Paul Shapiro presents: The Meatless Revolution, vegan men, and Wendy’s makes some changes!  »

It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use! Yay!

Happy Meatless Monday! TIME’s great new feature, “The Meatless (and Less Meat) Revolution,” may make you even happier.

More good news: Wendy’s is joining McDonald’s in requiring pork suppliers to outline their plans to end the use of gestation crates. And on that topic, the Kansas City Star has a good story entitled “Humane Society says Seaboard dishonest about its treatment of hogs.”

Yes, even more good news: Major dairy industry trade publication Hoard’s Dairyman editorialized in favor of ending tail-docking of dairy cows.

And here’s a compelling piece in The Atlantic by a former HSUS undercover investigator about his views on ag-gag laws.

Finally, as both a man and a vegan, I’m apparently qualified to do a live twitter chat about vegan men, hosted by VegNews Magazine, this Wed at 9pm ET (I’m @pshapiro on twitter). Hope to see you there!

P.S. Photo of the week:

Yes, I met Angela from “The Office.” Turns out she really does have a cat (and she’s very nice). And for your video this week: No dancing goat, but rather a trailer for a provocative new film I’m glad to be interviewed in: Speciesism The Movie.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pshapiro.


Vegan shrimp rules; real shrimp is terrible for the environment  »

I know, you’re like, “Yeah, yeah—tell me something I don’t know,” right, smartypants? I’ll just reiterate a few points of interest, from a recent post of The Atlantic, then showcase pictures of vegan shrimp (the real reason we’re both here). Vegan shrimp is delicious! And since it’s somewhat hard to get a hold of, doesn’t that mean it’s a delicacy? Of course it does.

  • Biologist J. Boone Kaufman of Oregon State University has calculated that “tiny little shrimp may be the most costly animal you can eat, when measured in terms of its negative impact on the environment.”
  • "One pound of frozen shrimp adds one ton of carbon dioxide — more than 10 times that produced by the equivalent amount of beef raised on cleared rainforest land.” Yikes!
  • "Most of the world’s farmed shrimp is produced on coastal farms, in Southeast Asia, that were created by destroying mangrove forests". The very same forests that would help eliminate much of the carbon dioxide in the air! Plus, the farms are usually abandoned after about 10 years, due to the awful effects upon the soil. The land is pretty much unusable for about 40 years. Awesome.

Again, you can read more here. Now, for you and the seafood lover in your life:

Veggie shrimp, available at Rainbow!

Everything on this table is vegan, including the shrimp cocktail in back! Faux shrimp + Trader Joe’s cocktail sauce = astonished party guests.

Veggie Praram with veggie shrimp at Thai Idea! You can add the ‘shrimp’ to any entree. Go ahead, treat yourself (it’s like an extra $1.50). Taken with Instagram, because I just got my first iPhone. I’m (jennybradleyyo) Instagramming my way through life!


Top 10 links of the week!: A hokey pokey through the roller rink of veganism!  »

A new video from Kizz and Cazz. They want to make you vegan. 

From our pal Tom Philpott, 80% of Chicken Growers Never Sanitize Poop-Filled Cages. And as we scary factory farm video watchers know, they aren’t just poop-filled, they are filled with hella dead chickens left to rot. That’s got to be good for you.

From Discovery, a baby pygmy elephant is rescued! WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THERE ARE PYGMY ELEPHANTS? That means there’s probably one that will fit in my purse. They’re actually super endangered though so don’t go putting them in purses, guys.

Over at One Green Planet, they have an interview with skateboard baller Ed Templeton. He’s been a vegan since 1990 and my how things have changed!

After bad press over their egg farming practices, a bunch of monks in South Carolina are growing mushrooms! Totes more godly. 

The U.N. says that world food demands are going to outpace supply in the next few decades. Hmm, what to do? Maybe listen to the U.N.’s recommendation to reduce meat and dairy consumption? Of course there’s no mention of that in the first link. That would just be silly. 

