Archive for the ‘Animal welfare’ Category

Arsene Wenger is a great economist

January 26th, 2015 Comments off
  • Frederic Bastiat and football punditry – “In the day job I call Arsene Wenger a great economist. I’m making a serious point. … there is a close affinity between economics and sport; each can illuminate the other. I suspect you could learn more about economics from football than you could from the empty suits at Davos this week. “
  • U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit – Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry – “Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed. Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation.”
  • Still Waiting for Davos Woman – “The Alpine retreat is both absurd and worthy — but can’t achieve its goals as long as it is primarily a guy thing.”
  • A fault in our design – “We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable.”
  • In Rain and Snow, It’s Clear That Patriots Are a Good Bet – “Over the past 12 seasons, the New England Patriots have played so well in wet conditions that their margin of victory in those games has exceeded the betting spread — set by a global market that tries to take all known advantages into account — 80 percent of the time, according to an analysis by Covers, a sports betting information website. The analysis suggests that the Patriots have an edge in wet weather that neither the general public nor professional bettors have taken into account. But the analysis sheds no light on what that advantage, or those advantages, might be. The Patriots exceeded the spread 56 percent of the time in their other games during that period, the analysis shows.” Note: You will find links to some other interesting pieces about betting at Punting – the Owl’s notes.
  • Let statisticians cry foul when politicians bend the truth – “… those who are responsible for government statistics should not be working for ministers. Create within each department an independent statistical and analytical unit. … the independent number crunchers would be expected to comment publicly on the interpretation placed on their material by politicians and the media; especially when that crossed the line between half truth and outright lie. The rough and tumble political debate about numbers and data would continue, vigorously and uncensored. But the playing field would be levelled. And for the first time there would be a referee empowered to blow the whistle when there is a foul.”
  • Not Seeing Luck – “I claimed the other day that those of us who are in the global 1% are apt to under-estimate our good fortune. There is, in fact, quite robust evidence from other contexts that we tend to under-rate luck and over-rate skill and causality. … This is probably because of a self-serving bias… However, other research shows that people also see skill where none in fact exists even in other people. … This sort of behaviour has been confirmed in laboratory experiments. … I suspect that this is part of an older-attested phenomenon – that people under-rate randomness and over-rate causality, which is one reason why we draw overconfident inferences from noisy data. … You might see this as an echo of David Hume’s claim, that our ideas about causality result merely from custom and habit and so are fallible. It also, I suspect, helps explain a claim made by Hume’s good friend. If we over-rate causality and under-rate luck, we will exaggerate the extent to which the wealthy deserve their fortune. As a result:

    We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent…The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness. (Adam Smith – Theory of Moral Sentiments, I.III.29)”

Abolish red tape and keep torturing animals

January 2nd, 2015 Comments off

When it comes to the abolition of commercial animal torture, an individual Australian state and territory government can do little more than engage in futile gestures. The ACT Environment Minister Shane Rattenbury explained why when introducing changes to the Animal Welfare (Factory Farming) Bill that became law during 2014. As he explained to the Legislative Assembly:

This is now the fifth bill introduced into this Assembly by a Greens member to ban battery hens in the ACT. The first bill was passed in 1997. However, as the bill also included provisions banning the sale of caged eggs in the ACT, under the commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act, it needed approval from all other jurisdictions in Australia before the act could commence. As this did not occur, the act has been sitting on our statute books uncommenced for 16 years. This bill removes those provisions to enable the current bill to commence.

ACT animal welfare act

So what the ACT ended up with is legislation that bans battery hens by new producers, with an existing one given an exemption until 2016, and a law preventing intensive pig production which does not exist in the Territory at all. All very noble in its intention but purely symbolic because of that dreaded Mutual Recognition Act. When it comes to animal welfare we are condemned to the law o the lowest common denominator.

How different that is to the United States where the New Year saw California’s Prop 2 come into operation.

As explained in the New York Times:

The measure, which passed by a landslide vote in 2008, requires egg and some meat producers to confine their animals in far more humane conditions than they did before. No longer will baby calves (veal) or gestational pigs be kept in crates so small they cannot turn around and, perhaps more significantly, egg-laying hens may not be held in “battery” cages that prevent them from spreading their wings.

