Farming Animals and the Bird Flu Connection

by Becky Johnson

With a flu pandemic imminent in the eyes of many experts, people around the world are left to question when it might happen and how bad it might become. But it is also important to know how this virus erupted, putting us on the brink of worldwide devastation.

While disease is inevitable, we all know that personal lifestyle choices and habits can make a big difference in whether or not we get sick. In the same way, how our society conducts itself and manages the earth’s resources can impact how prevalent a disease becomes for the society as a whole.

One of the world’s prime health issues is in the practice of raising animals for slaughter, which is often so unsanitary that it creates a 'hot zone' for disease. These animals, which include cows, pigs and chickens, live in quarters that are packed together in crammed and filthy conditions. And the waste that they create not only pollutes the environment they are in, but also the local water supplies.

To try and combat this disease potential, farmers fill their animals’ food and water with antibiotics and other drugs. But when it comes to a viral illness like the flu, it cannot be controlled with antibiotics because antibiotics only bolster the body against bacterial infections, not viruses. So, the only way to prevent this dangerous cycle from continuing is to reduce the amount of animal farming that is practiced in the world today.

And the best way you can help protect Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants is by choosing a healthy way of life – vegetarian style. At Down to Earth we have plenty of delicious foods, recipes, cookbooks and friendly personnel to make it fun, tasty and easy to eat a plant-based diet. So be sure to stop by our store this month and check out all the good things we have for you to eat.

Being Thankful - Being Vegetarian

by Michael Bond

With Thanksgiving Day growing near, those who are following a vegetarian diet have much to be thankful for. You can be thankful for your overall good health, derived from your healthy diet choices. More specifically, you can be thankful for your healthy heart, clear arteries, and lower cholesterol that can be credited to a plant-based diet. You can be thankful that you have lowered your risk for heart disease, colon cancer, strokes, diabetes, and a number of other life threatening conditions.

You can be thankful that you have reduced the strain on Mother Earth by using less water and natural resources to produce your food. You can be thankful that you are not contributing to the meat industry’s environmental degradation through topsoil loss, deforestation, water pollution, etc.

You can also be thankful that you are not contributing to the needless pain and suffering experienced by billions of innocent creatures each year.

It is sad that on this wonderful day of giving thanks, what is on many peoples’ minds is the turkey dinner. We all know the original purpose of Thanksgiving was not to focus on eating a stuffed bird. Thanksgiving originated as a feast and celebration of the harvest and later grew into a day where people would offer thanks and appreciation to God for all that He has provided (such as fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, grains, fruits and vegetables to nourish us, and so on).

Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder that we should count our blessings, and be thankful for all that we have. And of all days, Thanksgiving Day should remind us to be compassionate to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. That compassion should not extend only to our friends and families, but to all of God’s creatures, and yes, even to turkeys.

Millions of turkeys are slaughtered each year, just to “celebrate” Thanksgiving. It is unfortunate that our society has adopted this cruel tradition, and many feel that to have Thanksgiving without the turkey dinner, would not be the same. If that is the case, then why not try having a healthier, cruelty-free Thanksgiving and try one of the several tasty mock-turkeys that are now available. And along with that, get back to the roots of Thanksgiving by celebrating the harvest with preparations using your favorite seasonal vegetables and fruits.

Check out this month’s recipes for some specific ideas, and from all of us at Down to Earth, have a happy, and healthy Thanksgiving.

Celebrate Earth Day - Veggie Style

by Tracy Rohland

With more than 6 billion people living on planet earth using her water, her oil, her plants and her air, she is very overwhelmed. She is desperately hoping that we, the people who traverse her soil on a daily basis, will be more courteous and careful.

April 22 is Earth Day, a perfect opportunity to salute Mother Earth and remember how vital it is that we take care of her.

