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Submitted by KAT on Sun, 08/12/2007 - 12:14pm.
Well, there are good bugs, and there are bad bugs, to paraphrase Camper Van Beethoven. And the bad bugs mounted a surge in our garden while we were away these past few weeks. Japanese beetles have ravaged our roses, cherry trees, hazelnuts, wisteria, and porcelain vine, leaving ghostly skeletonized leaves waving woefully.
This Asian invasion’s been the bane of gardeners ever since Japanese beetle larvae apparently snuck into New Jersey in a shipment of iris bulbs sometime before 1912, when we started inspecting imports.
The beetles aren’t much of a problem in their native Japan, where a natural predator, the winsomely named winsome fly, keeps them in check. But here in the U.S., the Japanese beetle is a pervasive pest with few enemies and one very big best friend: the ubiquitous American lawn. Japanese beetle grubs thrive on grass roots, so wherever there are lawns, you’ll find these copper-colored creeps decimating your greenery.
The old-school way to deal with Japanese beetles relied on pherome-scented traps which employed the same strategy that Donald Rumsfeld tried in Iraq—luring every beetle in the region to descend on your yard so you could do battle with them. Interestingly, gardeners found this method totally counter-productive, and now prefer to wage biological warfare by applying a bacterium called milky spore to their soil.
Our neighbors whose lawn laid out a welcome mat for these pesky beetles have, thankfully, saturated their grass with milky spore, but it may take several years for the bacterium to become established and destroy the evil-doers. In the meantime, our foliage falls victim to these voracious invaders, and we find ourselves tempted to commit Spectracide.
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 08/10/2007 - 12:49pm.
“You don’t win friends with salad,” according to Homer Simpson. Or lovers, if an article in Thursday’s New York Times is to be believed.
Ordering a salad on a date might make you seem “vapid and uninteresting,” one woman told reporter Allen Salkin. Choosing a steak or burger, apparently, suggests that you’re a fascinating woman of substance, and conveys the message that you’re “unpretentious and down to earth and unneurotic,” the woman added. Not like all those phony fancypants foaming-at-the-mouth vegetarians, I guess.
The New York Times has cleverly decided to play both sides of the carnivore/herbivore culture war, tossing this bouquet to beef eaters just two weeks after giving the cow huggers a big bear hug on the cover of the Dining Out section. This article, by contrast, ran on the front page of the Styles section, whose stock in trade is thin, shallow articles about thin, shallow people. Alas, Salkin knows just how to get my free-range, grass-fed goat.
The eye-catching title—“Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye”—was guaranteed to please the stock brokers who love livestock and the well-shod fillies who vie to be their brood mares. And equally sure to rile up the vegan/feminist/environmentalist crowd, whose huffing and puffing no doubt helped propel this weightless piece of fluff right to the top of the New York Times’ “most-e-mailed” list where it sits as I write this.
I just couldn’t sit here and let vegetables be vilified like that, for one thing. What was more annoying about this article? The weird, retrograde mindset of the women who order plates to please their dates? The hatchet job on herbivores? The slander of salads? The notion that flaunting a flank steak makes you a maverick?
Look, I’m a meat-eater, myself, and though I do my best to steer clear of factory farmed steers, I’m not a purist. I had a non-grass-fed burger at the Teamsters cookout last week at Yearly Kos (OK, full disclosure, I ate a hotdog, too—and so did Marion Nestle, who practices what she preaches—moderation!) But I’d rather be a conscientious carnivore and get my burgers and dogs from Hawthorne Valley and Fleisher’s, who offer organic, humanely raised meats.
Salkin serves up beef as a badge of honor, but stewing in those steak juices is a growing stigma attached to consuming factory farmed meat, because (a) it’s loaded with heart-hazardous saturated fats (grass-fed meats, by contrast, contain good fats), and (b) our meat-centric diet is chewing up the planet, spewing greenhouse gases, ravaging rain forests, and miring us in manure lagoons.
So, go ahead and order that sexy, Diet-for-a-Small-Minded Planet steak or burger, but don’t miss the big picture, which is not so hot. If you want to have your steak and eat it, too, the grass-fed beef is greener. Is humane meat an oxymoron? I’m not sure, but it’s surely the lesser of two evils. As the herbivores at Herbivore say, Eat Like You Give a Damn. Of course, they also say there’s no such thing as humane meat. Lead us not into tempeh-tation!
Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 08/09/2007 - 3:39am.
By Lee Camp
(watch my YearlyKos Convention performance here)
Besides, we all know smart bombs are an oxymoron. I’m not saying there aren’t times to bomb. There are, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking explosives only hit one evil dude sitting in his office wearing a Cobra Commander costume. Bombs blow up buildings (at the least). I’ve
You want more proof our money (not to mention our men and women) are getting misused in
Want more proof our money is being thrown away? I just saw a report about the new million dollar robot the military is using in
During the report they showed the screen the soldier was using to control his military version of the Furby. It was a blurry video reminiscent of a
So we’ve got 18 year-olds looking at a computer screen in the safety of the Green Zone and blowing things up several miles away. I think the final step is to not even tell the soldiers that it’s real. Tell them they’re playing "Halo" or "Grand Theft Auto." Then you’ll REALLY see some chaos.
And even if the robot were reliable, could you imagine a kid from
I can’t wait for that news report: “Yeah, it was a little exciting there when we found out the accelerator button causes throwing stars and the throwing star button causes acceleration. But don’t worry, we fixed the problem. Now there’s a
I think the only thing the military’s worried about is whether the robots have the creativity necessary to stack
In the report I watched, the military people also kept talking about the robot being great for the “front lines.” What front lines?? What war are you talking about??
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 08/08/2007 - 9:36am.
kat: We New Yorkers are spoiled by our access to a terrific Greenmarket, four Whole Foods stores, and plenty of mom-and-pop health food shops where we can stock up on quinoa, kohlrabi, and kombu. It’s only when we venture beyond our native habitat, as we did last week to attend the Yearly Kos convention in Chicago (where you were gracious enough to participate in our panel on sustainable agriculture) that I realize how few options most Americans have when it comes to making healthier food choices.
The closest we came to "healthy" were the baked Lay’s potato chips at the Teamsters cookout on Saturday, and the excellent dinner we enjoyed in Chinatown. The rest of the foods available to us, whether on Amtrak or at the convention, were heavy on saturated fats, salt, added sugars, and empty carbs, with nearly zero nutrients or fiber.
Even the garden burger I ordered on Amtrak was fried. At the convention and on the train, potatoes were practically the only vegetable, in the form of chips, or a mayonnaise-soaked potato salad, or French fries. Whole grains? Wholly absent. Fruits fared a little better, but not much.
And all across America, this is apparently the norm, outside of a few ethicurean enclaves. Non-meat options are nearly non-existent, and if you’re trying to avoid animal fats for health reasons, you’re really out of luck—the vegetarian options all seem to revolve around eggs and cheese. What good does it do for the USDA, and nutritionists like yourself, and activists like me, to keep telling folks to eat more wholesome, unprocessed foods when they’re not even an option in so many places? What will it take for consumers to have a real choice?
Dr. Nestle: This is a tough one. I’ve been spending a lot of time at airports all over the country. Nearly all of them have salads and sandwiches but they are the same everywhere—soggy and tasteless. In desperation, I’ll get some nuts, a banana, a container of yogurt, and an empty drink cup to mix them in, but the nuts are always saltier than I like and the yogurt invariably over-sweetened. Alas.
I had a great breakfast of oatmeal and fresh berries at the convention hotel—a gift from the manager to compensate for the four wake-up calls I got during the night but hadn’t asked for--but the bill was something like $18. So the choice is between eating things that ought to be fresh, but aren’t, or paying a fortune. No wonder people like fast food--you know exactly what you are getting, you get plenty of calories (that’s the problem, of course), and you can afford it.
But it wasn’t all that long ago that New Yorkers couldn’t get anything decent to eat outside of pricey restaurants, and the older supermarkets in my Manhattan neighborhood are still pretty dismal. Farmers’ markets, Whole Foods, and some of those health food stores prove that good food can be provided at a reasonable price--if there is a market for it. So I say, complain! Exercise personal responsibility and complain loudly and repeatedly to store managers.
