Bees Try to Defend Themselves
Animals have waited and waited for us to stop taking advantage of them, to stop poisoning their habitats, to stand up for the ecology that’s the only home they know. Now, they are making moves to protect themselves from us. Honeybees, environment correspondent Fiona Harvey reported in The Guardian, are taking emergency measures against our use of pesticides.
By sealing off cells full of pollen contaminated by pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals from the rest of the hive, bees are keeping tainted pollen out of the meals of their growing young members.
Jeff Pettis, a beekeeper and an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicates that this new activity signals crisis: "Bees would not normally seal off pollen."
Bees also collect a substance known as propolis from plants. They use this resin, with its natural anti-bacterial qualities, to line their hives, and sometimes they will cover a small intruder with the resin. The housekeeper bees are now using propolis to seal the contaminated pollen cells. Notably, bees are also sealing off pollen that contains substances used by beekeepers to kill mites. Not just the mites but the chemicals also cause trouble for bees.
But the bees’ last-ditch efforts to save themselves appear to be unsuccessful, according to Pettis. The activity foreshadows colony collapse.
Let it be a message to us. We’re discourteous, unwise and dangerous to ourselves and the ecology we too must live in when we torment insects and other invertebrates, assault them with chemicals, and dismiss them as pests. They themselves are the most effective controllers of insect numbers (some because they are predators; others because they are parasites). And they pollinate the plants on which all of Earth’s life ultimately depends.
Bees living near intensive farming sites suffer poor nutrition; and the international bee trade, which forces bees to move, exposes them to new diseases. Some measures taken to prevent the sick bees’ deaths – such as putting large numbers of bees in huge super-hives – only makes them sicker, according to a recent study by the United Nations.
May we recommend avoiding bee products completely? An excellent plant-based nectar is agave; and organic maple syrup is as versatile a sweetener as it is easy to find (especially in North America).
After Horse Deaths, Advocate Renews Calls to End Race Betting
Two horses, Dooneys Gate and Ornais, died in this year’s Grand National, held in April at Aintree, Scotland. T he winning horse, Ballabriggs, was too exhausted to be ridden into the winner’s enclosure.
Soon after the horrors , an advocate named James Maxwell initiated an Internet-based petition. Seems there’s an online petition for everything these days, but this one has an interesting facet. It doesn’t call on a specific body to ban racing (it’s unlikely that such petitions result in bans); instead it shows an image of one of the horses taking a fatal fall, and asks visitors to the page whether they had ever bet on a horse, and whether they would do so in the future. It has thus become a pledge taken by hundreds of people never to pay to watch or bet on horse races. It advises visitors to w rite to their local newspapers to raise consciousness.
Each year, some 18,000 foals are born into the British and Irish racing industries. Fewer than half of them will go on to race. The fate of those who don’t make the grade is rarely discussed on television or in betting rooms. Of those who race, about 420 each year will be raced to death, according to Horsedeathwatch.com, which has been keeping a running list of horse deaths since March 2007. Not all die in plain sight. Some racers or show-jumpers die hours or days after an event, victims of leg injuries or bleeding lungs.
Aimee Leopold from New York signed the petition, and commented, “ It is cruel and inhumane. Yes, as I child I bet on the Grand National. We all did. It was cultural and a national event.”
W ho among us has not seen or bet on the Kentucky Derby or some other well-known horse race? Parties with mint juleps and family bets turn the event into a festive holiday in many households. Yet we’ve also have heard the shocking stories of Eight Belles or Barbaro dying in front of the crowds. After Eight Belles was raced to death in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, William C. Rhoden in the New York Times compared the custom of “thousand-pound horses racing at full throttle on spindly legs” to bullfighting, and went on to say, “Eight Belles was another victim of a brutal sport that is carried, literally, on the backs of horses. Horsemen like to talk about their thoroughbreds and how they were born to run and live to run. The reality is that they are made to run, forced to run for profits they never see.”
Speaking of profiting, Kentucky’s Republican Senator Mitch McConnell was able to get tax breaks for the thoroughbred racing industry inserted in the 2008 farm bill – breaks worth $126 million over ten years. The provision has all racehorses depreciated over three years for tax purposes, regardless of when the horses start training.
According to the Department of Agriculture, horses are Kentucky's largest agricultural product. The industry represents $3.5 billion to the state economy and directly employs more than 50,000 state residents. According to the American Horse Council, an association that represents the industry, “ The horse industry has a direct economic effect on the U.S. of $39 billion annually.”
