vegansaurus!

08/26/2013

The White House opposes breed-specific legislation  »

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Laura’s Hazel being a goof.

Though I was once again disappointed that the Obama family chose to buy a dog rather than adopt, I am pleased the White House has come out against BSL:

We don’t support breed-specific legislation — research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at twenty years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it’s virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds.

The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren’t deterred by breed regulations — when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.

For all those reasons, the CDC officially recommends against breed-specific legislation — which they call inappropriate. You can read more from them here.

Love it! You go, CDC!

01/17/2012

Obama’s 2011 animal welfare report card according to the Humane Society. Not looking that good! You’ll never get into the right college with those grades, Mr. President. And then you won’t meet the right people, won’t get the right job, and you’ll end up in charge of some super jerky nation instead of a nice one.

Obama’s 2011 animal welfare report card according to the Humane Society. Not looking that good! You’ll never get into the right college with those grades, Mr. President. And then you won’t meet the right people, won’t get the right job, and you’ll end up in charge of some super jerky nation instead of a nice one.

01/13/2012

It’s 2012, suckas! Time for martial law!  »

In case your always-politically-angry friend hasn’t talked your ear off about the National Defense Authorization Act yet, here are the details:

From Democracy Now: “A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. The measure would effectively extend the definition of what’s considered the U.S. military’s battlefield to anywhere in the world, even the United States.” Section 1031 allows the military to arrest American citizens on American soil who are suspected of “supporting terrorism” and detain them without trial until the “end of hostilities,” a.k.a. forever.

Why does it matter to the Vegansaurus community? See how you do on the following test:

Which of the following is NOT a suspected terrorist?
A. A person wearing a bandana
B. A person bludgeoning a baby pig to death
C. A person with more than three months of food stocked up
D. A person videotaping animal cruelty

If you guessed A, C, or D: Go straight to indefinite detention. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

We’re hella screwed if NDAA becomes the law of the land. The FBI already classifies people who go undercover to investigate factory farming cruelty as terrorists. So with the NDAA and Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act combined, it’s easy to foresee animal rights activists being indefinitely imprisoned, without trial, as terrorists.

In a bipartisan effort, Congress passed the NDAA in December, and Obama has already signed it into law. But wait, there’s still a slight hope that we won’t all end up eating borscht in the gulags! Sen. Feinstein has introduced the Due Process Guarantee Act, which would clarify that U.S. citizens or lawful residents cannot be indefinitely detained without trial.

What you can do:

  •  Urge your representatives to support the Due Process Guarantee Act. Tell them that you feel so strongly about this that you will not vote for them again unless they pass this.
  • Tell President Obama that you will not vote for him unless he makes passage of the Due Process Guarantee Act a priority.
  • If you live in Montana, get behind the effort to recall the senators who voted for NDAA.
  • Check the list of representatives who voted for and against the bill. If you have one of the few who voted against (like Rep. Barbara Lee or Sen. Ron Wyden), call to thank them. If you have one of the many (both Democrats and Republicans) who voted for it, call to express your outrage.

Katie Cantrell spends most of her time tutoring, blogging, eating, photographing, reading, activisting. She founded the Coalition to Fight Factory Farming, a Bay Area group that gives presentations on the harmful effects of industrial animal agriculture. In her spare time, she chronicles her gluttony on PDX Pudge.

06/07/2010

What’s up with Obama lifting the ban on commercial whaling?  »

There hasn’t been enough in the news lately about marine life being killed by the excesses of civilization, so what the hell, let’s talk about whaling. Food Fight Grocery alerts us to a FOX News report (via UPI) that Obama is set to “break his campaign pledge to end the slaughter of whales” by negotiating a compromise to lift the ban on commercial whaling. The International Whaling Commission next meets on June 20, when they will take up the proposal for a vote.

FOX News is trying to score cheap political points, but for once, they’re not wrong on the facts. Environmental groups are angry, and there’s a lot to not like here. The International Fund for Animals, along with Greenpeace and HSUS, released an open letter [PDF] condemning the compromise and has been urging action to flood the White House with calls.

So what’s this all about, anyway? The compromise would allow Iceland, Japan and Norway, the three remaining nations that hunt whales, to hunt whales legally for commercial purposes. In exchange, the nations would have to cap whaling below their current numbers and agree to tighter monitoring and regulation, including new efforts to help with conservation of whales and other marine life.

Iceland, Japan and Norway are going to keep hunting whales no matter what, and the number of slaughtered whales has been rising every year. Reducing this number would count a win, and by bringing outlaws under the watchful eyes of regulators, the worst abuses can be stopped—at least, that’s the logic behind the compromise. Environmentalists and other detractors say that passing the compromise would legitimize whale hunting, and that the compromise offers no long-term target to end whaling entirely.

