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

Quick Hit: Aziz Ansari on Eggs

(h/t Mercy for Animals) All my Parks and Rec fans, have you seen Aziz’s new standup special streaming on Netflix? After seeing this clip, I’m definitely going to check it out.

According to a related article,

Being selfish, and the shame of the carnivore, are big themes in Ansari’s new stand-up comedy special “Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden” which premiered on Netflix this month.

Image from above article

Great American Meat Out: April 11th

Great American Meat Out 4-11-15

The Great American Meat Out is coming up and Alliance is proud to once again be a sponsor.

Help us out! Print out the poster (Great American Meat Out 4-11-15) and hang it up in your neighborhood.

See the Madison event here or go to meatout.org to find an event near you!

All our thanks to Pearl for being an organizer extraordinaire!

Vegan New York

March 3, 2015

I spent the past weekend in New York eating incredible food. I mean, the vacation included other things, but all you really want to hear about is the restaurants, right?

A warning to your pocketbook: most of the meals listed below are not cheap. We split tabs with friends and family and we splurged. (The ethical issues with the financial inaccessibility of vegan restaurants is a conversation for another time.)

Thursday

Lunch: everything-from-the-fridge meal with a substantial portion of black lentils, quinoa, and zucchini that carried me through both plane flights.

Dinner: our first New York vegan restaurant – Angelica Kitchen!

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Special warm appetizer: The People’s Polenta Rounds of polenta studded with diced vegetable confetti baked with a parsley-almond pesto center; topped with chile de arbol – guajillo chili tofu cream, garnished with avocado and piquant marinated kale. (Description from the menu: http://angelicakitchen.com/menu/soups-starters-sides/)

DELICIOUS. But the reason we got it was because of this:

A portion of the proceeds from People’s Polenta goes to THE MUSEUM OF RECLAIMED URBAN SPACES (MORUS) to support their preservation of grassroots activist history and promotion of environmentally sound community-based urban ecologies. Visit http://www.morusnyc.org.

Polenta is not normally my favorite, but the combination of polenta, chili tofu cream, and avocado made this dish so homey and so creamy.

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One of their daily specials with apricot-cranberry tofu and a grain mix of teff, millet, and something else I can’t remember.

I only took pictures of mine, but Mark got the vegan reuben and Cynthia got another special that had some name like oregaNO cities. My tofu was just so subtly sweet and flavored and the grain combination set it off perfectly. The entire atmosphere of the restaurant was super comfortable, the tables were large and the lighting was gentle, the staff were great, and the rotating daily specials make it a great option for future visits.

Other stuff: plane flight(s);

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Neat La Guardia Airport billboard that was located in a corner of the lower floor that had basically no people

three hours of internet research planning our vegan eating excursions while the other members of our party were working (not pictured);

visit with the incredible conservation biologist and intersectional animal rights activist Cynthia Malone, and fascinating conversation about her research in Cameroon with local farmers and the tensions between economy and conservation.

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Two of my favorite vegans meet each other: my boyfriend, Mark, and the famous Cynthia!

Cynthia is also an expert on palm oil, and her equal compassion for the people and non-human animals affected by current business practices makes her the perfect teacher for this complicated issue. I always learn so much when I see her!

Friday

Brunch: okay, so we went to Rockin Raw because what even is Peruvian Creole raw food?, but it was closed until 4 pm. Then we walked the block to Sacred Chow, because WAFFLES, but they only serve their brunch menu on weekends. We had their lunch menu of tapas, but I missed the waffles.

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Mark’s menu of Indonesian Tempeh, Root Vegetable Latkes, and Thai Ginger BBQ Seitan.

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Some overlap in our choices…a special with artichokes on the right.

All I have to say about the above is that Madison Vegan restaurant Bandung has the superior tempeh, even without the sauce. Everybody else was happy with their meal, though, so I could just have been bitter about the lack of waffles.

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Mama’s Soy-Meatballs, Nama Gori Tofu, and a daily special of Corn Cakes.

