Posts tagged ‘animals’
Guess who stepped in a mulberry?
Guess who left little purple paw prints all over the tiles?
Guess who was highly unimpressed I was taking her photo while she had a purple-stained foot?
Yeah. Diva Princess. That’s who.
Just to show she’s not always messy and disgruntled…
Now if only the possums would hurry up and eat all the mulberries on the ground under the tree. We were just lucky this time that we didn’t end up with purple stains on the carpet. Fortunately only the bedrooms are carpeted. Phew! Now, keep up, possums!
P.S. My eco-friendly cat toy tip of the day? A twig from a poinciana tree. I was using one to encourage Fruity to follow me back inside and she loved it. I forgot though, that I used to play with Princess in the same way… she had to come join in! They took turns to bat the twig. So cute. Pou was very confused as to what they were doing. An ex-stray, Pou doesn’t really understand the concept of playing like that. But my point is – who said cat toys have to be expensive and made of plastic? These two get more fun out of a bendy twig than they ever have out of some weird plastic ball with a bell inside. Yay nature!
Whoa, so it has been ages since I’ve been here… I’ve been keeping an eye on things, but haven’t had a chance to post. It’s been a crazy year so far. Some major highs, like…
- Buying (mortgaging) our first house, just 5 mins up the road from my good friend Jho’s place
- Getting a new kitten (rescued off the road at 5wks old, poor wee thing, just in time for my birthday)
- Ending a lease for the last time ever (no more renting!!)
- Everyone going great guns at work and school
- My health hitting a plateau (and since the only other way it could go was down, I’m taking plateau as a major win)
- Yankee Elv getting dreadlocks, which she loves, and which killed my hands for the 50-odd hours it took me to do them for her
- Mr Teeny-bop getting taller than me and is starting to act less like an irritating teenager and more like a sensible verging-on-grown-up boy
- Our old mate The Dyke Mike coming back down under… maybe for good again
- My vegan-ness continues unabated
- …and did I mention our new house? Quarter of an acre, baby!
But there have been some heavy lows too. The biggest and hardest hitting was Loodle and Old Man Fatso leaving us for greener pastures/another turn at the wheel. They were both very old and it was time… but it still sucked. It’s been since January for Fatso and since May for Loodle, but we still miss them and catch ourselves looking for them. That’s probably partly why I haven’t been here too much. I didn’t feel like I could write about it. Time helps, a bit.
Otherwise… Yankee Elv’s health has gone down as mine has
improved plateaued and we’re not sure what’s going on with her yet. The car has been a never-ending money pit, but we have found an awesome mechanic and our new place is closer to Yankee Elv’s work, so there’s less driving (better for us and the planet!) and everything seems to be on track now. There’s an enormous possum in our ceiling who refuses to leave and is probably peeing all over everything up there as I type. I think his little minion possums come bring him food and water. He sounds like an overgrown wombat wandering around over our heads.
But in the grand scheme of things, life hasn’t been treating us too badly. Some days are diamonds, some… no, I’m not going to go there John Denver. Especially since I only realised the lyrics were ‘stones’ when I looked them up just now. I always thought he said ‘dogs’. Why did I think that?
So anyway, basically, I’m here to say I’m here. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I still read your comments and I still think of things to write here all the time. I just haven’t been able to get here to write anything. Mortgages involve a lot of paperwork. Paperwork = time-consuming.
I hope to get here more often from now on, I’ve got lots I want to say, but I’m going to be honest. No promises. There’s lots we want to do with the new house to get it just how we want it and the rest of my family are planning on applying for Aussie citizenship shortly, now they’re eligible. More paperwork; more time. But I’ll pop back again at least periodically, if not regularly… maybe I’ll do some shorter posts. Somewhere between the microblogging of Twitter and the super-epic-macroblogging I tend to do here.
So on that note, I leave you with one of the awesome surprises we found it our backyard (it was a stick when we moved in and suddenly, rapidly, ended up like this):
More to come…
These guys live at Edgar’s Mission, and Shirley’s story was the catalyst to my becoming vegan. I wanted to sponsor him since he was the one that set me on the path.
