There’s not a whole lot I can control in this world, which is very upsetting. I can’t wave a wand and send Donald Trump so far back in time he can’t cause so much trouble, back before microphones, TV’s and real estate. I can’t take away everyone’s freaking weapons, for godsakes. I can’t feed all the hungry people or stop cancer. And so far I haven’t been able to shut down animal exploitation.
But I can control my kitchen god damn it!
I can make sure that all the kale and lettuce is stashed properly in the “Leafies” bin of my refrigerator and the celery is in its designated area. I can arrange all my bottles of vinegar in a cabinet. I can even organize my jars of chipotle salsa on a shelf. I can easily dominate chipotle salsa. The bloody restaurant which calls itself “humane”? Not so much.
But don’t think this kitchen neatness attack was my idea. I simply don’t operate that way. My natural inclination is throw everything in the fridge and hope for the best. Try not to get too upset when I find a three year old potato behind the 2011 almond milk.
I’m taking a Forks Over Knives online cooking course. Yes, yes, yes. It’s WHOLE FOODS, PLANT-BASED, LOW-FAT cooking, which means, among other things, no oil. Or to quote Dr. John McDougall, “Olive oil is not a health food” and “The fat you eat is the fat you wear.”
Assignment 1: Clean up the flipping kitchen! They didn’t say it quite like that but I got the idea that processed food and radically expired food had to go, as well as any kitchen appliance that smelled like an electrical fire when I turned it on. Forks have to go together. Spoons have to go together. And plates of the same size go together.
I have to say it has been such fun. My soup bowls don’t say, “Plants have feelings too.” The can of olives on the top shelf doesn’t spout off with, “Vegans think they’re better than everybody else.” The jar of mustard doesn’t start proclaiming , “God put the animals here for us to use.”
It’s happy in my kitchen. There are no animal corpses, no chicken periods (eggs) and no cow or goat secretions (animal milk.) I have no qualms about touching anything in the refrigerator. I don’t get flashbacks of wailing suffering pigs or fish in agony. There are no hunting knives, bows and arrows or guns nearby.
No, I’m not really making any recipes yet. I’m just enjoying a chaos-free kitchen.
In a bald-faced move to appeal to its donor base of meat-eaters, hunters and ranchers, the “environmental group” published a puff piece in its monthly magazine, Sierra, on the wonders of salami, meat pates, sausage and meat jerkies. I swear to God.
Seeking to ignore the facts that animal agriculture is the biggest source of water pollution in the United States; the biggest source of climate change; and the primary reason the rainforests have been decimated, the writer of the story, “Cuts Above,” has the audacity to suggest that eating these types of meats is “sustainable” because “no part of the animal goes to waste.”
EXCEPT THE ANIMAL’S LIFE GOES TO WASTE.
No worries. The author goes on to reassure us that the products featured in the article “are all made from animals that were humanely butchered and not pumped with hormones and antibiotics.” She doesn’t elaborate on how an animal who wants to live might be “humanely butchered.”
Perhaps you wonder how a Vicious Vegan like myself might have the opportunity to look at the Sierra Club monthly magazine. A long time ago when I still believed that the Sierra Club was committed to saving the environment, I got myself a lifetime membership. Now, there’s not a month that goes by when that group doesn’t manage to disappoint me.
Even the beautiful and rich daughter of Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles’ fame has known the isolation of being vegetarian. Mary McCartney told the Daily Mail.com, “In a way (being a vegetarian) made me feel a little bit of an outsider. When I was at home it was perfect… but when we would go out, it would be a bit of a different story.”
She told the English online publication that meals out with friends when she was in school in the ‘80s used to turn into interrogations: “It would feel like I was being grilled about being a vegetarian. It was quite difficult. I came away feeling like, ‘Leave me alone.’ ”
God knows what it would have been like for her back then if she’d been vegan.
Mary McCartney said she doesn’t feel so bad anymore and she’s glad there are many more vegetarian foods available now.
Yes, yes, yes, there are more meatless and vegan foods available, but for many, that stereotype of the “lonely vegan” isn’t a stereotype. It’s real.
I remember one day a few years ago – I was tired and hungry, but mostly lonely. My friend and I went to grab something to eat at the Museum of Modern Art Café in San Francisco.
Since she was a long-time vegetarian and I was a relatively new vegan we’d talked about factory farming and about some of the health problems associated with eating animal foods. I tried to talk about the atrocities rampant in the egg and dairy industries. She was sort of non-committal. She wouldn’t really say where she stood on the issue of veganism but my impression was she wasn’t going to give up eggs or dairy any time soon. While there was no animosity, there was a wall between us that hadn’t been there before.
