Category Archives: Animals

Grass-Fed Beef – bad for us and for the planet

Recently, some people have been touting grass-fed beef as eliminating all the problems associated with meat, or as an equivalent alternative to going vegetarian. Don’t fall for it. Grass-fed beef is still bad for us, the environment and, of course, the cows.

Let’s take a look and see what some leading veg-authors have to say on the subject and then make a few observations of our own.

Environmentalist James E. McWilliams, author of Just Food, points out that grass-fed beef produces more methane, a global-warming gas more potent that carbon dioxide, than grain-fed cows do, and that large herds of grazing cattle cause enormous amounts of soil to be eroded, choking off the streams and wetlands. In choosing grass-fed beef, we trade some environmental problems in the switch and “no study I’ve seen convincingly shows that the exchange is worth it,” he says.  He further warns not to translate what is being done at the more responsible, small operator “boutique level,” to the national and international scene, where problems associated with overgrazing are so common. But perhaps most importantly for the world’s hungry, even grass-fed cows are still poor converters of plants into nutrients, and in most cases, the grasslands used for grazing could more efficiently and sustainably be used for producing various crops directly for human consumption.

Geophysiscist G. Eshel explains that “Since grazing animals eat mostly cellulose-rich roughage, while their feedlot counterparts eat mostly simple sugars whose digestion requires no rumination, the grazing animals emit two to four times as much methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This, and the faster weight gain by feedlot animals, result in significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions per pound of meat by grass-fed animals than by feedlot ones.” And there’s plenty of damage that grazing cows produce besides increased greenhouse gas production. Prof Eshel goes on to explain “Grazing cattle also compromise river systems in the fragile arid and semi arid environments in which they are disproportionately ubiquitous, and accelerate soil erosion. Because they eat much more dry matter then feedlot animals, they also pressure dwindling local water supplies exactly where they are most vulnerable.”

Leading author and advocate John Robbins also takes issue with grass-fed beef. While Robbins broadly agrees McWilliams’ environmental assessment and notes that “cattle grazing in the West have polluted more water, eroded more topsoil, killed more fish, displaced more wildlife, and destroyed more vegetation than any other land use.” He also takes note of some other problems not resolved by grass-fed beef, and points out that “the lives of grass-fed livestock are more humane and natural than the lives of animals confined in factory farms and feedlots, but their deaths are often just as terrifying and cruel.” Finally Robbins warns that grass-fed beef still have nutritional drawbacks associated with them, saying “I wouldn’t get too carried away and think that as long as it’s grass-fed then it’s fine and dandy. Grass-fed products are still high in saturated fat (although not as high), still high in cholesterol, and are still devoid of fiber and many other essential nutrients.” Robbins also notes that it can take up to 4 times as long to raise a grass-fed cow compared to a grain-fed one which could result in very significant shortages of supply.

Dr. Richard Oppenlander, author of Comfortably Unaware, agrees with the problems associated with grass-fed beef pointed out by the others, but then goes on to point out that grazing the number of farm animals necessary to satisfy the American meat habit would require more land than the country has, and so really can’t be done anyway because it requires so much land per animal. For instance, he calculates that to raise the current number of just cows and pigs produced in the US every year would require 2.6 billion acres of land if grass-fed – an impossibility since the country only has 2.25 billion acres total land mass to begin with.

Some people ask if local grass-fed beef is any better? That still doesn’t help because most of the carbon footprint is from the production of beef not its transportation. In fact, in the average household, 83% of the footprint comes just from producing the food, while transportation is just 11%.

Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon University publishing the results of their research in Environmental Science and Technology say, “Shifting less than 1 day per week’s (i.e., 1/7 of total calories) consumption of red meat and/or dairy to a vegetable-based diet could have the same climate impact as buying all household food from local providers.”

Here’s the bottom line. Grass-fed beef is still bad for the environment. And of course, even grass-fed beef still contains unhealthy amounts of heart disease promoting saturated fat and cholesterol, and even organic beef still contains cancer-causing industrial toxins that bio-concentrate in the cow over its lifetime. Almost as bad, cooking grass-fed beef still produces cancer causing HCA’s (Hetero Cyclic Amines ) and diabetes-promoting AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End-products).  Plus, let’s not forget that though its raising is a little better, even grass-fed cattle still face the slaughterhouse. The best choice is still going vegetarian.

Pigs in need of compassion

pig-save-feeding-waterA Toronto Canada woman faces criminal charges for giving water to pigs on a truck headed to slaughter. Anita Krajnc, 49, is charged with mischief and faces jail time or a maximum $5,000 fine, for providing water through the narrow openings of a metal trailer to the pigs as they were headed to Fearman’s Pork Inc. in Burlington on June 22, 2015.

Anita says, “I just find it unfathomable that someone would be charged for giving thirsty animals water,” she said, while also testifying that she had no idea she could be charged for what she was doing. In the three years we’ve given water to pigs, police have been present, so we took that as an endorsement.”

