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March / April 1999
The VivaVine is a publication of the VivaVegie Society, New York City's premier vegetarian-outreach organization.
COMMENTARY : Just check the dictionary to find out who's really a vegetarian
COMMENTARY : Citizens locked out of biotech decisionANIMAL RIGHTS: No legal protection on the farm for animals
GRAPEVINE: Letters from readers
VEGETARIAN NEWS: News from the vegetarian perspective
LISTERIA ON THE ATTACK: Heat up your cold cuts
FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Heart in hand
PROJECT FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR VEGETARIANS: Foreign trade in meat is wasteful, unhealthful, cruel & useless to the core
VEGGIE NUGGETS: From VivaVegie's sick humor department
PORK APLENTY: Hog farmers are in crisis and the USDA is going to the rescue
TEFF: Scrumptious flapjacks from VivaVegie's test kitchen
FROM OUR BOOKSHELF: Vegetarians get religion
BACTERIA'S PLAYGROUND: Technical fixes are antidotes to industrial pathogens
VIVA VEGIE NEWS: "101 Reasons", our mighty convincer, lives on
CALENDAR: Vegetarians meet and reach out
March / April 1999
Who's a Vegetarian? Just check the dictionary
By Xiao Jia
On my desk at home, I've got a picture of a chicken. She looks out from her paper frame with the certainty of a senator about to make a speech, her wattles wafting a bit in the wind. She looks nothing like a vegetable.
True veggies ask, "Since when is a chicken a vegetable?"
And yet how often do we hear people say things like "My father-in-law's a vegetarian, and he eats chicken"? If you look up vegetarianismin the dictionary, you'll see it defined as "a diet made up of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products." (Vegans, like the folks at VivaVegie, reject the last two items, but that's another issue.) There's no mention of chickens or any other animals.
It's an odd thing. It seems that the further away animals are from our own species, the more people want to lump them together with the inanimate, insentient and eminently edible members of the plant kingdom. Nobody would think of lunching on Rover or dining on Meow Stew. More and more people are eschewing, instead of chewing, cows and pigs. These animals, like the most popular "companion" animals, are mammals, as are we.
Maybe it's easier to see the spirit of other living creatures when they have hair like you and not feathers. But birds are surely not vegetables--or fruits, grains or nuts, for that matter. Speaking as though they were is just a trick people play to lessen the regret we must all feel when we needlessly kill another being.
Eating poultry means contributing to the demand that plunges billions of creatures into short lives filled with heartless cruelty. To then call yourself a vegetarian is as silly as mistaking a cow for a carrot.
Genetic Engineering: Citizens locked out of decision
By Pamela Rice
Despite the drizzle and cold on January 14, 75 people showed up at a midtown Manhattan lecture hall to hear a panel discussion on genetic engineering. First to speak on the subject at the Big Apple Vegetarian-sponsored event was microbiologist Emanuel Goldman, who, on the pro side, claimed that the technology could make the use of animals in the creation of products obsolete. Robert Cohen, author of Milk: The Deadly Poison, then recounted his findings that a corrupt Food and Drug Administration approved Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone despite fatal flaws in the research. Next, Diane Beeny offered her emphatic, across-the-board condemnation of genetic engineering, citing numerous environmental and health concerns--at one point reminding the audience of "the oops factor." Any one of these "products with promise," she explained, could suddenly turn into an irreversible disaster.
Robert Cohen, Diane Beeny and Emanuel Goldman at the Big Apple forum on genetic engineering
The program was interesting, without a doubt, but there was something missing, which I couldn't put my finger on. Only later did I realize that the "elephant in the room" that everyone, as usual, was ignoring was the virtually complete media blackout on the dangers of genetic engineering. The almost frantic oration of Diane Beeny epitomized the tragic state of affairs. The information she so articulately imparted to the audience had to be delivered fast, and she knew it. Where else are people going to hear her Cassandra-like warnings? Certainly not from the nine--yes, only nine--mainstream media organizations that own most of what America reads, hears and views, whose reason for existence, advertising, is far from the public good. It occurred to me that this Big Apple forum shouldn't have been about whether genetic engineering is bad or good, but why industry usually ends up deciding on its own what technologies get into the mainstream. Another question must be: Why are citizens so often locked out of the discussion?
This is where Nicols Fox, author of Spoiled: The Dangerous Truth About a Food Chain Gone Haywire, would blame society's worship of the term science. In an essay published in October in The Washington Post, she concedes that, yes, science often "proves" that particular technologies are safe. For instance, science says food irradiation is safe. Science says pesticides are safe. Science says hormones in beef are safe. Science says feeding ground-up livestock and manure to herbivorous livestock is safe. Science even says eating feces is safe, as long as you cook it to a certain temperature. The problem, she contends, is that science can't seem to integrate common sense into its programming. But any homemaker will decide in a second that she or he doesn't want gamma-ray-irradiated, pesticide-permeated, hormone-injected, manure- and carcass-fed, feces-laden, genetically engineered food.
March / April 1999
Animals and the Law: No protection on the farm
By Alex Press
"Your dinner led a horrible life.'' This vegetarian slogan often leaves meat eaters bemused. Surely, they say, there must be laws to guarantee that the animals we eat are well treated.
In fact, anticruelty laws are on the books throughout the United States. But for those beings unlucky enough to be classified as "food" animals, there's a catch. Just as persecuted minorities throughout history have been excluded from the circle of legal protection and left at the mercy of oppressive majorities, farm animals have been left at the mercy of people whose only interest is in exploiting them with the greatest efficiency.
Anticruelty laws leave animals at the mercy of agribusiness.
On the federal level, farm animals are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act. And the poorly enforced Humane Slaughter Act excludes birds entirely, although they constitute an estimated 98 percent of the land animals killed for food.
On the state level, there are other startling omissions. All 50 states have laws forbidding cruelty to animals. However, as lawyer David Wolfson revealed in his groundbreaking study "Beyond the Law," 22 have amended their anticruelty statutes to exempt any agricultural practice that is "accepted," "common," "customary" or "normal." Six others have exempted specific practices. In practical terms, these amendments give agribusiness license to inflict suffering on animals in whatever manner it deems expedient. If enough farmers mutilate, confine or otherwise abuse animals in a particular way, the law says it's all right.