In 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson founded the first annual Earth Day, kicking off the grassroots environmental movement in America and around the world. Since the founding of Earth Day, environmental issues have been brought to the forefront of politics and the media. People around the world have become more aware of the human impact on the environment and more conscientious about their individual roles in maintaining the health of the environment. Vehicle emission restrictions have become stricter, recycling has become a household activity, sewage treatment has drastically improved, and hundreds of thousands of people have eliminated meat products from their diet. The transition to a vegetarian diet is a practical way that every person can work to make a brighter future for the planet.

In recent years, many studies have been done comparing the environmental impact of a meat-based diet to a vegetarian diet. All of these studies conclude that raising animals for slaughter is a deplorable waste of resources. According to Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University's Ecology Department, it takes 500 liters of water to produce 1kg of potatoes, 900 liters per kg of wheat, 3,500 liters per kg of digestible chicken flesh and an incredible 100,000 liters for 1kg of beef. The pollution of water sources is also a huge problem with meat companies. Furthermore, the amount of grain that is grown to feed livestock could solve the famine problem of the world.

In her book, The State of the Environment Atlas, Joni Seager states, 'In cycling our grain through livestock, we waste 90 percent of its protein and 96 percent of its calories. An acre of cereal can produce five times more protein than an acre devoted to meat production; and legumes (beans, lentils, peas) can produce ten times as much. Thus the greater the human consumption of animal products, the fewer people can be fed.

Raising animals for slaughter also affects the air we breathe. An estimated 100 million tons of methane (12 percent – 15 percent of all methane emissions) are released into the atmosphere each year by cattle, contributing significantly to global warming. All over the world, ranchers will cut down expanses of forest for cattle ranching, let the animals graze for a few years, then leave the once fruitful land, barren and worthless. When hamburgers are two for a dollar, it is easy to ignore the actual cost to our planet and future generations, but it is critical that we consider this before it is too late.

A vegetarian diet is the healthiest and most efficient means of producing food. Since 1977, Down To Earth has been committed to promoting vegetarianism, healthy living, respect for the environment, and sustainable organic farming. This Earth Day, make a choice that will better your own health, the health of Mother Earth, and the health of generations to come – go veggie.

Having a Compassionate Christmas

by Tandis Bishop

One of the most profound ways you can celebrate Christmas this year is by moving towards a plant-based vegetarian diet. The mass consumption of animals for food causes pain and suffering all over the world, so it is up to each individual to decide to make the effort to change.

I remember the story a man once told me. He was a slaughterhouse worker, in charge of slaughtering the cows, one at a time. He was not interested in living a compassionate life. Then one day, one of the cows that he was about to slaughter fell down on her forelegs, tears dropping from her eyes as she silently pleaded for mercy. The man I met and the other slaughterhouse workers who were there could not bear to kill her. They pooled their money together and bought the cow to spare her life.

After having personally killed thousands of cows, that experience awakened in him the natural compassion that lies within each and every one of us. He became a vegetarian and has also helped many other people become vegetarian since that experience.

If we truly want to live a compassionate life – not just in words but in real life action – then we should try our best to never unnecessarily harm other living beings. Great spiritual teachers Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha have taught this virtue. One of Jesus’ primary teachings was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He taught compassion - the ability to feel others’ pain in a sympathetic way. Lord Buddha also underlined the importance of living a compassionate life. He said, “In compassion lies the world’s great strength.” He also said, “All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?”

Not only are animals not necessary for food, eating animals brings intense suffering to individuals and society in the form of greatly increased levels of disease, environmental devastation, etc.

Consider some of the following enlightening facts:

  • More than half the water used in the United States is used for meat production.
  • It takes less water to produce a year’s worth of food for a pure vegetarian than to produce one month’s food for a meat-eater.
  • Raising animals for food is the largest polluter of water in the United States, topping all other industries that produce toxic wastes.
  • 85 percent (more than 5 billion tons) of annual American topsoil loss is directly associated with raising livestock.

The Steps to End World Hunger

by Rebecca Saltzberg

There are many reasons why people choose to adopt a vegetarian diet, including their personal health, the health and well-being of animals, and the health of the planet. Another profound, yet often overlooked, reason for going vegetarian is for the sake of the millions of people who starve to death each year.

