Where Food Comes From

FOOD” Documentary – A Revealing Look at the Sourcing of Our Modern Food Supply

 Thanks to Mercola.com
January 11, 2014

By Dr. Mercola

“Food” is a 30-minute documentary that investigates how demand for more and cheaper food has dramatically altered the entire food chain. Today, food production revolves around efficiency—the ability to produce more for less. The ramifications of this mindset are wide-ranging and far-reaching…

As KPBS’ Joanne Faryon reports, “the food chain no longer looks like it used to.” Fish no longer eat other fish, and cattle eat very little grass, which is their natural food source. Instead, cattle eat corn, chickens eat corn and fish, and fish eat cows and poultry… Similarly, fresh produce like fruits and vegetables are primarily sold to foreign markets.

California oranges, for example, are exported to far flung places like Japan, while Americans eat oranges from Australia—presumably because Americans prefer the deeper orange color of Australian oranges, and the fact that they’re easier to peel. As a result, the carbon footprint of most foods sold in your local grocery store is massive, having made its way thousands of miles from where it was grown.

The Beef About American Cattle Farming

While food prices appear to be on the rise, we actually spend less on our food today than we did a generation ago, thanks to modern food production practices. The ultimate price, however, may be greater than anyone ever expected.

For starters, modern agricultural practices are taking a heavy toll on soil and environmental health, and the way we raise animal foods, especially in the US, results in animal products that are far inferior compared to their ancestral past.

The practice of raising animals in confined feeding operations (CAFOs) is also having a major detrimental impact on our environment and is a primary source of environmental pollution and rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Last year, 63 million tons of beef was produced worldwide.1 As stated in the film, while making up only five percent of the world’s population, Americans consume nearly 20 percent of all the beef produced globally.

But just how is all this beef produced? The film summarizes how the typical cow makes its way from birth to slaughter in the US. A generation or so ago, cattle would be mostly pasture-raised and sold for slaughter around the age of two or three. The meat would then be taken to the local market.

Today, California cows start out being raised on pasture for about six months before being sold, typically changing hands twice, before ending up in a CAFO feedlot. Feedlots, which were introduced after World War II, are large pens that house tens of thousands of cattle—some can hold herds up to 100,000 animals.

Here, they’re fattened up on a corn-based diet before being slaughtered about four or five months later. All in all, today’s beef is grown in about half the time compared to a generation ago.

Besides corn, virtually all beef sold in American grocery stores comes from cattle injected with hormones. Corn fattens the cattle, but consumers don’t like all that grizzly fat, so hormones are used to make the animal produce more lean muscle tissue. This improves profits, as it increases the animals’ growth by about 10 percent.

Ironically, as Faryon points out, it’s the corn that makes the cattle fat, so if we didn’t feed them corn, we wouldn’t have to give them hormones to minimize fat production.  Another question well worth pondering is this: with all this hormone-laced beef, along with the American corn-based processed food diet (think high fructose corn syrup), is it any surprise Americans are growing fatter, faster, as well?

Farmed Fish—Feedlots of the Sea…

Industrial fish farming, or aquaculture, is the fastest growing form of food production in the world.2 About half of the world’s seafood now comes from fish farms, including in the US, and this is expected to increase. At first glance, farmed fish may seem like a good idea to help protect wild seafood populations from overfishing while meeting the nutritional needs of an ever-expanding global population.

In reality, however, the industry is plagued with many of the same problems surrounding land-based CAFOs, including pollution, disease and inferior nutritional quality. It’s getting so bad that fish farms can easily be described as “CAFOs of the sea.” Here we see an even greater distortion of the food chain. Wild fish eat other fish, but farmed fish can be fed a concoction of ingredients they’d NEVER encounter otherwise, such as soy protein and beef or chicken byproducts, including cattle blood, bone, and chicken feathers.

The reason for this is because, as explained by Jeffrey Graham in the film, it takes about five pounds of fish to produce one pound of growth in salmon. This clearly negates the original rationale for fish farming, which is to prevent the depletion of natural fish stocks. The solution is to replace the fish meal in the diet with soy protein and other protein products…The question is, is this really a healthy solution?

Europe has banned processing byproducts from cattle due to the potential risk of spreading mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE), a neurodegenerative disease that can affect humans eating contaminated beef. While there have been no reports of humans contracting mad cow from eating farmed fish, the theoretical possibility is there. Besides that, it seems clear that a fish that eats meat byproducts opposed to its natural diet of other fish is not going to have the same nutritional makeup as wild fish.

Then there’s the increased risk of fish diseases spreading to wild fish. The close quarters where farmed fish are raised (combined with their unnatural diets) means disease can spread quickly, and because farmed fish are often raised in pens in the ocean, pathogens can spread like wildfire and contaminate any wild fish swimming past. I wrote about this last summer in the article “Salmon Confidential.”

The Unsavory Truth About Factory Farmed Chicken

Large commercial chicken facilities typically house tens of thousands of hens and can even go up to hundreds of thousands of hens who, yet again, are fed a diet consisting primarily of corn. Processing byproducts such as chicken feathers can also be added to the feed. Antibiotics are routinely used in most facilities, but hormones are not permitted in American-raised chickens. When it comes to labels such as “free-range” and “natural,” it’s buyer beware…

The definitions of “free-range” are such that the commercial egg industry can run industrial farm egg laying facilities and still call them “free-range” eggs, despite the fact that the birds’ foraging conditions are far from what you’d call natural. True free-range eggs are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.

When you’re housing tens of thousands of chickens, you clearly cannot allow them all to freely roam and scavenge for food outdoors. At best, CAFO hens may be let out into a barren outdoor lot for mere minutes a day. Your best source for pastured chicken (and fresh eggs) is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. If you live in an urban area, visiting a local farmer’s market is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality chicken and eggs.

Can We Grow a Fair and Sustainable Food System?

Many believe the answer to world hunger is further expansion of large-scale agriculture; others place their bets on genetically engineered (GE) crops. But are factory farms and large-scale GE farming really going to solve the problem? Evidence suggests the answer is a resounding NO. In fact, our modern agricultural system is the very heart of the problem…

Modern monoculture has severely depleted soils of essential nutrients and microorganisms, and poor soil quality is a core problem facing farmers across the globe. Monoculture (or monocropping) is defined as the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops. (Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. As discussed above, corn and soy are two of the primary ingredients in feed given to livestock, be they chickens, cattle or fish.)

The Earth’s soil is now depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced due to our chemical-based agriculture system. Massive monoculture has also led to the extinction of 75 percent of the world’s crop varieties over the last century. Additionally, modern agriculture is extremely energy dependent. It is estimated that every consumer in the Western world eats the equivalent of 66 barrels of oil per year. That’s how much oil is needed to produce the food on your plate.

