Buddhist Inmate Denied Vegetarian Diet

Seth Victor

The Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, CT is required by directive to provide “all nutritional requirements as determined by a Department of Correction licensed dietitian, without the presence of food items Veggie Fishforbidden by religious dogma” to all its inmates. Howard Cosby is a practicing non-violent Buddhist, and while not all branches of Buddhisim require a vegetarian lifestyle, Mr. Crosby identifies as a person who wishes to not cause harm to other living animals. Mr. Crosby, however, has regularly been served fish while incarcerated, because the department of corrections does not consider fish to be meat. Now to be fair, this position isn’t wholly out of line with the arbitrary classifications animals receive by the government. It is not, however, an encouraging example of semantics. If the Connecticut Department of Corrections has the authority to declare what is and is not meat, what is stopping it from saying cow or chicken is not meat? If the only criteria is its own opinion, the answer is, not much. One may think that common sense would intervene, but common sense hasn’t prevented the staff at Corrigan-Radgowski from confusing convenient Catholic loopholes with an entirely different doctrine. Now I know that once you are in prison you cease to be a person that the country cares about, your rights don’t apply, and as long as you stay out of sight it doesn’t matter how long your sentence is. But let’s at least learn what a vegetable is.

New European Study Confirms English Cooking Is Still Bad

Seth Victor

Though the title of this post is a bit hyperbolic in invoking the classic stereotype about English foodEnglish Breakfast, a new study posted in BMC Medicine confirms that processed meat, such as that found in the classic English Breakfast pictured to the right,  increases the risk of premature death. The study evaluated “448,568 men and women without prevalent cancer, stroke, or myocardial infarction, and with complete information on diet, smoking, physical activity and body mass index, who were between 35 and 69 years old.”  You can read the abstract here. One of the takeaways is that “if everyone in the study consumed no more than 20g of processed meat a day then 3% of the premature deaths could have been prevented.”

Continue reading

Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

As reported by Mother Jones, there is a lovely outcome to the government’s sequestering: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would be slashed by $51 million. This would result in a furlough of as much as 15 days for all employees, including 8,400 meat inspectors, as well as a loss of 2 billion pounds of meat, between 2.8 and 3.3 billion pounds of poultry, and over 200 million pounds of egg products. Meat shortages may also lead to price increases, leading to a domino effect on restaurants, grocers, and small businesses. There are also concerns that food safety ‘could be compromised by the illegal selling and distribution of uninspected meat, poultry, and egg products.'”

Or, as author Lemony Snicket might phrase it, “The news reported that there was going to be a loss, a word that here means ’13 million cows and over a billion chickens were killed for no use at all, because a bunch of people were busy fighting over other things, like how much money they could spend on themselves.'”

Why horse meat tacos are the least of our worries

Seth Victor

Taco Bell moved to pull beef off its UK menus this past Friday because of traces of horse meat found in the product. A spokesperson for the company commented: “We apologize to our customers and take this matter very seriously as food quality is our highest priority.” The problem with this statement is that it calls into question just what Taco Bell considers to be “food quality.” Obviously phenylbutazone isn’t something Taco Bell wants in its products. This is a company that is trying to brand itself as something more than fast food, from the “Think Outside the Box” campaign, to the recent artesian kitchen look with chef Lorena Garcia and her supposed quest for the “highest quality ingredients.” Not convinced? You can go to the Taco Bell website and learn more (or in keeping with the company slogan, Learn Más!). Here, at last, you can rest easy knowing that Taco Bell uses 88% premium ground beef, and 12% signature recipe. What? 12% of its product is. . . a recipe? The assurance I should get by hearing this supposed break down of ingredients is undermined when I haven’t a clue what that means. The ad tells me to go to the website learn what the recipe is, but it’s buried. Hunt it down though, and it comes out to water and a bunch of seasoning. So no worries there, I guess. How about this premium beef? Continue reading

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

Late last month PETA filed a suit against Hot’s Restaurant Group in Los Angeles County, CA, alleging that the defendant violated the California state law that went into effect earlier this year prohibiting the sale of foie gras. The essence of the hots-kitchencomplaint is that Hot’s Kitchen, the specific restaurant in question, has skirted the law by selling a hamburger for an increased price and including with the hamburger a “complimentary side of foie gras.” Being that foie gras is sold legally at gourmet restaurants around the country for a pretty penny, on its face Hot’s seems to be blatantly rebelling against California’s ban, taking a position common among many restaurant owners. Taking the ethical debate over foie gras (ahem) off the table for a moment, is what Hot’s Kitchen doing illegal? Continue reading

Foie Gras, with Hollande-aise Sauce

Seth Victor

Recently French President François Hollande pledged to fight California’s ban on foie gras. How he plans to do this, I am not sure, and the president himself has admitted that he cannot fight the law directly. Fearing that California’s legislation will encourage other states and, perhaps closer to home for the new leader, other EU countries to implement similar laws, he vows to use free trade treaties to continue to export this traditional French product while “bombard[ing] US political leaders with gifts of foie gras ‘for their own great enjoyment.'” How kind of him. Continue reading

Youth Can’t Handle the Truth?

