June 2006
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In this edition...

Health and Environment
  Veggies prevent artery hardening
  EVU sends an open letter to the UN Secretary General
  Parasite in undercooked meat can harm an unborn child
  Pregnant women warned not to eat canned tuna
  No cow safe from mad cow disease?

Lifestyles and Trends
  Flexitarians take a bite out of vegetarianism
  The conscience of a carnivore
  A hunger for humane foods
  Best not to eat meat if you're house-hunting in Bombay
  The latest thing in weddings: Vowing to be green

Animal Issues and Advocacy
  Animal welfare global petition seeks ten million signatures
  Indecent eggsposure: How eggs are laid in Canada
  Small step forward for pregnant sows
  Clever collie demonstrates animal sentience
  If whales could scream

Books, Movies and Perspectives
  New European Vegetarian Union book foresees a vegetarian world
  Changing the world, one forkful at a time
  Encore: "An Inconvenient Truth" - Roger Ebert's review

Are They Serious? Unfortunately Yes
  How big does a Big Mac need to be?
  MP minister in dock for 'fishy' remarks
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  Health and Environment    

Veggies prevent artery hardening
Full story: BBC News

Eating vegetables may prevent hardening of the arteries, research suggests. U.S. researchers found 38% less build up of fatty deposits in the arteries of mice who were fed a mixture of vegetables. The researchers from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine assessed the effect of diet on heart disease by studying mice that had been specially bred to rapidly develop atherosclerosis - the formation of fatty plaques in the arteries which can eventually block blood flow leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Half the mice were fed a vegetable-free diet and half the mice were fed a diet which included broccoli, green beans, corn, peas and carrots. After 16 weeks, researchers measured cholesterol content in the blood vessels and estimated that plaques in the arteries of the mice were 38% smaller. Although there was also a reduction in total cholesterol and body weight in mice fed the vegetable-rich diet, analysis showed that this could not explain the reduction in atherosclerosis.

[Editor's note: It is interesting that this is touted as big news and unfortunate that mice had to suffer to determine it. I recall hearing in a lecture by Dr. Michael Klaper, Institute of Nutrition Education and Research, almost twenty years ago, that saturated fat in meat causes plaque build-up in the arteries. It also seems to me that they have looked at the research results backwards.]

BBC News - June 18, 2006

EVU sends an open letter to the UN Secretary General
Full story: European Vegetarian Union

On the occasion of a WHO/FAO meeting in Rome, the FAO distributed a press release stating that "the EU diet has gradually deteriorated and has become too rich in fats, particularly saturated fats, sugar and cholesterol," thus contributing to the dramatic situation that 400,000 more children become overweight every year. Rampant obesity threatens Europeans with heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, arthritis and certain types of cancer.

Sedentary lifestyles certainly play a role in this dramatic situation but, also according the FAO's explanations, diet is a main culprit. If they are so dangerous, why do people buy an excessive amount of fatty animal products? The EU-agriculture policy which heavily subsidizes all but vegetable products may be one of the reasons why consumers prefer cholesterol-laden food stuffs over healthier but more expensive fruit and vegetables. The situation in the U.S. is similar...Mr. Secretary General, we stand ready to support any of the United Nation initiatives leading to a promotion of the beneficial and compassionate vegetarian lifestyle which will bring better health to humans and play a crucial part in building a more wholesome world for all.

European Vegetarian Union - May 22, 2006

Parasite in undercooked meat can harm an unborn child
Full story: City News, Toronto, Canada

When Gillian Irving was pregnant with her son Dylan she had no idea that something as simple as an undercooked steak, an unwashed vegetable or a day digging in the garden could seriously affect her child's health. But when her boy was just eight-weeks-old she realized something was wrong. He wasn't smiling and his eyes were "jumpy."

