Your Meat Died Young

The follow harrowing image is from CompassionateCook.com, the website of vegan author and incredible speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Animals raised for food, whether on small, local farms, or giant industrial CAFOs, are looked at as products. They might be given a semblance of a decent life for awhile, but as the end result is slaughter – be it for meat, eggs, or milk – their lifespan is necessarily cut short.

Allowing an animal to live out its natural life, using up water, land, and feed is not a model that any savvy farmer would follow. It’s therefore quite logical that these animals are killed long before their natural lifespan. As one can see below, this is often exceedingly short: in chickens they won’t even live past two months. It’s hard to even imagine such a short, shallow life.

The Spin Zone: How Animal Ag is Trying to Dupe You

Perhaps you heard Sherry Turkle on NPR last week discussing her book, “Alone Together,” about the on-going struggle of our youth to remain autonomous beings in an inter-connected society. I wrote about her findings over a year ago, mentioning how Facebook is one big “validation fest.” This was echoed with Bruce Hood’s comments a few months later, who said “[r]ather than opening up and exposing us to different perspectives, social networking on the Internet can foster more radicalization as we seek out others who share our positions.”

And so it is with enthusiasm that I try to expand my worldview, my positions, and my outlook, by seeking the alternative view. Today, it comes from BEEF Magazine – yes, the industry magazine of cattle producers – and I’ve found quite a slew of propagandizing articles. What interests me, however, is the angle. Here, animal rights activists are on the wrong side of the fence, even though they claim we take “moral high ground” most of the time (I think we do because we have it!). In a recent article “debunking” meatless Mondays, entitled “Six Reasons Why I Eat Meat Every Day — Mondays, Too,” beef advocate Amanda Radke writes:

I’ve got to hand it to the vegetarian and vegan activists, they know how to create a movement to rally around. Only a small segment of the U.S. population actually follows a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but these folks have been able to take their ideas and make them mainstream. Universities across the country have adopted the Meatless Monday trend, and it seems like every time I pick up a consumer publication, there’s an article promoting meatless meals like tofu and bean burgers.

Then the author gives six – what I can only assume she feels are valid – reason to eat meat every day, including Mondays. These include “health” which amounts to the statement that beef contains vitamins, minerals, and protein; then reason #5, “it’s kind” which is sort of laughable as ethically, by definition, it is not kind to bring a being into existence to kill it; and some other paltry examples such as “it’s sexy” and “it’s environmentally friendly.” Basically all the reasons we give against eating meat, just spun 180 degrees, to appeal to the cattle producers so they have some argument to throw out there. But you can think through those yourself (I even felt compelled to leave a comment on the post).

The real “meat” of the issue comes in when the industry goes after what they call the “emotion of animal welfare.” Ah yes, emotion. It always gets in the way of things! Author Gayle Smith has some profound quotes about the mucking up of emotion and science that AR activists like to do. For instance…

Animal activists are successfully influencing the consumer’s view of animal welfare by appealing to the core values people believe in, such as compassion, justice, fairness and freedom, she adds. Activists also highlight issues easily grasped by consumers, like housing, handling and pain; they then develop modest appeals for change by adopting a high moral ground or even using religion. As an example, [Purdue University associate professor of animal behavior and well-being Candace] Croney points to farrowing crates to contain sows. “The activists say, ‘Can’t we give this pig just a little more room to turn around?’ That sounds completely reasonable, but the urban consumer doesn’t understand how a sow behaves. They don’t understand it’s not that easy. Their opinion is ‘What’s the problem? Just do it.’”

Just a little more room! Impossible, right? No. While I certainly don’t advocate farming pigs, here are at least two suitable alternatives to farrowing crates: Swedish Deep-Straw Farrowing (hey, pigs in straw! novel idea, eh?) and this Natural Farrowing System. Again, please note that this is not an endorsement of any sort of animal confinement, simply a counter argument to animal agriculture’s claim that “a little more room” is just too much.

Next, onto definitions:

Animal welfare has different definitions to different people. For many, particularly producers, it’s providing good animal husbandry, and taking care of the physical needs of animals for food, water and shelter. However, others feel the biological and behavioral needs of the animal should also be considered.

This is the same rhetoric I heard about KYLCSC meetings: animals need food, water, and shelter, period. A “healthy animal” will produce better than an unhealthy one. And when behavioral needs factor into it? Eh…

It’s clear to me that the majority of animal producers have a wall up when it comes to this front: they create the guise of caring about animals through their basic needs (Maslow’s lowest level), while ignoring the emotional toll it can take on the animals. If you repeat this enough times, and are born into a society that does this (as “nth” generation farmers so proudly state), it can become a sort of truth. But these animals feel both emotional and physical pain, and when either one is left out of the equation, there are disastrous consequences. The article goes on to advise producers what to do when confronted with the media, activists, or even (gasp) conscious consumers!

