Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World



Rhino Poaching


I came across a very interesting article in Scientific American today concerning one person’s proposed solution to end the poaching of rhinoceroses. I’ll discuss his proposal in a minute, but first I would like to share a little bit of information concerning poaching in general.

According to the United Nations as well as many nature and wildlife organizations, rhino poaching has been rising over the past few years. Poachers are only after the horns. Some of them are sent to East Asia, particularly China and Vietnam, for use in traditional medicine; the rest are sent to some countries in the Middle East, where people make traditional dagger holders with them.

Earlier this year, members of CITES, also known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, met in Geneva to discuss the poaching of rhinos, along with other topics concerning wildlife management.

According to the New York Times:

The illegal trade that appears to be driving the poaching “includes fraudulent applications for Cites documents, abuse of legal trophy hunting and the use of couriers smuggling horns from Southern Africa to Far East Asia”, the organization added.

South Africa, which has more rhinos than any other African country, is thought to be the source of most of the illegal horns. In 2010, 333 rhinos were killed, nearly triple the 2009 toll, and the 2011 figures look to be as bad or worse. Poachers affiliated with organized criminal gangs sometimes hunt by helicopter with automatic weapons.

The same article also points out one of the most important facts about poaching: this is happening because poachers get an extraordinary price for horns.

The horns can be worth as much as 200,000 euros, or $290,000, Europol said.

South Africa is trying to crack down. Nine poachers have been killed this year by rangers. From the Huffington Post, discussing what’s happening in Kenya:

Wildlife agents in Kenya undergo paramilitary training and hunt down suspected poachers using battlefield tactics. In December 2009, poachers shot and killed a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger. In response, wildlife agents set up an ambush of the suspects and killed two of them. Armed wildlife agents walk Kenya’s national parks on foot to hunt for poachers.

Kenyan wildlife agents shot and killed five poachers in November, the highest ever in one month.

So, aside from nations taking a military or policing role toward poachers, one man has proposed his own solution, getting back to that Scientific American article I mentioned earlier.

Ed Hern, who owns Rhino and Lion Nature Preserve in Johannesburg, has said that we should poison the rhino horns to deter poachers.

The horns of rhinos are made of keratin, which is the same material that human fingernails are made out of, so according to Hern the poison, cyanide, will not hurt the rhinos.

Via Scientific American:

“The aim would be to kill, or make seriously ill anyone who consumes the horn,” Hern told Sky News. He also hopes this could help disrupt the market for illegal rhino horns. “If someone in China eats it and gets violently sick, they are not going to buy it again,” he said.

I pondered over this solution this afternoon and here are a few of my thoughts. My first reaction was that if poisoning the horns does not hurt the rhino in any way then it may indeed be a good solution. In fact, even the knowledge that this is happening even to a few groups of rhinos may be enough to ward off some poachers. Afterall, no one is going to want to use horns infused with cyanide for medicine. Also, demand will probably decrease greatly.

My second reaction is of a more Buddhist perspective: is it ethical to possibly kill people as a way to stop poaching? Or is there a better approach? If someone illegally buys a poisoned horn to use in medicinal ways, he or she will undoubtedly become ill and maybe even die. Will the people buying the horns know about the possibility of poisonings? I doubt the poachers will tell their customers out of fear of losing their profits.

Overall, I think this could be a significant way to greatly reduce the number of rhinos being poached for their horns. I also think, if this plan is indeed put into effect, that the United Nations and environmental organizations should publicize it greatly. I have a feeling that if people think it’s such a danger to their health, they will no longer be willing to pay people to poach.

Reduce demand, reduce poaching. Perhaps it’s as simple as that.

What do you think?

CNN: Dog Meat

CNN: China might ban dog meat

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Anyone who refuses to eat dog or cat because it is “cruel” and yet will happily take a bite out of cow or pig, is a hypocrite. Cruelty is cruelty and suffering is suffering, regardless of how cute and adorable an animal is.

