Monthly Archives: October 2009

Activism Healthy Living Real Food

People For The Unethical Treatment Of Animals AND Humans

The New York times printed a story on October 3rd, 2009 about a young dance instructor, Stephanie Smith (age 22) whose entire life was altered in 2007 when she went over to her parents’ house for a home-cooked hamburger one afternoon. Her illness started out like many others – she believed she had a stomach virus. She had the usual stomach cramps and discomfort that many individuals experience.

And then other symptoms appeared – bloody stool, failing kidneys, and violent convulsions. The convulsions were so severe doctors put Smith into a coma for 9 weeks. When she awoke from the coma, she found she was paralyzed from the waist down, had suffered brain damage, and was unable to walk.

This food-borne illness, non-other than the deadly E. coli bacteria, originated from ground beef which can trace its roots to slaughterhouses in Texas, South Dakota, Uraguay, and Nebraska. These slaughterhouses process meat for Cargill, one of the corporate giants of agribusiness.

Like most agribusiness companies, the meat is taken from a variety of sources and is not only lower-quality cuts but sourced from parts of the cow most likely to have contamination from feces. Feces from industrially-produced meat also normally contains the E. coli virus due both to the feed consumed by the cattle (soy, grains, corn) and the filthy, abhorrent living conditions of the animals.

Federal inspectors have continually found Cargill in violation of its own safety procedures. Even though the corporation was remiss in its handling of meat, they received no sanctions or fines for their breach from the government.  The Department of Agriculture did threaten to withhold their seal of approval stating  on the package “U.S. Inspected and Passed by the Department of Agriculture.”

The digestive tracts of grain-fed cattle are extremely high in acidity. This environment causes the E. coli bacteria to develop and thrive. On the other hand, grass-fed animals on sustainable lands generally do not have these virulent strains in their digestive tract, and are therefore much less likely to infect people who consume their meat. The grass-fed variety is also clean from another deadly pathogen – Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or the infamous Mad Cow Disease (MCD).

According to federal inspectors and plant workers, the risk of contamination is likely along each step of meat processing in industrial processing facilities. Feces from the animals’ hide, smeared all over the outside of the animals’ bodies, can easily be spread onto meat being separated from the carcass during removal. The movement of carcasses along the assembly line goes at such a rate that employees are not always able to “keep up” with the pace, and as a consequence, many mistakes can be made. When the meat is completely removed, it is treated in a bath of ammonia to kill bacteria.

Cargill’s meat products amount to about seven million pounds of meat produced weekly. The company’s product can be found all over the country in grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, as well as in the federal school lunch program eaten daily by our children. In the breakdown, ten percent of the burger eaten by Ms. Smith came from Beef Products, who proudly state on the main page of their web site “The Use of Ammonia Compounds in Food Processing”. The price paid by Cargill? As shown by billing records, about $1 per pound, which according to industry experts is roughly 30 cents less than cuts made from whole meat. Would you eat meat that only cost an average of $1 per pound?

A study funded by Beef Products from Iowa State University determined that ammonia baths effectively reduce E. coli to levels that are virtually undetectable. This discovery was accepted by The Department of Agriculture as proof that the procedure was not only effective but safe. After the outbreak, Cargill declared to the federal agency that Beef Products was definitely not on the list as a possible source of contamination for the meat.

One safe meat producer, U.S. Wellness Meats (Missouri-based) guarantees their meat due to the following:

Hamburger meat comes from from whole muscles which are  completely safe. Meat is removed from the carcass with machinery that leaves intact much of the meat from the spinal area, unlike practices used only in industrial meat processing plants that move through thousands of animals on a daily basis. U.S. Wellness Meats also uses a procedure which removes the spinal fluid sack from the backbone immediately following slaughter, thus eliminating the risk before processing the meat.

Animals are raised on sustainable lands with grass as feed, and are not consuming grain which is a direct cause why E. coli and other virulent bacteria form in the first place. The animals are raised in a clean environment from the first day of life to ensure they are exposed to neither animal contaminants nor chemicals such as pesticides.

