The Viva Vine: vol #6, no #4: September / October 1997
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by Pamela Rice
Animals as Food: A growing threat to world peaceFirst, start with a set of misguided government policies concerning the production and harvesting of animal foods around the world. Add in countless methods of modern animal-food production efficiency. Fuel it all with a hefty human craving for inexpensive animal protein in every corner of the globe, and
you'll put a lot of needless pressure on world governments straining to get along. Where nations historically have fought over religion, land or energy, you now have any number of international disputes involving animal foods playing themselves out at any one time.
Take the following case. The term "fish war" began to sound all too real when Canadian authorities seized four U.S. fishing vessels in June. The Americans had failed to report their presence and haul in their fishing gear. Then, tensions escalated dramatically in July when a flotilla of Canadian fishing boats, roped together hull to hull, held an Alaskan ferry carrying hundreds of vacationers captive for three days.
This is only one of many carnivore conflicts around the world which vegetarians should be watching. Aside from fish wars, disputes over hormones in beef and carcass-processing methods have also been erupting lately.
As trade in animal foods becomes more global and as nations bump into each other in their unrepressed hunt for wildlife, the trend is for disputes to escalate up to the highest levels of world governments. For instance, in the dispute that caused the seizure of the four U.S. fishing vessels, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright was called in to ease tensions and to aid in the resumption of talks. Even Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and President Clinton briefly took up the matter during the Denver Summit of the Eight at the end of June. Earlier, talks had broken down because the United States and Canada were unable to agree on how to divvy up limited stocks of salmon.
The growing global traffic in animal foods sparks international trade wars
Consequently, no treaty was agreed upon before this year's salmon fishing season, setting off a fishermen's free-for-all on the prized Canadian-controlled sockeye salmon. By mid-July U.S. fishermen had netted three to four times their average annual harvest. In no time, U.S. and Canadian top officials exchanged fighting words. "Alaska fishermen are currently engaging in one of the most aggressive attacks on British Columbia sockeye salmon ever witnessed," declared the premier of British Columbia, Glen Clark, during the ferry capture. The U.S. State Department returned the volley, protesting the refusal of Canadian authorities to stop the blockade, which it said, "harms innocent people who have nothing to do with the salmon fishery." In response to the ferry incident, Alaskan officials threatened to stop all ferry traffic to British Columbia, a move that would have cost the Canadian province millions of dollars in lost revenue. Serious stuff.
Though by mid-July Alaskan fishermen contended that they were only out to catch the far less valuable American pink salmon, Canadian officials accused them of hauling in sockeye swimming to Canadian waters to spawn. As the pinks normally don't arrive until August, the sight of Americans out fishing in July did seem a bit fishy.
What about the salmon? Though pink salmon is plentiful, other types have become dangerously limited all along the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico. In April the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, a quasi-governmental U.S. agency, slapped the toughest limits ever on Pacific Coast commercial salmon fishing, including a full ban on coho and monthlong bans on other species of salmon. Fish stocks in many places have plunged more than 90 percent over the past 20 years because of the overfishing as well as the building of dams, general overdevelopment, logging, fish farming and cattle grazing. [Both fish farming and cattle grazing in and near rivers disrupt delicate ecosystems in waters where salmon spawn.]
Despite the conflict in the Pacific Northwest, the carnivorous appetites of fish eaters will continue to be satisfied, at least in the short run, as salmon, without a treaty to protect them, swim into fishermen's nets rather than upstream to reproduce.
If North Americans would just eat more vegetables and less fish, these conflicts would drift away. The only answer to the tragedy of salmon extinction and the discord between the United States and its northerly neighbor is the vegetarian diet.[See VivaVine followup.]
Beef hormones promote growth in hostilities
Vegetarianism is also the solution to the rancor between the United States and its neighbors across the Atlantic when it comes to hormones in beef. Here we have another intensely contentious issue involving animal food. Ninety percent of all U.S. beef comes from hormone-injected cows. Five different types of hormones, including progesterone and testosterone to make cattle grow faster and produce more milk, are present in American beef.
Now, if you ask me, I'd say that the beef itself is bad enough, but hormones in beef? I'd call that decidedly unappetizing to say the least. Europeans agree. In fact, they are so adamant about it that they have steadfastly banned imports of meat produced with growth hormones since 1988.
But the United States, along with Argentina, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, pressed the World Trade Organization to rule on the ban. The WTO is the global trade-fairness arbiter created by the final round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations to reduce barriers to world trade.
In May the WTO conspicuously ignored regional consumer tastes and concerns and said that there is no scientific justification for banning hormone-laden beef. The European Union is expected to appeal the verdict. If it loses, it will be forced by WTO rules to accept the beef or compensate the plaintiff countries for lost revenues in some equivalent way--possibly in cash or by lowering tariffs on other goods.
The European Union has strongly hinted that it will take the consequences rather than import the beef, which would be an extraordinary move. French agriculture minister Philippe Vasseur put it best when he called the WTO decision "entirely unfriendly," saying he saw no reason "to try to impose meat on French consumers which they do not want." He also declared that "France is entirely prepared to pay penalties if that is what is needed to prevent hormone-treated American meat from gaining entry to our territory." The dollar value of the compensation is relatively insignificant--European-bound beef amounts to only 10 percent of all U.S. beef exports, or a mere $250 million in revenues. In the end, the real casualty will be the needless ill will fostered by trade in this nasty and cruel substance.[See VivaVine for related story.]
