Scientists warn of a 6th Mass Extinction

Looking back through earth’s history there are five mass extinction events. You will have learnt about the last at school when dinosaurs waved their fond farewell. It was during the Cretaceous–Paleogene period that a mix of volcanic activity and asteroids resulted in the loss of 75 per cent of life on the planet, 65 million years ago. For the last year scientists have been warning that the 6th mass extinction is showing its face…

“Earth is now in a period of mass global species extinction for vertebrate animals,” Professor Gerardo Ceballos, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México says, “but the true extent of this mass extinction has been underestimated”.

Here in the UK lots of well-known birds and animals are seeing their numbers plummet: hedgehogs, skylarks and birds of prey are being wiped out. Since 2000 the number of hedgehogs has halved and nearly two-thirds of skylarks and lapwings have disappeared. To blame is partly a farming industry which is described as factory farming that destroys the local environment through intensification; use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides; and the planting of large amounts of identical crops.

factory farming

Are animals sentient beings?

First let’s check you know what sentient means.

Sentient – adjective – able to perceive or feel things.

animals around table

Most of the UK’s animal welfare law comes from the EU, so it is quite interesting right now as part of Brexit whether MP’s in Parliament are choosing to continue the EU legislation word for word or water it down for a future UK outside the EU. The first step, with MP’s saying that animals are NOT sentient, seems to show they are not going to see animals as creatures that perceive and feel things.  The RSPCA said to Farming UK: “It’s shocking that MPs have given the thumbs down to incorporating animal sentience into post-Brexit UK law.” Meanwhile Nick Palmer, head of policy at Compassion in World Farming, said: “How can the UK be seen as a leader in animal welfare when the repeal bill fails to guarantee that animals will continue to be regarded as sentient beings? We urge the Government to reintroduce the commitment into the Bill.”

Some countries like New Zealand have shown far greater consideration of animal rights:

sentient new zealand



Free Range might have to be re-named Barn Produced

Due to the threat of Bird Flu so many hens are having to be kept indoors that their eggs might have to lose their prized status as Free Range and be down-graded to Barn Produced. In December the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ordered that all free range hens – providing eggs or meat – be housed to protect against the threat of the H5N8 influenza virus. As new cases of Birrd Flu have been found in birds in Lincolnshire, Wales, Yorkshire and Lancashire, the order has been extended. If it continues into February then Free Range birds will lose that classification because they won’t have been out stretching their legs enough.


Not so tasty sea lettuce


The local authorities in Brittany, France are investigating whether a jogger who had a heart attack was overcome by toxic fumes from sea lettuce which then resulted in his death. This had lead to Jersey, part of the Channel Islands, stepping up their monitoring of sea lettuce as the risks to humans becomes more apparent. Already, decomposing sea lettuce is linked to the death of wild boar and horses with the new fear that it could be toxic to humans too.

St Aubin’s Bay on Jersey is a perfect breeding ground for sea lettuce because of its position– it is sheltered and sandy – and because it is rich in nitrates washed from farms in Jersey and northern France, and from the Bellozanne sewage treatment works. When the sea lettuce decomposes it gives off an eggy whiff – sulphurous gases – which means local residents and businesses have to keep their windows closed. People blame the tonnes of fertiliser used in the Jersey potato farms and the island’s growing population on the amount of sewage. All of this stinky sea lettuce is a good example of humans polluting their local environment. Are they being good stewards?


Another reason why animals are good for you!

During the last two weeks in Year 11 we’ve been discussing the value and importance of animals as pets, working animals and farm animals. Students have considered factors like companionship, being members of the family and help for health reasons, as strong reasons why some people place a high level of importance on animals.

Well today a new study shows that growing up on a farm is good for you. ‘Farm kids’ were 54 per cent less likely to have asthma or hay fever and 57 per cent less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms than their urban counterparts.’

Louise Gray’s project: only eat meat she’s killed herself for one year

In her book the ‘Ethical Carnivore’ Louise Gray describes her first visit to an abattoir. Now if this is something you’d like to find out more about, please do read the link here to sample some of her book. If the thought of finding out how animals are killed makes you feel queasy then it’s best avoided.

To revise for Question 1 (old AQA exam, final examination will be May 2017) about Animals Rights you might take advantage of a 31 video playlist made by another school with videos all about the topic. Furthermore you might read about the worrying number of cases where rules for animal welfare have been ignored in UK abattoirs.