29 November 2006

The One Animal Product You Should Feed Your Children

In my earlier post "Children and Heart Disease" available here, I noted that, in the seventh and final edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care: A Handbook for Parents of the Developing Child from Birth to Adolescence, Dr. Benjamin Spock no longer recommends feeding animal products to children after two years of age. According to Dr. Spock:

Most families have become more conscious about the fat content of meats, and many are choosing the lower-fat cuts. The healthiest diets of all, however, go a step further, and get their nutrients from beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits rather than from meats.

Children can get plenty of protein from beans, grains, and vegetables, and when they do, they avoid the animal fat and cholesterol found in meats. Unfortunately, switching from red meat to chicken does not help very much. Chicken actually has just as much cholesterol as beef (about 100 milligrams of cholesterol in a 4-ounce serving) and almost as much fat. Researchers have also learned that the cancer-causing chemicals that form in beef as it cooks also tend to form in chicken.

Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. [My emphasis]

There are other reasons why families are looking more favorably at plant-based choices. In recent years, the prevalence of disease-causing bacteria in meat, poultry, and eggs has risen sharply, which is why health authorities insist that these products be carefully handled and thoroughly cooked, if they are used at all.

Meatless meals also help your child to keep stronger bones. Children stay in better calcium balance when their protein comes from plant-based sources. (pp. 332-3)
Those are all compelling reasons to not feed your children meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) or eggs. What about other animal products such as dairy products? Dr. Spock "no longer recommend[s] dairy products after the age of two years" (p. 331).

But what about prior to two years? Are there any animal products that Dr. Spock recommends feeding children from birth up until two years? The answer is "Yes." There is one animal product that Dr. Spock recommends feeding newborns and infants. That animal product is human breast milk. Human breast milk is a near perfect food for human newborns and infants. According to Dr. Spock:

Breast-feeding is valuable in a number of ways. Careful studies in recent years have shown that babies receive immunity to a variety of infections through the colostrum (the fluid that comes in before the real milk) and through the milk. Though it contains very little iron, breast milk contains a form of iron that is unusually well digested and absorbed.

A big advantage of breast-feeding is that the milk is always pure; a baby can't catch an intestinal infection from it. From a purely practical point of view, it saves hours of time every week, because there are no bottles to wash or sterilize, no formulas to mix, no refrigeration to worry about, no bottles to warm, and it's less expensive than formula. . . . Breast-feeding is more adapted to satisfying the baby's suckling instinct. At the breast, he can suck as long as he feels the need. (pp. 105-6)
Dr. Spock is not alone in his endorsement of breast-feeding human infants. Dr. Michael Klaper has this to say about breast-feeding:

Breast-feeding is certainly the best, most natural form of nutrition during the infant's first year of life, and holds great benefits for the mother as well. All the child's nutritional needs through the first six months can be met through the miraculous infant food that is human mother's breast milk.

The breast milk of vegan mothers is fully nutritious for infants, and contains the full compliment of energy, protein, and vitamins, needed for the rapid growth of life's first half year. Breast milk not only contains nutrients, but also antibodies that bolster the baby's immune system. Very importantly, the breast-feeding years create emotional security in the child through the many hours of intimate contact with the mother. (Dr. Michael Klaper, Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet, p. 32)
Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine also recommends breast-feeding infants:

Breast-feeding is nature's way of meeting the infant's nutritional needs, and also helps boost immunity, not to mention its psychological benefits. When breast-feeding is not possible, commercial soy formulas are nutritionally adequate. There is no need for infants to be raised on cow's milk formulas. Aside from the colic-inducing proteins that bother many children on cow's milk formulas, cow's milk is a common cause of allergies. Immune responses to milk proteins are implicated in insulin-dependent diabetes and even in sudden infant death syndrome. Soy formulas are commonly used in hospital nurseries, although they can occasionally be allergenic as well. Soymilk sold in grocery stores is not the same as soy baby formula, however, and is not adequate for infants. (Dr. Neal Barnard, Food for Life: How the New Four Food Groups Can Save Your Life, p. 159)
As these nutritional experts attest, there is only one animal product that all children should be fed and that animal product is human breast milk. There simply is no dispute in the medical community that human breast milk is the best food a human infant can be fed. Children should not be fed cow's milk or cow's milk-based formulas for the reasons cited above. Breast-feeding is so nutritionally superior for human infants that the World Health Organization recommends that infants be exclusively breast fed for the first six months of life and the American Academy of Pediatrics now urges mothers to nurse for at least a year and maintains that nursing up to three years is healthy.

The nutritional superiority of human breast milk as the food of choice for human infants may not come as a surprise to many of you. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of ignorant people out there who find breast-feeding unnatural [Imagine!] and/or offensive, like the flight attendant (for the ironically named Freedom Airlines) who threw Emily Gillette off of a Freedom Airlines flight for breast-feeding her daughter on the plane. As this Newsweek article and this Washington Post article report, when Gillette boarded a flight from Burlington, Vermont to New York on Oct. 13 after a 2-3 hour delay, she began to nurse her daughter discreetly in her window seat before takeoff. Gillette's husband, Brad, sat in the aisle seat to provide his wife and their daughter some privacy. When that lone Freedom Airlines flight attendant noticed that Gillette was breast-feeding, she approached Gillette with a blanket and told her "You need to cover up. You are offending me." According to Elizabeth A. Boepple (Emily Gillette's attorney), Gillette refused, saying, "No, thank you. I will not put a blanket on top of my child's head." A few moments later that boob of a flight attendant returned with a ticket agent who told the family they were being thrown off the plane.

Gillette was thrown off of the plane for breast-feeding her child. If she had been feeding that same child a fat-laden, artery-clogging Big Mac or a large order of greasy, fat-laden, artery-clogging McDonald's French fries, that flight attendant wouldn't have been offended at all. Feeding your child a diet that will predispose her to heart disease, some cancers, obesity, and diabetes is not offensive, while feeding your child the most nutritious food available is so "offensive" that the breast-feeding mother guilty of that offense had to be physically removed from the plane. How sick and twisted is that.

Sadly, Gillette's experience is not unique. Consider Victoria's Secret, a company who makes much of its money by exposing women's breasts. According to the Newsweek article "Breast on a Plane" just linked-to above, last year Victoria’s Secret would not allow women to breastfeed in their stores in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. One wouldn't want any breast tissue exposed in these Victoria's Secret stores, despite the pictures of scantily-clad models adorning their walls.