But at the same time promote social responsibility and complain to community officials. Tell store managers you expect better quality food and are willing to pay for it. Tell them you don’t want to hear any excuses from suppliers. But then do some complaining at the policy level. Get your town to make it possible for farmers markets and specialty stores to open and flourish. Invite food entrepreneurs to open businesses and help them get started. Work with agricultural extension services to make sure poor people have access to better food. The government runs Amtrak—so those complaints have to go to the agency in charge. Once people have better food, there’s no going back, so you have to start someplace. Otherwise, as American travelers have learned all too quickly, you have to boycott what’s there and bring your own food with you.
Submitted by KAT on Tue, 08/07/2007 - 9:29am.
Guest bloggers Melissa and Larry Jordan
Swimming pools! Movie stars! Well, not exactly, but I’m sure Jed and Jethro would have been beaming with delight at the launch of Sustainable Table’s “Eat Well Guided Tour of America” last Thursday at Kings Road Park in West Hollywood.
Diane Hatz, the organization's Founder/Director, is traveling across country with her crew of real-food revivalists on a big green bio-fueled bus in search of the best pie ever. Passing through more than 25 cities, the team will stop along the way to celebrate healthy, homegrown foods with farmers and chefs who promote sustainable cuisine. The tour, which wraps up on September 9th in New York City at the Farm Aid Concert on Randall's Island, has a daily blog for those interested in following Sustainable Table’s adventures.
Diane warmly received visitors and shared the positive encounters they’ve already experienced in the early phases of the tour. "There are more sustainable practices going on than people realize and we just want to expose the world to it. We received more support than we expected from the communities we contacted also."
Sustainable Table's “Eat Well Guide” is a rapidly growing web directory which enables the public to easily search for farmers, restaurants, stores, B&B’s, caterers and more who sell or provide sustainable and local meat, poultry, dairy and eggs in the United States and Canada. Sustainable Table also created and produced the award winning “The Meatrix Trilogy”. These are hip, smart, funny Flash animation shorts that spoof The Matrix films--the perfect introduction to some of the biggest threats we face from industrial ag.
But back to the celebrities! Traveling with the tour are those cute and lovable toons from the Meatrix: the perky porcine hero Leo, and his trusty farm sidekicks--Moopheus the Ray-Ban clad cow and Chickity, Leo’s love interest and, well, the chicken.
This and several other stops on the tour are being hosted by the good people at Food & Water Watch, a sister organization of Sustainable Table, dedicated to ensuring we have access to fresh, safe and healthy food; protecting our oceans; alerting the public to the lack of seafood inspections; and keeping our public water supply public.
Enjoying a summer day in the shady park, D.C.-based Executive Director Wenonah Hauter and senior organizer C. Noelle Ferdon from San Francisco greeted people and shared their insights into the problems arising from poor federal regulation of food labeling and inspection. Currently, the Food & Drug Administration only inspects 1% of the food they are responsible for inspecting, which includes all foods except red meat and poultry.
"People need to be food aware and gain more control over what we eat and drink.” Hauter told us, adding, “This is especially true since almost half of the food we eat now is imported. We really need country-of-origin labeling, so that people know where their food has been produced. Unfortunately, agribusiness and the giant food processors have been able to delay this from happening. Currently, only seafood in grocery stores is labeled with its country-of-origin. Last year, 81% of the seafood we ate was imported, but if you bought seafood at a restaurant or a seafood market--no labeling was required."
Hauter believes the public needs to be informed so that everyone has access to healthy food; a two-tiered food system, whereby only the "better off and better informed" folks are educated about food being a profit center for large multinational corporations, is unacceptable and threatens the safety and quality of foods served in less affluent households across the country. Food and Water Watch is "working to create a food system that produces nutritious and healthy food for consumers, keeps the environment safe, and allows family farms to survive."
The launch lunch was graciously catered by Evan Kleiman, Chef/Owner of Angeli Caffé on Melrose Avenue and Host of KCRW’s “Good Food.” Kleiman was on hand to oversee the lunch and chat with the guests, who were treated to heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with a garlicky parmesan vinaigrette over locally grown greens. A beautiful and tasty roasted beet and fennel salad alongside a zucchini frittata showcased what Kleiman does best: simple, comforting food as well as "…streamlined rusticity for the sophisticated palate." Friendly catering staff noted that Angeli Caffé incorporates locally produced food into the menu. Kleiman is also the California Governor of Slow Food, leads culinary trips to Italy throughout the year, and continues her commitment to educating the public on food sustainability issues through her appearances and the radio show.
