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Need to Stop the Baloons as Well

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

My mind and body have instinctively always had the right feelings towards things that are harmful for the planet – it is almost as if my relationship with Nature is so profound that we think as one. I have always hated kites and plastic straws, for instance, long before I knew how many millions of lives they took. Another phobia of mine is balloons. My family knows that I will not touch one and will not enter a space that has them. People who release pigeons and balloons at rallies have my undying hatred because the pigeons will die and the balloons will kill. Fortunately, because we have been so vociferous about bird releases at ceremonies, it is no longer done. Now we need to stop the balloons as well.

The deadliest ocean garbage for seabirds is balloons. In a small survey done on one coast, 1,700 dead seabirds were picked up. 500+ of these had swallowed plastic. Four in 10 of those deaths were caused by balloons.

Seabirds frequently snap up floating litter because it looks like food. When pieces of latex, or Mylar, are mistaken for food and ingested, they lodge in the digestive tract, inhibiting the animal's ability to eat, and causing a slow and painful death by starvation. Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food. In addition, many animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or cut their limbs.

A balloon floats to a high altitude where it bursts. The burst pattern makes it look like a jellyfish, that now comes down, is washed into the ocean, and is swallowed by predators like dolphins, whales and sea turtles.

If a seabird swallows a balloon, it's 32 times more likely to die than if it had gulped down a piece of hard plastic, researchers reported in a new study done by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia printed in Scientific Reports. "Among the birds we studied, the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections, or other complications, caused by gastrointestinal obstructions. Birds are especially likely to swallow balloons because they closely resemble squid. Sea turtles, among other wildlife, eat shrivelled, or exploded, rubber balloons because they look like jellyfish. Sea turtles are hit hard, as they surface to breathe and eat and commonly eat balloons. Scientists, doing necropsies on  turtles that washed ashore dead, have often found the necks of latex balloons blocking the entrance to the small intestine from the stomach, and four feet of attached ribbon in the intestine. In July 2018 a handful of boats held a competition on picking up balloons in the ocean. In one day over 600 balloons were collected.

The Sea Turtle Foundation estimates that 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 2 million sea birds die every year from ingesting or becoming entangled in marine debris, including indigestible plastic that blocks stomachs. In 2016, the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) named balloon litter as one of the three most harmful items to marine wildlife.

Balloons are made of latex/mylar or foil and fall to the ground as litter. They are as harmful as cigarette butts and plastic bags. The ones that are pumped with helium travel thousands of miles and their pieces are found in the most remote places, like wildlife refuges, where they pollute the earth. For example, more than a hundred balloons were recently collected at the Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey at a single cleanup on one beach. Petrels swallow shrivelled up balloons and die. On any beach in the world, you can pick up at least 10-15 balloons every day.

To use helium in balloons should be made a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Helium is a finite gas and should not be wasted on fripperies. Helium is used as a shield gas for non-ferrous welding and for cooling the superconducting magnets in MRI scanners . There is no substitute for it, due to Helium's low boiling point? It is also used in breathing ventilators for infants and the patients. In 1996, Nobel Prize winner Robert Richardson issued a warning that supplies of Helium are being used at an unimaginable rate and could be gone within twenty years. Because of balloons ?

According to the US-based Consumer Product Safety Commission, balloons are linked to more infant fatalities than any other child product, and death by helium inhalation consistently takes lives each year.

Balloon companies say that latex, or rubber balloons, degrade. They give different names to the balloon – Qualatex for instance. This is not true. There are no safe balloons. They degrade in decades and are eaten long before that.  While conservationists all over the world are asking for an end to balloons, the companies in America have predictably got together and have created the Balloon Council to fight any laws that restrict the buying and release of balloons. They are reinventing their selling techniques by calling themselves biodegradable. This nonsense, that they use “Natural” latex so it is biodegradable, does not hold, because the latex has had chemicals, plasticizers and artificial dyes added to it. It may degrade eventually, as even rocks do, but it is certainly not biodegradable. People who live in the desert have found thousands of them, some over 20 years old. 

The ribbons, or string that is sometimes tied to balloons, whether it is “biodegradable” or “ naturally dyed”, will last years and entangles animals that comes into contact with it. The balloon industry claims that when a balloon pops, it bursts into many little pieces, and that the pieces land far away from each other. How does that matter? Each piece is a time bomb.

People see balloons as an uplifting thing. Going to the skies and the heavens. They don’t reach heaven – but this flying trash makes thousands of animals and birds reach it before their time. Look at the site 'Balloons Blow' so that you can see pictures of the lakhs of creatures killed by balloons.

