PETA's Undercover Shearing Videos Expose Horrific Sheep Abuse in U.S. and Australia
It would be tough to think of any disgusting, gutless acts that aren't featured in new videos about brutal sheep shearing in Australia and the U.S., produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
With sheep getting punched in the face, dragged on the floor, beaten with hammers and even swiped across a wooden floor to wipe urine, both videos are certainly more graphic. Be warned.
PETA investigators documented 70 workers employed by nine shearing contractors in Victoria and New South Wales—Australia's top wool-producing states—as well as South Australia. Collectively, they shear about 4 million sheep per year.
Even worse, many of the shearers began their kicking and punching after the sheep expressed fear. They were also often deprived of food and water before the process even began.
One explanation for the cruelty is that most shearers are paid by volume instead of by the hour. That systematically encourages fast-paced, violent work.
It's not just an Australian practice, though. PETA also exposed shearers in the U.S. for being just as violent in another video. One shearer calmly says, "I might have killed it," after he is shown twisting its neck.
In the U.S., PETA's investigator documented 14 ranches in Wyoming—the country's second-leading wool producer—as well as Colorado and Nebraska. In 2013, 3.7 million sheep were shorn in the U.S.
PETA is asking consumers to refrain from buying and wearing wool products as a result of its findings. It also hopes people will sign its petition asking J. Crew and Ralph Lauren to drop sheep products from their clothing lines. Click here and scroll to the bottom to find the petition.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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