Photo of elephant and calf fleeing fire-throwing mob wins top prize

Photograph taken in eastern India, titled Hell is here, indicates mob lunging flaming tar balls at animals

An arresting image showing an adult elephant and its calf fleeing a rabble assault has won a top Asian wildlife photography prize.

It shows the two animals operating among a mob that has lunged flaming tar balls and crackers at them, reportedly to ward the elephants away from human settlements.

The picture, titled” Hell is here”, was taken by Biplab Hazra, a wildlife photographer from West Bengal state, and won the 2017 Sanctuary’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.

The Sanctuary Nature Foundation, which awarded the award, said:” In the Bankura district of West Bengal, this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range nations of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and more .”

” This sort of conflict is increasing every day ,” said Christy Williams, the World Wildlife Fund country director in Myanmar, who researches elephants in the region.

He said elephants become increasingly being pushed out of existing habitats by human behaviour.” There are forests being cut down, degraded, and also being fragmented by growth like new roads and pipelines .”

India is home to around 30,000 Asian elephants, 70% of the world’s population, with around 800 in West Bengal, according to the most recent official count.

Co-existence between humans and elephants was especially difficult, Williams said.

” Elephants are huge- they are the biggest mammal on land and they have huge home ranges, around 800 sq km. Such huge unreserved forest tracts are becoming very rare ,” he said.

” In the end, humen always win, whatever the species, however powerful it is .”

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Vets warn that ‘extreme breeding’ could harm horses

The El Rey Magnum is close to perfection, according to its breeders in Washington state

Vets are warning that the” extreme breeding” of ponies could harm their health and welfare after pictures emerged of a young Arabian horse with a drastically concave profile. Claimed to be already worth “several million dollars”, El Rey Magnum is said to be ” close to perfection” by its breeders at Orrion Farms, an Arabian horse specialist in Ellensburg, Washington state.

But British vets and equine experts have told the Veterinary Record the nine-month-old colt represents” a matter of great concern ,” as its deformed skull could potentially cause exhaling difficulties. The Guardian has been refused permission to publish pictures of the pony, but the creature can be viewed here.

Tim Greet, an equine expert, told the Veterinary Record:” I find the whole thing unbelievable. Arabians have always had a rather’ dished ‘, face but this takes things to a ridiculous level .”

According to Greet, such “deformity” is more significant for a horse than for pedigree dogs such as pugs, which are able to suffer breathing problems. Dogs can breathe through their mouths, but horses can only inhaled through their noses.” I suspect exercising would definitely be limited for this horse ,” said Greet.

Adele Waters, the editor of Veterinary Record, said that every professional veterinarian she had shown the images to had found them shocking.

She said:” My first believes were,’ Is this the work of CGI trickery ?’ Many specialist horse veterinarians have had a similar reaction. But the truth is this is a real pony and it has been bred to meet the demands of a specific market that likes a specific appearance. Where will it aim? Is it genuinely so bad for a horse to look like a pony and not a cartoon character ?”

Waters questioned the morality of such fashion-led breeding, in the wake of similar fears over the health and welfare of flat-nosed puppy breeds such as bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs.

” The real original Arabian horse’s head was very beautiful but they are now being bred strictly for that[ concave] look. There is no functional value in a pony having a face like that. Veterinarians believe that if you distort the skull like that there’s a risk you affect the airways and the breathing capacity of the pony .”

Dr Madeleine Campbell, an equine reproduction specialist, expert in animal welfare and ethics and director of the Equine Ethics Consultancy, told the Veterinary Record:” Whilst it is obviously impossible to comment on an individual animal based only on photographic proof, as a general principle, any tendency towards breeding for extremes of form which might adversely affect normal function must be condemned, on welfare grounds .”

Doug Leadley, a farm administrator and primary breed adviser for Orrion, claimed that” this horse is a stepping stone to getting close to perfection “. He rejected criticisms of the horse:” I think most of those people don’t breed ponies, or show them or aren’t very involved- those are people who don’t understand .”