Seth Victor

I happened to watch CNN this afternoon at the deli where I had lunch. The featured story focused on what age is too young for a child to be vegan.

Recently there has been a stir surrounding “Vegan is Love” by author Ruby Roth. To quote the Amazon summary,”Roth illustrates how our daily choices ripple out locally and globally, conveying what we can do to protect animals, the environment, and people across the world. Roth explores the many opportunities we have to make ethical decisions: refusing products tested on or made from animals; avoiding sea parks, circuses, animal races, and zoos; choosing to buy organic food; and more.”

Such brashness.

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The Other Greenhouse “Gas”: Cows & Climate Change

Jillian N. Bittner

You drive to the supermarket in your “green” car, checking your back seat before you leave for your re-usable bags– yet you stand on line about to purchase the packaged beef sitting at the bottom of your cart and do not stop to think twice about the environment? – Perhaps you should.

While the environmental legal community emphasizes the desperate need to harness and reduce CO2 emissions as a way to mitigate the current and impending consequences of greenhouse gases on climate change, the community at large has ignored the impact of a greater culprit – CH4, or rather methane gas.  Animal agriculture accounts not only as a source of CO2, or nitrous oxide (N2O; another potent greenhouse gas), but is the number one source of methane gas worldwide – beating out the effects of vehicles and airplanes combined. But why should the environmental and legal communities be more concerned with CH4? According to the EPA, “methane is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than CO2 by weight.”

Cows, and the corresponding beef industry, are the largest contributors of methane gas. Cows produce this effect partly through belching and flatulence as a consequence of their digestive systems, which are characteristic of ruminant animals. Yet CAFOs remain unregulated. Continue reading

Planet of the Hominids

WETA/20th Century Fox: The ape rebellion in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

ANDREW C. REVKIN  (x-post from Dot Earth

6:35 p.m. | Updated 

Last weekend, I took my two sons, 13 and 21, to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which we thoroughly enjoyed on several levels. It’s a rousing slave revolt, an entertaining techno-thriller, a drama about a dysfunctional household (chimp included) dealing with disability and job-related stresses (in the conflicted genetic engineer played by James Franco). (Manohla Dargis liked it, too, as did my sons’ favorite critics, the team at Spill.com.

It’s also a film about the troubled relationship of Homo sapiens to its closest kin, the other species in our taxonomic family, the Hominidae. Abuses have occurred from the forests of the Congo basin and Borneo to the research centers of drug companies and universities.

In the realm of drugs and medicine, there’s certain research that can only be done on apes or other primates. Where does one draw the line, in terms of which research goals are lofty enough to justify killing or causing pain to animals. Are some animals too sentient for such uses?

Meat Without Slaughter

burger                                                                               photo by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

ANDREW C. REVKIN  (x-post from Dot Earth)
Can you have a hamburger without a slaughterhouse?  Michael Specter provides a fresh look at the prospect of growing meat in labs instead offeed lots and pastures in The New Yorker this week.

In a podcast accompanying the article, Specter acknowledges there is “ghoulish” aspect to “lab meat,” but notes that industrial-scale livestock husbandry is ghoulish, as well. He then ticks down the benefits, beyond the ethical one of having meat without slaughterhouses, if this technology can prove profitable. These include less demand for land and pesticides, fewer emissions of methane and more options for developing foods without harmful health impacts. Continue reading

The American Diet of Meat

David Cassuto

With a hat tip to Scu and a huzzah to the NY Times, this graphic speaks for itself:

“Petrie-Pork”: The Future for Meatatarians?

Rosana Escobar Brown

Test tube tacos, in-vitro veal parm, and beaker burgers—sounds like something more from a Jetson’s episode than from a leading science journal, but could it be for real?

Scientists have been developing lab-created meat for over a decade and now it seems as though this man-made meat might just become reality…someday.  PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) seems to think so also.  In 2008, PETA announced a “contest” on their website offering 1 million dollars in grant funds to the scientist who can create chicken meat that would be competitively cost effective on a grand scale and ready to market by 2012.  The funds have yet to be claimed and reader opinions regarding the PETA “contest” range from accepting, to skeptical, to belligerent.  Certain blogs on the topic fear the worst including unsafe food, and the source where cells are derived from.  One blog post even cries out that stem cells come from humans making the consumption of in-vitro meat akin to cannibalism.

Don’t fret just yet; the cells used to develop this man-made meat actually come from animals, not humans.  According to a recent article from Nature.com, a small biopsy is taken from the animal which is left unharmed; alternatively, embryonic stem cells would provide limitless supplies of meat but attempts at development have not been successful.

