Z is for Zoo

Zoo    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  zoological garden: public garden or park with collection of animals for exhibition and study.

Our definition:  Place where wild animals are kept and/or bred in captivity.  Zoos are prisons.  Prisons in which innocent individuals are kept incarcerated for their whole lives, though they have committed no crime.

Elephants, for example, in the wild, are used to travelling many miles a day in herds of about ten related adults and their offspring. They are very social animals.

elephants captive and wild

In zoos, elephants are usually kept in pairs or even isolated.  Their enclosures are incredibly small, compared to what they are used to in the wild, and as a result they often show many signs of being stressed out or bored, like engaging in repetitive movements.  Stress behaviours can include repetitive movements, pacing back and forth, head bobbing, rocking, repeatedly retracing their steps, sitting motionless or biting the bars of their enclosure or themselves.

What makes life so difficult for zoo animals is that they hardly have any privacy and lack mental stimulation and physical exercise.  Even though you might think that zoo animals would get used to a life in captivity, they really don’t.  Even animals that are bred in zoos still retain their natural instincts after many generations of captive breeding.

Hippos captive and wild

Animals like polar bears or felines are used to hunting; this habit is replaced by the zoo with regular feedings.  Most animals kept in zoos would naturally roam for tens of miles a day.

Zoos claim to help with conservation. However, hardly any zoo registers their animals on an international species database and most zoo animals are not endangered at all.

Even though there are thousands of endangered species, zoos have only been able to return about 16 species to the wild with varying level of success. Most zoo animals released in the wild don’t survive. This is because zoos don’t provide the right environment for a successful captive breeding project. The animals would need to live in habitats resembling their natural ones, especially in terms of climate and fauna. The animals would also need to be raised with minimal human contact and in populations large enough to provide a natural social balance and a suitable gene pool.

Surplus animals are the unwanted animals for whom there is no more space, when zoos have bred yet another cute little baby to attract visitors. They can even be the cute babies themselves when they‚Äôve stopped being cute at the end of the season. Zoos have a systematic ‚Äúoverproduction‚ÄĚ of animals. These surplus animals are either killed ‚Äď and sometimes fed to their fellow zoo habitants ‚Äď or sold to other zoos or dealers. ¬†Selling animals is a profitable way for zoos to dispose of them. Dealers will sell them to hunting ranches, pet shops, circuses, the exotic meat industry and research facilities. Surplus animals are also found for sale on the internet.

To sum up: DON’T GO TO THE ZOO!  If a school trip is being organised, tell your teacher why you don’t like zoos and ask them to take you somewhere better.  If they won’t listen, explain what zoos really are to your friends and then get together to petition the school.  If they still won’t listen, just ask your parents to let you stay home from school that day.  Maybe they could take you on a better trip instead, such as to a museum or art gallery.

That reminds me – see what Luke Walker, ‘animal stick up for-er’, did when he was forced to go on a trip to the zoo – now that’s a boy who acts on his conscience! (Though he is sadly unappreciated by those who know him ūüėČ )

W is for Winkle

Winkle    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  edible sea snail.

Our definition:  A winkle is a small herbivorous shore-dwelling mollusc with a spiral shell.   Winkle is also a common name applied to numerous different species of small, round snails.  These are often species of sea snails, but also some small round freshwater snails, and even some land snails that have an operculum (a secreted plate that closes the aperture of a gastropod mollusc’s shell when the animal is retracted).

Click here for the W page, and here for the rest of the vegan dictionary ūüėÄ

W is for Whiting

W w

Whiting    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  small edible sea fish.



Our definition:  Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) fish are similar in appearance to their larger relatives,  cod, haddock, coley and pollack.  They have three dorsal fins separated by small gaps, the third fin extending almost to the tail fin.  The tail is not forked, having almost a square end.  The two anal fins are very close together, nearly touching one another and, together with the anterior fin, are elongated.  The pectoral fin is also long and projects beyond the base of the anal fin.  A whiting’s upper jaw projects slightly beyond the lower, and the lateral line is continuous along the length of the body.  In colour, individual fish vary quite a lot, and there is often a small dark blotch at upper base of the pectoral fin.  They can grow to up to 50 cm long.

Whiting matures at between three and four years of age, and spawning takes place at a depth of 20 to 150 m.  The time of the spawning varies from location to location: from January to spring in the Mediterranean; from January to September in the area between the British Isles and the Bay of Biscay; and throughout the year in the Black Sea.  A large female can produce up to one million eggs.  The eggs float in the open ocean and the larval whiting swim with other sea plankton until they have attained a length of around 10 cm.  The fish grow quickly, with females growing faster than males, and can live to about ten years of age.  The diet of the whiting consists of bottom-living organisms, such as crabs, shrimps, small fish, molluscs, worms, squid and cuttlefish.