Amelia Saltzman was there signing copies of her new book, The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook. Sustainable farmer Jim Churchill, who grows tangerines and avocados at his Ojai orchard, gave us samples of his magnificent pixie tangerines while his wife/partner Lisa Brennis screened clips from her latest film, “Eat at Bill’s", a documentary about Bill Fujimoto and his pioneering work for family farmers at the Monterey Market. Farmers market “legend” Alex Weiser, as the LA Weekly has dubbed him, brought some beautiful sustainably grown heirloom carrots, potatoes and melons.
Why kick off the road tour in Hollywood? Why not? Hollywood, much like the rest of the country, has lost many of its individually owned businesses and become depressingly corporatized over the last 20 years. Long gone are tinsel town’s maverick, pioneering founders; it’s now run by a handful of mega-monolithic corporations (General Electric, Time Warner, Viacom, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s FOX) who force feed their wares (advertising and the swaying of public opinion) down our collective throats.
Most insidiously, in its never ending zeal for profit, the “entertainment” industry has made a Faustian bargain with almost every major industrial food provider to exploit our children’s eating habits with advertising onslaughts that “tie-in” their digitally created mice, ogres and superheroes with some of the biggest offenders in the Super-Sizing of our food systems. The Eat Well Guided Tour of America stands as a small but wonderful antidote to this. So it’s entirely appropriate that this tour got off to a heavenly start in the city of angels.
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 08/06/2007 - 12:14pm.
We women were once encouraged to learn to cook because “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I’m telling you all today, whether you’re male, female or some combination thereof, that we progressives need to learn to cook up more palatable campaigns, because the way to a voter’s heart is through his guts, according to Drew Westen.
Westen, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has written a must-read book, The Political Brain: the Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. I was lucky enough to hear Westen speak at a standing-room-only workshop he gave at Yearly Kos entitled “Extreme Makeover: How to Put Emotion into the Emotionally Barren Language of the Left.” I left the workshop convinced that if our candidates would only listen to this funny, brilliant man, we could really win.
Howard Dean thinks so, too. Dean gave a fantastic, fired-up keynote speech at Yearly Kos last Thursday night, and he’s clearly taken to heart Westen’s message that we need to appeal to voters’ emotions. I know Dean’s read Westen’s book, ‘cause he’s got a blurb on the back of it that ends, ”In 2008 we will win the presidency if our candidate reads and acts on this book.”
Westen’s book proves that Stephen Colbert’s truthiness is no joke. Conservatives win by appealing to voters on a visceral level, while liberals lose by relying on rational, Spock-like arguments based on reason. We might as well be on another planet; isn’t it high time we phoned home and actually connected with voters?
Colbert got it right:
And that’s how our political system works, too, for better or worse. You may want to change the world, but if your message is unappetizing, people are not going to swallow it. And we’ve allowed conservatives to demonize the word “liberal” to such a degree that it evokes all kinds of unappealing associations despite the fact that a significant number of Americans actually hold pretty progressive values. If you allow the other party to define you, you’re dead in the water. If you rely on dry facts and figures, you’re gonna run aground.
I collared Westen on his way out of the workshop to ask if he could help me hone my remarks for the panel on sustainable agriculture I was participating in the next day. He generously offered to read my speech, which would have been terrific if I had actually finished writing it, but in any case, he gave me some great tips and his presentation inspired me to be a more passionate and effective speaker.
Let’s face it, telling folks to eat more fruits and vegetables is a pretty hard sell, and trying to get people worked up about the farm bill? Now, that’s a really tough row to hoe. But if anyone’s got the tools to make these tasks easier, it’s Westen. Whatever your cause may be, The Political Brain will give you the insight into the human brain that will help you win hearts, minds, and, most critically, votes. Devour this book, and digest it. It will change the way you go about trying to change the world—and give you a fighting chance to actually do so.
Submitted by KAT on Sat, 08/04/2007 - 8:03pm.
