The Viva Vine: vol #6, no #3: May / June 1997
Vegetarian News

See activist Dean Milan inside VivaVegie's veal crate


The Nation

Smithsonian Mag Begs Forgiveness for Vegetarian "Mistake"

In March, when Muse, a Smithsonian-affiliated children's magazine, featured a story on vegetarianism, it was enough to make the cow chips hit the fan and send the institution's officers scurrying for cover. Among the offending elements of the magazine's presentation: the cover line, "Please Don't Eat Me," over a picture of a calf; the headline, "Dead Meat"; and display type reading, "The hamburger on your plate is some dead cow's muscle" (an assertion that, we suspect, even the National Cattlemen's Beef Association would be hard-pressed to deny). The article itself, which explored why some children eschew meat while others continue to eat it, included ten reasons to be a vegetarian and ten to be a nonvegetarian. But the effort at balance did not mollify the guardians of beef interests. A letter to Smithsonian secretary I. Michael Heyman, signed by 15 high-powered lawmakers, including senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, ominously warned that "having the Smithsonian Institution, a federally funded entity, involved with a publication promoting these controversial views, especially for children, is absolutely unacceptable." The Smithsonian quickly offered its most abject apologies. In a letter to Hutchison, Heyman said, "Clearly no magazine that bears the Smithsonian name should attempt to proselytize for a specific cause or viewpoint." For his part, Ronald C. Walker, the publisher of Smithsonian magazine, called the issue "a mistake" and, in a letter to the 230,000-member beef association, proudly identified himself as a Nebraska-bred 4-H Club member. Finally, to ensure that no more heresies slip into the hands of impressionable young reader, the editor of Muse was reassigned, and new procedures for content review were developed. Meanwhile, angry meat eaters were offered one-issue extensions of their subscriptions.


Spinal Cords Show Up in Nation's Meat

A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released in late February, found that meat processed by so-called advanced-recovery systems sometimes contains pieces of bone, bone marrow and spinal cord. The systems, which have largely replaced hand-deboning, can eke out an extra pound or more of meat from a 1,200 pound cow, according to an Associated Press report, a difference that when multiplied by 130,000 cows butchered each day quickly adds up to significant amounts. On the downside, there are those unwanted ingredients. As Linda Golodner, the president of the National Consumers League noted in a Reuters dispatch, "Americans do not expect or want bone, marrow or nerve tissue in the meat they buy for their families." The spinal cords in particular have set off alarm bells, since, after brains, they are the most infectious part of any animal afflicted by mad-cow disease. Thomas J. Billy, the administrator of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that regulations need to be tightened to guarantee that spinal cords are completely removed before carcasses are fed into processors, but he said that the department has no plans to forbid the use of neck and back bones, as Golodner's group had advocated.


Pork Queen Fesses Up to Veggie Diet

Where did her parents go wrong? Abigail Boettcher, a cheerleader, an athlete and the daughter of pig farmers, stunned an assembly of approximately 200 pork producers in March by announcing she was a vegetarian during her farewell speech as the reigning Buena Vista County, Iowa, pork queen. "I was nervous about telling them," Boettcher confessed to Newsweek, "but everybody's been real nice about it." Our advice to the pig-meat apostate: Keep up the good workand watch your back.


McDonald's Declares War on America's Health

One would think a company that feeds 7 percent of the U.S. population on any given day and that has even infiltrated hospitals--40 of them nationwide--would be content with its own astounding (and, where health is concerned, disastrous) success in courting the American consumer. But the Evil Empire of the Golden Arches, which now comprises 12,000 outlets in the United States (and approximately 8,000 more overseas), is hard at work making sure there's a McMurder restaurant no farther than a four-minute walk or drive from every man, woman and child, according to a March 5 story in The New York Times. As part of its nefarious drive for complete domination of the American diet, the company announced that, starting April 26, it would discount its Big Mac sandwich from about $2 to 55 cents. Since the offer is good only for customers who purchase fries and a soda, the company will be encouraging that many more people, especially the poor, to scarf down in one sitting a meal that adds up to 1,290 calories and three quarters of the the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of fat.

As if all that weren't bad enough, WLIB, a commercial New York City station whose listeners are largely African-American and Caribbean, was less than appreciative when Camille Yarborough, a part-time host, criticized the presence of McDonald's, a leading sponsor, in Harlem Hospital. The station quickly fired the troublemaking personality for her candor.


