Regaining our Perspective: Raising Awareness of our Precious Animal & Plant Heritage

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Shame the Premier!

Shame on Helen Zille - Premier of the Western Cape for withdrawing the invitation to the Landmark foundation to attend the Animal Welfare Summit. The reasons will be noted in the Ozinsky letter at the bottom of this posting.

Bowing to pressure from the farmer lobby, the Western Cape "Environment" Minister Anton Bredell saw fit to pressure Cape Nature to issue 480 permits for farmers to kill black backed jackals and caracals at a rate of 5 each per day per permit, for 6 months - a possible total of nearly 900 000 predators.

The background to the "Bredell Cull" can be read on this link :

I'm not sure that Mr Bredell is even qualified for his post. An "environment minister" who says the following :

"Bredell said that Smuts “is trying to make out I’m a mass murderer. He always brings up the poor jackal and the cruelty of the farmers, but I have never shown him the cruelty meted out to sheep. Cruelty has two sides,” he added."

Tsk, Mr Bredell. Do you not understand anything about the ecosystem and natural predation? Jackals don't "mete out cruelty" to sheep or any other animal. To mete out cruelty, you need to have an established moral code and to act in a manner which contravenes this code. Jackals and other natural predators are just that - natural predators preying on the weak and the defenceless as nature has intended. They no more set out to be "cruel" than any other predator when hunting their prey. If you learn nothing else about your job, please learn that. The only predator who is capable of "meting out cruelty" is man - and we do it far too often with too little conscience.

That these animals are predating on sheep is not their "fault". To the contrary, far too much expansion of intensified stock farming has been permitted, encroaching on natural habitats. It is logical that there are going to be some losses, if these farms are inadequately fenced. I'm sure adequate fencing is going to cost an arm and a leg - mainly because these farms are now so huge, it's going to be prohibitively expensive. But there's a message in that, isn't there? Why so big? Because....(and the answer includes currency symbols - and lots (and lots) of zeroes).

So - it's much easier to just kill the predators isn't it? Another demonstration of blinkered bureaucratic philistine pig-ignorance in action. Have any of these people asked themselves what the elimination of natural species in their habitats is going to do to the balance of nature in the local ecosystem? Everything in nature exists in harmonic balance - and it's self-regulating. To really screw things up, we introduce humans into the dynamic, with their ill-conceived predefined views on what can and can't be permitted - and the reasons for the decisions are always based on money, aren't they? How long do we consider it might be for the species that the jackals and caracals naturally predate on, to explode in numbers? Hares and small rodents etc. Do we really want an unchecked increase in these animals?

I can assure Mr Bredell that the jackals and caracals did not suddenly "explode" into huge populations because they perceived some freebie- lamb on the horizon. The population grew naturally and is sustained by keeping other species (that we often view as a nuisance) in check. But now eliminate the predator, and what will be the result? Clever Mr Bredell. If you were in my government, you'd pick up your severance cheque at the door and be gone in an instant.  Unqualified for the job. And that's another bone I'd want to pick with Helen Zille - ill-conceived job selection.

"People are going to die if they can't eat lamb or mutton - the poor will starve". Really? Can the poor afford to buy this meat at between R50 and R70 a kilogram? I don't think so. But the power of the poor farmer's vote must not be underestimated - especially as the permits were issued shortly before a by-election in this region.

It's a real lesson in craven yellow-bellied arse-licking to see how low the politicians will go to ensure they get their next pay cheque. I was a DA supporter in the last election. This will no longer be the case in the future, and I will make everyone I can, and who has an environmental conscience, aware of this issue to get them to change their vote as well.

It's a pity that politicians have no integrity and that they'll say anything to get your vote. They then revert to type after the election and the voter can go and suck eggs. So I'm not convinced the ANC is a better option. But maybe my vote will be used as a strategic vote "against" rather than a vote "for".

Below is the text of a public statement by Max Ozinsky, MPL o.b.o ANC Western Cape

Zille withdraws Landmark Foundation invitation - Max Ozinsky
Max Ozinsky
30 March 2012

Premier acted after organisation initiated legal action against WCapegovt over hunting licenses

ANC Statement on Premier's withdrawal of invitation to Landmark Foundation to attend Animal Welfare Summit

29 March 2012

DA Premier Zille claims to believe in our constitution and an open society. Yet day by day her actions contradict her words.

In her latest attack on the constitutional rights of citizens of the Western Cape and open government, Premier Zille has withdrawn an invitation she had personally made to the Landmark Foundation to attend an Animal Welfare Summit being organised by her office for next week.

The reason given for the withdrawal of the invitation is that the Landmark Foundation has initiated legal action against the Western Cape provincial government and CapeNature to ensure that they apply the Threatened and Protected Species (TAPS) regulations under the Biodiversity Act and stop the Bredell cull which is resulting in the deaths of thousands of protected animals, such as leopards. The withdrawal of the invitation follows the unilateral cancellation of a signed agreement between CapeNature and the Landmark Foundation, merely because they disagreed with the issuing of hundreds of hunting permits on instruction of MEC Bredell.

The Landmark Foundation is a world leading NGO in sustainable conservation methods. In the Western Cape it has pioneered projects to study and protect endangered predators such as leopards. It has led the campaign against the Bredell cull and recently began legal action against Zille's government for its refusal to implement legislation protecting threatened and protected species.

In an open society, the fact that an individual or organisation disagrees with government, or even takes government to court, does not remove their rights to participate in policy formulation, or to engage with government.

However Premier Zille does not like to hear from those who disagree with her views. Zille has long ago made her mind up that the votes of farmers are more important than the conservation of protected species like leopards. That is why after meeting only farmers in 2010, she instructed MEC Bredell to ensure that hundreds of hunting licences were issued to farmers, without following any due process, and in contravention of the Taps regulations and the laws governing CapeNature.

It is clear that Premier Zille is scared that if the Landmark Foundation attends the summit, her policies, which threaten the survival of leopards, one of the big five, in the Western Cape, will not be supported.

Unfortunately for Premier Zille in a democratic society there are many view points. All citizens, whatever their opinion, have the right to engage with government. By refusing to allow a key and world leading NGO to participate in the summit, Zille shows that her commitment to an open democracy and our constitution is merely lip service. Her actions speak much louder than her words.

Statement issued by Max Ozinsky, MPL, on behalf of the ANC Western Cape, March 30 2012 - with Bool Smuts.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Law of Unintended Consequence

This piece follows from an article that appeared a little while ago in the New York Times, entitled "The Ecology of Disease".

The article refers to a developing model of infectious disease which shows that most epidemics that affect humans (e.g. AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, Lyme disease - plus hundreds more), are a result of the impacts man makes on his natural environment. It has been found that 60% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic (i.e. jump the species barrier from animals to man), with 66% of the animal hosts being wildlife.

In other words, what we do out there in previously virgin wilderness, is coming back to bite us. Humans do not understand the ecological web of life and its complex interrelationships. The best we can do is for our academics to undertake specialist fields of study in response to observed events, but we can in no way have a large scale "predictive view" of the likely effect on an undisturbed ecosystem before we go in there boots and all and mess it up. I'm not sure that the majority of humans care enough to want to try and find out beforehand anyway - I think they're only too happy to get on with plundering natures larder of goodies.

