Cowspiracy Joins the Chorus for the New Dietary Guidelines (Updated)

CowspiracyThe producers of Cowspiracy have written a sample letter to use to submit to the USDA and HHS regarding the new recommended Dietary Guidelines.

Update – Their letter is longer that the 250 word limit in the instructions for submitting, but the online submissions form accepts 5000 characters and this letter is well within that number.

You can submit comments on the Health.gov website.

Here is the beginning of the letter

Dear Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Burwell,

As a citizen and a taxpayer concerned about the sustainability of our health and our planet, I applaud the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) for including the major findings represented in Chapter D.5: Food Sustainability and Safety regarding plant-based diets as more health promoting and associated with less environmental impact than the current U.S. diet.

In late 2014, the international affairs think-tank Chatham House released a study which concluded that it is unlikely global temperature rises can be kept below two degrees Celsius without a radical shift in global meat and dairy consumption. However, they found that there is a striking lack of efforts to reduce consumption of meat and dairy products due to not least, government’s fear of backlash to pursue policies that would shift consumer behavior. The absence of attention afforded to the issue among policy-makers contributes to a lack of research on how best to reduce meat and dairy consumption, which the health of our nation and our planet can no longer afford.

You have until May 8 (submission period has been extended) to submit comments. Make your voice heard on this issue.

 

April is Festival Time!

Berkeley Vegan Earth Day

It looks like April is going to be a busy month for getting out and celebrating with my fellow vegans (and vegan wanna-bees).

I already told you about the Conscious Eating Conference in Berkeley on April 4 – with some fabulous speakers.

Now there are two more dates to add to your calendar.

April 19, the Berkeley Vegan Earth Day will happen from 9:30am to 3:00pm. The speakers are nutritionists, animal activists, doctors and chefs, including Dr. Alan Goldhamer of True North and Keegan Kuhn co-director of Cowspiracy.

Spend the day listening to educational and earth-friendly talks and panel discussions, or wonderful food demos. There will also be vendors selling vegan products and activist groups to connect with.

Not to be outdone by its East Bay neighbor, Oakland is planning a Veg Week!

Oakland Veg WeekSome of the details are still being finalized, but there is something for everyone.

The movie on Tuesday will be Forks Over Knives followed by Q&A with a health coach and vegan athletes. Thursday is a Vegan Bar Crawl and Friday join the Youth Hip Hop Green Dinners for an event. The Veg Fest on Saturday will take place at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater – more details to come, but there will be lots of free food samples. Sunday’s event is a bus ride to Animal Place farm animal sanctuary in Grass Valley.

The Friday and Sunday events are by invitation only. Visit the site for more details.

I love living in the Bay Area and having these great events happening. It’s going to be a great spring. See you at the events.

Our Planet Needs You to Stop Eating Meat

report cover

Everyone should read the Chatham House report Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector: Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption. Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London. Their mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

The report looks at the alarming growth in meat and dairy consumption in non-Western countries, especially in Asia, and makes the case that the only way to deal with this problem is to lower consumption.

In the report they go beyond detailing the disastrous impact of animal agriculture on climate change, but also look at, like Cowspiracy, why governments, environmental groups and the media aren’t raising awareness about this issue.

This lack of awareness means that people who might be willing to change their eating habits, don’t get the messages that would drive that change.

To discover the size of this awareness gap, Chatham House commissioned a multi-country, multilingual online survey. The results found recognition of the livestock sector as a significant contributor to climate change is markedly low. The chart below shows the difference between the survey participant’s perceptions and the actual contribution to climate change for different sectors of the economy. Note the big difference for meat and dairy production.

Chatham House Figure 7

However, the survey also found that in those areas, like energy and transportation, where governments, environmental groups and the media have raised awareness, consumers are willing to make changes to impact the climate.

This is a tremendous challenge, and opportunity, for those of us who would like to see the message in this report spread far and wide.

The survey asked participants who was best able to shift the awareness gap

Closing the awareness gap appears to be an important precondition for behaviour change. An important question, therefore, is who is best placed to inform publics of the links between livestock and climate change. The survey assessed public confidence in a range of sources to which consumers may turn for information about the environmental and health consequences of meat and dairy consumption. Across all countries polled, those labelled ‘experts’ – with an unidentified field of expertise – were afforded the highest degree of confidence from respondents…although there were important differences across countries.

Here are the results of the survey

Chatham House Figure 9

Looking at the results is a bit disheartening. The respondents in the US ranked experts highest with environmental groups a distant second. They also gave social media a thumbs down as a helpful source of information.

