Peanuts Are Making Their Final Departure From Southwest Airlines

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Southwest Airlines—the commercial flying juggernaut that made peanuts an airplane staple 47 years ago—is now doing away with them for good. Starting August 1, the airline will no longer offer peanuts on any of its flights.

According to the company, it’s all about concern for people with allergies, ABC News reports. “Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where all customers—including those with peanut-related allergies—feel safe and welcome on every Southwest flight,” the airline said in a statement.

Southwest Airlines started offering free peanuts on all its flights in 1971. The practice, which later became synonymous with airplane travel, originally began as a cheeky marketing ploy. In an effort to lower prices, the airline stopped serving in-flight meals and told customers they could fly for peanuts, both literally and figuratively.

But the ubiquity of peanuts on airplanes soon became a concern for individuals with severe food allergies. Proponents of airplane peanut bans say severely allergic individuals can experience reactions from airborne peanut dust alone, but organizations like the American Peanut Council are predictably more skeptical. There’s not enough evidence that someone can experience severe allergic reactions from inhaling peanut dust, they say, so the claim may be a myth.

Fact is, there’s not a whole lot of concrete information on either side. In a 2008 article published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, researchers surveyed 471 people with a medical history of food allergies. Of that number, 41 said they’d experienced allergic reactions to food on commercial airline flights (mostly to peanuts), and 26 said those reactions had come from inhaled peanut dust. An unspecified number said their reactions had been life-threatening. But the study’s authors admitted within the article their methods had limitations—researchers recruited participants through newspaper advertisements, for one, and the data were all self-reported.

The lack of decisive evidence that airplane peanuts cause severe allergic reactions is one reason why airlines have historically been reluctant to make changes. In 2010, the Department of Transportation contemplated banning peanuts on planes, but it abandoned the idea after being reminded of a 2000 law that prohibits the department from enforcing any peanut bans without the support of a conclusive, peer-reviewed study showing severe reactions resulting from "contact with very small airborne peanut particles of the kind that passengers might encounter in an aircraft."

Further complicating the issue is the fact that severe allergies are considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA doesn’t regulate air travel discrimination, though, which is why the Air Carrier Access Act, or ACAA, was passed in 1986. The ACAA defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Severe allergies fall under that (not being able to breathe or eat is a pretty significant impairment), but the ACAA doesn’t specify how airlines should treat customers with food allergies.

Most airlines have specific measures they’ll take in order to accommodate customers with peanut allergies, but such procedures are uneven across airlines, and can sometimes be uneven across flights of the same airline. JetBlue, for example, serves only peanut-free snacks and will make announcements about food allergies. Air Canada recently phased out nuts from all its in-flight food options, and it also offers to create a buffer zone between individuals with allergies and any allergens. Prior to banning peanuts, Southwest allowed people with allergies to pre-board in order to wipe down their seats, but it didn’t make any announcements discouraging passengers from eating peanuts.

Given the airline’s story, peanuts “forever will be part of Southwest's history and DNA,” the company said in a statement. But Southwest isn’t going to stop offering free food to customers who shell out the money for a flight. Passengers in the future can instead look forward to in-flight snacks of pretzels, cookies, veggie chips, and corn chips, CNN reports.

[h/t ABC News]

Snuggle a Raccoon While You Sip Your Coffee at Ukraine’s Raccoon Cafe

bozhdb/iStock via Getty Images
bozhdb/iStock via Getty Images

Raccoons are often misunderstood creatures. While many people see them only as furry little pests who root through your trash or hole up in your attic (which they sometimes do), others think they make great pets. Mark Kolesnykov, founder of the recently opened Raccoon Cafe in Kharkiv, Ukraine, falls squarely into the latter group.

The Raccoon Cafe gives customers the unique opportunity to interact with and give belly rubs to Liza and Bart, a lovable pair of raccoons Kolesnykov adopted from a local eco-farm when they were just babies (a.k.a. kits).

The animals have a special enclosure in the cafe, where guests can watch them play and, if they're lucky, give them a pet. The exterior of the cafe pays tribute to the masked mammals with a mural of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon and various raccoons dressed up as superheroes, including Spider-Man (Raccoon-man?) and Wonder Woman.

Though it only just opened, the Raccoon Cafe is already proving to be a huge hit; CNN reports that the space is attracting approximately 200 visitors per day, which means that some customers must wait up to 30 minutes for their chance to interact with and feed the pair (neither of which are things you should ever do with a raccoon in the wild).

Patrons who'd rather not get too close can also just watch the pair as they climb around their enclosure, play with their toys, and interact with guests—and each other—in a special indoor room that’s equipped with soundproof glass and special lighting.

Kolesnykov told UATV that part of the cafe's allure is that while people regularly see photos and videos of raccoons doing adorable things, few people have ever witnessed their behavior up close. In person, according to Kolesnykov, the animals are “livelier” and even more “mischievous” than what people have seen on YouTube.

The cafe, however, is not without its critics. Animal psychologist Andriy Hapchenko, head researcher at Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv, expressed concerns to UATV about businesses like the Raccoon Cafe, saying that wild animals that are used for business purposes can often be harmed by the amount of human attention (and food) they're given. But Kolesnykov assures potential customers that he consulted with veterinarians before opening the space to make sure that Liza and Bart would be both safe and happy.

[h/t CNN]

This London Pub Might Be the Most Ethical Bar in the World

Ridofranz/Getty Images
Ridofranz/Getty Images

Pub owner Randy Rampersad is doing his part for sustainability. In June, he opened the Green Vic—a play on the fictional Queen Vic pub in the soap opera EastEnders—in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. The Telegraph reports it’s aiming to be the world’s most ethical pub: Rampersad eschews plastic and paper straws and opts for gluten-free wheat “straws.” He sources the bar's 100 percent recycled toilet paper from green-minded company Who Gives a Crap, and the communal wooden tables are upcycled.

“I wanted to make the world a better place and run my own business, but I was waiting for that eureka moment,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. He discovered no one had done anything like this before.

There’s no meat on the menu—the food is totally vegan, healthy-ish pub grub. You can add CBD oil to the “chkn" bites appetizer, and the burgers are made from ingredients like soy, seaweed, and sweet potato. The beers are produced by ethical brewers, too: Toast Ale uses unsold loaves and crusts of bread; Good Things Brewing crafts its beer from 100 percent renewable energy; South Africa’s Afro Vegan Cider donates money to an organization that funds equal pay for female farmers; and Brewgooder donates to water projects.

In fact, everything the Green Vic does has charity in mind. “We don't care about the money, I’m planet first and profit after,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. Up to 80 percent of its profits will go to charitable causes, including local food banks. As for the staff, one in four are from marginalized groups. The Green Vic plans to operate as a three-month pop-up pub while scouting for longer term investment.

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