Friday, November 8, 2019

Compassion In World Farming CIWF

Let me tell you about the time that Tamara and I passed a life-size model of a cow outside a restaurant. We just didn't like the way the cow was shown jointed. Around the other side of the model, the cow is shown in its 'natural' state with its hide intact.

Obviously it was an advertisement designed to attract diners, and not a guide for trainee butchers showing them how to joint meat. Tamara and I knew exactly why we didn't like the advertisement. It was because it denied dignity to the cow, even though it was a plastic cow and there were no real cows around to see it and be dismayed at the thought of their future.

We walked on a little way and then turned back so we could photograph the model. As we were photographing it, it struck me that the problem wasn't with the diagram of how the cow was going to be cut up. The problem was that I had registered that I didn't like it and then I had just walked on - at least for a little while. I'm not a vegetarian, so I can hardly say that I'm opposed to the idea of killing animals for food per se. But equally I am aware of the indignities we suffer on animals while they are alive.

And the root of my objection to this advertisement is that it is yet one more way that our feelings are encouraged to be deadened so that we objectify living animals and see them as a kind of 'pre-dead' meat. And that can translate into a lack of care when we see farm animals being treated inhumanely.

The Continuum Of Care

It's a continuum. At one end are people who will not wear leather belts or leather shoes because they do not want to be part of the chain of demand for leather that means that somewhere a cow will be treated badly while it is alive, or indeed that it will be killed at all.

Further along the continuum are people who will feel there is something inhumane and degrading about stapling plastic tags through a cow's ears, no matter what arguments of animal health and farming husbandry are raised.

Then there are those who would simply want farm animals to treated humanely while they are alive.

And at the other end of the continuum there are those who, without a thought, will shove cows into stalls just big enough to contain them and hens into tiny battery cages and leave them there to rot during their entire lives.

A while ago I took a photo of a cow with a tag through its ear. I took it at a farm where animals are treated very well. The cows were in a circular feeding station at the time, but they spent most of their days grazing in the nearby fields.

It got me thinking about how I had been affected by what I had learned through our involvement with Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) - a charity whose work Tamara has been following for five or six years.

CIWF is a pragmatic organisation that campaigns peacefully to end all cruel factory farming practices worldwide.  And I want to talk about dairy cows and laying hens.

Dairy Cows are selectively bred so that they weigh about three times what a typical cow would have weighed in Elizabethan times. They are basically giant udders with a cow on the end.

A 'normal' cow gives about 4 litres (1 U.S. gallon) of milk per day. Selectively bred Holstein-Friesians give more than 22 litres (6 U.S. gallons) of milk per day over three forced lactations, and then they are sent off for slaughter. While they are producing milk, factory farmed dairy cows are kept in a low movement environment with little or zero grazing and fed a low fibre, high-energy diet that is unsuited to their stomach and intestinal systems but gives a high milk yield.

And this is in a good environment; Their lives are much worse in some industrialised systems.

Caged laying hens get no natural daylight. They sit under a dim artificial light to discourage activity and aggression and they are exposed to as long a period of light in each 24 hours as possible to encourage them to believe it is summer when they naturally lay more eggs.

In the European Union, hens must get a minimum of 8 hours of darkness in every 24 hours. Before the introduction of enriched cages in the European Union in January 2012, many hens lived in barren cages which are just hard floors with no perches and no nest box. Birds caged in barren cages cannot peck, scratch for food, nest, flap their wings, or have a dust bath. As of January 1, 2012, barren cages are banned in the European Union. Enriched cages have a straw floor and give a minimum of 750 cm² hen with 600 cm² of usable space. That is less than the size of a sheet of A4 paper or about nine inches by ten inches.

Enriched cages have perches - but they are still just a few inches off the ground. Enriched cages are better than barren cages. However, both put the bird in the box where it does nothing but sit and eat and pump out eggs at an unnatural rate until it is past its best, when it is killed.

The former Farm Animal Welfare Council (an advisory body to DEFRA - the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs in the UK) concluded in its 2007 report on enriched cages said that it considers that all commercial systems of production for laying hens offer some compromise in terms of the hen’s welfare. "However, well managed enriched cage systems are able to offer the potential for an acceptable balance between the requirements for the hen’s health and welfare, and public health, in combination with economic and environmental considerations."

