DC Embraces Meat Free Mondays

Chalk up another win for Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Monday concept. This time around, the City Council of the District of Columbia passed a ceremonial resolution [PDF] encouraging city residents to “abstain from animal products on Mondays.”

Not just meat, but all animal products. Nice.

This victory for farmed animals was helped along by the fine people at Compassion Over Killing. Link.

Ohio Animal Welfare Agreement Reached

Historic news out of Ohio this afternoon: the Ohio Humane ballot initiative has been called off in exchange for a string of important animal cruelty concessions (all bullet points below are copied and pasted from HSUS’ press release):

  • A ban on veal crates by 2017, which is the same timing as the ballot measure.
  • A ban on new gestation crates in the state after Dec. 31, 2010. Existing facilities are grandfathered, but must cease use of these crates within 15 years.
  • A moratorium on permits for new battery cage confinement facilities for laying hens.
  • A ban on strangulation of farm animals and mandatory humane euthanasia methods for sick or injured animals.
  • A ban on the transport of downer cows for slaughter.
  • Enactment of a legislation establishing felony-level penalties for cockfighters.
  • Enactment of legislation cracking down on puppy mills.
  • Enactment of a ban on the acquisition of dangerous exotic animals as pets, such as primates, bears, lions, tigers, large constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators.

This is huge news since Ohio is a key factory farming state with a powerful agriculture lobby, and there was no guarantee that the ballot initiative—had it gone forward—would have passed. Look for more coverage here later today.

Signature-gatherers should be proud as hell for creating the pressure that allowed this agreement to be hammered out. Link.

Ryan Andrews: Sucker or Shill?

The million dollar question for the vegan world this month is this: is Ryan Andrews just a sucker, or is he a shill for the beef industry?

Joshua Stark, a conscientious omnivore and grass-fed beef proponent, has a lengthy and superb blog entry which makes a strong argument that Andrews is not simply a garden-variety nitwit. And for that matter, it also questions whether “Ryan Andrews” is a real person.

Stark is a talented writer with a solid grasp of factory farm practices, and his piece offers numerous useful insights as it debunks some of the most common beef industry propaganda.

Here’s one element of Stark’s piece I most definitely agree with: if you spend a lot of time reading agribusiness PR, you find they make the same arguments over and over. These aren’t arguments your typical vegan has heard, but if you regularly read industry journals and press releases you’ll get to know them by heart.

As Stark notes, it’s uncanny that Andrews’ article repackages almost the entirety of the beef industry’s talking points, with the bizarre spin that it’s supposedly straight talk coming from an open-minded vegan.

My personal world view is probably as pessimistic as the most fringe conspiracy theorist, and I think we’re all fucked like you wouldn’t believe. But instead of believing in elaborate conspiracies regarding 9/11, chemtrails, black helicopters, FEMA camps, oil spills, JFK, whatever—I tend to think that nearly all of society’s ills can be traced back to our monumental stupidity and pathological selfishness. We’re just as screwed as if some elite skull-and-bones Rothchild crew was pulling the strings, but the stupidity of billions is an incomparably more powerful force than the conniving schemes of an elite cabal. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, I believe Celine Dion is the antichrist.

So with that in mind, my biases are strongly in favor of calling Andrews a well-intentioned sucker, or, as Brandon on the Vegan.com fan page better termed it, a “useful idiot.” That said, it’s impossible to finish Stark’s piece without desperately wanting the sucker-or-shill question answered.

Which brings me to my Woodward and Bernstein moment: I’m going to just email Andrews and ask him. (Via Messina.) Link.

Update: I emailed Andrews and have received a response. He states that Ryan Andrews is his legal name and that he has not received compensation for writing this article. I’m strongly inclined to believe him, and I intend to give this story more coverage on Vegan.com in the coming weeks.

Cattle Feedlots are Like a Holiday Inn

Ryan Andrews, a vegan bodybuilder and strength coach, has overjoyed America’s cattlemen by touring a 22,000-head feedlot and then parroting beef industry talking points:

You see, very few people in the nutrition world are ever allowed to visit feedlots. In fact, some of my favorite authors have written entire books about feedlots without ever being granted permission to see one in person. So I had to “work it” pretty hard to get this kind of access. And was really excited.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Feedlots may be tough to enter—and why do you think that is?—but some of the biggest are located right alongside major highways. You can easily stop your car and get a close-up view of the conditions the cattle live under. Harris Ranch, for example, is one of the world’s biggest feedlots, and it’s located right next to Interstate 5 in California, meaning that tens of thousands of motorists witness its deplorable conditions every day.

If the wind’s blowing right, you can smell the shit from Harris Ranch from miles away. I have.

But go on, Ryan:

Growth-promoting hormones are used in feedlot cattle as it increases efficiency. These are naturally occurring hormones that are regularly metabolized by the body.

And Europe refuses to import beef from hormone-treated cattle.

Most cattle don’t get antibiotics. And if they do, they need it.

Very likely because of illnesses arising from crowded conditions, and a grain-based diet.

Speaking of cleanliness, Magnum wants the cattle to be clean and comfortable.

I know, I know, I can see my animal welfare comrades shaking their heads—but think about it. From a profit standpoint, if animals aren’t comfortable, they aren’t going to eat. If they don’t eat, they don’t grow. If they don’t grow, they won’t be much use to the dude wanting to buy a big steak.

Your animal welfare comrades are shaking their heads because you’re making an idiotic and demonstrably false argument. 22,000 animals crowded together at a feedlot aren’t ever going to be “clean and comfortable.” And animals do so eat if they’re not comfortable—in fact they’ll eat until and unless they’re on the brink of death. Look no further than any battery cage egg or veal operation for clear evidence of this.

Yes, what I’m trying to say is that Magnum Feedyard cattle receive better health care than many North Americans. They get regular vet appointments and a simple diet that is nutrient dense.

I have no other response than to say this guy is smoking crack.

Have you ever been to a Holiday Inn? That’s kind of like Magnum. They are a hotel for cattle.

What the fuck is wrong with this guy?

I was tired of talking about, reading about, and hearing about feedlots. Especially when many of the accounts were from people who had never been to a feedlot in their lives.

So, when I was given this sort of rare access, I jumped at the chance to check one out for myself.

Have you stopped to think that the only reason you were given this access was because you made abundantly clear you are a Quisling?

And, I have to say it. If my experience at Magnum is representative of other cattle farms, all those accounts of the dismal, depressing, disastrous cattle conditions seem to be exaggerated.

As I wrote in Meat Market, the business of a feedlot is to trade health for size. Andrews just paid a visit to an operation where he saw 22,000 cattle standing in shit, implanted with hormones, and waiting their turn to be carted off to slaughter—and he apparently has no problem with any of it. He concludes his piece by writing:

People want meat. And Magnum’s feedlot system is dialed in. They’re producing safe and cost-effective meat in, arguably, the most cattle-conscious way (short of opening up those pens and letting them run free). Rock on Magnum.

Andrews’ article has predictably drawn vehement responses from the vegan community and gleeful articles from beef interests praising his “open-mindedness and objectivity.” He’s responded here. He remains absolutely clueless about the distortions he’s made and the damage he’s done.

The substance of Andrews’ article is no different from the lies being peddled by the beef, dairy, pork, and egg trade groups. But those PR flacks do it because they’re despicable people who lack a moral compass, and have something to gain financially.

Andrews did it because he’s got the critical thinking skills of a gnat, scant empathy for animals, and total incomprehension of the harm he has caused. (Thanks, Ginny.) Link.

Thank You to Vegan.com Summer 2010 Supporters

Last week, I put up a donation page which sought financial help to allow me to keep publishing Vegan.com. I’m happy to say that 28 generous readers stepped up with donations that will allow me to just about break even on publishing this site through Labor Day.

So, if you enjoy my writing, please give a big thanks to the following generous readers for enabling me to continue writing my daily love letters to the meat industry:

Johanna A, Dawn S, Jaslyn D, Robert W, Christine M, Melissa V, Elizabeth L, Jonathan C, Keyur S, Mark M, Linette V, John A, Anca S, Leslie G, Michelle B, Scrappy, Greg S, Timothy W, Rajesh K, Tami N, Carla D, Peter L, Laura J, Vikki W, Hope B, David Dever, Nicole N, Richard D, and Linda B.

I can’t think of a more rewarding way to spend my time than by working on Vegan.com, and I thank all of you who make it possible.

Jessica Simpson a Weekend Vegan

I’ve had a soft spot for Jessica Simpson ever since her existence was widely credited with impairing Tony Romo’s quarterbacking, and bouncing the Dallas Cowboys out of the playoffs. Now CNN is reporting that she’s become a weekend vegan. Anything that spreads the vegan message to her inexplicably large fan-base has to be good news. Link.

Salmon-Flavored Vodka

Now you can enjoy that dead-fish-in-your-mouth hangover effect while you’re drinking. An Alaska distillery has introduced salmon flavored vodka.

The distillery is based in Wasilla, the little city that keeps on giving. (Thanks, Bea.) Link.

BP Keeps Wildlife Rescuers Out of Gulf

And Obama is still letting BP direct the cleanup? How is this even possible? It’s like watching someone get beaten to death in the boxing ring, and the ref refusing to stop the fight. Link.

Walter Willett Bashes USDA’s Latest Milk & Meat Advice

Two weeks ago, I jeered at the USDA for releasing new nutrition guidelines that called for increased milk consumption.

Now other experts are weighing in. In today’s Los Angeles Times, Walter Willet, the Chair of Harvard’s nutrition department, writes:

… the recommendation for three servings of milk per day is not justified and is likely to cause harm to some people. The primary justification is bone health and reduction of fractures. However, prospective studies and randomized trials have consistently shown no relation between milk intake and risk of fractures. On the other hand, many studies have shown a relation between high milk intake and risk of fatal or metastatic prostate cancer, and this can be explained by the fact that milk intake increases blood levels of IGF-1, a growth-promoting hormone.

He further eviscerates the milk recommendations over the next several sentences, and then gives the same treatment to the committee’s lean meat guidance. Go and read the whole thing; it’s important stuff to know and it’s entertaining to see one of the world’s top nutrition experts take a four beer piss over the USDA’s advice.

My friend Virginia Messina also has a nice write-up that links to the LA Times piece.