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Watch This 10-Year-Old Explain How Going Vegan Can Save the Planet

Two years ago, Long Beach resident Genesis Butler took home the title of PETA Kids' Cutest Vegan Kid—and last month, the 10-year-old became one of the youngest people ever to give a TEDx Talk. In her humor-filled presentation, she reveals why going vegan is the easiest way to help the environment.

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Germany Bans Meat at Official Functions to 'Set a Good Example for Climate Protection'

Eating less meat is essential to curbing climate change, which is why Germany's Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks is only serving vegetarian food at official functions.

"We want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish," the ministry said in a statement published in The Telegraph. The ban was reportedly enacted at the end of January.

The German newspaper Bild also reported that the food served at official events should be organic, seasonal, local and only travel from short distances. Fair trade products are also preferable.

Indeed, as one of the greenest countries on the planet, the German environment ministry wants its plates to lead by example.

Slashing meat consumption saves the lives of animals, lowers our carbon footprint and leads to better health. A study from the Oxford Martin School found that diets of limited meat consumption can cut emissions by a third while saving 5 million lives, vegetarian diets could reduce emissions by 63 percent and save 7 million lives, and vegan diets could reduce emissions by 70 percent and save 8 million lives.

But what about seafood? Well, the world's appetite for fish and shrimp is also stressing out supplies. A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report found that nearly 90 percent of global fish stocks are either fully fished or overfished. Global fish consumption per capita has reached record-high levels due to aquaculture and firm demand, with the average person now eating roughly 44 pounds of fish per year compared to only 22 pounds in the 1960s, the report found.

For a meat-loving nation known for its sausages, schnitzel and cold cuts, the message was not welcomed by all.

Rival German politicians have accused Hendricks, a member of the Social Democratic Party, of forcing vegetarianism on people and leveraging the meat ban as political ammo. The Social Democrats are challenging the Christian Democrats, Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, in this year's tight race for German Chancellor.

"I'm not having this Veggie Day through the back door," said Christian Schmidt, minister of food and agriculture and Christian Democrat. "I believe in diversity and freedom of choice, not nanny-statism and ideology. Instead of paternalism and ideology. Meat and fish are also part of a balanced diet."

Others have also accused Hendricks of hypocrisy in that the meat ban only applies to official functions. Ministry officials would still be able to consume meat or fish in the staff canteen.

"You have to eat what's on the table according to the will of the ministry. No meat, no fish, and the cover of 'climate protection,'" Gitta Conneman, a senior MP and Christian Democrat, told Bild. "They won't save the climate by branding people who eat meat, and they know this. The ban only applies to a handful of guests, not to 1,200 employees. This is pure ideology, a 'people's education' for the diet."

But the ministry said it wants to be a "role model" and justified their provision to fight the negative "effects of the consumption of meat."

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Pamela Anderson Gives Melania Trump a Faux-Fur Coat

By Kate Tuggle

Honorary People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Director Pamela Anderson has sent Melania Trump a one-of-a-kind thank-you gift for the first lady's fur-free look at the presidential inauguration: a faux "eco-fur" coat that Anderson custom-designed for her with Russian faux-fur manufacturer Only Me.

"Amid all the mania at the inauguration, you looked stunning in an outfit by Ralph Lauren—one of many fur-free designers," Anderson wrote in a letter to Trump. "I am so happy that you chose not to wear fur! As first lady, you will help set style trends and by remaining compassionate with your choices, you will warm the hearts of many."

Anderson's animal rights activism in Russia dates back to 2009, when she first wrote then–Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to thank him for banning the slaughter of baby harp seals. In 2011, she worked with PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to wear"—to persuade Russia, which had previously imported 90 percent of her native Canada's baby-seal pelts, to ban these importations.

She is now working with Only Me to develop fake bearskin hats to replace the busbies worn by The Queen's Guard in England, as one Canadian black bear is killed for each hat. The company will send two prototypes to London from Moscow next week.

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Is There Such a Thing as Humane Wool?

By Brian Barth

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights organization, has a reputation for employing the oldest marketing trick in the book: selling their message with sex.

