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In a letter dispatched to the President Bush, PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk asks him to send this year’s “pardoned” turkeys, Pumpkin and Pecan, to a proper Washington, D.C.–area sanctuary rather than to Disneyland or a working farm, where pardoned turkeys are traditionally sent and where they usually die from their painful genetic defects within the first year — or even within days of arrival.
“You might be a lame duck,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a letter to Bush, “but you still have the power to help lame turkeys.”
In her letter, Ingrid points out that turkeys raised in factory farms are drugged and bred to grow so quickly that they are beset by painful, crippling injuries and deformities. Because of these problems, the birds’ lives are cut short by years and only a credible sanctuary can meet their critical medical needs. In addition to theme parks, other “pardoned” turkeys have been shipped to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo at Frying Pan Park in Virginia, where many died within a year — and some within days — of arrival.
At least Bush’s turkey-pardoning ceremony was not the gruesome affair Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s was.
Erik Marcus is a tireless campaigner who works on efforts related to animal protection and promoting veganism. In addition to publishing Vegan.com, which features his daily blog, Erik has authored three books: Meat Market: Animals, Ethics and Money, Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating and The Ultimate Vegan Guide: Compassionate Living Without Sacrifice, which he just published this month. He took some time from his hard work to talk about his activism, his writing endeavors and the question all activists should ask themselves.
Your latest book, The Ultimate Vegan Guide: Compassionate Living Without Sacrifice, is hot off the presses. Please tell me what this new book covers.
I think when you first consider becoming vegan, it’s immensely helpful to get advice from somebody who has been doing it for a long time. So in this book, I strived to cover everything that is important to new vegans. I’ve written chapters on food shopping, cooking, nutrition, travel, relationships and so forth.
Anybody can write about these things, so I kept asking myself, “Am I presenting this material as helpfully as possible?” My preoccupation with being genuinely helpful led me to offer up a ton of information I haven’t encountered elsewhere. For instance, there are plenty of places a vegan can buy food, so I’ve got a chapter about supermarkets, another about natural food stores, another about farmer’s markets, and still another about shopping online.
Wherever I can in this book, I try to provide simple advice that unlocks a great deal of value. For instance, when talking about food, I introduce the idea of basing your diet on five core foods: smoothies, sandwiches, salads, stir-fries and grilled veggies. These foods are all super healthful, they are quick and easy to make, and they can all be prepared in a multitude of ways so you can eat them all the time without getting bored.
My intention in writing this book was to give a non-vegan every piece of information required to allow that person to easily become vegan tomorrow, without fear or sacrifice. From the responses I’ve received from the book’s first readers, it appears I’ve accomplished that goal.
How does your new book differ from Meat Market and Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating?
Both of those books required me to spend months and months in an agriculture library. The Ultimate Vegan Guide, by contrast, is my attempt to distill my twenty years of vegan living into a short and super-readable book. I think this subject gave me room to be much more relaxed and entertaining with my writing.
You made Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating available as a free download from Vegan.com. Why did you decide to do that?
I guess it was sort of an experiment. I wanted to see how many people would take advantage of reading it if I made the book free. The book ended up being downloaded tens of thousands of times, and I’ve had numerous people approach me to say they went vegan as a result of downloading the book. I should mention the free download went away when I re-launched Vegan.com last spring, but I’ll bring it back at some point when I find some time.
Most people know you as an author, blogger, podcaster and public speaker, but you’re engaged in other models of activism. What’s your favorite form of animal activism?
Well, Vegan.com and my writing sucks up nearly all my time. But I still manage pass out Vegan Outreach literature at my local colleges at least a few times a semester. This is something anyone can do, and I urge people who are unfamiliar with the effectiveness of leafleting to read Matt Ball’s wonderful essay “A Meaningful Life.”
One of your points in Meat Market is the “commodity-cruelty argument.” Could you explain what this is?
I devoted Chapter 2 of Meat Market to this argument, and it so happens that Chapter 2 of The Ultimate Vegan Guide reiterates this argument in a more concise format. Basically, this argument introduces the ethical consequences of what happens when meat, milk and eggs are produced under a commodity system. See, the name of the game with commodities is that only the lowest-cost producers survive. So, when animal-based foods become commodities, what happens is that producers are forced to embrace every possible cost-cutting measure, no matter how cruel it is to the animals involved.
