BOAA, DXE PROTEST GOAT FESTIVAL IN SAN FRANCISCO

Security guard stands by during protest at the goat cooking demonstration. Photos by Michael Goldberg

By Leslie Goldberg

We were at the annual Goat Festival in San Francisco to cause a disruption Saturday. Yup, this morning I wasn’t pecking at my keyboard spouting off about animal rights or about the environmental disaster caused by animal food consumption, but rather I took it to the streets with the animal rights groups DXE (Direct Action Everywhere) and BOAA (Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy).

The disruption was successful: By chanting (loudly) and holding up signs we managed to make it almost impossible to give a cooking goat sausage demonstration.

A small group of foodies had gathered under a tent in front of the Ferry Building to watch John Stewart-Streit show how to fry up the flesh of a goat and to also have some samples. Stewart-Streit owns a restaurant in Oakland that serves “house-butchered porcine delights.” The onlookers sat on folding chairs apparently unaware they were about to experience an animal rights protest up close and personal.

Security, on the other hand, was aware there was to be a disruption. There were about eight San Francisco police officers and private security guards standing around. The cops kept talking into their radios. The security officers seemed annoyed.

As the goat cooking demo got started and the chef started talking about the “pleasures” of goat consumption, one activist who had been sitting in the audience stood up, and holding a poster of a dog kissing a goat, faced the audience and explained (loudly) about how goats feel, suffer, experience joy and love their families just like us.

She was so strong and forceful, Stewart-Streit who had a microphone could not make himself heard above her. Then another activist stood up, also holding a poster and started shouting about the suffering of goats and yet another activist did the same.

Then a chant began with about 30 activists standing around the seating area. We whipped out our signs reading “Stop Violence” from under our shirts and from out of our bags.

It was loud. Yet, amazingly, for the most part, the audience just sat there. At first when individual activists were speaking there was laughter but later the expressions turned blank as they stared at us with our Stop Violence signs. Despite the intimacy (we were quite close) it was as if they were watching TV.

Also amazingly, they passively ate the sausage that was handed out from a big platter while the ruckus was going on. I have to say, I did see a few angry faces in the audience and heard one woman say, “We have rights too.”

Chef John Stewart-Streit hands out sausages made from dead goats.

I didn’t respond to her with what I would have liked: “Your rights end at a goat’s throat.” I’d been instructed not to engage with individuals, so I didn’t.

I’m a new member of DXE. I had trepidations about joining. I’d seen the group’s videos where they walk into grocery stores such as Whole Foods and/or restaurants such as Chipolte and start chanting, “It’s not food, it’s violence.” They hold up signs depicting either really cute and sweet animals frolicking in sanctuaries or depicting horrendous animal cruelty.

Is this the right tactic I wondered. Wouldn’t we succeed in simply pissing people off by getting in their faces like that? Why wouldn’t they decide that animal rights activists were just crazy assholes and vow never to stop eating animals?

Then I heard a short lecture from one of the DXE organizers a couple of weeks ago who explained that DXE wasn’t really about converting individuals but rather, impacting society as a whole and making the effort to get our message out into public consciousness.

He also said that DXE is firmly committed to non-violence and if members are asked to leave by the police they leave.

I decided, what the hell, maybe this will do something. Maybe this will stop the slaughter, save the environment and restore public health. My husband Michael and I joined.

Before our action we had gathered at an apartment where some of the DXE organizers live. There I was stunned to learn that a DXE protest at a circus in LA had gone very badly and that circus employees set on non-violent DXE members and beat them with flashlights. One of the DXE members who had been attacked and injured had also been arrested and charged with felony assault.

Oh god.

They had advertised the Goat Festival as a place to “bring the kids to play with adorable baby goats” and attend the “goat-themed cooking demo.”

What? Play with the goats and then turn around and eat sausage made from their flesh?

OK. We’ll go to the Goat Festival where they are eating goat flesh and secretions yards away from where they are playing with living, breathing goats. Our presence as animal rights activists will suggest, if nothing else, “There’s something really bizarre about this.”

The Goat Festival was also “Humane Meat Ground Zero.” The event was sponsored by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Folks troubled by the killing of animals for food could find some comfort in the belief that “Well, at least they had a good life.” And those worried about the environmental devastation caused by factory farms, could soothe their souls with the idea that the meat is “free range” and “sustainable.”

For this post all I want to say is “humane meat” and “sustainable meat” and “cage free” are advertising slogans aimed at people who have money and who care about animals. Those slogans are not the truth, folks. Undercover video of some of these “farms” are almost as gruesome as factory farm footage, but even when it’s nice and the animals are grazing in pastures, it’s not the whole story.

Why I’m not onboard with the so-called humane meat or the humane dairy trip:

1) Killing animals and causing them pain, terror and suffering for trivial reasons like “It tastes good” or “Humans have always eaten meat” cannot be defended ethically even if a person paid three times the normal price for that meat or those eggs or those dairy products (yes, they brutally kill dairy cows and egg chickens for meat when they’re “spent.”)

