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.

A Lesson From McDonalds

The primary motivation for choosing a vegetarian lifestyle is the desire to increase one’s health and wellness. It is no secret that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables decreases a person’s risk of cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. In contrast, a diet high in red and processed meats has been shown to increase these risks. Evidence of the dangers of a meat-based diet can be found in the recent fate of McDonalds' CEOs, Jim Cantalupo and Charlie Bell.

After working for the company for 28 years, and CEO since January 2003, Cantalupo died of a sudden heart attack at age 60. Following Cantalupo’s passing, McDonalds named company president and chief operating officer, Charlie Bell, as the new CEO. One month after accepting the position, Bell was diagnosed with colon cancer and died less than a year later this past January. He was only 44 years old.

It is hard to ignore the potential correlation between these deaths and the line of work they were in. Bell had worked for McDonalds since he was 15-years-old, working his way up from burger flipper to manager (at the young age of 19), to vice president at age 27. He then went on to become the company’s president and chief operating officer and finally, chief executive officer. Bell said he ate something from McDonalds almost everyday.

Irony aside, the fact is that a meat-based diet, lacking sufficient fruits, vegetables and whole grains, increases your risk for some types of cancer, especially colon cancer. A study by Chao, Thun, et al examined the relationship between long-term meat consumption and colon cancer. The study looked at 148,610 adults over a period of ten years. The conclusions reported higher risks of colon cancer in those participants consuming higher amounts of meat, especially red meat and processed meats (commonly found in fast-food joints). A similar 20-year study showed that those with the highest levels of red and processed meat consumption were 50 percent more likely to develop colon cancer than those with low consumption. The particular danger of processed meat is its tendency to contain sodium nitrate, another cancer causing agent.

While loading up on meat certainly increases cancer risk, research also confirms that eating more fruits and vegetables can decrease the risks. Studies from the Unit of Nutrition and Cancer at the International Agency for Research report a significant reduction in the risks of cancers of the esophagus, lung, stomach, and colon associated with both fruits and vegetables. Research done at the Health Research Center at the University of Utah examined the correlation between plant foods, fiber, and colon cancer. The results showed colon cancer to be inversely proportional to fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake.

While it would be improper to directly attribute the deaths of Cantalupo and Bell to their McDonalds' diets, it cannot be denied that a diet high in red and processed meat, increases a person’s risk of colon cancer and heart disease. At Down to Earth, we promote a vegetarian diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains and vegetable proteins. We encourage you to integrate these life-giving foods into your own diet. Check out our Health Tips for more information about reducing your risk for colon cancer.

Vegetarian Diet is Healthier, Greener, Compassionate

by Mark Fergusson, Down To Earth CEO

What if you could take a pill that would improve your health, save the environment, and awaken your spirit of compassion ...would you do it? The idea is not as far fetched as you might think. One of the most effective means to achieve all this is by adopting a vegetarian diet. October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, so it is a good time to reflect on the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. The personal health benefits alone are huge, and the benefits of a shift towards a vegetarian diet by society at large are staggering.

Better for Your Health

Consider health. Virtually all the major scientific and medical institutions in the world agree that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases is increased by consuming a meat-based diet consisting of highly processed foods laden with fats and artificial ingredients. These institutions further agree that the risk is greatly reduced by adopting a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet. This result is best achieved by adopting a healthy vegetarian diet consisting of organic produce and natural foods. A vegetarian diet is not only good for one’s personal health; it’s also good for the nation’s economy. Just five diet-related chronic diseases cost the U.S. economy a staggering $864 billion each year! This is an estimate of direct medical costs and the indirect impact of productivity losses due to illness and premature death associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. This is an annual outlay of nearly one trillion dollars! By comparison, it makes the one-time $700 billion Wall Street bailout seem small. If we worried about our health as much as the bailout, perhaps we would all have healthier and happier lives and help the US economy!

Better for the Environment

In contrast, the negative consequences of a meat-based diet are playing out dramatically on the environmental front. In its stunning 2006 report on global warming, the United Nations stated that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 When emissions from land use are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human-related activities, but produces a larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases.2 Livestock generates 37 percent of the total methane, which is 23 times as warming as CO2 produced by human activity.2 It also generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 300 times the global warming potential of CO2. Most of these gases come from animal manure and belching!3 Adopting a vegetarian diet could reduce greenhouse gases from this source by 100 percent with little negative impact.4 Similar cuts in carbon dioxide are virtually impossible without having a potentially devastating impact on the economy. Even with implementation of the most ambitious strategies, emissions would be cut by less than half. Furthermore, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years so lowering methane emissions would translate to cooling the earth quickly. The root issue causing global warming is over consumption. A modest American household consumes [as a standard] far more natural resources than the world can support on a sustainable basis.5 The spread of such a lifestyle to the rest of the planet is not feasible. This is particularly true of a meat-based diet, which damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth. In contrast, plant-based diets have a low environmental impact because they use fewer natural resources, so they are better for the environment. Nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance, so eating meat is an unnecessary luxury rather than a necessity.

For the Sake of the Innocent Animals

Each year in the United States, multi billions of animals are inhumanely raised in hellish factory farm conditions and approximately ten billion land animals are cruelly and brutally slaughtered for human consumption. Given the horrific suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism is morally required. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the cruel slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong. Animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Yet, farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions. In this regard, a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our innate spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them. For all these reasons, I submit that the single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet contributes to better health and a cleaner and safer environment while causing less pain and suffering for the innocent animals. Down to Earth’s slogan is “Love Life!” -based on the idea that it is good to love animals, not eat them.

Footnotes: 
  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Earth Save, EarthSave Report: A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” Noam Mohr, Aug. 2005: http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
  5. “Energy and Sustainable Development,” Berkley Energy Center, City of Berkley, CA: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/energy_and_sustainable_development/

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