Irving learned that her son had toxoplasmosis, which resulted in brain damage and blindness. The mother was even more upset to learn that she had unknowingly passed the ailment on to her child when he was in the womb. And now she's warning other expectant mothers to be extra vigilant so they don't do the same. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite found in and around your home - in the soil in your garden, in your cat's litter box, in undercooked meat and even on unwashed fruits and veggies. "If I had known to be extra doubly sure not to eat any partially undercooked meat because it could cause permanent brain damage to your child, do you think I would have been more cautious? You bet I would have been more cautious," Irving said.

City News, Toronto, Canada - June 15, 2006

Pregnant women warned not to eat canned tuna
Full story: USA Today

Pregnant women should not eat canned tuna because a small percentage contains levels of methyl mercury as high as fish the Food and Drug Administration recommends pregnant women never eat, a Consumer Reports article warns. Most cans of light tuna contain on average 0.12 parts per million of mercury, while white or albacore tuna has on average about 0.35 parts per million. But 6% of light-tuna cans tested exceeded the average for white or albacore, some as high as 0.85 parts per million.

"FDA says pregnant women should never eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish," says Consumer Reports' Jean Halloran. King mackerel averages 0.73 parts per million mercury, lower than some tuna, the FDA says. The FDA says that "high levels of mercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system."

USA Today - June 5, 2006
Related story:
California still fighting to put mercury warnings on canned tuna
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (May 30, 2006)


No cow safe from mad cow disease?
Full story: Access North Georgia, US

Two cases of mad cow disease in Texas and Alabama seem to have resulted from a mysterious strain that could appear spontaneously in cattle, researchers say. These cows appear to have had an "atypical" strain that scientists are only now starting to identify. Laboratory studies on mice in France showed that both the classic and atypical strains could be spread from one animal to another. But scientists theorize the atypical strain might have infected cattle through an unusual way. Mad cow disease is believed to spread through feed, when cows eat the contaminated tissue of other cattle. That happens when crushed cattle remains are added to feed as a protein source. This once-common practice ended in the United States in 1997.

Humans can get a related disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, in similar fashion - by eating meat contaminated with mad cow. Mad cow in humans afflicts younger people; the average age at death is 28 years. A more common form of CJD - not linked to mad cow - can happen spontaneously. This form occurs mostly in older people; the average age at death is 68. Some scientists are raising the possibility that the atypical strain also might happen spontaneously in cattle. The Texas and Alabama cows were older animals, as were some of the other animals in Europe with seemingly atypical cases.

Access North Georgia, US - June 11, 2006
Related story:
First mad cow case reported in Austria
China View, South Africa (June 8, 2006)

  Lifestyles and Trends    

Flexitarians take a bite out of vegetarianism
Full story: National Post, Canada

Those who like their porterhouse steaks rare and their burgers with bacon probably won't be found in the tofu aisle any time soon. But Toronto-based entrepreneurs Tal Rosenbloom and Chris Bower are hoping such hardcore carnivores will sink their incisors into their new product, the Better Burger, which is half beef and half soy. An alternative to the veggie or nature burger, the Better Burger caters not to strict vegetarians or anyone who wants to taste actual blood when biting into their meat, but to a rapidly expanding demographic - flexitarians. Otherwise known as part-time or casual vegetarians, flexitarians mostly stick to a flora-based diet but will occasionally indulge in a bit of fauna depending on the situation.

The American Dialect Society voted "flexitarian" the most useful word of 2003 and defined it as "a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat." Charles Stahler, co-director of the Vegetarian Resource Group, based out of Baltimore, estimates that while true vegetarians make up around 3% of the American population, flexitarians may account for up to 40%. And there's been more research that suggests some 75% of the vegetarian products consumed annually in North America are by meat eaters. But while it's only just picking up steam here in the West, flexitarianism has been going strong in other countries for years. In the Philippines, for example, dishes commonly feature both tofu and meat.

National Post, Canada - June 12, 2006
Related story:
Versatile vegetarian: Is it possible to be 80 percent vegetarian?