An ILRI study revealed that more than 2 million people die annually from diseases spreading from wild and domestic animals. And the treatment of animals being kept in poor countries seems to have the effect of magnifying the animal borne diseases. Probably not surprising, since poor housing and treatment of animals increases stress which compromises immune systems, plus increased pathogen load and viral mutation in the soup of death and decay. Words like "newly virulent" or "newly drug-resistant" should also ring alarm bells.

Examples of how this spread occurs, can be seen in the Nipah and Hendra viruses spread from the flying fox (fruit bats), which have co-evolved alongside these viruses. Naturally they have very little effect on the bats, but when man encroached on the natural environment, it is suspected that a forest piggery was contaminated with Nipah when partially consumed fruit was dropped. The pigs ate this and mutated the virus which jumped the species barrier to man. Hendra was different, where suburbanisation lured forest dwelling bats into new habitats in backyards in Australia.
According to experts, emerging diseases have quadrupled over the last half century, largely due to human encroachment, especially into the disease hotspots which are mainly in tropical regions. And with speedy modern transport and booming wildlife trafficking, the potential for a serious outbreak in a large population centre is looming. Other examples include a 4% increase in the deforestation of the Amazon basin, causing a 50% increase in malaria. And it also includes a spread of the carriers (e.g. mosquitoes) to vectors like birds which are habitual garden visitors. In other words "the virus took advantage of species that do well around people" (Marm Kilpatrick, UC Santa Cruz). The American robin is playing a pivotal role in the spread of West Nile Disease in the US.

Lyme disease is a product of the fragmentation of large forests and predators fleeing the development, allowing the multiplication of white footed mice which become specialist reservoirs of the disease due to their poor immune systems. When man invades an ecosystem, most of the time he erodes biodiversity and the species playing protective roles are usually most affected. The species acting as carrier-reservoirs then proliferate. Nature finds a way.

According to Simon Anthony, a molecular virologist at Columbia university, "it's not about keeping pristine forests pristine and free of people, it learning how to do things sustainably". I beg to differ and it's not in questioning the expertise of Mr Anthony. But it is about his possibly utopian view that those in the vanguard of plundering the natural ecosystems of the world are going to stop and undertake careful scientific studies assessing risks beforehand, or are going to listen to the warnings expressed by the academic community.

There's no sensitive middle of the road way to go about plundering forests sustainably - besides, humans are not a sensitive middle of the road species - we are the single greatest invasive species in the world today and we will stop at nothing to attain our goals - usually related to huge piles of money.

It's called profit and it's spelled out in the business plans of large corporate boardrooms across the globe, and those plans are not going to add an extra layer of cost by undertaking expensive and time consuming epidemiological assessments in order to achieve what is seen by the captains of industry as only a fair to moderate risk mitigation. They have shareholders to keep happy. The ordinary people are engaged at the coalface after the fact to execute the decisions. If they are affected in any way or disease spread occurs in larger populations, this is called "shit happens" and it's not hard to throw a blanket of doubt around the causal chain or to deny management's culpability on the grounds of their not doing it with malice aforethought. Who can prove they knew they were going to cause outbreaks of disease due to their actions? These are complex ecological systems and the interrelationships are not yet well understood, so can they be blamed?

I call it "rushing in where angels fear to tread", and we are very soon going to be paid back in spades for what we are doing to the Earth and its fragile ecosystems.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Pukeheads and Plethoras of Pathogens

WHAT!??  What's a pukehead?

I'm busy reading "Slaughterhouse" by Gail Eisnitz, which is "the shocking story of the greed, neglect and inhumane treatment inside the U.S. meat industry". The book was first published in 1997, and it would seem rather unlikely that anything much would have changed in the interim. I will not go into graphic descriptions here of the atrocities visited on poor, helpless animals by humans who have lost any semblance of decency or caring for their fellow sentient beings, but I will describe the filth that is allowed to contaminate the meat which is then passed on to the consumer.

The statistics I quote below are all based on the book, and therefore are as at 1997 - I have little doubt they are now at least the same, or possibly even worse.

Did you realise that the CDC (US Centres for Disease Control) estimates between 6.5 and 81 million cases of food poisoning occur each year in the US? One out of 3 Americans suffers a foodborne illness each year, and roughly half a million of those cases require hospitalisation. Deaths from food poisoning quadrupled after deregulation of food, from 2000 in 1984 to 9000 in 1994, the major source of infection being foods of animal origin. As at 1997, the CDC estimated 40 000 cases of E.coli 0157:H7 annually. Since reporting of 0157:H7 poisoning is not mandatory in every US state, this figure is also probably understated, and many doctors and hospitals at the time didn't even know how to test for it.

Poultry has had the reputation of being the leading foodborne carrier of illness, sickening and killing and also causing chronic disabilities like arthritis, but E.coli 0157:H7 naturally generates considerable attention these days.

Hamburgers contain meat from as many as 100 different animals, and one infected animal can cross-contaminate 16 tonnes of beef. The grinding process creates a large surface area for bacterial habitation and hamburger meat is said to be "especially hospitable".

Furthermore, the USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) inspectors effectively had their hands tied when they were prohibited from stopping production lines due to filth contamination on the meat, and were only permitted to inspect for "pathogens" on carcasses whizzing by at a phenomenal rate per minute - an impossible task. Besides, the USDA did not want to adopt rapid in-situ microbial testing in abbatoirs, and were rather more complicit with big meat producers in condoning higher production rates.

Technological innovation in the 1970's made high volume poultry slaughter possible (USDA- approved), resulting in a dramatic increase in contaminated birds. Faecal contamination on skin and feathers gets inhaled by live birds in the scald tank (they go in there alive), and hot water opens the pores, allowing pathogens to enter. The defeathering machines' pounding creates an aerosol of faecal-contaminated water which is beaten into the birds. Water in the chill tanks has been named "faecal soup" due to all the filth and bacteria in them. Clean birds entering the tank (as all birds will) are assured of cross-contamination. And further contamination occurs when the automatic evisceration machines rip open intestines, spilling faecal material into the birds' body cavities. Prior to 1978, inspectors had condemned any bird with faecal contamination inside the body cavity. After 1978, faeces were reclassified from "dangerous contaminant" to (wait for it) "cosmetic blemish"! Inspectors condemned fewer birds and consumers ate the rest.

The US stayed with water chilling rather than moving to air chilling, because federal regulations permitted each carcass to soak up to 8% extra water (by 1997) - water that the consumer was paying for per kilo in the supermarket. As Gail Eisnitz put it so delicately "this enables the industry to sell hundreds of millions of gallons of germ-filled water at poultry meat prices". As USDA microbiologist Gerald Kuester put it "there are fifty points during processing where cross contamination can occur. At the end of the line, the birds are no cleaner than if they'd been dipped in a toilet".

(Former) Purdue worker Donna Bazemore's testimony to congress, noted that ;

"The floors are covered with grease, fat, sand and roaches. Some of the flying roaches were huge - up to 4 to 5 inches long. There are flies all around, including big blowflies. Employees are constantly chewing and spitting out snuff and tobacco on the floor. There is so much faecal contamination on the floor from chickens, that it kept getting into one worker's boots and burnt his feet so badly his toenails had to be amputated. The company won't allow workers to leave the line when they have to go to the bathroom....sometimes they have to relieve themselves on the floor. After they are hung, birds sometimes fall off into the drain that runs down the middle of the line. This is where roaches, intestines, diseased parts, faecal contamination and blood are washed down. Workers get sick to their stomachs into the drain - which is a lot less sanitary than anybody's toilet. The Perdue supervisors told us to take the fallen chickens out of the drain and send them back down the line."

