vegansaurus!

11/17/2010

Humane Society investigates Cal-Maine battery cage farm: surprise, it’s a hellscape  »


Rows of cages stretch alongside a pile of overflowing chicken manure.

This is absolutely the least disturbing photo of the 12 released today by the Humane Society as part of its 28-day undercover investigation at a Cal-Maine factory farm in Texas. Each hen is allowed “67 square inches” of space in which to live and die; the cages are stacked on top of each other; and there are approximate 1 million hens laying eggs at this place.

The investigation showed dead hens left in cages with living hens. It showed hens covered in manure from the hens in the cages above them. It showed hens with massive wounds left untreated. It showed eggs covered in the hens’ blood and manure. Eggs: “nature’s perfect food!”

Cal-Maine recalled “24,000 dozen,” which is to say 288,000 eggs on Friday, Nov. 5, because one of its suppliers had had its eggs test positive for Salmonella Enteriditis! This supplier, Ohio Fresh Eggs, LLC in Croton, Ohio, presumably still keeps its hens in battery cages, as the agreement reached in January of this year prohibits the building of new battery cages. Looking at the photos of the Cal-Maine facility in Texas, it’s not hard to see how naughty Salmonella might hop from the hens’ excrement to their eggs. California’s egg-eaters and its chickens are so lucky for Prop. 2, right? Except that one of the recalled brands sells eggs all over California, ha ha ha.

The detailed report from HSUS [pdf] is a very good, if nauseating read. It’ll be nice/depressing/appalling to see the omnivorous (food) world’s reaction to this. Meanwhile, anyone for a nice cruelty-free dessert? Or maybe wait a little while until you’ve recovered from that horror show.

11/04/2010

Annals of self-promotion: we’re angry about additives!  »

Laura wrote about eggs in veggie food products like Quorn and Lightlife for SF Weekly! Using eggs in otherwise vegan products is unnecessary and inconvenient and what the hell, companies?

Meave got angry about gelatin hiding everywhere. Seriously, everywhere! Every time the pretty ladies in the commercials say “collagen,” imagine “bone from the slaughter of cattle [that] is cleaned, degreased, dried, sorted, and crushed to a particle size of about 1-2 cm. The pieces of bone are then treated with dilute hydrochloric acid to remove mineral salts. The resulting sponge-like material is called ossein.” Yeah. A "sponge-like material" made from dead cows’ bones. That’s what you’re slapping on your faces, and you can’t even absorb it through your skin!

What are you all raging about today?

09/29/2010

What’s wrong with organic eggs?  »

As new photos reveal, PLENTY. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds that eggs are one of the most difficult foods to talk people out of. We’ve all had that conversation with that person who insists that they are totally down with your veganism but you see, they eat organic eggs, so there’s no, uh, foul. Try as I might to talk about the essential meaninglessness of feel-good labels like “free range” or “organic,” it can be hard to combat those pleasant misconceptions without any shocking, awful photo evidence.

(Un)Fortunately, we now have it.

The Cornucopia Institute, an organization that promotes family farms and more sustainable farming, visited 15 percent of egg farms in the United States, and released a report titled “Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture.” While the report is aimed at protecting the interests of smaller-scale family farmers rather than ending animal agriculture altogether, it’s a useful read for vegans looking to combat the “happy egg” myth.


The conclusion of the report is something vegans should already know: most “organic” eggs aren’t really any different from regular eggs, with the sole exception that layer hens who produce “organic” eggs are fed “organic” food. The chickens are still kept confined in too-tight quarters, denied access to the outdoors, prevented from exhibiting their natural behaviors, and generally treated horribly their entire lives. To the large industrial farms examined in the report, “organic” is just another brand, and the current standards for what can be labeled as organic are a joke. The report shows how many of the larger producers are playing the system, providing “outdoor access” to chickens in the form of a tiny skylight or window.

