April 2006
Celebrate Earth Day - April 22

In this edition...

Earth Day Focus
  Environmental concerns motivate diet choice
  When animals suffer, so do we
  Meat-industrial complex: How factory farms undercut public health
  Greenpeace links McDonald's with Amazon destruction
  India: illegal fishing endangering turtles

Health Issues
  High meat diet 'can stress baby'
  Vegetarian diets cause major weight loss
  Sampling finds arsenic in most chicken

Lifestyles and Trends
  Vegan diet getting so popular it's a joke
  India: Popularising a meatless diet
  Veg experiences: Carnivore & vegetarian - happily every after
  Children may be planting seeds for veg diet acceptance
  A carnivore makes the spiritual case for vegetarianism
  'Cage-free' is closer to ruling the roost

Animal Issues and Advocacy
  Peter Singer: Factory farming: A moral issue
  End the rough ride for farm animals
  Cute seals. Not-so-cute cows. Where do we draw the line?
  Film takes issue with kosher slaughter practices

Books and Perspectives
  Mankind benefits from eating less meat
  The Ominivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Special offers for
VegE-News readers:

  Earth Day Focus    

Environmental concerns motivate diet choice
Full story: Winnipeg Sun, Canada

To eat meat or not to eat meat ... that is the question. At least, it is for a growing segment of the population that's become concerned about the ill effects a meat-heavy diet can have on their health, and on their conscience. Just ask Syd Baumel, a volunteer board member of the Winnipeg Vegetarian Association. Baumel says more people are showing interest in vegetarian diets of one form or another, sometimes because they're concerned about their health, but more often because they're worried about the environment.

"As people become aware of the conditions under which animals are raised and transported to slaughter, they're sometimes appalled by that," says Baumel, a vegetarian for the last 25 years and a vegan since 2000. "And as people become more aware of sustainability issues, they realize that eating lower on the food chain and getting more of a plant-based diet is much less stressful on the environment." One of the biggest hurdles for some would-be vegetarians is the fear they'll miss the taste of meat too much, but Baumel swears that hasn't been a problem for him. "Honestly, I miss cigarettes more than I miss meat," he laughs.

Winnipeg Sun, Canada - March 19, 2006

When animals suffer, so do we
Full story: Washington Post

Our health is being put at risk by our demand for low food prices. As a society it is time to ask ourselves if we are willing to trade our health and the health of our land, air and water in return for cheap milk, eggs and meat. Because factory farms are legally recognized as farms - not the industrial sites they are - they are exempt from many of our most important environmental laws. The communities surrounding most factory farms have become wastelands. Inside the farms, safety and human health also take a back seat to profit. Animals too sick or diseased to stand are dragged or bulldozed to slaughter and into our food supply. Mad cow disease was born of such recklessness and greed.

We humans remain only one species in what has always been a global ecosystem - an interlinked web of life where the health of one species depends on the health of others. Whether through reckless factory farming, the pollution of waters and the poisoning of the species within them, or the continued rampant destruction of forests and nonhuman habitat, our blatant mistreatment of other species for the benefit of our own is not inviting disaster, it's guaranteeing it. It is time to end the treatment of God's living creatures as products and to begin treating all life forms with respect and reverence before the health repercussions to the human species are irreparable.

Washington Post - April 12, 2006

Meat-industrial complex: How factory farms undercut public health
Full story: In These Times, IL, US

U.S. shoppers spend less on food as a percentage of their total annual expenditures than anyone else in the world. But this is because factory livestock farms - labeled "concentrated animal feeding operations" (CAFOs) by government agencies - don't pay for the natural resources they have squandered, the farm labor they have maltreated, the declining health of residents who live near their operations, or the animals that have been exploited far beyond their biological capabilities.

Our food system may be looking at a doomsday denouement before the middle of this century. It is becoming increasingly certain that the water will run out, the land will no longer absorb the torrent of nutrient waste spread upon it, and the over-bred, antibiotic and hormone-injected animals will eventually succumb to their natural limitations.

