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The VivaVine is a publication of the VivaVegie Society, New York City's premier vegetarian-outreach organization.
Table of Contents
CURRENT PROGRAMS: Veggie Center hosts Earth Day open house, workshops, lectures, rap sessions
COMMENTARY:Does meat contribute to world hunger? by Alex Press
COVER STORY: Fish stories, A-Z, we wish were only tall tales
GRAPEVINE: Flesh foods hurt vegetarians too
VEGETARIAN NEWS: George W. Bush and John McCain face vegetarian voters (and other stories)
PROJECT FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR VEGETARIANS: Taxpayers fleeced, milked for a total of $225 million for sheep and dairy industries
FOR THE HEALTH OF IT How to reduce your risk for heart disease by 82 percent; also, U.S. diet guidelines, a timid take on meat and dairy, draw fire (and other stories)
BACTERIA BEAT:Listeria is lurking--deadly, elusive and a bear to eradicate
VEGGIE NUGGETS Glow-in-dark transgenic fish detect PCBs (and other stories)
VEGETARIAN ROOTS: Bible-Christians: Plucky veg-evangelists of the 19th century
NYC-AREA RESOURCES Groups, cooking classes
VIVA VEGIE SOCIETY NEWS: Matching-fund grant lives on with new donor; volunteers take over distribution, via tricycle (and other updates)
CALENDAR Earth Day 2000 at the veggie center, VivaVegie outreach, area events and happenings
MASTHEAD The folks who make it all happen
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Vegetarian Center Programs
All events are at [click here for new address and contact information as of 12/28/00].
- Mar. 28, Apr. 11 & May 9:Getting Started With Your Veggie Diet
What do you eat now that you've decided to go vegetarian? Workshops begin at 7. Information: (212) 229-1506. Free.
Earth Day 2000 Open House
- Date: Saturday, April 15
- Time: 2 to 7 p.m.
- Place: the vegetarian center
- Suggested donation: $2
Round out your Earth Day 2000 activities by stopping by the vegetarian center. Expose yourself to some of the environmental issues associated with vegetarianism. Or just come to socialize. Light refreshments, Middle Eastern style, will be offered. Volunteers are needed for an informational table to be set up on the street directly outside the building that houses the vegetarian center.
- Mar. 16 & May 25: What about fish? Pamela Rice
An introduction to the environmental impact of fishing. Talk begins at 6:30 p.m. Suggested donation: $5.
Big Apple Vegetarians' rap 'n' wrap
- May 15: Topics in the news of concern to vegetarians
Is it enough to widen the battery cage? Should the government fund the meat-inspection service? You pick the topic. Freewheeling discussion begins at 6:30 p.m., and we'll order burritos. Suggested donation: $3.
March / April 2000
Veg-events city- and nation-wide
Click HERE for a listing of three ongoing activities sponsored by the VivaVegie Society: Big Apple Vegetarians' rap 'n' wrap, VivaVegie's lecture series and vegetarian workshops. Please call to confirm details. "NYC" indicates Manhattan events.Sat, March 11
Tues, March 14
- VegOut lunch at Zen East, 1 p.m., Park Slope, Brooklyn. RSVP: (212) 802-8655.
Sat, March 18
- Mark Green to speak to vegetarians.
Mon, March 20
- VivaVegie Meatout outreach, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Grand Central Station, NYC. Info: (212) 229-1506.
Sat, March 25
- National Meatout, sponsored by FARM. Info: 1-800-MEATOUT.
Sun, March 26
- Earthsave Hudson Valley vegan potluck and lecture. Info: (914) 472-7392. Additional potluck April 22.
- Earthsave Long Island vegan potluck and lecture, 6:30 p.m. Info: (516) 421-3791. Additional potluck April 22.
Sat, April 1
- VegOut vegan potluck, 5 p.m., at Lesbian and Gay Community Center, 1 Little W. 12th St., NYC. Additional potlucks April 23 and May 28. Info: (212) 802-8655.
Fri, April 7
- Spontaneous Cooking, a talk and demonstration, 1 p.m., at Integral Yoga, 227 W. 13th St., NYC. Cost: $16. Info: (212) 929-0586.
- Vegetarian cooking class, 9 a.m., at Sivananda Center, 243 W. 24th St., NYC. Cost: $25. Info: (212) 255-4560.
Sat, April 15
- Central Jersey Vegetarian Group dinner at Down to Earth, 7:30 p.m., Red Bank. Info: (908) 782-7101.
Sun, April 16
- Earth Day open house at VivaVegie's vegetarian center. Click HERE for complete information.
Tues, April 18
- VivaVegie, along with Penelo Pea Pod, has a booth at Earth Day 2000 in Battery Park.
Sat, April 22
- Harvard's Steven M. Wise on his book Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, 6:30 p.m., at NYC Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St. Info: (212) 382-6600.
Sun, April 23
- VivaVegie Earth Day outreach, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Grand Central Terminal, NYC. Info: (212) 229-1506.
Tues, April 25
- VivaVegie does its annual Easter Parade outreach, NYC.
Wed, May 3
- Chinese vegetarian cooking class, 6 p.m., at Himalayan Institute, 78 Fifth Ave., NYC. Cost: $20. Info: (212) 243-5995.
Sun, May 7
- "Bioengineering of Farm Animals: Legal and Ethical Issues," panel discussion, 7 p.m., at NYC Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St. Info: (212) 382-6600.
Sun, May 14
- Central Jersey Vegetarian Group dinner at Veggie Works, 6 p.m., Belmar. Info: (908) 782-7101.
Fri, June 30 - Wed, July 5
- VivaVegie commemorates Veal Ban Day. Info: (212) 229-1506. Nationwide events: 1-888-ASK-FARM.