New York is one of the states that have yet to formally exclude agricultural practices from the scope of anticruelty laws. The New York statute is directed against anyone "who...tortures or...unjustifiably injures, maims, mutilates or kills any animal...or who willfully...engages in...any act of cruelty to any animal."
The language seems pretty solid, but there's a gaping loophole where farm animals are concerned. The key word is "unjustifiably." The people who profit from animal agriculture consider what they do to animals to be wholly "justifiable" from an economic standpoint. And, for now, those with the power to enforce the state's anticruelty law agree.
The primacy of economics over ethics is at the heart of what Rutgers University law professor Gary Francione has labeled "legal welfarism"--the unspoken doctrine that governs society's treatment of animals. Legal welfarism claims to "balance" animal interests against human interests. However, since animals are classified as property, and since property cannot have any meaningful rights, Francione argues, the animals always lose. An animal's interest in humane treatment--and in life itself--is easily trumped in our legal system by a farmer's interest in efficient production and a consumer's interest in cheap meat.
In New York State, the power of enforcing the anticruelty law lies not just with police officers and district attorneys but also with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Officers of the ASPCA can and do issue summonses and arrest people for abusing animals, but the emphasis is clearly on less controversial animal issues, such as the protection of cats and dogs.
Several years ago, activists tested the limits of the anticruelty law by seeking to have charges pressed against upstate manufacturers of foie gras. They figured that if any agricultural practice could be described as "unjustifiably" cruel, it was the production of this purportedly gourmet item, which involves force-feeding ducks till their livers swell to as much as 12 times the normal size. But according to one activist involved in the effort, the ASPCA was unhelpful, and the campaign proved unsuccessful.
As things stand now, the only time anyone is ever punished for cruelty to a farm animal is when the act in question is wholly gratuitous--in other words, when it serves no economic purpose. Set a calf on fire and you might end up paying a fine; castrate it or brand it with a hot iron without anesthesia and you're only engaging in an accepted agricultural practice. Farm Sanctuary, an animal-protection organization that runs a home for rescued farm animals in upstate New York, has successfully pursued prosecution in cases involving extreme neglect. But as David Wolfson has pointed out, a lawyer who goes into a New York court and "argue[s] that veal crates should be prohibited because they are torturing an animal...won't win." The reason? "Society hasn't said that putting baby calves in veal crates is a bad thing...yet."
It all comes down to public attitudes. If more people were willing to speak out for the humane treatment of farm animals, there'd be more police investigations, more district attorneys willing to prosecute egregious abuses and stronger punishments against those found guilty of cruelty. Test cases might be pursued, or legislation passed, that would eliminate some of the cruelest practices. Perhaps as enlightenment spread, "humane" treatment would become a mainstream marketing ploy for producers of meat, milk and eggs.
Of course, the best outcome would be the demise of the animal-based diet, which will happen only when people realize a simple truth: As long as there's a vegetarian choice, killing animals for food--whether mammals, birds or fish--is unjustifiable, and unjustifiable killing is inescapably cruel.
March / April 1999
Veg'n Voices: Readers speak out
Just do it
Ten years ago, I stood at my sink washing a chicken (so my family wouldn't get sick) and had me a good think. It finally sank in, and everything else followed. I saw what I was doing to myself and to the people I love. I am now a young 53-year-old vegan, weigh 124, run competitive five-mile races (and win!), garden organically and have a chicken for a pet. It's not hard to do; it's the getting started. Just do it!Karen
It's still murder
It is horrible what people do to animals, but I didn't need "101 Reasons" to bring me to my senses. I already realized it's wrong to eat animal flesh, period, regardless of how the animals are treated. Even if they put the animals up in five-star hotels, they're still going to kill them, and that is still murder.Raven
She's getting there
Wow. I just read your "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." I am venturing into the no-meat, no-milk diet. It is hard, but after reading all that you wrote, I find it disgusting that I have been eating those things for all these years. Little by little, I will get there. No meat or dairy.Karen Gawrys
Buffalo, New York
Why Not to Be a Vegan
Notwithstanding the many benefits of being a vegan, we admit there's a downside, too. The following reasons not to be a vegan are excerpted from Susan Voisin's Vegan Connection Web site, based in Columbia, South Carolina (http://members.xoom.com/veg/reasons.html).
- Most people don't know what a vegan is and can't pronounce it.
- People expect you to be really thin when they meet you. Sorry!
- Vinyl shoes are hot, and canvas shoes don't go well with formal wear.
- Reading small print on labels makes your eyes hurt.
- People think you're a radical, tree-hugging peacenik, which maybe you are, but still...
- Your in-laws think you are strange. Hell, even your own family thinks you are strange!
- Soy milk isn't served in public schools (at least not in South Carolina).
- Because of your vegan, nonviolent philosophy, you must restrain yourself from strangling your coworker when he tells the "screaming tomato" joke for the 15th time.
- People assume you are vegan because you are trying to lose weight. Then they say, "Lean chicken is the ticket! Remember, lean chicken!"
- You can't really admit to your meat-eating friends that you don't like carrots, peas or dill when they offer you their only vegan dish of the night, which is, of course, steamed carrots with baby peas and lots of their homegrown, organic dill.
Hard Choices: Who do you save?
Farmed animals account for 97 percent of the animal universe of pain and suffering, as our departed friend and mentor Henry Spira used to say. Yet they attract less than 3 percent of the animal-protection funding. Moreover, most of the latter fraction pays for the care of several thousand animals in sanctuaries, rather than direct opposition to raising animals for food.
Meatout Plea: Farm animals need more attention.