The latest example? Their campaign to raise awareness of animal abuse in the wool industry, which features a poster of Alicia Silverstone walking naked into a meadow, her head turned over her shoulder, looking back at you with seductive, pleading eyes. The caption reads, "I'd rather go naked than wear wool."

Pamela Anderson, the singer Pink and a handful of other celebrities have also bared all for the cause.

The PETA creed is that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way." In other words, keeping livestock for purposes of human consumption, whether in a factory-farming setting or a small organic farm, is ethically reprehensible. PETA is well known for popularizing veganism and exposing animal rights abuses around the world. But livestock farmers, unsurprisingly, have long despised their shock and awe tactics, which have a tendency to paint all farmers as evil animal abusers.

PETA's current sheep campaign—typically broadcast with the tagline, "there is no such thing as humane wool"—was launched in 2014 after the organization released footage of sheep being cut, manhandled and mangled at wool-shearing operations in the U.S. and Australia. The effort got major press coverage around the world and led to the prosecution of several of the Australian shearers who were depicted in the footage on animal abuse charges. Now that Alicia Silverstone has put her skin in the game (pun intended), PETA's wool campaign is back in the media once again.

Wool producers, along with a number of large agriculture organizations, have fought back. In Australia, the Victoria Farming Federation filed a formal complaint when a locally popular vegan musician was featured in PETA ads holding a bloodied lamb carcass with the caption, "here's the rest of your wool coat." It turned out the carcass was made of Styrofoam. PETA admitted to using a prop, but maintains that it was a realistic illustration of the horrors of shearing.

Animal abuse is far too common an occurrence with pets kept by demented individuals everywhere. And as PETA's undercover sheep investigation clearly shows, along with many others that have preceded it, some abusive individuals (unfortunately) make their living handling livestock on farms throughout the world. The question is, is abuse the norm? Are examples of abuse at a few sheep ranches enough to indict an entire industry?

We thought it would be worth asking a wool producer who claims to raise their sheep in a sustainable, humane manner how their practices differ from what PETA ascribes to all wool producers. Becky Weed, owner of Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company in southwestern Montana, was a little reluctant to take the call from Modern Farmer, as she's been caught in the crosshairs of the animal cruelty debate before and has better things to do than argue with activists about whether or not raising sheep is inherently evil.

"I am wary of PETA," said Weed, right off the bat. "I don't think it's a particularly rational organization … I think animal welfare is important, but I don't believe that raising sheep is by definition cruel."

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Trump Sons Auctioning Off $1 Million Hunting Trip to Celebrate Inauguration

So much for separating business and politics. A Texas nonprofit co-chaired by notorious hunting enthusiasts Donald Jr. and Eric Trump will be hosting a wildlife-themed event to celebrate their father's incoming presidency. Donors who drop between $500,000 to $1 million will be entered for a chance to win multi-day hunting and/or fishing trips with the Trumps—all in the name of "conservation."

TMZ posted a copy of the invitation of the "Opening Day 2017" fundraiser with the dress code "Camouflage and Cufflinks." It will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC on Jan. 21, a day after Donald Trump's presidential inauguration.

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According to the invitation, donors who donate $1 million for the "Bald Eagle" package will have a chance to win a private reception and photo opportunity with the President-elect, as well as a multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion with Donald Trump. Jr. and/or Eric Trump, among other glitzy prizes. For $500,000, the "Grizzly bear" package offers a scaled down version of the hunting trip.

The event will "celebrate the great American tradition of outdoor sporting, shooting, fishing and conservation," the brochure states.

Walter Kinzie, executive producer and CEO of Encore Live, confirmed the event to POLITICO.

"This celebration, independent from official inaugural events sponsored by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, is in support of conservation organizations all over our beautiful country. All net proceeds from this private event will be donated to support conservation efforts," Kinzie said.

Trump's sons are known hunting aficionados, and have been criticized by animal rights' groups for posing in photos with their exotic and endangered big game catches such as elephants and leopards.

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk released a statement to the website Gossip Cop in response to the event.

"A few years ago, Donald Trump said that he was 'not a believer in hunting' and was 'surprised' that his sons liked it," she stated. "He spoke out against fishing, too, and also helped PETA by getting the 'diving mule' off the Atlantic City pier. So even though his sons are big-game harassers and killers, we know that he can love them without approving of their poor choice of a pastime, and we hope he won't attend this hideous celebration of animal slaughterers."

