Friday, June 29, 2007

Matthew Scully

Here's something I mentioned a while back on my (mostly) cycling blog: Every issue, Newsweek gives it's back page to either the conservative George Will, or the liberal Anna Quindlen, to discuss whatever is on their minds. Despite the fact that I myself am pretty darn liberal, I find Quindlen boring as heck and Will quite interesting.

Last summer Will did a piece on the conservative Matthew Scully's book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.

As Will writes, Scully's argument runs along these lines:
Why is cruelty to a puppy appalling and cruelty to livestock by the billions a matter of social indifference? There cannot be any intrinsic difference of worth between a puppy and a pig.

Animal suffering on a vast scale should, Scully says, be a serious issue of public policy. He does not want to take away your BLT; he does not propose to end livestock farming. He does propose a Humane Farming Act to apply to corporate farmers the elementary standards of animal husbandry and veterinary ethics: "We cannot just take from these creatures, we must give them something in return. We owe them a merciful death, and we owe them a merciful life."

The book is from 2002. If you want to take a look at his 2005 essay (which I think led Will to the book) titled - Fear Factories: The Case for Compassionate Conservatism - for Animals, it is available here.

And I cannot BELIEVE this website he mentions in the above essay:

As for the rights of animals, rights in general are best viewed in tangible terms, with a view to actual events and consequences. Take the case of a hunter in Texas named John Lockwood, who has just pioneered the online safari. At his canned-hunting ranch outside San Antonio, he's got a rifle attached to a camera and the camera wired up to the Internet, so that sportsmen going to will actually be able to fire at baited animals by remote control from their computers. "If the customer were to wound the animal," explains the San Antonio Express-News, "a staff person on site could finish it off." The "trophy mounts" taken in these heroics will then be prepared and shipped to the client's door, and if it catches on Lockwood will be a rich man.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tyson will create fuel from animal fat?

Here are your sexiest vegetarians according to the PETA poll.

I really don't know what to make of Tyson's announcement that they're going to work with a synthetic fuel company named Syntroleum to make synthetic fuel from animal fat.

I guess the reason my spider sense starts tingling here is a) because it's Tyson and b) because it's fuel.

I suppose there might be some (relatively) innocent part of their (generally horrendous) production process where they get ample animal fat that they can easily sell off to Syntroleum, but my initial reaction is that they're just going to start squishing cows and pigs in giant orange juicers to get the fat.

And yikes! If this new company actually takes off, and Tyson (of all companies!!!) becomes a major energy supplier? Becomes the Saudi Arabia of the second half of the 21st century??

That makes me worried.

In a statement, the companies said they formed a joint venture, Dynamic Fuels LLC, to construct and operate more such facilities. Tyson will supply feedstock, mainly derived from animal fats, greases, and vegetable oils, to the plants.

Syntroleum, which converts natural gas to synthetic liquid fuels, said it expects the first facility to be located in south central United Sates.

The company expects the plant to produce about 78 million gallons per year of renewable synthetic fuel from 74 million gallons per year of feedstock beginning in 2010. Construction of the facility is expected to start in 2008.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Michael Moore & Peter Singer

I was doing a little random blog surfing and found this post on Vegan Heart Doc about a letter that PETA wrote to Michael Moore. It looks like PETA's Ingrid Newkirk was trying to sneak in a little vegetarian awareness by congratulating Moore on SICKO while telling him that he doesn't look very healthy and should probably give up meat. (the full letter can be found here).

I kind of agree with the Heart Doc that PETA's letter wasn't the best way to approach Michael Moore. "Hey Mike, you're fat, go veggie!" Hmmm. Great.

This has got me thinking though of how many people Michael Moore could turn vegetarian if he focused his camera on the U.S. factory farming system. Although people still read Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, in today's society a Michael Moore documentary would reach far more people than Singer's book would.

I wish Ms. Newkirk had approached Moore a bit more carefully, slowly pushing the factory farming system his way, hoping he'd grab hold himself. A Michael Moore documentary on factory farming would probably have an effect similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and if it didn't change laws, at the very least it would force people to think about what they were eating.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tyson and antibiotics

A big story from yesterday is that Tyson Foods is going to start selling antibiotic free chicken.


I basically think that Tyson is evil, but this is a very promising development - assuming I've put two and two together correctly here.

Aren't chickens (and cows and pigs etc) given antibiotics in order to help them survive the unbelievably wretched living conditions which are forced upon them by Tyson? So if Tyson is saying they're giving up antibiotics, doesn't that mean also that they're going to raise/house the chickens in a healthy environment which the chickens will be able to survive on their own?

I used the Google News Search to check a few different stories about Tyson, but nothing seems to mention that they're going to raise the chickens in better conditions.

