Squirrels, skunks, and all sorts of other small animals regularly seek out discarded food scraps for a quick and easy meal. But when these small animals go after specific food containers, like Yoplait yogurt cups, they are often rewarded with a slow, painful death. According to the Humane Society, discarded yogurt cups kill more animals than you might think.
It’s no secret that litter can kill wildlife, from discarded six pack rings strangling waterfowl, to animals consuming deflated balloons and later dying of intestinal blockage. But according to the Humane Society of the United States, Yoplait yogurt cups pose a unique threat to small animals.
“This is a really terrible source of peril,” Laura Simon, an ecologist working with the Humane Society of the United States, told The Huffington Post.
According to Simon, the tapered yogurt cups can turn into deadly traps that kill animals when carelessly discarded. The problem is that small animals, like skunks and squirrels, stick their heads inside to eat any leftover yogurt. Since the container is tapered, and has a lip on the inside edge, the animals are then unable to extricate themselves.
Some of these animals are lucky enough to draw the attention of people, and they often end up in viral videos.
MY STEP DAD AND HIS CO WORKERS SAVED THIS SQUIRREL WITH A YOGURT CUP ON ITS HEAD 😂😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/QGG78hEj36
— karsyn (@its_karsynn) August 17, 2015
However, many more animals are left to their own devices. Unable to remove the yogurt cups on their own, these animals are doomed to die from starvation, dehydration, or even accidentally wandering into traffic.
According to ABC Action News, “The skunk that doesn’t get found dies a horrible death.”
The Huffington Post reports that General Mills, the company that sells Yoplait yogurt in the United States, has been aware of this issue for years. However, the iconic Yoplait container design has remained largely unchanged.
A 1998 campaign led by Camilla Fox, then with the Animal Protection Institute, did result in two actions taken by General Mills. The first was to place a flat ring around the base of the cups, and the other was to print a warning to crush the cups before disposal.
General Mills appears unwilling to further change the design of their yogurt cups to a non-tapered or even reverse-tapered configuration. Fox told The Huffington Post that the company once expressed concerns over the costs associated with making such changes.
As to the changes that were made, Laura Simon told The Huffington Post that General Mills didn’t go far enough. As a skunk specialist with the Humane Society, Simon was quick to point out that skunks don’t have the ability to push against the base of the cup, unlike squirrels.
If you find an animal trapped in a yogurt cup, you may be tempted to help. Simon cautions that it is safer to alert the authorities, but she recommends to first trap the animal with a milk crate or other convenient box or basket. That will prevent the animal from running off while you wait for help to arrive.
What do you think about the fact that General Mills knows its Yoplait yogurt cups are killing small animals? Should people boycott the company until they fix the problem, or is it ultimately the responsibility of consumers to not litter in the first place?
[Image credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News and Richard Heathcote / Getty Images Sport]