We already know that the major environmental groups aren’t talking about reducing meat and dairy consumption. If you haven’t seen Cowspiracy, do it now (you can finish reading when you get back) to find out the extent of the disconnect between the goals of these groups to save the planet and their lack of action regarding animal agriculture. Our government – captured by the meat, dairy and agriculture industries – isn’t willing to upset their “owners.”

The report lays out these reasons for the lack of action:

  • Intrusion in lifestyle decisions
  • Cultural significance
  • Private-sector resistance
  • Public ambivalence regarding climate change
  • Uncertainty regarding the efficacy or acceptability of policy interventions

However, behind these concerns lie multiple assumptions and generalizations. The belief that in aggregate they represent an insurmountable challenge is untested, and clear examples of behavioural shifts in populations do exist. In reality there is minimal research on how dietary change might best be effected. Ironically, this lack of research may well be symptomatic of the belief that the challenge is insurmountable, suggesting a cycle in which a lack of research allows this belief to remain uncontested, leading in turn to a lack of research. The result of this is the policy vacuum described above.

I’m not sure that I have any good answers to this dilemma. We need to lift up the voices of the experts who are willing to go against the status quo. Experts like Dr. Richard Oppenlander, author of two books on this subject – Comfortably Unaware – Global Depletion and Food Responsibility and Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work.

Can we meet this insurmountable challenge? We must if we are going to have a chance at limiting the impact of climate change. Let’s get to work.

 

Chris Hedges: Saving the Planet, One Meal at a Time

Chris HedgesI have been reading Chris Hedges columns at Truthdig for years. He tells it like it is. I was delighted to see his latest column about going vegan.

My attitude toward becoming a vegan was similar to Augustine’s attitude toward becoming celibate—“God grant me abstinence, but not yet.” But with animal agriculture as the leading cause of species extinction, water pollution, ocean dead zones and habitat destruction, and with the death spiral of the ecosystem ever more pronounced, becoming vegan is the most important and direct change we can immediately make to save the planet and its species. It is one that my wife—who was the engine behind our family’s shift—and I have made.

The column makes the case for why animal agriculture is at the root of many of the world’s problems – climate change, deforestation, water pollution, hunger. It also, as I have written about before, talks about how the animal ag industry has built a wall of restrictive laws around the devastation and agony they create to shield the public from the truth.

The animal agriculture industry has used the excuse of national security, public safety, trade agreements and the need for business secrets to pass what are known as ag-gag laws in about a dozen states and, on the federal level, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, all enhanced with anti-terrorism laws to criminalize anyone who investigates or challenges the industry. It is illegal under the Patriot Act to issue statements or carry out actions that harm the profits of the animal agriculture industry. Radical change, as with every challenge to the power of our corporate state, will have to be built outside the structures of power, including the leading environmental groups, which have refused to confront the livestock industry.

It includes quotes from Comfortably Unaware author Richard Oppenlander; journalist and author of Green is the New Red, Will Potter; and the co-directors of Cowspiracy, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn.

Kuhn and Anderson laid out the problem.

“So many more people have a connection to animal agriculture, both in society and government, than have a direct connection to the oil industry,” Kuhn said. “The oil industry employs, relatively speaking, a very small percentage of people and is controlled by a very small percentage of people. The agricultural industry, both animal agriculture and commodity grains fed to those animals, involves a much bigger demographic. Politically it is a lot more challenging. Corporations such as Cargill, one the largest commodity food corporations in the world, is able to create U.S. policy. The government says it needs to have affordable food, which means giving massive subsidies to these corporations. The belief is that we have to eat animal products to survive. It is not something that is even questioned. The fossil fuel industry is more easily challenged with the argument that there are alternatives. People do not feel there is an alternative to eating animals.”

Please read the entire column and make the commitment to going vegan – for the health of the planet and your own also.

We have only a few years left, at best, to make radical changes to save ourselves from ecological meltdown. A person who is vegan will save 1,100 gallons of water, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, 30 square feet of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, and one sentient animal’s life every day. We do not, given what lies ahead of us, have any other option.

 

Catching Up – The Voodoo Made Me Do It

Voodoo DoughnutsWow, its been over a month since I did a post and there’s a lot of catching up to do.

About the time I did the last post, I volunteered to be the webmaster for 350Marin and that led to one of their members asking me to create a site for him for his new book.

Then our daughter, who is living with us, adopted two kittens – which did not make our 18-yr-old cat happy. But has added to the daily chores around the house.kittens

Bottom line – its been a busy month. So let’s get caught up.

The last post was about the upcoming Sonoma Veg Fest. It was great. The planners hoped for 300-400 people, they got almost 1,000. There was great energy with fabulous vegan food, cooking demonstrations, speakers and a standing room only showing of Cowspiracy.

