Dolphins call each other by their name! Because they are the best!  »

Can’t see the video? Watch it on!

Dolphins have names for each other! I guess they already knew dolphins named themselves, but this new study discovered that they will call each other by names, especially when they are separated.

"Animals produced copies when they were separated from a close associate and this supports our belief that dolphins copy another animal’s signature whistle when they want to reunite with that specific individual," lead author Stephanie King of the University of St. Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit told Discovery News.

So of course they totally harassed dolphin mamas and babies to find this out but we can still appreciate the implications of the science even if we disapprove of the methods: dolphins are awesome!

If you want to help dolphins, who are slaughtered by the thousands every year (not to mention help captive in shameful zoos and aquariums), check out Sea Shepherd’s dolphin initiatives


Humpback whales are pop music geniuses!  »

As any yoga-loving hippie weirdo (HUGS) will tell you, humpback whale songs are the most relaxing way to decompress while you’re posing in svetlana or whatever it’s called. satsuma. saunasauna. The relaxing pose. Anyway, now we know more about what exactly the songs are!

David Rothenberg, a musician and environmental philosopher, writes:

The mainstream scientific view about humpback whale song is that it’s all a kind of pop music evolutionary strategy; that the whales all like the same hit song, but it has to be a continually changing new “hit.” Just like humans listening to Top 40 radio, quickly getting bored with the latest chart topper and always craving the next variant.

They’re creating their own hits! Suck it, Adele, these whales are rolling in the deep, FOR REAL.

[photo, “A female humpback whale and its calf,” by OAR/National Undersea Research Program via NYT]


Dolphins are people too: Non-human persons and the right to live  »

Apparently this science conference in Vancouver over the weekend was pretty interesting! They didn’t just talk about test tube burgers, they also talked about non-human persons! Man, what did I do this weekend? The only scientific advancement I made was in regard to my tolerance for rail vodka (but I assure you, we made great strides). Non-human persons are much more interesting. The idea is that there are animals with intelligence and consciousness that should grant them the right to life.  

A group of scientists and ethicists made the case this past weekend for “the declaration of rights for cetaceans,” under which, dolphins, whales, and porpoises would have the enforceable right to live:

"We’re saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness and self-awareness are no longer unique human properties. That poses all kinds of challenges," said Tom White, director of the Centre for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

"Dolphins are non-human persons. A person needs to be an individual. And if individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. The captivity of beings of this sort, particularly in conditions that would not allow for a decent life, is ethically unacceptable, and commercial whaling is ethically unacceptable," White said.

How interesting! Was this the idea behind Tilikum v. Seaworld? If the declaration were incorporated into law, Seaworld and the like would not be allowed to keep whales. 

The declaration is backed by experts and relies on the massive amounts of research that has been done on cetaceans in the past. Dolphins are said to be able to identify themselves in a mirror, use symbol-based language, use tools, learn skills and pass them on, and have individual personalities. Does that grant them rights? The UN is considering the declaration as part of its convention on migratory species. 

You really should read this Guardian piece on the whole thing as it has the most amazing stories about a rascally dolphin named Kelly who learned more and more ways to trick her captors into forking over more treats! Speaking of which, I’m working on my declaration of rights for rascals. Kelly would certainly be protected under the DRR. As would chimps, elephants, and Alan Thicke. 

You can sign the declaration of rights for cetaceans here!


Good news: test tube meat burgers will be available this fall! For a zillion dollars!   »

Picture from Maastricht University of test tube meat!

This weekend, Prof Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands spoke at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Vancouver and broke the super news that a test tube hamburger is on the immediate horizon! Last year, Post was able to grow small strips of muscle tissue from a pig’s stem cells. He told the AAAS yesterday that he has successfully replicated the process using a cow’s stem cells. In light of this, Post thinks he can create the first lab-meat hamburger ready for consumption this fall!: "In October we are going to provide a proof of concept showing out of stem cells we can make a product that looks, feels and hopefully tastes like meat," Post said.

Of course, the process is so arduous that each burger will cost 250,000 euros (about $329,950.00), but researchers think soon they will be able to produce the stuff on a larger, cheaper scale. 

I think most of us at Vegansaurus are pro-lab meat, if it means less suffering for animals. But according to the Telegraph:

Although it is possible to extract a limited number of stem cells from cows without killing them, Prof Post said the most efficient way of taking the process forward would still involve slaughter.

He said: “Eventually my vision is that you have a limited herd of donor animals in the world that you keep in stock and that you get your cells form there.”

So, that rains on my parade a bit. But I mean, who thought they were going to be able to make hamburgers from stem cells?! Fairly soon, scientist could be like, “dudes, we totes don’t need any cows at all.” Who can say?!

You may remember that last year, PETA said they’d pay a million dollars to the first scientist “to produce and bring to market in vitro meat.” BUT! PETA’s offer is actually for chicken, so Post’s burger doesn’t cut it. Plus, you have to sell a lot of it commercially before you can win anyway and at $329,950.00 a burger, Post has a ways to go. But maybe he doesn’t need PETA’s money because apparently he has some mysterious, extremely rich donor. The donor wishes to remain anonymous to the public but Post says he’s a household name known for "turning everything into gold." When the first hamburger is ready, Post wants British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal to cook it and this mysterious guy gets to try it with whomever* he invites to join him. 

This mysterious benefactor is my favorite part of the whole story because you know he’s one of those gagillionaires that hunts humans on his own private island. But, alas, even cannibalism has lost its novelty and so onto the lab meat!