Wed, July 5 - Sun, July 9
- Animal Rights 2000 conference, Washington, D.C. Info: 1-888-ASK FARM.
Mon, July 10 - Sun July 16
- Vegetarian Summerfest 2000, at UNCA, Asheville, N.C. Info: (518) 568-7970, or www.navs-online.org.
- Thirty-fourth World Vegetarian Congress, Toronto. Info: (416) 544-9800.
Social events and lectures
- Big Apple Vegetarians: (212) 715-8642
- Bronx Cheer Vegans: (212) 726-1208
- Central Jersey Vegetarian Group: (908) 281-6388
- Earthsave Hudson Valley: (914) 472-7392
- Earthsave Long Island: (516) 421-3791
- Eco Books: (718) 623-2698
- Hoboken Vegetarians: (201) 792-5300
- Iron Vegans' Raw Food Connection: (718) 263-7160
- Natural Hygiene: (212) 253-2262
- Raw Food Group: (718) 833-9712
- Sierra Club NYC Vegetarian Outings: (718) 805-4260 (Mon - Thurs only)
- Veggie Singles: (718) 437-0190
- VegOut: (212) 802-8655
- Gulliver's Center: (212) 730-5433
- Himalayan Institute: (212) 243-5995
- Integral Yoga: (212) 929-0586
- Natural Gourmet: (212) 645-5170
- Park Slope Food Coop: (718) 622-0560
- Sivananda Center: (212) 255-4560
- Sunfire Juice Club: (718) 622-1000
- Whole Foods Project: (718) 832-6628
To add an event, receive updates or learn about VivaVegie outreach activities, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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March / April 2000
Hunger: It's a Vegetarian Issue
By Alex Press
Does meat production contribute to hunger? Many argue it does, noting that a pound of grain fed to an animal produces much less than a pound of meat. The vegetarian argument generally assumes that hunger is a problem of supply, that there is not enough food for people because so much of it goes to animals. Supporters of biotech also focus on supply, grimly warning of food shortages unless the world capitulates to genetic manipulation.
However, experts tell us that hunger is actually a problem of distribution. They say that the world already produces enough food for everyone, but that it is kept from those who need it by war, repressive regimes and, above all, poverty. The results are catastrophic, as the following statistics, gleaned from the Hunger Site,* illustrate. (Sources are indicated in parentheses.)
- Twenty-four thousand people die from hunger or related causes daily, three-fourths of them children under age five (Hunger Project, United Nations).
- Ten percent of children in developing countries die before age five (CARE).
- An estimated 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
Admittedly, vegetarianism has no direct bearing on the distribution of wealth in the world. The fact that as a vegan I consume less grain than a meat eater, whose grain is cycled through livestock, does not mean my surplus will be magically transferred to the bowl of a distant child.
In the U.S., 70 percent of grain goes to livestock instead of people.
Nonetheless, with the human population continuing to expand, perhaps approaching 10 billion sometime this century, it is fair to ask how a grossly inefficient, animal-based system of food production could feed so many mouths--given the finite resources of land, fresh water and fossil fuels--even if biotechnology did boost crop yields. (And in fact, biotech could worsen hunger by forcing farmers to pay for the seeds they've traditionally obtained at no cost from the previous year's harvest.)
Today an increasing percentage of the food we raise is fed to animals rather than directly to people. In the U.S., 70 percent of grain goes to livestock. Worldwide, it's 36 percent. In the developing world, meat consumption is rising as the elite grow richer and emulate Western ways.
Unless the grain supply keeps up with both population growth and increasing demand for meat, basic food commodities will necessarily become more expensive, and therefore even less accessible to the poor than they are now.
Grain may be abundant at the moment, but could the earth sustain 10 billion people eating the way Americans do--more than 200 pounds of meat per person per year? Do we really want to find out?* The Hunger Site (www.thehungersite.com) allows people, at no cost to themselves, to trigger a corporate donation to the UN World Food Program simply by clicking a button. In 1998 the commodities distributed by the program included wheat, rice, maize and sorghum (collectively, 73 percent of the total tonnage), pulses (5 percent), vegetable oils (3 percent), milled products (17 percent) and "miscellaneous" (2 percent). See www.wfp.org for more information.
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March / April 2000
Extinction A to Z: Fish stories we wish were tall tales
By Pamela Rice
Worldwide, billion-dollar government subsidies have allowed too many fishermen to chase too few fish. One by one, species and even entire fisheries are facing collapse.
Fishermen don't pay rent on the seas that bring them wealth, even though they use a resource that belongs to the rest of us. No, in fact, just the opposite is true. Within one recent year, world governments extended a total of $54 billion in subsidies to them. And what did the world's taxpayers get in return for their generosity? About 70 percent of the world's major fisheries are now either fully exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. And the waste! About one quarter of the fish pulled from the sea die as unintended "by-catch," netted or hooked as fishermen pursue other species.
The capacity of the world's fishing fleet has increased fivefold, while human demand for fish has increased by 50 percent.
During the last four decades, the capacity of the world's fishing fleet has increased fivefold. Over half of it is considered superfluous--that is, threatening to environmental sustainability--according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. This assessment seems conservative, considering the fact that today's fishermen have increased their fish-finding abilities greatly with the help of sweeping technological advances, such as radar, sonar, satellite positioning systems, longlines and 40-mile-long driftnets. Today, 335-foot freezer trawlers can catch 500,000 pounds of fish in one tow of the net and are able to stay out at sea for months at a time. And aquaculture? Far from being an answer to wild fish stock depletion, this growing and subsidized innovation often indirectly accelerates the depletion of marine life, according to environmentalists. And while all of this rape of the world's fish is taking place, prices stay reasonable at the local Red Lobster. U.S. restaurants rely more and more on imported fish because it remains cheap and abundant--for the moment, anyway. Fisheries in foreign countries, however, are less likely to be managed sustainably. The United States imports four times as much seafood as it exports.
