Category Archives: Animal Issues

Is eating meat the new smoking?

By Rebecca Libauskas

In vintage films, deadly cigarette smoke wafts through the glitz, glamour and gray tones like a poisonous fog. But that was considered normal. Smoking was once a popular activity endorsed by doctors. Times change — but not without resistance.

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Eating way less meat = good for you … great for Mother Earth!

The world’s biggest tobacco companies notoriously conspired to deceive the public about the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke, distorted the addictiveness of nicotine and even claimed that some cigarettes were safer than others.

Taking a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook, the global meat industry is downplaying its role in the climate crisis and is denying the adverse health effects of consuming animal flesh, a new investigation has revealed.

Environmental news organization DeSmog pored over hundreds of documents and statements and found that the global meat industry is waging a greenwashing PR campaign, underreporting its greenhouse-gas emissions, attacking science that links factory farming to climate change, disparaging vegan meat and more.

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Peta tee shirt

In other words, Big Meat is behaving much like Big Tobacco. Eating meat is the new smoking.

DeSmog isn’t the only whistleblower. Research from New York University also shows that U.S. meat and dairy companies have spent millions of dollars campaigning against climate action and propagating doubt about the links between animal agriculture and climate change.

Yet, climate experts have spoken. According to the United Nations (UN), the meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all of the world’s transportation systems combined. And figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that animal agriculture is the single largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

Plus, using land to grow crops for animals is inefficient and unsustainable. It takes almost 20 times less land to feed a vegan than a meat-eater, since plants are consumed directly. Think of all the forest reserves we could have instead of cultivated crops for animal feed.

The meat industry also uses an enormous amount of water. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of beef—but just 244 gallons to produce 1 pound of tofu. By going vegan, one person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water a year.

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No wonder the UN says a global shift toward vegan eating is essential to combating the worst effects of climate change.

And just as tobacco companies once denied the adverse health effects of smoking—even as the evidence stacked up against cigarettes—Big Meat is now following suit.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report listing processed meat as a group 1 human carcinogen. This classification also includes tobacco smoking. In addition, red meat was labeled “possibly cancer-causing.” The meat industry, using the same tactics as Big Tobacco, condemned the WHO report. Yet research suggests that vegans are between 25 and 50% less likely to get cancer than meat-eaters.

Tons of peer-reviewed research published in the most respected scientific journals has shown that vegans also have a decreased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, diabetes and other health conditions. In addition, a recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and King’s College London found that consuming a high-quality vegan diet can even help protect against COVID-19.

The meat and tobacco industries have a vested interest in preserving their profits instead of investing in change for the benefit of public health. But times do change, and sales of vegan foods have grown by 45% in the last two years alone—with no signs of slowing down. Brands like Beyond Meat, Gardein and MorningStar Farms are proving that eating vegan can be easy and delicious.

Perhaps one day, our descendants will watch films from our era and cringe at all the meat consumed.

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We are DESTROYING our planet! BIG CHANGES NEED TO HAPPEN! WE SUPPORT AOC AND HER GREEN NEW DEAL – drastic times call for drastic measures. Life-altering policies and gameplans need to be adopted.

New Column from Edith … the Shattuck Street Tree

Last One Standing: the Shattuck Street Tree

By Edith Morgan 🌳🌳🌳🌳

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Edith in her garden. File photo

I have always been a “tree hugger.” So when we bought our house on Shattuck Street in the 1960s, I was happy that this short street was lined on both sides from beginning to end with stately maple trees. In my front yard, the trees’ roots extended from the tar sidewalk and were close to the surface . Over the years, the roots grew bigger, and knobs of them stood out in my yard, as well as raising the sidewalk on their way to my yard.

I have lived here since 1967, and in that time, I have watched the maple succumb, partly to natural disasters – like the gypsy moth invasion . We were spared the destruction wrought by the Asian longhorned beetle which so devastated maples in nearby Worcester neighborhoods and in Green Hill Park. But gradually, one by one, the stately maples disappeared – I had not been paying very much attention, as we were very busy trying to get trees planted on Lincoln Street and encouraging the City to plant a variety of types of trees, so as to avoid having all of them wiped out at once by a pest. We had lost nearly all our elms generations ago to Dutch Elm disease but apparently had not learned to avoid planting all one kind of tree citywide. So by the time I moved here, we had maples all over the city.

