Consciousness Isn’t What Makes Humans Special | An Octopus Research

[Octopuses can squirt water at an annoyingly bright bulb until it short-circuits. They can tell humans apart (even those who are wearing the same uniform). And, according to Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosophy professor at University of Sydney and City University of New York, they are the closest creature to an alien here on earth.

There’s no clear way of evaluating consciousness in other animals (or in other humans, for that matter—it’s quite possible that you’re the only conscious being alive and everyone you know is merely displaying signs of consciousness rather than truly experiencing it). But we can certainly make educated guesses. Broadly speaking, consciousness is often defined as there being an experience of what it’s like to be said creature.

Octopuses display signs of curiosity, and Godfrey-Smith believes it’s extremely likely that they’re conscious beings. “I think the exploratory behaviors, the fact that they attend to things, they have good eyes, they evaluate, are little bits of good evidence that there’s something it’s like to be an octopus.”]

Octopus research shows that consciousness isn’t what makes humans special


Our Friends, Beloved Dogs

Actor and musician David Soul, co-star of the 1970s iconic television series, Starsky and Hutch, lends his voice to the growing opposition to end the dog meat trade in parts of Asia. Please watch David’s five-minute video, and then do what you can from the list of actions in the Animal’s Voice website (


Let’s Call this “Black and White”


Bufflehead Farm: Jon and Tracey Stewart’s Animal Rescue Farm

[If everything goes according to plan over the next few months, the family’s 12-acre tract of land in Middletown, New Jersey, will soon be home to dozens of rescue cows, sheep, turkeys, goats and other animals.

The project has long been a dream for Tracey Stewart, an animal advocate and former veterinary technician, who has tirelessly worked to promote a plant-based lifestyle, animal welfare issues, and support for organizations like Farm Sanctuary.

The Stewarts have worked to slowly and meticulously transform Bufflehead Farm, purchased in 2013, into a safe place for rescue animals. They currently have four pigs, including two piglets rescued from the side of road in Georgia last summer.According to the New York Times, four sheep will also soon arrive — as well as many other abused or neglected farm animals in need of a home.

The couple eventually plan on opening Bufflehead Farm to the public, but by appointment only to start. For Mrs. Stewart, educating about what they’re trying to do at the sanctuary will be a big part of that outreach. “Our hope is to get a lot of school groups in,” she added.]


China: Official “Dog Beaters” Beating People’s Pet Dogs To Death

Official Dog Beaters went door to door and beat to death pet dogs in Shijazjuang, a city near Beijing. Even licensed pet dogs were slaughtered. Dogs could be heard wailing across the city as they were systematically massacred by groups of dog beaters, armed with bamboo poles, leaving distraught owners sobbing over their butchered pets’s bloodied remains. Photographs are from July 2014.

Read the article and watch the video here | ENVIRONMENTALIST


Jimmy John Liautaud, Big Game Hunting, and Ethical Boycotting… Or, the Treacherous Desert of Abundant Choices



The man in the photos smiles broadly as he poses behind the hulking carcass of an elephant, and, in another picture, he wears the same grin as he hoists a leopard’s limp body for display.

Repulsed, I found it easy to order my submarine sandwich elsewhere.

But that brings me to an unsettling revelation: My self-righteous mini-boycotts are random, inconsistent and, often, hypocritical.

How many businesses would offend me if I knew more about their owners, their investments and their source of labor? Where does one draw the line? Am I a horrible person if I long for some amount of blissful ignorance? (Chocolate and child labor come to mind.)

Many of my friends say they, too, avoid certain trademarks that conflict with their personal values regarding the environment, politics, morals or human rights.

Wal-Mart continues to draw wrath for the methods it uses to keep prices low, from its labor practices to its effect on mom-and-pop businesses. Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria Secret’s Pink and other companies that seem to sexualize children in their advertisements grate on others.

One childhood friend who fled to Wisconsin long ago boycotts the entire state of Illinois because he is disgusted with our corruption and politics. Another refuses to use self-checkout lanes, saying that “it’s symptomatic of our absurd complacency. We get less service for the same amount of money, while unemployment goes up.”

After the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I saw a woman in a floppy hat outside a suburban gas station, holding a giant hand-lettered sign: “Boycott BP.” I had to admire her determination, though I wondered what effect her one-woman effort had on the motorists who sped by.

We are victims of our own success when it comes to consumer choices — because there are so many of them. I already spend way too much time in the cosmetics aisle, trying to make sense of which skin care products are affordable and effective.

