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101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian (2007)

By Pamela Rice
Seventh Edition, pamphlet version

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1 Nearly all of the some 10 billion animals slaughtered for food in the U.S. every year are the end result of a behemothic-sized swift-moving assembly line system, incorporating dangerous, unprecedented, and unsustainable methods of production. If America’s farmers were required by law to give their animals humane living conditions, including spacious quarters, clean surroundings, fresh air, sunlight, and opportunities for social interaction--and if it were illegal simply to drug the animals who would otherwise die from the conditions in which they live--cheap meat could never exist. Time and again the industry balks at even low-cost measures designed to improve the animals’ plight. Prices have been driven to levels unnaturally low, and, alas, a luxury good has been transformed into a staple.

2 America’s farmed animals produce 1.3 billion tons of waste per year, or 5 tons for every U.S. citizen. (Just one cow produces 100 pounds per day.) And the pollution strength of it all can reach levels 160 times greater than that of raw municipal sewage. This vast accumulation is not neatly contained; manure is the most common pollutant today in America’s waters. Land sprayed with pig excrement is particularly toxic, since pigs contract and transmit many human diseases--namely, meningitis, salmonella, chlamydia, giardia, cryptosporidiosis, worms, and influenza. Manure is laden with phosphorous, nitrates, and heavy metals and emits ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and cyanide. Manure has always been seen as fertilizer. But in today’s quantities, it is an under-regulated industrial pollutant.

3 When people adhere to a diet rich in animal fat and protein and get little exercise, cancer risks are increased. Beef consumption raises the level of toxic substances called N-nitroso compounds, which are formed in the large bowel. The substances are believed to stick to DNA, making mutations more likely. Dietary fiber could be helpful in repairing the damage. But only plant foods contain it.

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4 The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70 percent of the world’s commercial fish stocks are fully exploited, overfished, or collapsed. To supply surging world demand, fishers use rapacious techniques, such as sonar, driftnets, longlines, dredgers, and leviathan fish-packing vessels. In the case of longlining, 4.5 million hooks are launched daily. A third of the world’s harvested fish go to feed livestock or farmed fish. The ocean’s interconnected ecosystem simply cannot keep pace. Now, 90 percent of the coveted top predator fish are gone. Consequently, fishers have moved down the food web to species once considered “trash.” These species, of course, are the food source of the fish that were initially overfished. In 2006, a report published in the journal Science gave the world until 2048 for all wild commercial stocks to be wiped out. The world could be left to fish nothing but jellyfish and bait.

5 The Humane Slaughter Act requires that mammals be rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered. A Washington Post series in 2002, however, exposed a packing industry hard pressed to follow this law. Animals were found regularly butchered alive on speeded-up conveyor lines. A resolution that the Humane law be followed to the letter did become part of the U.S. Farm Bill. But long after the politicians enjoyed their photo-ops, the live butchering surely continues. Appropriated Farm Bill funds ended up being diverted to food-safety inspectors already employed. In the end, it almost doesn’t matter. The Humane law does not even apply to 99 percent of animals slaughtered, because poultry and fish are not covered by it.

6 A meat diet dramatically raises your risk for heart attack, but in recent years you’re less likely to die from the trauma. Technology will probably save your life, leaving you to live with the consequences. In the case of congestive heart failure--an increasingly common outcome--your heart, now damaged, is unable to adequately circulate blood to the rest of your body, resulting in fluid build-up and organ damage. In the U.S., nearly 5 million people live with the condition, and about 550,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. The disease is the leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly, and hospital bills attributed to it total $29 billion annually.

7 Pigs are naturally anything but dirty and brutish and, if given half a chance, display high intelligence. Ask Professor Stanley Curtis of Pennsylvania State University. He taught several pigs to understand complex relationships between objects and actions in order to play video games. Curtis, along with his colleagues, found these creatures to be focused, creative, and innovative--equal in intelligence to chimpanzees. Other researchers have found chickens to be good at solving problems, cows to respond to music, and fish to be as individualistic as dogs.

8 Approximately 800 million people today live with chronic hunger, and 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes every day. Yet the world cycles nearly 43 percent of all the grain that is harvested through animals to produce meat. To get a feedlot steer to gain a pound, you need 7 pounds of corn. Likewise, additional pounds of pig, chicken, and farmed fish will cost you, respectively, 3.5, 2, and 3 pounds in feed. Of course, large portions of the added weight turn into inedible tissue, such as bones. The meat industry does endeavor to increase feed-to-flesh efficiency, but the “improvements” sadly come via genetic tinkering, growth enhancing drugs, and questionable feed.

9 About 25 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to U.S. livestock every year primarily for growth promotion. This is almost eight times the amount administered to humans. Though perfectly legal, the practice is leading to the selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and adding to the general worldwide crisis of drug-resistant disease. The consumption of meat contaminated with these superbugs raises the threat of human illnesses that physicians are unable to treat.

10 Every year, Americans suffer from approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths from something they ate. That something was probably of animal origin. The main culprits are E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter. The annual cost to the U.S. for the top-five foodborne pathogens, all predominantly associated with animal-derived foods: $6.9 billion.

11 Bypass surgery requires that your rib cage be opened, your heart stopped, and your body hooked up to an external pumping machine so a vein from some other part of your body can be removed and grafted as a replacement blood vessel to your heart. Memory, language ability, and spatial orientation remain impaired in 10 to 50 percent of bypass patients six months afterward. Side effects for some never go away. Gloom and depression affect between a third and three-quarters of patients. Many will require a second operation. A vegetarian diet, regular exercise, and spiritual nourishment have proven to reverse heart disease--the biggest killer in Western countries.