When the beetles hit, Worcester lost thousands of trees that had to be removed to stop the spread.

On our street, though, the trees little by little disappeared, partly due to old age or because the struggle to survive with their trunks encased in tar, hemmed in by granite curbs, trying to thrive despite the snow and salt from the street surface. But the maples soldiered on valiantly, until one by one they had to be taken down as they shed branches in every windstorm and became a danger to traffic and parked cars on our street.

And so now, there is only one maple tree left: the one before my own house. Earlier this year, during a windstorm, a branch that I had thought was still healthy, fell across our street. Fortunately, no one was parked there, but for a short time it blocked access. The City came and sawed it up and removed it rapidly.

I reported the tree to the Worcester Parks Department, hoping they would just trim it and give it a few more years. They gave it an “8”, which means it needs triiming seriously – but at least it was not yet a “10” – which would have been its death sentence.

So now I wait and hope . But I know that we on our street are better off trying to grow trees in our yards where they can thrive and be taken care of. Cement, tar and granite are not meant for trees.

What if aliens treated us the way we treat dogs?

By Ingrid Newkirk

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Ingrid, founder and president of PETA, has changed the world … for the better.

The Pentagon’s long-awaited report on UFOs — or UAPs, unidentified aerial phenomena — was disappointingly noncommittal when it comes to the possible passing presence on Earth of alien beings. However, if anyone remains unconvinced of the warnings by Stephen Hawking and other astronomers that making contact with extraterrestrials could be to our disadvantage, for they may kill us or, at the very least, make “pets” of us, we have only to look at how humans treat dogs.

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Lilac and Jett at the dog park.❤

Around the world, “man’s best friend” is probed, poisoned, electro-shocked, mutilated and killed in experiments. In Asia, dogs are eaten. In China, they are bludgeoned and killed for their skin, which is exported globally and finds its way into our homes as belts and even chew toys for other dogs.

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In the U.S., we acquire dogs for various reasons such as to keep us company and give us something to do during the pandemic lockdown but may dispose of them when they no longer suit us. Millions of them every year end up unwanted and are often destroyed or dumped on the streets — where they are no match for traffic, starvation, diseases, injuries and abuse. Others are relegated to a chain in someone’s backyard for the rest of their lonely, bleak lives.

Even in “good” homes, dogs have lost that which is most precious to all living beings: the freedom to make choices. It’s “sit,” “stay,” “down” and “no!” Humans control every aspect of their lives. While dogs can no longer run free and dig a den, find a mate, raise a family and find their own food, they still yearn to do these things. They want to explore, investigate scents, dig, bark and interact with others of their own kind. But domesticated dogs can’t even relieve themselves without permission from a member of the dominant species with the power to open the door for them. Many dogs are made to wait long hours for that “privilege.”

We compel dogs to abide by our rules, punish them for uttering a peep in their own language, fit them with collars that stab or choke their sensitive necks, yank them along when they try to sniff the “news,” and lock them down in solitary confinement for hours every day, even crating them like crockery.

Perhaps if we resist behaving in the ways Professor Hawking feared aliens would behave toward us but instead show consideration for dogs’ interests, interplanetary visitors might follow our lead. That would certainly make dogs’ lives less stressful and monotonous.

We can start by rescuing a second dog from the shelter, not only saving a life but also allowing them to keep each other company when we’re away and giving them someone of their own kind to relate to. We can make sure we come back home on our lunch breaks or hire a trusted dog-walker so the dogs, who are flesh and blood and bladder like us, aren’t forced to “hold it.” And we can slow down and allow them to set the pace on walks — the highlight of their day! — and to sniff as long as they please without being pulled impatiently along. It’s not much to ask, but “consideration” should be the universal watchword that extends to all others, no matter what they look like or what planet they come from.

It’s time to rethink medical research

By Dr. Emily Trunnell

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Animals suffer in labs…most are monkeys. Hundreds are dogs – beagles and retrievers. Photos: PETA

Do sex and power make for effective advertising? The National Institute of Mental Health — a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — used our tax dollars to fund a cruel experiment on monkeys to try to answer that burning question, which will help … well … no one. In the study, monkeys were intentionally kept thirsty to coerce them into cooperating with the experimenters. They were then shown images of brand labels paired with monkeys with higher and lower social status and sexually receptive female monkeys. The monkeys would use a touch screen to select the brands associated with the images they liked best — in exchange for a few drops of juice.

