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15 December 2017

10 Ways We Can Help the Ocean

We live in a busy world where we often forget that our actions can cause a lot of harm to our environment. Here are 10 simple actions that we can take in our everyday lives that can help stop ocean pollution.

1. Use a glass water bottle

Water is an important step to giving your body the hydration it needs, but plastic water bottles often pollute our oceans. By opting for a glass water bottle, it’ll help alleviate the pollution in our oceans, but also saves you money by not buying water. It’s also important to note that most plastic bottles are actually not reusable because they can release toxins from heat, so carrying your water in a glass bottle is healthier for your body as well!

2. Stop using styrofoam cups

Hot coffee or tea in the morning is an essential for many people, but cutting out the styrofoam cups can help our oceans breathe a little better. Styrofoam is not biodegradable, making it nearly impossible to dispose of it in a safe way. Getting a thermos to fill up with coffee or tea (at home or at a store) can be a painless step that can help our oceans and ocean animals.

3. Use metal or wooden utensils

Many food trucks and even dinners often give plastic utensils as a means of an easy and cheap clean up, but it’s doing more harm than good. Plastic utensils such as straws often get into our oceans, causing massive health concern for our ocean animals. Bringing your own metal or wooden utensils can help make sure that these plastic pollutants are staying where they belong-- not in our oceans.

4. Bring a tote bag

As a population that shops a lot, we tend to carry our goods in plastic bags. Getting a sturdy tote bag can make sure we’re cutting out plastic bags when we don’t need them. Tote bags are an affordable option that have an array of sizes, prints, and colors to choose from!

5. Cut up six-pack rings

The plastic that keeps together cans and other drinks may seem as a tiny harmless thing, but our marine and ocean life end up getting stuck in them way too often. If you’re really craving that product and it contains these rings, just make sure to cut them up because it makes sure our animal friends don’t get tangled up in them.

6. Try not to buy plastic packaging

Trying to buy plastic-free packaging can help us cut out ocean pollution. Choosing products that contain easy to recycle packaging such as paper can make sure we’re not consuming a lot of plastic as shoppers. It is also important to note that only 9.5% of plastic is reduced, which means around 90% of our plastic consumption ends up polluting the earth.

7. Travel the ocean responsibly

Make sure to research any cruise, kayak, or boating service before you go on your journey to make sure that the services aren’t harming our oceans. There are many eco-friendly options to choose from, so go on ahead and search!

8. Help clean up beaches

When going to the beach, it’s best to practice not leaving your trash and belongings behind. The tides often carry in debris and waste into the ocean which affect ocean water quality and ocean life. Helping to clean up the pollution on the beach can also bring a huge impact to our oceans.

9. Support organizations that are taking care of the ocean

By donating, helping, or spreading the news, you can help make sure that our ocean is protected. Every bit of help counts and there are tons of ways that a person can help.

10. Educate yourself on the biodiversity of our oceans

Learning about the biodiversity and what affects them is a powerful tool. Understanding how our oceans thrive and what can happen if they’re negatively impacted can help anyone reach their goal to be an ocean helper.

Which of these 10 things will you start doing today?

4 Animals Affected By Ocean Pollution

Ocean pollution is on the rise and with it, its infamy of being a killer to both marine and land animals. This is an issue that affects many ecosystems which will, in turn, cause many detrimental changes in our environment and lives. Here are four beloved animals that are being impacted by ocean pollution right now.

Sea Turtles
By now, many of us have seen the heart-wrenching video of the turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nose, but so much more happens to our sea turtles that is causing devastation to their population. Due to ocean pollution, sea turtles often mistake tiny bits of plastic for food and consume them. This makes the turtles extremely ill and unable to accurately obtain food for their needed nutritional consumption. Moreover, many dead sea turtles have been found to have fibropapillomas from the ocean pollution surrounding them. This disease causes cauliflower-like tumors to appear on the turtle’s body often causing blindness, breathing problems, and organ dysfunction.

Science estimates there will soon be more plastic in our oceans than there will be fish. Fish impact a ton of ecosystems which in turn affect marine and land animals. Ocean animals often eat smaller fish, but most of the fish in our oceans are consuming plastic. This is detrimental to the health of thousands of animal species in our oceans. However, it doesn’t just stop there because humans are eating the same fish that are consuming plastic-- making the plastic consumed by us. Plastic is not biodegradable or digestible, which makes our bodies work harder to cope with the influx of plastic in us.

