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 71 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'Time was running out': Honduran activist's last days marked by threats

Berta Cáceres, the environmental advocate shot dead in her home in March, told friends of a hitman boasting about his plans as she ‘worked frantically’

Nina Lakhani in La Esperanza
AFP
Monday 25 April 2016 09.08 BST

In her final days, Berta Cáceres was bombarded with texts and calls warning her to give up the fight against the Agua Zarca dam, or else.

The Honduran indigenous leader told trusted friends and colleagues that some of the death threats were from a suspected sicario – or hitman – who was terrorizing community members near the dam and openly boasting of his intention to kill her.

Cáceres started making arrangements to move from her isolated bungalow on the outskirts of the city of La Esperanza to a bustling lodging house run by her organisation, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), where she wouldn’t be alone.

The day before she was murdered, Cáceres took her youngest daughter to the airport. As they hugged goodbye, she whispered a final piece of advice. “She told me: ‘If something happens to me, don’t be scared,’” Laura Cáceres, 23, told the Guardian.

Around lunchtime the following day, Cáceres stopped to sign some cheques at COPINH’s women’s centre, where she told Lilian Esperanza, a longtime friend and the group’s financial coordinator, to plan for her not being around. “She wanted to change the rules so someone else could sign checks. She was worried about being murdered or imprisoned,” said Esperanza. “‘I keep reporting the threats, but no one pays attention,’ she told me.”

Less than 12 hours later, Cáceres was shot dead in her home. Her friend Gustavo Castro, coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mexico, was injured in the attack but survived by playing dead.

Despite the evidence that she had been targeted because of her campaign against the dam, police treated three of her closest colleagues – Castro and two members of COPINH – as the prime suspects.

“My daughter was systematically persecuted for years, but still, I didn’t believe they would actually kill her,” said Berta Flores, 83, sitting next to the candlelit altar adorned with fresh flowers and photographs.

“She worked frantically in the days before she was killed. It’s as if she knew time was running out.”

Cáceres was buried on 4 March on what would have been her 45th birthday.

The murder of the celebrated activist shocked the world, despite Honduras’ inglorious ranking as the deadliest country for environmental campaigners.

Cáceres, who last year won the Goldman environmental prize for her work, had reported 33 death threats linked to the campaign. Just days before her death, she accused the Honduran company behind the dam, Desarrollos Energéticos SA (Desa), of using local thugs to terrorize her and COPINH as they tried to mobilize opposition to its revised plan to dam their sacred river, the Gualcarque.

The Honduran state was complicit in this intimidation, she alleged.

Since her murder, the violence and threats against COPINH members have continued. Earlier this month, several were injured after a peaceful march including international observers was attacked by people armed with rocks and machetes. Witnesses said that the aggressors chanted “we killed the fly, only the plebs are left” as police and army officers looked on.

Among the attackers was the alleged hitman Cáceres had warned her colleagues of.

Despite international pressure on Honduras to capture the assassins – and the people who sent them – fears are mounting that COPINH members could be framed in an attempt to crush opposition to the dam and deter other communities from derailing similar projects.

“Blaming people close to Berta is part of the crime,” said Víctor Fernández, COPINH’s lawyer. “Leaders are murdered to terrorize communities, contaminate organisations and squash resistance movements. This is the pattern.”

The current wave of repression against social and political activists in Honduras has its roots in the 2009 military-backed coup d’état. The rightwing government that replaced President Manuel Zelaya licensed hundreds of environmentally destructive mega-projects, including mines, hydroelectric dams and model cities, ignoring its obligation to seek consent from indigenous communities.

As protests mounted, violence spread: between 2010 and 2015, 109 environmental activists were murdered, reported Global Witness.

Meanwhile, concessions were granted for 50 projects, mostly dams, on Lenca territory.

The Gualcarque river is considered sacred by Cáceres’s Lenca people; it also provides them food and drinking water. Although relatively small, the proposed dam would desiccate the river and render life impossible for the Rio Blanco community.

Cáceres filed complaints, lodged appeals and organised protests in an attempt to force a proper consultation, but the project forged ahead.

In April 2013, Cáceres orchestrated a community roadblock preventing Desa from accessing the dam site. The threats against her and other community leaders started immediately.

They were followed; shot at; harassed by police, soldiers and Desa’s private security officers; and threatened with kidnap and death, according to a detailed log kept by international observers. Cáceres and her close colleagues Tomas Gómez and Aureliano Molina were forced into hiding for months until false charges of usurpation, coercion and criminal damage were dismissed.

For about two years, construction stalled. Then, late last summer, community members noticed construction was under way on the other side of the river, which is not Lenca territory. Desa had started work on a revised Agua Zarca project which would redirect the river before it reached the Rio Blanco community.

In October 2015, the community set up camp on the river bank. Over the coming weeks, they were attacked with boulders and rocks by civilians flanked by armed private security and police officers.

Around this time, the suspected hitman – who was often seen with Desa security guards – starting bragging that he would murder Caceres and other COPINH leaders, multiple sources have told the Guardian.

The man was arrested in December for illegal possession of weapons, but freed the following day after the charge was downgraded, according to Fernández, COPINH’s lawyer. In 2015, the man was accused of murder until a key witness changed his testimony.

Justino Paz, 64, lived in the same community – upstream from Rio Blanco - where Desa has won support by promising jobs, electricity, and a school. He said that the same man had threatened him.

“I opposed the dam because the river gives us life. He put a pistol to my head and told me to leave or die, and then burned down my house. I lost everything,” said Paz.

A Desa spokesman denied any links with the suspect, saying: “He is not our employee and has no relationship with us.”

Two further incidents spooked Cáceres.

On 30 November 2015, she was threatened in public by local politicians and people armed with stones, machetes and handguns. The police refused to intervene.

Then, on 20 February 2016, a COPINH group was blocked en route to the river and their vehicles vandalized. Several witnesses said they had heard Cáceres threatened by Desa employees and a local politician. Cáceres reported the incident to authorities.

Cáceres was no stranger to threats, but she was now afraid. “She wouldn’t let me stay alone, and she didn’t want to be alone,” said her daughter Laura.

On 2 March, the day she was murdered, Cáceres and Castro, the Mexican activist, arrived home around 7.30pm. The bright green bungalow where she’d moved two months earlier is in a secluded gated community on the southern edge of town along an unpaved, unlit road. Each of the 30 or so houses is enclosed by a wire fence; the dusty complex is flanked by pine-covered mountains.

Cáceres’s house is approximately 150 metres from the guarded entrance where two assassins entered around 11.30pm. Cáceres was shot four times and died almost instantly.

The first person on the scene was COPINH member Tomás Gómez, who arrived at around 2am and drove Castro to safety. Chaos ensued as investigators, COPINH members, and Cáceres’ family arrived on the scene.