Do You Really Want to Eat Factory Farmed Animals?

If you were to grow food for you own family, my guess is that you would do so with extreme care, using the best seeds, the healthiest animals, and the least amount of chemical additives. Yet, when most people buy their food, they have no idea where it actually comes from, and conversely the people who grow this food have no idea who ends up eating it. When people are able to grow food for the faceless masses, I think it somehow justifies these terrible practices that have become commonplace: pumping animals full of hormones and drugs, dousing vegetables with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and introducing genetically modified seeds into the environment.

If you had to see the animal you were about to eat before it makes its way to the supermarket or your dinner table, would you choose one that had lived out its days in a filthy, crowded cage? One that had been mutilated and tormented, then pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, while being fed pesticide-laden grains it was not designed to eat?

Or would you choose one that had lived a nurtured and well cared for life, free to roam on pasture, see the sunlight and breathe in fresh air? One that was fed its natural diet and nothing more? The choice is obvious, which is exactly why agri-business has done such a masterful job of concealing what really goes on from the vast majority of Americans. All you see is a cellophane-wrapped package, maybe a picture of a barn with happy cows and chickens standing near. In many cases, if you could really see how that animal was raised, you would likely shield your children’s eyes, then turn away in disgust.

Factory farms allow us to be removed from taking personal responsibility for raising our own food. There is no one to be held accountable for raising garbage food or treating animals inhumanely because the system has taken on a life of its own. By far, the vast majority of food at your local supermarket comes from these polluting, inhumane farm conglomerations. So if you want to stop supporting them, you first need to find a new place to shop.

Become Part of a Growing Movement

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to find a humane and reliable source for your food — sources that are growing food with the health of the environment and the animals as the driving forces. At LocalHarvest.org, for instance, you can enter your zip code and find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, all with the click of a button. For an excellent list of sustainable agricultural groups in your area, please also see Promoting Sustainable Agriculture — this page is filled with resources for high-quality produce and meats in your area.

The more we all make it a point to only buy food from a source we know and trust, the faster factory farming will become a shameful practice of the past. Farmers and lovers of real food show us that change IS possible. But your involvement is required. Here are a few suggestions for how you can take affirmative action:

  1. Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
  2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to selling local foods.
  3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food.
  4. Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM.
  5. Cook, can, ferment, dry, and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children.
  6. Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food comes from.
  7. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system.
  8. Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice, and let your congressperson know what you think.
  9. Spread the word! Share this article with your friends, family, and everyone else you know.

Big Meat and Obama

Obama’s 5 Biggest Sellouts to the Meat Industry

—By   Thanks to Mother Jones.

Nov. 5, 2013
Obama meatTalbot Troy/Flickr and Volodymyr Krasyuk/Shutterstock

When Barack Obama won the presidency in November 2008, taking on the meat industry surely ranked somewhere behind managing the financial crisis and wrangling two wars on his list of priorities.

Still, he had explicitly promised to crack down on some of Big Meat’s excesses. In his campaign literature targeted at rural voters, he deplored “anticompetitive behavior” and “market consolidation” by big meatpackers, and vowed to “strengthen anti-monopoly laws” and “make sure that farm programs are helping family farmers, as opposed to large, vertically integrated corporate agribusiness.” He also insisted his administration would  “strictly monitor and regulate pollution” from factory-scale animal farms, backed by “fines for those who violate tough air and water quality standards.”

Five years and another election later, “how’s that hopey-changy thing working” (to quote Sarah Palin) when it comes to challenging the meat industry’s power? The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production’s landmark report, released months before the presidential election in 2008, provides a good framework for examining Obama’s record. Led by adistinguished set of public-health, agriculture, and animal-welfare experts, the Pew Report delivered a blunt assessment of the health and environmental effects of factory meat production—and a set of policy recommendations for cleaning it up. And just last week, the Center for a Liveable Future at Johns Hopkins University (which worked with Pew on the original report) came out with an updated assessment of how things have gone over the past five years—a period that roughly coincides with Obama’s presidency.

Unfortunately, Big Meat continues to enjoy a rather friendly regulatory environment nearly a half-decade into Obama’s presidency, the report shows. Drawn (mostly) from CLF”s update, here are five ways the Obama Administration has kowtowed to the meat industry.

The GAO concluded that on factory farms, the EPA “does not have the information that it needs to effectively regulate these operations.”

1. Factory farms don’t have to register with the EPA.Remember the tough talk about how the administration would “strictly monitor and regulate pollution” from concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs)? Turns out, if you run one of these gargantuan operations—which accumulate vast cesspools of manure that regularly pollute water and air—you’re under no obligation to inform the Environmental Protection Agency of your existence, which makes it hard to monitor and regulate your pollution. In a 2008 report, the Government Accountability Office concluded that, because of this information void, the EPA “does not have the information that it needs to effectively regulate these operations.”

Under pressure from a lawsuit by environmental groups back in 2010, Obama’s EPA proposednew rules that would have remedied the situation by requiring CAFOs to file basic information on their operations with the agency.  Then, in 2012, the EPA unceremoniously withdrew the proposed rules, CLF reports. So now we’re back to where we were in 2008. Meanwhile, new peer-reviewed research has found that that the closer you live to a large hog operation, the likelier you are to be infected with a dangerous antibacterial-resistant pathogen called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or (MRSA).
2) Factory farms are exempt from the most important pollution laws. MRSA isn’t the only threat faced by people who live near factory animal farms. As this 2011 paper by North Carolina researchers shows, the foul odors emitted by these operations likely cause a host of problems ranging from eye irritation to difficulty breathing. CAFOs concentrate animal waste and emit ammonia, particulate matter, hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds into the air.

In a craven move just before leaving office in early 2009, President George Bush exempted CAFOs from having to report hazardous air emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund—an exemption that remains in place.

The Obama EPA has not taken back that gift to Big Meat. The holdup, as Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, explained to me, is that the EPA says it doesn’t have a reliable way to gauge CAFOs’ air emissions (not surprising, given the dearth of data the agency has on CAFOs). The EPA’s attempts to get the data necessary to regulate air emissions has been vexed—and the dysfunction dates to the Bush II administration. In an industry-funded collaboration beginning in 2005, the EPA conducted air-quality monitoring at 15 livestock confinements and 9 manure lagoons across the country. When the EPA finally released data from the study in 2011, 11 of those 15 operations exceeded exceeded federal reporting thresholds for ammonia emissions, according to an analysis of it by Environmental Integrity Project. But when the EPA finally released its own analysis of the data, its own Science Advisory Board (SAB) found the EPA’s methodologies to be woefully inadequate—and essentially sent the agency back to the drawing board.

