Soot Pollution

soot-pollution-environmental-protection-agency-standardsTo put it simply, soot pollution is deadly. Soot is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, in particular coal. It comes from burning coal for electricity or industrial fuel, manufacturing, oil refining, and motor vehicles.  It affects the health of families and communities, some of which are at a higher risk than others. Soot has been a danger to human health and the health of the environment for years. The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit identified the deficiencies in soot regulation years ago. Standards are long overdue.  For years soot has been released into the air and can be carried thousands of miles away from the initial source of pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency has experienced a series of victories on behalf of the environment in the courts and in the Senate recently, but there is still more work to do, especially in regards to soot pollution.

Particulate pollution, also known as soot, is an airborne contaminant, and one of the most dangerous ones at that. Soot is made of microscopic bits of matter and that matter can penetrate people’s lungs and infiltrate their bloodstream. Soot is proven to contribute to heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, bronchitis, and in some cases ultimately death. Strokes are the third largest cause of death in the United States, with about 700,000 new or recurrent cases each year. This costs around 30 billion dollars annually. All of which could be reduced if the Environmental Protection agency strengthens it standards of soot pollution.

There is also an environmental toll from soot, not just the negative effects on human health. Particulate pollution has serious environmental impacts such as impairing the visibility of national parks like the Great Smoky Mountains. They may be called Smoky, but it is soot that prevents them from being seen. Soot also will contaminate water and plant life in regions it is found. In particular it depletes nutrients from the soil and erodes landscapes. Particulate pollution is also related to acid rain.

The Environmental Protection Agency understands these affects, but is long overdue proposing changes to the standards for fine particulate pollution, which includes soot. The new proposal would strengthen health standards and lead to local environmental benefits like cleaner air for everyone. The new standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in May of 2012 would save thousands of lives each year and ensure healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans.

Epidemiologists have studied populations over time and have been able to tease out that people living in areas with higher soot pollution are more likely to die earlier than people living in areas that have lower soot pollution. Soot pollution especially affects the young and the elderly, who are more susceptible to inhalation because of weak immune systems. Another study recently was concluded and determined that this is true by watching populations in six cities for a total of eight thousand participants over thirty years. It studied the annual, chronic level of soot exposure to each of these 8000 people. The Six Cities Study shows that soot pollution shortens lives even at levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards. The study therefore suggests that soot pollution kills people at all level of pollution. To support the Environmental Protection Agency’s strengthening of standards please sign this petition at The Environmental Defense Fund.

Photo credit: blog.epa.gov/administrator/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/industry_021.jpg

Land Issues: The Sioux and the Black Hills

lakota-sioux-black-hills-sacred-landIt is safe to say that Native Americans have had their fair share of problems in the course of American history. In fact that is an understatement at best. And it seems their constant battle to secure land rights continues. By the first of September 2012 the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar would have to decide the fate of land considered sacred by the Sioux people of the Black Hills. And although the history of Native Americans and the United States Government has been characterized by broken contracts, this time the public stepped in and helped save land sacred to Tribal Nations including the Lakota Sioux.

The land in question is a beautiful stretch of prairie land in the Black Hills of South Dakota, just west of Rapid City. It is called Pe’ Sla. The land is considered to be the Center and Heart of everything that is. It is presently undeveloped and privately owned. Each year it is used for ceremonies sacred to the Sioux tradition. The land is associated with the Sioux creation story and the ceremonies performed there are believed to keep the universe in harmony.

Two thousand acres of the land was in danger of being auctioned off to bidders who proposed the development of either a road or a golf course. The auction was to be held September 1st, but fortunately the auctioneers caved to public pressure, for now. Seven bands of Native Americans also made a collective effort to buy as much of the land as possible at the auction. Those bands included the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Oyate people (also known as the Great Sioux Nation). At the same time, these bands also acknowledge that land cannot be owned and that their sacred places were illegally taken by the United States. Their efforts are being made so further desecration is not committed to their environment. They are trying to work within the current United States system of laws to regain custody of their sacred sites.

If the lands are lost so are the sacred traditions that are so connected to that specific environment. Future generations will be unable to access and understand their culture and way of life without this land and the ritual associated with it. Not only that but the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) is home to many plants and animals that should also be protected. When the stars align the Lakota people, just as their ancestors did, fo to Pe’ Sla to pray and they cannot go anywhere else. The goals of the Great Sioux Nation are to protect the area and that plants, animals, water, and air that they believe should be respected and honored.