Auriliano Molina, with whom Cáceres had had a romantic relationship which ended last summer, arrived around 4.30am, after driving 40 miles from his home.

Over the following days, Castro, Gómez and Molina were questioned for hours.

“Berta was murdered and they’re trying to criminalize me and Auriliano – the same three they tried to jail in 2013. They want COPINH to disappear,” Gómez said.

Cáceres had many enemies. She had campaigned against destructive projects across the country and had been accused of obstructing development by irked politicians. But the principal source of threats against her life was linked to Agua Zarca. Yet the police pushed other theories.

The first hypothesis mooted by police was robbery. The second was a crime of passion, with Castro and Molina suggested as possible culprits. The third was an internal conflict within COPINH.

Castro – the only witness to the murder – was prevented from leaving Honduras for a month. Molina remains a prime suspect, according to a source close to the investigation not authorized to comment officially. The Honduran public ministry did not respond several requests for comment.

It was 11 days before investigators went to Desa’s offices. Fernández says he told authorities about the alleged sicario the day after the murder.

A Desa spokesman said none of its employees or contractors had ever threatened Caceres or anyone from COPINH, but they could not be held responsible for third parties. The company provides only food for local people who support the dam and protest against COPINH, the spokesman added.

The clamour surrounding the official investigation continues to grow amid concerns the authorities are neither willing to solve nor capable of solving a crime so emblematic of the country’s rampant repression and impunity.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has offered to send a team of independent experts to investigate the murders of Cáceres and other high-profile activists. The government has declined.

Cáceres was threatened so often, for so long, that she almost grew used to it, according to her daughter. But the threats were real.

“She won the Goldman prize, she met the pope, I thought recognition would protect her,” said Laura Cáceres. “Whoever was behind her murder wanted to send a message that no one is safe, that they can kill anyone. We can’t accept impunity.”

 72 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:19 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
World heading for catastrophe over natural disasters, risk expert warns

With cascading crises – where one event triggers another – set to rise, international disaster risk reduction efforts are woefully underfunded

AFP
Sunday 24 April 2016 17.02 BST

The world’s failure to prepare for natural disasters will have “inconceivably bad” consequences as climate change fuels a huge increase in catastrophic droughts and floods and the humanitarian crises that follow, the UN’s head of disaster planning has warned.

Last year, earthquakes, floods, heatwaves and landslides left 22,773 people dead, affected 98.6 million others and caused $66.5bn (£47bn) of economic damage (pdf). Yet the international community spends less than half of one per cent of the global aid budget on mitigating the risks posed by such hazards.

Robert Glasser, the special representative of the secretary general for disaster risk reduction, said that with the world already “falling short” in its response to humanitarian emergencies, things would only get worse as climate change adds to the pressure.

He said: “If you see that we’re already spending huge amounts of money and are unable to meet the humanitarian need – and then you overlay that with not just population growth … [but] you put climate change on top of that, where we’re seeing an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, and the knock-on effects with respect to food security and conflict and new viruses like the Zika virus or whatever – you realise that the only way we’re going to be able to deal with these trends is by getting out ahead of them and focusing on reducing disaster risk.”

Failure to plan properly by factoring in the effects of climate change, he added, would result in a steep rise in the vulnerability of those people already most exposed to natural hazards. He also predicted a rise in the number of simultaneous disasters.

“As the odds of any one event go up, the odds of two happening at the same time are more likely. We’ll see many more examples of cascading crises, where one event triggers another event, which triggers another event.”

Where is the riskiest place to live?

Glasser pointed to Syria, where years of protracted drought led to a massive migration of people from rural areas to cities in the run-up to the country’s civil war. While he stressed that the drought was by no means the only driver of the conflict, he said droughts around the world could have similarly destabilising effects – especially when it came to conflicts in Africa.

“It’s inconceivably bad, actually, if we don’t get a handle on it, and there’s a huge sense of urgency to get this right,” he said. “I think country leaders will become more receptive to this agenda simply because the disasters are going to make that obvious. The real question in my mind is: can we act before that’s obvious and before the costs have gone up so tremendously? And that’s the challenge.”

But Glasser, speaking ahead of next month’s inaugural world humanitarian summit in Istanbul, said international disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts remain woefully underfunded.

According to UN figures, in 2014 just 0.4% of the global aid budget of $135.2bn – roughly $540m – was spent on DRR. Glasser said the UN wanted that proportion to rise to at least 1% and would push for an increase at the Istanbul meeting.

“That would still be a very small amount of money to meet the problem and that is a big challenge,” he said.

“I used to work for a company that used to say, ‘Once we get a little more money in, we’ll start spending more of it on training our staff. But it’s too tight this year; maybe next year.’ This is one of those things like capacity-building with people: you have to start doing it. You can’t wait. You just have to make choices.”

He said that the internationally agreed Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction, which was adopted last year, offered the best way to reduce the human and financial cost of disasters.

“It’s basically about beginning to think of disaster risk as a core planning activity so that when countries invest in infrastructure they’re not building a hospital in a flood zone or establishing communities in areas vulnerable to storm surges and are not creating risk but identifying ways of reducing it,” he said.

“That’s the only way that I can imagine we’re going to be able to cope at all and even then, it’s a huge challenge to do that.”

The special representative said that DRR simply could not be seen as an adjunct of development or humanitarian relief: they were all part of the same structure. He said that in countries such as Bangladesh, which regularly experiences devastating floods, thousands of lives had been saved over recent decades because DRR had been factored into core economic planning and money invested in infrastructure, storm shelters and early warning systems.

Last year’s earthquake in Nepal was another case in point – and an example of the need for a more holistic approach to development and DRR.

“If you take Nepal, there was a school safety programme that retro-fitted something like 350 to 400 schools to be prepared for earthquakes. As I understand it, not one of those schools collapsed or was damaged significantly during the earthquake,” said Glasser.

“So this is a great example of the links between sustainable development and risk reduction. There’s something like 35,000 public and private schools in that country. If you build them and they’re not earthquake-resilient, and tens of thousands of them are destroyed, it just highlights that you need to get it right the first time if you’re going to achieve a development outcome like improving literacy or the education of girls.”

Dr Matthias Garschagen, scientific director of the World Risk Report (pdf), said large-scale disasters such as the earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti often act as stark reminders of fundamental development problems.

“Nepal, in a very sad fashion, reminded us of the importance of infrastructure for humanitarian assistance,” he said. “Nepal is a country that is very challenged by its geography and has very limited road and rail networks; there wasn’t the helicopter infrastructure in place to distribute humanitarian assistance in a sufficient manner.”

He said the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – which is estimated to have killed between 90,000 and 316,000 people and displaced more than 1.5 million – served as a warning of the need for building codes, and for health and sanitation plans to deal with the aftermath of a disaster.

