NY Times – Farming Science, Without the Conscience

Michael Moss/The New York Times

Michael Moss/The New York Times

Last week I wrote about the Jan. 19 article in the New York Times about the the experiments done on cows, pigs and sheep at a USDA research facility in rural Nebraska.

Yesterday the Times followed up with an editorial asking Congress to “oversee it and reform it — or shut it down.”

Here is some of what the Times wrote, you can read the whole editorial online.

You don’t have to be a vegan to be repulsed by an account in The Times revealing the moral depths to which the federal government — working as a handmaiden to industrial agriculture — has sunk in pursuit of cheaper meat and fatter corporate profits.

American consumers have steadily grown more aware of the ruthless excesses of industrial agriculture. Animal-rights advocates have toiled for years exposing things the industry does not want customers to know. Some reforms have taken hold; federal laws have improved the treatment of livestock since Upton Sinclair wrote of the horrors done to animals in “The Jungle.”

But the conditions of industrial feedlots and factory farms — the confinement of animals, the rampant use of antibiotics, the manure lagoons — would shock anyone who naïvely imagines farms as bucolic places out of children’s books.

The humans who work at the center are not necessarily oblivious to its failings. Some veterinarians and researchers told The Times they were appalled by the suffering and abuse. They should not have their consciences degraded by what is supposed to be beneficial work. Congress founded the center 50 years ago. It should oversee it and reform it — or shut it down.

 

Kaiser Embraces the Plant-Based Diet

kaiser-permanente-logoBack in September 2013, the first post on this blog was about Kaiser Permanente advising their doctors to

consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.

I believe they want their patients to be healthy, but… given that they are a managed care organization, the more of their patients who eat a plant-based diet, the better their bottom line looks.

Plant-based DietAlong with the recommendation, Kaiser produced this 20-page guide with information about the “New Food Groups” their patients will be eating from, tips for getting started, and sample menus and recipes.

Reading this guide, I thought I was reading any number of books by Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall, Barnard or Ornish.

This explanation of the benefits of a plant-based diet read like the list of benefits from Dr. Campbell’s book Whole.

  • Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
  • Reversal or prevention of heart disease
  • Longer life
  • Healthier weight
  • Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
  • May slow the progression of certain types of cancer
  • Improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fewer medication
  • Lower food costs
  • Good for the environment

The guide recommends that patients with heart issues stay away from nuts and oils, like Dr. Esselstyn.

What a radical idea – improving health with diet, not pills.

The resources section at the end of the guide points patients to the Forks Over Knives movie and website, and the websites and books of the good doctors listed above. You can download the guide from their website.

Kaiser is my health care provider and the doctor I see there is not necessarily on board with this program. Despite my telling him that I eat a plant-based diet, he suggested I take fish oil to ensure I get enough Omega-3s. He also wanted to make sure that I was getting enough protein. I should have asked him if he ever tells his omnivore patients to eat less.

However, it is great to see the health care establishment embracing plant-based diets for their patients. Whatever the motivation, their patients win.

The Torture Never Stops – But It Must, For All of Us to Survive

Michael Moss/The New York Times

Michael Moss/The New York Times

Whether its animals or people, our society tortures millions of innocent lives everyday.

Two stories brought that home to me this week.

The New York Time published a story on Jan. 19 – U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit: Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry. The story exposes the experiments done on cows, pigs and sheep at a USDA research facility in rural Nebraska.

At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise.

There are, however, some complications.

Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed.

Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation.

The picture above shows some of the unintended consequences of the “easy care” program.

Last Mother’s Day, at the height of the birthing season, two veterinarians struggled to sort through the weekend’s toll: 25 rag-doll bodies. Five, abandoned by overtaxed mothers, had empty stomachs. Six had signs of pneumonia. Five had been savaged by coyotes.

“It’s horrible,” one veterinarian said, tossing the remains into a barrel to be dumped in a vast excavation called the dead pit.

