E6 Video Back on YouTube

Some excellent news: Mercy For Animals’ E6 Cattle video is back on YouTube. Nathan Runkle hasn’t yet received a response to his letter [PDF] to YouTube’s CEO, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that YouTube realized that in pulling the video, they had inadvertently sided with animal exploiters. (Thanks, Katherine.)

Tornados Wiped Out Much of Alabama’s Chicken Industry

Total devastation and unfathomable animal suffering. The New York Times reports:

It is too early to calculate the storm’s economic impact, with some employers, like auto plants, temporarily closed and some small businesses blown away altogether. But one indication of the scale of destruction, as well as the complicated challenges of the response, is Alabama’s $5 billion poultry industry.

The industry, which is mostly located in the northern counties that were hit hardest, processes 20 million broiler chickens a week. At least 714 poultry houses — each of which can hold up to 30,000 chickens — have been damaged or destroyed.

Millions more chickens might be without water for extended periods and were seen as likely to die.


Weekly Ad: Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

This month I’ve developed an addiction to Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. The flavors of chocolate and hazelnut go together perfectly, and it’s sensational smeared on whole grain toast. Amazon.com has it for less than my natural foods store. Here are ten more grocery items that Vegan.com readers purchased from Amazon.com this month:

  1. Amy’s Light in Sodium Organic Spicy Chili
  2. Annie’s Naturals Goddess Dressing
  3. Dr. McDougall’s Vegan Lentil Couscous Soup, Light Sodium
  4. Kitchens Of India Pindi Chana
  5. Navitas Naturals Certified Organic Goji Berries
  6. Primal Spirit Meatless Jerky, Texas Barbecue
  7. Wild Berry Organic Fruit Spread – 9 oz.
  8. MimicCreme Non-Dairy Whippable Cream Substitute
  9. Amy’s Organic Indian Dal Curried Lentil Soup
  10. Celestial Seasonings Herb Tea, Sleepytime

Anytime you get to Amazon.com by following a Vegan.com link, anything and everything you buy during that visit generates commissions that allow me to keep this site constantly updated.

YouTube Censors MFA’s E6 Cattle Video

Earlier this week, YouTube pulled the video of Mercy For Animals’ latest undercover investigation, which showed graphic cruelties occurring at E6 Cattle. MFA immediately rehosted the video with Vimeo.

MFA founder Nathan Runkle just sent a great two page letter to the CEO of Google’s YouTube subsidiary:

MFA strongly agrees that videos of cruelty to animals are shocking and disturbing, but in the context of helping to expose and eliminate animal abuse they are extremely important. Consumers have a right to know how their food is being produced, especially when the production methods are shocking or disturbing, so that they can make informed choices. MFA’s “No Mercy” video opens a critical dialogue about animal use and abuse in our society, as well as pressing social and consumer issues. Without open dialogue in a free society, broken systems remain unchallenged and unchanged.

It seems an obvious contradiction that YouTube censors MFA’s efforts to expose and eliminate cruelty to animals, while continuing to allow highly sanitized meat, dairy and egg industry propaganda videos that promote killing animals for profit, and countless sensationalized prohunting videos that glamorize gleeful hunters mercilessly maiming and killing animals for “sport.” YouTube was awarded a 2008 Peabody Award and cited as “a ‘Speakers’ Corner’ that both embodies and promotes democracy.” Silencing one side of the debate over how farmed animals should be treated flies in the face of democracy. YouTube seems to be sending a message that hurting animals for fun or profit is acceptable but speaking out against such abuses is not.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turns out that YouTube took down the video in response to complaints strategically initiated by factory farming interests. Link [PDF].

Yotam Ottolenghi and the Vegan Police

Worthwhile but depressing New York Times article about Yotam Ottolenghi, one of the top chefs in the UK, and the grief he takes from the vegetarian community.

The guy’s an omnivore but his recipes are overwhelmingly vegetarian and vegan. His vegetarian (not vegan) cookbook Plenty spent years near the top of Britain’s bestseller lists. And here’s how the Times describes the restaurant chain he co-founded:

At its core, Ottolenghi is a modern deli, with vegetables as the focus instead of meat.

The guy’s probably done more to move people away from meat eating than any number of prominent vegan advocates, yet it’s clear from the article that the vegetarian community constantly gives him shit.

Now, to be clear, some of that shit is probably deserved. The guy did say in an interview last month that you can be a vegetarian and still eat fish. But what’s missing here is some basic gratitude. Ottolenghi’s someone who is helping to steer an entire nation away from daily meat eating. Vegans owe him praise rather than scorn.

I think it’s useful to divide chefs and food writers into three camps. The first camp are the people who are part of the problem: Paula Deen, Anthony Bourdain, Rachel Ray. Each of these people is helping to maintain the status quo, and is an asset to factory farming.

The second camp are the people who are either vegan or within spitting distance of being vegan: Jonathan Safran Foer, Kathy Freston, Robin Robertson, and so forth.