But although international attention is quick to focus on huge disasters and lessons are often learned, Garschagen says the momentum is not always sustained.

A recent trip to Indonesia, he said, had yielded evidence of a familiar post-disaster pattern.

“After the Indian Ocean tsunami there was a lot of attention and international resourcing into building tsunami resilience.

“The tsunami early warning system worked well for three or four years – and worked well institutionally – but afterwards, it started to fade so the equipment hasn’t been well maintained and the institutional capacity-building was not kept alive. In educational terms, the topic [has] faded out of awareness.”

And therein, he added, lies the challenge: “Every time there’s a mega disaster, there are lessons learned – or at least there’s a lot of attention in the scientific and political realm. The key question is always, how do you keep up the awareness after a couple of years?”

 73 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
You can buy a cheap chicken today, but we all pay for it in the long run

Industrial agriculture comes with a high cost to the environment and people’s health, says a leading sustainable farmer

Patrick Holden
Telegraph
Sunday 24 April 2016 09.00 BST

Have you ever asked yourself why an everyday “value” chicken can now be cheaper, pound for pound, than bread? Cheap chicken has become the “healthy” meat of choice for most shoppers and sales are booming, up 20% since 2000 in the UK. But is it really either cheap or healthy?

Producers who use intensive methods are not financially accountable for the harm they cause. The apparently cheap price tag of industrial chicken does not include any of the costs related to pollution of the environment, destruction of natural capital, greenhouse gas emissions or the damage to public health resulting from such systems. It turns out that low-cost chicken isn’t cheap at all.

By contrast, a pasture-fed organic chicken is now seen as a niche market option, because it costs more than three times as much. These chickens spend much of their lives outside. Their feed is grown without the use of chemical fertilisers and synthetic pesticides. And because they are healthy and happy, with stocking densities low enough to ensure that the birds derive a significant percentage of their nutritional requirements from grazed grass, worms and insects, they need no insurance drugs or antibiotics to stop them getting sick.

Despite the fact that sustainable poultry production systems deliver huge benefits to the environment and public health, the producers using these methods have no option but to compete on an unlevel playing field. Worse, we are paying for the damage caused by industrial food production in hidden ways, through taxes, in the form of misdirected subsidies from the common agricultural policy, through water pollution clean-up costs and through national health service treatment costs.

If the true cost of the factory bird was added to the price tag, it might even be greater than the pasture-raised organic bird.

So who’s to blame for this crazy state of affairs? It’s tempting to blame the farmers and food companies, but we farmers are stuck in an economic system that mainly rewards those who produce food at the cheapest price, as a result of which only those who are selling into high-end niche markets can afford to do the right thing.

The truth is this is a rigged, cheap food system that has two prices: the one you pay now and the one we all pay later. It’s a story that repeats with carrots, apples and peas, meat, milk and cheese. Even breakfast cereal. At some point we need to ask ourselves, why do we support such a destructive food system?

The good news is we do have the power to change it. We should insist that, in future, common agricultural policy payments should be available only to farmers whose practices benefit the environment and improve public health; we could tax chemical fertilisers and pesticides (just like sugar) and use the money to incentivise farmers to adopt more carbon-friendly soil management. We should insist that all food for schools, hospitals and care homes is locally and sustainably sourced. We could offer tax breaks for investors who finance sustainable food businesses. Finally, we should ensure that food workers are paid a living wage and have safer working conditions.

By making these choices, we would help create a fairer, sustainable and health-promoting food system that we all want to see for ourselves, our families and our community. We could also spread the word, for instance by sharing our four-minute animated film, A Tale of Two Chickens. These are just some of many ways through which we can transform our future food systems.

Patrick Holden is executive director of the Sustainable Food Trust. He produces an organic cheddar cheese from his 80-cow milking herd in west Wales.

**************

If consumers knew how farmed chickens were raised, they might never eat their meat again

The debate about animal welfare has intensified

Felicity Lawrence
Telegraph
Sunday 24 April 2016 09.00 BST   

The year 2012 marked a leap forward for animal welfare in the European Union. Farmers were no longer allowed to keep egg-laying hens in barren battery cages smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Instead, the minimum requirement now is that hens are kept in a cage the size of an A4 sheet of paper, with an extra postcard-sized bit of shared space that allows them to scratch and nest. These are known as enriched cages.

Animal welfare campaigners would like to see them abolished too, saying they barely make a difference to the birds’ ability to express their natural behaviour and live free from stress. Around half of the eggs we eat are still produced in caged systems.

Full debeaking to prevent hens pecking each other is no longer allowed either, but beak clipping is still permitted in egg-laying hens. Their primary sensory organ is typically clipped at a day old, whether caged or free range. Progress here is that farmers must now use infrared lasers to carry out the process rather than the hot blade of previous days. It is cleaner but remains painful to the bird.

Industrial egg-laying hens have been bred to produce more and faster, laying about 320 eggs over a life span of about 72 weeks, compared with a productive life of around four years in more traditional breeds that lay at a fraction of the rate. This high intensity of production tends to affect their bones, which can become brittle and easily broken; the birds become stressed – which is why beak clipping is necessary – and listless.

New battle lines over the welfare of factory-farm animals were being drawn as President Obama arrived in London on Thursday to promote the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe. The US, long regarded as a laggard on compassion in farming, is pushing for Europe to open up its markets to American poultry, which is produced to different standards. Debate about those standards has ignited in recent weeks in the US, with a series of high-profile media reports on the cruelty inherent in its livestock production methods. The issue was back on the agenda in the UK too this month, after a government move to allow the poultry industry to rewrite welfare codes. A dramatic U-turn in response to the public outcry at the proposal has once again thrown the spotlight on how we treat our farm animals.

The impact of intensive production on disease in broiler chickens reared for meat has also come under scrutiny once more. The government watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, was forced to announce that it is suspending its retailer-by-retailer tests of broilers for the food poisoning bug campylobacter. A change in processing at factories has made it impossible for the FSA to continue its highly effective work naming and shaming supermarkets with the worst bacteria scores.

The lives of broiler chickens are not much easier to contemplate than those of the egg-layers. Much research has been devoted to genetic selection to produce the most economically efficient bird. The RSPCA produced a pamphlet several years ago that for me still provides the best illustration of what this means for the chickens. A series of photographs taken a few days apart showed a normal, traditionally bred egg-laying hen as it grows from chick to maturity. Underneath were parallel pictures of the modern broiler taken at the same intervals. By day nine, the broiler’s legs can barely keep its oversized breast off the ground. By day 11, it is puffed up to double the size of its cousin. It looks like an obese nine-year-old standing on the legs of a five-year-old. By day 35 it looks more like a weightlifter on steroids and dwarfs the egg-laying hen.