We’ve seen this time and time again over the last two decades with news reports of meat recalls and illnesses occurring from people who have consumed the meat. The tainted meat clearly shows flaws in a system rooted well beyond the inspections process. I’d like to pose the point that this entire situation is really what’s working against the ethical treatment of animals (and humans). What additional proof do government officials, health experts, food industry regulatory personnel, and the general public need that the problem isn’t going to be solved with stepped up food safety protocols – and that the real issue lies in the growth, production, and processing of the meat from the animals in the first place? In general, if you aren’t supporting the growth, sale, and distribution of real, sustainable food operations, you are in effect supporting this abominable, multi-billion dollar industry that seeks only to produce more food faster for profit – all at the expense of the environment and human and animal.

Some individuals might automatically assume this is yet one more reason to stop eating meat; and this is not an uncommon sentiment as vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more en vogue. Last week I posed the point about supporting sustainable farming and consuming meat from sustainable sources to PETA, whose reply was that eating meat sustainable-raised was just not realistic because there are simply too many people to feed. We’ve already gone over the fact that when people produce and consume sustainable meat, they not only eat less meat but they take care of the environment.  But by maintaining the belief that “we just can’t feed every person sustainable meat”, and by not supporting those who are raising real, sustainable food, groups like PETA are granting power to and supporting agribusiness giants like Cargill. This whole way of thinking is really a large part of what is responsible for allowing the horror of factory farming to continue at all.

If people truly desired the ethical treatment of animals and humans, they would jump in and support the real sustainable community and food growers who are seeking to treat our lands, people, and animals with the utmost respect and stewardship. Of course PETA supporters are going to protest factory farming and its treatment of animals. But they also discount what people who want to support a truly sustainable way of life are trying to advocate as well. So when you hear someone claiming solidarity with PETA who says that sustainable meats just won’t cut it, remember the way that the meat you eat is processed and relay this story to him or her. You just might save someone’s life.

This article is part of Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival – please visit this site and read the other great real food articles listed there.

Activism

Letter To PETA And Their Response

A little over a month ago, I happened upon a web site affiliated with PETA (they have multiple sites) containing an article detailing the many benefits of living a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. I left a comment discussing why vegetarian and vegan diets can be damaging both to the planet and our health. Karen Dickerson, Correspondence Assistant for PETA, personally sent me a response and I wanted to share it with my readers.

I’d like to point out that I fully supported each argument against vegetarian/vegan diets, and some of the responses that were given make it seem as though I had not provided a logical explanation behind the argument.  For instance, I stated that those who eat humanely-raised, sustainable meat will consume less meat because their nutritional requirements would be met from eating real, healthy meat replete with nutrients. Her response was that realistically, this is just not possible with our current meat consumption rates – overlooking completely my statement about the fact that meat consumption would decrease if we were all eating sustainable meat.

Another point that came up is the “free range” phrase that gets thrown around a lot in packaging and marketing of food. I actually never used the term “free range” in my commentary to PETA, and here’s the reason why:  “Free range” is a marketing term used to lead the consumer to believe the animals or birds of whose meat or eggs you are consuming have been living a humane existence, and are able to roam around freely most of the time. In reality, “free range” might only mean the animals or birds receive access to outside installments for as little as 5 minutes a day!

It is also interesting to note that at least twice I mention the environmental destruction occurring due to the pesticides, chemicals, and genetically-modified seeds used in growing many legumes, grains, and vegetables that vegetarians eat. But nary a response to this argument can be found in Karen’s reply! One of the most aggravating points about vegetarian and vegan foods that seems to rarely sink in to those who consume them is the fact that all these soy, fake “meat”, and processed grain products (just to name a few) are some of the most unhealthy, incredibly environmentally-unfriendly items you can purchase and eat!

Please take a few minutes to read my commentary and the response that follows. Then leave your own comment at the bottom and let your voice be heard about this important issue!

I’d like to pose a slightly different view of sustainable living, which is that eating meat is not only perfectly acceptable, but a healthy part of being human – but only as long as you are eating organically-produced, sustainable meats from healthy animals where the farmers are treating them humanely.

As long as people support industrial farming, on any level (and that includes conventional farming of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts eaten by vegans and vegetarians), we will never get the message across about sustainability on our planet. If you are purchasing vegetarian and vegan products, a great deal of these are not produced in accordance with safety nor sustainability. Just consider many of the packaged, processed products marketed toward vegetarians and vegans – they are produced with pesticides, chemicals, and genetically-modified materials.

Until we educate and inform by pulling together to support truly sustainable, clean, ethical, humane farming, we will not make a drop of difference in our habits, health, nor future on planet earth.