The speakers included Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet. He gave a fantastic talk about why caring for animals and the planet will help us care for each other also.

Cowspiracy is an incredible film – it’s a look at why the large environmental groups don’t talk about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Concerned about the drought in California? Shorter showers aren’t going to make a difference, going vegan will. Here’s a clip from the movie – find a showing near you on their website and go see it.


Sweet Pea BakeryThose of you familiar with Portland, Oregon will recognize the Voodoo Doughnuts sign above. We went there over Labor Day weekend. My wife is convinced that Portland is where vegans go when they die and go to heaven. There are so many vegan restaurants and others that cater to them – including Voodoo Doughnuts.

We visited the “Vegan Mini Mall” on SW Stark Street in Portland, where you can find a food store (Food Fight), clothing store (Herbivore), tattoo parlor (Scapegoat) and a bakery (Sweetpea). Here is a look at some of their pastries. They make a cinnamon roll that was gooey as any non-vegan roll. If you are in Portland, you need to check it out and support vegan businesses.


climate_marchFinally, get out in the street where ever you live for the People’s Climate March tomorrow September 21. If you can’t make it for the main event in New York City, then find an event near you.

Whether it’s ending the proliferation of factory farmed animals, stopping fracking or keeping the dirty coal and oil in the ground – we have to get serious about stopping climate change.

Naomi Klein’s new book – This Changes Everything – makes the case that we all know is true – the politicians will not solve this, the people – US! – have to make our voices heard and our presence seen.

See you in the streets. Watch this video – the entire film is available online – to understand why this is so important.

 

Sonoma County Veg Fest

Sonoma County Veg FestThe Sonoma County Veg Fest is this Saturday, August 16 from 10:00am-5:00pm in Santa Rosa, CA. The cost to attend is $5.00.

There is a great line-up of speakers including Dr. Will Tuttle, author of the best-seller The World Peace Diet and Veg Fest organizer Hope Bohanec, author of the book The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?.

Along with these great speakers, cooking demonstrations and fabulous vegan food, the movie Cowspiracy will be shown at 3:00pm with a talk afterwards with Keegan Kuhn, co-director of Cowspiracy.

CowspiracyIf you live in the Bay Area or Northern California, come and join me at the Veg Fest. It will be a great time.

Our Addiction to Meat is Hurting the Planet

Source: Washington Post Wonkblog

Source: Washington Post Wonkblog

A recently published UK study of different diets and food types found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets significantly reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) impact compared to people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). The daily carbon footprint for a person eating the average amount of meat in the US was just under 16 pounds of CO2 compared to around 8.5 pounds for vegetarians and 6.5 pounds for vegans.

The researchers rated the participants as heavy, medium or low meat-eaters. For their study, heavy meat-eaters ate 3.5 ounces of meat per day. The average American eats 4 ounces.

The researchers calculated the GHG footprint for different food types (see chart below). That quarter pound patty on your hamburger has a carbon footprint of 37.9 pounds of CO2. According to a 2008 EPA study of average auto emissions, that is equal to driving almost 50 miles. Was it really worth it? (See more about the impact of that quarter-pounder)

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about the health impacts of eating a vegan or whole food, plant-based diet but the environmental impacts of our addiction to meat has to be talked about and addressed before it destroys our planet. Here is an excerpt from the new movie Cowspiracy that examines the impact of factory meat production and why environmental groups don’t talk about it.

The conclusion of the research:

Analysis of observed diets shows a positive relationship between dietary GHG emissions and the amount of animal-based products in a standard 2,000 kcal diet. This work demonstrates that reducing the intake of meat and other animal based products can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation. Other work has demonstrated other environmental and health benefits of a reduced meat diet. National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations in order to define a ‘healthy, sustainable diet’ must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products.

Wise words indeed.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Food Type

Cowspiracy

CowspiracyAt the Conscious Eating Conference, one of the filmmakers showed the trailer for this movie.

Their website describes the film:

This is the film that environmental organizations don’t want you to see.

“COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret” is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today, and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.

This documentary will be as eye-opening as “Blackfish” and as inspiring as “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Environmental GroupsThe trailer shows spokespersons from all of these environmental groups dodging the question – what industry contributes the most to climate change, environmental degradation, deforestation, ground water pollution and more?

The answer is the industrial livestock industry. However, these industries contribute to some of these organizations, or they don’t want to pick a fight with one of the most powerful industries in the world – remember what happened to Oprah when she said on her program that she would never eat a hamburger again?

At their website, the producers of this film are looking for help to get the movie finished and distributed. Because of the nature of the film, they have lost many of their original funding sources. It’s up to us to help them.

Please contribute at their Indiegogo site and help get this important message seen and heard.