In 1957 the average growth period for an eating chicken to reach slaughter weight was 63 days. By the 1990s the number of growth days had been reduced to 38 and the amount of feed required halved.

But genetic selection to produce birds that work like factory units of production creates serious health problems. Their bones, hearts and lungs cannot keep up. A large proportion of broilers suffer from leg problems. You can see the tell-tale hock burns – dark red patches – on the leg around the knee joint in the shops, which are caused by squatting in dirty litter because their legs hurt or are deformed. Lameness is not just a welfare problem. Birds that sit in foul litter suffer more skin disease. Deaths from heart attacks or swollen hearts that cannot supply enough oxygen to their oversized breast muscles are also common. Because broilers grow unnaturally fast, those which are kept for breeding – and are therefore not slaughtered at six weeks but allowed to reach sexual maturity at about 15-18 weeks – have to be starved, otherwise they would become too big to mate.

The intensively produced broiler is typically kept in an artificially lit shed of around 20,000-30,000 birds. Computers control heating and ventilating systems and the dispensing of feed and water. The water and feed are medicated with drugs to control parasites or with mass doses of antibiotics as necessary. Units are cleaned only at the end of each cycle, so after two to three weeks the floor of the shed is completely covered with faeces and the air tends to be acrid with ammonia.

Keeping animals in such close confinement enables disease to spread rapidly. Although the industry says it has reduced its antibiotic use dramatically since 2012 and now produces nearly half the country’s meat while accounting for only 22% of all antibiotics used on UK farm animals, there is still serious concern that overuse of drugs in animals has contributed to antibiotic resistance. Experts have warned that we are close to the point at which human medicine may find itself without effective life-saving drugs.

In the UK, the stocking density is typically 38kg of bird per square metre – an area less than an A4 sheet of paper for each mature chicken. Free-range and organic production insist on more space, but our typical Sunday roast chicken will have more room in the oven when dead than it had to live in on the farm. To maximise yields, farmers often overstock their sheds at the beginning of the cycle and then thin out some of the birds for slaughter because otherwise the chickens would not have enough space to grow. Thinning – when workers cull some of the chickens, catching them by the legs – is stressful and the point at which diseases can often enter a shed. The practice contributes significantly to the prevalence of the campylobacter in flocks. Campylobacter is potentially deadly to humans and the most common cause of food-borne illness in humans in the UK, affecting more than 250,000 people a year.

    Why do we think it's acceptable to expect people on lower incomes to feed their children poorer factory-farmed food?
    Philip Lymbery, Compassion in World Farming

The neck skin of chickens is often the most highly contaminated part of the bird. Processors have now started cutting it off at the factory, which adds to costs but removes some of the bacteria load – good news for consumers, but since it was this part of the bird that the FSA was collecting for tests, the development has also scuppered the programme. The FSA has said it remains committed to tackling campylobacter as a priority.

Animal welfare tends to be marginalised in times of austerity, relegated to a luxury in the face of the need for cheap food. But if the government thought people were too hard up to care any more, they were wrong.

When news broke that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) planned to hand over the job of drawing up guideline codes on farm animal welfare to the industry, beginning with the poultry sector at the end of this month, nearly 150,000 people signed petitions objecting. Defra quickly abandoned the plan, to the dismay of the British Poultry Council. “We were very disappointed with the decision, the intention was to bring the guidance up to modern standards,” said policy director Richard Griffiths. “Defra doesn’t have the resources to review the codes any more.”

A Defra spokesman said: “We have the highest standards of animal welfare in the world, and no changes have been proposed to the legislation. We want to draw more closely on the expertise of the farming industry to ensure our welfare codes reflect the very latest scientific and veterinary developments.

“We believe we can achieve this by retaining the existing statutory codes. The work of the farming industry has been invaluable and we will continue to work with them to ensure our guidance is updated to best help them to comply with our welfare standards.”

The welfare codes have not been updated since 2002. (About a quarter of Defra’s budget was cut under the previous coalition government, and the department will see 15% further cuts over the course of this parliament.)

While the state appears in retreat on standards, big business, responding to the concerns of its customers, is, ironically, leading the pace in some areas.

In the UK and mainland Europe, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, M&S and Waitrose have moved to cage-free production for the eggs they sell. Tesco eggs are now also around 70% cage-free, while Waitrose and M&S have applied the same standards to eggs used as ingredients in other products too. In the US, Walmart has made a commitment to phase out caged eggs over the next 10 years. The campaign group Compassion in World Farming has been applying pressure on Asda in the UK to follow its parent company’s example.

Asda said that retaining the prices that enriched cage systems made possible gave consumers the choice on welfare standards. “Our customers tell us they want choice, which is why we offer a wide promotional range of eggs from Smart Price through to free range, all clearly labelled for customers to make an informed decision.”

For Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, the argument that intensive farming is justified because poorer people need cheap meat or eggs is insulting to those on lower incomes. An intensively reared chicken is three times higher in fat, one third lower in protein, and lower in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids now than it was in the 1970s.

“Keeping chickens in cruel conditions produces a poorer product,” he said. “Why do we think it acceptable to expect people on lower incomes to have to feed their children poorer factory-farmed food?”
POULTRY BY NUMBERS

■ There are more chickens in the world than there are any other species of bird: more than 50 billion of them are reared annually for food.

■ The UK egg market produced 10.02 billion eggs in 2015 and a further 2 billion were imported.

■ The British poultry meat industry produces approximately 875 million chickens, 17 million turkeys, 16 million ducks and 250,000 geese a year for consumption.

■ Poultry accounts for around half (49%) of all meat eaten in the UK.

■ Each day, 33 million eggs are eaten in the UK.

■ Around 47% of eggs sold are free range.

■ The UK egg industry is estimated to be worth £895m in sales.

Sources: British Egg Industry Council / British Poultry Council/ Compassion in World Farming


 74 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:11 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Chloe the missing cat reunited with owner after six years

Tabby and white cat went missing in 2010 after jumping from a pet carrier when Rebecca Lee took her to a vet in Caerphilly

Sunday 24 April 2016 11.26 BST

A missing cat has finally returned home – six years after it vanished.

Chloe, a tabby and white cat, went missing in 2010 after she jumped from a pet carrier when her owner Rebecca Lee was taking her to the vet in Caerphilly, south Wales.

After living as a stray and being cared for by an elderly woman just over a mile away from her owner’s home, Chloe was eventually handed into Cats Protection’s adoption centre in Bridgend, where a routine scan of her microchip meant she could finally be reunited with her owner.

Lee, who thought Chloe had died in a road accident, said she was overjoyed to be able to have her back.

“It was a real shock, but lovely news to hear that Chloe had been found and was alive and well after so many years,” she said.

“Chloe had jumped from the pet carrier in the car park and we never saw her again.

“I put up posters and placed adverts and shortly after got a call to say a cat matching her description had been found dead by the roadside.