I hope that stories like this will get people thinking about where their food comes from, that a cow, chicken, pig, or duck is just as sentient and alive as a dog or cat. It’s time to stop eating meat, people!

EDIT: Sorry, I couldn’t get the video to embed properly. Just click the link to view the video.

Chinese law against eating cats and dogs

A law may be passed in China in the future which would make the consumption of cats and dogs illegal. Both animals have been eaten in China for centuries, and are seen by some as a delicacy.

This is all well and good, but I’m afraid it just proves how shallow people are when it comes to animal abuse. Apparently in China there have been protests and activists fighting for the end of dog- and cat-eating. Even people in America usually get upset at the thought of Chinese people eating such adorable creatures. The question all these people need to be asking themselves is why they should protect certain animals and not others.

When it comes to suffering, there is no difference in the pain experienced by dogs/cats and chickens/pigs/cows in the slaughterhouse.  So if someone says something along the lines of  “Oh, but those poor cats! They shouldn’t have to suffer so unnecessarily!”, you can tell them quite correctly that many more chickens are suffering just as much abuse.

I try not to pass judgement on people who eat meat, mainly because I used to be one of them. It’s hard for me to say “meat-eaters are cruel.” But I wish people would realize that all animals suffer, even if they aren’t as cute as a fuzzy little kitten. If people are really passionate about animal cruelty, they would be concerned with the suffering of all animals.

Fire Kills 50+ Animals at Shelter

This story is so sad. Yesterday a fire broke out at the Ritchie County Humane Society in West Virginia, killing more than fifty animals. The shelter’s supplies were also lost, so they’re asking for donations.

The Ritchie County Animal Shelter says it’s in desperate need of cat and dog food. It also needs transport crates, refrigerators to store medicines, cat kennel cages, ex-pens for puppies, cleaning supplies, trash bags, litter pans, litter, feeding bowls, newspapers and bedding.

If you are interested in helping, you can find information at the above link from a local news source, or at

Helping Blind Pakistani Dolphins


Indus dolphins are an endangered species in Pakistan, whose numbers are still dwindling thanks to pollution, the increase of fishing, and irrigation. In 2006, estimates put the number  of these freshwater dolphins at 1200. What is unique about this creature is that the dolphins are blind – they use sonar to find their food.

The Pakistani activists who are trying to save the dolphin are doing so through education. Previously, farmers would shoot dolphins who got stuck in their irrigation ditches, but thanks to the work of Nazir Mirani and others, the dolphins are being rescued.

Yahoo! News: Pakistan’s blind dolphins face hazardous existence

Meat Industry Mad Over Puppy Mill Bill

The meat industry in North Carolina is worried that a new bill in the state legislature could put an end to meat production, even though that is not even close to what the bill is about. From the pro-meat industry News & Observer:

The public is very unaware that the Humane Society of the United States has a very direct agenda to eliminate the use of animals for food,” said Kay Johnson, executive vice president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, a livestock industry-supported group based in Washington.

The article goes on to discuss the worries of the meat industry regarding a future where legislation would require hens to be given enough space to live comfortably and other such animal welfare standards, and how that would essentially put producers out of business. Pity.

From the way meat producers are acting toward this bill, you’d think it was a bill that would ban factory farming and meat-eating altogether. But here’s what the bill is really about:

The House agriculture committee is expected soon to hear a bill pushed by the national Humane Society that regulates and imposes licensing for commerical dog breeding. Some dog enthusiasts oppose the bill but its proponents portray it as a crackdown on puppy mills…

In addition to the dog breeding bill, the group is backing legislation here [in North Carolina] that would prohibit keeping a dog on a tether, such as a rope or chain, for more than nine hours a day. The organization also supports a bill to prohibit keeping a fox or coyote in an enclosed area so that dogs can practice hunting them.

Yeah, that totally sounds like the bill will abolish meat eating. The meat industry is using scare tactics to try to ensure that animal welfare regulations are not placed upon them so they won’t have to spend the extra money to give farm animals enough room to live a more comfortable life. The welfare of the animals mean nothing to those people, it’s all products and money.

