandar (or Qalandar), who come from a line of tribesmen who once entertained northern India’s Mughal emperors with trained-animal acts. Thus, working with animals for entertainment is the traditional livelihood of the tribe, whose people also have sidelines selling animal parts as medicines and good-luck charms.

The Kalandar of India

The Kalandar are recognized by the Indian government as an economically deprived tribe, although efforts to help them have been few. Investigators from international animal-welfare organizations are working with them and are helping them obtain better economic conditions. Programs have been established by cooperating national and international organizations—such as the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Wildlife SOS, World Animal Protection, and International Animal Rescue—that are aimed at helping the bears and helping the Kalandar. They seek to persuade the people that a livelihood that uses animals for entertainment is not sustainable. For example, the acquisition of a bear is a source of pride and prestige, but bears are expensive and the mortality rate is high, especially in the first three years of a bear’s life.

THE SAD ‘LIFE’ OF A DANCING BEAR

The bears are poached from the wild as cubs, an act that often necessitates killing the mother first. Some cubs, traumatized, die of shock. Others succumb to neglect or dehydration. Survivors are sold to trainers, who use sticks and physical threats to teach the orphaned cubs to stand, move on their hind legs, and perform other tricks. The cubs’ teeth are often knocked out or broken for the safety of humans; their nails are clipped short or removed (both of which are painful to bears); and a hot poker or piece of metal is run through the snout or lip to make a permanent hole through which a rope is anchored to control the bear. All of this is done without anesthesia. The trainers make the bears move by pulling on the rope, which causes great pain, and beating the bears if they do not obey. The owners, being poor themselves, cannot feed the bears a nutritionally sound diet even if they want to, and many bears lose their fur or suffer from cataracts and go blind.

THE FACE OF EXPLOTAITION

Efforts to stop the exploitation of bears

Bear dancing was outlawed by the Indian government in 1972. The practice has continued, however, partly because the Kalandar had no alternative and also because, until the early 21st century, there was no place to put confiscated bears; enforcement was therefore somewhat pointless. Special licenses were granted to the Kalandar so they could continue, while a Bear sanctuary at Agra was created by the WSPA and Wildlife SOS.

Although it is difficult to abandon long-held cultural and economic practices, the Kalandar have been willing to do so, provided that they are given the help they need to make a new start. In exchange for the bears, the Kalandar are given job training and equipment for alternative occupations, such as welding and the manufacture of useful products such as soap and incense. Some run small stalls and shops.

The first group of some two dozen rescued bears went to the Agra sanctuary in 2003. Since then more than 350 bears have gone to that facility and two others—one in Bannerghatta, near Bangalore, and another in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh state. The sanctuaries are run by Wildlife SOS; other animal-welfare organizations contribute funding. The rescued bears are first quarantined and given medical care. Once they are healthy enough to undergo the surgery, the ropes are removed from their noses—which are usually badly infected and bleeding. The sanctuaries provide environmental stimulation as well, including dens and swimming pools in which to cool off.

Rescues and sanctuaries

The rescued bears are socialized to get along together in a more natural bearlike existence, but most of them cannot be released into the wild and must depend on human care. Having lived long in human company, they would not know how to survive on their own. However, a special case occurred in April 2007, when authorities in Monghyr district, Bihar state, confiscated a group of four-month-old orphaned bear cubs from poachers who were planning to sell them to Kalandar. The five cubs had already had their teeth removed, and their muzzles had been pierced in preparation for the insertion of ropes. Although they had lost their mothers and had not benefited from normal bear-mother training, the cubs were still young enough to have retained some natural instincts and thus were candidates for reintroduction into the wild.

HAPPY BEARS AT THE SANCTUARY IN AGRA

After providing the cubs with dental and veterinary care, officials undertook to give the bears lessons in being wild. They helped them climb trees, dig for termites, and make dens. Officials of the program—a cooperative effort of the WSPA, the WTI, and the Bihar Forest Department—reported in July that the cubs were regaining their natural instincts and engaging in normal sloth-bear behavior. It was expected that they would soon have no need for human-provided food and could be released into a forest range in a protected area among a wild population of sloth bears.

When dancing bears are saved from indentured servitude to regain their health and freedom, both the bears and their rescuers experience great relief. Said WTI program officer Arjun Nayer, “For us the happiest moment was cutting off the restrictive nose ropes and muzzles. The bears found themselves ‘free’ for the first time to be themselves, not performers, not jokers to be derided and give amusement to people, but just be bears.”

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Did You Know That The WWF Endorses Trophy Hunting?