“I was devastated but came to terms with her death. Unbeknown to me at the time, it seems she had wandered as a stray before eventually finding an elderly lady who had taken her in.”

Molly Hughes, the deputy manager at the Bridgend adoption centre, said Chloe had been brought in by the family of the elderly woman, who had become too frail to care for her.

“We scanned Chloe, which is routine for all cats coming into our care, and our receptionist noticed she was registered to a different owner and address,” she said.

“We managed to get hold of Rebecca, Chloe’s original owner, who was shocked to hear from us that Chloe was in our care.

“Chloe was nervous with us but she was very happy to see Rebecca and started rolling over and purring when she saw her.

“It’s great to have been able to reunite Chloe with her family, and it was touching to see them together.

“Chloe’s story goes to show why microchipping is so important and how effective it is. However, just as important as having your cat microchipped is keeping the details up to date.

“We often have microchipped cats come into our care and are sadly unable to reunite them with their owners because the contact details on the database are incorrect.”

 75 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
London cat killer mystery deepens as charities investigate 100 animal deaths

Pet owners warned as widespread series of mutilations continues across London region, with foxes, rabbits and birds found killed in similar fashion

Jamie Doward and Emma Supple
Telegraphy
25 April 2016 21.04 BST

The death toll shows no sign of abating. A fortnight ago a decapitated cat was found in Archway, north London. Last Monday another was discovered in Guildford, Surrey. Then a body turned up on Thursday in Orpington, Kent.

In March dead cats were found in the London districts of Richmond, Tottenham and Streatham.

All appear to be linked to a wave of mutilations carried out by the same person according to Snarl, South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty, a small charity that has been collecting information on the dead cats for the last seven months.

Originally it was thought that whoever was behind the killings was operating almost exclusively in the Croydon area. Then, as news of the macabre findings spread, and bodies turned up around London and beyond, Snarl urged the media to drop the “Croydon cat killer” label.

“People still think it’s only happening in Croydon and it’s not,” said Snarl’s founder, Boudicca Rising. “We’ve had attacks from Luton all the way down to Surrey across to Farnborough, Richmond, Finchley, Stepney – basically pretty much within the M25 and outside of it. People said they would have kept their cats indoors if they had known it went beyond Croydon.”

The Croydon cat killer label was doubly misleading. Foxes, rabbits and birds have also been found mutilated and killed in similar fashion.

Rising believes the killings are the work of the same person. “We’ve got so used to seeing the injuries now that we rarely make a mistake. They are mostly bodies with the heads, or heads and tails, removed.”

What is not clear is whether the perpetrator is becoming more prolific or whether people are more inclined to report finding a dead animal now.

Snarl claims it is aware of around 50 cases in the last two to three years that have the same hallmarks of the current mutilations. In addition, its vets have examined eight cats that had been mutilated and are in the process of conducting post-mortems on a further 12. It is also combing through reports of 80 to 100 other reports of animal deaths that it suspects may be linked.

Separately, the RSPCA has 20 cases of its own that have been investigated by its vets. The society believes that in each case the cause of death was blunt force trauma, “likely consistent with being hit by a moving vehicle”.

It said: “Examination of the bodies we have received showed that the heads and tails appear to have been removed by a human. A dedicated team is continuing to work closely with the police and looking into all evidence to see if there is deliberate cruelty involved.”

Rising is convinced that the animals were killed before being dismembered, perhaps by being thrown against a wall. In some cases it appears the perpetrator used bait to lure the animal.

Until the body count stops rising, Snarl says anyone who finds a dead cat should call the charity immediately and urges owners to keep their pet indoors overnight.

 76 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:06 AM 
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CS Monitor

Could vegetarians save the world's forests?

A growing global population means forests are under threat from expanding farms. But a small change in our diets could save many trees.    

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer April 25, 2016   

There are more than 7 billion people living on Earth and that number is growing. Estimates suggest the global population will hit at least 9 billion before 2050. But how do we feed such a rapidly swelling population with just one planet?

It has been suggested that more forested land must be converted for agricultural use, a process that is already devastating many forest-dwelling species and releasing a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But two new studies suggest that increased deforestation might not have to be on the table.

The solution may be as simple as adjusting what we eat.

But hamburger lovers might not like this plan. Cutting down on meat consumption, particularly beef, might provide a sustainable way to feed the world without destroying our planet, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications and a World Resources Institute report published Wednesday.

About 40 percent of the world's land is already used for agriculture. But these aren't fields of wheat, lettuce, and tomatoes. Most of that land is used to grow grains to feed livestock or support the livestock themselves. And cows are the worst offenders, requiring about two-thirds of the world's agricultural land.

"A lot of the debate in the past on food security was focused on supply-side solutions, increasing yield," Eric Lambin, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment who was not part of either paper, tells The Christian Science Monitor in an interview.

But food production would have to increase by 70 percent by 2050 in order to feed everyone on the planet without cutting down more forests, says Tim Searchinger, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute and a researcher at Princeton University. That would mean crop yields would have to improve faster than they ever have historically, including during the Green Revolution.

Looking at changing food consumption isn't a new idea, Dr. Lambin says. But "these studies confirm it in a very formal, rigorous way."

The Nature Communications paper approaches the issue through modeling. The research team plugged in hundreds of different possible future crop yields, and how much land would be needed for such production, in order to see what was feasible to feed the world in 2050.

"There is actually not a biophysical necessity to deforest," study lead author Karl-Heinz Erb, a land use and global change researcher at the Institute of Social Ecology at Alpen-Adria University in Vienna, tells the Monitor. Improved production helps, but "we found that diet was the most important single factor influencing this global option space," he says.

The more diets move away from meat consumption, the less land would need to be converted for agricultural use, says Dr. Erb. In fact, the study reveals that all scenarios in which a vegan diet (consuming no animal products) is adopted require no new deforestation. A vegetarian diet helps, too, but isn't perfect. Of the scenarios tested, the team found that 94 percent required no new forest conversion.

Should we all become vegetarians?

Don't toss out the meat freezer just yet, Mr. Searchinger says. It's like driving your car, he explains. Your car emits a lot of greenhouse gases, but that doesn't mean you have to start walking everywhere. Instead, you should choose where you drive and choose to drive efficiently, perhaps by carpooling or buying a more fuel-efficient car.

You don't have to swear off steak, Searchinger says. Instead, "think of beef as a kind of environmental luxury."

For example, if Americans swap poultry or pork for one third of their beef consumption, their diet-related land use would go down by almost 15 percent, according to the World Resources Institute report.

Not everyone in the world should cut down on their meat consumption, Searchinger says. "It's the wealthier people who eat far more beef and dairy than they need that should need to make the cuts."