Many people were told by their parents as children to clean their dinner plate because “there are starving children in Africa." From a young age, we were taught that to waste food was sinful and cruel when there are many less fortunate children around the world. Yet our well-intentioned (but misinformed) parents and educators were blind to the reality that there is no grosser waste of food than taking 15 to 20 pounds of healthful grain and using it as feed to produce one pound of animal flesh. They neglected to realize that the simplest and most important step each of us can take to end world hunger is to stop eating meat.

On this planet, a child dies of malnutrition every two seconds. Malnutrition is the principal cause of death for infants and children in developing nations. In fact, never before in history has starvation been so prevalent amongst the human species - approximately 25 percent of the world's population is malnourished.

Meanwhile, as more and more people experience the gnawing pains of hunger, there is simultaneously an unprecedented percentage of the population that is overweight and obese. The United States has the honor of being one of the fattest countries in the world. A greater and greater percentage of American children are overweight, and many more children are already showing signs of hardening of the arteries by the time they are teenagers.

In order to support the demand for meat products, the world's limited resources are being squandered. Raising animals for food consumption is so wasteful and inefficient that it simply is not possible to feed the world on a meat-based diet. The amount of land that it takes to feed just one meat-eater could sustain 20 vegetarians.

Overall, the grains and soybeans fed to American livestock each year could feed the more than 1.3 billion people going hungry. Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, comments, "Cattle and other livestock are devouring much of the grain produced on the planet. It need be emphasized that this is a new phenomenon, unlike anything ever experienced before."

Following the lead of the United States and other westernized nations, many developing countries are beginning to focus their agriculture more and more around the production of meat. Consequently, third world countries that were once self-sufficient in their production of grain must now import it from the United States, but 75 percent of their imports are then fed to animals.

Every individual makes a difference. When just one person adopts a vegetarian diet, that action frees up land to feed as many as 19 other people. If just 10 percent of American meat-eaters adopted a vegetarian diet, there would be 12 million more tons of grain to feed to humans, enough to support the 60 million people who starve to death each year.

The Rise of Food Poisoning in America

Every day in the US about 200,000 people become sick, 900 are hospitalized and 14 die due to food borne illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, about one quarter of the American population suffers from food poisoning each year. Despite the government's attempts at implementing food safety standards, food borne illness has become an increasingly frequent and widespread problem in the United States.

Just three decades ago, food poisoning occurred mostly in small outbreaks at social events like family reunions, picnics, and parties and was caused by improper food handling. Today we are experiencing a whole new breed of food poisoning; it is now possible for thousands of individuals from all corners of the nation to contract identical food borne illnesses. In 1993 more than 700 people in four different states became sick from E. coli 0157:H7 contaminated Jack in the Box hamburgers. In August of 1997, Hudson Foods, a major hamburger supplier for Burger King, recalled 35 million pounds of ground beef (the largest food recall in the nation's history), as a result of a major E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak. In the past eight years about half of a million Americans have become sick from E. coli 0157:H7.

The drastic rise of food poisoning in America can be largely contributed to the centralization and industrialization of food production. Most of the beef consumed in the U.S. originates in one of thirteen massive packinghouses. While the consolidation of meat-processing plants conveniences the nation's food chains, the sheer size of these "food factories" renders them exceptionally conducive for the spread of disease. In such a processing plant, if a single food animal is infected with a dangerous microorganism it can contaminate thousands of pounds of meat.

In 1996, a nationwide study by the USDA found that 78.6 percent of ground beef contained microbes spread primarily by fecal matter. Many apparently healthy animals carry dangerous pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7, Campylobacter Jejuni, Cryptosporidium Parvum, Salmonella, etc. Recent studies have found that when such pathogens are ingested by humans, the result may not only be a short lived bout of diarrhea and upset stomach, but possibly long term illnesses like heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, neurological problems, autoimmune disorders, and kidney damage.