…Croney recommends explaining to consumers that today’s food challenges require maximizing the use of land and space. “We also need to mention that it requires us to grow and finish a lot of animals quickly. In the case of sows, we need to show the public how they are fed, and that they are housed in a way to protect workers and other animals,” she says. “The attention span of the American public regarding these issues is about two minutes, so we need to develop a quick and effective way to address these concerns,” she says. “Make sure people know no one is more concerned about our animals than us, and that we are committed to their health and welfare,” she says. “Develop a statement committed to animal welfare, and put it out there where people will read it. Actions speak louder than words, but words can be very effective when people don’t know you or what you do.”

If you get to define the terms “health and welfare” then you can certainly be committed to it, no? By advising the animal industry to “develop a statement committed to animal welfare…” you get exactly that: a statement. How about advising them to consider the claims of activists, that animals need to be taken care of on all levels? Or discussing the separation between mothers and their young “down on the farm?” These issues are glossed over in the name of a generic “animal welfare,” and of course, profit. By re-enforcing the point that we have “food challenges” – assuming that they can only be met by meat and dairy – and using this as a talking point, the animal agriculture industry continues to dupe the American public. It takes any option of a truly humane treatment of cows, pigs, chickens, etc. off the table by assuming that their sole purpose in life is to provide for us, not simply exist of their own volition.

Note: in doing some research regarding the farrowing crate debacle, I contacted Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society, who had this to say:

  • Keep in mind that the entire debate going on in the country right now is about gestation crates, not farrowing crates. They keep the pregnant pigs in the gestation crates for four months, then move them to farrowing crates where they nurse piglets for four months, and then go back to the gestation crate where it all repeats for a couple more years.
  • Nine states have passed laws banning gestation crates. Zero have laws relating to farrowing crates.
  • About 35 major pork buyers in the country now have policies to phase out gestation crates. Zero have such policies for farrowing crates.
  • The industry likes to purposefully conflate farrowing and gestation crates so they can make the piglet-crushing argument.

Photo: Twicepix

Arby’s Swings and Misses With “Sliced Up Fresh” Campaign

It’s easy to understand that most fast food isn’t going to be local; the sheer volume of food needed, and the price at which it’s sold requires concentrated operations from vegetables to animals to people. Arby’s apparently decided to dip their beak (pun intended) into the locavore craze…by highlighting the fact that their meat is sliced locally, that is, at the store, instead of “in a factory, far, far away.” Star Wars reference? I don’t know, but this needs to be seen for what it is: a desperate attempt by the fast food giant to cling to customers in age of healthier, meatless eating.

Arby’s claims they’re “slicing up the truth about freshness,” and their new logo attests to that. Design Shack has a good run down of the choices behind the new 3D hat and type face, along with the overall branding of the website and mobile apps. It looks fine, sure, but really: locally sliced meat? I mean, what’s next, locally flipped burgers? Ketchup squeezed in-house? What Arby’s chooses to gloss over, of course, is the confinement, slaughter, and consequent cruelty that these birds (and other animals) suffer. Turkey CAFOs are no pleasant place. A factory far, far away? How about a factory farm, far, far away?

Again, consider what’s not being addressed: the turkeys that are being “sliced up fresh” are fattened up using crops that could be fed to humans, in a cruel, ineffecient, wasteful process all across the United States, that these turkeys are transported, slaughtered, and processed (but not sliced!) in factories in states like Iowa (oh no!) or other agricultural regions. In fact, all the gruesome, gory stuff takes place so out-of-sight-out-of-mind for the consumer that seeing the meat sliced in-store might even freak them out a little bit! As one who doesn’t patronize Arby’s, I have no idea. Consider what would happen if Arby’s had its workers do more than just the slicing on an in-store level in the quest for “freshness:”

Probably wouldn’t turn out so well, even with a cool 3D hat. And yes, that is a real turkey slaughter picture, as evidenced by this Esquire article. For those looking to find more “humanely” sourced turkeys for your Thanksgiving dinner, well, think again.

Note: Even Iowans weren’t cool with the origin TV spot that Arby’s choose, as they tried to expose the “distance” between Iowa processing plants and the sandwich chains’ stores.

Photos: Esquire Magazine, Youth Voices

Interview with Holly Nolly of Vegan Shortcake

Rebecca (left) and Holly (right) of Vegan Shortcake

 

During my wonderful weekend at Animal Rights 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting Holly Noll, a fellow vegan straight-edger, who, along with Rebecca Bolte, hosts Vegan Shortcake: a “super awesome” cooking show that not only features delicious vegan recipes, but animal rights issues, and “mocktails” or alcohol-free versions of cocktails. I recently spoke with Holly about the show, AR 2012, and her food choices:

TNTSU: I think Vegan Shortcake totally what need in cooking shows right now: healthy, funny, and hip. What’s your goal with the series? Did you put a lot of thought into the “look and feel” or did it come naturally?