Bird Battles: Saber rattling
Another source of conflict between nations involving animal food has to do with poultry processing methods. The United States uses chlorinated water to clean up chickens after they become contaminated with fecal material during slaughtering and degutting--a common occurrence in today's gigantic processing plants. The United States considers the chlorination process adequate, while the Europeans believe that contaminated chicken parts should be physically cut away. The Europeans don't consider the chlorination method sanitary and have, since the end of April, effectively blocked $50 million in U.S. exports of chicken. The Europeans said they would accept the use of other "cleansing" solutions, such as lactic acid and trisodium phosphate, but the switchover to these methods would not be feasible for U.S. producers in the short run before a full-fledged agreement is signed sometime before the end of the year.
Once it heard of the European ban on chlorinated poultry, the USDA retaliated with its own trade ban directed against about $1 million in European poultry exports, mostly French foie gras, on the grounds that U.S. food-hygiene standards were not being met. The USDA also threatened to go to the World Trade Organization. The EU agriculture minister in turn threatened a WTO action against the United States for blockading European poultry. It can work both ways.
In February 1996, a similar scenario unfolded. Russia said it was going to cut off imports of U.S. chicken. It cited concerns about U.S. methods of testing for residues in the meat--such as heavy metals, hormones and salmonella bacteria. Russia had voiced concerns about the fact that it is standard practice in the United States not to inspect each chicken, but to only take representative samplings from the processing line.
When Russia threatened to cut off imports, the U.S. poultry industry screamed bloody murder. Tyson, the largest chicken producer, was positioned to lose 5 percent of its total annual sales, as Russia had by this time become a huge customer. A full third of all U.S. poultry exports was going to Russia then, so it was time to bring out the big guns. In this case, the big guns turned out to be that "environmentalist" vice president, Al Gore, who dutifully worked out an agreement with Russia's prime minister.
USDA secretary Dan Glickman took it upon himself to engage in some undiplomatic saber rattling of his own during the dispute, turning out a letter to a Russian official in which he linked the future of U.S.-Russian relations to the dispute over poultry. The letter was sent during a critical time, when the entire world was watching the United States and the former Soviet Union trying to end their Cold War differences. But pressure was intense from poultry-industry sectors and their puppet representatives in the U.S. Congress. Delaware senator William Roth, for instance, strongly suggested at the time that if the Russians did not accept U.S. poultry, American foreign assistance programs to Russia should be suspended, Export-Import Bank loans should be frozen and the United States should reconsider a $10 billion aid package to the financially strapped former world power.
Ultimately, Russia did give in, albeit sluggishly. But this animal-food issue could have jeopardized a precious peace, or do you say "peas"?
On European Union resistance to U.S. beef treated with hormones and genetically engineered crops:
"We will push as hard as possible to end the hormone ban."
"The fact is, they do need our beef, and I think we should try to find a way."
[5/22/97, "a way" refers to getting around the hormone ban in the midst of the mad-cow scare]
"It's based on ideology, culture, religion. The attitude is, it's not what God intended."
[6/18/97, characterizing European resistance to U.S. exports of genetically engineered crops]
Remarks to the National Cattlemen's Beef Assoc.
"World population is growing faster than ever. Rising incomes in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe are translating into more money for food and an increasingly Western palate, including an increased appetite for red meat."
"We should see the world for what it is--96 percent of our potential customer base."
"We need to make the flow of live cattle between the U.S. and Canada more of a two-way street."
"Next week I'll issue a final rule to clarify and strengthen our zero-tolerance policy for fecal contamination of poultry." [Beef producers see poultry producers as getting off the hook in the area of pathogens.]
"We need a permanent system to help cattle ranchers in crisis."
In response to a recent European ban on U.S. poultry products:
"It's unfortunate that we still have some unresolved issues related to poultry processing standards.... The fact that we are losing trade in poultry is completely unacceptable."
By Pamela Rice
When one first hears about Roundup, the herbicide developed by Monsanto that kills everything green, save those surrounding Monsanto-developed "Roundup Ready" crops, a certain nuclear weapon may come to mind. Remember the neutron bomb? Drop one of these on your favorite enemy and go to the bomb site later. You'll find anything that was alive dead but the buildings still intact.
Roundup might be considered the neutron bomb of herbicides. A farmer can blanket his fields with it and then watch everything wither and die except for the genetically altered Roundup Ready corn or soybeans. These crops are also designed to produce a toxin that kills certain insects while being harmless to mammals.
Our U.S. government canceled the development of the neutron bomb back in 1978, thinking the concept of it to be just too indefensible, but it considers the herbicide Roundup to be just great.
The USDA is pressuring Europe to simply put aside its fears about biotech.
Despite speculation about numerous unknown dangers associated with Roundup Ready seeds (and the companion herbicide), farmers have already planted and harvested fields full of them. And now the USDA is putting serious pressure on countries around the world, especially those in Europe, to simply put away their fears and purchase Roundup Ready crops.