Seals and Sea Lions
We often see that fishing nets and lures are the ones to entangle seals and sea lions, but plastic is becoming a common killer. Seals and sea lions are often tangled in plastic, making it hard for them to escape or function properly. Over time, some of this plastic even gets embedded within the animal which creates health problems and eventually death.

An unlikely animal to see on this list, but birds are also falling prey to ocean pollution. Birds are also getting tangled in plastic or man-made debris while looking for food. Many birds are unable to get out of the water due to being trapped by the pollution or are consuming fish that have toxins in them from the plastic-- both resulting in premature death.

Do these facts surprise you? There is no better time than “now” to take action and help marine life and other animals affected by ocean pollution.

01 November 2017

Four Important Things Everyone Should Know about Lung Cancer Screening during Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and every year 2,775 South Carolina residents are diagnosed with the disease.During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative is highlighting the new availability of a lifesaving tool – lung cancer screening.

One reason why lung cancer is so deadly is because by the time you have symptoms, it may already have spread and become more difficult to treat. Lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan is a powerful tool to diagnose lung cancer in individuals who are at high risk at an early stage, when it is much more likely to be curable. An estimated 9 million Americans are considered at high risk for lung cancer, and if only half of those at high risk were screened, more than 15,000 could be saved. Despite this lifesaving opportunity, fewer than 5 percent of high-risk Americans have been screened for lung cancer.

“I had a front row seat to the devastation lung cancer takes on the lives of loved ones,” said Shannon Skelly of Charleston, South Carolina, a LUNG FORCE committee member and longstanding volunteer. I was 28 years old when I lost my mother to lung cancer after her year-long battle with the disease.  Watching her struggle changed the course of my life. I am rapidly approaching the age my mother was when she lost her fight and with each passing year I question if I am doing enough to promote awareness about this disease. I am proud to stand with the Lung Association and I am committed to raising awareness about this disease, including the availability of lung cancer screening which will help save countless lives.”

According to the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative, here are the top four things everyone should know about lung cancer screening:

  1. A low-dose CT Scan is the only tool that reduces the lung cancer mortality rate for those at high risk. Low-dose CT scan is a special kind of X-ray that takes many pictures as you lie on a table that slides in and out of the machine. A computer then combines these pictures into a detailed picture of your body. It is painless and quick.
  1. Screening is not recommended for everyone. Screening is recommended for those considered at high risk for the disease. To learn more about your risk, take the lung cancer screening eligibility quiz at SavedByTheScan.org and speak to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.
  1. Awareness of lung cancer screening is critically low. Despite the lifesaving potential of screening, 84 percent of those who qualify are unfamiliar with the low-dose CT scan, according to the American Lung Association’s 4th annual Lung Health Barometer. To raise awareness about lung cancer screening, the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative has partnered with the Ad Council to launch the “Saved By The Scan” public awareness campaign – urging everyone to learn more about lung cancer screening.
  1. Screening is covered by most healthcare plans. Lung cancer screening is now covered by Medicare and most healthcare plans for those considered at high risk. However, according to the Lung Health Barometer, only 15 percent of those who qualify for screening are aware that it is covered by Medicare and most healthcare plans at no cost.

‘Numerous Inadequacies’ Found in Environmental Assessment for Proposed Icebreaker Wind Energy Project

Bird conservation groups are challenging an industry-supported environmental assessment of Lake Erie’s first offshore wind project, citing numerous inadequacies in both science and process. Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) reject the assessment’s claim that the planned Icebreaker wind energy facility would have “little to no impact” on birds and bats, citing the critical importance of Lake Erie to migratory birds such as the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler.

The draft environmental assessment (EA), prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers, was based on several studies conducted by consultants to the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, or LEEDCo, the consortium developing the project.

“Based on our exhaustive review of the EA, we see no evidence to support the claim that the project poses ‘little to no risk’ to birds and bats,” said Kimberly Kaufman, BSBO’s Executive Director. “In fact, having conducted more than 30 years of migratory bird research along Lake Erie, we believe the six-turbine Icebreaker project would pose a significant threat to wildlife — not to mention substantially increased impacts that would be triggered by the planned expansion of the project to more than 1,000 turbines.”