Matt and I are currently at the Yearly Kos convention in Chicago along with most of our Living Liberally colleagues. Ironically, being at a blogger convention has gotten in the way of doing any actual blogging.
There have been some terrific speakers and wonderful workshops I’d like to write more about later, but in the meantime, here’s the text of the remarks I made this morning at a panel on sustainable agriculture that I had the honor of organizing and appearing on, along with Dr. Marion Nestle, Tom Philpott of Grist, and Daily Kos’s foremost food activist, Jill Richardson, aka OrangeClouds115:
Eating is a political act whether you know it or not, and our website’s mission is to see to it that more of you know it than not. Eating Liberally grew organically out of Drinking Liberally, which, as many of you know, is a nationwide network of progressive social clubs where liberals can get together to share a pint and promote democracy. We’re thrilled to be part of the Living Liberally crew which is dedicated to creating communities for liberals where we can eat, drink, share great books and movies and just hang out with our fellow progressives.
I’d like to take a moment to thank my mentor Justin Krebs and all my Living Liberally colleagues for their inspiration and support, as well as my fellow kossacks: Claire Silberman, Natasha Chart, and, of course, our moderator, Jill, aka OrangeClouds, who is willing to do whatever it takes to get you guys excited about the farm bill, including using pictures of naked chicks in her diaries.
Thanks also to Marion for being Big Food’s biggest gadfly, to Tom for being the Mac generation’s Johnny Appleseed, and thanks also to Gina Cooper and her tireless team for making this entire event possible and giving me the opportunity to put together this panel on a subject I’m passionate about: climate change.
I know, you thought this panel was going to be all about food, and it is—it’s about greenhouse gases and food, which are shackled together as tightly as the White House is to Fox news.
And unless you get your news from Fox, you know that climate change is, in fact, a real crisis. What you may not know is that the way we produce our food creates more greenhouse gas emissions than the cars we drive. I say “we” even though I don’t drive myself, and my husband Matt—with whom I co-founded Eating Liberally—doesn’t even have a driver’s license. Because we live in New York City, we have the luxury of relying on mass transit and our own two feet, unlike most Americans.
Our motto at Eating Liberally is “free yourself from the fossil fuel food chain,” and you can do that by switching to a “low carbon diet.” Forget about counting carbs—start counting your food miles, and skip the asparagus from Peru. Eat less meat, because industrial livestock production is a total resource hog and a prodigious polluter. So if you really want to fight global warming, you’ll get more mileage from a plant-based diet than a Prius.
One of my favorite peak oil prophets, James Howard Kunstler, likes to say that the American suburb is “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” Kunstler predicts that we’re going to run out of gas and face food shortages that will force us to grow our own food the way we did back in World War II, when our government told us it was our civic duty to plant victory gardens.
After 9/11, the president told us it was our civic duty to shop. Our troops are dying to defend a way of life that—if the rest of the world chose to emulate it--would require the resources of roughly five planet Earths.
I read an AP story a couple of weeks ago about how Americans use twice as much toilet paper as Europeans do, so apparently we can’t even wipe our asses as efficiently.
One of the strangest things about conservatives is how so many of them oppose conservation. Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House roof; Ronald Reagan ripped them down. Dick Cheney once said that people should feel free to use as much electricity as they like, so long as they can pay for it. Ann Coulter is convinced that low flush toilets are a liberal conspiracy to deprive Americans of a sufficiently robust flush.
And let’s not forget Tom Delay, the exterminator who felt compelled to get into politics because he felt that pesticides were over regulated. In his new memoir, he blames Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring pretty much launched the environmental movement, for the loss of “thousands, if not millions of human lives,” presumably by depriving the world of DDT.
So while our commander in chief and his cronies insist that it’s patriotic to buy made-in-China consumer crap, and that it’s our god-given right to waste energy and water and saturate our surroundings with pesticides and all kinds of toxic chemicals, I believe we have a civic duty to our fellow Americans and our global neighbors to preserve our planet and lay the foundation for a future where kids everywhere can eat a decent diet and have a safe place to play.
Our recipe for curbing your carbon footprint consists of the three “C’s”: conservation, consumption, and compassion. Practice conservation, reduce consumption, and show compassion for the planet and all its creatures.