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Why torture a living being?

This study was as ridiculous as it sounds — a textbook example of the frivolous ends to which animals are thoughtlessly used in experiments and an insult to good science. Monkeys, mice and other animals are not just small human beings, and continuing to cling to this archaic method of research wastes precious time, resources and lives. NIH has the power to — and should — change this.

Consider this: 95% of new drugs deemed safe and effective in animal experiments fail when they reach human trials. This sobering statistic comes from NIH itself. COVID-19 vaccines reached the market in record time precisely because lengthy and misleading animal trials were bypassed.

Animal toxicity studies — which are supposed to keep us safe from harmful chemicals — are frequently unreliable and lack relevance to humans. Some are difficult to reproduce, so the same chemical tested twice in the same kind of animal can give different results. Many tests are the same as those first used in the 1950s and ’60s, as if science has made no progress since then.

Hideously cruel basic research techniques, such as opening up monkeys’ skulls in order to insert electrodes or making mice swim for their lives, are still being used to investigate chemical changes in the brain, even though technological advances now allow scientists to use human brain imaging, epidemiological studies and clinical research to learn about human—not monkey or mouse — brains without causing any pain or harm.

In many cases, taxpayers are footing the bill for these pointless experiments. In the 1960s, Congress instituted the NIH Primate Research Centers program, charged with importing and breeding monkeys and other primates for experimenters and developing supposed primate “models” for human disease. The primate centers receive tens of millions of taxpayer dollars via NIH every single year. But 60 years and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of monkeys later, they have failed to produce the promised cures and treatments for human illnesses.

Another example: Government experimenter Elisabeth Murray intentionally inflicts brain damage on monkeys, locks them in small cages, and terrifies them with fake spiders and snakes. Afterwards, she kills them. Murray’s laboratory has been performing these pointless experiments since George Bush senior was president, squandering millions of federal tax dollars in the process. In those 30 years, the experiments have produced exactly zero data beneficial to either monkeys or humans.

Without a firm commitment to ending wasteful animal experiments, animals will continue to suffer and human patients will continue to wait for much-needed medical advances. But PETA scientists have mapped out a better path forward. We can optimize our nation’s investment in research by ending funding for useless experiments on animals and investing in research that’s relevant to humans. PETA has already presented its proposal, the Research Modernization Deal, to NIH and other federal agencies.

We must take advantage of the momentum provided by new and innovative research techniques. Instead of repeating past mistakes, the federal government should ensure that the U.S. becomes a world leader in medical research — and that means eliminating the use of animals.
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Spencer and Woodstock, take note: It can’t be business as usual at the county fair this summer and fall!

By Jennifer O’Connor

After a year and a half of staying home and with lockdowns now receding, most of us have an almost visceral need to get back to normal. But if the coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it’s that the ways we once did things can — and sometimes must — change. That mindset should also apply to animal displays on the state and county fair circuit. Petting zoos, big-cat photo ops, pony turnstiles, elephant and camel rides and others must be retired to the history books.

Now that state, county and local fairs are resuming, animals face months of debilitating transport in stifling tractor-trailers and an exhausting onslaught of interaction with fairgoers. Animals who naturally shun human contact are forced to engage with the public over and over again. Their every move is controlled by those who view them as nothing more than property used to make a profit. Weeks-old tiger cubs — who should be with their mothers, nursing — are used as photo props.

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BAN EXOTIC ANIMALS FROM THE COUNTY FAIR CIRCUIT!

Elephants are smacked with bullhooks — heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on the end — to keep them plodding in endless circles and giving rides. Sea lions are jammed into traveling tanks barely any larger than their own bodies and forced to put on “shows.”

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County and traveling fairs …THE FINAL ABUSERS IN AMERICA … Many states have banned elephants, and Ringling has retired theirs.

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Then there’s the midway, where the value of animals’ lives is reduced to a buck as people fork over a dollar to see the “world’s largest rat” (usually a shy South American mammal called a capybara). Goldfish given away as ping-pong prizes often die before they even make it to the parking lot.

