Tag Archives | Food Chain

This Will Shatter Your View of Apex Predators: How Wolves Change Rivers

via National Geographic

This may be one of the most important conservation concepts to come out of natural science in the last half century. The thing about this case study is that the same can be applied to apex predators around the world: lions in Africa, tigers in Asia. Sharks, bears, and wild dogs are all species sitting at the top of their respective food chains, creating stability amongst the species they prey on and maintaining the health of plants and animals right down the trophic ladder.

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Outrage Over South Korea’s Mass Live Burial Of Pigs

Factory farming practices are always bloody and cruel, but this seems to go above and beyond. Following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, since December South Korea has killed 20% of its domestic livestock — 3 million animals have been exterminated, mostly pigs, who are being buried alive by the thousands in gigantic pits. The practice is traumatizing workers (who hear the pigs’ screams in their sleep) and provoking outrage around the world. Video footage is difficult to sit through:

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Is It Unethical To Kill Plants?

February 6, 2010 - JulieOur green, leafy friends lack faces and voices, but below the surface, they possess a surprising sensitivity and a desperate will to remain alive and unharmed. The New York Times questions the ethics of vegetarianism:

Surely, I’d thought, science can defend the obvious, that slaughterhouse carnage is wrong in a way that harvesting a field of lettuces or, say, mowing the lawn is not. But instead, it began to seem that formulating a truly rational rationale for not eating animals, at least while consuming all sorts of other organisms, was difficult, maybe even impossible.

The differences that do seem to matter are things like the fact that plants don’t have nerves or brains. They cannot, we therefore conclude, feel pain. In other words, the differences that matter are those that prove that plants do not suffer as we do. Here the lack of a face on plants becomes important, too, faces being requisite to humans as proof not only that one is dealing with an actual individual being, but that it is an individual capable of suffering.

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The Bee Crisis

Over a million people have signed this petition calling on governments to ban pesticides that kill bees:

We call on you to immediately ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until and unless new independent scientific studies prove they are safe. The catastrophic demise of bee colonies could put our whole food chain in danger. If you act urgently with precaution now, we could save bees from extinction.

If you are curious as to just why this is so important, here’s Tom Theobald, the whistleblowing beekeeper who “leaked” an EPA memo about the systemic pesticide Clothianidin. EPA scientists do not approve of the use of this toxic poison because of the damage caused to honeybees and other insects and invertebrates. Yet the EPA proposes the sale will simply continue. Here he discusses the EPA and the bigger picture problems that allowed this toxic chemical to be released onto the market – despite concerns of the EPA scientists.

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Finally A Lead In The Case Of The Disappearing Bees

Bees_Collecting_PollenThe rapidly dwindling population of honey bees in the United States and other western countries (a/k/a colony collapse) has been a serious concern for pretty much anyone who is aware of our dependence on bees in maintaining the food chain. All sorts of solutions have been tried unsuccessfully, including importing healthy bees from Australia, and farmers’ demand for traveling apiarists and their beehives has been off the scale. Now it seems that we may finally have a lead in the race to find a cure for our ailing bees, reported in the New York Times:

It has been one of the great murder mysteries of the garden: what is killing off the honeybees?

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food.

Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

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Radioactive Wild Boars in German Forests

Radioactive BoarThis is creepy news from Cyriaque Lamar on io9.com on a Der Spiegel report:

It’s been 25 years since Chernobyl fallout contaminated flora and fauna in Europe, but German hunting officials are still dealing with rising numbers of radioactive wild boars. But why?

This burgeoning boar population munches on radiation-absorbing truffles and mushrooms, and because of an overall increase in wild boars, the number of radioactive boars has gone up as well. The German Atomic Energy Law requires Berlin to reimburse hunters who bag radioactive boars. In 2009, the government paid out approximately €425,000 — or $555,000 — for polluted piggies. According to Der Spiegel, the contaminated boar population has been the most problematic in southern Germany:

Many of the boar that are killed land on the plates of diners across Germany, but it is forbidden to sell meat containing high levels of radioactive caesium-137 — any animals showing contamination levels higher than 600 becquerel per kilogram must be disposed of.

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People Eat Fish That Eat Fish That Eat Plastic

Plastic FishWhy don’t we just start eating fish made out of plastic? Simplify the food chain. Eric S. Page writes on NBC San Diego:

Scientists exploring the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have made another disturbing discovery, according to a published report.

The UCSD scientists returned from their trip to the Northern Pacific in August, bringing back tales, pictures and more than 100 samples from a blob of degraded plastic that is reportedly the size of Texas or bigger.

Now, in addition to the large concentration of plastic, Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers have determined some of the fish in the area are eating it. “We did indeed find some indisputable pieces of plastic in their guts,” Pete Davison, a Scripps graduate student dissecting the fish, told the voiceofsandiego.org.

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