Get a rain barrel to save your water for those non-rainy days, and compost your kitchen scraps instead of sending them to the landfill. Carpool, ride your bike, or use mass transit whenever you can. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need, and when you do need to make a purchase, buy products that are sustainably manufactured, if you can find them and afford them. Get stuff secondhand, and when you’re ready to get rid of something that might be useful to someone else, freecycle it. Remember, garbage is a relatively new invention—before the 20th century, there was no such thing, because every scrap of food or wood or paper or whatever was somehow put to use.
Boycott factory farmed meats and poultry, not just because they’re an institutionalized form of torture that no civilized nation should tolerate, but also because they are one of the most egregious polluters. Avoid processed foods brought to you by industrial agriculture if you can, for your own well-being as well as the earth’s. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof noted, trans fats kill far more Americans than Al Qaeda manages to.
I don’t see that the War on Terror is making us any safer, but I do know that a war on terrible food could make us a hell of a lot healthier. And the planet, too. Help save the family farms, and the family farmers will help save us.
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 08/01/2007 - 4:56pm.
kat: The annual Institute of Food Technologists convention just unveiled the latest batch of "nutraceutical" novelty foods, such as brain-boosting brownies and cheese cubes that strengthen your immune system. Meanwhile, fruits and vegetables are loaded with all kinds of phytonutrients and antioxidants that provide the same benefits (or better) naturally.
So why do food scientists devote so much effort and expense to fabricating these things? I'm not saying that a cholesterol-lowering yogurt isn't a boon to mankind, but wouldn't it be easier to, you know, eat more fruits, whole grains, and vegetables?
Dr. Nestle: Ah yes. Miracles of food technology. This is about marketing food products, not health. If you are in the food business, your job is to make money. If your company is publicly traded, your job is to make money for stockholders and you have to please Wall Street--or else. As I'm constantly repeating, we already have 3900 calories a day available in our food supply for every man, woman, and child in the country--roughly twice what we need. So the competition is absurd.
What to do? Make new junk foods because the ingredients are cheap and you can add lots of value. But how to distinguish one product from another? Make them look healthy. So food technologists work hard to create products that might have some small health benefit--if people eat enough of the products AND make sure the rest of their diet is healthy. Best of all, companies can advertise the "improved" junk foods with health claims, and health claims are well established to help sell foods.
It's hard to add value to fruits and vegetables and whole grains and one carrot is much like another so you can't get added value out of the brand. This is really all about marketing. And you don't need food products to eat healthfully. You know my mantra: eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and don't eat too much junk food (even if it has a health claim).
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Wed, 08/01/2007 - 12:00am.
People from around the country ask the Democratic Presidential candidates if they are in fact 'liberals'.
Submitted by KAT on Tue, 07/31/2007 - 11:41am.
(Last weekend the Humane Society sponsored a conference in DC called Taking Action for Animals, so we sent L.C., the Liberally cow, to find out what her human allies are up to these days. L.C. gingerly tapped out the following dispatch on an iPhone, that ingenious device so user-friendly that even a fictitious bovine mascot can write long e-mails on it:)
Dear Matt & Kat,
I am still trying to digest everything that I saw and heard at this awesome conference—as you know, we ruminants tend to, well, ruminate. It was such a thrill to be surrounded by so many two-footed herbivores fighting on behalf of my fellow farm animals. And the food! I never knew tempeh could be so tasty. How come you guys can’t make it like that?
The folks who organized this conference bent over backwards to curb its carbon hoofprint. They provided pitchers of tap water and drinking glasses instead of bottled water, and served delicious vegan meals buffet style with real plates, silverware and cloth napkins instead of doling out the usual doleful fare in disposable containers and plastic utensils. Swanky and sustainable!
I’m delighted to report that there’s an alliance brewing between the animal rights activists, the environmentalists, and the nutritionists--everyone was talking about how industrial agriculture is such a huge contributor to global warming and the obesity epidemic. Michael Jacobson, the founder and executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, gave a talk entitled “Eating Green—for Ourselves, the Planet and Animals,” in which he said, “We’re all making progress working in our respective spheres; we could make much faster progress working together.”