At stake may also be the very existence of the IWC. If members can’t agree on a compromise, all signs point to the collapse of the 63-year-old organization. That would mean no standards, no monitoring, and nowhere to report illegal whaling.

No matter where you stand or which evil you feel is the lesser one, it’s clear that consensus on whale hunting will never happen without reaching the people who demand whale meat (and maybe smacking them upside the head). We’ve already gone after New Zealand for supporting this compromise, and if it passes, we’ll be really unhappy. But if it doesn’t pass? For the whales, it might be even worse.

05/04/2010

03/31/2010

Obama offshore drilling announcement reaction roundup  »

Somehow I’ve managed to become the “doom and gloom” guy around here, but the awesome environmental news just keeps rolling in this week, so what the hell, let’s go with it. I swear, on the inside I’m nothing but kitten videos and sunshine.

So, this sucks. There are no two ways about it. Over at Grist, they’re “stunned and baffled.” At Daily Kos, they’re saying that “oil drilling for minimizing carbon pollution is like fucking for virginity,” while Kevin Drum at Mother Jones goes for the measured approach, pointing out that Obama campaigned on offshore drilling. Steve Benen goes a step further, publishing an anonymous email from a White House staffer saying that there’s some kind of strategy to make Republicans look crazy by opposing Obama’s drilling plan, and using that to pass his climate bill as some kind of jujitsu move. Kate Sheppard reports that Republicans are indeed being crazy and flipping out. Treehugger just says WTF while letting the big environmental news of the day fall off their front page in favor of press releases about new cars (loving the irony).

California and all of the West Coast are spared from the plan. So, yay us, I guess. Nearly all the states chosen appear to be “red states,” so if there’s a silver lining, it would be watching a right-wing NIMBY anti-drilling movement pick up steam.

The plan is to open areas for exploration, not yet for drilling. Oil companies are famous for not using their offshore drilling leases (too expensive to get the oil) so in all likelihood, very little will change. But unless there’s some kind of grand strategy at work, every second we spend chasing our tail on oil and coal is a colossal waste of time that kills animals (holla back, harp seals!) and threatens civilization. In summary, fuck that noise.

01/27/2010

Obama’s State of the Union preview—for vegans!  »

Tonight President Obama will address the nation with his first State of the Union address. There are two things I’m hoping to hear, and if he says them, vegans will have cause to celebrate.

The first thing: a renewed, post-Copenhagen commitment to fix global warming. This means Obama will need to urge the Senate to pass a clean energy bill. The Senate is now the world’s most dysfunctional legislative body, and lately it’s become a graveyard for good ideas, a modern day House of Lords, where ancient gray-haired idiots dither around as island nations drown, forests disappear, and more species go extinct. Seriously, the Senate sucks. (By which I mean, nice senators, yes you are all very important and wise, now pretty please pass a climate bill?) If they don’t pass a bill to reduce global warming pollution, then that gives other big polluters like China an excuse to do nothing. Obama needs to go there. It’s better for the economy, better for the planet, and better for the animals.

Now here’s the second thing: progressives have been furious over a proposed “spending freeze” that the White House leaked on Monday. It was a bad idea when John McCain proposed a freeze, so why is Obama all about it now?

Here’s a reason why this may actually be a good thing. First of all, it’s less of a freeze, and more like a slushy. Rather than taking a hatchet to the budget, Obama will propose increases in spending on areas that boost the economy, while proposing cuts to areas that waste money. The idea he’s pitching is to hold average spending steady starting in 2011 and call it a “freeze” to make your conservative uncle in Ohio swoon.

So why should we care? Because farm subsidies could end up on the chopping block, and that would be a very good thing. Less money to grow corn that no one needs, less money for slaughterhouses, less clearcutting, less money for megafarm corporations. We’ve already taken farm subsidies to task here in the hallowed halls of Vegansaurus, so if Obama cuts them in his future budgets, then I will kiss him on the mouth. It would be a significant victory for sanity in our food system.

We don’t know the details yet, obviously, which is why this is called a preview and not a psychic prediction. Disappointment is still very much on the menu because, it’s politics. And even if he goes there, lobbyists might still win anyway. So tune in and keep score at home, or find a SotU drinking game and pass out in the bathroom.

01/08/2010

UPDATE: Obama reverses pledge to stop funding factory farming!?  »

OK, we promised more investigating, and here it is. Let’s get some things out of the way first, though. The USDA rule in question isn’t just about subsidizing factory farms, it’s about corporate farms in general. So, large corporate farms like soybeans, corn, wheat, and so on, and yes, livestock and dairy.