And so, under Obama, the EPA’s effort to create a system for measuring exactly what enters the air from CAFOs—much less protecting communities from it—has stalled indefinitely, the report finds.
3) Big Meat has only gotten bigger, unchecked by antitrust action. Not long after taking office in 2009, President Obama announced a series of public hearings, bringing together farmers with antitrust officials from the Justice Department, to talk through anticompetitive practices in the meat industry. After years of nearly unchecked consolidation—big meat packers combining with and/or buying up smaller meat packers, concentrating market power—this seemed like a radical move. Meanwhile, the 2008 farm bill required USDA to come up with a set of policies, known collectively as the GIPSA rule, designed to level the playing field between livestock farmers and the big meatpackers, which dominate the industry with their contracts. The effort that began promisingly; “Small Farmers See Promise In Obama’s Plans,” a 2009 NPR report declared.

What has Obama’s challenge to the industry’s market power amounted five years into his presidency? “[N]ear-total collapse,” CLF laments. The DOJ hearings resulted in a 24-page report and little else. The Obama USDA ended up watering down its initially strong GIPSA rule proposal—only to see it essentially gutted by Congress, CLF reports. Meanwhile, “consolidation in the meat industry has continued unabated worldwide,” Pew finds.

CLF found evidence linking routine farm antibiotic use to human disease—everything from potentially deadly MRSA to urinary-tract infections.

4) CAFOs continue to generate antibiotic-resistant pathogens. There’s no more depressing section of the CLF update than the one on the meat industry’s reliance on routine antibiotic use. Back in 2008, the commission recommended that the federal government “phase out and then ban the nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials” in livestock production. The rational was simple: when you feed tightly confined animals daily doses for antibiotics, microbes quickly evolve resistance to those antibiotics. And some of those microbes—like salmonella and certain forms of E. coli—can cause severe damage to people.

Antibiotics should be reserved for cases when animals are actually sick, not used to stimulate their growth or to try to prevent them from getting sick, Pew concluded.

Five years later, CLF reports, evidence has accumulated linking routine farm antibiotic use to human disease—everything from potentially deadly MRSA to urinary-tract infections. This year, the Centers for Disease Control bluntly acknowledged the problem. The Obama Administration’s response to the threat? Amid much fanfare in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration rolled out a voluntary approach—one that, even if the industry chooses to follow it, will likely be inadequate, because it contains a massive loophole, CLF reports (more details here). As a result, “meaningful change” to Big Meat’s antibiotics fixation is “unlikely in the near future.”
5) Obama’s USDA is pushing to speed up poultry slaughterhouses, workers be damned.Working conditions in slaughterhouses are beyond the scope of the Pew Commission’s original report, but no list of Obama’s sellouts to Big Meat is complete without a mention of the US Department of Agriculture’s proposed new plans for inspecting poultry line. They’re essentially a privatizer’s dream: Slash the number of USDA inspectors on the kill line, saving the government some money; hand much of the responsibility for inspection to the poultry packers themselves; allow them to substitute random testing and plenty of antimicrobial spray for the onerous task of inspecting every bird, which means the kill line can speed up, thus saving the industry loads of money.

All of which sounds great, unless you’re a worker about to find that your already-hazardous job just got more dangerous; or you’re a chicken eater, because, according to a Food and Water Watch analysis of USDA data on its pilot program for the new system, the new system lets some pretty foul stuff through.

Worker and food-safety advocates have pushed back hard against the new rules, but the USDA appears to be sticking to its guns. The department is in the process of finalizing the new plan, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Is Christianity Animal-Friendly?

Is Christianity Animal-Friendly?

Kimberley C. Patton  

Read complete article at Harvard Divinity School.

In Review | Books The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals, by Laura Hobgood-Oster. Baylor University Press, 230 pages, $19.95.

BUILDING ON HER RECENT Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition (2008), which aimed to recover the lost history of animals in Christianity, Laura Hobgood-Oster in her new book, The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals, offers a passionate call to Christians to attend to animal suffering. A religion and environmental studies scholar, Hobgood-Oster reminds the Christian world of the long-standing mutual relationship between people and animals, and seeks to broaden narrow views of traditional Christian theology that would limit God’s incarnation to Jesus alone—and his salvific regard only to human beings. “At its core,” she asks, “is Christianity only about human beings?” (168).

In extending the range of the Incarnation, Hobgood-Oster takes a different tack than others before her. For example, the British trinitarian theologian Andrew Linzey focuses on the imperative of imitatio Dei in Christ’s kenotic self-emptying for creatures lesser than himself; so we, following his example, need to serve animals. Animals, Hobgood-Oster says, have not only been chronic victims throughout Christian history, but have been a persistent presence in religiously meaningful ways, sanctified by divine regard. They are God’s creatures, and our friends. They are therefore worthy not only of pity or compassion, but of the religious attention that comes with theological standing. Christian political energies are therefore rightly directed in liberating them from present-day systemic forms of abuse, such as factory farming, meat-eating, hunting, product research, thoroughbred horse racing, puppy mills, and dog fighting. The rubrics of friendship and hospitality, informed by her own relationships with particular beloved animals and by her extensive work as a rescue volunteer for abandoned and injured animals are her main platforms, and they are compellingly presented.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

 

Ag-Gag

Stunning Ag-gag Bill News

Posted: 08/05/2013 12:34 pm

 

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Amy Meyer wanted to see for herself where her food was coming from. But in the state of Utah, she discovered, that was against the law.

On February 8, Meyer drove to Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, and took a look from the side of the road. She gasped as she peered through the barbed wire fence and saw what appeared to be a sick cow being treated like rubble as it was carried in a tractor. So she did what many people would do in this day and age. She got out her smartphone to begin recording.

For this, Meyer was arrested and prosecuted under Utah’s new “ag-gag” law.

It turns out that similar laws are now in place not just in Utah, but also in Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, and Missouri. And many other states are considering similar legislation.

The goal of these laws, it would appear, is to keep consumers from seeing where modern meat really comes from. Considering that 94 percent of the American public believes that animals raised for food should be free from abuse and cruelty, the modern meat industry has some good reasons to fear the public finding out that Old MacDonald’s farm isn’t so happy these days.

Charges against Meyer were subsequently dropped, but Utah’s law is still on the books. And now Amy Meyer is joining with award-winning author Will Potter and a team of organizations in filing a lawsuit challenging her state’s controversial law in the courts.

Soon thereafter, in Kansas on June 28th, a photographer working for a publication not generally seen as promoting a radical agenda, National Geographic, was arrested and briefly jailed after taking aerial pictures of a feedlot for a series on food issues to be published some time next year.

George Steinmetz has taken award-winning photos in many dangerous situations, including a series depicting post-Gaddafi Libya. But it was his photographs of U.S. feedlots, taken from a paraglider in an area with hundreds of thousands of cattle, that got him put behind bars.