In just one generation human demand for fish has increased by 50 percent. It is estimated that if current rates of fish consumption are to be maintained for the world's growing human population, by 2010 an additional 19 million metric tons of seafood will have to become available every year. But already world catches seem to have peaked at 84 million metric tons.
Of course, this is just the big picture. How are individual fish species faring in the face of human greed and folly? Each holds its own story, which may incorporate some or many of the issues discussed above. Following is an A to Z tour of a few. Next issue we plan to cover the stories of anchovies, barndoor skates, blue crabs, flounder, haddock, herring, orange roughy, sharks and shrimp.
Atlantic salmon. The Atlantic salmon story is surely one of Western man's emblems of ecological failure. No one knows exactly why the numbers of egg-rich brood females have plummeted to negligible levels from the hundreds of thousands that came in from ocean feeding grounds to spawn in the mid '70s--or for that matter from the millions that made the same trip before the European settlers arrived. It could be pollution, dams, silty runoff from farms and logged forests. It could be overfishing, although stocks continued to plunge even after critical fishing grounds were restricted by international agreement. Or the answer to these fishes' threatened state may lie in what is considered the very solution to dwindling wild stocks--fish farming. Although some wild salmon are managing to spawn and make it out to the ocean, fewer are surviving there
Conservationists know that when fisheries stay open, one species after another tends to be brought to the brink of extinction.
to make the trip back again as they must. Though their numbers may have been reduced by the increased predation of seals or by climate changes, it is more likely that their demise has been caused by the genetic adulteration that occurs when they mate with escaped farmed fish, animals much better suited for the aquaculture pen, not the wild, as explained in a New York Times article in mid September. Domesticated fish are selectively bred for stockiness, tameness and the ability to grow quickly on minimal feed. Their abilities to survive in the wild are likely to be totally gone. In addition, farmed fish can carry diseases and parasites picked up from their intensely confined and feces-laden conditions.
Dungeness crab and West Coast groundfish. Dungeness crabs are native to western North America and have never recovered from the crash in their numbers that took place in the 1950s because of overfishing. Today these crabs are facing a new threat: 125-foot boats that can place thousands of harvest pots at a time. The larger boats went for the crabs after quotas were put on the catches of local groundfish in 1994. The restrictions were instituted to protect the groundfish from overfishing. Late in January, more severe restrictions were imposed when West Coast groundfishing was declared a "failure" by the U.S. Commerce Department. Federal experts predict that it may take the fish 60 years to recover, according to a November 1999 story in the San Francisco Chronicle. The restrictions and the new declaration, however, favor the larger boats and open the door to federal aid for fishermen.
East Coast oyster. The 20th century brought Chesapeake Bay oysters to the brink of extinction. Catches that once were at 2.2 million bushels a year plummeted to 80,000 bushels in the 1993 - 94 season. Disease played a role, but plunder of the sort inflicted on the American bison was a major factor. Dredging was used to harvest this bivalve, chewing through thousand-year-old reefs that the oyster called home. Algae blooms, fueled by livestock waste, among other pollutants, also did their part to lower viable "stocks." A January story in The Washington Post reported that Maryland oystermen are optimistic that shellfish in the region may be "rebounding" with the harvest this past winter of 423,000 bushels.
Horseshoe crab. This East Coast arthropod predates the dinosaur, yet it may not be able to survive human greed. In a century-long pursuit of fertilizer and livestock food, hordes of the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab were brought nearly to extinction by 1960. Environmentalists warn that its existence is again in peril because of overfishing. Trawled or dredged from Maine to Florida by the boatful, yearly catches have spiked up to over 5 million pounds, from 100,000 pounds in the early 1970s. In February the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission imposed a 25 percent reduction in harvests, which conservationists say is probably inadequate. Today the primary end for horseshoe crabs is the booming market in bait used to catch eels and conch sold in Europe and Asia.
New England cod. According to a report issued in November by New England fishery scientists to the fishery council that sets policy for the region, stocks of haddock, gray sole and sea scallops, as well as other commercial species, had rebounded--most likely thanks to severe restrictions on fishing that were instituted since 1994. Despite the optimistic news, conservationists recommended yet more cuts in fishing, even suggesting that more fishing grounds be closed up entirely. They know that when fisheries stay open, one species after another tends to be brought to the brink of extinction. They also know their cod history: In 1990 cod numbers were over 25 million; eight years later they had tanked to 2.6 million. The current report revealed that cod stocks remain perilously low, as do those for white hake. A year ago, a similar report showed that fishermen had caught more than twice the safe limit of cod.
Northwest Pacific salmon. Dams and hatcheries are the dominant themes in the story of these fish. In the relatively recent quest for the hydroelectric power that fuels the entire Columbia River basin economy, salmon got the short end of the stick. Now the Endangered Species Act is coming down hard in defense of numerous species of salmon, threatening a complete transformation of life in the region, far beyond that wreaked by the spotted owl. The dams will have to go or the fish will, a reality that has been avoided for years with the help of hatchery programs and elaborate multibillion-dollar fish-passage systems. Today's salmon are barged from spawning grounds to the ocean and then provided with ladders alongside dams to allow them to return upriver. They are implanted with microchip detectors to track their movements and have had predators eliminated or relocated. And since a salmon in this region is probably the product of one of 100 hatcheries throughout the basin, tax dollars are less likely to be going toward protecting truly wild fish. And the hatcheries have generally produced inbred varieties that have competed with wild stocks for food and habitat. Still, as salmon numbers appear to be propped up, to the delight of sports fishermen and native tribes, less pressure exists to regulate overfishing and protect habitats. All told, Pacific salmon runs have crashed, and today only about a million adult fish--mostly artificially hatched--make it back to spawning grounds every year. This from an estimated 16 million that historically made the annual sojourn.
