Saving the Slow Loris – Guest Post

This post was written by Joshua Harris-Jones over at Harris-Jones Anthropology on 26/06/2016.

The slow loris, you’ve no doubt seen pictures or videos of these adorably cute little creatures all across the internet, but there is a darker side to this trend that needs to be exposed in order to save them from extinction. There is growing awareness of the seriously harmful effects of illegal wildlife trade on loris populations, but many people are still completely unaware of the fact that Lorises simply should not be kept as pets. This article will explain what exactly the slow loris is, why the pet trade is destroying their populations and what YOU can do to help keep them from extinction.

What is the Slow Loris?

'Slow Loris' by Jmiksanek is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Slow lorises are a group of several species of nocturnal primates (genus Nycticebus) that inhabit areas of Southeast Asia, and are the only venomous primates in the world. They are primarily arboreal creatures that sleep through most of the day, and their diet consists of gums and nectar, fruit and other vegetation, and insects. They have a strong vice-like grip and specialised networks of capillaries allow them to grasp branches for hours without losing sensation. Their movement is described as slow and snakelike, and they move exceptionally quietly to avoid alerting predators. When in danger, the slow loris raises its arms to lick a specialised gland on their elbow called the brachial gland which, when mixed with the lorises saliva, forms a potent toxin that is delivered by their bite. They are indeed adorably cute, but are very shy (they are called malu malu, or ‘shy one’ in Indonesia because they freeze and cover their face when spotted) and can become extremely stressed when disturbed or removed from their habitat (wouldn’t you be?).

Closest living relatives of slow lorises

Closest living relatives of slow lorises

From an anthropological perspective, lorises are a fascinating example of primate evolution. Slow lorises are strepsirrhine primates related to other living lorisoids such as pottos, galagos and to the lemurs of Madagascar. Lorisoids are thought to have evolved in Africa, and later groups may have migrated to Asia to evolve into the slow and slender lorises of today (Phillips & Walker, 2002), with molecular clock analysis suggests that the slow loris may have begun evolving into distinct species around 1omya (Perelman et al. 2011).

Effects of Illegal Wildlife Trade

Now you know a little bit about these amazing creatures, you need to know why the pet trade is rapidly decimating loris populations and driving them towards extinction. Their habitats are being affected by deforestation, but illegal wildlife trade is having a huge effect on loris populations, this is due to their value in traditional medicine and their popularity as ‘cute’ pets. They are hunted and captured from the jungle and sold illegally in pet markets, then smuggled to countries such as Japan to be sold as pets. Almost all slow lorises kept as pets are being kept illegally, it is almost impossible to get a slow loris as a pet legally because of all the documentation and requirements, but many people either do not know or ignore this fact.

'Nycticebus tooth removal 01' by International Animal Rescue (IAR) is licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0

The painful removal of teeth often leads to infection and death

However. people don’t understand how harmful this is to lorises. Firstly, since lorises are venomous, their fangs are removed, either by pulling or clipping (basically with common nail clippers), all without anaesthetic. They are kept in cramped, unsanitary conditions and handled roughly which is immensely stressful, and even after being sold off as pets, they are constantly stressed and frightened. Keeping a slow loris as a pet is extremely difficult due to the fact that the conditions they need to survive cannot be emulated properly, as such most die from infection, improper handling and inadequate nutrition. The videos that you see of lorises being tickled, fed rice balls etc. show sick, overweight and utterly terrified animals that are most likely now dead due to their owners not being able to provide the conditions they need.

The Little Fireface Project

The Little Fireface Project was started by the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of Oxford Brookes University  in 1993, and aims to save lorises from extinction by learning more about them and raising awareness and empathy around the world through education. In 2012 their research was featured in ‘Jungle Gremlins of Java’ a documentary that highlights issues surrounding the exploitation of lorises that need to be resolved. Director of the Little Fireface Project is Prof. Anna Nekaris, professor of anthropology and primate conservation at Oxford Brookes University, where I have had the honour of experiencing her teaching first hand.