Kansas has its own “ag-gag bill,” called the “Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act.” This law makes it illegal to “enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera or by any other means.”

Apparently, the feedlot executives may have considered paragliding to be a form of illegal entry, and they wanted Steinmetz to feel the force of the law. Industry officials said they believe his actions represent a “food security issue.” Steinmetz had also parked and taken off from private property, so “trespassing” is central to the charge he now faces. But do you really think he’d have been arrested for parking there had he merely stopped to read a book?

The spread of ag-gag bills is alarming for many reasons. Aside from exposing specific incidents of animal abuse, undercover videos have also drawn attention to industry practices such as housing chickens in cramped battery cages that hasten the sickening of birds and the spread of salmonella.

Elizabeth Holmes, an attorney with the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, comments: “The reason these are public health issues, and not just animal rights issues, is that those unsanitary conditions provide breeding grounds (for disease).”

Holmes has a point. Keeping animals alive in wretched conditions requires the use of massive amounts of pharmaceutical drugs. Nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals, not people. The antibiotic overuse that allows meat producers to keep animals in filth and misery is spawning drug-resistant superbugs.

Earlier this year, an Environmental Working Group study found antibiotic resistant “super bugs” on 81 percent of the ground turkey and 55 percent of the ground beef in America’s supermarkets.

With antibiotic resistant bacteria costing us more than $55 billion and killing tens of thousands of people each year, you could even argue that today’s factory farms have become a form of biological weapons factory.

But don’t we have meat inspectors who monitor animal treatment? Isn’t it their job to insure that the laws against excessive animal cruelty to animals, however weak they may be, are enforced? Aren’t they being paid to look out for the public interest?

Unfortunately, thanks to the weight of agribusiness interests, even USDA meat inspectors don’t always feel free to protect animals or public health.

After 29 years as a USDA meat inspector, Jim Schrier was recently stationed at a Tyson Foods slaughter facility in Iowa where he reported clear humane handling violations to his supervisor. That’s what he was supposed to do — report the violations to his superior in the chain of command. But when Schrier presented his concerns, the supervisor reportedlybecame very angry, and a week later required Jim to work at another facility 120 miles away. Then the USDA reassigned Jim permanently to a plant in another state.

In what looks an awful lot like a form of whistleblower retaliation, after 29 years of service, Schrier must now choose between his job, and his family.

When Jim’s wife, Tammy, launched a petition on change.org exposing this story and calling for Jim Schrier to get his old job back, some of the first signers were other employees who had worked at the same plant and who corroborated Schrier’s findings. Instead of being punished, they said, he should be rewarded and the whole plant should be inspected.

The significance of all this is huge. The first amendment to the United States constitution states: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”There are serious questions about whether ag-gag bills, and retaliation against whistleblowers like Jim Schrier, are even constitutional. But whatever the courts decide, we are already paying a terrible price for the climate of repression they institutionalize.

Shutting up people like Amy Meyer, George Steinmetz, and Jim Schrier makes it hard for any of us to know where our food comes from. Shutting them up also allows the meat industry to get away with treating animals terribly, and with jeopardizing public health by breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria. But there’s more.

Tyrants of all stripes thrive in the darkness. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate.”

If journalists and whistleblowers aren’t allowed to speak the truth, we’re going to have an awfully hard time retaining any semblance of a functioning democracy.
Ocean Robbins is co-author of Voices of the Food Revolution, and serves as CEO and co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) of the 100,000+ member Food Revolution Network. Find out more and sign up for free here.

Factory Farm Filth

A River Of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms

By Dr. Mercola

There’s a good chance you’ve never personally seen a factory farm or CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) — and there’s a reason for this.

CAFOs are traditionally hidden from public view. Certain states (like Iowa, where big agriculture rules the roost economically and politically) are even considering making undercover videos taken on such farms — which often show shocking scenes of animal cruelty and filth — illegal.

Quite simply, they don’t want you to see what’s really going on, because if you did, you would probably turn away in disgust at the mere thought of eating the foods produced there.

Yet, the vast majority of the food produced in the United States comes from these industrial-sized CAFOs.

In the documentary film above, A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms, you can see first-hand the toll that the modern industrial system of meat and poultry production has on human health and the environment, and realize why a prompt call to action is urgently needed.

Waste From CAFOs Compared to ‘Mini Chernobyls’

When you raise tens of thousands of animals (and in the case of chickens, 100,000) under one roof, you’re left with a load of waste. That manure, which traditionally was regarded as a valuable fertilizing byproduct when produced on a much smaller scale, has become one of the most polluting substances in the United States (even though federal legislature forbids animal waste from being defined as “hazardous”).

The problem is, when it’s produced in massive quantities, it certainly is hazardous. In a report of the Pew Commission on industrial farm animal production (IFAP),1it’s explained:

“Animal waste in such volumes may exceed the capacity of the land to absorb the nutrients and attenuate pathogens. Thus, what could be a valuable byproduct becomes a waste that must be disposed of in an appropriate manner.

The annual production of manure produced by animal confinement facilities exceeds that produced by humans by at least three times. Manure in such large quantities carries excess nutrients, chemicals, and microorganisms that find their way into waterways, lakes, groundwater, soils, and airways.

Excess and inappropriate land application of untreated animal waste on cropland contributes to excessive nutrient loading and, ultimately, eutrophication of surface waters.

IFAP runoff also carries antibiotics and hormones, pesticides, and heavy metals. Pesticides are used to control insect infestations and fungal growth.

Heavy metals, especially zinc and copper, are added as micronutrients to the animal diet. Tylosin, a widely used antibiotic (macrolide) for disease treatment and growth promotion in swine, beef cattle, and poultry production, is an example of a veterinary pharmaceutical that decays rapidly in the environment, but can still be found in surface waters of agricultural watersheds.”

The waste, which is typically stored in massive “lagoons,” often leads to rivers of waste that flow from factory farms into the surrounding environment. As the film described, just one environmental consequence of this is the quick spread of Pfiesteria, a microscopic organism that feeds off the phosphorus and nitrogen found in manure.

Pfiesteria, Harmful Gasses Linked to Toxic Storage Lagoons

Pfiesteria is a lethal toxin harmful to both humans and fish. In states with CAFOs, it’s not unusual for the bacteria to overwhelm waterways, killing fish and causing human health problems ranging from nausea and fatigue to open sores, memory loss and disorientation. The manure also leads to the production of at least 160 different gasses, including ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen sulfide. According to the Pew Commission:2

Possibly the most dangerous gas common to IFAP facilities is hydrogen sulfide. It can be released rapidly when the liquid manure slurry is agitated, an operation commonly performed to suspend solids so that pits can be emptied by pumping. During agitation, hydrogen sulfide levels can soar within seconds from the usual ambient levels of less than 5 ppm to lethal levels of over 500 ppm. Animals and workers have died or become seriously ill in swine IFAP facilities when hydrogen sulfide has risen from agitated manure in pits under the building.”

There are also problems with ammonia release, which, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “can be carried more than 300 miles through the air before being dumped back onto the ground or into the water, where it causes algal blooms and fish kills.”3

Corporations primarily use the CAFO system because efficiency and profits are valued above all else, even though this frequently violates natural laws and increase the risk to people eating the food they produce. The environmental assaults that follow are considered a cost of doing business, but as River of Waste poignantly shared, we should perhaps be heeding this Native American Cree prophecy before it is too late …

“Only after the last tree is cut down, the last of the water poisoned, the last animal destroyed … only then will you realize you cannot eat money.”

CAFOs Contribute to the Spread of Human Disease

The film also sheds some concerning light on how easily CAFOs serve as breeding grounds for disease — not only amongst the animals housed there and the farm workers, but also to those of us in the general population. River of Waste mentions H5N1, aka the bird flu, specifically. Although it doesn’t spread easily among humans, its capability to mutate has scientists worrying whether it could mutate enough to cause a human pandemic. CAFOs serve as the ideal place for this to happen, as there are millions, if not billions, of host birds among which the virus can flourish.

Aside from various strains of influenza or other viruses, feeding livestock continuous, low-dose antibiotics — a common practice on CAFOs — creates a perfect storm for widespread disease proliferation — and, worse yet, antibiotic-resistant disease. Justone of several now-resistant pathogens, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), is responsible for more than 94,000 infections and 18,000 deaths in the United States each year!

CAFO animals do require more drugs, as disease is rampant due to cramped and unsanitary living conditions. It’s a natural consequence of raising tens or hundreds of thousands of animals on one farm. For the sake of efficiency, CAFO animals are crammed into tiny spaces and treated in ways that are truly shocking to most people who are just learning about how CAFO’s are run. Due to these living conditions, a variety of drugs, including antibiotics, are routinely administered to all animals, whether they’re sick or well, in order to keep as many of them as possible alive until it’s time for slaughter.

Low-Dose Antibiotics Commonly Used to Boost Animal Growth… and Profits

Low-dose antibiotics are also routinely used to boost growth of the animal, and this is purely a financial concern. Larger, fatter animals equate to greater profits. The ultimate price, of course, is that you end up getting a dose of antibiotics and other drugs in each and every steak and chicken wing. An even lesser known issue is the problem with antibiotic-laden manure from CAFOs further contaminating the rest of your food supply. That’s right — even your lettuce may contain antibiotics! These are all powerful reasons for choosing organically raised, drug-free, grass-fed or pastured animal products instead.

Agribusiness Industry Wields its Power to Control Government and Public Perceptions

Like many other industries, agribusiness uses intensive lobbying, strong-arm tactics and other abuses of power to keep regulations well in their favor. As reported by Occupy for Animals:4

Federal legislature currently forbids animal waste from being categorized as hazardous. In addition, on the economic level, many corporations are multi-state and can simply move to another state if local laws become too restrictive for their tastes.

Other strong-arm tactics include abuse of power at the highest levels, industry lobby money poured into political campaigns in exchange for less restrictive laws, control of academic resources, and delaying tactics. Perhaps the most damning example of political abuse is the ability of certain corporations to claim immunity to the federal Clean Air Act.”

Not surprisingly, the U.S. government has a history of supporting these industrial CAFO operations, both by looking the other way when abuse or contamination occurs, and by directly subsidizing cheaply produced beef, and corn and soy used for feed. As it stands, 2 percent of U.S. livestock facilities produce 40 percent of farm animals,5 and these large, corporate-owned CAFOs have been highly promoted as the best way to produce food for the masses. The only reason CAFOs are able to remain so “efficient,” bringing in massive profits while selling their food for bottom-barrel prices, is because they substitute subsidized crops for pasture grazing.

Factory farms use massive quantities of corn, soy and grain in their animal feed, all crops that they are often able to purchase at below cost because of government subsidies. Because of these subsidies, U.S. farmers produce massive amounts of soy, corn, wheat, etc. — rather than vegetables — leading to a monoculture of foods that create a fast food diet.

FDA Refuses to Impose Stricter Regulations on CAFOs

Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has continually made it clear that its loyalties lie with industry, not public health. Instead of enforcing stricter regulations, the agency has simply asked food producers to voluntarily limit their use of certain antibiotics. In fact, on December 22, 2011, the agency quietly posted a notice in the Federal Register6 that it was effectively reneging on its plan to reduce the use of antibiotics in agricultural animal feed — a plan it had been touting since 1977!

It’s a vicious cycle, and both you and the animals bear the brunt of the consequences. In the film, a report card is given for the U.S. regulations for CAFOs, and wouldn’t you know it, they received failing grades in every category, from ammonia levels and antibiotics use to disease, sewage and waste …

There is a Better Way: Buck the System to Get REAL Food That Doesn’t Destroy the Environment, Animal Welfare or Your Health

Total Video Length: 48:03
Download Interview Transcript

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms is a pioneer in sustainable agriculture and has mastered the art of raising healthy, happy chickens, pigs and cattle. I recently visited Joel Salatin at his farm in Virginia. He practices the local, sustainable model of food production, which is in stark contrast to the more prevalent model of large-scale mass food production that’s seen today. The “bigger is better” food system has reached a point where its fundamental weaknesses are becoming apparent, and it’s time for each of us to answer a very important question: what kind of food system do YOU want?

As Joel discusses in the interview above, there are basically two different models of food production today, and there’s growing conflict between them. The first, and most prevalent, is the CAFO model that takes a very mechanistic view toward life, whereas the other—the local, sustainable farm model—has a biological and holistic view.

I encourage you to support the small family farms in your area, particularly organic farms that respect the laws of nature and use the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water and habitat to create synergistic, self-supporting, non-polluting, GMO-free ecosystems.

Whether you do so for ethical, environmental or health reasons — or all of the above — the closer you can get to the “backyard barnyard,” the better. You’ll want to get your meat, chickens and eggs from smaller community farms with free-ranging animals, organically fed and locally marketed. This is the way food has been raised and distributed for centuries … before it was corrupted by politics, corporate greed and the blaring arrogance of the food industry.

You can do this not only by visiting the farm directly, if you have one nearby, but also by taking part in farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture programs. The following organizations can also help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area, raised in a humane, sustainable manner:

  1. Local Harvest — This Web site will help you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  2. Farmers’ Markets — A national listing of farmers’ markets.
  3. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  4. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
  5. FoodRoutes — The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA’s, and markets near you.

