Quick Hit: Article on Polled Dairy Cows is Surprisingly Honest

(h/t Charlie)

The article, PETA wants dairy farmers to breed genetically modified cows, seems like it will be an opportunity to rail against the AR group people love to hate. Actually, it’s an honest discussion about dehorning and what validates genetic modification of cows (money producing traits, and that’s about it.)

I included a hopeful quote below, but I encourage you to read the whole thing.

N.B. The article does include detailed descriptions of dehorning, which could be triggering to some.

“There wasn’t an incentive to use them [polled cows] before because you couldn’t make money off of them. But right now they are very comparable. You don’t see a difference (in production), in the Holsteins especially,” Crull said.

Crull believes farmers will rapidly change toward milking polled cows once they see proof there is no decrease in production. “When a farmer has to make a choice about anything that is similar, they’ll always choose what is most convenient. And the polled cow is most convenient because they won’t have to deal with the dehorning anymore,” Crull said.

dairycow

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I Went to the Conservation Congress Spring Hearings and It Was Much Friendlier Than I Thought It Would Be

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Last night was my first time ever going to the Conservation Congress, so I’m going to outline my experience for people who plan to go in the future.

My experience:

We registered between 6:30 and 7. There were white tables in front of the entry to the PAC, and we wrote down our names and addresses, and were handed the question packet and three voting ballots. The next table over, we showed our IDs and were given tiny ballots to write the name of the delegates.

We sat in a cluster of Alliance people so I would have the best chance of people finding me if they needed a cheat sheet. We all started filling out our white ballots, flipping between the question packet and the cheat sheet. The actual talking portion started a little after 7. The game warden introduced the event, and his words were supplemented by a powerpoint. He enunciated well, but spoke stiffly, and gave the impression of reading directly from a manual, the way that teachers always have to for standardized tests.

The first election was for the 3-year term. There was a period of time to nominate delegates. Two were nominated. Each took a turn speaking.

While the votes were counted, the game warden started to read through the questions in the packet. He read every.single.question, except for the local measures. I had mixed feelings about this. It’s good to have multiple ways to communicate information for different learning styles and intelligences, and it may have helped people with reading disabilities, so that’s very cool. But it was so dull and so long. We also watched a fishing video during this first hiatus.

After the votes were counted, they announced the winner – the incumbent, Paul Reich. The same voting process was then repeated with the 2-year term delegates, then more question reading as those votes were counted. The 2-year term delegate was also the incumbent, Melissa Smith. Yay, Melissa! I also liked Paul. He seemed like an ethical person who could get things done. Also, he looked kind of like Louis C.K.!

paul reich

The DNR guy finished reading all the questions on the white ballot, then we moved to the blue ballot. The blue ballot concerned citizen proposals, all of which were taped on the wall outside the PAC. The savvy people knew this and had already taken pictures with their smart phones. I was not one of those savvy people, so I had to run out halfway through and do so. The citizen proposals inspired a lot more crowd commentary than the DNR proposals.

We left right before they were going to read the questions for the green ballot. It was about 9 pm. I’m guessing the event went until 9:30 or 9:45.

I was definitely not the only animal lover there, and I didn’t feel out of place.

I was warned by others that the Conservation Congress can be an uncomfortable place to be if you’re non-consumptive (not a hunter/trapper/fisher). Because of this, I asked my mom to go with me. Even if she hadn’t been there, we had a contingent of maybe 15 Alliance people, most of whom were sitting together. The auditorium was huge, and there were only 200-some people there, so I was physically distant from the people who identified as hunters.

It is long, but there are multiple options to leave early. 

The only thing you have to physically be there for is the election of the 3-year and 2-year term delegates. That happens in the first hour. The rest of the time, the DNR reps read the questions that you vote on on the three different colored ballots. You can follow along, or you can fill them out ahead of time, especially if you have a cheat sheet!

I did enjoy the citizen commentary, and I learned a lot.

The reason to stay is that, after each question, there is an option for citizen comments and questions. It’s rare that what a citizen said changed the way I voted, but a lot of them were knowledgeable, and I’m glad I heard what they had to say.

“Conservation” is a bit of a misnomer, since the only issues we voted on are in regards to game species. Nothing about other wildlife, nothing about other environmental issues.