A research laboratory in Holland has shown the most successful progress in the field of meat-making and that is also where it is said that the only petrie-pork has been tasted on record.     Continue reading

Dietary Guidelines — The Politics of Health

David Cassuto

From the Cynicism Desk:

The USDA is preparing to unveil  its most recent revision of its much maligned dietary guidelines.  Come December, we’ll see to what new levels of obfuscation and avoidance the good folks at USDA can aspire.  The lobbying is already ferocious.  According to the WaPo:

In public comments, the meat lobby has opposed strict warnings on sodium that could cast a negative light on lunch meats. The milk lobby has expressed concerns about warnings to cut back on added sugars, lest chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milks fall from favor. Several members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation also weighed in against added-sugar restrictions in defense of the cranberry.

Of course, amid all this self-interested carrying-on it’s hard to place the blame for the ever more incoherent guidelines solely on the Agency.  Elected officials are terrified of demanding anything that might be considered anti-meat or processed food.  Indeed, George McGovern arguably lost his job (as a senator) for recommending that Americans consume less red meat.  His comments generated a mad frenzy within in the cattle industry and he lost his seat in 1980 (he represented South Dakota). Traumatized by McGovernGate, the guidelines set what at the time was the gold standard for doublespeak by recommending that we eat “meat, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake.”   Continue reading

Brasilia and Now Ghent (Belgium) — Still Talking Climate Change & Agriculture

David Cassuto

So here I am on a plane again – this time to Belgium on my way to the Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, which is taking place in Ghent.  I’m back in steerage this time; no business class for our hero.  I swore I would never go back but here I am.

Amidst all the hubbub, I need to recap my time in Brasilia even as I head for Europe.  Brasilia was a very interesting time and I once more want to reiterate my gratitude to the U.S. State Department for making my time in Brazil so rich and rewarding and for taking such good care of me.  This was my first time in Brazil’s capital and I enjoyed it – from the stunning architecture to the fact that the city is laid out like an airplane.  In addition to speaking at private university (entirely successful and well-attended), I lectured also to a government think tank called IPEA.  There, I encountered probing questions from a very informed audience.  When I mentioned the idea of treating meat consumption as a luxury for purposes of regulating and taxing carbon emissions, one of my hosts asked what I thought of the idea of a “meat cap.”  Not only is it an intriguing notion about which I need to think more, but so much do I love the term that even if it were a completely wacky idea, I would probably support it anyway.                    Continue reading

Powerful Final Day at the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights

Elizabeth Bennett

The last day of the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights began with a heartfelt lecture by conference organizer Heron Santana on climate change and animal rights. Professor Santana spoke about the fact that citizens of Brazil are beginning to eat more meat and the country exports an increasing amount of live animals, as they used to do with slaves.

He also discussed the health risks associated with eating meat and our ability to decrease meat production by decreasing consumption.  He explained that there is a wall of prejudice against other species that we must break down in order to abolish animal slavery.  Professor Santana concluded by stressing the importance of speaking out for animals and making changes in our daily lives to work toward an end to these violations against nonhuman animals.    Continue reading

Live From the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights in Brazil

Elizabeth Bennett

DAY 1 Ola from the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights.  First, I would like to say that I am very thankful that Pace Law School and the Center for Environmental Legal Studies provided me with the opportunity to attend this prestigious and world-renowned conference and for all of the conference organizers’ hard work and hospitality.  As the presentations I have attended thus far have been informative and thought-provoking for me, I will do my best to share my experience with you.

Upon arrival, a symphony was playing.  After introductions and honorariums, Professor David Cassuto of Pace Law School and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE) spoke about current trends in environmental law and the animal world.  He discussed the intersection of animal and environmental law and how they often clash, despite the many common grounds upon which they merge.  He went on to discuss the legal framework for protecting animals, distinguishing between animal welfarists and animal rights activists, stating that animal welfarists wish for stronger laws, while animal rights activists believe that humans should not use animals at all.  He also pointed out that in the United States legal system, animals are property and the laws concerning animals regulate relationships between humans about animals.  He made an interesting comparison between the appropriateness of humans making laws on behalf of nonhuman animals and politicians enacting laws on our behalf without truly knowing us, what we desire, or how we would like to be protected.  This comparison comes as an interesting response to doubts about human ability and right to make laws about non-human animals when they do not completely understand what animals want or need.