Birthday parties, weddings, graduations, sport events , political party jamborees – all these are now mass balloon littering events. It is time to make them illegal : they are pointless, useless, and an anachronism that nobody will miss if they were gone. I am surprised that the Environment and Forest Ministry has not moved to stop this industry. But then, they are equally useless at banning fireworks.

Are you, as a parent, not concerned about the state of the world. Start by changing the birthday party balloon use. Have fun, celebrate with environmentally-friendly alternatives. You want to have things that make your parties memorable and happy ? Flowers are the best way. Coloured lights, colourful streamers, flags and banners save money and time. Pinwheels, with flashy colours fluttering in the wind, attract attention. Tissue Paper Pompoms in different colours are pretty. Blowing bubbles is always fun; watching them bounce around towards the sky and twist with the wind like rainbow butterflies . There are companies that create giant bubbles which are a sight to behold. Chinese paper lanterns are not an environmentally-friendly alternative. Sky lanterns have started huge fires.

Here is a film that you should show in every school - Rubber Jellyfish by Carly Wilson is a documentary about the effects of released helium balloons on ocean wildlife - in particular, Australia’s population of critically endangered sea turtles.

Carly Wilson discovers that helium balloons, that are often released ceremoniously, usually land in the ocean. She examines the phenomenon that causes balloons to mimic the appearance of jellyfish, a prey that all sea turtles eat, when they rupture high in the earth’s atmosphere. She meets several turtles suffering from the excruciatingly painful and often fatal ‘float syndrome’, which is caused by the ingestion of balloons and other ocean rubbish.

Through the film Carly seeks to understand why and how the multi billion dollar balloon industry has led the public to believe that latex balloons are biodegradable and environmentally friendly, despite massive evidence to the contrary. She meets marine biologists, turtle activists, reps of the balloon industry and policy makers, to question why Australia has not taken action against mass balloon releases, when it's waters host all six sea turtles on the CITES endangered species list.

Listen to the reports scientists, wildlife rehabilitators and conservationists are filing about the impacts balloons have on animals and the environment Stop using them. Or invent edible, organic, biodegradable balloons made of unwaxed paper, or straw or even soya, that disintegrate when they are wet.  

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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How many eggs a week is safe?

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the body. It is produced by your body (75% by your liver). The rest comes from the food you eat. Cholesterol is present in every cell of the body and is important in digesting foods, generating vitamin D, building cell walls and producing some hormones.

While it is needed for good health, too much cholesterol can damage your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol in the blood doesn't move through the body on its own. It combines with proteins to travel through the bloodstream. Cholesterol and protein traveling together are called lipoproteins. The main types of lipoproteins are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL moves cholesterol out of your arteries and back to the liver for disposal. LDL cholesterol is known as 'bad' cholesterol because it brings and leaves cholesterol in your arteries.

The extra LDL-cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries, forming plaque. Plaque can block arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through and putting you at risk for heart disease, attacks and strokes. Having high cholesterol does not usually produce any symptoms, so you could be in danger even without knowing it. One sign is a gray-white line of fat deposits growing on the outside edge of your cornea. If you're under 40, it could be a sign of dangerously high cholesterol.

You can inherit a tendency towards high cholesterol. No one in my family has died of a heart attack so far. But I do have small yellowish white patches on my eyelids which I developed in my forties – and which are a symptom of extra cholesterol. They are more likely to develop during a person's middle years and are more common in women than men. My mother and grandmother had them too. My cholesterol levels have always been on the high side even though my lifestyle includes exercise and only non oily vegetarian food. The doctors say hypercholesterolaemia may be an inherited condition which occurs because of a mutated gene. This usually results in heart disease before 55 but I am past that now. Around 12% of females, who inherit the genetic mutation from a parent, will develop coronary artery disease before the age of 50 years, and 74 per cent by the age of 70 years. About 85 per cent of affected male children will have a heart attack before the age of 60 years. But this can be kept in check by diet and exercise.

In adults, total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered healthy. Between 200 and 239 mg/dL is borderline high. 240 mg/dL and above is high.

LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.100–129 mg/dL is acceptable for people with no health problems but may be a concern for anyone with heart disease or heart disease risk factors.130—159 mg/dL is borderline high.160–189 mg/dL is high.

HDL levels should be 60 mg/dL or higher. Less than 40 mg/dL can be a major risk factor for heart disease.

Cholesterol only comes from animal foods like egg, milk, butter, cheese meat, fish, poultry, hydrogenated oils like lard, margarine, palm and coconut.