Just by understanding this one simple concept, you’ve gained a window through which you can witness and understand the deeply rooted cruelties that exist within agribusiness.
Speaking of ag cruelties, you recently scored a victory for animals at your alma mater, UC Santa Cruz: they’re going to start making cage-free eggs available. Can you walk us through what you did to make that happen ― and how others can do the same at their college?
After receiving guidance from Josh Balk of HSUS, I used the classic Henry Spira approach of opening a respectful dialog with UCSC’s director of dining services. When that communication didn’t bear fruit, I got the attention of the Chancellor’s office. Soon after that, I was able to get some media coverage of the issue ― and within weeks of that coverage appearing the University started offering cage-free eggs. It was no big deal; anyone can do this sort of thing. But given the number of battery eggs served on campus, the simple efforts I made are going to eliminate a great deal of cruelty.
I know this victory is just the beginning; what’s next for you in working with the campus?
Well, now that Prop 2 has passed, UCSC doesn’t have any excuse to continue serving battery cage eggs. So I’m now back in touch with the Chancellor’s Office to see how quickly they can get rid of all battery cage eggs at the University. I’ve made contact with other activists on campus and, if the University doesn’t take speedy action to get rid of battery eggs, we’re going to launch a campaign that will expose the university’s ties to animal cruelty. But I doubt such a campaign will be necessary: my intuition is that the Chancellor’s Office and Dining Services staff are outstanding people who will want to quickly cut the university’s ties to battery cage egg farms. It’s the right thing to do.
You’re considered one of the leaders in the vegan movement. Who are the people that inspired you?
I’m not a leader; I’m just a guy with a website who has written a few books. Wayne Pacelle, Paul Shapiro, Philip Lymbery, Josh Balk, Mahi Klosterhalfen, Jack Norris and Matt Ball: those are some of the movement’s leaders.
I’ve been very fortunate to make friends with some incredibly effective people in the movement, and these people have played a big role in shaping the kind of activism I do. I got to know Henry Spira in the early 1990s, and my contact with him led me to the sort of work I do today. For me, it’s all about pragmatism: getting in tune with the public and figuring out what steps they’re ready to take right now. If you’re ready to go vegan, then great, I’ll give you the encouragement and the information you need. If you aren’t ready to stop eating animal products, then I’ll encourage you to eat fewer animal products and to shift your purchases away from factory farms.
Outreach is all about listening to people, and helping them to take whatever next step they’re ready for. It’s not about deciding what step would make that person a moral human being in your eyes, and expecting that person to jump through the hoop you’ve constructed. That’s the mindset of an asshole, and it’s at the root of the angry vegan stereotype.
It seems you work non-stop on behalf of animals, and I know you’ve seen some of the cruelest abuses agribusiness subjects animals to. What do you do to keep from burning out?
It’s true that this work can mess with your head. After David Foster Wallace hanged himself this past autumn, I found myself emotionally unable to write for about a week. At some point, you need to take care of yourself. After all the exposure I’ve had to animal cruelty, I’ve stopped watching new cruelty videos when they come out. I’ve seen everything I need to see, and it’s important I preserve my emotional health.
But the real way to avoid burnout is to regularly engage in tasks that you know will make a big difference. I’m certain that anyone who cares, and who works steadily, can keep more than a million animals out of a slaughterhouse. I talk about how to accomplish this in the final chapter of my Ultimate Vegan Guide. Since I know I’m being effective, there’s no room in my belief system to permit burnout.
We’re going to annihilate factory farming in our generation, while putting veganism solidly into the mainstream, and I’m delighted to be one of the people working to make this happen.
What’s next for you? Any other books you’ll be working on?
I think I’ve now finished plugging up what I perceived as the main gaps in the movement’s literature. I don’t know if I’ll ever write another book — at this point there’s nothing else in the vegan/animal rights world that I’d be interested in writing about. Since my book-writing career has likely come to an end, my life at the moment is at a crossroads; my main goal moving forward is to identify new efforts that make me increasingly effective for animals. I’m now asking myself the same question I hope every reader of this interview regularly asks themselves: What can I do that will impact as many farmed animals as possible?