Now that I have learned that the plastic microbeads in my favorite facial scrub are clogging Lake Michigan, I will start my product search over again.

I know, I shouldn’t complain. Some people don’t have the luxury of boycotting, say, Wal-Mart, because it’s all they can afford.

Yet I often compromise my values out of laziness, convenience, cost or sheer desire. Um, chocolate.

A co-worker who dropped R&B artist Chris Brown from her iPod because of his violent history with singer Rihanna admitted that she still listens to the also-notorious singer R Kelly. Sure, Kelly was acquitted of child pornography in 2008. But Georgia suspects he’s no poster child for healthy relationships and feels vaguely guilty about it.

Some people devote much effort toward making ethical choices, and business gurus pay attention to them.

“To do ethical boycotting, you need the ability and the time to think abstractly,” said Joel Whalen, associate professor of marketing at DePaul University. He agrees it can be challenging but added that social media have given the unhappy consumer a bigger voice, which can be conveyed by photos and graphics as well as an old-fashioned complaint letter.

The Internet is rich with complaints about businesses, mostly prompted by poor customer service, which deserves its own essay.

Remember the singer whose humorous YouTube music video “United Breaks Guitars” propelled him to fame in 2009? Canadian Dave Carroll sang about how the airline’s baggage handlers at O’Hare International Airport broke his $3,500 Taylor acoustic guitar and refused to pay for it.

United was forced to respond, and eventually it donated $2,500 in his name to support music education through the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, according to news reports.

Similarly, you can find documentaries that expose corporate interests and ethical concerns. But, as Whalen pointed out, people are quicker to react if the problem hits close to home, such as if they discover their water supply is being polluted. Human rights violations in Third World countries, however, are not as “real.”

When considering Jimmy John’s, I learned from news articles that Liautaud contributes to right-wing causes and threatened to move his business out of Illinois when the state sales tax increased.

Liautaud, through a corporate spokeswoman, declined comment on all of those issues, including the safari photos and the status of his headquarters relocation.

Personally, I don’t want to research every corporate executive to compare their right or left leanings, both of which could offend.

But those photos ruined my appetite, and gave me one less choice to make.

Article found here | Chicago Tribune


… and an excerpt from Rober Hirschfeld’s Jimmy John is a Big Man. With the Photographs to Prove it | Smile Politely

I believe we’re collectively culpable, and pointing out the varying degrees of hypocrisy in order to maintain the status quo is a fool’s errand at best and slyly evil at worst.  After all, you may eat tofu harvested from mono-crop fields and ride your bike to work on the streets — thus mitigating your footprint, but still acting as an accessory to a few of the prongs of civilization that have destroyed animal habitat – the primary cause of species decline in the first world.  Such complicity is, in fact, real. 

However, I don’t think this relative complicity should prevent one from speaking out about human behavior — though that is a recurring theme in the comments, and surely will be pushed by Jimmy John’s PR department.  Collective culpability and relative hypocrisy do not mean that any behavior is sanctioned, or that we are incapable of making value judgements on grossly immoral acts.

I eat meat. I don’t have a moral problem with that (partially because I firmly believe in the rightness of big predators like leopards and wolves). But I eat more than I should, and I’m not always careful about where it comes from. I do have a problem with that. If these pictures lead to greater discussion of how humans fit in to the larger landscape, I will be happy.

Animals That Became Extinct In The Last 100 Years

[In June 2015, a study published by experts from Stanford, Princeton and the University of California-Berkeley declared the world’s vertebrates are going extinct 114 times faster than the natural rate of extinction, according to the Huffington Post.

The researchers write that “these estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way.”

Last year, we published the following list of every animal that went extinct in the last century. Updating it today to highlight the most recent study and news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service have declared the eastern cougar extinct. And we’re dangerouslyclose to losing 13 more animal species.

The number of extinct animals is difficult to calculate and always higher than the estimate. In some cases, a species is presumed extinct — none have been seen in years — but it’s yet to receive official extinction status by the IUCN. But the important thing to remember is that extinction is not a historical problem — it’s a contemporary issue.

In the article, take a look at every animal (except insects, which are extremely difficult to catalogue but which you can find here) that went extinct in just the last 100 years. The list is based on research provided by the Sixth Extinction, a website created to “enhance free public access to information about recently extinct species,” and in order of their approximate date of extinction. We’ve included all the animals confirmed extinct by the IUCN, and added a few more declared extinct by other credible individuals and organizations.]

Here is Every Single Animal that Have Become Extinct the Last 100 Years | PIXABLE