12 To supply the corn and soybeans to feed the livestock to bring daily meat to America’s dinner plates has meant concentrated levels of pesticides, fertilizers, and farm chemicals contaminating many aquifers across the Midwest. Some towns have come to rely on their neighbors for fresher, though expensive, supplies of water. But a recent boom in cattle and pig operations has poisoned these stores as well, prompting plans for government-subsidized pipelines to link towns with major rivers. Some, however, see such costly schemes as ill-advised and the subsidized water as exactly what got the towns in trouble in the first place.

13 Eating a plant-based diet guards against disease: first in an active way with complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Then by default: the more plant foods you eat, the less room you have for animal foods that clog arteries with cholesterol, strain kidneys with excess protein, and burden the heart with saturated fat. Clinical studies have shown that meat-free diets reverse diabetic symptoms and reduce cholesterol levels by about as much as the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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14 Livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent, a share 38 percent higher than that emitted by all the world’s vehicles. Domesticated animals worldwide are the source of 37 percent of all human-induced methane, with most of that coming from intestinal fermentation of ruminants. They also are the source of 65 percent of human-induced nitrous oxide, the great majority from manure. Methane and nitrous oxide are exceedingly more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Livestock are also behind almost two-thirds of all human-induced ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acidification of ecosystems.

15 Governments try to regulate fishing gear, catch size, species, and fishing season, but usually without success. Perhaps the biggest single threat to global fish stocks is illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing, which, it is estimated, amounts to about a quarter of the world’s catch. In some locations, IUU fishing has been documented to amount to four times the legal catch. Efforts to combat piracy are fraught with obstacles, not the least being feverish world demand for fish. For pirates, the return on investment is well worth the risks of side-stepping fishing conventions, skirting surveillance, off-loading fish to other boats that “launder” the catch, and docking at complicit ports. Because when pirates are actually caught, the penalties tend to be inordinately light.

16 Egg-laying hens in the U.S. are crammed into battery cages, each with 4 to 8 other birds, stacked in rows by the tens of thousands. Manure and rotting-carcass fumes billow up from below. Beetles form a layer over the waste. Some birds get loose and drown in the pit. Others get tangled in the wire and die of dehydration, then decompose, covered in bugs, while cage mates have no escape. Intense stress sets birds to attack one another. After 17 months of confinement, necks are covered with blisters, wings bare, combs bloody, and feet torn. By now, the birds are considered an expense and will be disposed of, expediently.

17 Early in 2007, Consumer Reports tested 525 supermarket chickens from all across the U.S. and found only 17 percent free of both salmonella and campylobacter. Premium brands labeled “organic” or “raised free of antibiotics” actually harbored more salmonella than conventional ones. Most of the bacteria were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic, making food poisoning from eating poultry that much harder to treat. Some samples showed resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics.

18 Two major studies have emerged recently that show the vegan lifestyle to be conducive to lower body weight. A Swedish study of 55,000 women and a British study of 65,000 men and women both found vegans to have lower BMIs (body mass index) and to suffer less often from obesity. Vegan food tends to be lower in calories by volume. And since plant-based fare is likely to contain abundant fiber, it satiates quicker.

19 Half of every butchered cow and a third of every butchered pig becomes either byproduct material or waste. And “mortalities” are integral to every feedlot and stockyard. What’s an industry to do with all this death and gore? Call the renderer straightaway! Recycling, they call it. Lips are exported to Mexico for taco filling; horns are made into gelatin; other parts are fashioned into drugs, aphrodisiacs, and industrial ingredients. Much is dried to a tacky brown powder to be mixed into chicken and pig feed. The rest is minced, pulverized, and boiled down for cosmetics and household products. Essentially, assume slaughterhouse byproduct is all around you.

20 Of all the animals in America who suffer cruelty, 95 percent of them are farmed animals. Designated as economic units, they have conveniently been stripped of all protections against abuse. At the federal level, the Animal Welfare Act simply does not apply to farmed animals. At the state level, where laws might pick up the slack, anti-cruelty statutes are either not enforced or have, in recent years, been re-written to exclude farmed animals. In the case of the latter, if a farming practice is established as “accepted,” “common,” “customary,” or “normal”--no matter how inhumane--anti-cruelty protections are overridden. In essence, it’s the criminals dictating the laws to suit their designs.

21 In the mid-1970s, chicken processors argued that in order to keep up with skyrocketing demand they should be allowed to merely rinse off fecal matter from bird carcasses rather than cut away affected parts. The government gave in to the processors’ request, and the rule stands to this day. A number of studies have since proved that rinsing carcasses, even up to 40 times, is ineffective at dislodging the filth. It’s something to know since the violent motion of factory defeathering rubber fingers not only works to squirt feces out from the carcasses, it can push filth deep into the crevices of the birds’ skin.

22 Several of the world’s mightiest rivers no longer reach the sea, and aquifer levels around the world are dropping by dozens, and even hundreds, of feet. Largely responsible is the fivefold increase in worldwide (water-guzzling) meat production that’s taken place over the last half-century, and the trend is not over. Producing a pound of animal protein requires about 100 times the water to produce a pound of vegetable protein. It takes about 1,300 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger. Seventy percent of the water that is pulled from the world’s rivers, lakes, and underground wells goes to agriculture, and 43 percent of the world’s grain goes to feed animals for meat.

23 Feedlot meat is a product of the oil age. When cheap oil is gone, cheap meat will be history. A pound of beef takes three-quarters of a gallon of oil to produce, according to National Geographic. A 1,250-pound steer essentially embodies 283 gallons of oil. Thirty-five calories of fossil fuel are needed to produce a single calorie of beef protein. By comparison, only two calories of fossil fuel are required to produce one calorie of tofu.