And pity the poor “farm animals.” Instead of the comfort and privacy they deserve, cows are placed in stanchions and forced to give birth in front of raucous crowds. Ponies are excluded from protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act, so they can be hooked up to turnstiles and forced to work until they drop. Smart, sensitive pigs are covered with grease or mud and then grown men try to “wrestle” them into plastic barrels.

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STOP THE CRUELTY, SPENCER AND ALL COUNTRY FAIRS!! STRESS AND DEHYDRATED FARM ANIMALS DIE EVERY YEAR. I ONCE SAW A HORSE COLLAPSE IN THE SUMMER HEAT AS HE PULLED HUNDREDS OF POUNDS OF WEIGHT IN A PULLING CONTEST. I RAN TO THE FAIR’S ORGANIZERS AND TOLD THEM THE SWEAT-SLICKED HORSE NEEDED A VETERINARIAN. THEY WENT DOWN TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE POOR ANIMAL – AND DID NOTHING. – Rose T.

After being poked, picked up, raced, ridden and mishandled in one location, the animals are loaded up and hauled to the next venue. The logistics of getting from place to place on a tight schedule doesn’t permit downtime to let them rest and recuperate. Veterinarians don’t travel in these caravans. Animals who are ill or injured may go untreated.

Is anyone in authority keeping an eye on these traveling displays? The simple answer is no. The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees animal exhibitors, but because these shows are constantly on the move, it’s impossible to know how many animals suffer and die along the way.

By all means, bring back the Beach Boys and the deep-fried Oreos, but it’s high time that cruel animal displays made way for fresh and innovative exhibits that appeal to a generation that cares about animals and our planet.

Anglers, you’re on notice!

By Paula Moore

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Read Ingrid’s book! She’s the founder and president of PETA.

Let’s establish this from the get-go: Fish feel pain. In a recent letter in The Guardian newspaper, Dr. Lynne Sneddon, a leading authority on the subject, wrote, “[T]he jury has made its decision and left the building. It is clear that there is ample evidence for pain in fish.” And “sport” fishing is not a game to fish. Eugene Balon, the late University of Guelph ichthyologist, viewed recreational fishing as sadistic. And he’s not alone. Author John McPhee says there is no “play” in fishing: “You are, at best, torturing and at worst killing a creature you may or may not eat. Playing at one end, dying at the other — if playing is what that is, it is sadism.”

As the warmer weather lures more anglers back outdoors, I urge them to keep all this is mind. Impaling gentle animals through their sensitive mouths and watching them slowly suffocate while you pose for selfies with them is cruelty disguised as sport. In a just world, anglers would put away their rods and reels and get hooked on a kinder pastime; at the very least, they should stop pretending that fishing is harmless fun.

Anglers may not want to hear it, but here’s the science: Fish have neurons called nociceptors that detect potential harm, and like mammals, they produce opioids that relieve suffering. Why would they need to do that if they didn’t feel pain? When fish are exposed to painful stimuli, regions of their brain crucial for conscious sensory perceptions “light up,” and they show signs of fear and wariness.

Anglers who still argue that fish “lack the brains” to feel pain have missed the boat. Matt Parker, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., says that “this argument is no longer so convincing. Decades of work show that all manner of shapes, sizes and organisations of brain exist in nature …. [F]ish could have a more sophisticated experience of the world than we imagine, albeit using a brain that’s quite different to ours.”

Fish’s mouths are richly supplied with nerve endings, and removing a hook often results in painful injuries to the fish’s lips, throat, mouth and face — injuries that can easily become infected. Fish who are caught and thrown back into the water often die from their injuries, stress or the loss of their protective outer coating. Last year, in an open letter to the Canadian federal and British Columbia provincial governments, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs stated, “First Nations commonly view [catch-and-release] to be akin to torture, traumatizing the fish and returning it to the water unable to thrive.”

Fish are highly intelligent animals. They form emotional attachments and become depressed when they lose their mates. Like apes and orcas, fish can recognize themselves in a mirror, a classic indication of self-awareness. They have excellent long-term memories, are savvy social learners, develop cultural traditions and use tools.

