Anchovies on my pizza please.

I must say, after arriving in Ireland two weeks ago, what a beautiful, green and relaxing place to be. I came here two weeks ago in an attempt to try “wwoofing,” but to be honest, have had a much different experience that I expected. That being said, I am having a great time and I have met some interesting and lovely people.

Seeing the ocean from my room has inspired much reading and research and conversation about fishing, more specifically, sustainable fishing. Small seaside villages  inevitably rely on fishing as food and clean water for leisure and tourism, so, being surrounded by small seaside villages at the moment has allowed me to learn a lot about what the oceans mean in the simplest of ways.

If I were to cut to the chase, I recently read a report published by the University of British Columbia’s Fishery Centre saying that by 2050 there is a good chance that many of the ocean’s large fish species could be extinct. These fishes include some of our favourites – tuna and cod – as well as some sharks and grouper. When large predatory fish such as these are removed from an environment, it allows smaller fish species such as anchovies and sardines to flourish. Unfortunately when there are many small animals in the absence of predators, these populations are much more prone to collapse by disease and massive die-offs; these conditions are then optimal for algae blooms or bacterial growth, resulting in deoxygenated water that is unable to support much life at all. These are called “dead zones.”

The problem is, in the simplest terms, over-fishing and improper use of the oceans resources. Basically, when a large fish population is found, all adults are fished, leaving nothing by way of reproductive individuals to replenish the population successfully. Combined with this is the fact that most of the fishing methods employed are extremely environmentally destructive. One problem, bycatch, is  the unintentional catching of fish not necessarily used for anything which by definition exceeds the amount of target species caught in the process. For example, shrimp trawling results in 20kg of other fish species killed for one kg of shrimp. Well, not even just fish species, but also turtles, sea horses, dolphins, whales, you name it, it somehow makes its way in there.

Farmed fish also comes with its fair share of problems. Animal welfare is just one, but there are also large issues with contamination and damage to local natural ecosystems and habitats. To learn more about fish farms, read here: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/aquaculture/ .

But as with most bad, there is  good. There is always a way the average person can help. In Canada, http://www.seachoice.org/ is an organization that promotes sustainable fishing and seafood consumption. There is a published list of the best seafood choices – what it is, and how it’s caught. But it might also be worth it to try out the little guys that nobody likes! Anchovies, sardines, mackerel are all really delicious and deserve the same attention as your tuna sandwich.

Unfortunately, fishing is an extremely complicated topic and one that I am in no way 100% informed about. However, I am learning, and I think that it is worth my attention. I hope that more people become aware of just how fragile our oceans are. Think about how by the time the next generation grows to be adults they might never even get to try all the delicious things we enjoy today because we are enjoying them too much.

 

My view!

Tuna

 


Meat cont.

*I would like to preface this by saying I was inspired by the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it (he is also the author of my favourite book, Everything is Illuminated).*

In my last post I talked about the cruelty that goes on in factory farms – theres no doubt about it, we all know its bad – but are we all aware of the other negative effects caused by factory farms?

It ranges from air pollution to human rights violations – and everything in between. Take the time to do some research yourself.

In my reading I learned a whole bunch of things:

  • The air around some factory farms is often more polluted than the most polluted U.S. cities. Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, cyanide are among the chemicals found in the air, contributing to the fact that children raised near factory farms are twice as likely to develop asthma, or just simply living close to a factory farm can increase your risk of heart and respiratory problems.
  1. In addition to poor air quality, the waste produced by that many animals in one place, in combination with poor waste management, has lead to cesspools of salmonella, streptococci, or giardia (plus many more infectious agents)
  2. These cesspools are not only comprised of fecal matter, but also dead animals, dead piglets, dead chicks, blood, vomit, antibiotics, syringes, hair, body parts – you name it, it’s in there.
  • Factory farms have created a breeding ground for zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from non-human animals to humans). Some that might ring a bell include avian bird flu and H1N1.
  1. While this in itself might not be a new thing (there are plenty of other zoonotic diseases that don’t originate from livestock) we are compounding their virulence by the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics are used in every factory farm because animals living in a cramped and dirty place will obviously be susceptible to disease. The more antibiotics are used, the more these pathogens become resistant to them.
  2. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70 percent of total antibiotic consumption (humans and non-human animals) is for non-therapeutic use (these animals aren’t sick to begin with) in factory farmed livestock. Sounds like a recipe for a big stewing pot of resistant viruses and bacteria no?
  3. This equals superbug. Scary stuff.
  • Factory farms have created what is considered by Human Rights Watch as conditions that are a violation of human rights. Slaughterhouses are of a particular concern.
  1. Slaughtering animals all day is tiring, dangerous, and mentally exhausting. I don’t know many people who would actually enjoy this, even if the paycheck was out of this world.
  2. Poor training, long hours, and bad equipment lead to such statistics as this : in Nebraska plants, from 1999-2003, about 100 night cleaners lost body parts (by amputation or crushing).
  3. Many companies run on a competitive advantage system – the more meat you carve, the more money you get – this will obviously lead to more people working quickly and unsafely.
  4. Annual turnover in processing plants typically exceeds 100 percent. What does this tell you?

So while factory farming produces meat that is cheap, and tastes “good,” is it worth the cost of human and environmental health? My answer would be no. I could easily give up meat if I knew that we would have a beautiful, healthy planet and population. But obviously, one person isn’t enough. So I am asking you to spread the word, tell your friends, tell your family. It is important to talk about these things – I firmly believe that if people are aware they will make the right choice.

Factory farming is unsustainable. The amount of meat we as a human population eat is unsustainable. Vegetables are good for you.

Eat LESS meat, buy GOOD meat!

Sources:

http://www.environmentalintegrity.org./03_09_2011.php

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Natural-Health/Meat-Poultry-Health-Risk.aspx

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/usa0105/usa0105.pdf


Meat

I am not a vegetarian, and the closest I ever came to being one was a couple years ago – I had a brief (two month) stint without eating any beef, poultry, pork, or seafood. This, however, does not mean that I haven’t considered it since, or even before for that matter. And the reasons I gave it up for those two months had everything to do with health reasons and nothing to do with animal welfare issues.

I always thought that vegetarians were abrasive, quick to judge, and very, very disdainful (in a pretentious-kind-of-way). And actually, some are. But we all know that you can’t judge an entire group of people based on a few bad apples. So, because of this, and in combination with my insane stubbornness, I refused to give into their beliefs because I did not want to give them the satisfaction. In fact, my sister was a vegetarian for eight years (or something) and I never once considered her ideas as legitimate because shoving ones ideas down another’s throat is a sure fire way to make someone NOT listen.

Now this leads me to my main point. These days, I have been having a hard time actually justifying eating meat. Over the last couple of years, and more so the last one in particular, I have learned a significant amount about the food that we eat. I have learned about factory farms, organic food vs. non-organic food, antibiotics in our livestock, etc. etc. The list really does go on and on, and if anyone is curious about what actually happens on these farms, there is plenty of reading you can do and I would be more than happy to point you in the right direction (typing “how animals are treated in factory farms” in Google is also a good start). These are very important things to talk about, but still not enough to make people change. Hey, I am a prime example of this.

I firmly believe that humans are supposed to eat meat – after all, thats what I learned in biology class. Our ancestors did it, our closest relatives do it, our most distant relatives eat other animals too, so why shouldn’t we? My issue now: human beings have turned eating meat in a respectful and necessary way into an assembly line of genetically altered animals (no mating, no reproducing AT ALL) that are raised and slaughtered in the most unimaginably horrible ways. Combine this with the massive global demand for dirt-cheap meat and we have what is called a vicious cycle. As long as the human population continues to eat meat at an extremely unsustainable rate, there will always be animals raised and killed in this manner. And I also firmly believe that just cutting meat out of your life is not enough – hear this vegetarians – if you are going to give up meat because you don’t agree with how animals are treated, there are actually much more effective ways to make a difference (that aren’t so passive)!

But, for those of you who find it hard to cut that bacon and those chicken wings out of your life, there is good news. We are lucky to come from a country where humanely raised meat is available. And we are also lucky to come from a country where consumer choice matters, in fact it is huge. All it takes is a little research and some extra time on your part. In fact, I have already started some of the work for you.