What reports like this really mean is something everyone who eats food in this country needs to recognize: we can’t trust big agriculture to give us the food they’re marketing. If it’s cheap and convenient, chances are someone got screwed in its production. What’s the solution? This Vegansaur says cut it out with the eggs already. TOFU OMELETTES FOR LYFE!

09/14/2010

Farmers markets, consumer warnings and political scandal in your egg-recall update!  »

The Humane Society wants us to know that eggs from the farmers market can come from hens treated just as terribly as hens that supply eggs for supermarkets. Many of you are probably like, “duh,” but before I became vegan, I was unaware of this sort of thing. I even assumed “organic” automatically meant humane! But it’s just not so.  Side note: that was actually why I initially became vegan, because if you don’t go directly to the farm, you just don’t know how the animals are treated. But I can’t be running around on farms everyday just so I can eat omelets! I’ve got work to do and dance moves to perfect!

Last week, the Humane Society sent letters to California’s farmers markets asking them to forbid the sale of eggs from caged hens: “To increase food safety, improve animal welfare, and to meet the expectations of their consumers, we hope California’s farmers markets will stop allowing their well-earned ‘halo effect’ to extend to companies and products that don’t deserve it.” LGBT Compassion regularly protests the live-chicken vendors at Heart of the City Farmers Market—did you know that these hens aren’t protected by California’s poultry slaughter laws?

Of course cage-free doesn’t necessarily mean the hen can go outside or anything silly like that, but they generally* do have enough room to spread their wings and actually move in general. And as the Humane Society points out, “cage-free” also means safer, according to the last 10 studies on the subject.

In other egg-recall news, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says consumer notification systems in food-recalls are plain janky. She says it’s imperative for their health that people get up-to-date information and they should be notified within 24 hours of any recall. I’m going to have to cosign this movement as I was talking to friends just last weekend who had heard jackshit about the egg recall. Dang it! I love most of my friends! I don’t want them to die from Salmonella!

Does anyone else remember the E. coli outbreak in spinach in 2006? When I went to Whole Foods around then, every single bag of spinach had an E. coli warning—have they done that with the eggs? I don’t know, I don’t buy eggs, but I doubt it. And you know why? Politics!

That’s right, in the world of food safety, corruption abounds. A survey released yesterday by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that almost half of the scientists and inspectors at the federal agencies in charge of food safety say big business and congress has interfered in their work. This was a problem under the Bush administration and apparently there’s been little improvement under Obama. From the LA Times:

"What we found is that action is needed to curtail interference in science, both political and that driven by the private sector," said Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "We have two very different agencies giving very identical responses, and this suggests the need for broad reform."

Inspectors responding to the survey reported pressure from their own agencies to make problems disappear and to help offending companies remain open even when there are clear violations. So basically, we’re screwed! Business over safety, that’s the American way.

Speaking of business and corruption, Grist had a good piece yesterday about the crazy egg empire of Jack DeCoster. DeCoster owns Wright County Egg, one of the egg factories subject to the recall, and according to Grist writer Tom Philpott, he’s “one of the most reviled figures in industrial agriculture.” DeCoster views violating food safety laws as no big deal, and paying fines as another part of doing business. OMG this guy rules! Wright County Egg is only the ninth-largest egg producer in the U.S. BUT! DeCoster may very well be numero uno of the egg market! BUT! It’s very confusing! Philpott tries to get to the bottom of it:

[There are] four large egg producers—DeCoster Family Farms (Wright County Egg), Hillandale Farms, Ohio Fresh Eggs, and Quality Eggs of Maine—which [are] controlled by or have extremely intimate links with Jack DeCoster. The Cal-Maine list of the largest U.S. egg producers puts the hen flocks of DeCoster Family Farms, Hillandale, and Ohio Fresh at 9 million, 14 million, and 7.6 million, respectively. It doesn’t list Quality Egg of Maine, but the Boston Globe says it keeps 5 million hens…. [T]hat amounts 35.6 million hens under management by companies owned by or tightly linked with DeCoster—more than 10 percent of the nation’s total flock (340 million).