Every animal is precious and deserving of our concern, but, in the face of our movement's limited resources and our society's unlimited capacity for oppressing animals, hard choices must be made. We have chosen to work for the 9.4 billion farmed animals who are tortured and killed each year in U.S. factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Farm Animal Reform Movement, Bethesda, Maryland
Editor's note: The Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) sponsors a variety of nationwide events each year, including the Great American Meatout. This year's Meatout, on March 20, the first day of spring, is expected to be observed in over a thousand communities in all 50 states and several Canadian provinces. Activities will include a congressional reception, food festivals, public dinners, cooking demonstrations and tabling. Participants will ask their friends and neighbors to kick the meat habit, at least for a day, and explore a wholesome, less violent diet. Individual events are planned and conducted by local consumer, environmental and animal-protection groups. For more information, call (800) MEATOUT. For New York City-area activities, see calendar.
March / April 1999
News from the vegetarian perspective
By Alex Press
Chicken catchers sue Perdue
There are probably not many jobs worse than those of the so-called chicken catchers, who work amid the bedlam and nauseous excretory ammonia gases of a broiler shed. Their mission: Grab as many distressed birds as possible and stuff them into crates so they can be shipped to the slaugherhouse. Now 80 of the workers are suing Perdue for overtime that has been denied them for the past 15 or so years, ever since the company transformed them into employees of outside contractors and stripped them of benefits. According to a January report on National Public Radio, the workers typically make no more than $100 for a 13-hour shift that runs through the night. They are paid by the bird, not by the hour. The process is not gentle: One worker estimated that two men catch and pack away 315 birds every two minutes.
EU, FDA tackle antibiotics in animal ag
Half the antibiotics in the U.S. go to animals, most of it for growth promotion.
The European Union has banned the use of four antibiotics in animal feed, a move that could affect as much as 15 percent of EU antibiotic sales, according to Bloomberg News. Antibiotics in livestock are thought to hasten the rise of drug-resistant bacteria that are dangerous to human health. The four drugs were singled out because of their similarity to medication given to people. The ban, which took effect in January, adds to the list of 15 antibiotics already banned as growth stimulants in the EU.
In the United States, meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed steps such as measuring levels of drug resistance in food-borne bacteria and then setting limits for how much additional resistance would be allowed. If bacterial resistance to a certain antibiotic exceeds the limit, the agency would restrict or ban the drug in question. Currently, almost half the 50 million pounds of antibiotics produced in the United States is administered to animals, and 80 percent of that amount is for growth promotion.
The FDA will decide on the proposed rules after a public-comment period that ends in April. Makers of animal pharmaceuticals, which are sharply opposed to the regulations, claim the agency is "overreacting."
Cloning heralds big bucks for meat and dairy
With news of a fresh animal-cloning success, agricultural interests and the mainstream media are cheerfully imagining herds of Xeroxed supercattle.
In December Japanese researchers reported in Science that they had cloned multiple calves using cells from a single adult cow. According to U.S. News & World Report, this particular cow-cloning exercise, notable for its relative "efficiency," was the first to be featured in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
The ability to create genetic duplicates of cows would provide "an absolutely foolproof way to get a consistent product," the chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's competitive-grants program told U.S. News. A professor of veterinary and animal sciences estimated that cloning could bring the beef industry another $8 billion on top of its current $30 billion to $35 billion a year.
Warning: USDA says get out your thermometers
It's gray, but is it safe? If you're talking about ground beef, the answer is don't bet on it. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meat that looks done may still pose a threat, and homemakers must take precautions. "Thermometer use is the most reliable method consumers have for ensuring that meat and poultry have reached a temperature sufficient to kill disease-causing organisms," the USDA's undersecretary for food safety proclaimed in January at a Giant supermarket in suburban Maryland. The Giant, Wegmans and Bashas' chains--participants in the USDA's meat-temperature awareness effort--are selling disposable thermometers and labeling all ground beef with a warning to cook it to 160 degrees.
Beef irradiation moves forward
"Providing industry with another tool to improve food safety," as the press release put it, the USDA announced in February it would allow the irradiation of raw meat and raw meat products. According to the USDA, "irradiation is currently the only known method to eliminate completely the potentially deadly E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria in raw meat. The technology can also significantly reduce levels of listeria, salmonella, and campylobacter on raw product." To its credit, the USDA said it would require that irradiated meat and meat products bear the radura (radiation) symbol and a statement indicating that the product was treated by irradiation.
Mad cow fears remain
Three years after the British government announced a possible link between a fatal brain-wasting disease and the consumption of infected beef, many questions remain. Thirty-four people in the United Kingdom and one in France have died from what has been dubbed new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD), but nobody is sure whether the eventual toll will remain in the double digits or reach into the hundreds of thousands. Following are some of the latest developments.
- The discovery of prions, the proteins suspected of causing mad cow disease and nvCJD, in the tonsils and appendixes of human victims has led to the launch of several multiyear studies in Britain. Thousands of tissue samples
removed in routine tonsillectomies and appendectomies will be anonymously tested for the infectious substance. (Previously, examination of brain tissue was the only means of diagnosis.) Researchers hope the tests will provide insight into the extent of the nvCJD catastrophe.
Mad Cow Mystery: The experts ponder death toll.
- In December an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked it to consider prohibiting blood donations from Americans who have lived or traveled in Great Britain since 1980. The panel was expected to vote this spring on whether to make a formal recommendation, after obtaining more information on how such a policy would affect the U.S. blood supply. At this time, there is no evidence of blood-to-blood transmission of nvCJD among humans, and a preliminary estimate is that the rule would require the recruitment of at least a million new blood donors.
- In November the European Union voted to lift the ban on British beef it had imposed in March 1996. According to the British government, more than 4 million cattle were destroyed in the effort to eradicate mad cow disease. Exports from Britain to the Continent could resume this spring, although demand is not expected to be high.
Illustration by Arnold Caminet
Hog-farm neighbors suffer breathing woes
When a smelly hog factory moves into town, the suffering inflicted on residents is more than just aesthetic. In December University of Iowa researchers reported finding an unusually high rate of respiratory problems among the neighbors of a 4,000-sow operation. The problems resembled those found among the workers in livestock-confinement facilities. According to one of the researchers, roughly 25 percent to 30 percent of these workers develop afflictions such as chronic bronchitis, occupational asthma and chronic sinusitis. In addition to dust from dried manure, grain and hog skin, workers and hog-farm neighbors are exposed to ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and methane, which are produced as the pig manure decomposes in giant open storage pools. According to the Associated Press, 19 people have died in accidents involving large releases of these toxic gases.