The Newsweek article also reports that year before last, a Maryland woman breast-feeding in a Starbucks was asked to move to a restroom if she wanted to continue feeding her baby. Never mind that restrooms aren't the most sanitary of places to feed one's baby. Never mind that the bulk of the fat in Starbucks's beverages comes from the milk -- yes, milk! -- of another species. Apparently, at these Starbucks stores, while hormone-laced bovine mammary fluid is good to go, human mammary fluid has got to go. Never mind all that. There is something twisted about a corporate policy that encourages people to gorge themselves on 720-calorie venti banana mocha frappuccinos (a third of one's total daily caloric requirement in a single beverage) together with a few hundred additional calories from some sugar- and fat-laden pastry, but doesn't allow a mother to provide basic sustenance to her child. How sick and twisted have we become?

As the Newsweek story indicates, 38 states have passed laws giving women the right to breastfeed in any public or private place she’d otherwise be allowed to be. However, 12 states, namely, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin [Imagine, The Dairy State doesn't protect a woman's right to nurse!], as well as the District of Columbia offer women no protection or very limited protection of their right to breastfeed their children. The legislators in these 12 states ought to be ashamed. We owe it to our children to give them the best start we possibly can. Breast-feeding does just that. We should honor and respect women who elect to breastfeed their babies. If you live in one of these 12 states, contact your state legislators and encourage them to pass a bill (modeled after one of the bills in the other 38 states) that guarantees that nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in any public or private place that they are otherwise allowed to be. We owe it to the mothers in these states and to their babies to allow mothers to provide their babies nature's most nutritious food.

The bottom line: Instead of finding "gross and offensive" the most natural, loving and endearing thing in the world, we as a society should applaud and support women who are doing right by their babies and breast-feeding them. One effective way of doing that is to boycott businesses that interfere with a woman's right to breastfeed her child. Here are some things that each of us can do to stage effective boycotts so as to ensure that every mother has the right to do the best thing for her baby and breastfeed her/him. First, if a business has interfered with you when you were trying to breastfeed your a child, make that fact widely known and encourage everyone you know to boycott that business until it changes its unacceptable policy vis-à-vis breast-feeding. Second, write letters to that business's headquarters letting them know that you are boycotting it and why. Third, write letters to the editor in your local newspaper accurately and fairly describing how the business interfered with your right to nurse your child. Fourth, post fair and accurate descriptions of the incident on blogs and encourage readers to boycott the offending business. Similarly, if you know of a woman whose right to nurse her child in public has been violated, encourage her to come forward with her story, so that conscientious consumers can boycott that business. I don't know about you, but I won't be flying on Freedom Airlines anytime soon. If a woman isn't free to breastfeed on all of their flights, I will freely take my business elsewhere.

Champion of Animals

My friend and co-blogger, Mylan Engel, is too humble to draw attention to himself, so allow me to draw attention to him. See here. Good work, Mylan! I know you're an atheist, as I am, but I like to think that if we're wrong, and there really is a god, he or she will save all and only those who cared for animals. Come to think of it, maybe god is an animal, in which case those who eat animals are in Big Trouble.

The Prairie Progress

Here is the latest issue (winter 2006) of The Prairie Progress, which is the newsletter of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary.

28 November 2006

What Makes a Fish Organic?

See here.

Third Anniversary

I started this blog three years ago today. Here is the first post. Mylan Engel must have told me that he would join the blog, but it took him almost three years to do so! I'm glad he came aboard. The current month is the best yet, in terms of number of visitors. My own interest in the blog has increased as a result of Mylan's presence. There have been 42,820 visitors to the blog in three years. That's an average of 39 visitors per day. During much of that time, I posted only rarely. I still think of this blog mainly as a resource for scholars, which is why I added a bibliography. Mylan recently provided a list of additional books, which I will add in due course. Thanks for visiting. Please spread the word to your friends, colleagues, and students. If you have suggestions, including ways to improve the blog, please write to Mylan or me. One thing I appreciate is links to animal-related stories. I'm only one person, after all. I can't be everywhere or read everything.

27 November 2006

Urban Canines

Here is a New York Times op-ed column about companion animals.

26 November 2006


While examining this blog's statistics, I noticed that several people came here from a German site. Thank you. I will add a link to the blogroll.

The Humane Alternative

I’ve been talking turkey of late and discussing the inhumane conditions under which turkeys are raised. Here is a brief recap of the conditions all conventionally-raised, factory-farmed turkeys are forced to endure: Being hatched in incubators, they never even meet their mothers [in the wild, turkeys spend the first five months of their lives close to their mothers, as turkeys have a strong mother-offspring bond]. Instead of being cared for by their mothers, they are sexed upon birth and discarded if they are the wrong sex, they are debeaked and detoed without anesthesia, and they are injected in the back of the neck with antibiotics. They are then transported to factory farms, where they are permanently confined in massively overcrowded sheds. In these intensive confinement facilities, they are forced to stand in their own urine and excrement. The ammonia-saturated air damages their lungs. In addition, many turkeys endure painful lameness as a result of their having been bred to put on weight faster than their skeletal structures can keep up. After five months of this life of mutilation, confinement, frustration, and pain, they are inhumanely loaded onto trucks and shipped long distances without food and water to the slaughterhouse. Each year hundreds of thousands of turkeys die on route to the slaughterhouse as a result of this handling and transportation.

Given the existence of the Federal Humane Slaughter Act, one might think that at least in their final moments the turkeys would be treated with respect and killed humanely. But they aren’t, for while the Federal Humane Slaughter Act (FHSA) does require that all animals be rendered unconscious and impervious to pain prior to being killed, chickens and turkeys are not considered “animals” under the act. [That’s right. The federal government does not consider chickens and turkeys to be animals. Perhaps we should require that politicians pass an eighth grade biology class before being eligible to serve in the U.S. Congress.] Since turkeys are not regarded as animals under the FHSA, they receive no humane protections at all. Consequently, when they reach the slaughterhouse, they are inhumanely unloaded by workers who pull them out of their transportation crates and hang them upside down by their feet on hooks attached to a conveyor belt that transports the fully conscious, terrified turkeys to an electrically-charged waterbath where they are lowered head first into the electrically charged water. United Poultry Concerns describes the effects of the waterbath as follows: “The electricity shoots through the birds’ eyes, eardrums, and hearts causing ‘intolerable pain’.” The electricity temporarily paralyzes the birds, but it does not render them unconscious. One could use sufficient voltage to render the birds unconscious, but that would cause blotching on the skin and would make them less marketable. So, slaughterhouses use just enough voltage to paralyze the birds without rendering them unconscious. The paralyzed birds are then transported via conveyer through a machine that slits their throats, after which they are entirely submerged in a 160ºF scalding tank to facilitate feather removal. Many birds are still conscious when they reach the scalding tank. This mechanized method of slaughter is brutal and horribly inhumane.