Make of that what you will. To me the report says that hens are better off when they are not in cages, but what the heck - it's not the worst choice.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Cladding Jacob Rees-Mogg In Common Sense

 Jacob Rees-Mogg to Nick Ferrari:

“The tragedy came about because of the cladding, leading to the fire racing up the building and then was compounded by the stay put policy and it seems to me that is the tragedy of it.
The more one’s read over the weekend about the report and about the chances of people surviving, if you just ignore what you’re told and leave you are so much safer.
And I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do. And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen."

So he is only saying a common-sensicle statement isn't he?

No, I don't think so. I think he is specifically saying that people put their common sense on a shelf, as it were, and blindly followed the recommendation of the Fire Brigade. And that is hurtful to the people who were in the midst of a terrible situation and thought they were doing the right thing. It is unkind and unwarranted to blame people dazed by a terrifying situation for not being calm and collected as Rees-Mogg is able to be from the safety of his chair.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Dob, Dob In, Dobbin

It turns out that Dobbin is an old word. It appears, for example, in Act II of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, when Shylock's attendant meets with Gobbo and discovers he is his long-lost son.
Gobbo says:
... if thou be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood.
Lord worshipped might he be! what a beard hast thou
got! thou hast got more hair on thy chin than
Dobbin my fill-horse has on his tail.
Dobbin is a diminutive form of Dob, which is short for Robin or Robert.

But then 'dob' has another meaning. To dob means to put something down heavily or to throw something down heavily and to 'dob in' means to contribute towards the cost of something, for example a leaving present for a co-worker.

You can imagine someone tossing their contribution into the pot in that nice off-hand way that people do when they want to preserve their modesty and not seek to attach too much importance to their contribution.

But in Australian English, to 'dob in' also means to give someone up to the authorities. I thought it was a colloquialism or something only said in casual speech, but the Department of Immigration and Citizenship of the Australian Government has a web page advertising its toll-free Immigration 'Dob-in Line' which you can call to advise the department about a person living in Australia illegally.

So the word 'dob' has woven a trail from a friendly horse in a field in the north of England around the world to the Australian Government's efforts to catch illegal aliens. How strange

The Copenhagen Conference On Climate Change

We wrote this article in October 2009 as a contribution to Blog Action Day. Over 8,000 sites worldwide are writing about Climate Change today. Follow the link to read more.

Climate Change, You, and Me
As I look around my desk and see plugs, a radio, a couple of pens - I know that somewhere in their production history there is an overspill of oil or a hole in the ground that was left to fester after the minerals were extracted.

And it is a sad reflection on man that we have to be told the sky is falling and our grandchildren are going to live in a blighted world before we even think of making changes in a concerted way.

If the producers were responsible for the consequences of what they did to the landscape, we'd be a little nearer to the true cost of production.

With that said, I thought it would be a good idea to review where we are internationally with efforts to tackle climate change.

No-one seems to be arguing that we are not suffering climate change, so that is a battle that doesn't need to be fought again.

So what is the bottom line on taking action to maintain a healthy balance for the Earth?

From Stockholm to Rio to Kyoto
In 1972 in Stockholm a UN conference put together an action plan for the human environment. It was deemed important, but not as pressing an issue as was the case twenty years later at the Rio Conference.

The Rio Conference of 1992 was not simply a group of concerned environmentalists coming together, although many did attend. To give its full title it was 'The United Nations Conference on

Environment and Development'. The representatives of 172 countries attended, including the heads of government of over 100 countries.

It looked at pollution, toxic materials in production, alternative energy resources, transport systems, and water scarcity.

Rio and the UNFCCC
What came out of the Rio conference was a treaty named the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It contained a declaration of principles including that "States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption".

It also contained an agenda for introducing legislation to back up the principles, and a framework within which to work out how to deal with climate change.

But the UNFCCC did not contain any enforcement provisions.

