Got Milk? Not If You Know Better.

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I’ve written before in my blog on The Secret Atrocities of Factory Farming about the horrific abuse perpetrated on farm animals. Putting aside the complete and utter disregard for the animals’ sentience and ability to feel emotions, I find it particularly disturbing that products of dairy farms are promoted as healthy. It truly is a testament to the power of marketing.

For decades science has shown that milk is dangerous to our health. In fact, countries with the highest osteoporosis rates are those with the highest milk consumption.

A 12-year long study based on 77,761 women aged 34 through 59 years of age found that those who consumed the most calcium from dairy foods broke more bones than those who rarely drank milk.

Not only that, milk and other dairy products exacerbate the No.1 killer of heart disease, because they are the top sources of saturated fat in the American diet. Ad campaigns such as ‘Got Milk’, ‘Got Chocolate Milk’ and ‘Milk Life’ that describe milk as “8 grams of high-quality protein in each 8 oz. glass” are just propaganda. There is no doubt that protein is an important nutrient, but according to T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., an acclaimed biochemist, milk contains whey and casein proteins that are linked to cancer or the promotion of cancerous cells. Many other studies corroborate the link between milk and prostate, ovarian and breast cancers.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health organization, milk has these effects:

  • Women who drink three or more glass of milk per day have a 60% increased risk for developing a hip fracture;
  • Drinking three or more glasses of milk also increases mortality risk by 93%; and
  • For each glass of milk, the risk of dying from all causes increases by 15%.

Large, powerful organizations such as The National Dairy Council and Dairy Management Inc., that have a vested interests in promoting milk, have a lot more money to spin marketing campaigns that cover up these truths.

Fortunately, there are alternatives such as hemp milk, oat milk, almond milk and flax milk that are actually packed with lots of important nutrients. Soy milk, for example, contains almost as much protein as cow’s milk, and has more vitamin D. Almond milk contains more calcium than cow’s milk and only half the calories.

All of these products can be directly substituted for cow’s milk. They are healthier for you, the environment and the animals.

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Ag-Gag Laws –Why You Should Be Concerned

A recent poll conducted for the ASPCA revealed that 94% of the general American public agrees that farm animals throughout their lives, “… should be treated in a way that inflicts the least amount of pain and suffering possible.”

Unfortunately, many people also believe that there are animal welfare laws that protect them from cruelty on factory farms. This is patently untrue. The few laws that are in existence are rarely upheld, and there are many sidesteps around them giving agribusiness free rein to treat animals abhorrently. Just see some undercover videos, such as http://www.meatvideo.com, to get an idea of what really goes on.

These are not unusual occurrences.

The HSUS found cases of forced cannibalism at Kentucky’s Iron Maiden Hog Farm, where piglets’ intestines were ground up and fed to their mothers. At Wyoming Premium Farms workers were found kicking live piglets like soccer balls, swinging sick piglets in circles by their hind legs, striking mother pigs with their fists and repeatedly and forcefully kicking them as they resisted leaving their young.

In an effort to stop these abuses, animal protection organizations take undercover videos to document as evidence. It is a good thing that they do because it is one of the only ways the general public would find out. Workers in slaughterhouses risk retaliation and intimidation for speaking up.

If only that were enough to help these innocent creatures. It isn’t. In an egregious abuse of power by a few wealthy agribusiness companies, agricultural gag laws, a.k.a. Ag-gag laws, have now been instituted so that whistleblowers can be criminally convicted for gathering evidence of animal abuse.

Penalties range from one year in prison and a $1,000.00 fine, to $5,000 fine per day for each day spent collecting evidence. Six states now have them on the books. They are:

  • Kansas
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Utah

There were seven states – Idaho was just struck down in 2015 as a violation of free speech and equal protection.

Not only is this ludicrous, but it poses a serious threat on several levels:

  • Our First Amendment of free speech. This includes not only recording videos, but also possessing and distributing the videos taken on factory farms.
  • Food safety and health risks that include salmonella, mad cow disease and other potentially fatal diseases.
  • The environment. Massive amounts of waste are generated on factory farms and history has shown repeated and flagrant abuses of regulations requiring proper storage and disposal. This threatens our soil and water.

Animals deserve to be protected and consumers have a right to know how their food is produced. If there were nothing to hide, then there wouldn’t be a need for a cover-up.

If you live in a state where an ag-gag law exists, contact your Senators and Congressman to let them know that the legislation is unconstitutional and should repealed. Then post it on social media sites to spread the word.

