A little bit of everything

Welcome to Aristurtle, a title lovingly ripped off from the Science of Sleep. This really is just a little bit of everything, a news digest pulled from many different sources. Generally anything that makes me want to rant tends to make it onto this blog, with very little plotting or advanced planning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cap and Gown time...er, no, just gown please.

Graduation. A time honoured tradition where you are presented with your hard-earned (or not as the case may be....) degree. However you spent those 4/however many years of your life, your graduation day is a bit of an undeniable milestone. I'm decidedly unemotional about it in a way, but at the same time I'm looking forward to it. However, it brings up an issue that hasn't been on my mind since my mother graduated a few years ago: to Cap or not to Cap?

This tradition seems to differ between countries, but in Ireland it's a decidedly outdated and sexist one. Only women wear the graduation cap, as many sources have told me, to symbolise that this is a "cap" on their education, i.e. because they will presumably spend the rest of their lives making babies and keeping house. That is, if they're lucky enough to be chosen by a clever clever man. However, male graduands do not wear the cap since they'll continue their education, whether that be in an educational Institute or in everyday life. We have to remember you see, that Irish men are never happy unless they are educating themselves in some way. Forever learning, forever becoming more and more intelligent (if that were possible).

So I'm a little bitter. I've always been easily riled up by sexism, whether harmful or harmless, although in my opinion no act of sexism, however small, is harmless. It will always have some subtle influence on some (or all) women, causing them to feel undervalued, angry, frustrated and undermined. Therefore I refuse to be part of that kind of tradition.

I'm not saying I reject the idea of tradition - some traditions are fine. I am saying that I will only honour a tradition that deserves to be honoured - an honourable, fair tradition untouched by discrimination. Another example of a tradition I'd happilly defy is the line in American marriage ceremonies where the father of the bride is asked to say that he "presents this woman in Holy Matrimony". Let's just say I'd be editing that script a little if I were ever to get married. The thought of traditions such as these gives me a special kind of nausea. I can't say I was happy to see my mother wearing the cap on her graduation day but it's a personal choice. I won't discredit any other women who want to wear it or who are genuinely not bothered by that old wive's tale, but it would make me feel ill to have to look at myself in the hat. No thanks.

Still, I do feel quite grown up these days despite being only 21. I think this song is a good one for the occasion.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My first video feature

Over the last few months I've been filling any gaps left in my filming education, learning by doing if you will. A large part of my job right now involves going out with a camera and getting the interview, the shots, the names, everything. Very much a think on your feet situation. I love it, it's exactly why I got into journalism - every day is different.

Anyway I came across this interesting development in the health service, and I've been working on a short video documentary of it for about a month now. It's short and sweet just like the accompanying article, but I'm still quite proud of it:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Year of the Tiger: smugglers resort to desperate measures

A few weeks ago a live tiger was found in a Thai woman's luggage as she tried to board a flight from Thailand to Iran. The poor cub was sedated and hidden among other stuffed toys in the bag.

This is beyond getting out of hand - tigers are practically extinct in the wild with less than 4,000 left, and several sub species have already been wiped out as well as a few others well on their way to extinction.


Stories like this have been coming to my attention more and more lately since I adopted a tiger - ie pledged about 10 euro a month to the WWF's conservation efforts. It's something I've always wanted to do but never had the money - and now I finally have a job I can give a little bit of my wages to try and help save this beautiful solitary species from extinction.

Adopting an endangered animal with WWF is a great thing to do - you can choose how much to donate, and they kindly wait until th end of the following month to take the first payment, and tell you exactly when the direct debit will happen each month. I recieved an information packet with a photo of the tiger I "adopted" - a gorgeous, strong, mother of two Bengal tigress. I'm delighted I did it, and there are a range of endangered animals to be chosen from including pandas and polar bears.

For some reason I've always had a soft spot for tigers. I'm not sure exactly what it is about them but I respect them and would be devastated if they weren't around anymore for future generations. So go on, adopt a tiger! The money you give goes towards efforts of WWF to double the number of tigers in the wild by the next year of the tiger. They've also got a group of people who patrol tiger habitats on the lookout for poachers. WWF want to increase the numbers of patrols in the near future, and it's an effort that is unfortunately very necessary.

Tigers are poached for their pelts, and for parts of their bodies used in traditional medicine.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hunting - a legitimate sport or an activity for cavemen?

