Bruce Friedrich

USDA Inspector General: Food Safety and Humane Slaughter Laws Ignored With Impunity

Two weeks ago, the USDA's Office of the Inspector General released a report that, once again, proves that our food system is broken: First, the Food Safety and Insepection Service doesn't meaningfully attempt to stop repeat violations of food safety laws. Second, it has allowed a 15-year-old pilot program with faster slaughter and fewer inspectors to proceed without review. Third, it all but ignores its humane slaughter mandate. Remarkably, unless you read Food Safety News or the agricultural media, you will have missed this extremely damning report.

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Why Progressives Should Care About Animal Rights

The following is an excerpt from The Animal Activist's Handbook by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich, published by Lantern Books.

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Taking the Food Crisis Personally

In April, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on food policy called the diversion of crops to be turned into biofuels "a crime against humanity." Indeed, 100 million tons of corn and other crops that could feed people instead feed our cars.

What then to make of the fact that more than 750 million tons of corn and wheat are diverted from the mouths of the global poor (and away from biofuels) to feed chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals? And that doesn't even include the 80 percent of the global soy crop that is also fed to farmed animals.

Surely this is a crime against humanity of even greater impact: First, it's more than seven times as many crops that are diverted to feed farmed animals so that we can eat the animals; second, while diverting grains for biofuels does decrease global warming, the impact of eating meat is bad for our health and environment -- there is no upside.

I adopted a vegetarian diet more than 20 years ago, after I read Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe. In the book, Lappe makes the argument that using land to grow crops for animals is inefficient, polluting, and that it steals food from the mouths of the global poor. The point is echoed by the respected environmental think tank, The WorldWatch Institute, which published a report a few years back that declares:

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Top Ten Reasons To Go Vegetarian

Gone are the days when vegetarians were served up a plate of iceberg lettuce and a dull-as-dishwater baked potato. With the growing variety of vegetarian faux-meats like bacon and sausages and an ever-expanding variety of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants, vegetarianism has taken the world by storm.

With World Vegetarian Week here, without further ado, are the Top 10 reasons to give vegetarian eating a try, starting now!


1. Helping Animals Also Helps the Global Poor
While there is ample and justified moral indignation about the diversion of 100 million tons of grain for biofuels, more than seven times as much (760 million tons) is fed to farmed animals so that people can eat meat. Is the diversion of crops to our cars a moral issue? Yes, but it's about one-eighth the issue that meat-eating is. Care about global poverty? Try vegetarianism.

2. Eating Meat Supports Cruelty to Animals The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories. On today's factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems. These animals will never raise families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything else that is natural and important to them. They won't even get to feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter.

3. Eating Meat Is Bad for the Environment A recent United Nations report entitled Livestock's Long Shadow concludes that eating meat is "one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." In just one example, eating meat causes almost 40 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world combined. The report concludes that the meat industry "should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."

4. Avoid Bird Flu
The World Health Organization says that if the avian flu virus mutates, it could be caught simply by eating undercooked chicken flesh or eggs, eating food prepared on the same cutting board as infected meat or eggs, or even touching eggshells contaminated with the disease. Other problems with factory farming -- from foot-and-mouth to SARS -- can be avoided with a general shift to a vegetarian diet.


5. If You Wouldn't Eat a Dog, You Shouldn't Eat a Chicken
Several recent studies have shown that chickens are bright animals who are able to solve complex problems, demonstrate self-control, and worry about the future. Chickens are smarter than cats and dogs and even do some things that have not yet been seen in mammals other than primates. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behavior and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, "As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens and people think I'm talking about monkeys."

6. Heart Disease: Our Number One Killer Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including the United States' three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn -- two doctors with 100 percent success in preventing and reversing heart disease -- have used a vegan diet to accomplish it, as chronicled most recently in Dr. Esselstyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which documents his 100 percent success rate for unclogging people's arteries and reversing heart disease.

7. Cancer: Our Number Two Killer Dr. T. Colin Campbell is one of the world's foremost epidemiological scientists and the director of what The New York Times called "the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease." Dr. Campbell's best-selling book, The China Study, is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about cancer. To summarize it, Dr. Campbell states, "No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein."

8. Fitting Into That Itty-Bitty Bikini Vegetarianism is also the ultimate weight-loss diet, since vegetarians are one-third as likely to be obese as meat-eaters are, and vegans are about one-tenth as likely to be obese. Of course, there are overweight vegans, just as there are skinny meat-eaters. But on average, vegans are 10 to 20 percent lighter than meat-eaters. A vegetarian diet is the only diet that has passed peer review and taken weight off and kept it off.

9. Global Peace
Leo Tolstoy claimed that "vegetarianism is the taproot of humanitarianism." His point? For people who wish to sow the seeds of peace, we should be eating as peaceful a diet as possible. Eating meat supports killing animals, for no reason other than humans' acquired taste for animals' flesh. Great humanitarians from Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi to Thich Nhat Hanh have argued that a vegetarian diet is the only diet for people who want to make the world a kinder place.

10. The Joy of Veggies
As the growing range of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants shows, vegetarian foods rock. People report that when they adopt a vegetarian diet, their range of foods explodes from a center-of-the-plate meat item to a range of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that they didn't even know existed.

Sir Paul McCartney sums it all up, "If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do. It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty."

So are you ready to give it a try?

Check out VegCooking.com for recipes and meal plans and to take the World Vegetarian Week 7-Day Pledge.

Eating As If the Climate Mattered

Last week in our nation's capital, the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) held a climate change conference focused on solutions to the problem of human-induced climate change. And in Paris the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, held a press conference to discuss to discuss "the importance of lifestyle choices" in combating global warming.

Notably, all food at the NCSE conference was vegan, and there were table-top brochures with quotes from the U.N. report on the meat industry, discussed more below. And the IPCC head, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri declared, as the AFP sums it up, "Don't eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper."

The New York Times, also, seems to be jumping on the anti-consumption bandwagon. First they ran an editorial on New Year's Day stating that global warming is "the overriding environmental issue of these times" and that Americans are "going to have to change [our] lifestyles..." The next day, they ran a superb opinion piece by Professor Jared Diamond about the fact that those of us in the developed world consume 32 times as many resources as people in the developing world and 11 times as much as China.

Diamond ends optimistically, stating that "whether we get there willingly or not, we shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable."

It is reasonable for all of us to review our lives and to ask where we can cut down on our consumption-because it's necessary, and because living according to our values is what people of integrity do.

Last November, United Nations environmental researchers released a report that everyone who cares about the environment should review. Called "Livestock's Long Shadow," this 408-page thoroughly researched scientific report indicts the consumption of chickens, pigs, and other meats, concluding that the meat industry is "one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global" and that eating meat contributes to "problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."

The environmental problems of meat fill books, but the intuitive argument can be put more succinctly into two points:

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