Why Was a Stingray Device Used to Track a Chicken Wing Thief?

Cell site simulators, or stingray devices as they’re more commonly known, have come into frequent use by domestic law enforcement agencies in recent years. Originally designed to intercept cellular calls and data in battlefield situations, the FBI is now handing out stingrays to state and local police departments in order to combat terrorism within the United States.

Turns out that’s not all police have been using stingrays for. In a report detailing Maryland law enforcement’s use of the devices, it was found that in one case Baltimore police had used a stingray to try to track down a petty criminal — a man who had stolen $50 in chicken wings.

That’s not exactly domestic terrorism.

What is a stingray device? Roughly the size of a suitcase, a stingray is a mobile tool that can be used virtually anywhere. As its more formal name, cell site simulator, implies, a stingray acts as a fake cellphone tower. In this situation, a cellphone would, instead of connecting to a legitimate tower nearby, connect to the stingray device.

From here, police can not only record calls and collect data, they can physically track the phone’s location with high accuracy.

Stingrays, however, don’t simply connect to the intended suspect’s cellphone. It forces all cellphones within a given area to be routed through the stingray — meaning police can (and almost certainly do) eavesdrop on innocent individuals without any sort of warrant.

No matter how this fact is framed, it’s hard to say it’s not a breach of Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable search and seizures.”

When these details were revealed (much to the consternation of the Justice Department, who had dramatically downplayed the true extent of the stingray’s abilities), controversy understandably erupted over the conditions around which the devices are used.

The predictable response from the Justice Department was the guarantee that stingrays would only be used in extreme circumstances — stopping a terrorist cell, for example.

Even though new information about stingrays have trickled out in recent years, major details — such as under what circumstances they are used and by which agencies — still remain largely unknown to the public. The ACLU has a list of 61 agencies across 23 states that use stingrays; the true numbers are likely much higher.

Fortunately, some information about how stingrays have actually been put to use have made their way to the public — and it turns out its not quite how the Justice Department has portrayed stingray use. A report on law enforcement’s use of stingrays in Maryland has found, as just one example, that police in Howard County have used the devices for drug cases more than for any other crime.

In Annapolis, city police saw fit to use a stingray in an attempt to track down a man suspected of robbing $56.77 worth of chicken wings and sub sandwiches from a food delivery worker. Stingrays are “supposed to be used for terrorism,” Baltimore public defender Janine Meckler says.

Have stingrays ever been used to stop terrorism? According to privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jennifer Lynch, there aren’t any known cases. “I don’t think its happened at all,” she said.

Stingray devices are, by their very nature, ripe for abuse and misuse. When a spokesman for Maryland’s Montgomery County Police admits their agency sometimes seeks court approval after they’ve been used, and when a chicken wing theft is seen as justifying their use, it’s hard to say enough is being done to reign in these powerful, invasive tools.

Photo Credit: anokarina / Wikimedia Commons

3 Lemonade Variations to Spice Up Your Summer

I got married this past summer in the backyard of my childhood home, and it was an absolute dream. Everything about it reflected our mutual values of holding family and community close and delighting in the little things.

One of the most memorable stylistic elements of my wedding were the gourmet herb-lemonades we created for the reception. Tasty blends of classic lemonade, frozen fruits and a variety of garden herbs, these recipes were the talk of the party. Guests still mention them today!

So, in honor of all things beautiful and sweet, here is the basic recipe for my top three lemonade variations that will add a little spice to your summer.

3 Lemonade Variations to Spice Up Your Summer

Recipe for Herbed Lemonades: Strawberry Basil, Rosemary Peach and Blueberry Thyme

1. Boil 1 cup of water with 1 ½ cups pure white sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved and looks clear.

2. Add a handful of fresh herbs (about a cup) to the sugar water pot and simmer for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat. Excellent herbs to choose from include rosemary, basil or thyme! I would avoid anything more traditionally savory like oregano or dill—not great choices. 

3. Let the herb mixture cool, strain out the herbs and refrigerate the herb syrup for up to two weeks in ice cub trays or quart size freezer bags. For a stronger, sweeter lemonade, increase the amount of syrup you add by multiplying the above proportions. 

4. To mix the final lemonade, add 1/2 cup of herb syrup for every 2-quart container of lemonade. I would suggest a “not to sweet lemonade” such as a homestyle organic brand—or make your own.