American veterinarians have recognised El Rey Magnum as an example of an extreme breed, and one vet has said that the pony has no medical or respiratory issues.

Since launching a promotional video earlier this month, the farm has received interest from across the world, including the UK. According to Leadley, the young pony is already worth several million dollars.

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Italian woman granted sick pay for time off to look after her ill dog

Rome academic wins landmark court case where she argued that two days taken as leave to care for dog should be allowable

An Italian woman has won her battle to be granted sick pay for days she took off to look after her poorly puppy, in a first for the pet-loving country.

The woman, a Rome academic, won her instance with the help of lawyers from the Italian Anti-Vivisection League( LAV ), one of the biggest animal rights groups in Europe, the organisation said.

A judge accepted the lawyers’ example that her university should count her two days off under an allowance for absences related to” serious or household personal reasons “.

Their argument was underpinned by a provision in Italy’s penal code that provides for people who abandon an animal to” grave suffering” to be jailed for a year and fined up to EUR1 0,000.

” It is a significant step forward that recognised that animals that are not maintain for financial gain or their working ability are effectively members of the family ,” said LAV president Gianluca Felicetti.

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Should we stop keeping pets? Why more and more ethicists say yes

Ninety per cent of Britons think of their pet as part of the family 16% even included them on the last census. But recent research into animals emotional lives has cast doubt on the ethics of petkeeping

It was a Tupperware tub of live baby rats that stimulated Dr Jessica Pierce start to question the idea of pet ownership. She was at her local branch of PetSmart, a pet store chain in the US, buying crickets for her daughters gecko. The newborn rats, creaking in their plastic container, were brought in by a man she believed was offering to sell them to the store as pets or as food for the resident snakes. She didnt ask. But Pierce, a bioethicist, was troubled.

Rats have a sense of empathy and there has been a lot of research on what happens when you take newborns away from a mom rat not surprisingly, they experience profound distress, she says. It was a slap in the face how can we do this to animals?

Pierce went on to write Run, Spot, Run, which outlines the suit against pet ownership, in 2015. From the animals that become dog and cat food and the puppy farms churning out increasingly unhealthy purebred canines, to the goldfish sold by the purse and the crickets by the box, pet ownership is problematic because it denies animals the interests of self-determination. Ultimately, we bring them into our lives because we want them, then we dictate what they feed, where they live, how they behave, how they look, even whether they get to keep their sex organs.

Treating animals as commodities isnt new or shocking; humans have been meat-eaters and animal-skin-wearers for millennia. However, this is at odds with how we say we feel about our pets. The British pet industry is worth about 10.6 bn; Americans expended more than $66 bn( 50 bn) on their pets in 2016. A survey earlier this year found that many British pet proprietors love their pet more than they love their partner( 12% ), their children( 9 %) or their best friend( 24% ). According to another study, 90% of pet-owning Britons think of their pet as a member of their family, with 16% listing their animals in the 2011 census.

In the US, 1.5 m shelter animals are euthanised each year. Photo: Getty Images/ iStockphoto

It is morally problematic, because more people are thinking of pets as people They consider them part of their family, they think of them as their best friend, they wouldnt sell them for a million dollars, says Dr Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and one of the founders of the budding field of anthrozoology, which analyse human-animal relations. At the same hour, research is disclosing that the emotional lives of animals, even relatively simple animals such as goldfish, are far more complex and rich than we once guessed( puppies are people, too, according to a 2013 New York Times remark piece by the neuroscientist Gregory Berns ). The logical consequence is that the more we attribute them with these characteristics, the less right we have to control every single facet of “peoples lives”, says Herzog.

Does this mean that, in 50 years or 100 years, we wont have pets? Institutions that exploit animals, such as the circus, are shutting down animal rights activists claimed a significant victory this year with the closure of Ringling Bros circus and there are calls to end, or at the least rethink, zoos. Meanwhile, the number of Britons who profess to be vegan is on the rise, skyrocketing 350% between 2006 and 2016.