Where to buy cruelty-free meat in Calgary:

TK Ranch Products – Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Pork – Available at Planet Organic, Community Natural Foods, or delivered right to your door.

Sunworks Farm – Beef, Poultry, Eggs, etc. – Available at Blush Lane Organic Market (Calgary Farmer’s Market)

First Nature Farms – Bison, Beef, Pork, Eggs – Available at Community Natural Foods

I encourage everyone to think about what they are eating. Is properly-raised meat important to you? Is it worth the extra five minute drive, two dollars, or time to research?

We all have the ability to make a difference in how animals are treated, it’s called money, choose where to spend it wisely!

Chicken Factory Farm

Cute little piglets!

I thought this was going to be a one-post wonder, but I think there is much to say, so stay tuned!

 

Planet Organic has two locations in Calgary: 4625 Varsity Drive NW, and, 10233 Elbow Drive SW
The Calgary Farmer’s Market has moved and is now located at 510 77th Avenue SE (Blackfoot and Heritage)
Community Natural Foods has two locations in Calgary: 1304 10 Avenue SW, and, 202 61 Ave SW (Chinook Station)


Elephants Part II: Camp Life, Rural Adventures

Although I can and do appreciate nature (the birds, fresh air, you get the picture), I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as outdoorsy by any stretch of the imagination. Anyone that knows me would say that I am all talk.

When I found out there was a potential for poisonous snakes (MAMBAS), creepy crawly spiders and millipedes, I completely forgot about the likelihood of something more deadly catching up with me, malaria! Lucky I never got malaria, but one of us did (shes okay now!). I am telling you, for someone who actually spent much of her university career studying insects, I am terrified of them. All that being said, when you are thrown into a situation where no matter where you are and what you are doing, there are going to be insects in your food, clothes, bed, tent, toilet, blah blah, you get used to it very quickly. The beasts we encountered cover everything from the infamous camp critter “cup bug” (see picture below) whose body took up an entire cup, to the wasps nest that hung outside the bathroom (one of Emily’s eyes went missing for a few days). Nightly tick check was a must, as was the scorpion shoe test. I endured more than enough tse-tse fly bites (not fun!) and I think I can speak for all of the girls I was hanging out with that, although they were the least of our worries, mosquito bites were incredibly annoying. The mosquito that resides in Tanzania is tiny and cunning!

Insects aside, life at camp was very fun, if at times hot and uncomfortable.

Pawaga was a camp in the middle of butt-f***. We lived on a farmer’s land, right beside his corn field, and on the river. He was an incredibly generous man, who showed us the farm, gave us lots of fruit and vegetables, and got a big kick out of us when we wanted to help with the corn harvest. The night sky at Pawaga was amazing, and although I often cursed my M&M sized bladder for getting me up in the middle of the night, seeing 46 billion stars (at least…) was incredible. Not to mention, one of our camp dogs, Cheetah, would follow me to my squatting position as my guard. The sunset was something we set our chairs up for every night, and I had a perfect view of the sunrise from my sleeping position in the tent. These are the things I want to remember about Pawaga. Not the snake I found under my bed, or the night our camp helper Oscar killed a skink – also found under my bed –  with my malaria medication box, or the dogs tick-removal, or the gunshot I heard from the neighbouring farm to scare away animals (at 3am, not cool), or the rat that was in our tent one night, or the fact that it was 45 degrees everyday and our water was hot and tasted like charcoal, or not even the fact that I was suffering from Giardiasis for almost 6 weeks and our toilet was a hole in the ground. All being said, I loved camp. Where else would I get to tie beer bottles up with fishing line and dangle them in the tepid river water to cool them down to room temperature?

Chogela was our other camp, and usually proved to be a nice retreat from the harsh realities of Pawaga. We had a nice banda (thatched-roof hut) over our tent, we had a big dining banda to eat and hang out in, as well as a kitchen. But above all, we had HOT showers! The amazing guys that owned the camp (family-owned) and the local guys they employ were so great. They would heat water up for us, help us cook rice, kill any bugs we had in our tent. One night, a beetle flew into Ali’s chest, and three of them came running with sticks and machetes. It was amazing. If you are ever make a visit to Ruaha, please, please stay at Chogela!

