Tuesday 2 March 2010

Biofuels Are Killing the Tiger

Biofuels don't even work and they are killing the Sumatran tiger. The Sumatran tiger as you would expect lives on the island of Sumatra, which is one of the islands of Asia (another is the third largest island in the world, Borneo) that is being deforested in part to make way for plantations where biofuels are grown.

 
Sumatran tiger - photo by Craig Grobler (Flickr)

Biofuels are meant to reduce carbon emissions, which in turn will help to control, over the long term, global warming. Biofuels are produced from plant matter on plantations. For example Palm oil, like other vegetable oils, can be used to create biodiesel for internal combustion engines. Biodiesel has been promoted as a renewable energy source to reduce net emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, biodiesel is seen as a way to decrease the impact of the greenhouse effect and as a way of diversifying energy supplies to assist national energy security plans (Wikipedia authors). Palm oil is extracted from the Oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), which is grown on plantations.

The making of biofuels is now big business in places like Sumatra, Indonesia and Malaysia. These are Asian countries where there are dense ancient forests that are the home to tree dwelling and forest dwelling animals one of which is the Sumatran tiger, the smallest of the tigers and which is critically endangered per the IUCN Red List. Logging ancient forest to make way for biofuel plantations could be made out to be worthwhile (not for me) if it saved the planet from global warming and catastrophe but it doesn't work. The plan, the analysis call it what you like is fatally flawed so we are killing the tiger for no good reason other than to make photocopying paper, which is another reason to chop down these forests.

A recent government study has concluded that burning fossil fuels (coal or oil dug up from the ground) is better for the environment that the so-called green fuels made from plantation crops. What is cruel and totally mad is that the UK governments targets for increasing the use of biofuels (in diesel for cars, for example), will result in millions of acres of forest being logged (and some just burnt!) to make way for these plantations.

But some of the most commonly used biofuels fail to meet even the minimum sustainability standard set by the European Commission. The standard demands that one litre of biofuel should reduce emissions by at least 35% over the same amount of fossil fuel. The study concludes that the use of biofuels actually increases carbon emissions by 31%! This is because of the release of carbon into the atmosphere when forest is burnt and turned into plantations. In short the maths don't add up and we are killing the wildlife and the precious Sumatran tiger for nothing (except large profits of course). In an interesting statistic, it is said that a palm oil plantation will take 840 years to soak up the carbon released by the burning of the forest that was removed to make space for it.

The trouble now is that an industry has been built around biofuels that is worth 3 billion euros in Euros in subsidies alone in Europe. This big business will protect itself even if it is built on sand and quite pointless. One argument is that palm oil trees create another forest, which is sustainable. The rules are being changed or bent to fit into the new process mad or not.

The expansion of the palm oil business in Indonesia has turned the country into the world's third largest emitter of CO2. An area of forest the size of Wales, UK, is lost every year in Indonesia! Another precious animal that is on the brink of extinction is the orag-utan.

The world is mad and I am angry.

Michael Avatar

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Friday 12 February 2010

Genetics of the Burmilla Cat

The coat is short. There is a white undercoat, profusely shaded with tipping. The colours allowed for the Burmese are allowed for the Burmilla. The basic genotype is A-cbcbI- to which should be added the genes that create the colored varieties. The dominant gene: I, produces the white undercoat.

The shaded Burmilla is agouti. The agouti varieties are called Asians. The jet black Burmese (a non-traditional colour) is called a Bombay.




Michael Avatar

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Monday 8 February 2010

Declawing Cats: An International Viewpoint

It occurred to me today that there is an important international viewpoint to declawing cats that should not be overlooked. American is the home of declawing. Please note this is not a knock the USA dialogue, far from it. It is simply stating fact. I have no criticism of the Americans - none. We are all human!

America is both the home of declawing and the leading nation on the planet. Where they lead others follow, including the UK. And there are a number of fast developing nations such as India and China and indeed many more who are rapidly becoming westernised. Well China is not becoming westernised but it is becoming relatively wealthy.

It is not unreasonable to speculate that countries that are growing and becoming more integrated into the world economy might adapt the concept that declawing is something that is acceptable as, after all, the mighty USA do it.

In other words the leader should set a good example and they are categorically not doing that. They are setting a bad example. An example as to how not to relate to the domestic cat.

This is quite worrying because if veterinarians in say India get on the declawing gravy train now it will simply be the formation of another culture where the domestic cat is treated like an inanimate object to modify at will. At the moment places like India are a blank slate in terms of what is wrong about declawing. It is essential, I feel, that they learn the correct attitude to declawing to prevent it catching on.

Just a thought. Declawing cats has an international context.



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Tuesday 2 February 2010

Piercing the bodies of cats is illegal but not declawing!

Yes, piercing the bodies of cats is illegal but not declawing! This raises some serious questions of the consistent application of the criminal laws of the USA. Here is the story.

A person decided to take three stray cats, make body piercings of the cats (modern thing this) in the ears, neck and tail.

She used sterilised equipment and did it carefully and without malice. The intention was to sell them as gothic kittens.

OK its sad and sick. Well it is from my standpoint. But why is she being prosecuted for animal cruelty when people who with the assistance of vets declaw their cats (a far more damaging process) and away get of scot free every time, millions of times?

