Source: Wikimedia Commons/Artist Not Listed Now that Bill Clinton has become a vegan, he is a member of two very small minority groups — living ex-presidents and people who do not consume any animal products. True, there are more vegans than ex-presidents. But the number of vegans is also quite small — less than 0.8% of the U.S population. It's not really surprising that so few Americans are vegans who not only give up pork chops and steak, but also ice cream, cheese, honey, AND pizza. What is more surprising is the relative rarity of vegetarians — people who simply do not eat any meat. Every three years, the Vegetarian Resource Group commissions a national survey on the diets of Americans. The graph below shows their statistics on the percent of Americans who eat animals at least some of the time. Between 1994 and 2009, the percent of meat-eaters in the United States varied between 97% and 99%. (A research team from … [Read more...] about Why Are There So Few Vegetarians?
Source: Image adapted from a Billy Hathorn photo — Creative Commons License. A short time ago a friend dropped by my house for a visit. We were sitting on my sofa sipping some wine and catching up on recent events when my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Ripley, jumped up beside me and began to lick my ear. My friend's face contorted in a look of disgust and she blurted out "Why do you let him do that? You don't know what he might have just eaten. I love my Gertie [her Labrador retriever] but I won't let her lick my face. She goes out into the backyard and eats her own poop. I can smell it on her breath and the thought of her licking me after she's eaten their own feces is revolting. I've tried everything to get her to stop doing that, but nothing seems to work." It is well accepted that some dogs eat poop. They will eat their own droppings, that of other dogs, as well as the stools of other animals (I can't tell you how many times people have complained about their dog getting … [Read more...] about Which Dogs Eat Poop and Why Do They Do It?
Source: clipart.com I have often been asked whether dogs have a sense of humor? I think that some do. In my experience some breeds of dogs, like Airedales, Cairn Terriers and Irish Setters seem to view life as if it were a giant stage in which they can engage in play of all sorts, some of which includes pranks of various types which they use to target their human and canine housemates. Some dogs seem to go through life with the motto "It's not worth doing if it doesn't cause a furor!" This makes such dogs a great pleasure for people who can put up with the unpredictability associated with a dog's brand of wittiness, while the same dogs can be the bane of the existence to people who like order and quiet in their life. The playful, uninhibited nature of dogs generally reflects the fact that dogs have more or less juvenile minds. We have specifically bred them not to fully mature but to maintain a mind that is very similar to those of their wolf puppy forebears, all their life long. … [Read more...] about Do Dogs Have a Sense of Humor?
If you Google the question "Why do dogs eat grass" you will find 2,520,000 websites that purportedly deal with the issue. I glanced at about two dozen of these and every one of them mentioned eating grass to deal with an upset stomach and to cause vomiting. I have personally never found this explanation to be particularly satisfying because the cause and effect issues are all tangled up in it — "Do dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit, or do they vomit because they ate grass?" The other issue is that many dogs eat grass and don't end up vomiting (like my Beagle, Darby, who loved to munch grass as if it were a free salad and never once regurgitated from it afterwards). The second most popular answer is that dogs evolved from wild canines, such as wolves, who hunt and eat mostly grass eating animals like mice, rabbits, or deer. When these canines consume their prey they will usually eat pretty much all of it, including the grass filled stomach of whichever creature they just … [Read more...] about Why Dogs Eat Grass—a Myth Debunked
Zebrafish show less fear when they are among familiar fish. Source: iStock/FionaAyerst The presence of a friend can lower stress levels. That’s an established phenomenon known as “social buffering.” Given how lethal stress can be, this is very good to know. But exactly how do friends calm us down? Does it matter which friend? And under what circumstances? Scientists are exploring these open questions in everything from fish to 15-year-olds. A series of recent studies provide some interesting new hints to better explain the power of social connection. A shoal of zebrafish wouldn’t be the first place you’d think to study friendship and stress. But a team of Portuguese researchers led by Rui Oliveira did just that. They placed fish in tanks alone or with other familiar fish, and then injected a substance known to be alarming into the water. The zebrafish showed reduced levels of fear—they froze less—when they could smell the presence of … [Read more...] about Even Fish Need Friends