The Cult of Christian Hunting and America's Gun Problem

The Cult of Christian Hunting and America’s Gun Problem

Derek Beres on December 18, 2012, 3:29 PM Thanks to Big Think

On average, Americans slaughter 10 billion animals a year for consumption. The idea that hunting is a necessary component of our food supply is simply a myth. Yet how do we convince a culture, some of whom deny that evolution exists and champion the notion that the earth is 6,000 years old, that such practices need to be abolished in the way that human sacrifices were? We can’t even commit to compassion over losing those we kill in war; as Chris Hedges wrote in War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,

While we venerate and mourn our own dead we are curiously indifferent about those we kill.

The idea that animals would be venerated is impossible in a culture that cheers the idea of blowing up entire Middle Eastern countries.

That hunting psychology fosters a culture of firearms should not be a surprise, nor should it be shocking that lax gun regulations promote mass murders. Yes, the shooter in Newton was mentally unstable, yet he was raised in a fringe survivalist household stockpiling firearms for an imagined forthcoming social (and religious) revolution in which the righteous would finally experienced Rapture. Because of this deranged religious zealotry, innocent children and teachers were murdered.

It’s hard to take a group of Christian bowhunters asking its members to ‘please prayerfully consider how God would lead you to financially support our many programs’ seriously—again, notice the illogical leap that wraps financial stability, divinity and hunting together. But we can’t overlook their disturbing sincerity. Christian hunting is a bastardization of an outdated religious text, and does not reflect the social, psychological, ethical or even nutritional needs of modern America.

As Marvin Harris wrote in Cannibals and Kings regarding animal sacrifice,

Cases in which production systems have changed to conform to the requirements of changed religious systems regardless of cost/benefit considerations either do not exist or are extremely rare.

In a country where meat is subsidized to be sold as cheaply as possible, an ethical culture that understands value in the totality of life is unfeasible. The religious hunting mindset will continue to translate as human sacrifice, whatever the neurochemical imbalance. Hunting for sustenance is one thing, unnecessary as it is for human nourishment. Killing for sport—laughing aloud when you ‘tap’ a defenseless animal—is a twisted remnant of an antiquated psychology we’ve kept alive through repetition and bloodthirst, and has nothing to do with being religious. If anything, it keeps us trapped in the perverse cult of sacrifice as valuable (and dangerous) to us today as the fraying book it worships worthy of the dustbin of history.

Photo: Dmitry Kalinovsky/shutterstock.com

Why all of the milk industry's health claims have been proven wrong

Marketers have been trying desperately for over a decade to increase the public’s consumption of milk, but they keep failing. Here’s why.
March 12, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Eskemar via Shutterstock
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Selling milk looks easy and even fun when you see the celebrity milk-mustache ads. “Got Milk?” ads may be the most recognizable and spoofed of all ad campaigns, yet they are probably also one of the least successful: Milk sales have actually fallen every year since the ads began. The National Dairy Promotion and Research Program and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program admit “consumption has been declining for decades in the United States at about 1.0 percent per year,” in their yearly reports to Congress but plead that their marketing has “helped mitigate at least some of this decline.” Key words “help,” “at least” and “some.”

Why the milk-drinking slide? First, many U.S. groups simply do not drink much, or any, milk — including ethnic minorities, those who are lactose intolerant or allergic, dieters, the health conscious, and vegans. Kids themselves often dislike milk — probably why they invented chocolate and flavored milk — and it is often the last choice among teens and tweens, on whom much milk marketing is focused. Healthcare professionals, unless subsidized by the dairy industry, seldom recommend milk because of its cholesterol, fat, calories, allergens and impurities and its possible links to rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) since milk made with the cow milk enhancer has never been labeled. Benjamin Spock, the famous baby boom-era pediatrician, recommended no milk for children after age two to reduce their risks of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and diet-related cancers.

Milk marketers admit that the public’s “preference” for milk may be changing, but also blame calcium-fortified juices and vitamin-enhanced beverages that “undermine” milk’s healthy image. They also point the finger at “limited availability” of milk in eating establishments and even milk’s price. You can’t find milk anywhere — and when you do, you can’t afford it, they claim. The agencies note that national milk sales are falling because the proportion of children under six has not grown much and as the “proportion of African Americans in the population increases” — a group not known to be big milk drinkers due to higher rates of lactose intolerance.

Milk marketers have tried everything to reverse falling sales. During the 1980s when the slogan was “Milk: It Does a Body Good,” they began marketing milk for strong bones and to prevent osteoporosis. “One in five victims of osteoporosis is male,” said milk ads featuring model Tyra Banks, as the mustache campaign debuted. “Don’t worry. Calcium can help prevent it.” Another early mustache ad with musician Marc Anthony read, “Shake it, don’t break it. Want strong bones? Drinking enough lowfat milk now can help prevent osteoporosis later.”

But the campaign had both marketing and scientific problems. Teens and tweens don’t worry much about old-people diseases like osteoporosis because who’s gonna get old? And African Americans, Latinos and men, groups targeted in the strong bone campaign, are the least at risk for osteoporosis say doctors. Oops.

Health professionals also disputed the bone claims. A 2001 USDA expert panel report said that calcium intake by itself, as milk offers, does not prevent osteoporosis because exercise and nutrients other than calcium are part of the bone health picture. Panelists also said whole milk could increase the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease and ads should include such warnings.

And other experts like T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and heart expert Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, agreed that osteoporosis and fractures are not caused by what marketers were presenting as “milk deficiencies.” In fact, the Western diet, which often has too much protein and acid, is blamed by some researchers and nutritionists for osteoporosis and fractures. The popular proton pump inhibitors like Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec, which people take for acid reflux, are also blamed for fractures.

Undaunted, in 2002, milk marketers told Congress they were marketing the scientific benefits of milk for osteoporosis, breast cancer and hypertension and especially focusing on African Americans. “The Fluid Milk Board continues to spotlight the high incidence of high blood pressure among African Americans and to promote milk and milk products as a dietary solution as part of the DASH [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension] diet,” says the report to Congress. “The program also addresses misconceptions about lactose intolerance and shows why it should not be a barrier to including milk in the diet. The Board launched a new lactose intolerance initiative that focuses on educating African Americans on the importance of incorporating milk into their diet. The programs provided educational material on osteoporosis and lactose intolerance.”

Milk marketers may also have taken a cue from the cartoon character Joe Camel, used by R.J. Reynolds to market Camel cigarettes. Milk containers were redesigned into new hand-friendly decanters, called the Chug and a spoof-y musical group was rolled out on YouTube and social-networking sites called White Gold and the Calcium Twins.

The “Got Milk?” site also ran an animated cartoon of a farm depicting happy cows, chickens, ducks, and pigs (and a horse working out on a treadmill), while milk cartons moved by on a conveyor belt. A helium balloon pops up continually, saying, “Tell Your Friends.”