So are you following Grist’s Protein Angst series? We talked about how bad the soy one was last week but there seem to be some good ones too. Like this Protein Propaganda one. We should probably read them all. Which do you like? I’ll prioritize. I’m like a machine. 

More vegan goodness from The Atlantic.

I’m hesitant to share this but it could be something really good for orcas! Some ex-Seaworld people made a site and it sounds good, it’s just that it has a countdown to Burning Man on it. I just can’t look at a site with a countdown to Burning Man on it. 

Did you hear about this nutty Nigella Lawson and Gillian McKeith thing? Awful! Choosing Raw has a great response

Finally, awkward cat sleeping positions on Buzz Feed! (via VegNews)


The Atlantic says merry Christmas, screw you non-meat-eaters  »

Nicolette Niman has a piece in The Atlantic where she and a few other idiots who have a vested interest in you eating meat talk about how great it is to eat meat. As Meave says, “so short, so full of horrors.” For real, I don’t even know where to start with this thing, it’s so full of stupid, gross speculation, and bad science. I wish Niman would stop espousing the virtues of eating meat. She married into a meat dynasty, of course she loves “ethical” meat! Just knock it off; stop pretending you ever understood what it means not to want to consume dead animals.

The point of the whole shebang is that eating animals is good for you, the environment, and for animals—if done in a very specific way that happens about one percent of the time. Great! The health and environmental points can be argued, but I simply will not concede on ethics. Eating animals is only ethical if you’re okay with killing animals—or more likely, letting other people kill animals—for your food when you don’t NEED to.

As for the health argument, these people are no more health experts than I am, and again, they have a vested interest in humans eating meat, so hearing them try to argue against the health of a vegan diet is just infuriating. I can link to studies from actual health experts about how easy it is to get B12 and how animal products are bad for you until I’m blue in the face. We can trade articles back and forth all day long arguing for both sides. You can be healthy eating meat and you can be healthy not eating meat, and the proof is all the healthy people who do both things and live long-ass lives.

Now, I’ll say something some of you won’t agree with and that’s fine, but you can also care about the environment and still eat meat, no probs. It’s much easier to care about the Earth and not eat meat, but if you are in the one percent of people who raise and kill animals on a super small scale, then you might be able to say you care.

However, the point I absolutely will not accept is their claim that you can love and respect animals while you’re eating them. GIRLFRIENDS! Don’t get it twisted. No animal wants to die for your meal, no matter how many days you let her graze in an open field of organic grass or how many free-range hugs you give her before you slit her throat. If I take good care of grandma until I murder her because I need her room for my new baby, I don’t love and respect grandma. Ya dig?

Unlike some other animals, we have the exciting ability to not act on pure instinct, and we can and do thrive on animal-free diets. I eat amazing food that doesn’t include death or torture and that’s what I’m comfortable with. Just because you stopped being vegan to hunt deer doesn’t mean you have to push your compromised ethics on me. And yes, I do think they’re compromised, and I do think you’re disgusting for hunting. I recognize that hunting is in many ways superior to buying plastic-wrapped factory-farmed ground cows at Safeway, but I also think that it takes a special kind of creepazoid to shoot and kill a living creature. And I bet you’re not that good of a shot and that the animal suffers [ed. note: and poisons bald eagles, the symbol of freedom!], and that you’ve taken away moms and dads from their babies with your carelessness, you piece of shit.

You know what I think is worst of all? You have the MEANS to do better; you’re not ignorant to the realities of factory farming, and you choose to advocate a more ethical lifestyle by encouraging meat consumption. Get fucked.

Oh, well. At least The Atlantic has James McWilliams. I feel for you, bro!


Paul Shapiro presents: Animal News You Can Use!  »

This is from the mighty and awesome Paul Shapiro, the senior director of the Farm Animal Protection wing of the Humane Society of the United States. Paul is not only the raddest and very hilarious and kind and good and a fucking force to be reckoned with, but he’s always a wealth of animal news. We’re gonna publish his updates so that you’re as blessed with new information as we are. YOU ARE WELCOME. Now, pass this info on to all you know, and be better informed, smarter, and more good looking for it. BAM:

I’ve got a piece on the Atlantic site about foie gras and the myth that farm animals love to be abused. Please feel free to leave a comment on the site, since it seems like those of, let’s say…a different view don’t appear to be shy about leaving their own comments!

