Earth Island Journal

Why It's Morally Wrong to Use Other Sentient Beings for Our Purpose - Whether for Food or Research

At one point in her career, Lori Marino worked with NASA astronauts, studying how they respond to being in zero gravity conditions. While that was somewhat exciting, Marino says she “simply didn’t find humans as interesting as other animals.” So the neuroscientist and behavioral biologist went back to her first love – studying nonhumans. Internationally known for her work on the evolution of the brain and intelligence in dolphins, whales, and primates, Marino is scientist of a rather rare order – one who thinks it’s “morally objectionable” to use other sentient animals for our purposes, whether it be for food, or for captive and invasive research.

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What I've Learned From Non-Human Animals - and Why We Need to Reconceptualize Our Relationship With Other Species

I didn’t know how to act when I first met her. It was an uncharacteristically calm, clear day. The surface of the water was like liquid velvet. I sat on the concrete steps of the pier that jutted out from the ragged Scottish coastline, gazing downwards as she floated just below the surface. She came up for a breath, exhaling loudly with a hint of what seemed to be playful exasperation. Then she rolled onto her side and looked directly into my eyes. Hers were deep black with a circle of thin brown iris, and filled with meaning that I still, to this day, cannot put into words.

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Prisoners Are Finding a New Purpose in Life by Helping Endangered Species

Six women sit on overturned crates tending to seedlings inside a greenhouse in Wilsonville, Oregon. Light filters through the clear plastic roof and a break in the clouds sends streaks of sunlight over an open end of the structure. Birds call out, interrupting the peaceful scene as the women focus on harvesting leaves from early blue violets planted in rows of black plastic containers. The violet leaves will be used to feed threatened silverspot butterflies. If it were not for the women’s florescent green vests and the bright orange Department of Corrections seal stamped on their jeans, the scene could easily be mistaken for a commercial nursery. As it is, the women are prisoners behind the razor-wire fences surrounding Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, a minimum and medium security prison located on 108 acres in western Oregon, less than 20 miles south of Portland.

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Cemeteries Can Serve as Lifeboats That Protect Biodiversity

our white-tailed deer graze atop a rise, oblivious to Jay P Lee and GW Palen, and other folks named Stowell and Whitehead and Slayton and Potter interred there. It’s afternoon – an uncommon feeding time for deer that usually prefer dawn and dusk – on a fall day at Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing, Michigan. The deer browse amongst the graves, apparently unperturbed by the writer, photographer, and ecologist walking at the foot of their hill, discussing varieties of lichen on tombstones, the food value of nonnative honeysuckle for wildlife, and the evils of invasive buckthorn.

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Marine Mammals Are Suffering From a Life-Threatening Toxin Off California's Coast

On a gloomy July morning on California’s Central Coast, the holding pens at the Marine Mammal Center’s Morro Bay facility were filled to capacity. “It’s been a busy month,” said Operations Director Diana Kramer, “And looks like it’s only going to get busier.”

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For Critically Endangered California Condors, Oregon's Hunters May Pose the Gravest Threat

In the heat of the high-desert summer in 2014, a crew of wildlife researchers drove the dusty, gravel ranch roads in eastern Oregon, eyes on the sky in search of big broad-winged hawks, like red-tails and Swainson’s, soaring above, scanning the landscape for rodents and rabbits. Spotting a hunting hawk, they hit the gas, racing 1,500 yards or so ahead of the raptor. They tossed out a bal-chatri—a trap consisting of a mesh wire dome festooned with nylon slipknots and a mouse inside for bait. Spying the mouse, the hawk dove, talons extended, expecting to connect with a meal, only to find itself entangled in the knots. Bal-chatris, originally developed by falconers in India, are among the most effective ways of capturing raptors alive.

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My Quest to Save Imperiled Mussels

On a March day in 2009, nine years after Chewacla Creek dried up, I stood in the roadside weeds near a county road bridge in Alabama. The creek – the city of Auburn’s water supply – was flowing again, thanks to legal protection. I was wiggling first my legs, then my arms, into a borrowed wet suit. I left it unzipped while I bent over, one hand on the truck’s tailgate for balance. My other hand reached to shoehorn my sneakers over neoprene booties. I straightened, returning my attention to the zipper. It gaped like an open shell, displaying my pregnant belly, almost four months round. With effort, I zipped up the two halves, encasing myself. My first child would dangle below me while I snorkeled – something I’d never done before.

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Many Native Communities Are Being Forced to Relocate Due to Climate Change

Fawn Sharp grew up in Taholah village, a small community on the Quinault Reservation nestled between the mouth of the Quinault River and the Pacific Ocean. She spent her childhood summers surrounded by water, splashing in Lake Quinault on the eastern edge of the reservation, and hiking along the local beaches near the village, scouring the rocks for starfish and other treasures. In the mornings, she was often up before the sun, out fishing with her grandparents on the river.

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America's Toxic Prisons: The Environmental Injustices of Mass Incarceration

Matthew Morgenstern is convinced his Hodgkin's lymphoma was caused by exposure to toxic coal ash from the massive dump right across the road from SCI Fayette, a maximum-security prison in LaBelle, Pennsylvania, where he is currently serving a 5- to 10-year sentence. "In 2010 and until I left in 2013, the water always had a brown tint to it. Not to mention the dust clouds that used to come off the dump trucks ... which we all breathed in.... Every single day I would wake up and there would be a layer of dust on everything," he writes from inside the prison. When Morgenstern was sent back to SCI Fayette in 2016 after he violated parole, he found that the dust issue had abated a bit -- work at the dump has been stalled for a year due to litigation -- but the water still runs brownish and sometimes has "a funky smell." He says he knows that the environment in and around the prison is still "messed up" and he's concerned that his immune system, already weakened from fighting and overcoming cancer, won't be able to withstand another onslaught of toxic exposure. "I myself have no doubt that if I'm kept here at Fayette, I will once again become sick," he writes.

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School Lunches Across the U.S. May Be Moving Towards Healthy Organic Food

When you picture school lunch what comes to mind? Gooey pizza and floppy French fries, or fresh organic produce and chicken raised without routine antibiotics? My guess is the former. But thanks to advocates around the country, someday it may just be the latter. 

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