A bit of inspiration

Some things can’t ever be fixed or changed, but some can be made better or at least less bad, and even in cases when most people think it is not possible, like in this video below.

You can see the utterly amazed look in the animal’s eyes, before the vets put the cone on, with the gently wagging tail on the background. The “holy shit, I can’t believe it, they solved this for me?” realization. Also with the cone on. Suddenly, in the dog’s mind, she has a life again, a future. And she forgets all about the past…

What narcissistic personality disorders may be like

Like the wrong audio cables are plugged in, and you can’t change them. Creates a lot of noise!

The past ten years have taught me a lot about personality disorders. I still know very little.

Differences in the hard-wiring of the human brain can result in personality disorders, but paradoxically, people with personality disorders are often blamed for them.

While watching a lot of videos on YouTube and thinking about diversity, I am starting to wonder if the line between humans and other species may be even thinner than I already thought.

What do I mean by that? Consider the following, for example.

Francine “Penny” Patterson developed a deep friendship with a gorilla named Koko in the course of decades. It was never the plan. The plan had been a four-year research project for her PhD.

The year was 1972. Gorillas were considered dangerous and wild and Patterson initially was considered crazy by many.

When younger gorilla Michael was added to the household, he ran over to Ronald Cohn, hugged him and then “sank his teeth into” Cohn’s shoulder.

Humans are not supposed to do that, but some sort of do anyway, in their own way.

I have been the subject of a little-understood phenomenon for over ten years. In the eyes of who’s behind it (apparently involving at least one person with a narcissistic personality disorder), I am probably like an animal they keep in a cage in order to find out how it ticks, the way some university researchers keep pigs in their lab to study stress responses in pigs. They try to push my buttons as much as possible.

It’s complicated.

Penny Patterson and Ronald Cohn kept Koko in captivity, and that was accepted. If two gorillas had kept Penny or Ronald in captivity, the response would have been very different.

If you watch this video, you should also take a look at this:

What we can learn

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Quaker parrots do this too. They build humongous condos with separate areas for different activities and offer shelter to other species. Humans have a hard time doing this for their own species – yet consider themselves “superior”…

The one that got away

I just ran into an injured wood pigeon (Columba palumbus, also known as “culver” in southeast England, apparently). I suspect that it had been in some kind of altercation as a nearby magpie and crow were upset, though I didn’t see a cat in the area. Maybe it had been in a collision with a car. Or hey, the crow? Crows do occasionally attack pigeons, and also magpies. The magpie was chattering quite loudly so had presumably witnessed something that worried it (which is why I first looked for a cat).

The pigeon had an injured foot (no visible bleeding), so I decided to grab it and take it home so it could get some rest and heal.

But as I am currently in terrible shape, I wasn’t quick and agile enough, though I almost got it. (I did actually touch it, when I tried to towel it.) It flew off then, clearly knowing where it wanted to go to, which was a reassuring change from its behaviour when I spotted it, so I am hoping that it had been in shock, that I helped it snap out of it and that the injury is not too bad and able to heal.

(Also, I  had forgotten that I was wearing a long RED silk scarf at the time. This can alarm birds as they recognize it as the colour of blood, I have learned. With pet birds, you can teach them that not all blood red is actually blood for example by taking a red marker and scribbling on your hands. It may depend on the bird species, obviously.)

I will keep an eye out for the poor thing. Around here, wood pigeons are quite shy. I was amazed to see them scurry around seated people’s feet in Amsterdam a few months ago.

Yes, birds can be in shock.

In Tierra Verde in Florida, I once found a bird sitting in the middle of the road, stunned. I scooped it up and put it in my bike basket, and it stayed there for the duration of my remaining bike ride. Ten minutes or so. But when it was time to examine the bird, it flew off before we got the chance, leaving a few healthy-looking droppings behind.

And Lee Fox, who founded and ran the wild-bird hospital at which I was volunteering at the time, once stopped a guy from killing a pelican, just in time. He’d hit the bird with his car and wanted to put it out of its misery, not realizing that the bird was probably mainly stunned. Lee Fox happened to be passing in her car, stopped and rescued the bird.