When one reflects carefully on all of the misery that turkeys are put through just to wind up on our dinner tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas, it makes one’s holiday meal seem a lot less happy and joyful! Most people agree that unnecessary suffering is intrinsically bad. Most people think that unnecessary cruelty is wrong and ought not be promoted, supported, or encouraged. The problem is that purchasing turkeys raised in factory farm conditions does just that: It financially supports those agribusinesses that raise turkeys in inhumane ways, and the profit that that support generates encourages these corporations to continue to use their cruel, yet highly profitable, methods of animal “husbandry.”

Let me pause for a moment to stress that opposition to unnecessary cruelty is not some idiosyncratic value possessed only by a few animal rights whackos. The beliefs that unnecessary suffering is intrinsically bad and that unnecessary cruelty is wrong and ought not be supported express widely shared values that form the basis of much of our moral theorizing.

On September 9, 2001, U.S. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia eloquently expressed these very values in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in which he spoke out against the institutionalized cruelty inherent in modern factory-farming techniques. Here is an excerpt from Senator Byrd’s unprecedented speech:

Our inhumane treatment of livestock is becoming widespread and more and more barbaric. Six-hundred-pound hogs—they were pigs at one time—raised in 2-foot-wide metal cages called gestation crates, in which the poor beasts are unable to turn around or lie down in natural positions, and this way they live for months at a time.

On profit-driven factory farms, veal calves are confined to dark wooden crates so small that they are prevented from lying down or scratching themselves. These creatures feel; they know pain. They suffer pain just as we humans suffer pain. Egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages. Unable to spread their wings, they are reduced to nothing more than an egg-laying machine.

Last April, the Washington Post detailed the inhumane treatment of livestock in our Nation's slaughterhouses. A 23-year-old Federal law requires that cattle and hogs to be slaughtered must first be stunned, thereby rendered insensitive to pain, but mounting evidence indicates that this is not always being done, that these animals are sometimes cut, skinned, and scalded while still able to feel pain.

A Texas beef company, with 22 citations for cruelty to animals, was found chopping the hooves off live cattle. In another Texas plant with about two dozen violations, Federal officials found nine live cattle dangling from an overhead chain. Secret videos from an Iowa pork plant show hogs squealing and kicking as they are being lowered into the boiling water that will soften their hides, soften the bristles on the hogs and make them easier to skin. . . .

The law clearly requires that these poor creatures be stunned and rendered insensitive to pain before this process begins. Federal law is being ignored. Animal cruelty abounds. It is sickening. It is infuriating. Barbaric treatment of helpless, defenseless creatures must not be tolerated even if these animals are being raised for food—and even more so, more so. Such insensitivity is insidious and can spread and is dangerous. Life must be respected and dealt with humanely in a civilized society. . . .

Thus, Mr. President, God gave man dominion over the Earth. We are only the stewards of this planet. We are only the stewards of His planet. Let us not fail in our Divine mission. Let us strive to be good stewards and not defile God's creatures or ourselves by tolerating unnecessary, abhorrent, and repulsive cruelty. [End of Senator Byrd’s speech.]
Like Senator Byrd, when most people learn of the horrifically inhumane conditions in factory farms, they are sickened. They are infuriated. They don’t want to support that kind of cruelty with their purchases. Instead, they seek out humane alternatives to factory-farmed turkeys. Many are even willing to pay top dollar to purchase “free range” turkeys, assuming that the lives of “free range” turkeys are much better than the lives of factory-farmed turkeys. Sadly, these conscientious consumers are falling victim to yet another instance of industry fraud. The 'free range' label is designed to make consumers believe that the animals were raised humanely and were allowed to run about freely and unfettered throughout the barnyard. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The term 'free range' is not indicative of humane animal husbandry practices. According to the labelling division of the USDA, a 'free range' bird is one that has access to the outdoors, period, no matter how small or overcrowded the outdoor pen. That is the only difference between a “free range” bird and a conventionally-raised, factory-farmed bird. Apart from their “access to the outdoors,” “free range” turkeys are subjected to all of the inhumane treatment and abuses that factory-farmed turkeys are subjected to. Like their conventionally-raised, factory-farmed counterparts, “free range” turkeys are debeaked and detoed without anesthesia and injected with antibiotics within hours of birth. They are transported inhumanely to “grow-out sheds” where they are crowded together with thousands of other birds. In these grow-out sheds, they are forced to stand in their own accumulating urine and fecal waste and breathe ammonia fumes. After 4-6 months of this existence, they are inhumanely loaded onto trucks, transported to the slaughterhouse, and slaughtered in the same inhumane way that conventionally-raised turkeys are slaughtered. For more information on the free range fantasy, read the “Free Range Fact Sheet” available here. You can also view pictures documenting the conditions on a “free range” turkey farm here.

[Note: Some chickens and turkeys are labelled 'free roaming' rather than 'free range'. The term 'free roaming' just means birds which have not been raised in cages, even though they are permanently confined in a warehouse or shed and never see the outdoors until the day they are taken to slaughter. In short, conventionally-raised, factory-farmed birds can be labelled 'free roaming' provided they are not raised in cages.]

The bottom line: “Free range” and “free roaming” turkeys are not humanely raised. Don’t fall prey to consumer fraud. Refuse to line the pockets of fraudulent turkey producers who mislead well-meaning consumers into thinking their products are humanely raised. If you really want to do what is right and not support unnecessary cruelty, seek out truly humane plant-based alternatives to cruelly-raised turkeys this Christmas. Options include replacing that tortured turkey with an easy to prepare Tofurky. Or try serving a delicious Kashi Nut Loaf (recipe available here) or a hearty (and heart-healthy) vegetarian Sheppard’s pie. Feeling a little more ambitious, bake a “Mrs. Gobble-Good's Golden Brown Pie” [recipe available at the bottom of the page here]. Or just pick up any good vegan cookbook. The options are countless. Celebrate this Christmas with a compassionate meal truly befitting of the season. Happy Holidays!

Note from KBJ: I located the text of Senator Byrd's speech. See here.

24 November 2006

A Questionnaire for Readers

Thanks for visiting this blog. I think I speak for my co-blogger, Mylan Engel, when I say that we enjoy writing in it. I have some questions for you. First, who are you? You don't have to give your name, obviously, although you may. Are you a professor? If so, of what, and where? Are you a student? If so, studying what, and where? Second, how did you get to this blog? How often do you visit? Third, what would you like to see in the blog? Interviews with people involved in the animal-rights movement? Philosophical commentary on current events? Short essays? Links to news items that deal with animals? Book (or article) reviews? Recipes? Any feedback that you can provide us is appreciated. We aim to please (within limits, of course)! As for how to provide such feedback, I prefer the comment section. I have to moderate the comments in order to keep the nuts and creeps away. Believe me, if I didn't, it would be ugly. It's quick and easy to register and post a comment, so please do. Other readers may find your answers interesting.