Concerns about these crops have been heard from many sectors and for many reasons, but the main complaint is that they were produced through genetic engineering, the process in which geneticists splice genes into or out of some chosen biological material. For instance, genes from viruses and bacteria found to be resistant to Roundup were spliced into Roundup Ready seeds.
Europe is the destination for as much as 40 percent of the U.S. soybean yield. As much as 15 percent of the soybeans U.S. farmers harvest this fall will have come from Roundup Ready plants. It should be noted that much of it will go to feed food animals.
Greenpeace, the international environmental organization, has warned that genetic engineering in general is a dangerous game with nature, that there have been cases where herbicide-resistant traits have "jumped" to the weeds themselves. Also, the patenting of life forms, a feature of genetically engineered seeds, is a sweeping development that is likely to jeopardize world biodiversity. The patenting of crops will inevitably lead to more monoculture. Farmers in poorer nations are particularly vulnerable to monopolies over seed varieties. Their survival depends on the free exchange of seeds. Roundup Ready crops make farmers dependent on Monsanto.[See VivaVine followup.]
Environmental and geopolitical issues are less of a concern for European farmers and food processors, who are more worried about food safety than anything else. These groups just don't feel that biotech has been tested enough.
At first the European Union called for segregation of all biotech foods, a reasonable request, its leaders thought. But segregation, they were told, would boost U.S. costs by 50 percent. Not one to mince words, USDA secretary Dan Glickman declared that crop segregation "would not be tolerated."Products made with unsegregated U.S. crops would not be able to carry the biotech-free label
At press time Europe proposed a system of labeling for genetically modified organisms (or GMOs) and the products that contain them. Mandatory labeling would be established for products that "contain," or "may contain," GMOs. Voluntary labeling would be allowed for retailers wishing to advertise the fact that a product was made without GMOs. Products made with unsegregated U.S. crops would not be able to carry the biotech-free label.
In the meantime, the USDA could be pushing biotech yet another step in the United States. Rules are being set to standardize the criteria for what merits the label "organically grown." Some fear that the standards will allow genetically engineered foods to be called organic.
So went the lyrics to a popular Joni Mitchell song.
In June of this year, both groups declared that uncontrolled fishing has driven once common species such as cod and halibut to commercial extinction.
Worldwide government subsidies have driven the trend, inflating the fishing industry to an unnatural size and level of profitability, allowing more fishing than is sustainable for fisheries to remain productive. The World Wide Fund for Nature report estimates that the world's fishing industry spends $124 billion annually to generate revenue of $70 billion, leaving taxpayers to make up the other $54 billion.
The Fund's report also says evidence is mounting that intensive fishing has disrupted ocean ecosystems, diminishing biodiversity.
Often the fish that are caught are not put to any use. Large portions of the world's marine catch are thrown back into the ocean, dead, discarded as unwanted "by-catch."
Technological advances in fishing methods, such as bottom trawls and drift nets, have exacerbated the problem. The capacity of fishing fleets has exceeded what the environment can offer.
According to Sylvia Earle, former chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 100 species of marine fish were listed in 1996 by the World Conservation Union as threatened or endangered.
Earle noted that estuarial environments are being ravaged by farm run-off as well. Is it any wonder that fish are the most polluted animals that carnivores put on their plates?
Brain-splattering cattle stunner stirs mad-cow worries
A device used to stun cattle before they are slaughtered can scatter brain specks throughout the animals' bodies, researchers have found. The findings were publicized in a joint news conference held by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and representatives of the meat industry in late July. According to the Associated Press, "30 to 40 percent of American cattle are stunned by pneumatic guns, which fire a metal bolt into a cow's brain followed by a pulverizing burst of 150 pounds of air pressure." The brain specks are of concern because brain tissue and spinal cords are the most infectious parts of animals with mad-cow disease. Although the representatives of the American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association did not acknowledge any risk to humans from the procedure, they announced they would be sponsoring a study of stunning methods, with results expected in December.
In other mad-cow news, the FDA announced in June its long-awaited rule on feeding animals to animals, which is how the disease got started in Great Britain. The rule, which took effect on August 4, prohibits slaughterhouses and renderers from using bone meal and other protein products derived from ruminants, such as cattle, sheep and goats, in feeds intended for other ruminants. Also included in the ruminant-feed ban are tissues from mink, deer, elks, cats and dogs. However, the rule exempts hog and horse scraps, blood products, milk products and gelatin and allows the continued use of ruminant slaughterhouse leftovers in food for chickens, hogs and household pets. These exemptions drew protests from Consumers Union and others, who noted that, under the rule, cattle could be fed to pigs, which could in turn be fed to cattle. The European Union, in contrast, has prohibited the use of all mammal protein in "food"-animal feed.
In Britain, meanwhile, the variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal illness that the British government said might be linked to eating mad-cow-infected beef in March 1996, continues to exact its toll. In early August, the country's National CJD Surveillance Unit confirmed that a 36-year-old woman who had died the previous March had been afflicted with the brain-wasting disorder. That brought the confirmed human death toll to 21.
