California bans the sale of all fur products

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No more mink, chinchilla, fox, or rabbit clothing in California. In 2023 it will be illegal to manufacture or shop for fur items in the state. Governor Gavin Newsom signed bill AB-44 on Saturday, banning fur completely. California is the first state in the United States to take this step.

“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” Newsom said in a statement.

And that’s not the only step he’s taking against animal cruelty. He’s also banning the use of wild animals in circuses: “We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames. The videos showing the cruel way these animals – often stripped from their mothers as babies – are trained to do dangerous tricks. It’s deeply disturbing.”

By banning most animals from circus performances, California joins New Jersey and Hawaii in ending the use animals for entertainment. The law includes penalties of up to $25,000 per day for each violation.

Cruel practices behind fur
Fur clothing is mostly made from the skin of mink, chinchillas, foxes, and rabbits. Undercover videos from animal welfare organizations shows the cruelty behind making fur clothing. The animals are forced to live in filthy small wire cages without adequate supplies. They often hurt themselves or other animals in their cage. And that’s not even mentioning the way they are killed and skinned.

Footage: Humane Society International

Fine for violations
Each fur item sold or manufactured from 2023 will be treated as a separate violation. People breaking the law will be fined between $500 or in repeat cases, $1,000.

More fur bans
Animal welfare organizations are happy with this step. Humane Society International hopes it will inspire fur bans around the world. Their executive director Claire Bass in England: “Our #FurFreeBritain campaign is calling on the British government to follow in California’s footsteps, and make the UK the first country in the world to ban the sale of animal fur.”

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China’s breeding bigger pigs to make up for pork shortage

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A pig as big as a polar bear lives on a farm in southern China, Bloomberg reports. The pig weighs 500 kilograms (1102 pounds). The animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become huge.

The average weight of a pig is 125 kilograms, but more farmers are trying to raise them fatter. There’s a shortage of pork meat in China and therefore, pork prices have gone up. Some big pigs are sold for as much as 10000 yuan ($1400).

And not only small farmers are raising bigger pigs, but also national pork producers are trying to increase the average weight of the animals to make more profit.

100 million pigs died
Because of the African swine fever virus that hit China August last year, a third of the pig population was wiped out. More than 100 million pigs lost their life.

Farmers killed their animals at extremely fast rates. And the way they did it was sometimes very inhumane; some farmers buried their pigs alive. Animal welfare organizations worldwide were appalled at how the pigs were treated.

Pork famous in China
Chinese people eat a lot of pork. Half of all the pigs in the world are consumed in China. Creating bigger pigs is one of the solutions the government has to fill the shortage.

The future is Okja
The solution looks a lot like the 2017 Netflix movie Okja in which farmers are stimulated to create the biggest pig for a multinational for meat production. It’s like the movie’s creator Joon-ho Bong predicted the future. And like most animals produced for meat, the ending is never a happy one.


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Undercover footage shows extreme suffering at salmon factory in Maine

“Fish were being raised for human consumption in filthy tanks, covered in fungus and suffering immensely. I witnessed workers throwing improperly anesthetized fish across great distances. Sometimes they were thrown into another tank; other times, into waterless buckets, where they were left to either be crushed by others or suffocate to death,” says Pat, an undercover investigator for the animal welfare organization Compassion over Killing (COK).

Pat worked as an undercover investigator at a massive industrial salmon hatchery in Bingham, Maine, operated by Cooke Aquaculture. He captured footage of senseless violence against fish daily and witnessed horrendous living conditions. The footage was released on Monday.

He continues: “I also frequently saw employees stomping on fish’s heads and slamming them against the ground multiple times in failed efforts to kill them. Often, they were left on the ground, still conscious and writhing in pain. It was like a game to the workers as they attempted ‘trick shots’ and blocked each other’s tosses.”

Undercover footage from Compassion over Killing

Fish feel pain
For long, it was thought that fish do not feel pain, but the latest researches tell us otherwise. Studies of their nerves, brain structure, brain chemistry and behavior, indicate that fish can feel pain, fear and psychological stress. Fish scientist Becca Franks: “The science on fish sentience is clear: fish have the capacity to suffer and feel pain.” Yet in the video we see, people treat them as if they’re things instead of living beings with feelings.

Cooke under investigation
COK submitted a formal animal welfare complaint at the Maine Department of Agriculture. The department then contacted Cooke. Glenn Cooke, CEO of the Cooke, felt sorry: “As a family company, we place animal welfare high in our operating standards and endeavor to raise our animals with optimal care and consideration of best practice. What we saw today is most certainly not reflective of these standards.”