The regulations don’t affect only hens kept in California. In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that extended the protections of Prop 2 to out-of-state birds: You cannot sell an egg in California from a hen kept in extreme confinement anywhere. For an industry that has been able to do pretty much what it wants, this is a big deal: It bans some of the most egregious practices.

A caring Australian government would amend the Mutual Recognition Act to allow Australian states to follow the Californian example.

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Basic rights for an orangutan

December 23rd, 2014 Comments off


  • A court in Argentina has ruled that a shy orangutan who spent the last 20 years in a zoo can be granted some legal rights enjoyed by humans. Lawyers had appealed to free Sandra from the Buenos Aires zoo by arguing that although not human, she should be given legal rights.
  • Peter Singer on The Ransom Dilemma – “Governments that pay ransoms are saving the lives of some of their citizens, but putting the remainder of their citizens – and others – at greater risk. The refusal to pay ransoms to terrorists can seem callous, but in truth it is the only ethical policy. Every government should adhere to it.”
  • A change is gonna come – “The great civil rights song turns 50 – the political made personal, and heartbreak transmuted into fiery action”
  • Army of Spin – “Following in Putin’s footsteps, the Turkish government is gearing up for full-fledged information warfare.”
  • Japan: ‘Solo weddings’ for single women – “A travel agency in one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, Kyoto, has started organising bridal ceremonies for single women. Kyodo news agency reports that Cerca Travel’s two-day “solo wedding” package includes choosing your own special gown, bouquet and hairstyle, a limousine service, a stay at a hotel and a commemorative photo album. “This package boosted my sense of self-esteem… the effect was equal to a more extraordinary experience, such as visiting a World Heritage castle,” says Tomoe Sawano, one of the first to try out a “solo wedding”. About 30 women from across Japan have become “solo brides” since the service was launched in May.”
  • Sky: All to play for – “Broadcaster is facing the toughest competition of its 25-year history”

The civilised Swiss – roast Christmas cat with dog sausage

November 30th, 2014 Comments off

Switzerland: Ban Urged on Eating Cats and Dogs –

An animal rights group has petitioned the Swiss government to ban a traditional, if rare, practice of eating cats for Christmas dinner and turning dogs into sausages. Tomi Tomek, president of the animal rights group SOS CHATS Noiraigue, said 3 percent of the population still eats cat and dog. “You can’t report it to the police because there’s no law against it,” he said

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Cruelty to pigs and other news and views for Sunday 19 October

October 19th, 2014 Comments off
The primatologist Jane Goodall writes that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined ... they are individuals in their own right.” But when abnormally enclosed, their muscles and bones waste away, and they go insane from boredom. Just as you would if you couldn’t move.

The primatologist Jane Goodall writes that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined … they are individuals in their own right.” But when abnormally enclosed, their muscles and bones waste away, and they go insane from boredom. Just as you would if you couldn’t move.

  • Free Pigs From the Abusive Crates – “Would you cram a dog into a crate for her entire life, never letting her out, until you took her to the pound to kill her? Of course you wouldn’t, and yet that’s effectively what happens to most mother pigs in this country. They spend their lives in what are called gestation crates, tiny stalls that house pregnant sows. They cannot even turn around, and are immobilized in these crates until they are taken to the slaughterhouse.”
  • The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons – “From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule. In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.”
  • Uncle Sucker to the Rescue – Washington is making all its favorite mistakes in (another) Iraq war.
  • A Blunder Down Under – Waleed Aly in Foreign Policy argues: “Australia is trying to combat homegrown terrorism. Sending 800 police officers and a helicopter after suburban wannabes isn’t how to do it.”