Study backs up pig-intelligence claims
If intelligence were truly society's moral criterion for determining which animals are permissible to eat, a lot of humans would be on the menu. Still, a study conducted on pigs by a Pennsylvania State University professor should give pause to pork fans who comfort themselves with the thought that they're just eating "dumb animals." In the study, two pigs were taught to play primitive video games by manipulating a joy stick with their teeth, directing a cursor to specific icons. Choosing the right ones earned the pigs sweets. Professor Stanley Curtis, who headed the study, told Britain's Electronic Telegraph in May, "There is much more going on in terms of thinking and observing by these pigs than we ever would have guessed." One of Curtis's colleagues observed, "They are able to focus with an intensity I have never seen in a chimp."
USDA: "Browned" meat may still have E. coli
Oops, they were wrong. After years of earnest campaigning to get Americans to cook their beloved cow patties until they're brown all the way through, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conceded last June that even this approach leaves open the danger of food poisoning. In a study at Kansas State University, about 40 percent of the hamburgers tested had turned brown on the inside even though they'd failed to reach the temperature needed to kill the dreaded E. coli bacteria. The USDA's new recommendation: Use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the burger has reached at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. A government report issued in May 1997 said that approximately 25,000 cases of foodborne illness can be attributed to E. coli each year in the United States, with as many as 100 deaths resulting. At press time, 1.3 million pounds of ground beef, produced by Hudson Foods Co., had to be recalled following an E. coli outbreak in Colorado that infected sixteen people, five of whom were hospitalized.
An egg-cellent source of sickness
Last May the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to put a warning on all packages of eggs--"Caution: Eggs may contain illness-causing bacteria. Do not eat raw. Cook until yolk is firm." The bug in question, Salmonella enteritidis, causes an estimated 128,000 to 640,000 cases of food poisoning in the United States each year, according to a government report--or "up to one million illnesses and hundreds or even thousands of deaths," according to the CSPI.
While the proposed warning label sounds like a good idea, we think a few additional warnings are called for.
[Human] Finger food
A Tampa, Florida, couple got more meat than they bargained for back in July '95 when they bought a pound of sliced ham from a Publix supermarket. According to a lawsuit that went to trial last May, after they had already eaten most of the Babe slices, they found a human finger pad as well as what appeared to be blood. The couple, who sued for mental anguish, medical expenses for AIDS and hepatitis tests, loss of comfort and loss of "the joy of living," sought $15,000 in damages.
Veggies protest Wendy's deception
For any vegetarian who's ever known the "mental anguish" of tucking into a supposedly plant-based dish, only to detect the unmistakable presence of an animal ingredient, litigation may not be out of line. Indeed, there was talk of a lawsuit last July when it was revealed that a supposedly "veggie" pita the fast-food chain Wendy's had advertised during longtime vegetarian Paul McCartney's May 17 program on VH-1 was topped with a gelatin-laden sauce. In its nutrition guides, Wendy's had described the veggie pita as "vegetarian" and "all vegetable." (In addition to the gelatin, the pitas contain egg yolk and dairy ingredients.) A spokeswoman for the 1,500-outlet chain told the Associated Press that Wendy's would remove the gelatin from the dressing within two months but would continue to use the current sauce until then. She also said that Wendy's had recalled thousands of the nutrition guides. The Vegetarian Awareness Network, a national public-interest organization, had already filed formal complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. According to Lige Weill, president of the network, there's a precedent for veggie litigation in a successful lawsuit brought by a Boulder, Colorado, police officer against a restaurant that had misrepresented an anchovy-laced tomato sauce as vegetarian. Perhaps it will take more such lawsuits to put restaurateurs on notice that they trample on vegetarian rights at their own peril.
World leaders feast on buffalo
In a chirpy item titled "Where the VIP's Roam, Buffalo Is Chic," The New York Times reported the ghoulish presence of bison carcasses at the Summit of the Eight in Denver last June. The owner of Denver Buffalo Co. gave a buffalo golf bag to Bill Clinton, a buffalo vest to Hillary Clinton and "an off-to-college" buffalo backpack to reputed vegetarian Chelsea Clinton. For her part, Russian first lady Naina Yeltsin bought a $400 buffalo handbag and chowed down on buffalo tenderloin steak. Then the leaders of the Free World sat down for a dinner of seared buffalo medallions. The lesson? Sure, bison are majestic creatures, but they're not nearly as wonderful on the plains as they are on the dinner plate.
Poultry waste threatens D.C. water
A boom in poultry production in West Virginia in the past decade has fouled local waters and even threatens the drinking water of our nation's capital 135 miles downstream on the Potomac River. A June story in The Washington Post, describing Moorefield, West Virginia, says, "There is no escaping chicken in this...farm town. It's in the air--the putrid smell that wafts through downtown from the 340,000 birds slaughtered daily in the region's largest chicken plant." Each year, the article reports, the area's 90 million chickens produce 155,000 tons of poultry litter, a combination of sawdust and manure, much of which ends up in streams. In addition, thousands of chickens die before they reach slaughtering age, leaving each farmer with up to 150 pounds of dead birds a day, for a regional total of 4.6 million pounds of bird carcasses a year, according to U.S. officials. Carcasses buried in unlined pits become "cesspools of bacteria," the article says, "leaching into groundwater and, in some cases, local streams." Meanwhile, the chicken-processing plant in Moorefield uses nearly 2 million gallons of water a day.
