Zoo Cooks Up Their Own Animals

October 22, 2014

highway 5 ruby roth

My 6-hour solo drive on the barren Highway 5 from L.A. to the San Francisco World Veg Fest last week was surprisingly full of vegan-related sightings and news (wait until you hear my favorite):

• First, a roadside sign advertising an Indian vegan food stop (this, in central California farm/trucking/fast food territory is quite outstanding). 

• A chance landing on a live Seventh Day Adventist radio show interviewing the awesome Dr. Gregor, who was promoting veganism...and the host was already on board—joy! (This, amidst several other bible shows encouraging "compassion" was also outstanding.)

• I passed Harris Ranch, the largest West Coast cattle feedlot (150 million pounds of beef per year—the stench is radical, even miles away), and then heard about them on the news moments later...the pollution they cause has created a "hot zone" in the atmosphere, one of the worst over the entire nation. The host's take: the environmentalist critique of the cattle industry and methane pollution is likely a coverup for the "ulterior motives of people like Paul McCartney, who want us all to be vegetarians."  Dumb-dumb didn't take his thinking any farther to consider what the ulterior motives of veganism might be. Regardless, I'd say he was kind of right, except most "environmentalists" leading the movement are not even vegan (yet). We work for the day when they are.

• My favorite: a morning radio show's report that a Swiss wildlife park is serving up their overpopulated animals on the cafeteria menu. Of course, the public is outraged and disgusted, ha! The radio hosts took an opinion call from an L.A. Zoo volunteer, who said he would never eat the exhibition animals. Why not? they asked. Not even the hooved animals? What's the difference between them and a cow?

The volunteer's answer was really revealing. He said, "Uhh...hmm...errr...because, well...the exhibit animals are animals, but they're not part of ouuuurrrr food chain." 

You know I just love this stuff, right? I figuratively squeal with delight when the media exposes the poor rationale that shapes all public thinking.

The zoo volunteer (representing most people) takes for granted our consumption of cows, pigs, chickens, and fish as a kind of God-given, a naturally ordered system in human life—like photosynthesis. Cows are to humans as the sun is to the grass. 

The truth is that the four main animals in our "food chain" are arbitrary and culturally relative—the result of history unfolding, not natural order. Our offense at the thought of eating some animals but not others is just evidence that we are not true omnivores.

If we were, then when our bodies "crave" or "tell us" that we need meat, we'd lick our lips at the bounty around us—our dogs, our neighbor's cat, the spiders on the wall, ants, worms, grub. The gates at the zoo would be necessary to keep us out, not the animals in

Change will never be fast enough, but the best things are happening now—the word "vegan" is rapidly making its way into mainstream consciousness, environmental and animal issues are in the news more than ever, and you, *|FNAME|*, are pointing out the relationship between the two to all your friends and community...right? 

Go do it!

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Cargill Phases Out Hog Crates: The Myth of Baby Steps

June 17, 2014

Cargill Crates

Photo: WikiMedia/HSUS

Cargill, one of the nation's largest pork producers has announced it will phase out its practice of using hog gestation crates. The company joins 60 other large companies that have made a similar transition, including General Mills, Target, and Supervalu. 

The crates, standard in animal agriculture, are used to hold pregnant sows and are so small the animals can not turn around or lie down. Breeding sows, who average two and half pregnancies per year, spend a vast amount of life suffering these miserable conditions and their complications. But while group housing may allow the animals slightly more freedom, there is no telling that it will increase the animals' safety or lessen their suffering.  We know the conditions that most "cage-free" chickens suffer—tens of thousands, sometimes one hundred thousand birds stuffed into a dark warehouse where broken limbs, disease, and fighting abound. Getting rid of crates, also, can not stop the abuse rained down upon the animals by factory workers. 

Big picture, this BUSINESS decision will be a win for the animal agriculture industry. By tossing a crumb to animal rights and appeasing the generally uninformed and uninterested public, they can continue producing their end products with more public consent and leeway than ever. 

Nevertheless, many activists will celebrate this shift. The Humane Society, known for its welfarism, congratulated Cargill's decision saying, "[This] decision brings us closer to the day when gestation crates will be relics of the past in the pork industry.  Americans simply don’t support locking animals in cages barely larger than their bodies, and Cargill is right to be leading its industry away from the practice.” 

This is "green-washing," a mere fantasy, a skewing of reality that bolsters the myth of "baby steps."

There is a difference between personal baby steps and corporate baby steps. I have patience for, and of course even celebrate people taking small steps toward veganism because we share the same essential goal and a life-centered vision for a world in need. But when it comes to major companies, there can be no "baby steps," for there is no shared goal, but rather an antiethetical vision based on profit and public relations—all over life and sustainability. 