2) Meat and dairy consumption is not “sustainable.” There is simply not enough land and not enough water on this earth to produce enough meat and dairy to feed everybody.

3) No matter how “food animals” are raised they cause planet-threatening pollution and planet-threatening green house gas.

4) Even if “the meat” is raised in a test tube, it still contains cholesterol and saturated fat and no fiber or antioxidants.

If you still want to argue, write me a letter.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

PETA SEDUCING VEGANS

By Leslie Goldberg

Why does PETA insist on using exhibitionist hotties in its campaigns? Is it to prove that animal rights activists aren’t stuck-up, no-fun, prudes? Is it to show how unbelievably sexy and attractive it is to eat plants? Is PETA trying to suggest that if you go vegan you’ll probably get a date with Pamela Anderson?

Yes, PETA is saying you will get to know Pamela personally if you go vegan! Or, if you like, you can become Pamela Anderson (try THIS green smoothie). At the very least you’ll certainly get to trade jokes with Ricky Gervais if you give up eating meat.

After I went vegan I got to stay at Paul McCartney’s house in England (yes, he paid for me to fly over there.) Whoa, was that fun! But maybe my most exciting plant-based experience was getting to go on Ellen DeGeneres’s show. Was that better than having dinner with Morrissey? Hard to say.

I like Morrissey and I like Tobey (Maguire). Still I did get kind of bored hanging out on the set of “Spiderman” eating vegan cupcakes. He made up for it, by giving me a mint copy of the first Spiderman comic.

Who cares about saving animals, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, saving water and mitigating climate change? I want to go on a cruise with Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton – is he really a vegan? Well, not totally, which is why PETA will not hook us up. He says he occasionally eats salmon and sometimes eggs.

When you think about it, it’s a little scary – the once most powerful man in the world can’t be counted on to say no to eggs and fish. While you might want to applaud his efforts at going vegan, he’s also sending a message out there that being vegan is just too hard – even for the once most powerful man in the world.

I’ve come to realize celebrities aren’t always solid when it comes to pushing veganism. It’s really disappointing. I so wanted to go hiking with Reese Witherspoon! She was nominated by PETA to be the 2005 World’s Sexiest Vegetarian. It was lucky she lost, since the next year she was on the Ellen Show, cooking up some chicken flesh mess, saying “Everything’s better with bacon.”

The sketchiness of celebrity vegans or vegetarians gives me pause. That’s why when I get down to it, I tend to prefer some of the dead vegan/vegetarians for idolatry and advertising – Tolstoy and Einstein for instance. You’re not going to see them blowing it on “Dr. Oz.”

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

WORSE THAN BEING IN HOT WATER, IS HAVING NO WATER

By Leslie Goldberg

Since Gov. Jerry Brown has announced that the little people now should cut back their water consumption by 25 percent, the folks in the animal food industry must be popping the champagne corks. Not only has Brown declined to ask agriculture, including animal agriculture, to cut back, it looks to me like none of the major American media outlets are focusing on livestock and calling it out for the mega-sponge it is.

Instead, the press recently has managed to suggest the idea it’s fruits and vegetables that are the culprits and if we want to do right we should not only turn off the sprinklers but ditch the almond milk and maybe skip the salad. Ok, ok, we should definitely turn off the sprinklers and phase out those oversized spa bathtubs, I agree. But there has been scarcely a hiccup about animal ag with a few exceptions and that’s a serious bummer.

Animal agriculture deserves more than a hiccup! And hamburgers are costing us way more than $1 a piece. Forty-seven percent of California’s water is used for meat and dairy products, according to a study by the Pacific Institute.

California’s biggest crop happens to be not almonds, tomatoes or lettuce. It’s alfalfa. Michael Pollan said during an interview with phys.org, that about 25 percent of our water is going to raise alfalfa, which is primarily for animal feed – not avocado sandwiches.

And possibly the worst of it is that a lot of that alfalfa is being shipped from California to Asia and the Middle East, areas that have started to glom onto the West’s genius animal-food-heavy diet.

“A hundred billion gallons of water per year is being exported in the form of alfalfa from California,” said Professor Robert Glennon from Arizona College of Law, who was quoted in a BBC article. “It’s a huge amount. It’s enough for a year’s supply of water for a million families – it’s a lot of water, particularly when you’re looking at the dreadful drought throughout the south-west.”

So the animal agricultural water footprint is, yes, the animals themselves, but also growing feed crops for not just California’s meat and dairy industry but that of China and the Middle East.

“Wonderful,” I sarcastically write.

However, I think there may be hope. I’m one of those pesky lefties who believes almost nothing happens in this country unless the mega-corporations want it to happen. Somehow I can’t imagine all the non-animal agricultural corporations standing by and watching this one economic sector, animal agriculture, take us down.

And of course, as consumers of these animal products, we can do something too: not be consumers of animal products. “Changing one’s diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with edible plants like legumes, nuts and tubers results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual’s food-related water footprint,” wrote James McWilliams in a New York Times op ed piece back in early March. “Going vegetarian, a better option in many respects, reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent.”

It’s time, New York Times, to, at the very least, run another McWilliams piece.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

YUP, IT’S VEGANS WHO HAVE CAUSED THE CALIFORNIA DROUGHT

By Leslie Goldberg

Wouldn’t you know it? It’s the health food freaks, the almond milk guzzlers who are fueling California’s water shortage. Did you know that it takes a whole gallon of water to raise one almond?

A whole gallon.

Those self-righteous vegans who think they know something!

Since I happened to have a pound of almonds in the refrigerator I decided to count up those little water suckers and see how much water it takes to produce a pound of almonds. It was bad. Four hundred and thirty-three gallons of water.

Four hundred and thirty-three? Wait a minute. How about a pound of beef? (I dare say it’s a lot easier to eat a pound of beef than it is to eat a pound of almonds.) According to the folks at waterfootprint.org it takes between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

“More than half the entire US water supply goes to livestock,” says the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“It takes a lot of water to grow grain, forage, and roughage to feed a cow, as well as water to drink and to service the cow,” says the US Geological Survey Water Science School.

“Meat processing, especially chicken, also uses large amounts of water,” says the Environmental Working Group.

“The more plant-based foods we eat versus animal-based foods….the less water, energy, and other natural resources we use,” says the San Francisco Water Sewer.

Oh.

If animal foods are such a big deal in terms of water usage, why, why, why did the New York Times, in their recent mega two-part series on California’s drought, not mention animal foods? Why did they instead focus on the water required to grow almonds?

I have four suspicions.

1) The reporters, like practically everyone on the planet, consider animal food eating “normal, natural and necessary.” (Thank you author of “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows,” Melanie Joy.)

2) They consider almonds to be maybe normal and natural, but definitely not necessary.

3) It’s kind of a sexy angle to zero in on almonds – almonds seem so innocent, but now we find they’re evil. (“Hey! Did you read this? It’s almonds that are using up all our water.”)

4) Pressure from the animal food industry, particularly the dairy farms which have been facing a serious challenge from the almond milk industry.

One of the big things The New York Times drought stories didn’t mention was water pollution, which by the way, is a rather large water suck. Turns out, according to the EPA, the animal foods industry is THE biggest cause of water pollution in the United States.

California’s Central Valley, which is dominated by huge dairy farms, has suffered serious ground water pollution caused primarily by cow waste. A study by the central valley water board found that 40 percent of the dairies in that area – more than 550 facilities – reported that they had nitrate levels in their own wells of at least twice the drinking water standard and it’s become a health threat to those who have the misfortune of living nearby, especially babies and pregnant women.

No, the Brita won’t take out nitrates.

Also I have to say, that’s an interesting concept: “their own wells.”

When it comes to water pollution, nobody’s talking about almonds as far as I can tell. Still, California is producing a lot of almonds, most of which are exported abroad. I’ve read that 10 percent of California’s water supply is going to raise almonds. And 47 percent of California’s water is going to livestock, according to a December 2012 report by the Pacific Institute, titled “California’s Water Footprint.”

I won’t say whether anybody should drink almond milk or not. I will say, though, people should eat (one of my favorites) lentils instead of meat.

“By making one meal a week with lentils instead of beef, a family of four can save the equivalent of 17 bathtubs of water,” says Oxfam International.

Seventeen bathtubs. One meal.

PS: Despite the holes in their story, the New York Times reporters do deserve some credit though for finding possibly the most intellectually challenged man in the entire state to give his reaction on the water crisis: “I’m not going to stop watering,” said Matthew Post, 45, referring to the gardens around his Benedict Canyon home. “The state does not know how to arrange the resources they have, and so we have to pay for it,” he said. “They say that they will raise the prices because there is a drought, but when the drought ends, will they reduce the prices?”

Ok, fine, Mat, but how about cutting down on the burgers?

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

‘HARVESTED’ MEAT

Butchering the language has long been a part of the meat industry: cow flesh becomes “beef,” deer flesh becomes “venison,” diseased duck liver becomes “foie gras,” pig flesh becomes “pork” or “bacon.” Even the word “meat” itself is a disguise. These words are convenient – they help animal food consumers forget what they are actually doing: eating dead animals.

And now the industry has come up with another word, “harvesting,” to mean shooting and killing animals for their flesh, suggesting, perhaps, it’s not mean, it’s no worse than picking dandelion leaves for tea! After all, plants have feelings too!

In an article about antelope consumption titled “Meat of the Year,” published yesterday in the Pork Network, an online industry publication, columnist Dan Murphy, an apparent fan of “harvesting” animal flesh, further retreats from reality by calling antelope a “natural, renewable, resource.”

(If the muscle tissue from this animal is so renewable how come they charge between $21 and $36 a pound for this “product” ?)

What Murphy calls “harvesting” is shooting antelopes on Texas antelope farms from long distances (50 to 200 yards) using sound-supressed rifles with “Leupold scopes,” (These are the “preferred tactical” scopes used by the military, the writer informs).

