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Links. October 4.

  1. In agriculture cloning animals has become routine. Cloning your favorite but old pet is getting fashionable. What’s next? A younger version of your husband or wife? To me, it’s somewhat unsettling.
  2. The Lidl budget supermarket is shifting to 100% animal welfare friendly meat. A problem: slower growing chickens use more feed, which is less sustainable.
  3. After London and New York (and some other places) the spectacular exhibition Animals Inside Out visits my hometown, Leeuwarden! It is at the natuurmuseum Fryslan, the most innovative natural history museum of the Netherlands. Its business model is based on a mix of money from local charities, volunteers and spectacular shows which draw loads of visitors.
  4. We’re still discovering amazing new animals, like this insect which has the largest wingspan of all insects. And a truly spectacular and romantic story is the rediscovery of the tree lobster:

    The S.S. Makambo a sea liner travelling from Britain ran aground.  And from its destroyed hull scurried several small mammalian survivors — European black rats.  The omnivorous mammals soon found an indigenous food they were quite fond of — the tree insect.  Soon, thanks to the invasive species, the insects — which locals affectionately referred to as “tree lobsters” had joined the likes of the Tasmanian Wolf — extinct.  Their last sighting was in 1920.

    But 13 miles away from the tiny Lord Howe Island (modern population: 341) sits an even tinier island, the spire remnant of a sea volcano, dubbed “Ball’s Pyramid” after the British naval office who first spotted the 7 million year old spire in 1788.

    Ball's Pyramid
    Ball’s Pyramid [Images Source: John White (left); Google Maps (right)]

    The spire is utterly uninhabitable and remote, but proved a joyous climb for adventurers with a solid set of equipment.  And those climbers discovered the island’s secret — a spindly bush located in a nook 225 feet above sea level.

    Climbers in the 1960s first noted insect corpses resembling the famed tree lobsters.  But confirmation was difficult as the beasties were nocturnal.  But in 2001 a pair of Australian scientists David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile and two assistants scaled the island.  At first they were discouraged at seeing only crickets.

    But under a melaleuca bush they spotted insect droppings.  Returning with flashlights at night they hit pay dirt — 24 scurrying tree lobsters climbing on the bush and in the dirt below it.

  1. October 5, 2015 at 12:36 am

    “A problem: slower growing chickens use more feed, which is less sustainable.”

    This is an assertion which I do not believe yet am willing to be convinced.

    • merijnknibbe
      October 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Young animals need feed for maintenance (basic metabolic needs) and to grow. A typical bio-industry meat chicken lives for only six to seven weeks (everybody always states: seven weeks, but according to a soccer dad I know who sells systems to breed chickens six weeks is possible). They grow faster than their body can bear – but that’s not the discussion here. A typical French label rouge chicken lives for 14 weeks or so. The amount of feed needed for growth is about equal for both kinds of chicken, but the label rouge chicken requires more maintenance feed. the solution is simpel: eat less, but better meat (label rouge simply tastes better). Or eat label rouge instead of beef (though cows eat a lot of gras instead of grains).

      • October 5, 2015 at 4:53 pm

        Yes. I do see the growth cycle and maintenance portions of what you are saying. the statement “less sustainable” is the source of my question.

        I have almost entirely eliminated cattle and pigs from my menu — occasional small beef portion and pork only as a guest when it is served.

        Someday ask your soccer dad friend whether antibiotics are a daily portion of the feed in the corporate factory production of chicken for meat. Growth hormones are a second class of additives used to accelerate growth. These can leave traces of antibiotics in the meat as well as in the waste stream of corporate meat manufacturing processes. Increased levels of hormones and antibiotics in the rivers and ocean tend towards unsustainable production methods with profitability supported by subsidies and tax laws.

        We live in what we call a modern world and use agricultural techniques that do not surpass traditional agriculture per unit of land area. Even though capital is centralized to an accounting profit center, what we call modern agriculture is among the most unsustainable subsidized industries on Earth.

        For example. Harvard university trains young African economists that mechanized agriculture is superior to traditional eco agriculture. The young economists return to their country and advise their governments that people who have been living on the land continuously since humans stood erect are poor producers and must be cleared away so efficient mechanized corporate factory farms can produce the food an expanding population needs. People are driven from the land and become semi-slave labor for corporations which could never be profitable without semi-slaves. Then the Harvard trust invests in land grabbing and claims no relationship between the propaganda it teaches in the economics department and the land grabbing done by the Harvard financial endowment.

        A contrasting scenario: Harvard sends trained educators to help indigenous African farmers remember some of the techniques forgotten through the stress of slavery, colonial destruction of culture and extraction industry wars funded by the United States and Europe. When a small amount is invested in traditional eco agriculture education and includes women, population begins a gentle decline and the land heals. I see this as the direction of sustainable agriculture and am informed in this by following Olivier De Schutter http://www.srfood.org , who I this moment see has recently changed jobs, this year. He does have a get in touch area on the website and I hope you do so because you have quite a noticeable ability for relevant subject analysis.

  2. Rhonda Kovac
    October 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    If you want efficiency and sustainability you want vegetarianism. Food animals consume 9-16 times the protein that is available to humans in their flesh.

    Absent vegetarianism the factory farm is the most economically efficient way to raise animals for food. But it is also highly cruel to the animals. Chickens, crammed together in tiny cages never see the light of day or touch ground. A certain percentage peck themselves to death from the stress and artificiality of their lives.

    What profiteth a man if he gains economically while losing his soul?

    • October 6, 2015 at 1:54 am

      How can you possibly assert factory farming of animals is the most efficient way to raise animals for food?

      What do you base this idea on? Does your notion of efficiency include all the externalized costs granted as a right to corporatism by corrupt governments? Do you deny the need for semi-slave labor to balance the books and make corporatism profitable?

      If so, where else are the efficiencies that cancel chemical poisoning, soil and water loss and semi-slavery of formerly independent family farms?

      Indigenous traditional agriculture still produces 70 – 80% of the food. The corporate model of factory farming is a relatively new and so far not anywhere near the main producer even though its pollution is a major problem.

      • Rhonda Kovac
        October 6, 2015 at 4:16 pm

        To Garrett Connelly,

        Your point about ‘efficiency’ being relative to the factors chosen to be taken into account by it is well-taken. That is, in fact, the point I was trying to make — that the limited factor-set of the conventional concept of economic ‘efficiency’ excludes important human and moral considerations.

    • October 6, 2015 at 1:57 am

      Note > Everything else you say is reasonable and has actual beauty to it.

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