Sara Jumping Eagle of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe started the petition that provoked this government response. She proposed the land be designated a historical landmark. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has the ability to declare the land a historical landmark. He has yet to do so, but on August 24, 2012 the auction of the Reynold’s Prairie portion of Pe’ Sla was cancelled at the owner’s request. The land is still for sale and the Naïve Americans are still hoping to purchase it in order to preserve it for future generations. Sara belives the land is still in danger though. She stated, “Pe ‘Sla is a symbol of a resurgence and belief in who we are as Lakota Oyate (the people). If somebody were to come and build a road or desecrate it in any way, it would be like the Wounded Knee Massacre happening all over again. Can you imagine the Vatican, or Mecca or Bethlehem being bulldozed for an amusement park?” Please sign Sara’s petition to make sure that the injustices of the past do not continue and that Native American sacred land is protected. Help the Lakota Sioux Save Ple’ Sa.

Photo credit: cweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c00000/3c04000/3c04500/3c04564v.jpg

Land Issues: the Maasai and Loliondo

maasai-tanzania-tourism-big-game-huntingAll around the world, indigenous people struggle to hold onto the land that their people have been occupying for centuries. These populations are displaced in the name of development and the expansion of industry. In the case of the Maasai people of Tanzania, the case boils down to the royal privilege and excess of Middle Eastern princes and kings who want to use their land, particularly Loliondo, for corporate sponsored big game hunting. Forty-eight thousand Maasai people would be displaced if the big game hunting industry takes their land away.

The Maasai are a semi-nomadic group of herders who have lived in Eastern Africa, specifically Tanzania and Kenya for centuries. Like most indigenous groups they play a critical role in preserving the delicate ecosystem they inhabit, as do the animals that the Middle Eastern royals want to slaughter. Royals from the United Arab Emirates are pushing the plan so they can hunt big game and the plan is dangerous to both the wildlife and the surrounding communities like the Maasai.

The Maasai have a fighting chance in the fact that the Tanzanian President, President Kikwete, will stop deals like this if they generate negative press coverage. Unfortunately, President Kikwete is favoring local elites who want the deal in order to support development. Wealthy Middle Eastern princes and kings would displace the Maasai, who actually live and use the portion of the Serengeti in natural accordance with environmental interests, in order for the royalty to hunt endangered animals like wild lions and leopards.

Unfortunately this is not the first time the Maasai have been pushed off their land. It’s not even the first time this same corporation has pushed the Maasai off their land. In fact, the last time the big game hunting multinational corporation did so, the Maasai were beaten by police and their homes were burnt down and their livestock dies of starvation. A media frenzy followed the 2009 incident and President Kikwete of Tanzania tried to avoid controversy and embarrassment by returning the Maasai to their land.

This time around the Tanzanian government is less concerned. They are presently claiming there is no threat to the Maasai. The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism put out a statement saying there are no Maasai in Serengeti Park or the Serengeti District and he claims they live in the bordering regions. The Tanzanian government officially denotes this area part of the Serengeti ecosystem, yet are failing to allow for its protections. The land grab has the potential to continue and evict the Maasai, even if there are none in the region the government claims will be affected.

Because tourism is a major source of income for Tanzania, President Kikwete is trying to keep the controversy under wraps. By signing the following petition you can let the international community know that this story should be in the spotlight and you can pressure the Tanzanian government into saving this land for the Maasai and these animals for tourist who want to shoot them with a camera rather than a gun, as Avaaz, the site hosting the petition to save the Maasai, so cleverly puts it.

Avaaz is also suggesting users leave comments at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism’s Facebook page.The petition itself can be found at Avaaz: Save the Maasai. If signed you will stand by both indigenous communities and their right to their ancestral land as well as by animals and their right to live in their environment (thus preserving their ecosystem) without being slaughtered by wealthy Middle Eastern royals.

