What, we’ve wrecked wild bees now, too? »
Two fun studies show that bees are having more troubles thriving in the age of modern agriculture than we thought.
First, honeybees aren’t the best crop pollinators; per a study published in Science, they get a lot of help from bumblebees and carpenter bees.
Second, wild bees hate monocultures, and don’t like to pollinate in single-crop areas.
Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s a co-author of the first study in Science, says one of the biggest problems for wild bees is the agricultural specialization that has produced huge fields of just one crop.
The almond groves of California, for example, are a sea of blossoms in February. It’s a feast, as far as the eye can see, for honeybees that come here from all over the country.
"But for the rest of the year, there’s nothing blooming," she says.
That means there are no bees. “In fact, in places where we have very large monocultures of almond, we don’t find any native bees anymore,” Kremen says.
So what does that mean for us? Will the fact that large-scale monoculture is bad for bees force us to change the way we farm? Is smaller-scale, more diverse farming financially feasible for modern farmers?
Home gardeners, at least, could learn to plant a variety of flowers and food plants together. As for commercial agriculture, we’ll see.
[Photo by Jimmy Smith via Flickr]
Marketplace loves the Veggie Grill! »
My dad was on NPR yesterday, selling Kai Ryssdal on plant-based fast casual food. Woo, go dad!
Vegansaurus pal and all-around wonderful human being Kate Dollarhyde brought to our attention to this interview with her dad, Greg Dollarhyde,* who is CEO of the Veggie Grill! Which everyone should love, as it is terrific. Look at that salad!
Click through to find out what cities can look forward to their own Veggie Grills in the near future (hint: outside of California!).
[Photo by Michael Liu via Flickr]
*[The original post misidentified the first name of Kate’s dad. His name is Greg Dollarhyde, not Steve. Vegansaurus regrets the error]
Technology is so amazing, it lets J.Viewz here cover Massive Attack on eggplants, strawberries, mushrooms, a bunch of grapes, a kiwi, and a carrot!
NPR considers the lobster »
An animal behavior professor, reports NPR, has concluded that crustaceans do, in fact, feel pain.
As for what this might mean for those of us who occasionally dispatch a crustacean or two, the best way to minimize potential pain is likely electrocution or driving a knife through the creature’s brain, Elwood says. But as most of us lack specialized machinery and knowledge of crustacean anatomy, the easiest way is still dropping the crab in a pot of boiling water.
If you’re determined to eat animals, I guess how much they suffer before becoming their dinner doesn’t matter at all.
[Photo by Andrea Westmoreland via Flickr]
What happens to “retired” research chimps? »
NPR had a nice report on Friday about the lives of chimps after they have been “retired” from scientific study, specifically those at the National Institutes of Health. Yes, “retired” is a bullshit term and life for lab animals is horrific, but obfuscatory vocabulary shouldn’t detract from the actual greatness of taking chimpanzees out of those labs; we made their lives hell, but now we are taking them out of that hell.
NPR focuses on two facilities that take in research chimps, Save the Chimps in Florida, and Chimp Haven in Louisiana. Both sanctuaries tell science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce that they are willing and able to take in more of the NIH’s retired chimps (which number in the hundreds), but because “Congress put a [$30 million] cap on how much the agency can spend on chimp sanctuaries when it passed the CHIMP Act in 2000,” and the NIH has already spent almost $29 million so far. Save the Chimps and Chimp Haven are raising more money to meet demand, but for 100 recently retired chimps, the NIH instead chose to make them “ineligible for experiments,” and “moved [them] to a different lab that had space to house them” instead of sending them to sanctuaries.
The cost of keeping a chimp in a lab for a year, $15,000, is close to the annual cost of housing a chimp in a sanctuary. As Greenfieldboyce reports, the sanctuaries are working on raising $5 million right now to take on the retired chimps, as well as make room for chimps expected to be retired by the NIH soon. The story is an interesting read (and better listen), if you can get past the “retired” euphemism. Because come on, NIH, none of these chimpanzees ever applied for the “jobs” you gave them.
[Photo of Chimp Haven resident by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr]
NPR does vegan: Bryant Terry recipes and more! »
Last week, with everyone on vacation and news slow, NPR’s Morning Edition deigned to do a two-part series about veganism. Coverage is coverage!
"It isn’t all brown rice and steamed vegetables," says Renee Montagne. I’m just going to assume she’s pretending to be ignorant for the benefit of her ignorant listeners.
Best part of the interview: two recipes from Bryant’s most recent book, The Inspired Vegan! His black-eyed peas in garlic-ginger-braised mustard greens, and molasses, miso, and maple candied sweet potatoes sound perfect for chilly winter nights. Check them out on the NPR website, or maybe just buy his book, because you know it’s full of good food, and suggestions for excellent literature and music accompaniments.
[photo by Jennifer Martiné/Da Capo Lifelong Books via NPR]
NPR calls for end to Omni-Veg holiday food wars »
Remember a couple months ago, when NPR went veg-trolling with that “Do Vegetarians and Vegans Think They Are Better Than Everyone Else?" story? And it turned the answer was, "Some of them do, but you wouldn’t want to hang out with anyone with a superiority complex, so let’s just chill," and all we meat-abstainers went "Fucking DUH, NPR," and turned up the Ryan Tedder’s Greatest Hits playlist on Spotify instead?
I thought not. We remind you of that nonsense because of this week’s ridiculous veg-baiting, “It’s Time to End the Turkey-Tofurky Thanksgiving Food Fight.” Right now you’re thinking, “What food fight? You mean the holiday meals when I get a main dish all to myself and at least half the sides are vegan, because either I make them or I have an accommodating family who realizes that the taste differences between non-dairy and real butter are totally negligible?” Which, you’d be right. Author Tania Lombrozo has nothing new to say here:
For the turkey-eaters: vegetarians probably aren’t judging you as harshly as you think they are. For the Tofurky-eaters: making meat-eaters feel judged is no way to win converts. And for the turkeys: better luck next year; I’m on your side.
How about: Don’t eat actual turkeys, like the fine specimen above; eat fake turkey, like the fine specimen below. And if your dinner guests give you shit, don’t invite them over next year.
Both tastier and cheaper than Tofurky!
Did you vegan Thanksgiving-celebrators have a good time? Did you harangue your relations about the horrors of U.S. turkey production until they threw you out? Were you mocked for your animal-product-eschewing ways until you wept? Did anyone get a drink in the face? No, right? I swear, this contentiousness exists almost exclusively in fiction. We in the real world are doing just fine sharing meals.
[Wild turkey photo by Wayne Dumbleton via Flickr]
Conservation Biologist Thor Hansen explains why feathers matter »
This week on Fresh Air, Terri Gross interviewed Thor Hanson, a conservation biologist and author of the newly published Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle. As part of his research, he plucked a dead wren to count its feathers. It had 1,500. A tiny wren, like the Australian white-winged fairy wren in the photo!
In the interview, which you can listen to on NPR, Hanson discusses the biological makeup of feathers, why he thinks birds evolved feathers, and how they adapted them to flight. The first feathered animals might’ve used them primarily for insulation, and now, every single individual flight feather is an airfoil, while being part of the airfoil that is the bird’s wing. Double-airfoil action for maximum flight!
Animals are amazing! So is science!
[white-winged fairy wren photo by David Cook Wildlife Photography, via Flickr]
It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use! »
It’s Paul Shapiro's Animal News You Can Use! WOOHOO!
Good news: A judge has rejected the foie gras industry’s attempt to put a hold on California’s new law banning the force-feeding of ducks (and selling products from force-fed ducks).
More good news: North America’s largest foodservice distributor, Sysco, is the latest food giant to come out against gestation crate confinement of pigs.
In response to the gestation crate debate, the National Pork Producers Council’s communications director was seriously quoted in the National Journal this week saying: “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets…I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.” (No, this isn’t a quote from 30 years ago—it’s July 24, 2012. Seriously. Yes, I know.)
Amazingly, USDA put out a newsletter this week including a mention of the health and environmental benefits of Meatless Monday. This of course drew immediate outrage from the meat industry and its allies in Congress (Rep. Steve King from Iowa tweeted that it was “heresy”), prompting USDA to immediately remove the newsletter and announce that it wasn’t properly vetted. Lots of coverage on this, though the national AP story put it best when it aptly concluded, “The USDA often promotes the beef industry by encouraging Americans to eat meat.” (NPR and NY Times had good coverage, too.)
How the ag industry’s hate brings positive attention to HSUS, and more! »
It’s Paul Shapiro's Animal News You Can Use! Yay!
NPR had a recent important look at the vigorous efforts of the pork and beef lobbies to kill federal hen protection legislation. Amusingly, in the piece, the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association calls HSUS “the devil.”
Speaking of what the agribusiness groups think, the always-insightful Counting Animals blog did a fascinating write-up and graphical illustration on the increasing attention the ag industry trade press is giving to our movement.
My colleague Matt Prescott’s got some sage advice on the CNN site about how folks can help reduce cruelty to farm animals. Check him out.
Expect a big fight in the Congress over Rep. Steve King's (seriously, click through) crazy amendment that’s been added to the House ag committee version of the farm bill that would undo numerous animal protection laws.
And last but certainly far from least, since last week’s installment, even more major pork buyers have come out saying they’ll rid their supply chains of gestation crates: Sodexo, Kmart, and Heinz. And speaking of the pork industry, as if its leadership couldn’t sink to a new low, it’s now lobbying to keep pigs at greater risk of perishing in factory farm fires. Seriously.
P.S. Video of the week: Speaking of the devil, here’s some death metal for Maru the cat while he enjoys his boxes.