Addendum: There are many types of blog, but I think the original idea of blogs ("weblogs") was to encourage interaction between those who write them and those who read them. Some bloggers don't allow comments. Some allow comments without moderation. Some allow only moderated comments. This is one of the latter. It's unfortunate that I have to put up any barriers to readers, but if I didn't, there would be abusive posts. I know this from experience. I promise to approve all comments that are civil. By "civil," I mean not just respectful in tone, but addressed to the substance of people's claims rather than to the people who make those claims. Suppose I make an argument. I'm doing two things. First, I'm making one or more claims (my premises). Second, I'm claiming that some further claim (my conclusion) follows from those claims. If you think my premises are false, say so and cite your evidence. If you think my conclusion doesn't follow from my premises, say so and explain why. Leave me out of it. Think of the argument as a free-floating entity. That I (Keith) made the argument is irrelevant.


Keith commented on my previous post claiming that the proposition that Hobel—a moral authority (where turkeys are concerned)—eats factory-farmed turkeys entails the proposition that it is permissible to eat turkeys.

A point of clarification for those who might not be clear on the logical notion of entailment. One proposition can entail another proposition even though both propositions are false. Here's how: Let p and q stand for propositions. p entails q just in case it is logically impossible for p to be true and q to be false. In other words, to say that p entails q is to say that, necessarily, if p is true, q is true. Of course, that latter conditional—"if p is true, then q is true"—can be true even if q is false. What that conditional tells us is that if q is false, then p must be false.

Now look at Keith's claim: "That Hobel—a moral authority—eats factory-farmed turkeys entails that it is morally permissible to eat them." That claim could be true even though it is not morally permissible to eat turkeys, either because it is false that Hobel is a moral authority or because it is false that Hobel eats turkeys. It is not false that Hobel eats turkeys, but it is false that she is a moral authority. Hence, the alleged entailment that Keith mentions does not show that it is morally permissible to eat turkeys.

I also have serious doubts as to whether the alleged entailment Keith cites in his claim "That Hobel—a moral authority—eats factory-farmed turkeys entails that it is morally permissible to eat them" really is an entailment. That's because I think that it is false that "A moral authority's doing action A" entails that "doing A is morally permissible." For the sake of argument, let's mean by "a moral authority" someone who is a perfectly reliable moral authority. So defined, a moral authority knows what is right and knows what is wrong, but since it is possible to know that action A is wrong and do action A anyway, the fact that a moral authority does action A does not entail that it is permissible to do A. In short, since moral authorities can themselves act immorally, we cannot validly deduce what is permissible simply by examining the actions of moral authorities.

Note: One could, of course, define "a moral authority" as a person who is both morally omniscient and perfectly virtuous, in which case Keith's entailment claim would become analytic. But if that is what is meant by "a moral authority", then it is obvious that Hobel isn't one. No human being is morally omniscient and perfectly virtuous. Consequently, even on the analytic reading of Keith's claim, that claim gives us no good reason to think that eating turkeys is permissible.

Also note: I am not suggesting that Keith thinks that the entailment claim he makes provides any reason to think that eating turkeys is permissible. I'm sure he agrees that Hobel is not a moral authority. Rather, he is trying to make explicit the logic underlying Buckley's article to make plain how bad that argument is.

The Best Way to Stuff a Turkey

What's the best way to stuff a turkey? To feed her! Just toss her some dried corn and some seeds (not bread!) and let her gobble them up. Here is a NY Times story about wild turkeys inhabiting city parks and living peacefully and harmoniously with the humans who frequent those parks. After having been hunted to near extinction, wild turkey populations have rebounded thanks to reintroduction programs. Some of these turkeys are making their homes in our city parks giving great pleasure to the residents lucky enough to see them.

In the NY Times story linked-to above, you'll meet some fascinating characters, including Zelda the wild turkey who makes Battery Park her home, but perhaps the most fascinating character that you will meet is Sara Hobel, an "animal lover" who shares her home with 5 cats, a gecko, a frog, and until a short time ago, a rabbit, who recently died of lung cancer. Hobel is described as "a woman who, by dint of her job and near fanatical love of animals, has become one of the foremost experts on wildlife that happens into the city’s parks." She is director of New York City’s Urban Park Rangers, a parks department agency that runs nature centers and handles wildlife management and rules enforcement in the five boroughs’ 28,000 acres of parkland. Hobel has devoted much of her life to rescuing hapless animals from the wilds of the city. Virtuous conduct to be sure. But that is not what makes her fascinating. What is at once both fascinating and pathetic about Hobel, especially given her "near fanatical love of animals" and her intimate knowledge of their intelligence and awareness, is her psychological ability to compartmentalize her concern for animals, i.e., her ability to care deeply about some animals (wild turkeys) while caring nothing at all for other animals (domesticated turkeys) even though these animals are alike in all morally relevant respects. She devotes her life to caring for and looking after the interests of the wild turkeys that inhabit her parks, but she cares nothing for the interests of the turkey in her oven. How do I know this? The lovely NY Times story concludes: "Yesterday, Zelda finally flew down from her perch, delighting onlookers by pecking at the seeds and chasing away smaller birds. Life in Battery Park clearly suits Zelda, and Ms. Hobel estimated that she weighed about 12 pounds. 'Portly, for a female turkey,' Ms. Hobel said. Then Zelda wandered out of sight, and Ms. Hobel announced that she had to go, too. She had another turkey to attend to, this one a 10-pounder, bound for the oven."

What we glean from the story, starting with its title, "A Kinder, Gentler Way to Stuff a Turkey," and continuing up until the penultimate sentence, is that turkeys are sensitive, intelligent, delightful creatures. If the story were to end there, we might have to think twice about eating such birds, but the author, Cara Buckley, makes sure the story doesn't end there. Instead the story ends with Hobel's rubberstamp seal of approval for eating domestically-raised turkeys.

Buckley's intended message seems to be: "If an animal lover like Sara Hobel eats turkeys, it must be o.k. to eat turkeys." If this is Buckley's message, it is bad reasoning at its worst. The fact that Hobel eats farm-raised turkeys doesn't make it right. Just because someone is virtuous in some respects does not entail that she is virtuous in all respects. Hobel's concern for wild animals is virtuous indeed. Her lack of concern for farmed turkeys is not. Hobel is simply inconsistent. She respects the interests of wild turkeys while ignoring the interests of domesticated turkeys, even though they have exactly the same interests and even though there is no morally relevant difference between these two types of turkeys. Because wild turkeys and domestic turkeys are alike in all the morally relevant respects, they deserve equal consideration of their interests. A wild turkey's interest in avoiding painful mutilations, permanent confinement, inhumane handling and inhumane slaughter is no different than a domestic turkey's interest in avoiding those same abuses. Hobel would be outraged if someone mutilated Zelda by cutting off her toes and burning off her beak, kept her in total confinement for 5 months, and then inhumanely slaughtered her, as well she should be, even though that is exactly what happened to the turkey that Hobel was so eager to place in her oven and eat.


Read this. One thing is missing from these experiments on animals: consent. Dogs and other animals are incapable of consenting to be used as experimental subjects. Without consent, they are being used as mere means to human—or animal—ends. Why is it permissible to use animals as mere means but not humans as mere means? As always, there is a double standard: deontology for humans, consequentialism for animals. Please don't say that the animals' owners consent for them. Do we allow parents to consent to experimentation on their children? And please don't say that animals themselves (dogs, for example) will benefit from the experiments. Animals are individuals. They're no more interchangeable or replaceable than humans are. Just as it's wrong to use a particular human being as a means to some collective end, it's wrong to use a particular animal as a means to some collective end. If the "experiment" is for the good of the individual animal, then it's therapy, not experimentation. That the Humane Society of the United States endorses these experiments calls its motives, character, and principles into question.


Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary is having its third annual fundraiser. See here.

23 November 2006

A Cruel Tradition

Today, people all across America will sit down to dinner with their friends and family in celebration of all that they have to be thankful for. For 95% of Americans, the centerpiece of this meal will be the carcass of a tortured bird prominently displayed for all to admire. That bird that you are so happy to have adorn your table is a five-month-old turkey who has lived his entire life in misery in inhumane factory farm conditions.

According to Dr. William E. Donaldson of North Carolina State University, within the first three hours of that turkey’s life, he was squeezed for sexing, thrown down a slide onto a treadmill, picked up by someone who ripped the snood off his head, clipped three toes off each foot, and debeaked him and then put him on another conveyer belt that delivered him to another carousel where he got a powerful injection of antibiotics that whacked him in the back of his neck. Dr. Donaldson describes what the first three hours of life is like for all turkeys raised in the U.S. as follows: “Essentially, they [the poults] have been through major surgery. They have been traumatized.” As is the norm in modern agribusiness, all of these painful traumatic procedures are done without anesthesia. According to United Poultry Concerns, “Turkeys are painfully debeaked and detoed without anesthetic to offset the destructive effects of overcrowding and lack of environmental stimulation. Beaks are amputated with a hot machine blade. The blade cuts through the sensitive beak tissue causing severe pain and suffering in the mutilated birds. Debeaked birds cannot eat or preen properly, and detoed birds have trouble walking.”

These mutilated birds are then shipped to intensive confinement facilities—large sheds containing up to 100,000 birds—where they will be confined indoors in terribly overcrowded conditions for the duration of their lives. In these intensive confinement facilities, the birds are forced to stand in their own excrement; hence, the need for routine antibiotics. In addition, the birds have been selectively bred to grow to "market weight" in the shortest time possible. [To put just how fast these birds have been bred to grow into perspective, if a 7-pound human baby were forced to grow at the rate that turkeys have been bred to grow that human baby would weigh 1,500 lbs. in 18 weeks.] As a result, the birds grow so fast that their skeletal structures cannot keep up, and thus, their bones are too weak to support their weight. The end result is that turkeys frequently suffer from painful lameness. The unnatural rate at which they have been forced to grow has another side effect, as well. The turkeys are so large that they can no longer mate naturally. So, male turkeys used for breeding are masturbated by a “milker” who then artificially inseminates the female breeding turkeys by forcefully driving the semen collected from the “milked” males into the female turkeys' bodies.

After five months of a hellish existence in a terribly overcrowded shed, the birds are inhumanely loaded onto trucks and shipped long distances to slaughterhouses without food or water and without adequate protection from the elements. Each year hundreds of thousands of turkeys die or are severely injured as a result of such handling and transportation. For example, in 1998, USDA inspectors condemned 768,300 turkeys before they entered the slaughter plant, because they were either dead or severely injured upon arrival (Poultry Slaughter, National Agricultural Statistics Service [NASS], United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] (Washington, D.C.: February 2, 1999)). Once inside the slaughterhouse, the animals are hung upside down on a conveyer that lowers them headfirst into an electrically-charged water bath to stun them. The conveyer then transports them to a machine that automatically slits their throats and then immediately lowers them into a 160ºF scalding tank to facilitate feather removal. Despite the painful "stun bath," many birds are still conscious at the scalding stage of the slaughtering process.

Why are these intelligent, highly sensitive birds subjected to all of these horribly cruel procedures? So that turkey-producing agribusiness corporations can make a few cents more per pound of turkey meat. We as a society tolerate a completely inhumane method of food production at the expense of the birds who become Thanksgiving centerpieces, just to line the pockets of turkey-producing corporations. For more details on the cruel and inhumane way that turkeys are raised, see United Poultry Concerns' more detailed description here.

Of the 264 million turkeys that will be raised, slaughtered and eaten in the U.S. this year, 46 million will be consumed today (and another 22 million will be eaten on Christmas). Why? The answer is: “Tradition.” Unfortunately for turkeys, Thanksgiving has come to be associated with eating them. A day originally reserved for giving thanks is now commercially referred to as “Turkey Day.” Gratitude replaced by gluttony. When a brutally barbaric practice cannot be justified on any other grounds, there is always tradition to serve as a pseudo-justification. “We’ve always done it that way. How could it possibly be wrong?” Many other unjust practices have continued far longer than they should have for no other reason than tradition.

Of course, traditions can change. Americans no longer enslave blacks. Women and blacks are no longer prevented from voting. Americans are no longer segregated by race. We no longer legally allow cockfighting or pit-bull fighting. The 500-year-old tradition of fox hunting has been banned in Britain. The traditional Labor Day Hegins pigeon shoot has been banned in Hegins, PA.

Our Thanksgiving meal traditions could change as well. We could start showing how thankful we are to be alive by respecting all life. We could give thanks by eating life-affirming plant-based meals. We could refuse to support industries that profit from cruelty. Would our Thanksgiving celebration be any less enjoyable? No. In fact, it might even be more enjoyable. Eating a meal without the nagging guilt that comes from knowingly contributing to unnecessary animal suffering is a wonderful experience.

It is probably too late for most of you to change your Thanksgiving dinner plans this year, but you could certainly change your Christmas dinner plans. You could make up your mind to celebrate Christ’s birth in a humane way. What would Jesus do (or think)? Would Jesus be happy that you are celebrating his birth by supporting cruelty? I suspect not. I suspect that Jesus, being compassionate and empathetic, would strongly disapprove of factory farms and the needless, profit-driven tortures they impose on innocent farm animals. If you’ve always eaten turkey, pork or goose for Christmas in the past, try an experiment. Experiment with a cruelty-free vegetarian Christmas dinner. See how it makes you feel to put compassion and respect before cruelty and insensitivity. Surely, that is what the Christmas spirit is all about.

I have been suggesting that people morally ought to refrain from eating turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas out of respect for these intelligent sensitive creatures who have done nothing to deserve such inhumane treatment. Why? Because an unbiased application of the widely accepted moral principle that it is wrong to contribute to unnecessary suffering entails that it is wrong to contribute to turkey suffering when there are equally nutritious plant-based foods available.

There is, however, another reason to refrain from eating turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, an estimated 800,000 people will become ill with a food-borne illness this Thanksgiving. That’s hardly surprising since the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 28% of fresh turkeys and 4% of frozen turkeys available for purchase in supermarkets were contaminated with Campylobacter. [Over 70% of turkeys arrive at the slaughterhouse with Campylobacter. Irradiating these turkeys post-slaughter reduces the number of contaminated birds that reach the supermarket, but 28% of 46 million is still a sizeable number, namely, 12.88 million of the fresh turkeys purchased in the U.S. supermarkets this Thanksgiving were contaminated with Campylobacter.] It is estimated that Campylobacter causes 47% of all food poisonings in the U.S. each year. However, currently, the USDA is required only to test turkeys for Salmonella, another harmful bacteria. What is the easiest way to avoid being one of the 800,000 Americans who will get a food-borne illness today? Don’t eat turkey and don’t bring a raw turkey into your home. Bringing a raw turkey into your house increases your risk of cross contamination, even if you cook the turkey to the full 180º recommended by the USDA. Each year 75 million Americans fall prey to a food-borne illness. Of these, over 300,000 require hospitalization, and 5,000 die. Imagine how devastated you would feel if your child or your parent died of food poisoning because of a meal you served. [If you can't imagine it, just read Chapter 4, "Mommy, Am I Going to Die?" of Gail Eisnitz's eye-opened expose Slaughterhouse.] Almost all of these cases of food poisoning result from improperly handled contaminated animal-based foods. Why take such a risk? By ridding your house of animal-based foods, you greatly reduce the risk of you or your loved ones contracting a food-borne illness.

The bottom line: Doing right by turkeys and refusing to purchase, eat or serve them to others reduces the risk of you or one of your family members contracting a possibly fatal food-borne illness. Once again, what is good for the animals is good for us. Yet another instance of ethical synergy.

Wishing you a Happy Healthy Humane Thanksgiving!

20 November 2006

Leftists and Animals

Read this. Do you see any indication that Katrina vanden Heuvel, a wealthy leftist, cares one bit for the animals whose lives are destroyed in the slaughterhouse? All she cares about are the humans who work there. Why is the Left so unconcerned about animals (and human fetuses, for that matter)?

19 November 2006

Coddling Aggravated Animal Abusers

According to this Associated Press news story, Robert Tomlin, 22, of Smithsburg, MD, was convicted of aggravated animal abuse after he admitted and pled guilty to throwing four of his ex-girlfriend's kittens into a fire pit, burning them alive. The incident occurred after he and she argued. First, Tomlin hit his girlfriend so hard it made her ear bleed. Then, when she fled to avoid further assault, he burned her four fully-conscious kittens alive. What punishment did he receive for his crime? Circuit Judge John McDowell sentenced him to 1.5 years in prison, but then immediately suspended the sentence except for the 134 days of time served. Burning four innocent kittens alive only gets you 134 days in prison in Maryland, or 33.5 days per tortured murdered kitten. Apparently, kitten torture and murder comes cheap in Maryland. According to the AP story, Judge McDowell told Tomlin that "Taking defenseless animals as you have, and destroying them . . . there is no excuse for that."

McDowell is surely right! There is no excuse for that, and yet, McDowell elected to suspend Tomlin's sentence. If there is no excuse for aggravated animal abuse, shouldn't such abusers be given the maximum sentences allowed by law for such crimes? McDowell's actions are typical of judges presiding over aggravated animal abuse trials all over the country. No matter how abhorrent the animal abuse in question, it is never taken with the seriousness of human abuse, despite the well-established fact that animal abusers often go on to abuse humans. Convicted aggravated animal abusers, especially first-time abusers, are typically given light-slap-on-the-wrist sentences. Of course, animal abusers know that these crimes aren't taken seriously. Perhaps if we started given these criminals the maximum sentences available without parole, would-be animal abusers would think twice about torturing and killing innocent animals.

Now compare Tomlin's crime with that of Adam Durand. Durand's "crime" is described here. Durand, along with two other members of Compassionate Consumers (Megan Cosgrove and Melanie Ippolito), entered one of Wegmans' egg factories through the manure pits to determine whether Wegmans' eggs really are "cruelty free" as the Animal Care Certified logo on their egg cartons suggests. What Durand and his colleagues found were rows of battery cages stacked four high filled with six to nine birds per cage, many of whom had died in their cages. In the course of shooting their undercover documentary video, Durand and his colleagues found 11 hens that were so near death that they would not have survived another 24 hours without immediate medical attention. [For example, one hen had fallen into the manure pit below the battery cages and was buried in manure up to her neck. That hen lacked access to food and water and was barely able to breath, due to the weight of the manure crushing her body.] So, while their intent was simply to videotape and document the horribly inhumane conditions present in Wegmans' egg factories, they couldn't, out of conscience, let these 11 totally neglected hens die. These hens had a combined market value of less then $50 and all of them would have been dead within the next day or two regardless, so strictly speaking Wegmans was out nothing. Nevertheless, Durand was sentenced to nine months in prison for saving the lives of 11 abused and neglected hens. He has served one month of his sentence and is now out on bond while his case is being appealed. If his verdict is not overturned, he will have to serve the rest of his sentence, in which case he will end up serving considerably more time for trying to rescue 11 hens from certain death than Tomlin served for burning four kittens alive.

