“Humanely-Raised” Meat and Animal Welfare

I wrote this response to an argument I heard recently that buying “humanely-raised” meat could reduce animal suffering more than going vegetarian or vegan, because it would increase the market for those products.

I use quotation marks around “humanely-raised” because, for practical purposes, there is no humane way to raise animals for human consumption.  “Humanely-raised” animals still suffer.

Most “free-range” chickens, for example, are still crowded tightly in dark, stench-filled sheds and still painfully de-beaked without anesthesia. A small door in the shed leads to a tiny outdoor run; however, very few of the birds are able to cross the crowded shed to access it. “Humanely- produced” dairy products still require cows to be kept constantly pregnant–that’s the only way to get a continual supply of milk–and the newborn calves are still taken away at birth, so that humans can consume milk or cheese.  Cows know their own babies and cry out for them long after the calves are taken away.  In egg production, only females will eventually lay eggs, of course, so hatcheries kill male chicks right after hatching, seldom humanely.  A backyard chicken keeper may be completely unaware of the slaughter that preceded her order from a hatchery of young hens to raise. Continue reading ““Humanely-Raised” Meat and Animal Welfare”

A Meetup at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

Touring Peaceful Prairie; Roscoe the turkey (center)

Last Sunday, I participated in a group tour at the nearest farmed animal sanctuary, Peaceful Prairie, about an hour’s drive east of Denver.  Both we and the animals were fortunate to have a warm, clear day to enjoy each other.

The first thing we noticed as we approached the property was a herd of llamas.  I’d never seen that many, about fifteen, in one place.  Then we drove through the gate and up to the house.  Peaceful Prairie’s founders and directors, Chris and Michele Alley-Grubb, welcomed us. Continue reading “A Meetup at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary”

Get Vegucated!

Tesla, one of Vegucated's three featured participants, making friends with a chicken

I’d been hearing great praise for the documentary Vegucated, and this week was able to see it at a vegan potluck/movie event.  Three average meat-eating New Yorkers agree to go vegan for six weeks and have their experience filmed.  They get lots–and I mean lots–of support and expert advice. It begins with the filmmakers, who show them vegan advocacy films, take them grocery shopping, dining out, and to a farmed animal sanctuary.  Their “vegucation” is also provided by such luminaries as Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Howard Lyman, Dr. Milton Mills, T. Colin Campbell, and other speakers and participants at the Vegetarian Summerfest, which the three attend as part of the experiment.  How fortunate they were to get this kind of solid information and encouragement, compared to those of us who went vegan years ago and had to figure it all out for ourselves!  Viewers, of course, get all the same encouragement vicariously by watching the film, and can find more at the Get Vegucated website, including the movie trailer; Vegan at Heart, a four-week-long daily email coaching program; tips on making social connections with other local vegans; the DVD available for purchase ($19.99); and info on hosting a screening.   Continue reading “Get Vegucated!”

In Vitro Meat–Are You Salivating Yet?

A news story this week reports that a lab-grown or in vitro burger will be available from a science lab in the Netherlands by October.  The burger grown from animal stem cells will cost $330,000 to produce, and scientists working on it say that it will be at least 20 years before the process will be efficient enough for large scale and cost effective production.  Such meat is not imitation meat or a meat analog, but actual meat grown from animal stem cells.  It promises to reduce animal suffering, because such meat cannot feel pain, as well as avoid the environmental impact of livestock agriculture.  Because no animals need to be fed, no grain supplies are needed.  No manure is produced.  Apparently there is considerable interest these days among researchers, and increasing funding available, to bring such products to market.  Learn more about the current state of research, production and expected impacts here.

The human health impact of such meat is unknown; growth hormones and antibiotics may be required for large scale production.  Presumably the amount of fat and other undesirable components can be controlled in a lab setting; researchers want to make it healthier than conventional meat. Time will tell. But whatever words come to mind at the prospect of in vitro meat, at least to me, “yummy” is not one of them.

Wealthy Business Leaders Told To Go Vegan

Here was a surprising link in my inbox: CPI Financial, a website dedicated to offering advice and analysis for bankers and business leaders throughout the Middle East, headlined the recommendation to go vegan.

The article,  begins as follows:
Ok, here’s the bad news. You’re going to have to become vegetarian. Sorry. As soon as possible, so you may as well put down that chicken sandwich and start now. Not just you though, all of us are going to have to stop eating meat and dairy products if the world has any hope of not going to hell in a hand basket.  

What?  Did I read that correctly?  Of the myriad reasons for veganism, why were investment bankers being urged in that direction?  Continue reading “Wealthy Business Leaders Told To Go Vegan”

Fat and Getting Fatter

The latest nationwide adult obesity statistics were just released, and it’s not a pretty sight.  At first glance, my fellow residents of Colorado and I were glad to see our state once again recognized as having the lowest percentage of obese people of all the 50 states.  But on closer scrutiny, it’s alarming news for everyone.  In these new statistics, Colorado is the only state with an obese percentage below 20%, and twelve states weighed in at 30% or higher.  (Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or above.)  Just fifteen years ago, no state had a percentage of 20% or higher!  Childhood obesity continues to increase as well. Continue reading “Fat and Getting Fatter”

Sierra Features Vegan Choices

Scott Jurek

Another confirmation that veganism really is catching on appeared in the current (July/August) issue of Sierra magazine.  They asked five top chefs to recommend their favorite ice cream flavors.  Three of the five chefs chose vegan ice creams: Coconut Bliss, Tempt, and So Delicious.  As the Sierra Club has not in the past been overtly vegan-friendly, having in fact run articles celebrating hunting and fishing, this is noteworthy.

On the following page they featured as “Trendsetter” a vegan ultramarathoner, Scott Jurek.  The interviewer asked him when and why he became vegan, so most of the brief article consisted of this super-athlete giving readers reasons to eliminate animal products from their diets.

Keep up the good work, Sierra!

A Thanksgiving Reading

In Denver, the Vegetarian Society of Colorado holds an annual event on Thanksgiving Day, attended by about 100 people. This year I’ve been asked to take the stage to give a reading along the lines of a table grace. We make it non-religious, though, in order to accommodate a diverse audience.  I post it here, in case anyone reading this might want to use it: Continue reading “A Thanksgiving Reading”

An Unexpected Meeting

I set out on a road trip recently from Denver to Albuquerque.  Still hopelessly in love with the American West–even though I have spent my entire adult life close to the Rocky Mountains–I reveled in the spacious vistas and open skies of the high plains and Front Range.  The interstate highway south of Raton, New Mexico, follows the route of the legendary Santa Fe Trail.

I reflected on a new book I’d read recently, Empire of the Summer Moon, by S. C. Gwynne, about the Comanches and the Western frontier. A cycle of violence, which included torture as well as murder and plunder, went on all across the Americas for centuries before Europeans arrived, and for centuries after, before it culminated in the genocide of the native American tribes.  Another genocide–of the American bison–was carried out at the same time.  In just a few years, many millions of these gentle creatures were shot for their fashionable hides, their flesh left to rot.  It was the largest human-caused near-extermination of a warm-blooded animal in the history of the planet.

And what’s happening now?  Well, we don’t have intertribal raiding and killing going on across our land.  We don’t have bounty hunters shooting millions of animals for their skins.  But is it better?  Now we have billions of animals bred and raised to be killed, and an all-out human assault on the planet’s ability even to sustain life at all.  This was getting depressing to think about, until something unexpected happened. Continue reading “An Unexpected Meeting”

Food Activism in the ‘Hood

Vegetarian activists have long known that one of the most effective ways to persuade people toward a plant-based diet is by serving them delicious food.  Besides being effective, it’s also totally non-confrontational, and you don’t need to know the fine points of the issues, like why even well-managed grazing is detrimental to the environment.  Just pass the plate.

My neighborhood association gets together with a nearby church for a combined annual picnic on the church lawn in September, which includes a bake-off contest.  Two years ago I entered for the first time with killer vegan cupcakes decorated as professionally as I could manage.  I learned that the judges seemed to prefer plainer looking desserts, overlooking mine and another even fancier offering to award the prize to a very ordinary peach cobbler.  Last year I couldn’t attend the event, but this year I came back with a bake-off entry I thought more likely to succeed.  I presented a vegan chocolate mousse pie (recipe below), in a store-bought crumb crust, decorated with plain coconut flakes, and not actually baked at all.

I won!  Continue reading “Food Activism in the ‘Hood”