So, there are three different voting cards we fill out. The white is for issues that have passed their specific committees and will be enacted if voted on. I didn’t stay to hear what the green was, but I think it’s similar to the white. The blue is for citizen proposals. If those pass, they are sent to a series of committees in the DNR, and they may eventually become issues for the white ballot.

The white and green ballots only covered game species. The blue ballot had a range of proposals about keeping science in the DNR, doing a full impact study about the oil pipeline, making the voting process more transparent, educating the public, and my favorite, having online voting! When my mother and I Ieft right after the citizen proposals had all been voted on, her response was “that was a lot more balanced than I would have thought.” I agreed at the time, but I’m not sure in retrospect. The only issues where there was balance were the issues where voting didn’t mean that much. Assuming that it’s been this way every year, I think it says something that there’s significant disparity between the green/white ballots and the blue ballots. But let me know if I’m misinterpreting!

People really don’t like Cathy Stepp.

Which is, of course, totally justified. But my favorite part about the blue ballots is that they had at least three proposals that clearly had the goal of never having someone like Cathy Stepp as secretary again.

I have no idea how anyone answers all those questions without a cheat sheet, and without reading the questions ahead of time.

It’s just a lot, a lot of reading and information to do all at once.

A lot of the comments on citizen proposals were by people who cared about animals, the environment, or wanted hunters and conservationists to work together.

It was kind of inspiring.

OVERALL: It’s definitely not my favorite animal related activity, but I feel like it’s an important thing I can do for wildlife, and it’s only one night a year. I appreciate the option to leave whenever we want. I would appreciate even more the option to vote online, but I’m glad I went this year, and I hope to see even more of you at the next one!

Everything You Need for Tonight’s Conservation Congress

Tonight is your chance to cast a vote for Wisconsin’s wildlife.

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Image credit to Melissa Smith

From HSUS:

Care about Wisconsin wildlife? Then mark your calendars for Monday, April 13, 2015 and plan to attend the annual Conservation Congress spring hearings. The Congress offers an unparalleled chance to inform DNR and NRB decision-making, and in recent years it’s been dramatically over-represented by hunters, trappers, and other “consumptive” groups. Wildlife advocates, we need you at the table! Every county is allotted two delegates to the Congress, so please consider running for a seat. The time commitment is modest, considering what’s at stake. If you aren’t interested in running, please still plan on attending your local spring hearing next April – in just one evening, you’ll have the chance to vote on a wide range of issues affecting Wisconsin wildlife.

Click here to see the 72 locations across Wisconsin.

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Image created by Melissa Smith

Click here to read the issues you’ll be voting on.

Wildlife Ethic 2015 Poster Sand Hill Crane and Chick 8 X 11 format final

Image credit to Patricia Randolph

Click here for a voting cheat sheet from delegate Melissa Smith and here for a voting cheat sheet from Madravenspeak’s Patricia Randolph, or download below.

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Wildlife Ethic Most Humane Answers 2015 DNR QUESTIONNAIRE FINAL

See you tonight, friends.

5 Ways to Make a Difference During World Laboratory Animal Week

World Laboratory Animal Week is April 18 – 26th. Here are five ways to make a difference.

1. Attend a sit in on April 18th.

April 18th, we’re organizing a sit in in front of the Harlow building. This will be a silent, peaceful protest. Important: We are not blocking people from entering the building or impeding foot traffic, just making our presence known.

2. Host a letter writing party.

Our elected officials need to hear from us about the UW open records exemption, UW needs to hear from us about the Kalin experiments, and our local newspapers can use letters to the editor about lab animals in general. If leafleting and protesting aren’t your thing, host a letter writing party. We’ll give you samples of letters, and we can work with you to reserve a room at a library in your area.

3. Leaflet with us on April 25th, 11-1.

April 25th, from 11-1, we’ll be leafleting downtown at the farmer’s market. Come join us! We’ll put more information on our website as the date draws closer.

4. Create an “ask me about monkeys in Madison” shirt or pin and wear it to a showing of Monkey Kingdom. 

Monkey Kingdom opens April 17th. This is an opportunity to connect with animal lovers, so please think about bringing some handouts, wearing an primate related shirt or pin, and/or speaking up for the Madison primates in any way you can. Send us pictures of your effort through alliance@allanimals.org, or tag Disneynature in your facebook posts or tweets.