Clearly the vested interests are significant. But if the New York Times can have a discussion that interrogates this industry, surely animal advocates ought to be presenting one. And not just about points such as disallowing whips, or changing breeding rules. The focus should be on stopping the use of horses, whether that involves thoroughbred racing, jumping and showing, fox hunting, barrel racing, tourist carriages or polo. Let us take the pledge not to use horses, bet on them, or watch events that perpetuate this industry. Let us w rite to our local newspapers to raise consciousness. When - and only when - we stop treating horses as our things, tragedies such as the deaths of Dooneys Gate and Ornais will stop.
The Humane-Egg Bandwagon
It’s come to Washington State. T he November 2011 ballot measure promoted by Washingtonians for Humane Farms would increase the size of confinement areas for laying hens seven years from now, in 2018. The birds will still be expected to lay eggs and, when worn out, go to slaughter; male chicks (who will never lay eggs) will still be ground up by the industry.
Washingtonians for Humane Farms is a project of a couple of wealthy groups; but smaller, local groups have supported these campaigns in every state they’ve occurred. Washington activist Kate Sharadin points out that the very same local groups who are suggesting to the public that this ballot measure will “prevent cruelty” to birds are also running a campaign against animal research at the University of Washington: “They are very black-and-white about ending it.” But in the case of birds used in animal agribusiness, the standard is different.
The groups behind the Washington ballot measure tout it as a public health protection as well. They further state: “And major food manufacturers and retailers—including Kraft, Sara Lee, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Unilever, Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Subway, Sonic, Quiznos, Red Robin, Hardee’s and Carl's Jr.—have started to use cage-free eggs.” It could not be more obvious, then, that these eggs are really mass-produced and the term “cage-free” means very little in terms of quality of life for birds. Sharadin says, “Personally, I'm not against a farmer telling me he will give a chicken and inch. Okay, fine, thanks a bunch. ” But approaching groups who have long been dedicated to ending forms of animal use, and recruiting them into promoting a state ballot measure that does little for birds and a lot for the name recognition of a couple of wealthy humane groups? That, says Sharadin, is “ downright dirty.”
The Real Vegetarian Butchers Have Arrived
Europe’s first vegetarian butcher has opened in the Netherlands. With a traditional, attractive storefront, De Vegetarische Slager - the Vegetarian Butcher - in The Hague (see http://www.devegetarischeslager.nl/) serves meat-replacement products.
Lupin beans were used in ancient Egyptian and Roman kitchens. Now, eighth-generation lupin farmer Jaap Korteweg hopes to restore the protein-rich food to dinner plates in Europe, offering a sustainable alternative to meat while also reducing the environmental impact of rampant soy farming in South America. Korteweg, who applies organic growing methods, points out that lupin is a robust plant that can be easily grown without the use of fertilizers and chemicals.
Korteweg believes that the tradition of European butcher shops can’t be ignored; they must be understood and replaced. “Our dream was a store dedicated to meat substitutes in the same way a butcher is dedicated to meat.”
Thus, Korteweg partnered with chef Marco Westmaas and Niko Koffeman, a Dutch politician for Party for the Animals, to sell unique lupin croquettes and other personally designed products alongside various meat alternatives already on the market. The group intends to make the shop a model of excellence for others to follow.
[Photo source: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5208/5351615993_30a15c0e29_z.jpg]
- “Honeybees ‘Entomb’ Hives to Protect Against Pesticides, Say Scientists” – Guardian ( 4 Apr. 2011).
- Their death could be attributed to a mix of factors in addition to pesticides, Pettis told the Guardian in London during a trip to meet European bee scientists and speak with members of Parliament about the worldwide phenomenon of colony collapse disorder.
- Thanks to Patricia Tricker for calling our attention to the petition, hosted on the CARE2 website at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/ban-the-race/ (as visited 20 Apr. 2011).
- "Race Illustrates Brutal Side of Sport," (4 May 2008); available: http://ow.ly/4EmF9
- Halimah Abdullah, “ Farm Bill Includes Tax Breaks for Horse Racing Industry” - McClatchy Newspapers (9 May 2008); available: http://ow.ly/4EpMb (as visited 19 Apr. 2011). In June 2008, the Farm Bill (“Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008”) became law. The horse industry pays $1.9 billion in taxes to all levels of government, according to the American Horse Council.