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.

 

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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

Mark Bittman Knows Better…

New York TimesBut doesn’t want to tell us the truth.

Mark Bittman

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Mark Bittman has a new op-ed at the New York Times today – What Causes Weight Gain.

If I ask you what constitutes “bad” eating, the kind that leads to obesity and a variety of connected diseases, you’re likely to answer, “Salt, fat and sugar.” This trilogy of evil has been drilled into us for decades, yet that’s not an adequate answer.

We don’t know everything about the dietary links to chronic disease, but the best-qualified people argue that real food is more likely to promote health and less likely to cause disease than hyperprocessed food. And we can further refine that message: Minimally processed plants should dominate our diets. (This isn’t just me saying this; the Institute of Medicine and the Department of Agriculture agree.)

And yet we’re in the middle of a public health emergency that isn’t being taken seriously enough. We should make it a national priority to create two new programs, a research program to determine precisely what causes diet-related chronic illnesses (on top of the list is “Just how bad is sugar?”), and a program that will get this single, simple message across: Eat Real Food.

Sounds great, but wait a minute, let’s look at that last paragraph again.

“A research program to determine precisely what causes diet-related chronic illnesses” – researchers like Drs. Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish and Neal Barnard have been doing this research for decades and can tell you exactly what is causing these illnesses. What we need to do is stop letting industry-financed “research” cloud the reality of what is causing our obesity/diabetes/heart disease/stroke/cancer epidemics.

Meatonomics“A program that will get this single, simple message across: Eat Real Food” – not going to happen. The government spends millions, if not billions, on marketing meat, dairy and egg products to increase consumption and far fewer dollars promoting healthy eating. The Farm Bill recently passed by Congress includes subsidies for the meat industry and favors producers of corn and soybeans, instead of healthy fruits and vegetables. Much of that corn becomes feed for cattle and other meat products or high fructose corn syrup which winds up in the “hyperprocessed” foods American’s eat. To find out more about how our tax dollars are being spent to fatten the meat, dairy and egg industry pockets, read Meatonomics by David Robinson Simon.

In the meantime, the crisis worsens – from a Reuters article: CDC report says 29 million Americans have diabetes

The number of American adults with diabetes has soared to 29 million with another 86 million at high risk of getting the chronic disease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

The CDC report, based on data from 2012, illustrated a continued worrisome rise in diabetes, which can cause serious health complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation of toes, feet or legs, and premature death.

If the current trends continue, federal health officials predicted that one in five Americans could have diabetes by 2025 – and one in three by 2050. The CDC said more than 12 percent of U.S adults had diabetes as of 2012.

These chronic diseases account for the dramatic rise in healthcare costs to treat these diseases, while we spend very little on prevention. From Bittman’s article

In the United States — the world’s most obese country — the most recent number for the annual cost of obesity is close to $200 billion. Obesity-related costs are incalculable but could easily exceed $1 trillion annually.

And from the Reuter’s article

“We simply can’t sustain this trajectory,” said Ann Albright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

The report said that diabetes and its related complications accounted for $245 billion in total medical costs and lost work and wages in 2012.

I don’t know about you, but these numbers are frightening. Are we happy being Number 1, when it is being the most obese country in the world?

Want to follow Mark’s advice and “Eat Real Food?” Find the websites for the researchers mentioned above in the Nutrition links section to the right and start eating a whole food, plant-based diet. Do it for your health, the health of our nation, the health of our world, but just do it.

 

The New York Times Publishes More Nonsense on Nutrition

New York TimesGary Taubes, who I had discussed earlier in my review of Colin Campbell’s book The Low-Carb Fraud, had a opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review this week. The title was “Why is Nutrition So Confusing?”

He talked about all of the research nutritionist have done in the past 50 years related to Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, yet the number of people with these chronic diseases keep increasing.

It would be nice to think that this deluge of research has brought clarity to the issue. The trend data argue otherwise. If we understand these disorders so well, why have we failed so miserably to prevent them?

Because the nutrition research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes, it has opened the door to a diversity of opinions on the subject, of hypotheses about cause, cure and prevention, many of which cannot be refuted by the existing evidence. Everyone has a theory. The evidence doesn’t exist to say unequivocally who’s wrong.

However, Taubes is the author of two best-selling books advocating a low-carb diet. He has a theory – the closest he gets to letting us in on his con game is this.

Obesity and diabetes are epidemic, and yet the only relevant fact on which relatively unambiguous data exist to support a consensus is that most of us are surely eating too much of something. (My vote is sugars and refined grains; we all have our biases.) Making meaningful inroads against obesity and diabetes on a population level requires that we know how to treat and prevent it on an individual level. We’re going to have to stop believing we know the answer, and challenge ourselves to come up with trials that do a better job of testing our beliefs.

What he fails to mention is that there have been trials, studies and proven methods that do halt or reverse diabetes, obesity and related chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke and erectile dysfunction.

Work done by Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, Dean Ornish, John McDougall, Colin Campbell and many others have shown that a whole food, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat.

Last Spring, Kaiser Permanente, America’s largest managed care company and hospital system, told 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.” In order to hold down healthcare costs and control the spread of diabetes.

I am appalled that the Times printed his “opinion” piece without identifying him as someone who is part of, as he put it in the article, “the noise generated by a dysfunctional research establishment.”

The Times refers to Taubes as “a health and science journalist and co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative.”

The Nutrition Science Initiative is

unencumbered by bureaucracy or by an obligation to do anything other than find the truth. We can move quickly and efficiently to execute a novel plan: harness the talents of the best scientists in the field and channel their skills into one concerted effort to generate reliable knowledge, once and for all, on the nature of a healthy diet.

The companies that produce dairy, eggs, meat, sugar and processed foods don’t want the majority of Americans to stop buying their products. So they spend lots of money lobbying Congress to not change food policy or dietary guidelines.

Whole food, plant-based advocates have to find a way to break through the noise of fad diets and the confusion fed us by the media and our own government.

The truth is out there. It is unambiguous. Whole food, plant-based diets work.