The LSU paper has a nice story about HSUS’s Meatless Monday efforts. (Remember that awesome video you loved?)

The DC ABC news affiliate had a cool segment about Bill Clinton’s near-vegan diet.

The U.S. Supreme Court had a hearing yesterday on the California downer law that was passed in the wake of HSUS’s exposé at a Southern California dairy cow slaughter plant. You can read Wayne Pacelle’s thoughts on the hearing at this link.

P.S. Video of the week: Dog and pig wrestling. Yep, that’s right.


Vegan tattoos for all!  »

Reader Tim Donnelly just wrote a piece for The Atlantic on the vegan politics of tattoos

Getting a tattoo can be about as vegan as having a rib-eye sewn to your arm. The ink and processes at your average shop contain a veritable buffet of animal detritus: charred bones of dead animals in the ink, fat from once-living things in the glycerin that serves as a carrying agent, enzymes taken from caged sheep that go into making the care products.

He goes on to say that finding a vegan tattoo artist can be tricky, but in NYC, Brooklyn’s vegan-owned Gristle Tattoo can save the day! They have a strictly vegan tattoo artist, Ashley Thomas. I’ve been meaning to get a tattoo ever since the Meatless Monday Unicorn got one. Looks like I know where to go! I can’t decide what to get though. I’m actually allergic to decisions.

[Pic at the top sent to us by reader Alaetra G. of her friend David’s dope tattoo]


Meat Week infects NYC  »

Tomorrow, NYC’s Meat Week comes to a close. It’s tragic, really. You know how I feel about Meat Week, but unlike many Meat Weeks I’ve read about, NYC’s carries the message of sustainability. It’s a celebration of “the farmers, markets and chefs who bring sustainable meat to our tables,” to be exact. How very charming! 

While this message seems good, at least better than your “bacon, lulz” Meat Weeks, it’s still off the mark. I refer you to a recent article from The Atlantic by James McWilliams. He makes the point that while people seem more conscious of and opposed to factory farms than ever, factory farms are booming:

Earlier this month we learned that the global production and consumption of meat is skyrocketing. Indeed, according to the Worldwatch Institute, meat production has tripled over the last forty years, growing 20 percent in the last 10 years alone. What’s particularly distressing about this recent 20 percent increase is that it’s occurred as campaigns against factory farms have reached a fevered pitch.”

He goes on to say:

As long as we eat meat factory farms will be the dominant mode of production. In other words, as long as humans deem it culturally acceptable to consume animal flesh — that is, as long as eating meat is an act that’s not considered taboo — factory farms will continue to proliferate. The reason for this strikes me as intuitive: An unfettered demand for meat, in conjunction with basic human choice, provides political, technological, and scientific incentives to produce meat as efficiently as possible. Unless you have a plan to displace capitalism, density of production will rule, billions of animals will suffer, and our health will continue to decline.

His ultimate point: “Until meat as meat is stigmatized, factory farms will thrive as assuredly as a dropped object falls downwards.” He says of course there will always be people who get meat from alternative sources such as small, sustainable farms, but as Laura paraphrased it, “as long as there is meat week, there will be factory farms, and the seven wealthy locavores don’t really matter all that much.” 

So thanks, Meat Week NYC organizers, for continuing to glorify meat despite the fact that it’s cruel and destroying the planet. Meat consumption is an epidemic. It compromises people’s health and quality of life. If Meat Week had a responsible message, it wouldn’t be “eat sustainable meat,” it would be “eat less meat.”


The Humane Society takes on Smithfield and the McRib  »

The Humane Society of the United States has filed a complaint against Smithfield Foods, who supplies the pork for the McVom, in reaction to a series of videos HSUS says are misleading. You can read the whole complaint in PDF form. The Atlantic has great coverage for you but if you want to watch the videos in question, here’s a pretty great one about gestation:

[Can’t see the video? Watch it on!]

I know it’s supposed to show you how great they treat these pigs but does anyone else find this video super-disturbing anyway? And this is what it looks like when you try to sugar-coat it? Jeez louise, that’s messed up. Speaking of messed up, here’s the HSUS’ undercover footage from Smithfield Foods last year:

[Can’t see the video? Watch it on!]

You can see how much Smithfield is committed to animal care, right? Well if you have any doubts, Smithfield will clear that right up for you! Here’s my new favorite site: It’s pure comedic genius (I love deadpan). This part is great:

The animals we raise are the core of our business. Their well-being is pivotal to our success, and we do all we can to ensure their safety, comfort, and health. Indeed, our entire operations revolve around sound animal care.

See, I thought CASH MONEY was the core of their business. Because really, C.R.E.A.M. But all this time, it’s actually been pigs. I find that a little confusing though because where does the slaughtering part fit into a pig’s wellbeing? Whether you think animals should be killed for meat or not, you have to admit there’s a bit of a discord there. They should really say something like, “we do all we can to ensure their safety, comfort, and health, except for the part where we kill them and eat them.” There you go, just tack that little bit on the end and it’s much less of a lie. I know I definitely feel more comfortable now. 

And how many veterinarians did that promo video say they have? Like 17? That doesn’t sound like that many when you read this:

 As the world’s largest producer of pork, Murphy-Brown LLC, our hog production independent operating company (IOC), and its subsidiaries, own approximately 460 farms and contract with about 2,135 contract hog producers in the United States alone. Smithfield’s meat processing operations also receive pigs from numerous independent hog producers, whose numbers fluctuate depending upon market conditions.

We’re supposed to believe that a handful of well-paid industry vets can account for the wellbeing of the pigs at all those farms? As we know from what I wrote previously, Murphy Brown can’t even ensure its employees’ safety, but somehow they can care for millions of pigs? 

Smithfield wrote a response to the complaint but there’s nothing really worth mentioning from it. It’s just kind of whiney. 


Guest Post: Oakland’s animal slaughter proposal meets the national audience  »

And locals aren’t the only ones appalled

The Oakland planning proposal to deregulate animal slaughter and officially sanction backyard “husbandry” is the focus of James McWilliams’ blistering critique in the Atlantic. It turns out that reconstructing the city’s yards and vacant lots as “sustainable” animal farms and urban “homesteads” is a bit problematic. (Warning: some descriptions are graphic.) 

Judging from the comments, the proposal is just as contentious outside the East Bay. And to absolutely no one’s surprise, vegan perspectives expressed online are greeted with frenzied blathering and digital tantrums. 

The article, on the other hand, is great!

Framing the local issue for a wider audience, McWilliams makes an important point early on:

As matters now stand, Oakland could very well alter its urban agriculture code in order to allow virtually any urban homesteader not only to raise goats, chickens, rabbits, and ducks, but to slaughter them on site. And what happens in Oakland — a test case of sorts — is bound to be replicated elsewhere.

This point is important for a number of reasons. For better and for worse, the locavores of the Bay (and the East Bay, in particular) have positioned themselves as the leading voices and public representatives of Urban Homesteading and Sustainability (TM). They and those deeply influenced by their thinking would like to see this proposal put into practice, and replicated elsewhere.

For better because it’s enormously important to encourage local, organic food production, address the lack of access to fruits and vegetables in urban food deserts and schools, and foster community self-sufficiency and empowerment. These are all issues that have been championed by the likes of Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and their acolytes. They deserve credit for bringing them somewhat into the mainstream.