Hamish is just super cute!
Anyway, it reminded me of when I first read Shirley’s story, so I thought I’d revisit the post I wrote at the time. What do you think? Was I on the right track?
I think going vegan was one of the best decisions I ever made.
In my pack from Edgar’s Mission, I got a booklet entitled Eating Up The World: the environmental consequences of human food choices. It’s produced by various vegetarian/vegan societies in Australia, so you could get a copy through any of them if you wanted one. It’s also available online at that link. I thought it might be biased considering the producers, but they cite all their sources. Anyway, the booklet really confirmed my decision for me, from an environmental standpoint. It clearly outlines how choosing not to eat animal products is pretty much the single greatest individual activity you can take to help reduce climate change. I think that’s pretty awesome.
Here are some of the main points (I didn’t know a bunch of these before I read the booklet!):
- It takes 50,000L to 100,000L of water to produce 1kg of beef, but only 2500L to produce 1kg of white rice and much less for most other grains, fruits and vegetables. (This totally makes me think of how I was often told to eat less rice during the drought, because it was such a water-intensive crop and not suited to the Australian climate – which it’s not – but no-one ever told me to eat less beef.)
- Over 67% of water in Australia is used for agriculture (as compared to 9% for household use), so we should concentrate our water saving efforts on what we eat/wear etc. About 90% of household water consumption comes from food consumption. People eating an omnivorous diet use approximately 3.5 times as much water for food than people eating plant-based diets. Are you seeing a connection here?
- Australia’s livestock will produce more warming over the next 20 years (via methane) than all our coal-fired power stations combined.
- 60% of Australia’s land is used for grazing.
- The UN identified ‘…animal agriculture and food consumption as one of the most significant drivers of environmental pressures and climate change, stating that “a substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products”…’
- 92% of land disturbance in Australia, which includes clearing forests and bushland, increased erosion, changes to the water table, acidifying and compacting soils, spreading weeds, unsustainable levels of manure and climate change, is caused by animal agriculture (55% beef, 36% sheep/wool, 1% dairy). The remaining 8% is all other industries. That’s EVERYTHING ELSE.
- 5kg of wild fish is needed to produce 1kg of farmed fish.
- Fish is one of the most contaminated foods on the planet.
- Some parts of the ocean have been so over-fished that they are now ‘dead zones’ covering tens of thousands of square kilometres.
- Australia now imports 30% of our oil (we used to drill our own, but it’s been dropping since 2000 – Australia has already reached peak oil). Animal agriculture uses considerably more energy than plant agriculture, considering transport of feed and livestock, operation of farm facilities including heating, cooling, lighting and slaughter facilities and the constant refrigeration required for storage of the animal products.
- 27,000 children under the age of 5 die of poverty and starvation every day around the world – and we grow 50% more edible grain worldwide than is required to feed every person on the globe. That extra food plus more is given to farm animals.
- The world’s cattle (so not including anything but cow type animals) eat enough food to feed more than the whole world’s population.
I’ve just had a mini perfect storm of incidents that have gotten me thinking about factory farming again.
Yesterday, I was talking with a colleague about being vegan. He’d just found out that I am vegan and was telling me he sometimes thinks about it. Sometimes he’ll be eating a steak and he’ll stop and think: ‘This used to be a cow’. Then he’s sickened and can’t continue eating it. But the next day he’ll be back to eating meat – except any goat products. He had a pet goat as a kid and can’t stomach anything from goats; meat, cheese, milk… nothing. I wondered aloud if Mr Teeny-bop would go the same way once we move to our own house (we’re looking at the market at the moment) and get some backyard chickens. Would he stop eating chicken altogether? (Even if he doesn’t, at least I will know his eggs are cruelty-free.) I told my colleague that my son is old enough to make up his own mind. I also was careful not to denigrate my colleagues choices about eating meat. I’m always careful that way. Sometimes it annoys me that I’m so non-boat-rocky (this has been a challenge for me before). I want to tell everyone off and try to convince them what bad choices they are making but then I remember I have to work with them.
