On Cruelty to Peacocks and Other Animals...

Photo: Peacock

A recent local news item that caught our attention was about a peacock in Makaha that was bashed with a baseball bat and left to die a painful death.

According to the report, a condo resident was kept awake at night by crowing peacocks in the condomium complexes grounds, she said the incessant noise drove her "cuckoo". Not being able to take it anymore she grabbed a peackok by the tail and "whacked him in the head" and then threw it away in the bushes. The peacock took an hour to die, all the while crying in pain. The police were called and the woman was charged for animal cruelty, and has made appearances in court.

The story continues to generate a lot of media interest and several letters to the editor. Some differing viewpoints expressed were:

  1. The woman was very cruel and engaged in a heinous act and should be punished
  2. Her actions were acceptable because the peacock was a pest and the woman was merely engaging in pest control
  3. Animals are just property, so people can do whatever they want with their property

Despite the outcry over cruelty to this one animal, no one considers the fact that in our meat-based society billions of innocent animals are being cruelly slaughtered and butchered in the U.S. every year. There is no outrage about that.

Cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals are kept in small cages, in jam-packed sheds, or on filthy feedlots, often with so little space that they can't even turn around or lie down comfortably. Crowding and filth create an atmosphere that fosters and incubates diseases. They are deprived of exercise so that all their bodies' energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk for human consumption.

They are fed drugs to fatten them faster and to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them, and they are genetically altered to grow faster or develop commercially desirable traits that they would not have naturally.

These innocent animals endure horrendous suffering while alive, and are then cruelly slaughtered, all to satisfy our craving for flesh and blood. As I mentioned above, the Peacock incident triggered a letter to the editor saying that animals are “property,” that they have no right to life and exist merely for man’s pleasure. The idea that this earth and all the creatures on it exist for our enjoyment is the crux of the problem. This attitude leads to a selfish and reckless exploitation of the earth and its’ creatures. In contrast, a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals and see ourselves as caretakers and custodians of the environment—not as exploiters of them.

With such an attitude we will take better care of the earth and all of its inhabitants.

Vegetarian Lifestyle Can Help Reduce Pandemic Disease – "Love animals, don’t eat them!"

It is ironic that the meat industry—long touted as key to good nutrition—puts the health of people in our island ohana and throughout the world at risk time and again. The current outbreak of H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) virus speaks for itself, although plenty of other examples abound. These include the Avian Flu influenza of 1997, Mad Cow Disease of 1986, and the massive outbreak of toxic Pfiesteria in 1997.

Despite the tragic toll in pain and suffering that too often includes premature death as well as the threat of significant economic loss, society overlooks the negative consequences of today’s modern “factory” farms and does nothing about it. There is little interest to seriously examine the horrendous conditions in the factory farms and how those conditions contribute to the spread of diseases such as Swine Flu.

On the contrary, there is an effort to hide the ugly reality of the situation to encourage consumers to keep eating meat (i.e. dead animals). It enables factory farms to continue monstrously mistreating and exploiting innocent animals in their zeal to make profits. Consider Jimmy Kimmel’s take on Swine Flu, as quoted in the May 1st edition of the New York Times:

“The government does not want us to call it the swine flu. They're calling it the 2009 H1N1 virus. The reason for the change is they want people to know you can still eat all the pork you want without any risk to your health, except diabetes, obesity, and heart disease."

The reality is that the cause of the flu problem is not pork, beef, poultry, or even fish for that matter. It’s the factory farms, where modern agriculture strives to produce the most meat, milk, and eggs as quickly and cheaply as possible—and in the smallest amount of space possible without considering the health and welfare of the animals.

Crowding and filth create an atmosphere that fosters and incubates diseases, which spread to humans.

Each year in the United States, approximately ten billion land animals (approximately 33 animals per person) are raised and slaughtered for human consumption—about one million every hour. These innocent animals endure horrendous suffering while alive, and are then cruelly slaughtered, all to satisfy our craving for flesh and blood.

Eating innocent animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. We can economically and easily obtain this sustenance without the threats of pandemic and other diseases caused by the meat industry. The slaughter of animals for food is an extravagant luxury not a necessity. It is morally wrong and contributes to our hard-hearted and self-centered “me” society where we care more about ourselves than others.

All our nutritional and dietary needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, so vegetarianism is a humane choice. The widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would significantly reduce factory farming. In so doing, it would also help reduce pandemic flu viruses attributed to the meat industry, while benefiting society in many other important ways.

A vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them.

Down to Earth’s slogan is Love Life! One of the many meanings of this slogan is “Love animals, don’t eat them.” We urge you to reflect on the meaning of our Love Life! slogan and adopt it as your own, considering it to be a universal truth.

Electric cars, are they the best way to reduce greenhouse gases?

Front page news today in the Honolulu Advertiser is that "a private company that state officials hope will put Hawaii on the road to the widespread use of electric vehicles expects to begin installing infrastructure here in about six months."

The company plans to install "between 20,000 - 30,000 recharging stations that can be used by electric vehicles in homes, office buildings, parking lots and public and private facilities."

The recharging stations will use energy from the electric grid, currently produced from fossil fuels, to recharge car batteries. It is hoped that in the future the electricity used to recharge the vehicles will come from clean energy such as solar, wind, and ocean power.

However, given Hawaii's unfavorable attitude towards business (note the irony that the Honolulu Advertiser article shares space with news of Superferry abandoning the ferries) maybe these clean energy projects won't get off the ground. We could end up with the illusion of green power, i.e. we could have electric vehicles powered by fossil fuel electricity sources.

In addition to this, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, the cost of electric vehicles is prohibitively high and will require large government subsidies to make it economical for the already ailing auto manufacturers to make them. In other words, the switch to electric and hybrid vehicles is going to be very very expensive.

There is a big contradiction here. Individuals and governments are prepared to spend large amounts of money in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint, yet the things they spend the money on will actually only have a small impact on greenhouse gasses and global warming. In contrast, adopting a plant based vegetarian diet will have a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gases, yet the government is not prepared to come out and do anything about it. In fact they do just the opposite by supporting the meat industry through huge (mega $billions) grain and other subsidies.

The following article from the United Nations News Center explains the environmental impact that the meat industry has on the release of global warming greenhouse gases:

"29 November 2006 – Cattle-rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation, and smarter production methods, including improved animal diets to reduce enteric fermentation and consequent methane emissions, are urgently needed, according to a new United Nations report released today.

“Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,” senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official Henning Steinfeld said. “Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

"Cattle-rearing is also a major source of land and water degradation, according to the FAO report, Livestock’s Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options, of which Mr. Steinfeld is the senior author.

“The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level,” it warns.

"When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 per cent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

"And it accounts for respectively 37 per cent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 per cent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.

"With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year, the report notes. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tonnes."

Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns.

If you are concerned about the environment, and want to participate in reducing the impact of global warming, please consider that adopting a vegetarian diet is the single most important thing you can do to reduce global warming. If you are not vegetarian then all your efforts to reduce your impact on the environment are more or less window dressing, they look good but don't accomplish much.

Thanks for reading.

Mark Fergusson

Wienermobile on the roll

Photo: Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles

Okay, today I have to comment on the “Wienermobile on the roll” story in the Hawaii section of the Honolulu Advertiser, a “feel good” story about a Wienermobile, a car with a bun and hot dog built over it that gives kids and adults some “fun”. What can be wrong with that? Some amusement for the keiki and for their parents in these tough economic times is a good thing right? The Wienermobile arrived in Honolulu yesterday. The following is from the story:

“Kopish and fellow hot-dogger Derek O'Leary handed out whistles to the 14 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Hawai'i who presented a giant lei to the Wienermobile at Honolulu Harbor. The excitement was audible halfway down the pier.

“Children draped the lei along one windshield wiper to the other, giggling and pointing out it looked like the Wienermobile was smiling. Once they posed and shaka'd, taking photos in front of the vehicle, all 14 excitedly squeezed in wall-to-wall to get a better look at the interior.