5. Organize your own event during the week of April 18 – 26th and email alliance@allanimals.org with the details.

Quick Hit: U Mad, Bro? Federal Nutritionists Include Sustainability in Diet Recommendations, Meat Industry Pouts.

h/t Our Hen House

A couple of days ago, The Hill published an article called “Vegan diet best for planet.”

A federal panel that helps set federal dietary guidelines is recommending Americans eat less meat because it’s better for the environment, sparking outrage from industry groups representing the nation’s purveyors of beef, pork and poultry.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federally appointed panel of nutritionists created in 1983, decided for the first time this year to factor in environmental sustainability in its recommendations. They include a finding that a diet lower in animal-based foods is not only healthier, but has less of an environmental impact.

The meat industry is lashing back, contending the panel has neither the authority nor the expertise to make such a judgment.

Hard to say whether this one will have a happy ending. The article does say:

The Agriculture Department and Department of Health and Human Services will use the committee’s report and recommendations to draft the final guidelines for 2015, due out later this year.

But it follows up with this:

But even Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said sustainability is an issue that falls outside the scope of the guidelines.

Still, how cool is it to read this line in an article about federal dietary recommendations?

In its review of scientific studies, the committee highlighted research concluding that a vegan diet had the most potential health benefits.

from funnyjunk.com

Read This, Not That: News Fails and Successes on the California Drought

Read this:

1. Watch/read the Democracy Now interview with creators of Cowspiracy. This is the best overall analysis of the role animal ag plays in California’s water shortage.

On fracking:

Fracking gets a lot of attention because of water use. Fracking uses about 100 billion gallons of water every year in the U.S., which is a tremendous amount of water, but animal agriculture uses in excess of 34 trillion gallons. So it’s magnitudes greater. And then again the emissions that come from animal agriculture are about equal to natural gas and petroleum production. So it’s an issue that is vastly more destructive when it comes to water consumption, water pollution, and even emissions.

On almonds:

Ten percent of all water in California is used for almonds, which is a tremendous amount of water. But again, just alfalfa alone, a crop that is not consumed by human beings, that is fed for livestock, consumes 15 percent. California produces 82 percent of the world’s entire almonds. This is — again 10 percent of California’s water is feeding the 82 percent of the world’s almond demands. And the other important fact is that Americans aren’t consuming, and Californians in particular, aren’t consuming nine ounces of almonds per day, which is not the case for animal agriculture. Animal products we’re consuming nine ounces per person per day in the United States.

Lots and lots of statistics. I encourage you to check out the whole thing!

2. LA times has a great infographic showing the amount of water used to produce different foods.

AND, what’s even cooler, they have an interactive graphic where you can create a virtual plate and see how much your water footprint is!

3. A Mother Jones article from last year shows the amount of water that goes into producing different dairy products.

4. A Cowspiracy blog post from February highlights a New Republic article called Big Cattle, Big Gulp: Cowboys and cows are sucking the American West dry.

  • Humans drink about a gallon of water a day; cows, upwards of 23 gallons.
  • The alfalfa, hay, and pasturage raised to feed livestock in California account for approximately 1/2 of the water used in the state, with alfalfa representing the highest-acreage crop.
  • In parts of Montana, as much as 90 percent of irrigated land is operated solely for the production of livestock feed
  • 90 percent of Nevada’s cropland is dedicated to raising hay.
  • 1/2 of Idaho’s three million acres of irrigated farmland grows forage and feed exclusively for cattle; livestock production represents 60 percent of the state’s water use.
  • In Utah, cows are the top agricultural product, and three-fifths of the state’s cropland is planted with hay.
  • Alfalfa and hay production in the West requires more than ten timesthe water used by the region’s cities and industries combined, according to some estimates.
  • Producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 timesmore water than producing one kilogram of grain protein.

5. Truth or Drought has a change.org petition to Save Our Water to include animal agriculture. Another great summary of facts, including the following:

Making a meal with lentils instead of beef can save a family of four the equivalent of 17 bathtubs full of water, per Oxfam International.

Skipping one single hamburger saves 660 gallons of water (LA Times). (Comparatively, the popular tip of shaving a minute off your shower saves about 2 gallons of water.) This means that 6 hamburgers equal an entire year of showers! 

Not that.

Skip the New York Times article that only gives glancing attention to agriculture, and no mention of animal agriculture specifically:

But even a significant drop in residential water use will not move the consumption needle nearly as much as even a small reduction by farmers. Of all the surface water consumed in the state, roughly 80 percent is earmarked for the agricultural sector.