The question I wish to pose is this: Who is the real criminal in the Wegmans case, Durand, who videodocumented the horribly inhumane way Wegmans raises its hens and who along the way happened to rescue 11 hens from certain death, or Wegmans, which raises its hens in inhumane, unsanitary, cruel battery cages and neglects those hens to the point that many die in their cages from starvation and/or dehydration? Let's be clear on what the conditions are like for hens confined in battery cages. Two distinct strains of chickens have been selectively bred: “layers” for egg production and “broilers” for meat production. Since "layers" are thought to produce insufficient and inferior meat and since males do not produce eggs, male chicks of the layer strain are identified by chicken sexers, who discard them either by throwing them into plastic bags where they are allowed to suffocate or by throwing into meat grinders where they are ground up alive. In 1995, 247 million unwanted male chicks met this fate. Like their "broiler" counterparts, at one week of age, the female chicks of the layer strain are debeaked using a scalding hot blade that cuts through the highly sensitive horn of the beak leaving blisters in the mouth. No anesthesia is used. However, since "layers" are kept alive longer than "broilers," most egg producers debeak their birds a second time around twelve weeks of age. Worse still, "layers" are permanently confined in 16” x 18” battery cages, 6-9 birds to a cage. Thus, the average egg-laying hen has only 48-58 square inches of cage-floor space, not much larger than a 5x8 index card. [Wegmans prides itself in giving its hens 75 square inches of floor space, but keep in mind a standard sheet of typing paper is 93.5 square inches. Even with 75 square inches of floor space per bird, the birds are so tightly packed together that they cannot even stretch out their wings.] The cages have slanted wire mesh flooring which is totally inappropriate for the birds’ feet, which sometimes grow fast to the cage floor making it impossible to reach food and water. Ninety-eight percent of the eggs produced in the U.S. come from layers permanently confined in such battery cages. After a year and a half of this existence (assuming they don’t die in their cages, as do 12-18% of them per year), about the time when their egg production begins to wane, the birds are either crammed even more tightly into portable crates, transported to the slaughterhouse, and turned into soup and other processed foods, or they are kept for another laying cycle, whichever is cheaper. Those unfortunate enough to be kept and “recycled” are force-molted to prepare them for the next laying cycle. The primary method of forced molting involves the withholding of all food from the hens for a period of 5-14 days. In a typical month, 70 million hens are at some stage of a forced-molt (according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service). After one or two forced-molt laying cycles, the spent birds will suffer one of two fates: Either they will be sent to slaughter as described above, or as is increasingly favored, they will meet with on farm disposal whereby they are ground up alive and fed to the next generation of hens. During the first six months of 1999, 98.7 million laying hens were sent to slaughter and another 21.9 million met with on farm disposal. These millions of birds are forced to endure all of this inhumane treatment, just so we can indulge in an inherently unhealthful product loaded with cholesterol (300 mg. per egg) and fat (50% of eggs’ calories come from fat, most of which is saturated), which has somehow come to be associated with breakfast.

[My primary interest in this post is with aggravated animal abuse and with our society's unjustifiable tendency to coddle animal abusers while criminalizing the conduct of animal liberators who are trying to prevent such abuse. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that raising birds in this inhumane unsanitary way is thought to have created the conditions necessary for the evolution of the virulent strain of bird flu. Raising birds in this manner is not only cruel and inhumane, it puts all humans at risk for a major bird flu epidemic. Doing right by hens and banning battery cage hen husbandry systems would be a major step toward reducing our risk of dying from bird flu. More ethical synergy.]

To see for yourself whether I have accurately described the conditions inside battery cage egg production facilities, you can view Adam Durand's documentary video (aptly entitled Wegmans Cruelty) for free at Google video here. Or if you prefer to download a copy of Wegmans Cruelty for free, you can do so here.

Subjecting animals to these conditions is itself a form of aggravated animal abuse. Debeaking chickens without anesthesia is cruel and abusive. Forcing chickens to live their entire lives crammed in cages with only 75 square inches of floor space is cruel and inhumane. Raising hens in conditions which guarantee that many of these hens will lack access to food and water and will, as a result, die slow agonizing deaths from starvation or dehydration is horribly abusive. Forcing a hen to endure the wretched stench of her dead decaying cagemate is abusive, as well. No animal should willingly be subjected to such abuses, and yet the battery cage system of hen husbandry makes it inevitable that the hens will be subjected to most if not all of these abuses and the egg industry knows it. Why does Wegmans subject its hens to all these abuses? Because doing so reduces per egg production costs and thus increases profitability. All of the hens' most significant interests are sacrificed just so that Wegmans can make a few cents more per carton of eggs.

Robert Tomlin is an aggravated animal abuser to be sure. He brutalized four innocent kittens and deserves to serve every single day of his 1.5 year sentence. Sadly, Judge McDowell decided to go easy on him and suspend his sentence. But now consider Wegmans. At this very moment, Wegmans is brutalizing 700,000 hens with the government's blessing. I suspect that an underlying reason our government coddles aggravated animal abusers like Tomlin is because if we as a nation were really to start taking aggravated animal abuse seriously, we would have to start holding corporations like Wegmans responsible for their crimes of inhumanity.

Judge McDowell was right about one thing. There is no excuse for animal abuse, whether it is perpetrated by a pathetic individual like Tomlin for spite or by a greedy corporation like Wegmans for profit. We may not be able to persuade district attorney Rick Healy to charge Wegmans with animal cruelty and abuse, but we can choose to stop purchasing eggs, and we can boycott Wegmans entirely until it empties its battery cages and permanently gets rid of those cages. Whole Foods no longer sells eggs from caged hens. We can and should hold Wegmans to the same standard.

Sadly, we live in a society that not only coddles aggravated animal abusers, it facilitates them. Last week, the Republican-led lame duck Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which makes it a felony for animal rights activists to engage in non-violent peaceful protests that result in businesses losing money. Legal experts say a protester could be charged with terrorism if s/he were to engage in a sit-in that caused an animal-exploiting business to lose profits. The right to protest unjust policies and institutions has been a fundamental legal right since the founding of our country. That right is now in jeopardy, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives. The government is obviously complicitous, no doubt due to the efforts of powerful animal industry lobbyists. Since we can't count on our government to do what is right where animals are concerned, we must do what is right ourselves and boycott those industries, like Wegmans, that exploit animals for profit.

The bottom line: If you were the judge in the Robert Tomlin case, you would have thrown the book at Tomlin and given him the maximum sentence allowed by law. Hold Wegmans (and other inhumane egg producers) to the same standard. Wegmans is clearly guilty of raising its birds in cruel abusive battery cages. Wegmans is also clearly guilty of consumer fraud. It raises its hens in inhumane battery cages and then markets eggs from those same abused hens to well-meaning consumers using the misleading Animal Care Certified logo. Say "no" to cruelty. Say "no" to fraud. Say "no" to eggs. And say "no" to Wegmans until it dismantles its battery cage system of egg production.

16 November 2006

Just Eat Less Meat

So sayeth the editorial board of The New York Times. See here.