This is the first in a series of postings about books animal activists can learn a lot from. These won’t be reviews, per se, but musings on why such books are relevant to the movement and important for activists to know.
Generally, when someone mentions “animal rights books,” we think of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, or perhaps one of Tom Regan’s books. Such works are worth reading, of course, but there is a wealth of other books that deserve attention.
I’m going to begin with a book that came out just last year: Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection by Erin Williams and Margo DeMello, two extremely experienced and dedicated animal advocates.
I met both Erin and Margo about four years ago at a fundraiser for the House Rabbit Society (HRS), and since then I’ve followed with great interest their activism and writing endeavors. Margo is a longtime writer, scholar and animal advocate as well as a nationally known expert on rabbit behavior. In fact, her book Stories Rabbits Tell (which she co-authored with Susan Davis) is a must-read for anyone who lives with rabbits or is interested in these often-misunderstood creatures. Margo worked as the director of HRS, and today she combines her volunteer work for this group with work for two other nonprofits: Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary in California and Prairie Dog Pals in New Mexico. Oh, and she also teaches sociology, cultural studies and anthropology at Central New Mexico Community College.
You’ll find Erin Williams at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), where she puts her sunny personality and polished writing skills to work as communications director for HSUS’ Factory Farming Campaign. (She was part of the HSUS team that helped usher California’s Prop 2 into existence.) A former 4-H student, Erin grew up on a dairy farm in Illinois, where she helped raise countless animals but refused to sell them at the end of the season; instead, she found homes for them or they stayed on the farm. One animal, however, made an especially powerful impression upon her: a cow named Zelda. Zelda was a Brown Swiss who was unable to conceive and so she could not lactate, which is a liability on a dairy farm. Sadly, Zelda was slaughtered, and Erin didn’t find out until a week later. Soon after, she stopped eating meat. Among her work for animals, Erin has also been a wildlife rehabilitator, a campaign director and a shelter director for HRS.
I offer this background on Erin and Margo to emphasize that these women have a tremendous amount of knowledge and real-world experience to offer readers; they aren’t simply journalists reporting on what others are doing.
As I re-read Why Animals Matter for this post, I was struck by how comprehensive this book is. It is divided into sections covering animals used as food, game and pests, clothing, research tools, companions (yes, the pet industry contributes to animal abuse) and amusement. I was also impressed by the tremendous effort it obviously took to research so much information and present it in a straightforward manner: Despite the overwhelming amount of animal abuse covered within its 405, well-documented pages, Why Animals Matter remains a remarkably accessible book, inviting all readers to consider how the institutional abuse of animals has impacted not only the their lives, but our planet and human health.
Although the book covers nearly every animal cruelty you can think of, the Animals As Food section is by far the largest, and for good reason. As Erin and Margo explain, “Of all the ways that humans exploit animals, the suffering endured by animals at the hands of the meat, egg, and dairy industries is the worst by any order of magnitude. The number of animals who we hunt, experiment on, wear as fur, use for entertainment, or abandon at shelters is but a tiny fraction of the billions of animals who we kill for food each year.”
Sidebar stories told throughout the book highlight animals’ ability to recover from abuse and learn to accept care from compassionate humans. There’s Jacob, the Holstein calf who had fallen off a transport truck and now lives at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary; there’s Blue Boy, a nilgai whose broken horn saved his life, since it made him less desirable to trophy hunters; and there’s Timber, a mixed-breed shepherd-malamute who went from a lonely existence chained in a backyard to a life of luxury with a new, loving family. The story of Lucy (formerly Lucky) the rabbit had a special impact on me:
At first glance, Lucky seems similar to most other rabbits. Petite and curious, she enjoys the company of people as well as her two rabbit companions, and she always welcomes a treat. What makes Lucky distinctive is that, despite surviving a horrible act of cruelty, she has not lost her trust in people.