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24 Today’s confined cattle live in their own excrement, which is the carrier of the deadly E. coli strain O157:H7. Caked-on manure will migrate to edible portions during dehiding, thanks to line speeds of 390 animals per hour and laborers who are not always properly skilled. Ground beef today is made up of mixtures of hundreds or even thousands of animals. The grinding process brings surface pathogens to patty interiors that may, down the line, not be cooked adequately. A univer-sity study found that O157:H7 may also be harbored in the interior of a solid piece of meat.

25 Wild salmon stocks in 20 Norwegian rivers have in recent years been wiped out by a parasite that first took hold in local aquaculture feedlots. Scotland’s river managers warned early in 2007 that one careless angler spreading the parasite could decimate Scotland’s wild salmon stocks as well. Pharmaceuticals and pesticides are typically added to all aquaculture pens to forestall disease and infection, sometimes doing neither and inadvertently causing environmental havoc.

26 Birds are cheap and cages are expensive, so battery hens live out their dreary days in space just about the size of their own bodies. No hen gets to run, build a nest, enjoy a cleansing dust bath, protect a chick, forage in the sun, perch, fly, or even lift a wing. Instead, this creature will crouch and suffer and fend off the feather pulling of cage mates. And every egg that is laid will roll away down the slope of a wire floor, which will also cripple her legs and feet.

27 The senseless waste of the world’s growing meat-centered diet is illustrated by a hypothetical statement put forth by the Population Reference Bureau: “If everyone adopted a vegetarian diet and no food were wasted, current [food] production would theoretically feed 10 billion people [49 percent more people than alive today], more than the projected population for the year 2050.”

28 By some assessments, the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which originated in Asia and is now spreading across Europe and Africa, has the potential to disrupt life on planet Earth second only to global nuclear war. Others predict that if the strain mutates, perhaps just slightly, a bird-flu pandemic could kill more than 140 million people and put a halt to [U.S.]$4.4 trillion in world economic activity. Influenza pandemics generally come three times per century, and we’re overdue for our next. Any strain of influenza that humans contract, including H5N1, would scarcely exist if people had never domesticated poultry.

29 Every spring, neighbors of chicken feedlots in North Carolina desperately complain about the stench. It is then that ammonia-laden fumes from adjacent manure lagoons begin to permeate everything porous that they own: clothes, rugs, drapes, and hair--haunting them for weeks. But unlike the state’s infamous pork industry of 10 million hogs, poultry growing is virtually exempt from environmental regulation. For North Carolina’s 165 million tightly confined birds, there are no rules, because their waste is considered less noxious. But over a year’s time, the droppings and mortalities accumulate in pits below to about a foot deep and, to some, smell even worse than lagoons of pig excrement. Nearby wells become tainted from runoff, but it’s nearly impossible to trace this kind of pollution back to the polluter.

30 A male calf born to a dairy cow: what’s a farmer to do with this by-product of the milk industry? If he is not kept for breeding stock or immediately slaughtered or factory-produced for meat, the calf will be raised for fancy veal. To this end, he will be locked up in a stall and chained by his neck to prevent him from turning around for 16-weeks until slaughter. He’ll be fed a special diet without iron or roughage. He’ll be injected with antibiotics and hormones to keep him alive and to make him grow. And he’ll be kept in darkness except for feeding time. The result: a nearly full-grown animal with flesh as tender and white as a newborn’s.

31 The world’s exploding human population, combined with its sagging ability to feed itself, appear to be on a collision course. The Green Revolution, which facilitated much of the recent growth, has clearly stalled out. Indeed, cereal availability per capita has been declining since 1984, and the “promise” of biotech is far from certain or free of risk. Today, 70 percent of grain in the U.S. and 43 percent of grain worldwide lavishly go to feed livestock. And just as the world clamors for more grain to feed to animals, so people can eat them, per-capita world cropland declined by 20 percent in the 1990s alone. The World Health Organization says 800 million people in the world live with chronic hunger. More meat production is definitely not the answer.

32 A USDA inspector, part of an ABC Primetime investigation, clandestinely filmed a plant that processes a million pounds of chicken for schools each year. The investigator found carcasses laden with yellow sores and fecal matter and machines caked with harmful residues. The plant had repeatedly failed salmonella tests. Some of the cheapest, most unsanitary meat tends to be sold to schools.

33 Bestiality is integral to pork, turkey, and dairy operations. Numerous Web sites instruct in the craft of artificial insemination. Sample excerpts follow: As he sniffs around, put on disposable gloves. If he has mounted the stool, he will begin thrusting movements. With a gloved hand, rub his sheath. Now reach for the cup. The penis will erect and start to enter your clenched hand. Continue to hold the penis until the boar withdraws. The end of ejaculation is determined by a bouncing of the penis. With the sow, a stockperson must mimic some of the stimulation normally provided by a boar, that is, back pressure and flank and udder rubbing. When the lips of the vulva are gently parted, insert the catheter.

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34 The late parent advisor Dr. Benjamin Spock maintained that cows’ milk “causes internal blood loss, allergies, and indigestion and contributes to some cases of childhood diabetes.” In the last edition of his famous baby book he recommended, essentially, that children adhere to a vegan diet after the age of two. But he did not recommend dairy milk for babies either. According to renowned nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell, “Cows’-milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed.”

35 University research asserts that the feeding of approximately 10 million tons of poultry litter to U.S. cattle and other livestock every year is safe. But the mere presence of wasted feed in the mix, which otherwise includes excreta, carcass parts, bedding, and feathers, could include the stray remains of cattle. This would seem to violate the 1997 USDA rule that no cow is to eat the flesh of other cows, instituted to thwart the spread of mad cow disease. Also, poultry litter needs to be properly composted to neutralize microbial toxins--in practice not always done. Furthermore, livestock, so fed, need sufficient time to flush out veterinary medications that might have tainted the litter. Finally, feeding poultry litter to livestock provides one more vector for the spread of bird flu.

