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?

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

Taxidermy Is Creeeepy

Over at the awesome Animal Rights blog at, Stephanie Ernst has a post about a designer who uses taxidermy animals as light installations, for example, a flock of pigeons as a chandelier. And I completely agree with Stephanie – it is creepy.

Growing up, we had a mounted deer head on our living room wall. My father had killed it and wanted it mounted, though I’m not sure why this particular deer deserved such an honor since he’d killed plenty before and has killed plenty since.  He even named it. Billy Buck. I always hated that thing. And what was sad was that it wasn’t unique. The place I grew up is known for its hunting and fishing, and I would estimate that about 90% of the families who live there have a hunter in the family. I can’t even begin to try to guess how many mounted animals I’ve seen in my life: deer, fish, bobcats, ducks. Macabre trophys.

This isn’t much of an issue for the animal rights community, but I still want to discuss it. Mainly because whenever I’ve asked or talked to hunters about this, I get the same response: “It’s already dead, so it’s not hurting the animal. It just means we’re using all of it.” Um, you had to kill the animal before you could stuff it, so you actually are hurting it.

One of my friends once told me that even though animals are treated horribly in factory farming, there’s nothing wrong with eating meat because the animals you buy are already dead. So, by purchasing and eating meat, he was just making sure it didn’t go to waste. Except, you know, if people stopped bying meat, the demand would sink, and animals would stopped being killed.

Non-veg*ns try to make themselves more comfortable with such animal cruelty by deliberately blinding themselves and using the “it was already dead” argument. Not only is it not a logical argument in the least, but it does nothing to end the cruelty.

Beware of Deer at Dusk

Deer aren’t just seen as beautiful creatures back home where I’m from. They are also seen as a driving nuisance. Tons of people hit deer while driving, and, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, November is the most deadly for the animals, with 3 times as many accidents. The HLDI report says that the reason for this is that “Urban sprawl means suburbia and deer habitat intersect in many parts of the country. If you’re driving in areas where deer are prevalent, the caution flag is out, especially in November.”

Last year, 223 people died from animal collisions, with Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania leading the way. There are ways to prevent this from happening. First, drive the speed limit or slightly lower. It is extremely hard to see in rural areas at night, and you never know when a deer or other animal will decide to cross the road. Second, wear your seat belts. The majority of the human deaths that resulted from animal collisions were due those people not having their seat belts on. Come on people, we’ve all heard the lectures from school. Not wearing your seat belt really is ridiculously stupid. Third, warn the animals that you are approaching. Purchase the Animal Lover Car Whistle, which emits a high-pitched whistle that warns animals you are near. Lastly, if you do happen to hit an animal, check to see if it is alive. The ASPCA has instructions for what to do in this situation.

Please always be on the lookout while driving to prevent the deaths of the many animals who are killed each year on the road, and to protect yourself and your family.

Make your property animal-friendly

I live on a decently-sized island, three-fourths of which is a wildlife refuge. Wild animals have always abounded, and seeing a deer or fox work its way through your yard is never a surprise. We have a pair of bald eagles, hawks, bob cats (which I’ve yet to see), foxes, and all manner of little critters. Here’s a few pictures.


find the racoon!
find the raccoon!
Sunset over the mainland
Sunset over the mainland
Deer in our front yard
Deer in our front yard

That last one was a memorable moment. The deer let me get within, maybe, twenty feet of it without it moving. A truck rumbled by, and it just sort of wandered back into the woods. I personally believe animals know if you are going to harm them, and since I’m vegan I don’t smell like the graveyard of its kin, the deer felt safe with me. But back to the point – animal friendly yards.

Sustainablog has a new post about “How to Make Your Yard a Winter Wonderland for Wildlife.” They offer six tips on how to make your property more confortable for wildlife in the winter months. For example, put hot water in birdbaths, put fallen limbs in a pile that animals can home up in, and keep food in the yard in the form of bird feeders and the traditional peanut butter on a pine cone. All these tips are amazingly simple, and will make the animals around you happy.

A couple years ago I read Ingrid Newkirk’s book Making Kind Choices. There was a section about gardens to attract wildlife. If you’d like to take a look, just head over to Google Books. This chapter starts on page nine.

A butterfly garden is a fantastic idea. If I wasn’t in college and had a permanent residence in a rural setting, it would be one of the first things I’d establish in my yard. Not only is such a garden nice for the creatures that inhabit it, it gives us humans a place to get away from the confines of the modern world and just sit and enjoy nature. Here’s a few links to get you started on your very own butterfly garden:

University of Minnesota
University of Wisconsin

Here’s a few of my own tips to help you create a safe and lovely place for your local wildlife:

  • There’s no need for a neatly-trimmed, cookie-cutter yard. Let your grass get a little shaggy, and don’t be OCD about trimming your hedges. I’m not asking you to let go completely, but wildlife will show up more in a more-natural looking setting than in the typical suburban-like areas.
  • Don’t throw your food scraps away. Toss them outside. Animals love them. My mom (who is unfortunately not vegan) throws meat into the woods, and the foxes go crazy. Just don’t overdo it. Don’t set out pet food for raccoons or anything like that. Animals should not become dependent on humans for their daily meals. (Things you can safely overdo: always keep your bird feeders full and birdbaths clean.)
  • Never forget about the tiniest creatures. You can purchase a “Frog Saver Lily Pad” and Window Decal Alerts from PETA’s catalog. They also sell No Hunting/Fishing signs, humane mouse traps (a must have), and a humane bug catcher.
  • If you happen to be outside and say, see a deer, don’t approach it. Just watch it from afar and feel lucky that you’re so much closer to nature than someone living in a city. If an animal feels threatened, it may not come back.
  • Don’t forget about your house-bound animal companions. Invest in a cat window seat or, if you have a screen-in porch, give your animals a bit of time to enjoy nature too. My cat, Flava Flav (I didn’t name him, sorry lol), loves going out on our porch and watching for hours.
Flava Flav sitting in the sun
Flava Flav sitting in the sun

Have any of you had any close-encounters with wildlife near your homes? Let’s hear in the comments.

Hunters Bill of Rights

Oklahoma State Senator Earl Garrison wants to establish a “Hunters Bill of Rights” because he’s scared that animal rights activists will eventually have hunting banned in this country. Let’s hope he right about that. In the meantime however, I doubt this bill will ever be passed.

Garrison believes that hunting is an act of conservation that is necessary to save animals in the long run. “Animals have to be harvested. It’s important that you have management because if you don’t, you get overpopulation, and the animals get smaller and there’s much imbreeding.” I’ve already mentioned in this blog that this is a myth, and that there are indeed other ways of managing population size, such as birth control and not destroying habitat for housing developments.

The director of Promoting Animal Welfare Society, Dorothy Farmer, has said in response to Garrison’s proposal, “If you go out and kill a deer and eat it, I have no problem with that. But I don’t think you should have to kill something two or three times just to get it to be dead; you should be a good shot and eat your meat.” The problem is that not all hunters are good shots, which means that many animals have to suffer. If an animal is not hit just right, it may continue to try to get away from the hunter despite its injury, and all the while the hunter will continue to shoot at it. Bow hunting is even worse than hunting with a gun, since an arrow may not penetrate far enough to kill the animal instantly, leaving a painful wound.

The Tradition of Hunting & Fishing

Why does Todd Palin, husband of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin (who is delightfully disasterous for the McCain ticket), think you should vote for his wife and the “Maverick” this November? Because, as he says in a recent interview, “It is important to have a ticket that supports our core values – hunting and fishing.”

You know, there are plenty of things more important in this election than letting people shoot wolves from helicopters. Things like the crashing economy, the failing wars, and the practically irreversable man-made global warming.

However, Todd’s remark isn’t all that surprising to me. I’m sort of the black-sheep of the family. Not in a criminal way of course, but my liberal, vegan, Buddhist ways are a long way from the views of the rest of my family. My father is an avid hunter, especially when it comes to deer. He even went to the extent of having a head of a deer he killed mounted and put on our wall, and named it Billy Buck. He’s a lifetime member of the NRA, and votes with gun and hunting policies at the front of his mind. We’ve argued about the McCain/Palin ticket numerous times. He adores this dangerously naive candidate, and admires the fact that she, like him, is a hunter.

In many circles, hunting is seen as the ultimate way to provide for your family and show off a man’s masculinity. Fathers take their children on their first hunting trips, which is often traumatizing for a young child who isn’t too fond of “killing Bambi.” In some cultures, a hunting trip is a rite of passage. Every hunter I’ve ever met uses the same line of reasoning: “It’s tradition.”

Tradition isn’t always a good thing. Tradition says that women are inferior and slavery is okay. Some traditions are out-dated and just need to die. Hunting is one of them. It isn’t safe, it is not necessary to keep animal populations down and safe (there are totally other methods, such as birth control), and it’s cruel.

Granted, if someone is absolutely going to eat meat no matter what, I would much rather they hunt than buy factory-farmed produced meat. Some animal rights activists and vegans might be upset that I’m sort of endorsing hunting, but the lives of the wild animals are free and they have the ability to act and behave as their instincts requires. Animals raised in factory farms are basically tortured – they can’t move around in their cages, are fed growth-hormones that make them grow at abnormal rates, and can’t do any of the things that make them happy, like running around in the grass and socializing with their peers. In this case, hunting is the more humane choice. Still, I would love to see a world where hunting is not necessary to provide food, and families are as passionate about gardening as some people are about hunting.

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