“The big question is agriculture, and there are difficult trade-offs that need to be made,” said Katrina Jessoe, assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis.

Comments from the 113 Change.org Petition Signers

In just three days, we’ve gotten 113 signatures! Please continue to share the petition. Each time someone signs, the following email is sent to all the members of the Joint Finance Committee, along with the individual comment below:

Dear _____,

I know you have a number of difficult decisions to make with this budget bill. This one, however, is easy. Please strike the UW open records exemption. It’s a policy item that has no place in a budget bill, and similar items were introduced and thrown out in both 2013 and 2014. Thank you for working so hard to make Wisconsin great.

Comments:

1. Even the Arizona Governor veto’d this.
2. Please take a moment to sign and share this petition to keep UW Madison research open to the public. 24 states currently have closed university research records to the public in some form, pressured by the lobbying group National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), a front group for the animal testing, animal breeding, pharmaceutical, and processed food industries. Tell the lobbyists they don’t own the government or university, we do.
3. The taxpayer funded programs need to be 100 percent recorded for public viewing. How dare you suggest these program details be closed to public viewing
4. UW Madison should not be exempt from open records requests. Throw the amendment to the 2015 budget bill in the trash with the 2013 and 2014 amendments.
5. We as tax payers have a right to know what our money is being spent on!   There should be no exemptions when it is state dollars being used! If they are to be trusted at the UW research, why would this even be considered or needed!! Please remove this item from the 2015 Budget! Thank you!
6. Exemption from open records is in general a bad idea, but to grant a publicly funded state research University this privilege opens the door to all manner of abuse and questionable research protocols. As a former member of the campus-wide UW-Madison Human Subjects Committee I strongly oppose this exemption.
7. We, as a free nation, have the right to open records. The UW must not receive an exemption. Please make sure it does not get one.
8. More transparency is needed not less. The public has every right to know how their money is being spent and every citizen has a right to know what research is being conducted in our institutions. All government records need to be kept public.
9. These records need to remain public and accessible
10. We need to know what is being done to research animals.
11. Both taxpayers and animals should have rights in regard to experimentation at UW.
12. I’m signing this petition because we need to know what is happening when the university is doing research on animals.
13. UW researchers must be held to a high standard of accountability and transparency to limit or erase the cruelty they inflict on animals.
14. UW needs be transparent and accountable to the public for how it spends the public’s money.
15. No entity or person deserves an exemption. There are no checks and balances when an exemption is given.
16. it is only ethical that UW have open records for any and all reasons.
17. The state’s open record law is a citizen’s right to know what our government is doing, and we the people have a right to know what that is – no e entity, including the University of Wisconsin, has any right for an exemption to that law. Nor does this bill belong in the 2015 budget bill!
18. It is the right of the tax payers to know about the studies that are happening with our tax dollars and the UW should not be exempt from that.
19. Why such secrecy? If the research is on the up and up, they shouldn’t have to require their records be unavailable. They have been caught with their pants down too many times while in the process or doing this research,. This amendment is another “ends justifying the means” so the methods , however unscrupulous, can be ignored. We need transparency in all areas, including politics, and here is one amendment that the political motivations for agreeing to this bill is quite clear.
20. Animal abuse even in an educational facility must not be allowed to be hidden. Citizens deserve to know what their money is supporting.
21. I am in full support of the intent of this petition to keep transparency in business and other practices a priority.
22. The grants are the money makers, it is useless to keep this type of practice going at the risk of any ones life. Waste of money and waste of human ethics to do this type of harm. Horrible
23. As a UW alum, I firmly believe no single government agency as the right to conceal any information. If everything is on the “up and up,” why can’t that be shared?
24. As a Wisconsin taxpayer, I strongly oppose that the UW Madison be exempt from the state’s open records law. We need to know what is happening in experiments involving animals, psychedelic drugs and much more.
25. This is a state educational system and as such, should have open records.
The citizens keep the UW open.
I want to know just what goes on in the labs. I saw the “Harlow hell experimental monkeys”. Secrets are dangerous.
26. Because secrets in the public institutions are an open road for misuse, as is readily seen with the current crimes against animals being done by Kalin in his “research”. Why keep secrets when We are funding the institution?
27. I believe in accountability and transparency.