Jorge267 via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jorge267 via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND 2.0

Report Finds Circus Animals Are Denied Lives ‘Worth Living’

Jorge267 via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jorge267 via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND 2.0

A new report commissioned by the Welsh government has concluded that traveling circuses fail to meet legal standards for animal welfare [PDF]. The researchers say there is ample scientific evidence to support a ban on the inclusion of wild animals in circuses and other traveling shows.

Lead author Steven Harris—who researches ecology and animal population management at the University of Bristol in the UK—and his colleagues Jo Dorning and Heather Pickett had been studying the ethics and practicalities of animal welfare for years when they were approached to write the report. The government wanted to know what the scientific literature had to say about wild animals in circuses, and whether major stakeholders like conservationists, zookeepers, lawyers, and animal trainers felt the same way. They were especially interested in learning if circuses and other traveling shows were consistently meeting the requirements set down in the UK's Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The researchers reached out to 658 experts and organizations around the world for feedback. The pool included 138 animal trainers and circuses (ATCs); 206 animal welfare–focused lawyers and veterinarians (LVs); 107 employees of related non-government organizations (NGOs); 144 scientists; and 58 staff members from zoos and wild animal sanctuaries. They sent all the participants the same questionnaires, which included questions about living conditions, signs that animals were healthy, and which practices were good or bad for animal welfare.

The results revealed a substantial gulf in opinions and beliefs, with ATCs and NGOs on one side and scientists, lawyers, veterinarians, and sanctuary staff on the other. ATCs in particular were more likely to believe that animal training (which frequently relies on violence and other negative stimuli) was not stressful for wild animals and that frequent transport from show site to show site was actually good for them. Scientists, veterinarians, and other animal experts disagreed.

Analysis of the questionnaire responses and scientific literature on the subject led the researchers to a number of troubling, yet unsurprising conclusions:

  • Wild animals’ “five freedoms” (freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom to express normal behaviors; and freedom from distress) are consistently “…compromised in travelling circuses and mobile zoos.”
  • “Traditional animal training methods are coercive and based on force and aggression,” and circus trainers “have few or no recognised qualifications or formal training.”
  • There was a lot of disagreement over the definition of the term “wild animal.”
  • ATCs were comfortable keeping animals in enclosures that averaged 26.3 percent of the size recommended by zoos.
  • The report found “…no scientific evidence that wild animals fully adapt to frequent transport.

Overall, the authors wrote, “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living.’”

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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Bristly
A New Chew Toy Will Help Your Dog Brush Its Own Teeth
Bristly
Bristly

Few pet owners are willing to sit down and brush their pet's teeth on a regular basis. (Most of us can barely convince ourselves to floss our own teeth, after all.) Even fewer pets are willing to sit calmly and let it happen. But pet dental care matters: I’ve personally spent more than $1000 in the last few years dealing with the fact that my cat’s teeth are rotting out of her head.

For dog owners struggling to brush poor Fido’s teeth, there’s a slightly better option. Bristly, a product currently being funded on Kickstarter, is a chew toy that acts as a toothbrush. The rubber stick, which can be slathered with doggie toothpaste, is outfitted with bristles that brush your dog’s teeth as it plays.

A French bulldog chews on a Bristly toy.
Bristly

Designed so your dog can use it without you lifting a finger, it’s shaped like a little pogo stick, with a flattened base that allows dogs to stabilize it with their paws as they hack at the bristled stick with their teeth. The bristles are coated in a meat flavoring to encourage dogs to chew.

An estimated 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have some kind of dental disease, so the chances that your dog could use some extra dental attention is very high. In addition to staving off expensive vet bills, brushing your dog's teeth can improve their smelly breath.

Bristly comes in three sizes as well as in a heavy-duty version made for dogs who are prone to ripping through anything they can get their jaws around. A Bristly stick costs $29 and is scheduled to start shipping in October. Get it here.

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