The organizations highlighted five major concerns in their comments, which were submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy:
  1. The proposed Icebreaker project site is approximately seven miles from the Lake Erie shoreline, near Cleveland, Ohio. Five recent advanced radar studies conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have recorded vast numbers of migratory birds and bats within 5 to 10 miles of the Great Lakes shorelines, including Lake Erie. Many were flying within the rotor-swept area of wind turbines. In addition, this is a Globally Important Bird Area (IBA): The Ohio waters of the Central Basin of Lake Erie have been registered with BirdLife International and the National Audubon Society as globally significant habitat for birds. “The Global IBA designation should be an automatic trigger for a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), instead of a cursory EA,” said Kaufman.
  1. Dismissing any threat to the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler, the assessment cites outdated studies and ignores new data from birds fitted with radio transmitters. These data show that the species uses the airspace of central Lake Erie almost exclusively for its fall migration. The site selected for the Icebreaker project turbines could put the entire world population of this rare species at risk.
  1. To reach the “little to no impact” conclusion, the industry assessors relied on limited visual surveys conducted only during daytime and in good weather to conclude that migrating birds fly at a height sufficient to avoid the turbines’ blades. However, many songbirds and most bats migrate at night. The risk they face from wind energy facilities is likely greater during conditions of high winds, heavy rain, fog, or low cloud cover, which can affect flight altitude and bring them within the rotor-swept area of the turbines.
  1. The assessment erroneously concludes that migratory birds and bats avoid crossing Lake Erie, instead flying around it. As Kaufman states, “Anyone watching birds on the shore of Lake Erie can see that birds do in fact fly over the water. Studies also show with certainty that given good physical condition, large numbers of migratory birds and bats cross the lake, many of them making the long journey after stopping at the shoreline to rest and feed.”
  1. The EA fails to acknowledge similar existing or planned projects throughout the Great Lakes that could increase the cumulative impacts on birds and bats — an evaluation required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). What happens with the Icebreaker project could set an important precedent for the Great Lakes region on both sides of the border. Ontario, for instance, has placed a moratorium on any open water wind facilities in Lake Erie until Icebreaker is decided.

BSBO and ABC hope that these concerns will be reflected in any future assessments of the environmental impact of Icebreaker and other proposed offshore wind energy development in the Great Lakes.  A public comment period closed earlier this month, and a final EA could be issued in the next few months. The Ohio Power Siting Board will hold a local public hearing on the project in Cleveland, OH, on Nov. 8, 2017.

“Environmental assessments are intended to evaluate risks to public trust resources like wildlife before projects move forward,” said Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’sBird-Smart Wind Energy Program“Assessments like this one, however, are based on inadequate studies that contradict easily observable facts and ignore up-to-date science and cumulative impacts. As the United States makes important strides to increase renewable energy, we need to do much better to minimize impacts to birds and other wildlife.”

ABC's work on the Bird-Smart Wind Energy program is supported by the Leon Levy Foundation.
(Photo: Kirtland’s Warbler/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

31 October 2017

Olympic Medalist Dotsie Bausch Asks Papa John to Make an Even “Better Pizza” by Offering Vegan Cheese

Olympic silver medalist and vegan Dotsie Bausch has personally sent a letter to Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter of their shared hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, a fellow cyclist with whom she’s rode before, asking that the nationwide pizza chain headquartered in Louisville offer dairy-free cheese.

Emphasizing that this simple addition to the menu would make plant-based eating more accessible to millions of consumers nationwide, Bausch writes, “Everyone, hungry athletes included, craves a slice of cheesy, gooey pizza from time to time. But I—along with millions of other Americans—fuel my body with plant protein, and I hope you’ll consider adding vegan cheese to your menu so we can all enjoy Papa John’s pizza.”

A seven-time USA Cycling National Champion and two-time Pan American Champion, Bausch knows that cows endure a systematic cycle of cruelty in the dairy industry, as a heartbreaking Compassion Over Killing (COK) investigation recently exposed.
She notes that athletes—from fellow Olympian Carl Lewis, to ultra-marathon runner Rich Roll and champion surfer Tia Blanco—are proving that we can thrive without milk from cows. “I cycled my way to the Olympics with a whole-foods, plant-based diet, and at the age of 39.5, stood on top of the podium for the US,” writes Bausch.