Missouri sues hog giant
Mega-Hog Farm: Sued for multiple manure spills
Missouri attorney general Jay Nixon announced in January he was suing Premium Standard Farms, a corporate hog producer, for multiple violations of the state's environmental laws. The offenses include at least 11 hog-waste spills in 1996 and 1997 and improper overapplication of waste as a fertilizer. The lawsuit also states that the company's facilities have emitted odors at "frequencies [and] intensities and for durations that are unreasonable." For the families that live near a Premium Standard facility, Nixon noted, "there has been a profound negative impact on the quality of their lives because of the uncontrolled stench."
Canada rejects milk hormone used in U.S.
Monsanto, the manufacturer of a genetically engineered hormone used by the U.S. dairy industry to increase milk production, suffered a setback in January when Canadian health officials nixed the substance. A panel of scientists found that recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH, increases the chances of udder infections, infertility and lameness in cows by 25, 18 and 50 percent, respectively. Although a second panel asserted that it poses "no significant risk" to humans, the issue of rBGH's safety remains highly controversial, with consumers' groups, scientists and journalists calling attention to the suspicious circumstances surrounding U.S. approval of the drug in 1993. In December both of Vermont's senators asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, to investigate the approval process and determine whether any evidence concerning the product's safety for dairy consumers was "overlooked."
Man bites sharks
Although the Jaws movies pegged sharks as a malevolent threat to innocent swimmers, the real villain in the story of man versus shark has been people. High Asian demand for shark fins, which are used in a soup, coupled with low demand for the rest of the shark, has led fishermen in the waters off Hawaii, Guam and other Pacific islands to cut off the fins, by the hundreds of thousands, and simply toss the animals back, to bleed to death, drown or be eaten. According to a November story in the Associated Press, the mutilated fish are mostly blue sharks, a species considered harmless to humans. Often they are discovered as part of nontarget "bycatch" brought in by fishermen--caught along with swordfish and tuna on 80-mile lines dangling thousands of hooks. Although the practice of "finning" is banned in federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, it is allowed in the Pacific. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, a government body with regulatory power, objects to the waste, not to the killing itself: It plans to study whether alternative markets can be developed for shark products, such as leather goods and dubious alternative remedies made from their cartilage and liver. In the meantime, shark fins are imported from China and are noteworthy to the government for little else than the fact that they are part of a growing number of exotic-food imports in need of regulation for safety reasons.
French-fry nation, part I
Half of all servings of vegetables that Americans eat are potatoes, and half of that amount are french fries, according to a study by a researcher at the National Cancer Institute. Her findings were published in the journal Cancer in September. U.S. government guidelines call for Americans to eat at least three to five servings of vegetables a day and two to four servings of fruit. However, french fries are high in fat and low in nutritional value.
French-fry nation, part II
It doesn't take a genius to figure out where all those french fries are coming from. Still, a September article in Rolling Stone, entitled "Fast-Food Nation," offered some startling statistics on the Golden Arches' relentless drive into every nook and cranny of the world. According to the article:
- In 1970 Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food. In 1997 it was $106 billion.
- In 1968 McDonald's had about 1,000 restaurants. Today it has about 25,000 in more than 100 countries and opens some 2,000 each year.
- An estimated one out of eight Americans has worked at a McDonald's restaurant.
- McDonald's annually trains more new workers than the U.S. Army.
- McDonald's is the nation's largest purchaser of beef and potatoes and the second largest purchaser of poultry.
- A whole new breed of chicken was "developed" to facilitate the production of McNuggets.
- The McDonald's Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world.
- McDonald's spends more on advertising and marketing than does any other brand, and much of its advertising is targeted at children.
- A survey of American schoolchildren found that 96 percent could identify Ronald McDonald.
- The typical American consumes about three hamburgers and four orders of fries every week. Roughly a quarter of Americans buy fast food every day.
March / April 1999
Deaths & miscarriages
Listeria on the Attack: Heat up your cold cuts
By Alex Press
First it was E. coli. Then campylobacter. Now another bug has grabbed the spotlight. The name: Listeria monocytogenes.
As of mid February, listeria-tainted hot dogs and cold cuts produced by a Sara Lee plant in Zeeland, Michigan, had been blamed for 16 deaths, five miscarriages and more than 70 illnesses in 14 states. Millions of pounds of Sara Lee products had been recalled.
All through the fall and winter, there was one listeria alarm after another: hot dogs from Winn-Dixie, cheeseburgers from Hormel, deli meats from Oscar Mayer, chicken burritos from Tyson Foods, milk from Land O'Lakes. One recall, involving Thorn Apple Valley, a Forrest City, Arkansas, processing plant, covered meats produced there between July and December.
Several things seem particularly ominous about the emergence of listeria. One is its virulence. Though listeria is less common than other food-borne bacteria, it is believed to have a significantly higher fatality rate. Also, unlike the others, it has a long incubation period, up to 70 days before symptoms appear.
But most disturbing is the fact that listeria has been consistently attacking cooked-meat products. People don't usually reheat cold cuts, so the bug is much less likely to perish between the factory and the consumer's mouth than, say, the salmonella in chicken. Merely zapping a tainted hot dog in a microwave is not good enough.
If you're among the most vulnerable consumers--the elderly, pregnant women, infants, people with impaired immune systems--health officials warn that you should simply stay away from all soft cheeses and deli meats...unless you're prepared to fully recook them.
March / April 1999
FOR THE HEALTH OF IT
Heart in Hand: The choice is yours
By Alex Press
Heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States, is readily preventable. The solution is as simple as exercising, not smoking and switching from a high-fat meat-based diet to a healthful vegetarian diet. Following are recent news stories that collectively reflect the opposition between the holistic approach and the technical fix. The choice is yours.