Philpott is not done yet but I’ll keep you updated. God bless his tireless soul!

I know our vegan readers don’t buy eggs, but many of our friends and loved ones do. One thing we can do is get them hip to the farmers market jive and tell them to always ask egg vendors if the hens are cage-free, and to ask farmers market organizers if they allow eggs from caged hens. I find that even when omnivores don’t care how animals are treated, many of them are über-scared of food-borne illnesses so the increased danger caused by small cages is a good thing to make them aware of. Everybody now: BABY STEPS!

*This is an update. Cage-free doesn’t necessarily mean they can spread their wings or anything superfluous like that. FYI.

[Top image from Animalvisuals.org; click to see full chart. Bottom from Grist]

09/03/2010

Lax food safety standards make veganism a safer choice  »

"Food safety" is totally conceptual, right? Like "equal rights for all humans," everyone’s all for it in theory, but in practice it just…isn’t.

The forced labor camps in Iowa where all the Salmonella-eggs came from had “pits beneath laying houses where chicken manure was piled four to eight feet high” and “hens that had escaped from laying cages [were] tracking through the manure.” Not to mention the “meat and bone meal” chicken feed tested positive for Salmonella AND was kept in bins full of holes! Want to feel worse? Read all the stories on Chow’s list of the terrible history of the DeCoster farms.

Or, OK, leave off the half-million recalled eggs; maybe they were some kind of huge outlier. An FDA inspector hadn’t seen the inside of one of those chicken-prisons in at least six years, anyway. How’s the meat industry doing? Very poorly, is the answer! They’ve fought every change to every regulation, claiming that they follow all the rules and new ones are unnecessary. Now a super-rare strain of E. coli has appeared in ground beef from Cargill, but the American Meat Institute says that they’re so busy working on preventative measures, which would be blown all to pieces if the Dept. of Agriculture dared to list this new scary E. coli as an illegal substance in ground beef. Even though it has already make people sick, and forced a recall of 8,500 pounds of Cargill ground beef—no no, it’s not THAT bad! Shut up and listen to the nice executives, FDA.

And if you don’t eat meat: how about some honey from China? It’s full of delicious antibiotics! Not that China has time to worry about one company’s scam; it discovered that 402 tons of imported dairy products—99.8 percent of total dairy imports!—were full of Enterobacter sakazakii, plus “excessive amount of nitrites, zinc and total bacterial count.” Wait, E. sakazakii has “historically high case fatality in infants,” up to 80 percent, and the aforementioned “dairy products” were POWDERED MILK FORMULA? That people FEED THEIR INFANTS? Way to go, every country involved in this disgusting scandal, which include Australia, France, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, the U.S., and of course China: you are all reprehensible. [news links via Tom Scocca]

Of course it’s safer—and more humane, but duh—not to eat animal products, but for how much longer? If we don’t change our methods of food production, the world is fucked. The animal-borne bacteria will get into our produce because giant farms aren’t careful with their runoff, and we’ll all perish of some kind of horrible E. coli/Salmonella hybrid. Good luck out there, everyone.

08/27/2010

Thanks to our sponsors, two sad dogs and cake in a jar, it’s this week’s link-o-rama!  »


A long-tailed macaque living in Bali adopted a lost kitten! He just found the kitten wandering around his home in Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Bali, and brought the kitten back to his troop (“a troop of macaques”), and now they are pals. Please excuse your Vegansaurus, whose eyes have begun leaking. [photo by Anne Young]

Events! Events events events!
We already told you about Dusker tonight at Hayes Valley Farm—really, why aren’t you there now, hippie? And tomorrow is Sábado Gigante!, a.k.a. the start of Oakland’s Eat Real Festival. Now here are even more ways to spend your time!