Globally, an average person consumes about 92 pounds of meat each year. But in 2009, the FAO reported that an average of about 265 pounds of meat was consumed per person in the United States. No other nation consumes more meat per person.

The World Resources Institute suggests that if Americans cut back their consumption of animal products in half, their diet-related land use would also be cut in half. Focusing just on beef would have a significant impact. Reducing American beef consumption to the global average – which would be about a 70 percent reduction – would cut that diet-related land use by about a third.

"Every move from people who today have a very rich diet in meat, every move in the direction of less meat in the diet is something good for the environment," Erb says.
A production and consumption combination

Ultimately, a sustainable solution will come down to a combination of making food production more efficient and shifting diets toward a more sustainable balance, Searchinger says.

"It is very important that we improve the way we produce food," he says. "Improving beef production is part of that."

One option is to raise grass-fed beef, as that would eliminate the step of growing feed for the animals. Instead, they would survive off fields of grass. Although that could help improve the industry's impact on the environment, Searchinger says, "most of the beef in the world is exclusively or almost exclusively grass fed, and the source of additional beef consumption in these locations is cutting down forests and woody savannas."

And thus deforestation would still be an issue.

Why save the trees?

Forests house an immense amount of biodiversity, but they're not only a home for animals. About 296 gigatons of carbon is stored in forests globally.

Forests act somewhat like lungs. When trees grow, they lock carbon dioxide away in their leaves, branches, trunks and roots. But when they die, that carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Deforestation accelerates that process, and the world is losing its natural carbon sink. Over the past quarter century, some 319 million acres of forest has been lost globally. And much of that loss is thanks to clearcutting to expand agricultural lands to feed people.

But these new studies suggest that "the food security argument for deforestation is not valid," Erb says.

 77 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

CS Monitor

From famine to food basket: how Bangladesh became a model for reducing hunger

A recent UN report on global hunger highlights Bangladesh – a onetime food basket case – for having cut chronic hunger by more than half since 2000.

By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer 4/25/2016

Washington — Four decades ago, the newly formed and desperately poor South Asian nation of Bangladesh saw its already-high levels of extreme poverty and chronic hunger skyrocket with floods, leading to the Bangladesh famine of 1974.

Farmers and farmland were swallowed up in rampaging waters, distribution of the imported food supplies that the country depended on became impossible, and an estimated 1.5 million people died. The country – which former Beatle George Harrison raised money and awareness for in the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh – became associated for the long term with hunger and malnutrition.

Today, the onetime food basket case has transformed into something of a food basket – and a model for hunger reduction for the rest of the world.

A recent United Nations report on global hunger highlights Bangladesh for having cut chronic hunger by more than half since 2000. The generally upbeat report, which finds that the number of hungry people worldwide has fallen to 795 million from 1 billion in 1990, cites Bangladesh as one of a number of bright spots in a global effort to eradicate hunger by 2030.

“Bangladesh is one of three success stories of the last 10 to 15 years – Ethiopia and Nepal are the other two – that give us some hope on this goal” of eliminating hunger, says Glenn Denning, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York and a noted expert in development and nutrition.

“These kinds of successes have demonstrated that if you bring certain things together” – he lists economic growth, improved agricultural productivity, a focus on farmers’ market accessibility, and social safety nets for the most vulnerable – “you can bring hunger down.”

In Bangladesh’s case, a revolution in rice production beginning in the 1980s has helped turn a country that was dependent to some degree on food imports into a self-sufficient producer. Small-farm mechanization, irrigation, and particular attention to boosting women’s participation in the economy, along with girls’ education, have combined to erase the old image of Bangladesh as a hunger hot spot.

“I would list three drivers of poverty reduction and hunger reduction, and all those things are happening in Bangladesh today,” says Akhter Ahmed, chief of strategy support at the Dhaka, Bangladesh, office of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

He lists regular economic growth; “human development,” which he defines as a focus on education, health, and nutrition; and a “safety net” that provides cash transfers and other assistance to that part of the population that can’t participate in the “growth process” as the “essentials” that have worked together to bring down high poverty and hunger rates.

“I do believe Bangladesh can serve as a model,” Dr. Ahmed says, “particularly to other countries in South Asia that haven’t done so well.”

One standout poor performer in the neighborhood is India, which, despite its regularly higher economic growth rates, has been a laggard in hunger reduction. The UN report places India atop the world hunger list with 195 million chronically hungry people – or about a quarter of the world’s underfed total of 795 million.

But another big neighbor, China, accounted for two thirds of the global reduction in hunger since 1990.

India’s stubbornly high hunger numbers amid impressive economic growth have led to what Columbia’s Dr. Denning says is widely referred to as the “Indian enigma.” But underneath the head-scratching, he says, is a web of “complex issues,” ranging from stalled rural development (particularly roads to get food production to market) to cultural factors.

Not the least of those cultural factors, for example, is rural Indians’ preference for what is delicately referred to as “open defecation.” That practice leads to sanitation and public health problems, which are linked to high rates of malnutrition and hunger.

In contrast to India, Ahmed notes, Bangladesh in its four decades of independence from Pakistan has been open to deep cultural change – like a generalized participation of women in the economy, notably in the garment industry – and to a significant role for nongovernmental organizations. Those are both identified as important factors in Bangladesh’s reduction of hunger.

Bangladesh is the birthplace of what has become a global movement for microfinance, by which very small loans enable small-business creation that in turn boosts economic development.

It was also a pioneer in the area of social safety-net development with its “Food for Education” program. In the 1990s (and with the help of US foreign aid dollars), the program launched the idea of providing cash or food vouchers to families that pledged to send their kids to school.

The idea has now spread around the world, with the UN hunger report citing such safety-net programs as a key to reducing hunger – while crediting the implementation of such programs in Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, and elsewhere for Latin America’s reduction in chronic hunger.

In addition to those elements, Ahmed of IFPRI recalls how the government of Bangladesh responded to what became known globally as “the great food crisis” of 2007-08. Food-importing Bangladesh was caught off guard when India suddenly halted food exports to respond to a global spike in food prices. Efforts were redoubled and new ideas implemented to ensure that Bangladesh would become self-sufficient in food production.

“I really haven’t seen the willingness anywhere else that successive governments in Bangladesh have had to reform and to try new ideas to achieve social improvement,” says Ahmed, who has worked in a number of developing countries from Asia to Africa.

None of which is to say that Bangladesh has solved its hunger problem.

Bangladesh, Ahmed says, has three key hunger challenges: continuing chronic hunger, with the UN report finding that about 27 million Bangladeshis are still underfed; “transient food insecurity,” or the sporadic lack of sufficient food supplies, largely as a result of the natural disasters that Bangladesh has increasingly experiences; and what Ahmed calls the “hidden hunger” resulting from nutritional deficiencies.