36 Beef cattle are best suited to moist climates, such as those in Europe where their ancestors evolved. But ranchers in America’s West continue the destructive tradition of herding their animals on the nation’s most arid land. Grazing destroys ecologically regenerative riparian zones. According to a recent U.N. report, “the livestock sector may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity…as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas, and facilitation of invasions by alien species.”

37 Adopting a high-protein fad diet may help you lose weight in the short run, but so might chemotherapy, food poisoning, or serious illness. If health is what you desire, you’re eventually going to have to learn how to eat. Resoundingly, the American Heart Association and other major health organizations warn people against the Atkins and other low-carb diets, because they can cause fatigue or dizziness and strain the kidneys. Often unbeknownst to the dieter, these diets induce dehydration. Also, upping fat and lowering carbohydrate intake has been found to impair brain function over time.

38 Genetics through single-trait selection has become as important a component of today’s intensive farming as drugs and confinement hardware. The animals themselves, right down to their DNA, must stand up to the rigors of the industrial process, both in life and in carcass form. They must produce at breakneck speeds and do so on as little feed as possible. And ultimately, the particular output they unwillingly give forth must please our final end user, the consumer, in texture, taste, uniformity, convenience, and price. Mutant genes that would never survive in the wild are cultivated to monstrous ends.

39 Officially, Wildlife Services, a program of the USDA, prevents “damage to agriculture.” Never mind that agriculture is hugely damaging to wildlife, this multi-million-dollar perq for cattle ranchers exists primarily to exterminate species thought to spread disease and to eradicate predators. Non-target wildlife is often caught in the cross-hairs. Wildlife Services agents shoot, poison, gas, electrocute, and lethally trap millions of mammals and birds on public land where only 3.8 percent of the nation’s beef is even derived. The methods are often cruel and excessive and even ineffective. The program has decimated populations of grizzly bears, mountain lions, moose, elk, buffalos, and coyotes. Recently, an intriguing global study actually found that predators inflict negligible damage to ranching operations.

40 Many Americans are not getting enough magnesium. Deficiencies can cause irritability, seizures, delirium, depression, abnormal heart rhythms, spasms of the coronary arteries, anemia, blood clots, abnormal blood pressure, and even death. Where do you get this vital nutrient?--whole grains, fruits, dark-green leafy vegetables, nuts, and, best, raw cacao.

41 Results from two major studies involving tens of thousands of subjects--one in the UK (University of Leads, 2007), the other in the U.S. (Nurses’ Health Study, 2006)--suggest that the more red meat a woman eats the more she is at risk for breast cancer, regardless of her age. Suspected culprits include saturated fat, growth hormones fed to cattle, heme iron (only in red meat), and heterocyclic amines (carcinogens produced during the cooking process).

42 When faced with a flock of spent hens, an egg farmer may choose to induce production again by way of a forced molt--accomplished with starvation and water deprivation for periods of up to two weeks. No U.S. law prevents this heinous practice. Some major U.S. producers have phased it out but then need to bring twice the number of hens into production for the same number of eggs.

43 Fish make vibratory sounds with various “calls” that researchers have identified as communicating alarm and aggravation. They possess fully formed nervous systems as well as complex social behaviors. They are also capable of learning complicated tasks. British researchers discovered in 2003 that fish have the cerebral mechanisms to feel pain. As one animal activist once put it, “Fish are not merely vegetables that can swim.”

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44 In America today, only four companies slaughter 59 percent of all the hogs, only four companies slaughter over 83 percent of all the cattle, and only two companies slaughter nearly 60 percent of all the chickens. At the farm level, the trend over recent decades has been for many fewer operations to produce many more animals. In 1967, for example, there were over a million hog farms. By 1998, the number fell to 114,000. The trend has funneled many of America’s farmers into contract, or franchise-like, arrangements that strictly take choices about herd densities, feed, and veterinary care away from them. The changes have ushered in a polluted landscape, a host of new pathogens, and a hell on Earth for the animals.

45 The 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham challenged the world about animals with his famous quandary: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”. Curiously, science is every day discovering that in fact animals do all three: reason, communicate, and suffer. The differences between animals and humans are being blurred with every revelation. Man’s closest relatives share over 98 percent of our DNA, and all animals, including man, are related by a common ancestor. Today’s question must now be, can we humans use our known capacity for logic, communication, and empathy to take animals off our plates?

46 Arsenic has been a common additive in factory chicken feed for nearly 50 years. It is used to kill parasites, reduce stress, and promote growth in the birds. The practice has long been deemed safe. Recently, however, scientists have found that the substance turns carcinogenic rather quickly after application. Arsenic-imbued manure becomes toxic to the environment when spread as fertilizer. The risk for those who ingest the meat of treated birds is, in fact, worse than once thought, particularly since exposure to arsenic is cumulative and people are eating three times the chicken they once did in the 1960s.

47 If you like the idea of being welcome at the places where your food is produced, don’t count on your not-so-local poultry grower allowing you, the consumer, to view his massive sheds of monocultured birds any time soon. Without natural immunities that could otherwise be acquired by outdoor life, his flocks need to be protected from the slightest infection. When operators are even slightly lax in applying rigorous measures of “biosecurity,” a case of the sniffles in one bird can escalate to a mass outbreak, forcing a giant cull involving millions of birds.

48 Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, slaughtered 27 million pigs in 2005. Pound for pound this number represents, in equivalent human weight, the combined population of the 32 largest U.S. cities yet only 26 percent of all the pigs that are slaughtered in the country as a whole. North Carolina’s pigs alone emit the waste-equivalent of 40 million people, and essentially none of it is treated.