Anita is a member of Toronto Pig Save, an animal rights group that regularly demonstrates outside Fearman’s slaughterhouse and other meat processing plants. Partly inspired by this incident, a worldwide movement has been organized called the Save Movement. The Save Movement comprises groups around the world who bear witness of pigs, cows, chickens and other farmed animals en route to slaughter. Their goals are to raise awareness about the plight of farmed animals, to help people become vegan, and to build a mass-based, grassroots animal justice movement.

The Save Movement started in December 2010 with the inception of Toronto Pig Save. Today there are close to 100 groups in Canada, the U.S., U.K., Australia and elsewhere. Look out for their booth at Seattle’s Vegfest 2017.

100-year old Lobster set free

100-year-old-lobsterKudos to the Canadian vegan who forked over $230 to the Alma Lobster Shop in southern New Brunswick, Canada, in order to liberate “King Louie,” a massive 23-pound lobster that was caught by a fisherman. Catherine MacDonald, the shop’s co-owner says the four foot long crustacean was likely a century old.

“It’s beautiful,” MacDonald said. “For a lobster to be 23 pounds and to be that large, there was nothing else that was going to be a predator – except man.” “This is a big, big lobster,” added MacDonald. And as of Tuesday, the big, big old guy was back home in the bay. “It went full circle,” she said. “It was released on a vessel out in the Bay of Fundy in front of the village.”

Somewhere in the cool depths of Canada’s Bay of Fundy, a gigantic lobster nicknamed “King Louie” is breathing a huge sigh of relief. On a fishing vessel similar to the one that picked him up, the King was returned to his underwater throne. King Louie is free. Long live the King!

 

Farm animals win on election day!

Farm AnimalsVoters in Massachusetts voters just passed a far reaching law to protect farm animals from extreme confinement. Even the governor, Charlie Baker, voted for it.

The ballot measure targets practices that severely constrain animals for virtually their entire lives, including the use of veal crates for baby calves, gestation crates for mother pigs and battery cages for egg-laying hens. Eleven states have passed laws banning one or more of those practices. The Massachusetts measure would prohibit all three, and then go further. It would also ban the sale of meat and eggs produced using those methods, even if the animals were farmed outside the state.

The measure passed by a wide margin, reflecting the increasing upset that voters feel when they are made aware of farm animal suffering under the harsh conditions of large scale industrial farming. While several agribusiness groups opposed the initiative, they spent little to campaign against it, since presumably they knew of the moral outrage of the voters.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court approved this ballot initiative proposing that Massachusetts prohibit breeding pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens from being held in confined spaces. The initiative prohibits the sale of eggs, veal, or pork of a farm animal confined in spaces that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, extending its limbs, or turning around.  The measure proposes a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation which could add up very fast on a factory farm.

Of course, even with this law the animals can hardly be said to be living natural lives. The bill may remove the worst excesses, but conditions will still be harsh and the animal will still end up in the slaughterhouse.  The best thing we can do for the animals is still to go veg!

How to Save a Thanksgiving Turkey

Of course the best way to save a Thanksgiving turkey is by having a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. Every year 300 million turkeys are raised and slaughtered for food, and 46 million of those will be eaten on Thanksgiving alone. Every vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner will reduce the number of turkeys slaughtered for the dinner.

Fortunately, there are better options to be eaten and enjoyed than turkey. The northwest is home to two of the most popular and best tasting Thanksgiving turkey alternatives around. Field Roast features its somewhat sophisticated Celebration Roast, with an intriguing blend of herbs and spices, that’s getting rave reviews coast to coast. If you’d like to have a bit of fine dining at home, Celebration Roast is a gourmet choice. Try the Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute for something more sophisticated.

With Tofurky you’ll get a turkey-like look, taste and texture, that comes with both stuffing and gravy. While Tofurky is traditional in style, there’s not an ounce of any animal products in it.

If you enjoy cooking and would like to make your own holiday fare, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve assembled some of our favorite recipes for you to try this Thanksgiving.  See our popular Veg-Feasting Cookbook for even more delicious recipes to try.

But what if you want to save even more Thanksgiving turkeys? We suggest participating in one of the many adopt-a-turkey programs around the country. One that has particularly impressed us is Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-a-Turkey Project.  Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey Project has encouraged people to save a turkey at Thanksgiving, through sponsorships that help them rescue animals and provide care for them at their sanctuaries, as well as educate and advocate for turkeys, and other farm animals, everywhere. As the 2016 Adopt-a-Turkey spokesman, Alec Baldwin, says, “turkeys deserve better.

For a one-time donation gift of just $30, anyone can sponsor a turkey which will then live out its life at one of their shelters. As a turkey sponsor, you will receive a special Adopt-A-Turkey certificate with a color photo and fun details about your new friend. Turkey sponsorships also make perfect gifts, so make an even greater impact this holiday season by sharing the love with others. For a gift of $180, you can sponsor the whole flock and have adoption certificates sent to family and friends. Please visit http://www.adoptaturkey.org/  to learn more and participate in this wonderful program.

The High Price of Pork

transport pigWhen it comes to pork, there’s a high price to be paid by the workers, by the environment, and perhaps worst of all, by the pigs themselves. The scale of the problem is enormous. We raise 120 million pigs each year in the US, and many millions more are raised around the world.