“Do you think drinking calcium fortified beverages like soy drinks and orange juice will meet your bones’ ‘requirements?'” asks the site, which was live until 2008. “Not really, says research that concluded 75 percent of calcium added to popular beverages gets left at the bottom of the carton.” But then, a disclaimer pops up and confesses that milk’s actual benefits for “bones, PMS, sleep, teeth, hair, muscles [and] nails” have been “purposefully exaggerated so as not to bore you.” What?

And that’s the least of the student marketing. Posters of milk mustache-wearing actors, sports figures, musicians, and models are sent to 60,000 U.S. elementary schools and 45,000 middle and high schools. Ads also appear in Sports Illustrated for Kids, Spin, Electronic Gaming, CosmoGirl, Blender, Seventeen and elsewhere. Students have been told if they visit milk Web sites they can win an iPod, a Fender guitar, clothes from Adidas and Baby Phat and their schools could qualify for sports gear, classroom supplies and musical instruments. There was also peer-to-peer, in-class selling at three California schools where students got a chance to create their own “Got Milk?” campaigns and qualify for an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco to present their ideas to milk officials for future milk marketing campaigns.  The cost of an ad campaign guaranteed to sell milk to teens because it was created by teens? Priceless.

In 2005, milk marketers tried to widen the demographic by positioning milk as a cure for premenstrual syndrome, commonly called PMS. TV ads showed bumbling boyfriends and husbands rushing to the store for milk to detoxify their stricken women. But the study on which the campaign was based, credited calcium, not milk, with relieving PMS — a substance found in many sources besides milk (including the “calcium-fortified juices” that milk marketers battle against). And when milk marketers tried to revive the PMS campaign in 2011, the second time around it elicited a tsunami of sexism charges and had to be scrapped.

Then, milk marketers sought an even wider demographic by rolling out the idea of milk as a diet food. “Studies suggest that the nutrients in milk can play an important role in weight loss. So if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, try drinking 24 ounces of low-fat or fat-free milk every 24 hours as part of your reduced-calorie diet,” said the ads. The diet campaign was especially targeted to the Hispanic community, which is known both for its high obesity rates and its low milk consumption. There was even a related school program called “Healthiest Student Bodies,” which recognized 25 schools around the country for providing “an environment that encourages healthy choices for students.”

The milk-as-a-diet-food campaign had many catchy slogans — “Milk Your Diet,” “Body by Milk,” “Think About Your Drink,” “Why Milk?” “24oz/24hours, 3-a-Day” (and, of course, “Got Milk?”) — and had the help of hotties Elizabeth Hurley and Sheryl Crow modeling mustaches. But soon after it debuted, a study of 20,000 men who increased their intake of low-fat dairy foods found they did not lose weight. “The hypothesis that has been floating around is that increasing dairy can promote weight loss, and in this study, I did not find that,” said researcher Swapnil Rajpathak, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Worse, the research behind the weight-loss claims was largely conducted by Michael Zemel, director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, who had “patented” the claim that calcium or dairy products could help against obesity. The patent was owned by the university and licensed to Dairy Management Inc., reported USA Today.

The milk-as-a-diet-food suggestions also did not sound like they would produce weight loss. They included, “Make soups and chowders with milk,” “Add milk to risotto and rice dishes for a creamier texture,” and “Order a milk-based soup like corn chowder, potato leek or cream of broccoli as a first course at dinner.”

What is the next course — a stick of butter?

Soon the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection directed milk marketers to stop the weight-loss campaign “until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss.” Milk marketing materials stopped claiming that milk makes drinkers lose weight, instead saying it doesn’t necessarily add weight — which is pretty different. They also retooled their claims to say that milk may have “certain nutrients that can help consumers meet dietary requirements” — pretty much the definition of “food.”

In February, milk marketers went for an even wider demographic — the set of all people who eat little or no breakfast, or at least a breakfast without milk. Using the bilingual actress Salma Hayek as pitchwoman, the new campaign, called the Breakfast Project, also targets Spanish-speaking communities with ads in People en Español and Ser Padres magazines and on the Univision morning show “Despierta América” as well as on English-speaking media. “It’s Not Breakfast Without Milk,” say the new slogans, “Because Every Good Day Starts With Milk,” and “Hello, Sunshine.”

Like other milk marketing campaigns, the Breakfast Project is upbeat, interactive, inclusive and fun, offering recipes, tips, a “morning survival guide” and even a chance to win free milk. And like the other campaigns, it has little chance of selling a product people don’t particular like which is not particularly good for them. We won’t even talk about the filth and cruelty of industrial dairy farms and what happens to veal calves (which are byproducts of the dairy industry’s need to keep cows lactating).

Still, milk marketers seem to have learned one lesson from the disproved osteoporosis, PMS and weight loss claims of past campaigns: the Breakfast Project makes no appeal to science or medicine to support the marketed milk benefits. Instead of “studies have shown,” or “research has revealed” the new campaign simply says, “We believe milk is part of getting a successful day started.” Of course they believe it — they’re the dairy industry. But will consumers finally be swayed by their marketing magic, or will the milk-drinking slump continue?

Martha Rosenberg frequently writes about the impact of the pharmaceutical, food and gun industries on public health. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and other outlets.

Meating halfway: Americans opt for less

Meating halfway: Americans opt for less

Grist admin avatar badge avatar for Tom Laskawy

12 Jan 2012 8:02 AM

 

meat shoppingPhoto: This Year’s Love In a New York Times op-ed, Mark Bittman flagged this story from the Daily Livestock Report that notes the USDA is now projecting that U.S meat consumption will continue to drop, representing a 12 percent decrease from 2007. While American beef consumption has been dropping for some time, the story says chicken and even pork are now suffering a similar fate.

The Daily Livestock Report, a trade paper, pins the blame on rising feed prices (thank you, ethanol), growing exports — which reduce domestic supply — and, remarkably, “the fruition of 30-40 years of government policy.” The paper continues:

If the federal government and its agencies decide to wage war on a product and continue that war for long enough, it will eventually have an impact. And the feds have indeed waged war on meat protein consumption for many years.

Bittman rightly considers this claim ludicrous. As he points out, the government is doing everything it can to boost meat consumption, from refusing to enforce laws that would make it harder for factory farms to operate at the scale they now do, to purchasing billions of dollars in “surplus” chicken to feed to schoolchildren. I would also add last year’s proposed ag-gag laws to his list, i.e., the government attempts to keep prying eyes away from the abuses that appear to be endemic to industrial agriculture (meanwhile, the bill that failed in Florida last spring was just re-introduced in December).

What really struck me was how this latest news mirrors the trend in consumer attitudes on meat-eating uncovered by the food industry’s own market research. It turns out that since 2007, there has also been a 12 percent drop in the number of consumers who report that they have “no problem” eating meat or dairy (a bare majority of respondents currently feel that way).