Photo credit: api.ning.com/files/zKg-IryekBGWNXo4hSAmxwkvimOULWHXkSylWXeXX2p5c1DlXoF0SZ4S4i-SVTYVMy39pEqkNvnJEY9eQHkkOeNjUBCn7nDAyzh7U3AHTiA_/masaiwarriorjumpdancemasaimarakenyaall2813314.jpg%3Fwidth%3D338%26height%3D450

Rare Dolphin Ritual Captured on Film

dolphin-mourning-ritual-calf-podsIn July 2012 humans learned a little more about dolphin behavior. Captured on camera for one of the first times, a mother dolphin was spotted in the Guangxi Zhuang region of China performing a mourning ritual in which the mother carries the dead calf against rough sea currents. Little is known about the ritual, which has rarely been witnessed by human eyes. The recent instance witnessed by a boat of tourists consisted of the mother dolphin carrying her dead child, as it slipped 5 times from its mother’s back. The Guanxi Zhuang region is known for its dolphin watching tours.

Researchers have observed dolphins carrying stillborn calves or those that die in infancy. The mother dolphins have been observed to stay with their dead babies for several days. While mourning rituals are rare in the animal kingdom, surprisingly whales, elephants, chimps, and gorillas also display some sort of mourning ritual. Researchers and scientists are very wary to attribute emotions to animals, but the behavior does seem to indicate that dolphins are aware of their mortality and may even contemplate their eventual death. Dolphins are also the only species known to purposefully commit suicide. Dolphins are also highly sociable animals and travel in closely connected pods. They exhibit extreme aggression when their pod is threatened and have been known to protect other species, such as humans.

The mourning ritual is greatly speculated about in the scientific community. Many hypotheses proposed by biologists and dolphin specialists suppose a variety of reasons behind the behavior. Some suppose the mother dolphin is lifting the calf out of water repeatedly as if to help it breathe better. The dolphin is also carrying the calf out into the sea further, as if to escape further dangers found hear shore, such as boats and their deadly propellers. Some even propose that the mother dolphin knows her calf is dead and is performing a sort of burial ritual, laying her calf to rest in deeper waters.

Researcher Joan Gonzalvo of the Tethys Research Institute in Italy has observed similar scenes. He once witnessed a pod of dolphins trying to help a dying calf by lifting it to the surface and swimming around it in a frantic and erratic matter. He states, “My hypothesis is that the sick animal was kept company and given support and when it died the group had done their job.” He assumes that the dolphins knew the baby was dying and they were prepared.

It is terribly ironic and tragic that one of the very boats that carried the tourists out to sea could be responsible for the death of this particular baby calf. The calf has a large gash approximately a foot long visible across its belly. To act on behalf of dolphins that die unnecessarily, please encourage the Chinese government to enact protections for dolphins and ban their killing. The Dolphin Project via Change.org is working to protect dolphins around the world. By partnering with grassroots organizations in Singapore and Thailand they hope to prevent the all too common occurrence of dolphin slaughter. Dolphins are also notoriously captured in many parts of Asia in order to place them in aquariums and circuses and tourist programs. The Dolphin Project tries to end the poor treatment and slaughter of dolphins and also does work to rehabilitate captive dolphins. To sign their petition please visit Change.org-Stop Dolphin Slaughter.

Photo credit: noaa.gov/features/04_resources/images/dolphins.jpg

Adorable and In Danger: Dwarf Sea Horses

dwarf-seahorse-extinction-endangered-gulf-of-mexicoEveryday animals are going in and out of danger and as a voiceless population they require humans to act on their behalf. The Endangered Species List is constantly being updated and changed, and sometimes that isn’t even happening quickly enough. Mostly the delay is necessary so that research and methods of approach can be developed, but is still wasting time before important action on behalf of endangered species can occur.

And this is just the case with the charming dwarf seahorse. The little aquatic oddities are ethereal and bizarre looking, strait out of a surreal painting or magical fairy tale. Every morning the seahorses greet their mate (they mate for life) with a special dance and then as most seahorses do, the females transfer their eggs to the male pouch, which hatch and produce miniature versions of the adults.

The sea creatures are only 2 inches long at most, which makes them the smallest seahorse in the Americas. The dwarf seahorse is the third smallest seahorse species in the world and the Guinness Book of World Records remarks that they are the slowest moving fish because of their size. The seahorses are found in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast of Florida, and the Caribbean.