Despite the drastic rise of food poisoning outbreaks across the nation, it is still not a well known fact that today's meat processing plants are much more dangerous than they used to be. The "all American diet" can no longer be eaten without caution because it has begun to take a toll on the lives of its people. The easiest way to avoid these food related dangers is to simply leave such foods out of one's diet. A plant based diet is much healthier, cleaner, safer, and in the end, it can lead to a higher quality of life.

Footnotes: 

*The information in this article was taken from "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser.

Humane Meat?

by Tandis Bishop

There is a new label in the health food market regarding meat products - “certified humane.” That label might have some legitimacy to it if you were buying a cow to bring home as a pet. But to call animal slaughter “humane,” no matter how it is done, is a stretch.

If you look at the lives of animals raised for their flesh, certainly some are treated better than others. They call it “humane” because the animals are given clean water and hormone-free food, and have some room to move around and access to real (or artificial) sunlight every day. If that’s all it takes to be “humane,” it should open eyes to just how inhumane the treatment is for the rest. It is good that people are realizing how badly animals are treated before they are slaughtered, but slaughter is by its very nature cruel and inhumane.

Herein lies another problem for these new meat marketers. Quoting the owner of a major East coast health food store chain that sells “certified humane” meat, "Our biggest challenge right now is trying to find an appropriate way to tell the customers what certified humane means.” Retailers want to negate the guilt of customers, but at the same time, they have to gently reveal the revolting conditions that non “certified humane” animals are raised and killed in.

Another major retailer plans to use the term “animal compassionate.” They are also taking the matter a step farther and donating some of their proceeds to animal rights groups. But if they really felt compassion for these animal’s rights, then they wouldn’t be carrying their meat in the first place.

The bottom line is, if you want to be “humane” or “animal compassionate” be real about it. Don’t settle for the hypocrisy of people trying to make a quick buck by manipulating your emotions. Do the real humane thing and go vegetarian.

Loving Animals Means Truly Caring for Them

by Tandis Bishop

Many Americans appreciate the companionship of a dog or cat. We care so much about our beloved pets that we treat them like part of the family. We buy them clothes, serve them special meals and treats, and if the need arises, we will spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on medical expenses without a second thought.

So it is no surprise that most people cringe when they hear that cats and dogs are considered a delicacy in other countries. Who could imagine that these sweet little animals that we love as our companions are regularly killed and eaten by civilized people in different cultures. But consider the cow for example. They are revered as sacred by millions of people in the East, but in the United States tens of thousands of these gentle, passive creatures are ruthlessly slaughtered each day.

How can we justify this selective love and care? What a cold and heartless world it would be if each of us only cared about the suffering of those we know, and ignored the pain of everyone else. If you eat any type of meat, please consider the trail of suffering that brings that animal to your plate. Never in a million years would we allow our pets to be sent to a factory farm, only to die a painful death in an inhumane slaughterhouse. We should be compassionate to all animals great and small, not just the ones we know personally as our pets. You have a choice. Please do not contribute to the suffering of innocent animals. Become a vegetarian.

The "True" Inconvenient Truth

by Frank Santana

The quickest and most effective way to reduce global warming will come through diet change, according to a letter that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent to Al Gore . PETA wrote that his film, An Inconvenient Truth “...failed to address the fact that the meat industry is the largest contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Their argument has teeth.

In its 2006 report "Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options," the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 A similar finding came from a report by researchers at the University of Chicago, who announced that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius. 2 3

PETA reminded Gore that his critics love to question whether he practices what he preaches. By going vegetarian, they said, he could cut down on his contribution to global warming and silence his critics at the same time.

Given all the concern Gore is stirring up about green house gasses, he might take a bit of advice from our friends at PETA. He could have a veggie burger next time he cooks up a meal in that energy-inefficient mansion he resides in.