Another worker noted :  "I've seen birds fall on the floor and foremen tell workers to put them back on the line without washing. And I know we didn't condemn those that fell on the floor and were heavily soiled. I've seen birds with cancerous tumours come through regularly, sometimes all day long. While on quality control, I'd pull off those I saw, but I couldn't possibly catch them all. Right after I put them in the condemn barrel, the foremen would have the workers hang them back on the line."

One of the USDA inspectors noted that the leadership at the USDA changed the standards so that "modern means dirty". "We used to stop production for hours if necessary to get the facility cleaned up. By the time I left, anyone who tried to do that would have to find another job.

Bazemore noted in a later testimony "workers keep finding rats and fat cockroaches in the chill tanks where chickens soak together - both the rats and their droppings. Women still have to keep on relieving themselves on the floor because there are not enough bathroom breaks. Birds still fall on the floor and get put back on the line. Employees are in trouble if they don't try to slip the birds back in. Gall birds (i.e. with ruptured gall bladders) keep going out despite green pus in their intestines that is intensely painful when it gets in workers eyes. Diseased birds still go out although they are so sick that mucous backs up into their lungs."

An employee at a third chicken plant said "I personally have seen rotten meat - you can tell by the odour. This rotten meat is mixed with fresh meat and sold for baby food. You can see the worms inside the meat." Another worker said  "in the department where chicken bones were ground up and processed into chicken franks and bologna, almost continuously the bones had an awful foul odour. Sometimes they came from other plants and had been sitting for days. Often there were maggots on them. These bones were never cleaned off and so the maggots were ground up with everything else and remained in the final product."

One of the earliest studies conducted at a model poultry operation in Puerto Rico in 1987 put the number of contaminated birds coming out of the chill tank at 76%. USDA studies in 1992 put contamination at 58% before going into the chill tank, and 72% after the communal bath. The USDA forced the resignation of the microbiologist who wanted to publish these findings, for not agreeing to a "sanitised version" of the report.

After 6 different "poultry processing improvements", salmonella was still contaminating 48% of the birds coming out of the chill tanks. Campylobacter (twice as frequent as salmonella) is now the number one cause of gastroenteritis in the US, causing hundreds of deaths annually. In 1991, a USDA microbiologist found the bacteria present in 98% of store-bought chickens. Food Safety Review (a USDA publication) reported that "heavily contaminated flocks may result in a contamination rate of 100% for finished products". Campylobacter was found on 100% of chickens coming out of chill tanks.  

That's the hors doeuvre. Let's move on to cows, which is where the title of this blog becomes relevant. Beef? Same story as chickens.

"Inspectors who have attempted to stop the production line have been reprimanded, re-assigned, physically attacked by plant employees, and then disciplined for being in fights, had their performance appraisals lowered, been placed under criminal investigation, fired, or subjected to enough retaliation to 'neutralise them'."

While epidemiologists estimate that one speck of faeces can contain millions of E.coli 0157:H7 microbes and that one to 10 microbes can kill a child, USDA bureaucrats were counting how many visible smears of cow faeces they would overlook on each animal. To create an illusion of Federal oversight, inspectors were authorised to reinspect 6 sides of beef (3 cows) out of 3200 cattle per shift. That's 3/10 of 1 percent of the meat leaving the plant being inspected - with 100% of the meat stamped "US Inspected and Passed".

Veterinarians told inspectors "you're not shit inspectors anymore - you're pathology inspectors only". But nobody else was assigned the task of being a "shit inspector". Faecal contamination came down the line  - up to 1 foot smears - as well as flukes (liver parasites), grubs (wormlike fly larvae that burrow into the cow's skin and work their way through the body), abscesses (encapsulated infections filled with pus), hide, hair  and ingesta (partially digested food found in the stomach or aesophagus).

Company managers ordered employees to cut open abscesses and let them drain on healthy portions of meat, instead of trimming off infected areas. Plant employees report buying a pre-cooked roast and cutting into a healthy abscess. Manure, hair, hide, metal and chewing tobacco regularly contaminate products that used to be clean. Cactus thorns stay in beef tongues because the lines are moving too fast for workers to remove them. Cows are slaughtered that have been dead on arrival, some so long they are ice cold. Plant employees who think inspectors aren't looking, pull out "retain tags" (retain carcass for further inspection) and ship these out without trimming off open pus-filled abscesses. Inedible meat products full of disease are mixed with edible products. One firm shipped out meat so old, it was green when trimmed.

A Nebraska inspector smuggled head meat out of a plant, to run an unauthorised check. He found 24% of the heads reaching the head boning table for boxing, to be contaminated with hair, dirt, hide and ingesta. The type of heads getting through , included those known in the industry as "pukeheads" are so filled with partially digested food that contamination oozes into the outer surfaces of the head and cross-contaminates others. Head meat usually winds up in burgers.

Every day, carcasses fall on the floor and are not trimmed before the company puts them back on the line. Floors are filthy, covered with blood, grease, faeces, pus from abscesses and mud. A lot gets embedded into the meat from high-pressure carcass sprays. There are pools of urine on the viscera table that regularly contacts products.... the drains are so often stopped-up, filthy water splashes on the carcasses even if they don't fall off the rail. "

I can sense the South Africans (at least) getting a little smug and comfortable - since we are talking about a dysfunctional US industry hell-bent on supersonic production speeds and devil take the hindmost. But this is South Africa and things are different here.  The problem with this thinking is we don't know. We have no well -established food activists writing about local conditions and there are few if any reports about conditions in local abbatoirs or private processing plants. The South African meat industry, like many other things South African, is very opaque.  What we do know is that we live in a competitive world and that international trade barriers have come down, so it's a fair bet that production line speeds here receive as much emphasis as they do in the USA. There may also be American-owned production plants in this country. Do we observe proper health protocols, or do we pay lip-service to consumer health? Will the meat packing plants give us an honest answer if anyone asked? I'm not taking any bets - remember we seem to leap on anything American with cries of joy, believing it to be superior to our own. This is also possibly true of meat production methods - and certainly meats are imported into our country. From whence do they come?

Isn't it a shame that it's only the efforts of a small number of very dedicated activists who are prepared to take on the mega- food producers and strive to get them to behave in a civilized humane manner, as well as conduct their affairs in a hygienic way? It should be human nature to be humane and clean, but it's not.

If we weren't vegetarians before starting to read this book, we'd certainly be so by now. It makes no sense to be playing Russian roulette at the dinner table. Which reminds me - it's nearly supper time.

Whatever you're eating tonight - beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or even maybe burgers or chicken or pork frankfurters - enjoy it and savour each mouthful. It may be your last. Your next of kin are, sadly, unlikely to prevail against the meat industry in bringing a civil suit - even if they can prove it was the meat that did the dirty deed.

(Acknowledgements for most of the material for this blog, with thanks : Gail Eisnitz).

Friday, 14 September 2012

Of Rhinos and Rawballs

(Originally written 26 August 2011)

This, hot off the press in the wake of the disgusting wanton destruction of 2 rhinos at Aquila game reserve in the Western Cape on 25 August. In particular ABSA, the first rhino reintroduced back into the Western Cape after they had been all shot out in the previous century by so-called "sportsmen", and who had fathered new offspring, met a terrible and protracted end, taking 5 days to die. Another rhino was hacked to death with machetes and pangas in order that the poachers could take the horns.