- In the December 16 Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Dean Ornish reported finding that after five years, 20 heart patients who followed his low-fat vegetarian regimen showed continued collective improvement while 15 patients whose regimens were based on American Heart Association guidelines (and in most cases included drugs) saw their conditions worsen.
- Two recently reported studies suggest that eating nuts may be beneficial. In a study of 86,000 nurses over 10 years, "women who frequently ate about an ounce of nuts, including peanuts, lowered their risk of heart disease by about a third, compared to women who rarely ate nuts," according to the principal investigator of the study. Similarly, a study of 22,000 doctors found that those who ate the most nuts had a lower risk of dying from heart disease.
- In November the Food and Drug Administration proposed allowing manufacturers of foods containing at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving to state on their labels that their products can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. According to The Washington Post, there have been some 50 published studies in humans suggesting that soy can lower blood cholesterol levels.
- Half of men and a third of American women will develop coronary heart disease after the age of 40, according to a study published in the Lancet in January. The data came from the 50-year Framingham Heart Study and involved 7,733 people. According to a heart-disease specialist quoted by the Associated Press, this is "an epidemic that cannot be resolved by treating half the population with drugs."
- Just under 5 million cardiovascular surgeries were performed in the United States in 1995, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, as cited in the Los Angeles Times in January.
- More than half a million Americans will have at least one stent implanted inside a blocked coronary artery this year, according to a December story in The Washington Post. The devices, which hold blood vessels open, are now the basis of a $1.5 billion-a-year industry.
- Increasing attention is being focused on a technique for growing new arteries by injecting the heart or coronary arteries with a gene that causes muscle cells to produce a protein called VEGF. The VEGF, in turn, is supposed to cause the heart to grow its own new blood vessels. Regardless of how the experiments turn out, we say never mind VEGF. Save yourself the trouble and just go VEGetarian.
March / April 1999
PROJECT FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR VEGETARIANS
Foreign Trade in Meat: Wasteful, unhealthful, cruel & useless to the core
By Pamela Rice
- The Market Access Program pays for foreign promotion
- The Export Enhancement Program feeds subsidy wars
- Dismantling trade barriers enables meat exports
- U.S. credit guarantees bolster foreign purchases
"USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] is committed to using all of its export tools to the fullest extent possible to help U.S. farmers and exporters in an increasingly competitive world market." --Dan Glickman, USDA secretary, April 24, 1998
Go Dan! ...But wait a minute. What if one happens to be a vegetarian? And what if this country continually reaches into the public coffers to promote international trade in animal-based foods? And what if because of the increased trade, hundreds of millions more animals must suffer abject cruelty in factory systems--fouling the local environment as they go to supply the upswing in international demand? Mr. Glickman, if you please, it's time for you to hear the vegetarian point of view.
All a vegetarian has to do is read the American agricultural press for five minutes to see that government policy regarding international trade is a prominent issue. Following is an abbreviated rundown of the methods that the U.S. government uses to open foreign markets and promote exports, of which agricultural products--read animal-based foods--are a large part.
Export Enhancement Program (EEP). This is the American version of what the world knows simply as export subsidies. To facilitate certain "needy corporations" in their efforts to penetrate foreign markets with necessarily competitive prices, "bonus payments" (U.S. Treasury checks) serve as compensation to them. Since other countries partake in similar subsidization, international subsidy wars have been known to result, which only serve to benefit foreign buyers at U.S. taxpayer expense. The EEP has been held in disfavor since 1995 for this reason. However, in May 1998, it was revived in the Middle East poultry market as a punishment to the European Union for its refusal to recognize the equivalency of American sanitation practices in poultry processing. The action cost U.S. taxpayers $20 million.
- Market Access Program (MAP). Under this program the U.S. government reimburses designated companies and trade organizations for product promotions in foreign countries. Roughly $20 million was allocated to animal-based-food promoters in 1998.
- Breaking down trade barriers. Government officials from the president of the United States on down regularly negotiate agreements to allow U.S.-produced animal-based foods into protectionist countries. Glickman was a key cabinet member accompanying President Clinton on his trip to China in June of last year. On the agenda was getting China to reduce its import duties on agricultural goods.
- Pressuring the European Union to accept U.S. hormone-injected beef has caused a standing dispute between the Atlantic superpowers for over 10 years. In pursuit of this end, Glickman threatened the European Union at the end of January with costly retaliatory tariffs.
- Export credit guarantees. Here, the U.S. government essentially acts as a cosigner on loans so foreign importers can purchase U.S. goods. The guarantees, which serve to keep market share in U.S. hands during times of low demand, are something that often ignites anger among foreign competitors. Aside from administrative expenses, the program supposedly costs the government very little because, theoretically, the loans get repaid. Of course, there are always defaults. Due to currently bearish economic conditions in U.S. agriculture, the USDA upped its yearly amount designated for credit guarantees by 50 percent to nearly $4.8 billion for 1999.
- Charitable food exports. To alleviate oversupplies and therefore shore up commodity prices, U.S. donations of food are made to countries in need due to famine, disasters such as earthquakes or economic collapse. On February 3, the USDA announced it had negotiated a long-term, low-interest loan for the Russian government to purchase 50,000 tons of U.S. poultry parts valued at $30 million.
The problem for vegetarian citizens is that the U.S. government makes no distinction between animal and plant agriculture. The end products from both are considered "food" as far as it's concerned--having plenty of it for the U.S. population is considered to be nothing less than a national-security issue. Such an attitude gives the government the excuse to support animal-based food production--to steal a phrase--"by any means necessary." It provides the perfect excuse to prop up an industry that vegetarians rightly see as cruel, wasteful, unhealthful and useless to its core.
That said, it's interesting to know that though this vegetarian viewpoint is nowhere circulating in the government's mind-set, other forces are at work to curtail a U.S. will to support domestic animal agriculture. U.S. trading partners frequently cry foul over the double standard that the United States projects regarding free trade. At the world economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, early in February, Vice President Gore declared that the United States would propose ending its export subsidies in the farm sector later this year--suggesting that the rest of the world take similar steps.* The truth is, this is easy for him to say, since the United States has already cut back on its programs that specifically support U.S. farm exports (most notably EEP and MAP). And besides, American farmers have recently enjoyed near record government support under many other programs.