Here's some industry spin for you as well, from CNN's version of the story:

(Tyson chief executive) Bond said that while the company uses antibiotics at the farm level "for therapeutic reasons" only, it believes the move to drug-free poultry is part of its strategy to "offer meaningful benefits to the masses."
Therapeutic Reasons - that's a laugh, i.e. so that they can survive the ammonia used to negate the stench of the chickencrap laced (up till now anyway) with drugs? And survive the close quarters, and the debeaking etc etc?

The National Chicken Council, a trade group, responded to Tyson's announcement by contending that all chicken marketed today is "antibiotic-free in the sense that no antibiotic residues are present in the meat, due to the withdrawal periods (following usage and before slaughter) and other precautions required by the government and observed" by poultry producers.

Hey, you can trust the National Chicken Council that nothing like this is happening.
And this guy is just a liar:
A USDA Inspector named Ronnie Sarratt was quoted in one report saying, "I've had birds that had yellow pus visibly coming out of their insides, and I was told to save the breast meat off them and even save the second joint of the wing. You might get those breasts today at a store in a package of breast fillets. And you might get the other in a pack of buffalo wings."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

the willingness to avert your eyes

This shall be the last time I mention Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I've finally finished it - speed reading through the last chapter where he hunts his own meal - and the last thing I want to talk about is his take on the ethics of eating animals.

Pollan isn't a vegetarian, although he did go veggie while he was in the process of trying to justify to himself whether or not he could eat meat. Although he never actually states his position, it's fairly clear that Pollan is an omnivore who finds it defensible to eat animals raised on organic / natural farms who lived a good life and had a quick clean death. What he does not find defensible is eating animals - like the billions going through the factory farms - that did nothing but suffer for their entire existence before they reached our plates.

Pollan emphasizes several times the fact that it is incumbent upon the eater to truly look at, and make a conscious moral decision, about what he/she is eating. On page 312 he writes about the choice you have to make after you accept the evidence that an animal was tortured to get to your dinner table You look away - or you stop eating animals.

On page 317 after briefly mentioning CAFO's and how they treat animals as "production units" which can't feel pain, he writes Since no thinking person can possibly believe this anymore, industrial animal agriculture depends on a suspension of disbelief on the part of the people who operate it and a willingness to avert one's eyes on the part of everyone else.

On page 332:
Sometimes I think that all it would take to clarify our feelings about eating meat, and in the process begin to redeem animal agriculture, would be to simply pass a law requiring all the sheet-metal walls of all the CAFO's, and even the concrete walls of the slaughterhouses, to be replaced with glass. If there's any new right we need to establish, maybe this is the one: the right, I mean, to look...
... Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do. Tail docking and sow crates and beak clipping would disappear overnight, and the days of slaughtering four hundred head of cattle an hour would promptly come to an end - for who could stand the sight? Yes, meat would get more expensive. We'd probably eat a lot less of it, too, but maybe when we did eat animals we'd eat them with the consciousness, ceremony, and respect they deserve.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Canada's Food Guide

The new Canada Food Guide has been out for a little while now. When I first looked through it I was really impressed with their MEAT section, because they simply cannot tell people fast enough that they should be switching from meat to meat alternatives. Heck, the section might as well just be called "Protein."

What I've copied below is the very first page from the Educator's Guide to the Food Guide. As you can see, they say Have meat alternatives often.. three times. It's almost the only thing your eyes see on this page.

I think this is great, especially when you remember this story about American farm lobby groups going nuts in the 70's/80's when the U.S. government made a feeble attempt to recommend that people stop eating red meat.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Veggies are sexy

The June 7 Calgary Herald reprinted a story from Newsday titled Sexy greens growing about GoVeg's 2007 Sexiest Vegetarian Poll.

It was fairly interesting - in a quick hollywood gossip kind of way. Apparently Natalie Portman had fake leather shoes made for her role in V for Vendetta, and Joaquin Phoenix had fake leather cowboy boots made for Walk the Line.

But what is really interesting is this passage about an unknown (to me anyway) Democratic presidential hopeful:

Yet California isn't the only bastion for non-carnivores. If Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich were to win the 2008 U.S. presidential election, he'd break the meat barrier -- as opposed to the more hyped race and gender barriers -- as the first vegetarian in the White House.

So I went on to Kucinich's website and poked around a little bit. He's just launched his first television ad titled No More Blood for Oil, and I think it's quite good. One of the numbers flashed is Oil Company Profit from Stealing Iraq's Oil.

That's pretty funny - despite the fact that Kucinich doesn't really stand a chance, the Democrats are offering the United States the potential for their first black, female, or vegetarian president.

And the Republicans are offering very few ideas for how to get Beyond Bush:

The presidential campaign could have provided the opportunity for a national discussion of the new world we live in. So far, on the Republican side, it has turned into an exercise in chest-thumping. Whipping up hysteria requires magnifying the foe. The enemy is vast, global and relentless. Giuliani casually lumps together Iran and Al Qaeda. Mitt Romney goes further, banding together all the supposed bad guys. "This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hizbullah and Hamas and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," he recently declared.