Standing in front of the café pastry counter, I guessed that nothing was vegan. I didn’t want to ask. I was sick of being the picky vegan, always focused on food, always pleading my case. I didn’t like the wall. Somehow I wanted to show her that vegans are like everybody else. I was the same person I’d been before. Fuck it. I ordered a bran muffin and a cup of coffee.
When we finally sat down, I took a bite of the thing. The taste of butter almost made me gag. I set the fork down. “Does it have butter in it?” she asked me.
I couldn’t say anything. I just nodded yes. Later, still hoping to dissolve the wall, I told her she could have the muffin if she wanted it.
Personal isolation weakens the Animal Rights Movement and maybe even our resolve to stay vegan.
My sense is, getting out of vegan solitary confinement is super important.
It can be tough because a lot of vegans are kind of loners to start with. We’re willing to stand apart from the crowd if the crowd violates our convictions. Maybe some vegans feel closer to non-human animals than human animals.
But it can get to be too much.
A lot of us need somebody to mirror back to us that we’re not crazy, strange and/or deluded. We need to know we’re not the only people horrified by the animal cruelty implicit in animal agriculture and we’re not the only people worried sick about what animal agriculture and the public’s eating habits are doing to the environment. We need to know we’re not the only people pissed off by the whole thing.
Living in the Bay Area, I go to a lot of vegan functions – veg fests, lectures, seminars, vegan group dinners. And I’m a member of some online vegan groups.
Still, the most important thing is not only having a vegan partner, but belonging to some vegan face-to-face groups (not to be confused with Facebook groups.) For two years now, we’ve gone to a wonderful twice-a- month vegan book meetup, the Marin Vegan Book Group and we belong to the local DxE chapter which gets together every week.
DxE is the first vegan group I’ve encountered which takes the problem of vegan isolation seriously. In his recent lecture titled “Why DxE?” organizer Brian Burns cited “animal rights activism of the past” as “vegan consumerism.”
He described it: “We want people (usually people we know) to change their diets,” he said. “That approach is lacking in community and has focused on incremental changes like ‘Meatless Monday’ and California’s ‘Prop 2.’ It’s ‘welfarism.’”
He talked about this activism as being nice to everybody, getting your friends to change, making sure nobody gets upset. “That leads to isolation,” he said.
That kind of activism has also done nothing to stop the number of animals killed for food from increasing. He noted that today vegetarians are 5 percent of the population compared to 6 percent in 1999.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that DxE is hoping to buck that trend by causing non-violent animal rights disruptions or protests. It’s kind of a “Forget changing your friends and your siblings who seem to have made it their life’s mission to disregard any and all of your suggestions. Don’t try to change friends. Change society. Change the system.
OK, that, and get together for vegan potlucks and farm sanctuary work days once in while.
And never forget “animal food” is NOT food, it’s VIOLENCE.
In an amazing example of the difference between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk,” Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist who has wrung his hands about the animal cruelty inherent in factory farming, turned his sights on the California drought and… and… and… can you believe it? Animal agriculture!
YAY! Finally somebody at the Gray Lady is going to tell the truth about water use in our state!
On your marks, get set, go, Nicholas!
He starts off strong with a quiz:
Which consumes the most water?
A) a 10-minute shower.
B) a handful of 10 almonds.
C) a quarterpound hamburger patty.
D) a washing machine load.
Yup, it’s the burger!! Ding, ding, ding.
The columnist explains carefully that the shower might use 25 gallons. The almonds? A gallon each. The washing machine uses 35 gallons per load. And the burger uses around 450 gallons.
He goes on to talk about the California drought and what a freaking bummer it is, especially when he and his daughter are out hiking and see how the streams and lakes are all dried up.
He even explains how meat, dairy and egg production stack up against plant foods in terms of water. He writes, “A mandarin orange consumes 14 gallons of water. A head of lettuce, 12 gallons. A bunch of grapes, 24 gallons. One single walnut, 2 gallons.”
In an impressive burst of truth-telling, he goes on to write: “… a single egg takes 53 gallons of water to produce. A pound of chicken, 468 gallons. A gallon of milk, 880 gallons. And a pound of beef, 1,800 gallons of water.”
Woo hoo! Go Nick, go. Tell it! Tell us all if we want to save the habitability of the planet we need to go vegan, now. Save the animals! Save the water! Strike a blow against climate change!