5. Add one bag (usually 1-2 pounds) of the frozen fruit of your choice to each container you make. My favorites include strawberries, raspberries, peach slices and blueberries.


All photos are the property of Mary Campbell Photography. Do not use without direct permissions. 

Agriculture.com’s Tips for Not Hiring Animal Activists Shouldn’t Be Necessary

Oh, those pesky undercover animal welfare advocates and their sneaky videos of factory farm workers abusing animals. Who needs ‘em?

Not the readers of Successful Farming at Agriculture.com, apparently.

The website recently published “How to Avoid Hiring an Animal Right Activist,” an article providing tips for preventing one of these whistleblowers being added to the payroll.

“As a rule, livestock producers take very good care of their animals,” the article states. So if that’s true, why are these tips necessary? If a livestock producer unknowingly hires someone from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) or Mercy for Animals or another organization concerned about animal welfare, why would there be anything to worry about?

“Sometimes, however, violations do occur, despite the farm’s employee guidelines,” the article says. “Not all employees can be watched every minute. Also, activists can take photos and video out of context.”

As an example, the article cites the HSUS 2010 undercover investigation of factory farms owned by the nation’s two largest egg producers.

“The employee reportedly captured three hours of cell phone video, which were edited down to three minutes, showing inhumane treatment of hens,” the article states. Here’s the (very graphic) video.

“We work closely with law enforcement, making all of our raw, unedited footage available to them once an investigation is complete,” wrote Nathan Runkle, founder and president of Mercy for Animals, which also sends investigators to factory farms, in USA TODAY. “There is no context in which beating, dragging, or kicking an animal is justifiable, so our videos speak for themselves.”

To protect factory farm operators, some states have passed so-called “ag-gag” legislation that prohibits taking photos or videos of livestock without the owner’s permission. Violators can be sued by business owners and required to pay a fine of $5,000 for each day information was gathered.

Livestock producers in states without laws that violate the First Amendment can avoid the bad publicity and loss of business from disturbing undercover videos, Agriculture.com advises, by thoroughly vetting potential hires.

‘Prepare as if an Investigation Is Going to Happen’

“The best advice I can give you is to prepare as if an investigation is going to happen,” Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, an agricultural law specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, told the website. “You can’t just ask certain applicants if they have been involved with animal rights groups – you have to ask everyone.”

Applicants should be required to swear under penalty of perjury that they’re telling the truth on their job applications, Dowell Lashmet said. Their name should be Googled and all provided references should be checked.

“While I like to think that most people are applying for jobs because they need work, there are some activists who are specifically targeting farms for their own agendas and will do whatever they can to get hired,” Lara Durben, communications director for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota, and the Midwest Poultry Federation, told Agriculture.com.

“Additional legwork on your part is worth it, knowing you are hiring employees who legitimately want the job.”

But what about those applicants who “legitimately” want the job – and who get their kicks from, say, stomping chickens to death or beating cows with crowbars?

Here’s what I think would be a much more helpful article for the factory farmers who read Agriculture.com: “How to Avoid Hiring an Animal Abuser.”

Photo credit: CC0 Public Domain

7 Ways to Cope With the Loss of a Pet

Nothing can prepare you for losing a beloved family member. When that family member is your pet, though, there is a unique set of emotions you must deal with. We asked Laurel Lagoni, a pioneer in grief support programs for pet owners, to share her thoughts and considerations that may help you better cope during a difficult time.

Feeling Your Pain

Following the loss of a pet, we need to allow ourselves to experience feelings of pain and sorrow, Lagoni says. She’s the co-founder and former director of the Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University and one of the authors of a groundbreaking textbook on grief and the human–animal bond. The institute was founded in 1984 to help prepare veterinary professionals to successfully meet the emotional needs of pet-owning families, particularly in times of grief. “As a society, we’re always trying to circumvent the feelings of grief,” she says. “We tell people to keep busy, or we try to cheer people up. But, that really prolongs the grief process.”


7 Strategies for Coping


1. Talk through it.

“The best thing you can do is find people you can talk to about your pet,” Lagoni says. “Find someone who will allow you to talk at length and reminisce.” Find a support group, or call a hotline — many veterinary schools have them — and take as long as you need.

