vegansaurus!

01/24/2011

Bird deaths caused by avicide in USDA “shocker”  »

It’s just that the starlings in South Dakota “were defecating on a farmer’s cattle feed across the state line in Nebraska,” and whoops, they dropped dead in midair, inconveniently missing the state whose resident had put a contract out on their lives altogether. Funny how that works.

This is part of an ongoing program called “Bye Bye Blackbird”—cleverly titled by some USDA employee in the ’60s—that exists solely for the “eradication” (read: MURDER) of birds that have become pests. Sorry, endangered species, but the poisons used to kill all your avian pals don’t differentiate between “good” birds and “bad” ones, so the rusty blackbird is dying alongside “pests” like those cow-feed-ruining starlings, grackles, cowbirds, and red-winged blackbirds. Whoops, again! But if the dang birds aren’t pooping everywhere they’re eating up all the feed for the cows we people need to kill to feed our gaping maws, so someone has to suffer. I know, I  know—hungry birds? in the winter? Knock me over with a feather. Too bad they won’t just quietly hide away and starve to death, like nice homeless people. Thousands of birds falling dead from the sky is just so—creepy. I mean, it’s not like the USDA is going to stop using avicides, or cattle farmers won’t contract out the totally necessary bird-killing to professional murderers. Goodness.

[Photo of the second-ever banded rusty blackbird by Stylurus; thanks to Truthout for the story]

01/18/2011

The necessity of animal testing: a rebuttal  »

When I wrote about the terrible experiments scientists are conducting at the University of Texas, someone reblogged it with a lot to say. Here’s the final paragraph:

"REALLY want to protest animal testing? Walk away from the next antibiotic your doctor prescribes, turn down the next necessary surgery you are recommended, and hope you’re never hospitalized. I can assure you that each and every one of the medications and procedures that you come across has been tested on animals, using the most extreme conditions that could possibly be encountered in real practice."

Do you know why this is bullshit? Benefiting from things we learned in past experiments that we now consider ethically wrong does not mean we should support ethically wrong experiments or continue them in the future. There are all kinds of experiments that went on in the past that are now considered immoral—experiments on PEOPLE—and we’ve learned a lot from them. Think about the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; they  were despicable and I hope we never, ever see anything like that again, but we benefitted from the knowledge we gained from them.

Even in psychology—the Milgram experiment? They teach that in every psych class and it’s pretty messed up. And don’t get me started on the Stanford prison experiment and its lasting effects on participants. That inspired new standards of ethics, and now would be considered officially unethical. We also learned a lot from that study, and it is frequently discussed in classrooms.

Peta is also trying to get the president of U.T. to investigate the experiments because they may be illegally abusive to animals. That’s the greater point to many of these cases Peta takes on: the research labs are performing animal experiments beyond what is allowed. Even if you are pro-animal testing, you still have to follow the rules. For example, after a Peta investigation, University of Utah was investigated by the USDA and cited for nine violations under the federal animal protection laws.

Saying “Medical research mostly deserves to be left alone” is cruelly short-sighted. Animal testing should be illegal, but in the meantime it must be closely monitored to make sure the testers are abiding by the law; clearly they can’t be relied upon to do so on their own. If a lab conducts illegal experiments, it should be shut down. Try to find some legal tests to get behind, if you are going to support animal testing.

We have knowledge from unethical—and now illegal—experiments, and that knowledge is valuable. We can’t pretend certain information doesn’t exist when it does. We also can’t condone these experiments and can’t continue them. If we know an antibiotic can cure an illness because that medicine was initially tested on non-consenting humans, do we pretend we don’t know the antibiotic is effective? No. Can we still condemn these experiments? Yes. Do we fight to make sure they never happen again? Yes. The same can be said if the non-consenting subjects were animals. Benefitting from knowledge derived from morally reprehensible experiments doesn’t mean we have to condone them and it doesn’t mean we should continue to practice them in the future.

01/11/2011

University of Texas is torturing animals: how you can help!  »

Peta, everyone’s favorite, just exposed the disgusting treatment of animals in the University of Texas labs. It’s REALLY disturbing: they are giving sheep spinal cord injuries, burning pigs’ skin with Bunsen burners, and cutting up dogs’ colons. USEFUL and HELPFUL, for sure.

It takes one minute to email the university president with Peta’s email form. Peta has filed a complaint with the USDA. We’ll see what happens, but in the meantime please take a moment to email UT.