You can learn more by visiting the Little Fireface Project website here

How to Help the Loris

'Slow loris' by Encyclographia is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

There are many ways in which you can help to save the lorises from extinction. One of the easiest methods is simply to spread the word; educate others and explain why lorises shouldn’t be kept as pets. Avoid watching ‘cute’ loris videos or liking pictures of pet lorises (because you now know the dark story behind them!) and actively report them as animal abuse. Many people are simply oblivious to the harm they are causing to loris populations, so you must spread knowledge to make sure they aren’t hunted to extinction. You can sign petitions and or even send a notice to your nearest Indonesian embassy to show your concerns and opposition to the illegal pet trade.

You can also donate to groups such as the Little Fireface Project, either by direct donation or by buying products that support the group, such as the Little Fireface Etsy shop. 100% of the money donated to the Little Fireface Project goes towards conservation education, fieldwork on wild and introduced slow lorises, law enforcement training initiatives and funds to support studies of these amazing creatures.

If you are feeling really ambitious you can even volunteer to travel to Java to help out! You can find out more about this here.

I hope you have found this article useful and now know more about the slow loris and the effects of the illegal wildlife trade on their numbers. Please do your best to educate others and call for the labelling of ‘cute’ loris videos as cruel and abusive so that they are removed. Share this page with your friends and family, and do your part to ensure the future of this fascinating, beautiful primate!

Don’t forget to follow this website (which you can do from the foot of this page) to keep up to date with anthropological research, and check out Harris-Jones Anthropology on Facebook,Twitter and Google+ too, thank you.

References:
Perelman, P., Johnson, W. E., Roos, C., Seuánez, H. N., Horvath, J. E., Moreira, M. A. M., Kessing, B., Pontius, J., Roelke, M., Rumpler, Y., Schneider, M. P., Silva, A., O’Brien, S. J., Pecon-Slattery, J. (2011). Brosius, J, ed. A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates. PloS Genetics 7(3), e1001342.
Phillips, E.M. & Walker, A. (2002). Fossil lorisoids. Ch.6 in Hartwig, W.C. The Primate Fossil Record. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Images:
Featured Image:Slow Loris‘ by Jmiksanek is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Tooth Removal: ‘Nycticebus tooth removal 01‘ by International Animal Rescue (IAR) is licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0
Loris Drawing: ‘Slow loris‘ by Encyclographia is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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Meat Free Monday: A Curse in Disguise?

The idea of ‘Meat Free Monday’ has become increasingly popular recently, and many people are praising the progress being made in the name of animal welfare and environmental sustainability. If you are not familiar with the concept, people are encouraged to not consume meat products on Mondays in an effort to improve health, save money and reduce environmental impact. Many argue that this can only be positive, it is a step towards the eventual transition to a completely plant based diet that is needed to avoid environmental collapse. However, as usual it is our duty to look deeper and examine the latent implications in order to fully understand the situation. Meat Free Monday may indeed be more of a curse than a blessing.

  • Meat Free Monday encourages complacency. Instead of properly tackling the ethical, environmental and health issues that surround animal products, people may feel as though they are doing enough by just avoiding meat for one day. By championing the herculean efforts needed to not eat meat for just one day, people remain unaware that their effort is minuscule compared to the good they could be doing by going all the way. Also, it detracts from further efforts to encourage change: If people are already satisfied that they are ‘doing enough’ they are far less likely to make further efforts. The importance of the plant based movement is diminished by praising the only partial recognition of environmental issues, animal lives and personal health, so Meat Free Monday could be actively damaging the vegan message.
  • There is not enough emphasis on educationThis is always a driving point to my arguments, education is essential for almost every aspect of progress, whether it be environmental protection, animal rights or anything else. The problem with Meat Free Monday is that not nearly enough emphasis is placed on actually educating people as to why animal products are harmful. Without really knowing why they are participating the whole purpose of the activity is lost and people are left assuming ‘it’s something to do with health’ or ‘I think I’m saving the environment’. The only way to really stress the importance of the plant based movement is by making sure that people are educated about the issues that need addressing. However, armed with the knowledge about the harmful nature of animal product industries, Meat Free Mondays would seem pointless and nothing short of complete veganism would be logical.
  • Dairy and eggs are not included. By placing the importance on meat, the egg and dairy industries are ignored and reduced in importance. Physical meat becomes the symbolic representation of animal products and makes people blind to the total saturation of animal products in our everyday lives. If the activity was to avoid all animal products for one day, people would realise how damaging animal products are sneaked into a ludicrous percentage of everyday items. The dairy and egg industries are extremely damaging and unethical (read more about the culling of day old male chicks here) and it seems illogical to leave them out of the picture.

