The Expanding Circle

…health, the environment, and social justice…

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Meta

Posts Tagged ‘dairy’

Survey on using animal products

Posted by tinako on May 13, 2015

Prof. Scott Plous

Prof. Scott Plous

Wesleyan U. Social Psychology Professor Scott Plous studies people’s attitudes towards using animal products.  I’m taking his intro to social psych online course and we had to participate in this interesting survey.  I plan to read his research, but this survey shows you what the front end looks like (at least part of it – your answers determine what further questions you get, like a “Write your own adventure.”  It’s open to the public, so give it a try, help Prof Plous figure out what’s going on.

Posted in AR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Revived AR website with local bloggers

Posted by tinako on March 2, 2015

aralogo521x521I’m in the local AR group Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate N.Y.  We just re-launched our website,, with a schedule of local writers contributing to our blog a few times a week.

Check it out and subscribe by email or social media for updates.

Posted in AR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by tinako on August 19, 2014

20140417173626-cowspiracy_posterThe movie Cowspiracy has come out.  I was so excited to learn that someone was finally asking these questions – why aren’t environmental organizations talking about livestock’s impact on the environment?  It’s such a glaring omission.  I supported the filmmakers on Indiegogo, so I received my promised DVD a few days ago.  You can look up local screenings at their web site.

The film is very well done, and I think it could have a big impact if it is put before local environmental leaders.  Two local vegan/AR organizations I’m in are going to co-host a showing.  Don’t miss it, and be sure to recommend it to your “environmentalist meat-eater” friends.

Posted in Environment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Surprising Speaker

Posted by tinako on July 8, 2014

The audience’s reaction is what’s interesting to me in this video about food marketing.

I’ve never seen anything like this and really wasn’t expecting her closing.  Sometimes I think surprise is the only way to get through.

Posted in Animals, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Say No to Animal Gifting Hunger Organizations

Posted by tinako on March 13, 2014

I have no problem recounting statistics about the environmental problems caused by livestock here in the U.S., and taking into consideration that Americans can choose to eat a healthy diet containing no animal products.  But when it comes to countries where marginal farmland and subsistence farming may make the issues more complex, I stayed out of it.

This article, “10 Reasons to Say No to Animal Gifting Hunger Organizations,” dives right in.  Have you been told their land will support nothing but grazing animals?  Have you been offered the image of cows and goats wandering around the homestead eating plants that were of no use anyway, producing free milk which is healthy and nutritious for starving people?  Find out.

Posted in Animals, Environment, Nutrition, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Does Art Respect Animals?

Posted by tinako on July 25, 2013

Another blog, Honk if You’re Vegan, is running a series on my art.  This is part two: Does Art Respect Animals?, wherein I wonder whether artist’s needs to see animals a certain way really does affect the artwork.

Posted in Animals, Art, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

An Artist’s Vegan Journey

Posted by tinako on July 23, 2013

Another blog, Honk if You’re Vegan, is running a series on my art.  This is part one: An Artist’s Vegan Journey, about how I became vegan.

Posted in Animals, Art, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dairy Dilemma

Posted by tinako on January 19, 2013

As part of a local environmental organization’s initiative to increase packaging recycling in school lunchrooms, I’ve been taking a turn going in to our school district primary school once a month and helping the kids recycle their lunch materials.  These are first and second graders, so they are sweet and fun but need a good deal of assistance.  In case you’re wondering about the details, there are about 200 kids eating at once, and every table gets a bin to toss their recyclables in, and in one cafeteria a student from that table brings their bin up to the sink and recycles everything with my help.  In the other cafeteria, I go and collect the bins after lunch and process them myself.  We recycle rinsed milk cartons, plastic cups and lids which fruits and veggies come in, plastic “silverware,” milk/juice boxes and pouches, water bottles, and chip bags.  Unfortunately they still use Styrofoam trays which we can’t recycle.  It is painful to watch the trash fill up with those, used for 15 minutes and lasting 400 years.  Of course it would be great if the district used reusable items, but they got rid of their dishwashing (and cooking) abilities when they shrank the kitchens to make room for more students 10-15 years ago or so.  So we are doing the best we can.  About half the kids bring their lunches and don’t generate much trash.