I've become interested in hunting after a number of online groups drew my attention to it. Firstly, the RISE! (Rural Ireland Says Enough) campaign here in Ireland, and secondly a little facebook group protesting against PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and vegetarianism in general.

Not being a vegetarian or a major supporter of PETA, I considered myself pretty much on the fence. Hunting isn't something that's to my taste at all, but I was willing to just live and let live until this facebook group came to my attention. The group in question is called "Can this raw steak get more fans than PETA?" and can be found at this link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Can-this-Raw-Steak-get-more-fans-than-PETA/324782051579?ref=ts

Now, whatever about eating meat. I love meat, I definitely couldn't survive as a vegetarian but that doesn't mean I'm not concerned about the manner in which the meat gets from the farm to my plate.

I always thought hunting was about respect. It was about pitting yourself against the animal. Showing respect for the animal you're competing with should be a major part of that. However, a quick browsing of the photos people have added to this group makes it pretty clear that the modern day hunter has little or no respect for the animal he/she kills. The most disturbing thing for me was to see photos of animal corpses lined up on a road, all bloodied and killed. Who takes a photo of that and then uploads it to the internet? Someone I wouldn't like to meet in a dark alley, that's who. Who leaves comments on photos of animal corpses, speculating on how delicious it looks? A severely sick person, in my opinion. A corpse does not look appetizing to me, and why? Because I'm just about as civilized as the next person.

This group really crossed the line when pictures and comments about tasty baby seals started appearing. In Canada, baby seal clubbing (which sounds so cruel it seems made up) it becoming a serious problem. Every year, a band of fishers descends on the ice on the coast of Canada (where the seals stop during migration to give birth) and beat hundreds of thousands of seals to death, in order to sell their pelts on the international fur market. Many of the seals killed in the massacre are just a few weeks old. They are hooked in the eye or cheek and dragged across the ice, some while concious. I can't think of this without my stomach turning, but a number of people in the anti-PETA group seem to find it amusing. The addition of the seal beating picture above was accompanied by the caption "SEAL STEAKS! YUM! NICE AND FRESH!" I don't think I even need to elaborate. You get the picture.

Another matter close to home for me, is the RISE! campaign. This campaign, the organisers have kindly told me, protests the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill put forward by the Green Party last year. In the terms of the Bill, breeding establishments across Ireland would have to register and pay a fee to the local authorities, who would conduct checks on the establishments. There has been a huge objection to this attempt at controlling breeding establishments, including a number of protests, most recently in Waterford.

I don't honestly believe that these people are entirely wrong, however. The recent alleged actions of a group of Hunt Saboteurs completely undermined objects to coursing. A video was uploaded to youtube showing a hare supposedly wriggling and dying after a coursing event, allegedly the Clonmel national coursing final on February 3rd 2010. Greyhounds are now muzzled for this sport, and after veterinary experts examined the video it was concluded that it was a fake. The theory is that these "Hunt Saboteurs" caught a hair, restrained it with a wire and possibly poisoned or drugged it in an attempt to undermine the Clonmel coursing club.

It's downright shocking that they would go so far as to undermine their own point and go against everything they are supposedly motivated by, put a hare through terrible suffering just to try to make a point. Their point hasn't even had any effect, except to swing some people in favor of the very coursing club, and the sport in general, that they were attempting to discredit. The Irish Times article reporting this can be found here: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0402/1224267556145.html

Contrasting this with the behaviour of the people in the anti-PETA group, I can't find many differences. In fact, it seems to me that even the hunters who enjoy the sight of animal corpses haven't put the animals through as much suffering or acted in as disgraceful a manner as the activists who are trying to eradicate just that. Isn't it ironic?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Dog Breeding Establisment Bill 2009

I was fairly shocked to find that there was a pressure group dedicated to objecting to this Bill, but there is.

"RISE" or "Rural Ireland Says Enough" are a new organization dedicated to preserving rural sports and traditions, according to their facebook page. What surprised me most is that these seem to be reasonable, sane people. I posted a comment on their page explaining my confusion at their aims, and they were kind enough to post it to a discussion board so hopefully I'll get some answers from them soon.

Whatever the answer is, however, I doubt it will persuade me that hunting and breeding animals in squalid conditions are rural sports that deserve preserving. What I would propose is maybe some moderations to the Bill, but I can't really see how this will affect rural sports in an adverse financial way.