  • Dogs – ‘A Wolf Called Romeo,’ by Nick Jans, and More – Bronwen Dickey, who is writing a social history of pit bulls and their people, reviews three new titles.
  • What Markets Will – Paul Krugman explains how the financial turmoil of the past few days, especially in Europe, have policy crusaders again sure that they know what the markets are asking for. “It’s also instructive to look at interest rates on “inflation-protected” or “index” bonds, which are telling us two things. First, markets are practically begging governments to borrow and spend, say on infrastructure; interest rates on index bonds are barely above zero, so that financing for roads, bridges, and sewers would be almost free. Second, the difference between interest rates on index and ordinary bonds tells us how much inflation the market expects, and it turns out that expected inflation has fallen sharply over the past few months, so that it’s now far below the Fed’s target. In effect, the market is saying that the Fed isn’t printing nearly enough money.”
  • The bad news about the news – “People living through a time of revolutionary change usually fail to grasp what is going on around them. The American news business would get a C minus or worse from any fair-minded professor evaluating its performance in the first phase of the Digital Age. Big, slow-moving organizations steeped in their traditional ways of doing business could not accurately foresee the next stages of a technological whirlwind. Obviously, new technologies are radically altering the ways in which we learn, teach, communicate, and are entertained. It is impossible to know today where these upheavals may lead, but where they take us matters profoundly. How the digital revolution plays out over time will be particularly important for journalism, and therefore to the United States, because journalism is the craft that provides the lifeblood of a free, democratic society.”

Animal welfare groups making political progress

August 25th, 2014 Comments off

The cause of animal welfare is certainly making political progress. Around the world governments are moving to restrict testing of cosmetics on animals and now the major food producer Nestlé is promising to enforce new animal welfare standards on its suppliers which could affect “hundreds of thousands of farms around the world”.

25-08-2014 nestle

The Swiss headquartered company has entered into an agreement with the NGO World Animal Protection (previously known as WSPA – World Society for the Protection of Animals) to ensure that supply Nestlé of its dairy, meat, poultry and eggs complies with tighter animal welfare standards.

Nestlé says it has some 7,300 suppliers from whom it buys animal-derived products directly – everything from milk for its range of yoghurts and ice-creams, to meat for its chilled foods and eggs for its fresh pastry and pasta. Each of these suppliers, in turn, buys from others, meaning that Nestlé’s Responsible Sourcing Guidelines apply to literally hundreds of thousands of farms around the world.The company has nine factories in Australia, including Tongala, Broadford and Wahgunyah in regional Victoria.

Under its new standards, Nestlé will not buy products derived from pigs raised in gestation stalls, chickens in barren battery cages, cattle that have been dehorned or had their tails docked without anesthesia and animals whose health has been damaged by drugs that promote growth.

25-08-2014 nestlestatement

In a statement announcing the new policy the company said it has commissioned an independent auditor, SGS, to carry out checks to ensure the new standards of animal welfare are met on its supplying farms. In 2014, several hundred farm assessments have already been carried out worldwide. Some of these checks are also attended, unannounced, by World Animal Protection representatives whose role is to verify the auditors.
When a violation is identified, Nestlé will work with the supplier to improve the treatment of farm animals to ensure they meet the required standards. If, despite engagement and guidance from Nestlé, the company is unable or unwilling to show improvement, it will no longer supply Nestlé.


Categories: Animal welfare, Eating Tags:

Wombats being buried alive and other news and views for Thursday 14 August

August 14th, 2014 Comments off
Goongerah Wombat Orphanage: Nigel showing off his new tartan pouches made by the amazing Allison Sudholz.

Goongerah Wombat Orphanage:
Nigel showing off his new tartan pouches made by the amazing Allison Sudholz.


  • Animal rights activists have drained $1.7 billion from SeaWorld’s market value since last July – “SeaWorld Entertainment has mimicked its beloved performing whale, Shamu, taking a deep dive: its stock plunged as much as 35% after the company posted ugly second-quarter results (pdf) and lowered revenue forecasts for the full year.”
  • Print Is Down, and Now Out – “Media Companies Spin Off Newspapers, to Uncertain Futures”
  • On Macroeconomic Forecasting – “Macroeconomic forecasts produced with macroeconomic models tend to be little better than intelligent guesswork. That is not an opinion – it is a fact. … The rather boring truth is that it is entirely predictable that forecasters will miss major recessions, just as it is equally predictable that each time this happens we get hundreds of articles written asking what has gone wrong with macro forecasting. The answer is always the same – nothing. Macroeconomic model based forecasts are always bad, but probably no worse than intelligent guesses.”