[Images from Peta.org]

11/18/2010

Poor ol’ Rawesome, the members-only raw food club. Everything they sell is raw! But the government HATES THEM, because…dairy? The government is anti-raw dairy products? The government tends to go overboard with its responses to alternative foods clubs? Maybe it’s the long arm of Dairy Management—those guys do not fuck around.

On the other hand, some of the things these raw-milk enthusiasts say is priceless.

"It’s how nature provides the food without man becoming involved with, uh, pasteurization, homogenization, processing of any kind."

"Rawesome had a real, desperate need for raw goat milk, and we progressed in building our own dairy and raising our own goats."

Yes, guys. “Nature” provided you with the milk. Nature in the form of cows and goats that were never consulted about the situation. And unless they spontaneously excrete their milk into buckets, “man” has to be involved in the process. Oh dear. A “desperate need” for goat’s milk! What does that look like? Do you get the shakes if you don’t get your fix? Leave you curled in a ball on the floor, immobile and ashen-faced, until someone can place a few precious drops of god’s own ambrosia—sorry, “rawmbrosia”—on your parched tongue?

Obviously, shut up, government oversight agencies; try looking into Big Ag before raiding tiny private raw food clubs. But also, shut up raw-animal-products evangelists. You guys sound just as ridiculous as every other evangelizing raw foodist,* except you also claim that raw dairy is better because it’s straight from the animal, as though that mitigates the from-the-animal part. Your high horse: please, come off it.

*Excluding our Sarah E. Brown, as we suspect her of having a secret crazy side.

[video link via eater national]

11/16/2010

Wherever you are, your government hates you  »

Not a joke. In England, after slashing health and welfare benefits, the new government is writing policy on “obesity, alcohol, and diet-related disease”; namely, “an overhaul of public health.” To advise them, the government has asked experts in different areas of obesity, alcohol, and diet-related disease, including: Cancer Research U.K.; the Faculty of Public Health; the CEO (Jeremy Beadles) of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association; Diageo; Unilever; Mars; Kellogg’s; PepsiCo; KFC; and McDonald’s. British public health policy: it’s just like ours! Which is to say, the mighty businesses get to strike all the legislation they don’t like, work in sneaky little loopholes so they can continue to sell their demon “food” unfettered by silly regulations, and do it with the approval of the government AND public health advocacy groups! Win-win-win, suckers!

Currently 30 percent of North Korean residents are “substantially undernourished,” but every single country save China and South Korea does not want to donate food because the PRK’s government is all nuked up. AHAHA sorry fellow human beings; your government eats up all your food and hordes money you will never see, makes selling or trading your own food illegal, and refuses to shut down its nuclear program despite 30 percent of you already starving! And not one wealthy country that could give you food or the supplies to grow your own will, because we’re all playing a game of nuclear-chicken with your dictator-leader! I guess you’ll just have to rely on the underfunded U.N. World Food Program.

Those lovely reuseable plastic-composite shopping bags all the grocery and drugstores sell now? Some of them are full of lead. YES. Thanks for the Q.C., government! Glad you’re looking out for us as we try to avoid using terrible animal-murdering never-decomposing plastic bags! Solution: canvas. Just use bags made of recycled canvas and you and the environment and the cotton-harvesters will be all right.

And here are your FDA recalls from last week (Nov. 9 to 13)! As the majority of these are non-vegan, maybe let your meat- and cheese-eating pals know about them. And sleep well at night knowing how much lower your risk of bacterial illness is.

Thanks for strictly enforcing those safety standards, FDA! Man it is great to live in a country whose government cares so much about its citizens’ health and safety.

11/08/2010

Dairy Management using tax dollars to sell you cheese!  »

Dairy Management, essentially the marketing arm of the USDA, has had one purpose since its creation in 1995: to get everyone to buy more dairy products! According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Dairy Management has been helping with and paying for the marketing of cheesy foods since 1997. Apparently, “if every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually.”

Most recently, Dairy Management consultants met with Domino’s Pizza “to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese.” Dairy Management also paid $12 million for the marketing. What $12 million? Our $12 million, citizens! Who do you think funds the government? Yeah, we’re collectively paying for the “Got Milk?” campaign, too.

“Clinical studies show that people on a reduced-calorie diet who consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day can lose significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories.” Do you remember hearing that? It came from a study commissioned by Dairy Management that turned out to have no basis in reality. Yes, it was a lie! A lie perpetrated by an arm of the government! For four years these ads ran, until the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine challenged the study in 2005 and got the Federal Trade Commission to finally pay attention and suspend the campaign in 2007 “pending additional research.”