My point is not to be a hater but to stay clear on the end goal. It doesn't matter what changes the animal agriculture industry makes because we will never see eye-to-eye. Our focus should remain on promoting veganism—the only shift that will truly change the marketplace.

How do you feel about Cargill's decision? Leave a comment below:

Showtime's Years of Living Dangerously Misses the Mark

April 21, 2014

Showtime Years of Living Dangerously

Showtime and all the celebrity co-producers of the new climate change docu-series Years of Living Dangerously really blew it. I mean, they infuriatingly, embarrasingly, enragingly missed the mark.

I am so repulsed by the incompetence in reporting, and the willingness of naive celebrities to go along with anything for a producing credit, I nearly threw my remote through the TV screen. I'm glad you're here to vent to, and that we're connected, because this doc is a weak punch in the face to all of us trying to attack the root of our environmental problems, and I want you to hear why.

Strike one:

In the first full segment, Harrison Ford sits at NASA looking at rising temperatures and projections with the World Wildlife Fund—an organization known to be permissive, if not supportive, of sport-hunting and animal testing, as well as being anti-vegetarian to boot:

"Complete removal of livestock products is an extreme option which is not realistic and presents very significant nutritional challenges," said a 2010 WFF paper on greenhouse gas emissions, "So, consumption options other than vegetarianism or veganism were considered...A simple scenario analysis indicated that the substitution of beef and lamb through increasing poultry and pigmeat consumption would lead to a reduction in the direct GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions..." 

Strike two:

Continuing to narrate, Ford states that the leading cause of rising temperatures is "astonishing."  What is it? I sat up waiting for animal agriculture to be named, shocked that this might actually happen at this moment.

"Deforestation," Ford answers.  

Now if you've read the UN's groundbreaking report, Livestock's Long Shadow, you'll recognize that the statistics he follows with are, rounded up to the nearest 10, directly lifted from the 2006 release, which revealed that animal agriculture causes more GHG emissions than all forms of transporation combined. Except that Years of Living Dangerously downplays the truth. Ford goes on to say that deforestation causes "almost" as many emissions as transportation, failing to reveal the full story. Okay, I thought, they're taking a soft entrance in. At some point they have to mention the driving force behind deforestation as we know it

It sickens me to tell you that when Ford finally mentions the two leading products driving deforestation, he names paper and palm oil.

Strike three:

Ford then travels to Indonesia to look at the impact of deforestation, where he is carried around on elephants, whose riders are driving them with sharp, clear-as-daylight bullhooks (you can witness the full story on "crush cages," how South East Asian natives wrest elephants from the wild, and the role these hooks play in the process by watching How I Became and Elephantyou should not miss it). 

Meanwhile, Ford, standing amongst these very elephants, shakes his head in disbelief when he hears that wild elephants are being poisoned by companies profiting from slashing-and-burning the rainforest. 

Strike four (one last chance):

Don Cheadle's role in the series is to travel to Plainview, Texas, to interview drought-stricken ranchers along with townspeople who believe the drought is not caused by man-driven climate change, but rather God's will.

After we watch Cheadle fry up an organic egg in his home before getting on a plane, the rest of his segments center around a story about the town of Plainview, where Cargill (one of the world's largest petro-chemical-agricultural-pharmaceutical-biotech corporations) comes off as a poor little cottage company forced to shut down a meat-packing plant and leave its townspeople jobless.

The gist is a sad tale about the effects of global warming on the economy. One gets the feeling that according the producers, the ideal outcome of a climate-change-for-the-better would be that Cargill reopens its doors and the local economy of Plainview booms once again. 


Let me close by saying that the episode earned these strikes within the first 25 minutes or so, after which I fast-forwarded in hopes of some kind of redemption, but found none. 

No doubt, job loss is a terrible thing. And no doubt, irresponsible paper and palm oil producers are wreaking unspeakable havoc on the environment and the habitats of multitudes of species—we know that for a fact. But the missing piece in this widely-broadcast series leaves an utter, horrifying disgraceful void. Maybe—I doubt it—they'll get into livestock production in another episode. But I'll not be watching.

I'm sorry that the American public is being fed such short-sighted "liberal" nonsense. If we can't look honestly at our own destructive habits—and liberals, especially, I'm talking to you—then all is lost on the environmental front. There's no point in self-congratulatory attempts where you rally others for change but refuse to yourself.

From what I gather, the focus of Years of Living Dangerously is so magnificently misdirected, it leaves me wondering if Cargill was a sponsor—it's almost clear that they are. These days, getting a show on TV often requires ad buys to deficit-finance production.

I can almost guarantee that if I dug deep enough through the jillions of producers in the film credits, I'd find dirt. But I'd rather eat it than spend one more second on this waste of an opportunity.

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