In between our life at camp and the project we had our fair share of hilarious experiences. I met some very entertaining characters!

For example: (The following are text messages I received from someone I met in Iringa)

– Hello Mamy i thnk ya fyn! Av a golden day. Back to me am fyn. Hallaa @ ya sisters. Tchaoo
– Yap its true dat we never mean to met but its just happened so by dat I take u as a biggest fancy of mine
– Yap I was fillin lyk i was controllin da world

All in all my camp experience cannot be summed up by stories of flat tires, lost dogs, cows pooping in my drinking water, being in Tanzania for the Presidential election, or even the elephants that came through camp and woke me up with their big sounds! They are just part of a much bigger picture of the beautiful people I met and the incredibly valuable lessons I learned about generosity, family and community, and happiness.

This is our shower. Night showers only!

Pawaga - beautiful setting!

Cup bug!! Dead.

R&R at Chogela

Elephants Part I: Background

Last September I did something I had been dreaming of doing forever…go on a safari! My experience in Tanzania was definitely a safari, in the true sense of the word. Safari is a Swahili word for trip (or in many cases, adventure), and it was truly the trip of a lifetime.

My adventure started last February, when I contacted a woman named Sarah about a possible research assistant position in Tanzania and it took off from there. I didn’t think I would ever make it there, but after much struggle, saving, arguments, begging and pleading in the months leading up to September, I finally boarded a plane and traveled halfway across the world. (Shoutout!!! I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of my family (Mom+Alan, Dad+Kelly, and Chelsea) or my amazing and supportive boyfriend Aman)

It would be impossible to summarize my experience into one blog post, or even ten, but I will do my best to give a good introduction. It is also impossible to describe the biology and issues in full detail, but important points are here!

Sarah has been a presence in Tanzania for a few years doing work in animal conservation, but has since started her own PhD. project on Human-Elephant Conflict near Ruaha National Park. The problem in this area of Tanzania is not that the elephant numbers are dwindling (Ruaha has one of the highest elephant populations in East Africa) but that the elephants and the humans that live around the park are at odds with one another. The park is surrounded by very rural, subsistence farming. This means that any damage to crops, whether how big or how small, is potentially detrimental to the farmers livelihood. If you know anything about elephants, it is probably that they are big, and they eat a lot! Therefore, a family of elephants that leaves the park to find food or water, and raids a farm, could very well eat the entire crop in one night. This doesn’t bode well for the farmer, or the farmers family, and therefore, doesn’t bode well for the elephants when the farmer catches them red-handed. Not to mention, running into a wild elephant can be insanely dangerous. Mitigating (or lessening) this conflict is a very important step in protecting not only the strong elephant population of Ruaha, but all the animals that live there.

Many of these farmers and villagers that live near Ruaha have never been into the park, have never learned or experienced the true value of the biological systems that are sitting there in their backyard. Parks have been set up to protect wildlife, but as a result, have restricted access to those most important in protecting it. Nobody has vehicles to go into the park. Therefore, to most of the locals, elephants and other animals are simply that – animals, sometimes pests, sometimes food. What Sarah is doing in Ruaha is taking these farmers and villagers into Ruaha National Park and showing them what thousands of travelers from all over the world come to see, and shes hoping that these experiences change how they feel about wildlife. She believes that educating the local people about wildlife and conservation biology will make them passionate about protecting these very valuable assets

I finally got to fulfill my dream of being a safari guide (even if it was only for a little while, and I wasn’t actually guiding, just coming along for the ride). For three months I went with Rowland (our amazing local guide) into the park, in a 20-year-old Land Rover packed with people (12 to be exact, or 14 when Mama’s brought their babies), and saw the most incredible and amazing animals, landscapes, sunsets, and sunrises I have ever seen.

Me on a village trip in the park

A picture I took in Ruaha

Driving at sunset.

Parts II and III to follow!

http://www.africanconservation.org/201004281841/conservation-news-section/tanzania-the-human-elephant-conflict.html?view=article&Itemid=2