And Representative Chris Shays (R-Conn.) noted, “Global warming isn’t the only inconvenient truth we need to confront.” He was talking about the fact that the world is consuming more meat than ever at a time when the single best thing people could do to help themselves, the planet, and critters like me would be to switch to a plant-based diet.
Now, I know you guys think it’s a step in the right direction just getting us cows back on a plant-based diet, eating the grass our digestive tracts were designed for instead of corn, corn, and more corn (btw, why is everybody so perplexed about the obesity epidemic? Big Ag switched us to grain in the first place ‘cause it fattens you up faster. People keep pumping kids full of corn-based by-products and cooping them up indoors; why not just keep ‘em in a feedlot?)
You “ethicureans” are so convinced that going grass-fed is a big improvement over the factory farms, and if I were an actual cow as opposed to a made-up mascot, I would so definitely prefer to be pasture-raised. Because what goes on inside those CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) makes Abu Ghraib look like a picnic. The factory farms cram us into tiny, squalid spaces that leave us so constricted we can barely breathe—not that you’d really want to, anyway, with all the foul odors emanating from the manure and urine we stand around in all day. It’s enough to make you sick, and it does; that’s why they have to use so many antibiotics to combat all the diseases we get. They use growth hormones, too, to make us grow bigger, faster.
They dock the pigs’ tails, sear off the cows’ horns, and hack off the chickens’ beaks--and all without any anesthetic, too. OK, so we can’t speak, but we can feel, you know? This kind of stuff is torture, pure and simple. We are living, breathing, SENTIENT beings, but industrial agriculture treats us like commodities to be manipulated for maximum efficiency, so all these barbaric practices are just business as usual (most of this stuff is illegal in Europe, btw.)
At least the grass farmers let their pigs, cows and chickens frolic and forage outside, and do the stuff we like to do, like roll around on the ground and chew the cud with our buds. But there was a faction of passionate vegans at this conference for whom, to quote Herbivore, the hipster purveyor of pro-vegan merchandise, “There is no such thing as humane meat.” And that’s why it got kinda ugly during the Q & A following a panel of grass-fed farmers, including Nicolette Hahn Niman of Niman Ranch fame.
Nicolette had shown some almost preposterously pastoral photos of contented cows grazing on Niman Ranch’s gorgeous ocean front ranch in Northern California. Looked like a nice slice of La Dolce Vita most livestock would die to have, even if it meant ultimately getting slaughtered, however “humanely.” But when Jenny Brown from the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary stepped up to the mic to ask a question, she expressed her outrage that the Humane Society had even invited folks like Nicolette to participate in an animal rights conference:
Ouch. You can see how the Humane Society could get gored on the horns of this dilemma. I mean, no matter how nice the livestock lifestyle at Niman Ranch, at the end of the day the cows are still gonna get slaughtered. And savored.
But roughly 97% of Americans are meat eaters, and even if half of them went vegetarian, you’d still be left with a whole lotta meat eaters. Given the atrocities the CAFOs commit on a daily basis, the Humane Society’s support for humanely raised meats seems to offer the best hope for encouraging more Americans to boycott the factory farms.
As Kim Severson noted in the New York Times last week, animal rights activists “have learned that with less stridency comes more respect and influence in food politics. So they no longer concentrate their energy on burning effigies of Colonel Sanders and stealing chickens. They don’t demonize meat — with the exception of foie gras and veal — or the people who produce it. Instead, they use softer rhetoric, focusing on a campaign even committed carnivores can get behind: better conditions for farm animals.”
The Humane Society’s approach revolves around the 3 R’s: “refinement of farming techniques, reducing meat consumption and replacement of animal products.” Severson points out that this tactic is paying off, with lots of legislative successes on behalf of farm animals in recent months and a growing awareness and acceptance of the animal rights movement in mainstream culture.
How factory farms ever came to be the norm is beyond me. I may be just a cartoon cow, but there’s nothing comical about the way the CAFOS abuse farm animals. And as the New York Times reported yesterday, the biotech industry’s busy tweaking our genes to create all kinds of genetically altered animals that supposedly solve all kinds of problems, like pigs who produce less-polluting poop, or faster growing piglets.
I may be an uddered luddite, but I wish people would stop tinkering with us and treating us like widgets. As Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” On that scale, you guys have a long way to go.
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