Over 81,000 people have signed COK’s Change.org petition to Papa John’s and Little Caesars, asking both chains to offer dairy-free cheese. Bausch has encouraged Schnatter to reply to her letter, in hopes of sharing the news with these concerned consumers.
Other big-name pizza chains like Mellow Mushroom and Pieology already offer vegan cheese on their menus. With the dairy-free market expected to reach $35 billion by 2024, Papa John’s, too, has an opportunity to shape the future of pizza by serving this growing consumer base.

Bausch, who also founded Compassion Champs to advocate “Olympic-level compassion” for animals, has previously joined COK as a celebrity Endorser of its VegWeek campaign, which empowers thousands of people around the world to try vegan eating for at least one week of the year.

To read the letter in full, please click here.
To view COK’s investigative video, please visit: http://COK.net/dairy.
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a nonprofit animal protection organization working to end the abuse of farmed animals through undercover investigations, litigation, corporate outreach, public education, and other advocacy programs. http://cok.net

5 Reasons Why a Factory Farm Owner Became an Animal Rights Activist

Rowdy Girl Sanctuary is the first documented beef cattle ranch to ever convert from selling them for slaughter in the agriculture industry to rescuing them and becoming a vegan farm animal sanctuary.

Renee King-Sonnen, Executive Director and Founder of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary reveals the five reasons why she had a change of heart and became a passionate Animal Rights Activist.

1) I began to witness their family and community when I started bottle feeding Rowdy Girl. I started feeling very conflicted about being in the ranching business.

2)  I had an emotional breakdown the first time I witnessed the baby calves get loaded up onto the red trailer to go to auction.  That seared into my consciousness that what we were doing was wrong, but I was a ranchers wife and my only choice because I loved my husband was to act strong but I began getting more and more depressed and the fighting with my husband began.

3)  I started feeling guilty that we were buying organic top grade meat from the market but that we sent our own cows to slaughter, so I asked my husband WHY do we eat meat from the store but send our own to slaughter? Why dont we butcher our own cows if we are going to eat meat?  HIS ANSWER is what put another dagger in my heart - "I cant eat our animals because I know them!"

4)  I started watching slaughter house videos - you know, those videos no one wants to watch because they are gory and horribly disgusting.  I immersed myself in their world and knew the day was coming when I was going to have to choose between my own soul, and my husband.

5)  On Oct 31, 2014 I stumbled upon a video by Melanie Joy called "Carnism" Why we Eat Pigs, Love Dogs and Wear Cows" - I was stunned when at the family dinner they were having a luscious traditional beef stew that everyone was savoring, until the chef announced that they were really eating a golden retriever puppy. That night my mother in law was serving beef stew and IT happened, I slipped past the veil of my cultural and familial conditioning and into the world of veganism and I've never looked back.

About Renee King-Sonnen
Renee King-Sonnen, a native Houstonian, is the Executive Director and Founder of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary in Angleton, Texas.  She remarried her husband Tommy Sonnen, a multi-generational cattle rancher in 2009 and moved to the ranch. She fell in love with farm animals, having no idea her life was about to transform. After witnessing time and again the baby calves going to the sale barn she became extremely depressed. In October 2014, she went vegan as a result and began researching factory farming and the compassionate alternative, farm sanctuaries. She desperately consulted with leaders in the vegan movement, determined to do whatever she could to create sanctuary out of what was once a beef cattle operation in the heart of cattle country.

New Campaign Empowers Whistleblowers to Report Animal Cruelty, Workers' Rights Abuses and more...

A multi-language campaign has been launched by the national nonprofit Compassion Over Killing (COK) in North Carolina to offer factory farm and slaughterhouse whistleblowers a safe and secure hotline to report animal cruelty, workers’ rights abuses, food safety risks, and environmental violations.

Billboards featuring the confidential hotline — 1-800-65-FARM-TIPS — have already reached more than 400,000 people in top poultry-producing states Arkansas and Georgia, and new signs will be going up today in Monroe, NC. Online reports can also be submitted at FarmTips.org.

“Animal agribusiness is a profit-driven industry that operates behind closed doors, hiding the abuses it forces upon animals, the dangers it poses to workers, and the destruction it causes to the environment. Whistleblowers can pull back that curtain to shine a light on these hidden horrors,” says Erica Meier, Executive Director of Compassion Over Killing.
2017 report from the National Employment Law Project, tracking severe workplace injuries January 2015-September 2016, stated, “The number of incidents reported by the meat and poultry processing industry is startling.” Major chicken producers Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride/JBS ranked at #4 and #6, respectively, for the most amputations, hospitalizations, or other similarly serious injuries.