In 2004 Lucky’s owner, Nick, duct-taped her to a quarter-stick of dynamite and threw her into a California lake. The fuse did not detonate, and Nick and his friends retrieved her from the lake. Shockingly, the young people debated whether to relight the fuse. They also documented their efforts to blow her up, placing photos of the bedraggled and terrified rabbit online.
Soon afterward, a House Rabbit Society (HRS) rescue volunteer saw the images and alerted authorities. Officers rescued Lucky and released her into the care of the organization. After providing her with medical and foster care for three weeks, HRS adopted her to Rachel Hess, an experienced rabbit guardian. Now named Lucy, she lives with a permanent, loving family, including two other rabbits, Abigail and Benny, who play with her during the day and snuggle with her at night. Rachel notes that when she and her husband first adopted Lucy, she was the “beta” female bunny to Abigail’s alpha bunny. But Lucy exerted herself and is now the alpha female. All three bunnies are still bonded and they cuddle and groom, but Lucy definitely is the lead bunny. She knows she is home, she is loved, and she has a permanent family.
If you haven’t read Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Better yet, pick up a few: this is an ideal book for compassionate family and friends, and gift-giving season is right around the corner. You’re not likely to find a better or more comprehensive treatise on the topic of animal exploitation anywhere.
Shouting “Fur hag!,” an animal rights activist in Paris showered celebrity Lindsay Lohan with a bag of flour early Saturday morning (November 15). Lohan, wrapped in a mink stole, had just arrived at a club when a French activist rushed toward the actress, dumping a hefty bag of white flour all over the shocked star. The activist, possibly associated with PETA, was momentarily detained but broke free and ran off down the Champs-Elysees.
A statement from PETA reads, “Lohan has enraged animal lovers by appearing in at least two different fur coats in recent days, despite PETA’s repeated pleas that she consider how animals suffer for every fur garment and stop wearing their skins. She was named on PETA’s annual Worst Dressed List earlier this year.”
PETA Europe spokesperson Robbie LeBlanc added: “There is nothing remotely ‘fashionable’ about the torture and death of animals killed for fur. Lindsay Lohan might be able to ignore images of bloody animals skinned alive for their pelts, but we hope a dash of flour will help her rise to the occasion and forsake fur once and for all.”
Lohan’s girlfriend Samantha Ronson posted a rant on her MySpace page about the incident, calling the activist “an animal” (she sure knows how to make things worse, eh?). Ronson recently caused a stir in the activist community when she complained Californians care more about chickens than gay people because voters passed both Prop 2, which bans animal-confinement devices, and Prop 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state.
Naturally, the flour-power incident has been posted on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
From the same vivisectionists who helped give us the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act comes animalrightsextremism.org. Launched by the US-based Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the Web site is devoted to resources on “animal rights extremism.”
The site says that “Animal rights extremists … pose a real threat to medical progress and the scientists who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others.” Well, as long as they’re human, presumably.
According to Carrie Wolinetz, FASEB’s Director of Scientific Affairs and Public Relations for the Office of Public Affairs, “We wanted researchers who have been targeted by these groups to have centralized access to the resources available to assist them. Scientists need to know that the research community supports them and they are not alone.”
FASEB apparently hopes to attract the younger set: there’s a page on the site featuring cartoon animals and photos of animals in all kinds of cute poses. Conspicuously absent are any shots of mice left with untreated ulcers, immobilized monkeys locked in torture devices or cats with electrodes planted in their brains.
For reasons why animal activists are working to end animal testing, please visit http://www.stopanimaltests.com/
Captain Paul Watson and his fellow Sea Shepherd activists are preparing to depart Australia at the end of this month to obstruct Japanese whaling activities in the Antarctic Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary. Last summer, Japan sent coast guard officers down on its whaling ships. This year, Greenpeace believes the Japanese will be sending a coast guard ship to protect its whaling fleet.
“It was reported in a Japan fisheries magazine some weeks ago that the equivalent of $8 million has been allocated to the Japanese coast guard to protect the fleet,” said Steve Shallhorn, chief executive of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific. “So, we made the assumption that that amount of money will be used to send a vessel down there.”
That realization has apparently scared Greenpeace into cancelling previously announced plans to send a ship to oppose Japanese whaling efforts. This means that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be alone in its high-seas opposition to illegal Japanese whaling operations when the whaling season opens in a month.