3/11/16 Letter to the Editor – The Secret Atrocities of Factory Farming

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Every day there are legally sanctioned atrocities of torture, abuse and death occurring in the private sector. It is of such a magnitude that it eclipses the number of lives lost in all of the world wars, the holocaust, 911 and subsequent terrorist attacks combined.

The perpetrators of these abuses are factory farms, also known as intensive industrial farm operations. They are large-scale agri-businesses that supply 98% of all the food produced in the United States.

The victims are nine billion animals killed each year for food in the U.S. That number reaches 70 billion globally, or six million animals per hour. Some might say that it is unfair to compare human lives with nonhuman animals, but the overwhelming scientific evidence of their sentience and their ability to feel pain as much as we do, puts us in the same category.

Misleading marketing campaigns show animals roaming around the fields, but the reality is that they never breathe fresh air or see the sunlight. Animals are treated like biological machines where they are crammed into cages so small that they cannot stand up or stretch their limbs for their whole lives.

Egg-laying hens spend about two years in battery cages where they cannot spread a single wing. They die from either uterine prolapse from growth hormones they are fed to constantly push out eggs, skeletal deformities, lung congestion or one of the rampant infections that spread through the cramped quarters.

Understandably, the overcrowding causes aggression resulting in animals biting one another. To combat this, female chickens are de-beaked and left in such pain, they often die. Since there is no use for the male chicks, they are immediately gassed, ground up alive or put into garbage bags to suffocate. Pigs and cows’ tails are routinely cut off without any painkillers.

Equally cruel are the euphemistically named “gestation crates” that immobilize mother pigs for their whole lives so that they can be bred over and over again. They are forcibly confined, (also known as the “rape rack”), then artificially inseminated. Their babies have only 24 hours with their mother, as they suckle through the bars of the crates, before they are taken away, and put on hormones and antibiotics so the cycle can continue.

In 2013 the European Union banned gestation crates, followed by Canada in 2014. Australia and New Zealand are phasing them out by 2017, yet only nine states in the U.S. have banned them so far.

It seems preposterous that such massive institutionalized cruelty can happen without greater public awareness. Even more shocking is that videos have been taken by employees in slaughterhouses to document the abuses, but industry lobbyists have managed to criminalize the whistleblowing. Now known as the “Ag-gag” law, any person who gathers evidence can be sued $5,000 for each day they collect it. Seven states have this law in effect.

Despite significant efforts by the agriculture industry to cover up their abuses, word is getting out. Public pressure has caused companies such as Costco, Mondelez International, Nestle and Walmart to switch to cage-free eggs. It is just one step, but shows that companies will do the right thing with public pressure.

To be sure, feeding an ever-growing population requires intensive efforts, but factory farming is not the answer. In addition to causing immense animal suffering, it also causes water, land and air pollution that results in respiratory problems, skin infections, nausea, depression, and even death for people who live nearby.

Fortunately, entrepreneurs are finding ways to grow meat in labs and create great tasting plant proteins, creating more humane alternatives. Progress takes time though. To help end the suffering and sustain our earth, there are at least three things we can all do to have a positive impact:

  • Choose plant–based alternatives. There are plenty of tasty choices available, with more coming on the market every day. Not only is a green diet healthier for you, it less expensive. Even one day a week can make a difference in the number of animals abused;
  • Cut back or cut out eating animal products. It may be helpful to re-frame how you see the products in supermarkets: not hamburger or steak, but bloodied animal flesh under plastic that came from great suffering;
  • Tell others so they can make informed choices in their foods.

In an industry that is surprisingly immune to the most basic laws of humanity and civility, we can be a voice for these voiceless animals. Change won’t happen until we speak up.

A Letter to Meat Eaters

I have been a vegetarian for more than a decade, and this year became a vegan. I finally realized that I cannot call myself an animal lover and still eat products that come from animals.

When I mention my veganism, people respond in various ways. They get subtly defensive, saying that they only eat meat from local farms where the animals are treated well. Or they say they have cut back because of its health consequences. Or they ignore the subject altogether, suggesting that the topic is off limits. Until recently, I would then remain silent on the issue so as not to offend them, but then realized that it is absurd to shy away from taking a stand to end senseless violence.

If you eat meat, and you believe you are a compassionate person, then you must not know about the violence.

I do believe that most people are compassionate, and if they knew what was happening to animals on factory farms today, they would reduce or eliminate eating meat.