There may be more points, but these are the blaringly obvious points that come to mind immediately. I’m interested to see what your ideas are on the subject, do you support the Meat Free Monday campaign, or do you think it is actually damaging? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Don’t forget to share this page and subscribe to the website to receive updates for new content, you can also follow the Fox Eyed Man on Twitter, Facebook, Google+Tumblr and now Instagram for further discussions about environmentalism.

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Wasting Away – Reducing Your Waste Trail

Humans seem to be extremely good at producing waste, whether it be physical rubbish, water or energy, we manage to waste an extraordinary amount every year. This has become a major issue worldwide and the statistics can be extremely shocking: for example as of 2013, half of all food is wasted worldwide, according to the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME). Hopefully this guide will help you understand how important it is to reduce the amount we waste and maybe give you a couple of helpful suggestions for what you can do. Remember, one of the most important actions you can take is to educate others with such information, so don’t forget to share with others the knowledge you may pick up here. 

*Animal agriculture is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, causes of waste in the world using massive amounts of water and energy, and producing huge amounts of physical waste, so adopting a vegan diet is the most logical action to take to reduce waste, you can learn more about this here.*

Physical Waste

The amount of physical waste produced globally is over 1.3 billion tonnes every year, which is an absolutely staggering amount, and by 2025 this number is expected to have doubled. Even with the increasing focus on recycling, most waste is simply thrown into landfill where it stays for many years (plastics take hundreds of years to decompose) producing noxious gases and causing harm to everything around it.

Even waste that you think is okay because it is ‘organic’ (such as food and paper) has an adverse effect on the environment when simply thrown into landfill. This is because biodegradable material breaks down under anaerobic conditions (without oxygen) in landfill, which creates large amounts of methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change. This organic material would actually be useful if utilised properly, as it could be used as an effective growth medium (compost). This would make use of many valuable nutrients in the organic waste that would otherwise be lost.

Waste is an indicator of overproduction and inefficient use of resources, which is particularly important in a world where natural capital is becoming ever more valuable. Therefore we should be focusing on ways to reuse and recycle materials, and keep the amount of waste we produce at an absolute minimum. Governments are working to use more economical methods of waste disposal, as well as encouraging the industries that produce the most (such as construction, which is currently the largest source of waste in the UK) to take part in more schemes to become more sustainable. However, relying solely on a top down approach to environmental change is unwise, we should also be taking action at a household level and encouraging a bottom up approach.

Reducing your waste trail can be fun and challenging, but very rewarding! Most of the time it comes down to individual effort and common sense, but here are some examples of things you could be thinking about (I don’t have to mention the usual reuse bags, charity shops etc.):

  • Try and buy products that are reusable, refillable or even returnable rather than single use items
  • Buying in bulk not only saves on packaging, but also money (but be wary of items with ‘double packaging’ i.e. individually wrapped items sold in bulk)
  • Buy things like dish soap and laundry detergents in concentrate forms (My favourite cleaning products are made by ecover)
  • Opt for electronic versions your normal post (such as bills etc.), and reduce the amount of junk mail you receive
  • Buy items made of recycled materials, and try to reuse as much as you can, almost everything has a use
  • Start your own compost heap, check out this website for tips on keeping a healthy compost heap: Eden Project – How to make a compost heap: 10 top tips
Saving Water

Water is the most precious resource available to us. It may seem as though we have an abundance of water since we live on the blue planet, but did you know that only 1% of the world’s water is actually usable by humans? The rest is salt water or is frozen so can’t be used for everyday consumption. Not only is water precious to humans, but to animals and plants as well, they rely on the it to survive, so we have to make sure there is enough for us all. With this in mind, the ever growing human population is putting a greater strain on this limited resource, so we should do everything we can to reduce the amount we use. 