The slaughterers in this case are the “harvest crew,” a “shooter, skinner and a government inspector,” who “quietly search for deer and antelope.”

As an activist friend has said many times, “There’s no way to humanely slaughter an animal who wants to live.”

Yet, of course, Murphy calls this “humane meat” because the animals are spared the feed lot, the bodily mutilation without anesthesia, the battery cage, the gestation crate, the no-food, no-water transport and the slaughter house of the industrial agriculture system. But to make sure we don’t think that the writer actually does care about animal welfare, he explains that animals who aren’t stressed taste better. Quoting an article from Forbes magazine on the same subject: “A wild animal that senses a threat reacts with an increased flow of adrenaline, which in turn creates a rapid increase in lactic acid within the muscles. This acidic condition causes the meat to become tough, strongly flavored, and reduces the shelf life of the meat.”

Forbes is pretty stoked about antelope meat, arguing that it deserves to be named “the latest food craze” of 2015. Murphy seems pretty stoked too, but oddly, in the middle of this article, he notes the exquisite beauty of antelopes.

“Antelope, however, are graceful animals well-suited for captivating nature videos and wildlife postcards. They’re practically the poster critters for the notion that we mustn’t eat anything with a face.”

Huh?

Well, I know, Dan Murphy, you’re on the payroll of the “Pork Network” and some other industry PR departments and you’ve written a lot of columns with titles like “Make Mine (Extra) Meaty.” I read your diatribes on “stupid vegans,” but methinks you protest too much. Could you?…Is it possible?…Are you, maybe, a pre-vegan? Or… or… are you a secret vegan? I ask because at times you sound like one.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post -

SIERRA CLUB: SORRY, VEGANS

“Environmental Countdown” by Leslie Goldberg

It’s out! The Sierra Club’s draft proposal “Agriculture and Food Policy” put together in the wake of the movie “Cowspiracy” is now available for us all to see.

To take a look at it you will have to use this username and password:

Username: clubhouse
Password: explore

Vegans, if you were hoping for some truth and leadership from the Sierra Club, well, forget it.

You would have thought that after the Sierra Club was so thoroughly drubbed by “Cowspiracy” last year that they’d come clean and admit that the livestock industry is slaughtering the environment right along with at least 50 billion land animals a year.

You would have thought they’d man up and tell people to stop eating animals if they don’t want to get drowned/starved/burned up/dried up/displaced by climate change. OK, that was vicious of me. But you would have thought they would at least urge people stop eating animal flesh and secretions for the sake of the habitability of the planet. For the sake of our kids.

No.

In the club’s new draft version of their Food and Agriculture Policy, the best we get is a suggestion (nearly at the end of the report) that we develop “a greater reliance on vegetable protein.” Yet in the first paragraph of the report we read that, according to the Sierra Club, raising animals for food is an “essential human activity” and “irreducibly cultural.”

Huh?

Tell that to the millions of healthy, happy, active, alert vegans out there that raising animals for food is an “essential human activity.” Tell that to the 99 percent of Americans who never even consider raising and slaughtering their own animal food. And “irreducibly cultural”? Earth to Sierra Club: Cultures change. If they didn’t we’d still be burning “witches” at the stake.

More Earth to the Sierra Club: The livestock sector is responsible for at least 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and maybe as high as 51 percent. Livestock production is responsible for 90 percent of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. It takes 100 times more water to produce a pound of animal protein versus a pound of plant protein. It takes 15 times the land.

Livestock production is the cause of most of the water pollution in the United States. And fish eating has been largely responsible for the decimation of the ocean fish populations.

All that information is easily accessible by reading, for example, “Livestock’s Long Shadow” a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN or (even better) The World Watch Institute’s “Livestock and Climate Change” or listening to renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Eating animal foods is an environmental disaster and everybody seems to know that but the Sierra Club.

Even freaking Time magazine wrote last year that single most powerful thing you could do as an individual to help save the environment was to cut out eating meat.

And even the January monthly magazine for Costco (!) had two vegan recipes!

Sierra Club, where are you?

Well, in their draft proposal the club does say that factory farms are bad. But it says that rotational grazing (where animals are moved from pasture to pasture) is good, not just good but great, even though they should know that pasture-grazed animals produce more green house gas than grain fed animals!

From the report: “Appropriately managed, grazing can have a significant positive role in building soil organic matter, increasing plant and wildlife biodiversity and weed management.”

If grazing animals was so terrific for biodiversity, for example, why is the Bureau of Land Management (federal agency) protecting (privately owned) livestock by killing 1.5 million wild animals a year? Why has the huge loss of the South American rainforest to pasture and/or to grow feed crops been seen not only as a major threat to our supply of oxygen, and a major contributor to climate change, but also a huge loss of biological diversity?