*I don’t know if that should be whoever or whomever but I tried my best!


Meat eaters downplay the minds of animals so they can continue to eat the bodies of animals  »

There’s a very interesting study in this month’s Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that we vegans may find particularly fascinating: “Don’t Mind Meat? The Denial of Mind to Animals Used for Human Consumption." It’s all about how meat eaters cope with taking a life so they can have a hamburger. What, you don’t get the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin? It’s OK! Thankfully, a Psychology Today blog and the University of Queensland both break the study down for us. 

One part of the study asked participants (all meat eaters) to rate how willing they are to eat different animals. Then they asked them to rate the mental ability of different animals. Guess what? People were more likely to eat the animals they attributed lower mental ability to. OK, not surprised. This could just mean people eat dumber animals.

The next study asked people to picture cows and sheep. People who pictured them living in happy sunny fields rated the mental abilities of the animals higher than those who specifically thought of the cows and sheep being raised as food. Now we are getting somewhere!

Still another study asked these meat eaters to write about the process of raising and killing animals for food. They were all told there would be a food sampling after they finished writing. Half the people were told they’d be served fruit and half the people were told they’d be served beef and lamb. Before they ate, the participants were asked to rate the mental abilities of cows and sheep. Now, get a load of this!: The people that were expecting to eat meat rated the mental abilities of cows and sheep much lower than the people that knew they were going to eat fruit. Say whaaat?!

The abstract summarizes the implications nicely:

Many people like eating meat, but most are reluctant to harm things that have minds. The current three studies show that this dissonance motivates people to deny minds to animals. Study 1 demonstrates that animals considered appropriate for human consumption are ascribed diminished mental capacities. Study 2 shows that meat eaters are motivated to deny minds to food animals when they are reminded of the link between meat and animal suffering. Finally, Study 3 provides direct support for our dissonance hypothesis, showing that expectations regarding the immediate consumption of meat increase mind denial. Moreover, this mind denial in turn reduces negative affect associated with dissonance.

So, how wacky are meat eaters?! They don’t even know they do this! Wacky meat eaters. I wonder if people who don’t eat meat get any mental benefit because they don’t have to reconcile this dissonance. Know what I mean? Like maybe we save mental energy and can focus that energy on additional intellectual endeavors. Hold up, I think we just figured out why I’m such a Super Genius! 


Walmart is selling flax milk?!  »

, Walmart is selling flax milk at 2,500 of their stores. Damn, Walmart! Way to be modern! Walmart is still an evil beast but it’s cool that the milk will be available in such an accessible store. This flax milk comes from a couple in North Dakota, which started producing flax 11 years ago and has a full line of products under the company Flax USA. I’ve never heard of flax milk but it does appear people have been making it at home for a while. Any readers make their own flax milk? What’s it taste like?!

Here are some of the nutrition details from the Flax USA site:

  • 50 to 60 calories per serving
  • As much calcium as dairy milk
  • Zero cholesterol
  • Zero saturated fat and zero trans fat
  • Non-GMO

Flax is a great source of omega-3 and the milk is enriched with vitamin A, D, and B12. Flax is also high in fiber! Gotta love some fiber.

I’m really into flax because it’s supposed to be good for crazy people and I need all the help I can get! Well, omega-3 is supposed to be good for crazy people and flax has got it. There was a study conducted on depressed mice (?) that showed they exhibited fewer depressive behaviors (?) when given alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the type of omega-3 that’s in flax. Of course knowing how inaccurate animal-testing can be, this isn’t the most solid evidence. And depressed mice? Really? I’m imagining a mouse that, like, won’t leave the house or take calls from friends. He’s no longer interested in things he once enjoyed.

The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine actually released a statement on this study basically saying it was inhumane and effed. They should have just tested on people; everyone already consumes foods containing ALA so it’s not like it would kill people if they tested on them. Leave the depressed mice alone. Or better, let them all go so they can come live with me or Laura and we can eat ice cream and watch Bridget Jones together. Sometimes you just need to wallow, you know?

Here’s a great “primer for the mental health professional" on omegas and major depression that collates all the different studies. It’s dense like whoa but I pulled out some points. Most of the studies are done with fish oil, not flax. In several different studies, scientists saw a correlation between low levels of omega-3s and depression. High rates of fish consumption (gross) has a correlation with lower levels of depression, bipolar disorder, season affective disorder and lower rates of postpartum depression. A small Harvard study showed that a very small amount of EPA (another omega-3) reduced aggression and depressive symptoms in women with borderline personality disorder (which is very difficult to treat). And there are a lot of other studies, OK? I can’t just tell you about all of them, I have things to do and naps to take! But basically, the journal wants you to know that there has been a ton of study results that indicate omega-3s could be really good for depression but then again, none of it could be true. Yay science!

Fish oil has different types of omega-3s than flaxseed oil but your body can convert ALA to those other types (though only at a pretty low rate). The debate over fish oil versus flaxseed oil is a bit confusing. It seems though that with flaxseed oil, your body needs to take an extra step to get omega-3 benefits by converting the ALA so it’s not as efficient as fish oil. But that’s for heart disease and cholesterol, I don’t know about mental health. It was specifically the AHA that helped the depressed mice. Some people say you just have to take more flaxseed oil. I can do that. Since we aren’t going to eat fish, it’s time to hit the flax milk!

OK, I’ve sufficiently bored everyone. Carry on!

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