49 A study of 49 island countries found 55 percent of their coral reefs overfished. To sustainably harvest the million metric tons of fish taken annually from the islands, 30,000 square miles more of reef--or the equivalent of nearly four Great Barrier Reefs--would be needed. Demand for reef fish is largely coming from Hong Kong traders, who are now supplying a burgeoning market in Mainland China. Reef fish take 5 to 10 years to reach breeding age and so are particularly vulnerable. Fishers capture the fish, live, using cyanide, destroying coral in the process; 75 percent of the fish die even before getting to their market destinations.

50 According to one study, when diabetics eat copious amounts of fiber they are able to control their blood-sugar levels significantly. Fiber, which is found only in plants, helps people to lose weight because of its ability to satiate. According to a European study of 400,000 people, a high-fiber diet can slash the risk for deadly cancers by up to 40 percent.

51 About a decade ago the government began imposing manure-handling controls on the nation’s confined animal feeding operations. The rules, which now regulate only 40 percent of the nation’s largest feedlots, have not only been laughably overdue in their implementation but have amounted to nothing more than permits to pollute as usual. And the vast majority of the nation’s mostly moderate-sized livestock operations are simply urged to follow recommended guidelines voluntarily. In 2004, the EPA granted a sweetheart deal to 130 companies representing thousands of mega-feedlots when it allowed them amnesty from the Clean Air Act in exchange for scientific monitoring. Other facilities across the country are now in line for exemptions from Superfund lawsuits.

52 Animal agriculture routinely mutilates farmed animals for its own convenience and often simply out of habit. Debeaking, branding, castration, ear notching, wing and comb removal, dehorning, teeth clipping, and tail and toe docking are ever-present tasks on today’s farm and ranch. Laborers, not veterinarians, perform the surgeries, employing restraint, not anesthesia.

53 Male chicks are a bothersome expense to the egg producer. Sexers must be hired to pick them out for diversion to expedient deaths. No law protects them as they are dumped in trash bins to die by crushing, suffocation, starvation, and exposure.

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54 Fish and shellfish farming, or aquaculture, is no less disruptive to the environment than taking fish from the wild. Shoreline pens replace mangroves, that is, the habitats where wild fish would otherwise reproduce. Some farmed species will not breed in captivity, so fish farmers must steal juveniles, who never get a chance to reproduce, from the wild. There are numerous cases where farmed fish have escaped into the wild, corrupting the genetic purity of native species and spreading disease. Indiscriminate biomass fishing for fishmeal threatens ecosystems. Feed-to-flesh ratios soar in some farmed species to 25 to 1. Nitrogenous waste poisons the seabed floor below cages that hold fish in unnatural densities.

55 Between 1980 and 2004, meat production in the developing world tripled, today amounting to well over half of the world’s output. Dense concentrations of corralled industrial livestock, which create vast quantities of manure, now skirt the edges of major cities in Asia and Latin America, causing severe environmental damages.

56 People who eat a lot of fish are increasingly falling victim to the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning. Women, in particular, are putting their babies at risk for irreparable brain damage when they eat seafood high in mercury while pregnant and even beforehand. According to the EPA, about 630,000 newborns in the United States every year--roughly 15 percent of all--may be exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in the womb.

57 Hoof-and-mouth disease is rarely fatal for livestock, but it remains a death sentence just the same. When blisters form on hooves and lips, and growth slows because of fever, economics prescribe execution and incineration. In 2001, Great Britain responded to an outbreak by destroying nearly 6 million mostly healthy cattle, sheep, and pigs at a cost of [U.S.]$9 billion to save its export trade. There were actually only 2,030 known cases of the disease. The rest were exterminated to provide buffers to contain the outbreak.

58 Several years ago, a New York Times story featured an Ohio schoolteacher who discovered that a “swirling poison” invaded his home from a nearby hog farm and “robbed him of his memory, his balance, and his ability to work. It left him with mood swings, a stutter, and fistfuls of pills.” His diagnosis: irreversible brain injuries from hydrogen sulfide gas. But the source of the H2S was half a mile away. Only after visits to 14 doctors was the cause of his symptoms determined. Surprisingly low levels of the gas will eat the brain over time. Neighbors of industrial hog farms will also experience diarrhea, nosebleeds, earaches, lung burns, chronic sinusitis, asthma, and corroded lungs.

59 Genetic manipulation has created monsters as well as monstrous suffering for farmed animals. Cloning threatens to jack up the misery yet another notch. Its general use is probably a ways off, provided it becomes commercially viable at all. Meanwhile, as the scientists tinker, their cloned creations will suffer from premature deaths and deformities, and the resultant meat and milk are sure to enter the human food supply.

60 Before 1981, E. coli O157:H7 poisoning didn’t exist. Today, the deadly strain infects 80 percent of cattle on America’s feedlots. You can blame a change in feed for this. To make the animals grow five times the rate they would on hay, feedlot operators foisted a corn-based diet onto their charges and provided the perfect environment for O157:H7 to emerge. And now this terrible strain is regularly poisoning our raw veggies via cross contamination.

61 From the animal-feed breadbasket and feedlots of the nation’s Midwest, massive amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, and manure-runoff travel down the Mississippi River. This high-nutrient mix causes an eco-chain reaction that ends with microscopic organisms robbing oxygen from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Marine life must relocate or suffocate. The phenomenon is known as hypoxia. Scientists have dubbed affected areas “dead zones.” Each summer the Gulf’s dead zone grows to an area the size of New Jersey. A recent U.N. report showed a 34 percent jump over 2 years in the number of dead zones--now 200 worldwide. Today, red tides (harmful algae blooms) line some coastlines of entire nations nearly without break. Soon, the hot real-estate properties around the world will be away from the waterfronts.

62 In what is still the most comprehensive study of diet and life-style ever made, the China Study found that the consumption of relatively small amounts of animal protein is linked to chronic disease. The findings from this grand epidemiological study are especially compelling because they allowed meaningful comparisons between populations with similar genetic backgrounds, yet with nonhomogeneous diets. All together, the China Study provides the ultimate vegetarian vindication.