It is the Gulf of Mexico where the creatures are in the most danger, although they could use protection under the Endangered Species Act as a species. They are under threat because of pollution and loss of habitat. The water in the Gulf of Mexico is degrading in quality and pollution from the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill is causing irreversible pollution. The cleanup of that tragedy has also causes pollution and loss of their sea grass habitat.

Because dwarf seahorses are habitat specialists they die when the sea grass dies. The loss of sea grass is directly related to the population of the sea horses and they are particularly susceptible to habitat loss because they have low mobility, high site fidelity, patchy spatial distribution, and complex social and reproductive behavior.

More than 50 percent of Florida’s sea grasses have been destroyed since 1950. Some areas have suffered extreme losses, which range up to 90 percent in sea grass attrition rates. The sea grass has been disappearing prior to the BP oil spill, but the spill has exacerbated the problem extensively. Dwarf seahorses are particularly vulnerable and sensitive to oil pollution, which could potentially remain in the gulf for decades to come. Not only that, but the seahorse is also threatened too by boat propellers, shrimp trawlers, and ocean acidification from global climate change. Collectors who sell them in the aquarium trade and as curios and tradition medicine also capture the fish and deplete the population.

In the 1970s the dwarf seahorse was a common species, but has been in decline since that time and presently is near extinction. The dwarf seahorse is presently threatened by four out of five factors that the Endangered Species Act requires to warrant protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity of Phoenix, Arizona is in the process of getting dwarf seahorses added to the Endangered Species list, which will afford dwarf seahorses countless protections awarded under the Endangered Species Act of the Marine Fisheries Service.

In response to the petition the National Marine Fisheries Service has agreed that the dwarf seahorse may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is important that this cause continue to gather support from the public, which will help sway the National Marine Fisheries Service to hasten the process and begin to protect the dwarf seahorse as soon as possible! To show your support for the plight of the tiny seahorse with gigantic problems please sign the petition that is being hosted at Change.org.

Photo credit: dec.ny.gov/images/administration_images/0811seahorse3.jpg

The Woes of Wolves in Wyoming

gray-wolf-pups-wyoming-endangered-delistWyoming contains the northern portion of the Rocky Mountains, which contains a significant, but dwindling population of North American gray wolves. The State of Wyoming is currently in the process of decriminalizing wolf hunting, which could result in the slaughter of countless wolves. As of May 5, 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally delisted wolves as endangered in the Northern Rockies, which allowed for the slaughter of 600 wolves in deregulated areas like Montana and Idaho. Wolves are now considered “predators” and can be shot on site.

The reworking of the law will allow for wolves to be shot on sight, brutally taped, and it will also make it legal to gas wolf dens, which will kill wolf pups. The proposal also allows for wolves to be hunted by domestic hunting dogs. The State of Wyoming is responsible for the new unregulated law. It is trying to petition the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to eliminate the federal Endangered Species Act protections in order to allow for unlimited trapping and shoot-on-sight killing of wolves. The worst loophole of the whole ordeal pertains to making it legal to kill wolves no matter how many of them are left in the state, allowing for the potential of utter extinction in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Similar efforts have already succeeded in states like Montano and Idaho where last year anti-wolf interests won the right to hunt and kill wolves. Thus far the results have been expectedly disconcerting. There have been reports of inhumane trapping and snaring. What’s more, the wolf killers demand more aggressive wolf hunting policies, even after over six hundred wolves have been killed in Montana and Idaho in just the last year.

While wolves can be dangerous if confronted by individual humans, humans tend to do more damage to the wolf population as a whole. It has even been proven that domestic dogs kill more cattle than wolves. Independent and unaffiliated research scientists say that 2,000 to 3,000 wolves are needed for the population to become sustainable and full recovered from prior times in which wolf hunting was unregulated. The Endangered Species Act allowed for protections in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the wolf population got close to a fully recovered number.

Unfortunately that would all change if the state pushes forward with its measures. As with Montana and Idaho, where the wolf population faced aggressive reductions, the new proposal by Wyoming State would allow for widespread hunting and killing of wolves in Wyoming. Eighty-six percent of the state will allow for unregulated hunting, which excludes the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Unfortunately the protected area does not include the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, a 24,000 acre area that connects the two larger parks.

