Nestlé’s Animal Testing – A Cheaper Alternative to Available Data?

A recent report made by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) brought to light unnecessary animal testing done by major food corporations, such as Nestlé, Unilever, and Danone/Dannon. Nestlé defended saying that animal testing is only used for “medical foods”. Health claims on food items are strictly regulated by the FDA and need to be supported by high-ranking scientific studies. However, this still includes the use of animal testing even though reliable existing human data is available. Dr. Katy Taylor, head of science at BUAV, states, “There is a thin line between medical and regular foods anyway – Nestlé was testing goji berries – that is a regular food isn’t it?”

Dr. Taylor further states that organizations like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) prefer human data, which exists extensively on the market. “The motivation to do this for most companies is financial – it is cheaper [than using human data] and less hassle to conduct animal trials.” Per the BUAV website, ” Not only do animals suffer the painful effects of conditions… but such animal ‘models’ are poor representations of complex and long-running human conditions”.

Types of animal testing done by the various companies included

  • Injections to cause colon disease
  • Force fed product under illness/abuse/stress
  • Starving
  • Fed Hydrochloric Acid
  • Inspection of removed fetuses after testing

Read more of the original article from

Rat & Goji Berries | Urban Hermits

Source: Shane Starling, Nestlé: ‘Our animal testing has nothing to do with superfoods or health claims’, Nutra Ingredients, 21 June 2013

“BUAV condemns cruel animal experiments by major food companies to prove ‘health benefits’.” BUAV website. 2013.

Illustration by Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits


Bird Extravaganza!

Here’s a vine video of our lazy Sunday morning with the boys!

NIMBY: Canadian Pet Coke in Detroit

Imagine suddenly finding a mysterious black dust coating the furniture in your apartment. Thats what happened to many Detroiters in the Southwest region of the city this summer. After samples were submitted to the Ann Arbor based Ecology Center for testing, it was confirmed that this black dust was in fact petroleum coke, a waste product from the nearby Marathon Refinery. Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported on large piles of petroleum coke rising near the Detroit river. They were being trucked there by Koch Carbon. The coke was a result of processing dirty bitumen sands from the Alberta Tar Sands operations. The article states that: “The Marathon Detroit Refinery off South Fort Street last year completed a more than $2-billion expansion to allow for increased refining of heavy Canadian crude oil. Pet coke is a byproduct of tar sands oil refining that is used as a relatively inexpensive, though dirty-burning, fuel” (Mathenly 2013).


After much public outcry, the coke is being removed, reducing the threat to the nearby river and neighborhood residents. However, this may be very temporary, as Koch Carbon is applying for permits through the Michigan DEQ for storm-water and dust runoff. Clearly, this will be an reoccurring issue and it also begs the question, where will this waste go in the meantime? Environmentalist refer to this as NIMBY, or not in my back yard. In other words, consumers are demanding more oil products at more affordable prices, but do not want to deal with the byproducts, and who can blame them? In my mind, situations like this are the best argument for investment in alternative energy.

Sources: Mathenly, Keith. “Black pet coke dust blowing onto Detroit homes, state confirms”. Detroit Free Press. 14 July 2013.

“Controversial piles of pet coke heading out of Michigan for now.” Detroit Free Press. 23 July 2013.

Images: Fox 2 Detroit

Inspiration – Officer Halts Pursuit to Escort Ducklings

I felt the need to post this inspirational police dashcam video that I saw a few months ago. The video illustrates that compassion is more important than the trivial things that we think are important in our daily routines, like speeding to get to work on time at the expense of other life. Seeing humane and heartwarming acts give us the opportunity to reflect on our priorities. Much respect for this officer of the Portland Police Enforcement.