Widespread petkeeping is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the 19 th century, most animals owned by households were working animals that lived alongside humans and were regarded unsentimentally. In 1698, for example, a Dorset farmer are available in his diary: My old dog Quon was killed and cooked for his grease, which yielded 11 lb. However, in the 19 th and 20 th centuries, animals began to feature less in our increasingly urban environments and, as disposable income grew, pets became more desirable. Even as people began to dote on their pets, though, animal life was not attributed any intrinsic value. In Run, Spot, Run, Pierce reports that, in 1877, the towns of New York rounded up 762 stray dogs and drowned them in the East River, jostle them into iron crates and lifting the crates by crane into the water. Veterinarian turned philosopher Bernard Rollin recalls pet owners in the 1960 s putting their dog to sleep before going on holiday, reasoning that it was cheaper to get a new puppy when they returned than to board the one they had.

Nine per cent of British pet owneds love their animal more than their children. Photograph: Getty Images/ iStockphoto

More recently, however, several countries have moved to change the legal status of animals. In 2015, the governments of Canada and New Zealand recognised animals as sentient beings, effectively proclaiming them no longer property( how this squares with New Zealands recent war on possums is unclear ). While pets remain property in the UK, the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 stipulates that pet owners must provide a basic level of care for their animals. Pets are also property in the US, but 32 countries, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington DC , now include provisions for pets under domestic violence protection orders. In 2001, Rhode Island changed its legislation to describe pet owners as protectors, a move that some animal rights proponents lauded( and others criticised for being nothing more than a change in name ).

Before we congratulate ourselves on how far we have come, consider that 1. 5m shelter animals including 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats are euthanised each year in the US. The number of stray dogs euthanised annually in the UK is far lower 3, 463 but the RSCPA tells investigations into animal brutality cases increased 5% year on year in 2016, to 400 calls a day.

Can I stick my puppy in a car and take him to the veterinarian and say: I dont want him any more, kill him, or take him to a city shelter and say: I cant keep him any more, I hope you can find a home for him, good luck? tells Gary Francione, a prof at Rutgers Law School in New Jersey and an animal rights proponent. If you are able to do that, if you still have the right to do that, then they are still property.

Crucially, our animals cant tell us whether they are happy being pets. There is an illusion now that pets have more voice than in the past but it is maybe more that we are putting words into their mouth, Pierce says, pointing to the abundance of pets on social media plastered with witty projections written by their parents. Maybe we are humanising them in a way that actually builds them invisible.

If you accept the argument that pet ownership is morally questionable, how do you put the brakes on such a vast industry? While he was writing his 2010 volume, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, Herzog was analyse the motivations of animal rights activists and whether it was emotion or intellect that pushed them towards activism. One of the subjects, Herzog tells, was very, very logical. After he had become a vegan, shunned leather shoes and convinced his girlfriend to run vegan, he considered his pet cockatiel. I recollect; he looked up wistfully. He said he got the bird, took it outside, let it loose and it flew up, Herzog recollects. He said: I knew she wouldnt survive, that she likely starved. I guess I was doing it more for myself than for her.

Although Pierce and Francione agree that pet ownership is wrong, both of them have pets: Pierce has two dogs and a cat; Francione has six rescue dogs, whom he considers refugees. For now, the argument over whether we should own animals is largely theoretical: we do have pets and devoting them up might cause more damage than good. Moreover, as Francione suggests, caring for pets seems to many people to be the one area where we can actually do right by animals; persuading people of the opposite is a hard sell.

Tim Wass, the chair of the Pet Charity, an animal welfare consultant and a former chief officer at the RSPCA, concurs. It has already been decided by marketplace forces-out and human nature current realities is people have pets in the millions. The question is: how can we help them care for them correctly and properly?

If the short history of pet ownership tells us anything, it is that our attitude towards animals is prone to change. You see these rises and autumns in our relationships with pets, says Herzog. In the long haul, I think petkeeping might fall out of fashion; I think it is possible that robots will take their place, or perhaps pet owning will be for small numbers of people. Cultural tendencies come and go. The more we think of pets as people, the less ethical it is to keep them.