Now, if I were dictator, instead of closing the loophole, I’d just eliminate the farm subsidy program completely. Farm subsidies are a weird throwback to a horse-and-buggy era, and they’re bad news no matter who gets them. Think about all the water, fuel and land that goes to waste to grow food that no one needs. Stupid, right? And if the experience of New Zealand is any guide, ditching farm subsidies would actually save family farms, not hurt them.

But unfortunately I’m not dictator (though MAYBE SOMEDAY and I’ll tell you what, my first act as vegan dictator would be a hell of lot more dictatorial than free brownies, not that I don’t love a good brownie) and it’s pretty obvious that, at the very least, the loophole needs to be closed. So when I heard the change didn’t go through, it triggered my WTF-dar.

So here’s what I set out to answer: (1) Did the rule require an act of Congress to change, or was it fully within the executive branch’s power? In other words, did Obama make a promise that needed new law passed by Congress, or was it in his administration’s power to change? (2) Are there any signs that his USDA plans to tackle it later, or does this reflect a genuine change in priorities for the rest of his first term?

To answer this I called the USDA (and in the process learned that if you want to find out what your government is doing, don’t call your representative, call the bored mid-level civil servant in D.C.) and found the final rules. The original proposed rules were published and made available for public comment on Feb. 9, 2009, with the final rules that sparked blogger outrage published Thursday, Jan. 7. Warning, both links are very dry PDFs.

And I saved you the trouble of reading them. At issue is the definition of “actively engaged in farming.” As defined by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill, a person who might be “actively engaged in farming” is vague enough to include spouses of farmers (which is fine) to farm management (loophole alert!).

So when the USDA published the new rules for the comment period, they got flooded with comments asking them to tighten up this definition of “actively engaged in farming”. Read on and see how they chose to respond to one of these comments, then I’ll unpack what they’re saying:

Sec. 1400.203 Joint Operations

COMMENT:

A more rigorous definition or measurable standard for active personal management is needed; too many people per entity are qualifying for payment eligibility based on only active personal management. However, the comments did not represent a consensus on what that standard should be. Use a 1000 hour eligibility (test) for an active contribution of management and labor combined. Require each actively engaged partner to work at least 1000 hours in proving labor or management, or engage in labor or management for hours equal to at least half those required by the share of the operation.

Define active management to include marketing, securing financing, supervising employees, and scheduling field activities.

Close the potential loopholes and end unlimited payments to the nation’s largest farms. Require a person to either work half time on a farm or provide half the labor or management to qualify as an active farmer. The ‘‘actively engaged’’ issue is the biggest potential loophole of all. Megafarms with investor partners use this potential loophole to collect unlimited payments.

The excess payments gained from the actively engaged potential loopholes allow megafarms to outbid smaller farmers and beginning farmers for land, leading to the demise of family farming. This potential loophole is strangling the economic future of rural communities and choking off farm entry for the next generation.


RESPONSE:

As indicated previously, the definition of what constitutes a significant contribution is provided by regulation, not by statute and, therefore, could be changed. We recognize the difficulty in determining the significance of a management contribution under the current definition and the appeal of a measurable, quantifiable standard. However, unlike labor, the significance of a management contribution is not appropriately measured by the amount of time a person spends doing the claimed contribution. The current regulatory definition of a significant contribution of active personal management has been in effect for over 20 years; Congress has not mandated a more restrictive definition during that time, including in the 2008 Farm Bill. However, we are currently exploring whether the current definition could be amended in a manner that would be fair, equitable, and enhance program integrity. Therefore, no changes were made at this time as the result of this comment and other related comments.

Got all that? Here’s what they’re saying in their response:

As indicated previously, the definition of what constitutes a significant contribution is provided by regulation, not by statute and, therefore, could be changed. We recognize the difficulty in determining the significance of a management contribution under the current definition and the appeal of a measurable, quantifiable standard.

So the USDA has the power to change the loophole and doesn’t need an act of Congress. That answers that. They seem to agree that the loophole should be changed (“the appeal of a measurable, quantifiable standard”).

However, unlike labor, the significance of a management contribution is not appropriately measured by the amount of time a person spends doing the claimed contribution. The current regulatory definition of a significant contribution of active personal management has been in effect for over 20 years.

Here they’re saying it’s a hard problem to solve without causing other problems. In the rest of the document, they talk a lot about how spouses of farmers might be affected by an “actively engaged in farming” rule-change, and it’s not clear how much wiggle room they have.

Congress has not mandated a more restrictive definition during that time, including in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Now they’re punting the question to Congress, even though it’s within the USDA’s power to make some kind of change, so this line is a bit of a cop-out. But then again, maybe Congress should just take it up and make the rule change permanent instead of leaving it up to each new presidential administration to fiddle around with things. (Hint hint, more activism and lobbying from vegans kthx.)

However, we are currently exploring whether the current definition could be amended in a manner that would be fair, equitable, and enhance program integrity.

