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Subject: devour our young

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A conversation I had the other day... inspired me to spout.

"Devour Our Young"

Is it a mystery?

What other species... devours their youth?

Or, is it a mystery?

Or, is there any other species that destroys their youth?

And, would you be inclined... to define... the regrets... to the generations that follow?

Will there even be a tomorrow?

And, is it a mystery... our history? Or, are we the only species on the planet Earth... that tries to eliminate half of those we birth?

And, do you think we're aware... that we're already there?

Do we care?

And, is it such a mystery... are we gonna go down in history... as the only species that loves to kill and maim its young.

I hated to say it... but, it had to be sung.

Will it be too late when we solve this mystery? ... will we all be history?

Which led to:
sidd called up alex... she's a biologist, right?

and, we talked about animals and their kids.

seems like we're fairly unique... the only comparisons that we came up with were:

1) some large cats kill other prides male cubs (and adult males)
2) some birds... like eagles... have a siblings thingie... where if more than one chick hatches... one will kill the other.
3) some fish will eat the sperm of other fish

can you think of any others?

Followed by:
i don't think this is at all comparable to the human phenomenon

these fail to meet the human scourge test by virtue of two distinctions: *transgenerational* growth in propensity for this problem, and *institutionalization* of it (followed by underpublicized program closures)

we ignore, abandon, abuse, prostitute, kill, slave- laborize, sexually enslave, and otherwise institutionalize acceptance or apathy about these atrocities transgenerationally.

in every other venue of the animal world that i know of, such incidents are just that: incidents... or abnormalities occurring with relatively infrequency.

if you look at the history of this problem, even recent history (as i hope to do in a documentary on the subject which i first mentioned to you last month), you see advents of orphanages and mental institutions during, for example, the industrial revolution and gilded age in this country. these were, at best, a catch all knee jerk reaction rather than a solution to the cause of the problem... but at least they were concerted reactions.

but, in the 1960's and 1970's, orphanages and mental institutions were de-funded nationwide, and their wards were discharged into the streets over those two decades. this is the primary reason for the public's perception of an "abrupt" appearance in the 1980's of homeless people on the streets nationwide. the lag time of ten years caught up with us, and those disenfranchised eventually found no other places to go but the streets.

i propose that the same is about to happen with the abrupt increase in homeless and abused children cast into the world in the last 20 years, victims of war, family deaths by disease (AIDs in africa and asia), and poverty (in south america and europe), the scourge of drug and weapons trafficking, the economic displacement attendant to "globalization", and other abruptly convergent phenomena forming a confluence of disunity and violence visited on our children.

And, then someone sent in this from an old newsgroup:
"bjarne.braastad@nlh10.nlh.no" "Bjarne O. Braastad" 21-OCT-1996 02:53:34.67 To: "applied-ethology@sask.usask.ca" Subj: RE: mis-mothering in mammals.

Dear Marina Haynes and others, You asked about studies on mis-mothering or infanticide in mammals, and indicated that this could be likely in order to remove runts or weak offspring. Studies on pigs have been done by Sambraus (see e.g. his chapter in 'Ethology of Farm Animals' edited by A.F. Fraser 1985, World Animal Science, A5, pages 391-422). My colleague Morten Bakken and me have been studying maternal infanticide in silver foxes (Braastad & Bakken, Appl.Anim.Behav.Sci. 36: 347-361, 1993). No indication has been found that runts or weak offspring are particularly subjected to being killed by the mother. Quite frequently the whole litter is killed. Environmental disturbance was found to be unlikely as a major cause of infanticide. Instead, social status, or rather competition capacity, was found to be the best predictor of infanticide (Bakken, J.Anim.Breed.Genet. 110: 147-155, 1993). Particularly, if a vixen (female) with low competition capacity was next neighbor to a vixen with a high competition capacity, the former seldom weaned any offspring unharmed. There is a large literature on infanticide in nature, and a number of theories trying to explain it. Infanticide is defined as any behavior which leads to the death of offspring, including desertation and serious biting. The first extensive analysis of infanticide in evolutionary terms was made by S.B. Hrdy (Ethol.Sociobiol. 1:13-40, 1979 and the later book: Hausfater & Hrdy, 1984: Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives). She grouped the explanations like this: 1. Exploitation of the young offspring as a food resource, 2. Resource competition, where death of the infant increases access to resources for the individual animal or its own kin, 3. Parental manipulation of progeny, where parents (most often mother) improve their own or other existing offspring's chances of survival by eliminating one or more infants, and on average increase their own lifetime reproductive success and/or inclusive fitness, 4. Sexual selection, where individuals (most often males) lower the fitness of competitors and amend their own opportunity to breed by eliminating unrelated offspring (like what is thought to be the case in lions), and 5. Social pathology, where the fitness of the infanticidal individual is reduced due to social disturbance (what we think happens in farmed silver foxes and other species where mainly only the dominant female breeds).

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