I didn’t anticipate when I signed up for this just how much milk I’d be handling.  Each needs to be opened up and given a quick rinse, but frequently the milk needs to be dumped first.  I pour a lot of milk down the drain in my two hours.  In addition to coming home smelling like it, it makes me very sad to think what the cow went through to provide what I’m dumping.  She desperately wanted to give it to her calf, who wanted desperately to have it, but the USDA school lunch program forces it on children who don’t need it, want it, or drink it.

Well, most drink some of it.  From memory, I estimate that about 40% of the kids get milk, 90% of the milk chosen is chocolate (even when the kids don’t open it), 30% of the cartons are completely consumed, another 40% are partly consumed, 25% opened but pretty full, and 5% are unopened.

This last time I went in, the leader told us we had the option of saving the unopened milks either for our families or the food pantry.  And so here is my dilemma.  Do I save milk, which I don’t think is particularly healthy, especially the 90% that is chocolate (22 grams of sugar, almost two tablespoons, in one cup of milk), to provide to hungry families, or open this junk the cows suffered for and pour it down the drain?  Is this sugar-milk less wasted if it is processed through a human gut than directly down the drain?  Am I a vegan promoting milk by providing it to the poor?  Is it arrogant of me to presume to choose for them, or is it caring to not dump USDA surplus sugar-milk on them?  What if it was candy instead?  Is it my right as a volunteer to decide according to my own deepest value, compassion?  If I don’t pass on this milk, will someone purchase or donate replacement milk, at the cost of further animal suffering, or will an alternative be more or less healthy, compassionate, and wasteful to the environment?

Having to make a quick decision, I thought that if I was this conflicted, either choice was probably acceptable – the choices that would best serve one and all had already been bypassed by others, and it was not my fault that I was not left with good options. I decided to collect the milk in my cooler and let people who visit the pantry decide.  I delivered about a gallon and a half.  I tried to remember the lesson of Torn and deliver it cheerfully.

What do you think I should do next month?

Footnote: Food Pantries Request Healthy Food Donations has milk in the yes column and sugary beverages in the no column.


Posted in Animals, AR, Buddhism, Schools, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Memo to Sierra Club: Stop Promoting Meat

Posted by tinako on April 25, 2012

[I joined the Sierra Club last year and they are asking me to renew.  This is the reply I’m sending.]

To Whom It May Concern:

I’ve been asked to renew my membership, and I’m not going to.  I thought you might like to know why.

While I was disappointed with your earlier national position supportive of the hydro-fracking that is set to cause so much trouble in my state, feeling undermined as I and other local activists worked to keep this industry at bay, I’ve been impressed otherwise with your work on a wide variety of issues.  Overall I like the Sierra Club.  We are on the same side – we recognize how crucial it is to act now to avert disaster.

However, there is one huge environmental issue on which we seem to disagree, and that is meat.  I could live with your simply ignoring this issue, like so many other environmental organizations, and you certainly do that.  I counted two articles in the latest newsletter alone (May/June 2012) on which your silence on animal products was deafening. “Water, Water Everywhere” told readers about the water impact of some items, including several which are probably not discretionary, such as tires and cement, while not mentioning beef’s and milk’s huge waste of water.  Beef and milk are 100% optional purchases, and your readers will probably make these purchasing decisions within hours.  The other article was “Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning.”  The point of the graph is to show that family planning can be as helpful as things like running cars on clean hydrogen, and is an important part of the solution.  But if the U.N. is correct that livestock causes 18% of greenhouse gases, much more than cars, why is it not listed there instead of cars?  Why did it not earn any place in this chart?

In short, I did not see a single mention of diet as any part of a problem or solution to any environmental issue in this magazine, nor do I recall seeing any in the issues I have received over the past year.