“They can send the entire Japanese Navy down to the Southern Ocean if they like, but Sea Shepherd and the crew of the Steve Irwin will not be intimidated by this kind of brutal military thuggery,” said Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson. “When we say we put our lives on the line to defend the whales, we mean it. It’s not just a slogan for us. I have not seen a whale die since I left Greenpeace in 1977 and I have no intention of seeing a whale die this year. They don’t kill whales when we show up and they won’t kill whales when we arrive again this year. They will have to sink us first.”
Of Greenpeace’s announcement that it has changed its mind about participating, Captain Watson was equally blunt. “As a Greenpeace co-founder, I am deeply offended that Greenpeace has been raising millions of dollars in the name of defending whales all year and now two weeks before the Japanese whaling fleet is scheduled to depart, they announce they will not be going,” he said. “In my opinion they collected funds under false pretenses and now they have abandoned the whales. Shame on them.”
Captain Watson added that he intends to sink the Japanese fleet economically. “Our strategy is to … force the Japanese whalers to spend money on fuel without killing whales. We have been the cause of the Japanese whaling fleet losing profits for three years in a row. We intend to make it a fourth year.”
Sea Shepherd activists have rammed Japanese whaling ships, thrown butyric acid onto their decks and even climbed on board. Then last summer, someone aboard a Japanese whaling ship fired a shot at Captain Watson, hitting his bulletproof vest. The incident is highlighted on the new Animal Planet series Whale Wars.
It’s certainly no secret that animal agribusiness regards animal-rights activists pretty much the way the Chinese government regards supporters of a free Tibet. And in the same way His Holiness the Dalai Lama keeps up to date on his homeland’s Communist oppressors, it is imperative that animal activists get into the heads of animal exploiters ― not just under their skin.
Well, here’s a great opportunity to learn what someone with 25 years of agribiz experience thinks of efforts by HSUS, PETA and others to impinge upon their ability to torture and kill farmed animals. The Cattle Network just published an in-depth interview with Steve Kopperud, senior vice president of Policy Directions, Inc., which lobbies on behalf of agribusiness.
I’m only hitting the high notes here: be sure to check out the entire article.
Q. Steve, we know the animal rights organizations tend to be well-funded, sophisticated communicators. Let’s define them, first. What are the organizations we should watch and what are their agendas? Tell me about the size of their memberships and their war chests.
A. Fifteen years ago we were confronted by about 150 animal rights organizations, subject to infighting and competition. Today, the movement is defined by the Humane Society of the U.S. and its president, Wayne Pacelle. When Pacelle joined HSUS as vice president, he declared he would create the “NRA (National Rifle Assn.) of animal rights, and he’s well on his way. The organization leverages its public image as a dog/cat, spay/neuter, pet adoption group, positioning itself as “moderate” in comparison to the PETAs of the movement. When you peel away the layers of public image, you’re left with an HSUS agenda that is anything but moderate, and not too radically different than that of PETA. You need only look at the organization’s legislative agenda, the comments of some of its officers, to see where HSUS would eventually hope to see animal agriculture wind up.
HSUS claims to have about 10 million members – 20,000 per congressional district – and has an annual budget in excess of $130 million. Through mergers with smaller organizations, HSUS has grown, and under Pacelle’s watch, created the Humane Legislative Action Fund (HLAF) not-for-profit association with no limits on its lobbying activity – HSUS, by virtue of its 501(c) (3) status, is limited by IRS rules to about spending 20% of its previous year’s program spending on “advocacy,” so the HLAF is an important tool. On the international front, Humane Society International works as an arm of HSUS.
PETA continues to be the noisemaker; its apparent role is to keep the issue in the press, thereby keeping it mainstream. Its income each year continues to hover in the $20-30 million range, allowing it to maintain its global network of offices and harassment. However, PETA has so marginalized itself in policy discussions as to be almost a non-player.