How Are We Doing?
So which countries are doing well and which are doing not so well in reducing their emissions?
These are the countries that have significantly reduced their emissions over the past 20 years: Denmark, Germany, The United Kingdom

If we leave out emissions from land use including forestry, then we can add these countries to the list of countries that have reduced their emissions: Australia, Norway

And those that have increased their emissions in a range from about 10% for Japan on up to 50% for Spain: Japan, The Russian Federation, The United States, New Zealand, Ireland, Greece, Canada, Portugal, Spain

And those that have more than doubled their emission levels: India, China

In 1997 the countries met in Kyoto in Japan to agree on a framework for targets for the UNFCCC that became known as the Kyoto Protocol. A protocol is a diplomatic agreement. It carries no force except disapproval.

What was needed in order to give the protocol the force of law, was for each country to ratify the Protocol and make a treaty binding itself to the principles of the protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol became effective in 2005, and has been ratified by 141 countries. In other words, those countries have bound themselves to the Protocol.

The United States and Australia have refused to ratify the Protocol, partly because China, India, and a number of other developing countries are not required to take any action until 2012.

The present protocol runs out in 2012, and the question is whether it will be replaced, and if so, then by what.

One mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol is Emissions Trading. This allows countries that have emission units to spare (those they are allowed to use but do not in fact use) to sell their units to countries that are over their allocated emission units.

The word 'emissions' is of course another word for pollutants.

You might conclude that it is as though the various countries are living on separate planets, some healthy and some diseased. The reality is of course that there is one planet and if one country sells its unused pollution to another, it is both that will suffer, no mater who uses the pollution allowance.

Another mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol is Clean Development, which grants emission credits to a developed country that sets up a 'clean' system in a developing country. The developed country can then spend its credits - allowing it to pollute beyond the allocation it would have otherwise.

You might think it is like paying a man in cocaine for successfully getting others off the habit.

The counter arguments is that these mechanisms provide an incentive to produce clean technology, which will have a longer-lasting effect.

The Bali Action Plan
At the UNFCCC meeting in Bali in 2007, an action plan was agreed that would be brought to fruition with a binding agreement at the Copenhagen Conference to be held in December 2009.

The Copenhagen Conference
Whether the mechanisms are flawed or not, this December the United Nations Conference on Climate Change takes place in Copenhagen, and the agenda is to settle limits beyond 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol ends.

It is a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP13) and the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP3) and is being hosted by the Government of Denmark - specifically the Minister of Climate and Energy and the Prime Minister.

Obstacles to Overcome
There are huge obstacles to overcome. It all comes down to self-interest, of course. The obvious problem is to develop a mechanism that the United States will work with, bearing in mind that it did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The developed nations are going to be worried that they will not be competitive on price because of the cost of keeping within their emission limits. Therefore, the temptation for them is to balance this cost by erecting trade barriers, which would cause international cooperation to break down.

The developing countries will argue for different obligations compared to those on the developed countries.

The developing countries will want financial and technical support to develop clean technologies. If they don't get a commitment to this they will be tempted to refuse to cooperate.

Not every developed country will have the opportunity to contribute technical support for clean technologies to developing countries. Those that do will get emission credits. Those that don't will be unhappy at being left out, so there is ground for disagreement between developed countries.

Everyone agrees though that this assembly is one where defining choices will be made, whether for good or not.

The situation calls for some fundamental changes in the way countries regard each other and deal with each other.

The eyes of the world and of history are on the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference. Still, why worry? What is the worst that could happen?

On the Origin of {Fewer} Species.

Last night we went to see a film that goes by the title Creation. It is a majestic name for a film that was, in fact, gentle and slow-paced in the best tradition of English period dramas.

The film dramatizes Charles Darwin's struggle to come to terms with the idea of publishing On The Origin Of Species - the book about his observations on evolution.

The film shows him struggling with the thought of the damage he might do to the glue that held society together in the 1850s - that glue being religion.

Darwin feared what would happen if the religious source of morality was shown to be simply wrong.
He feared that people would be terribly undermined and lost if they were to read that life is no more than an accident of evolution.

Personal Life
The film also shows Darwin fighting to come to terms with the death of his eldest daughter Annie, who died at age 10.

The Darwins have several children, but Annie was special to Charles Darwin. She was precocious and curious about everything. Even at her young age she was his companion in his scientific analysis. So her death hit him very badly.