There are other ethical questions the event raises. As Salon's Gary Legum argued, "Does anyone think a person who will put up $1 million to spend a few days traipsing through the wilderness with the Trump brothers and their Secret Service retinue is doing so without hoping for a return on their investment?"

"If you are interested in land conservation and have a million dollars to throw around, you can donate it directly to a particular charity that advocates for conservation," Legum added. "You certainly do not need the ear of two people who are supposedly going to stay away from any dealings that reek of favorable government treatment, and cannot 'do new deals' for the corporation they ostensibly run."

Not only that, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the nonprofit hosting the "Opening Day 2017" event was only created on Dec. 14. As the organization explained, "unlike political committees, such nonprofits aren't required by law to reveal their donors, allowing sponsors to write seven-figure checks for access to the president while staying anonymous, if they choose."

Hiding the donors' names is "problematic on so many levels," said Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center.

"This is Donald Trump and the Trump family using a brand new organization to raise $1 million contributions for a vague goal of giving money to conservation charities, which seems a way of basically just selling influence and selling the ability to meet with the president," Noble continued.

Donald Trump has been repeatedly criticized for involving his family with his forthcoming administration, even though Eric and Donald Jr. are supposedly staying away from politics as they take over the Trump Organization.

However, Trump's children have been sitting in on high profile meetings and reportedly influencing cabinet picks, notably the recent selection of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to lead the Interior Department.

According to Common Dreams, "Donald Jr. had reportedly 'hit it off' with Zinke, another 'avid outdoorsman,' who supports preserving—and drilling on—public lands."

In 2015 the League of Conservation Voters gave Zinke a 3 percent score for his environmental voting record. And, in 2016 the National Parks Action Fund, a group affiliated with the National Parks Conservation Association, gave Zinke an F for his voting record on key bills affecting national parks.

During Zinke's first term as a Congressman he voted to:

  • Weaken controls on air and water pollution in national parks
  • Lift the federal ban on crude oil exports
  • De-fund efforts to clean up Chesapeake Bay
  • Weaken the Antiquities Act by limiting the president's ability to designate new national monuments
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Colorado to Kill 45 Mountain Lions and 75 Black Bears so Hunters Have Mule Deer to Hunt

Despite opposition from conservation and wildlife groups, Colorado announced plans to kill mountain lions and black bears so that more mule deer will be available for hunters.

Adult mule deer buck.Yellowstone National Park/NPS

The state is currently home to just more than 400,000 mule deer. The target population set by Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) is 525,000 to 575,000.

In the 1800s, both white-tailed and mule deer were hunted with abandon until they became so scarce that most people just stopped hunting them. Federal and state conservation legislation beginning around 1900 allowed deer to recover.

Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, however, as energy development grew in Western Colorado, mule deer populations began to decline. The White River herd, which once numbered 100,000 animals, is now down to 32,000. Populations in the state's central and northern mountains, and those on the eastern Plains, are stable.

Anyone who has visited a national park or hiked the forests and shrub lands of the West has likely encountered mule deer. Mule deer range west of the Missouri River and are smaller than white-tailed deer, which are more common in the East.

They can be seen in most of Colorado, in the Yosemite Valley, along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and in the foothills of Los Angeles. Mule deer are often unafraid of humans in areas such as these where hunting is prohibited and interactions are common.

Mountain lions—also known as cougars—take a particular liking to mule deer. Wolves, coyotes and bears also prey on the species. But natural predation is not seen as the leading cause of mule deer declines in Colorado.

A mountain lion on the hunt.Dan Zukowski

Both the pro-hunting Mule Deer Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) cite loss of habitat as a primary cause.

"We believe that habitat degradation from energy, and residential development, which has been confirmed by CPW biologists for years, should be the primary focus of scientifically-based wildlife management," said Brian Kurzel, regional executive director for the NWF.

Colorado's plan calls for the killing of up to 15 mountain lions and 25 black bears each year for the next three years using cage traps, culvert traps, foot snares and hunting dogs. The $4.5 million wildlife management plan would then be followed by a six-year study to see how the deer population responds.