This interesting correlation does support Bittman’s speculation as to the cause of the drop in consumption. As he put it, “conscious decisions are being made by consumers,” and they aren’t just reacting to price signals like so many automatons. Whether it’s the Meatless Monday campaign, the Mercy for Animals whistleblower videos, or simply the growing understanding that meat does not have to sit at the center of the plate — consumer attitudes are changing. And not a moment too soon.

I say that not only because meat-eating at the rate Americans currently practice it isn’t sustainable from an environmental or a climate standpoint (even Al Gore says so), but also because the human cost is beyond belief.

Earlier this week, The Nation published a must-read piece by David Bacon on the link between the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), immigration, and the pork-producing behemoth Smithfield. In short, NAFTA, combined with the lax U.S. protections for workers (even when they’re unionized), has created a bizarre and corrosive system. The result: Smithfield’s massive increases in pork exports to Mexico that occured in the wake of NAFTA’s passage put thousands of Mexican butchers and pig farmers out of work and destroyed rural economies. Bacon reports that the total jobs lost due to the explosion in pork imports exceed 100,000.

As a result of this economic devastation, those very same farmers and butchers have decamped to the U.S. — specifically North Carolina — where they are hired as undocumented workers to labor in Smithfield pork slaughterhouses. Bacon found strong evidence, despite the company’s denial, that Smithfield specifically hired undocumented workers as more pliant replacements for African- and Native-American workers who refused the increasingly dangerous, low-paid, and OSHA-flouting practices of its slaughterhouses. According to residents interviewed by Bacon, entire Mexican villages have ended up in the Tar Heel State working for Smithfield.

And while abuses in the food processing industry are easy to find — this Mother Jones investigation into a single Hormel processing plant is utterly shocking — Bacon draws a much starker picture in many ways. As he describes it, we have an industrial meat production system — encouraged by our larger economic policies — that immiserates virtually anyone it touches.  From those who work in CAFOs or slaughterhouses, to those who live near them or have seen their families torn apart by the industry in one way or another — no one is immune.

So, while I don’t have visions of a Vegan America, I do hope we continue decreasing our meat consumption in this country — and in the rest of the developed world, for that matter. The goal as I see it isn’t just that we move toward a less-intensive system that’s more humane for the animals we consume, but also a system that’s humane for the people who are, as things stand right now, being consumed by it.

 

A 17-year veteran of both traditional and online media, Tom is a founder and Executive Director of the Food & Environment Reporting Network and a Contributing Writer at Grist covering food and agricultural policy. Tom’s long and winding road to food politics writing passed through New York, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, Florence, Italy and Philadelphia (which has a vibrant progressive food politics and sustainable agriculture scene, thank you very much). In addition to Grist, his writing has appeared online in the American Prospect, Slate, the New York Times and The New Republic. He is on record as believing that wrecking the planet is a bad idea. Follow him on Twitter or check out his Tumblr.

Fiendish pharmaceutical animal testing does not help humanity

Fiendish pharmaceutical animal testing does not help humanity

Saturday, December 03, 2011 by: PF Louis
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/034311_animal_testing_pharmaceuticals_inhumane.html#ixzz1fcOE8Rai

(NaturalNews) Many consider animal testing necessary to produce the modern medical miracles that humans depend on. This is animal cruelty. All drugs on the market have gone through animal testing to be considered safe. Yet many still have adverse effects on humans, and some are pulled off the market because so many experience adverse effects.

Over 100,000 people die from correctly prescribed and used pharmaceutical drugs each year. Torturing helpless animals, ostensibly to ensure drugs are safe for humans, is not justifiable at all. So why does it go on?

Since animals don’t have attorneys or cannot speak, whatever happens to them avoids scrutiny. Nor can the animals testify against the accuracy of the research. Lab animals don’t become whistle blowers.

Favorable results for pharmaceutical companies enable university research labs to continue receiving lucrative grants from Big Pharma. It’s easy to omit a test with disastrous results and present another under different conditions with more favorable results.

When lawsuits are filed from humans who experience gruesome side effects, or from those whose loved ones have died from taking correctly prescribed drugs, Big Pharma can use the animal testing as a buffer to prove measures were taken to ensure the drug’s safety. And the FDA requires animal testing as a prerequisite before moving into human testing.

Yet, Chinese medicine and Ayurveda have managed to successfully use herbal medicines for thousands of years without animal testing. Their herbal solutions were not toxic, except for a few used past their prescribed time limits.

The same is true for native herbal remedies, such as the ones handed down to Harry Hoxsey and Rene Caisse (Essiac Tea) for cancer. These remedies offer real relief leading to actual curing, whereas pharmaceuticals lead to other ailments for more pharmaceutical prescriptions.

So the question becomes why do we need drugs created for healing that are toxic? Greed supports a medical model that tortures animals as part of their research.

Torture disguised as scientific research

The most well known test for safety is the LD-50 test. This involves ramping up the dosage of a force fed chemical until 50% of those animals die. That dosage is considered the lethal threshold for the drug tested. Until they die, animals suffer intensely while being scientifically (sadistically) observed.

Often those animals, ranging from mice to rabbits to dogs and primates, are shackled or restrained during testing. Sometimes they break their necks or backs attempting to escape their agony during the days or weeks of observation.

Well over half of the millions of animals tested annually either die during testing or are killed after tests are completed, either to examine internal organs or simply because they are so crippled or sick from the lab tests.

None of the tests replicate the predisposition of any human disease or ailment that the tested drug is purported to relieve. Cancers are injected into healthy animals, and injuries are intentionally afflicted externally to resemble joint problems.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) only protects lab animals before and after testing. They are not protected during those fiendishly gruesome experiments. It’s amazing what people will do to keep their careers as medical researchers.

Growing opposition to animal testing

In addition to animal rights groups, which are marginalized by the mainstream media and Big Pharma, there are medical professionals who are realizing that animal testing and vivisection do not prove efficacy or safety.

They cite the differences in toxicity from one species to another and variances according to different external conditions. Again, over 100,000 Americans die annually from correctly prescribed drugs.

Mahatma Ghandi said “The greatness of a society and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”

 

Cellular Memories in Organ Transplants

Some of those who receive heart transplants have an uncanny recollection of the lives of their donors.

Read:

If we take in the memories of the owner of the heart we take into our bodies, why would it be impossible for us to take into our bodies the memories of the animals we eat?

Could our depression, dismal view of the world, our mental illnesses – could they be related to our revival of the memories of utter mysery of the animals we eat?

In plain text that link is:

http://www.whattoserveagoddess.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/kate-ruth-linton-knowing-by-heart-cellular-memory-in-heart-transplants.pdf