In 2009, WWF sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of limited, managed hunting of black Rhinos in Namibia.

“WWF believes that sport hunting of Namibia’s black Rhino population will strongly contribute to the enhancement of the survival of the species,” the group wrote, citing the generation of income for conservation and the removal of post-breeding males.

COREY KNOWLTON PAID $350K TO KILL ENDANGERED BLACK RHINO

The WWF Endorses The Killing Of Wild Animals

KING JUAN CARLOS OF SPAIN, THE HONORARY PRESIDENT OF THE WWF

Juan Carlos, the King of Spain, sparked widespread criticism for going on an elephant hunting trip in Botswana. The king is the honorary president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). When asked should the honorary president of the conservation group WWF be allowed to hunt elephants the press spokesman of WWF Germany said No but insisted that a regulated and controlled hunt can help to protect nature.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) gives special meaning to the word “conservation.” The organization, founded in 1961 by a group of wealthy trophy hunters, including HRH Prince Philip, apparently believes that conserving animals means keeping them around long enough for well-heeled “sportsmen” to blast them out of the woods, oceans, skies, plains of Africa, and jungles of Asia. Past WWF chapter presidents include C.R. “Pink” Gutermuth, who also served as president of the National Rifle Association, and trophy hunter Francis L. Kellogg, who is legendary for his massive kills. In its early days, the WWF even used fur auctions to raise funds. Since then, the WWF has learned that most people are appalled by hunting and trapping, so today, the organization veils its true stance under phrases like “sustainable development,” arguing that killing is acceptable under some circumstances. When answering difficult questions about its policy on hunting, trapping, and whaling, the WWF is careful never to state outright that it approves of all these activities. But don’t be fooled, the WWF’s intentions are all too clear and deadly.

Sport Hunting: As one would expect of an organization founded by hunters, the WWF does not oppose the slaughter of animals with guns and other weapons for sport. Rather than working to stop the killing, the WWF believes that hunting should be regulated, arguing that wealthy trophy hunters can bring income to poorer nations. The WWF claims that it has no power to stop hunting, stating, “The decision to allow trophy hunting is a sovereign one made entirely by the governments concerned. We will continue to monitor governments’ enforcement of important trade laws to ensure that trophy hunting is done within the legal standards of that area.”

Elephants: The WWF believes that culling—another way of saying “killing”—elephants is acceptable, as is the trade in ivory, because the profits that it brings spur governments to keep elephants from going extinct. In 2000, U.S. News & World Report reported that WWF representatives travelled to Nairobi to ask the United Nations to lift the ban on the ivory trade in order to allow a “sustainable harvest of ivory for horns and hunting trophies.” The WWF’s bizarre view—that we must kill some animals now in order to save animals to kill later—has proved false time and again. The trade in ivory has only encouraged rampant poaching, the senseless slaughter of elephants. The WWF tries to duck the issue by falsely stating, “The decision to cull, or to select animals from the herd for removal or death, is indeed an agonizing choice, but it is one made entirely by the governments concerned and there is no international involvement in those decisions.”

A GERMAN TROPHY HUNTER APPLAUDS HIS KILL

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: WWF SABOTAGES PLANNED BAN ON TROPHY HUNTING IMPORTS IN BELGIUM

HRH 174f220ded880ba5fcd4632304a2f5b7

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Ivory From At Least 150 Poached Elephants Seized In A DRC Raid

  • A three-year investigation has led authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 2 metric tons of ivory hidden in a stash house in the southern city of Lubumbashi.
  • The tusks are valued at $6 million on the international market and estimated to have come from more than 150 elephants.
  • The three people arrested in the May 14 raid are allegedly members of a major wildlife trafficking ring in the Southern African region.
POACHED ELEPHANT ON ITS KNEES WITH ANOTHER LYING DEAD BEHIND IT

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have seized 2 metric tons of ivory in the city of Lubumbashi, a hub for ivory trafficking.

The May 14 seizure is one of the largest in recent years, according to Adams Cassinga, who heads Conserv Congo, an NGO that fights wildlife trafficking and which took part in the operation. The seized ivory is estimated to be worth $6 million.

Authorities arrested three people, believed to be members of one of the major wildlife trafficking rings in the region. The network is linked to the smuggling of 20 metric tons of ivory in the past five years alone.

The latest seizure represents more than 150 elephants killed for their tusks, Cassinga said. The tusks originated from countries in Southern Africa, which has seen a surge in ivory trafficking in the 2000s, fueled by demand from Asia, particularly China.