Fingers crossed.

 

Need your faith in humans restored?

This will help a lot.

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(Police later showed up to scoop them up and take them to safety, in case you notice that they’re still stuck after having traversed all these lanes.)

Very severe animal cruelty at Mahard Egg Farms in the US

Last evening, I saw a video and photos that I found shocking. It concerns severe animal cruelty that occurs near Sulphur in Oklahoma. The farm is part of Mahard Egg Farms who appear to be headquartered in Texas. I searched LinkedIn and found nine accounts associated with the company, including that of its CFO, Kaitlin Mahard.

I believe that severe animal cruelty can be considered “violent crimes” which would mean that LinkedIn should remove the accounts associated with Mahard Egg Farms. The LinkedIn Professional Community Policies state that “those who engage in violent crimes are not welcome and not permitted on the Services”.

In 2011, Mahard Egg Farm, Inc., indeed a Texas corporation, was told to pay a $1.9 million penalty to settle claims that the company violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its egg production facilities in Texas and Oklahoma, according to the EPA:
https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/mahard-egg-farm-inc-clean-water-act-settlement

The latter apparently resulted in this:
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2013-09/documents/mahardegg-cd.pdf

That document includes the following:

C. MORTALITY MANAGEMENT
18. Defendant shall comply with the Mortality Management Requirements in Appendix D at the Vernon-Chillicothe Facility, the Springhill Facility, the Prosper Facility, the Boogie Hill Facility, the Nebo Ranch, and the Ravia Facility, unless such facility is not growing poultry.

Appendix D stated:

APPENDIX D:
MORTALITY MANAGEMENT

I. Texas
65.
No later than the Effective Date of this Decree, Mahard shall cease any transfer of
carcasses between Facilities unless a composting plan is in place that is consistent with 30 T.A.C. 332, Subchapter B, and has been approved by EPA and TCEQ.

66.
Mahard shall ensure that all carcass disposal at the Vernon-Chillicothe, Prosper, and
Springhill Facilities is conducted in accordance with TCEQ Regulatory Guidance, RG-326, Handling and Disposal of Carcasses from Poultry Operations (August 2009) and in accordance with 30 T.A.C. § 335.25. Mahard shall collect all carcasses within 24 hours of death and properly disposed of them within three (3) Days of death. Animals must not be disposed of in any liquid manure or process wastewater system. Disposal of diseased animals shall be conducted in accordance with Tex. Agric. Code § 161.004.

II. Oklahoma
67.
Mahard shall comply with the terms and conditions in Mahard’s 4/29/09 Carcass Disposal Plan, as amended and supplemented by the letter from ODAFF, dated May 7, 2009, to Mahard (both attached here as the Appendix D Supplement).

The Kroger chain has meanwhile dropped Mahard’s eggs and I’ve reached out on LinkedIn to it spokeswoman Kristal Howard to thank Kroger and ask her to ensure that Kroger will never be associated with such severe animal cruelty again.

Kroger’s 2018 Sustainability Report includes an animal welfare policy, which states:

“Kroger has a long-standing commitment to responsible business practices, including the humane treatment of animals,” Kroger says in its policy. “We require our suppliers to adopt industry-accepted animal welfare standards that we endorse, and we monitor our suppliers for compliance with these standards. We align with the Food Marketing Institute’s industry-adopted and industry-aligned animal welfare standards for the following animal proteins: beef, pork, chicken, turkey and eggs. For nearly a decade, Kroger has convened our own independent panel of animal science experts to make recommendations on how we can work with the industry to improve animal welfare.”

I’ve also contacted the EPA.

Can you stop watching this?

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Humans and other animals

I used to be quite fond of people in general, but I no longer like humans as much as I used to.

Humans have been on the planet only a short while, but no other species has managed to wreak even a fraction of the destruction that humans already have.