It was difficult getting through this article – reading about untrained personnel performing surgery on animals, ranchers being repulsed by the “twinning” program – but that didn’t stop the “researchers” from moving forward with the experiments, and dangerous experiments with horrible results.

Months into his new job at the center in 1989, Dr. Keen said, he got a call from a fellow worker asking him to help with a “downed cow.”

“There was a young cow, a teenager, with as many as six bulls,” he recalled. “The bulls were being studied for their sexual libido, and normally you would do that by putting a single bull in with a cow for 15 minutes. But these bulls had been in there for hours mounting her.”

The cow’s head was locked in a cagelike device to keep her immobile, he said. “Her back legs were broken. Her body was just torn up.”

Dr. Keen wanted to euthanize the animal, but the scientist in charge could not be tracked down for permission. A few hours later, the cow died.

In order to end the friction between researchers and veterinarians, who raised questions about experiments that would cause undue harm to animals, the research center has no veterinarians on full-time staff.

This is what happens when the need for larger profits and reduced costs becomes the driving force behind everything in the industrial food complex. Animals are commodities and expendable. It is disgusting.

Please take the time to read this important article and sign a petition started by Animal Place – an animal sanctuary in Northern CA – to call for the closure of this facility to put an end to this tax-funded cruelty and needless experimentation. Continue reading

Russian Gardeners Produce 40% of Their Nation’s Food – Why Can’t We?

Russia vs USA Agriculture

One of the things I’ve missed since we moved to California is gardening. I didn’t grow a lot, but I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and enjoying the fresh vegetables. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.

This article talks about the amount of food that is produced in the Dacha* gardens in Russia.

While many in the world are completely dependent on large scale agriculture, the Russian people feed themselves. Their agricultural economy is small scale, predominantly organic and in the capable hands of the nation’s people. Russians have something built into their DNA that creates the desire to grow their own food. It’s a habit that has fed the Russian nation for centuries. It’s not just a hobby but a massive contribution to Russia’s agriculture.

The results are impressive

in 2011, dacha gardens produced over 80% of the countries fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nations milk, much of it consumed raw.

The image above gives some comparisons between the US and Russia in how we spend our time and money. If more Americans had gardens – more specifically, organic gardens – they would spend less on food, but also they would learn to appreciate the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables. This would increase demand for food from small organic farms and farmers’ markets, and force the large agriculture conglomerates to provide better, healthier products.

Another side effect would be improvements in health from the exercise you get while gardening and eating healthier foods.

Victory GardensDuring World Wars I and II, Americans planted Victory Gardens.

The United States Department of Agriculture encouraged the planting of victory gardens during the course of World War II. Around one third of the vegetables produced by the United States came from victory gardens. It was emphasized to American home front urbanites and suburbanites that the produce from their gardens would help to lower the price of vegetables needed by the US War Department to feed the troops, thus saving money that could be spent elsewhere on the military: “Our food is fighting,” one US poster read. By May 1943 there were 18 million victory gardens in the United States – 12 million in cities and 6 million on farms.

Today, we need victory gardens to win back our health from an industrial agriculture industry that is literally killing us. It’s time to get off our couches and go play in the dirt. (Those of you in northern regions of the country might have to wait until Spring – so request some seed catalogues and start planning.)

* The word “dacha” originated in the 17th century from the verb “davat’” (to give), in reference to plots of land distributed by the Tsar.

Resisting Arrest Should Not Be a Death Sentence

mike-roweI don’t know who Mike Rowe is, other than he is the host of a show on CNN called Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Somehow he seems to think he has the knowledge and understanding to weigh in on the controversy surrounding Ferguson, Eric Garner and police protests. He fails miserably.

He relates a heated conversation between liberals and conservatives.

Within moments, everyone was talking about Garner and Brown, and the conversation got very political very quickly. A liberal guest said, ‘Look, I wasn’t there, but it seems pretty clear that both men would still be alive had they been white.’ A conservative guest replied, ‘I wasn’t there either, but it seems pretty clear that both men would still be alive if they hadn’t resisted arrest.’