There is concern that the CPW's decision is driven by money and a desire to favor hunting, which generates $693 million in annual economic benefits in northwest Colorado alone. Last year, 34,000 mule deer were taken legally by hunters. The CPW gets 90 percent of its revenue from hunting and fishing licenses.

But not even hunters are buying into the plan.

Brett Ochs, a Colorado resident who describes himself as "someone who has been hunting in Colorado for more than three decades," wrote in the Boulder Daily Camera, "Killing predators to arbitrarily see if it will boost mule deer populations is unsustainable and not sound wildlife management." He argued that CPW should use revenues from hunting fees to improve habitat and migration corridors.

"Other states have tried to boost deer populations by removing predators from the landscape, but time and time again these studies have failed to increase deer populations," said Andrea Santarsiere, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Mountain lions are a game animal in Colorado. Even though CPW says it has no idea of the population of the species in the state, it allowed the killing of 467 big cats during the 2014-2015 hunting season. Many argue that killing a few more is not the answer.

"Deer in Colorado suffer from lack of habitat and habitat degradation, largely due to expansive oil and gas drilling and invasive plant species. Without adequate nutrition, deer will not thrive no matter how many predators CPW removes," Santarsiere added.

Mule deer herds in northwestern Colorado were once so prolific that the area was known as the "mule deer factory." But that's the area where drilling has dramatically increased in recent years. The NWF report reveals that 8,965 new wells were dug between 2005 and 2012.

Crude oil production in Colorado grew 64 percent from 2007 to 2011, while natural gas production rose 27 percent during the same period. In 2012, Colorado was the sixth leading producer of natural gas and the ninth leading producer of oil in the U.S. More than 90 percent of new wells use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

In a comprehensive NWF report on mule deer in Colorado, the organization refers to a similar issue in a neighboring state.

"Research has shown that two mule deer herds in western Wyoming, parts of which have been heavily drilled the last decade or so, have shrunk by at least 30 percent," the report says. "Research­ers don't pin all the decline on energy development, but note that deer avoid well sites."

Last month, the Obama Administration canceled 25 oil and gas leases in western Colorado and added restrictions on others. Even though all were inactive leases, the executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, David Ludlam, considered the cancellation of the leases to be a "last-ditch shot across the bow" from President Obama.

Colorado State University wildlife biologists reminded CPW commissioners in a letter dated Dec. 10 that road construction and oil and gas development had damaged large areas of deer habitat, and argued against the plan to cull cougars and bears.

"The scientific consensus is clear and compelling—predator control is a costly and ineffective management tool to increase mule deer populations," they wrote.

For more information on the history of mule deer, watch here:

Japan Ice Skating Rink Freezes 5,000 Fish

Space World—a theme park in Kitakyushu City, Japan—has apologized after drawing intense criticism for putting 5,000 fish into the floor of an ice skating rink.

According to the Tokyo Reporter, the spectacle was part a limited winter and spring exhibition called "Freezing Port" that opened Nov. 12.

The park said that the point of the attraction was to allow visitors to skate above fish, shellfish and other marine animals in different oceanic zones.

"We wanted customers to experience the feeling of skating on the sea, but after receiving criticism, we decided that we could not operate it any more," Space World general manager Toshimi Takeda told AFP.

Space World shut the attraction down on Sunday following the flood of criticism and is now melting the rink, a process that will take about a week. The park will also hold a memorial service for the fish.

The exhibition was touted as "not only a Japan-first, but undeniably a world-first." The theme park started posting preview photos of its fish-filled ice rink onto its social media pages last month.

The photos, especially ones of larger creatures such as whale sharks and rays, sparked online fervor. One particularly incendiary image showed half-frozen fish with a caption that read, "I'm d..d..drowning…It h…h..hurts…"

Commenters condemned the attraction, with one saying that Space World should not "make life into a toy."

However, a park official said that live fish were not used and that the photos of the larger sea creatures were not real.

“The real fish we used were provided wholesale from public fish markets, and these fish sellers are all aware of the purpose of this project," the official told Tokyo Reporter. “Many of these fish don't meet standards for selling to customers. And the big fish like whale sharks, sharks, and rays aren't real, they're simply photos that were blown up and embedded in the ice."