An animal welfare election promise and other news and views for Wednesday 16 July

July 16th, 2014 Comments off

16-07-2014 cosmetics


  • Kasimir Malevich’s ‘Black Square’: What does it say to you? – A pivotal moment in the history of modern art or the work of a self-publicist with the gift of the gab? Michael Glover searches for meaning in The Independent – “The painting itself sits in a relatively darkened room at Tate Modern, where a major retrospective of the career of its creator, Kasimir Malevich from Kiev, opens today. Given that the painting is black from top to toe and hip to hip, and that it is often said to represent a pivotal moment in the history of abstraction and the art of the 20th century, this strikes the onlooker as an odd decision. Why not be given the opportunity to see it as clearly as possible?”

Who killed the pygmy elephants?

April 10th, 2014 Comments off

The Owl’s letter to the editor of the week is from the Malaysian Star:


(Click to enlarge)

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The Unhealthy Meat Market –

March 13th, 2014 Comments off

This industrial agriculture system also has imposed enormous costs of three kinds.

First, it has been a catastrophe for animals. Chickens are bred to grow huge breasts so that as adults they topple forward and can barely breathe or stand…

Second, factory farming endangers our health… the hogs in a single county in North Carolina produce half as much waste as all the people in New York City, Martin says… Another health concern is that antibiotics are routinely fed to animals and birds to help them grow quickly in crowded, dirty conditions. This can lead to antibiotic resistant infections

Third, this industrial model has led to a hollowing out of rural America. The heartland is left with a few tycoons and a large number of people struggling at the margins…

But a starting point is to recognize bluntly that our industrial food system is unhealthy. It privatizes gains but socializes the health and environmental costs. It rewards shareholders — Tyson’s stock price has quadrupled since early 2009 — but can be ghastly for the animals and humans it touches. Industrial meat has an acrid aftertaste.


via The Unhealthy Meat Market –

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Jumping for joy – the secret life of cows

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

Just a little something to brighten your day

The Secret Lives Of Cows: Jumping For Joy

Cows Literally Jump For Joy After Being Freed From A Dairy Farm Into An Open Field Again

See the whole performance:

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Don’t let people see the cruelty to animals

March 1st, 2014 Comments off

‘Ag Gag’ Bill Takes Effect In Idaho; Bans Undercover Filming At Farms : The Two-Way : NPR.

Idaho’s Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has signed a bill that criminalizes the act of secretly filming animal abuse at agricultural facilities. The move comes days after the state’s legislature approved the measure.

“Otter, a rancher, said the measure promoted by the dairy industry ‘is about agriculture producers being secure in their property and their livelihood,'” according to the AP.

Under the law signed today, anyone caught making secret video recordings of agricultural operations could face a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The legislation refers to “the crime of interference with agricultural production.”

Idaho is one of at least 10 states that have taken up so-called “ag gag” legislation after “videos revealing apparent cruel treatment of farm animals went viral” in recent years, as Kathleen Masterson reported for NPR in 2012.

The Idaho legislation was introduced after “Los Angeles-based vegetarian and animal rights group Mercy for Animals showing workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and sexually abusing cows in 2012,” the AP says.

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Modern farming – making animals akin to diesel engines and filing the canine teeth of piglets to prevent cannibalism

February 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Digital Dairy: Robotic Milk Production Takes Over – By Jonathan Stock and Takis Würger in Der Spiegel

Thank goodness I don’t drink milk. This story in Der Spiegel is turning me off dairy products and reinforcing my commitment to buying free range poultry and pork.

Free-roaming dairy herds are becoming a thing of the past; meadows full of black-and-white Holsteins a rarity. Instead, there is cheap milk.

Becoming outraged at the situation is hardly helpful. The foodstuffs sector has become so perfected that animals in the industry have become comparable to machines or raw materials in other sectors. Some 50 million male chicks are destroyed each year in Germany because they are unable to lay eggs. The canine teeth of piglets are filed down so as to prevent cannibalism in giant farms. Animals have become akin to diesel engines. …

The cow of the future in Europe will live in a digital world, milked by robots and fed by machines. In the Canadian province of Québec, some 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) away from Nielsen and Westrup, this future is already reality.

There, David Landry stands in his stall and watches as robots do his work for him. A round one, roughly as broad as a hula-hoop, moves between the paddocks shoving the hay closer to the cows. Another machine, the so-called Creeper, crawls through the stalls pushing manure out. In the middle of the stall is the milking robot.

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