Secret Gibbon Whispers Translated By Scientists

Since the 1940s, we have known that gibbons use a secret language to communicate, but only now, with ultra sensitive equipment, have scientists been able to decipher their unusual calls. This research could give us clues to the evolution of human language.

Lar gibbons, or the white-handed gibbon, are an endangered primate, usually found in Thailand, Laos or Malaysia. Every morning, the gibbon family gathers at the edge of its territory, and sings out a ‘great call’, a duet between the breeding pair, each pair exhibiting a unique variation of the family song.

Lar gibbons can produce sounds so soft that they can’t be easily heard by the human ear. Scientists from Durham University have managed to record these calls by spending four months following them through the forests of North-eastern Thailand, and they have published their analysis in the BMC Evolutionary Biology journal.

The team found that there were different calls or ‘words’ for a range of predators, including leopards, tigers, pythons and eagles. The whispers even distinguished between different types of birds even when they were physically quite similar, such as eagle owls and serpent eagles.

The gibbons use over 450 ‘hoo’ sounds, and each ‘word’ or ‘call’ serves a different purpose in a specific context. This new research suggests that, according to the lead scientist, Dr Esther Clark:

…lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller.

You can listen to the lar gibbons’ call here:

Advertisements

What’s Wrong With Animal-Friendly Animal Products?

The ethical consumer cannot simply trust a brand claiming to be animal or environmentally friendly; we all have a responsibility to do a bit of research to make sure a product is as ethical as it claims.

If the ethical exploitation of animals is at all possible, then it must meet certain welfare standards. The RSPCA ‘Freedom Food’ label is one brand which claims to raise and slaughter animals in better conditions than the rest of the meat and dairy industry, and it distances itself from the evils of factory farming.

Hillside is an animal sanctuary located in Norfolk, which has conducted several investigations into Freedom Farms, and has uncovered evidence of animals suffering conditions as bad as, and sometimes worse than traditional farms.

The idea behind RSPCA monitored farms is a noble one, though it has been repeatedly shown to be a failed model. Freedom Food is a charity set up over 20 years ago to ensure that every aspect of those animals’ lives meet the high welfare standards of the RSPCA.

Freedom Food is thee only UK assurance and food labelling scheme dedicated solely to improving farm animal welfare.

However, Hillside has filmed the treatment of animals on various Freedom Food farms in the UK and found that those standards of animal welfare are simply not being met. Recent footage shows chickens living in desperate conditions, crammed into tiny containers, and left to suffer with untreated wounds. According to this report in The Mirror:

Many of the birds had lost half their feathers and clearly had painful leg deformities. The filthy shed floor was littered with corpses, some in an advanced state of decomposition.

The problem with failing Freedom Food farms is widespread, as this report into pig farming demonstrates. However, this is a brand that is not doing too badly compared with other so-called ‘ethical’ brands. A report in the Independent rated Freedom Food as second, with Soil Association scoring 9/10 in ensuring the highest welfare standards were met on its certified farms.

What you should about ‘High-welfare’ animal products

 The Freedom Food label does not mean ‘free range’. The RSPCA does not feel it necessary that broiler chickens ever experience the outside.

– Freedom Food birds reach slaughter weight within just 49 days; in the wild, it takes chickens around three months to reach adult size. Leg and hip injuries are common place on intensive farms, and they have also been seen on Freedom Food farms.

– Sows are still forced to give birth and suckle their young for around 4 weeks in farrowing crates, which are so small that they cannot move.

– Some ‘free-range’ labels claim that piglets are either ‘outdoor-bred’ or outdoor-reared.’ In both cases, piglets might be bred or reared outdoors for several months but they are moved indoors into fattening units, which are cramped and overcrowded, and provide no stimulation.

– ‘Organic’ means that the use of chemicals in animal feed is prohibited. Arguably, animals lead slightly better lives on organic farms, but male chicks are still gassed at birth and male calves are still shot because they are of no use in the dairy industry.

Animal Aid claims:

There is no humane meat. Animals’ lives are as
important to them as ours are to us and none go to
the knife willingly. Choosing organic, free-range or
Freedom Food over standard meat, milk or eggs,
continues to cause pain and suffering, and wastes
natural resources.

The Real Easter Bunnies

Spring has sprung, and, for animal shelters worldwide, that means the imminent arrival of hundreds of discarded bunnies in the weeks following Easter.

Rabbits do not obey the myths surrounding them: they don’t like to be handled by humans, they dislike being confined in cages, and, most annoyingly for homeowners, rabbits can chew through pretty much anything. They just don’t stop chewing.

When pet stores sell their Easter bunnies, the cute little creatures are small, fluffy and adorable. Hard for most parents to resist. But they grow, and, if, paired up with another rabbit, they breed. And breed and breed and breed. Like rabbits.

Many families give up on their Easter critters within weeks, and animal shelters are consequently overwhelmed. Buying Easter bunnies encourages bad breeding practices that result in a surplus of bunnies from consumers’ ill-conceived purchases.

80% of easter bunnies end up in shelters and those are the lucky ones – some families assume bunnies will be better off in the wild, so release them. However, bunnies are prey animals, and not used to the wild so they simply won’t survive.

Red Door Animal Shelter attempt to discredit the myths surrounding bunnies so consumers can make informed decisions before making an impulse purchase.

10 Years After The Hunting Ban And We’re Still Debating It

Amongst the varied issues to be raised at the upcoming general election will be animal welfare; in particular, the 10-year old ban on hunting with dogs and the present day badger cull.

The Hunting Act was brought in by the last Labour government to protect foxes from the barbaric tradition that sees them chased for miles by a pack of dogs, until they are viciously ripped apart by the hounds. These days the methods employed by landowners to deter foxes from their fields are much more tame, though the activist group The Hunt Saboteurs would argue that many illegal fox hunts still take place.

In 2015, the British public are to ponder this Act once again, as the Tories threaten to offer a free vote to reform or entirely remove the Hunting Act, whilst Labour promise to retain it. Labour also promises broader attention to animal welfare, in their opposition to the failed Badger Cull, which has seen the inhumane slaughter of badgers supposedly infected with TB.

Labour have pledged to:

  • review the rules on breeding and selling dogs and cats
  • ban wild animals in circuses
  • end the badger cull, which has been taking place in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset for the last two years in an effort to stop the spread of bovine TB
  • defend the Hunting Act
  • reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates
  • lead the fight against global animal cruelty

Animal welfare is often a neglected issue in British politics, despite strong feeling from the public. The Green Party are clearly the most committed to exploring and resolving these issues, as they aim to:

To eliminate the wholesale exploitation of other species, foster understanding of our inter-relationship in the web of life and protect and promote natural habitat.

A free vote could be disastrous for foxes, as many MPs seek an opportunity to return to traditional hunting methods which some believe to be more effective. However, nearly 11 years ago we decided to no longer be a nation defined by blood sports, and it’s hard to see why we would go back on that now.

Project Paws And Claws

I have reached the stage in my personal development that I now feel required to write a blog for self-validation. Not being interested in fashion, not being knowledgeable enough about music, and generally not having a very fascinating life, I have settled on a vague animal theme.

I will write about animal welfare issues, post vegetarian recipes – if i ever bother to cook anything well enough to blog about it – and discuss animal activism projects. I will also link to petitions and causes related to wildlife and the environment.

But mostly I will post photos of my cats.

%d bloggers like this: