Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hachooo.... oh, I mean "oinkchoo"

May 1st Update - Well, since I wrote this post a day or two ago, the "confirmed deaths" number has dropped down quite a bit. Quoting the World Health Organization's numbers, Bloomberg says there are only 10 confirmed deaths. Beware the difference between suspected deaths and confirmed deaths, and the need of the mainstream media to sensationalize their stories!


I haven't been in a rush to write about the swine flu, because no one needs a vegan saying "I told you so!" right now, and also because health officials have not been able to pinpoint the cause of the flu, i.e. they haven't said what all us veggies are probably thinking, that it started at a factory pig farming operation.

Within the counter-press however, connections are starting to be made. In Grist Online, Tom Philpott covers some evidence that the flu originated with a Smithfield owned pig farm.

An article yesterday in the Associated Press covers the same ground:

LA GLORIA, Mexico (AP) — Residents in this community of 3,000 believe their town is ground zero for the swine flu epidemic, even if health officials aren't saying so.

More than 450 residents say they're suffering from respiratory problems from contamination spread by pig waste at nearby breeding farms co-owned by a U.S. company. Officials with the company say they've found no sign of swine flu on its farms, and Mexican authorities haven't determined the outbreak's origin.

As far back as late March, roughly one-sixth of the residents here in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz began complaining of respiratory infections that they say can be traced to a farm that lies upwind five miles (8.5 kilometers) to the north, in the town of Xaltepec.

But Jose Luis Martinez, a 34-year-old resident of La Gloria, said he knew the minute he learned about the outbreak on the news and heard a description of the symptoms: fever, coughing, joint aches, severe headache and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.

"When we saw it on the television, we said to ourselves, 'This is what we had,'" he said Monday. "It all came from here. ... The symptoms they are suffering are the same that we had here."

If this new outbreak of the Swine Flu (it has existed before) did indeed start at this Smithfield Farm, do you think we'll actually learn a lesson from the 120 or so deaths that have occurred so far?

Probably not. There is no end to the evidence that factory farming is simply outrageous. I've written about this before (many times) and so has just about everyone else. But if hog farmers continue to win senate seats and bend legislation so that it protects environmentally catastrophic hog operations instead of penalizes them, what chance do we have to start making improvements?

P.S. - Smithfield is the company behind this God awful story from Rolling Stone a few years back.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

well, I don't "love" tofu...

There's a story on youtube about the Colorado Motor Vehicles department changing its mind, and taking away a woman's ILVTOFU license plate.

Oh well - I don't blame Colorado Motor Vehicles all that much. It was probably the right decision. What I'm wondering is if the woman who requested the license plate actually noticed the other interpretation of the letters she was asking for.

And this quote is from coverage of this story from Denver Westword News:

Not surprisingly, PETA has already weighed in on this shocking rejection of not-exactly-free speech (after all, you have to pay for vanity plates). "It's shocking to us that the DMV calls a vegetarian plate offensive," says spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt. "We think the DMV can do a lot of good by reconsidering its decision and allowing people to discover the joy of soy."

Hmmmm.... ILVTOFU... I hope that readers of veggie blogs would look at that plate and say "Hey! That guy loves tofu", but I suspect that the majority of the population would see it the other way, and the plate would rather be allowing people to discover the joy of f*&cking.

I mean, do you guys remember the Roger Clemens Vegan story? This is an adult multi-millionaire American who had never even heard the word vegan.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

wells and divining rods

Economist magazine has an article in its April 11 - 17 issue titled Sin Aqua Non. Their take on the international water situation is that the world has enough water, but we're wasting so much of it that we're creating water shortages.

How are we wasting it? Well - one primary way is by eating too much meat.


Two global trends have added to the pressure on water. Both are likely to accelerate over coming decades.

The first is demography. Over the past 50 years, as the world’s population rose from 3 billion to 6.5 billion, water use roughly trebled. On current estimates, the population is likely to rise by a further 2 billion by 2025 and by 3 billion by 2050. Demand for water will rise accordingly.

Or rather, by more. Possibly a lot more. It is not the absolute number of people that makes the biggest difference to water use but changing habits and diet. Diet matters more than any single factor because agriculture is the modern Agasthya, the mythical Indian giant who drank the seas dry. Farmers use about three-quarters of the world’s water; industry uses less than a fifth and domestic or municipal use accounts for a mere tenth.

Different foods require radically different amounts of water. To grow a kilogram of wheat requires around 1,000 litres. But it takes as much as 15,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef. The meaty diet of Americans and Europeans requires around 5,000 litres of water a day to produce. The vegetarian diets of Africa and Asia use about 2,000 litres a day (for comparison, Westerners use just 100-250 litres a day in drinking and washing).

So the shift from vegetarian diets to meaty ones—which contributed to the food-price rise of 2007-08—has big implications for water, too. In 1985 Chinese people ate, on average, 20kg of meat; this year, they will eat around 50kg. This difference translates into 390km3 (1km3 is 1 trillion litres) of water—almost as much as total water use in Europe.

The shift of diet will be impossible to reverse since it is a product of rising wealth and urbanisation. In general, “water intensity” in food increases fastest as people begin to climb out of poverty, because that is when they start eating more meat. So if living standards in the poorest countries start to rise again, water use is likely to soar.

Moreover, almost all the 2 billion people who will be added to the world’s population between now and 2030 are going to be third-world city dwellers—and city people use more water than rural folk. The Food and Agriculture Organisation reckons that, without changes in efficiency, the world will need as much as 60% more water for agriculture to feed those 2 billion extra mouths. That is roughly 1,500km3 of the stuff—as much as is currently used for all purposes in the world outside Asia.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

zucchini bread!

Perhaps because vegans are geniuses, AND because great (or "genius") minds tend to think alike, Andie over at Newbie Vegetarian and I are both writing about Zucchini Bread at the moment.


Along with a poor man's bean salad (that I found somewhere on the internet), Zucchini Bread is one of the few staple dishes that I make. It can serve as either a dessert, or, because it is so filling, a full-on meal.

My wife found this recipe in a book called Breaking the food seduction which was written by the guy behind the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I like these guys (and agree with them that meat is basically unhealthy), but you have to understand that they are the medical version of PETA. They once tried to have hot dogs and processed meats banned from U.S. schools because of the well proven links between these meats and problems like cancer.


Anyway - the zucchini bread is pretty simple to make. Basically you put all the dry ingredients together in one bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together in another bowl, and then combine them and bake.


2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves

1 ½ cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small)
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
¼ cup apple juice concentrate, thawed (undiluted) – I use orange juice concentrate sometimes too
¼ cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp oil (sunflower or canola)
1 tsp vanilla

½ cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray (I use a 8 x 11ish glass baking dish OR a regular loaf tin). In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. In a separate smaller bowl, mix together remaining (wet) ingredients, excluding walnuts.

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix just until dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Stir in walnuts and mix until evenly distributed. Spoon batter into baking dish and bake on centre rack for 50 to 55 minutes. Turn onto cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing or wrapping. It will keep at room temperature up to 3 days or refrigerate for up to 7 days.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

open up your veins

I think I've alluded to the problem of how antibiotic use in factory farming leads to super viruses, but I don't think I've ever done a post about it. I heard a piece on the radio about it this morning, and then used google news to find some stories on the topic. The best one I could find was from the Los Angeles Times and called A healthy resistance to antibiotics.

The problem is this:
- The sheer unhealthiness of factory farming (the confinement, the injection of steroids, the lack of exercise, and even completely f%$*cking up the animals' diet as when cows, who eat grass, are fed soy and estrogen instead) would kill all the animals unless they were pumped full of antibiotics to try and keep them alive.

- Bacteria, viruses and pathogens such as MRSA are in the livestock and are constantly battling with the antibiotics fed to the animals. Through this battle they get stronger and become resistant to the antibiotics (which are the same drugs that humans use and need to fight infections etc).

- So, these antibiotic resistant pathogens then make their way into the human population, and since the pathogens have already encountered and defeated our medications while in the animal population, we no longer have any way to treat humans infected with the virus.

As the above mentioned LA Times article mentions, MRSA all by itself kills more people in the U.S. each year than AIDS.
The rise of bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which kills more people in this country each year than AIDS, is believed to be a consequence of the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. Low doses of the medications have become ubiquitous in the livestock industry, mixed into feed to enhance growth and prevent the diseases that sweep through crowded pens.

A panel of experts found "clear evidence of adverse human health consequences due to resistant organisms resulting from nonhuman usage of antimicrobials," the World Health Organization reported in 2004.

Image is from an online article titled From Dyes to Peptides: The Evolution of Antibiotic Drugs. It also provides some nice coverage of this issue:

In the 1950s, it was noted that antibiotics fed to livestock increased growth rates and animal size leading and thus increased production. It quickly became common practice to include antibiotics in animal feed. When antibiotics began to be used as food additives, there was no regulation behind it. Any antibiotic including those used for human therapy could be used.

At the same time, it became common practice to house livestock in confined and concentrated quarters. Farm animals such as chickens when allowed to roam free have limited egg and meat production, so farmers began to collect large numbers of chickens together to increase production. Factory farming led to the rapid spread of infections throughout farms and the use of antibiotics vastly increased to try to counter it. With the common use of antibiotics in farming, resistant genes were emerging in livestock bacteria and residual antibiotics were being ingested by humans, contributing to antibiotic resistance in human pathogens.