This annoyed the liberal, who asked the conservative why Republicans wanted a ‘police state.’ This annoyed the conservative, who asked the liberal why Democrats wanted ‘total anarchy.’ Things continued to escalate, and within moments, fingers were pointing, veins were bulging, and logical fallacies were filling the air. Ho! ho! ho!

Then, he goes on to say that all agree that both sides wanted “law and order” – but broke down over what that looked like.

Next, he relates a conversation with a black friend from Baltimore who lamented the whole issue and was “tired of being represented by two petty criminals who died resisting arrest.”

After rallying around the police and as he admits

I’m trying to get my head around the fact that two cops are dead in Brooklyn, assassinated by a lunatic in ‘retaliation’ for Ferguson and Staten Island.

The shaming of the protesters begins

A few days ago, people were marching in the streets, literally calling for the execution of police. (‘What do we want? Dead Cops!’) Others are standing by today, waiting to lionize the assassins who answer the call. These are not the champions of justice; these are the enemies of civilization, and it’s up to sensible people on both sides of the aisle to close ranks and shout them down.

Every group that is leading the protests of police brutality of people of color has publicly and forcefully denounced the killings of the NYPD officers and called for peaceful protests. But I guess Mike didn’t read those statements or read that the chants to kill cops was fake.

Here’s his final analysis

I support peaceful protests, and I’m all for rooting out bad cops. But let’s not stop there. If we’re serious about saving lives, and eliminating the confrontations that lead to the demise of Garner and Brown, let’s also condemn the stupidity that leads so many Americans to resist arrest.

I don’t care if you’re white, black, red, periwinkle, burnt umber, or chartreuse — resisting arrest is not a right, it’s a crime. And it’s never a good idea.

How tidy.

First, since when has resisting arrest been a death sentence? How many whites have been killed resisting arrest for walking in the middle of the street or selling cigarettes on the corner?

Second, let’s just forget the hundreds, if not thousands, of people of color who have been killed by police or security personnel for doing nothing but being in the wrong place and the wrong time. Maybe they were holding a toy gun, but more often, they were just minding their own business. Either way they weren’t resisting arrest.

Mike wants to have it both ways – recognize the plight of people of color in this country, but raise the law and order flag to not offend or appear to sympathize with the protests.

All sanitized, neat and smug.

Now I know why I don’t watch CNN and I get my news from Democracy Now!

Circles of Compassion

Circles of Compassion

circles of compassion coverDr. Will Tuttle, author of the World Peace Diet, has edited a new book Circles of Compassion: Essays Connecting Issues of Justice. The foreword is written by author and activist Carole J. Adams.

This book consists of a series of essays by internationally recognized authors and activists, Edited by Dr. Will Tuttle. The essays focus on how the seemingly disparate issues of human, animal, and environmental rights are indeed connected. Authors also provide practical guidance about how to make the individual, systems, and social changes necessary to effectively create a peaceful and just world for all.

It includes essays from over 25 authors including Robert Grillo, Melanie Joy, Richard Oppenlander, lauren Ornelas, and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

It is available for 25% off the original price on the publisher’s website as a book or PDF ebook, or from Amazon. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Veganism quote

2015 – Make Your Voice Heard

2014 in review

Robert Reich is one of my favorite public figures. I’ve written about him before here and here. This year end review of 2014 is a good reminder of the progress that was made this year when people worked together and spoke out for civil rights, immigration reform and same-sex marriage.

He also reminds us that when we despair and say things can’t change or don’t vote, we are giving our power to the wealthy and the power brokers who are more than willing to use our indifference to get more.

I’m making a personal commitment to do more in 2015 to make my voice heard – for people, for animals and for the planet.

Here is Reich’s 2014 recap and call to action. Enjoy.