My mom and I split the bottom two plates, and they were fine. The gluten free corn cakes had baked apple in them, which was unexpected and made them basically dessert. (not complaining.) The nama gori tofu had a squashy texture that didn’t appeal to me. The only thing I really got excited about was my dessert, which was an upside down cheesecake, also with baked apple.

The moral of the story is don’t listen to me describe food once I’ve just been deprived of waffles.

Dinner: BLOSSOM. Blossom is like a vegan monopoly in New York. They have four restaurants. I have visited three, and two of them were on this trip. This evening we went to the main Blossom restaurant on 9th. I recommend taking the virtual tour to really get a sense of the atmosphere because the restaurant is just beautiful.

I’m including pictures of the menu so you can experience for yourself the joy and anticipation we felt on entering the restaurant:

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Family friend’s appetizer: BABY BEET SALAD mâche & pea shoots, walnuts, cashew “ricotta”, spicy mustard vinaigrette (GF) (http://blossomnyc.com/chelsea/dinner-menu/)

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My meal: CHARMOULA TEMPEH KEBAB summer squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, North African “pesto” marinade, orange scented millet & mixed green salad (GF, NF) (http://blossomnyc.com/chelsea/dinner-menu/)

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My mother’s college roommate’s meal: RIGATONI IN PORCINI CREAM shallots, leeks, broccoli rabe, pistachio gremolata, truffle oil, caramelized fennel & onion jam crostini (SF) (http://blossomnyc.com/chelsea/dinner-menu/)

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Mom’s meal (which I promptly stole): SPAGHETTI SQUASH CAKE WITH WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO sautéed spinach, saffron cream sauce, pine nut garnish (GF, SF) (http://blossomnyc.com/chelsea/dinner-menu/)

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Dad’s meal: Daily special, can’t remember exactly.

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Family friend’s meal: LASAGNA tapioca cheese, ground seitan & tofu marinara, roasted eggplant, sautéed broccolini (NF) (http://blossomnyc.com/chelsea/dinner-menu/)

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Mark’s meal: SALMON TOFU (NF,GF) trumpet mushrooms, leek-fennel compote, forbidden rice, sautéed broccolini, dill crème (http://blossomnyc.com/chelsea/dinner-menu/)

This was all amazing. Totally recommend all the above entrees. The desserts (below) got mixed reviews. Mark was obsessed with his tiramisu, the rest of us were lukewarm about our ice cream. The three scoops are a mix of homemade icecream: one scoop homemade apple cinnamon, one pistachio, and one pumpkin spice. The one scoop is vanilla.

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Other stuff: saw On the 20th Century with Kristen Chenoweth, who is a goddess.

Saturday

Brunch: Blossom on Columbus. We were looking for a lunch place near the cathedral we had just toured. The plan was originally to go to Seasoned Vegan, but our entire party wasn’t thrilled about that plan. So, we googled nearby restaurants, and Blossom saved the day once again!

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Mark’s meal: Seitan Scallopini (nf) pan-seared seitan cutlets, white wine, lemon, and caper sauce, truffle mashed potato, sautéed kale (http://blossomnyc.com/uws/lunch/)

Mark had been considering the dish last night, but I convinced him to try the salmon tofu because it sounded fascinating. Both ended up being excellent choices, but he was full of adulation for this particular dish.

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Mom’s meal: Vegetable Lasagna (gf, nf) layers of grilled eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato, red quinoa, and tofu ricotta, marinara sauce, soy mozzarella, rocket salad (http://blossomnyc.com/uws/lunch/)

I ate like half of this. It was really a convincing lasagna, texture wise, and the rocket salad added the perfect amount of green and another layer of flavors.

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My meal: Quinoa Pancakes (gf) whipped coconut mascarpone, maple syrup (http://blossomnyc.com/uws/brunch-menu/)

I will never NOT choose gluten free vegan pancakes when given the option. These were everything, and the coconut mascarpone was glorious.