We are talking about northeastern Pennsylvania but that is not really relevant.

I think the reason is this. She damaged a cat's tail in the process (actually see docked it). But the difference is very fine indeed between this and declawing cats.

In one article I say that declawing is deemed legal because the cat has no individual rights (and needs an advocate) but in this case the stray cats were adopted by the person concerned and therefore it could be argued that the person did it to her own cats. I do a follow up page on this here:
 
No laws against cat tail docking.

Is this any different to cat microchips that are implanted in the skin of cats? Some of these cats develop cancer and die.

Conclusion: She will not be found guilty although she should. It indicates the confused state of US animal cruelty laws in respect of declawing, in my view.



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Friday 29 January 2010

Cat Playing Piano

There is a cat playing piano on the internet. This is another one of those cat-story-video-picture-freaky-type-thing that appeals at the moment. Cats provide us with a lot of entertainment but a lot of the time I am not sure that what is happening is entirely respectful of the cat. In fact, we can go back in history a long way to discover another but different example of cat disrespect, worse than that, it was cat pain or a form of cat torture and it concerned cats and pianos too: The Cat Piano (see below).

First though a cat playing piano. Here is the video:

To be honest it is a cat that is playing around with the keys of a piano. The video maker has probably propped his cat up on the stool and plonked the cat’s paws on the keys and filmed several short sequences with an enormous amount of patience because I am sure that there were a load of aborted attempts. You can see how short sequences are spliced together in this video.

I suppose the question some people ask is whether this cat, Nora, is actually making music. I say, no. But she is enjoying playing around on the keys for a while and she quite possibly enjoys the sound they make. But composition of music, no. Now that is going to spark off some comments, I expect!

I know that I am a bit of a  grumpy old man but this video, that has been seen more than a staggering 16m times (at Jan 2010) is interesting, yes, but a bit pathetic and it shows the publics’ desire for gratification in any way possible. Just entertain me – any way, we don’t care. And if it’s a cat so much the better. It is a modern version of the Scarlatti story that I refer to below and what follows:

Cat Piano

cat piano Put several cats with different meows or voices into a row of confining boxes or containers and place their tails to the rear. Above the tails place piano keys that when depressed hit the cats’ tails causing the cats to squeal, meow or make a sharp noise of displeasure. And, voila, the people of the time (1500s until as late as 1773 in Prague) were heartily entertained once again at the expense of the cat.

On one occasion a bear was trained to play a cat piano to entertain the then King of Spain in 1549. And on another occasion spikes were stuck into the tails of cats when the keys were depressed – charming. It is all slightly distasteful to me, I am afraid to say.

So based on the examples discussed, the history of the cat and music went from cats making the piano to actually playing it.

Cat Composing on a Piano

Cats playing piano doesn’t stop there. It is said (and I am not sure how true this is) that the well known composer, Scarlatti (Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (October 26, 1685 – July 23, 1757) an Italian composer, was inspired to compose the piece, “The Cat’s Fugue” after his cat walked over the keyboard of his piano. He copied down the notes. That is similar the cat playing piano story above.

The Film “The Cat Piano”

Once again, it doesn’t quite stop there. A new animated short film, The Cat Piano, has been recently released (2009, I believe – it has received several awards including the Australian Film Institute Awards, Best Short Animation, 2009). A city of singing cats is preyed upon by a shadowy figure intent on performing a twisted feline symphony. It is narrated by Nick Cave. He talks briefly about his role in the making of the film in the video below:

…and here is another video (pictures speak louder that words) previewing the film:

From Cat Playing Piano to PoC Forum

Sunday 24 January 2010

Lets Discuss Things in Video Responses

I don't know if it will work or catch on but I would like people to add video responses to the short video I made below. The idea is that we all say something in a short video response. The topic of conversation is the one I propose in my video:



The YouTube page for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n84mvHayIJQ

I like this idea because it means we can present our individual thoughts on a range of cat topics in short videos, which I can then edit into one master version.

The master video would be a fairly accurate representation of peoples' thoughts on a topic regarding cats. The video I would have thought would be fairly interesting and useful for that reason.

The first topic chosen by me is your favorite cat breed. This opens the door to a wide range of issues such as is the moggie the best "breed" or non-breed and why.

The only obstacles that I can see (and this may be an insurmountable obstacle) is that:
  • not enough people with opinions about cat breeds don't have the means to make videos
  • people aren't able to formulate good ideas on this topic
  • people are too busy or simply don't want to present themselves on YouTube.

Well I hope I am proved wrong.



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Monday 7 December 2009

Are Leopard Cats Extinct

People ask, are leopard cats extinct. The simple answer is NO. This is in part because they have a wide range and are an exception to the rule that wildcats do not adapt well to human activity.

In Malaysia where the leopard cat's habitat, the forest, is being destroyed and replaced with plantations of palm trees, the leopard cat has adapted to the new environment and hunts almost exclusively palm rats rather than its usual diet of small mammals, birds and reptiles found in the forest.

So the wild Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) population is doing well in certain parts of the world. For the wild cat to survive in a human world it must adapt to the human way and the ALC does this admirably.

It is rated least concern (LC) by the IUCN Red List and its population is said to stable. I personally doubt this. Population size is unknown.



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