People who eat animal products may have more cholesterol in their bodies, at any given time, than those who don't. It is not just from the food they eat - the liver will also increase cholesterol levels when a diet is high in fat and trans fats. Having an increased amount of LDL cholesterol, caused by trans and saturated fats, increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

A report from Harvard Health has identified foods that actively decrease cholesterol levels:

Oats, barley and whole grains, beans, eggplant and okra, nuts, vegetable oil (canola, sunflower), fruits (mainly apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus), soy and soy-based foods, foods rich in fibre (no animal based foods have fibre.)

Reducing the intake of fat in the diet helps to manage cholesterol levels. Limit foods that contain:

Saturated fat: This occurs in meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried, and processed foods.

Trans fats: This occurs in some fried and processed foods.

Excess weight can also lead to higher blood LDL levels.

Other conditions that can lead to high cholesterol levels, include: diabetes (another lifestyle disease), liver or kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and steroids.

If your diet is high in fibre and you eat mainly fresh fruit and plants, plant sterols will lower your cholesterol. Physical activity will also make you maintain or lose weight. Exercising for an hour a day raises the heart rate, helps with keeping a healthy weight, and reduces LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.

Researchers of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago and published in Journal for the American Medical Association, JAMA, examined data from six study groups of more than 29,000 people followed for 17½ years. At the start, participants filled in questionnaires detailing the foods they ate. Over the follow-up period, a total of 5,400 cardiovascular events occurred, including 1,302 fatal and nonfatal strokes, 1,897 incidents of fatal and nonfatal heart failure and 113 other heart disease deaths. An additional 6,132 participants died of other causes.

When they analyzed the data, the researchers found an association between egg consumption as reported at the start of the study and participants’ risk of developing cardiovascular disease. As their egg consumption rose, so did their risk. An egg has 155 calories and 11gms total fat. Each egg has 186 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 124% of what you should be eating per day and sodium 124 mg - more cholesterol than a fast-food double cheeseburger.

Three or more eggs a week was associated with a 3.2% higher risk of heart disease and a 4.4% higher risk of early death. Each additional half an egg consumed per day was associated with a 6-8% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and higher risk of early death due to any cause.

The researchers factored in every other unhealthy behaviour, such as low physical activity, smoking and an unhealthy diet full of processed food and saturated fats.

Dr. Robert H. Eckel, of University of Colorado School of Medicine, wrote that the new report "is far more comprehensive, with enough data to make a strong statement that eggs and overall dietary cholesterol intake remain important in affecting the risk of cardiovascular disease, and more so the risk of all-cause mortality."

"Considering the negative consequences of egg consumption and dietary cholesterol in the setting of heart-healthy dietary patterns, the importance of limiting intake of cholesterol-rich foods should not be dismissed," he concluded. According to industry data, the world will eat more eggs in 2019 than any time for the past 20 years.

Are eggs eaten alone? The food they are eaten with is as terrible for the body - white bread, butter, salt, and/or processed meats like bacon or sausages.

How many eggs a week is safe?  None.

The more eggs a person eats, the more those risks increase. People in the study, who averaged an egg every day, saw their risk of a heart-related event, such as a heart attack or stroke, increase by 12% compared to someone who didn’t eat eggs. Those who averaged two eggs every day had a 24% increased risk of heart-related events.

Researchers saw similarly increased risks for people who ate processed and unprocessed red meat.

Those associations held even when researchers looked at the overall quality of a person’s diet. Those who included eggs as part of a healthy diet didn’t have lower risks compared to those who ate eggs along with less nutritious foods.

It follows a 2018 study that looked at the evidence collected from 28 studies that had people eat eggs as an experiment and then looked at changes to their blood lipids. The study found eating eggs boosted total cholesterol by about 5 points compared to people who were on diets that didn’t include eggs.  Most of that increase came from an increase in LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Strangest Jobs that Involve Wild Animals

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

"Mama, what does Papa do in office?"

"He scares monkeys, darling."

What are the strangest jobs that involve wild animals?

*  Every morning when I get to ShastriBhavan, my office, I hear the sound of a man hooting. He hoots off and on the entire day. His job is to scare away monkeys. The monkeys run when they see him, but whether it's because of his voice, or the large stick he carries, is a moot point. As soon as he moves away they come back and sit on the ledges of the upper stories of the building – and outside my window, where I feed them.

Illegal langur kidnappers go from building to building (less so now because I have them arrested) and tie up their langurs on the gate to keep rhesus monkeys at bay. Some humans are paid by temples to dress up as monkeys to scare the others away.