Thankfully, the Rocky Mountain Branch of Earthjustice is on the lookout. If the Fish and Wildlife Services approve Wyoming’s proposal Earthjustice is prepared to challenge the decision in a court of law. Earthjustice is requesting donations in order to prepare for the court case, but if your budget is tight right now you can do your part by signing this petition at The Animal Rescue Site.

As of July 25, 2012 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has denied the petition put forward by Wyoming, but that does not yet mean that wolves are entirely in the clear. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services demands that the state develop a “wolf management plan” which will regulate and limit the human take of wolves. They also commit that a minimum population will be maintained in the state.

Photo credit: fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/images/MW_24_sm.jpg

Global Population Rises Yet Fertility Rates Falls

world-population-india-momentumGlobal birthrates are going down, but because of political and cultural reasons that are against contraception the global birth rate will continue to rise. The rate will largely be determined by a new generation of people who are in their prime fertile years.  

Strangely and paradoxically, the world’s average birthrate has slowly been falling for decades, yet what is happening is something scientists call population momentum. Population momentum occurs because of the combination of unchecked fertility in the past along with reduced child mortality. More births are living to term and childbearing rates yield large results. So with population momentum, birth rates cannot possibly be reduced at a very quick rate. The earliest the population growth would begin to slow is around 2075.

The current generation of fertile people is the largest generation in history. There are 3 billion people in the world under the age of 25. Of that 3 billion, 1.2 billion of them are just entering the beginning of their reproductive life cycle. Even if this generation decides collectively to have less children and therefore smaller families than their immediate ancestors, the world’s population will continue to grow. Right now the world’s population stands at 7 billion. While the choice to have children is very personal, the decision for young people will have consequences far beyond their families and communities.

By 2050 the United Nations projects that the world population will reach 9.3 billion. This would be the equivalent of adding another India AND China to the world. But if the new generation of fertile people chooses to have less children and the birthrate would decrease from 2.5 children per woman to 2.1 If the new generation of fertile people chooses to continue to have as any children as previous generations the population is expected to reach 11 billion by midcentury, which is the equivalent of adding 3 Chinas to the world.

Either way scientists believe that living conditions are likely to be worse for humanity as a whole. Water, food, and arable land will become scarcer, cities will become more crowded, and hunger will become more widespread. Besides momentum, the poorest parts of the world continue to have high fertility rates because of tradition, religion and the inferior status of women, who have no access to contraception.

The new generation of Indians who are in the prime age of fertility will largely determine much of what happens. With a population of a billion two hundred million will largely determine the future of the global birth rate. India has a poverty rate of 32.7 percent, meaning that 32.7 percent of the population lives below $1.25 a day. The literacy rate is 68.3 percent. Because of population momentum India’s population will continue to grow, will surpass China’s population, and will not even peak until 2060, at which time it could begin to potentially slow.

To support the efforts of mitigating climate change and the suffering and misery of many, please sign this petition to the Rio 20, which advocates for education on behalf of climate change and family planning. Globally 1 in 8 people live in a slum and by midcentury it could be more than 9 billion, raising the ratio to 1 in 3. Higher temperatures and violent weather casued by climate change will come to displace masses of people and by 2050 the United Nations predicts that number could be as high as 200 million climate change refugees, forced to leave their land because of droughts or flooding. Appropriately so, the petition to the Rio 20 is called “The Time is Now.”

Photo credit: census.gov/population/international/data/idb/images/worldpop.png

Surprise Rise in Ocean Acidity

coral-reef-ocean-acidity-carbon-dioxide-riseThe extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that contributes to global warming doesn’t just mean trouble for land inhabitants; the ocean is growing more and more acidic due the excess carbon dioxide floating around. The ocean has absorbed the extra carbon dioxide, which has surprised and concerned scientists.

The coral reef is most ocean life threatened by the rising acid levels and what has been described as a sort of “osteoporosis” is causing the reef to die (resulting in a white bleached coloring). High levels of ocean acidity hinder and sometimes prevent the formation of coral skeletons. The reef is a strong entity, but the skeletal thinning will cause severe deterioration. Coral reefs are also the producers of seashells. The death of the reed, particularly in Australia, threatens a variety of sectors including tourism and food security.

This surprising new revelation has provoked a lot of concern because of the serious consequences it has on the ocean and ocean life. Climate change in general has devastating consequences, but this new factor is considered unprecedented as well as unexpected. Scientists initially expected that the carbon dioxide being absorbed by the water would dilute as shallow and deep waters mixed together. Unfortunately for the reef, the carbon dioxide is settling in the shallow waters, making them much more acidic than usual.