Animals - all animals - are precious to us. They are uncorrupted and unspoiled. They know a thing or 2 about getting on with the business of living and not screwing everything up for everything else in the ecosystem. Of course they do - they are a product of nature - it's only man who is utterly and completely corrupt, who has surrendered (willingly, I might add) his soul and integrity for a fast buck, for a way to scramble over the bodies of his fellow man en-route supposedly to instant fame, "success" and riches (not necessarily in that order).

You see humankind has been given or has developed "superior intelligence" in order to take dominion over the earth and everything in it. The problem with this is that as a species, we're not particularly intelligent - at least all the evidence tends to point to the fact that when it comes to anyone other than the human race (and more specifically : ourselves), we are the nastiest bunch of lowlife hypocrites that ever dragged their sorry asses across the face of this planet. Monty Python sang :

"So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!"

And they were right. Let's give attention to something the American comedian George Carlin said. And he may have said it as part of his comendy act, but this is deadly serious :

"We're so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody's going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven't learned how to care for one another. We're gonna save the fuckin' planet? . . . And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin' great. It's been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn't goin' anywhere, folks. We are! We're goin' away. Pack your shit, we're goin' away. And we won't leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we'll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake."

Now I'm not a prude but I don't necessarily always agree with the man's choice of language, however I think he's got a point here. The Cree Indians said it in a more genteel manner :

"When the last tree is cut, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, then we will find out that we can't eat money" - Cree Indian Prophecy

Think about that. "Oh it won't affect us - we can buy our way out of trouble and retire to our own private island". Oh yes? And breathe what? Sulphur Dioxide perhaps? Wake up dope. Every time you stand by and do nothing as another greedy business venture lays claim to hitherto unspoiled natural resources, you are passively condoning the ongoing pillage and destruction of our Earth. Why is there no universal agreement on a clean air policy - with deadlines for enforcement? Because it's going to cost too much to implement and it will "hurt the economy".

Gee whiz! Has anyone noticed but most of the world's economies are already a shambles - particularly the US and Eurozone. Don't blame the environmentalists - humankind's greed did it to you. And if you don't get off your fat asses and do something immediately, we are well on the way to irreversible climate change in less than 50 years. You don't have to believe it - it makes no difference. You're still going to get hurt by it. You don't have to believe in gravity either - but if you walk off a cliff, you're going to break some bones, or worse.

But let's get back to rhinos. So the ignorant masses "out there" believe that if they use a pinch of powdered rhino horn here and a touch there, they will achieve health, strength, youth and an everlasting erection. But it really is irrelevant what they believe - all that is important to the poaching syndicates is that these people are willing to part with inordinate amounts of cash in exchange for rhino horn. And that this is BIG business shows : poachers who have access to helicopters, night vision glasses, schedule 7 drugs, automatic weapons and all the wherewithal to smuggle the horn out of the country and into the willing arms of the buyers. These are not amateurs looking to make a quick buck for a bottle at the end of the week. Nope - these include doctors, lawyers, well-to-do "businessmen" etc. - one at least of whom has the cash to buy a whole bunch of rhino and then slaughter them for their horn.

So I go onto the web and google rhino poaching and follow a few links to a case where a poaching syndicate has been rounded up and is being tried (with many remands and delays). And I go through the narrative and look at the pictures, and what do I see (apart from butchery being practised on rhinos)?

I see Rawballs. Capital R.

When I was a kid, we had a name for someone displaying uncouth, lowlife appearance, evidence of bad or no manners - as the English in the last century called it "a boor" - i.e. boorish behaviour. The dictionary definition of boorish is :

Adj. 1. boorish - ill-mannered and coarse and contemptible in behavior or appearance; "was boorish and insensitive"; "the loutish manners of a bully"; "her stupid oafish husband"; "aristocratic contempt for the swinish multitude"

loutish, neanderthal, oafish, swinish, neandertal

unrefined - (used of persons and their behavior) not refined; uncouth; "how can a refined girl be drawn to such an unrefined man?"

In South Africa, we call that "a Rawball", and if you study some of the images of these poachers, you will see the sly oafish leer of the overconfident gutter rawball, who thinks they are above the law.

I pray it will not be so, and that the syndicate shown in this web reference, and all the other poaching syndicates get to reap the just rewards of their actions. And I'm thinking of something more terminal or of longer duration than their momentary ill-gotten wealth. Something cold, hard and dark. For a very long time - if they are not killed by anti-poaching patrols first.

What a Piece of Work is Man

I was walking in the garden the other day in the evening - playtime with the cats, and I stopped to marvel at them. I'm not talking about cobby bodies and big eyes and fluffy tails, but rather how they interact with each other. Nobody tells mother cat how to raise her babies - she knows already. And when she abandons a kitten, it invariably is ailing and is not going to make it - survival of the fittest. Nature knows how to ensure the vitality of the species.

And their play has only one objective - learning to hunt and kill. Bloodthirsty cats? Not at all. This is nature, red in tooth and claw. This is nature doing what it does best - surviving the fittest and letting the devil take the hindmost. This is the cat learning to use the tools it has been given to ensure it gets the next meal, for if it doesn't and it is incapable of successfully catching a meal, it will eventually die, so that the business of living can be left to the best survivors. The objective of course will be that the best surviving females mate with the strongest surviving males, and the resultant offspring share the strongest genepool.

It's only when man gets invoved and starts trying to save the weaklings who would otherwise die, that the genepool starts to decline, since a weakling's genetic line should never be allowed to exist.

Which brings me back to man - that wondrous species who has assumed dominion over the earth and everything in it - you know, the one who has managed an a relatively short period of time to screw everything up in his quest for "civilisation" and "modern living". Space doesn't permit me to list exhaustively man's greatest blunders - there are just too many of them, but let's just note a few:

- enhancing medical science. "AArrrgghh!" I hear you cry "what about the wondrous medical achievements of the past few hundred years which have extended our life expectancy?" Exactly. Medical science has created for us humans, a means to spend on average 30 to 40 more years on this planet than was the case a little more than a century ago. And at the other end of the scale to dying, we have birth. Medical science has managed to improve the mortality outlook of infants who would have died in the past. So at the front end we have more babies surviving - including the weak and ailing, and at the back end we have an average human lifespan which is now far longer. Which means more humans for longer, which means overpopulation. Sex is fun, but it's just far too easy to do and be successful at. Result - too many babies who are born, rescued by medical science and who go on to produce yet more babies.

The blunders below fall into the category of what we do with our extended extra time we've been given on the face of this planet:

- we systematically decimate the natural environment. We plunder and pillage for minerals, we deforest, we exterminate animal and plant species all the time, at a frightening rate. According to an article in the Telegraph in March 2010, as at the last biodiversity report in 2004, the Earth was losing species at a rate comparable to the mass-extinction of the dinosaurs - extinctions were happening 1000 times faster than the natural rate, and far too quickly for nature to respond by evolving new species. This extinction is being driven by destruction of natural habitat, hunting, increasing numbers of alien predators, disease and climate change.