Ivory found in a stash house in Lubumbashi, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Image courtesy of Adams Cassinga/Conserv Congo
Ivory found in a stash house in Lubumbashi, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Image courtesy of Adams Cassinga/Conserv Congo

At the height of the crisis, 30,000 elephants were being killed every year, an average of 80 a day. African elephant populations have shrunk by 80% in the past 100 years, according to an analysis by WWF. The African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) is considered endangered on the IUCN Red List, while the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is critically endangered, only a step away from being extinct in the wild.

Poaching has declined in recent years, a 2021 report by Geneva-based nonprofit Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) found. One of the factors cited for the dip is the weakening of criminal networks because of raids and arrests.

DR CONGO AUTHORITIES SEIZE 1.5 TONNES OF ELEPHANT IVORY

“The reduced poaching seems to be the result of the dismembering through arrests and prosecutions of a large number of transnational organized criminal networks involved in ivory poaching and trafficking in East and southern Africa between 2014 and 2020,” the GI-TOC report said.

The Lubumbashi raid was led by the DRC’s top conservation authority, known by its French acronym, the ICCN. It included members of the national police force, court officials and the NGO Conserv Congo.

The team recovered the ivory from a stash house in Lubumbashi in the southern DRC. Traffickers brought the poached parts into the DRC from Zambia, which lies on the country’s southern border. Lubumbashi has emerged as a major hub from where poached wildlife parts are funneled out of Africa. The items originate primarily in Southern African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

“We are sure it will bring a great deal of deterrence in a place where previously wildlife laws were neglected and not applied,” Cassinga said in a tweet.

Weak enforcement of laws, armed conflict and corruption have allowed international gangs to operate with impunity in western and Central Africa. The DRC, which shares borders with nine countries, serves as an important transit point for the movement of trafficked parts. The Central African nation, which hosts the largest swath of Congo Basin rainforest, is also a source country for illegal wildlife goods.

Yet, from 2000 to 2014, when elephant poaching was rampant, the DRC recovered only around 8 metric tons of ivory in seizures. Then, between 2015 and 2019, authorities there confiscated 20 metric tons, according to data collected by the Environmental Investigation Agency, an NGO based in the U.K.

“We are making strong efforts to take down all the illegal trade networks. With time, we have bigger impacts on the illegal networks,” Olivier Mushiete, head of the ICCN, said in a phone interview with Mongabay.

The Lubumbashi raid follows a series of raids in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, last year. Mushiete told Reuters at that time that they expect to recover more than 60 metric tons in future seizures. The current operation was a result of three years of investigation.

“The relationship between the government and the civil society is improving. You can see that it is yielding results,” Cassinga said. He added that support from partners like Zambia-based Wildlife Crime Prevention and international donors like the Rhino Recovery Fund is helping them combat wildlife trafficking.

The skull of an elephant recently killed by poachers who ripped out its tusks in Province Orientale, DRC.
The skull of an elephant recently killed by poachers who ripped out its tusks in Province Orientale, DRC. Image by Matchbox Media Collective via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Ivory poaching is one of the most lucrative illicit trades, valued at around $23 billion a year, according to Bloomberg.

CITES, the global convention on the wildlife trade, banned the international commercial trade in ivory in 1989. However, some countries continue to allow domestic trade and international trade, subject to varying degrees of regulation.

In the past decade, efforts to curb ivory demand have gathered pace, with the U.S. imposing a near-complete ban on elephant ivory trade in 2016 and China banning the domestic trade in 2017. The EU tightened its rules on the ivory trade in 2021. Narrower exemptions limit the legal ivory trade, which conservationists say often serves as a cover for unlawful transactions.

The three suspected traffickers from the Lubumbashi raid are due to appear in court this week.

Even if seizures and arrests increase, the impact on poaching could be limited by countries’ failure to prosecute alleged traffickers. Coordinating cross-border investigations and amassing the necessary evidence is tricky. Wildlife crimes are often not prioritized by law enforcement agencies or judicial authorities.

The arrest of two Vietnamese nationals during the seizure of 3.3 metric tons of ivory from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, in 2019 did not result in convictions because both suspects skipped bail.

Raids also tend to net intermediaries but rarely lead to the capture of those who organize, fund and benefit the most from this illegal trade. “As far as dismantling the network, that is unlikely. It may be slowed down,” said Chris Morris, who works with the Kenya-based organization Saving Elephants through Education and Justice (SEEJ). “These cartels are a business. They are prepared for losses from seizures and arrests.”

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