2. Address any feelings of guilt.

While many people hope their pet will pass quietly in his sleep, it may not happen that way, Lagoni says. As an owner, you may need to face the possibility of euthanasia. Many pet owners struggle with feelings of guilt at having to make that choice for their beloved friend. “Don’t think of it as taking your pet’s life, but see it as a privilege and a gift to spare them from those very hard end stages of the dying process, when there’s a lot of pain and suffering,” she says.

3. Consider a ceremony.

Many people find great comfort in gathering with friends and family to remember their cherished pet, either with a ceremony before or during euthanasia, or after the pet has passed. “A lot of people handle euthanasia as a memorial service or funeral,” Lagoni says. “It’s a time for them to say goodbye and also celebrate the pet’s life. The ceremonies can be gut-wrenching, but also very cathartic.”

4. If you have children, help them with remembrances.

Children feel the loss deeply, too. Allow them to talk as much as they need to about their sadness. Giving them the opportunity to do something physically sometimes helps kids work through their pain. Children can draw a picture, make a clay paw print or release a balloon into the sky for their special pet.

5. Take your time.

It’s important to go at your own pace. Deal with your grief as long as you need to, and don’t feel rushed to “get over” your sorrow. “Everyone’s grief is an individual process,” Lagoni says. “We all find comfort in different things. If there are muddy foot prints on the back window and fur on the floor, and you’re not ready to give them up yet — then leave them right there.”

6. Tie up loose ends.

If you’re having lingering questions or doubts about how your pet died, make an appointment with your veterinarian to get your questions answered. Don’t leave yourself wondering for years to come — be sure you can move forward without any questions or doubts.

7. Memorialize your pet.

Find a way that is meaningful to you to honor your pet. Planting trees or memorial gardens, volunteering, making a donation to a favorite animal charity or installing a plaque in the yard are some ways to keep your pet’s memory alive. Among the myriad other options are cremation or memorial urns and placement in a pet cemetery.

Good Grief

Grief is an active process. It is important to understand that it’s completely normal to mourn the loss of your pet. “You have to realize it’s a significant loss, it’s going to be real and it’s going to hurt,” Lagoni says. “You have to find ways to cope with it. Don’t ignore it or try to avoid it.” Difficult though it may be, be open to feelings of grief when they occur and take the time to work through your sorrow. And, be comforted in the thought that there will come a day when you can remember your friend with fond memories and love from a strong heart.

By Vetstreet Staff | Vetstreet.com

More on Vetstreet:

African Mothers Create Beautiful Items and a Future for Their Children

It looks like a basket—a beautiful blue basket.  But don’t be fooled–it’s food, electricity and school fees for a family in Rwanda. It’s a mother’s hope for her children’s future.

What started with a simple idea—empower women who had survived Rwanda’s genocide to use their artisan skills to make a living and support their families—has become an empowerment program that puts women in charge of their own lives. Oh, yes, and enables them to provide for their families.

Following the Rwandan genocide, the country’s population was 70 percent female and its economy was in shambles. Women were left to rebuild the country, yet most lacked formal education, and although they produced unique handicrafts, they struggled to gain access to international export markets. They were producing beautiful items, including sisal peace baskets and animal horn jewelry, but their products were sold primarily to the tourist trade in Rwanda.

In 2007 Aid for Africa member Indego Africa began working with 22 women from Rwandan cooperatives. The women were talented artisans, but they didn’t know how to build and expand their businesses or how to reach and compete in international markets. They needed to understand business cycles, their customers and quality control.

Indego Africa focused on providing artisans with access to markets, vocational training and education. The organization worked with the artisans to improve their technical skills and to teach them basic business skills.

Today some 800 women working in 25 artisan groups throughout Rwanda provide international boutiques and designers with a steady stream of quality products thanks to Indego Africa.

Rwandan women artisans have taken their traditional skills and new knowledge to create “unique, beautiful items that appeal to the modern design-driven consumer,” according to Haley Donor, Indego Africa’s development and communications manager.

“We started out as a handicraft company, we are now providing products for Nordstrom, ABC Home, and Shopbop.com,” Donor said.

These items are also sold through Indego Africa’s online catalog.  All profits from sales are used to fund the organization’s ongoing artisan education and training programs.

This year the organization expanded their economic empowerment and education program to Ghana, West Africa, where in the poorest areas women earn less than 50 cents a day, according to Donor. As in Rwanda, artisans produce a range of unique items that include kente cloth, rustic bolga straw baskets and handmade ceramic beads.