Sea cucumber. As fisheries collapse around the globe, markets open up for species never before considered for human consumption. A predictable pattern for each of them tends to ensue. Nearly as soon as a market for them as a delicacy takes hold--often halfway around the world--fishing grounds become depleted. The advent of fax machines and Internet E-commerce have made such trash-fish-turned-gourmet-delight scenarios all the more possible. Sea cucumbers, or Cucumaria frondosa, went this route in the 1990s, as did sea urchins in the mid 1980s. To forestall such a sequence of events in the future, Maine's legislature enacted the Emerging Fisheries Act, giving regulators more power to avert any potential fad-fish ecological disasters. It's interesting to note that 150 pounds of sea cucumbers yield only seven pounds of edible skin and muscle.
Swordfish and bluefin tuna. In less than 30 years, populations of these prized gamefish have been drastically reduced by overfishing. Since 1970, swordfish numbers have been slashed by 50 percent, bluefin tuna numbers by 80 percent. Prospects of recovery for both look grim. Rogue countries, such as Spain, defy international fishing regulations by harvesting swordfish and bluefin tuna that have not yet reached sexual maturity. Also contributing to the rapid decline of stocks are boats operated by countries that have not signed international treaties restricting fishing. These so-called flag-of-convenience boats are generally financed by another country that is a signatory to the restrictive treaties, according to a December 1998 story in The Wall Street Journal. A November 1999 meeting of the international body that regulates catches for swordfish and bluefin tuna failed to limit harvesting to the extent that environmentalists suggest is necessary to give these two species any chance of recovery in the near future.
White abalone. In the 1970s this species was a common gourmet snack. By 1978 its California coastal fishery had collapsed. Within about a decade, it had been eaten to near extinction. Researchers may find little more than 150 adult and aging specimens, even after numerous dives over many weeks. And juveniles that could continue the species are nowhere to be found. To bring stocks back to their glory days, researchers advise "outplanting" millions of farm-raised abalone into the ocean. Another plan has divers literally picking up individual abalone and placing them near one another in the hope that a little reproductive romance will take hold. Either plan would cost millions of dollars, as well as put divers in serious danger.
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March / April 2000
Letters from readers
Proclaiming the perils of "secondhand" meat
I want to commend you for your splendid editorial "A Little Econ 101 for Vegetarians" [by Pamela Rice, January/February VivaVine]. I hope that many vegetarians will join you in pointing out that the consumption of animal products has very negative consequences for everyone, including vegetarians. Here are a few suggestions to reinforce your cogent analysis:
- We should point out that a shift to vegetarianism is not only an important personal choice today but also a societal imperative because of the very negative effects of the production and consumption of meat.
- We should take advantage of news reports about global warming, pollution of our waters, droughts and health-related problems to write letters to editors that point out the connections to
- animal-based diets.We should try to make people aware that just as "secondhand smoke" harms nonsmokers, "secondhand meat" (the side effects of meat production and consumption) harms vegetarians, and poses great dangers to all people and animals.
Richard H. Schwartz
Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, College of Staten Island
A bad lesson for kids
I enjoyed reading your passionate article "A Little Econ 101 for Vegetarians." The points you brought up were all valid. However, farmers will decrease livestock production and increase fruit and vegetable farming when the diet of the people shifts.
Just recently a friend was telling me how his five-year-old always wants to go to McDonald's. Who introduced the boy to McDonald's? The father! What we have today is parents indoctrinating a generation of children to eat fast food. When these children grow up, they will be hooked on a health-destroying diet.
What is needed is educational programs for the public on the merits of proper diet. Once people eat the right foods, there will be no purpose in growing the wrong foods.
George J. Silos
New York, New York
Pamela Rice responds: Reducing meat production from the demand side is important; this notion is the very underpinning of VivaVegie. Still, vegetarians need to call for justice from our elected officials. Handing out corporate welfare to the meat industry essentially amounts to taxation without justification.
I enjoyed your January/February VivaVine, including Stanley M. Sapon's "Vegan View of Hunger Relief." I'm glad that Professor Sapon is as troubled by the Heifer Project [which supports animal agriculture in developing countries] as I am. I don't know how they got my address, but I am sickened by their publication.
New York, New York
Food bank urged to go veg
In January, the CBS-TV five o'clock news show in New York City had a "Hometown Hero" segment focusing on the founder of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. One of the "happy" stories she relayed to the reporter was that when she was just starting the food bank, a cop called her to say he had shot a bull who jumped off a truck and he wanted to donate the corpse to her food bank, which she was thrilled about.
As luck would have it, around this time I received the January/February VivaVine, with Stanley M. Sapon's article about a vegan food bank (synchronicity at work). I sent her the article and urged her to read Diet for a New America, by John Robbins, and Slaughterhouse, by Gail Eisnitz, offering to purchase and send her a copy of each of these books if she wishes. Let's hope she takes me up on this offer.
North Plainfield, New Jersey
Thanks from Farm Sanctuary
Thank you for including an article on downed animals in the November/ December VivaVine ["Sick, Injured and Utterly Neglected," by Scott Lustig]. We appreciate your help in spreading the word of compassion.
Farm Sanctuary Education Coordinator, Watkins Glen, New York
Webmaster/volunteer Marian Cole is seen here at VivaVegie's vegetarian center, coding the last VivaVine with HTML tags, preparing it for our Web site.
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March / April 2000
IBP sued for violations at Nebraska slaughterhouse
The U.S. Justice Department has filed a suit against the meatpacking giant IBP, accusing it of violating federal air,
The Neighbors From Hell: Slaughterhouses stink
water and hazardous waste laws at its flagship plant and former headquarters in Dakota City, Nebraska, USA Today reported in February. The department alleges that IBP emitted up to 1,800 pounds of hydrogen sulfide a day without notifying federal regulators, even though disclosure is required for emissions greater than 100 pounds a day.
