FEBRUARY 27, 2007 8:38 PM

One Bite at a Time: A Beginner's Guide to Conscious Eating

If you read my last two entries, "A Few More 'Inconvenient Truths'" and "Vegetarian Is the New Prius," you know that a plant-based diet is a good choice for the planet, your health, and animals. Of course, there are other things we should be doing--from cutting down on our consumption to working for governmental change to buying organic and on and on--but where diet is concerned, a vegetarian diet is the hands-down best choice for those of us who care about animals and the environment.

I heard from a lot of people who wanted help in making the transition to a vegetarian (or mostly vegetarian) diet. Let's face it: If you've been eating meat all your life, this sort of a change can be daunting even just to think about, let alone act on. Happily, it's easier than ever today to make the transition from meat-eater to vegetarian, and the following suggestions should help even the most die-hard carnivores make the switch.

First: Transition

If you're not ready to give up meat completely, start by eating meatless meals one or two days a week. The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Columbia University's School of Public Health, and other public health schools have designed a "Meatless Monday" campaign to help Americans avoid our four top killers--heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer--by eating meat-free at least every Monday. The "Meatless Monday" program provides recipes, meal plans, nutritional guidelines, cooking tips, and more.

My only problem with the campaign is that some of the recipes feature fish, and fish are definitely not vegetables. If you're eating fish, you're eating meat, and the recent studies on fish are even scarier than the studies on beef or any other food. The three-part front page series in the Chicago Tribune about brain damage and other health problems caused by mercury, PCBs, and the other toxins found in fish and the front page piece in the Wall Street Journal about the teen whose fish consumption put him in remedial classes should be enough to turn anyone off fish consumption. For omega-3 fatty acids, go with flax seeds, walnuts, and leafy greens.

Second: Give Up the Little Animals First

Although many people tend to stop eating red meat before they give up chicken, turkey, or fish, from a humane standpoint, this is backwards. Birds are arguably the most abused animals on the planet, and birds and fish yield less flesh than cows or pigs, so farmers and fishers kill more of them to satisfy America's meat habit. If you choose to give up meat in stages, stop eating chickens and turkeys first, then fish, and then pigs and cows. Some will suggest that cattle are the worst for the environment, but that seems like hair-splitting to me. As I discussed in my previous post, the Amazon rain forest is being cut down to grow soybeans to feed chickens; it's chicken and pig farms that are poisoning the Atlantic Ocean, and vastly more energy is required if we eat the chickens who are fed grain rather than eating that grain directly.

Third: If You Can't Give Up One Particular Animal Product, Give Up All the Other Ones

One friend told me that he just loves burgers too much to give them up; I suggested that he give up all animal products except burgers. Some of my friends can't give up ice cream or cream in their coffee or whatever―so give up everything but that. That's a huge step forward, and I suspect that after eating mostly vegetarian for awhile, you'll decide that those burgers or that ice cream aren't so tasty anymore. And you'll probably find that you enjoy the faux meats and dairy-free options just as much.

Fourth: Examine Your Diet, and Substitute

Take a look at the meals that you and your family already enjoy, and you'll probably notice that many of them can be made without any meat or with mock meats (which are great transition foods) instead of animal flesh. For example, instead of spaghetti and meat sauce, make spaghetti and marinara sauce, or instead of beef burritos, try tasty bean burritos. Replace ground beef with the vegetarian variety made by Boca or Morningstar Farms, which can be found in just about any grocery store. Or try Morningstar Farms' faux chicken strips and steak strips and Boca's Chik'n Patties. If you need help putting together a shopping list, check out the product reviews at before you head out to the store.

Mock meats, nondairy cheeses and milks, and other vegetarian foods are sold in most major supermarkets these days, and health food stores offer even more. Silk soy milk is probably one of the most recognizable vegan products on the market--you can even order it in your latte at Starbucks. And if you like to bake, look for egg replacer, a powdered mix that can be used instead of eggs in cakes and other baked goods, at the local health food store (or just use applesauce). But don't forget to eat your vegetables--as well as plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits, and legumes--before filling up on cake and coffee!

After a few meatless meals, you'll likely realize that you don't miss meat and are ready to go meatless for good. But don't beat yourself up if you slip up every now and again--before long eating vegetarian will come as naturally as breathing.

I know that some readers who are already vegetarian may take issue with the idea of relying on faux meats (I can predict all the raw food comments, the macrobiotic comments, and so on), but mock meats and soy milk are superb transition foods. Certainly going with real foods, as Michael Pollan calls them--things that your grandmother would recognize--is a great idea, but don't worry about it if you find that mock meats make the switch easier for you. Animals are going to be happier either way.

Fifth: Eating Out

If you're eating out, there are countless restaurants that cater to vegetarians and vegans. features regional vegetarian restaurants, restaurant chains that offer vegetarian options, and links to other Web sites that list vegetarian-friendly eateries. Ethnic restaurants, especially Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, and Mexican restaurants, are always a good choice, as they offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. If you're still looking for a burger and fries, many restaurants, including Johnny Rockets, Denny's, and Ruby Tuesday's, serve veggie burgers. Just don't drive yourself--and your dining companions--crazy worrying that your veggie burger was prepared on the same surface as the hamburgers. It might be a bit aesthetically troublesome, but it won't harm animals (or the planet) if your food is cooked on the same grill as meat. Unless you absolutely can't stomach it, let it pass.

Sixth: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Vegans and vegan wannabes, I believe that when you're eating out, you also shouldn't be too concerned about ingredients that make up less than 2 percent of your meal. You'll obviously want to avoid dishes served with meat, cheese, or eggs, but it doesn't really matter if there's a modicum of butter or whey or other animal product in the bun that your veggie burger is served on. You won't stop animal suffering by avoiding such minuscule amounts of animal ingredients. But you may give your nonvegan friends--not to mention the restaurant wait staff--the idea that vegans are difficult to please. The goal is to show others how easy it is to eat in an animal-friendly manner and that restaurants can satisfy vegan customers without having to do cartwheels.

I know, again, that some will post their protest, and I understand the desire to eliminate every last bit of animal ingredients from one's diet, but let's face it: Even vegan foods cause some animals to be tilled up in processing. (Note: Since more than 70 percent of all grain, soybeans, and other crops are fed to farmed animals, not to humans, there is a lot more tiller death in chicken, turkey, pork, and beef than in plant foods, but the point should still give vegetarians a bit of humility.) Vegetarianism is not a personal purity test--our positive and reasonable influence on others is just as important as our own commitment to a conscious and compassionate diet.


When you consider your choices--heart disease, colon cancer, plus-size pants, melting ice caps, gale force storms, and animal suffering vs. good health, energy, a trim physique, a livable planet, compassion, and tasty, diverse foods--it's clear that going vegetarian is an excellent choice as we move toward living a more conscious life.

Thank you to all readers for your compassion, and I look forward to meeting you on the journey toward more conscious eating.

Comments (1)

FEBRUARY 25, 2007 9:31 PM

Animal circuses are bad for animals and they sure can't compare to anything like this. Too bad Cirque is so expensive though! Oh well, the video is pretty amazing: I've watched this probably a few dozen times over the last few months by now...

FEBRUARY 24, 2007 11:04 AM

Next time there's a potluck, make sure we're invited and we'll bring these little numbers.

Party...Pizza Party!
This pizza boasts a hand-tossed whole wheat crust, a homemade Trillium Haven tomato sauce, and a two-inch blanket of mouthwatering veggie toppings including hearts of palm, rainbow chard, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, green and kalamata olives, and garlic.

It's a Calzone!
These spinach mushroom calzones are the brainchildren of Sara Kramer and Tanya Barnard. Their Garden of Vegan cookbook is one of our very favorites.

FEBRUARY 21, 2007 3:36 PM

Trappist monks’ egg factory under fire as cruel to chickens
Posted on Feb 21, 2007 13:39pm CST.


Armed with the words of Pope Benedict XVI, an animal rights group is calling on a South Carolina Trappist monastery to shut down its egg production facility because, the group claims, the monks mistreat the monastery’s 38,000 hens.

In a press release, the Norfolk, Va.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said the group’s undercover investigation of Mepkin Abbey’s egg production facility “revealed shocking cruelty to chickens.”

Calling the abbey’s facility “hell on earth” for chickens, PETA wrote: “Tens of thousands of hens at the monastery are painfully debeaked, crammed into tiny cages, and periodically starved.”

In a letter to Mepkin’s abbot, Fr. Stanislaus Gumula, PETA vice president Bruce Friedrich wrote: “As a fellow Catholic, I was saddened to learn that Mepkin Abbey is operating an egg factory farm.”

In a telephone interview with NCR, Gumula rebuffed PETA’s charges, denying any inhumane treatment of the chickens, and saying he sees no way to enter into a dialogue with Friedrich.

“[Friedrich] wants to throw his position down my throat,” Gumula said. “We treat our animals very humanely.”

Friedrich’s letter said the debeaking method, common to the vast majority of the nation’s egg producers, is painful and “enormously stressful” to the birds.

Debeaking, said Friedrich, is an industry term, and it does not involve chopping the entire beak off. It involves chopping the ends of their beaks off, which is why the debeaking may not be apparent in the photographs taken by the PETA source at Mepkin. According to poultry experts, he said, the pain is acute and chronic, lasting for more than a month.

Friedrich also said that Mepkin’s practice of placing up to four hens in cages that “are roughly 12 inches by 18 inches” is unnatural to the animals. “This means that the animals never breathe fresh air, feel the sun on their backs, build nests, raise their young, or do anything else that God designed them to do,” he wrote.

Friedrich bolstered his protest of Mepkin practices with a quote from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to a German reporter: “Animals, too, are God’s creatures. … Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”

Friedrich said PETA confirmed its allegations after they followed up a complaint by sending an undercover staff member to Mepkin, ostensibly as a retreatant, who secretly recorded the egg operations as well as conversations he had with monks involved with the abbey’s egg production.

Gumula said Feb. 20 that he was unaware of the undercover investigation, which Friedrich said was slated to be announced at a Feb. 22 press conference near Mepkin. Photos and video from PETA’s undercover investigation are on the group’s Web site at

Friedrich defended PETA’s undercover tactics: “Documenting a crime sometimes requires undercover police officers, and documenting this horrible and nonstop cruelty to 38,000 animals required our undercover investigation. There’s nothing unethical about using undercover cameras to expose hypocrisy and cruelty to animals. The treatment of these hens is grotesquely unethical; using a camera to expose it is our moral obligation.”

In his letter, copied to Trappist Abbot Generals Dom Bernardo Olivera and Dom Mauro Esteva, Friedrich wrote, “Your cruel treatment of these poor animals, by the tens of thousands, would warrant felony cruelty-to-animals charges if dogs or cats were the victims. But chickens are intelligent animals who suffer and feel pain, just like dogs and cats do.”

Friedrich said, “Chickens understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation.”

He asked that the abby “please shut down this operation forever” once the current population of hens dies. “It is an ugly stain on your otherwise blessed community. Instead of raising funds for your abbey by abusing animals, please consider solely making foodstuffs that don’t involve animals”

Gumula said the abbey about 30 years ago gave up on its “free-range” practice, which allowed the hens to move about on the floor, saying the hens are “in much better conditions now.”

Under the free-range system, the hens “were susceptible to rodents, to snakes and all kinds of disease and bacteria,” Gumula said. “The situation they are in now is not that way.”

Gumula said Mepkin’s hens are “not on top of each other. The droppings go into a pit that we flush out daily. We’re following all the guidelines of the United Egg Producers for the humane treatment of chicken that’s based on a group of scientists that were not beholden to the egg industry.”

Gumula said the egg production operation accounts for about 60 percent of the abbey’s annual earned income. The facility produces approximately 9 million eggs annually, which are delivered to local customers in the Charleston, S.C., area, bringing in about $140,000 a year to Mepkin.

Consumers “are getting a much cleaner, wholesome product than what we were able to do when we had floor chickens,” Gumula said.

Gumula said PETA has an inflexible position.

“It’s a one way street,” he said.

Gumula said Mepkin’s egg operation is “not a blight, and we’re not treating them inhumanely, and for [Friedrich] to say that, I’m sorry, it’s not based on reality.

“I’m not saying that he has to agree to the exact way that we do it, but for him to accuse us of doing things inhumanely; well we’re not. That’s all I can say. We’re going to differ, and I can understand certain sensitivities. But we’re doing what we feel is best for the chickens themselves and for the consumer that’s going to be eating the eggs.”

North Carolina State University philosophy professor emeritus Tom Regan, an animal rights author and activist, compared the egg producers’ definition of humane to a famous exchange in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice in Wonderland, between Alice and Humpty Dumpty. “Words mean what I decide they mean, neither more nor less,” Regan said, quoting Humpty Dumpty.

“Humane is a word that actually has an established meaning, and if you look it up, you’ll find that it means to treat with kindness, mercy, consideration, compassion -- very positive ways of treating another being,” Regan said. “You debeak an animal; you put an animal in a cage, it can’t turn around, it can’t dust bath, it has no access to fresh air, every natural instinct is frustrated except they’re being fed 24 hours a day, and you call that humane. That is merciful, kind, considerate, compassionate? I don’t think so. … They’re making up the meanings of words. What they’re saying is not what they’re doing.”

Also: a NY Times report on this topic.

FEBRUARY 17, 2007 12:09 PM

There have been many things on my mind as of late, but I will post just a couple. In my absence from the blog, I have made many foods, though most notably Tofu and Kale Spinakopita, Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Lasagna and Rustic Peasant Loaf with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Black Olives (from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson). The former two were made on what has been known as Veggie Tuesday. A former roommate and I get together and make dinner together once a week and it's turned out wonderfully--both socially and foodly. The latter was made last night with another friend. I have been reminded how much cooking food and eating together builds community and how community is so important in enriching our lives. In our "fast food nation", one eats out of convenience with little attention to what that food is doing to our bodies and our relationships. I am glad to be a part of a community that does pay a lot of attention.

The second thing on my mind had to do with cutting dairy out of my life. As I was signing out of my email the other day, I ran across an article on health and dairy consumption. This article appeared on the MSN Health Center section, no less, which is a pretty mainstream news channel. The article touches on many reasons for not eating dairy that we have touched on in previous posts, such as: lower cholesterol, cow milk is not for humans, lactose intolerance, calcium does not have to come from dairy only, and the list goes on. (Of course, we would add the animal cruelty side of it as well.) Check it out!

FEBRUARY 17, 2007 7:15 AM

Here's a special trailer, made by the Humane Society of the US, for the new film "Amazing Grace":

Next Friday, you won't want to miss the true story of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), a political activist who was not only a leading abolitionist but one of the founding figures of the animal protection movement. The film captures Wilberforce's determination to end the cruelty and suffering imposed on both humans and animals in his era, and it's an inspiring story of how one person can make a difference. I loved Amazing Grace and hope you'll see it on opening weekend, beginning February 23.

FEBRUARY 17, 2007 7:15 AM

Here's a special trailer, made by the Humane Society of the US, for the new film "Amazing Grace."

FEBRUARY 15, 2007 7:37 PM

What's the "religious perspective" on abortion? On capital punishment? On war? On eating animals? In particular, what do Christians think about those topics? What's the "Christian view" on these issues?

These questions are often asked, but honestly there really is no answer to them because the question is founded on a false assumption, namely that there typically is one, and only on, position that "religious people" take on issues.

But this is false. For just about any controversial moral or social issue (but probably not all of them . .), there is no one position that all, or even most, "religious people," including Christians, accept.

For example, some people think that "the Christian view" on abortion is that it's (always) wrong, but that's not correct: some Christians think it's wrong and others think it's not wrong and, with luck, they have some reasons to explain why they think what they do.

The same is true about ethics and animals questions. Many people say their religion allows them to eat animals. Others argue that if you take a closer look at the fundamental ideas of that religion, you find that that religion has resources that strongly condemn raising and killing to animals to eat them, wear them and even experiment on them.

So, there's the Christian Vegetarian Association, the Jewish Vegetarian Society, at least some pages about Islam and vegetarianism, and organizations and thinking based in many other religions (indeed, just about all of them). From each religion, there are people advocating for animals and all things veggie.

So, my suggestion is this: if one talks about religious views, one should get specific and avoid the too common false, blanket generalizations like those above.

FEBRUARY 15, 2007 11:42 AM

In case you are considering defecting to Canada in hopes of finding a kinder, gentler land, see this story, "The egg industry faces an ultimatum -- Either you unlock the battery cages that cruelly confine the hens or the Canadian consumer will do it for you."

On a more positive note about a friend from the North, see this very interesting anti-factory farming video from Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page (he's the guy who writes/sings their good, non-novelty songs like "The Old Apartment," "Call and Answer," and "What a Good Boy," but that's irrelevant). I'd sure like to know more about the origins of this neat video.

FEBRUARY 13, 2007 6:37 PM

You may have read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. You may have seen the movie based on that book.

You may have read his Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food.

But have you seen the "response" webpage from industry, called "Best Food Nation"?

Take a look and then read these consumer advocate pages here and here.

Comments (3)

FEBRUARY 10, 2007 7:41 AM

Following yesterday's (by no means new) observation that Charlotte's Web contains logical reasoning in favor of animal rights, I invite you to take a look at what some critics of this reasoning and this movie have recently said. Take a look at this ridiculous page -- "Charlotte's (Tangled) Web" -- by the Center for Consumer Freedom. This CCF works for the animal agriculture, restaurant and vivisection industries, in addition to big tobacco and the alcohol industries. To learn more about this organization and to see how low these industries will stoop to try to silence criticism of their products, see, this page and watch this short video:

Comments (1)

FEBRUARY 9, 2007 6:27 PM

Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, Chapter One

Before Breakfast

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

"Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were born last night."

"I don't see why he needs an ax," continued Fern, who was only eight. "Well," said her mother, "one of the pigs is a runt. It's very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your father has decided to do away with it."

"Do away with it?" shrieked Fern. "You mean kill it? Just because it's smaller than the others?"

Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table. "Don't yell, Fern!" she said. "Your father is right. The pig would probably die anyway."

Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors. The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime. Fern's sneakers were sopping by the time she caught up with her father.

"Please don't kill it!" she sobbed. "It's unfair."

Mr. Arable stopped walking.

"Fern," he said gently, "you will have to learn to control yourself."

"Control myself?" yelled Fern. "This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself." Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father's hand.

"Fern," said Mr. Arable, "I know more about raising a litter of pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. Now run along!"

"But it's unfair," cried Fern. "The pig couldn't help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?"

Mr. Arable smiled. "Certainly not," he said, looking down at his daughter with love. "But this is different. A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another."

"I see no difference," replied Fern, still hanging on to the ax. "This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of."

A queer look came over John Arable's face. He seemed almost ready to cry himself.

"All right," he said. "You go back to the house and I will bring the runt when I come in. I'll let you start it on a bottle, like a baby. Then you'll see what trouble a pig can be."

Next up: the best of anti-vegetarian propaganda, the best that a public relations office can come up with!

Comments (1)

FEBRUARY 8, 2007 8:09 PM

Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns

29 November 2006 – Cattle-rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation, and smarter production methods, including improved animal diets to reduce enteric fermentation and consequent methane emissions, are urgently needed, according to a new United Nations report released today.
The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth's increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops.

Comments (4)

FEBRUARY 7, 2007 6:50 AM

Animal Advocates' Successes Have Factory Farmers Running Scared 

Reposted from The Animal Ethics Blog

A column entitled "Ag Industry Threatened by Animal Rights" appeared in today's High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal [HPMAJ]. The column, which you can read here, is a call to arms to factory farmers to fight back against those individuals and organizations working to protect farm animals from the abuses inherent in factory farms. Recent victories by animal protection advocates have an increasing number of pro-factory-farming lobbyists worried about the future of animal agriculture. Consider some of the victories:
On November 5th, 2002, more than two and a half million Floridians voted "Yes" on Amendment 10 to amend the state constitution and prohibit the use of gestation crates, narrow metal cages where breeding pigs are kept for most of their lives. The full text of the amendment is available here.

On November 7, 2006, Arizonans voted overwhelmingly, by 62 percent, in favor of Proposition 204, to ban the cruel and intensive confinement of veal calves and pregnant pigs on industrialized factory farms. The proposition outlaws raising pregnant sows in gestation crates and raising calves in veal crates, making Arizona the first state in the Union to ban veal crates. To learn more about Arizona's precedent-setting victory for farm animals, see here.

September 7, 2006, a bill banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption(H.R. 503) was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming support in a 263-146 vote.
With successes like these, factory farmers do have cause for worry. The dark secret behind factory farm profits -- cruel and inhumane animal husbandry -- is getting out. Factory farmers treat animals inhumanely for no good reason. Since morally decent individuals oppose treating animals inhumanely for no good reason, factory farming is becoming an increasingly hard sell. Nevertheless, as the HPMAJ column linked to above reveals, those who profit from treating farm animals inhumanely are not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

One outspoken proponent of factory farming cited in the HPMAJ column is: "Trent Loos, a rancher, journalist and vocal livestock supporter." According to the HPMAJ column: "Loos told cattle producers the livestock industry must show the public that there are moral and ethical justifications for taking the life of an animal to feed a person. The industry is losing that argument in some segments of society, he said."

The reason that the industry is losing the argument is quite simple: There is no ethical justification for causing an animal to suffer unnecessarily. There is no ethical justification for treating an animal inhumanely for no good reason. There is no ethical justification for killing an animal for no good reason. Since no one in modern industrial societies needs to eat animals to survive or be optimally healthy, there is no good reason to raise and slaughter farm animals at all in modern societies, and there certainly is no good reason to raise them in cruel inhumane factory farms. If Loos thinks that animal agribusiness will win the argument on ethical grounds, he is sorely mistaken.

An increasing number of industry wonks appear to have come to the realization that they can't win on moral grounds, so they are trying a new tact: doublespeak. Doublespeak is language deliberately constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning. For example, "free roaming chickens" conjures up images of happy chickens running free and unfettered all about the barnyard, when in fact the label "free roaming chickens" just means chickens that were not raised in battery cages. Since chickens of the strain raised for meat production aren't typically raised in cages, the label "free roaming chicken" can legally be applied to chickens that were painfully debeaked and then permanently confined in an overcrowded shed with 100,000 other chickens each of whom had 7/10 of a square foot of floor space. These birds do not have to have access to the outdoors and are housed in such overcrowded sheds that they can barely move around, and yet, they are deceptively marketed as "free roaming" to conscientious compassionate consumers. Doublespeak at its worst. Animal agribusiness doublespeak takes on other forms as well.

Consider Charlie Stenholm, a former Texas Congressman turned agricultural lobbyist. According to the HPMAJ column, Stenholm is also concerned about the inroads being made by animal rights advocates where farm animals are concerned. Stenholm is a spokesperson for the "Horse Welfare Coalition" -- a quintessential illustration of doublespeak, for the Horse Welfare Coalition is an inappropriately named organization that is working to keep horse slaughter legal in the United States. News flash: Slaughtering horses does not promote their welfare. In previous posts here and here, I discuss (i) horse slaughter as it is practiced in the U.S., (ii) reasons for banning horse slaugher in the U.S., and (iii) the bill intended to ban the practice .

As already noted, factory farming advocates are bound to lose the debate concerning the ethics of factory farming because there is no moral justification for raising animals in inhumane conditions when all of our nutritional needs can be met (and can be met better) with foods of plant origin. Since they cannot win the argument on moral grounds, they have resorted to deceptive doublespeak in an effort to bolster support for their inhumane practices. They have also resorted to a sort of Orwellian doublethink. Doublethink is the act of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, fervently believing both, despite being notionally aware of their incompatibility – rather, being willfully unaware. Recall the disturbing illustrations of doublethink in Orwell's 1984:


Just as Big Brother wants us to accept the above slogans, Big Farmer expects us to embrace the following oxymoronic slogans where farm animals are concerned:




Big Farmer may well have bought into his own lie -- that is, of course, one of the hallmarks of doublethink; but those of us wishing to be conscientious, ethical consumers should see Big Farmer's doublethink and doublespeak for what it is: a deceptive marketing ploy. Calling an inhumane practice "humane" does not make that practice humane. Refering to battery-cage confinement, gestation-crate confinement, veal-crate confinement, and unanesthetized mutilations (including branding, castration, debeaking, tooth pulling, and tail docking) as "Acceptable Handling Practices" does not make those practices morally acceptable or humane. Any organization that is working to keep horse slaughter legal is not concerned with promoting horse welfare, regardless if it happens to be called the Horse Welfare Coalition.

We may not be able to stop Big Brother from encroaching on our freedoms, but we can stop supporting Big Farmer with our purchases. We can refuse to purchase products of pain deceptively marketed as "humane". As Peter Singer so aptly put it in Animal Liberation:
The people who profit by exploiting large numbers of animals do not need our approval. They need our money. The purchase of the corpses of the animals they rear is the main support the factory farmers ask from the public. They will use intensive methods as long as they can sell what they produce by these methods. . . Hence the need for each one of us to stop buying the products of modern animal farming. . . Until we boycott meat, and all other products of animal factories, we are, each one of us, contributing to the continued existence, prosperity, and growth of factory farming and all of the cruel practices used in rearing animals for food.

We have a choice. We can willfully contribute to the prosperity of factory farmers who profit from the mistreatment of animals, or we can refuse to support factory farmers with our purchases and purchase cruelty-free plant-based meals instead. We can willingly support an industry that uses doublespeak to mislead the public about the conditions in which its animals are raised, or we can boycott those very animal agribusiness industries. When we do boycott animal agribusiness by shifting to a plant-based diet, we reduce our contribution to unnecessary animal suffering; we reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and some forms of cancer; we support a much more environmentally and ecologically friendly form of agriculture; and we support a form of agriculture that is sustainable and that reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Since there are so many reasons to shift to a plant-based diet, it's no wonder that factory farmers are running scared.

The Bottom Line: Those organizations and individuals who are working to ensure that animals receive the moral consideration they are due are winning. Factory farmers are worried about their future livelihoods, and they should be. Cruelty cannot stand the spotlight, and the internet has made it impossible for factory farmers to hide the cruelty inherent in their intensive confinement operations. With documentary footage of factory farm conditions a mouse click away, that spotlight on cruelty is shining brightly.

FEBRUARY 5, 2007 4:11 PM

Earlier today, the vegucator expressed his disgust for this series of ads by Real California Cheese, which I hadn't seen until I looked them up online. The conversation we had about these ads was to the effect of false advertising, and why there isn't a lawsuit against the california cheese heads. Well folks, indeed there is! Check out this great essay by John Robbins.
He is also the author of The Food Revolution, which indeed CAN save your life.

So, here are the happy cows of California...

Finally, check out this follow up to Real California Cheese's Happy Cows. Suddenly the grass isn't greener on the other side, is it?

PS. Now what about "poultry"

FEBRUARY 4, 2007 11:42 PM

The Superbowl Spread

The Superbowl Plate

Philly "Cheeze Steaks" (with Homemade Seitan, Peppers, and Onions)

Uncle Juan's Potato Salad

Seitan BBQ Hot "Wings"

Not Dogs with Award Winning Michigan Chili

Comments (1)

FEBRUARY 4, 2007 2:42 PM

Here is yet another reason to not support the pork industry and not eat dead pigs.

Of course, they inhumanely raise and kill baby and young adult pigs -- who are smarter than dogs, if that makes a difference -- for the mere pleasure of eating their dead bodies.

But this is something new: a clever and creative woman runs a pro-breast feeding site called "The Lactivist" page, which is dedicated to "Supporting Breastfeeding in Public, Extended Breastfeeding and Breast Milk Bank Donations." (If you don't know that breast milk is the best food for babies, read up here and pretty much any other source that's not sponsored by baby formula companies). To raise some funds for her important cause, she makes some cool T-shirts. Anyway, she used to have a shirt that said "The Other White Milk." But she recently got a cease and desist order for producing this shirt from the National Pork Board claiming that violates their trademark on the phrase "the other white meat." They claim that her "use of this slogan also tarnishes the good reputation [WHAT?!?!] of the National Pork Board's mark in light of your apparent attempt to promote the use of breastmilk beyond merely for infant consumption, such as with the following slogans on your website in close proximity to the slogan "The Other White Milk." "Dairy Diva," "Nursing, Nature's Own Breast Enhancement," "Eat at Mom's, fast-fresh-from the breast," and "My Milk is the Breast."

We already knew the Pork Board was pretty darn bad , but this is certainly a different kind of low. But for the details on this interesting story, see here.

I'm sure some people (I think maybe even this woman) say that pork should be boycotted because of this, but since pork should be boycotted anyway, I won't say that.

FEBRUARY 3, 2007 9:03 AM

Kathy Freston

. . We can make a huge difference in the environment by eating a plant based diet instead of an animal based one. Factory farming pollutes our air and water, reduces the rainforests, and goes a long way to create global warming. And although the vast majority of responses to the piece were positive, there were some environmentalists for whom the idea of giving up those chicken nuggets was impossible to swallow. . .

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FEBRUARY 1, 2007 9:49 PM

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