The biggest threat to whiting is “over-harvesting” (euphemism) by the fishing fleets of many nations (of course).

Click here for the W page, and here for the rest of the vegan dictionary ūüėÄ

V is for Vegan

V v

Vegan    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  person who does not eat animals or animal products.

Our definition:  To be vegan means to try to do no harm to all animals, including humans, and the planet on which everyone depends.  This means a vegan will do their best to avoid all animal products in their food, clothes and possessions.  They will choose only fair trade and organic whenever possible, and will reduce, reuse and recycle to protect the world and its inhabitants from plastic pollution.  They will also avoid any activity or practice which exploits or abuses animals, such as visiting a zoo or buying animal-tested toiletries.

Just try to do no harm. ¬†Easy ūüėÄ

Click here for the V page and here for the rest of the dictionary.

Have a lovely weekend ūüėÄ

U is for unethical, unprincipled, unkind ….

Why photograph

Killing animals is unethical,

It’s unprincipled and unkind.

Eating meat is unhealthy,

It’s unsavoury and unsound.


So why do humans do it,

This unsightly unwholesome crime?

It’s unwarrantable, it’s unwarranted

And entirely unjustified.

Why photograph - Copy

The U page is right here, and the whole dictionary is just there ūüėÄ

I is for Inhuman


Working on the vegan dictionary¬†continues to be a very educational experience. ¬†Finding words which are defined in a way that normalises animal exploitation, (such as animals being described simply in terms of how they taste or how they are used by humans; or horrible, violent practices described in a brief, matter-of-fact way as if they are perfectly normal and inoffensive) and then redefining them¬†so that they tell the whole story, good or bad. ¬†I’m finding out a lot of very interesting facts about animals I previously knew nothing about, as well as a lot of very upsetting things which are hidden from the general population in order to preserve the status quo.

Today I was leafing through the¬†i section of the dictionary and, unusually, finding nothing that needed redefining …. until I reached inhuman, described thus in the Oxford Dictionary:

adjective:    brutal; unfeeling; barbarous

And the synonyms for inhuman, given in the thesaurus section, are:

animal, barbaric, barbarous, bestial, bloodthirsty, brutal, brutish, diabolical, fiendish, inhumane, merciless, pitiless, ruthless, savage, unfeeling, unnatural, vicious.

Now I’m confused.

Isn’t it humans who enslave and brutalise animals for pleasure and profit? ¬†Isn’t it humans who are so unfeeling that they steal a baby from his mother and kill him so that they can have his mother’s milk for themselves? ¬†Isn’t it humans who show no mercy to the billions of terrified, innocent individuals who are savagely and routinely killed en masse?

With the exception of the word ‘animal’ it seems to me that those synonyms should be in the dictionary next to the word human, not inhuman.

The thing is that humans, most of them, do think of themselves as good and kind, decent and compassionate, and the dictionary reflects that. ¬†But, however good and charitable a human might be towards other humans, if their compassion doesn’t extend to other species then is not a part of them still barbaric, merciless, unfeeling, pitiless, ruthless and savage, albeit perhaps unwittingly so?¬† Even if they do not commit the fiendish acts themselves; even if they are horrified at the idea of hurting a living being; if they know about it and still choose to pay for it, are they not directly and deliberately responsible for it? ¬†And isn’t that¬†diabolical?

The good news is that it is entirely possible to make the Oxford Dictionary definition correct. ¬†If all humans went vegan (as nature intended) then the word human really would be synonymous with compassionate, and inhuman would mean what the Oxford Dictionary says it means ūüôā

F is for Falcon

F is for falcon

Falcon    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  Small hawk trained to hunt.

Our definition:  A falcon is any one of 37 species of raptor in the genus Falco, widely distributed on all continents of the world except Antarctica.

Adult falcons have thin tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and to change direction rapidly.  Fledgling falcons, in their first year of flying, have longer flight feathers, which makes their configuration more like that of a general-purpose bird such as a broadwing.  This makes it easier to fly while learning the exceptional skills required to be effective hunters as adults.

Peregrine falcons have been recorded diving at speeds of 200 miles per hour (320 km/h), making them the fastest-moving creatures on Earth.  Other falcons include the gyrfalcon, lanner falcon, and the merlin.  Some small falcons with long narrow wings are called hobbies, and some which hover while hunting are called kestrels.

As is the case with many birds of prey, falcons have exceptional powers of vision; the visual acuity of one species has been measured at 2.6 times that of a normal human.