Professor Cassuto also discussed whether animals can be considered “persons” under the law and how this would change the way we protect them.  This served as a great opening to the Conference, as many of the presentations that followed addressed these questions and dealt with similar issues. Continue reading

Thinking About Pigs

Bruce Wagman

Pigs have been on my mind a lot lately.  Years ago I met several of them at the Farm Sanctuary home in Orland, California, and while I already had appreciated their complex personalities and emotional lives, getting to spend time with them changed the knowledge to revelation.  We sat on a riverbank with Gene and scratched pig bellies in the sun and watched them playing, eating, lounging.  The grunts of joy and doglike behavior was notable from the guy I was petting.  He was halfway onto his 1000-plus pound back, grunting and snuffling while I rubbed and cooed to him.  That day, probably fifteen years ago, has never left me, and my love of his species was further informed by my visits and introductions to the great pig friends I have made at Animal Place.  They impressed me as a thoughtful, prescient, and extremely playful bunch; eminently curious, very thoughtful, and wise. 

That’s a great image but mainly, for the past ten years or so, when I think of pigs, I think of mother-torture.  From dealing with the issues and cases, I now have, seared in my mind, images of “gestation crates” or “sow stalls,” those confinement technique weapons of cruelty that the modern pig meat industry utilizes for commercial efficiency, while simultaneously robbing their pigs of every sense of being an individual, a pig, a mother.    A select group of female pigs are chosen, presumably for their genetic superiority, to be turned into living machines who are repeatedly impregnated until they are worn out and wasted by the industry and then thrown out like so many pounds of trash.  During their lives they go from gestation crate (while pregnant) to farrowing crate where, after giving birth, they are placed so that their young can suckle but cannot otherwise interact with their mom, who is again kept on a concrete slab inside bars, in an area that is usually slightly smaller than the mother, so that she not only has to lie in her waste, but she is also pushed into metal bars 24-7.  Pigs in these confinement situations suffer in pain from the lack of exercise and movement, and experience psychological damage from the lifetime of deprivation and denial. Continue reading

Burying Factory Farms with Faint Praise?

David Cassuto

Not too long ago, I blogged about Beppe Bigazzi, the Italian tv host who advocated for stewing cats.  My working theory was that Bigazzi could not possibly have been stupid enough not to know his remarks would create a backlash.  If so, then he was being wonderfully subversive  in a manner only available to those who are full participants in the culture they critique.

I had the same thought recently when reading this  NYT piece by Adam Shriver last week (admittedly, this thought did not occur to me when reading Jennifer Church’s earlier post on Shriver’s writings).  Mr. Shriver opined that since factory farms are inevitable (because they produce the meat we eat), we should turn our attention to genetically removing the pain centers in the animals we torture.  The responses to Shriver’s piece took him to task for the bald stupidity of his argument (starting with his failure to interrogate the assumption that factory farms are necessary).  Continue reading

To Stew a Cat

David Cassuto

According to an Italian cooking show host, cat stew is a delicacy.  Beppe Bigazzi recently declared that: “Cat, soaked for three days in the running water of a stream” in Tuscany “comes out with its meat white, and I assure you — I have eaten it many times — that it is a delicacy.”  He also noted that consuming cat is no more or less bizarre than eating pigeon, rabbit or chicken.  Continue reading

Where Have All The Rational People Gone?

[The following post is written by one my Animal Law students who prefers to remain anonymous --dnc]

I read an article recently that really offended me. The article was written on November 21, 2009 by Gary Steiner and was published in the New York Times Op-Ed section (Steiner’s piece has already been discussed  on this blog here).

The first line in this article that bothered me actually did not originate from him. He quotes Issac Bashevis Singer in his story “The Letter Writer” as saying that the killing of animals for food is the “eternal Treblinka.” For those of you who are not aware, Treblinka was a Nazi extermination camp. In one year there were 850,000 people killed there. The problem I have with Singer’s comparison is that there was no benefit whatsoever to the Nazis by killing these people. Of course many Animal Rights activists do not think it is right to kill animals for human benefit, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who denies that the humans who do kill animals gain a benefit from them. In fact, I think the whole issue is whether it is right for humans to kill animals for their benefit. You may not feel the benefit is justified, but we are not talking about wanton slaughter like there was in Treblinka.

Please just read this short article about Treblinka at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treblinka_extermination_camp, and then I feel that you will agree that to even repeat this ridiculous comparison destroys any validity that could possibly have come out of this article. That is my problem with Steiner. What would possess him to read this ridiculous comparison and then quote it? Obviously he read it and said something to the effect of “hey, wait a second, that’s right. Slaughtering animals for a benefit to human’s is exactly the same as a mass extermination of humans for absolutely no reason.” And then he decided to quote it. All I can say to him is, well I think Abraham Lincoln said it best, sometimes it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

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Eating Like a Rogue

Vanessa Merton

A bit of wisdom from Sarah Palin’s new book:

“If any vegans came over for dinner, I could whip them up a salad, then explain my philosophy on being a carnivore,” she wrote. “If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?”  Follow this link for photo of SP with caribou:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/11/palins-book-sparks-republican-war-on-vegetarians.html

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