Herald-Dispatch, VA, US (June 12, 2006)

The conscience of a carnivore
Full story: Slate, US

Where were you when [race horse] Barbaro broke his leg? I was at a steakhouse, watching the race on a big screen. I saw a horse pulling up, a jockey clutching him, a woman weeping. Thus began a worldwide vigil over the fate of the great horse. Would he be euthanized? Could doctors save him? In the restaurant, people watched and wondered. Then we went back to eating our steaks. Shrinks call this "cognitive dissonance." You munch a strip of bacon, then pet your dog...That's the thing about humans: We're half-evolved beasts. We love animals, but we love meat, too. We don't want to have to choose. And maybe we don't have to. Maybe, thanks to biotechnology, we can now grow meat instead of butchering it.

Every society lives with two kinds of moral problems: the ones it's ready to face, and the ones that will become clear or compelling only in retrospect. Animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, slavery, the subjugation of women - many traditions seem normal and indispensable until we're ready, morally and economically, to move beyond them...But 300 years from now, when our descendants look back at slaughterhouses the way we look back at slavery, they won't remember the benefits to us, any more than they'll remember our dried-up tears for a horse. They'll want to know whether we saw the moral calling of our age. If we do, it's time to pony up. [Editor's note: A thought-provoking article that is well worth reading in full.]

Slate, US - May 27, 2006

A hunger for humane foods
Full story: Baltimore Sun, MD, US

News from the front in the food wars: Live lobsters are a dead issue at Whole Foods. Chicago and California have made foie gras non grata. And hundreds of restaurants are boycotting Canadian seafood to protest that country's annual baby seal hunt. As consumers ask more questions about what they eat - where it comes from, how it lived, how it was killed - they are discovering that many meals come with ethical quandaries. Retailers and restaurants are responding, hoping that a concern for animal welfare also benefits the bottom line.

Not all consumers care so fervently about how animals are treated, of course. But enough of them do that they constitute a sizable market, said Paul B. Thompson, a philosophy professor at Michigan State University who specializes in food, agricultural and community ethics. "Many people who were not particularly aware of where their food came from have perhaps over the last five years become much more interested in that," he said. "In some respects, it starts with Darwin and people recognizing there's probably more continuity between the way animals experience the world and the way humans experience the world than they might have been inclined to think."

Baltimore Sun, MD, US - June 20, 2006
Related stories:
'Cage-free' eggs take flight
Chicago Tribune, US (June 11, 2006)
Whole Foods Market bans sale of live lobsters
Star-Telegram, TX, US (June 15, 2006)
Foes see foie gras as a fat target
USA Today (June 5, 2006)
Will we see meat even vegetarians can love?
By Ingrid Newkirk (President of PETA) on laboratory-grown meat
Austin-American Statesman, TX, US (August 22, 2005) and California Chronicle (June 2, 2006)


Best not to eat meat if you're house-hunting in Bombay
Full story: ABC News, US

Never mind pets, smokers or loud music at 2 a.m. House hunters in Bombay increasingly are being asked: "Do you eat meat?" If yes, the deal is off. As this city of 16 million becomes the cosmopolitan main nerve of a booming Indian economy, real estate is increasingly intersecting with cuisine. More middle-class Indians are moving in, more of them are vegetarian, and the law is on their side.

Vegetarianism is a centuries-old custom among Hindus, Jains and others in India. The government reckons India has some 220 million vegetarians, more than anywhere else in the world. Rejected home-seekers have mounted a slew of court challenges to the power of housing societies to discriminate, but last year India's highest tribunal ruled the practice legal. While Indians are accustomed to housing societies demarcated by religion, separation by diet has meat-eaters worried. Bombay likes to think of itself as a city wide open to the world, and some worry that the vegetarian tide goes against that trend.

ABC News, US - May 29, 2006
Related story:
Vegetarian vigilantes in Mumbai - Cultural tension soars in the meatless zone
San Francisco Chronicle, US (June 18, 2006)

The latest thing in weddings: Vowing to be green
Full story: Common Ground Magazine

In May, [Alex] Jamieson, the vegan-chef girlfriend of Morgan Spurlock, creator and star of celebrated documentary, Super Size Me, the story of one man living on McDonald's food for a month, married on the tiny island of Fiji. Jamieson wore a hemp-silk wedding dress (made by her mother) and it should come as no surprise that the Super Size Me couple, who have inspired many to change their diets and think about the impacts of their personal food choices, would make conscious decisions about their wedding.