Factory farms supply 99% of all the food produced today in the U.S. They have put 95% of the local farmers out of business because it is impossible to compete against them. They are called ‘factory’ farms because they treat animals as units of production, with no consideration for them as sentient beings. They are highly profitable. Just Google ‘gestation crate’ or ‘farrowing crate’ and you will see heart-wrenching images of animals that cannot move for their whole lives.

Consider these facts:

  • When you eat meat, you are eating the flesh, veins, organs and limbs of an animal that went through unimaginable suffering for your momentary taste sensation. And there is overwhelming evidence that you are ingesting food that contributes to heart problems, numerous cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, to name a few.
  • Animals are sentient beings that experience emotions and feel pain. They want to tend to their young, enjoy their lives and be free from pain, just as we do.
  • Factory farmed animals are so severely confined that they cannot even move a limb to scratch an itch.
  • Factory farmed animals are genetically modified so that they grow to ten times their size in a few months. It would be like taking a seven-pound human baby and turning her into 700 pounds in six months. Imagine how painful that must be.
  • In nature, a cow has only one calf in her lifetime and she forms a strong bond with it. On factory farms, however, they are artificially inseminated every year to produce a calf for the sole purpose of getting her milk for human consumption. That baby calf is allowed only 24-48 hours to be with its mother. It is then taken away and either killed, because it is now a waste product, or sold to a meat farm were it is fed antibiotics and hormones for eventual slaughter. The mother cow cries for months for her baby.
  • 2-3 years of repeated rape, being robbed of their young, and then milked to exhaustion is the life of these cows. They never breathe fresh air or see the sun. The average life span of a cow in nature is 15-20 years. Is this worth a glass of milk? The same glass of milk that contains antibiotics and growth hormones? Do you wonder why your teenage girls are forming large breasts earlier than in previous generations?
  • Chickens are so crammed into cages that they develop skeletal deformities. Their feet never touch the bottom of the wire cages for their whole lives. They never breathe fresh air or see the sun. In fact, lights are kept on for 18 hours in windowless barracks to force their bodies to produce far more eggs than their natural capability.
  • Living in such cramped quarters results in the animals becoming understandably aggressive and peck one another. The factory farmer then de-beaks them, which is a very painful procedure of chopping off their beaks. So painful, in fact, that many of the chickens cannot eat after that. They die in extreme pain.
  • The chickens that are up against the edges of the cages have their nails grow around the bars as they are hanging, suspended in air. When it is time for the workers to retrieve them for slaughter, they are then ripped out from the relatively small opening, tearing their feet from their limbs and ripping their fragile wings.
  • Animal protection organizations have been fighting against these battery cages and a small victory that has been recently won. Many large companies are getting rid of them. While that is an improvement, cage-free chickens are still crammed into barns where they cannot even lift a wing. The ammonia-filled spaces make your eyes water. Imagine standing in that your whole life.
  • A post hoc justification for eating meat is often offered i.e. God put animals on this earth to feed us. If God is supposed to be kind and benevolent, then would he agree with inflicting pain and suffering on innocent beings? Why did he put an abundance of plant-based foods on this earth?

On a recent trip to an animal sanctuary, I learned of a rescued chicken from a factory farm, that tripped on a stone and fell over. Before a worker could get to it a few minutes later, it died of suffocation under its own weight because it was unable to stand up on its own. That is because it had been genetically modified. Imagine the pain it feels just walking around with all that extra weight just so that you can eat chicken breasts.

If you want to stop these abuses, you can help by making some simple dietary changes by substituting plant-based foods one or two days a week. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And if what I said isn’t enough to persuade you, then think of this:

  • If people didn’t eat meat, there would be enough food to feed the world, without the pollution, pain and suffering.
  • If people stopped eating chicken for one less day per week, the environmental equivalent would be the same as taking one million cars off the road.
  • You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you would by not showering for a whole year.
  • If we were meant to eat meat, we would have larger incisors with which to eat it, and we would not have to cook it.
  • There is an abundance of plant-based, delicious foods available that involve no cruelty or violence, and they are healthier for you and the planet.
  • Vegans do not care more for animals than people. We care for animals AND people. It is because of a deep appreciation for all life forms that many of us choose veganism.

There was a time when we didn’t think slavery was wrong, or that women should have the right to vote. Eating animals is wrong on every level. Please take a stand for these voiceless, innocent creatures and choose plant-based alternatives.