In These Times, IL, US - March 22, 2006

Greenpeace links McDonald's with Amazon destruction
Full story: Environmental News Service

Greenpeace [has] accused McDonald's of destroying the Amazon rainforest. Using satellite images, aerial surveillance, previously unreleased government documents, and on-the-ground monitoring, Greenpeace says it has traced soya grown on land that once was rainforest to an animal feed producer whose chickens are processed into Chicken McNuggets and other McDonald's products [sold in Europe]. The effect of land clearing on the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants is severe. The Greenpeace report quotes Britaldo Silveira Soares-Filho of the University of Minas Gerais as saying, "By 2050, current trends in agricultural expansion will eliminate a total of 40 percent of Amazon forests, including at least two-thirds of the forest cover of six major watersheds and 12 eco-regions."

[Greenpeace's Gavin] Edwards said, "This crime stretches from the heart of the Amazon across the entire European food industry. Greenpeace research shows that not only is soya destroying the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, but soya farmers are guilty of further crimes including slavery and the invasion of indigenous peoples' lands. Supermarkets and fast food giants, like McDonald's, must make sure their food is free from the links to the Amazon destruction, slavery and human rights abuses."

Environmental News Service - April 6, 2006

India: illegal fishing endangering turtles
Full story: CNN

More than 2,000 endangered Olive Ridley turtles have washed ashore dead in eastern India over the past three months, the environmental group Greenpeace said, blaming illegal fishing. The group said in a statement that fishing in protected areas of sea continued to kill hundreds of turtles each month as the reptiles were caught in nets or mangled by engine propellers.

The Olive Ridely turtle, which reaches up to 2.5 feet in length and has an olive-green shell in adulthood, is found in coastal regions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Each winter, hundreds of thousands return to the beaches of Orissa to lay their eggs, attracting hundreds of tourists. [Greenpeace] warned that if turtles die in their thousands each winter, Olive Ridley numbers could face "total collapse" in a decade.

CNN - April 4
More Earth Day Focus stories
Cheap food has environmental cost
The Daily Item, PA, US (March 19, 2006)
Study: Vegan diets healthier for planet, people than meat diets
Science Daily (April 14, 2006)
The best way we could battle global warming is stop consuming animals
Ashville Citizen-Times, NC, US (April 2, 2006)
Coming home to roost: Bird flu, a virus of our own hatching
Humane Society of the United States
Canada's fifth case of mad cow confirmed in dairy cow from B.C.
Macleans Magazine, Canada (April 17, 2006)

  Health Issues    

High meat diet 'can stress baby'
Full story: BBC News

A UK team followed a group of 86 children born in 1967-8 to mothers who were told to eat a pound of red meat a day to avoid pregnancy complications. The study found the more meat the mother ate, the higher the levels of stress hormone cortisol in the child [thirty years later!].

"This study adds to the increasing evidence of the importance of the maternal diet and suggests that one of the ways in which it can have these long term effects is by permanently altering stress hormone levels" [said the study leader]. "We don't know why this occurs - it may be that the baby is put under stress during pregnancy which causes irreversibly high levels of cortisol." But she added: "Given the recent popularity of low-carbohydrate/high protein diets, such as the Atkins diet, this data also suggests that these diets should be avoided during pregnancy."

BBC News - April 2, 2006

Vegetarian diets cause major weight loss
Full story: RxPG News

A scientific review in April's Nutrition Reviews shows that a vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss. Vegetarian populations tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters, and they experience lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening conditions linked to overweight and obesity. The new review, compiling data from 87 previous studies [our emphasis], shows the weight-loss effect does not depend on exercise or calorie-counting, and it occurs at a rate of approximately 1 pound per week.