Dinner: Franchia, also known as “that one vegan restaurant that’s kind of in midtown so it’s the only place we reliably go.” That said, though, I LOVE Franchia. It introduced me to bibimbap, and for that, I shall be eternally grateful.

The lighting was too low to get any pictures, but we had bibimbaps almost around thetable and they were delicious.

Other stuff: 

The Xu Bing exhibit at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Gorgeous phoenixes made out of building detritus. A powerful message in a celestial space.

Honeymoon in Vegas, which was fun if you could ignore the incredibly talented Brynn O’Malley being forced into a 2-dimensional love interest kind of role. The music was great, because Jason Robert Brown is always amazing. The story was bizarre. We also saw On The Town. I’m including the highlight below. I liked Alysha Umphress a lot better onstage than I did in this clip. Still not the strongest scatter, but she and Johnson had great chemistry. Now that you’ve seen this, you can get on with your life. (Or you can see the powerhouse Lea Delaria version and then get on with your life.) On the Town was long and had a lot of dancing and a mediocre story. I wasn’t thrilled. I did fall deeply in love with the rich bass voice of Phillip Boykin, which was showcased much better here than in Porgy and Bess. As a side note, all the shows had at least two people of color in the chorus, which was exciting!

Sunday

Brunch: ORGANIC GRILL. YOU MUST GO HERE. RIGHT NOW. We went before the 11:30 rush and got a chance to chat with the waitress, who was super nice and gave us all sorts of suggestions for our next food adventures.

IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Organic Grill is open at 10. They say they open at noon on their site, but that is a lie. We were looking for early vegan brunch and we could not find it anywhere, seriously, so if you are looking for the same thing, go to Organic Grill!

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The sign says: Congrats! You made it out of bed! Now come and enjoy an organic, healthy, warm brunch!

Organic Grill, you understand me.

Guess what I got?…

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SLAMCAKES

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No, really, that’s what they’re called. Gluten free and vegan slamcakes, made with fruit of your choice. I chose raspberries. Could have used some coconut marscapone, but then, what couldn’t benefit from some coconut marscapone?

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There’s Mark enjoying his Bulletproof Coffee, which had hemp seeds and coconut oil.

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Mark got Tofu Rancheros.

And while he ate his real meal, I ordered my real meal:

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Peanut Butter Pie.

Oh, it is so beautiful. I can just taste it now. I should have ordered eight more of them. An entire pie. Two entire pies!

Okay, I’m getting carried away. The reason I didn’t get more than one piece is because we were going to the museum afterwards and couldn’t bring anything along.

By the way, the decor was super fun. Observe:

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BRILLIANT space saving technique. I am in awe.

Other stuff: Museum of Natural History FOR FREE (we know famous people called Cynthia Malone) while it was super snowy and gorgeous.

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And then cancelled plane flight home and impromptu hotel stay while it was super snowy and gorgeous. We did also have delivery Indian food, but it wasn’t anything fancy.

Quick Hit: CAFO Pollution in Wisconsin

Report details CAFO pollution

In Wisconsin, dairy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) hold 434,547 animal units — equal to 303,879 cows, assuming they are all milking and dry cows —and can produce more untreated waste than 69 million people. That’s more than 12 times the population of Wisconsin.

GAHHHHHHH

I actually don’t even know if that’s the worst one. This may be worse:

Over time, the DNR has issued fewer citations to factory farms, despite rapid growth in the number of operations. In 2012, the DNR issued just three violation notices for animal waste from CAFOs — down from 13 in 2011 and 15 in 2010. The agency has also never turned down a permit request.

Here’s a picture of the immense beauty of Wisconsin. This is what we are fighting for when we oppose factory farms in our state and when we pursue plant based diets and lifestyles. Learn more about animal farming’s effect on the environment here, and how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle here.

Devil’s Lake, site of very fond childhood memories.

