Friday, May 30, 2014

Feeding the World? More Like Devouring the Planet.

A recent National Geographic Magazine features food, and feeding the predicted 9 billion people that are expected to be on planet Earth for 2050.

While lacking in conviction, Jonathan Foley does suggest eating less meat and animal products. Like the majority of writers wishing to remain popular, he doesn't push for eliminating what is a cruel, unnecessary and inefficient choice for food. It would be helpful for him to remind us that no human needs to consume animal products; and this message would go a long way to helping feed people, reduce greenhouse emissions and ecological destruction, and curb exploitative attitudes.

Here is an important and revealing graphic from the article; it's an impactful revelation of what we're doing to the planet with livestock:

From National Geographic.
According to this, 46.5% of the world's land remains undeveloped - a bit reassuring as I expected a much smaller percentage. This means the other 53.5% of all land on the planet has been developed - meaning people have altered the landscape for various purposes.

By and far, most land on Earth is utilized by agriculture. A staggering 38.6% of all land on the planet is devoted to raising livestock and growing crops. Most of it is for livestock. Foley puts it this way: "an area roughly the size of Africa" is how much land livestock occupies (and the area of South America for all crops.)

Just think about that a moment - if we were to raise all livestock in one place, it would fill up Africa. And a lot of the cropland is also used to feed livestock, increasing their total footprint.

Clearly, the solution to our problem is not more livestock. We just don't have the space for it.

Some might ask: is organic livestock a better option? Almost no one dares to breach this uncomfortable topic, but one of the 'perks' claimed by organic animal agribusiness is these animals are given significantly more space.

Given what we've just learned, space is one thing we don't have to spare. Organic practices demand even more land, further shrinking remaining habitat for wild species. It becomes a battle between livestock, and wild animals. I shudder to think how little space would be left were organic livestock practices to increase significantly.

Here's another related graphic, courtesy of XKCD:

This is the mass of all land mammals on the planet. Humans are the dark blocks in the middle, livestock (cows, pigs, sheep) and pets are light grey, and a total of 35 of remaining blocks are wild mammals.

Once again, a tiny percentage of mammals (the green blocks) on land are wild. If you were to put all our goats on one side of a giant scale, and *every wild mammal* on the other side, goats would tip the scale.

What about hunting for meat? For me, this really puts into perspective the claim 'things would be better if everyone hunted!' If a majority of people switched to hunting, I expect nearly every remaining mammal would be killed in less than a week. (Where do we go from there?)

We really need to consider the the effects of livestock, and how we're going to feed imminent generations without ruining more of the planet.

No matter how you look at it, we need to change how we eat.

A couple more relative facts from the Nat Geo piece:
  • "Only 55 percent of food-crop calories directly nourish people. Meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised on feed supply another 4 percent."
  • "For every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories of eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork, or 3 of beef."
Be the change we need: go vegan, and get your family and friends to switch!

Dave Shishkoff, Editor
Twitter: @Victoria_Vegan & @VeganCyclist (personal)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Media Release & Action: Accident Renews Call for Horse Carriage Ban

Credit: CHEK News footage.

Accident Renews Call for Horse Carriage Ban

Victoria, BC - May 23, 2014 - After confirmed reports of a carriage horse throwing and injuring its driver and colliding with two cars and a motorcycle this evening, local activist group Carriage-Free Victoria is renewing their call on council to ban this industry.

Victoria-based animal activist Dave Shishkoff has been campaigning against Victoria’s horse carriage trade for over 8 years. He believes horse drawn carriages are cruel, out-dated and dangerous. “Tonight was extremely unfortunate, but it also was 100% preventable. With tourist season fast approaching, traffic levels are only going to increase. City council needs to take immediate action and pass a bylaw to prohibit horse-drawn carriages.”

Over the next few weeks, Shishkoff vows to expand his campaign to ban the horse drawn carriages in Victoria. “Social media, protests and filling City Council’s mailboxes with signed postcards from residents urging council to ban the horses will be priority number one. There are clearly safer and more humane ways to entertain tourists in our city”, Shishkoff adds. Over 500 post cards have already been sent to City Hall.