*  SnakeMilkers are people who extract venom from snakes and other reptiles for medical applications, for the treatment of minor heart attacks and preventing blood clots, and for anti venom serums that can be used if a person is bitten by a snake. A lot of venom is needed every year, and the milker has to spend all day catching and squeezing a snake’s mouth open so that he can push snake fangs into a plastic container in order to milk them. Being bitten is not unusual. In India, the Irulas in Tamil Nadu, who were snake hunters for snake skin, were taught by Romulus Whittaker and Harry Miller, to collect venom and sell it to the snake institutes. In 1978, an Irula Snake-catchers Co-op, owned and operated by the Irulatribals, was formed with Romulus as the Technical Advisor and permissions were given to catch snakes and bring them to the Snake Park  inGuindy where they are milked .

*  Brazil mosquito researchers, fighting malaria, must study the biting habits of the mosquito that spreads this deadly disease. In order to study these insects, Brazilian scientists offer themselves as bait. In the early evening, when mosquito activity is the most, a mosquito researcher sets himself up inside a mosquito-netting tent with a gap at the bottom. Mosquitoes fly in and get trapped inside, where the researcher sits. As they bite the legs, he or she draws them into a mouth tube and then into a container, catching upto 500 in 3 hours (which means at least 3000 bites). Many researchers get malaria.

*  An  Avian Vomitologist is employed by  entomology laboratories to collect vomit samples from sick birds, to analyse the avian flu pattern. This means moving through fields and forests in search of vomit.

*  In 2014, the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, in China's Sichuan, announced its worldwide search for panda cub caretakers. Contenders faced several elimination rounds before getting the job. The ad stated “Your work has only one mission: spending 365 days with the pandas and sharing in their joys and sorrows.”

*  Better that, than working in China’s bear bile centres. Bears have a permanent tube fastened to their gall bladders, and the bile gatherers have to make sure the bile comes out and the bear, though in extreme pain, does not die. The bile is collected in jars and sold for the Chinese quack medicine industry.

*  Or even the rabbit hair puller-outers. The Chinese and French grow rabbits in tiny cages. Every six weeks the hair pullers get them out, spread eagle them on a table with straps and then pull out bunches of hair while the rabbits scream. Amusement comes from hitting the rabbit to make it shut up. What does your illiterate Papa do? He tortures rabbits the whole day for a very small amount of money.

*  Movies, that need insects, employ an insect wrangler. These individuals grow ants, cockroaches and flies for films and exhibitions, and get more exotic insects depending on the movie order. The wrangler directs the insects during filming, by motivating them with food or pushing them away with air etc. He has trained them to respond.

*  In Thailand there is a whole industry of jewellery made of butterfly wings (you can see them on sale at the airport). There are people who actually tear the wings of live butterflies and quickly push them between plastic covers edged with a gold lining. Add a hook and voila – earrings!

*  That is in the same league as snakeskin catchers who pin a live snake to the board and then strip its skin off. This is made into shoes/wallets/handbacks for the very rich and stupid.

Crocodile skinners do the same . Their job is catch the mouth of a baby crocodile and bind it. Hammer a nail into the neck which paralyses it and then strip the skin off.

For every guy who eats a live grasshopper, on reality shows as disgusting as Fear Factor and Survivor, there are people who are paid to do the same thing in real life. These masochists are called Gross Stunt Testers and their highly paid job includes doing everything that's gross, like eating worms or  cockroaches. The film and television industry employs them to test disgusting items, such as bugs and fluids, to make sure it is safe for others to consume on camera, in order to avoid lawsuits.

*  Professional elephant painters and dressers are hired to paint and decorate elephants during the festivities in Kerala. Sri Lanka has official outfitters for the elephants taking part in festivals. Each elephant has to be measured, and custom made outfits are made for the body, trunk, ears, and tail of the animal. The drapery has to fit snugly to the elephant’s hide, instead of being tied on with rope. The elaborate creations take around two months to make. The outfits are bought by wealthy families and donated to the temple. Captive elephants are transported across the country to take part in these festivals . Every year at least ten elephants revolt under the heat of these dresses, the noise and the beating of the mahouts, and run amok. They are either killed immediately, or punished for months with beating.

*  Till a few decades ago leech were collected to draw blood from patients for therapeutic reasons. Leech-gatherers waded through dense leech-filled areas and allowed them to latch onto their legs and suck, losing tremendous amounts of blood. When they were covered with leeches they waded back and took them off.

One short life and look how we waste it. One very enlightened Guru told me thirty years ago that Earth was the designated Hell for all the sinners of the Universe. One look at these jobs that we create and I can believe it. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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