The Bill, introduced and championed by the Green Party, will seek to regulate and register all dog breeding establishments in Ireland. Establishments will be required to register and pay a fee to the local authorities, and to submit to inspection of their premises. This seems like a fair ask to me. Animal abuse has been a severe problem in some parts of Ireland for a long time, and I'm very glad to see that the Green Party are taking steps to prevent or at least cut back on this.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Adorable, but at a pretty high price

Youtube is home to many videos, some of them funny, some of them serious, some of them cute. Type in the name of any animal and the likelihood is that someone has uploaded a video of that animal. Perhaps one of the cutest of these videos is that of the slow loris being tickled by her owners:


When I first saw this I of course fell in love with that slow loris. They're a species I don't know much about, but their seeming docile nature and beautiful wide eyes would appeal to most people.

What I did find out, after further internet searching, was that the slow loris is practically an endangered species. Their conservation status is listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. By that system, the slow loris is just one step away from endangered.

What the Russian owners of the slow loris in that video failed to mention is that it is illegal to own them as a pet in most countries, including Russia. Of course, in the later videos of their pet they insist that in their country it is perfectly legal.

The thing is, when the ownership of a certain animal as a pet is outlawed, there's usually a good reason for it. In this case, there are several good reasons. First of all, the slow loris is a strictly nocturnal animal, and therefore not suited to living with humans. You'll notice that in that video the animal is awake in what appears to be broad daylight. Secondly, because the species is so rare and endangered, it's unlikely that there will be a vet nearby that is able to treat them if they get sick.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the demand for these animals as pets leads poachers and hunters to snatch them from their natural habitat, normally as babies, to sell on the black market. They can be found in Southeast Asia, China, and Borneo among others. Since slow loris leave their young in the nest at night while they go hunting, largely unprotected, they are easy to snatch. Poachers will often carry them in uncomfortable wire cages and remove their teeth, often with pliers, to make them more suitable and harmless pets. The docile nature of the slow loris, as seen in the videos, in fact comes from their defence mechanism. When feeling threatened or frightened, they will simply relax.

All this because of a few youtube videos and cute pictures. It's enough to make me rethink my feelings anytime I see a cute exotic animal. It's tragic to think that an animal's cute aesthetic appearance can lead to its' demise.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Say hello to the new superpower

In these times of economic recession, it can be tempting to get caught up in the issues of one's own country. Recently, however, I came across a website and a cause that made me realise there are more problems and more tragedies in the world than can ever be accounted for.

Just one of the many issues I have with China is their seemingly blasé disregard for human and animal life, not to mention living standards. The organ trafficking which was (and still is, in all likelihood) operating through Death Row in Chinese prisons was officially admitted to by the Chinese Government only last summer.

According to the Chinese newspaper China Daily, two out of every three organs transplanted there come from executed death row inmates. Families of said executed inmates are most often left without a body to bury or even ashes to spread. The Chinese government has promised to address the issue in cooperation with the Red Cross, but it's just one of many things that the country needs to tackle.

The abuse that I want to talk about, however, is perpetrated on innocent animals.

Chinese traditional medicine involves the use of a number of odd ingredients, one of them being bear bile. Even for someone who does not read Chinese, the labels bearing pictures of bears make it pretty clear.

I can't blame China totally for what goes on, as this animal abuse is ongoing in Korea and Vietnam as well.

Asiatic black bears, also known as "moon bears" , are used to supply this bile. They are kept in stunted cages too small for them, and suffer greatly from lack of space. The photo above shows one such cage, in which the bear can hardly move. This will lead to stunted growth, unhealthy joints and general trauma for the bears.

Catheters are inserted into the bears' gall bladders through a hole made in the bears' abdomen. These catheters are crude, cheap and often unclean and the likelihood of an infection for the bear is high. This means that the bears often die in pain and suffering before they have any chance of being rescued.

Thankfully, there are several organisations working to rescue and care for these animals. Animals Asia, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Chinese government (apparently...) are all working towards ending this cruelty.

Check out http://www.animalsasia.org/ for the full story.

I've never been a fan of the Chinese, but since they seem to only be growing in power it seems we won't have a choice. There's a new superpower in town. I think a closer examination of the new bully in the schoolyard could paint America in a pretty favourable light.

Let's be honest, as superpowers go, there have been worse, and there certainly will be in the future.