Rates of obesity in the general population are skyrocketing, while in vegetarians, obesity prevalence ranges from 0 percent to 6 percent, note study authors Susan E. Berkow, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Neal D. Barnard, M.D., of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). "Our research reveals that people can enjoy unlimited portions of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight without feeling hungry," says Dr. Berkow, the lead author. "There is evidence that a vegan diet causes an increased calorie burn after meals, meaning plant-based foods are being used more efficiently as fuel for the body, as opposed to being stored as fat," says Dr. Barnard.

RxPG News - April 1, 2006
Related story:
The truth about losing weight on a vegetarian diet
Mathaba News Network, UK (April 17, 2006)

Sampling finds arsenic in most chicken
Full story: Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, MN, US

A study of chicken sold at supermarkets and fast-food counters found traces of arsenic in a majority of the samples, which the researchers said confirms that a decades-old farming practice of using arsenic in chicken feed leads to contaminated meat. Nearly three-quarters of the chicken from conventional producers contained some arsenic, while a third of chickens from premium or organic producers contained arsenic. Every sample from fast-food restaurants had at least some arsenic.

A 1999 federal study of arsenic in drinking water conducted by the National Research Council found evidence that even low doses increased the likelihood of bladder and lung cancer. The finding led the Environmental Protection Agency to lower its acceptable limit for arsenic in drinking water. Still, industry experts say there might be little cause for alarm. Richard Lobb, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, said the report was inaccurate because it looked only at chicken, when it's commonly known that arsenic can be found in rice, drinking water and seafood. "If you're concerned about it, you better stop eating shrimp, because the levels there are 40 parts per million," he said. "Seafood is by far the highest."

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, MN, US - April 5, 2006
Related stories:
How foul is fowl?
McDougall Newsletter (March, 2006)
Barbecue meats linked with prostate cancer
ABC News, US (April 2, 2006)

  Lifestyles and Trends    

Vegan diet getting so popular it's a joke
Full story: The Independent, UK

Wendy Higgins is pleased that her beliefs, her most passionate beliefs, are ridiculed by comedians. At least the gibes about vegans are evidence that vegetarians are now so numerous that they represent a substantial part of the audience. When the 33-year-old animal rights campaigner adopted the more extreme version of vegetarianism in 1988, her new-found beliefs met with perplexed looks. She said: "When I said I was a vegan people would look at me as if I had just said, 'I'm from the planet Mars'." The transformation of veganism from oddball movement to the fringe of the mainstream has taken 60 years. Its progress to the mainstream is likely to be much quicker.

The shelves of supermarkets are increasingly being stocked with products designed for vegans and the market for vegan food is thought to be growing by up to 15 per cent a year. Although there are no specific figures for veganism, the market research group Mintel estimated the meat-free market to be worth £626m in 2004 - a rise of 38 per cent in five years. Catriona Toms, of the Vegan Society, believes the vegan movement taps into many of the trends which are influencing modern cooking, from the growing interest in animal welfare to awareness of the environment.

The Independent, UK - March 15, 2006
Related stories:
Conscious cuisine grows
Quote: "I was in Times Square and I overheard one person say to the other 'What should we eat tonight? Italian, Mexican, vegan, Chinese?' And I loved it. They considered vegan a cuisine, not something weird but a great option."
Grand Rapids Press, MI, US (April 5, 2006)
UK creates vegetarian food labels
Meat Processing Magazine (April 17, 2006)

India: Popularising a meatless diet
Full story: The Hindu, India

The bird flu apart, there are people who shun meat in all its forms because of strong personal convictions. A large group of them have joined together under the banner DIYA (Do It Yourself Activists) to form the Bangalore chapter of Meatout. The aim: to persuade people to opt for a vegetarian diet. Not necessarily for religious reasons but because it is non-violent and perhaps, healthier. Without so many cattle to be fed, huge quantities of grains and soybeans will be available to feed the world's hungry millions.

Meatout is an international movement helping people evolve to a wholesome, non-violent diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It says a plant-based diet is "joyful" and helps promote a wider variety of alternatives in mainstream grocery stores, restaurants and among catering operators.