Here’s the crux of it. Do you believe that they’re working on the loophole to try and close it for the next round of rule changes, or do you believe it’s a brush off? And do you believe the loophole should be closed by the USDA, or by Congress? Questions, questions.

From what I can see, there are a lot of issues going on. Has the USDA sold out to corporate farms, or are they honestly trying to grapple with a complex issue without creating unintended consequences for family members of farmers? And are they trying to avoid a separation of powers problem by defining something further than the Farm Bill allows, or are they just being a bunch of lame-brains?

I don’t really have any conclusions here, just more questions, so…I report, you decide!

01/07/2010

12/28/2009

Grading the government, loving lemons, saving deer, giving presents to pigs and more in a special holiday link-o-rama!  »

The Humane Society gives the Obama Administration a B- for animal protection, based on the Change Agenda for Animals the HSUS set at the beginning of 2009. The full report is in this pdf.

Every country is crazy and racist in its own way: in Japan, you can buy a box of tissues shaped like a bucket of KFC “chicken” with Obama styled as Col. Sanders and emblazoned with the English word CHANGE. I don’t know.

Next Saturday, Jan. 9 at Mix (4086 18th St. at Castro Street) from 3 to 7 p.m., Rocket Dog Rescue and Muttville Senior Dog Rescue are cohosting Iris’ Memorial Fundraiser! There’ll be music, art, a raffle, snacks, and drink specials, with all proceeds to benefit Rocket Dog and Muttville.

Our friends at VegNews point us to the super-disturbing news that a “medium-sized” dog eats about 360 pounds of meat per year, which “combined with the land required to generate its food” means that a medium-sized dog has twice the carbon footprint of an SUV driving 6,200 miles per year, “including the energy to build the car.” In short: VEGAN DOGS 4 LYFE. The authors are also heartless advocates of keeping rabbits for company and supper, which obviously we do not support, but COME ON, vegans, are you really feeding your companion animals other animals?

Update: Just like Michael “shut up” Pollan’s “a Hummer-driving vegan has a lighter carbon footprint than a Prius-driving omnivore” (or whatever) comment, the above “facts” regarding the environmental impact of your meat-eating pets have been proven false by actual science. Vegansaurus maintains that giving your companion animals food like V-Dog instead of vile shit even offal connoisseurs wouldn’t touch is better for everyone.

Gracias Madre finally opened and we have a first report. (Should you go? YES you should. duh.)

Arizmendi Bakery, creators of amazing mint-chocolate-chip cookies the size of your face, among other phenomenal vegan baked goods about which Megan Allison has been known to wax rhapsodic, is expanding to the Mission! We are quite pleased.

Oh hey, the recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award were announced just last week Tuesday—NFL players are nominated by and voted on by their teammates—and guess who won for the Philadelphia Eagles? YES! Everyone’s favorite dog-abusing sociopath, Michael Vick! The Ed Block Foundation “celebrate[s] players in the NFL” while “improving the lives of neglected children and ending the cycle of abuse.” I can’t imagine what kind of courage it took to STOP TORTURING AND MURDERING DOGS and START PLAYING FOOTBALL AGAIN, Michael VIck; apparently, enough to reward you for it. A-plus, then. I guess neglected, abused kids have a lot to learn from such an upstanding citizen. Have fun at dinner.

The deer at Valley Forge got a “holiday reprieve,” as the National Park’s plan to have “sharpshooters” kill 1,500 deer over four winters (a November-to-March period), beginning with 500 in 2009, was indefinitely postponed by two lawsuits. The slaughter of these 1,500 deer would destroy 85 percent of the herd presently living in Valley Forge National Park.

LA Weekly says, Meyer lemons and red cabbage are where it’s at. I say, have you ever had German braised red cabbage, all sweet and sour and delicious? It tastes like staying warm on a snowy night, highly recommended.

There’s a new chef at Weird Fish who is reportedly changing the brunch menu and eliminating lunch altogether. Um. Do we have reason to worry, here? The brunch at Weird Fish is great, we fucking love Weird Fish, please do not mess around with our vegan brunch PLEASE PLEASE.

The Guardian has food writers name the most important (for varying reasons) food books of the decade. Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma get mentions, how broad-minded. Or, you know, shut up, England.

And speaking of publications that irritate me right out of my holiday booze-haze, Bon Appetit lists “the 10 best dishes under $10.” Repping for San Francisco—and the meatless—Harvey Slocombe’s tin roof sundae. Shut up, Bon Appetit.

Northern California Dungeness crab fishing: the season is short, the majority of the dead crabs are canned and shipped out of state, and it has nothing to do with honoring the values of Slow Food goddamn Nation. Color me shocked.

But HEY! here is a video of some pigs getting presents! Aren’t they adorable?

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