As for the "drowning" caption, the official said that a park employee wrote it "hoping people would find it funny," but added, "I do feel that not enough caution was taken. I apologize."

"We received critical voices saying it is not good to use creatures as a toy, and that it is bad to let food go to waste," Space World spokesman Koji Shibata told AFP.

Let's also note that global fish stocks are currently being depleted at unsustainable rates and we are on the brink of running out of fish. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization revealed this summer that due to vast overfishing, nearly 90 percent of global fish stocks are either fully fished or overfished.

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.

5 Big Wins, 2 Big Losses on Key Eco-Ballot Initiatives

Key environmentally-related ballot measures in six states received mixed results yesterday.

On the plus side, Florida voters saw through utility industry efforts to thwart the state's burgeoning solar energy business and California voters appeared to affirm the state's ban on single-use plastic bags. Both Massachusetts and Oregon passed key animal protection laws.

But, two historically significant measures didn't fare as well. An energy and big business-backed state constitutional amendment passed in Colorado, while a controversial carbon tax initiative in Washington went down to defeat.

1. FLORIDA: Florida's utility-backed Amendment 1, disguised as a pro-solar bill, failed to reach the 60 percent yes vote needed to become law.

"Florida voters weren't fooled by the misleading campaign that the utilities tried to perpetrate," Tania Galloni, Earthjustice managing attorney for Florida, said.

A hard-fought grassroots campaign worked to educate voters on the deceptive nature of the proposed amendment to the Florida constitution. The amendment would have allowed utility companies to charge fees to solar customers and make it more difficult for private solar companies to work with homeowners.

Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, told the Miami Herald, "We defeated one of the most egregious and underhanded attempts at voter manipulation in this state's history."

2. WASHINGTON: Voters rejected Initiative 732, which would have created the nation's first tax on carbon. The proposal would have set a price of $25 per metric ton starting in 2018, increasing to $100 over the next 40 years. The measure was opposed not only by the Koch brothers, but also by the Sierra Club.

However, as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said days before the election, "By making Washington the premier American government to place a price on carbon, Evergreen voters will pioneer the trail away from our deadly carbon addiction and its murderous offspring: climate chaos."

3. COLORADO: Amendment 71, supported by the oil and gas industry, won approval in Colorado. Now, the state constitutional amendment makes it extremely difficult to get citizen initiatives on the ballot, essentially ceding control to big-money backers. An attempt to get an anti-fracking amendment on the ballot sparked the oil and gas industry to spend big on Amendment 71.

A group funded by Anadarko and Noble Energy donated at least $1 million to support passage. Other big backers included the Colorado Gaming Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers and the Colorado Association of Realtors.

4. CALIFORNIA: Two propositions affecting the use of plastic bags were on the state ballot this year. As of this morning, Proposition 67, which would keep the legislatively-enacted statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, appears to be winning. Proposition 65, which was an industry-backed effort to create an ill-defined environmental fund supported by the 10-cent bag fee, was defeated.

The Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups opposed Prop 65. They said it was designed to confuse voters.

5. MASSACHUSETTS: Voters enacted a landmark law that will protect farm animals from extreme confinement. By 2022, the measure will prohibit the use of veal crates for baby calves, gestation crates for mother pigs and so-called battery cages for egg-laying hens. All three confine animals to spaces so small they can't turn around or spread their wings, in the case of hens, and are inhumane.

The newly-passed Massachusetts law also makes it illegal to sell meat or eggs from animals kept in these conditions, including from those farmed outside the state.

6. OREGON: Voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 100 by a 70-to-30 margin, which prohibits the sale of animal parts and products from 12 species, including rhino, cheetah, tiger, sea turtle, lion, elephant, whale, shark, pangolin, jaguar, ray, and leopard.

More than 150,000 signatures were gathered to put the measure on the ballot.

"Oregon has a long and proud history of supporting wildlife conservation. With this sweeping victory, Oregon has set an important example for the rest of the nation and joins efforts around the world to protect imperiled animals, such as elephants, whales and sea turtles," said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

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