Indego Africa’s expansion into Ghana currently focuses on about 35 women artisans who are turning their passion for creating traditional products into futures for their children.  Mavis, who lives in the Kusami area, is one of them.

“. . . I want both my children to have a good education. With education, they can get good jobs, become leaders in society, and prosper in the world,” she said.

Mavis’s bolga baskets are not just baskets, they are her children’s future.

Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africas grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.

How Much Fruit is Too Much?

Previously, I explored how adding berries to our meals can actually blunt the detrimental effects high glycemic foods (See If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?).

The purpose of one study out of Finland was to determine the minimum level of blueberry consumption at which a consumer may realistically expect to receive antioxidant benefits after eating blueberries with a sugary breakfast cereal.

If we eat a bowl of corn flakes with no berries, within two hours, so many free radicals are created that it puts us into oxidative debt. The antioxidant power of our bloodstream drops below where we started from before breakfast, as the antioxidants in our bodies get used up dealing with such a crappy breakfast. A quarter cup of blueberries didn’t seem to help much, but a half cup of blueberries did.

What about fruit for diabetics? Most guidelines recommend eating a diet with a high intake of fiber-rich food including fruit, because they’re so healthy—antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, improving artery function and reducing cancer risk. However, some health professionals have concerns about the sugar content of fruit and therefore recommend restricting the fruit intake.

In a study from Denmark, diabetics were randomized into two groups: one told to eat at least two pieces of fruit a day, and the other told at most, two fruits a day. The reduce fruit group indeed reduced their fruit, but it had however no effect on the control of their diabetes or weight, and so, the researchers concluded, the intake of fruit should not be restricted in patients with type 2 diabetes.

An emerging literature has shown that low-dose fructose may actually benefit blood sugar control. So, having a piece of fruit with each meal would be expected to lower, not raise the blood sugar response. The threshold for toxicity of fructose may be around 50 grams. The problem is that’s the current average adult fructose consumption. So, the levels of half of all adults are likely above the threshold for fructose toxicity, and adolescents currently average 75.

Is that limit for added sugars or for all fructose? If we don’t want more than 50 and there’s about ten in a piece of fruit, should we not eat more than five fruit a day? Quoted from the Harvard Health Letter, “the nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in almost any amount.” What do they mean almost? Can we eat ten fruit a day? How about twenty fruit a day? It’s actually been put to the test.

Seventeen people were made to eat 20 servings a day of fruit. Despite the extraordinarily high fructose content of this diet, presumably about 200 g/d—eight cans of soda worth, the investigators reported no adverse effects (and possible benefits actually) for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels after three to six months. More recently, Jenkins and colleagues put people on about a 20 servings of fruit a day diet for a few weeks and found no adverse effects on weight or blood pressure or triglycerides, and an astounding 38 point drop in LDL cholesterol.

There was one side effect, though. Given the 44 servings of vegetables they had on top of all that fruit, they recorded the largest bowl movements apparently ever documented in a dietary intervention.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of DeathMore Than an Apple a DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?
Fruits, Veggies, and Longevity: How Many Minutes Per Mouthful?
Which Common Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

Australia Could Lead the Way in Eradicating Cervical Cancer

Australia may be on the brink of eliminating cervical cancer as new treatments and tests are becoming widespread. It’s an exciting prospect, and it could prove invaluable to those setting up programs to combat cervical cancer in the developed world.

The Australian health system has long taken a multi-pronged approach to combating cancer, incorporating widespread vaccination drives, regular screenings and quick treatment of any precancerous cells. But now a new testing method could stamp out the issue altogether.

That’s because rather than having a pap test, which identifies cells after abnormalities have occurred, this new test will look for the HPV virus – the leading cause of cervical cancer – and help eradicate issues before the cells change. According to experts, the tests only need to be done every five years and are less costly on the healthcare system.

In fact, women will be able to self sample rather than have to come into clinics for a full physical. Professor Marion Saville told reporters that, “That sample collected by a woman, not requiring a speculum exam, will not give us a result as good as one collected by a practitioner and then a HPV test is done. But actually it’s better than our current pap test.”

The program is expected to be completely implemented with a year.

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer. This can be seen most predominantly in the developing world where 80 percent of cases are found – as well as the most preventable deaths.

This is mainly because of lack of access to cervical screening centers. For instance, in rural areas of Uganda it’s hard enough to find clinics with medicines readily available. To find a gynecologist with a lab, ready to test cells for cancerous or precancerous growths is nearly unheard of.