This last factor includes what many international experts consider to be Bangladesh’s biggest failing in an otherwise impressive food production and accessibility policy: its stubbornly high child stunting rate. “More than one third of children are still stunted,” says Ahmed, using a term that refers to a child’s height in relation to age. “This tells us that nutrition is still poor and that there is too much dependence on rice in the diet.”

Globally, experts see a largely parallel, but in some aspects differing, story. Like Bangladesh, the world must still press ahead on reducing chronic hunger, and developing countries in particular will have to focus increasingly on food-production disruption as a result of climate change.

And food waste – whether it’s the tons of good food that go in the developed world’s dumpsters, or the high food loss in developing countries from poor storage and inadequate transportation – will have to be addressed everywhere.

But Denning says that even as the world tackles those challenges, it will have to confront what he describes as the “much more complicated” scenario of 21st-century “malnutrition” – which includes both under-nutrition and over-nutrition, increasingly in the same countries.

“What is so alarming is how rapidly this double burden of malnutrition, with continuing under-nutrition at one end accompanying skyrocketing rates of over-nutrition and obesity at the other, is occurring in poor countries,” he says. “Many poorer countries suddenly find themselves having significant numbers of people in both baskets, and they are not prepared to deal with it.”

Denning, who is a regular consultant to the UN on nutrition and development issues, says he’s watching for world leaders to pay more attention to the double malnutrition burden that developing countries face as they move toward adoption of a list of global “sustainable development goals” in September. So far, however, he sees negotiators of the new goals giving the emerging problem too little attention.

What does give Denning hope is the growing attention he sees the world paying to hunger and malnutrition issues. “We know we have the tools to bring down hunger,” he says. “When you see everybody from Bill Gates to the leaders of the [Group of Seven] putting up big resources to address this, you know it’s an issue that’s out there, and one that people know has a solution.”

 78 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 05:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Rice revolution? New rice could help feed world, fight climate change

A new strain of rice produces more and larger grains and reduces methane emissions from rice farming, perhaps the largest human-based source of the greenhouse gas. But it's genetically modified, which could lead to a backlash.

By Pete Spotts, Staff writer 4/25/2016

Researchers have developed a new strain of rice with the potential to feed a burgeoning global population while reducing the greenhouse-gas emissions rice paddies generate.

They have coaxed the rice into growing more and larger grains. At the same time, the genetic change cut methane emissions from paddies growing the rice by more than 90 percent compared with paddies growing unaltered plants.

By some estimates, rice farming may be the single largest source of methane emissions humans deliver to the atmosphere, though estimates vary widely.

Scientists have been working to develop rice with higher-nutrition, low-emissions traits for years, given that the crop that plays such a significant role in the diets of some 3 billion people.

These new results represent "the first example, to our knowledge, of such a rice," the team of scientists from China, Sweden, and the United States writes in its formal report on the effort, appearing in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

"The new rice sounds like a win-win for good yields and reduced climate impact," writes Paul West, lead scientist for the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, in an e-mail.

But the nature of the new rice could trigger push-back from groups opposed to genetically modified organisms, suggests Dr. West, who did not take part in the study. It was created by adding a gene taken from barley to the genome of a widely used type of rice, known as Nipponbare.

At the least, the new strain could be one more tool farmers and sustainable-agriculture advocates can use to reduce methane emissions while growing such an important staple. Others include increasing yields, which helps the amount of land used for rice farming to stay stable even as demand increases; eliminating rice "straw" from flooded fields, which can feed soil microbes that generate the methane; and either reducing the amount of water in paddies or changing the flooding schedule to allow paddies to dry out briefly at least once as the rice grows.

These approaches can be expensive or impractical, researchers say. Hence the desire to explore new rice strains.

The work began several years ago with a group of researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, says Christer Jansson, who headed the effort at the time. The scientists were trying to understand the genetic machinery that controls how carbon – in the form of sugars, starches, and other carbohydrates – is distributed in plants as they take up as carbon dioxide via photosynthesis.

The team found three types of genes that act like master switches controlling the distribution of carbon in barley. The researchers homed in on one in particular, which they labelled SUSIBA2, explains Dr. Jansson, currently director of plant sciences at the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Other researchers noticed that rice plants that have the largest number of grains produce the least amount of methane. The reason: More carbon going into rice grains left less carbon to go elsewhere – like to the roots, which ultimately feed microbes that produce methane.

In modeling how the gene SUSIBA2 worked in barley "we realized it would be possible to control carbon allocation in rice,"  Jansson says, creating "a win-win situation. We would get more starch, more food, and less methane."

Tests and field trials in China found that the SUSBIA2 gene indeed channeled carbon mainly to the rice plants' stems and grains, according to the new study's team, headed by Chuanxin Sun at the Institute for Biotechnology at the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Science in Fuzhou, China.

This redirection of carbon reduced the amount of carbon available to methane-forming microbes in the roots and adjacent soil, reducing the number of microbes and hence methane emissions.

While SUSIBA2 rice shows promise, it could run into opposition from groups opposed to genetically modified organisms.

A decade ago, opposition erupted over Golden Rice, a variety genetically engineered to produce the precursor compounds to vitamin A. It was developed as a way to combat vitamin A deficiencies in children in developing countries, and it garnered a humanitarian award this year from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. But opposition remains.

One possible mitigating factor for SUSIBA2 rice could rest in the barley genes the team used. Golden Rice added a comound not usually found in rice – namely, beta-carotene. In SUSIBA2 rice, the introduced genes alter the distribution of carbon within the rice plants.

Even so, this redistribution could have unintended consequences, suggests Paul Bodelier, a researcher in the department of microbial ecology at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Wageningen.

For instance, less carbon in the roots could affect the mix of other microbes either beneficial or harmful to rice, he writes in an analysis of the results that accompanies the formal description of the work in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Still, Dr. Bodelier terms the work groundbreaking. And Jansson notes that the team is tackling the question of potential effects on microbial communities surrounding this new strain of rice.

Assuming all research goes well, the rice still might not be available for quite a while, given the regulatory processes involved, Jansson adds.

 79 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 04:55 AM 
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CS Monitor

Humans reach 'super predator' status, and that's a problem, study says

Humans are throwing ecosystems out of whack by not only killing a large number of animals, but by killing adults and top carnivores in particular, a study suggests. One answer is to act more like animal predators.

By Pete Spotts
4/25/2016

If humans hope to fish the oceans more sustainably, they are going to have to start fishing like fish, a new study suggests.

That means harvesting younger, smaller fish to leave more of their elders to continue maturing and reproducing. And it means fishing quotas that are more in line with what nonhuman predators consume.

Humans have assumed "super predator" status, note the researchers conducting the study. Population growth increases demand and technologies have increasingly reduced the personal risk involved in hunting animals on land or in the water. As "super predators," humans also have a penchant for killing adult animals in higher proportions than their nonhuman prey do.