For too long, weddings have been an event for which all logic goes out the window. Brides become "bridezilla." Dads go into debt. All sense of "normalcy" is put off until after the wedding. While over-the-top celebrations have far from vanished, an audible fluttering in the world of vows and flowers has definitely emerged. More weddings are going green. Engaged couples are thinking about the environmental and social impacts of their big day. They are seeking organic and ethically sound options, and that demand is creating more green choices for gowns, flowers, salons, cakes, catering, gifts, jewelry and even honeymoons.

Common Ground Magazine - June, 2006
  Animal Issues and Advocacy    

Animal welfare global petition seeks ten million signatures
Full story: Coastweek, Kenya

Hundreds of the world's animal welfare groups have begun the massive task of building a petition of ten million signatures. The "Animals Matter To Me" petition calling for a United Nations Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare [was] officially launched at the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) Biennial Symposium meeting in London. The event is attended by more than 300 animal welfare groups from over 110 countries around the globe. The "Animals Matter to Me" campaign is the public face of a government-led initiative to persuade the United Nations to adopt a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, similar to earlier initiatives in the sphere of human rights and the environment.

Five UN member states (Costa Rica, Kenya, India, Czech Republic and the Philippines) have already formed a steering group committed to taking the initiative forward to the United Nations. In principle the Universal Declaration will call on the United Nations to recognise animals as sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain and suffering, and to recognise that animal welfare is an issue of importance as part of the social development of nations worldwide. "Global recognition of animals and their welfare would not only provide the basis for their increased protection. It is also closely linked with improving human health, social development and environmental sustainability" [said a spokesman.]

Coastweek, Kenya - June 16, 2006
Related link:
Read the declaration and sign the petition here

Indecent eggsposure: How eggs are laid in Canada
Full story: The Aquarian, Canada

It looks like news-at-six video of a puppy mill bust. Except the filthy, neglected animals are hens, and the setting is a modern industrial-strength egg barn. The camera sweeps across a long aisle lined high on both sides with "batteries" (stacks) of wire cages, then slowly pans across a single tier. The hens inside are packed so tight they can barely move...Everything is cloaked in filth. "This is a life sentence with no parole. Their only escape is slaughter," say the video's closing titles. "The Truth About Canada's Egg Industry" is produced by CCFA [Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals] and the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS). Debra Probert, Executive Director of VHS, says the video should be a wake-up call for Canadians [where] "Government and industry are constantly reassuring consumers that things are better for farm animals."

The primary Code for Canada's 1000+ registered egg producers (producers who have 500 or more hens - almost all the hens in Canada) is the 2003 Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pullets, Layers and Spent Fowl. It gives producers the green light to house their hens in wire-mesh battery cages with no litter on the bare floors and just 67 square inches per four-pound bird. [Imagine] the outspread pages of The Aquarian, 22 inches by 15.5 (341 square inches). The Code would allow you to house five hens on that area, day-in, day-out, until their egg production wanes - typically 12 months - and then kill them. [Editor's note: This in-depth article by Syd Baumel is well worth reading in full.]

The Aquarian, Canada - Summer, 2006
Related stories and links:
Watch the CCFA/VHS film
New Zealand: Battery hen opponents lay claim to second win
Scoop, NZ (June 14, 2006)
U.S.: Humane Society accuses egg producer of shocking cruelty

Lincoln Journal Star, NB, US (June 13, 2006)

Small step forward for pregnant sows
Full story: ABC, Australia

Pork producers in New South Wales have been told to improve their standard of animal care, especially for pregnant pigs. The Australian pork industry wants to limit the use of gestation stalls to six weeks, instead of the current sixteen weeks of pregnancy. Spokeswoman for Animal Liberation Angie Stevenson says the stalls should be completely banned. "Sow stalls are inherently cruel," she said. "The pigs are living on concrete floors, they're living in their own feces. "They can't turn around, and these just aren't conditions that are conducive to a happy life."

