eric

Featured Blog: CAFO Hell

I was searching around for some information on Contained Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) and came across this site. The mission behind the blog is to document people’s experiences that live around CAFO’s in New York State. When we drive out to AZ to visit my parents we pass these things in eastern California and in Maricopa, AZ. I have often wondered how people live around these awful places.

From CAFO Hell

The purpose of this blog is to document residential living near some of New York’s industrial dairy farms. These “farms” are called CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) which confine hundreds and sometimes thousands of dairy cows packed together on a small tract of land. They store massive amounts of cow excrement in football field sized ponds referred to as “lagoons.” The manure is liquefied and trucked out to be spread on the fields, often close to residential housing. Contaminated run-off and extremly poor air quality are the results. Garbage flies and mosquitos reproduce in vast numbers. Property values plummet. Oppostion to this type of industrial agriculture is mounting nationwide. Stay tuned for more photos in the coming months.

eric

Farm Subsidies Database

Want to see what your state/county receives in government farm subsidies? The Environmental Working Group has compiled a huge database that lists great details on who is receiving commodity based subsidies and the amounts they are receiving in your state.

About EWG

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to using the power of information to protect human health and the environment. To learn more about we what do—and the many issues like farm subsidies, cosmetics, tap water, organics, and non-stick chemicals that we research

View the database here.

Hi everyone! I haven’t posted in the last couple of days because Meg and I were camping/hiking in Sequoia National Park. It was really beautiful and peaceful….but now it’s back to the grind. I figured today was a good day to catch up on the news.

Humane Meat: A Contradiction in Terms- huge numbers of compassionate people have joined the ranks of the vegetarians. Some, however, have looked instead to meat from animals treated less badly, which they call “humane meat.” This raises three questions. First, is there such a thing as truly “humane meat”? Second, would consuming only humane meat satisfy the demands of ethical living? And third, do we, as individuals, have good reason to promote “humane meat” rather than vegetarianism? (huffingtonpost)

Even Kenyans Are Effected by Our Food Bill- As the United States Congress debates an omnibus farm bill, it is considering a small change that advocates say could make a big difference to the world’s hungriest people: allowing the federal government to buy some food in Africa to feed the famished, rather than shipping it all overseas from America. (NY Times)

A Factory Farm Near You- This is a good editorial from the NY Times and it includes a link that shows an interactive map of factory farms throughout the US…..Once upon a time, only a decade or so, it wasn’t hard to know where factory hog farms were because they were nearly all in North Carolina. But since those days, the practice of crowding together huge concentrations of animals — hogs, poultry, dairy cows, beef cattle — in the interests of supposed efficiency has spread around the country. (NY Times)

The Localvore’s Dilemma-  Sometimes buying local food helps in the battle against climate change. Sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes, it’s just too confusing to decide. (The Boston Globe)

Internet Junk Food- Brands such as McDonald’s, Starburst, Haribo and Skittles are using the Internet to target children now that new rules from the media regulator Ofcom have made it difficult to advertise during children’s television. (Guardian Unlimited)

 

meat_is_murder.jpg

By now we all know that animal agriculture places an enormous strain on our planet. Between greenhouse gases, pollution, deforestion, soil erosion, cruelty, the list goes on…we have a very compelling reason to go vegetarian, even one day a week. Check out this statistic found by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan.

A kilogram of (…conventionally farmed…) beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

Now consider the impact of going vegetarian just one day a week. By making this simple change in the way you eat, over the course of a year you will save 15kg (35lbs) of meat. Based on Mr. Ogino’s research, that’s like driving a car for 45 hours and leaving all the lights on in your home at the same time…more time than a standard work week! This is a pretty easy thing to do and our planet (and every living being on it) will appreciate it.

A kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

On the days that you choose to eat meat, consider eating grass-fed beef. A 2003 Swedish study showed that organic beef, raised on grass rather than concentrated feed, emits 40 per cent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 per cent less energy.

For more information, check out the NewScientist article.

Eat It While You Can- because your great-grandchildren won’t. World water supplies are dwindling and that means the water intense animal based diet will eventually become a thing of the past. “It’s going to be almost impossible to feed future generations the kind of diet we have now in western Europe and North America.” (bbc)

Hate Thy Neighbor- If you are a Confined Animal Factory Operation (CAFO) owner and you move your operation to a new community, prepare yourself to be the most hated person in that community. “Can you imagine what it smells like when they burn a pile of rotting pigs for an afternoon or an entire day and night?” a nearby resident said. “The odor is just absurd.” (vernonbroadcaster)

Meats and Sweets = Breast Cancer- A study of Chinese women who adopted a more Western diet that included higher consumption of meat and sweets showed an increase in breast cancer. “The researchers found that overweight, postmenopausal women who ate a western-style diet had a greater than twofold increased risk of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers. There was no association between breast cancer risk and a vegetable-soy-fish diet.” (yahoo news)

Have You Hugged a Rat Today?- You should! Rats may be more caring and selfless than their reputation suggests. Or at least they can be very kind to each other, even to rats they have never met before. Ok, so this isn’t vegetarian or food related, but I found it interesting nonetheless. (nytimes)

Slap a Label On It- An overwhelming majoring of folks in the U.S. want to know more about thier food. In fact, 92 percent of Americans want to know which country produced the food they are buying. I hope this has a trickle down effect in create measurable standards for other food labeling initives (e.g. free-range, humane, sustainable), but after seeing what the USDA has done recently to undermine the ‘organic’ standards, I won’t be holding my breath. (msnbc)

Moo Cows Go Poo- I wanted to post this video on wannaveg, but it’s only available on MSN video. This is the PSA I mentioned that was shown at Live Earth last weekend. It encourages people to go vegetarian one day a week. It’s a bit on the gross side, but the message is fantastic! (msn video)

Sheepmower- No need for pesticides or herbicides in this vineyard….also no need for tractors. Some researches are training sheep to clean up vineyard weeds but stay off the grapes. “They don’t use gasoline and keep down weeds — a necessary task to deter pests and keep vines healthy — sans herbicides.” (msnbc)

I didn’t like the name “Rundown:” of the news summaries we post. It really didn’t have anything to do with going veg. So, I came up with this one. Let me know what you think about it….if you would like to suggest another name for our periodic news summaries, let me know.

Organic’s better? - A ten year study finds that organic tomatoes have more flavonoids (anti-oxidents) than conventionally grown tomatoes. I’d say most people didn’t need a study to find out that organic is better….but thes studies are nice to see. (bbc news)

Methane Kills- Literally. Five people died last week in a pool of liquefied cow shit. It seems that they were overcome by methane gas while cleaning out a pipe in the lagoon. “You cannot smell it, you cannot see it, but it’s an instant kill” (cnn)

Subsidizing Snacks- Our food system is based on five commodity crops (soybeans, corn, rice, wheat and cotton). Not one of these subsidized crops is a fruit or vegetable. Subsidies lead to cheap snack foods and soft drinks, made from ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Meanwhile, the lack of subsidies for fruits and vegetables makes them expensive by comparison. (ny times)

Live Earth: Go Veg One Day a Week- Say what you want about Live Earth, (see also: ‘Hippie Episode’ on Southpark) they apparently had a publice service announcement tell people about the environmental benefits to going vegetarian one day a week. Good news for wannaveg! P.S. if anyone can find and send us this video, we would be greatful! (nj.com)

Concientious Meat Eater- From the Magazine, “Food: The Way We Eat.”  In his Meat Manifesto, Fearnley-Whittingstall corners the reader: “Are you, among the millions of consumers putting pressure on farmers to produce mountains of cheap meat of dubious quality, by dubious means?” and “Have the animals you’ve consumed lived well? . . . Have they been cared for by someone who respects and enjoys their contact with them?” (ny times via Ethicurean)

jessica.schessler

Sustainable Harvest International

baby with baby greens

Obviously, rainforest destruction is a heated topic of discussion. Many popular websites claim to plant trees in exchange for donations, and even Dell has hopped on the bandwagon. When you buy a new computer you can select “plant a tree for me” as you checkout and help offset your carbon footprint. Planting trees can be a good thing, but are we really making progress if we do nothing about the source of the problem? Sustainable Harvest International is heading straight for one source. This small non-profit organization “has worked with nearly 1,000 families and 900 students in Honduras, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua implementing alternatives to slash-and-burn farming, the leading cause of rainforest destruction in the region.” Malnutrition is a huge problem in this area of the world, and many vegetables are considered a luxury item. SHI teaches new farming techniques to the local families, such as alley cropping, organic vegetable gardening, and seed saving and storage.

Since 1997, SHI has successfully:

· Planted more than 2,000,000 trees.

· Converted 6,000 acres to sustainable uses, thereby saving 30,000 acres from slash-and-burn destruction.

· Improved nutrition through the establishment of more than 200 organic vegetable gardens.

· Increased farm income up to 800%.

· Built 165 wood-conserving stoves (saving 1,650 trees per year)

Now, did you know that it’s possible to eat yogurt, help these farmers, save forests, and get free organic chocolate and tea all at the same time? Stonyfield Farm is featuring SHI along with two other non-profits on their yogurt lids this summer. Vote for your favorite non-profit and help direct funds their way, while getting cool prizes!

Visit http://www.sustainableharvest.org/yogurt/ for more information on SHI and Stonyfield’s “Bid With Your Lid” program.

eric

The Meat Powered Bicycle

a guy drinking gasThe bicycle is a fantastic piece of human invention. It represents simplicity, freedom, reliability and an economical way to get from point A to point B. Worldwide it reigns supreme as the most common form of personal transportation and estimates show there to be almost 1 billion of them around. Besides walking, bicycles are the most environmentally friendly way to get around. They produce no emissions (maybe a little more CO2 from heavy breathing while going up hills), and the fuel needed to power them comes from the people riding them.

You may see where this is going….If the “fuel” powering the person riding the bike consists mostly of meat, the environmentally friendliness factor goes down quite a bit depending on how much meat the rider eats and where the meat comes from (local vs. distance).

It is actually quite astounding how much energy is wasted by the standard American diet-style. Even driving many gas-guzzling luxury cars can conserve energy over walking — that is, when the calories you burn walking come from the standard American diet! This is because the energy needed to produce the food you would burn in walking a given distance is greater than the energy needed to fuel your car to travel the same distance, assuming that the car gets 24 miles per gallon or better. (1)

So what does all this mean?

It means that the amount of gas you use isn’t just related to how you get from place to place, it’s also related to what you eat. Meatless diets require half as much fuel to produce than the standard American diet. Pimentel calculated that if the entire world ate the way the U.S. does, the planet’s entire petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 13 years. The typical American could save almost as much gas by going vegetarian as by not driving. (2)

So, fine….I’m not going to walk, what about the bike?

The same is not true of bicycling vs. driving, because bicycling is more than twice as efficient as walking (calories consumed per distance traveled) — bicycling uses less fossil energy than driving even if the cyclist were eating nothing but beef. But to focus on this misses the point. It’s no bombshell that cycling uses less fossil energy than driving. What’s important is that meat-eaters use twice as much fossil energy as pure vegetarians — whether they’re bicycling or not. (3)

While bicycling and walking may reduce tailpipe emissions, overall if your diet is “meat heavy” you are using twice as much energy just reading this post. On the most basic level, it’s actually better to be a vegetarian that drives a Chevy Tahoe, than to be a meat eater that bikes or walks everywhere. Even going vegetarian one day a week has a pretty good impact to reducing fossil fuel consumption. And while I’m not advocating that vegetarians run out and buy Hummers and meat eaters throw their bikes away, I am trying to demonstrate in real terms the impact of what a meat centered diet has on our environment.

(1,2,3) These quotes are excerpted from “Bicycling Wastes Gas?” by Michael Bluejay for more detailed information, including the research on how this was calculated, please visit his website above.

eric

Charlie Is One Sad Tuna

The next time you visit Japan you could be surprised at what’s in your sushi. You may ask, is that octopus or crab, no wait it’s catfish!? Actually, it’s horse meat…but don’t worry, it’s still raw (in the words of Homer Simpson….mmmm horse meat). That’s right, the Japanese are starting to feel the effects of over-fishing and now they’re trying to find a suitable substitute for sushi. Tuna is becoming rare and expensive, and other markets like the US and Europe are demanding more of the fish. Currently, the Japanese fishing fleet is having to compete more than ever to fill Sashimi rolls.

Make no mistake about it, Japan is not the only country responsible for the over-fishing of tuna. The two other big consumers, the US and the EU are pointing fingers, accusing each other of abuse the fish stocks…and both are correct.

“The Bluefin tuna quota shared between Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain was set at about 17,000 tons. That is the maximum amount recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, an international organization with more than 40 member countries. But it is roughly twice the limit stipulated by the commission’s own scientific advisers.”

…and

“Tuna experts like Carl Safina, the president of the Blue Ocean Institute, a nonprofit conservation group based in New York, places much of the blame for the collapse in west Atlantic Bluefin tuna stocks on the United States, which, he said, continues to allow fishing in spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico.”

It’s plain to see that as this trend continues, tuna (and most marine life) are in trouble and as supply drops further down, prices and illegal poaching will increase. Last November, the NY Times published a report predicting a global collapse of fish species by 2048…given the recent news on the declining tuna population, this prediction may be well on its way to being realized.


image credit: corpwatch.org

Last Wednesday Tyson Foods said it would no longer sell antibiotic loaded chicken to consumers.  This move was prompted to "provide mainstream consumers with products they want."  I have written a couple of articles like this in the past and it never ceases to amaze me that little moves like this from large companies get this kind of publicity.  It’s obvious that Tyson is feeling the competition from smaller farms and is planning to leverage their economies of scale to undercut these farms with their own version of "natural" chicken.  Sure, consumers may be (and I stress may be) eating a healthier chicken, but the issues that plague our food system are perpetuated.  This switch does nothing to address animal welfare, animal waste entering waterways, worker safety and the list goes on.   This is purely profit driven move.  It’s no wonder why in 2000 they were listed as one of the top ten worst corporations.

Tyson is planning to spend $17 million to advertise it’s new "antibiotic" free chicken (In my head I picture the packaging depicting a small farm with happy animals roaming about).  That is a bunch of cash to set aside for just advertising, think about the things they could do to make their business more sustainable and responsible with that money!?  The guy that runs Tyson Foods, Richard L. Bond, says that the company’s move to antibiotic free chicken should not lose money and they hope to see an increase in chicken sales.   Personally, I would think that if they changed their business practices and made a genuine commitment to corporate stewardship, animal welfare, the environment, worker safety, etc., Tyson Foods would actually be able to sell less chickens with more profit margin.

Here’s the story (nytimes)

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