Please read the rest of the article—you will love all the fun techniques Dairy Management uses to turn us buffoons into cheese-devouring zombies, and just how much more cheese the country has been eating since Dairy Management’s inception (hint: a whole lot!).

Should you ever find yourself craving an eight-cheese pizza—like the new “Wisconsin” by Domino’s, with two cheeses in the crust and six on the top—your Vegansaurus would like to remind you of all the vegan alternatives available today. For this generic melting dairy cheese that Dairy Management tries daily to shove down your throat, there are equally delicious vegan analogs without the taint of the dairy industry, obscenely high levels of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and no one is sneakily marketing it to you.

Vegan cheese; it’s basically good for you! OK that’s a lie, but it definitely won’t kill you tomorrow.

10/12/2010

USDA and Let’s Move! want veg recipes for school lunches! BEEF magazine fears for children’s health  »

Who knew there were multiple BEEF magazines? The one in question today is a trade magazine, specifically "America’s leading cattle publication," which means they don’t write articles for consumers, but they are heavily invested in the consumption of beef. No surprise, then, that they’ve pitched a big old fit about the USDA’s new Let’s Move! Recipes for Kids Challenge that requires vegetables and whole grains, but not beef. NOT BEEF.

A disaster! Kristina Butts is terrified that this will deprive schoolchildren of—beef? Her argument isn’t what you’d call convincing, though considering she is the director of Legislative Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association—and the only source quoted in this article—perhaps she has different priorities than our beloved FLOTUS. Kristina Butts finds this emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables ridiculous: “[P]lants already make up 70 percent of our diets,” she says. Isn’t that enough? Not to mention that “[o]n average, Americans are consuming about 2.3 oz. of red meat/day, well within [the] 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. By excluding meat from its healthy kids recipe contest [sic], [the] USDA continues to add to the misconception that meat is over-consumed in the U.S.”

Don’t you see the problem? If we don’t “encourage [our] elected lawmakers to ask [the] USDA to use science and facts when finalizing the dietary guidelines,” they might do something totally insane, like recommend people eat a plant-based diet, and cut back on their consumption of ALL animal products—not just BEEF, but PORK and CHICKEN and EGGS and GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE, don’t they know soy gives you gay cancer? Jesus didn’t eat tofu!

The point, says Kristina Butts, is fuck this Recipe Challenge, unless you can get a bunch of eligible contestants together, in which case make it as beefy as possible. Show those USDA morons what real Americans eat.

*If you would like to enter this contest, it is unfortunately more complicated than being good at making vegetable-based dishes that children love. You have to form a team with “a chef, a a school nutrition professional, at least one student currently enrolled in grades 4-12 [sic], and at least one parent or community member.” Then there’s a bunch of business about recipe sizes and requirements, nutritional information, student taste-testing—Let’s Move! is not messing around with this. The deadline for submission is 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 30, so you still have plenty of time to get yourself together. Still, it is a noble cause, and now that BEEF has declared war on the Challenge, the veg community is honor-bound to win. Go on, school lunch champions. Do it for the animals. Or FLOTUS! Or Elizabeth, she’ll be so proud of you.

[cover image from, yes, BEEF magazine]

10/01/2010

The truth about mechanically separated chicken  »

I want to leave the second person plural a minute and talk to you all, editor-to-readers, about this mechanically separated chicken monstrosity Laura posted on Wednesday. You remember; it was pink and beautiful, before the realization that it was made of chickens. And then we all wanted to barf for about 10 years? Most of us did, anyway. It appears that some of you readers don’t believe that that photo is accurate; some doubt both the photo’s veracity and the facts we included from the original post about mechanically separated chicken.

That’s fair. I can understand not wanting to believe such a process exists, or that companies like McDonald’s don’t serve such a substance to their customers. Unfortunately, it’s real and true.

This is an image of mechanically separated chicken that has been divided according to the part of the chicken it came from. Note that while two of the three raw globs are quite pink, all three of the cooked globs have turned white or nearly white. This image comes from an article written in 2005 about University of Georgia professor Daniel Fletcher, who is “highly regarded and respected by poultry instructors and researchers in industry, government, and academia,” according to the World’s Poultry Science Association, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2008. Professor Fletcher had used a centrifuge to help separate the meats.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Services Poultry Slaughter and Inspection Training publication called "Plant Familiarization: Characteristics and Manufacturing—Poultry" [.pdf], “Often, the industry searches for ways to yield the maximum edible, wholesome product from the meat or poultry carcass. The mechanical separation process is a technology that industry uses to obtain more usable product from bones from which the muscle has  been removed.”

The USDS FSIS glossary defines mechanically separated chicken (and turkey) as “a paste-like and batter-like product…intended for use in the formulation of other poultry products…. Mechanically separated chicken and turkey are used in products such as chicken and turkey franks, bologna, nuggets, and patties.” National Geographic's video of processing hot dogs rather graphically illustrates the meat-slurry creation process.

One final note: Should anyone seriously doubt any claims made by any Vegansaurus contributor again, please contact us (me or Laura) about such matters. We will take you seriously. However, no writer would deliberately post something untrue, and we always do our research; we respect you and ourselves too much to lie.

(Besides, we aren’t your confused great-uncle sending warnings about deserted highways where scary strange man drivers flash their headlights at lady drivers who drive faster to get away when it turns out the man driver was trying to warn the lady that the scary strange man is in her backseat so when she drives really fast to get away from the flashing-lights guy she’s actually driving faster toward her imminent RAPE and DEATH, LADIES DON’T EVER DRIVE ALONE AND ALWAYS LISTEN TO MEN!!! Seriously.)

09/21/2010

Colorado Bureau of Animal Protection’s chief investigator is “anti-animal rights”  »

Nope, not even kidding a little bit. Check out Scot Dutcher’s Twitter, which as of this post is still up and functioning, despite the state’s Dept. of Agriculture Deputy Director Jim Miller’s admission that Dutcher’s Twitter was “unauthorized,” and moreover, that “[I]t was something that we spoke with [Dutcher] about. He understood that he wasn’t supposed to be doing that.”

But I guess the guy in charge of animal protection for the entire state of Colorado is too, shall we say Mavericky to be silenced by mere policy. He is anti-animal rights and proud! Never mind the 860,000 pigs, 115,000 dairy cows, 400,000 sheep and lambs, “more than” 2.70 million beef cattle and calves, and approximately 6.25 million layer hens counted among Colorado’s top agricultural commodities*—Scot Dutcher thinks their living conditions are just fine, thank you, and doesn’t need any pesky USDA or FDA inspectors or anyone else telling him how to take care of them; they’re commodities, not precious little puppies. Would you tell a wheat farmer to be kinder to the wheat? A strawberry farmer to harvest the berries more humanely? No—and to Dutcher, animal rights appears to sound just as crazy.

This definitely seems like the right guy to call when you suspect farm animals are being abused. How much would you bet one of his first questions is whether they can still produce milk/eggs/wool/meat.

*Latest figures available were from 2007

09/09/2010

Going off-grid with the USDA: Grow your own soybeans!  »


From this amazing book called Gardening for Food and Fun, published by the Department of Agriculture in 1947 and reprinted by Library4Farming in 2009 comes instructions for the at-home gardener on growing your own vegetable soybeans!

Did you know, for example, that, “The cultivated soybean, Glyine max (L.) Merrill, is the only member of the genus having an erect bushy plant with an annual growth habit”? DYING. The Dept. of Ag is full of interesting information. Also some outdated stuff, as this was written in the mid-/late ’40s; it recommends growing soybeans because they’re difficult to find “in canned or frozen form.”

However, it does seem quite useful. Your Vegansaurus asked an experienced horticulturalist about the instructions, and she said they seem very reasonable. So if you’re worried about issues like buying from companies whose soybeans also feed livestock or use GMOs, or you’d like to live more independently in general, growing soybeans may be for you. I especially love Gardening for Food and Fun because it tells you exciting! and new! ways to eat the food you’ve grown, like how to sprout and dry the soybeans; it’s adorable. Soybean sprouts are not on my imaginary 1950s dinnertables, but there are your helpful tips anyway.

Library4Farming seems like a pretty useful resource: they are working to put online every single USDA Yearbook of Agriculture series “which has been published almost every year from 1894 to 1992” and which are full of relevant (and irrelevant) information. So far they have scanned the aforementioned GFF, Insects, and Science in Farming. Maybe there are more thrilling revelations from the USDA waiting for someone (us? you?) to discover! Maybe it is excrutiatingly boring blah blah about how to most effectively slaughter insects! We’ve only read the bit about soybeans so far, but that was neat enough to share, it seemed like there might be more USDA fun!

[image of soy bean plant by kamome; image of soybeans by trapon]

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