ABC, Australia - June 3, 2006
Related stories:
Fixing the downer pig problem
Meat & Poultry (May 1, 2006)
Quote: Recently, I saw the worst group of downer, or non-ambulatory, pigs I have ever seen in my life...
Actor from 'Babe' supports PETA's cruelty concerns
Daily Press, VA, US (June 6, 2006)
Animal transportation report sheds light on suffering
Animal Protection Institute and Compassion in World Farming

Clever collie demonstrates animal sentience
Full story: Washington Post

Rico, a border collie with what appears to be an uncanny talent for human language, may be a genius among dogs or just your average pooch. Either way, he has scientists wondering if man's best friend is smarter than they thought. A series of careful studies concluded that the energetic German house dog has a stunningly large vocabulary of about 200 words and can even do something scientists thought only humans could do: figure out by the process of elimination that a sound he has never heard before must be the name of a toy he has never seen before.

The findings are the latest evidence that animals are capable of more complex communication than had been thought. Scientists have determined that many species have complex vocalizations that enable them to communicate sophisticated information among themselves. And researchers have been able to teach many creatures to recognize human symbols and language. "A lot of people have argued that the perceptual and cognitive mechanism that underlie what we call language and speech acquisition are unique to humans," said Mark Bekoff, who studies dogs at the University of Colorado. "What this study shows clearly is that is not the case. What this shows is that other animals possess those cognitive and perceptual abilities."

Washington Post - June 11, 2006

If whales could scream
Full story: The Sun, UK

After being hunted close to extinction the majestic humpback whale was beginning to make a welcome comeback thanks to 20 years of protection. But now Japan is going to slaughter these awe-inspiring 65-ton gentle giants again, supposedly for scientific reasons, putting the survival of the species in peril. Leading naturalist Sir David Attenborough and other whale experts have made a heartfelt plea to stop this barbarity. [Sir David said] "There is hard, scientific, dispassionate evidence that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea. Dr Harry Lillie, who worked as a ship's physician on a whaling trip in the Antarctic half a century ago, wrote this:

"'If we can imagine a horse having two or three explosive spears stuck in its stomach and being made to pull a butcher's truck through the streets of London while it pours blood into the gutter, we shall have an idea of the method of killing. The gunners themselves admit that if whales could scream the industry would stop, for nobody would be able to stand it.' Harpoons with explosive grenade heads are still the main technique used to kill whales today." Chris Butler-Stroud, chief executive of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "The 'science' practised by Japan is not the science of conservation. Indeed, it's a perversion of the very notion. It's time that the world stood up for the whales and said no to those who want to kill them for a 'principle.'"

The Sun, UK - June 21, 2006
Related stories:
Japan gains key whaling victory
BBC News, UK (June 19, 2006)
Why the whalers won
Guardian Comment, UK (June 6, 2006)
Save the whales - by not buying Japanese

Christian Science Monitor (June 2, 2006)

  Books, Movies and Perspectives    

New European Vegetarian Union book foresees a vegetarian world
Full story: EVU

The European Vegetarian Union is happy to announce that the book "Utopia Today - Reality Tomorrow: A Vegetarian World" is now available! Thirty five authors - nutritionists, medical doctors, authors of bestsellers, founders of important organizations, researchers, IT-specialists, philosophers, sci-fi fans, musicians and talented individuals - generously contributed to this fundraiser project. The authors come from a variety of countries, cultural backgrounds and religions but they all have one thing in common: the conviction that a more compassionate world is not only possible but inevitable if humanity is to prosper.

The authors share their individual ideas of how tomorrow's vegetarian world will be, whilst looking at a more compassionate future from many different angles. The result is a cocktail of good vibes, light and hopes. Yes, it is true. Vegetarians are still a minority today. But WHAT a minority!