It’s only a lack of familiarity with fish and an upbringing steeped in speciesism that leads us to disregard their suffering just because we’re bored and want a diversion.

In his controversial essay, Dr. Balon said that he was not trying to start a crusade against recreational anglers. “I would rather try to prevent this from happening,” he wrote. “I believe that humans are capable of fair judgement and of correcting wrongdoing if made aware of it.”

Anglers: You’re on notice.

Planning a post-pandemic trip? For animals, it still isn’t safe to fly

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

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Rose’s late mom as a young woman – she and her two sisters loved their Dobies!

After more than a year spent mostly at home, many of us are eager to pack our bags, hop on a flight and go … well … almost anywhere.

But the skies aren’t friendly for everyone. For many dogs, cats and other animals, flying isn’t fun — it’s frightening. And in some cases, it can even be fatal. That’s why, if your post-pandemic plans include air travel with your animal companions, it’s vital to take every precaution to ensure that you can do so as safely as possible.

The most important thing to do is to promise your animal family members that you’ll never treat them like luggage. That means never forcing them to fly in a plane’s cargo hold.

Why? Every year, cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals die in cargo holds because these areas are designed for luggage — not living beings. They typically aren’t ventilated or climate-controlled, which puts animals at risk of exposure to deadly temperature extremes.

Last year, a 12-week-old puppy named Sebastian was found dead after being flown from a breeder in Ohio to Los Angeles, and a leukemia patient’s two dogs both died after being flown in a cargo hold from Dubai to Washington, D.C. In Canada, 38 French bulldog puppies were dead on arrival — and dozens more were dehydrated and seriously ill — following a flight from Ukraine. Those are just a few of the incidents that made headlines. Many others go unreported.

And if you’ve ever opened your suitcase after a flight and found your carefully packed clothes in disarray, you know that items sent down an airport conveyor belt aren’t exactly “handled with care.” That goes for animals, too.

Dogs and cats have been sent on the wrong flight, ending up in an airport on the other side of the country from their frantic guardians. Others have gotten out of their carrier during handling and bolted across the runway or gone missing. Some are never seen again.

Even if all goes according to plan, the experience of being separated from their guardians and stowed amid the baggage in a noisy, dark, strange place with fluctuating air pressure is downright terrifying for most animals. They have no idea what’s happening, how long it will last or even if they will ever see you again.

A study published by the University of Illinois found that for dogs used in search-and-rescue missions, air travel is so unsettling that “[t]hey showed behavioral stress, their gut was completely turned upside down, [and] their bloodwork showed significant effects.” If flying is this upsetting to dogs who presumably fly regularly, imagine how terrifying it must be for dogs and cats who are used to spending their days quietly napping on the couch.

So, while you’re dreaming of seeing the world (or just someplace other than your living room), consider whether taking your animal companion along at all is a good idea. Will they enjoy the trip, or will they be stressed by flying and have to spend most of their time alone in an unfamiliar hotel room, while you’re out sightseeing? For many animals, staying in their own homes with a trusted caretaker is the safest and least stressful option.

If you must fly your animals, check the airline’s policies well in advance of your trip to ensure that they can ride in the cabin with you. Usually, this is only an option for animals who are small enough to stand up and turn around inside a carrier that will fit under an airline seat. Make sure the carrier is sturdy and well ventilated, and leave the door open, with treats, toys and a soft blanket inside, during the weeks leading up to the trip, so your animal can become acclimated to it.

For animals who are too large to fly in the cabin or who would be a nervous wreck, driving them to your destination or even going by boat are better options.

It is not worth risking our animal companions’ lives – even for long-awaited trips.

Fireworks shortage presents the perfect opportunity for change!

By Michelle Kretzer

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Jett hates fireworks …

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Lilac is neutral …

In the era of COVID-19, “shortage” is becoming a familiar word. But unlike the absence of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and flour, the fireworks shortage could prove beneficial.

In its most recent Fireworks Annual Report, the Consumer Products Safety Commission estimated that in 2019, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated 10,000 patients for fireworks-related injuries. The agency received reports of at least 12 fireworks-related deaths but points out that the actual number is likely higher.