Anyway, the second thing in my perfect storm is that a friend of mine sent me a link to the Slow Food Sunshine Coast Hinterland group (I grew up on the Sunny Coast), and I was looking around on their Facebook page and found a link to the Factory Farm Map. A quick look at the site really appalled* me but as always, I thought: that’s in the USA. I know we don’t farm our cattle like that in Australia (almost all beef cattle are grazed), and I know we do factory farm chicken but that’s getting an increasing amount of attention (particularly cage eggs; Coles has recently agreed to reduce prices on free range eggs and phase out cage eggs, and Woolworths and MacDonald’s have pledged to increase the use of free-range eggs in their stores since last year). Not that that’s an excuse, but I guess I already had knowledge about those industries, so it didn’t get me thinking in the same way.
What the site did get me wondering about was the other kinds of animals ‘produced’ in Australia. A ex-colleague of mine had dairy-farming family in the Darling Downs and insisted that the cows weren’t factory farmed, and that the family farm was typical of the industry. She claimed that many of the horror stories came from the US and didn’t apply in Australia. I know from previous research that even the friendliest dairy farms still routinely impregnate cows and remove the babies from their mothers. And what about the pigs? I love pigs! So I thought I’d put my google-fu to work.
The sheer amount of information out there is so phenomenal that today I just limited myself to pig research. (That doesn’t mean I don’t care about other animals; I just started with pigs and got a bit overwhelmed.) I found that nearly 400,000 pigs are factory farmed in Queensland alone (5.7 million Australia-wide). The conditions in which they live are so horrible it’s hard to believe that people actually put them into those situations^.
It’s well documented that many sociopaths first start out by being cruel to animals. A look at the pictures from piggeries makes me wonder if many Australians are supporting a ghetto of violent offenders (aka factory farm workers) with their pork, ham and bacon purchases… because there’s no way to look at those pictures and not see animal cruelty. Those pigs didn’t put themselves into tiny
cages sow stalls. People put them there. How anyone could do that is beyond me. It made me cry (and I’m not one of those people who bursts into tears at the drop of a hat).
Then I listened to the latest radio ad from SaveBabe.com, aimed at getting people to think about factory farmed pigs right before the peak meat season (aka Christmas). It’s predicated on the fact that pigs have the intelligence of a 3-year old. The ad is from the perspective of a mother pig in a sow stall, describing how she feels… spoken by a little (presumably 3-year old) girl. It’s a very emotionally evocative ad. I had another little cry and then decided to do something about it.
So as a result of my perfect storm (thinking about factory farms + feeling disgruntled that I am so moderate in expressing my views to other people) I decided to take my new-found knowledge and share a little of it with my friends via Facebook, talk about it with people at work in a non-threatening (but firm and decisive) way, maybe mention it to my family at Christmas. The vast majority of the people I know are omnivorous, although generally open-minded about alternative dietary options… but I think after looking at some of those pictures, floating along with their open-mindedness is not enough. I need to try to do something. So I shall share here and elsewhere and commit to being more vocal, and see what comes of it. Do I think people will give up their Christmas ham because of my actions? I don’t know. It feels like such a small thing to do to help those poor pigs and other animals, but when I think that the average vegetarian saves approximately 100 animal lives per year, it gives me the hope that raising awareness can really make an impact. All I can do is try.
I hope videos like this one will help some of my friends and family think about the choices they are making with their food. Why harm other creatures if you can live without doing that, right? I hope they think that too.
Go here to watch a longer version of the video.
*I’ve written before about why factory farms are bad. Alternatively, click each part of the ‘Find out how factory farms affect all of us’ section at the top of the Factory Farms Map page or look at the Factory Farming – The Facts page from Brightside Farm Sanctuary.
^If you’re concerned that some of the sites included in this post may present a biased view since they are animal welfare sites, try looking into intensive pig farming on Wikipedia (I know it’s not necessarily unbiased either, but I think it’s closer to a middle ground).