Holly: We do put a lot of time and energy into the way that our show looks though I think that process came totally naturally to us. We pride ourselves on having a show that’s relatable, easy to watch, fun and informative. A lot of the reason our show feels so solid, also, is because Rex [Ray] makes the editing/lighting/sound really high quality and spends a lot of time making it not feel so much like a [typical] “YouTube show”.

How did you end up working with Rebecca? She adds so much comic relief to the episodes; was it a natural fit or did you two rehearse any of the craziness?

Rebecca and I actually met, I believe, at an indoor water park and became quick friends. We originally started working on this rad idea she had:a sober drink bar at shows called Teetotal Babes, which I was really into and which bled into our show with the straight-edge drink additions as well. [T]he show idea was brought up to me and I mentioned it to her and Rex; shortly [there]after Vegan Shortcake was born.

We do think a little about the jokes ahead of time, in that we plan out story lines but honestly we’re really horrid when it comes to acting so the stuff that ends up on the final cut of things is the stuff that just came out as a result of hours of laughing over inappropriate jokes and to much coffee. [Rebecca] really balances my constant need for informing [the audience] about boring food stuff with the entertainment value of the show. [S]he also holds down the drinks and is killer at making sure all the behind the scenes stuff happens like getting our show out there and seen by people, [selling] merch, and what not.

Rex Ray’s camera work makes the videos looks really good. What’s it like working with him? What’s the post-production for Vegan Shortcake like?

Rex is incredible. Honestly, we couldn’t do it without him…we tried when he was on an extended leave, Rebecca and I had some attempts at trying to film shows on this little flip camera…results were disastrous! He is a total mastermind. Somehow he pulls off seeing the end result through all of Rebecca and I running around being crazy. He holds the whole show together and – in addition to making it sound and look good – he really creates those linear structures that make the show watchable. I don’t know too much about post production of the show [but] I know there’s a lot of editing and making things all line up, as well as cutting hours of footage.

I definitely appreciate the straight-edge versions of bar drinks, but what do you want viewers to take away from that?

Yay! I’m glad you’re into it! We want to promote a few different ideas with the xvx [vegan straight-edge] “mocktails”. First, we wanted to get across that sober drinks can be complex and interesting, not just sodas and stuff for children as it is often portrayed in mainstream culture. We also really wanted to promote the fact that xvx living is hella fun and doesn’t have to be super serious. Many people outside of straight edge think of going out to clubs and drinking or partying as their primary source of fun. Here we are trying to show that we’re totally sober and stoked.

When we met, it was in the middle of a high energy animal rights conference. What did you take away from AR 2012?

Wow. Yeah, it was high energy, huh? I took so much from that conference. The most notable being the friends and connections I made, with you as well as with many other dedicated and awesome folks. The conference renewed my inspiration to keep pushing forward and was a solid reminder that so many people in so many ways are promoting the same thing I am. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that you’re not alone with your small group of people you know, and that there are tons of ideas out there – so pushing forward with your [ideas] when you see gaps is okay – because there are others who have your back.

I know you personally eat a lot of raw foods, and a few of the recipes are raw or mostly raw foods. Would you comment on eating a raw vegan diet for health benefits?

I honestly believe that it’s best to eat 80% unprocessed, uncooked food; try your best to keep [the] processed food, sugar and processed carbs out of your diet. I think it’s all about balance though, how you feel about your food affects how you digest it as well as how much you enjoy life. It’s also about seasons: in the winter it’s more likely you’ll crave warm food, so reaching for solid options like a baked sweet potato, some sauteed greens with nutritional yeast and pumpkin seed pesto might be better as opposed to the warmer months, where, if you live somewhere with seasons, you might find yourself eating all raw and not even thinking about it.

Focusing on eating high nutrient content, easy to digest, tasty foods is really the primary goal – in my opinion – for optimal health. I also believe very strongly in juicing and smoothies, as they give you the option of eating huge quantities of raw fruits, veggies and greens, very quickly and easily, where many people find it difficult to fit [that] into their schedules. [Juicing] also skips some steps for your body so it can take that nutrition straight to the body as opposed to having to break it all down.

Rapid fire questions!

Favorite vegan restaurant?

SO HARD! Either Blossoming Lotus in PDX or Chaco Canyon in SEA. (I know answering with two is cheating !)

Best current, and past, XVX band:

Seven Generations, for sure.