In addition, the National Fire Protection Association found that pyrotechnics start an average of almost 20,000 fires every year, causing more than $100 million in property damage. And insurance often won’t pick up the tab. Sadly, these explosives also cause thousands of wildfires every year with devastating consequences for forests and the animals in them. And with current drought conditions in many parts of the country, wildfires this year could be especially destructive.

Fires aren’t the only threat posed to wildlife by pyrotechnics. In areas where fireworks have been set off, surfaces and groundwater frequently become contaminated with perchlorate — a carcinogen common in explosives. Animals can also ingest or be injured by the unexploded shells, pieces of plastic and other debris left behind.

And during loud displays, startled deer and other animals frequently run into roadways and birds flee their nests. After one fireworks show in Arkansas, the bodies of about 5,000 red-winged blackbirds began raining down from the sky. The birds had panicked and taken flight but, because of their poor night vision, had crashed into houses, signs, and other obstacles, causing blunt-force trauma and death.

On New Year’s Eve last year, people set off fireworks in Rome, Italy, despite the city’s ban, resulting in hundreds of dead birds covering the city streets. The International Organization for Animal Protection surmised that in addition to dying in collisions, another cause of death was heart attacks brought on by fear. Other birds have died after choking on the thick plumes of chemical-laden smoke.

Bombs bursting in air can be upsetting to veterans, small children and anyone else with a sensitivity to loud sounds — but they are often deadly to dogs and cats, whose hearing is more sensitive than ours. Animal shelters have found that following New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, they receive record numbers of reports from guardians whose animals have jumped fences, torn through screen doors or leapt through windows in an attempt to escape the noise. Many never make it back home. The problem has become so pervasive that last July, animal rescue organizations in Los Angeles set up microchip-scanning stations throughout the city to which residents could take wandering animals in hopes of reuniting them with their families.

But there is an easy solution. And we don’t have to give up our celebrations — or even drastically alter them. This year’s scarcity of fireworks and skyrocketing prices present the perfect opportunity for cities to try out cool laser light shows, which are safer, more eco-friendly and more humane. They’re also more economical, as municipalities can use the same lights year after year to create different dazzling displays. Lasers can mimic traditional fireworks as well as any other image imaginable and can even be choreographed with fountains and music.

And there’s no shortage of options for safe celebrations at home, either. Parenting suggests confetti poppers, glow-in-the-dark bubbles, exploding foam, glow sticks, “fancy sparklers” made from glittery ribbons, and “firecracker goop” made out of Pop Rocks.

We don’t need actual rockets to celebrate Independence Day any more than we need actual ghosts to enjoy Halloween. When one simple change can protect the environment and save countless lives, isn’t it worth a try?

Go vegan for World Food Safety Day

By Heather Moore

Every June 7, the United Nations and the World Health Organization observe World Food Safety Day in order to call attention to foodborne diseases and encourage everyone to eat healthful foods that benefit people, the planet and the economy. This issue has become much more meaningful in light of COVID-19. While investigators are still exploring other theories, it remains likely that the virus originated in a market that sold fish, poultry and exotic animals for human consumption. The deplorable conditions in these markets and other facilities that raise and kill animals for food should prompt everyone to choose vegan foods rather than animal-based ones. I hope the theme of this year’s World Food Safety Day—“safe food today for a healthy tomorrow” — will inspire more people to do just that.

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Go, Joe!

Vegan foods don’t cause animal-borne diseases, such as COVID-19, swine flu and bird flu. The viruses that cause them flourish in meat markets, factory farms and slaughterhouses. Humans can become infected with animal-borne diseases when we buy, sell, slaughter and/or prepare animals to eat. As renowned primatologist Jane Goodall recently pointed out, “We basically brought this [pandemic] on ourselves by our disrespect of the natural world, forcing animals closer to people, making it easier for a pathogen to jump from an animal to a person.”

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We can largely prevent animal-borne diseases by avoiding animal-based foods like the plague. Bird flu virus isn’t found in broccoli, after all, and swine flu virus doesn’t infect spinach or vegan meats like Beyond Sausage. I never worry about exposing my family and friends to animal-borne diseases when I make chocolate tofu pie or barbecued veggie burgers or vegetable kebabs.

