Birds Are Killing Their Babies By Feedings Them Plastic


Learn more about albatrosses and how they are severely impacted by our plastic use, and learn about another bird who is also suffering globally due to our daily actions.

Albatross (The Film), a documentary directed, written and edited by Chris Jordan; released 2017. Available to watch online here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018).

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“Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent has been recycled. The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning: at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink.”

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“Scientists estimate that about 8 million tons of plastic debris such as food packaging and plastic bottles are being washed into the oceans each year – and the cumulative quantity of waste will result in a tenfold increase in the total amount of plastic in the sea by 2020.”

Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health website: The Nutrition Source – Healthy Eating Pyramid – 5 Quick Tips, Following the Healthy Eating Pyramid. Available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018).

“Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest.”

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“I often discuss the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet with patients who have high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, or coronary artery disease. I encourage these patients to go to the grocery store and sample different plant-based versions of many of the basic foods they eat.”

Rush University Medical Center website: News: Top Cardiologist Preaches Vegan Diet – Kim Williams, MD, to Speak at Veggie Fest. 2016 Jul. 18. Available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018).

“The head of the Division of Cardiology at Rush University Medical Center and immediate past president of the American College of Cardiology, [Dr. Kim] Williams follows a vegan diet.”

V Melina, WJ Craig, S Levin; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2016 Dec; 116(12):1970-1980. Available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018).

“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases [and] are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”

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“A healthy vegan diet can meet all your nutrient needs at any stage of life including when you are pregnant, breastfeeding or for older adults.”

The British National Health Services (NSH) website: The Vegan Diet. Available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018).

“With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.”

The British Nutrition Foundation website: Home – Publications – Briefing Papers – Vegetarian Diets. Available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018).

“A well-planned, balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate…. Studies of UK vegetarian and vegan children have revealed that their growth and development are within the normal range.”

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“Vegan diets are a type of vegetarian diet, where only plant-based foods are eaten. They differ to other vegetarian diets in that no animal products are usually consumed or used. Despite these restrictions, with good planning it is still possible to obtain all the nutrients required for good health on a vegan diet.”

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“Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs.” In context, the term “vegetarian,” as used in the preceding sentence, refers to “strict vegetarian”, “plant-based” or “vegan” diets, and vegetarian diets that may include eggs and dairy are referred to separately as “lacto-ovo-vegetarian”.

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“Australians following a vegetarian diet can still meet nutrient requirements if energy needs are met and the appropriate number and variety of serves from the Five Food Groups are eaten throughout the day. For those eating a vegan diet, supplementation of B12 is recommended.” Regarding vitamin B12, please see separate video summary and accompanying sources.

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“A well-planned vegetarian diet [see context] can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women.”

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“Vegetarian diets [see context] can provide all the nutrients you need at any age, as well as some additional health benefits.”

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“Livestock…may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity, since it is the major driver of deforestation, as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas and facilitation of invasions by alien species.”

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“[W]ithout meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.”

Dr. Sofia Pineda Ochoa:

Albatrosses are remarkable animals and parents. They literally spend years looking for the right partner with whom to mate, and when they finally do, the pair invests an incredible amount of dedication and effort in rearing their baby chick.

Each parent takes turns sitting on the nest to incubate the egg – without moving, and without drinking any water or eating any food, sometimes for weeks at a time, while the other parent flies over the ocean looking for food. Both parents also take turns feeding their baby chick. They fly sometimes more than three thousand miles looking for food in the ocean, so they can fill up their stomach and then come back to feed it to their baby chick.

Unfortunately, these tremendous efforts to care for and raise their chicks are often in vein, but through no fault of the parents. It turns out albatrosses are now feeding their chicks a combination of both food and plastic. And the more plastic there is, the higher the chance the baby chick will not make it.

So despite all the sacrifices and efforts of the parents, many chicks are dying in a very tragic and painful way, and not making it to adulthood. Or, they make it to early adulthood, but are then too sick to fly because they have too much plastic inside of them. So, they end up starving to death, because they cannot fly over the ocean to feed themselves.

Plastic was only created about 100 years ago. But, in this very short period of time, we humans have managed to contaminate pretty much every corner of the ocean with it.

And so, seabirds and other animals who have relied on the oceans for eons, long before humans even existed, are now paying the ultimate price for our mindless “throw-away” culture of convenience. Animals are dying in severe agony, with their stomachs filled, literally to the brim, with plastic.

Obviously, we should all try to recycle whatever we can. But please be aware that a lot the plastics we use cannot be recycled, even if we want to, because of components used in their making. So, please try to avoid using plastic in the first place, as much as possible.

And, if the suffering of these albatrosses makes your heart sink like mine did when I watched these images, then you should know there’s another bird that is also suffering in unspeakable ways and in unimaginable numbers.