Currently there are only two horse-drawn carriage companies that operate in the City of Victoria, after a third was shuttered last year for not paying taxes.



Demand they take steps to ban the carriages before even more people or horses are hurt. Some suggested talking points:
  • It's an outdated and cruel industry.
  • It's hard on horses: walking all day on hard concrete is harmful for their bodies, as is breathing in traffic fumes, and the traffic is an obvious danger.
  • Too many accidents already have happened, and there's no system in place requiring accident reports, meaning the only accidents we hear about are the ones the media reports on.
  • Traffic downtown will only intensify as the tourist season progresses, increasing the potential danger of these incidents.
  • New York City is about to ban their carriages, and Victoria needs to follow suit.

Carriage-Free Victoria on Facebook:

Finally, remind them that there is an election this November, and you expect to see them address this issue as well.

Send your emails to:;;;;;;;;;

Credit: CHEK News
MEDIA COVERAGE (Check back for updates.)
Thank you for helping make Victoria a carriage-free city,

Dave Shishkoff, Editor
Twitter: @Victoria_Vegan & @VeganCyclist (personal)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Catching Up: Victoria Screening of The Ghosts in Our Machine

Back on April 23rd, I participated in the Open Cinema 'Connecting The Docs' feature screening of Canadian documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine, which tracks photographer Jo-Anne McArthur as she investigates a fur farm, livestock farms, and animal laboratories and the animals used in these exploitative industries.

The event itself had a big social media tie-in, and our volunteers Mike N and Diana H were representing us (the Victoria Vegan Fest and The Victoria Vegan) on Facebook and Twitter respectively. I was also active on social media during showing, and joined the discussion panel afterwards along with Lesley Fox of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, and Maneesha Deckha, UVic Associate Professor, Faculty of Law.

It was a great experience, lots of people I haven't met before attended the film and participated in the discussion afterwards, discussing issues from the film as well as Canadian and local animal issues.

Check out their Storify archive of the event, featuring video, photos and tweets.

Here is the trailer to The Ghosts in Our Machine:

And here is the video to the post-film discussion:

A big thank-you to Mandy and Open Cinema for having us, and we hope to see more animal films in the future!

Dave Shishkoff, Editor
Twitter: @Victoria_Vegan & @VeganCyclist (personal)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Catching Up: Living With Beavers, Tree-Wrapping with APFA

On Thursday, May 1st, I joined Adrian Nelson from the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (APFA) on a trip to a rural Langley residence that was getting visits from beavers.

You can see in the photo above this beaver's been busy! He'd already munched on a few trees before. Instead of trapping the beavers, the homeowner looked into coexistence options, and found APFA. A few weeks earlier, on his initial visit and consultation, Adrian wrapped what was remaining of this tree and set a future date to complete the work on the yard.

Returning on this sunny, spring day, there were a few dozen more trees along the stream which we also 'wrapped'. You may have already read our previous posting on beavers when we joined APFA in building a beaver deceiver on the Sunshine Coast last summer. Flooding wasn't an issue in this case; Adrian determined this beaver is just looking for a snack.

Tree wrapping is another simple but elegant solution to competing interests. It's not more than trimmed wire fencing and zip ties, preventing beavers from chewing select trees.

Above is another tree our furry buddy chose on the opposite side of the stream, and behind are a couple freshly-wrapped trees. Each tree takes 3 - 10 minutes to wrap, and we quickly took care of a couple dozen in a few hours. It's encouraging there are easy and effective options like this available.

Trees closer to the water were prioritized. It's interesting to note there was no discernable pattern to which trees the beaver chose - he went for different species, and in one case travelled over 100 meters from the stream to get at a tree (passing many others, which appeared equally delectable to us!)

Above is Adrian taking care of a cedar a bit further up from the stream.

If you've got beavers visiting your property, rather than trapping and killing them (relocation in BC is often not an option, and nearly always harmful to the animal and their families and communities), be encouraged and aware that we have options like this, making living with wildlife and peaceful coexistence a cinch. Contact APFA if you've got issues with beavers or other wildlife, and let's continue making the world more livable for all.

Dave Shishkoff, Editor
Twitter: @Victoria_Vegan & @VeganCyclist (personal)