Vegans in the Washington, D.C. metro area should head out to the annual Columbia Heights Day, which happens tomorrow, Saturday Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Harriet Tubman Elementary Field at 11th and Kenyon Sts. NW. Why? Because at 3:30 there’s a Sticky Fingers cupcake-eating contest on the second stage!! Live out one of your Vegansaurus’ dreams! Or at least take a photo for us DEAR LORD.

VERY IMPORTANT: Dino Bike at the Hemlock on Sunday, Aug. 29 at 9 p.m. Pay $5 and see our Laura, Jonas and possibly Jordan—plus other guaranteed-cramazing humans—do things on stage that you could not possibly imagine. There will be vegan cupcakes for free and booze for sale and all the money raised goes to pay for sweet, sweet Hazel’s nauseatingly expensive surgery. BE THERE!

On Monday, Aug. 30, the Green Arcade bookstore in San Francisco will host a free discussion with Chris Palmer, author of Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom. It sounds like Chris Palmer does our favorite thing: “pulls back the curtain on the dark side of wildlife filmmaking, revealing an industry driven by money, sensationalism, extreme risk-taking, misrepresentation, staging, fabrication, and even abuse and harassment of animals,” actually naming names! Of course he also offers solutions and praises the people who are not total dicks (hint: Bear Grylls is not on the “good” list). The discussion begins at 7 p.m. at the Green Arcade, 1680 Market St. at Gough Street.

On Sunday, Aug. 29, LGBT Compassion will hold a peaceful demonstration against animal cruelty—specifically, the live-chicken vendor—from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Northeast corner of the Heart of the City Farmers Market at U.N. Plaza. For further information, visit their website, and please RSVP if you plan to attend!

West Contra Costa Adult Education will offer a series on vegan cuisine this fall, beginning on Sept. 14 with “Italian style.” Each class meets once for four hours at the Richmond campus and costs $45. Enrollment is limited to 16 students, so you might think about registering sooner than later. Chef Panos Ly of Symphonie Vegan Restaurant in Point Richmond will lead the class.

News! Articles and essays and news!
A woman was caught attempting to smuggle a tiger cub from Thailand to Iran. The three-month-old cub had been drugged and stuffed in her suitcase—along with some stuffed toy tigers, for camouflage? He’s now recovering at a wildlife conservation center in Bangkok, and DNA testing should reveal more precisely where he came from. Residents of Taiji, a.k.a. “the place from The Cove where they murder all the dolphins,” are totally nonchalant about the documentary and its effects. “They’re not going to stop the hunts,” says a councilman, basically because it’s tradition and also dolphin is tasty. Neat! “You race camels, why not milk them?” Excellent question, Occident-man! And what was Orient-man’s response? He didn’t have one, so the western dudes went out and began camel-exploitation for themselves. Now they are milked in metal stalls by automated pumps, just like number-one most delicious American cows! It can’t come to the U.S. fast enough. What we won’t get, because the FDA are total Puritan prudes, are eating-cows fed with wine to make their flesh taste even better when we devour it. I mean, pigs get to drink beer, why can’t cows have some red wine with their all-natural COWFEED 3000?

What’s been going on with the Great Egg Recall of aught-10? This week we learned that the FDA rejected a vaccine for hens that British egg producers have been using for over a decade and that would have cost “less than a penny per a dozen eggs.” Ha ha whoops! Your Vegansaurus loves the cheap choices: “We have a problem with Salmonella infecting these eggs!” “How can we solve it?” “We could stop feeding chickens bone meal, maybe.” “But that’s like recycling! And it makes them grow SO FAST!” “What about making the cages we force the hens into a little larger, or not smashing so many of them into those tiny cages at once?” “And lose production space? No way!” “What about pasteurizing the fuck out of the poisonous death-eggs, then putting them in ice cream and mayonnaise?” “BRILLIANT! We won’t even have to disclose that on the food labels! The company is saved!” A deli meat company recalled nearly 400,000 pounds of its products due to contamination with Listeria, but that was really hard to pay attention to this week.