The Hindu, India - March 21, 2006
Related stories and info:
India: It is a green revolution in McChicken’s world
DNA Mumbai (March 20, 2006)
Meat? Cheese? What's that?
Times of India (March 30, 2006)
The Great American Meatout

Veg experiences: Carnivore & vegetarian - happily every after
Full story: Winnipeg Sun

You'd think it would be tricky for an avowed vegetarian to carry on a relationship, much less a marriage, with a certified carnivore. But for soon-to-be-newlyweds David Lind and Kristin Light, the arrangement makes as much sense as - well, meat and potatoes. "It's much more of a non-issue than you'd think," says Lind, 34. "I honestly didn't know what kind of food to prepare in the beginning, so we ended up eating a lot of pasta," [Light] laughs. "But after two months of pasta, I was starting to gain a bit of weight ... I finally said, 'That's it. We need to go grocery shopping together so you can stock my cupboards yourself.'"

In time, the two settled into a routine, eating a lot of ethnic dishes, stir-fries and component meals where they could prepare two different protein sources - one meaty for Light, the other meatless for Lind. [Light] can even see herself taking up the meatless mantra herself one day, something that wasn't true before she started sharing kitchen space with Lind. "Had you asked me that before I met Dave, I would have said never," says Light, 31. "Not because I was so in love with meat or anything, but years ago I would have thought it was way too difficult."

Winnipeg Sun - March 19, 2006

Children may be planting seeds for veg diet acceptance
Full story: Louisville Courier-Journal, KY, US

Over the years, many parents have told me about their children's decision to switch to vegetarianism. In virtually every case, the child was a female, usually a teenager. Boys are not so inclined, of course, because the macho creed our society imposes on young males and the need to fit in are far too intimidating. But things appear to be slanting toward greater acceptance of the vegetarian way of life - including younger children and boys.

Given the current state of youth health, this is the first encouraging piece of news I've seen in a long time. Our kids are sedentary and fat, and they are getting fatter every year. Their fatness is getting so far out of control, in fact, that major adult diseases, such as type 2 (maturity onset) diabetes, are showing up in preteens. The vegetarian message could possibly save some of these kids by shifting them away from bacon cheeseburgers and toward health-enhancing foods that will reward them throughout their lives

Louisville Courier-Journal, KY, US - April 6, 2006
More veggie experiences:
Family went vegan for son's health
Winnipeg Sun, Canada (March 19,2006)
Being a vegetarian doesn't mean being the food police
Cadillac News, MI, US (March 27,2006)
Vegetarian Jews improvise on symbolic Passover plates
Tampa Tribune, FL, US (April 12,2006)


A carnivore makes the spiritual case for vegetarianism
Full story: Newsweek

Reflecting on the Earth Day to come and on the lamb-besotted Easter and brisket-baked Passover that has passed, and still being emotionally tender from the death of my dog, I need to confess my steak-loving sins. Sins because there is simply no spiritual defense in either the Western or Eastern religious traditions for eating meat. The reason is not that meat is murder as some of my vegan friends claim. To say that is to also say that there is no moral distinction between cannibalism and dinner at The Palm.

Eating animals may be right or wrong, but it is not wrong for the same reasons it is wrong to eat people. This is morally absurd and trivializes what is on its face an already daunting problem. The problem is that animals, though obviously not people, are also obviously not things. Animals are sentient beings and their deaths, particularly in the grotesquery of what is euphemistically called food processing causes them great pain and suffering. That is the nub of the spiritual problem. Animals are God's creations that, unlike plants, suffer when they die just to become food for us. [Rabbi Gellman goes on to relate his story of "The Fist Hamburger."]