Vegetarian News is written by Alex Press with reference assistance from Alan Rice
Technology: Making the world safe for factory farming
A year ago in July, President Clinton proposed sweeping new rules for inspection at meat and poultry processing plants. The rules, which won't completely go into effect for another three years or so, will only be a baby step in the right direction, since contamination begins long before the processing stage--on the farm, where food animals are intensively confined.
Researchers are beginning to be clued in to this fact more and more. No, they don't want to eradicate the crowded, unsanitary conditions that cause bacterial contamination--there's too much money to be made from the technological solutions.
For example, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis is sure to make a few rubles after creating a genetically engineered, freeze-dried vaccine against salmonella.
Designed for chicks destined for intensive confinement in poultry factories, the drug takes effect when newly hatched chicks drink water with the vaccine in it. According to CNN, the chicks are immunized for life against the loathsome bug within a few hours. The vaccine even guards against salmonella in the chickens' eggs.
Salmonellosis afflicts about 6.4 million people a year in the United States, killing 3,000. Vomiting, diarrhea, headache and fatigue are the symptoms. Victims usually get the bug by bringing raw chicken into their homes--not a good idea. Essentially, poultry needs to be handled like toxic waste until it and anything it touches is either disinfected or cooked.
Don't Worry, Use Antibiotics
Factory farming is behind the growing problem of drug resistance in bacteria. As Newsweek put it in a March 28, 1994, story on antibiotics, no one can hold a candle to the American farmer for prescribing drugs, in his case to his animals. Meat eaters consequently ingest the farmer's antibiotics as residues embedded in cheeseburgers and chicken wings. Meat eaters risk building resistance to lifesaving drugs through this regular low-level self-medication. Indeed, the miracle bacteria-fighting drugs are having less and less effect on virulent strains of diseases worldwide.
But not to worry. No need to stop the overcrowding of farm animals, one of the main reasons the farmer is feeding his animals antibiotics to such excess. According to CNN, scientists at Yale University, in cooperation with a commercial laboratory, have been able to change drug-resistant bacteria into organisms that are vulnerable to conventional drugs.
McDonald's found "culpable" in cruelty to battery-caged hens, McNuggets-bound chickens
A judge in London held that a certain fast-food burger giant commonly associated with yellow arches was indeed guilty of some of the things written about it in a pamphlet circulated by activists from a British environmental group. The June 19 verdict in the celebrated libel case commonly referred to as McLibel was mixed. Whereas the ruling did exonerate McDonald's on some points, it vindicated the activists on others. Justice Roger Bell declared McDonald's "culpable" in cruelty to animals, namely McNuggets-bound chickens who are conscious during slaughter, as well as the layer hens forced to endure unspeakable existences in battery cages.
This trial was not only extraordinary for its subject matter; it broke records for legal longevity as well as for vegetarian perseverance. This was a real modern-day David and Goliath story. The vegetarian-activist Davids in this case were Dave Morris, an unemployed ex-postman, and Helen Steel, a part-time bar worker. The McLibel Two, as they were known, had the audacity to call McDonald's a multinational corporate menace, guilty of abusing animals, workers and the environment while promoting an unhealthy diet. Hey, anyone could have told you that!
But the ubiquitous transnational decided it wanted such "lies" to stop, and so began this 314-day trial, which featured a number of vegetarian star witnesses, such as Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's Neal Barnard, M.D., and International Vegetarian Union president Howard Lyman.
Ultimately, the case has done little else except galvanize anti-McDonald's sentiment in England and around the world. You now have a British TV miniseries inspired by the trial and a Web site that publishes every infraction committed by the burger giant, anywhere in the world.
McDeath vs. Chickens: Chalk one up for chickens
Aside from the pro-chickens ruling, Justice Bell agreed with the activists that McDonald's pays low wages and sometimes treats young workers unfairly by sending them home early when business is slow, which lowers their pay. He also agreed that McDonald's runs advertisements that encourage children to pester their parents to take them to the fast-food outlet.
The settlement awarded $98,000 in damages to the plaintiff. The activists were not even forced to stop distributing the flyer. This, after McDonald's spent $16 million on the trial.
I would like to add a few points to your May/June review of my book Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry.
The two major interweaving themes of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs are chicken factory farming, including its history, and the ineffable, fascinating life of chickens. My chapter on the chicken family describes how an egg forms inside a hen, how a chick forms inside an egg and the amazing interaction that takes place between the chick embryo and hen and why this interaction is so significant.
The chapter also has a section on why hatching programs need to be eliminated from school curriculums.
While there is no separate chapter on the environmental and human-health effects of chicken factory farming, these issues pervade the book. The fact that chickens kept for eggs and meat spend their entire lives cooped in their own excrement, resulting in millions of sick and dead birds to be disposed of every year, is a case in point.
The book discusses the role and effect of antibiotics and vaccines, on which the modern poultry industry is based.