Martha Stewart works with this fish factory in Maine
The hatchery where the footage was filmed, farms and raises Atlantic Salmon that is sold under the name True North Seafood⁠. They recently partnered with Martha Stewart, who finds it very important to know where her food comes from: “Knowing where my seafood comes from is very important to me, and I’ve enjoyed and served True North Seafood to family and friends for years.”

Stewart hasn’t responded yet to the undercover footage of the farm where the fish she talks about comes from, but a representative said they would open their own investigation. COK started a petition to urge Stewart to drop the line and try vegan seafood.

Not an isolated case
Pat: “Sadly, the cruelty that I caught on camera at Cooke Aquaculture is not an isolated case. As long as there is a demand for Atlantic salmon meat and seafood in general, these murky practices will continue as employees in facilities all over the country are forced to cut corners to turn a profit.”

*Pat is a fictional name for the undercover investigator

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TripAdvisor will stop selling tickets for amusement parks that abuse whales and dolphins

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Travel platform TripAdvisor will no longer sell tickets to any attraction that continues to contribute to the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises. By the end of 2019 companies like SeaWorld will be banned from sale on the platform.

“The extensive evidence presented to us by the experts (marine biologists, zoologists and conservationists) was compelling. Whales and dolphins do not thrive in limited captive environments, and we hope to see a future where they live as they should – free and in the wild,” commented TripAdvisor’s experiences and rentals president Dermot Halpin. 

Conservation groups and animal welfare experts see this move as an essential step forward. “This sends a clear message to other travel companies that we must end this cruel industry once and for all,” said Nick Stewart, the global head of wildlife of World Animal Protection

“TripAdvisor has once again established itself as an industry leader, evolving its policy to give the best possible advice: Never buy a ticket to any place where orcas, dolphins, or other ocean-going mammals are kept captive for public display,” said Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of PETA.

Animal welfare policy
Tripadvisor launched its animal welfare policy in 2016. Back then they decided to stop selling tickets to experiences where travelers come into physical contact with captive wild animals, such as elephant ride and tiger petting experiences. In 2018 they also banned demeaning animal shows and performances from sale.

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Happy World Animal Day: the funniest comedy wildlife pictures

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On this very special day we show you the finalists for the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. The competition shows seriously funny images of the earth’s most amazing wildlife. 

In addition to providing some light-hearted relief, the competition aims to highlight the extremely important message of wildlife conservation working with their main competition partner The Born Free Foundation.

The winners will be announced on 13th November.


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Extremely injured boa found in waste dump in Holland

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A boa constrictor was found so badly injured in a waste dump in Amsterdam that it had to be put to sleep Wednesday afternoon. The snake’s mouth was folded backwards and there were several fractures in its jaw. He also had many broken and bruised ribs.

The snake, that was between 1.50 and 1.80 meters long, was found by a garbage collector who wanted to dump a new load of garbage. At that moment he saw something moving between the trash. The animal probably ended up there because it was dumped in an underground waste container.

The Animal Assistance Service Netherlands writes on Facebook that the snake was probably in the container for a long time before it was emptied. They’re so angry at whoever did this, stating that the animal could have been saved with just one phone call to an animal rescue center instead of dumping it.

The owner of the reptile sanctuary where the boa was brought, told the local news station AT5 that he does not understand that someone could do this to the animal: “I am not known to swear, but I wish the person who did this a lot of unpleasantness.”

Reward
A reward of € 500 has now been promised for the tip that leads to the owner of the boa. The first € 100 was made available by the emergency service, the rest of the money was put together by other animal lovers.


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Twenty kangaroos killed in Tura Beach in Australia

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Adult and juvenile kangaroos were killed in Tura Beach in Australia. Police believe that up to 20 kangaroos were hit on purpose by a vehicle between 10.30 pm and 11.30 pm on Saturday. They were hit so hard that some died instantly and some were so injured they had to be euthanized.

Janine Green, a volunteer with Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) was alerted to the incident when police knocked on her door at Sunday night, holding a surviving joey (baby kangaroo).

“Twenty kangaroos, including joeys, were killed and three remaining joeys are in veterinary care”, said Janine Green. Police and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are now investigating the case, with police appealing for witnesses with information about the event to come forward. 

Mass slaughter
Green told CNN on Monday that she had never seen anything like the carnage in her 20 years with the organization: “Residents on the streets were just stunned because they woke up on Sunday morning to find dead (kangaroo) bodies strewn all over their lawns.”

She continued: “The kangaroos are part of their community, they’ve lived there forever. They’re all used to the kangaroos hopping up and down the street. For someone to do a mass slaughter like that is just unbelievable.”

Surviving joeys
The three joeys that survived are Eastern Grey Kangaroos. The smallest one is a male and is around six months hold. He has been named Nullah. The two older joeys are aound nine months old, one male and one female. All three are in care of WIRES.