“Farm workers may be hesitant to report violations, including animal abuse, to their employers for fear of losing their jobs. That’s why Compassion Over Killing is offering a safe and anonymous resource for these concerned whistleblowers,” adds Meier.
Animal agribusiness has flexed its lobbying muscles to create another obstacle for individuals who may document cruelty on factory farms: “Ag-gag” laws that criminalize undercover investigations have been passed in several states, including North Carolina and Arkansas.

In 2015, as North Carolina’s ag-gag law made its way through the state legislature, a COK investigator documented egregious cruelty inside a Mountaire Farms chicken slaughterhouse in Robeson County, revealing birds violently thrown, punched, and shoved, and forcefully slammed into shackles. Sick or injured birds were simply discarded in piles of dead or dying birds.

Investigations like this have shown the importance of whistleblowers in exposing the truth kept hidden by animal agribusiness to the public.

COK is working at the forefront of the movement to protect broiler chickens. Gut-wrenching footage filmed by a COK investigator working at Tyson Foods offered the first undercover look inside broiler breeder factory farms; exposed the brutal practice of using “nose bones” for the first time on hidden camera (ending the practice at Tyson, Perdue, Wayne Farms, and House of Raeford); and last month, resulted in unprecedented charges and convictions for cruelty to chickens.

Tracking an industry that slaughters nearly 9 billions animals each year, COK’s ChickenIndustry.com provides an evolving and in-depth look at the lives and deaths of broiler chickens.

Kraft Heinz Expands Animal Welfare Commitments to Include Higher Standards of Well-Being for Broiler Chickens

Reflecting its Vision To Be the Best Food Company, Growing a Better World, The Kraft Heinz Company today announced it will expand its current animal welfare commitments to include higher standards for treatment of broiler chickens in its U.S. supply chain.
“When we issued our global animal welfare policy earlier this year, we underscored our commitment to the humane treatment of animals, and said we would prioritize continuous animal welfare improvements throughout our supply chain,” said Michael Mullen, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Government Affairs at Kraft Heinz. “Today, we’re delivering on that promise by joining the food industry in an effort to advance the well-being of broiler chickens in our supply.”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) applauds Kraft Heinz for addressing the most pressing concerns related to poultry production by requiring a shift in how chickens are bred, housed and processed by Kraft Heinz suppliers.
“Kraft Heinz shows yet again that improving animal welfare is a core part of being a successful food company,” said Josh Balk, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection for The HSUS. “We applaud the company for its continued progress.”
Kraft Heinz will work with its suppliers and the industry at large to achieve the following by the year 2024:
  • Source 100 percent of our chicken via breeds approved by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(RSPCA) or Global Animal Partnership (GAP) for measurably improved welfare and quality of life
  • Provide birds with more space to perform natural behaviors, including a stocking density no greater than 6 pounds per square foot
  • Provide birds with better environments, including litter, lighting and other enrichments that align with GAP's environmental standards
  • Implement a multi-step, controlled-atmosphere processing system
  • Demonstrate compliance via supplier verification or third-party auditing, and communicate progress as part of regular sustainability reporting
Adds Mullen, “Extensive changes such as these require significant investment of time and resources, industry-wide. We recognize the complexity of this undertaking and look forward to collaborating with our suppliers, the food industry and other stakeholders to advance these ambitious goals in a way that is sustainable for our collective businesses.”
To view full details, including the Kraft Heinz Animal Welfare Policy in its entirety, please visit www.KraftHeinzCompany.com.
The Kraft Heinz Company (NASDAQ: KHC) is the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world, with eight $1 billion+ brands. A globally trusted producer of delicious foods, The Kraft Heinz Company provides high quality, great taste and nutrition for all eating occasions whether at home, in restaurants or on the go. The Company’s iconic brands include Kraft, Heinz, ABC, Capri Sun, Classico, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Lunchables, Maxwell House, Ore-Ida, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Planters, Plasmon, Quero, Smart Ones and Velveeta. The Kraft Heinz Company is dedicated to the sustainable health of our people, our planet and our Company. For more information, visit www.kraftheinzcompany.com.
Subscribe to Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation. Follow The HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter for the latest animal welfare news.
The Humane Society of the United States is the most effective animal protection organization, as rated by our peers. For more than 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We and our affiliates are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 150,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read about our more than 60 years of transformational change for animals and people. HumaneSociety.org