The book is selling so well that it had to be reprinted in the summer. This gave me the opportunity to add to it the expose by American Rivers, an environmental group, revealing that the Potomac River, which nourishes the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast, is "clogged with excrement from corporate poultry farms." [See Vegetarian News: Poultry waste threatens D.C. water]
Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs is about birds that constitute 95 percent of the animals exploited by humans--birds about whom most people know nothing except how they taste. You can order it directly from the Book Publishing Company at (800)695-2241.
Karen Davis, Ph.D.
United Poultry Concerns
I just read your "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian" and was instantly bombarded with facts I would never have known. It is making me wonder why I'm not a vegan yet.
Life in Japan: Peaches, $5 each; watermelons, $16
Pigs penned inside small metal cages
I am a Western woman who lives in Japan. Being a vegan here is virtually impossible! I can' eat anywhere, hardly, except those places where they sell vegetable sushi. The romantic vision most of us have about the Eastern diet certainly doesn't exist in Japan. The people here think you're some kind of freak if you're a vegetarian, although they have come to accept it in me.
Organic? Ha! No such luck. Most people don't even know what that is.
Being a bike rider has also caused me difficulties. Pedestrians, bikers and cars all share the same road here. I have found a fairly long ride that is mainly on some back roads. It has less traffic and some great hills. I still get a lot of big trucks that go by me, spewing emissions unlike anything you'de find in the United States.
Another difficult part of this ride is that I pass by about six "pig houses"--big barn-type structures where they have pigs penned inside small metal cages. Some pigs have a little room to walk around, but some can't even turn around. And the smell... I hold my breath when I pass those places. I can imagine the respiratory problems many of the animals have as a consequence. It certainly makes my resolve to be a vegan even more intense every time I go by.
The fruit here is very expensive. Peaches are $5 each; watermelons are $16 each; cantaloupes are $10 each; apples are $1.50 each. Thank goodness for pineapples; they're only $2.98!
I am going to San Diego on vacation soon, and you can't believe how excited I am to go! I am going to eat fruit and organic veggies like I never have before.
I just read through your "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." My sister has been a vegetarian for over a year, and during that time I have experimented with vegetarian foods. I don't enjoy meat at all anymore and find veggie foods to be tastier and more satisfying.
Originally, my reasons for switching to vegetarian foods were health-based. Now, after reading about the atrocities committed in the meatpacking industry, I'm sickened by what goes on. I've never considered myself an animal-rights activist, but this is disgusting to anyone. I believe many people simply have no idea how that innocent package of hamburger got to the supermarket. I now have many more reasons to be vegetarian.
I came across your society on the Internet while looking for information regarding world hunger.
I'd be interested in receiving several copies of your "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian," along with the references.
So many times I find myself in arguments about my vegetarianism, especially at family gatherings. So often I am at a loss for words, feeling inhibited in explaining my motives and the thousands of reasons why I am a vegetarian. It's sad because vegetarianism is so important to me; it's such an innate part of me.
So when I heard about your "101 Reasons," I jumped at the opportunity it offered me to put my feelings into words. Thanks a lot. This is a great service.
Brooklyn, New York
--Animal Machines by Ruth Harrison
What's cruel, and what isn't? Last July a North Carolina woman faced up to a year in jail and $3,000 in fines after Virginia police found a fawn wearing cross-shaped earrings in the back of her four-wheel-drive. The woman, who, on a lark, had pushed the posts of the earrings through the animal's ears, causing inflammation and infection, told the Associated Press, "I thought it would be pretty." Two months earlier, a Connecticut farmer was charged with cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, after 90 cows and sheep were found starved to death on his farm.
According to the principle of "legal welfarism," discussed by Rutgers law professor Gary Francione in his 1996 book, Rain Without Thunder, cruelty against animals is recognized as such by the law only in cases where the actions in question serve no economic interest and "[do] not constitute an integral part of a socially accepted institution." Whereas letting farm animals starve to death, or poking decorative earrings through the ears of a wild animal, could get a person into trouble with the law--since no one stands to profit from such behavior--other practices, such as forced molting, in which egg producers starve their hens for five to ten days to manipulate their laying patterns, are legal in the United States. Forced molting increases egg-industry profits, so it is sanctioned by the law, no matter how much suffering it causes hens.
Still, even when human abuse of animals is completely gratuitous, there's no guarantee the offending parties will be punished. In late July, the district attorney's office in Tarrant County, Texas, declined to press charges against two medical doctors who had beaten 22 of their penned emus to death with aluminum baseball bats. The last bird to die in the pen was described by the humane investigator as "vomiting blood and staggering until it fell on the ground and couldn't get up anymore," according to a press release from United Poultry Concerns, an organization that promotes the compassionate treatment of domestic fowl. An attorney from the DA's office told Karen Davis, the president of UPC, that there might have been a case if the men had starved the birds or set them on fire but that beating emus to death was not unusual and therefore not cruel.