- We pollute everything. Air, water, land, noise = i.e. the lot. Our industry is ruining the environment with its waste products, carelessly pumped into the sea, lakes or rivers, or binned and dumped in waste sites. Nuclear waste is rendering the Earth toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. Oil spills decimate natural plant and animal species far too frequently. Hundreds of tons of toxic gases get pumped into the atmosphere every year by industry. The list goes on. We are incapable of living in harmony with the Earth and the natural ecosystems. Oh no! We're too busy "taking dominion" or whatever it's called in our wonderful holy (small h) books. And do the world's industrialized nations come to the party and do anything? Not really. We love having meetings, but nothing much really comes of them. And the United States is the only signatory which refuses to ratify the Kyoto protocol on Greenhouse gas emissions to address the global warming threat. The reason? It will cost too much for American Industry to adapt processes to reduce emissions by the agreed-upon targets. Somebody please tell the dickheads that if they don't do something now nobody will be around in 50 years time to adapt these industries anyway. They will be as dead as we all are.

- We kill things. Mostly ourselves, but also anything (flora or fauna) that gets in our way, and many others that are quietly minding their own business. Doesn't matter to us. We find 'em and kill 'em. We are the only animal on Earth who kills for pleasure. Tell me, who is mentally challenged enough to gain pleasure from hunting animals? Plenty of us, apparently. We gain especial pleasure from killing each other - most often because we want others to either agree with us, belong to our club, or become our followers. This is called power, domination and control and it is achieved through wars, politics and religion. Not sure why we want to control everything and everyone, because the overwhelming evidence is that we are singularly inept at it. And our killing and controlling behaviour is encouraged by our religious rites of passage which we have adopted for ourselves. Everybody who doesn't believe what we do, must be killed, maimed or tortured into compliance. And depending on your beliefs, you're commanded to have as many babies as possible- or at least, prohibited from doing anything to prevent conception. Good old Catholicism.

This discussion is getting too depressing. Mankind (with the exception of the so-called "primitives" who were the only ones who actually had any idea of how to live in harmony with his ecosystem) is a tragic mistake. With a bit of luck we will die out soon and the planet can go about the task of erasing all trace of us and repairing the damage we have caused. As George Carlin said :

"We're so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody's going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven't learned how to care for one another. We're gonna save the fuckin' planet? . . . And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin' great. It's been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn't goin' anywhere, folks. We are! We're goin' away. Pack your shit, we're goin' away. And we won't leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we'll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake."

I think he's right.

Beautiful Silence of Nature

Our Garden
Photos: Mike

Stop every now and then…

  Just stop and enjoy.  Take a deep breath.  Relax and take in the abundance of life. 

In the moment of silence - with no thinking, no communication.  Just the beautiful silence of nature… 

We discover our natural world is alive with beauty and wonder.

As we delight in her beauty and lose ourselves in her silence…

 We are awakened to awe and appreciation to the simple pleasures nature constantly offers us to love.

The End is Nigh....

Ah! The cartoon placard that we see the doomsday soothsayers holding at the traffic intersections. However, this is very serious and the topic was also the May 2012 winning letter to Popular Mechanics. It's thought-provoking enough to want to share it : food for thought!

"OKAY, So Life is Doomed" by Johannes Bertus de Villiers in JHB :

"Your article on the many ways in which civilised life on Earth could come to an end, sketches some terrifying and realistic scenarios. However you might have added the fact that the sixth mass extinction of species in our planet's history is already underway - and no horror from the skies was needed to trigger it. Earth has been through five major extinctions, starting with the Ordovician-Silurian catastrophe that put an end to most of the brachiopods, conodonts and trilobites that inhabited the Earth 450 million years ago, and most recently the KT-event that culled the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

However in March last year, Nature published a study by Anthony Barnosky titled, "Has the Earth's sixth mass extinction already arrived?" His answer was yes, probably, and what makes this mass extinction so unlike the previous five, is that life seems to be destroying itself.

One need only look at the figures : according to the WWF's biannual Living Planet report, the number of animals on Earth has decreased by 30 percent since 1970. The WWF predicts ecological collapse by 2050. The UN's Global Diversity outlook of 2006 confirms this and states: "in effect, we are currently responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the history of the Earth, the greatest since the dinosaur disappeared 65 million years ago."

Where Earth's natural extinction rate for species is about 30 a year, current estimates are that we have pushed it up to 300 a year. These figures are almost unprecedented outside a scenario of nuclear winter caused by a space rock impact or a super-volcano eruption.

It would take no more than the destruction of a key group of species to collapse the food chain, and the environment with it. The ongoing decimation of pollinating bees in North America and Europe (due to pesticides, electric wiring and the globalisation of insect diseases) is just one of the many indications that this could happen soon. Bee diseases such as foul brood, previously unknown in South Africa, have also been imported to the Western Cape in the last few years. Hopefully, when an extra-terrestrial intelligence visits our lifeless planet some day in the future, they might take a few lessons away from this. For us, though, it is probably already too late. "

These are sobering thoughts! Consider the USA and the other large industrial nations' reluctance to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on limiting carbon emissions, nor to get any meaningful progress from the recent Durban chapter meeting. They are dithering about the cost to their industry and economies, while 2050 approaches. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! Not much point in having a great economy in a non-existent world, is there?

We looked at an article the other day, discussing the global threat to bees. Effectively the message is ; when the bees are gone, so are we. One-third of all food production originates from pollination, and without the bees - no more food. People starve and economies collapse. Simple as that.

It might be a nice thought to get out there and enjoy everything you can, while it's still here. Take some photos - you can show them to your grand children one day and tell them what those creatures and plants were. Or just sit there and observe, and marvel, while there's still time.

Drowning in ..Pigscrement

After reading recently about the closure (after protests by local residents about the terrible smell) of what is currently the world's largest pig factory farm, housing supposedly some 500 000 pigs in Chile, I started to do some elementary arithmetic


Now something doesn't add up. In this article we have 500 000 pigs in the Agrosuper facility. Then we have the minister of health Jaime Manalich giving two very telling statistics about the selfsame plant. Lets have a look at these stats and try and draw some conclusions. In doing this, I will make some assumptions, but state these upfront. The reader is thereby enabled to understand the conclusions in the light of the assumptions, and change the assumptions for themselves if necessary - do a bit of "what-if" analysis perhaps.

1. There are "30 000 tons of hogs"
2. There are "50 000 gestating sows giving birth every day".

Let's start by assuming an "average pig weight" : Firstly, there are clearly mainly females and babies in the plant (the adult boars are excluded, because their flesh is rendered less succulent because of the testosterone). The young pigs are slaughtered around 6-7 months (approx 113kg in weight). Adult sows can weigh from 400 to 700 pounds - lets say 500lb (227kg). Bearing in mind statement 2. above, we know there will be an enormous number of young piglets (5-10kg say?). Let's therefore guess an "average pig weight" of 70kg.

Then, 30 000 tonnes of hogs at our assumed average weight, translates into about 429 000 pigs, so that's roughly correct. If we divide the tonnage by the number of hogs, we get an average weight of 60kg, so let's use that from now on.

Let's switch to the 2nd statement for a moment, and assume there are indeed 50000 gestating sows giving birth daily. A pig is a prolific breeder and litters can number up to 10 piglets. Let's assume 50% infant mortality = 5 surviving piglets per litter. That equates to 250000 piglets from 50000 sows per day. Let's go a bit further. A sow's gestation period is 4 months and the piglets are removed from the sow at a month of age. That means after 5 months she is ready to be artificially inseminated again, which is exactly what happens. In a period of 5 months, there are around 150 days. Now multiply 50 000 sows giving birth daily by 150 days, and you have ....7.5 million sows, and a gross total of 37.5 million surviving piglets. Even if the good minister got an extra zero by accident and there were 10 times less sows giving birth daily, this would still be 750 000 sows and 3.75 million surviving piglets, which is around 8 times more pigs than what is being officially reported for this one farm!

