Fake Uggs: made of raccoon dog fur, still ugly  »

Britain just found out
that many knockoff Ugg boots are made with poor, tortured raccoon dogs’ skin (exceptionally disturbing video, it’s not new though so I’m not posting it). I’m not sure why this footage is circulating now but it made its way to Time.

I’m always glad when the mainstream gets enlightened to cruelty, but this footage of raccoon dogs being tortured at fur farms is from 2009. My guess is it’s making the rounds now because the connection to fake Uggs is new. All the same, it’s getting attention! And it should; that shit is sick. Skinned alive? Just the words seriously make me want to vom, never mind the footage. The footage itself is seared into my brain forever.

I was in London last fall and Ugg boots were in full effect. They were EVERYWHERE. Much more common than I see in NYC or SF. But it’s not just the Brits who may unwittingly be buying raccoon dog fur:

Imports of domestic dog and cat fur are also banned in the U.S., but it’s possible that these brands of boots have infiltrated American markets as well. This isn’t the first time that raccoon dog fur has been found in clothing stateside. In fact, a 2008 Humane Society report found that 70 percent of falsely advertised or mislabeled fur-trimmed jackets contained fur from the raccoon dog, despite knowledge of the inhumane treatment of the animals.

Of course we know that all fur should be banned, and that’s what British activists are calling for. Clearly by that 70 percent figure, you can’t trust what kind of fur you’re buying (you know you gotta get the “right” fur), so ban it all, dummies! For real, right? The truth omnis won’t acknowledge here and everywhere is that unless you go to the farm yourself, you have no idea what really goes on there. Sorry, omnis, labels shmabels. 

[Instead of the video, I offer the adorbs pic of two raccoon dogs from Wikipedia. They look like a cross between raccoons and mini-bears, no?]


No but for real: Simon Fairlie thinks eating meat can save the planet  »

There’s nothing the media love more than an “everything we thought was bad is actually good!” news cycle, and the latest comes from Time, discussing Simon Fairlie’s new book Meat: A Benign Extravagance. We have yet to receive the book for review, but the argument, that eating moderate amounts of meat is better for the environment than going vegan, is an eye-roller we just can’t get enough of. Whether it’s from the touchy-feely “slow food” movement or in more dangerous screeds like Lierre Keith’s Mein Kampf for carnivores (no, seriously: The Vegetarian Myth calls for both violent struggle and a swift reduction of the human population down to 600 million), justifying society’s bad habits is the most direct route to love-hearts and unicorns from the mainstream media.

By asking, “To save the environment, should you go vegan, or should you eat small amounts of grass-fed, humanely raised meat?,” Fairlie and others are fundamentally misreading the society we live in. Even in a veg-friendly city like San Francisco, ask people to maybe optionally consider taking Monday off from eating meat, and they show up with pitchforks and torches. Fairlie wants to pull out the calculator and compare the micro-efficiencies of our utopia vs. his utopia (“Animals kept on small farms also produce benefits, such as fending off predators and pests and fertilizing soil”). But when the rest of Western world is still eating pink goop spat out from factories that blend animals fattened up on soybeans as fast as industrial farms can grow them, the whole exercise seems pointless.

If we really want to save the environment, squabbling over a few chickens on the family vegetable farm isn’t going to cut it. We do know a few things: factory-farming animals and growing the feed to raise factory-farmed animals is wrecking the planet. And titles like How Eating Meat Can Save the Planet and Meat: A Benign Extravagance send exactly the wrong message. Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s fine. And if eating some meat is good for the environment, then eating more meat must be even better!

Unfortunately for Simon Fairlie, that is exactly how his message will be received. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt: I’m sure he sincerely believes that a small amount of family-farmed animals would benefit the environment in a mostly plant-based future, and he isn’t only trying to assuage his own guilt over becoming a “born-again carnivore.” 

But nuanced arguments like his have no place in today’s world, especially when they come packaged in “what you like doing but feel guilty about doing is actually GREAT.” The message people need to hear, over and over again, is stop eating animals, not “Let’s all eat meat!” with two paragraphs of fine print. Whenever omnivores finally get it into their heads that eating meat is no good, most will at least cut back. And less meat is better for the planet. Simple, right? If we’re sincerely wanting to Save the Planet, how about we get to the point where everyone is cutting back on the worst of their planet-destroying habits before worrying about the details.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go chain-smoke around some pregnant women. I hear it helps fetal brain development, didn’t you know? I read it in Time.


Yes, McDonald’s has a “Head Chef”  »

Meet the enemy, the anti-Tal, or, as he prefers to be called, Chef Dan. Daniel Coudreaut is the head chef at McDonald’s, officially known by the wonderfully corporate title “Director of Culinary Innovation, Menu Management,” and is in charge of their research and development lab for new menu products.

Time magazine’s profile is a rare look into the creative process behind Western Civilization’s slow walk toward nutritional suicide. For each new product innovation (notice how I’m avoiding words like “food” and “recipe”), Chef Dan works with every corporate division to get approval, from supply chain management to legal to franchise relations. I’m getting hungry already! Each new ingredient risks sending shockwaves in food markets if farmers are unable to keep up with the demand, while others pose a lawsuit risk, like stray pits from cherries. And anything he dreams up in the lab has to be easy enough for any McDonald’s employee to prepare.

Chef Dan’s crowning achievement? The Mac Snack Wrap: a “healthy” version of the Big Mac, with a wrap instead of a sesame seed bun, and 690 mg of sodium. That’s 43 percent of the US RDA of sodium. I’m lovin’ it!