Wisconsin Ag-Gag: What We Know, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do

What We Know

1. The Wisconsin Dairy Business Association is introducing the legislation, and Representative Nerison is sponsoring it.

2. We don’t know the entire text, but we know that the bill pertains to “recording or photographing at an animal agriculture facility without the consent of the owner.”

From this, we are extrapolating that the bill is an “ag-gag” bill, which criminalizes the whistleblowers from undercover investigations.

Why It Matters

1. If you care about animals (which, if you read this blog, you probably do), this bill is aimed at stopping undercover investigations, like those of Mercy for Animals, that expose horrible animal cruelty to the public. This video from Dannika Lewis’ interview with Melissa Tedrowe shows just a snippet of that cruelty. There have been two recent undercover investigations in Wisconsin, Andrus Dairy, and Wiese Brothers. Those links show much longer graphic footage.

2. It is a blatant affront to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

3. Hiding the conditions in which animals are raised to become food puts human health and our environment at risk, and it’s disrespectful to the public, who deserve to make informed choices.

For more on why this matters, or for suggested talking points, email alliance@allanimals.org.

What You Can Do (thanks to our friends at HSUS and MFA!)

1. Leave a comment on the Wisconsin Dairy Producers’ Facebook Page letting them know how you feel. My example:

 
Please reconsider. Consumers deserve transparency. “Report not Record” is a catchy slogan, but not a good reason to take away that transparency. Employees may not feel comfortable telling their boss what they see simply because of the power differential. Having concrete evidence can help them come forward.
 
Wisconsin is the Dairy State, and Wisconsinites deserve more from the people who gave it that name. Please make a stand for informed consumers, exposed animal abusers, protection of human health and the environment, and upholding of free speech and free press and withdraw your support from the ag-gag bill.

2. Contact your legislators and use your own words or borrow HSUS’s suggested text:

“As a constituent, I encourage my legislator to oppose the ag-gag bill. Whistleblowers who expose animal cruelty and food safety violations on factory farms should be thanked, not punished.”

3. Send a letter to the editor (keep under 250 words). Here’s mine:

As an animal lover and lifelong Wisconsin citizen, I was disturbed to hear about the Wisconsin Dairy Industry and Representative Nerison’s proposed new bill. The bill would criminalize photography and video of farms taken without the owner’s permission. Such a bill is a shocking violation of free speech and freedom of the press. In addition, it keeps consumers in the dark, threatens public health, and hurts animals by shielding animal abusers from public scrutiny and criminal liability. 

There is a name for this type of bill – “ag-gag.” Had it been law just a few months ago, it would have prevented the undercover investigation at Andrus Dairy in Birnamwood (WI), which uncovered workers shooting cows in the face with high-pressure water hoses, cutting off their tails, and more egregious abuse. 

Wisconsin has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation. Yet, instead of strengthening these laws, our lawmakers choose to penalize whistleblowers that bring animal cruelty to the public’s attention. Undercover investigations are a major form of transparency between industrial agriculture and the public. I don’t understand why the Wisconsin Dairy Industry fears that transparency. If dairy farmers’ practices are so ethical, what are they afraid of?

I encourage my representatives to vote no if this bill finds its way to them. The Wisconsin I know and love deserves more.

4. Share the above videos of undercover investigations and the HSUS alert with others.

5. Thank the news studios and news casters who have covered the issue so far. You can comment directly on the article or send feedback to the organization.

Dannika Lewis, Channel 3000

NBC Green Bay

Wisconsin Gazette

Feel free to add any I missed in the comments.

Thank you to HSUS and Mercy for Animals for all they have done and are continuing to to, and THANK YOU for your swift attention and action. Let’s stop this thing and keep Wisconsin transparent!

Please email alliance@allanimals.org with any further questions.

This Is The Worst Thing I’ve Read In A While

UPDATED TO ADD: Here’s how Wisconsin is responding!

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed agency staff to create and deliver an updated Animal Welfare Strategy plan within 60 days, according to an internal email reviewed by Reuters New Service.