Do you remember a time when all wine and champagne bottles had a cork stopper? I barely do – I was only just old enough to start drinking alcohol when plastic corks were introduced. Not long later, screw top lids came in. I thought these were both great ideas. I’m not great with a corkscrew. Inevitably, small bits of cork would end up in my wine. It’s not so hard to pick them out, but you know… it’s a pain. Especially if you’re on your third bottle. Not that I would drink that much…
So anyway, I tended to choose bottles with plastic corks, or better yet, screw-top lids.
I won’t be doing that anymore. Now it will be cork every time for me.
Why the sudden turnaround? Well, I was reading some Fake Plastic Fish articles yesterday, and found an old piece on cork. I followed the links and found a link to the Cork Oak Landscapes section of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) site. It includes an article and a beautiful video outlining why the cork industry is important. (There’s no spoken audio so it’s accessible for Deaf folks.)
This WWF news clip on Youtube paints a more detailed picture (sorry, no captions).
Essentially, plastic stoppers and screw-tops have reduced the demand for cork. As a result, some cork farmers are leaving the forests behind (moving to the cities to find work) or replacing them with non-indigenous tree plantations (like pine or eucalypt). This action is increasing susceptibility to desertification, fires and the extinction of native species (like the endangerd Iberian Lynx). Note that cork production in Mediterranean areas has been going on for millennia, so this is a pretty major change.
What amazes me the most about cork production though, is that it’s extremely sustainable. The trees don’t get cut down – which contradicted my (admittedly hazy) ideas about cork manufacture – but are in fact carefully looked after so they can continue to act as the livelihood for generations of the same family. To make cork, the bark is harvested. This bark then regrows and is harvested again. This is done with specially designed axes that don’t harm the trees. Cattle graze in the forest, keeping the grass low and reducing the risk of fire. Overall, it’s a natural, environmentally friendly way of life that we should be looking to preserve.
Instead, I’ve been unknowingly destroying it by choosing lids that are marginally easier to remove. Bad hippy. I know I didn’t do it on purpose, but I feel kind of guilty; I want to go buy copious amounts of corked wine to make up for it, but I won’t, because I just don’t drink that much. Instead, I’m posting here, in the hope of spreading the word.
So guys, listen up! Buy wine with real corks! Save the cork forests and the animals and this gentle way of life!
P.S. If you need a reason to buy cork that is closer to home than Portugal, how about not poisoning yourself with the petro-chemicals plastic stoppers are made of and screw-top lids are lined with? Give it a try.
It’s only a trailer, but wow – it’s heavy-hitting! I agree with ecorazzi – it should be made into a feature film. And I haven’t even seen the short yet.
I wonder, if this was made into a feature film, would animal testing decrease? With enough public pressure, could it be outlawed?
P.S. Deafies, there’s not much talking in this – it’s very visual, so you’ll be able to follow it fine.
I got some serious news about my health recently. I’m still waiting on a definite diagnosis, but I probably have a degenerative disease with a likely outcome of paralysis or blindness. Fun stuff. Imagine Yankee Elv with her hearing dog and me with a guide and/or assistance dog. Won’t we make a pair? I’m hoping I’m one of the lucky ones who misses out on those symptoms, but there’s no way to know, there’s no cure and I haven’t responded well to treatment so far.
As you may imagine, this has had me a bit distracted. That’s partly why recently there have been lots of posts about happy, achievable things, like saving chickens and eating vegan food – I haven’t felt up to delving into the serious stuff. Plus, aside from eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding illness and tiredness, the best way to look after myself is to reduce stress. Just for a little while, reducing stress has included not keeping up with the really nasty environmental crap – like the disaster of the BP oil spill. It just didn’t seem like something I should stress about. So that’s why you haven’t seen anything from me about arguably the greatest single event of human-created ecological catastrophe in memory.
However, a friend of mine posted about this site on Facebook, and I thought it was too good not to share. It’s called IfItWasMyHome.com and it allows you to digitally move the oil spill around on a map. You think it’s bad in the Gulf of Mexico? Well, of course it is. But is it better or worse if it’s in a major city? What about if it was where you live? On this site, you can try it out.