Rest stops for beavers, delicious trichinosis, hating on bacon, Tamale Fest and more in this week’s link-o-rama!  »

Vegan Tamale Fest at Papalote on Saturday!!!! Yes! That’s tomorrow, Dec. 19, beginning at 11 a.m. at the 3409 24th St. at Valencia Street location. Bay Area vegans, you are obligated to show up and eat as many tamales as you possibly can. Then, buy more to take home and freeze. Where there’s demand, there’ll be supply!

Wir liebe euch, beavers! Berlin cares about its minuscule beaver population—made up of younger beavers who’d left the rural colony to seek their fortunes in the capital—so much that the city built them a rest stop in the Spree river. Consider my heart warmed.

Let’s be friends on Facebook, anti-bacon vegans.

Sweden’s burning of 3,000 wild rabbits as an alternate to heating oil is the number-one “Oddball News Story” of 2009? You crazy (asshole) for this one, Time.

If asked to design a USB stick that was “neutral in appearance and lack[ed] emotional appeal,” would you cover it in real animal fur? No? That actually makes you sick to your stomach? Get out of my aesthetics.

I use that “the world is fucked" tag for almost every link-o-rama, because of things like this slide show of Ringling Bros. “trainers” using electrical shocks to “teach” baby elephants “fun circus tricks.” Humans are the best!!!

Dang it you guys, San Francisco is running out of sourdough bakeries. I have no idea, but it’s true. Looks like 2010 is the year of getting some starter and learning to make your own sourdough loaves.

Thanks to Kim Flournoy for the creamless creamed spinach recipe the Obamas reportedly love! Sweet winter spinach sounds delicious.

Omega-3 is good for the brain and the body, and readily available for human consumption via a little fish called the menhaden. So let’s eat them all up RIGHT NOW and never mind the consequences!

People used to get trichinosis all the time from eating pigs; now they get it from eating bears. BEARS. Also walruses, deer, cougar, and wild boar (Pollan!). The solution, according to a scientists at the CDC: keep eating bear! Just use a meat thermometer, OK?

Animal studies have shown that diets lower in protein lead to longer lives. Is this a net win for us who don’t eat meat, or a net loss because all the fucking studies were performed on fucking animals who didn’t sign up to live in a lab on reduced rations? Yes, I’m even against experiments on fruit flies. It’s called compassion, asshole.

The Drakes Bay Oyster Farm was caught farming clams in a harbor seal refuge. Good move, guys; is there anything stupider than angering Marin environmentalists?

Vegansaurus contributor Zoë Stagg discusses cruelty-free (Christian) holidays with Eve of the SF Appeal at VidSF!

Finally, how about a recipe for vegan caramels laced with cardamom from Manifest: Vegan? Sounds amazing.


Need some Thursday heartbreak? How about a video of rescued fighting dogs  »

Thanks, Time magazine, I wanted to cry my eyes out before lunch. This video features dogs, primarily pit bulls, of course, who were rescued on July 8 in “the largest raid in history against the underground dogfighting racket” (there’s also identical text and photos).

This makes Malcolm Gladwell and his “football is as bad as dogfighting” article in the Oct. 19 New Yorker seem especially ridiculous; as if a football coach would ever put human players in immediate mortal danger on a regular basis. As if football required the players to fight each other to the death. As if fighting dogs got the chance of a life, or were compensated for their efforts. COME ON.

"If these muscular terriers have a flaw, their defenders maintain, it is an excess of devotion. ‘Their love for humans is why this breed is in trouble,’ says [Tiffany] McBee. ‘They will take the abuse.’ Placed with the right companion, their devotion becomes a virture—as Helen Keller knew. One of her pets was a pit bull."


In The Future We Will Eat Cylon Burgers  »

In vitro meat made Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009, coming in at #36. Which is pretty respectable, though it still means there are 35 other inventors who might cockblock you at a party if they hear you bragging about having the 36th best invention. “Meat farms? Please. I made the Electric Eye. Ladies, line up.”

Like Barack Obama, in vitro meat is one of those rare things that hopes to bring two squabbling sides together to a bimeatisan state of mutual harmony. PETA loves it because it would replace the killing of animals. Meat eaters love it because, well, it’s meat. It’s win-win, chocolate and peanut butter.

Yet there’s something about the idea of growing animal tissue in labs that creeps people the fuck out. Whether it’s because we’re worried about unnatural and potentially unsafe food flooding the market, or because we secretly fear a lab-grown flesh uprising, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone genuinely enthusiastic about replacing their Tofurkey sausages with a dystopian nightmare.

In the end, the choice will probably be made for us by, what else, economics. As in, poor people get infinitely reproducible lab grown meat in their McAtkins burgers, and rich people get the expensive family farm humanely raised UNTIL WE BLUDGEON IT TO DEATH organic grass fed meat. Since there are more poor people than rich people, on balance this works out for the animals. Classism wins again!

Still, don’t expect the “think of the children” crowd to go down without a fight, not without attack ads raising vague doubts about safety paid for by the cattle ranchers. The thing is, it will be safe, certainly safer than crowded disease-ridden feedlots are today.

Sustainability strikes me as the real thing to watch, because this whole idea will sink or swim on how resource intensive the process is. Will culturing meat use less water and less feedstock than raising animals in factory farms? And will it do it all while decreasing greenhouse emissions? We don’t really know yet because they’re still in the phase of tinkering around in labs, but in theory the answer should be yes. And I really want the scientists behind this to get it right, because if we’re tearing down forests to grow plant protein to feed our lab meat, then the animals aren’t really that much better off. So GET IT RIGHT, scientists!

Which is all just another of saying that I think in vitro meat is awesome and I hope it happens. But is it vegan? Would I eat it? I still haven’t made up my mind. It may be lab grown meat, but it’s still meat. So, I think I come down on the side of “yuck”.

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