“The vehicle, which can blast the Oscar Mayer jingle in 21 different genres ranging from a dance remix to a country and western version, offers participants rides around the block and a history of the Wienermobile.

All this innocent sounding “fun” covers the unbelievably ugly truth about what an Oscar Mayer wiener really is. The reality, as described by a variety of different Internet sources, is as follows:

“Sausages are a result of economical butchery. Traditionally, sausage-makers put to use meat and animal parts equally edible, but not particularly appealing - such as scraps, organ meats, blood, and fat - in a form that allows for preservation: typically, salted and stuffed into a tubular casing made from the cleaned intestine of the animal, producing the characteristic cylindrical shape."

A little more about the casings that hold the sausage meat:

“Traditionally, sausage casings were made of the cleaned intestines (or stomachs in the case of haggis and other traditional puddings) of animals. Today, however, natural casings are often replaced by collagen, cellulose or even plastic casings, especially in the case of industrially manufactured sausages. Additionally, luncheon meat (such as Spam) and sausage meat are now available without casings in tins and jars.”

Anyone want plastic with their ground blood, fat and organs?

Speaking of fat, sausages are full of fat “fat content is legally limited to a maximum of 30%, 35% or 50%, by weight, depending on the style.”

This is the fate of billions of innocent animals every year in the USA and around the world: they are taken from their mothers at birth, raised in horrific factory farms, transported to slaughterhouses in terrifying circumstances, brutally slaughtered, turned into meat, with the brains, liver, kidney, blood, fat, and other scraps ground into sausage with their intestines used to package it.

This is the reality.

Thanks for reading.

Love Life! Love animals, don’t eat them.

Mark Fergusson

P.S. the following is the inane Oscar Mayer jingle:

Oh, I'd love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I'd truly like to be.
'Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I'm glad I'm not an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I'd never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
There would soon be nothing left of me!

More about the Wienermobile

If you have been following my blogposts about the Wienermobile and want to see what it is all about watch this video (video removed). This is one of the most successful efforts I have seen or could imagine that converts the brutal reality of a product, i.e., slaughtered pig and cow body parts, organs, blood, fat, and other miscellaneous scraps - neatly packaged in intestines - into innocent fun for kids and adults who like cool cars!

In a similar vein you can look at the packaging of meat products and see idealized paintings of contented looking cows eating grass, whereas the reality is that the cows live on crowded factory farms knee deep in sh*t and eat maize; they are trucked off to slaughterhouses where their bodies, their flesh, is turned into meat, with the scraps used in wieners.

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them!

Mark Fergusson

The marketing, like the wienermobile, creates a kind of mirage or illusion

Photo: Wienermobiles

On the wienermobile blog site they invite you to "Submit an essay in 100 words or less that details your favorite hot dog memory and your or another family member’s favorite toppings". If you submit the best entry you get to win a "Labor Day Grill-Out" (this is not quite the same thing as getting to buy great vegetarian products at Down to Earth's 30% Guiltless Grilling Sale that we had last week).

A 100 word essay from a cow that is going to be turned into a wiener might go something like this:

"My favorite hot dog memory is when I was living at the factory farm, knee deep in sh*t, and being fed corn instead of grass (which resulted in my belly being full of gas and E coli), I started daydreaming about what life was like before the factory farms. I imagined eating grass in open fields, of feeding my milk to my calf, and of happily living my life until passing away of natural causes. I happily gave my milk to the farmer who took care of and protected me.... I awoke from my daydream to remember that today they are herding me onto a truck, taking me to the slaughterhouse, brutally murdering me, turning my flesh into meat; my brain, liver, kidneys, and other organs and my blood will be mashed up and stuffed into my intestines and sold as a hot dog...."

Please, when you look at the hot dog on your dinner plate don’t see the fun marketing (wienermobiles, hot dog eating contests); see the reality of what you are eating. The marketing, like the wienermobile, creates a kind of mirage or illusion that converts slaughtered animal body organs, fat, blood, and other scraps into a “fun memory”. But no matter how good the marketing, the fact is that hot dog is someone else's body.

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them.