V I V A V I N E - R E G U L A R - F E A T U R E
FOR THE HEALTH OF IT:
By Alex Press
Recent hype about the DASH diet ("dietary approaches to stop hypertension") and fish oils demonstrates how our nation's nutrition experts seem to go out of their way to avoid publicizing the benefits of vegetarianism. The DASH study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, assigned 459 adults to one of three diets. The first, similar to the standard American diet, was low in fruits and vegetables. The second, although it included eight to ten daily servings of fruits and vegetables, was equally high in fat. The third took the eight to ten servings of fruits and vegetables, reduced overall fat from 37 to 27 percent of calories and then, suspiciously, added nearly three daily servings of low-fat dairy.
Can you guess which diet was most effective in reducing blood pressure? It doesn't take a genius to guess that the low-fat third option won the contest. But what about the dairy? Anyone who learned of the study through the mainstream media might have interpreted it as a vindication of lacto-vegetarianism over veganism, or at least as a demonstration of the healthy properties of dairy. But a more alert observer might have wondered why one of the diets under examination wasn't dairy free, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, like the standard vegan diet. And the fact was, all three diets included meat.
This was no accident. The study's authors, in their summary, note that "a vegetarian diet is...associated with lower BP [blood pressure], both in observational and interventional studies," then go on to say they "attempted to find a diet which retained the BP benefits of the vegetarian diet while including enough meat products to make [it] palatable and acceptable to the general population." In other words, rather than promote a vegetarian diet, they devised a study that, when reduced to a soundbite, would serve primarily as an ad for dairy products. Indeed, dairy flacks wasted no time spinning the story. "The DASH study provides further evidence of the important contribution low-fat yogurt and other dairy products can add to a diet low in total and saturated fat," enthused a Dannon Yogurt rep in a press release. A similar release issued by Bozell Public Relations conceded that DASH researchers were uncertain "what exact component of the low fat...diet was responsible for the greater reduction in blood pressure observed." Still, the release cited the view of an expert from the Oregon Health Sciences University that "it was the calcium and other minerals contributed by the milk products" that made the difference. The release didn't mention another affiliation of the expert, which appeared in a Bloomberg wire report: "head of the Milk Processors advisory board."
In a University of California study publicized in late July, researchers put 25 women with breast cancer on a healthy plant-based diet including soy, cruciferous vegetables and carrots, but tacked on fish-oil pills. Within three months, the composition of the women's breast tissue and plasma changed in a way that approximated the "breast composition of women in certain...countries...[where] the incidence of breast cancer is much lower," in the words of the study's senior author. Specifically, the women showed an increase in the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-3 fatty acids have become associated with fish, they are available from tofu; walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds; soybean, canola and walnut oils; dark green vegetables; and wheat germ. In obtaining one's omega-3's through plants rather than fish, an individual can trade cholesterol, PCBs and a host of other toxins that accumulate alarmingly in the fatty tissue of aquatic animals for the healthy fiber and antioxidants present in plants.
But the researchers didn't bother to test a fish-free diet. Instead, they put out information that seemed to declare, "Fish fat is good for you." We hope for a day when the experts finally level with us and say, "Forget the 'lean' meats, the skinless chicken breast, the broiled fish and the low-fat dairy--if you really want to be healthy, stick with veggies."
Rather than promote vegetarianism, the researchers devised a study that would serve primarily as an ad for dairy products.
Penelo Pea Pod: Demo at hot-dog eating contestPhoto: Penelo Pea Pod at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest (see picture from the event)
VivaVegie made its views clear at Nathan's Fourth of July hot-dog eating contest this year in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Our lovely Penelo Pea Pod was on hand at the annual death banquet with an upbeat message: "Give Peas a Chance. GO VEGETARIAN." The cameras clicked her as the hot-dog eating contestants stuffed their faces. Though in years past VivaVegie was relegated to the other side of six-lane Surf Avenue and even had one of its own arrested, this year we were able to get right in the thick of things, nudging up against all those media people who every year give this event automatic coverage.
Several newspapers interviewed us for their stories. An image stock house and two documentary-film companies got our Grand Dame of Vegetableland, Penelo Pea Pod, on camera as well.
So Nathan's, now for a fourth year running, because of the VivaVegie Society, you have not gone unchallenged. Thanks to Rochelle Goldman (who donned the pea-pod costume), Jean Thaler, Charles Patterson, David Fishman and Alex Press for giving peas a chance at this VivaVegie outing.
VivaVegie now has a message board on the World Wide Web on the Internet.
Go to: http://www.triroc.com/bbs/
It's a place for discussion about "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." The message board will give our "mighty convincer" a new life. We will share our feelings as well as our facts and figures at this cyber location. We at the VivaVegie Society look forward to getting to know you better!
Over $1000 collected in our quest for 501(c)3 status
Heartfelt thanks to all the people who sent donations to help defray VivaVegie's legal and accounting costs in our quest for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Over $835 has been collected--and we're almost there. First, we are now fully incorporated as the VivaVegie Society, Inc. In addition, our forms requesting 501(c)3 have all been submitted. Currently, we are waiting to be accepted as a 501(c)3 corporation, a tax status that will make contributions to the VivaVegie Society tax deductible. The total cost for this effort is approaching $1,000, so we are still short by almost $200.