With recent economic meltdowns in Asia, Russia and Latin America digging deeply into agricultural exports, along with a host of other excuses--weather disasters, low commodity prices and outbreaks of livestock diseases--the U.S. government has overwhelmingly fulfilled every urge to come to the rescue of farmers. This despite sweeping farm legislation in 1996 that laid out a process for essentially transforming farmers into businesspeople less dependent on the government.
Indeed, trading partners of the United States are not amused. No, U.S. farmers may not be getting export-program support. But if recent history is any gauge, they can expect to receive cash in their bank accounts just the same, compliments of the U.S. taxpayer. Six of one, half a dozen of another, as they say.
* Gore's proposal also included a call for deep reductions in agricultural tariffs, which now average a steep 40 percent. If reciprocity in the form of open markets in other countries can be negotiated, American farmers are sure to benefit.
March / April 1999
By Pamela Rice
Drugged Birds: Victims of drugged rats
Ecological groups in Chile, a bit over a year ago, reported an alarming phenomenon happening on local farms. Chickens there were being brutally attacked by two-foot-long "mutant" rats. According to Newsday, the rodents' freakish size was attributed to their feeding on the droppings of the hormone-fattened chickens.
Carcinogenic burger to go
No doubt one needs to "consider the source" when a tobacco-company scientist gives testimony in a lung-cancer death case. Still, this one may have bearing on the vegetarian point of view: The scientist declared--under oath, of course--that cooked hamburger contains more carcinogens than eight hours of secondhand smoke, according to a March 1998 Associated Press story.
He has a point, sort of
Famed mathematics professor Stephen Hawkings expressed his bewilderment at meat eaters who decry animal experiments. In a Reuters story last September, he was reported to have wondered openly, "Why is it worse to use animal experiments to save lives than to eat them, which the majority of the population are happy to do?"
All the livelong day
Last Labor Day, listeners to a Chicago radio station were invited to call in and describe their "worst job ever," according to a story published by the Marketing and Technology Group. One caller described a job cleaning out a morgue after autopsies. Another described enticing dairy cows to mate. Yet another said that his worst job was working as a USDA inspector. With a shift that began at 4 a.m., the task at hand was to inspect pig guts. "It was awful," he said. No chitlin!
A spokesman for Dan Glickman, Andy Solomon, noted in August that the USDA secretary believes visual carcass inspection in the meat industry needs to continue to play a role in the overall inspection process--which more and more is being given over to microbial testing. He then added, "It's an important part of the effort to remove visible fecal contamination from livestock." Huh?
March / April 1999
Hog Farmers in Crisis: The USDA goes to the rescue
By Pamela Rice
Hog farmers have been faced for months now with devastatingly low prices for their herds due to market oversupply. At one point in early January, a person could have bought a whole hog for about twice the cost of a ham sandwich. At that time, your average pork producer was losing $1,000 a day because of the low prices. A University of Missouri study estimates that hog farmers as a whole experienced $2.5 billion in operating losses in 1998.
Small- to medium-sized farmers are blaming a powerful industry oligopoly for the severe economic climate. The farmers contend that giant corporate farm interests intend to shake the little guys out. Needless to say, the Asian financial crisis must factor into the equation. Regardless of how the current implosion started, when the dust settles, it's likely that 20 to 30 percent of today's hog farmers will be out of business.
The question arises: If even hog farmers can't fight the meat industry, why should vegetarians think they can? Though our greatest desire should be to effect change at the policy level, our primary strategy must continue to be to convince consumers to buy less meat. In the meantime, vegetarians can enjoy, with sick pleasure, watching a hog-glut scramble.
Though ineffectual federal antitrust regulation is the reason behind today's concentration in the meat industry, you now have government officials scurrying about, ready to place Band-Aids on the crisis. Indeed, it is chaos out there. The economic situation is uprooting people from their way of life. Families are cashing out and moving to the city. Drug abuse and suicide among farm kids has become an epidemic. Don't worry, though; government higher-ups are "feeling their pain"--and making political hay while they're at it. Jimmy Carter even came out of the woodwork recently to call for emergency low-interest loans to tide the pig farmers over.
"Our Pork Crisis Task Force has been working overtime to develop solutions."
----USDA secretary Dan Glickman
In January Vice President Gore played the empathy card with a "Gore in 2000" rally in Iowa, where he announced $130 million in federal subsidies to hog farmers: $50 million for out-and-out payments to small operations according to the number of hogs--the average compensation will amount to about $800, or less than the cost of two dozen hogs; $80 million to pay farmers to kill up to 1.7 million hogs as part of a program to eradicate pseudorabies, a hog disease.
In January agriculture secretary Dan Glickman made a trip to Moscow to iron out an agreement to sell, as well as plain give away, 50,000 metric tons of American pork to financially strapped Russians--that's the equivalent of about three-quarters of a pound for every person there. In October Gore negotiated an agreement that would reestablish U.S. hog exports to Argentina. In addition, pork has since been included in a package of export credit guarantees to South Korea (see "Foreign Trade in Meat" for an explanation of export credits).
In December Glickman announced that the USDA would use every opportunity to forgive and reschedule pork-producer debt. In addition, he declared a moratorium on USDA loans for the construction of new pork-producing facilities. In a Christmas Eve radio address, he said, "I am using whatever power and influence I have at my disposal. Our Pork Crisis Task Force has been working overtime to develop solutions." This must explain a USDA idea to force hogs to suffer transit to Mexican slaughterhouses in an effort to expand processing capacity.
In the end these government measures are going to make very little difference for small hog farmers. At this point the best thing for the government to do is to administer a program to get these farmers into the vegetable business--organic, of course.
FALLOUT FROM HOG OVERSUPPLY
Not worth it to feed, too costly to market
Purveyors of animal foods attempt to keep animal-welfare proponents at bay by claiming that their cutlet-bound tenants are treated humanely prior to slaughter because it doesn't make economic sense to abuse them. This is a dubious argument to start with, but what happens when the goods, i.e., animals, are not worth feeding and too costly to bring to market? You're going to want them to just go away.