Darwin felt responsible for her death because it was he who allowed her to play about on the beach on a chilly day.

As the film portrays it, he seemed to have feared that he had angered God - the God in which he did not believe - and that the death of Annie was his punishment for failing to believe in God.

The film shows the death of Annie driving Darwin's wife Emma further towards religion.

And it shows how Annie's death drives a wedge between them as they skirt around any meaningful communication about the things that really matter to them most.

Darwin is shown slipping into chronic illness. The smile that lighted up the lives of his family is replaced by a skull-like caricature and Darwin retreats mentally from his family.

With the pressure to publish his findings weighing on him, the gulf between him and Emma became too great to bear.

Things come to a head and the pair bring their differences into the open and find that each of them blames themself for Annie's death.

This watershed helps the pair become reconciled. But they still have to face the fact of Annie's death. So we see them sitting rigidly n their sadness, as though propping each other up.

Time Is A Great Healer
Time passes and we see this feeling give way to a renewed optimism where the couple again find pleasure in each other's company.

The family is brought back together and the children are glad to have their father back - their father with the impish smile who teaches them through it that a kindly independence of spirit is the mark of humanity.

Publish And Be Damned
With their new-found closeness, they still have one matter to resolve - should Darwin publish his book?

The outcome is that Darwin hands over the decision about whether to publish On The Origin Of Species to his wife.

Is The Manuscript Destroyed
Darwin sees his wife tending a fire in the garden and we see from his reaction that he is nor really prepared to hand over the reins of the decision about publication to his wife or to anyone.

He knows at heart that the book must be published because he wants to free the world from dogma and superstition.

In that he was a true 19th Century gentleman scientist.

The World Then
The world has moved on and religious beliefs have in the main accommodated Darwin's findings. God and science seem to coexist more easily in the 21st Century than they in the 19th.

A Footnote in History
The film is beautifully detailed. Darwin's study with its bottles and specimens littering the desk, the outhouse with its prepared bird skeletons - it is all very convincing. And the film is affecting - when Darwin cries at one point over the death of Annie, one cries with him.

The World One Hundred And Fifty Years Later
In the film, Darwin is shown with his children in the woods, listening and watching intently. We see a fox and a badger and a rabbit.

The bitter truth is that in the 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of Species, mankind has managed to wipe out a substantial part of the wildlife whose evolution Darwin had so carefully shown.

Had Darwin published today, perhaps his book would have to be entitled, On the Origin of {Fewer} Species.

Fearsome Night Hunters

Diurnal raptors (that is, raptors who are active during the day) can spot prey like a rabbit on the move from up to three miles away.

Raptors that hunt at night, like some owls, have eyesight on a par with humans in terms of long-distance vision.

The retina of the human eye contains two photoreceptors called 'rods' and 'cones'. Cones are sensitive to color, rods are sensitive to light.

The difference between their eyesight and human vision is that they have far fewer cones in their eyes than we humans do, which means they can only see primary colours and not the subtle variations that we can see. However, they have far more rods in their retinas, giving them extreme sensitivity to light. That is what makes them fearsome night hunters.

New York

In 1663 the Duke of York – James Stuart, the second son of Charles I and the brother of Charles II – bought Long Island and other islands on the New England coast.
The next year, his forces captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch and he renamed the whole possession the Province of New York.

His province included what are now New York State, New Jersey, Delaware and Vermont, and parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine.

The Dutch subsequently recaptured the city of New Amsterdam and it remained Dutch until it was traded back to the English under the Treaty of Westminster in 1674.

The Dutch got the island of Run in Indonesia in exchange - something they were happy enough with at the time as the island of Run was the only place where the nutmeg tree grew and from which the valuable spices nutmeg of and mace could be obtained.

When James Stuart became king he was James II of England and Ireland, and James VII of Scotland in 1685. His reign lasted three years before he was deposed and forced to escape to France as a result of his attempts to re-establish Catholicism and a stronger throne in England.

He was succeeded by the joint reign of William and Mary, then of Anne, then George I, and George II, until the reign of George III, when New York again changed hands.