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Scientists issue warning after butchers make alarming discovery inside cow's stomach: 'The problem ... is escalating'

Scientists are still researching the impact.

Scientists are still researching the impact.

Photo Credit: iStock

Researchers have opened a new investigation into the effects of plastic pollution on land animals after they made an alarming discovery in the stomach of one gentle creature. 

What happened?

According to BBC Wildlife Magazine, a butchery in Kenya found that a cow had eaten more than 75 pounds of plastic — roughly the weight equivalent of a 10-year-old child. 

This led researchers at the University of Portsmouth to partner with The Donkey Sanctuary, an international animal welfare charity, to look further into the issue. 

"The problem of plastic pollution is escalating and we need to understand its impact on the animals that are integral to communities in the Global South," said Dr. Leanne Proops, the project lead and associate professor in animal behaviour and welfare at Portsmouth.

The study will occur on Kenya's Lamu Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as livestock farming is a significant part of its economy. 

Why is this important? 

Even though plastic is produced from the same stuff as motor oil and gasoline, which are highly polluting and toxic, the production of the material has been significantly increasing.

According to the UN Environment Programme, "In the early 2000s, the amount of plastic waste we generated rose more in a single decade than it had in the previous 40 years."

Plastics aren't biodegradable, which means they take hundreds of years to break down, releasing harmful chemicals into the environment and killing animals that mistake them for food.

Scientists are still researching the impact of plastics, including microplastics, in our food supply, but there is a considerable amount of concern about how it could be negatively impacting us.

"From previous discussions with the community, we know there is growing concern about the links between plastic pollution, ecosystem health, animal welfare, and human well-being," Dr. Emily Haddy, a postdoctoral research fellow at Portsmouth who will be leading Lamu community focus groups, told BBC Wildlife Magazine.

What's being done about plastic pollution?

Multiple governments have already outlawed certain single-use plastics to cut down on waste, including in Kenya

Scientists who are part of the latest study on land animals are also planning to partner with the Lamu Arts and Theatre Alliance to creatively raise awareness about the impact of plastic pollution on local animals.

"Working closely with local communities and organizations to design and deliver the project helps to ensure that the research empowers and benefits the local community," Dr. Cressida Bowyer, the project collaborator and deputy director of the revolution plastics research initiative at Portsmouth, told BBC Wildlife Magazine. 

On a local level, repurposing empty containers and recycling health or beauty products when possible are simple ways to cut down on plastic waste and save money

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