But it’s the third camp—made up of omnivores who eat vegan much of the time—that is likely doing the most to inspire people to move away from diets based heavily on animal products. Here, you’ve got people like Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan, Morgan Spurlock, and Yotam Ottolenghi.

Time and again, I get the sense that there’s a large element of the vegan community that views this third camp with disdain, and lacks appreciation for all that they’re accomplishing.

Factory farming is a massive and powerful force, and we need the pool of people opposing it to be as large and motivated as possible. People like Yotam Ottolenghi deserve support and encouragement, and the vegan police once again deserve to be ignored. Link.

Grieving Chimpanzees

An unforgettable photo of Dorothy the chimpanzee being carted off to burial at an animal sanctuary, with about a dozen chimps from the sanctuary looking on. Here’s a short biography of Dorothy:

On September 23, 2008, Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late 40s, died of congestive heart failure. A maternal and beloved figure, Dorothy spent eight years at Cameroon’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, which houses and rehabilitates chimps victimized by habitat loss and the illegal African bushmeat trade.

After a hunter killed her mother, Dorothy was sold as a “mascot” to an amusement park in Cameroon. For the next 25 years, she was tethered to the ground by a chain around her neck, taunted, teased, and taught to drink beer and smoke cigarettes for sport. In May 2000, Dorothy—obese from poor diet and lack of exercise—was rescued and relocated along with ten other primates. As her health improved, her deep kindness surfaced. She mothered an orphaned chimp named Bouboule and became a close friend to many others, including Jacky, the group’s alpha male, and Nama, another amusement-park refugee.

Szczupider, who had been a volunteer at the center, told me: “Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group. The management at Sanaga-Yong opted to let Dorothy’s chimpanzee family witness her burial, so that perhaps they would understand, in their own capacity, that Dorothy would not return. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration, but perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence. If one knows chimpanzees, then one knows that [they] are not [usually] silent creatures.”

(Via Reddit.) Link.

Man Indicted for Trying to Sell 23 Tons of Rotten Meat

It’s been a tough week for Filiberto Berrios, who has been indicted for violating the Federal Meat and Poultry Inspection Acts:

The federal charges state that on or about June 25, 2009, Berrios purchased and transported approximately 45,582 pounds of spoiled and misbranded meat and poultry food products. Berrios reportedly purchased the meat and poultry products for approximately 10 cents per pound.

Berrios, a salvage operator, would later transport the meat and poultry products to an open air vacant lot in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the indictment reads. Without the benefit of training, experience in food safety or a sanitary permit, and without subjecting the salvaged products to federal inspection, he then sorted and repacked the products to enhance their appearance.

Berrios transported the products to a food warehouse in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he held the products for sale to restaurants, retail stores, processors and local street vendors. Meat seized from Berrios´ operation underwent lab analysis and was found to be unfit for human consumption and then destroyed.

In a nutshell, this guy is accused of purchasing nearly 23 tons of rotting meat for ten cents a pound, then repackaging it for human consumption. I’d be surprised if he hadn’t been getting away with this for years before getting caught.

Yet another example of the meat industry consistently attracting the world’s most unsavory characters. (Thanks, Bea.) Link.

Meat & Dairy Take Top 5 Spots on List Ranking Food Safety Hazards

The Emerging Pathogens Institute of the University of Florida has just put together a top 10 list of food-borne pathogens, ranked by financial costs and harm to quality of life.

Interestingly, while E. coli 0157 seems to receive the majority of media coverage about meat recalls, it doesn’t even show up on the list. Instead, the list is headed by two less deadly contaminants, campylobacter and toxoplasma, that you rarely see reported on. Yet the poultry and pork industry’s problems with these pathogens collectively costs America $2.5 billion each year, and generates 14,000 years’ worth of damage to Americans’ quality of life.

The list below contains the costs associated with each contaminant, with each QALY representing a year of diminished quality of life suffered by Americans stricken by these contaminants.

  1. Campylobacter in Poultry: $1.3 billion, 9500 QALYs
  2. Toxoplasma a in Pork: $1.2 billion, 4500 QALYs
  3. Listeria in Deli Meats: $1.1 billion, 4000 QALYs
  4. Salmonella in Poultry: $700 million, 3600 QALYs
  5. Listeria in Dairy Products: $700 million, 2600 QALYs
  6. Salmonella in Complex Foods: $600 million, 3200 QALYs
  7. Norovirus in Complex Foods: $900 million, 2300 QALYs
  8. Salmonella in Produce: $500 million, 2800 QALYs
  9. Toxoplasma in Beef: $700 million, 2500 QALYs
  10. Salmonella in Eggs: $400 million, 1900 QALYs

It’s a safe bet the various meat and dairy trade associations will do zip to cover this story. (Via Marler.) PDF Link.

Update: Good Washington Post coverage here.