While reports on the hog glut have centered mostly on the human costs, stories have occasionally surfaced to bring the animals into the picture.
Anecdotes are all that may be gleaned, but it doesn't take a great imagination to project the situation across the entire industry.
- Officials found 300 dead piglets in a barn, abandoned by a Canadian farmer who had simply run out of money to feed them.
- Though the event was called off after receiving bad press, a group of southwest Iowa pork farmers invited hunters to a hog shoot--only $100 to take part. One proponent of the event reasoned, "What do [consumers] think they're doing when they eat beef, pork and bacon?"
- So-called piggy sows (pregnant sows) are now more frequently slaughtered before their time.
- Home butchering is becoming a favored alternative to expensive trips to the slaughterhouse.
March / April 1999
Ancient Grain: Teff is hearty foundation for flapjacks
Teff, a staple of the Ethiopian diet, is a highly nutritious grain that has gone largely unnoticed in the rest of the world. And that's a shame. Just pick up a package at a health-food store and you will find that a single half cup provides 20 percent of the protein, 16 percent of the calcium, 40 percent of the iron and 48 percent of the fiber called for in the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances. An easy way to work it into your diet is with pancakes. If you factor in the unfortified soy milk, the baking powder and the egg replacer called for in the following recipe, plus a cup of soy milk to drink, the calcium content comes to almost 60 percent of the RDA--all in a single, delicious meal. (A fortified soy milk will, of course, boost the nutritional content even further.) Teff is also low in gluten, which makes it a possible alternative for people with wheat allergies. By the way, this recipe works just as well with other flours. Try it with whole wheat, or with a 50-50 combination of wheat and millet, buckwheat or oat flour.
VivaVegie's very own vegan pancakes
1/2 cup teff (or other) flour
3/4 t baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 t EnerG egg replacer*
1 T water
2 T canola oil, plus 1 t for pan
1/2 cup Edensoy Original soy milk**
maple syrup to taste
Sift together teff flour, baking powder and salt. Start heating a large frying pan. In a separate bowl, add the water to the EnerG and whisk until it has dissolved. Add the oil and whisk to emulsify. Add oil to the pan. Then add the soy milk to the EnerG mixture. Finally, combine the wet and dry ingredients. If a drop of water dances on the surface of the frying pan, it's hot enough and you can start frying the pancakes. Flip them as soon as you can without making a mess. Both sides should be crisp-looking. To serve the pancakes, put a heap of applesauce on top and pour maple syrup around the edges to create a pancake-applesauce island surrounded by a maple-syrup moat. (Makes a stack of approximately four pancakes, enough for one hungry person.)* EnerG, a starchy powder available in heath-food stores, is highly recommended as a substitution in any baking recipe that calls for eggs. For another alternative to eggs, combine a teaspoon of flaxseeds in a blender with a tablespoon of water until the mixture is gelatinous and egglike in texture.
** Edensoy Original soy beverage is recommended here for its relatively thin texture. Thicker, creamier brands will not work as well in this recipe.
March / April 1999
FROM OUR BOOKSHELF
Vegetarians get religion
By Alex Press
Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World's Religionsby Rynn Berry
Looking for a religion to fit your vegan ideals or wondering how your vegan ideals fit into your chosen religion? A good place to start is this engaging new book, a collection of essays and interviews by New York's own vegetarian scholar, Rynn Berry. With charm and good humor, Berry examines a wide array of traditions--from the relatively animal-friendly (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism) to the more anthropocentric (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), as well as two less well-known, fervently vegetarian faiths (Jainism and the Order of the Cross). Did the Buddha die from eating tainted pork? Was Jesus a vegetarian? Berry explores these common controversies and many others, offering space to differing views. His far-flung interview subjects are a diverse lot, from a Jainist monk to a Jewish raw-foodist literature professor to a Franciscan brother who's also a champion vegetarian chef. But all share a commitment to the principle of ahimsa, nonharm of other living beings. Bonus for the spiritually (and physically) hungry reader: a section of karma-free recipes representing each of the featured religious traditions.
March / April 1999
Technical Fixes: Antidotes to industrial pathogens
By Anne Borel
The reports of illness and death striking consumers of tainted meat seem to arrive daily. Outbreaks of E. Coli 0157:H7, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria have become all too common. Even observers in the meat industry are pointing a finger at common practices on farms and processing plants as the cause of pathogen proliferation. Unquestionably, the mass concentration of animals and the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms are central reasons for the explosion of dangerous food-borne bacteria, some of which have become resistant to drugs. Incidentally, the primary purpose of antibiotics in agriculture today is to promote growth in farm animals, not to combat disease.
An impartial observer, perhaps from another planet, would have to conclude that farming and meat-processing methods need to change radically. But our interplanetary observer might not understand that without these cost-saving measures farmers and packing-plant operators would not be able to produce their products at a profit.
The only way to truly eliminate these pathogens is to do away with the meat industry altogether.
Of course, the meat industry doesn't like contamination. But since doing away with the causes is unthinkable, it prefers to employ quick fixes. As a result, a separate industry, full of technological solutions, has sprung up. As more and more of these shortcuts are put to use, any effort to clean up farms and slaughterhouses where pathogens incubate appears less urgent, and business goes on as usual.
Irradiation is the granddaddy of them all
The granddaddy of pathogen destruction is food irradiation. With this method, bacteria are killed in meat by means of gamma rays from radioactive material. Irradiation purportedly not only destroys pathogens but also retards spoilage and extends shelf life. Opponents say that the process, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use on poultry in 1990 and on beef in 1997, is not 100 percent effective, since the radiation may not penetrate carcasses all the way through. Critics also claim that the growth of a food-irradiation industry would expose the nation to a host of environmental and worker-safety problems, as well as the alarming prospect of spent fuel rods continually crisscrossing the country on trucks. They further contend that irradiation alters a food's chemistry. Although consumer resistance does not seem to be letting up, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave its own stamp of approval to irradiated beef in February, bringing the era of gamma-burgers ever closer.