Let's assume the minister got it wrong and there were "only" 750 000 sows and 3.75 million growing juvenile piglets on the premises at any one time - after all somebody cheated a bit with the adult population housed, and nobody counts the piglets, because they're being moved off to slaughter, aren't they?

From a different website, discussing guidelines for manure management, a silo storage tank 120ft diameter and 14ft deep may be adequate to store dung from 240 sows, farrow to finish (note, the dung from the piglets are excluded here). At 39.37 inches per metre, this is a volume of 4483 cubic meters.

Now think about 750 000 sows at the Agrosuper facility. That's 14 million cubic meters of dung every 150 days, and that's only the sows - not the young pigs. That's over 90 000 cubic meters a day. A pile 100 meters in length and width and over 9 metres high - every day.

And in Belarus, they note that "there is no demand" for sale of pig manure between farmers. Not surprising, is it? And runoff from the manure deposits on the surface of the soil, pose a most serious threat to rivers and estuaries - to the tune of 35 million to 40 million cubic metres (per annum, presumably).

So the clever Canadians (in Manitoba) come along and decide that the way to go is to "inject" the waste into the ground, instead to trying to spread it over the surface. I wonder if they've thought how long it may be before this poison infiltrates the aquifer and pollutes the artesian fresh water sources, used for drinking and irrigation? Maybe the author of this bit of nonsense is hoping they'll be on retirement by the time it happens - which means its "somebody else's" problem. Typical human reaction of applying sticking plaster to the symptom instead of resolving the root cause of the problem - which is too much "farming", too many animals, too much flesh consumed daily. Cut down (or cut out now), for the sake of your own health*, as well as that of the planet.

[*Wait till you find out what's in the meat - hormones, antibiotics, steroids - you name it. That's what's fed to the pigs to get them to be leaner and to put on weight faster, as well as trying to stave off the infections caused by a huge degree of overcrowding. And for humans, this means a significant cancer risk, amongst other health problems]

And the Russians? They're building a larger facility than even the Chileans, which will be complete by 2018. Not to mention the Chinese, who have Coking coal and steel producers who are now going into hog production. The Chinese are the largest consumers of pork in the world. Wonder what they do with their manure?

See also the url below which refers specifically to the problem of waste disposal with the enormous numbers of pigs being "farmed" in these massive factory farms.

Ok - the picture above is a mountain (literally) of cow manure, seen smouldering at a feedlot near Milford, Nebraska. The dung is from a different animal - just don't get me started on cows, whose forced factory farming is just as abusive and just as out of control.

Besides - pigs are the most widely eaten flesh worldwide - so the problem is many times the magnitude of cattle.

Did I mention the mass factory farming of chickens, goats, turkeys, and lately - rabbits? Talk about getting into shit. We are.

Something to think about perhaps....

The Superior Human : Who do we think we are?

When was the last time you saw an animal – any animal – with schizophrenia or a bipolar disorder? I'm not talking about an animal which has been driven mad by being incarcerated in a tiny enclosure by man. I'm talking about animals in their natural state. You won't find any – these exquisite little inconveniences are left to humankind.

My thinking on this, is that it may be because animals know what they’re here for. They know their purpose, and hence what they have to busy themselves with each day. They do not have to over-analyze things, jump to conclusions, or torture themselves by trying to remember the lies and deceits they have told in the preceding few days or weeks. They don’t have to try and still their troubled consciences from the wrongs they have inflicted on their fellow animals.

We humans on the other hand, appear far too “clever” (and one might wonder about that word, given the state of the earth and our responsibility for it) for our own good.

Here’s some food for thought – these few lines (and the title to this email) from a publication on April 2, 2012, by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. in Animal Emotions :

"Man in his arrogance thinks of himself a great work, worthy the interposition of a deity. [Yet it is] more humble and, I believe, true to consider him created from animals." (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man)
I and many others have written about the myth of human exceptionalism, noting that while we are indeed rather special and unique big-brained, big-footed, arrogant, over-populating, over-consuming, and invasive mammals, individuals of other species also are special and unique in their own ways. None are as wantonly and intentionally destructive of members of their own and other species.
Based on solid evolutionary theory, namely Charles Darwin's ideas about evolutionary continuity that explain how differences among species are differences in degree rather than kind, claims about human superiority are ill-founded, although they are often used to justify the domination of other animals and their homes. There are no "lower" and "higher" animals and we should stop using this misleading dualistic terminology that promotes anthropocentric specious speciesism.”

This is the YouTube video of a very thought-provoking documentary released this year, featuring Dr Bernard Rollin, Gary Yourofsky Dr Richard Ryder, Dr Steven Best. Narrated by Dr Nick Gylaw..

Dinner to Die For : The plight of processed animals

The inserted video gives a small insight into what activists who infiltrated the Agrosuper pig factory farm facility in Chile found when they got inside. There (reportedly) there are 500 000 pigs, although other ministerial statements when the story broke, lead me to suspect there may in fact be very many more.

The conditions are execrable and the cruelty unimaginable - although this is by no means the worst examples of human behaviour towards their hapless captives, soon to be converted into packaged meat. I will not attempt to describe here some of the things these base dregs of humanity do to the animals, but they are truly revolting and are to be deplored by any normal person capable of displaying feelings of empathy for their suffering and stress.

The story goes that locals in the vicinity of this plant complained for some time about the terrible smell, of which no notice was taken (of course) by government officials. But it was only when they took the law into their own hands and picketed, blocking access in and out of the plant, that the government got involved - then to find a catastrophe in the making. And of course, the plant owners were quick to blame the locals and activists for preventing them "caring for" the pigs, and protest that they were in the process of rectifying some faulty air filtration system components. Apparently some type of biological filtration system is used and it couldn't cope under the volume of pig manure. Hardly surprising (see "Drowning in shit" on this blog site). But nothing the activists can be blamed for - I'm just incredibly grateful that there are folk out there who are getting involved in highlighting the plight of these poor animals and assisting in rescues as far as possible.

And what of the pigs? Well, it's too much like hard work and expense to evacuate them all - apparently it will take around 5000 trucks to move them all (my thinking : probably more, since I think their numbers have been deliberately understated) - and there is no place to accommodate these numbers anywhere else in the country at short notice. Therefore they will all be summarily dispatched and the plant will be closed down.

It seems clear that the relevant Chilean government department agrees that the plant is not in a fit state to be used as a "factory farm" (I'm starting to hate that term), or otherwise they wouldn't have insisted in closing it down, would they? 

By the way, the black things you see being swept up in the video are huge numbers of dead flies.