PETA continues to frighten corporate targets, major brands which fear PETA will begin boycotts, pickets, disrupt annual meetings, etc. PETA’s outrageous behavior and unrealistic demands enable groups such as HSUS to contact the same target companies, offering itself as the “moderate” group with which the company can work. The company believes that by working with HSUS, it’s somehow protected from PETA. Not so. The company is only protected as long as it toes the line, issuing public statements about animal housing, care and such. The worst thing any company can do is try to negotiate with any animal rights group. It signals weakness and fear and sets the company up as a perpetual target for other groups.
Farm Sanctuary, with a budget of about $1 million a year, operates almost as an independent subsidiary of HSUS, acting as HSUS’s foot soldiers on the ground in the various states in which HSUS has begun referenda campaigns, etc.
Q. One of the things I’ve been watching is the process you’ve often described as getting “pecked to death by ducks.” First, Florida outlaws gestation crates. Burger King covers its backside from a PETA push and earns that organization’s praise by declaring they will no longer buy eggs or pork from suppliers that keep their animals in cages or crates. Now, we have California’s Prop 2, which won with about 60% of the vote and will force huge changes in the farming practices of the biggest agriculture state in America. Can we expect animal rights groups to press for similar legislation in other farm states? And what will an expansion of similar laws do to the price of food at retail?
A. The strategy being followed by savvy animal rights groups is what the late animal activist Henry Spira, founder of Animal Rights International, called the “step-wise approach.” It translates into “We get a little bit this year, a little bit next year, and before you know it, we’ve forced real change.” Spira once said to me that farmers and ranchers are their own worst enemies because they’re “too nice,” meaning, I think, that we expect the animal rights movement to operate on rules of honorable engagement and conventional issue management. I can assure you, after battling successfully animal rights initiatives for nearly 25 years, I’ve learned there is nothing conventional about “managing” the animal rights issue, and I think it’s this reality that industry – from farm to fork – must acknowledge. Managing the animal rights issue takes outside-the-box thinking and strategy.
In a way, perhaps we are “too nice,” as we steadfastly avoid public confrontations with the animal rights groups. We somehow believe that by confronting these groups, calling them out in the media, on Capitol Hill or in a state legislature, we will suffer some worse consequence than allowing these zealots to prevail. We think because what we do is so fundamental to every citizen’s quality of life, that the “crazy people” cannot prevail.
The animal rights issue cannot be fought using statistics, economics, science and fact alone; it must utilize strategies that inspire positive emotion among consumers toward farming and ranching. There will be no gain without some pain, but it’s our job to ensure that the “pain” we feel is merely the temporary discomfort that comes from shifting away from a traditional approach to a more progressive one.
California’s Proposition 2 is a classic example. Proponents of that measure had no facts to support their demand that sow gestation stalls, veal stalls or egg layer cages were inhumane on their face because the overwhelming public testimony of vets and animal scientists showed just the opposite to be true. Instead, supporters ran TV ads that included video of downed animals and other emotional images of animal neglect and abuse, fully aware Proposition 2 would do nothing to solve these alleged problems. Why? Because emotion rules the day when it comes to human interaction with animals, no matter what the species or the animal’s ultimate fate. When you’ve got the attention of a politically overwhelmed constituency, you use images and emotion, not rhetoric. What thinking, feeling person condones any form of animal “abuse”?
Q. Every industry has its bad actors. We’ve seen them up close and personal, thanks to the undercover videos shot by HSUS undercover agents. Wayne Pacelle, HSUS CEO, says the practices exposed on those videos are endemic; Ag organizations say they’re anomalies, a position backed by industry experts like Temple Grandin. Regardless, it’s footage that, in the public’s eye, is damaging. How would you go about reversing the damage?
A. Our responses to these episodes of unauthorized entry and video-taping of our facilities have been lukewarm. These episodes are anomalies, but not one can be tolerated as they paint the entire industry with the same brush, allowing HSUS leverage them to make its case that all producers are uncaring and that our industry needs state and/or federal regulation. When episodes of wrong behavior occur – and they will because no industry is perfect – then we must call them out as we see them with appropriate outrage, telling the public what they’ve seen is unacceptable and then swift and public action must be taken to rectify the situation. The public must understand that we share their concerns.
