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Posts Tagged ‘food politics’

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.


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The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food

Posted by tinako on January 17, 2015

chainI just read half of The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food by Ted Genoways.  It seems well-researched, and though I personally found the history of slaughterhouse labor unions tedious, that does explain how we got the system we have.  Having read Fast Food Nation years ago, much of the material was not new to me.

I expected this book would explore the social justice issues around Big Meat, and I was hoping that would include justice for non-human animals. Halfway through, I seemed to have already passed the chapters dealing with inhumane treatment, and it became pretty clear that this author is only appalled by a factory killing 13,000 pigs a day in that it is unsafe for workers and consumers; as long as we can stop workers from beating or sodomizing the pigs (doubtful), he seems more-or-less OK with the pigs lives and deaths.  I have all compassion for the workers, both American-born and immigrant, and am grateful that their story is being told, and I greatly appreciated the paragraph that found compassion even for abusers, caught up in the system themselves. From other reviews, however, it seems as though I am justified in putting down the book, that I would read in vain for even a passing thought given to asking: Is this system not working because it’s big and fast, or because it’s inherently, *inescapably* violent.

For example, the author indicates understanding that, when you have to move a mother that has been immobilized in a cage no larger than herself for months, and she finds it difficult or painful to walk and doesn’t want to, you have to make her, and that probably means hurting her. He seems satisfied that as a result of being caught abusing pigs while moving them, the business decided to move pigs less.  So… the solution to crippling animals by not allowing them to move is: to keep them from moving even more. What he doesn’t mention is that, on top of the obvious cruelty of immobilizing an animal even longer, the pigs do have to move at least once, to the truck and off the truck to slaughter, and that is where a lot of abuse happens, for exactly the same reason: crippled, terrified pigs. But he never makes the connection that we have another choice.

I didn’t expect this to be an animal rights book, but there was no acknowledgement of this choice, and the omission was glaring. This author is subtle, and often seems to let the facts speak for themselves rather than editorializing, but while you can often infer his discomfort with certain things, there is no hint given that he is not 100% comfortable with the killing.

Violence is arguably never useful, and in this case, it’s so unnecessary, so transparently frivolous: Spam. I was hoping that a compassionate author would make this connection, and my disappointment is why I didn’t like the book.  Would you want to finish a book about injustice written by a racist?  Perhaps an investigation on how difficult life in the southern slave states was for the poor whites, a book which only seems to be bothered by slavery if there’s beating involved?  Being a non-speciesist, that’s how I felt about this book.

Posted in Environment, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 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 »

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 »

Bill Moyers on Ag-Gag

Posted by tinako on July 22, 2013

Ag-Gag Laws Silence Whistleblowers (via Moyers & Company)

Muckrakers and activists have been working to expose the brutality of industrialized meat production since Upton Sinclair’s writing of The Jungle in 1906. But an ALEC model bill known as “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” would make it…

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Don’t Take Your Vitamins

Posted by tinako on June 24, 2013

I like this opinion piece in the N.Y. Times, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” which has a nice summary of the substantial research showing increases in death from taking vitamin pills, and why the FDA is powerless to inform you of this.  I know you’ll be surprised that the answer is corporate money.

Posted in Cancer, Cardiovascular, Disease | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Big Food

Posted by tinako on July 23, 2012

I just listened to a Yale Rudd Center podcast about a new exhibit at the Yale Peabody Museum called “Big Food: Health, Culture, and the Evolution of Eating.”

I’ve asked my city’s science museum to consider hosting this exhibit.  In addition to wanting to see it for myself, I love the idea that area schoolchildren could be exposed to these ideas in a fun way.

Maybe you’d like to see it at your local museum, too.

Posted in Nutrition, Schools | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by tinako on June 4, 2012

Two years ago I read and blogged about Jeffrey Smith’s book “Seeds of Deception.”  Mr. Smith came to Rochester yesterday and I went to hear him speak.  He’s quite a persuasive speaker and you can hear what seems to be a very similar talk online, “Everything You Have To Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods.”  For some reason for the online talk he begins with “what you can do now that you know you don’t want GMOs,” so I recommend you begin at 12 minutes in and then go back afterwards and watch the beginning if you want.

At the end of yesterday’s talk, he deftly helped some of us organize a local action group which will begin meeting next week.  Some things I plan to do before then are tell my friends (did that), play the video for my dad and husband, and distribute some literature when I table for the vegetarian society, which I’m doing next weekend.  Also, while I had recently stopped purchasing some suspected GMO foods such as corn flakes, I plan to inform the manufacturers why I did it.

I’d also like to be more informed about the issue so I am able to speak more convincingly.  Vegan issues I have down cold, but recently many people have asked me questions about GMOs and I find myself not sure of how to explain why I avoid them.  When I read the book I found the studies convincing, but can’t explain them on the fly.  Somehow vegan issues seem more intuitive, more about compassion, cholesterol, energy, pollution, sustainability, all issues we can readily understand.  GMOs are about genes, lab tests, suppressed and deceitful data, and all while asking people to mistrust the FDA, universities, farmers, and the media.  I keep referring people to Smith’s website, but the questions keep coming.  What an opportunity if only I could find a way to boil it down.  Smith offers a webinar to do this, but it’s $80.  Maybe we can work something out through our new group.

Others in the group seemed interested in furthering legislation or a proposition on labeling in N.Y., which sounds great.  I am excited about the vote coming up in California.

Posted in Disease, GMOs, Nutrition | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Selling Addiction

Posted by tinako on May 14, 2012

Jean Kilbourne

This morning I listened to two Yale Rudd Center podcast interviews by Kelly Brownell of Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., author, filmmaker, and speaker, “internationally recognized for her pioneering work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising.”

The first podcast was titled “The Selling of Alcohol and Tobacco.”

Ms. Kilbourne describes how after college she decided to be a model, which she described as soul-destroying.  She did it off and on for a while and then started thinking about the images and the whole idea of beauty, who decides.  Fascinated, she clipped out images, put them up on her fridge, and started seeing patterns.

She says that while ads always showed a beautiful ideal that was difficult for anyone to attain, now with Photoshop it is actually impossible.  These images are not real women, and yet we end up comparing ourselves to them, doing harm to women’s and girls’ self-esteem.  She talks about a slide she shows, an ad for the film “Pretty Woman” with Julia Roberts face and another woman’s body.  So Julia Roberts’ body wasn’t good enough to sell this movie.  Of course this isn’t necessary any more since the celebrity’s body can just be Photoshopped.  As impossible as these artificial altered images are to attain, women are made to feel that we could be this way if only we tried harder, bought these products, so if we don’t look this way, it’s our failure.

She said women’s bodies have been used for a long time to sell everything from chainsaws to filing cabinets, suggesting to men that if they buy this product they’ll get the woman, but she said the newer focus is on the sexualization of little girls.  She mentioned that a three-year-old on Toddlers in Tiaras was dressed exactly as the prostitute Julia Roberts plays in Pretty Woman, and encouraged to strut around the stage.  She’s seen padded bras for seven-year-olds in major department stores, and outrageous Halloween costumes.

A few years after she began thinking about images of women, she started thinking about ads for alcohol and tobacco.  She had been addicted to tobacco, had a lot of alcoholism in her family, and was spending a lot of time on college campuses and noticing how the alcohol industry was strongly targeting kids, so she started looking at their ads.

After six months of looking at their ads, she realized with horror that the alcohol industry understood alcoholism better than any other group in the country.  They understood the loneliness at the heart of all addictions, and they knew which psychological cues would trigger the urge to drink.  The addict feels like they’re in a relationship with the addictive substance; for example, cigarettes are your best friends, not your assassins.  She noticed that ads used to show a pretty woman with a beer, with the idea that a man drinks the beer and gets the woman, but now, the bottle is the lover, the drinking is the relationship.  She says this reflects a very sophisticated knowledge of what goes on in the heart of an addict.  Advertisers (in general, not just alcohol and tobacco) do an enormous amount of psychological research, down to putting electrodes on peoples’ brains.

She noticed how they were targeting kids, and then started looking at tobacco ads, because both industries absolutely depend on addicting children.  They can’t always do it blatantly, so often they turn to the internet, with web sites and gear.  They also push products heavily in other countries due to declining sales here.

She also saw how much influence the industries had on media coverage of these issues, due to advertising dollars.  You’re not going to get accurate information on alcohol being the most destructive drug in the nation if the magazine has alcohol ads in it.  You’re not going to get coverage of women’s image issues in a women’s magazine filled with these images.  It makes it difficult to get even basic health information out, much less get people to start thinking about changes for public health policies.   These industries also have enormous power in government due to the campaign financing necessary to be elected in the U.S., so it makes it difficult for our representatives to make decisions based on public health.

She says you can’t really expect companies making loads of money to change the way they operate, but that laws can help.  She notes a recent law in Israel saying that models must have a BMI of at least 18.5+ or a note from a doctor saying she is healthy.  Other countries have similar laws, starting with Madrid five years ago.  In the U.K. there’s a bill to label Photoshopped models, which they all are according to Ms. Kilbourne.

She ends this interview with her hope that things can change.  In the past, when you flew on an airplane you got cigarettes with your meal, and now they are completely banned there.

Ms. Kilbourne has created several films on these subjects.  Check them out at her web site.

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Wildlife Services – another reason to dislike the USDA

Posted by tinako on April 21, 2012

This morning I was preparing for tomorrow’s tabling with RAVS at the University of Rochester’s Earth Day environmental fair, and I wanted to learn more about our diet’s direct effect on wildlife, since I mention it on my display and someone asked me for details last time and I was unsure.

Specifically, I remembered Colleen Patrick-Goudreau discussing the wild animals killed by a government agency on her podcast #59, “Eating for World Peace.”

Cougar Heads, killed by USDA to protect cattle

So I found the chart where the USDA’s Wildlife Services lists the number of wild animals killed per year.  Here is the page with access to all the years (it’s the bottom chart), and here are the totals for 2011, all 36 pages of death totaling nearly 4 million wild animals killed, almost all intentionally.  Listed alphabetically for convenience, pick out your favorite animal and see how many of them Wildlife Services used your tax dollars to kill last year.

2011 highlights of intentional kills: 400 cougars, nearly 5,000 cardinals, over 10,000 crows, 535 great blue herons, almost 2,000 iguanas, 3,000 meadowlarks, 17,000 prairie dogs, 6,500 each ravens and squirrels, 7,000 vultures, 365 wolves, 288 robins, 1,200 bobcats, over 80,000 coyotes, a great horned owl, 1,700 swans, and 12 American Bullfrogs!

Then there are the unintentional kills, snaring the wrong animal because snares and cyanide mines aren’t just barbaric, providing horribly painful deaths, they also kill indiscriminately.  So, oops, by mistake our government tortured to death 418 river otters, 121 opossums, 217 peccaries (native pigs), 226 porcupines, 21 bunnies, 664 raccoons, 163 skunks,17 wild turkeys, 223 snapping turtles, and a thousand rats.

I’m not sure which is worse, the misguided deliberate violence or the pointless accidental violence.

Let’s not forget about dogs and cats. They have rows for feral dogs and cats, but none for domestic.  Does that mean that of the 1,600 cats and dogs killed (mostly intentionally), not one had a collar on?  Given this statistic, you can make up your own mind when you hear the stories that Wildlife Services is notorious for denying a trap is theirs when a pet is found in one, or covering up the deaths of pets when they find them, either by discarding the collars or burying the bodies.

Bizarre data point: They deliberately killed over one and a half million starlings, but they also killed four individuals by mistake.

I do find one thing somewhat in their favor on this chart.  Overall, they “disperse” 10 times more animals than they kill.  So as many animals as they do kill, for some kinds of animals they do a lot of non-lethal work, and killing is not their main tool.

I looked around at the USDA W.S. site for an explanation of why they were killing all these animals, but couldn’t find anything I trusted.  Then I stumbled onto a letter of complaint written by the American Society of Mammalogists which seems credible and gives some history.  This letter begins by saying they believe W.S. should be primarily concerned with invasives, and that when native species are in conflict with humans, W.S. should first try “prevention, avoidance, public education and non-lethal control,”  and methods should be verified to be useful.

Instead, with particular reference to certain native species of mammals, especially native carnivores and rodents, we see from WS a heavy and inflexible emphasis on lethal control and a lack of scientific self-assessment of the effects of WS’s lethal control programs on native mammals and ecosystems.

They go on to say that there is an obvious emphasis on killing perceived agriculture pests (confirming what one would expect from the Department of Agriculture), specifically ranchers, but also more recently the service seems to have taken on the role of killing predators such as wolves in order to increase desirable species for humans to hunt, such as elk.

Predator Defense considers this war on wildlife to be a major issue:

We’re working to eliminate Wildlife Services’ lethal and indiscriminate predator control program. It wastes millions of taxpayer dollars using methods that are ineffective, cruel, and also hazardous to humans and pets.

Check out Predator Defense’s fascinating page for more about what’s happening and why.  Another site addressing this issue is Wild Earth Guardians.

I went to look on Wikipedia’s Wildlife Services page, because often they will address both sides of controversial issues and give me new sources to look into, but it looked like the text came right from W.S.’ public relations department, with only one sentence acknowledging another side to the story, that “Wildlife damage management can engender controversy, often around the use of lethal controls.”

Wondering what other organizations think of USDA W.S., I found the following Audubon links:

I also came across the Humane Society’s Humane Wildlife Services.  If you’re in conflict with an annoying animal tenant or neighbor, HSUS gives you tips to handle the problem or select a humane wildlife control company.


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