Newsweek - April 20, 2006

'Cage-free' is closer to ruling the roost
Full story: USA Today

A wave of colleges and universities, along with big-name employers such as America Online, food-service purveyors, restaurants and even high schools, have either eliminated or reduced their use of eggs from caged hens. Encouraged by a yearlong campaign by the Humane Society of the United States, colleges and universities that have instituted the policy include Yale, Tufts, Dartmouth, Vassar and the University of Wisconsin. An additional 80 schools made the switch when food service company Bon Appétit Management, which supplies their dining halls, went cage-free last October. [Editor's note: It's a start, but see the related links below.]

USA Today - April 13, 2006
Related links:
Information and film about caged cruelty at Wegmans
Rambled eggs
Q: I always try to buy free-range eggs. Am I wasting my money? A: Yes, basically. If you're buying free-range eggs, either the producers are ranging the chickens free on their own terms, or they are scamming you. Know your producer or go veggie. Sorry.
Grist Magazine (March 22, 2006)

  Animal Issues and Advocacy    

Peter Singer: Factory farming: A moral issue
Full story: The Minnesota Daily, US

There is a growing consensus that factory farming of animals is morally wrong. The American animal rights movement, which in its early years focused largely on the use of animals in research, now has come to see that factory farming represents by far the greater abuse of animals. The numbers speak for themselves. In the United States somewhere between 20 million and 40 million birds and mammals are killed for research every year...40 million represents less than two days' toll in America's slaughterhouses, which kill about 10 billion animals each year. The overwhelming majority of these animals have spent their entire lives confined inside sheds, never going outdoors for a single hour. Their suffering isn't just for a few hours or days, but for all their lives.

Opposition to factory farming now is shared by many conservatives. No less a religious authority than Pope Benedict XVI has stated that human "dominion" over animals does not justify factory farming. Some people think that factory farming is necessary to feed the growing population of our planet. The truth, however, is the opposite. Fortunately there are alternatives, including eating a vegan diet, or buying animal products only from producers who allow their animals to go outside and live a minimally decent life. It is time for a shift in our values. While our society focuses on issues like gay marriage and the use of embryos for research, we are overlooking one of the big moral issues of our day. We should see the purchase and consumption of factory-farm products...as a violation of the most basic ethical standards of how we should treat animals and the environment.

The Minnesota Daily, US - March 22, 2006
Related stories:
Morality debate coming on farm livestock
DesMoines Register, IO, US (April 2, 2006)
What's on the Menu? Food for thought
Reprieve for some at farm sanctuary - Los Angeles Times (March 30, 2006)

End the rough ride for farm animals
Full story: Globe & Mail, Canada

We cringe when we see them. Those big trucks trundling down the highway packed with farm animals. We catch fleeting glimpses of the cargo - an outstretched wing hanging out the side, a nose poking through an open slat. It's the closest most of us come to live farm animals before they are turned into meat.

These mere glimpses shield us from the picture inside - animals crowded together, often thirsty, hungry and exhausted, sometimes so physically compromised they fall in a heap on the truck floor, unable to stand - "downers" in trucking lingo. Others simply die. This is the grim reality for many of the 665 million animals raised for food each year in Canada, thanks to 30-year-old animal-transport laws in urgent need of reform. Europe and New Zealand are adopting progressive animal-transport regulations that could serve as a useful model for Canadian reforms. In a civilized country such as Canada, we can do better than treat farm animals like freight.

Globe & Mail, Canada - March 15, 2006
Related story:
Activists demand end to live exports
Daily Telegraph, Australia (March 25, 2006)

Cute seals. Not-so-cute cows. Where do we draw the line?
Full story: San Francisco Chronicle

Let us all agree right now: Baby harp seals are just phenomenally, face-meltingly cute. It is easy to be horrified [by images of their brutal slaughter]. Fact is, we in America butcher animals by the billions to feed and clothe our ever-gluttonous population, countless totally not-at-all-cute chickens and pigs and cows, fish and turkeys and rabbits and sheep, all hacked and clubbed and shot and beheaded by the truckload in a thousand different mechanized techniques and no one really blinking an eye except for rabid animal activists and vegetarians and people who secretly miss wearing leather.