Hydrogen sulfide destroys the ability to breathe, so that "you're progressively dehumanized by the dose," a consultant for the Justice Department told the newspaper. "Whether explosively or insididously--at low doses--the effects are the same: It's this progressive loss of brain." Referring to Lexington, another Nebraska town with IBP facilities, the article describes "the stench of burning blood, bristle and bone" and "an invisible toxic cloud that burns...throats." According to a resident quoted in the story, "It's a dead, heavy, nauseating smell. It makes you sick to your stomach."
Feds issue final rule on food irradiation
The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave its final approval in December for irradiation of raw meat and meat products such as ground beef, steaks and pork chops "to reduce significantly or eliminate E. coli O157:H7 and other hazardous microorganisms," according to a press release. However, the USDA warned, "Consumers need to continue to handle and prepare irradiated meat and poultry as they would other raw products because some bacteria...are not destroyed by irradiation, and bacteria from other foods can cross-contaminate irradiated foods." Any irradiated meat or meat product will be required to bear the radura--the international symbol for radiation--and a statement that the product was treated by irradiation.
EU said to consider total ban on U.S. beef
European Union agriculture ministers were set to meet in mid February to decide whether to impose a complete ban on U.S. beef, the BBC reported in late January. The EU already refuses to accept hormone-treated beef from the U.S. According to the BBC, the ministers considered the change in policy after an inspection team that visited the U.S. in November alleged that Americans are incapable of separating treated and untreated meat.
USDA seeks to study anti-livestock "bioterrorism"
A USDA facility for the study of animal diseases, on Plum Island, off the North Fork of Long Island, New York, might someday be upgraded to a top-security lab aimed at deterring "bioterrorism" against livestock and people, The New York Times reported in September. The Clinton administration is seeking $215 million for the upgrade, which would allow scientists at the lab to study not only animal diseases but also extremely dangerous pathogens capable of being transmitted from animals to humans, such as the Nipah pig virus, first isolated last year, which killed more than 100 people in Malaysia. However, at a public hearing in November, USDA officials "played down the threat of bioterrorism, saying the [upgrade] would be used primarily to enhance the lab's mission of protecting the country's $90 billion livestock industry against foreign viruses," according to the Times. The government currently spends $14.5 million a year on Plum Island and has a budget of $116 million a year for veterinary services.
Southern storm kills millions of chickens
A snowstorm that hit Arkansas and Texas in January damaged or destroyed approximately 535 poultry barns, killing millions of chickens, according to Feedstuffs, a meat-industry publication. Because the houses will be out of commission for months, industry officials estimate a drop in "production" of 30 million birds. However, that amounts to less than 1 percent of the nation's total chicken output, which is counted in the billions.
Nuggets for kids allegedly made from sick birds
A Gold Kist processing plant in Alabama that provides chicken nuggets to the U.S. school lunch program used birds with sores, tumors, scabs and bruises, federal inspectors alleged in a February Cox News Service story. According to the Dayton Daily News, Gold Kist supplies 97 percent of the chicken nuggets and patties served to Ohio schoolchildren. Although some school districts in the state stopped serving the nuggets, the USDA, which runs the lunch program, said the products were safe. Describing the chickens who went into the nuggets, a USDA spokeswoman quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer said, "They may not look as pretty, but they do not pose a food-safety issue."
Gold Kist blamed the controversy on a labor dispute between the inspectors' union and the Agriculture Department. However, on February 18, UPI reported, the company suspended distribution of 114,000 pounds of nuggets and patties after Ohio officials found listeria, a pathogen, in one of the samples they tested. At press time, USDA investigators were being sent to both the Gold Kist plant where the nuggets were made and the warehouse in Ohio where the listeria-tainted nugget had been found.
Middle school enlisted in blatant milk promo event
Students at a middle school in Jefferson, Wisconsin, were used in an unabashed dairy-industry promotion stunt, a November report by the Associated Press reveals. According to the report, "Each of the 19 participating groups spent part of a week constructing imitation cows...all sport[ing] slogans in support of good nutrition, milk consumption and a drug-free lifestyle." The cows were then judged in a range of categories, such as "most comical" and "most politically correct." As the article explains, "the event was designed to boost milk consumption in the school's effort to win a national Dairy Council Cartons for Computers contest. The school that consumes the most milk in a given month is eligible for $10,000 in computer equipment and $2,000 in food."
USDA proposes letting schools serve more soy
The USDA proposed in December to drop a rule restricting soy in school lunches to the role of an "additive" constituting
Battle in the Schools: Meat and milk vs. soy
no more than 30 percent of a food item. According to an Associated Press story, the move was partly a response to the trouble schools are having in meeting another government rule: that the fat content in school menus not exceed 30 percent over a week. Although vegetarians and animal rights activists bombarded the USDA with letters and E-mail supporting the proposal, the article raised the possibility that schools are more likely to increase the soy content of traditional meat-based items than they are to broaden their selection of meatless items. Nonetheless, beef, pork and poultry producers are fighting the proposal, the article reported.
Corporate giants bet on vegetarian foods
Boca Burger, the maker of a popular vegetarian alternative to traditional hamburgers, is now under the same corporate roof as Oscar Mayer, the maker of animal-based hot dogs and luncheon meats. In January, Kraft Foods, a division of Philip Morris, announced it would acquire Boca Burger, whose 1999 revenues were about $40 million, Reuters reported. "Boca Burger gives Kraft an excellent position in the high-growth meat alternatives category, which has shown annual double-digit growth for the past five years," the president of Kraft's Oscar Mayer and pizza divisions said. In January the U.S. chemical company DuPont announced a joint venture with cereal maker General Mills to develop soy foods. And in November Kellogg acquired Worthington Foods, a maker of vegetarian products, for an estimated $307 million, according to the Meating Place Web site. Kellogg promised an "aggressive" advertising and promotional campaign.