Having said that, I repeat my call to begin talking to the public consistently and loudly that we take animal wellbeing seriously, that it is and always has been the highest priority of our producers and processors, and that the public can trust the men and women who work in our industries. We must reintroduce the public to farming and ranching, explain who we are, what we do, how well we do it and that we share the public’s value of good husbandry. This must be as much a part of our product promotion and sales effort as the creation of recipes, new products and market development. When checkoff boards sit down to decide how those producer payments are to be spent in the best interest of the industry, selling the producer and the process must be every bit as important as selling the product.
Again, readers, please take a moment to read the entire interview.
Erik Marcus over at Vegan.com has posted a great blog entry on Thanksgiving. Featuring mouthwatering recipes from vegan cookbook author Robin Robertson, this Thanksgiving menu is sure to please everyone from the die-hard vegan activist to the ardent carnivore (you know, that one grumpy uncle who’s always saying vegans only eat lettuce and tree bark).
Robin’s recipes include:
Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Curried Pecans
Roasted Wheatmeat with Oyster Mushroom and “Sausage” Stuffing
Stuffed Winter Squash (optional main dish)
Roasted Sweet Potato Sticks
Green Bean Casserole
Ginger-Dusted Pumpkin Cheezecake
Man, I love Thanksgiving. At least the eating-vegan-goodies part.
Also, don’t forget to spend some time with turkeys at your local sanctuary this month!
It took just two protest demonstrations for activists from England’s Bath Activist Network (BAN) to persuade the owner of a new restaurant to stop selling foie gras.
“We are pleased this was done in an amicable way,” said a spokesperson for BAN. “We are not against people eating meat and do not want everyone to be vegetarians, although that would be good. It is more about the additional cruelty in foie gras, which is just unnecessary and has no place in civilized society. The amount of support we get when we hold these protests shows most people agree with us.”
The culinary extravagance known as foie gras, the “fatty liver” of male ducks and geese, is created by grossly manipulating an animal’s body to provide a fleeting gustatory pleasure to the palate. The foie gras industry uses an invasive technique to force-feed ducks and geese until they have become so obese their livers are engorged with fat. The diseased livers of the slaughtered birds are considered a delicacy in many high-end restaurants, which have attracted protests from outraged activists who regard foie gras as a frivolous appetizer inseparable from the egregious abuse of animals.
Following the two-hour demonstration on Friday, which involved 14 activists, restaurant owner Hein van Vorstenbosch decided to take the pate, imported from France, off his menu, even though it was popular with his patrons. Friday’s protest was the second time BAN had targeted the Minibar.
BAN was formed in the fall of 2006 and also campaigns on environmentalism, anti-globalization, food issues, pro-peace and gender. Earlier this year, BAN protested outside Bath’s Beaujolais restaurant, prompting it to stop selling foie gras.
Two for two. Not bad!
Interested in combating foie gras in your area? US activist Nick Cooney uses these tools:
• postcards to city council members from their constituents (signed at tabling venues)
• letters from local free-range duck farmers supporting a ban on foie gras
• meetings with council members and pledges from restaurateurs not to sell foie gras
• petitions signed by business owners in favor of the ban
• emails, faxes and letters to legislators
• endorsements from other animal groups in the city.
Nick and his fellow activists use the Internet to identify restaurants offering foie gras. “Many upscale restaurants have their menus online,” he says, “and there are thousands of restaurant reviews online for every city. It’s not hard to find restaurants that serve foie gras.” He also uses resources offered by national groups like Farm Sanctuary, which keeps track of businesses selling foie gras, and looks at menus posted outside restaurants.
“We have tried contacting restaurants in advance through letters or phone calls,” Nick says, “but typically this doesn’t yield any results. Letters are usually ignored, and so far phone calls have not led anywhere. So we organize evenings of demonstrations ― usually on a Friday or Saturday, as that is when the most customers are dining out. We’ll have one individual go into the restaurant and ask to speak with the manager or owner about the issue. He or she will inform the owner that we would like to set up a meeting to discuss the issue with them, but that if they are not willing to meet with us we will be protesting the restaurant.” Nick reasons that the restaurants are not making much profit from foie gras, which is used to showcase a chef’s talent and attract hard-core foodies.