Yet the Sierra Club draft report keeps going: “Grazing and pasturage, which recycle animal wastes back into the soil, have the potential to transform vast amounts of coarse forages into food products… Animals raised on perennial forage pastures cause far less soil erosion and nutrient loss compared with animals in confinement being fed crops from annual row cropping.”

We’re not sure where this assessment comes from (outlier biologist Allan Savory perhaps?) and it certainly flies in the face of what many, many other environmentalists, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, have to say about livestock grazing:

“Cattle destroy native vegetation, damage soils and stream banks, and contaminate waterways with fecal waste. After decades of livestock grazing, once-lush streams and riparian forests have been reduced to flat, dry wastelands; once-rich topsoil has been turned to dust, causing soil erosion, stream sedimentation and wholesale elimination of some aquatic habitats.”

The Sierra Club seems to be besotted with so-called “sustainable” animal food production, which presumably would prevent overgrazing. My question is where is that all that virgin pasture land going to come from. Maybe another planet?

Fully ½ of the grazing land in the United States is already overgrazed according to the World Watch Institute and an amazing 70 percent of the land in the western United States is ALREADY being grazed by cattle.

The Institute has said there is simply no more pasture to be had and if we want more pasture we’re going to have to cut down more forests. If you want to head off climate change, that would be an extremely bad idea. Rain forest stores carbon at about 200 tons per hectare whereas forest cleared for grassland stores only 8 tons per hectare.

Go vegan. Plant a tree.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why the Sierra Club has jumped on the “sustainable meat” bandwagon. A couple of theories that keep jumping to the foreground is that the leadership of the Sierra Club and indeed the general membership likes to eat animal foods. According to the producers of “Cowspiracy,” Bruce Hamilton, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club said off-camera that he eats grass-fed beef.

Bruce please! Grass-fed cattle produce MORE greenhouse gas than grain fed cattle

The other theory that was suggested by the movie “Cowspiracy,” but never actually proved was that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups were taking donations from ranchers. Now the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak. In a recent essay, executive director of the Sierra Club Michael Brune wrote that the club has received donations from billionaire hedge fund manager and grass-fed cattle rancher, Tom Steyer.

If you’d like to learn more about that, check out the Dec. 28, 2014 radio interview by environmental activist and author of “Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching,” Dr. Michael Hudak.

Years ago I became a life-time member of the Sierra Club by donating about $1,000. I’ve never been actually involved in the group but believed they were doing good work.

These days because of the organization’s reluctance to seriously address the environmental impact of the livestock industry I’m not so sure about the Sierra Club any more.

My financial resources are limited and I can’t compete with billionaires such as Tom Steyer to get the attention of the Sierra Club. But maybe if there are enough of us squawking, we can have an impact on this oldest and largest environmental group in the country.

The Sierra Club is taking comments from its members on the proposed “Agriculture and Food Policy” until Jan. 15.

Again you have to access the Clubhouse site to view that page:

Username: clubhouse
Password: explore

If you are a member of the Sierra Club you can comment on the proposed policy until January 15, 2015 here.

You also need to access the Clubhouse site to view that page:

Username: clubhouse
Password: explore

THE BEEF INDUSTRY WEIGHS IN ON POLICE BRUTALITY & THE EPA

If anyone needed any more reason to believe that the beef industry is, well, a bit out of touch, consider this recent Dec. 17 headline in their publication, “Beef Magazine:”

“Street Protesters: Be Mad at the Government, Not the Police.”

What? Don’t be outraged by police officers wantonly killing unarmed black people, be mad at the government? (!) The last time I checked, there were no government laws directing officers to kill people if they happened to feel like it.

The author of a “Beef Magazine” editorial, Troy Marshall is a “multi-generational rancher” who wrote that he admittedly hadn’t had much experience with the judicial system. (Yes, he’s white.)

At that point the editorializer probably should have stopped writing.

But he went on to compare those devastated and infuriated by the recent grand jury “verdicts” in the killings of unarmed Michael Brown and Eric Garner to, yes, those “disgruntled citizens forced to deal with the IRS.”

I guess those “disgruntled citizens” would have to include Mitt Romney and Leona Helmsley. (I know, I know, regular folks are also disgruntled by the IRS.)

And then Mr. Marshall went on to lecture the Michael Brown and Eric Garner protesters: “Just as community police perform the job they are paid to do, IRS agents have a job to do. I think we’re mad at the wrong people. It’s not their fault directly but the unchecked power of the government that employs them.”

So, you think police are paid to kill unarmed black men, Mr. Marshall of “Beef Magazine?” Well, when you think about it, a lot of police do end up getting paid for deliberately killing unarmed folks (usually black), but I don’t think it’s in their stated job description.

Marshall goes on to call out the EPA and OSHA for “being overreaching, overly powerful and [having] a tendency to apply their power in an unfair and capricious manner.”

Oh yes, the EPA and OSHA, the agencies in government charged with protecting the environment and worker health and safety. Now I see the picture…

If the new budget proposed by the Republicans in the House (and supported by animal agriculture) passes, ranchers such as Marshall won’t have to report (or take responsibility for) pollution from manure, according to a recent article in the New York Times. They won’t have to report (or take responsibility for) greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.