EVU - Spring, 2006

Changing the world, one forkful at a time
Full story: Brown Alumni Magazine, US

As a girl growing up in Berkeley, California, Anna Lappé split time between her mom's place - where veggies prevailed and the closest thing to junk food was a rice cake spread with peanut butter - and her dad's, where meat and sweets also made their way to the table. Although her parents' eating habits might not have matched, their commitment to revealing the politics behind food production did. Lappé's dad produced such works as "Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food." More famous was her mom, Frances Moore Lappé, author of the 1970s vegetarian manifesto "Diet for a Small Planet" and, later, "World Hunger: Twelve Myths and Great Meatless Meals."

Now thirty-two years old, Anna Lappé continues her parents' fight as an author, educator, and philanthropist. In April, Penguin Putnam released "Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen," a hip, chatty cookbook coauthored by Lappé and Brooklyn-based chef and food activist Bryant Terry. The combination food treatise and recipe collection attempts to engage readers in the sustainable whole-foods movement. Lappé penned a 125-page introduction to the topic with chapters debunking the supposed benefits of industrial agriculture, explaining the environmental and social goals behind organic farming, and offering affordable strategies for incorporating unprocessed foods into a busy lifestyle.

Brown Alumni Magazine, US - May/June, 2006
Related story:
Ay, There's the Grub
Interview with co-author Bryant Terry
Grist Magazine, US (January 19, 2006)

Encore: "An Inconvenient Truth" - Roger Ebert's review
Full story: Chicago Sun Times

Global warming is real. It is caused by human activity. Mankind and its governments must begin immediate action to halt and reverse it. If we do nothing, in about 10 years the planet may reach a "tipping point" and begin a slide toward destruction of our civilization and most of the other species on this planet. After that point is reached, it would be too late for any action. These facts are stated by Al Gore in the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

When I said I was going to a press screening of "An Inconvenient Truth," a friend said, "Al Gore talking about the environment! Bor...ing!" This is not a boring film. The director, Davis Guggenheim, uses words, images and Gore's concise litany of facts to build a film that is fascinating and relentless. In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.

Chicago Sun Times - June 2, 2006
Related stories and links:
Movie Trailer     Movie Schedule in North America
Radio interview with Roger Ebert
EarthBeat Radio (June 13, 2006)
Bush snubs Gore film on global warming
ENN/AP (May 23, 2006)
Join the virtual march to stop global warming
Founded by Laurie David, the film's co-producer, and Robert Kennedy Jr.

Free info to distribute at movie theatres:
"Stop global warming... one bite at a time!"
Postcards from FARM that explain the connection between global warming and animal agriculture and offer a free veg kit
Downloadable colorful flyers from PETA
Indicates the many negative environmental effects of animal-based agriculture
Downloadable black and white flyers from PETA
Gives many reasons for shifting to a vegan diet, including environmental considerations

Books available at:
The VegE-Store
Including Gore's books "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Earth in the Balance"

  Are They Serious? Unfortunately Yes    

How big does a Big Mac need to be?
Full story: BBC News

McDonald's is pressing ahead with plans for a World Cup burger bigger than its Big Mac despite MPs calling for a ban. The fast food chain will sell the burger, which will be 40% bigger than its current biggest burger and will have 669 calories, for six weeks. Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb, who organised a petition against the burger, said he was concerned about the impact on children's diets.

BBC News - May 22, 2006

MP minister in dock for 'fishy' remarks
Full story: NDTV, India

Madhya Pradesh Fisheries Minister Moti Kashyap is facing an angry backlash from the state's Jain community for having claimed that prawns are vegetarian food. In his eagerness to promote prawn culture in Madhya Pradesh, Kashyap has put forth arguments that haven't gone down too well with some.

"Like eggs, the protein content in prawns is very high. Both are covered in shells. Scientists consider eggs vegetarian. Therefore, I have labelled prawns as vegetarian too," he said. Other similarities suggested by Kashyap are that eggs and prawns both solidify after being boiled, and like poultry eggs do not hatch, prawns too do not reproduce in fresh water.

NDTV, India - June 8, 2006
Note: Whenever possible, stories are linked to the original source. Some sites may require registration, and/or not archive the stories. All links were active at the time of publication.
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