14 November 2006

Ladies, Protect Your Breasts!

Yesterday I wrote about synergistic ethics: the idea that simultaneous respect for people, animals, and the environment benefits all three. Showing animals respect requires that we not cause them to suffer unnecessarily and that we not kill them for no good reason. Since we can easily meet all of our nutritional needs without killing and eating animals (and in fact can meet them better with plant-based diets), there is no good reason to kill animals for food and there is no good reason to subject animals to the institutional cruelties inherent in modern factory farming. Thus, showing animals the respect they are due requires that we refrain from eating them (at least whenever plant-based alternatives are available, which in modern societies is almost always). When we do show animals respect in this way and refuse to eat them, not only do animals and the environment benefit, we ourselves benefit through improved health and greatly reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers (including colon cancer).

Now we can add “hormone receptor-positive breast cancer” to the list of diseases positively correlated with red meat consumption [the majority of breast cancers fall into this category]. A recent study published in the November 13th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine found that eating red meat increases the risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer among premenopausal women. [Previous studies have looked at the association between red meat consumption and breast cancer, but only among postmenopausal women. This is the first comprehensive study that focused on diet-breast cancer correlations in premenopausal women.] The study is part of the ongoing Nurses Health Study that has been tracking the dietary and disease patterns of over 90,000 women since 1991. The current study, led by Dr. Eunyoung Cho, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate professor of epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, found that the more red meat women in their twenties, thirties, and forties eat, the greater their risk of developing hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in the next 12 years. In particular, the study found that women who ate 1.5 servings of red meat per day had nearly twice the risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer compared to women who ate less than three servings of red meat per week.

In light of studies like Cho's, Eugenia Calle, managing director of analytical epidemiology at the American Cancer Society, recommends that people reduce their consumption of red meat. It’s worth noting that Calle does not advise women to protect their breasts by eating the breasts of others (i.e., the breasts of chickens). Rather, she recommends that women limit their consumption of processed and red meat, and eat fruits, vegetables, and unrefined grains instead. In short, the very same plant-based diet centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes that is known to be heart healthy is also protective against the predominant form of breast cancer found in premenopausal women. Breast cancer strikes over 200,000 American women each year and kills over 40,000. You don’t have to be one of them. By doing what is right for animals and not eating them, you will be doing what is right for yourself. Simply put, not eating animals is a profound way to respect yourself, respect animals, and respect the environment. The bottom line: Breast cancer protection is yet another cog in the ethical synergy machine: What’s good for us is good for the animals and the earth.

More details about Dr. Cho's study can be found in The Washington Post's story "Breast Cancer Risk Linked To Red Meat, Study Finds" available here and in HealthDay News's story "Red Meat May Boost Breast Cancer Risk" available here.

13 November 2006

What We Owe to Animals

The Center for Values and Social Policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder is sponsoring a debate (between David Barnett and Robert Hanna) about what we (humans) owe to animals. If you're in the area, you may want to attend. See here for details.

12 November 2006

Children and Heart Disease

According to this HealthDay News story, "Children with heart disease risk factors—obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol—already show indications of fatty build-up in their arteries that could cause heart attacks when they're adults." According to the story, the researchers found that "In many cases, children with heart disease risk factors showed early signs of atherosclerosis."

These findings are not new, but they do corroborate earlier findings. For example, in the revised and updated 7th edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (1998), Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dr. Steven Parker note that "The evidence in adults couldn’t be more compelling: excessive animal fat, cow’s milk, protein, and the high number of calories in the typical American diet have been linked to high cholesterol levels, coronary heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers" (p. 327). They go on to note that "these diseases have their roots in childhood" (p. 327) and report that "Fatty deposits are now commonly found in the coronary arteries of children on a typical American diet by age three" (p. 327). Drs. Spock and Parker point out that by age 12, 70% of American children have plaque deposits in their coronary arteries and that by age 21 almost all young American adults have them (p. 327). Clearly, we are failing in this country where our children's health is concerned.

While the HealthDay News story doesn't provide much in the way of guidance to parents who would like to feed their children a heart-healthy, cancer-preventative diet, Dr. Spock provides that much-needed information. To curb the epidemic of atherosclerosis plaguing our country, Dr. Spock recommends feeding children over age 2 a plant-based diet devoid of meat, poultry, and dairy products (pp. 328-333). What should we be feeding our children? Again, according to Dr. Spock, we should be feeding them a diet centered around whole grains, green leafy vegetables and other vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, and seeds (pp. 328-331). If you care about your children and want to help them avoid the scourges of coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers, I encourage you to get a copy of Dr. Spock's enlightening book and read the chapter entitled "Raising Physically Healthy Children." Your children's future health is in your hands. As an added benefit, if you elect to eat that same plant-based diet, you will see health benefits as well.

This brings me to an idea that I borrow, with slight modification, from philosopher Peter Wenz [See his Environmental Ethics Today.]. The idea is that of synergistic ethics. According to synergistic ethics, when human beings simultaneously respect persons, animals, and the environment, typically all three benefit and we are left with a win, win, win situation. When humans stop eating animal products and instead eat a plant-based diet as described above, they will be consuming far less saturated fat and they will be consuming no dietary cholesterol whatsoever. As a result, they will greatly reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes (and all of its complications, including limb amputations), and some cancers. That is a significant human benefit. When we stop feeding meat and animal products to our children, their future health prospects improve dramatically. Another human benefit, and one we clearly owe our children. As more and more humans refrain from eating meat and other animal products, fewer and fewer animals will be subjected to the institutionalized cruelties inherent in factory farming and modern agribusiness. That is a significant benefit for the animals. If humans were to eat plant-foods directly, rather than cycle them through animals, we would need to grow far fewer crops [because, e.g., it takes 13 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef] and that would dramatically reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides being pumped into our environment. A significant benefit for the environment. Eating grains directly would also significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil, for according to David Pimentel, Professor of Insect Ecology and Agricultural Sciences at Cornell University, it takes an average of 28 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 kilocalorie of animal protein, compared with 3.3 kilocalories of fossil energy to produce 1 kilocalorie of grain protein, making animal production on average more than 8 times less energy efficient than grain production. Pumping 8 times fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere would be another win for the environment, and one that would contribute to our national security to boot. The bottom line: We owe it to our children to do right by them and feed them an optimally-nutritious, heart-healthy, cancer-preventative plant-based diet as outlined above. Doing so will benefit our children, the animals, and the environment, while reducing our dependence on foreign oil. That is ethical synergy at work.

07 November 2006

A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise

If you like ice cream and care about animals, or if you like animals and care about ice cream, see here.