Humans also hunt and incarcerate each other, and sometimes kill each other, for no good reason. (Guantánamo, anyone? Migrant detention centres, anyone? 9/11 anyone? )

Humans approve of it when other humans want to build unhealthy concrete, plastic, steel and brick homes yet tend to object when other humans want to build homes made from branches and wood, or earth, or straw bales and adobe, or live in a hole excavated in the ground where they keep their books and the other kind of stuff that we all tend to have.

More and more humans, it looks like, gather and gather and gather, and steal, and build up reserves that would last them many lifetimes. It has a name, I believe. Consumerism.

So-called progress that happens for no more than the sake of the drive for bigger bigger bigger more more more has become the norm. (Third Heathrow runway, anyone?)

Sales for the sake of sales instead of the sake of contributing something worthwhile to the lives of others is still a major driver for many, as is the accumulation of monetary value, often to make up for feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

“It’s amazing! I have X euros/dollars/pounds’ worth of merchandise in my shop right now!”

Even a so-called stupid bird brain of a quaker parrot knows that in times of plenty, all that matters is that you have food in your hands – not how much someone else has – and that you should start building up a little stack of reserves for yourself when you notice that food is scarce.

This spunky creature, a quaker parrot called Sioux, was part of my household for 21 years  Her life and death have changed my life forever. She was still a youngster when she was brought to a wild-bird hospital in Florida where I was volunteering at the time. It was against the law to release her, and she was unable to fly, so she needed a home. I adopted her along with quaker parrot Mohawk. As I had noticed that these birds are never on their own in the wild, I wanted to adopt at least two of them, for increased well-being, and housed them together. Myiopsitta monachus.

Quaker parrots don’t round up other birds and their youngsters and put them in cages. They protect them, stand up for them (they stand up even for cats). In the wild, they share their amazing self-built homes that have separate spaces for various activities with other species, sometimes even predators. (Yet they are also highly territorial, protective of their homes.)

But many humans see them as “threats” and spread vile myths about them, mainly because their natural habitat was once limited to South-America.

Probably also because at some level, we humans feel threatened (challenged, made uncomfortable) by the intelligence and strong lively personalities of these birds. They can be highly opinionated.

Something similar goes for our city pigeons.

Birds have been on the planet so incredibly much longer than humans. They are highly aware of their own vulnerability (with to some degree the exception of birds of prey), so much that they will always try to hide it as well as they can. They don’t go around destroying their own habitat, and they tend to live quite peacefully with other species.

Humans are only one species. Homo sapiens.

We humans haven’t really learned a thing yet, have we?

These two embedded tweets below are supposed to show one image and one video.

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You thought animals we eat have no feelings?

Boiling water hurts them too.

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Time for a rethink?

There is no such thing as a dumb animal. Okay, with the possible exception of that one bee who currently keeps flying into my kitchen, again and again and again. But he always finds his way out again. Hm. Then maybe even this bee isn’t really that dumb… I haven’t figured out yet what smell on my windowsill could be attracting him. Or her.

We need to reconsider our view of other species, urgently.

Read this story: https://www.thedodo.com/on-the-farm/starving-pig-shared-food-with-his-friends

Two pigs were rescued, one had piglets and was well and the other one was very thin. Rescuers were puzzled. Turned out that the latter had been giving most of the food he had to the other pig. To help the other pig survive.

We need to reconsider our views regarding other species, urgently.

Personally, I have seen small parrots stand up for cats.

How on earth did we “developed” humans manage to think for so long that other species have no cognitive abilities? No capacity for emotions? Mind-boggling. The more developed we become, the less wisdom we humans seem to have?

Traditional scientists have to stop being so damn pig-headed about this. To see the obvious does not make you stupid, silly or dimwitted.

Brachycephalic dogs

These are essentially fashion accessories. That the dogs are live animals who are bred to look cute and that this means that they have trouble breathing does not matter to anyone who sees a dog as a fashion accessory – or a faithful adoring admirer – but it should.