“Nor can (the government) require ranchers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for methane emissions produced by bovine flatulence or belching,” wrote the Times.

Take that, you pesky, overreaching, overly powerful EPA with your tendency to apply your power in an unfair and capricious manner!

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —

EAT LIKE A REAL ENVIRONMENTALIST

Mark your calendars: 2017. That’s the date when, some climate experts are now saying, irreversible climate change is likely to become locked in unless we do something FAST. This means that it would no longer be possible to avert flooding interspersed with droughts, therefore seriously wrecking agriculture. It means 1700 American cities under water. What else, I don’t know.

Climate change is mostly caused by too much carbon in the atmosphere. Since that carbon takes at least 100 years to dissipate, even 1000s of people buying Priuses or putting up solar panels (while wonderful) isn’t going to be enough to turn things around. It isn’t going to be enough to stop the debacle which could come as early as 2017 or as late 2020.

But there is hope.

In case you haven’t heard, livestock is responsible for at least 51 percent of human-induced carbon and other greenhouse gases. That’s according to the respected Worldwatch Institute which published a report in 2009 by environmental specialists Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of the World Bank Group, a United Nations agency.

That’s cheeseburgers, bacon, eggs and vanilla shakes, folks.

Fifty-one percent.

And those environmental specialists have explained how replacing livestock products with plant-based products will also free up land to plant trees, which can suck up the excess atmospheric carbon. More trees happens to be a very big deal. And the reverse – losing the rain forests – is also a very big deal.

If this sounds like another “go vegan” pitch from me, it’s not. You actually don’t have to go totally vegan or totally vegetarian to help.

The solution is for people around the world to not only plant trees but also to replace close to 50 percent of today’s livestock products with better alternatives, according to the website “Chomping Climate Change.” Better alternatives are everything from grain-based meats to soy milk, nut butters, whole grains, and legumes.

While livestock emit a lot of carbon through carbon dioxide in respiration, livestock also emit a lot of two other highly potent greenhouse gases: methane and nitrous oxide.

The thing that’s handy about methane and nitrous oxide as opposed to CO2 is those chemicals largely dissipate from the atmosphere within 8 years, quick enough so that large-scale replacement of livestock products with plant-based alternatives could allow us to make a real difference and head off the 2017 tipping point.

But Houston we do have a problem, which is some unfortunate news that I recently acquired from an off-the-record yet credible scientific source: Even if the entire United States goes vegan, that’s not going to be enough to head off this environmental catastrophe.

It has to be the whole planet replacing close to 50 percent of animal-based foods with something else, something else like lentils or potatoes or Beyond Meat stir fry or tofu, or, hell, vegan banana bread.

Currently, China is eating one fourth of all the animal foods on Earth. One fourth.

India with its huge population of over a billion people, too, is chowing down animals. While consumption of animal foods has dropped a bit in the US (population 316 million) it’s increasing in India to the tune of 12 percent a year and there’s no sign that it’s letting up!

OH CRAP! OH FUCK! OH SHIT! (sorry for yelling in this post, but I’m upset.)

One of the reasons that we’re not going to be able to have a little climate change free oasis in, say, the Bay Area or the Pacific Northwest is that greenhouse gas is “transboundary.” It means that green house gases don’t respect borders, so if somebody is raising pigs in China or cows in Brazil or chickens in Alabama, there’s still going to be an epic tornado in Oklahoma or an epic hurricane in the Philippines or a flood in San Francisco.

But before we all pack our bags and head for Mumbai and Beijing with our Vegan Outreach leaflets, it’s important to consider this embarrassing statistic: As individuals, we Americans consume more animal products than anyone else in the world. Per capita we consume twice as much as the Chinese.

India really humiliates the United States. Per capita we Americans consume 19 times the chicken and 10 times the pork that they do.

I once had an unpleasant conversation with Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org at a 2012 Bioneers conference. I hassled him for not bringing up the fact that animal food consumption is a big factor in climate change.

He was pissed and so was I. He asked me where did I think the biggest increase in meat consumption was happening and I told him I knew it was in the poorer parts of the world that were staring to develop economically.

“And how are you going to ask people who are just now starting to be able to enjoy eating meat that they can’t eat it?” he said.

When it happened I was a bit discombobulated, but now I would have answered to him that “meat” isn’t just pork chops these days. Check out the dictionary. It defines meat as an essential food that includes alternatives to livestock products (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meat). Again better alternatives to animal foods can be legumes, whole grains, potatoes, Annie’s veggie burgers, tempeh bacon, etc.

I would have also said that the only reason that animal-based foods have become hip in the so-called “developing world,” is they’re taking their cues from the more affluent countries — that would be the US, that would be Europe. Even if the whole U.S. going vegan isn’t going to be enough to turn around climate change, we’ve still got a huge important job to do here now: Make plant-based cool. Make animal foods obsolete.

As friend and fellow activist Bee Uytiepo says, “Eat like a real environmentalist.”

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —

A SIERRA CLUB SHIFT ON MEAT-EATING?

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune talking about the environment.

The poor Sierra Club really took it on the chin in the recent movie “Cowspiracy.” With a deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face, the club’s Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton was filmed as he fumbled, mumbled and, well, choked in response to a question about the huge impact of animal agriculture on the environment.

Some of the facts that emerged from that (enormously important) movie: Animal agriculture (and animal food consumption) causes 18 percent of green house gas according to the United Nation’s 2006 report or, if you like, 51 percent, according to the World Watch Institute in 2009; animal ag uses exponentially more water than fracking at this point; the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed primarily by the meat industry; and there’s not enough land in the United States to feed all Americans free-range/grass-fed meat. It’s the same when you look at the planet as a whole. “The land’s just not there,” said a dairy farmer in the movie.

These are statistics that haven’t normally been broadcast by the Sierra Club, or as the movie pointed out, other well-known environmental groups, such as the Rainforest Action Network.

In 2008, despite pleas from some Sierra Club members for the group to come out against the animal food industry and meat eating, Josh Dorner, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, told Ben Adler of the American Prospect magazine: “The Sierra Club isn’t opposed to eating meat, so that’s sort of the long and short of it. [We are] not opposed to hunting, not opposed to ranching.”

Fast forward to 2014, October 22. It’s hot and unbelievably dry in California. Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s Executive Director, came to speak at a Presbyterian church in San Anselmo, CA. I was excited to go and hear him.

Would Brune talk about “Cowspiracy?” Would he talk about animal ag, the rainforest and climate change? Would he talk about animal agriculture, fish eating and the destruction of the oceans?

And if he didn’t talk about those things, I decided I’d do my own personal follow-up to “Cowspiracy,” which I’ve now concluded is the most important movie of the century, if not ever.

As far as I can tell from my research on the internet, Brune is a stand up guy. When he took over the Sierra Club, he put a stop to the group’s acceptance of “gifts” from a natural gas company ($26 million) and multi-million dollar “gifts” from the Clorox company. And I have to say, over the last three or four years, there have been little mentions here and there in the Sierra Club magazine and on the websites of local Sierra Club groups, suggesting that meat eating isn’t good for the environment.

But there have been no major articles on the environmental horror of animal food production. No major announcements for the public to stop eating meat from the Sierra Club.

Taking the lectern at the church, Brune began his lecture with a couple of jokes about the Giants and the World Series, and then he settled down to the business of sharing the Sierra Club’s recent activities and accomplishments. We found out the Sierra Club has been working with First Nations Peoples of Canada to try and stop the tar sands drilling and the pipeline. We also found out that the director has been talking with oil executives, pointing out that the tars sands oil isn’t worth the money, since the price of regular oil is currently so low.

We also found out that the Sierra Club did an amazing job, during the Bush administration, in preventing the energy industry from building 250 new coal plants. He didn’t mention shutting down any of the 600 or more existing ones and admitted that while the club’s efforts really didn’t do anything to slow down climate change, at least they somewhat prevented it from getting worse!

But then, again, we learned from his lecture, it is kind of worse because China’s going nuts building coal plants. But maybe that’s not so bad because they’re also building a bunch of solar. And, by the way, we Americans should put solar panels on our roofs and stop using coal, so that maybe we can be a good example to China.

Forty-five minutes of Brune talking and there was no “Cowspiracy,” no “animal agriculture and the environment,” no “don’t eat meat,” and no “don’t eat fish.”

WHAT??? Even after “Cowspiracy,” the Sierra Club’s still not coming out with it?

Audience members had been instructed to write their questions for Mr. Brune on index cards.

And just so nobody thinks I’m being viciously vegan and unfair to the Sierra Club, I’ve decided to include, word for word, what he said about animal agriculture. It’s up to you, vegans and other interested parties to decide – Does the following sound like bullshit or not? Use your own bullshit detector.

Michael Brune: So I’m going to read the most controversial question I have. “A recent documentary called ‘Cowspiracy’ focuses on how animal agriculture impacts the environment. It impacts wilderness spots, land degradation, water pollution and shortages. Why doesn’t the Sierra club address this issue? Why don’t you have a Beyond Meat program like your Beyond Oil or Beyond Coal, Beyond Natural Gas initiatives?”

(Brune looked up and addressed the audience.) How many folks have seen the film “Cowspiracy”? A few people? How many folks are familiar with animal agriculture, industrial agriculture and its impact on the environment and how many people are familiar with the impacts of industrial agriculture, meat eating and its impacts on the climate? A large number.

(Brune was still talking.) So this movie, “Cowspiracy,” is a film that, as you might guess, develops a theory that the (environmental) movement organizations working on climate change are shying away from this issue and it attacks the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, I think 350.org, Friends of the Earth, NRDC, and others for not doing it, for not having a large, public big grassroots campaign going after the industry.