We are using water faster than the water cycle can replenish it; it normally spends years being filtered through underground rocks and springs before it ever reaches the surface again, so we need to give the earth time to catch up. Here’s a quick reminder of the details of the water cycle:

waste - 'Water cycle' by John M. Even / USGS via Wikimedia Commons

There are loads of easy ways to reduce the amount of water you use, ranging from simple lifestyle changes to physical devices that can help you to lower your consumption. It can be quite difficult to remember some things to begin with, but just keep trying and you’ll be a water saving pro in no time! Here are some examples of things you can do (again, simple common sense should be applied):

  • The usual taking shorter showers, not leaving taps running etc.
  • Keep a jug of water in the fridge (don’t waste water waiting for the tap to get cold)
  • Put a water displacer in your toilet cistern (or use a pint glass)
  • Be clever with appliances, for example fully loading washing machines or only putting the water you need in a kettle
  • Collect rainwater in a water butt for your garden
Conserving Energy

In a world of increasing technology and energy usage, it seems that many of us forget where our power comes from. The electricity that powers our homes is normally generated by the burning of fossil fuels in large coal or gas power stations. These stations are an extreme environmental hazard, however they supply our demands, meaning the more energy we waste, the harder these stations have to work to meet our needs.

Even though there have been huge advancements in renewable energy technology, the rising demand for power will become too much too quickly if we don’t act responsibly. By saving energy and calling for further development of renewables, we can pave the way to a clean and sustainable future. Saving energy (and water) can be a win-win situation, not only reducing waste, but saving you money on utility bills in the process. Saving energy can be as simple as turning off lights that don’t need to be on, making sure appliances aren’t on standby and (just like the saving water tip) using appliances efficiently. However, you can also conserve energy by maximising the effectiveness of your home, for example energy efficient bulbs or keeping heat inside with double glazing, draught excluders etc. Some energy providers even distribute small devices that display how much energy is being used in your home, which can be very helpful in hitting a target usage (so give them a call or visit their website to find out).

Spreading the Word

I hope you know a little more about why reducing your waste is important, and I hope you appreciate that this article was more about the whys than the hows. Educating people is one of the most important aspects of environmentalism, so spreading the knowledge should be just as important in your waste minimising mission as the physical actions you take, so thank you for reading!

Don’t forget to share this page and subscribe to the website to receive updates for new content, you can also follow the Fox Eyed Man on Twitter, Facebook, Google+Tumblr and now Instagram for further discussions about environmentalism.

Images:

Water Cycle: ‘Water cycle‘ by John M. Even / USGS via Wikimedia Commons

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Youtube Tried to Silence Us

Hey everybody, I don’t know whether you have been following the dramas surrounding the popular vegan Youtuber scene at the moment, if not then don’t bother it’s just a load of infighting between the likes of Freelee and Durianrider etc. If you have, then I need you to avert your attention anyway. Many of you probably know of the vegan activist Bite Size Vegan (Emily Moran Barwick), but amidst all the dramas on Youtube you may not have noticed that a very influential and popular video of hers was censored by Youtube.

This may not seem like a big deal since videos get taken down all the time for this or that reason, however this action by Youtube actually went against their own policies. The video itself is a fantastic speech given by Emily that highlights the issue around animal agriculture from ethical, environmental and health perspectives that are all backed by proper research and citation (personally I found the video to be as effective, if not more effective than the likes of Cowspiracy). Youtube censored the video by only allowing logged in, age restricted viewers to see the video, which could only be reached through links.

They stated that footage from the video was in violation of their policies because it showed violence, killing and gore. However, within their own policies they clearly state that exceptions are made for educational purposes. Let me just state that this was a speech given to a group, an actual educational presentation, yet it was not considered educational. Youtube found it necessary to remove this ‘non-educational’ material from their listings, yet many, many accounts that film and document the live hunting or killing of animals are still available for unrestricted public viewing.

