10 Pieces of Literature That Will Change Your Perspective on Animals
By Nedelle Torrisi
The following stories, poems and essays speak to the beauty of animals and our complicated relationship with them.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
A scientist creates what he hopes will be a human being, but the creature turns out differently than expected, and he runs from his creation in horror. The “monster” is shunned by society for being different, so he learns how to use language in an effort to be accepted. There is a lot to rediscover in this classic novel, as Shelley details one man’s disastrous abuse of power and calls into question society’s hierarchical values by blurring the lines that divide animals, machines and humans.
2. “Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace
This essay was originally published in Gourmet magazine around the time of the Maine Lobster Festival. Wallace encourages the reader to empathize with lobsters, who have sensory neurons like those of humans. He challenges the reader, asking us to consider the ethics of boiling a creature alive for human enjoyment. This landmark animal rights essay is a must-read for animal lovers.
3. “Death of a Pig” by E.B. White
White wrote this essay “in penitence and in grief” after having stayed awake with an ailing pig for days straight—a pig he had initially acquired to raise for slaughter but instead became very close to. This experience was said to have deeply affected him and was the inspiration behind Charlotte’s Web. He writes that “the task of trying to deliver him from his misery became a strong obsession. His suffering soon became the embodiment of all earthly wretchedness.”
4. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
This sweet and humorous collection of poems is a favorite gift for cat lovers and inspired the musical Cats. Eliot writes about cats with the respect and reverence that they deserve:
With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
Don’t speak till you are spoken to.
Myself, I do not hold with that—
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
But always keep in mind that he
I bow, and taking off my hat,
Ad-dress him in this form: o cat!
5. Emily Dickinson’s poetry
They are full of animal imagery and metaphors: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul” and “The Gnat’s supremacy is large as Thine.” There are many beautiful insights to glean from her reflections on nature and all its creatures. Any collection of hers will include poems about animals—even a recently published book of her letters references her famously sweet and large dog, Carlos, and has wonderful passages such as this: “I know the butterfly, and the lizard, and the orchis. Are not those your countrymen?”
6. The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin
Merwin is a former U.S. poet laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner. He often writes about the fragility of the environment and threats to other species. The middle section of this collection of poems is a series of eloquent elegies to past companion animals. Sirius is, after all, known as “the dog star.” Get out your Kleenex, folks. Another collection, titled The Rain in the Trees, also contains poems about animals and their habitats.
7. “The Lowest Animal” by Mark Twain
This sarcastic essay is a series of comparisons between animals and humans, concluding that humans are “the lowest animal.” Although it is perceptive and provocative, it will leave you feeling pretty awful about the human species if you aren’t an awesome and compassionate person!
8. “Stickeen” by John Muir
In this short memoir, Muir recounts a trip to an Alaskan glacier that he took with his companion animal, Stickeen. Muir believed in equal rights for all species and wrote about animals with keen insight: “I have known many dogs, and many a story I could tell of their wisdom and devotion; but to none do I owe so much as to Stickeen. … Our storm-battle for life brought him to light, and through him as through a window I have ever since been looking with deeper sympathy into all my fellow mortals.”
9. “The Death of a Moth” by Virginia Woolf
This essay is just a little longer than two pages, but it packs quite a punch. Woolf witnesses a moth flutter around her room and eventually die on a windowsill, and she empathizes with it every step of the way. She describes the moth as being made of so little matter that it is made almost entirely of life. It is a beautiful but sad (I warned you!) meditation on every living creature’s desire to live.
10. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
In this novella, a man slowly morphs into a bug, and the reader sees the world through his eyes, as his perspective shifts between species. His family’s reaction to his metamorphosis is terrible, and they ultimately reject him. In empathizing with the suffering main character, Gregor Samsa, who loves his family unconditionally until his death, readers feel the heights of compassion and will hopefully carry this feeling into their own lives and their regard for the lives of animals.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
- Federal Judge Orders Trump Admin to Give Native Americans Their ... ›
- Police Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Pipeline Protesters in ... ›
- Climate Justice, Indigenous Rights Advocates Rally for Wet'suwet'en ... ›
By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
- Airborne Coronavirus Transmission Must Be Taken Seriously, 239 ... ›
- Trump Halts WHO Funding Amidst Criticism of His Own Coronavirus ... ›
- Here's Why COVID-19 Can Spread So Easily at Gyms and Fitness ... ›
- Is the New Coronavirus Airborne? A Study From China Finds Evidence ›
By Angela Nicoletti
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
- Global Frog Pandemic May Become Even Deadlier as Strains ... ›
- New Species of Diamond Frog Discovered in Remote Pocket of ... ›
- Frogs Are on the Verge of Mass Extinction, Scientists Say - EcoWatch ›
A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.
- Trump Admin Denies Endangered Species Protections to Pacific ... ›
- Trump Admin Failed to Protect 241 Species From Extinction ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
By Julia Vergin
It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
- 8 Ways to Tell if You Are Vitamin D Deficient - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common ›
Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.
EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.
Climate models are predicting faster warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, which will shift the Gulf Stream. NASA
- Could the Climate Crisis Spell the End for Maine Lobster? - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Reasons Why Biodiversity Matters - EcoWatch ›
- World Leaders, Media Ignore Biodiversity Report Detailing Mass ... ›
- The Top 10 Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots to Protect - EcoWatch ›