I’m talking about chickens. Humans eat more chickens than any other land animal. So these inquisitive and intelligent animals are being mass-bred and butchered by the billions every year.

Chickens bred for their “meat” have been artificially manipulated to grow very large very fast. Their legs and organs often can’t keep up, and many become crippled under their own weight, and often die because they simply can’t move themselves to reach water.

For those who survive their accelerated growth, when they reach “slaughter weight” at just a few weeks of age, a fraction of their natural lifespan, they’re put into cages and sent to slaughter.

If they survive the journey to the slaughterhouse, they’re shackled upside-down by their legs, sent into an electric bath meant to render them unconscious, then have their throats cut by a rotating blade, and finally immersed in scalding-hot water to remove their feathers.

But the animals are not always rendered unconscious or killed by the rotating blade, so they remain very much alive and fully conscious when scalded to death in the boiling hot water of the feather-removal tanks.

And, while perhaps less obvious, chickens used for eggs suffer every bit as much. “Layer” hens are a completely different breed from “broiler” chickens who are bred for meat. “Layer” chickens have been selectively bred to lay an unnaturally large number of eggs, which takes a painful toll on their bodies.

Also, about one-half of the chicks bred in hatcheries for “layers” are male. And because the males will never lay eggs and have not been bred to grow fast enough to be considered economically viable for their meat, they are considered worthless by the egg industry. So, they are killed by the hundreds of millions right after hatching, usually by being ground up alive or tossed into plastic bags to slowly suffocate and die.

The female chicks don’t have it any better, because they have a short life of suffering and, when their egg production declines, often just around 18 to 24 months of age, they too are sent to slaughter.

All of this is true no matter what the label. Even if you’re buying eggs or chicken meat labeled cage-free, free-range, organic, and the like – don’t fool yourself – they all involved suffering and a violent death for the animals.

Indeed, all the animals used for food suffer horribly – whether dairy cows, pigs, fishes, goats, turkeys, or any other animal.

Imposing all of this suffering would be more understandable if we humans actually needed to eat animal foods to survive. But we don’t. We don’t biologically need one single gram of animal foods to be healthy. In fact, as a physician, I’d like to point out that, from a health perspective, we’re actually better off not consuming any animal foods.

There’s a reason why Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid says, “Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest”; and why the recent chair of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition says, “Pick the best protein packages by emphasizing plant sources of protein rather than animal sources.” The recent president of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Kim Williams, vigorously recommends a vegan diet over all other diets to his patients and other physicians for optimum health.

Even the largest organization of nutrition professionals in the country, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, has long held their official position that vegan diets are healthy and appropriate for individuals in all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, adolescents and for athletes. And this broad and uncontroversial consensus is echoed by mainstream and reputable science-based organizations around the world.

Both plant and animal foods contain protein. But when you get your protein from plants, it’s packaged with fiber and phytonutrients that promote and protect our health. In contrast, when you get your protein from meat, eggs, dairy, fish or other animal foods, it’s packaged with absolutely zero fiber and zero phytonutrients, but it does often have some undesirable things like endotoxins, hormones, mercury, PCBs, as well as other harmful substances that don’t promote our health.

In the end, there’s simply no way to turn a complex, living breathing animal who does not want to die into food without imposing immense harm, suffering and death.

We all grew up in a culture where eating animal foods is the norm. But, when we step back and recognize how absolutely unnecessary eating animal products is, the sheer pain and mass terror we inflict on countless billions of sentient animals becomes a whole new level of unjustified violence.

Of course, animal agriculture is also an environmental disaster of epic proportions. Just as an example, it’s the leading driver of deforestation in the world, according to the United Nations. When we become aware of this as well, and the degree to which it also exacerbates food and water insecurity, eating animal foods starts to take on a surprisingly severe degree of global irresponsibility.

For all of these reasons, in addition to being more mindful of our consumption habits and their impact on animals like albatrosses, I also invite you to ditch animal products forever in your personal life – for the animals, for the environment, and for your health. Thank you very much.

This transcript is an approximation of the audio in above video. To hear the audio and see the accompanying visuals, please play the video.

This video was written and narrated by Sofia Pineda Ochoa, MD and edited by Bob Rapfogel.

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Without limiting the foregoing, this presentation also includes the following:

  • Screenshots and text from the following websites: (1) Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health website: The Nutrition Source – Healthy Eating Pyramid – 5 Quick Tips, Following the Healthy Eating Pyramid, available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018); (2) American College of Cardiology Website: “Latest in Cardiology – ACC Presidential Year in Review: Kim Allan Williams Sr., MD, FACC”, available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018); and (3) Forks Over Knives website: Why This Top Cardiologist Wants Heart Patients to Eat Vegan, Oct. 13, 2015, available here (accessed Sept. 16, 2018).