New Bill Would Ban Shechita

There is a new bill in the European Parliament that would force “more humane treatment of animals being slaughtered.” Opposition is coming from Jewish communities who are worried that this law would ban shechita (ritual slaughter). The bill is nothing to get your hopes up about though – the “more humane treatment” is making slaughterhouses stun animals before killing them. But it would lead to less animals being slaughtered while fully conscious, as happens in shechita.

Shechita is shockingly cruel. From Wikipedia:

Shechita is the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish dietary laws. The act is performed by cutting the animal’s throat by drawing a very sharp knife horizontally across it and allowing the blood to drain out.

Which means, a long, drawn-out, and painful death.

Needless to say, traditions are not always good. It is easy to change your habits, even if the tradition in question is of a cultural or religious origin. After all, we all know that many members of popular religions do not follow every single rule or guideline contained in their religion’s “sacred text.” (i.e. wearing garments made of only one fiber, etc.) Why follow a cruel custom such as shechita when you might not necessarily follow other rules? Religion should never be used as an excuse to commit cruelty, no matter how hold a tradition might be. Shechita is cruel, and an animal’s right to a life free from pain and suffering is a more fundamental right than the right to be allowed to cruelly kill animals.

Obama’s dog coming from breeder, not shelter

After President Barack Obama was elected into office, he promised he American people that the dog he had decided to get for his two daughters would come from a shelter. And after waiting months for news of the “first dog,” it turns out Obama didn’t stick to his word.

The Obamas are getting their Portuguese Water Dog from a kennel in Texas that is associated with Ted Kennedy and his family. Apparently this dog will be “re-homed,” meaning someone had taken this dog back to the kennel. But this is a poor substitute for rescuing a dog from an animal shelter. Instead, the Obamas are going to make a donation to the DC Humane Society.

Barack Obama had a chance to set an example for the rest of America. Far too many dogs in shelters are euthanized every year because people choose to purchase their pets from breeders and pet stores. By adopting a pet instead of buying, you’re ensuring that one less animal will be killed. I worry that this will lead to a sort of new fad, with Americans going out and buying similar dogs. The president is an influential person, and he failed in his responsibility to support animal adoption. We could be seeing a boom in buisness or breeders, and that is so very disheartening.

There are a number of problems with breeders, including inbreeding, inhumane conditions in the puppy mills/kennels, and contributing to overpopulation.

News From the Vegan Blogosphere

The Complex Issues Behind Obesity and Children of Color – Vegans of Color – Native American children are suffering the most from childhood obesity. Finding out why isn’t so easy since there are a number of factors that could explain the differences.

Much has been written about the devastating effects global climate change will have on both the human and wildlife populations. However, how our companion animals will be affected has not been discussed. According to NewScientist, global warming is leading to an increase in the flea and tick populations, which could lead to a large spread of disease for pets. The ticks and other disease-spreading insects are also experiencing increased periods of activeness. No longer are they creatures of summertime – now that the other seasons are warming up, they are staying out longer.

The GirlieGirl Army has an amazing post about animals in circuses, including information on the legal action going on to try to stop the cruelty. It’s mind-boggling to me that there are still so many people who are not aware of the way animals used for entertainment are treated. Boycott the circus!!

Nicholas Krisof, writing for the NY Times, discusses how “animal rights are now firmly on the mainstream ethical agenda.” Peter Singer is included.

Food Safety Not Improving

Not that it’s any surprise that food is not safe, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our nation’s food safety is not improving.

“This highlights the urgent need to overhaul our food-safety system,” said Erik D. Olson, director of food and consumer product safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “In some cases, there are early indications that progress may be reversing for some diseases. The children and elderly in our families are most at risk, and it is our duty to better safeguard them.”

Roughly 76 million people in the United States suffer food-borne illnesses each year, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die, according to estimates by the disease centers. Children younger than 4 are sickened by food more than those in any other age group, but adults over 50 suffer more hospitalizations and death as a result of food-related infections.