But as he comes into the home stretch, our hero Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times stumbles:
“Like most Americans, I eat meat, but it’s worth thinking hard about the inefficiency in that hamburger patty — and the small lake that has dried up to make it possible. Maybe our industrial agriculture system is beginning to change, for we’re seeing some signs of a food revolution in America, with greater emphasis on organic food and animal rights.”
Buy organic and give Walmart a big pat on the back as well for joining the “humane meat” bullshit brigade.
Think, baby, think.
Umm. I’m thinking if I should still keep reading the Times.
Elbow to elbow, animal rights protesters lined up in front of a Berkeley Trader Joe’s meat counter last Thursday.
Despite a security guard’s plea: “Hey, you guys can’t do this here, I’m sorry,” members of the nonviolent activist group, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), shouted out for animal liberation one by one, in languages as diverse as Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, Hindi, Danish, Persian and Ukrainian.
DxE members from all over the world gathered in the Bay Area for a conference last week which included lectures, protests and social gatherings.
The group, which started only two years ago with five people tossing around ideas in somebody’s living room, has now spread to 110 cities in 25 countries. Why the groundswell? I asked one of the key organizers Chris van Breen.
“I think people have been waiting for this for a long time,” he said.
Yelling out loud is a kind of joy, albeit somber, when one has been screaming inside for years. Yelling feels like an authentic human response after one has had to see the dead body parts laying in grocery store “meat” departments every single week. Yelling is a demand for freedom inside these serene even cheerful places of business that calmly traffic in unspeakable cruelty to animals, including some which add insult to injury by claiming you can be humane to animals and kill them at the same time for trivial reasons such as the oft-repeated “It tastes good.”
But why would activists trying to win people over to veganism do such an “extreme” thing?
Compared to stealing someone’s baby or skinning her alive or cutting his throat, practices common in the animal foods industry, yelling, carrying signs or even blocking traffic is not extreme.
When I heard “You’re all under arrest,” my heart jumped in my throat. I flashed on who-will-take-care-of-the-dog-what-about-babysitting-I’d-promised-I’d-do-tomorrow- and what-about-the-cat-and-what-about-all-the-work-due-for-my-class-this-week- what-if-I-can’t-get-to-my-class.
I’ve never really been in jail before.
It was an “International Respect for Chickens Day” protest. We were in the San Francisco Ferry Building which is a sort of foodie plaza where you can spend all sorts of money on “artisan” cheese, olive oil, nuts, fruit, pricey bread and “humanely-raised” meat.
In fact, it was in front of one of these “humanely raised and cruelly-killed” meat places where two animal rights groups, United Poultry Concerns (UPC) and Direct Action Everywhere (DXE), had joined to cause a disruption.
“HUMANELY RAISED,” shouted long-time activist Hope Bohanec of UPC.
Back to the protest: So we were lined up in front of the meat counter and here was this guy dressed in a uniform saying we were all under arrest.
But I looked around and saw nobody really budging and realized that the guy talking about arresting everyone was actually a security guard – not a police officer. And even if he had been a police officer we would have to be given a reasonable amount of time to leave.
The guard sort of laughed and shook his head when he heard we were protesting the cruel treatment of chickens. Conventional belief is that chickens are stupid, if not ridiculous.
Scientists have discovered that chickens recognize and remember human faces, they communicate with other chickens, they learn from each other and they teach their young, new behaviors. And when they’re happy and safe, chickens purr.
Yet chickens are, according to Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary, the most abused of all farm animals. Of the 9.1 billion land animals killed for food in the U.S. during 2013, over 8.5 billion were chickens, according to the USDA.
And being raised “free range” and/or “humanely’’ means little or nothing for most. “Humane,” “Sustainable,” “Cage Free” are basically advertising slogans designed to increase sales and prices while reassuring troubled consciences.
Cage free means, in most cases, thousands of birds stuffed into a darkened filthy shed. Cage free also means that male layer chicks which are of little use to industry are ground up alive or suffocated in garbage bags shortly after they’re born. Backyard chicken farmers please know, this is what happens to the male chicks you don’t buy.
“Free range” broiler chickens are also stuffed by the thousands into these same types of sheds. Those chickens are so deformed and maimed by selective breeding to have huge breasts or “drumsticks,” they can barely move. Experiments have shown that broiler chickens are in nearly constant pain.
It’s a horrible, horrible scene, which is why I just kept standing there with everybody else holding my sign in front of this meat counter listening to the DXE speakers.
One of the butchers wearing a bloody apron came out from behind the counter and got in front of me and said, “Don’t you have something better to do?” which I thought was a very interesting question given the circumstances.
I just stared into the distance and he went off to ask other people in our group, “Why don’t you go get a hobby?”