Two days earlier, the agency said it was looking into livestock conditions at its Nebraska-based center, in the wake of a New York Times report stating that facility staff had failed to follow basic animal welfare standards when conducting decades of research.

Full article here.

* * *

If you’re reading these posts, you either identify as a believer in animal rights, or you’re someone who cares about animals. Within the animal rights movement, we often create this dichotomy of rights vs welfare. Well, as we know, all dichotomies are false dichotomies. Yes, there are things the two groups disagree on, but our aims are broadly similar – we want better lives for animals. So here’s an article both groups can get behind: U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit.

The subtitle? “Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry.”

Basically, in an attempt to breed animals that

produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise

the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is creating sickly animals that perish immediately, providing inadequate care that results in animals dying from starvation and treatable maladies, and shoveling all the bodies into a “dead pit.”

According to one employee:

“They pay tons of attention to increasing animal production, and just a pebble-sized concern to animal welfare,” said James Keen, a scientist and veterinarian who worked at the center for 24 years. “And it probably looks fine to them because they’re not thinking about it, and they’re not being held accountable. But most Americans and even livestock producers would be hard pressed to support some of the things that the center has done.”

Everything in this article is horrible – piglets being crushed when their mothers roll over, newborn lambs killed by predators and starvation – but worst of all are the numbers:

Last Mother’s Day, at the height of the birthing season, two veterinarians struggled to sort through the weekend’s toll: 25 rag-doll bodies. Five, abandoned by overtaxed mothers, had empty stomachs. Six had signs of pneumonia. Five had been savaged by coyotes.

Of the 580,000 animals the center has housed since 1985, when its most ambitious projects got underway, at least 6,500 have starved. A single, treatable malady — mastitis, a painful infection of the udder — has killed more than 625.

And all that I shared is just in the FIRST PART of the story. There are NINE more sections. I don’t know about you, but I think I need a baby animal picture before we continue.

 

Oh hey! Were you talking about me?

Okay.

So, the good news is, we aren’t the only ones horrified by this. The Editorial Board of the New York Times wrote an Op-Ed called Farming Science, Without the Conscience. The article begins in a promising way:

You don’t have to be a vegan to be repulsed by an account in The Times revealing the moral depths to which the federal government — working as a handmaiden to industrial agriculture — has sunk in pursuit of cheaper meat and fatter corporate profits.

And the ending is even better:

The humans who work at the center are not necessarily oblivious to its failings. Some veterinarians and researchers told The Times they were appalled by the suffering and abuse. They should not have their consciences degraded by what is supposed to be beneficial work. Congress founded the center 50 years ago. It should oversee it and reform it — or shut it down.

It’s often easy to skip over the effects of such brutal work on the people involved. Slaughterhouses are correlated with increased rates of violent and sexual crimeMany slaughterhouse workers suffer PTSD. Slaughterhouse workers are primarily low income people of color, many of whom are undocumented and threatened regularly with deportation by their bosses.

Human Rights Watch wrote an entire report on rights violations in the meat industry. The veterinarians referenced above are in a more privileged position than many of these workers, but the fact remains still that workers

…should not have their consciences degraded by what is supposed to be beneficial work.

For more on slaughterhouse workers’ points of view, read Gail Eisnitz’s “Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry.” Eisnitz’s book contains many interviews with workers, and some of what they say can be really hard to read. I’m also partial to Steve Striffler’s “Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food“. Striffler is an anthropologist, and he gives an honest and comprehensive view of the chicken industry, while keeping the descriptions straightforward enough that it isn’t too painful to read. Also, it’s super interesting. I learned a lot! And, of course, the book that started it all, Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” Free on Project Gutenberg! And still a pretty accurate depiction of the meat industry, despite these years that have gone by.

We can do better by these animals. To find out more, visit our Ethical Lifestyles page, or write me at alliance@allanimals.org.

(h/t Ann)