63 Fifty-two billion pounds of inedible byproduct (bones, fats, unusable hides, and cartilage) from America’s meat and poultry slaughterhouses is each year transmogrified by “renderers” into saleable adhesives, lubricants, chemicals, cosmetics, and processed food ingredients--a grisly but profitable side business of the flesh trade. This amount, however, does not include the 6 billion pounds of dead stock that accumulate on U.S. feedlots. It must also be dealt with. Unfortunately, only half of it is rendered and therefore processed safely. If buried, dead stock attracts vermin, leaches nitrogen and methane into the environment, and poisons the groundwater. If burned--usually the case when mortalities are catastrophic due to weather events or disease outbreaks--pyres will poison the air with dioxin. If composted, the process is often poorly managed, failing to adequately promote full decomposition and allowing vermin to carry disease off site.

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64 Want the omega-3s in fish but would rather skip the mercury, PCBs, and dioxins? Well, push aside that fish altogether, and rediscover flax. Two tablespoons of ground flax daily give you all of the essential fatty acid you need with several bonuses: Flax seeds contain iron, zinc, and high-quality protein, plus almost all of the vitamins. They’re loaded with soluble fiber and are the best source anywhere of phytonutrient lignans. They ease symptoms of diabetes and even promote healthy brain growth in utero and in infancy.

65 The state of Oregon has taken warnings about bird flu to heart, devising elaborate plans to deal with a “most likely scenario” pandemic. The state, which represents less than 1.3 percent of the U.S. population, has anticipated how tanker trucks hauling 38,000 pounds of liquid carbon dioxide can be obtained to kill as many as a million infected chickens and where an estimated 2,000 tons of chicken carcasses can be buried. The state is also ready for as many as 800,000 human illnesses, 9,700 hospitalizations, and 2,300 deaths.

66 The meat industry doesn’t treat the causes of its problems, only the symptoms. When it imprisons massive numbers of animals in cramped stress-inducing cages, it provides the perfect breeding ground for deadly bacteria, which later infect the meat. Technologies to kill meat pathogens are now very big business. We have acidic-solution carcass misting, alkaline-solution sprays, steam/vacuum technology, high-temperature carcass washes, steam pasteurization, and chlorine applications, etc., ad nauseam. Some bug-fighting methods, such as food irradiation and sprays of antidotal viruses and probiotic bacteria, pose risks in themselves. And in the end, the meat still isn’t safe.

67 Most of America’s cows are not “Happy Cows,” in spite of what the California Milk Advisory Board might say in its nationally televised commercials. Many cows in the Western state spend their lives negotiating bogs of their own feces and urine. Elsewhere, they may be tethered at stanchions. All are inseminated annually to keep them lactating, and many regularly suffer painful udder infections. Thanks to calcium depletion and foot infections, slaughter occurs after only three or four lactation periods. The CMAB is a government agency and so is not subject to false-advertising laws.

68 To choose industrial meat is to support a system that has long ago put family farmers out of business. Essentially, it is only the big players--those who bought into factory systems--who are feeding America. We do have lower prices at the retail level. But ultimately, what is the real cost of cheap meat? You need to factor in the $20 billion per year in government subsidies to commodity farmers, higher medical costs attributable to excessive diets, antibiotic resistance in common bacterial strains, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the inordinate need for oil for petrochemical fertilizers, and dwindling aquifers--the list goes on.

69 In 2005, a $7.1 billion plan to prepare the U.S. for a bird-flu pandemic was instituted by the Bush administration. It included very little to help poor countries slow the spread of the H5N1 strain already on the march. Pharmaceutical companies would get most of the largesse in order to stockpile and develop speedier methods to develop appropriate vaccines for American citizens. In addition, President Bush proposed that he be given the power to impose essentially martial law on the land in the event that a pandemic actually came about. The number of countries with bird flu increased from 14 to 55 in 2006.

70 The number of foodborne outbreaks involving produce more than doubled between 1999 and 2004. But before you blame the veggies, it’s important to know that the contaminating pathogens are invariably those that hitch a ride on fecal matter. And we know plants don’t defecate. So what’s the story? It all gets down to one simple fact: Feedlot operators cannot afford to properly treat all the waste that their mammoth-size facilities generate, so they often divert the muck to the nearest waterway. Down stream, produce processors use the water as a rinse.

71 Today’s turkeys are unable to copulate on their own, thanks to selectively bred, freakishly huge breasts in the “toms.” The industry must use artificial insemination. The job is nearly as dehumanizing for the workers--who must work rapidly for long hours and low wages--as it is deplorable for the tortured breeder birds, who are essentially raped every week for 12 to 16 months until they are sent to slaughter.

72 In most large commercial chicken slaughter plants the inverted heads of doomed birds are first plunged into an electrified brine bath. The current is set at a voltage just high enough to immobilize the birds and to promote bleedout without hemorrhage. It serves to minimize inconvenient flailing that would otherwise interfere with the slaughter process. The birds are not only sentient during slaughter but must also suffer the excruciating shock, sometimes twice.

73 Grass-fed beef is more eco-friendly than corn-fed, but supplies of it could never sustainably meet current consumer demand. Several guides are available to help seafood consumers “eat with a conscience.” But the species that are recommended would quickly run out if everyone ate them. Legally, “free-range” and “cage-free” designations are dubious to outright meaningless. At least one humane certification program was officially debunked. “Organic” has gone strangely industrial and is rightly tagged “ethically challenged.” Ultimately, to “eat green” and to “be kind,” one needs to go vegan.