As the DXE speakers continued (LOUDLY,) another butcher came out of the back with a spoon and a big pan which he started to beat ferociously to drown out the speaker. It was loud enough to hurt my ears and sounded like one of those “Come ’n’ get it” triangles from cowboy movies.
Foodies from all over the Ferry Building arrived to see what was going on or maybe to check out what there was to eat. (You know, maybe some free samples…)
What they saw was us with our signs and our huge banner decrying chicken slaughter, an upset dude in an apron banging on a pot and security guards fluttering around trying to stop the photography. Eventually though they had to give up on trying to stop the photos, because even the foodie/tourists were filming.
Once the short speeches and the chanting were over, we left. The whole thing must have been 10 minutes, max.
Next location: A “humanely-raised” restaurant with tables on the sidewalk in front of the Ferry Building.
The people sitting at the tables just stared as DXE members spoke to the crowd about the horrors of the so-called humane meat industry. I saw one man eating a hamburger trying to sort of duck down when he took a bite. His companion looked miserable.
I kind of felt sorry for them. I’m sure lunch hadn’t been cheap and after all, these were folks who cared enough about farm animals to try and do the right thing – buy “humanely raised.” Maybe some lights were going off inside their brains. That’s what I hoped.
Security came back, this time with a bright blue plastic tarp which they held up as barricade between us and about four tables in the restaurant. The “barricade,” of course, did nothing to stop the sound and it was too small to block the views of most of the people in the restaurant.
It was silly but I thought there is a serious side to animal rights protesting. I’d read Will Potter’s book, “Green is the New Red,” about animal rights activists who had done nothing more than operate a website and had been sentenced to federal prison for lengthy terms.
DXE founder and attorney Wayne Hsiung explained after the protest ended that out of the many, many animal rights activists only 10 have ended up in prison under the 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, and that animal rights and environmental activists no longer get top priority from the FBI.
Hsiung said, compare what’s happened to animal rights activists to the tens of thousands of innocent Muslims who have been imprisoned in the U.S. under the Homeland Security Act or the millions of innocent African-Americans who have also been imprisoned in the United States or have been brutally killed by police simply because of the color of their skin.
I’ve never yelled inside a Whole Foods Market or in a Safeway or in any grocery store. I’ve never even wanted to. When I’ve walked past (quickly) the neon-lit graveyards they have in the back of these stores, which showcase the dead animals or their chopped-up flesh, I’ve felt a grief and revulsion that makes me quiet.
Yet despite my despair at the obvious animal cruelty that’s taken place, I have to admit I’ve always kind of liked Whole Foods. I like that they have a gazillion different plant-based milks (that taste good); that they have a pretty good bulk section; that the employees are nice; that one of the store’s founders, John Mackey, was persuaded to become a vegan; and I always liked that the checkers would ask me, “Credit or donation?” when I brought in my own bag. I’d get a little warm feeling when I’d say, “donation.”
Yet there I was – pissed and yelling my head off with the other protestors in the meat department of Whole Foods on Sunday: “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence.”
I joined a group of Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) members to protest Whole Food’s truly bizarre, if not Orwellian, $20 million ad campaign: “Values Matter.” The ads feature such slogans as “Know What Kind of Life Your Dinner Lived” or “Choose a Fish, Cook a Fish, Save a Fish.”
Welcome to the house of mirrors world of “humane meat.” Or “sustainable agriculture.” Or “cage free.” Or “cruelty-free food.” Or “grass-fed.” It’s a wonderful dreamy world where the environment is pristine: no water pollution, no climate change, no destruction of wildlife. You can still kill and eat animals and/or consume their secretions and feel good about it. Hell, you can eat animals and save animals at the same time!
Ask most people to envision a “cage free” egg farm and they will tell you about open green pastures with chickens playing and frolicking in the warm sunlight. I once heard a natural foods co-op customer describe it as “like summer camp.” And if you can’t imagine a summer camp for so-called food animals, Whole Foods has a picture of one of these places on their website.
It just ain’t so, folks.
Cage free is just that: cage free. OK, farmers aren’t cutting off a chunk of chickens’ beaks and stuffing the birds into cages so small they can’t move. Instead they’re cutting off a chunk of their beaks and stuffing them into darkened sheds encrusted with feces, filth and dead body parts. These places are so crowded the chickens can barely move. Yet on the Whole Foods website, the store insists their chickens aren’t mutilated and that each and every one of them has access to the outdoors. Also Santa Claus lives at the North Pole in a house decorated with candy canes where he makes beautiful toys for all the children in the world.