Despite Ad Blitz, Milk Consumption Falls

Remarkably, even as the dairy industry continues to pump millions of dollars into its highly obnoxious and grossly misleading milk-mustache and "Got milk?" campaigns, consumers continue to drift away from the white stuff. In 1996 American milk consumption dropped for the seventh straight year, by 0.29 percent, Business Week reported in April. The decline was part of a 25-year trend in which per capita sales have fallen by 15 percent, to just over 24 gallons. What's behind the drop? Most likely, concern about fat. In the midst of the overall slump, skim-milk sales, one-sixth of the market, were up 5 percent last year.


A Bright Spot in the White House Sleepover Affair

In view of all the bigwigs who seemed to have bought themselves overnight lodgings at the White House in exchange for hefty contributions to the Democratic National Committee during Bill Clinton's first term, it's a small comfort to learn that one of the 938 special guests was none other than Dean Ornish, M.D. The good doctor, whose modest $500 donation contrasts with the $10,449 average, is a renowned advocate for a low-fat vegetarian diet who has demonstrated that patients can reverse heart disease by cutting back or eliminating their consumption of animal products.


catCat Killer Jailed; Cow Killers Walk

Animal lovers everywhere were gratified to see justice served in the strange case of Vicki Hill, a Missouri woman sentenced last March to four months in jail for stabbing to death a cat and five kittens. According to an AP report, prosecutors said the case had "generated more calls and letters than most murder cases." But we had to wonder if this disturbed woman might have evaded prosecution if she'd been savvy enough to label her knife attack a "scientific experiment." Instead of a jail sentence, she might have received government funding, like Victor Wilson at New York City's Rockefeller University, who has spent $3.4 million in taxpayer funds over the past 36 years "paralyzing cats with drugs, collapsing their lungs [and] inserting electrodes into their brains," according to a pamphlet put out by In Defense of Animals. Hill's sentence also left vegetarians wondering how the people who confine and mutilate 9 billion farm animals in the United States each year before killing them have managed to escape the notice of our obviously kind-hearted legislators.


The World

Dean Milan in crate
Dean Milan, as seen sitting in VivaVegie's veal crate at a street fair in Manhattan
Brits Back Extensive Animal-Welfare Agenda

While U.S. hunger strikers have recently been risking their lives in a quixotic bid to gain Bill Clinton's support for a ban on leg-hold traps, Britain's political parties have been espousing policies that activists here can only dream about.

In the vanguard is the Labour Party, which wants to phase out battery cages for hens; outlaw the debeaking of poultry birds; ban animal testing for cosmetics and alcohol and tobacco products; establish a royal commission to review all forms of animal experimentation; and shut down all fur farms. The party has also pledged to work within the European Union to reclassify farm animals as "sentient beings" instead of "agricultural products" and reduce maximum transportation time for animals from 36 hours to eight (the current maximum in Britain). The Tories, though more cautious, have already banned veal crates and have committed themselves to phasing out farrowing crates for sows by 2000.


Saudi Arabia Buys Into Bovine Boondoggle

As wasteful, and arguably dimwitted, as the cattle industry is here in America, one can only marvel at the mentality that conceived of raising cows in a country famous for its punishing heat and lack of water. But an AP wire report in late March described a facility in Saudi Arabia where 23,400 air-conditioned Holsteins are kept in sheds outfitted with U.S.-made misting fans at a steady 79 degrees, even during 115-degree summer days. The cows, who are descendants of American animals flown in at Saudi government expense in the early '80s, supply 30 percent of the Saudi market for fresh dairy products. The Arabian milk factory has the dubious distinction of being the largest in the world.


Taiwanese Mass-Slaughter Sick, Terrified Hogs

Reacting to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in late March, the Taiwanese government ordered the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of hogs at affected farms. According to The Straits Times, a Singapore-based newspaper, television stations showed masked soldiers wearing white plastic suits chasing terrified, squealing pigs, some bleeding from their mouths and feet, with electric cattle prods. Horrified viewers saw the electrocuted pigs, many still alive, being bulldozed into pits. In the words of an official of Taiwan's Council of Agriculture, "Even if there is only one confirmed infection [at a farm], we will have to eliminate all the pigs." The outbreak of the viral disease, which poses no danger to humans but is highly contagious among livestock, including cows, was expected to deal a serious blow to Taiwan's multibillion-dollar pork industry, which provides livelihoods for well over half a million people and, even in the absence of a plague, violent deaths for millions of pigs each year.


Vegetarian News is compiled by Alex Press

Copyright © 1997. The VivaVegie Society. All rights reserved.
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