Hey L.A., have you been to Millions of Milkshakes: Our Brianna writes: “IT IS SO FUCKING YUMMY I WANTED TO CAMP OUT THERE. I went two times in the span of four days. Yeah, it’s really tacky, but I think it pretty adequately encompasses LA culture. I got a peanut butter-oreo shake the first time, and a peanut butter-banana shake the second time. Best milkshakes I’ve ever had.” Ooh, celebrity vegan shakes! Ooh again: a totally polite and helpful thread on Serious Eats about cooking for vegans and omnivores in the same kitchen—they even discuss sharing pans! How heartwarming. Hey Las Vegans (har har), your life just got better thanks to Steve Wynn, who’s expanded (read: brought into existance) the vegan dishes on all his hotels’ menus. Finally, an interview with Jack Norris of Vegan Outreach by (the infamous) Rhys Southan. Naturally your Vegansaurus recommends ignoring the comments, one of which implies that nectarines are certain squirrels’ only food source and that to eat said nectarines is tantamount to murdering said squirrels.

One of Scott “model-senator” Brown’s staffers found a cat on the street in Washington, D.C., and she has since been named Lucky and become the office kitty. Look, there are photos! This is arguably the most selfless act performed by any member of the Senate in several years, and Scott Brown didn’t actually rescue the cat himself. Even suffering the pressures of political life, Lucky is considerably better off than nearly half the pets in Coachella Valley: 44 percent of the 40,000 animals who have been left at shelters in Riverside County were euthanized this year, and Save-a-Pet of Desert Hot Springs, a no-kill shelter, has no room for animals. Thanks, Depression 2.0!

So which would you rather eat: Magical salmon genetically engineered by AquaBounty Corp. to grow twice as quickly as evolutionarily engineered salmon by natural selection; or willingly donated human meat? Whatever, our “agricultural empire” is DOOMED, DOOMED anyway, let’s just eat (easily veganized and very tasty) jar cake to keep the end-of-the-world panic attacks down for another day.

08/25/2010

02/24/2010

Hellmann’s launches new light mayo recipe with cage-free eggs!  »

Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise is the first consumer product of its stature and volume in the packaged foods industry to use 100 percent cage-free eggs—which equates to approximately 3.5 million pounds of eggs.

That’s a shit-ton of eggs. Before everyone bitches (and I know you’re gonna do it anyway because you’re all sassy and opinionated and I love that about you), I just want to say: I know it’s not vegan, but moves like this are victories. We all know that cage-free isn’t cruelty-free, but Americans eat like a bazillion eggs every year and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. Better those of us who aren’t vegan (yet!) eat cage-free and start to THINK about where their eggs come from. Of course, I’m never going to eat Hellman’s Light Mayo, but I really hope people will choose it over their competitors. It’s a start and every victory helps.

Oh also, did you know that Trader Joe’s Light Mayo is vegan? It is. And it’s cheap, too! So there is your vegan news as well! BAM!

02/19/2010

Liquid Sanctimony, blatant hypocrisy, fur in fashion, bunny photos AND MORE in this week’s link-o-rama!  »


Videogum does it again! Beloved pundit Stephen Colbert reads Cat Fancy magazine at the Olympic games, where he is a member of the U.S. speed skating coaching squad. We have no events for you this weekend—but there is a contest! So go enter it, and read some articles, maybe watch a couple videos, and enjoy your weekend. Vegansaurus loves (to argue with) you!

You know what you want? A bunny calendar, starring Bells, Nuage, and dearly departed Fats of Potentially Nervous! And you can win a page of that calendar (read: a quality bunny photo) by entering the PN guess-a-number sweepstakes by Monday night, Feb. 22! GO NOW BUNNIES.

More pretty photos, these from the BirdGuides 2009 Photo of the Year competition. Seriously, check out this puffin, it’s coming to getcha!

Aw, Kate Beaton did a comic about Vegansaurus’ hometown’s namesake, Saint Francis. He loved animals! Especially birds!