The tragedy is that this is not the only plant of its type - there are many worldwide, because the American model of factory farming is being extensively copied and replicated as a means of raising production more cost-effectively. And nor is it an isolated example of inhumane treatment of animals. To the contrary, this behaviour seems commonplace and appears to be the norm in the "industry", if one can use such a polite word for what these people do. Try and lay hands on a copy of Tim Pachirat's "Every Twelve Seconds : Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight" for more insight as to what goes on inside a slaughterhouse and the mindset of those who work there. Start here :

And the industry mindset? Anything that speeds up the "processing" and which makes operating cheaper is to be welcomed. It's a mindset of dealing with the symptom instead of addressing the root cause. If a pig is stressed and overcrowded in disgusting conditions, it gets ill, develops sores and chews off the tails and ears of its neighbours. Male pigs become more aggressive as they mature and their meat is less palatable. The "cures" for these problems? Castrate male pigs at 3 days by chopping off the tails with a pair of shears (no anaesthetic), cut off the ears (no anaesthetic), and chop the teeth off (no anaesthetic). Then feed gallons of antibiotics (including enrofloxacin, which is one of the "last resort" antibiotics) to try and keep pathogens at bay, and there are plenty of these in an overstressed host of animals in close proximity to each other. Feed growth hormones to speed growth and reduce the fat content of the meat, so that it fetches higher prices. And turn a blind eye to what goes on on the factory floor, as long as the meat gets processed - after all, it's "only lunch", isn't it - why should we bother if it's stressed before it's dissected, packaged and labelled?

And I am supposed to eat that meat? Excuse me while I roll around, calm my heaving lungs and wipe the tears of mirth out of my eyes. Oh - you were being serious - I am supposed to buy and eat the product?

Get real. And don't get me started on cows. Or chickens. These people are all the same and their methods are just as inhumane.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Sick Trade in Rhino Horn

The poaching problem here in South Africa (and the rest of Africa) makes me incredibly despondent. A recent incident late last year serves to illustrate : A Rhino christened “ABSA” was attacked by poachers in a local reserve, not far from where we live. His horn was removed with a chain saw – right down to the flesh so that no “valuable” horn was lost to the poachers. He took 5 days to die in agony, and the vets and park officials could do little to alleviate his suffering. In the same attack, another 2 rhinos had their horns slashed at with pangas (machetes) – one wasn’t enough – they wanted all of the horn in one evening’s work. Another of these 2 rhinos died as a result.

And this is going on all over the country. Already we are well on the way toward the annual estimate for 2012 that around 600 rhinos will be poached in SA. 245 Dead by 12th June, 251dead by 20 June. That’s 6 poached in 8 days. Way to go, South Africa

Poachers incapacitate rhino with darts, enabling them to work at leisure on the horn. The drugs are reportedly Schedule-7 restricted, which means even a normal vet is unable to procure them. Poachers have infrared night glasses, state of the art comms equipment and helicopters and small planes that they use for spotting and fly-overs during the day, so they can pinpoint the herds for later attack.

This is big business at work, and I have no doubt whatsoever that government officials, state vets and other high level personalities are implicated. I gather from a local friend whose family member is seeking to join Nature Conservation, that bribing game guards is a simple matter. In comparison with salaries, the incentives for poaching are enormous, with rhino horn being worth more per oz. than gold. How may countries do you know which allow their gold bullion to walk around in the bush perched on somebody’s nose? Of course it’s going to get taken unless it’s guarded zealously.

Go and have a look at the following urls , or google “rhino poaching south africa”:

(gives some idea of the numbers – I don’t agree with the sentiment on legalising the trade)

(IMHO – another useless South African cabinet minister)

(note the new “norms and standards for hunting white rhino for trophy purposes”…)

(rightly, opposing controlled trade in rhino horn)

A current State vet involved? A former head of Kruger Park wildlife capture and vet services? Professional hunters involved? Justice deferred is justice denied.

How about this? Ex cop-come-murderer, cohort of “senior park official and police” and poaching kingpin..

This page covers diverse poaching issues, including a recent newsworthy story where Indian game guards are now given the go-ahead to use deadly force on poachers.

Here you will note articles like “Petty hunters, corrupt wildlife officials and Asian traffickers have all been snared in South Africa’s crackdown on rhino poaching”. And on the same page, “Global Network targets SA Rhino (Several animal rights activists have crammed into the Pretoria North Regional Court where two veterinarians and a professional hunter appeared)”.

Look right down this news24 page to get a feel for the magnitude of poaching of a huge number and variety of animals, both African and world-wide. The mind boggles.

You can buy anything – even your freedom – if your ill-gotten gains are lucrative enough, especially in a country where crime appears to be handsomely rewarded.

While our government is sitting on its backside “working on empirical statistical evidence” the poaching continues. By the way – there is no sudden uptick in demand for rhino horn – it’s always been there, but up until the last few years, we’ve had the will to keep poaching under control. 

The Cree Indian proverb comes to mind “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.”

Only then.


  1. Excellent article Mike - I feel your pain. It is very frustrating getting the wheels of Government to work faster to stop this onslaught. However the recent upsurge in arrests and the cracking of a syndicate or two did help bring the poaching down a little. It has already started picking up again unfortunately. We need to put more pressure on Government to step up border control(simply non-existant) and to ensure that any suspects that are arrested do not get bail and when they are sentenced that they receive very harsh sentences. The bottom line is that the Rhinos are in a bush war and need 24/7 protection and they are just not getting that at the moment. It is a hugely expensive operation and even the private rhino owners are under enormous financial strain because of this. Recently I heard a saying - The Rhino issue is not an economic issue - it is a political issue. This is true - without the political will to stop this we will continue to lose not only Rhino but hundreds of other species. We are under siege and we need the Gov to pull out all the stops and defend our wildlife - failing this we will have no tourism, no jobs, no Africa!
  2. Hi Allison

    thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comment. We do indeed need to pressure our government (and the other African govts too) to commit in actions as well as just the words, to protect our wildlife heritage. I'm deeply suspicious of complicity at the highest levels, and these individuals need to be weeded out before we all get much older, if there's to be any long term solution to the problem.

    The financial incentives of course are all on the side of the poachers, and for honest folk to protect their biodiversity takes a sustained effort of will, and cash as you have pointed out.

    Maybe big business needs to also become involved to a greater degree, and get their shareholders to share the vision so the business focus is not just on making money for dividends hand over fist? The banks to a small degree do provide a little support already, with "green affinity" bank savings programs, but I feel that considerably more can be done by all businesses and individuals so that we can continue to provide safe haven to our animals and secure them for future generations.

    I'm reminded by a line from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Karn Evil 9 suite, of an exhibit in a futuristic fairground :

    "There behind the glass, is a real blade of grass
    Be careful as you pass, move along move along"....

    I don't want to be a part of that future!

On Going Vegetarian?

I normally try to ensure there are VERY good reasons for most things I do. And on the subject of eating (which I love) and especially meat which up until now has occupied a very soft spot, close to my heart - one might well ask : "What the hell happened?", when I tell you that maybe - just maybe - I am seriously considering a vegetarian existence from henceforth (eugh - I hear you say?).

And believe me - there has to be a compelling push for me to decide to steer clear of meat.

The answer to "what happened" is that we found out some rather nasty truths about the meat industry - purely by accident of course. But it's the kind of thing that, once you know, you're inclined to do something about it if you value your health.

There are 3 things that bother me now about eating meat :

1. My health.
I gather that up until the present time, the meat industry in America has seen nothing wrong with selling meat to the consumer which is contaminated by pathogens, antibiotics and hormones. In fact it has been perfectly permissible to sell meat contaminated by "The Big 6"  toxin producing e-coli strains O26, O111, O103, O121, O45 and O145. These sicken or kill twice as many victims as e-coli O157 (up to now, at least...). Food safety and consumer watchdogs have for years fought to ban the sale of these contaminants in raw meat, in vain. All their efforts have been countered by meat industry lobbying. And in the 1990's a ban was put on the sale of meat contaminated by e-coli O157  - which the meat industry opposed.