And the intimation is that we are afraid to do that, afraid to take on industrial agriculture or hesitant to do it because of donors or the personal lifestyles of leaders in the organizations. We’ve thought about it, because any time you’re attacked for not doing your job right, it causes you to reflect on what you’re doing and to see whether or not you should change your policies. We like to be a responsive organization that is able to accept criticism. And so we – (he stopped for a moment, then continued.)

The Sierra Club has been working on industrial agriculture for decades. Before I came to the Sierra Club, the organization was the leading organization going up against CAFOs, concentrated animal feed lots, taking a lot of these facilities to court (in order) to protect water quality, air quality, all around the country. We have a public policy that encourages our members to eat less meat. It doesn’t encourage them to go fully vegetarian, but it says eating meat has a big impact on the environment and on the climate and as activists, as people who care about the environment we need to eat less meat.

We also have made a strong connection between climate change and industrial agriculture. And we recognize that we could heighten the visibility of this work more; to draw the connections between animal cruelty and cruelty to the planet as a whole. So we’re looking to find other ways to highlight it. We’re not afraid to take on any industry. We’re happy to discuss this issue with anyone. We’re happy to find different ways to communicate about this. But, we’re not all that interested in spending a ton of time with folks who are more interested in criticizing our friends on the issue. We’re always looking for ways to improve.

(Brune took a few other questions, mostly about carbon taxation until he got to my card.)

Vicious Vegan card: I’m a lifelong member of the Sierra Club, yet I have not donated for about four years because the organization doesn’t talk about animal agriculture’s contribution to climate change, water pollution, erosion, etc.

Michael Brune: Well, I’ve got a membership form in my back pocket for whoever wrote that. I’d be happy to talk to whoever wrote that. I would love to have you as a supporter and a member. We are a grassroots-driven and we are member-supported and we care about this issue. I’d be happy to talk to anyone about what the Sierra Club has done and what a lot of groups who are being criticized have done for [sic] animal agriculture.

Vicious Vegan spoke out: Could you read the back of my card?

Michael Brune: There’s a back to this card? It says, don’t forget to read the back of this card. “And why won’t the Sierra Club tell people that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 to 50% of green house gas emissions?” I watched the movie and it’s hard to square that, that’s a big range, 18 to 50%, that’s hard to justify, however the impact is huge. I don’t think it’s 50%, I don’t think it’s 18%, but it’s still huge.

Vicious Vegan tried to speak out again: OK, what about water, the water pollution…(I was shushed by the minister of the Presbyterian Church twice so I finally shut up.)

Michel Brune continued: So while being (unintelligible) to focus on is our dream, it’s a large issue, it’s a significant issue, it’s a challenge our society has to meet. We do need to find a way to protect our forests, of which animal agriculture has a huge impact, particularly in South America.

We do have to find a way to get off of coal and gas. Animal agriculture relates to that, but not directly. We do have to find a way to drive, to transport ourselves, animal agriculture doesn’t (unintelligible) I don’t think we have to compete those challenges against each other. What I think is the room for improvement for the Sierra Club is to elevate food production to a higher level. And I hope that you heard me when I said that we’re looking to do that.

(Applause.)

OK, is it really happening? I checked the current Sierra Club homepage. The only article that seemed to have anything to do with food was “The Four Best Foods to Forage – Who needs the agricultural-industrial food complex when you can gather for free?” The article mentions dandelions, nettles, raspberries, oxalis and enoki. Okaaaay.

The question still hangs I think: Is the Sierra Club full of shit or not? Check out Bruce Hamilton’s October 2, 2014 blog post in response to “Cowspiracy” and decide.

Maybe we should just give the Sierra Club and some of these other groups some time. But how much time do we have?

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —

DUNKIN’ DONUTS: REACHING OUT TO VEGANS…AND FAILING

This week the esteemed junk food restaurant Dunkin’ Donuts rolled out a new offering! Almond milk! It was because of “an increasing number of customer requests” for non-dairy options, said one of the company’s marketing presidents.

OKAAAAY.

Reporting on the new Dunkin’ development, the Boston Globe asserted, “Most of the traditional donuts do not contain milk or eggs, but since they come in contact with such products they can’t be labeled as ‘vegan.’ ’’

Come on down vegans! Have an almond milk latte with a vegan glazed donut that might have, well, accidentally, touched something with milk or eggs in it.

Not so fast.

I went to the Dunkin Donuts website for nutrition and looked up the ingredients for several types of donuts – I clicked on Apple Crumb Donut, contains milk and eggs; I clicked on the Apple Donut, contains milk and eggs; I clicked on the Apple ‘n’ Spice Donut, contains milk and eggs; I clicked on the Caramel Spice Donut, contains milk and eggs; I clicked on the Chocolate Frosted Donut, contains milk and eggs; I clicked on the Glazed Donut, contains milk and eggs; I clicked on the Cinnamon Cake Donut, contains milk and eggs; and I clicked on the Glazed Donut, contains milk and eggs.

Then I got tired of clicking.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

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