Humane, sustainable animal farming uses less resources and maintains the principles of stewardship toward the land (some people argue that grains and vegetable farming uses less water and other resources than animal farming). By its very nature, sustainable animal farming helps to complete the circle of life – animals graze on grass instead of being fed corn, soy, or wheat which requires a great amount of resources to maintain and is usually grown with artificial methods. The land is tended to from the animals grazing on and living as nature intended, and there is no need for chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides (just ask Joel Salatin, well-known farmer living in Virginia who runs sustainable Polyface farm).

People who consume sustainable meats eat less meat because the meat is in balance with nature and provides the body the proper nutrients and nutrition – unlike factory farmed meat which is unhealthy all around. Those eating industrial meat (or any other industrially-produced product for that matter) are getting an imbalance of nutrients (not intended by nature) and are receiving toxic substances in the body as well. Please visit Agriculture Society for more information on truly sustainable living. Find out how you can make a difference!

Raine Saunders

The response:

Dear Raine,

Thank you for your comment posted on PETA Living regarding animal products that are considered “free range” or “humane.” While we understand your argument for compassionate, sustainable farming, we do not believe that it is realistic.

It is impossible to humanely raise and kill the billions of animals slaughtered each year in the U.S. to satisfy this country’s enormous appetite for food from animals. Even if workers on factory farms were willing to give each individual animal the time and attention necessary to promote humane conditions―and concern for animals’ wants and needs on factory farms is notoriously rare―they could not possibly attend to the countless animals who are enslaved and exploited to feed our current meat habit. As for animals’ chances for a peaceful death, euthanasia by painless injection―the only true form of humane killing―is impracticable in the case of animals raised for food because it renders their flesh inedible.

Unfortunately, animals raised on many “organic” or “free-range” farms suffer the same conditions that characterize factory farms. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which defines “free-range” and “free-roaming” for labeling purposes, relies “upon producer testimonials to support the accuracy of these claims,” which are, needless to say, highly biased and, for that reason, unreliable. Most eggs labeled “free range” come from hens who are raised in dark, overcrowded sheds, much like those used to confine “broiler” chickens. Even on “humane” farms, male chicks—of no use in egg “production”—are killed upon hatching, often by suffocation or being ground up alive. When they have outlived their “usefulness,” hens are killed since farmers’ need for high profits prevents them from continuing to feed and care for animals who no longer contribute to the bottom line.

Conditions on small dairy farms are similarly cruel. Male calves, considered useless because they can’t produce milk, are usually sold to the veal industry or to larger dairy farms and eventually slaughtered. Pigs, steers, and other animals raised for meat on “humane” farms are butchered in the same terrifying slaughterhouses as animals raised on factory farms. The intense fear and pain suffered by farmed animals are among the many reasons why we at PETA advocate a vegan diet. For more information on “free range” animal products, please visit http://www.GoVeg.com/organic.asp.

Not only do we not need to eat animals’ flesh; we’re healthier if we don’t. We can help ourselves as well as animals by switching to a vegan diet. By eliminating animal products, we can also help reduce our risk of countless diseases and other health problems, including strokes, osteoporosis, kidney stones, many cancers, diabetes, hypoglycemia, kidney disease, peptic ulcers, hernias, obesity, gallstones, hypertension, and asthma, among many others.

We have so many choices as consumers today that there’s simply no reason―or excuse―to continue to raise and slaughter animals for food. The only truly humane alternative to making animals suffer is to stop buying and consuming animal products―and it’s not as hard as you may think. For a free vegetarian starter kit packed with nutrition information, shopping tips, and recipes, please visit http://www.VegStarterKit.com.

Thanks again for your inquiry.

Sincerely,

Karen Dickerson

Correspondence Assistant

The PETA Foundation

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again:

It is much cheaper putting forth the effort to prevent disease in the first place than spending your money to pay to “find a cure”.

I’d love to hear everyone’s comments, thoughts, and rebuttals.

For a great article on the finer points of the unhealthy aspects of vegetarian and vegan diets, visit Nourished Kitchen’s “49 Reasons to be a Vegetarian – A Rebuttal“.

It is also important to note that the commentary I left on the PETA Living web site was not included in the list with other comments -  it was removed. Please visit the PETA Living web site and read some of their posts, including the one linked above (incidentally, there is another article which talks about support from the American Dietetic Association. And we all know how healthy their viewpoints are!).

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this site and read the other real food articles listed there.