Excuse me - am I hearing right? The meat industry cares so little for its clients that it is prepared to sicken and /or kill them to be allowed to continue selling their contaminated products? They are so lacking in integrity that they oppose a ban on selling contaminated meat? Whose body are we talking about here?
Click : Meat Industry Opposes Ban

I wonder if the captains of the meat industry in America eat their own products?

Here's a description of a little girl of three, who died from O157 poisoning :

“The pain during the first 80 hours was horrific, with intense abdominal cramping every 10 to 12 minutes. Her intestines swelled to three times their normal size and she was placed on a ventilator. Emergency surgery became essential and her colon was removed. After further surgery, doctors decided to leave the incision open, from sternum to pubis, to allow Brianna’s swollen organs room to expand and prevent them from ripping her skin. Her heart was so swollen it was like a sponge and bled from every pore. Her liver and pancreas shut down and she was gripped by thousands of convulsions, which caused blood clots in her eyes. We were told she was brain dead.”
Up until a week ago, the meat industry continued to fight against being barred from selling meat contaminated by the other "Big 6" pathogens though. I'm delighted to report that they lost, and henceforth a ban will be in place - at least until they appeal and the ban is rescinded....

2. Animal Cruelty
I'm not talking here about Maggie the cow who ambles round her pasture and lives an idyllic life, before one day being shot in the head and dying instantly. I'm talking about cows, pigs and sheep being hit over the head with steel bars and beaten to death for fun. I'm talking about them being hooked onto the overhead hook on the conveyer and skinned alive, or being dissected while alive. I'm talking about them being beaten off the backs of trucks into corralled chutes en-route to their destruction. They're not stupid - they know what's happening to them. I'm talking about visitors to these "factories" having to put on special clothing to enable them to wade through rivers of blood. I'm talking about cows being jabbed in the udders with pitchforks for fun.

And it's always "a few isolated instances", where the employees are at fault. Not the management who pay no attention to what's going on - or worse still - condone it. You beat the animal - how else will you get it to its feet? Lift it yourself? It's not management's fault for hiring the dregs of humanity to come and do a soul-destroying job (if anyone who is capable of working in such a place could be described as having "a soul" - or feelings at least). It's not the employees fault that the bins of excrement are emptied "every fall" - we're talking once a year here folks. They are doing what they're told to do. A local cattle farm outside Durbanville in the Western Cape calls their cattle "Fairview Free-Range" (and after inspection are found not to be free-range at all - apparently "Fairview Free-Range" is a trademarked label they have created for themselves and should not be misconstrued to be actually Free-Range). I call it "deliberately misleading advertising". Anyway - they see it as good for cattle to be standing around in their faeces - it keeps them warm in the winter.

Not-so-free Range  (check the label in the picture "basking in the sun...lazing in the shade" - have we entered Alice in Wonderland La-La land?)

Lets go back to point 1 above : the source of all e-coli infection is (can I have a chorus here : all together ): FAECES!!!! Yep - feacal -oral contamination.  (see one of the pics in the above link) Gee I wonder how that animal feed got contaminated? May have something to do with the fact that all these animals are standing around in shit, then browsing the food that is dropping to the ground.

Gee - it's a mystery how other vegetables can pick up an e-coli strain. Might it have something to do with the fact that tons of the faeces and filth are dumped on the land/ diluted and sprayed onto crops, and /or now buried in pits, thereby contaminating ground water sources? Am I getting warm? Or is this all "activist propaganda"?

Do I want to eat the meat of animals which have been treated in this way?

But I hear you say "how can you get so emotional about dinner"? It's a food source - that's all it is. Yes - and once upon a time it was an animal, with feelings like myself. And what goes on in "factory farms" and abattoirs is carefully concealed from the public for precisely the reason that if any of this stuff gets widely known, it might cause a backlash against the meat industry - and they're petrified of that.

Did I forget to mention the millions of chickens who are kept crammed up in misery until they are big enough, before being turned upside down, and have their feet put through metal grooved bars, carrying them along in fine style before being dunked head first into boiling water to remove their feathers? Up to that point they are all still alive. After this point, horrifyingly many of them are still alive - at least until they are dissected. Or the pigs who are the product of AI (artificial insemination) so that they are all genetically almost identical. It's very important that they are all the same size, so that the cutting blades strike them all in the same places - you can't have a leg being severed in the wrong place, can we? It's bad for business - loses product value.

3. Support for the Mega- Industry
OK - so this particular industry condones filthy conditions, (unsuccessfully) tries to counter illness with antibiotics, administers growth hormones and antibiotics to reduce body fat content in pigs *1, sees nothing wrong with selling contaminants to customers, and enjoys huge support and growth worldwide. It runs hand in glove with Big Pharmaceuticals and presumes to dictate to the public what is and is not good for them. It employs doctors, vets, scientists*2, managers, and a host of low-level labour who learned their sensibilities in the gutter. It employs spin doctors to put a humane and caring face on the industry, and it donates to many humanitarian causes to provide it with sound social credentials.

*1 , also Bromocriptine & Weight loss  (see section on side effects, and the effect on the immune system).  And Dispute over Ractopamine

Did you know the highest consumer of Pork annually is China? Did you know that this years Chinese Olympic team have decided not to eat pork before the games? I wonder why? Might it contaminate their urine test?

*2 It's far easier these days being a research scientist if you're employed by a large conglomerate who doesn't quibble about giving you sufficient funding for your research. In exchange, you are free to publish "scientific results" which show your employer in a good light. In circumstances where there is controversy over findings and method, I'd be more inclined to adopt results of science which has no vested interest in the outcome. In other words "independent". No conflict of interest.

The mega-meat manufacture clearly doesn't give a tinker's cuss about humanity, so there's no surprise that it's unimpressed with the plight of the animals it "processes". Today's beating victim is tomorrow's Steer Burger and french fries order - what's the fuss if it gets a "prod and a poke" before it shuffles off this mortal coil?  I won't tell you how McNuggets come into being... 

And Hey! We're in South Africa - that's America and Canada - and China, and Australia, Russia and the EU. 

Hello! We import meat, don't we? Oh yes we do. And the local food industry is far too opaque for my liking - disclosure does not appear to be a strong point in South Africa. "Yes really - we care for our animals. Really!" Yeah yeah. And I am expected to take your word for that? 

Do I want to continue to pay money to perpetuate the status quo, support these meat and pharma producers and potentially endanger our family's lives? The answer is clearly a no-brainer - but I will need to be careful to find out what's been sprayed on the fields before the veg has been harvested. 

By the way - how many upmarket gourmet chefs do you know who are prepared to overcook steak (as it would need to be cooked if we are to believe the meat producers' denial "as long as it's cooked properly...")?

Have a look at Earthlings - powerful, informative and award-winning. For anyone who cares. And if that doesn't impress you, you can find the deleted scenes on YouTube. It's truth - and truth is absolute. Pull your head out from under a rock and be brave - I dare you.

Would I deem it appropriate to dictate to anyone else though? Of course not. What the reader does with this information is not my concern - I have no responsibility for anyone else's health, conscience or anything else. Be my guest. Bon appetit.