There are other side effects, such as frequent skin infections.

https://www.bva.co.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/policy/companion-animals/brachycephalic-dogs/

“We need to talk about this” – updated version

I am wrapping up the much improved version of “We need to talk about this“. There is now a chapter on euthanasia, for instance, with a discussion of the Groningen Protocol.

I didn’t write this book to convince you that my views are the right ones, even though I hope you will agree with many of them. I wrote this book to encourage as many people as possible to develop their own opinions in these areas, to go beyond impassioned exclamations like “this is so wrong” or “this is very good” and to make their opinions known to their governments and  academics, and to discuss these issues with their friends, relatives and colleagues. Continue reading

Are dogs trying to tell us something with their expressions?

 

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Jan Hoole, Keele University

Dogs have been part of human social groups for at least 30,000 years. So it’s not unreasonable to suppose that we might have had some influence on their behaviour, and perhaps their understanding, during that time. We certainly know that dogs have developed ways to communicate with us, for example by whining when they are distressed or barking to alert us to intruders.

Many dog owners would probably say their pets can even tell us things using facial expressions, just like humans do. But is that really true? Perhaps they are just showing emotion without meaning to communicate (just like humans also sometimes do). New research published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests it might be, but there are still reasons to be sceptical.

In a rather elegant experiment, the researchers set up four scenarios. They offered a dog food (a guaranteed way to get their interest) while the human handler was facing towards and also away from the dog. They also had the handler face towards and away from the dog without offering food. They found that the animals showed facial expressions more often when the handler was facing towards them than away, regardless of whether or not food was involved.

Until now, there has been little work on whether or not facial expressions in dogs are involuntary. You might be able to see when a dog’s happy, angry or sad from their face, but that doesn’t mean they are purposefully trying to tell you how they felt.

The new paper suggests that the expressions may be a means of communicating something to the person. It is certain that the expression is more frequently displayed when the human is facing towards the dog, even though the handler did not look directly at the dog during the trial, and that humans respond to that expression.

If I make this face, will you stop shouting?
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That dogs are able to understand when a person is paying attention to their behaviour is well documented. We also know that dogs show different facial expressions when in the presence of humans, especially in the case of that “guilty” look that every dog owner knows. That particular expression doesn’t actually mean they are feeling guilty. It’s more an attempt to appease the owner who is angry for some, to the dog, unknown reason.

But there are some questions about the particular facial expressions the dogs made in the new study that mean the evidence isn’t conclusive. For example, one of the expressions the authors noticed was the raising of the inner end of the eyebrows. This increases the size of the eyes and makes the dog look more puppy-like.

Studies have shown that humans prefer animals that look like infants. This explains the popularity of breeds with short noses and large eyes, such as boxers and pugs. Dogs that raise their eyebrows more frequently seem to be more popular with people than those that don’t. This could have led to the breeding of dogs that are more likely to show these more attractive expressions alongside those that have childlike anatomical features.

Tongue wagging

Another important indicator that the authors noted was when the dogs showed their tongues. Unfortunately, the researchers didn’t separate tongue movements that indicate stress, such as licking the nose or lips, which can be an appeasing signal, from those that indicate pleasure, anticipation or excitement, such as panting or hanging the tongue out of the mouth. Without this distinction it is difficult to draw conclusions about the emotional state of the dogs.

Previous research also suggests that dogs are aware of when a human is paying attention to them and may change their behaviour accordingly. It is possible that these dogs, aware that the human is facing them felt a level of anticipation, excitement and possibly some anxiety which affected their facial expression. The fact that the food produced no extra interest when the person was turned towards the dog or away from them, could be influenced by the fact that the dog was not actually given the food.

The authors suggest that the dog’s facial expressions may be partly a result of their emotional state and partly an attempt to actively communicate with the handler. Without any evidence about the effect of the expression on the behaviour of the handler, it is difficult to say if that is true.

The ConversationIf further research could make distinctions between the type of tongue movements involved in these expressions, as well as the raising of the eyebrows, we might be able to say with more certainty. But whatever the outcome, many dog owners will probably continue to swear their pets are trying to tell them something.