There have been some developments to assist cervical cancer screenings in rural areas, including the “vinegar test.” Both low cost and easy to carry out, acetic acid (a major component in vinegar) is applied to a woman’s cervix. Areas that turn white are considered precancerous and can be frozen off.

However, considering that 99 percent of cervical cancers contain HPV DNA, a test that actually looks for HPV rather than pre-cancer could be a lifesaver in these developing nations. This is especially true in many areas of Africa where cervical cancer is not discovered until it’s in advanced stages.

There are some concerns that turning the test from a fairly non-stigmatized pap test into a sexually transmitted disease test could put some women off from engaging in the process. There is also a concern that women diagnosed with harmless HPV could overburden the health system by coming in and doing follow up procedures. Considering most HPV cases do resolve themselves with no adverse outcomes, health care professionals have warned that patients will be subject to numerous unnecessary procedures.

However, some are saying these concerns could be mitigated by Australia’s example. As they switch to the new health screening measures, it will be quite easy to track whether or not a multitude of HPV positive tests would negatively impact the healthcare system.

But most importantly, it could carve a new and significant path for healthcare professionals in areas of the world where cervical cancer is still incredibly high. Helping to stamp out the over 100,000 unnecessary deaths attributed to the disease each year.

Photo Credit: Jacob J. Kirk/Wikimedia

Is the Tide Turning? Alabama City Rescinds Anti-Trans Law

The Oxford City Council in Alabama has officially voted to recall an ordinance that mandated a criminal fine or prison time for trans people using public bathrooms.

The ordinance, adopted by unanimous vote on April 26, made it a criminal offense for a trans person to use a bathroom or changing facility unless it corresponded with the sex assigned on their birth certificate. The penalty for violating that ordinance was a $500 fine or a jail sentence of up to six months.

The ordinance was billed as a response to Target’s avowed trans-inclusive policy announced earlier in April. According to councilors, the legislation arose from a concern that this policy would allow sexual predators easier access to women and children.

This, of course, is a bathroom bill myth that has been debunked many times. The Oxford Council couldn’t provide any specific evidence to suggest their concerns were warranted.

The LGBT community and civil rights groups blasted the ordinance as blatantly discriminatory. It also appears to conflict with federal law under the Obama administration’s trans-inclusive interpretation of the Civil Rights Act. Perhaps, feeling the heat, councilors soon signaled they were ready to reconsider the measure.

On May 4 the Oxford City Council voted 3-2 to rescind the ordinance.

Technically, the ordinance never went into effect because Mayor Leon Smith is ill and had not yet signed it. As a result, the council could rehear the ordinance and take another vote without much procedural difficulty.

AL.com reports that concerns over federal law and potential court challenges, at least in part, motivated this quick rescind. However, it would be a mistake to think that the spirit of this ordinance will disappear:

Hubbard, citing the opinion of City Attorney Ron Allen, said the ordinance as written might run afoul of Title IX provisions. Henderson, saying he had already heard from residents who will not vote for council members who vote to rescind the measure, stated the council should consider a stronger ordinance with similar provisions. A different version might better withstand any legal challenges.

Other states have dropped anti-trans bills, while North Carolina is feeling the heat over HB2. The Obama administration’s Department of Justice which has warned that the state’s discriminatory law violates the Civil Rights Act.

Does this mean that the tide is finally turning on anti-trans legislation?

It definitely seems that, for the religious right, stories like this may take the shine off anti-trans laws. For example, on Monday May 2, the Rockwall City Council in Texas unanimously rejected a proposal by Mayor Jim Pruitt that would have banned trans people from using restrooms according to their gender.

However, there is a danger in thinking that this threat will go away. As we’ve seen previously, conservatives in the Republican party have managed to use religious rights exemption legislation as a license to discriminate — and with broad effect.

While the federal government is attacking the discrimination head on in North Carolina, that doesn’t mean that all states will back down. Indeed, North Carolina’s government has said it will not stop enforcing HB2 by the stated May 9 deadline.

Several states are currently considering anti-trans bills. Legislators may attempt to simply modify the bills around the Civil Rights Act and cloak them in religious right to discriminate language.

The success of these efforts remains to be seen, but the attempts could still be damaging due to the animus this fight is creating.