These and other vegan foods taste great, and they don’t naturally harbor harmful forms of bacteria, such as E. coli, which is essentially from feces. Vegan foods only become contaminated with E. coli when animal manure is used to fertilize crops or leaks into waterways. Produce can also become cross-contaminated if it’s placed on the same surface as meat, or if someone doesn’t practice proper hygiene when handling food.

And think about all the delicious vegan meals you can enjoy that don’t involve cages, shackles, stun guns, bone saws or any other tools that you’d find on a factory farm, at a slaughterhouse or in a live-animal market. It’s always kinder to grow crops than it is to raise and kill animals, who suffer immensely in today’s meat, egg and dairy industries.

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Trader Joe’s sells SO MANY GREAT VEGAN MEALS AND SANDWICHES AND MIXED!

Chickens’ throats are cut while they’re still conscious, cows are separated from their beloved newborn babies, piglets are castrated without pain relief, and fish are slit open while they’re still alive. This is all wrong, regardless of where the pandemic started.

On World Food Safety Day — and all year round — please do your part to help animals, protect the planet and prevent future pandemics: Simply eat great-tasting vegan food.

Should you eat cicadas? No!

By Michelle Kretzer

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Butterfly on flower …

With all the recent talk about killing and eating cicadas — including people suggesting freezing them to death or boiling them alive like mistreated lobsters — here’s another idea: Don’t. And not just because they may carry a fungus that you wouldn’t want to ingest.

Cicadas are fascinating animals who have inspired everyone from Bob Dylan to the U.S. Navy, which is studying the insects in hopes of mimicking their method of sound production to transmit messages underwater. They communicate using a wide variety of vocalizations, but the songs that we hear most frequently are those that the males sing to woo potential mates. Think of the buzzing you hear in your backyard as a cicada-style Ed Sheeran concert. And unlike the frat guys down the block, these polite insects respect quiet nighttime hours and only play their music loudly during the day.

Cicadas likely have much more to teach us. They are able to keep track of time during years spent underground just by tasting the minute changes in root fluid that occur when trees blossom in the spring. And they know exactly when to emerge by sensing that the ground temperature is a precise 64°F. When you see a cicada — or any animal — flitting around outside, they are working to accomplish what they set out to achieve that day, just as we do.

Theologian and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer said, “Each of us must live daily from judgment to judgment, deciding each case as it arises as wisely and mercifully as we can.” When humans have so many other choices for a snack, is there really justification for killing intelligent animals for a novelty, like a gross-out challenge in a lowbrow reality show?

If the reasoning is “to eat sustainably,” we can do much better. The most eco-friendly meals aren’t “nose-to-tail” but “root-to-top.” Cicadas — like many animals — are already threatened by human overpopulation, urban sprawl, deforestation, and climate change, the latter two being caused, in large part, by animal agriculture.

The United Nations reports that raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” Instead of asking, “What other animals could we exploit?” the question should be, “Why don’t we just get our nutrients from fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains instead?” Eating all the insects won’t magically solve the problem of how to feed 7 billion humans. Eating plants ourselves instead of funneling massive amounts of them through other animals will.

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Eating more veggies is one way to save the planet …

Animals — including cicadas — serve important purposes in nature. Far from threatening gardens, periodical cicadas are actually quite handy to have in the yard. They aren’t interested in flowers or vegetables, preferring to get their healthy greens from trees and shrubs. They generally don’t live long enough to do damage, but if homeowners are concerned about small trees, they can wrap the trunks in spun polyolefin and the cicadas will move on. If you do let them stay, however, they’ll aerate your lawn even better than earthworms do when they burrow. And as the females dig tiny trenches in branches to lay their eggs in, they naturally prune the trees, resulting in more flowers for pollinators and fruit for us. When the cicadas are gone next month, the discarded exoskeletons they leave behind will make excellent nitrogen- and potassium-rich, chemical-free fertilizer.

We should reject the idea that cicadas have no inherent value, as well as the speciesist notion that all animals belong to humans to do with as we please. Holocaust survivor and author Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote, “When a human kills an animal for food, he is neglecting his own hunger for justice. Man prays for mercy, but is unwilling to extend it to others.”

Achieving a kinder and more equal society starts with teaching our children to learn about and appreciate others and that those who look and think differently from us are still deserving of respect. If cicadas can wait underground for 17 years just to enjoy one month of life, can’t we be evolved enough to let them have it?

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