Oyster populations will suffer because high ocean acidity causes their shell growth to be stunted. A study showed high ocean acidity levels also affect clown fish. An experiment was performed in which high acidity levels were replicated, in particular the levels that are expected by the end of this century. Clown fish began swimming towards their predators instead of away from them because the high levels of acidity caused a dulling in their sense of smell. Like clown fish, salmon also depend on using their sense of smell to locate their natal breeding grounds, and it’s a very real possibility that if their smell was impaired they could no longer do so.

The changing chemistry of oceans affects a lot of behavior, much of which is still being studied. The continuance of more severe weather could be exacerbated by a rise in ocean acidity, as the reefs protect coastlines from tsunamis. Thankfully, a reduction in carbon emissions could help lower the acidity. The more people pollute the harder it becomes to solve the problem. Without serious concern about the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and their reduction more and more problems will arise. Some instruments are currently in place to help oyster farmers reduce the level of exposure to ocean water. The tools measure the changes in acidity as they can monitor they flow of water to hatcheries.

Long-term solutions need to be implemented. The carbon emissions that are currently in the atmosphere will continue to be absorbed for the next several decades and it will be a long time before the ocean could return to normal levels. The Environmental Protection Agency provides many ways that you can personally help reduce your emissions at home, at school, and at work.

Oceana has started a petition specifically geared at reducing green house gas emissions in order to lower ocean acidification. To sign click here. You will be preventing a mass extinction of coral reefs by reducing your carbon dioxide emissions and by supporting Oceana and its efforts to get the Congress to act on behalf of the oceans and support legislation that backs alternative energy and the reduction of the use of fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gases. Otherwise, as is the case with all matters that pertain to global warming, the events that follow will be catastrophic and irreversible.

Photo credit: noaa.gov/features/climate/images/fig1_reef_fullsize.jpg

New Technology Prevents Turtle Deaths Caused By Shrimp Nets

sea-turtles-fishing-nets-endangered-TEDsEach year turtles get caught in fishing nets and subsequently drown because they get stuck underwater for over an hour. Turtles need air to breathe and without it they drown, just like most creatures. This has been happening for dozens of years since people began using large nets to fish. Tens of thousands of turtles die each year as a result, but thanks to new technology called “Turtle Excluder Devices,” turtles don’t have to continuously die this way.

Turtle Excluder Devices (abbreviated as TEDs), allow for escape hatches built into fishing nets so that big turtles can push them open and swim away while small fish and shrimp stay inside the net. By allowing for turtle escapes the mandatory useage of these nets could save thousands of turtles each year. While Turtle Excluder Devices are lifesavers not everyone wants to use them, as the change is costs money and resources. Yet they prevent turtles from dying!

Many groups, including Oceana, a nonprofit that fights for the conservation of ocean life and the health of the ocean, are trying to get the Turtle Excluder Device mandatory on all shrimp trawlers. If the new rule would come to be, all shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast Atlantic would have to use Turtle Excluder Devices. This would save the lives of countless turtles, a population which has already received a recent major blow in the Gulf of Mexico in the form of the BP oil spill.

Shrimp trawling is one of the greatest threats to sea turtles and Turtle Excluder Devices would help the recovery of a population already catastrophically affected by the oil spill two years ago.  All six of the sea turtle species that live in the waters surrounding the United States are threatened or endangered. A regulation would save their lives and give sea turtles a chance to recover. Although there are ongoing conservation efforts they are just not enough to help the populations that are endangered recover. Commercial fisheries, specifically those who target shrimp, are the main threat to this recovery, which can be quelled by the use of Turtle Excluder Devices. Not only that, but turtles are also killed by being crushed by dredges or hooked in long line fisheries. Again, a Turtle Excluder device could offset these deaths as well by making an effort to save at least some turtles. In the United States alone tens of thousands of turtles are caught each year.

Unless the National Marine Fisheries Services works with fisherman in complying with and developing new standards turtles will continue to be threatened. The current rules and exceptions currently in place are inconsistent and the mandating of Turtle Excluder Devices would be a noted improvement. Ongoing research and development, as well as increased observer coverage is required alongside Turtle Excluder Devices in order to ensure turtles are getting the protection they need. If the National Marine Fisheries Services do not install, enforce, and maintain consistent regulations turtles will continue to be captured and will continue to be at risk.

