Ecology and Life
The puppy room easing life's pain in a stroke
Gentle wobblings of a 'foul gull' fulmar
Frigatebird returns to nest on Ascension for first time since Darwin
New to Nature No 94: Canthigaster criobe
Uggie: 'He likes to fly first class'
It's a dog's life in China: sold for £1m or stolen and sold as meat
Malibu residents hire crew to remove rotting whale carcass from beach
Yellowstone's popular alpha female wolf shot dead by hunters outside park
What I miss most in the dead time of winter is the insects
BSE testing on cattle slaughtered for food 'no longer necessary'
Malaysia seizes 1,500 elephant tusks headed for China
The vibrant river was a welcome relief after the bleak, snow-covered fields
TV Review: Miniature Britain; Weight Loss Ward; Rome
Marine conservation group says UK lacks ambition to preserve seas
UK seas to gain 31 marine conservation zones
Live animal exports going via previously unknown routes
When a dozing otter steals the show
Newly discovered slow loris species already threatened
What the male bowerbird can teach us about home furnishings
Could this really be the fearsome, legendary Girt Dog reincarnate?
Overfishing is a solvable environmental challenge for the EU
Life comes cheap for winter wrens
Ash trees consumed by something of the night
Foie gras taken off menu in House of Lords
  Is human branding an animal-rights stunt too far?
Animal-rights protesters have long been masters at courting both attention and controversy in their quest to put an end to what they perceive as cruel farming practices.

Becky Folkard, a 34-year-old vegan from Hampshire, is promising to perform the latest form of protest today at a staged event in London where she will "hot brand" three fellow protestors to highlight the pain inflicted on dairy cattle when they are branded.

Folkard will burn the number "269" on the bare chests of three volunteers two anonymous women and a 24-year-old protestor called Ben Hannah using a red-hot branding iron. This form of action originated in Israel last year when protesters released a video of volunteers being branded with the number 269 in tribute to a calf they encountered on a farm. The idea has now spread virally across the world culminating in a global "We All Are 269" day, with events planned in cities including Melbourne, Frankfurt, Lima and Washington DC.

"My initial reaction was admiration," says Folkard. "I don't see it as shocking, although I accept others will. I immediately wanted to be involved and thought: 'I couldn't do the branding, that sounds terrifying.' But then I thought about it more and realised why not? ... If one person goes away and researches a vegan lifestyle because of this it will have been worth it."

There still seems to be some confusion about whether this form of protest is legal. The protestors insist it is legal because all the participants have consented and they say they have informed the police in advance. An RSPCA representative told reporters: "A lot of people would feel that what they are doing is extreme but if they want to do it they can."

But Joseph Keating, the National Farmers Union's livestock adviser, was perplexed by the planned protest: "I've never seen hot branding done in this country. It has been outlawed for a generation. I've only seen it in old western films. Cattle are now identified with ear tags from birth, as are sheep. They are applied with plier-like tools. There's no anaesthetic but the process is very quick and the animal barely notices. It's just like an ear piercing. Pigs get 'slapped' with an ink mark, but again, this is only momentarily painful."

Some dairy farmers might freeze-brand their animals, says Keating a process that kills the hair follicles or the skin's pigmentation cells rather than deeply scarring the skin itself but many farmers are now turning to neck or foot collars with electronic chips inside to more accurately monitor and manage their herds.

"Hot branding stresses the animal needlessly and also potentially damages the meat," he says. "It was introduced many centuries ago to guard against rustling. But we've moved on a bit since then."
New to Nature No 96: Oncopodura fadriquei
Animal rights activists plan direct action against beagle imports
How the stink of a waterbuck could prevent sleeping sickness in Kenya
Tatler's dog, Alan, dies in bizarre revolving door accident
Insecticide 'unacceptable' danger to bees, report finds
Freedom Foods 'failing to crack down' on poor salmon farming standards
One in 10 Welsh livestock farmers illegally kill badgers, study suggests
Crab study puts pain on the menu
A large shape a bittern flies across the pond
Wolf killings are based on the most cynical of premises
New to nature No 97: Ferrisia uzinuri
Sad to see the tide turn against the otter
An owl swoops down on wings that seem as broad as they are long
Animals: are they good for supper or good companions?
Is human branding an animal-rights stunt too far?
Cat lovers pounce on campaign to save New Zealand's birds
Common pesticides 'can kill frogs within an hour'
There is something irresistibly cheerful about a flock of twite
Solomon Islands villagers kill 900 dolphins in conservation dispute
Mistle thrush numbers in decline
Guyana pledges to protect jaguars
Dung beetles navigate by the stars
How do you catch an escaped crocodile?
New to Nature No 98: Xerophytacolus claviverpus
Animal astronauts: the unsung heroes of space exploration
Pygmy elephants found dead in Borneo after 'poisoning'
A badger's biscuit-sized footprints in the snow follow the field edge
British moths in calamitous decline, major new study reveals
The lake is muted under the winter sun, like a faint watercolour painting
Should the RSPCA have pursued the man who ate a live goldfish?
Days of heavy rain have left the ancient woodland sodden
Alice Roberts: Rudolph and our early ancestors a love story
Saving the rhino with surveillance drones
Hunting with dogs ban unlikely to get free vote admit top Tories
The tracks in the snow revealed the secrets of these night visitors
A perfect winter's day for a walk
Meet the woman battling Japan's whaling fleet in Antarctic ocean
China captivated by tiny tuneful insects that sing for their supper
HBO sued by animal rights worker over abuse of horses on Luck
Some surprising facts about hedgehogs
Cats killed in cattery fire
Experience: my horse sank in quicksand
Alys Fowler: fat balls and mealworms
Hawks in danger of extinction in illegal hunting campaign
What the Japanese red bug teaches us about parenting
Fishermen back sanctions against Iceland over mackerel catch
What I learned the day a dying whale spared my life
Overfishing causes Pacific bluefin tuna numbers to drop 96%
Glistening with water droplets, the black-throated diver looked almost eerie
Kitten swallows 15cm-long TV aerial
As the rain blows over, a double rainbow arcs across the sky
A moorhen sent stone-skimmer splashes as it pattered across the river
Visit Statistics