I found it interesting because I lived on the Gulf Coast in Texas for a while. In reality, it’s getting close to places I’ve been, so I can picture what it’s doing.
I also moved the oil spill to Brisbane. It helps me understand, more tangibly, how big it actually is. It covers up the entire south east of Queensland region, including where I live now, where I grew up, where I go camping… everything. It’s huge.
Here it is in New York. The place where Yankee Elv grew up is covered in oil.
Possibly the most shocking and frightening image came up when I moved the spill to Rome.
The width of the spill is greater than the width of the entire country of Italy. The BP oil disaster is bigger – significantly bigger – than a number of European countries. You can see them right there on the map. Get that in your head…
…then think about how the oil has been gushing out unchecked for well over a month. So far, BP has not done much. What kind of company doesn’t have a contingency plan for a disaster like this? Did they really think nothing like this would ever happen? Why didn’t they have plans in place, just in case? So far, the most help has come from Kevin Costner. Good on him, his brother and their company – but why on earth is a movie star better qualified to clean this up than the enormous company who got the world into this position? And if he’s so much better qualified, why didn’t they get him on board before this happened?
See why I have been trying not to think about this? I get into a stressy, rant-y place. But really, even if BP can’t figure out how to stop the tragedy, why aren’t they at least paying people to get out and clean it up? That’s something achievable that, sadly, people have experience with.
*Photos by Charlie Riedel for The Big Picture.
My mum is talking about getting chickens. It will be a while before she gets them, but she is very enthusiastic. Her local council has changed the law so her yard is now considered big enough, which she finds ironic. She had chooks in suburbia as a kid, then they were regulated out (only poor people and farmers had chooks – suddenly everyone was rich enough to buy their own eggs, so it became illegal to keep them). She and I had an interesting (if abbreviated due to time constraints) discussion about how everything comes full circle and we’re going back to the environmentally-friendly way things were done in the past.
Mum also saw an eco-coop at a university environmental day which caught her fancy. It was nice and big and had a trough on top where you could grow veges (like lettuce). Clearly the garden part would be conveniently handy to the chook manure!
In addition to those little incentives, Mum just plain likes chickens. Let’s just say that this weekend wasn’t the first time she and I have talked about her childhood chook, Penny. (Sadly, a snake got Penny when Mum was about 5 or 6.) Cows might make her nervous (‘They have such big faces!’), but she gets this really sweet smile on her face when she talks about chickens.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I suggested Mum rescue battery hens and she seemed keen on the idea. Mum is always keen to rescue animals in distress (I think she would be vegan if she allowed herself to really think about it, but let’s not get into that debate.)
I read about battery hen rescue on the Queensland Vegsoc forum (I feel like I’m reading everything there lately!). I’m going to send her links, but here are three threads about battery hen adoption, some with links to photos, for you all to read too.
- Jan 2010 hen adoptions (there’s a very moving poem on p4)
- March 2010 hen adoptions
- May 2010 hen adoptions.
The organisation that rehomes the battery hens is Brisbane-based. It’s called The Battery Hen Adoption Project. They have some really good information on their site about taking care of the chooks when they first come home. Of course everything is new to the poor bald chickens; they don’t even know how to sleep sitting down, or have a concept for getting up and walking to the water/food dishes to eat and drink.
There’s also the saddest video on the site:
I really want to rescue some hens now! I can’t wait til we’re not renting anymore. (I have visions of a strawbale type of construction to be a lovely, fox-free coop for them to sleep in at night.) I am also pleased with the idea of supplying Yankee Elv and Mr Teeny-bop with some truly free-range eggs, since they both still eat them.
In the meantime, I guess I will have to make do with visiting Mum’s chickens, when she gets them. I wonder, if she gets them in winter, if they will need jumpers like these…
Bugs are good. Really, they are. In compost, in nature, everywhere. It’s all cyclical, folks. Food web, circle of life – you know what I mean. However, they can be annoying, spread disease (think mosquitoes), painful, poisonous (think spiders), messy and generally a pain in the butt. I don’t think it’s an abnormal thing to not be particularly fond of them. However, I do think it’s not ideal to blitz them into oblivion with intensive pest control. It’s good to keep a balance. We spend so much time trying to avoid bugs in so many ways – how about some of the natural ways?
In the Elven household, we live in harmony with bugs by:
- Sharing our house with geckos (they eat lots of bugs, but sadly our most common geckos are non-natives – even so, Yankee Elv loves them)
- Letting lots of spiders live in our yard – mostly golden orb weavers (but not in the house, not in the house!)
- Stopping the cats from terrorising the local lizards, including blue-tongue lizards (they also eat lots of bugs)
- Keeping all the windows open without screens during the day (only some of our windows are screened, so if we screen those that are and still keep the screenless windows open, bugs come in but can’t get out again – if you keep them all unscreened, they fly in one window and out the other)
- Shutting all screenless windows and closing the screens on all screened windows at dusk (keeps out the mozzies, moths and Christmas beetles)
- Keeping the interior lights off unless you’re using them (bugs are attracted to light)
- Wiping kitchen benches meticulously after food preparation and rinsing all dishes after eating to keep off the ants (I’m still working on this one with Mr Teeny-bop)
- Keeping all food in sealed containers or jars to remove temptation for the ants
- Avoiding leaving still water lying around (mosquito breeding ground)
- Keeping the lid on the garbage bin and kitchen compost containers to discourage flies
- Using a cat food bowl with a moat to prevent ant swarms
- Keeping pet food in sealed containers in the cupboard to prevent ants from gorging.
Our one concession to ‘unnatural’ pest control is flea treatment for the dog and cats – they are miserable without it.
This seems to mostly do the trick (although these darned red ants keep coming and trying to live in my bamboo plant). We really don’t have a bug problem – if you don’t count the critters in the compost, and the cicadas that are loud enough for even Yankee Elv to hear!
Do you have any other natural pest control tips?
[As an interesting aside, golden orb weaver webs are currently being studied in the hopes that something similar can be used in medicine to make things like sutures. The golden webs are so strong and flexible they are able to entangle small birds, although the spiders are not bird-eaters. At the moment, we have a golden orb weaver's web holding up a tendril of the passionfruit vine.]
In my dream house/farm, I’m going to have sheep and other animals that have been rescued from farms that aren’t very nice to their animals. I want to give them happy homes!
It’s my understanding that you want to shear sheep though, even if they are just pets, because in sub-tropical Queensland especially, it’s just too hot in summer for all that wool. That makes sense – we have to shave poor Loodle in summer cos it’s too hot for him too!
So if I’m going to have this abundance of wool, I think I’m going to learn how to spin my own yarn. I’ve been interested in it for a while, but I read this post on Living Naturally in Louisiana and it inspired me! I’m too busy at the moment to try on a handspindle, and our place is too small to have a spinning wheel, so it will have to wait, but I’m anticipatorily excited! (Yes, I know anticipatorily is not a word, but it gets my point across. Why should Shakespeare be the only one who is allowed to make up words that aren’t nouns?)
I love the idea of having local, eco-friendly yarn though – from happy sheep. I don’t buy wool yarn now because I don’t want to support an industry that isn’t animal-friendly, but I’m not happy buying acrylics either (they’re made from petrochemicals), cottons use so much water and maize takes corn out of the food web. That pretty much leaves me with bamboo and soy (leftovers from making soy products), which are both pretty expensive and often not locally produced. Sometimes I pick up used yarn, unravel a jumper or succumb to some pretty cotton, but I can’t wait til I can make my own pretty yarn from my happy pet sheep. Then I can reduce my dependence on those other kinds of yarn (although if I start making my own soy milk, I wonder if I could make my own soy yarn… and maybe grow some hemp and make a blended fibre…)
Plus I’ll be able to try some of those felting patterns I’ve seen (only animal fibre can be felted).