Instead, unfortunately, unbelievably, you promote meat.  I usually see meat and dairy praised on your “Enjoy the Green Life” page, and this month, “Enjoy Fast Food,” was no exception.  You didn’t take the hint when Michael Pollan refused to recommend fast food, but instead forged ahead to print “fast-food fare that environmentalists can order with a clear conscience,” as recommended by restaurauteurs with no apparent qualifications to answer this question authoritatively.  So you endorse the “burrito bowl with chicken or steak, beans, veggies, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce”?  Chipotle has terrific vegan options; did your writer calculate the impact of this meal compared to a vegan version?  How can your magazine pass this recommendation on to your readers without comment?  And what about Le Pain Quotidien’s item, consisting apparently entirely of ham, cheese, and egg?  What are you thinking?  These items are an environmental nightmare!  Organic means no pesticides or hormones were used, but says nothing about the greenhouse gases, the manure lagoons, the incredible waste of water and energy, and the breath-taking waste of feeding perfectly good food to animals so they can process it inefficiently through their guts, giving you less than you put in.  These items may be less wasteful and polluting than typical fast food, but that is an incredibly low bar to jump over.  I’m not insisting you should print attacks on these menu items, but you should not be claiming they’re guilt-free or conscience-clearing.

I recall tearing my hair out when the Sept/Oct 2011 issue arrived and I read this same column to find you promoting a single-serve microwaveable beef pot roast, telling readers it’s “Earth-Friendly” because its tray is made partly of calcium carbonate so it uses 40% less plastic and emits 55% less greenhouse gas pollution.  But they could switch their packaging from illegally-harvested mahogany crates to recycled banana leaf envelopes and it still wouldn’t change the fact that beef is the worst thing for the environment you can eat, and a single-serving frozen meal is probably one of the worst ways to eat it.  You concluded, “It’s nice to see a well-established brand make a proactive move toward a more sustainable environment.”  Are you serious?  Put something better in the calcium carbonate box.  I get that you want to reward companies that want to do the right thing, but this product is a total green-wash, and you’re using member donations to help them do it.  I subsidize beef enough through my taxes.

From Sierra Magazine

Back to the current issue, you report in “The Next Big Thing” that perhaps “summer barbeques will solve all our problems.”  After mentioning that readers might enjoy a steak this summer, you tell us, without apparent irony, that bio-scientists have found a new “sustainable fuel source:” beef.  Is there any other environmental organization or independent scientist who has studied these food issues and who believes that beef is sustainable?  I suspect Amtrack wants to use beef tallow not because it’s particularly earth-friendly to produce, but because in these times of high fuel prices it is a cheap, available byproduct, given Americans’ appetite for hamburgers.  Unfortunately, tallow is a cheap, available byproduct of an unsustainable livestock industry which is responsible for a large part of most of the environmental crises we face, from water and air pollution, energy waste, acid rain, greenhouse gases, desertification, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, loss of habitat, food-borne illnesses, and antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Did your writer take these factors into account when trumpeting the hydrocarbon and CO emissions reductions?  Magnifying all these problems by endorsing an increase in the demand for beef tallow is the opposite of what the Sierra Club should be doing.

I have been tabling at environmental and health fairs on these issues for the last five years or so, and I am heartened to see a change: people I talk to are starting to arrive at my table already somewhat aware that their diet has an impact on the environment.  But so far this change is no thanks to the Sierra Club; vegetarian organizations are fighting this battle against ignorance mostly alone.  I hope to someday read that the Sierra Club is joining, even leading the effort of encouraging people to consider how their diet affects the earth.  You don’t have to nag people to be vegan – just be upfront and accurate as you go about discussing issues which diet affects.

A first step would be to stop promoting it.  I can’t support an organization that does that.

Posted in Environment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »


Posted by tinako on February 28, 2011

Worldwatch Institute (Wikipedia entry) is claiming that the 18% greenhouse-gases-from-livestock figure that the U.N. came up with is too low, and the actual number should be 51%.

Last year the U.N. did urge people to move to veganism.

Posted in Environment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »