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Top 10 (Recent) Developments On Factory Farming And Vegetarianism

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On Thanksgiving, I spent some
time taking stock of my life and the world around me and, as we're
supposed to do over the holiday, giving thanks for all the joys -- little
and big -- in my life. One of the larger joys for which I am giving thanks
is all of the recent attention that has been lavished on a topic that
is near and dear to my heart -- the cruelty and environmental harm involved
in raising animals for food.

I struggled to cohesively construct
an article about some of the many recent and important developments
on this topic, but there is just too much. Instead, I decided on a top
10 list (a tip of the hat to David Letterman) -- the 10 most interesting
articles on the farmed animal welfare front.

So without further ado:

  1. World Bank scientists conclude that eating meat causes more than half of global warming (conservatively).

World Bank agricultural scientists
Robert Goodland, who spent 23 years as the Bank's lead environmental
advisor, and Jeff Anhang, a research officer and environmental specialist
for the Bank, argue
convincingly that more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions are
attributable to our desire to eat chicken, pigs, and other farmed animals
. That's right: Add up all the causes
of climate change, and you find that eating meat causes more than everything
else combined.

Honestly, this was the biggest
point for me: How can I possibly take the environment seriously if I'm
still participating in what is -- by far -- the biggest contributor to
warming?

Which might explain:

  1. Prominent Stanford biochemist pledges to focus all his energy on promoting veganism.


Most of us have heard of Nobel
Peace Prize winner Dr. RK Pachauri from the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, and his
lectures all over the world

promoting vegetarianism. Now along comes Dr. Patrick O. Brown who, as reported in (of
all places) Forbes
,
will spend the next 18 months focused on "put[ting] an end to animal
farming." Explains Dr. Brown, "There's absolutely no possibility
that 50 years from now this system will be operating as it does now...
I want to approach this as a solvable problem. Solution: 'Eliminate
animal farming on planet Earth.'"

  1. Al Gore is taking notice.

Although Gore's Global
Warming Survival Handbook
noted that "refusing
meat" is the "single most effective thing you can do to reduce your
carbon footprint"

(emphasis in original), Gore had not spoken publically about the issue.
Now he has -- repeatedly. For example, on Larry King recently, Gore explained
that "the impact of meat-intensive diet is a significant factor"
in warming the planet, that "the growing meat intensity of diets around
the world is bad for the planet," and that "the more meals I've
substituted with more fruits and vegetables, the better I feel about
it..." The truth is becoming less inconvenient, thankfully.

  1. Celebrated author of Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close publishes Eating Animals a riveting book based on a three-year investigation of factory farming.

Jonathan Safran Foer has been
widely hailed as one of the greatest novelists of his generation, was
one of Rolling Stone's "People of the Year," and Esquire's "Best
and Brightest" -- and after just two extraordinary works. As Nobel
Prize-winning novelist J.M. Coetzee puts it about Foer's latest
work
, "The everyday
horrors of factory farming are evoked so vividly, and the case against
the people who run the system presented so convincingly, that anyone
who, after reading Foer's book, continues to consume the industry's
products must be without a heart, or impervious to reason, or both."

In his interview with Mother
Jones Magazine

(the entire interview is worth reading), Foer points out that Americans
"now eat 150 times as much chicken as we did 80 years ago," and
that it "takes between 6 and 26 calories to make one calorie of meat.
It is an incredibly inefficient protein because we are cycling through
all of these other grains that humans could eat."

  1. Actor Alicia Silverstone and Chef Tal Ronnen on the New York Times bestseller list.

For some weeks now, Chef Tal
Ronnen's Conscious Cook

and actress Alicia
Silverstone's Kind Diet

have joined Foer and former model agent Rory
Freedman
(whose
book convinced home run slugger Prince
Fielder to adopt a vegan diet
)
on the list with books that make the case for vegetarian eating. You
may recall Ronnen from his
appearances on Oprah
,
which caused Oprah to exclaim, "Wow, wow, wow! I never imagined meatless
meals could be so satisfying."

  1. Martha Stewart promotes a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

As my
friends at Ecorazzi put it
,
"Martha Stewart has proved once again why she's a pioneer in the
kitchen. Having someone with as much sway as the famous host show people
that the big feast doesn't have to include meat to be successful is
huge. Even better, she took the opportunity to educate her audience
on factory farming industry -- with help from author Jonathan Safran
Foer (of Eating Animals) and filmmaker Robert Kenner (Food,
INC.
)."

  1. Egyptian mummy heart disease in LA Times

I'm not sure it belongs in
my top 10 list, but I found it extremely interesting that "CT scans
of Egyptian mummies, some as much as 3,500 years old, show evidence
of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which is normally
thought of as a disease caused by modern lifestyles..." What
on earth could have caused it? I think I know: "The high-status Egyptians
ate a diet high in meat from cattle, ducks and geese, all fatty."
If only the ancient Egyptians had the wisdom of Dr. Caldwell
Esselstyn
!

  1. Honesty at the Turkey Pardoning

First Obama talks about factory farming and animal
rights
as a candidate.
Then he puts in a garden at the White House. Now he's adding some
honesty to the annual turkey pardoning -- talking about the fate of other
birds, the fact that it's a fairly new ceremony, etc.

Might he have celebrated a
vegetarian Thanksgiving? The
White House isn't saying
,
according to Gail Collins of the New York Times

in her delightful Thanksgiving Day contemplation of the turkey pardoning.
Okay, I'm kidding a bit (could he really get away with having a veggie
Thanksgiving, given the power of Agribusiness -- as documented in this sad piece on
FoodConsumer.org
),
as was Collins of course, but the honesty at the event is refreshing,
and we do have the first president who understands the harms of factory
farming and who is taking global warming seriously.

  1. Cargill launches dairy-free cheese!

The largest privately held
company in the United States (six times the size of McDonald's) has just launched "a 100 percent non-dairy cheese
analogue for pizza and other prepared food applications" that "replicates
the functionality of dairy protein and replaces it fully at an outstanding
cost advantage for the manufacturer." According to Cargill, "its
appearance, taste and texture perfectly match those of processed cheese"
and it "also offers health advantages as it contains reduced calories
(less fat and no saturated fats) and... a unique opportunity for vegans
to enjoy a product that has the characteristics and taste of cheese
but without any animal-derived ingredients." It's also Halal and
Kosher.

  1. Yet another study is exposing the horrid treatment of workers by the all-powerful meat industry.

A recent six-part piece in
the Lincoln
Journal-Star

documents the horrid conditions endured by slaughterhouse workers. Sadly,
nothing has changed since Human Rights Watch released their report on
the industry, "Blood,
Sweat, and Fear
,"
six years ago. Then and now, researchers have documented "systematic
human rights violations embedded in meat and poultry industry employment."
It's becoming all too obvious that if we care about worker rights,
it makes sense to go vegan.

For information on making the
switch to vegetarianism, please check out my previous post, "A Beginner's Guide
to Conscious Eating
."

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