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?

EU Allows Sales of Misshapen Veggies

Yep, that’s right. Until now, the European Union has not allowed the sale of “oddly-sized or misshapen fruit and vegetables being sold in Europe.” (BBC News)

The rules were introduced to ensure common EU standards, but are regarded by critics as examples of Euro-madness.

Some 20% of produce is rejected by shops across the EU because it fails to meet the current requirements.

No kidding about the “Euro-madness!” 20% of food is thrown away. That is such an incredible waste, just because the veggies aren’t perfect. People have been spoiled into believing that produce has to be big, beautiful, and flawless. However, the only reason supermarkets are full of such products is because the fruits and veggies are either gassed, grown in a greenhouse, or pumped full of pesticides and chemicals (or, more likely, a combination of the three). They have no flavor. None at all.

From my experience working in local produce, the uglier the produce is usually the best. Sure, our local tomatoes might be small and a little spotty, but once you bite into one you understand the charm of using little or no chemical sprays and of buying from your local farmers. The sad truth is that most people don’t give the “ugly” vegetables a chance, they head right for the mass-agriculture-produced tomatoes that have such a mild flavor.

Life right now is pretty good for people living in the developed world, where we have the luxury of being stubbornly picky. But life isn’t going to stay this way. Every day we see a few more signs of how dangerous global warming is going to be, and the food and water shortages that will undoubtedly result. Better care needs to be taken of the world’s current food production issues. This not only includes fruits and vegetables, but also factory farming. This sort of production is advancing the effects of global warming at a rate that can no longer be ignored.

The best diet for the earth is one based on locally produced fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The simpler you keep your diet, the better it will be for both yourself and the planet.

UN: Eat less meat

According to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people should eat vegetarian at least one day per week in order to have a positive effect on the outcome of global warming. He also says that this is just a starting point and that people should continue to decrease their meat consumption. Pachauri suggests that meat consumption reduction is the quickest way of changing what could be a bleak future for all of us and our future generations. “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity. Give up meat for one day initially, and decrease it from there.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri

According to the UK’s Guardian, “His comments are the most controversial advice yet provided by the panel on how individuals can help tackle gobal warming.” The question we as vegans should be asking is why this is such a controversial suggestion. Environmentalists tend to take any other eco-advice as sound and quickly jump on the wagon. However, when it comes to the correlation between meat consumption and the state of this planet, these same “environmentalists” shuffle their feet like guilty children. They don’t want to acknowledge how transparent this issue is.

Unexpectedly, the meat industry is not happy with Pachauri’s comments. You see, the environmental degradation caused by the meat industry is actually our fault. From the Guardian:

“Chris Lamb, head of marketing for pig industry group BPEX, said the meat industry had been unfairly targeted and was working hard to find out which activities had the biggest environmental impact and reduce those. Some ideas were contradictory, he said – for example, one solution to emissions from livestock was to keep them indoors, but this would damage animal welfare.”

So, according to at least this representative of the meat industry (and I’m sure he’s not the only one peddling this information), we either have to choose saving our world from climate change, or we can treat animals kindly and burn on a much warmer Earth.

Or, as a third choice, we can do as Dr. Pachauri asks, and lower our meat reduction. If someone absolutely has to have meat, choose local free-range. (I know, a vegan supporting free range meat? If someone’s going to eat meat, I’d much rather it be from an animal that has at least been outside.) See Mr. Lamb, we can have both a clean planet and well-treated animals.

What does eating meat have to do with global warming?

In celebration of Earth Day, I want to talk about a huge contributor to pollution and global warming – factory farming. The UN determined a couple of years ago that factory farming is one of the leading causes of global warming, producing around 18% of the CO2 responsible for climate change.

Factory farms are huge. Some of the largest hold over 1,000 cows, 2500 pigs, or 125,000 (!) chickens. One of the obvious forms of pollution is urine and manure, which is usually made into fertilizer to spray on crops. However, much too often it runs into rivers and groundwater, and threatens fish, animals, and humans. Remember the story that broke in the news a couple of weeks ago about how our drinking water was full of antibiotics? The animals raised in factory farms are full of chemicals and hormones that farmers use to make them grow faster and larger. These chemicals make it into the groundwater too (not to mention the steak you buy from the supermarket).

Even though promoters of factory farming claim these institutions are efficient in size, too much land is lost through animal agriculture. The rainforest is being cleared in South America to make room for the animals that will end up on your plate as hamburgers. The last thing we need when we’re on the brink of the  unimaginable consequences of climate change is the destruction of something that will protect us and slow down global warming. Also, all of those thousands of animals need food. Thus, thousands of acres of food is used to feed them. A better use of that land would be to grow enough crops for hungry people. If we used all the land currently being used for animal agriculture for vegetarian sources of food, we could provide enough food to feed everyone – plus enough to make ethanol without food prices going up too much.

Factory farming is dangerous for both living beings and the Earth. I would love for everyone to stop eating meat completely, but I’m enough of a realist to know that some of the meat-eaters reading this post isn’t just going to stop. So, if you’re unwilling to go vegetarian, at least eat less meat. You don’t need meat at every meal. You could also try free-range meat instead of factory farmed. Overall, just be aware of where your food comes from and its environmental impact.

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