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Anti-poaching drive brings Siberias tigers back from brink

A WWF appeal aims to highlight the threat of habitat destruction and climate change on wild populations

In February, Pavel Fomenko was told that the body of a young female tiger had been discovered underneath a car parked outside the town of Luchegorsk, in eastern Russia. Fomenko head of rare species preservation for WWF Russia took the corpse for its further consideration where he uncovered the grim details of the animals death.

The Amur tiger, which is also known as the Siberian tiger, had been caught in a trap and had chewed off a paw to free itself. It was left crippled, unable to hunt, and died of starvation while seeking shelter under the car. Hearing about this sort of thing is always painful, said Fomenko. This was a beautiful tigress. It is harrowing scenes such as these that conservation groups are hoping will be increasingly rare in the years to come. Afterward the coming week, WWF will launch an appeal that aims not just to halt the decline in tiger numbers but to boost them to new levels. The objective is to increase the worlds tiger population in the wild to more than 6,000 by 2022, the next Chinese year of the tiger. In this route, it should be possible to attain global security for this poster boy and girl of the conservation movement.

The death of the tigress found under the car is tempered by the knowledge that the Amur is part of a global wild tiger population that has started to rise, albeit marginally, after decades of decline. The world lost 97% of its tiger population in a little over a century, but last year, WWF reported that global numbers in the wild had risen from 3,200 in 2010 to about 3,900 in 2016, thanks to the introduction of anti-poaching patrols, habitat protection and other measures.

The increase in tiger numbers is fostering but the species future in its natural environment still hangs in the balance and numbers remain perilously low, told Rebecca May, WWFs tiger specialist. There now needs to be an enormous push forward to build on this progress. We require commitment and urgent action from all governments of tiger-range countries[ where tigers still wander free ], as well as the passion and unwavering support of the public.

To fund the campaign, WWF will launch an appeal the coming week for the public to become tiger protectors by donating 5 a month to its programme. Some of this fund will be used to expand reserves in the wild where tigers can mix and breed in greater numbers, reversing a trend that has watched the tigers range in Asia shrink by virtually 95% over the past 150 years.

This attrition of habitat has continued unabated into recent times. Between 2006 and 2014, the tigers already dwindling scope shrunk a further 40%. By contrast, human populations have soared in tiger-range countries which include India, Russia, Nepal and nine other Asian nations that now have a human population of 3.2 billion, double the number in 1977.

Pavel Fomenko carries a rifle, believed to have been abandoned by a poacher, through the forest wilderness of Primorski province. Photo: Antonio Olmos for the World Wildlife Fund

In addition, poaching, habitat extermination and climate change still pose major threats to the species, problems that are all illustrated by the combat to save the Amur tiger. In 2010, it was estimated that more than 70% of Amur deaths were caused by humans, most of them poachers who use roads constructed deep into forests by the logging industry to find the tigers.

The Russian government has recently introduced a package of measures aimed at boosting Amur numbers, including curtailing logging in tiger habitat areas and increased penalties for poaching and the arrests of tiger parts, which are sold to countries in the Far East where they are considered to have medicinal properties.

As head of conservation, Fomenko has been trying to implement these measures, work that sometimes necessitates spending a month or more in the wild tracking and protecting tigers including battles with poachers and analyse sites where poaching and suspicious tiger deaths have resulted. Theres the risk of getting lost, health risks of get frostbitten, the risk of encountering a predator. There is a high chance of gratifying death, he said.

The fortunes of the Amur tiger have been more encouraging than most. Its population had dropped to only 20 to 30 animals in the 1930 s and the species was on the brink of extinction. Today, there may be more than 500 Amurs in the wilds of Siberia thanks to the work of conservationists such as Fomenko, backed by governments that value good conservation.

It remains to be seen if this reversal can be maintained, although Fomenko is under no illusions about the value of such run: Tigers are powerful, they are beautiful, they are perfect and they can co-exist with humans.

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