Mark Fergusson

July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest

While we are talking about the Wienermobile, another event that glorifies hot dogs is the July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest, which is considered a "colorful tradition of Independence Day". Now this is a good one, let's hold a contest to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes! Great idea! This year's winner ate 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Wow!!! What a tremendous accomplishment!!! Way to go Joey Chestnut (the photo is of Joey, the champion eater of brains, blood, fat, scraps and intestines).

Let's take a moment to think about this, 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. That means eating the brains, blood, and guts of maybe 20 or 30 or more different animals (cows, pigs), with a fat content by weight of maybe 30 - 50% depending on the type of hot dog, all stuffed down at a rapid pace while thousands watch you do it, and over a million people watch you on ESPN cheering you on.

Maybe there is a better way to honor Independence Day.

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them.

Mark Fergusson

Meat smoothie anyone?

Photo: Calf in a Restraint

Trevtheveg made a great post to my story about the Wienermobile (the vehicle that when you press the horn plays a song saying “Oh, I'd love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I'd truly like to be”). His post is about how hot dogs are really made and includes some great links to You Tube videos showing some pretty gross stuff, like how all the meat cuts (read cow flesh) is ground up and literally turned into something that looks like a meat smoothie (gross).

Trevtheveg says "This three minute video from National Geographic will keep or make you a vegetarian for life!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBBSY5Z5YVk&feature=fvw
Here's a 5 minute video on a hot dog factory and what really goes in a hot dog.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhwXPsTaRgc

The image with this post is of a calf being restrained at a slaughterhouse in preparation for being stunned.

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them.

Mark Fergusson

Bulk is green

The following is from Progressive Grocer magazine: A recent study conducted by the Bulk Is Green Council confirms what the Little Rock, Ark.-based advocacy group is seeking to advance with consumers: that retail prices of bulk foods vs. their packaged counterparts are an average of 35 percent lower. Indeed, bulk foods were lower for all of the 16 foods compared, with savings ranging from 3 percent to 96 percent. Additionally, the majority of bulk foods compared in the study were organic while their packaged counterparts were often not.

Conducted at multiple grocery stores in three metropolitan markets, the study measured average prices with suggested retail prices of a leading national food distributor of both bulk and packaged foods.

The advocacy organization, which is charged with helping consumers, food manufacturers and grocers learn about the environmental and economic benefits of bulk foods, says bulk foods offer consumers a variety of shopping and sustainable advantages, including:

  • Packaging-free products, as packaging drove up the price of the average product evaluated in the study. Packaged foods were generally more competitive in price in situations where minimal packaging is the norm (i.e. beans, rice and nuts).
  • Enabling the consumer to purchase as much or as little of a product he wants, without paying a penalty for a small quantity. This is especially meaningful when a recipe calls for a small amount of an ingredient seldom used by that consumer.
  • Environmental benefits, because the foods are sold without a package, resulting in a reduction in deforestation and the use of petrochemicals for the manufacture of paper, plastic, ink and cardboard.

The study found that bulk herbs and spices offered the greatest savings. The most dramatic difference was bay leaves, with bulk savings of 96 percent, meaning that on average, packaged bay leaves cost 24 times more than bulk bay leaves. Almost as dramatic was thyme, with bulk savings of 87 percent.

More information about bulk foods can be found at www.bulkisgreen.org.

Mark Fergusson

Bottled water banned in move to protect environment

Bottled water is coming under even more pressure following the action of a small Australian town to ban sales of bottled water. Bottled water sales, once a major growth industry, has slowed considerably as people have considered the adverse environmental impacts of the plastic bottles, production costs, and trucking and transportation involved. It is cheaper and more environmentally sound to properly filter tap water. The following is from the Associated Press story:

Residents of a rural Australian town hoping to protect the earth and their wallets have voted to ban the sale of bottled water, the first community in the country — and possibly the world — to take such a drastic step in the growing backlash against the industry.

Residents of Bundanoon cheered after their near-unanimous approval of the measure at a town meeting Wednesday. It was the second blow to Australia's beverage industry in one day: Hours earlier, the New South Wales state premier banned all state departments and agencies from buying bottled water, calling it a waste of money and natural resources.

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