There are several reports of individuals invading bathrooms to “check” that someone going into to that bathroom is the “right” gender. In some cases, protesters have been arrested, and there are fears that violent altercations are not far off.

Trans people are very much still under threat from the ”bathroom bill” crusade, but at last advocates seem to have the legal tools to fight back. Therefore, there’s a glimmer of hope that this onslaught can be challenged and defeated.

Photo Credit: JP Carrascal/Flickr

Happy Mother’s Day to These Animal Moms Who Adopted Outside of Their Species

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally published on May 9, 2015. Enjoy!

With Mother’s Day here, now is the perfect time to share some of the videos I’ve stumbled across over time of animals that “adopt” other animals.

Chances are, most of you have seen at least one story online about an animal mom adopting a baby animal (or animals) of another species. It’s time to revel in some of those stories. Enjoy!

Daschund nurses piglets

“Tink” is a dachshund who adopted a piglet named “Pink,” because the tiny pig was too small to make it with its siblings. There’s actually a book about Pink and Tink called The Pink Puppy: A True Story of a Mother’s Love. Here’s the nursing in action.

Sow adopts puppies

Apparently it works both ways. In the Greek village of Vritta, a generous sow does the nursing after adopting four puppies who were abandoned by their mom.

Horses and deer

Imagine driving down the road, and your kid yells out, “Look, horseys! And one deer.” Calling the following pairing ”adoption” is admittedly a stretch. In this case a baby deer latches on to one doe in particular, and she seems content with the situation. It made the cut out of sheer cuteness.

Credit: CBCtelevision

Pig nurses puppy in Laos

There’s not much to tell here — just a tourist stumbling on cuteness during a trip to Laos, but the perfectly executed soundtrack alone makes this worth the watch.

Mama dog with sweet kittens 

Pashoshit the pincher was abandoned in the streets of Israel with her two young puppies, Chooch and Choocha. The Girgurim Sanctuary took them in, and about a week after they were rescued, orphaned kittens started arriving at the sanctuary, and mom jumped at the chance to clean, cuddle and suckle them.

Cat and baby squirrel

Ah, this one, featuring possibly the cleanest baby squirrel you’ll ever come across. This mama cat takes cleanliness to a whole other level.

Dog and lion cub

In Bejing, staff at Badaling Safari were in search of a new mom for one of its lion cubs, after its real mom couldn’t feed him. So a local family volunteered their dog, who had three pups of her own, for mommy duty.

Cat and ducklings

This last one brings us all the way to Ireland, where a young couple on a farm watched as an unusual bond formed between a mama cat and three ducklings. What makes this story extra remarkable is that in normal circumstances, the cat would eat the small birds, but that’s not the case here.

How does interspecies adoption happen?

It’s especially puzzling when the baby species in question is normally treated as dinner, not offspring.

If you watched the duckling video you know that one possibility comes down to timing and lucky coincidence. In that case, presumably mothering hormones caused the cat to love and nurture the ducklings just as she did her own offspring.

Here’s my theory: all animals share the universal need to love and be loved, whether there’s blood relation or not. But I’m no expert.

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Jill Goldman has a theory about why animals adopt, including outside of their species:

In many of the cases of inter-species adoption, I believe that oxytocin has a huge influence. Giving birth and having sex both produce a surge in the love bonding potion. If the timing and circumstances are right, a mom will not balk at sharing her resources with another needy mouth. In some cases, the mother may have lost her baby or litter, and is in prime state to nurse, nurture, and bond. In the short run it looks altruistic, sacrificng [sic] resources, but in the long run the developing young may help the survival of the family, or at the very least, provide social companionship.

On what motivates animals to “adopt” others, including different species, applied animal behaviorist and National Geographic contributing writer Jenny Holland said, ”I wish I could crawl into these animals’ minds and ask! But we can make some educated guesses based on what we know about animal brains—and our own.”

Holland ventured some guesses in National Geographic:

“Instinctively animals take care of young to help them survive and therefore pass on the family DNA,” Holland said. “So I think there’s some hard wiring in there that leads them to offer care to another animal in need. If it isn’t a relative, there maybe some wires crossed, but I think the behavior comes from the same place.”

Mutual benefit is also a motivator, noted Jill Goldman, an applied animal behaviorist based in southern California.

“In order for the relationship to be sustained, I believe both parties will need to benefit in some way,” said Goldman, who has studied wolf behavior.