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74 New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and its Department of Health have posted an Internet factsheet called “Eating Sport Fish.” The advice speaks for itself: No one should eat more than one meal of fish per week from any of the state’s fresh waters; chemical contaminants may be a problem; trim all fat; don’t consume cooking liquids. On the other hand, if you still want to enjoy the “fun” of sport fishing but don’t want to poison yourself, the factsheet recommends catch and release. But don’t tear out the hook--cut its leader, goes the advice. Also, avoid playing fish to exhaustion. Other states could post similar Web pages: nearly every state in the union has a mercury-in-rivers advisory.

75 Okinawa has the healthiest and longest-lived people in the world, boasting the highest percentage of people who live to be a hundred years old. The super-seniors who inhabit the island tend to retain their mental keenness, and few need to live in nursing homes. Not surprisingly, they eat very little food of animal origin, according to a 25-year study on the island. Genes could take some of the credit, although today’s old folks are projected to outlive their children who have adopted Western eating habits.

76 As markets for animal-based foods become more global, “carnivore conflicts” increasingly threaten international peace. Live cattle from Canada are still banned from the U.S., ever since a “mad cow” of Canadian origin was discovered in Washington state. In 2001, hoof-and-mouth disease instantly resulted in countries all over the world severing trade with the entire EU, although the disease was mostly confined to England. Meanwhile, trade wars simmer between the U.S. and the EU over hormones in beef. Worldwide, varying sanitary standards in meat production also leave nations at odds. No two “true democracies” have ever gone to war, some academics argue, that is, if you don’t count violence over fisheries.

77 The population explosion should not be thought of exclusively in terms of people--not when one considers the ecological footprint represented by the world’s 3.2 billion cattle, sheep, goats, and domesticated bison across the globe. About 20 percent of the world’s pastures and rangelands, with 73 percent of rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing, compaction, and erosion caused by livestock.

78 It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of U.S. dairy cows are infected with mastitis at any one time. The painful udder infection is considered a man-made affliction. Cows get it by improper care, poor milking procedures, overmilking, and malfunctioning milking machines. The genetically engineered growth hormone Bovine Somatotropin (bST), which is widely used to boost milk yields, is plainly linked to mastitis.

79 Veggies can lower the risk for teenagers developing high blood pressure later in life, regardless of body weight and salt intake, according to a recent university study. Researchers cite potassium, calcium, magnesium, folate, and other nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables as the reason. Hypertension increases the risk for heart attack and stroke and afflicts 25 percent of U.S. adults.

80 In the early twentieth century man learned how to extract nitrogen (fertilizer) from the air, cheaply and in large quantities. The discovery ultimately allowed 2 billion more people to inhabit the Earth and has given humans the luxury of feeding crops to livestock. Yet what gives the world abundance has, by way of nutrient runoff and acid rain, poisoned waterways from the Chinese countryside to the Ohio Valley. (Excess nitrogen promotes algae growth, robbing the water of oxygen.) In North America and Europe, lakes and rivers contain 20 times the nitrogen they did before the Industrial Revolution.

81 Every minute of every day, across the globe, 100,000 animals are slaughtered to feed the human lust for meat. This adds up to 50 billion sentient beings a year, not counting fish. Anywhere you go, creatures destined for the dinner plate endure cruel living conditions. “We’re eating them anyway,” goes the strange logic.

82 When meat, fish, or poultry is barbecued, dripped fat over the open flame sends up plumes of carcinogenic smoke, coating the food. Other unhealthful chemicals are created just by extended cooking times. Chemists are telling meat eaters today to keep those grill times down. Even environmentalists are saying that restaurant grilling is an important source of soot and smog. But you still need to cook your meat thoroughly: How else are you going to kill all of those nasty bacteria?

83 Forests cleanse the environment, regulate climate, and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators of crops. Modern medicines derive from forests. Our very survival on planet Earth depends upon them. According to a 390-page U.N. report in 2006, the expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation. Today, nearly all is taking place in the Amazon, thanks to grazing and the production of feedcrops. Worldwide, livestock production uses 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet.

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84 In America, essentially all farmed animals will be trucked around at least once in their lives. Filthy, crowded, cramped, noisy, and terrifying conditions over extended periods are the norm. Truckers may legally deny the animals food and water for up to 36 hours. And such “protections” do not apply to poultry. Many animals are traded internationally. About 4 million live sheep are transported from Australia to the Middle East every year where Islamic law dictates throats be slit without stunning. In one recent year, a ship full of 58,000 sheep was rejected because of widespread infection. Before finding an import destination, nearly a tenth died.

85 Clog up your arteries on a diet loaded with saturated animal fat and cholesterol year after year and you risk having a heart attack or stroke. You can opt to avert these afflictions with an expensive, though now-routine, operation known as angioplasty. Performed with a balloon-tipped catheter, it works to flatten plaque against artery walls, thus opening up passageways for blood to flow. A whole-foods vegan diet, along with regular exercise, can have the same effect.

86 More than half of the nation’s seafood companies do not follow federal food-safety guidelines. Government inspectors visit processors only once a year to oversee essentially voluntary measures and to view company paperwork. Three-quarters of all fish consumed in the U.S. is imported, representing 4 billion pounds, but less than two percent of it is government inspected.

87 U.N. Environment Programme executive director Klaus Toepfer said in 2003: “The clock is standing at one minute to midnight for the great apes, animals that share more than 96 percent of their DNA with humans. If we lose any great ape species we will be destroying a bridge to our own origins, and with it part of our own humanity.” Humans stand behind all reasons for the die-off, including one of the most important: poaching for meat.

88 Just as smokestack emissions result in acid rain, toxic fumes from decomposing livestock waste in open-air lagoons on factory farms become poisonous to fish when returned to waterways via rainfall. The errant ammonia also ravages terrestrial ecosystems. Since Earth’s plant species evolved to efficiently use scarce amounts of nutrients, today’s gluts will generally kill them. Fallout can degrade environments as far away as 300 miles.

