COWS TORTURED AT SLAUGHTERPLANT
Slaughterplant workers jabbing at the eyes of ill and injured cows; applying electric shocks to their heads, necks, spines and rectums; shooting high-pressure water up their noses; dragging them by chain, and repeatedly jabbing and rolling them with the prongs of a forklift. These are among the images obtained by an investigator for The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) who worked at Hallmark Meat Packing for six weeks last autumn (video and other materials at: http://tinyurl.com/3addoc). The workers were said to be trying to force the nonambulatory (“downer”) animals to stand before the arrival of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector. The treatment the animals were subjected to is illegal under federal and state (California) law, and federal law has banned the slaughter of nonambulatory cattle for human consumption since 1989 due to the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). See: FLAW IN RULE CREATES LOOPHOLE FOR ILL COWS: http://tinyurl.com/3dpe6e.
Hallmark supplies the Westland Meat Co., which is a major supplier of meat to USDA food programs for needy families, the elderly, and the school lunch program. (Westland was named the USDA’s “supplier of the year" for 2004-2005.) Westland’s president initially denied the allegations, later stating he was “shocked, saddened and sickened” by the footage. Two employees have been fired, and their supervisor has been suspended pending the investigation. Westland’s general manager said that Hallmark has been audited monthly by the USDA as well as by a private company to monitor employee practices. (The two fired employees had worked at the slaughterplant for many years.)
The USDA has begun a formal investigation and suspended Westland’s participation in federal food programs. The HSUS is requesting that the plant be shut down indefinitely. The USDA and the American Meat Institute (see item #2) faulted HSUS for not having come forward with the evidence earlier (see also: http://tinyurl.com/3cugmo). HSUS responds that it had taken it to California authorities who had requested more time before the information was made public (see: http://tinyurl.com/2bznxl). School districts in about a half-dozen states and some fast-food chains are taking precautions with their beef supply and/or restricting their association with the company (see, for example: http://tinyurl.com/3addoc).
USDA TO REVIEW CALIF. SLAUGHTERHOUSE
Associated Press, Hope Yen with Mary Clare Jalonick, January 30, 2008
VIDEO REVEALS VIOLATIONS OF LAWS, ABUSE OF COWS AT SLAUGHTERHOUSE
The Washington Post, Rick Weiss, January 30, 2008
MEAT COMPANY FIRES 2 OVER CRUELTY TO LIVESTOCK
The Washington Post, Rick Weiss, January 31, 2008
U.S. PROBES CHINO SLAUGHTERHOUSE, SUPPLIER TO SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
Los Angeles Times, Sarah D. Wire, January 31, 2008
"EXPLOSION OF INTEREST" IN ANIMAL ISSUES
Animal protection issues have seen an “explosion of interest,” states Michigan State University law professor David Favre in a USA Today article entitled: Animal Rights Groups Pick Up Momentum. The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) now counts 10.5 million people as members or supporters in comparison to 7.4 million five years ago, while support for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has doubled to 1.8 million during the same period. Among the examples given of recent advancements made for animals is the 330 colleges that have dropped or dramatically reduced their use of eggs from caged hens over the past three years. Another is the more than 90 law schools approved by the American Bar Association that offer courses in animal law, whereas only a few did a decade ago. Favre compares the interest in animal law among current law students to that of the explosion of interest in environmental law during the 1970’s. Notes PETA’s Bruce Friedrich: “The animal rights movement is a social justice movement (similar to) suffrage and civil rights." Janet Riley with the American Meat Institute (see item #1), whose members produce about 95% of the beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey consumed in the U.S., says the industry is diligent in handling animals humanely. She acknowledges, "[P]eople have different opinions about what constitutes humane handling."
ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS PICK UP MOMENTUM
USA Today, Larry Copeland, January 27, 2008
TEACHING ABOUT AGRICULTURE
Misconceptions about agriculture are frequently perpetuated by media of all types including children’s books, textbooks and especially advertising, movies and the Internet, Betty Wolanyk told the audience at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 89th annual conference. More than 100 activist groups, with an aggregate $500 million annual budget, are intent on attacking agriculture in the U.S., said Wolanyk, director of education and research for the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. In retaliation, the Foundation has produced “Addressing Misconceptions About Agriculture,” a teaching tool for farmers and ranchers designed for classroom use at the high school and college levels. The kit covers 35 issues ranging from animal production to nutrition to pesticides (see: http://tinyurl.com/3xd5wm). [Teaching guides from animal protection organizations can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2aeu8b and http://tinyurl.com/24jk5p and http://tinyurl.com/26qzcb]
WHERE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AGRICULTURE ORIGINATE
Imperial Valley News, January 19, 2008
In a heavily detailed New York Times piece, Rethinking the Meat Guzzler, columnist Mark Bittman compares the production and consumption of meat to that of oil. The world’s meat supply has quadrupled since 1961 to 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled in that time and is expected to double again by 2050. Americans consume an average of nearly 200 pounds of meat (including poultry and fish) per year, which is roughly twice the global average. While some 800,000,000 people suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of the world’s corn and soy are used as feed for cattle, chickens and pigs. Bittman (who the Times notes is not a vegetarian) points out that two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through meat as would be obtained if people instead directly consumed the grain. Up to ten times more grain is required in the case of U.S. “grain-fed” beef. (See also: MEAT: UNOBTAINABLE FOR, AND IN COMPETITION WITH, THE WORLD'S POOR on Meat & Poultry’s website at: http://tinyurl.com/296xwq).