Most calories ever consumed in one day:

Whoa. I lived in a co-op in Oakland for a while, and one day someone brought home a deep fryer and that night we had a huge garlic inspired deep fried potluck followed by a big game of “what dessert things can we deep fry?” If I were to pick out a day, it was almost definitely that one. Absolutely the worst I’ve ever felt.

Spiciest food you’ve ever made?

I’m a total baby when it comes to spice, honestly! I recently my dad made me this harrisa crumble over beets that had this insane spice but it grew with smokiness and was complex so I loved it. I like spice with flavor as oppose to just a kick in the face.

Are you a fan of the Vegan Black Metal Chef?

Yeah, I think he is funny and awesome, though I don’t really keep up with it too much. I think it’s a great niche and it’s exciting when anything promoting veganism goes viral.

What’s next for you and Rebecca? Will Vegan Shortcake continue on or do you have other projects planned?

Vegan Shortcake will absolutely continue! Look forward to episodes on [vegan] bacon, BBQ and greens! I am also building a protein bar business, writing a “cook zine” series, brainstorming a few other books, as well as a few ongoing columns for AMP magazine and Vegan Warfare. I’m also hoping to get back to school and get certified in nutrition soon.

Anything else you want to add, promote, or dis:

We just put out our latest episode on Bananas at veganshortcake.com, so check it out as well as my upcoming articles in AMP magazine [and] veganwarfare.com. I love feedback and hearing from people so feel free to email me at holly[at] veganshortcake [dot] com.

Closing still from the video

Photos: Vegan Shortcake YouTube & Facebook pages.

Running Out Of Water? Time To Go Vegan

That’s the theme of the Guardian’s Global Development series last week, with the headline “Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists.” Stockholm International Water Institute warned that there simply won’t be enough water to produce the meat we need, at the current rate of eating, by 2050:

Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world’s leading water scientists.

[…]

Adopting a vegetarian diet is one option to increase the amount of water available to grow more food in an increasingly climate-erratic world, the scientists said. Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. One third of the world’s arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals. Other options to feed people include eliminating waste and increasing trade between countries in food surplus and those in deficit.

“Nine hundred million people already go hungry and 2 billion people are malnourished in spite of the fact that per capita food production continues to increase,” they said. “With 70% of all available water being in agriculture, growing more food to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050 will place greater pressure on available water and land.”

The Guardian’s Lagusta Yearwood followed up this piece with a great addition of her own, “Forget meat – there’s a world of vegetarian food out there,” where she writes:

 Particularly, we can look to what poor women from every corner of the globe have invented. Why? Because they have always created the tastiest dishes – so many of today’s classic, beloved dishes originated from women who had to put food on the table for their families, no matter what. When kings and queens were busy dying from gout because of their overly rich diets, housewives in Sicily were making luscious caponata from aubergines and celery in a sweet and sour marinade; women in Oaxaca were wrapping corn dough around roasted chilies, seeds, and vegetables to make tamales filled with mole sauces; cooks in Egypt were frying onions in precious olive oil and topping their lentils and rice with them to make koshari; women in Africa were pounding peanuts to make rich stews laced with fresh greens and spices. Vegetarian dishes are everywhere, if we look.

While Yearwood dismisses meat analogues as “expensive” and poor-tasting (which I both agree and disagree with, respectively), her point of not making meat the centerpiece is spot on. We pretty much have to do that, or we won’t be able to feed our booming earth’s population. Of course, we could stop having so many kids too…

Then there was the rebuttal of “Turning vegetarian will not solve the food crisis” by Priyamvada Gopal, who argues that, yes, factory farms are awful and we’re destroying the planet, but

Wealth concentration generates disparate purchasing power that allows richer nations as well as the better-off in every nation to consume – and waste – a disproportionate share of food, fuel, water and other resources. Arable land itself is put towards profit through speculation, mining, and logging, rather than feeding people. The predictable argument that overpopulation is the main problem remains a red herring. When one person can consume or waste between two and five people’s share at a time when per-capita food production has increased, inequity, not human numbers, and the richer, not the poorer, are still the problem.

Gopal argues against the overzealous vegan, pushing their tofu and expensive organic vegetables across the table, but can one get past the ethical implications? Not really. Meat is still murder for large portions of the world where it is simply unncessary, and now, as we see, wasteful and in dwindling supply. Does those buffalo getting slaughtered by the Indians as Gopal references, recognize their contribution to world hunger and lay down with a smile to get slaughtered? No – they simply do not.

Still, there are many issues at work. The goal, in my opinion, is to feed the world, while harming as little as possible. Respect for all life, not just humans, while taking care of the earth, and keeping us healthy. Are these lofty? Absolutely. But, we don’t really have a choice. As Paul Watson says, “if the oceans die, we die.”

Photo: niOS