89 Handling livestock these days is risky business, not the least because humans are increasingly contracting diseases from the animals: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Nipah virus, bird flu, and SARS are a few examples. “Exotic,” and often endangered, animal cuisine provides the conduit for a global pandemic. In China, wet markets display caged and invariably sickly creatures, such as cobras, civet cats, and anteaters, for consumers who want that “taste of the wild.” In Africa, the bushmeat trade is blamed for the spread of Ebola and AIDS.

90 Even if meat eaters are spared the big killers that their lifestyle is associated with (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer), their diet may still be robbing them of everyday good health. A meat diet is sure to lead to nagging conditions and ailments. A whole-foods, high-fiber vegan diet, full of grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, is just the ticket to reduce arthritis pain, ease irritable-bowel disorders, mitigate common back pain, relieve cold and allergy symptoms, and lower risk for gallstones, kidney stones, and heartburn. But perhaps best of all, the vegan life is one free of constipation!

91 When food-safety inspectors in New York City make the rounds, they often come upon merchants selling just about anything: the meat of armadillos, iquanas, primates, turtles, frogs, and even rats. Some of the meat comes from endangered animals. Other cuts, if not intrinsically illegal, fail to derive from licensed inspected facilities and so put consumers at risk. The sellers of such contraband (most is imported) tend to be ignorant of U.S. laws, sometimes conveniently so. They don’t seem to comprehend the dangers to which they expose their customers and even the city as they raise the risk of outbreak. Over one recent 21-month period, a single inspector shuttered 138 city stores.

92 It is estimated that 30 percent of the world’s fish catch is non-target species, or “bycatch.” Fishers--typically in the cruelest most expedient ways--separate out the discards, only to dump them overboard, dead and mutilated. Bycatch from driftnetting is estimated at 85 percent of catch; despite a U.N. moratorium, Italy, France, and Morocco continue the hugely destructive practice. Shrimp fishing alone is responsible for over 27 percent of the world’s bycatch, despite producing less than 2 percent of global seafood.

93 In nature, pigs avoid filth and will trek and root over 9 miles during a 24-hour period. Yet factory internment brings a breeding sow cold, strawless floors, noxious filth, deafening noise, and immobilizing space barely larger than her own body. This highly intelligent creature will be driven insane as she endures repeated pregnancies via artificial insemination. Her body will be pinned in place to expose her teats to her piglets. When her productive capacity wanes, she will be sent to slaughter.

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94 There are hundreds of chemicals and animal drugs used on today’s feedlots. These vaccines, parasiticides, hormones, insecticides, feed medications, and antimicrobials are making their way into our creeks, rivers, and lakes via the feces and urine excreted by the animals. The substances act as endocrine disrupters in wild species down stream. One study showed female fish acquiring male traits and male fish acquiring female traits. Other studies have similarly found disturbing anomalies.

95 Less than 1 percent of the Earth’s water is usable for human consumption. Most either comprises the salty seas or is locked up in glacial icecaps. You might think that the world would be judicious in how it uses this precious substance. On the contrary: Just one of many examples of worldwide profligate waste is that of the great Ogallala Aquifer, which sits atop America’s High Plains states. Farmers mine this titanic water source of 5 trillion gallons per year to power an infrastructure of feedlots and industrial slaughterhouses. Scientists say this natural wonder will be diminished by 80 percent in 2020.

96 A 25-percent decline in heart disease in Poland in the early 1990s coincided with the country’s transformation to a market economy, which ended government subsidies to meat. A switch primarily to vegetable fats and the increased importation of fruit were also seen as factors in the decline, according to a report made by a team of multinational researchers. The authors of the report noted that the decline was “apparently without precedent in peacetime.”

97 To produce foie gras, male ducks are force-fed a stomach-gorging cup of corn pellets three times a day with a 15-inch feeder tube. This torturous process goes on for 28 days until the ducks’ livers, from which the pâté is made, miasmatically bloat to 10 times normal size. Mortalities are high due to the disease, intense stress, and burst stomachs. For days prior to slaughter, each bird will pant for air. So cruel are these practices that foie gras production is now outlawed in at least a dozen countries.

98 Every year, 24,000 fishers die on the job, making fishing the most dangerous occupation in the world, according to the FAO/UN. Meatpacking has the highest serious injury rate by far of any occupation. Repetitive stress disorders and knife cuts are rampant in meat plants. Poultry processing workers earn wages that are, for a family of four, below the poverty level. Full-time contract poultry growers clear incomes of only $21,000 annually.

99 Agriculture science inexhaustibly works to eke out every last bit of commodity wealth from farmed animals via genetic selection. Wild jungle fowl lay 2 dozen eggs per year; today’s maligned descendants lay an egg nearly every day. Sows in nature give birth to 5 piglets; today’s factory-raised litters yield 12 young. A hundred years ago a steer took 4 to 5 years to grow to market weight; today the process takes only 14 months. Just 50 years ago cows gave 645 gallons of milk per year; on dairies today, cows give over three times this amount.

100 Eating vegetables keeps the brain young, a chorus of research shows. One recent 6-year study in Chicago tested 2,000 seniors, their mental acumen paired off with vegetable intake. Subjects who ate more than two servings of vegetables per day appeared about five years younger by certain indicators than those who ate few or no vegetables. Green leafies (spinach, kale, and collards) appeared most beneficial.

101 When you fork over that $1.89 for those 7 ounces of Brown ’N Serve Sausage Links, it’s really quite a bargain, or so you might think. But such purchases--collectively trillions of them across the globe--accumulate a steep ecological deficit. In time, the debt will come due. Future generations will be the ones remitting its payments, in installments, with global warming, aquifer depletion, topsoil erosion, desertification, collapsed fisheries, wildlife extinction, deforestation and lost ecosystem services. Isn’t it time to start eating lower on the food chain? Get Hip. Go Veg!


Copyright 2007 © Pamela Rice.






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