The Dreadful Story Behind Pompom Accessories
By Zachary Toliver
Hey, of course we all want to look fly—and it seems like this winter, pompom accessories on handbags, shoes and hats are the way to do that. But unless these furry fad items are made with vegan fur, animals were beaten, electrocuted or even skinned alive to make them.
Many of these fuzzballs are made from the skins of animals, including minks and foxes, two of the species most commonly killed in the fur industry.
Minks are solitary, semi-aquatic animals who can occupy up to 2,500 acres of wetland habitat. Foxes live in stable, loving family groups in which the father brings the nursing mother food. Newborn fox pups are unable to see, hear or walk, so they're totally dependent on their mother and will die if she's killed.
In addition, foxes, much like dogs, love to play. Just look how delighted this one is about a ball. How on Earth could someone wear these wonderful animals?!
On fur factory farms—which is where nearly 85 percent of the industry's skins come from—minks, foxes, chinchillas and other animals are crammed into filthy wire cages, where they're separated from their families and denied everything that's natural and important to them. Severe crowding and confinement prevent them from taking more than a few steps in any direction and they often go insane, resorting to self-mutilation and cannibalism—all just so that humans can make a fur coat, collar or (you guessed it) pompom.
Lose Your Mind Over Pompoms, but Don't Let Animals Lose Their Skin
So yeah, having a carcass hanging off your purse, gloves or hat is gross and cruel. There are plenty of vegan fur pompoms out there that you can use to express your style without supporting an industry that kills animals.
Many major retailers have banned fur altogether, so it's easy to find vegan pompoms at mainstream shopping outlets and online retailers such as Etsy. Or, if you're more of a DIY person, here's a video tutorial on how to make a cruelty-free pompom:
Be Fur-Free When You Accessorize
Whether you're into furry pompoms or the next big trend, be sure to shop cruelty-free. The only one who needs an animal's skin is the animal.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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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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