But then you merely walk up to anyone and mention how we as a species are still brutally beating these adorable white puffball seals with giant spiked clubs, and maybe you show them a photograph and defy anyone to shudder and recoil in abject horror, even as you munch your fresh order of chicken pad Thai. It's one of those scenarios that raises a decidedly all-American question: Are we all just incredible hypocrites? More specifically, is some sort of moral or humane line being crossed with the seals that isn't really crossed with, say, the slaughter of ducks? [The full article is a somewhat tonque-in-cheek, but thought-provoking, exploration of where we draw the line.]

San Francisco Chronicle - April 7, 2006
Another happy-ending story:
The missing minke - whale on the menu
Grist Magazine (April 4, 2006)

Film takes issue with kosher slaughter practices
Full story: Forward, US

Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the bestselling novel Everything is Illuminated, [has] released a video in which he argues that the slaughtering practices employed by modern factory farms are out of step with the spirit of the kosher laws. The film ultimately calls upon viewers to consider vegetarianism. The video was produced under the auspices of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA, as a centerpiece for their] Web site www.HumaneKosher.com.

["If this is Kosher...," makes uses of PETA undercover video footage shot at a kosher slaughterhouse] which recorded seemingly conscious cows limping and stumbling across a blood-soaked slaughterhouse floor often more than a minute after their throats had been slit. "To be Jewish," [Foer] says, "is to strive to make the world less cruel and more just - not only for oneself and not only for one's people, but for everyone. One doesn't have to consider animals as equal to humans - I don't - to give them a place in this inspiring idea."

Forward, US - April 7, 2006
Related story and links:
The First Word: When 'kosher' slaughter is not Jewish
Jerusalem Post (March 30, 2006)
The VegE-Store For Mr. Foer's novel

  Books and Perspectives    

Mankind benefits from eating less meat
Full story: Physorg.com

Collective vegetarianism is not required, but good-tasting, high quality meat substitutes ought to be used more often in place of meat. This is the most important finding of a comprehensive study of more sustainable protein production by nineteen economists, consumer researchers, food technologists, sociologists, political scientists, ecologists and chemists from three universities. The research findings are published in the book Sustainable Protein Production and Consumption: Pigs or Peas?

...A protein transition has many additional advantages. A conservative estimation by the researchers found that because so much land would become available to cultivate biomass, a quarter of the world's current energy consumption could be sustainably met from this energy source. Moreover, this can be achieved without affecting grasslands and nature areas, such as tropical rainforests. A protein transition can also help to put a meat industry plagued by animal diseases and crises back on the rails. Approximately one third of the global trade in cattle and meat is currently afflicted by outbreaks of diseases, causing billions of euros damage. Finally, a protein transition will also have a positive influence on people's health, through the reduction of many meat-related and obesity-related diseases.

Physorg.com - April 6, 2006

The Ominivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Full story: Seattle Weekly, WA, US

You could call this book the foodie Guns, Germs, and Steel. Well researched and comprehensive (as you'd expect from the author of The Botany of Desire), it induces strong emotions about the way we currently eat. The book's three sections - Industrial/Corn, Pastoral/Grass, and Personal/The Forest - are tied together with one common element: a "themed" meal in which Pollan elucidates the concepts covered in each heading.

First stop: McDonald's, after a side trip to the cornfields of Iowa and a bovine Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in Kansas...Pollan's descriptions of CAFO methodology, where corn is practically force-fed to the cows, and manure lagoons are enough to make you gag. Pollan then pushes his cart down the aisles of Whole Foods to explore the big business of organic. Finally, Pollan creates a meal from ingredients he's foraged or hunted in the wild, in an effort to "start again from scratch." For the author, who isn't about to hunt for all of his meals or to become a long-term vegetarian, the answer partly involves eating animals that have had happy lives and humane deaths.

Seattle Weekly, WA, US - April 19, 2006
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