“How we define benefit is another matter. Social companionship in some cases may actually be enough of a benefit so long as it is not outweighed by competition [or] threat.”

The BBC chimed in with its own observation about why animals inter-species adopt: “It seems as if the drive to care for helpless infants is fairly universal among species that care for their own young – and even between different animals.”

Dr. Gordon says, “Without cohort companionship, a social animal’s life is lonely.  Life is better in many cases when its shared. Just think about why we adopt “companion animals.”

Good point, Dr. Gordon. When you put it that way, many of us pet owners have adopted outside of our species. We may not be suckling, but we’re loving and cleaning and cuddling and showering our babies with as much love as humanely possible.

More videos of animals adopting other animals

If you’re hankering for more clips of adopting animals, this video montage is worth watching, as long as you’re cool with elevator music and unnecessary captions on each frame. (We get it, it’s a cat and puppies.) And whether you’ve seen it before or not, you’ll want to check out this Care2 favorite, 5 Mama Animals Adopt Babies of Different Species.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Recipes to Make Your Own Vegan Meats at Home

As time goes on, reasons not to try vegan alternatives to your favorite animal-based foods are beginning to disappear.

Most supermarkets now offer some versions of plant-based milks, veggie burgers and even dairy-free cheeses. Restaurants are becoming more savvy and catering to customers’ requests for veggie-centered meals.

The final frontier seems to be making your own vegan “meats” from scratch!

Luckily, this is much easier to do than you might think. You may be surprised to learn that you can recreate just about any animal product with plant food, honoring the same tastes and textures you grew up with. All it takes is a bit of adventurousness in the kitchen and, for some recipes, getting to know your grocery store a little more intimately. Here are some recipes for meaty foods you would never think could be made vegan:

Recipes to Make Your Own Vegan Meats at Home

Meaty Burgers

The most classic American, meat-centered comfort food: the burger. What I tend to find most limiting about burgers made from animals is that the only way to change things up is through the spices and the fixin’s. Veggie burgers, however, are truly limitless. There are a hundred different beans and grains to use, veggies to add, nuts and seeds to throw in, spices and condiments to include, to create a truly unique and flavorful burger.

Here is a Black Bean and Mushroom Burger to get your feet wet in the world of veggie burger creating. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, try any of these mouthwatering ideas!

Store-bought alternatives: Amy’s Kitchen veggie burgers, Beyond Meat “Beast” burgers and Gardein veggie burgers.

Smoky, Salty Bacon

“Bacon culture” has officially taken over, and you may be surprised to learn that even vegans are all on board. We just prefer our bacon to come from plants.

Try out some homemade bacon bits or coconut bacon for sprinkling on salads or stuffing into wraps for a smokey burst of flavor. Or, if you want strips, try frying up some homemade tempeh bacon. You could also pick up the new book Baconish: Sultry and Smoky Plant-Based Recipes from BLTs to Bacon Mac & Cheese by Leinana Two Moons, which is filled with smokey-sweet plant-based goodness!

Store-bought alternatives: Lightlife‘s Fakin’ Bacon Strips, Sweet Earth’s Benevolent Bacon, Phoney Baloney’s coconut bacon

Recipes to Make Your Own Vegan Meats at Home

Seitan for Sandwiches and Sausages

But what could I make for a delicious, breakfast sandwich? What is there to make for delightfully seasoned centerpiece for an old fashioned meat and potatoes type of meal? Enter: seitan. Otherwise known as “wheat meat,” seitan features the high-protein gluten component in wheat, which becomes incredibly versatile for meaty dishes. Seitan can be made into sausages, slices and even steaks! Here is a good post for beginner seitan cooks.

Store-bought alternatives: Field Roast deli slices and sausages, Tofurky deli slices and sausages, Upton’s Naturals seitan

Other Scrumptious Vegan Meats

If your south-of-the-border dish is missing a meaty element, look no further than homemade vegan chorizo! If your bagel is incomplete without salty and savory lox, check out this recipe made from carrots! And, if your barbecue just needs a pulled pork option, try out BBQ jackfruit for your sandwiches. I doubt there is anything left out there that has not yet been veganized, so keep your mind and your browser’s search bar open. And get cooking!


5 Vegan Sandwich Recipes
How to Make Seitan (and 5 Ways to Use It)
5 Vegan Salads for National Salad Month

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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