Here’s an undercover video taken by DXE at one of Whole Foods’ cage free egg suppliers.
I watched it. It won’t kill you. You’ll see chickens in crowded sheds with missing feathers and with bruised, distorted bodies — chickens seeming so sick and weak they can’t even get up or open their eyes.
Ok, photos and videos can lie. Maybe you say, well, if Whole Foods can create a fantasy world with pictures, why can’t animal rights activists create another fantasy world with pictures?
You might say, what if Whole Foods is actually a non-profit organization devoted to bringing healthful foods to The People and really makes sure its farmed animals are loved and cared for? And what if the grocery chain hires multitudes of employees, gives them a living wage and health insurance and asks them to gently put these cared-for animals to sleep after they’ve lived long and happy lives?
Truth alert: Whole Foods is a for-profit company that answers to its shareholders. If they can make money selling junk food, they do it. If they can make money selling animal body parts and animal secretions they do that too.
Nobody puts these so-called food animals “to sleep,” otherwise the eaters of such animals would also get “put to sleep.” They don’t live long and happily – that costs too much. No, as soon as these “humanely-raised” animals reach “market weight,” they’re killed in slaughterhouses, same as any other “food animal.” It’s terrifying and excruciating for all. “Grass-fed” beef cows are killed. “Free-range” turkeys are killed. “Humanely raised” ducks are killed. “Sustainable” goats are killed. “Organic” rabbits are killed. Monterey Bay Aquarium-approved fish are killed. “Cage free” laying hens are killed. “Happy” dairy cows are killed. There’s no retirement farm for dairy cows or laying hens. Dairy cows become hamburger and the chickens often become fertilizer or even animal feed as soon as they stop producing.
It’s an outrage that Whole Foods would rip off the Black Lives Matter slogan and use it to sell animal suffering to people who are concerned about farm animals. I truly believe those customers do care about animals. Plus, why would anyone give all that extra money to the shareholders of Whole Foods if they didn’t care?
About 30 or 40 of us walked into a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco from a nearby park where we’d all met up. Trying (probably unsuccessfully) to look like customers we entered the store with our “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence” signs kind of hidden under our shirts or rolled up in our hands.
For a few minutes we kept sort of trying to look like normal customers despite the fact that none of us bothered to get a cart or a basket and we were all hanging around near the meat department when we heard the voice of one of the DXE’ers, shouting “Excuse me, could I get your attention?’
That was our cue to assemble in front of the meat counter and hold high our signs while other protesters gave short speeches about the suffering of animals whose bodies were now lying dead in the glass case. One of the speakers held a carton of milk and talked of dairy calves and baby goats torn from their mothers shortly after birth so that humans could steal their milk. Another speaker spoke of a lucky goat, Domino, who had been rescued and was now able to live in safety and to love and be loved by others. She talked about how Domino was an individual, no different from anybody’s dog or cat.
Despite the stories, a woman with a shopping cart seemed irritated as she made her way to the meat counter through our crowd.
Standing there with my sign I looked down to see a galvanized steel tub filled with shaved ice and fish bodies. The fishes’ eyes stared at me. The fish were packed in the ice as if the tub was a little pond and the fish were looking up out of the water. They seemed alive, friendly and playful, decorative, even. As the protest continued, I wondered if customers just picked up the fish themselves or if they got someone from the meat counter to come around and do it for them.
I thought it might be easy for someone to forget that these fish actually suffered cruel and unnecessary deaths. These silent sentient beings who remember and have companions painfully strain to breathe for as long as a half hour after they’ve been caught in nets; or they writhe in agony as the most sensitive part of their body which is their mouth is pierced with a senseless merciless metal hook and they’re dragged out into the air to their deaths.
As our loud animal rights speeches continued and the Whole Foods employees looked either passive, bemused or annoyed. A lot of the customers looked the same way, but somebody in our group said she heard some customers chanting right along with us. “ANIMALS SUFFER – JUST LIKE US.” “ANIMALS FEEL PAIN – JUST LIKE US.” “ANIMALS WANT TO LIVE – JUST LIKE US.” “WHAT DO WE WANT? – ANIMAL LIBERATION.” “WHEN DO WE WANT IT? – NOW!” “WHAT DO WE WANT? – ANIMAL LIBERATION.”
We must have chanted loudly for nearly 10 minutes while the security and police officers just watched us and then, still chanting, we walked out.
Crossing San Francisco’s Market Street, we went into a Safeway store: “ANIMALS’ LIVES ARE THEIR RIGHT – WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT.”
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.
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.
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?