Click on the pic for the F page of our vegan dictionary, or see the link in the sidebar to your right

Click on the pic for the F page of our vegan dictionary, or see the link in the sidebar to your right

D is for Donkey

D is for donkey

Donkey    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  1. Domestic ass  2. colloquial stupid person

Our definition: ¬†The donkey’s wild ancestor, the¬†African Wild Ass,¬†is well suited to life in a desert or semi-desert environment, having a tough digestive system which can break down desert vegetation and extract moisture from food efficiently. They can also go without water for a fairly long time. Their large ears give them an excellent sense of hearing and help in cooling.¬†¬†Because of the sparse vegetation in their environment wild asses live somewhat separated from each other (except for mothers and young), unlike the tightly grouped herds of wild horses.¬†They have very loud voices, which can be heard for over 3¬†km (1.9¬†mi), which helps them to keep in contact with other asses over the wide spaces of the desert.

Mature males defend large territories¬†around 23 square kilometres in size, marking them with dung heaps ‚Äď an essential marker in the flat, monotonous terrain. ¬†Due to the size of these ranges, the dominant male¬†cannot exclude other males. Rather, intruders are tolerated‚ÄĒrecognized and treated as subordinates,¬†and kept as far away as possible from any of the resident females.

Wild asses can run swiftly, almost as fast as a horse.  However, their tendency is to not flee right away from a potentially dangerous situation, but to investigate first before deciding what to do.  When they need to, they can defend themselves with kicks from both their front and hind legs.

Though the species itself is under no threat of extinction, due to abundant domestic stock, the two extant wild subspecies are both listed as critically endangered.  African wild asses have been captured for domestication for centuries, and this, along with interbreeding between wild and domestic animals, has caused a distinct decline in population numbers. There are now only a few hundred individuals left in the wild.  These animals are also hunted for food and for traditional medicine in both Ethiopia and Somalia.  Competition with domestic livestock for grazing, and restricted access to water supplies caused by agricultural developments, pose further threats to their survival.  The African wild ass is legally protected in the countries where it is currently found, although these measures often prove difficult to enforce.

There are more than 40 million ‚Äėdomesticated‚Äô donkeys in the world, mostly in developing¬†countries where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries.

The Donkey Sanctuary¬†in Devon works hard to¬†transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide through greater understanding, collaboration and support, and by promoting lasting, mutually life-enhancing relationships. ¬†They¬†work inclusively with people frequently marginalised within their own countries and communities, whether due to poverty, ignorance, race, gender or disabilities. They treat every interaction as a two-way opportunity to learn and to teach. ‚ÄúWe know that it is only together that we can help donkey owners and carers become donkey welfare ambassadors wherever they live and work.‚ÄĚ

Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, in love with them since childhood, made it her life’s mission to rescue abused, neglected and abandoned donkeys and founded The Donkey Sanctuary in 1969.  She said,

‚ÄúTo me they are the most beautiful, the most underrated animals in the world¬†‚Äď and, as long as they need my help, they shall have it.‚ÄĚ



is finished for the time being.

Click on the picture or go to the dictionary in the sidebar ūüôā And now, on to E e

B is for Bee

b is for bee

Compiling the vegan dictionary¬†is taking a long time and I won’t be able to complete a letter in one day as I na√Įvely first thought. ¬†I have only just finished¬†Bb¬†so won’t be able to share any C words until at least tomorrow ūüôā ¬†In the meantime, Miranda thought it might be a good idea to post an excerpt of Bb¬†– so here it is:

Bee    noun

Oxford Dictionary definition:  Four-winged stinging insect, collecting nectar and pollen and producing honey and wax.

Our definition: ¬†There are lots of different¬†types of bee in the UK, around 250 species ‚Äď 24 species of bumble bee, 225 species of solitary bee and just one species of honey bee. ¬†Honey bees¬†will live through the winter,¬†eating and working all winter long, which of course requires a large store of food ‚Äď hence the honey they‚Äôve worked hard for all summer. ¬†With Bumble bees however, the new queens, after mating, find somewhere to hibernate and the rest of the colony dies off. ¬†While hibernating she does not need to eat so there are no honey stores. ¬†In the spring when she has to work hard, she makes a small pot of honey for herself. ¬† ¬†Solitary bees¬†typically produce neither honey nor wax. ¬†They¬†are important pollinators as the females, who are all fertile, build their own nests and take care of their own young so pollen is gathered for provisioning the nest with food for their brood. ¬†Bees gathering nectar (eg honey bees) may accomplish pollination, but bees that are deliberately gathering pollen (eg solitary orchard mason bees)¬†are more efficient pollinators. ¬†There are also 500 species of¬†stingless bee