Source: Portland Police, Youtube, 2013

Vitamin C — Your Prostate’s Worst Nightmare

Sometimes we come across information that makes us re-assess our way of life, or lifestyle.  Gives us a moment to look around and look at things in a different way.  The link I’m posting is for an article called “The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements” by Paul Offit over at The Atlantic.  I won’t spoil too much for you, but it talks about our vitamin-addled society, and some of the effects that it can have on us.  Specifically, it goes into the story behind Vitamin C (an ironic one) and addresses it’s ability to cure the “common cold.”

As I finished reading it, I began to wonder what the thousand other supplements in my place of work will do to a person over time.  We have to remember that we are introducing excessive amounts of chemicals into our bodies, regardless of the fact that they are chemicals already existing in our own bio-chemistry.  And the funny thing about it all is, most of the things we feel we need supplements for, are probably easily addressed by simply changing our horrible eating habits and diets.  What is the reason we take a multi-vitamin at all? To make sure we are getting everything we aren’t from our food?  I feel as though if we simply ate the way we are meant to, we would never have a need for multi-vitamins.

It makes you take a step back, and look at how we interpret “health”.  Give it a read, post your comments and thoughts below!

FOX News Headlines “Shark Wrestler” of Threatened Species, Receives Social Media Backlash

1071159_10151525178291336_2068094968_oYesterday, FOX News circulated a video of a fisherman wrestling a 200-pound shark that he dragged onto land. The Sand Shark, listed as Threatened on the protection status scale, is known to be docile and non-aggressive unless persistently aggravated. The FOX News Insider article quotes phrases such as, “Check out the battle and Sudel’s interview above!”, and ,”…even after the seven-foot, 200-pound shark was on the line, Sudel had to literally drag the beast to the shore so he could get some pictures.” It is unfortunate and quite embarrassing that a major news channel has displayed this as news-worthy material and promoted it as respectable. The FOX News Facebook page has seen much backlash resulting from the posting as seen below:

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Of course there is always another side to a story, with supporters counteracting the backlash. This looks very bad on both the collective mentality of our culture and FOX News itself.

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Sources: Sand Tiger Shark, National Geographic, 2013; ‘The Battle Was On’: Watch Fisherman Wrestle 200-Pound Shark, FOX News Insider, 17 July 2013

Gaia Ascending

Hello everyone! My name is Ben, and I’m excited about getting the chance to write for Urban Hermits.  My love for the planet and excitement of writing will finally be able to come together in a harmonious effort.  There is much to discuss! There are some magical things to be said about the Earth.

Natural remedies and herbs can be gathered and created from nature to bring healing to our bodies. The fact that this planet, a ten trillion in one chance, exists the way it does at all; able to nurture and support the seeds of life.  What about the fact that plants also feel? That’s pretty incredible. Most of us don’t take the time to see these magical things though.  In our modern day society, we are ruled by time, and labor.  Day in and day out we work for the almighty dollar.  Not because we want to, but because this is simply how things are.  It’s how we are able to survive.  That’s how it is in the concrete jungle.

When did we lose our connection with all things mother nature? Why is its value so little, to so many?  We can all say how much we don’t support the destruction of the rainforests, but what are we really doing about it?  A few of us might give some cash to WWF, or another environmental agency; more of us will do nothing.  And every day that passes, our planet loses another piece of its magic; the soul that binds us all.

Medicine is derived from nature itself; so why do we profit off the sick with synthetics; Chemically based derivatives that bear only little semblance to their natural counterparts.  Why still, do we taint our food with the use of pesticides, and how long will it take for the pests of today to become super bugs immune to everything thrown at them.  How long before Roundup comes around with an even more powerful and agriculturally damaging toxin?

Worse yet; why has the American populace allowed this to take place?

My theory is simple. In today’s world, most people only do what is convenient for them. Recycling is an easy example I can use.  We are no strangers to recycling.  We are aware that these services exist, and they exist for a good reason.  And yet, their importance in an ever evolving green world is vastly understated.  I am currently living in Chicago and it is beyond me why recycling is not utilized throughout the entire city.  My apartment complex has no recycling bins of any kind, and all I can think of when I’m dumping my recyclables into the neighbors bins is how much re-useable stuff is going to the garbage.  And actually, we can uncover more flaws in the recycling dilemma by looking at materials beyond plastics, cans and bottles.