Bittman writes that pigs and chickens constitute 70% of total meat production, with industrial systems used for half of all pig meat and three-fourths of all chicken meat. According to the United Nations, industrial production is growing more than twice as fast as “land-based methods,” with 30% of the Earth’s ice-free land directly or indirectly used for farmed animal production. (See also: BRAZILIAN RAIN FOREST PROTECTION COULD IMPACT CATTLE INDUSTRY
: http://tinyurl.com/267xaz) Nearly 20% of the world’s greenhouse gases are attributed to this production, which is more than even cars and other transportation produces (see: http://tinyurl.com/2w3g4o).
Bittman touches on related problems and suggests some possible alleviations, remarking: “Perhaps the best hope for change lies in consumers’ becoming aware of the true costs of industrial meat production.” Geophysicist professor Gidon Eshel, who pegs meat production as a primary cause of nearly all U.S. environmental problems, is quoted: “…factory farming is ‘optimal’ only as long as degrading waterways is free. If dumping [waste] becomes costly....the entire structure of food production will change dramatically.” Bittman states: “Animal welfare may not yet be a major concern, but as the horrors of raising meat in confinement become known, more animal lovers may start to react.” He continues: “If price spikes don’t change eating habits, perhaps the combination of deforestation, pollution, climate change, starvation, heart disease and animal cruelty will gradually encourage the simple daily act of eating more plants and fewer animals.” The article also includes a photo and graphs.
RETHINKING THE MEAT-GUZZLER
The New York Times (Week in Review), Mark Bittman, January 27, 2008
ATHLETES AND PLANT-BASED DIETS
Could an all-star National Football League (NFL) player live on a vegan diet and still excel in one of the most punishing jobs in sports? This was the question asked by a Wall Street Journal article about athletes who have switched to vegan diets. Kansas City Chiefs tight-end Tony Gonzalez had “just signed a five-year contract, making him the game's highest-paid tight-end. Entering the 2007 season, his 11th in the NFL, he had a shot at breaking all-time NFL records for career receptions and touchdowns at his position. To do that, he needed top performances in every game.” Fearing for his health on the standard player’s high-protein diet, Gonzalez was the first pro-football superstar to try going vegan.
A fellow plane passenger told Gonzalez about "The China Study," a 2006 book by Cornell professor and nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell. Based on a study of 6,500 adults across China, Campbell contends that a plant-based diet leads to fewer lethal diseases. Gonzalez obtained dietary advice from Jon Hinds, a vegan and the former strength coach for the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. However, the Chiefs' team nutritionist, a former vegetarian athlete, persuaded him to include small amounts of meat in his diet. Breaking the touchdown record before midseason, Gonzalez remarked “I have so much more energy when I'm out there." In the final game of the season he made the last catch needed to obtain a spot in the NFL record book.
Two vegan athletes are also included in the article. Mac Danzig, a 28-year-old mixed martial-arts fighter and vegan, outcompeted all of his opponents to become “The Ultimate Fighter” last month on the Spike TV program. Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Salim Stoudamire made a successful transition to a vegan diet after the 2006 National Basketball Association season. A 1988 study of vegetarian (not vegan) runners found they ran as well but no better than their omnivorous rivals.
A Q&A with vegetarian nutritionist and athlete Lisa Dorfman about training on a vegan diet is also included. Dorfman is the professor of nutrition at the University of Miami and author of "Sports Nutrition for Vegetarians." She states: “The plant-based diet is ideal because it's generally high in complex carbohydrates, low in fats and low in cholesterol -- if not cholesterol-free. Cholesterol is only found in animal products.” Dorfman offers tips for making the switch. The authors of “Skinny Bitch,” the bestselling vegan diet book (see: http://tinyurl.com/yv37o9 and http://www.newsweek.com/id/96401) are working on "Skinny Bastard," a companion book for men. Explains co-author Kim Barnouin: "We want men to know that you're not going to be some scrawny little wimp if you follow this diet." See also: http://www.veganathlete.com and ON PIGSKINS AND VEGANS (“A Noncarnivorous Path to Super Bowl-Snack Nirvana”) at: http://tinyurl.com/2jsxtt
THE 247 LB. VEGAN
The Wall Street Journal, Reed Albergotti, January 25, 2008