The environment pays a high price for concentrated factory-style pig farming. Factory pig farms produce huge amounts of manure – much more than can be used as fertilizer. This manure is stored in lagoons that can leak or break open after a good rain, and cause massive amounts of water pollution as the runoff enters the lakes and streams. This results in massive fish kills and food chain disruption. Methane, a greenhouse gas much more damaging than carbon dioxide, is given off from these lagoons, contributing to global warming, and the intense smell reduces the air quality in the surrounding neighborhood to an often unbearable degree.

Pig farming is wasteful too. Pigs, like other farm animals, are food factories in reverse, returning far less in pork than the calories and protein they are fed, since most of the nutrition fed to a pig is used for the animal’s energy and metabolism. When there’s so much hunger in the world, and most of the world’s agricultural land is already being used to the maximum, feeding so much of our crops to farm animals is not the best way to feed people. The situation can be summed up by saying that pork production is both wasteful and polluting.

Things aren’t so good for the slaughterhouse workers either. Many of the more than 150,000 in America work in pig slaughterhouses. By many measures they have the worst and most dangerous job in America, and they suffer badly, both physically and emotionally. Few can stand to stick at this job for more than a year. Almost no one speaks up for them. While many consider slaughterhouse workers to be part of the problem caused by pork, we recognize that they are its victims as well, as they pay a high price for working in this industry and only do so because of the lack of other options available to them.

But it is the pigs themselves that pay the highest price. Most pregnant pigs spend most of their lives “stored” in crates so small that they cannot move more than a couple of inches, and can never turn around. For almost her entire life, iron bars will hold a mother pig on the slotted concrete floor as she produces litter after litter. Her heaving belly, waving head and dark-rimmed eyes are the only parts she seems free to move. These enclosures, called gestation crates — and separate farrowing crates that hold sows while they give birth and suckle their newborns — have unleashed a furious battle between pork producers who call these crates safe, and opponents who say they amount to cruelty.

Moving animals from one stall to another, or onto the truck to the slaughterhouse, is where much egregious abuse occurs. Weeks after taking a job as a breeding technician at Eagle Point Farms, an anguished Sharee Santorineos sat down and wrote a three-page complaint. “I seen pigs that are pregnant beat with steel bars,” said her letter to the Illinois Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare. “I seen them kicked all over their body.” But, as is so often the case, no action was taken. This story is repeated again and again across the country.

Even under the most controlled conditions within the industry, farm animal transport is stressful and harsh. The animals are deprived of food, water, and bedding during transport. Trucks are so overcrowded that animals are unable to rest, and may trample or fight with one another in search of space. This sad chain of events ends in the slaughterhouse. And, as the saying goes, if slaughterhouses had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians.

While we applaud those working for animal welfare to improve conditions for the animals, and the environmentalists for trying to enforce regulations to protect the ecology, the only real solution to this problem is a vegetarian solution. By following a vegetarian diet, we reduce the demand and therefore reduce the production of pork. If enough people were to go veg, the pigs, the workers and the environment would all be spared the high price of pork.

The Secret Life of Farm Animals

 

Secret life of petsThere’s a popular kids movie out at the moment called “The Secret Life of Pets.” It’s about the adventures and the misadventures of our pets, when we’re not around to see what they’re up to. It’s cute. However, it would be very different if this movie were for adults, and if it were about the lives of farm animals that we don’t see.

Farm animals also lead lives that are secret from most of us. They’re secret because the livestock industry worries that their sales would drop like a ton of bricks, if we all knew how most farm animals really have to live. Most farm animals today are raised on factory farms, where they are treated as if they were objects in a factory. This results in very harsh conditions, including extreme overcrowding, and other unnatural and unsanitary Veal calvesconditions. Chickens are packed into cages so tightly that they can’t even turn around much less spread a wing. Veal calves are chained by the neck so they can’t move around, and are deliberately fed a bad diet so that their meat will taste different. Pregnant pigs are kept in a cage so tight they can’t move. They also suffer in cramped trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse, with no food or water. When they arrive at the slaughterhouse, it gets even worse. We’ll skip the gory details, but we can assure you this is no cute children’s movie, so the details are kept from public viewing.

Fish in netLet’s also not forget about fish. Most commercial fishing vessels use very long nets, sometimes as long as a mile or more. When the fish get caught in the nets, at first they experience being crushed as the net is brought into the ship, and then they are left to suffocate until they die. Making the situation worse is the fact that these long nets also catch other fish which have no commercial value, plus sea mammals such as dolphins and porpoises, all of which are needlessly killed. Aquaculture, or fish farming, results in massive overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and the suppression of almost every natural instinct a fish might have. This is another movie not meant for children.

Farm AnimalsWe’re not naïve. We know nature can be tough, but we’ve created a situation on factory farms much harsher than nature would ever provide. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to make a new, happier movie with a good ending, suitable for people of all ages. This happier movie has a happy diet associated with it. That diet is a plant-based one. If we followed a plant-based diet, the animals could live more natural lives and we could live much longer lives in a more sustainable environment.

« Older Entries