The backlash from the fishing industry against the new regulations can be combated by new rules and regulations put in place by the National Marine Fisheries Services. If they know that the new Turtle Excluder Devices have support they will surely also support such measures. Because not all fishermen are required to use the new technology turtles are dying everyday. To support the reduction of sea turtle mortality and the requirement of Turtle Excluder Devices on all shrimp trawlers sign this petition at Oceana. Turtles will get the protection they need as soon as possible!

Photo credit: pifsc.noaa.gov/qrb/2011_10/img/loggerhead_turtle_med.jpg

Tyson Foods: Inhumane and Unsustainable

chicken-turkey-tyson-controlled-atmosphere-killing-humaneTyson Foods does not support a method for slaughtering animals called Controlled Atmosphere Killing. Controlled Atmosphere Killing consists of chickens (in the case of Tyson) or other animals being placed in a container in which the atmosphere completely lacks oxygen and is made up of asphyxiate gas (argon, nitrogen, or carbon dioxide). It causes the animals to lose consciousness. The process is considered humane because argon and nitrogen apparently cause no pain. The whole process is quick and takes about 30 seconds to make the chicken (or other animal) unconscious). The process is also more sustainable and even more profitable to companies. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) supports Controlled Atmosphere Killing.

Unfortunately the usual method of slaughtering poultry in North America is much less humane and not eco-friendly. The animals are dumped and shackled while still alive and run through a bath of electrically charged water, which immobilizes them. Then, their throats are slit with a machine. After that, they are de-feathered in tanks of scalding hot water. The process is energy intensive, as well as more painful and degrading to the animals. The process is also much less safe and contamination is less likely to occur.

The Human Methods of Slaughter Act is the only federal law that protects animals from abuse when they are being slaughtered, but that does not apply to chickens or turkeys, which make up 95 percent of the animals slaughtered in the United States. In 2007 alone, 9 billion birds were slaughtered for food.  The current method is both inhumane and ineffective; sometimes birds are de-feathered while still alive and they can still feel pain while stunned. It is high time for reform of poultry slaughter and Controlled Atmosphere Killing is the way to go.

Tyson does not believe that Controlled Atmosphere Killing is more humane, but that is likely because the gas technology is expensive and it would cost around 3 million dollars to convert its operations. Tyson processes birds for mass consumption, whereas companies like Bell & Evans and Mary’s Chickens produce higher quality premium chickens and they also happen to use the methods of Controlled Atmosphere Killing.  Other benefits of Controlled Atmosphere Killing include the elimination (not just merely reduction) of injury to the birds, which in turn eliminated contamination caused by stressed birds. For instance, when hung upside down before being dunked the birds usually defecate on themselves. The employees monitoring the process are also less prone to stress, because they process is silent and sanitary.  

Since 2002 PETA has been pressuring major food retailers like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Kroger, Safeway, and Wal-Mart, to switch from electric immobilization to Controlled Atmosphere Killing methods. While Tyson is the largest chicken manufacturer (as well as of beef and pork), it feels the switch would be unsustainable. The unsustainability they refer to is only in their business expenses, which would fund the switch. The Controlled Atmosphere Killing process uses less energy and is more humane, but it also happens to be more expensive, which is Tyson’s main motivation for resistance.

Chipolte, Bon Appetit, Burger King, Wendy’s Carl’s Junior, Hardee’s, Popeye’s, and Safeway already give purchase preference and consideration to Controlled Atmosphere Killing. Tyson remains skeptical about the process.

To encourage Tyson to participate in more human and eco-friendly processes, sign this consumer-based petition at Moxy Vote. If Tyson changes their ways the United States could potentially join the ranks of the United Kingdom and the European Union. In the UK, 75 percent of turkeys and 25 percent of chickens are killed using human Controlled Atmosphere Killing methods. In the EU, 10 percent of all birds are slaughtered using Controlled Atmosphere Killing. On top of that the United States Department of Agriculture approves the Controlled Atmosphere Killing method for the slaughter of birds. 

Photo credit: cdc.gov/niosh/topics/avianflu/image/avianmain1.gif