Cruelty free knitting: alternatives for wool from an experienced knitter

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Autumn is coming and if you’re an avid knitter like me, you know there are few things as relaxing as curling up on the sofa while knitting when it’s cold outside. To some it might seem strange that this is a hobby for young people, but it’s definitely made a comeback and I personally have lovely memories of my grandmother teaching me how to knit and I think of her whenever I do.

I think that creating something with your hands is satisfying and another pro is that knitting has been proven to reduce stress and release feel-good chemicals in the brain.

Unfortunately, we know now very well that wool is the product of a cruel industry. The main problem with wool is that sheep often end up killed or maimes. Baby lambs get taken away from their mothers for their wool with many of them dying because of premature shearing. And of course let’s not forget the trauma of separation from their mothers.

The shearing process is extremely painful. Animals certainly don’t enjoy being sheared and they don’t just stand still while this is happening to them. Many cases have been documented where shearers would act violently and punch, kick and hurt the animals. This kind of thing happens also on the so-called sustainable farms. 

An eyewitness documented the horrendous abuse in wool farms

And what happens after the animals have been sheared? They don’t get to live the rest of their lives happily. They end up being somebody’s meal. Of course it’s not just sheep – included in the list of abused animals are alpacas, for example. 

Alternatives for wool
Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives today and we simply do not need to wear wool. Why don’t you try bamboo, hemp, acrylic, polyester, fleece or chenille instead? As more and more people become increasingly concerned with the state of the environment you’ll find that ecological materials become widespread. If you can’t find anything where you live, you can probably shop online or in the next biggest city.

Bamboo
One of the most popular choices for vegan knitters nowadays is bamboo fiber. It is surprisingly warm in winter and cool in summer and it’s quite easy to find. 

Hemp is also a favourite but probably a bit harder to find. Linen is another option and so is flax based yarn. All these have great durability and won’t irritate your skin the way wool tends to do.

There is also chenille, but you need to be careful because this could be made with wool in parts as well, and the most surprising one – banana fiber yarn. Can you get any more ecological than that?

Where to buy online?
Depends on where you’re based: if you live in Europe or the UK, Eco Stitch sells flax plant fibre. Bamboo and linen yarn can be found at RITO Yarn & Hobby. If you are in the US, Vegan Yarn and WEBS offer a lot of options.

Vegan but not a good choice
I believe it’s important to know what not to buy when you go shopping for all your knitting necessities as well. Acrylics, nylon and polyester may be vegan but still not good choices, and here’s why.

Acrylics might be cheap but there’s a reason: quality is not great and they can be toxic, as it’s been proven by researchers that chemicals remain in the fibers and they can be bad not only for you, but for people involved in the manufacturing process as well. Nylon is not biodegradable and takes lots of energy to manufacture.

Polyester is problematic because when you wash it, you end up releasing tiny plastic microfibers that cause harm to animals in the ocean, to the environment and to human health. Quality is also not good so it won’t last a long time.

Hopefully I’ve covered enough ground in this article for everybody to understand a bit better what to look for. Happy knitting!

Man arrested for killing injured nilgai by burying him alive

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The driver of the excavator who buried an injured nilgai (blue bull) alive in Bihar, has been arrested, according to animal welfare organization PETA India. Last week the animal was filmed while it was being buried alive.

Hunters in the Vaishali district in Bihar supposedly had permission to shoot and kill 300 nilgais because they were destroying crops of farmers in the area.

One of the blue bulls was shot, but didn’t die. The hunters decided to shove the injured animal in a hole with a machine and to cover him in sand. In the video you see the nilgai looking scared, trying to get away, but not being able to move.

After being fully covered, you see the ground moving until he dies. The video caused an online outrage. The video has been viewed more than 3 million times and people responded the extreme cruelty done to the innocent nilgai.

Instead of killing the blue bulls, the government could think of other solutions to protect the crops of farmers. Fencing the area of farmers so blue bulls can’t enter could be a solution but the government only helps financially if the land is at least 25 acres big. Most farmers there don’t have that much land so they don’t get help with fencing.


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Elephant Tikiri, from a life of hard work to hopefully some peaceful last years

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UPDATE: Sadly, Tikiri died two weeks after this article. She never had peace in her life, hopefully now she found it.

The world was in shock when pictures emerged of the 70-year old female elephant Tikiri who was forced to walk in The Festival of the Tooth in the city Kandy in Sri Lanka. She was so skinny you could see her bones through her skin.

The annual Buddhist festival is very popular with locals and tourists featuring dancers, fireworks, drummers and around 60 elephants that have to parade around fully decorated. This year it was held from the 1st till 15th of August.

Lek Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, posted pictures of a very skinny elephant walking in the festival: “This is Tikiri, a 70 year old ailing female. She is one of the 60 elephants who must work in the service of the Perahera Festival (The Festival of the Tooth) in Sri Lanka this year.  She walks many kilometers every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony. No one sees her bony body or her weakened condition, because of her costume.”