An Italian food writer gets fired because he gives a recipe for cat casserole, which he says is “better than chicken, rabbit or pigeon. Viewers totally freaked, to which I say, fuck you: chickens, rabbits and pigeons are people’s sweet pets too, and deserve the same respect not to be eaten. A million ways to serve bunny, but don’t talk about MITTENS LIKE THAT! Jerkbag hypocrites 4ever.

Hey, it’s a fucking fursplosion at Fashion Week! People wonder why fur is “still” an issue; maybe because designers are still using it? And it’s still revolting and entirely unnecessary? I don’t care if that coat was your great-great-grandmother’s treasured possession and a family heirloom, or if you love status symbols and it represents your triumph over economic adversity, or what: if you’re wearing fur, you’re an asshole.

Beginning in June, organic milk will be less of a mockery and a lie. Fuck yeah “minimum benchmarks,” you guys!

Did you know that Wal-Mart is the largest grocery chain in the U.S.? True! It owns 30 percent of the food retail market. And thanks to the massive efforts of the Humane Society, our nation’s biggest grocery store will now be selling "cage-free" eggs under its Wal-Mart label. Way to go, HSUS!

So not only is the Plant Cafe super-great for using sustainable ingredients in its food, but for having ultra-eco-friendly design, according to (the oddly ugly website of) Architecture News Plus.

A recipe for Liquid Sanctimony, which has nearly 30 ingredients. Said to be excellent for detoxing from “a hardcore tater tots/cigarettes/peanut M&Ms habit.”

The first-ever video of the Sundaland clouded leopard!

The New York Times' Lens blog features videojournalist Brent McDonald, author of "The Danger of Livestock Waste"—you know, that vide/article you emailed to everyone you’d ever met who still eats animal products.

OK sit down, and prepare yourself for the brilliant logic that is about to smack you in the face, direct from Smart Money: “I couldn’t even watch a YouTube video of a chicken slaughter. Does this mean I shouldn’t eat meat? Perhaps. But Nathaniel Lewis, who hosts workshops on his Washington farm, says not to worry: Most of us couldn’t bring ourselves to perform heart surgery, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” GENIUS.

Or what about this, from an NYT op-ed: instead of making factory-farmed animals’ lives less shitty, let’s genetically engineer them to be unable to feel pain! They’ll still be aware of danger and so understand terror and threat of death, but when they’re abused, it won’t hurt so much. Guilt: eradicated! I can’t wait till we do this with people!!

Green Is the New Red blog has some questions about the “systemic disparities” in the application of the “terrorist” label.

If you can stand the piss-poor sound, check out this video interview with David “foot-in-mouth disease” Chang in which he opines on the costs of meat.

In LA and DC, groups are helping veterans adopt shelter dogs! Apparently having a dog can seriously mitigate the effects of PTSD.

Scientific American says that dogs can also teach people how to play fair. “[W]hen we study dogs, wolves and coyotes, we discover behaviors that hint at the roots of human morality.”

You guys, I am moving to Portland to work in a factory. For Bob’s Red Mill, specifically; Bob is transitioning to an employee stock-ownership program, meaning the workers will own the company. As though there weren’t a million reasons to love Bob’s Red Mill already.

Oh look, even Consumerist is paying attention to that cured-meats recall. Does this mean it’s actually important now?

This’d be a wacky story about a zebra stopping traffic on an Atlanta freeway, except that the poor zebra was running away from the fucking circus. We’re sorry you were returned to those animal-torturing psychos, zebra.

After its “Animal Minds” episode last month, Radiolab’s had three follow-up shorts that you should definitely check out. The most recent features a video (on the radio? what? science!) about a chimpanzee called Lucy.

Je vous présente à Antoine Goetschel, Swiss animal lawyer, and yet another reason why Europe wins.

But there’s a vegan food truck in Hoboken, N.J. called the Cinnamon Snail that’s really tasty!

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