"The single best thing that any of us can do to for our health, for animals, and for the environment is to go vegetarian," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "The best and easiest way for Mr. Gore to show his critics that he’s truly committed to fighting global warming is to kick his meat habit immediately." 4

To date, there has been no report of Gore responding to PETA’s letter. However, given the increasing scientific and government information coming out, he may eventually face the reality that vegetarianism is a practical, efficient, and responsible way that every citizen can do their part to reduce global warming.

Other reports along similar lines suggest that this argument will soon become part of the mainstream discussion on global warming. For example:

  • While there is a lot of focus on how the CO2 emissions from automobiles may impact global warming, a recent Japanese study reported in New Scientist magazine shows that producing 2.2lb of beef generates as much greenhouse gas as driving a car non-stop for three hours. 5
  • It was recently reported that an official from the Environmental Agency in the UK acknowledged that the “potential benefit of a vegan diet in terms of climate impact could be very significant, (but) encouraging the public to take a lifestyle decision as substantial as becoming vegan would be a request few are likely to take up.” The director of a UK Vegetarian group made a very good point in response, saying "I think it is extraordinary that a Government agency thinks becoming a vegetarian or vegan could have such a positive impact for the environment yet it is not prepared to stand up and argue the case." 6

CNN/Glenn Beck Report: Al Gore ignores warning about impact of eating meat on global warming

Footnotes: 
  1. Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006.
  2. "Meat-Eaters Aiding Global Warming? New Research Suggests What You Eat as Important as What You Drive,” ABC News, April 19, 2006.
  3. “Earth Interactions, Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Dec. 12, 2005.
  4. Clearing Up a Few Things with Al Gore,” PETA Media Center, March 7, 2007.
  5. Eating beef 'is less green than driving,” Telegraph.co.uk, July 19, 2007.
  6. "Go vegan to help climate, says Government,” Telegraph,co.uk, May 30, 2007.

Make Every day Earth Day by Dreaming of a 'Green' Christmas

by Michele McKay

The holiday season is a time of giving and receiving, but not many people think about what they can give back to Mother Earth. This year you can make your holiday celebrations eco-friendly – and in return, you will receive the knowledge that you have helped make your home and the planet a ‘greener’ place.

The holidays can be extra tough on the environment: extra waste is generated from packaging and wrappers, more gas is burned on shopping trips, and many megawatts of energy go into light displays. Celebrate the planet this year with these eco-friendly holiday tips:

  • Enjoy delicious, healthy holiday feasts vegetarian-style… no other single action causes more environmental destruction than raising animals for slaughter. Need recipes? Find them at www.downtoearth.org.
  • Just say “no” to wrapping paper. Decorate and reuse shopping bags, magazine pages, newspaper, tissue paper, boxes, tins, cloth… you name it.
  • Give ‘wrapperless’ and non-consuming gifts. How about a donation to a favorite charity or an ‘adoption’ program that helps endangered species or ecosystems? Or give the gift of an experience – a special meal or a ticket to an attraction/performance/event.
  • Make your own greeting cards from used materials, or go paperless altogether by phoning loved ones or sending electronic greetings.
  • Use canvas or ‘reused’ bags from home when shopping.
  • Save gas by combining shopping trips or by doing your shopping online.
  • Cut energy consumption by reducing the display time of your holiday lights.
  • Buy recycled. Purchase gifts or cards that are made of recycled materials. Look for the green ‘chasing arrows’ on packages, and support the companies that are making waste into new goods.
  • Recharge. If you are giving something that requires batteries, include rechargeable batteries and a charger with the gift.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle in holiday entertaining. Go with reusable dinnerware and cloth napkins, and recycle your beverage and other containers.
  • Have your Christmas tree chipped and composted. On O’ahu call 692-5410 or visit www.opala.org for more information. On Maui call 270-7874.
  • Or… here in the Islands it is easy to find an alternative to a cut tree. Live trees will bring years of enjoyment when planted outside after the holidays. Or get creative and decorate a beautiful tropical plant that can live indoors or outdoors.

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