U.S. agriculture secretary tells meat world to "seize potential"
"The future looks bright" for meat, U.S. agriculture secretary Dan Glickman told the World Meat Congress in Ireland
Politics of Meat: Officials toast their benefactors
last May. "There are still many markets that have gone largely untapped. In the developing world, as incomes rise and middle classes grow, people will have the means to supplement a grain-dominated diet with meats, as well as dairy products and eggs. But to seize the potential, we have a lot of work to do together."
World meat output expected to rise in 2000
World meat production is expected to rise to 229.2 million tons in 2000 from 227.1 million tons in 1999, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Reuters reported in February. The 1999 figure itself represents a 2 percent increase over the previous year.
New York raises pheasants for hunters to shoot
New York State governor George Pataki proposed spending $700,000 in taxpayer money to upgrade a game farm that breeds pheasants as targets for hunters, according to a February article in New Jersey's Bergen Record. The other remaining state-run pheasant farm was closed in January. According to the article, "In recent years, New York State has raised some 40,000 pheasants annually for release in areas accessible to hunters. Another 60,000 day-old chicks go to 4-H clubs and hunters' groups, which raise and release the birds on their own." State officials reported that 90,774 pheasants were "bagged" in the '98-'99 season.
THE MARCH OF FOLLY
Meat industry lists top 10 milestones
What are the 10 most significant meat-industry events of the past century? A survey conducted by the American Meat Institute yielded the following list, posted on the Meating Place Web site in January. Editor's commentary is in italics.10. Vertical integration of poultry and pork, '60s to present: Led to oligarchic corporate rule.
9. E. coli, 1993 to present: Increased awareness of dangerous meat-borne germs.
8. Fast-food chains, '50s to present: Homogenized food and culture.
7. Vacuum packaging, '50s: Extended shelf life.
6. Cellulose casing and skinless hot dogs, '20s: Reduced reliance on intestines.
5. Boxed beef, '60s: Allowed greater exploitation of cheap, unskilled labor.
4. Poultry Products Inspection Act, '57: Set "safety" standards.
3. Humane Slaughter Act, '58: Provided front for continued cruelty.
2. Refrigerated rail cars and trucks, '30s to '40s: Led to increased mobility of meat.
1. Federal Meat Inspection Act, 1906: Launched taxpayer-funded "poke and sniff."
McCain "welcomes" vegetarians; Bush takes chicken money
Senator John McCain in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has made at least two appeals for vegetarian votes.
In early February, he said that he welcomes the support of "libertarians, vegetarians, all of them." In a later appearance, he added, "I'm very proud that libertarians or vegetarians or anybody would consider supporting me."
Meanwhile, McCain's rival, George W. Bush, was reported to have received multiple donations from a poultry company. According to the Institute for Public Accuracy, Bush took in $230,750 over the course of his career from Pilgrim's Pride, a producer of chicken and eggs.
At campaign events, both McCain and Bush were greeted with manure dumps by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. On the morning of the South Carolina primary, an activist dumped a truckload of dried manure at the door of Tommy's Country Ham House, where Bush had been eating. The activist--who yelled, "Meat is murder! Pork is death!"--was arrested. Bush's response: "I'm sure glad I had my bacon for breakfast."
Dairy industry sues over use of the word "milk"
Asserting an exclusive right to the word "milk," a dairy industry group asked the Food and Drug Administration in February to prevent makers of soy drinks from calling their products "soy milk." The National Milk Producers Federation argues that federal regulations limit the use of the word "milk" to the liquid from cows' udders, according to CNN.
"Soy-based beverages are attempting to directly compete with dairy products and are inappropriately taking advantage of the familiarity and positive image of dairy terminology in their labeling," an NMPF official claimed. "The soybean beverage makers don't got milk--never had, never will--and shouldn't be allowed to claim otherwise."
"We're not aware [of any] consumer confusion...between soy milk and dairy milk," a surprised American Soybean Association spokesman responded.
Vegetarian News is compiled by Alex Press and Alan Rice.
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March / April 2000
PROJECT FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR VEGETARIANS
Sheep, Dairy Farmers: U.S. government has them covered
Lambs to the slaughter, compliments of USDA. In response to a recent influx of low-priced, imported lamb meat, primarily from Australia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on January 13 announced a three-year $100 million aid package for domestic sheep and lamb farmers. The program will go toward production improvements, market promotion and animal health. Specifically, funds will be directed to such areas as genetic selection, lambing facilities and feedlot development or improvement. Funds will also go toward guaranteeing loans to help finance new and improved facilities as well as processing and packaging system upgrades. The USDA will also purchase lamb for the school lunch program to shore up prices. In addition, $10 million is earmarked for scrapie eradication.
U.S. government ensures future milk gluts with the help of taxpayer millions. Fueled by the efforts of California's dairy farmers, who've been working their cows overtime, U.S. milk production recently outdistanced demand. Prices paid to producers plummeted to under $10 per hundredweight, about $5 per hundredweight below the amount most farmers need to stay in business. Small dairy farmers nationwide, who environmentalists contend need to stay in business to prevent the spread of urban sprawl, were especially threatened. But not to worry; just about a month after milk prices hit their lowest point, the USDA stepped up to the plate with a $125 million subsidy package. All dairy farmers who produced milk during the last quarter of calendar year 1998 are eligible for cash payments from the U.S. treasury, ensuring that we'll all continue to be awash in cows' milk.