They tried to silence us by stopping educational material that needs to be seen, material that has to be seen for people to understand what is at stake. For this reason, the video was uploaded again onto the Bite Size Vegan Youtube channel with the ‘inappropriate’ content replaced and is freely available once more, so please, please, PLEASE watch this video all the way through, like and share it as much as possible.

Ignore the rubbish that is happening between popular vegan Youtubers at the moment and refocus on what is actually important: spreading the vegan message through education and positive action.

Thank you for reading, here is the video:

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Victory or Loss? – Culling of Male Chicks to End by 2020

You may have heard the news that the practice of chick culling (gassing or grinding up day old male chicks) may be stopped, or at least be phased out by 95% of US farms, by the year 2020 which sounds like a major step forward, but is it as good as we think?

Why are male chicks culled?

Chicks are bred by hatcheries and sorted by sex before the females are sent to farmers for a life (of around 80 weeks) producing eggs for human consumption. However, the male chicks are economically useless since they are bred to be small framed unlike muscular meat chickens, and this means the hatcheries must dispose of millions of day old chicks by grinding them alive or gassing them. This is largely kept quiet by egg companies since it poses an unbelievable ethical issue, and letting people know the truth behind egg production would obviously be bad for business.

*Warning this video contains footage that is upsetting, but I do recommend watching if you don’t know the truth behind the egg industry.*

So how is this going to be stopped?

New technologies and procedures have been discovered that can determine the sex of chicks before they are hatched, which could effectively end the culling of male chicks since they would never be allowed to hatch. By placing a fluorescent protein gene onto the male chromosome via micro-injection into a male chick embryo, the genetically modified birds can then be bred so that when the females lay their eggs. The male embryos could then be identified by a laser that picks up the fluoro mark, a process called ovo-sexing. Eggs containing female chicks would be incubated, hatched and sent to egg farms, whilst eggs containing male chicks would not be incubated, instead being used for vaccine research and pet food.

But how is this problematic?

Taken at face value this seems like a winning situation. However, we know that taking things at face value is never a wise thing to do, and examining the situation further reveals numerous worrying implications. I’m not arguing that stopping the culling of male chicks is bad, after all countless lives could be saved and horrific pain avoided, all I’m saying is that as intelligent, rational thinkers we need to consider what the effects of this discovery will be before we count it as a victory.

The first and most obvious issue is the fact that the egg industry will be very much alive, and indeed will be better off because of these discoveries. Workers and machines that sort and kill the male chicks will be replaced by laser identifiers and money will be saved. This of course means that the suffering of egg laying female hens will continue.

Secondly, the ethical problems of culling male chicks faced by egg producers will no longer be present, allowing both producers and consumers to forget about the suffering and pain that remain within the industry. Eggs will be considered ethical products since the methods used to produce them would not include gassing or grinding up day old chicks. As a way of convincing people that veganism is the only compassionate way of life, this could actually be considered a big step backwards, since non-vegans would consider the egg industry less problematic.

male chicks - battery hens

The suffering of egg laying hens would continue regardless

Not to mention the fact this method of identifying male chicks is reliant on genetic modification, altering the genetic makeup of the male line to produce modified young. This is a major concern for many consumers, but the details regarding genetic modification seem to be mysteriously left unsaid by many media outlets covering the story.

What should we think?

Personally I believe that we cannot completely dismiss this as a loss, since massive pain and suffering can be avoided. HOWEVER, this should be considered simply as a step towards the dismantling of egg production companies and the movement away from the consumption of eggs. We can’t celebrate yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

But what do you think, should we consider this a victory, or is this just a way for egg companies to justify their practices and keep consumers on their side? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Don’t forget to share this page and subscribe to the website to receive updates for new content, you can also follow the Fox Eyed Man on Twitter, Facebook, Google+Tumblr and now Instagram for further discussions about environmentalism.

Images:

Featured Image: ‘chick‘ by apsande is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Battery Hens: ‘Industrial-Chicken-Coop‘ by איתמר ק. via Wikimedia Commons.

Featured Video: Undercover Investigation at Hy-Line Hatchery by mercyforanimals

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