Again, thank you to Elliot L. Gang, Martin Rowe, Vaughan Dewar, Rochelle Goldman, Keith and Marge Folino, Naomi Weinshenker, Emanuel Goldman, Bill Allen, Mariann Sullivan, Ted and Lucille Teisler and Garland Jones, who were mentioned in the last two VivaVine issues for their contributions.
Following is a list of those who have since made donations toward this goal:
Glen Boisseau-Becker, Mary Kuechler, Susan Kalev, Ruby Koppelman, Claudia Aguire, Bob Gotch, Stan & Rhoda Sapon, Joe Passaretti, Craig Cline, and R & V Navarro
[One donor preferred to remain anonymous.]
Sunday, September 21
>>>Walkathon to benefit Farm Sanctuary, starting11 a.m. at 79th Street and Riverside Drive, in NYC. About six miles. Pledge checks should be made out to Farm Sanctuary. Information: (607) 583-2225.
Sunday, September 28
>>>VegOut potluck lunch (fourth Sunday of every month), 1-3:30 p.m. at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, 208 W. 13th Street, NYC. Bring vegan dish to share and $3 donation. Information: (212) 802-8655.
Thursday, October 2
>>>World Farm Animals Day (Gandhi's birthday). Help publicize the abuse and slaughter of billions of animals with street theater, civil disobedience, exhibits and tabling. Free action kit,information: (888) FARM-USA.
Thursday, October 8
>>>Meet Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, the book that launched the modern animal-rights movement, and Henry Spira, human- and animal-rights activist, and discuss strategies for bringing about change. There will be a screening of Peter Singer's new documentary film, Henry: One Man's Way, recently shown on Australian national TV to wide acclaim. The screening will be followed by discussion and refreshments. Wednesday, October 8 at 6:30 p.m., Fourth Universalist Society, 160 Central Park West at 76th St. Admission is free. Sponsored byAnimal Rights International, Big Apple Vegetrians, the Sierra Club-Vegetarian Outings Committee, Vegetarian Vision and the VivaVegie Society.
Saturday, October 18
>>>As part of the worldwide Week of Action Against McDonald's, the VivaVegie Society will join in the spirit of the McLibel verdict by leafleting the McDonald's restaurant at Sixth Avenue and W. 3rd Street in Manhattan, 1:30-4 p.m. Information: (212) 229-1506.
Friday, October 24 - Sunday, October 26
>>>Conference on the relationship of animal liberation to other social movements, Ithaca, NY. Carol Adams, Tom Regan, Karen Davis, Zoe Weil and George Eisman will speak. Information: (607) 277-8219.
Saturday, October 25>>>EarthSave Hudson Valley spotlights the Healthy School Lunch Program, 7 p.m. in Pleasantville, NY. Charles Attwood, M.D., and Todd Winant will speak. Bring vegan appetizer or dessert for six to eight. Information: (914) 472-7392.
Thursday, October 30>>>Sierra Club New York City's Vegetarian Outings Group visits Mi Nidito Mexican restaurant in Manhattan. Information: (718) 789-3386.
Friday, November 28>>>Thanksgiving Dinner Gala, cosponsored by Vegetarian Vision, Big Apple Vegetarians and the Sierra Club NYC. Entertainment, speeches by Howard Lyman and Roberta Kalichovsky, 6:30-10:30 p.m., Cathedral of St. John the Divine. $35 single/$65 couple before Oct. 15. Tickets: (718) 789-3386.
The VivaVegie Society takes vegetarian advocacy to the streets. VivaVegie advocates confront Mr. and Ms. Pedestrian to get the facts out about their healthful, ethical and environmentally conscious vegetarian diet.
Advocates assemble where there is plenty of pedestrian traffic. They come equipped with brightly colored T-shirts with vegetarian messages and plenty of fact-filled literature. VivaVegie activists take turns wearing the outfit shown here on founder Pamela Rice. Our mission? To distribute, for donation, the flyer "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian," written by Pamela Rice and inspired by John Robbins's book Diet for a New America.
The VivaVegie Society has been, and will be in the future, involved with various projects, such as the Project for Economic Justice for Vegetarians, World Vegetarian Day, starting a vegetarian center in New York City and mass mailings of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian."
Donations are appreciated
Then, please, volunteer with the VivaVegie Society
You will gain valuable experience. So, go ahead, hone those skills. Help yourself, and help the vegetarian cause at the same time. Call 212-966-2060
The VivaVegie Society
Publisher/Editor: Pamela Rice
Editor: Alex Press
Reference: Alan Rice
Consulting editor: Dave Horn,
Copy editing: Charles Patterson
Graphic Design Styling: Dave Horn
Gaggle of veg-evangelists: Dean Milan, Rochelle Goldman, Alex Press, Charles Patterson, Jean Thaler, Lenny Mogenstern, Joan Zacharias, and Jesse Silverman, Irene and Carmen Ginsberg
Special thanks to: Craig Filipacchi and Nadine Miral of Earthbase
To become a member: of The VivaVegie Society for one year, send $15 to the above address. Membership entitles you to one membership card, 5 issues of The VivaVine and one copy of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian"
Advertisers: To advertise in "The VivaVine" call Pamela Rice: 212/966-2060 EST
Donations are appreciated