Now for the billions. While sheep and dairy farmers enjoyed their nickels and dimes, lame duck Bill Clinton worked on his place in presidential history by divvying up some real money. In a budget proposal he announced in mid January, he asked Congress to approve a two-year plan to boost farm income by $11.5 billion, much of it in the form of direct subsidies in response to low market prices. Farm income this year is expected to be $10 billion less than in 1999. The funds are on top of other multibillion-dollar subsidies already approved.
USDA secretary Dan Glickman was quoted in a Bloomberg wire story on the announcement: "Quite frankly, I would have liked to have seen more money." It is hard to discern exactly how much is earmarked specifically for animal agriculture, but feed grain support as well as insurance subsidies for livestock operators were noted.
Hot dogs: not so heavenly for the animals who go into them [Photo taken in Manhattan's meat district by Michelle Fornof]
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March / April 2000
This deadly foodborne pathogen may lie dormant for up to eight months in the body. A sealed package of cold cuts provides it with everything it needs to grow. To rid a processing plant of it is a bear of a task.
About 73,500 people are exposed to E. coli O157:H7--the virulent bacteria that is usually found in undercooked hamburgers--every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Out of these, about 600 die. Compare this with the lesser-known Listeria monocytogenes, the food pathogen being traced more and more to packaged cold cuts. Out of 2,500 people sickened by this bug every year, about 500 never live to eat another frank.
When a processing plant is contaminated by listeria, every nook and cranny needs to be cleaned, disinfected and tested for residues. When a foie gras plant was recently infiltrated by the elusive bug, a public health official quoted in The New York Times said, "We've had people who have had to take up floors and replace them and completely take down machinery." The largest meat recall in history resulted from listeria contamination: 35 million pounds.
The unborn, the elderly and those with immune problems are at the greatest risk of dying from a listeria infection. And plant contaminations due to the bug are on the rise: 26 in 1999, compared with three in 1998 and two in 1997. And whereas with other pathogens the meat industry simply advises consumers to cook meat thoroughly before eating, cold cuts are intended to be eaten right from the package--exactly where, scientists say, listeria finds a hospitable environment to grow.
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March / April 2000
VEGGIE NUGGETSOstrich men exploit Letterman heart woes
When late-night television host David Letterman went in for his quintuple bypass surgery, we admit, we thought of those bus ads that show him asking drivers to "Honk if you like bacon." Of course, the idea of urging him to go veg also crossed our minds. But others beat us to the cheap-publicity punch. According to Reuters, the American Ostrich Association offered Letterman a year's supply of ostrich meat and cooking lessons in January, pegging their sales pitch to the dubious notion that because their product is allegedly lower in fat than beef, lamb, pork, chicken or turkey, it must therefore be healthful.
San Francisco jail to offer vegan option
One of the tougher aspects of being a vegan activist with a penchant for civil disobedience is worrying what you'll eat while in stir. But if you get into trouble with the law in the City by the Bay, at least, you'll have a chance of subsisting on more than white bread and iceberg lettuce. The San Francisco County Jail announced last year it would offer vegan meals. According to the Associated Press, the jail was the first in California to go vegan, though not the first in the nation: County jails in Oregon and Atlanta also offer a vegan menu. And more may follow: A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania ruled in January that a state prison had to accommodate a convicted murderer who based his request for vegan meals, including soy milk, on his interpretation of Buddhism.
Glow-in-dark transgenic fish detect PCBs
Firefly genes inserted into the DNA of zebra fish cause them to light up when they're exposed to carcinogenic PCBs. At least that's what researchers at the University of Cincinnati are hoping. According to a story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in December, the glowing fish may be used to identify pollutants in drinking water. A professor involved in the research asserted that the zebra fish "can be detoxed and used again."
What's in a McVeggie burger?
McDonald's headquarters doesn't seem much interested in the vegetarian experiment of a New York City franchisee. Still, a persistent caller last summer learned that "McVeggies" are actually Archer Daniels Midland Harvest Burgers, which contain soy protein concentrate, corn oil, soy protein isolate, methylcellulose, natural flavors, salt, modified cornstarch, maltodextrin, malt extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein, dried onion, garlic powder, black pepper, spices, natural smoke flavor, beet powder, autolyzed yeast extract and corn syrup solids. Could be a lot worse, but don't ask what's in the roll.
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March / April 2000
FOR THE HEALTH OF IT
Timid dietary guidelines draw fire
An advisory panel charged with revising the 1995 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans has recommended a diet "low in saturated fat and cholesterol," but once again has failed to urge Americans to eat less meat, the main source of saturated fat and cholesterol in most diets. "Why not call a hamburger a hamburger and a steak a steak?" Marion Nestle, chairwoman of New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, asked The New York Times in January.
The answer may be that the last time the government did so, in 1979, the meat industry pitched a fit. Another reason may be the composition of the panel: The pro-vegetarian Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which filed an unsuccessful motion to block the guidelines, said that six of the panel's 11 members had current or past ties to the meat, dairy or egg industry. But the most important point may be that the guidelines are promulgated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose role as a guardian of health conflicts with its main job, "to promote the consumption of all American agriculture, regardless of nutritional value," as Nestle put it.
Diet, other lifestyle factors can reduce heart and cancer risks by up to 82 percent
Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 82 percent--not 50 percent, as previous estimates indicated, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, who announced their findings at an American Heart Association meeting in November. The researchers based their conclusions on the Nurses' Health Study, a 20-year investigation involving more than 80,000 women. According to Frank B. Hu, who led the study, "Premature heart disease can be virtually eliminated by...lifestyle changes," such as eating a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily and not smoking.
Lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise and avoidance of tobacco, can also prevent 60 percent to 70 percent of today's cancers, according to a report from the American Institute for Cancer Research referred to on the MSNBC Web site in December. In the war against cancer, some experts are saying the focus needs to shift from early detection and treatment to education and prevention. As Howard Koh, the Massachusetts public health commissioner, told The Boston Globe last summer, "The message is that people can lower their risk to an absolute minimum." When it comes to nutrition, the search for a magic anti-cancer pill--such as beta carotene supplements--has dead-ended as researchers are finding no substitute for the complex phytochemicals and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. John Bertram of the University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center told MSNBC, "The easiest, most scientifically substantiated advice is to cut down on animal products and eat more fruits, leafy greens, and red and yellow vegetables."
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March / April 2000
Bible-Christians: Plucky veg-evangelists of the 19th century
By Karen Iacobbo
The current and increasingly publicized debate over the vegetarianism of Jesus Christ, brought to the mainstream largely by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has a history in the United States. In 18th-century America various
Reverend Metcalfe, a believer in pacifism, temperance, abolitionism and vegetarianism, was called an "infidel."
Christian sects practiced ascetism that included the "self-denial" of vegetarianism. However, it wasn't until the 19th century (as far as this historian has thus far been able to discern) that vegetarians took their contention about Jesus and vegetarianism public. It began in 1817, when Reverend William Metcalfe of England brought a small group of Bible-Christians, members of a church established a decade before by the Swedenborgian Reverend William Cowherd, to Pennsylvania.
Once settled in America, Metcalfe and his wife, Susanne, tried to teach their neighbors in Philadelphia about pacifism, temperance, abolitionism and vegetarianism--major tenets of their religion. His church did not enjoy widespread success, but what it lacked in size it gained in loyalty.
Metcalfe's little group of loyal vegetarians and their leader not only abstained from meat, they believed that Jesus had been a vegetarian. On account of teaching such a belief, Reverend Metcalfe, a congenial, pious and well-liked man, was unable to build a large congregation and sometimes suffered the slings of opposition to vegetarianism. Metcalfe's wisdom as a preacher and a person was attacked in the newspapers, and he was called "Infidel."
As a result, Metcalfe constantly had to struggle to keep the church financially stable. When he wasn't preaching, he was busy teaching in the church's tiny school, or writing and publishing two newspapers that reported on issues such as slavery, temperance and, it can be assumed, vegetarianism. Metcalfe's legacy of vegetarianism doesn't end at the church gate, for he was a force that brought together two other determined and courageous vegetarians. Those two individuals were Sylvester Graham and William Alcott, M.D. Together, Metcalfe and the two renowned vegetarian advocates formed the first national vegetarian organization in America.
Next issue: Who really was Johnny Appleseed?
Karen Iacobbo, a writer, teacher and historian, would love to hear from others with an interest in vegetarian history. She can be reached c/o American Lyceum, 409 Pine Street, first floor, Providence, RI 02903, or at email@example.com.
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March / April 2000
VIVA VEGIE NEWS
New matching fund grant is launched
VivaVegie has another matching fund grant! All donations from individuals (not foundations) that are not in exchange for merchandise--memberships, T-shirts and the like--will be matched, up to a total of $5,000 for the year, thanks to David Sielaff of Seattle, Washington. Already we've received donations of $25 or more from the following people: Jacqueline Raven, Lisa Melian, Hildegard Richter and Carol S. Lippincott. Each of their donations will be matched. Our sincere thanks to the anonymous donor whose financial help in 1999 allowed VivaVegie's vegetarian center to come into existence.
There are many ways to make a difference if spreading knowledge about the virtues of vegetarianism is your thing. Calling all volunteers! Ring up the veggie center to get involved: [click here for new address and contact information as of 12/28/00]. Special thanks to the following people who helped the VivaVegie Society since the last issue: Tom Thompson, Marian Cole, Jean Thaler, Michelle Fornof, Rob Dolecki, Judea Johnson, Jim Whitten, Irene Poelz and Sarah Elisabeth.
VivaVegie wish list
- One year's VivaVine distribution (partial acceptable)
- Publicity and/or marketing assistance
- Pro bono law or accounting assistance
- VivaVegie Web site (partial acceptable)
VivaVegie sandwich boardsTake your passion to the streets. It's easy. Now you can obtain brilliant, full-color 11" x 17" replicas of the famous VivaVegie sandwich boards for only $30 (add $6.40 for postage), which includes a starter kit of 20 copies of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." Send orders to the post-office address.
VivaVegie's distributor could not do his appointed rounds as per usual for the January/February 2000 issue of The VivaVine. Volunteers had to take up the slack. Here, at right, is VivaVegie president Pamela Rice enduring bitter January cold to get the publication out to area health-food stores and vegetarian restaurants. Hey, it's a good cause, and as Pamela said, "It was a great opportunity to visit some of the people and places on our distribution list," all of which are listed in VivaVegie's "Vegetarian Guide to New York City" (see below for how to obtain a copy).
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March / April 2000
A PUBLICATION OF:
VivaVegie Society, Inc.
ISSUE: VOL. 9, NO. 2
March / April 2000
P.O. Box 1447
New York, NY 10276
[click here for new address of the Vegetarian Center and contact information for VivaVegie as of 12/28/00]
- Publisher: Pamela Rice
- Editor: Alex Press
- Reference editor: Alan Rice
- Webmaster: Marian Cole
- Contributing writers: Karen Iacobbo, Joan Zacharias
- Copy consultant: Glen Boisseau Becker
- Gaggle of veg-evangelists: Bobbie Flowers, Jean Thaler, Phillip Hinton, Michelle Fornof
- Karen Davis: United Poultry Concerns
- Richard Schwartz: author, Judaism and Vegetarianism
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
- David Sielaff
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 "Vegetarian Guide to New York City."
Note to our readers: Our next issue will be June/July.