You have batteries and electronic pieces of random junk getting thrown away all the time, things that lack a proper recycling method because what the trucks come to pick up varies from place to place, and most pickups won’t accept batteries, you have to drop them off at special locations.  What about copper wiring, how much of that can be reused?  There are surely a great many materials everybody throws away daily.  But there is nothing accessible to recover those materials.  You have to go completely out of your way to take care of these kinds of things, and usually it’s only so you can get rid of one small item, and no one wishes to hoard useless junk until it’s convenient enough to get rid of it.

The world is in a state of upheaval.  Now, more than ever, it is important that the people begin to recognize the disharmony and strain we are putting on our planet.  We need to live by the words “Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.”  This is a statement I learned in a persuasion speech class that addresses the morality of the art of persuasion, but I believe that you can apply it to many instances in our daily lives.  And we can certainly apply it to environmental awareness.

We can use it to say, that consumers have the real power, and to make real change happen the consumers must band together and really choose the best course of action.  We can say that there are better energy sources than oil and coal, and choose to invest in those.  Even if they take a little more cash out of our pockets, we are making a direct statement with that money.  That’s when our words truly transform from just words, to direct action.  We call forth our will by choosing what to support, and justifying what we believe in.

And this is what I want to explore in my time with Urban Hermits.  I want to bring ideas forth, and highlight the ways in which we can all not only help our planet, starving for a little attention, but also help ourselves.  By changing our world for the better, and leading happier, healthier lives.

There are multiple ways we can live out our lives; why are we settling for this one?

Urban Hermits on Pinterest!

We set up a Pinterest account for Urban Hermits, so calling all devoted pinners to follow us! Thanks to all who have supported us.


Where are the Butterflies? How you can Help!


Monarch Butterflies

Although butterfly populations have been decreasing for some time all over the U.S., this year has been one of the worst. Personally, I can’t remember seeing any butterflies in the dozen or so gardens I maintain for my summer job, as well as my personal garden. The only one I have seen is the white butterfly that hatches from the imported cabbage worm, an invasive pest.


A picture from my phone of the invasive imported cabbage-worm butterfly

As for the beautiful monarchs or other butterflies that grace our presence and perform important ecosystem services, such as pollination, sightings have been slim. Why haven’t they been coming out? One reason, as Holli Ward, executive director of the Michigan Butterflies Project, explains is the uncharacteristic weather of the last year. She stated in a Detroit Free Press interview that, “This year’s cooler, wetter spring really didn’t help…Couple that with last year’s extremely hot, extremely dry weather, and it’s a terrible situation for monarchs” (Shamus 2013). Other threats to butterfly populations include loss of habitat due to urban sprawl and agricultural development and the use of pesticides. As these trends continue, the future for our butterflies looks grim. But you can help! Planting native plants that attract butterflies can create an ideal habitat for butterfly breeding and a peaceful setting for you to enjoy. Kristen Jordan Shamus of the Detroit Free Press consulted with several horticultural and butterfly experts to explain more about how you can create your own butterfly garden. Check it out here!

Sources: Shamus, Kristen Jordan. “Butterflies aren’t showing up for Michigan summer”. Detroit Free Press. July 5 2013.

“If you plant it, the butterflies will come”. Detroit Free Press. July 5 2013.

Images: Imported Cabbage Worm. Mark Suchyta

What are we eating? What are we growing?

Hey all,

Check out this great info-graphic from the Union of Concerned Scientists that displays what Americans are missing in their diets and what our farms are actually producing. I found it really interesting. Also, check out the Union of Concerned Scientists website for other interesting topics.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, posted by Rajiv Narayan of