The persistent loss of adults in their reproductive prime can weak havoc on the survival prospects for an animal population, researchers say. And if the adults are top-level predators in an ecosystem, their reduction or loss can shift the nature of the ecosystem.

Past studies have focused on humans' direct or indirect roles in driving species extinct or pushing them to the brink of extinction. This study takes a different tack. It compares patterns in human hunting and fishing with those of nonhuman predators for similar adult prey.

On land, "humans are the only predators who turn large carnivores into prey," says Chris Darimont, an ecologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and the lead author of a formal summary of the findings appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Worldwide, humans kill carnivores at an average annual pace nine times higher than the pace at which carnivores killed each other, the study's team found. Carnivores kill about 2 percent of their populations annually, usually during competition for dominance; humans kill 18 percent of the carnivore population.

By contrast, humans kill the same proportion of large herbivores like deer, elk, or moose that carnivores do – 5 percent for carnivores and 6 percent for humans.

For fishing, humans gather up about 14 percent of available adult-fish biomass each year, with rates for some species vaulting to 80 percent or more. That 14 percent rate is 14 times higher than the rate at which piscine predators feast on adult fish, Dr. Darimont says.

Throttling back human predation to truly sustainable levels on land and at sea will require what Darimont calls major transformations.

Perhaps the most radical changes involve fishing.

Targeting younger fish alone won't do the trick, adds Thomas Reimchen, a biologist with the University of Victoria and the study's senior author. "It's shifting the extraction rate to juveniles at quotas that are representative of what other predators use."

Fisheries-management efforts already are heading in this direction, notes Chris Dorsett, vice president for conservation and policy at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, in an e-mail.

These efforts increasingly are based on the health of marine ecosystems, which can be restored and sustained through approaches including fishing-quota reductions and marine protected areas.

From a biological perspective, the catch-younger, catch-fewer approach the new study suggests "makes a lot of sense," says Deborah Brosnan, a marine scientist with the University of California at Davis and Virginia Tech.

Larger fish produce more eggs over longer periods of time than do smaller fish, let alone juveniles that haven't yet reached reproductive age. Culling increased number of juveniles would, in theory, leave enough survivors to support healthier fish populations.

But putting theory into practice would be difficult, she suggests.

Two thirds of global fish stocks already are depleted, with some regions, such as the Caribbean, essentially devoid of what once were its largest fish, she notes. That would make it tough to establish a baseline for natural predation rates for a new management scheme.

Moreover, in Asia alone, some 300 million people rely on fish as their primary source of protein. The number rises significantly when the rest of the world is included. With continued population growth, those numbers will increase.

And the biggest fish earn the biggest bucks. Focusing on juveniles would yield less money per ton of fish caught. And quotas likely would have to be reduced dramatically to bring them closer to fish-predation rates from nonhuman predators.

Such an approach would "put us in line with most other predators – not because predators are thoughtful creatures, but because that's what they can handle," she says. "What would be intriguing is to see how we get from where we are now to restoring a system where we could actually act like a normal predator.

 80 
 on: Apr 25, 2016, 04:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Humans reach 'super predator' status, and that's a problem, study says

Humans are throwing ecosystems out of whack by not only killing a large number of animals, but by killing adults and top carnivores in particular, a study suggests. One answer is to act more like animal predators.

By Pete Spotts
4/25/2016

If humans hope to fish the oceans more sustainably, they are going to have to start fishing like fish, a new study suggests.

That means harvesting younger, smaller fish to leave more of their elders to continue maturing and reproducing. And it means fishing quotas that are more in line with what nonhuman predators consume.

Humans have assumed "super predator" status, note the researchers conducting the study. Population growth increases demand and technologies have increasingly reduced the personal risk involved in hunting animals on land or in the water. As "super predators," humans also have a penchant for killing adult animals in higher proportions than their nonhuman prey do.

The persistent loss of adults in their reproductive prime can weak havoc on the survival prospects for an animal population, researchers say. And if the adults are top-level predators in an ecosystem, their reduction or loss can shift the nature of the ecosystem.

Past studies have focused on humans' direct or indirect roles in driving species extinct or pushing them to the brink of extinction. This study takes a different tack. It compares patterns in human hunting and fishing with those of nonhuman predators for similar adult prey.

On land, "humans are the only predators who turn large carnivores into prey," says Chris Darimont, an ecologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and the lead author of a formal summary of the findings appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Worldwide, humans kill carnivores at an average annual pace nine times higher than the pace at which carnivores killed each other, the study's team found. Carnivores kill about 2 percent of their populations annually, usually during competition for dominance; humans kill 18 percent of the carnivore population.

By contrast, humans kill the same proportion of large herbivores like deer, elk, or moose that carnivores do – 5 percent for carnivores and 6 percent for humans.

For fishing, humans gather up about 14 percent of available adult-fish biomass each year, with rates for some species vaulting to 80 percent or more. That 14 percent rate is 14 times higher than the rate at which piscine predators feast on adult fish, Dr. Darimont says.

Throttling back human predation to truly sustainable levels on land and at sea will require what Darimont calls major transformations.

Perhaps the most radical changes involve fishing.

Targeting younger fish alone won't do the trick, adds Thomas Reimchen, a biologist with the University of Victoria and the study's senior author. "It's shifting the extraction rate to juveniles at quotas that are representative of what other predators use."

Fisheries-management efforts already are heading in this direction, notes Chris Dorsett, vice president for conservation and policy at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, in an e-mail.

These efforts increasingly are based on the health of marine ecosystems, which can be restored and sustained through approaches including fishing-quota reductions and marine protected areas.

From a biological perspective, the catch-younger, catch-fewer approach the new study suggests "makes a lot of sense," says Deborah Brosnan, a marine scientist with the University of California at Davis and Virginia Tech.

Larger fish produce more eggs over longer periods of time than do smaller fish, let alone juveniles that haven't yet reached reproductive age. Culling increased number of juveniles would, in theory, leave enough survivors to support healthier fish populations.

But putting theory into practice would be difficult, she suggests.

Two thirds of global fish stocks already are depleted, with some regions, such as the Caribbean, essentially devoid of what once were its largest fish, she notes. That would make it tough to establish a baseline for natural predation rates for a new management scheme.

Moreover, in Asia alone, some 300 million people rely on fish as their primary source of protein. The number rises significantly when the rest of the world is included. With continued population growth, those numbers will increase.

And the biggest fish earn the biggest bucks. Focusing on juveniles would yield less money per ton of fish caught. And quotas likely would have to be reduced dramatically to bring them closer to fish-predation rates from nonhuman predators.

Such an approach would "put us in line with most other predators – not because predators are thoughtful creatures, but because that's what they can handle," she says. "What would be intriguing is to see how we get from where we are now to restoring a system where we could actually act like a normal predator.

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