But it’s most definitely for worse: interwoven with this vision, and sometimes eclipsing the original goals, there’s a creepy fixation on the necessity of killing animals, despite such killing being less necessary now than at any time in recorded history. What’s more, the killing is meant to be somehow virtuous and right, a matter of social justice and cultural reclamation. Even if the amateur butchers themselves are not always particularly skillful and humane at the killing part; even if it means more inputs and less land to grow food on; even it means expensive animal products rather than the fruits and vegetables basically everyone agrees need to be made cheaper and much more accessible; and even if the push for deregulated animal slaughter is coming less from those most screwed over by the broken food system than from best-selling authors, upper-middle class hobbyists, and, bizarrely, young, usually white progressives and radicals.  

The backyard slaughtering vision is wrong on multiple levels. It aspires to be an alternative to factory farming but really only offers an addition to it. And alongside the egregious and predictably “excessive” violence against animals, there’s also a crucial insight that’s been hijacked: Our food system really is in bad shape. We really could be feeding ourselves in ways that make much more sense, while also not destroying the world. Addressing food security and access were the original, stated reasons for initiating the food policy discussion in Oakland in the first place, prior to the sudden emphasis on killing animals.  

A key point of McWilliams’ piece is its first paragraph, which has gone totally unremarked in 201 comments and counting (as of the time of this writing):

Over the past ten years the United States has undergone a revolution in the way we eat. Communities throughout the country have localized food systems, placed power back in the hands of local farmers, and shortened the distance between farm and fork. The benefits of this trend have been considerable. Consumers have become more critical of overly processed food, better aware of the connection between diet and health, and more appreciative of eating seasonally. I’ve been critical of this movement from the start, but I admit it has been a cultural achievement of historical significance.

This is absolutely true, and something to be recognized and appreciated. 

But what we strive to put in place of the broken and ultimately self-destructive food system shouldn’t replicate its cruelties, desensitization, and inherent inequalities of access. There is at least a bit of common ground to meet on – specifically, how we need to grow hella food as much as we can – and we should take advantage of those points of agreement.   

Locavores certainly need to stop being so fixated on the virtues of “honest slaughter,” for starters, not to mention on fictitious “closed systems” that ignore the existence of the rest of the world, to all of our detriment. 

And vegans need to engage with these policy debates, because they’re happening with or without us. In our absence, we should probably expect a bunch more proposals like Oakland’s.

Rick Kelley is a recent transplant to the Bay, having fled the brutal Minnesota winters for warmer climes. He spends his days at a Oakland workers’ rights nonprofit and his evenings probably playing moderately accurate renditions of Propagandhi songs with his awesome partner and their rescued pup, Bandit. He’s also currently active in organizing against Oakland’s “Let’s All Kill Some Chickens in Our Yards For Fun” proposal. He used to blog, and might do so again someday. The adorable chickens above were rescued by Animal Place and they’re not for eating, they’re for feeding grapes to! And hugging maybe if you’re lucky.


“ IT HAS ALWAYS been crucial to the gourmet’s pleasure that he eat in ways the mainstream cannot afford. For hundreds of years this meant consuming enormous quantities of meat. That of animals that had been whipped to death was more highly valued for centuries, in the belief that pain and trauma enhanced taste. “A true gastronome,” according to a British dining manual of the time, “is as insensible to suffering as is a conqueror.” But for the past several decades, factory farms have made meat ever cheaper and—as the excellent book The CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] Reader makes clear—the pain and trauma are thrown in for free. The contemporary gourmet reacts by voicing an ever-stronger preference for free-range meats from small local farms. He even claims to believe that well-treated animals taste better, though his heart isn’t really in it. „

A truly excellent take down of “foodies” by B.R. Myers over at The Atlantic. Warning: it contains a NSFW/Life bit about Anthony Bourdain grossly eating endangered songbirds and then exchanging “just fucked” glances with fellow diners/psychopaths. Seriously, my eyes started to water. Was it to cry? Or dry heave? Possibly both. Yep! It was both. 

The only problem with this seemingly perfect piece of writing is that it’s published in The Atlantic, home to some of the most terrible food writing in the world. Oh well, nobody’s perfect. 

[Hat-tip, Elizabeth!]

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