Jan Hoole, Lecturer in Biology, Keele University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How to behave at a zoo – according to science


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What are you staring at?
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Samantha Ward, Nottingham Trent University

With October half-term approaching, millions around the world will head to their local zoo to indulge in the Halloween activities and get a little fresh autumnal air in the presence of some extraordinary animals. At this time of year, the animals are still wonderfully active and there’s plenty to see and do. But there are certain things you should be doing as a visitor to ensure that the animals are able to act as naturally as possible within their environments.

With advances in zoo enclosure design, there are now more opportunities for you to get up close and personal with the more exciting animals, with walk-through exhibits and animal feeding sessions. In zoos, animal welfare research is carried out frequently to ensure the animals’ lives in captivity are at their best – and we now understand the impacts that human-animal interactions have on the animals housed in them.

Research has shown that zoo animals are able to tell the difference between unfamiliar (visitors) and familiar (keepers) people and that, in some cases, visitors can have a negative impact on them. For example, increased visitor numbers have been associated with increased levels of aggression in mandrills, mangabeys, and cotton-top tamarins (monkeys), more time spent alert towards visitors in sika deer, gorillas and Soemmerring’s gazelle, less time visible to the public in jaguars, orang-utans and siamangs, and increased stress hormones (glucocorticoid concentrations) in spider monkeys, blackbuck and Mexican wolves. This can be managed by responsible zoos, but everyone must play their part.

Research has also shown us that keeper-animal interactions have a positive impact on the animals’ behaviour. This should always be kept in mind.

Don’t crowd them out.
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The following tips will help ensure that you don’t disturb the animals and have a negative impact on their behaviour.

What you need to know

There is growing evidence to show that excessive noise levels cause stress in animals and so when you are around the animals in their enclosures, try to be as quiet as possible.

Many animals, including great apes, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, are also extremely receptive to eye contact as it is a form of communication between individuals within the social group. This may make them sit with their backs turned – and can make them less likely to engage with you. Try not to stare at the animals if they are facing you – and avoid shouting or banging the glass to get their attention. Respect the animal’s privacy and space.

Primates may see eye contact as a threat.
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Animals in the wild are always more cautious when they have young. In zoos, baby animals are very popular, which encourages more visitors and heightened reactions from the crowds. Currently, there is no research investigating the impacts of visitors on the mother-infant relationship but it is crucial to respect the animals even more just in case there are negative implications.

The animals are likely used to their enclosure and the continuous stream of visitors surrounding it, so they might not notice you as an individual. But this does not mean that you should try to encourage them to do so by throwing food or other objects into the enclosure that have not been provided by the zoo keepers. These can cause the animals serious dietary problems. Zoo animals are on a carefully measured and specific diet and other food can be detrimental to their health and welfare.

Safety first

Health and safety in zoos is paramount. The barriers and windows are there for both your and the animals’ protection. Zoos now use a variety of designs so that you can view the animals clearly and take good photos – but if you cannot, never scale the barriers or reach out to the animals and avoid placing children on or over fences. There are a surprisingly high number of injuries, and worse, due to this each year – zoo animals are never tame and should never be treated as such.

Good zoos create educational and engaging signage to educate you during your visit. The signs may be for health and safety reasons or to enable you to learn about the animals in front of you, their wild environment and their conservation status. Signage may also be there to tell you about particular animals who may be shy or nervous or to inform you of research being undertaken. Please pay attention to the signage – it will help ensure that you get the most out of your visit.

Keep your snacks to yourself.
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The ConversationStick to these rules and you can be sure that your trip to the zoo will be beneficial to the animals, you and your family. Zoo animals are mostly now all captive bred and so are used to being housed in their enclosures and being provided for by their keepers. It is your job as a visitor to respect this, the animals and their homes to ensure that your own behaviour does not negatively affect the animals living there on your visit.

Samantha Ward, Lecturer Zoo Animal Biology, Nottingham Trent University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.