The fact that the food we may be buying in grocery stores could kill us is scary as hell. I’ve never wanted to plant my own garden so bad in my life (and, as a matter of fact, I will be this summer once I’m home from school!). People should be furious at the government for not protecting us better – it is the FDA’s responsibility to protect us from dangerous food products, and they aren’t doing a very good job. Especially when they can’t figure out where the diseases are coming from much of the time.

Update #2: Bear Killed On WCU Campus

photo from National Geographic
photo from National Geographic

Way back in October I wrote about the black bear that was killed on the Western Carolina University campus, draped in Obama campaign signs, and thrown under the catamount statue at the front of campus. It’s been a long time, but finally an update. I hadn’t heard anything at all until the March 27th issue of the Western Carolinian came out. Apparently two brothes from Wilksboro NC, Marvin and Mathew Williams, admitted to the incident. They were sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation, court costs, and 72 hours community service.

Monkeys escape from lab

19093249_240x180From Planetsave:

Nine monkeys escaped from an Oregon Health & Science University animal testing lab after a cage was left unlocked. Four were shortly re-captured and four others have been spotted on campus – but one has entirely eluded authorities.

One brief glimpse of freedom and back in the cage they go. How much more horrible will it be for the monkeys now that they know what the outside world is like? But who knows, monkeys are pretty smart. It probably won’t take them long to figure out how to open the cages themselves.

Random news of the day

OK, obviously I’m a little late with this. The Obamas are planting an organic vegetable garden at the White House! Yay! Hopefully this will influence Americans to do the same, and we can get a little “Victory Garden” action going.

Project Runway’s Kenley Collins thinks animals are weapons. She reportedly threw a cat at her fiance.

Boca, the makers of numerous vegetarian (and some vegan) foods, has pledged to go egg-free by the end of this year. This is AMAZING news! When I first heard about it, I assumed it was a typo and that they were just going to use cage-free eggs. But nope – completely EGG FREE! Which will obviously lead to more vegan products. Now it’s time for MorningStar and other companies to do the same.

Omnivores, at least those that I’ve spoken to, always use one particular argument when they talk about why they aren’t veg*n: it’s just too damn hard. Of course, we know it’s not, but you know how hard it can be to change someone’s mind. Anyway, here’s an interview with Jonathan Safran Foer about his experiences traveling abroad – and guess what, it was only bad in the Ukraine.

Quality Egg of New England doesn’t care much for the quality of life experienced by its imprisoned hens, as Mercy For Animals discovers. Surprised? Naw, I didn’t think so.

Gray wolves to be removed from endagered species list

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar plans to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act in the Northwest. This means that hunters would be allowed to shoot these animals, possibly with up to 1000 being killed during the season.

Obviously I’m completely against hunting of any kind, but let’s look at this from a non-vegan perspective. Salazar and other proponents of the removal of gray wolves from the endangered species list are getting ahead of themselves. Here’s a quote from the Center for Biological Diversity:

Even in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes where numbers of wolves have substantially increased, it is questionable whether they are fully recovered. Wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains number fewer than 200 breeding animals, far below the thousands that independent biologists have determined are necessary to avoid long-term genetic problems and decline, and the state of Idaho plans to kill many of the wolves in their state. Likewise, state plans in the Great Lakes states will allow killing of many wolves, even as disease is resulting in loss of many wolf pups. The severity of these threats suggests that wolves will not see any further recovery. Worse still, Fish and Wildlife was forced to retain protection for wolves in Wyoming because the state refused to provide sufficient protection.

Removing wolves from the endangered species list right now is dangerous not only to the species, but to the environments that have benefited from their replenishment. For example, when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, the amount of vegetation increased greatly since elk destroying the plants were presented with a new predator.

via Animal Rights @ blog

Defenders of Wildlife’s Campaign to Save America’s Wolves

Nightline and Animal Testing

Tonight on ABC, Nightline is going to take a look at animal testing. It will air at 11:35 EST. It’s great to see a major network examining such a cruel and unnecessary practice.

Abuse of Primates in Research Labs Exposed on ABC Tonight

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