Shortly after that post and online outrage, a new picture appeared. Tikiri had collapsed during the festival. She was very ill. Animal rights activists all over the world demanded her release. They also stressed tourists in Sri Lanka to boycott elephant attractions because they cause elephants to suffer tremendously.

Elisa Allen, director of animal welfare charity PETA, told CNN that elephants were frequently exploited at tourist destinations and in temples: “Tourists visiting Sri Lanka can help elephants by refusing to ride them and by avoiding any attraction that offers or endorses elephant rides, keeps the animals chained, or forces them to perform.”

Lek Chailert asked people to write to the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to end this cruelty done to Tikiri. It worked. She was pulled out of the festivities. “Following the outcry over Tikiri, the elephant has been withdrawn from the closing parade”, organizers of the festival said.

Tikiri’s owner brought her back to their home in the city Kegalle. They said Tikiri had been suffering for a while from an eating disorder, that’s why she was so skinny. The owner is a business man who bought her about 10 years ago to use her for safaris. Until very recently she was still used for safaris.

Plea to help Tikiri last year
Before the picture went ‘viral’ Carolyn Valentine had already expressed concerns about Tikiri to the government of Sri Lanka. A year ago Carolyn and her friend were volunteering at an elephant park in Pinnawala in Sri Lanka.

They drove past Tikiri most days as she was kept in a yard by the side of Kegalle Road and was hired out to give rides to tourists. They noticed then already how painfully thin she was. They thought about Tikiri a lot when they returned home. Carolyn decided to contact the government of Sri Lanka in October 2018 concerning Tikiri:

I have not long returned from holiday in your beautiful country and felt I had to write to you with my concerns regarding a working elephant in Pinnawala.

My friend and I noticed that she was looking very thin and tired. She is kept alone in a baron yard next to the road side without shelter or visible supply of water. On Wednesday 22nd August (2018) we decided to visit and pay to have some photos taken with her. Her owner also happened to be present – he said that she is ‘a very happy elephant’ of a ‘high cast ‘ denoted by her ‘sunken forehead’. Her name is Tikiri.

Her plight has really concerned me and I have thought about her a lot since returning to the UK. As you can see from the pictures she is very frail and I don’t think she should be hired out for people to ride. I would be very grateful if you could ask Mr Sarath Fonseka, the Wild Life Minister, to intervene. If you are able to relocate her I would happily make a monthly contribution towards her upkeep so that she can spend the rest of her life in retirement.”  


Valentine never got a response from the government and was heartbroken when she saw pictures of a collapsed Tikiri online: “Tikiri is a lovely gentle old soul but I believe she has been made to work most of her life. There are several elephant parks in the vicinity and the mahouts (elephant riders) all know of her. Apparently she was made to work in the logging industry before being bought by the current owner.”

Life of Tikiri back home with her owners
Animal rights activist Champa Fernando who lives in Kandy decided to visit Tikiri on the 19th of August. According to her Tikiri was doing better. She got a lot of backlash however from people not believing it was Tikiri. But also a lot of support that she took the time to go and see the elephant for herself.

She visited Tikiri a second time on the 29th of August. Champa met with the owners and reported on how Tikiri was doing. The owners told her they wouldn’t use Tikiri for safaris anymore and would hive her proper care.


Domesticated elephants in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka people own elephants as pets in their home. They’re usually used to work so their owners can make money. They’re kept in chains so they can’t walk away and it’s really hard for home owners to give them proper space. Elephants in the wild can walk up to 15 km a day. They need to be able to move around freely. Elephants are considered sacred in Sri Lanka and protected as an endangered species, but the government sometimes turns a blind eye to elephants owned by individuals and temples.

Crushing a baby elephant
To make an elephant do what their owner wants, the very cruel practice of crushing is used. Young elephants are pained so much physically and emotionally, such extreme torture that eventually they’re broken and will do whatever the owner wants. It had been proven that elephants never forget this torture, so they go through life broken.

So what happens to Tikiri
The owners of Tikiri told Fernando they will not give Tikiri away but will take care of her at their home. Fernando has visited her twice already and she says she sees improvement. She’s happy the owners are open about their care and hopes Tikiri can enjoy some final happy years. Valentine wishes the same: “My hope is that she can retire to a safe environment ideally with other elephants and live out her days in peace.”

Fernando also stresses that there are many elephants that suffer even worse and hopes they get help as soon as possible too. There is a lot to be done to rescue all elephants from the cruel elephant tourist industry.

The Animal Reader is an animal news organization. We need your support to create news stories where animals are the focus. Big or small, it would mean a lot if you could sponsor us.