The meat industry employs technologies to mask its dirty operations but never thinks to clean up its act.
In the meantime, numerous other pathogen-zapping methodologies are being proposed and employed.
- The use of disinfecting sprays is common in the meat industry. Carcasses, particularly those of chickens, are sprayed with chlorine or saline rinses as they travel down the processing line.
- Steam pasteurization works by exposing carcass surfaces to a blanket of bacteria-killing steam.
- Benign bacteria collected from the guts of mature chickens are administered to chicks. The theory is that the harmless bacteria will crowd out those that are dangerous.
- A genetically engineered freeze-dried vaccine given to baby chicks with their drinking water promises to imbue them with lifelong immunities.
- Electrostatic air clearing is one of the latest research developments out of the USDA. The department's studies have shown that negative electrostatic charges can attract dust particles in chicken-hatching cabinets that would otherwise infect the birds with salmonella. The dust is safely deposited onto plates that are automatically rinsed several times an hour.
- Eggs can be automatically vaccinated against salmonella by injection. Up to 45,000 eggs an hour can be processed, eliminating the need for manual vaccination of newly hatched broiler chicks.
- Ozone gas can deliver bacteria-killing oxidants to food surfaces for disinfection. The technique is especially effective against E. coli contamination. Ozone can also kill salmonella in eggs if they are blasted with the gas in low concentrations.
Each of these technologies has at one time or another been considered a "breakthrough" in bacteria killing. To vegetarians, any "promise" they offer is overshadowed by their association with a detestable business. A sure way to truly eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, food-borne pathogens is to do away with the meat industry altogether.
March / April 1999
VIVA VEGIE NEWS
"101 Reasons": Our "mighty convincer" lives on
VVS sandwich boards
Take your passion to the street. It's easy. Now you can obtain brilliant, full-color 11" x 17" replicas of the famous VivaVegie sandwich boards for only $30, which includes a starter kit of 20 copies of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." Send checks to the VivaVegie Society in care of our post-office address.
With the arrival of spring, VivaVegie's outreach schedule picks up steam. This year, in addition to our traditional outreach venues such as the Easter Parade and the Nathan's hot-dog-eating contest, we will make an effort to be out tabling and leafleting every weekend. If you'd like to meet new people and help in the vital work of spreading the vegetarian message, call (212) 229-1506 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
VivaVegie wish list
- Two-year subscription to
- Feedstuffs magazine, $277
- Press run, VVS's "Easy Guide to Veganism" (see below), $400
- VivaVegie Web site, $1,000/year
- Press run, Spanish edition of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian," $250
- One year's office rent, $4,200
Our guide to veganism
Now available free from VivaVegie: "The Easy Guide to Veganism." This valuable leaflet includes a dietary-transition plan, a directory of veg and veg-friendly restaurants and health-food stores in New York City, and much more. To receive the leaflet, send your request along with an SASE to our post-office box.
Special thanks to "101 Reasons" sponsors
Thanks to 36 generous sponsors, a reprint of the 1998 edition of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian" went forward. The "mighty convincer" lives on!
Thank you for the help
Thank you, Suzy Richardson, for your sponsorship of 16 memberships to the VivaVegie Society. Recipients include environmental and animal rights groups from high schools around the country.
March / April 1999
Saturday, March 20
- Meatout Day bash, including outreach with VivaVegie and Satya magazine followed by dinner, lectures, videos, live music and vendors at the Sanctuary restaurant in NYC's East Village. Sponsored by Big Apple Vegetarians, Sierra Club Vegetarian Outings, Feed America First and Integral Yoga. Information: (212) 715-8642; 871-9304.
- EarthSave Hudson Valley vegan potluck, in Pleasantville, NY, featuring John Morlino on the connection between animal rights, human rights, nonviolence and social justice. Information: (914) 472-7392.
- EarthSave Long Island vegan potluck, featuring Dr. Joel Fuhrman on eating for health. Information: (516) 421-3791.
Sunday, March 21
- VivaVegie's volunteers' open house. Information: (212) 871-9304.
Sunday, March 28
- VegOut vegan potluck, 5 p.m., at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, One Little West 12th Street, NYC. Information: (212) 802-8655.
Sunday, April 4
- VivaVegie's Easter Parade outreach on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Information: (212) 871-9304.
Saturday, April 17
- EarthSave Hudson Valley vegan potluck, in Pleasantville, NY, featuring Martin Rowe on The Way of Compassion, a new collection of essays from Satya magazine. Information: (914) 472-7392.
Sunday, April 18
- Join VivaVegie for Earth Day street outreach. Location to be announced. Information: (212) 871-9304.
Wednesday, July 7-Sunday, July 11
- North American Vegetarian Society Summerfest, in Johnstown, PA, featuring vegan meals, lectures, entertainment. Information: (518) 568-7970.
Wednesday, July 28-Sunday,August 1
- American Vegan Society convention in Boulder, CO, featuring vegan meals, lectures, entertainment. Information: (609) 694-2887.
To receive periodic calendar updates or to add an event, contact email@example.com.
BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS
March / April 1999
A PUBLICATION OF:
VivaVegie Society, Inc.
ISSUE: VOL. 8, NO. 2
March / April 1999
P.O. Box 1447
New York, NY 10276
(212) 242-0011 (Vegetarian Center)
(212) 871-9304 (hot line)
- Publisher: Pamela Rice
- Editor: Alex Press
- Reference editor: Alan Rice
- Advertising: Pamela Rice
- Copy Editing: Glen Boisseau Becker
- Contributing artist: Juan Torcoletti, Arnold Caminet
- Contributing writer: Xiao Jia, Anne Borel
- Gaggle of veg-evangelists: Bobbie Flowers, Dean Milan, Rochelle Goldman, Thomas Thomson, Lenny Morgenstern, Jean Thaler, Dee Bennett, Norbert Banholzer
- Karen Davis: United Poultry Concerns
- Richard Schwartz: author, Judaism and Vegetarianism
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 a membership card, five issues of The VivaVine, a copy of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian" and VivaVegie's "Easy Guide to Veganism."