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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Does Eating Meat Cause Hunger?

By Doug Pibel
So far, agriculture has kept up with population -- there’s enough food in the world to feed everyone. But not everyone’s getting fed -- at least a billion people live with hunger, according to the U.N. World Food Program. And the world is in the midst of yet another spike in food prices. As long as we keep diverting grain from human mouths to animal ones, people will go hungry. It’s simple market economics: It’s more profitable to produce meat -- even though the meat that results from feeding grain to animals has less food value than the grain itself.
Which is why there’s hunger even when there are no grain shortages: The wealthy of the world are willing to pay more to feed animals than poor people can pay to feed themselves.
So must we all become vegetarians in order to avert world hunger? Not necessarily. The spring issue of YES! Magazine suggests another route to food sufficiency.
Recent food price spikes mean those on the margins are more likely to go hungry, and political instability is among the outcomes. In February, the World Bank reported price levels only 3 percent below the 2008 peak that produced widespread food riots. At the beginning of March, The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported a 70 percent increase in export grain prices during the last year. The FAO Food Price Index was at its highest level since the FAO began monitoring prices in 1990.
The World Bank discusses two factors driving up food prices: weather and ethanol, and quotes a USDA estimate that 40 percent of the U.S. corn output will go to making ethanol this year.
But in the United States in 2009, the last full year for which numbers are available, 137 million metric tons of corn, sorghum, barley, and oats became animal feed. That’s 46 percent of total U.S. consumption of those grains. It’s also two and a half times the amount of grain the United States exported in that year.
The solution to world hunger, then, is simple: Stop eating meat.
No realistic person expects that, or anything close to it, to happen. There is a slew of valid reasons for being vegetarian: raising meat produces greenhouse gases, degrades water ways, and displaces forests and wild habitats, and many people feel that the way animals are raised and slaughtered is immoral. Nonetheless, it seems that meat eating will be with us always.
It turns out, though, that eating meat doesn’t have to take food away from hungry people, and it doesn’t have to involve a lifetime in a cage. As Joel Salatin says, in a YES! Magazine interview, “Don’t blame the cow for the negatives of the industrial food system.”
At Salatin’s Polyface Farms, the pastures are five times as productive as the local average, and, he says, “We’ve never bought a bag of chemical fertilizer and we’ve never planted a seed.” Salatin raises cattle, pigs, and chickens, and does it all without using anything that could become human food. He says his farmland has gotten richer and more fertile as a result of decades of grazing.
This is the model that most humans followed for most of history: Animals ate what humans couldn’t, and turned that into meat that humans could eat. Ron Fairlie, in his new book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, calls this “default livestock.” He calculates that a universal return to that model would return food grains to human mouths, and still produce enough meat for everyone to have some.
Not a great deal, mind you -- about three quarters of a pound of meat and 1.33 pints of milk per week. But the roughly 1.5 billion people in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh eat less than that already.
For the sacrifice of cutting our meat consumption, we’d eliminate the cruelty of confinement animal-feeding operations. We’d do away with the bulk of the greenhouse gases associated with industrial livestock -- Salatin says his operation actually sequesters carbon. Best of all, we’d know that no one in the world had to go to bed hungry.

Pibel is managing editor of YES! Magazine.
Copyright (C) 2011 by the American Forum. 3/11
Editor's Note: This item is posted here with the permission of The choice to post it was made with an eye toward sharing opinions.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Martha goes vegan

Go Martha!
This is all from a press release, but it's pretty interesting.

Martha Stewart "will devote an entire hour-long episode of “The Martha Stewart Show'" (Hallmark Channel) "to the pleasures and benefits of a vegan lifestyle," on March 30.
"Stewart’s groundbreaking “Vegan Show” will feature interviews and cooking demonstrations with some of the country’s most influential vegans, including a sit down with Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur, who will inform viewers of the suffering endured by animals raised for food on factory farms," according to a statement.

"To demonstrate just how easy and delicious compassionate living can be, Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone, who went vegan more than 10 years ago after visiting Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter, will help Stewart make vegan fruit (and) nut bars, and former model turned healthy-living guru Kathy Freston will share her tips for adding more vegan meals into your diet, directly from her book "Veganist,'" the statement said.

"The episode will also treat viewers to a heartwarming look at the blissful life enjoyed by the rescued animals who reside at Farm Sanctuary’s bicoastal shelters located" in Orland, Calif. and Watkins Glen, N.Y., the statement said.
Members of Stewart’s studio audience will take home a copy of Baur’s best-selling book, "Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food" (Touchstone), the statement said.
It also said the book "was praised by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for being 'a compelling testament to the need to civilize this industry and end its radical practices for producing meat, dairy, and eggs.'"


Monday, March 28, 2011

Food and sex

PETA is taking on meatless Fridays.
To support the effort, a "nearly naked" mermaid will swim into the city Tuesday.
I get a big kick out of this. I certainly am not taking sides with any organization, nor do I object to anyone earning a living.
But I do support efforts to educate people about the reality of what we eat.
"Wearing little more than "fins," a sexy PETA member will dress as a topless mermaid on Tuesday to encourage New Haven residents to make one more type of flesh off-limits on Fridays during Lent (or any other time): fish," the organization said in a press release.
"PETA's mermaid will appear outside a popular fish market and hold signs that read, "Fish Are Friends, Not Food" and 'Fishing Hurts,'" the release said.
"People who are already leaving meat off their plates for religious reasons know that it's really no big sacrifice, so we're asking them to cut fish some slack too," PETA campaigner Lauren Stroyeck said in the release. "Fish might not be cute and cuddly, but when it comes to feeling pain and having a will to live, they're just like all other animals."

Will bringing sex - or just sexiness - draw attention to this issue? Probably. Is this right?
Who knows.
But I do know we overfish the Earth and everyone should know about it.
Plus, consider that PETA said in their release: "Scientific studies show that fish are intelligent, sensitive animals who experience pain and fear when they are hooked or netted and pulled from the water. A recent issue of the journal Fish and Fisheries cited more than 500 research papers on fish intelligence proving that fish are smart, can use tools, and have impressive long-term memories and sophisticated social structures."
That sounds pretty cute and cuddly to me.

In case you go, the mermaid will appear outside the State Fish Farm Market, 892 State St. at noon Tuesday, March 29.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good news for a Golden Eagle

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and representatives of the Sharon Audubon Center, West Virginia University and Tufts Wildlife Clinic and Center for Conservation Medicine will release a Golden Eagle in Mohawk State Forest Monday in Goshen.
The good news came in a press release from the DEP.
The eagle was found in Amenia, N.Y. York, near the New York/Connecticut border, the release said.
Why is this good news to me? Not only because I think survival of animals is so crucially important, but also because I grew up - at least for part of the time around the area where the big bird was found.
It is a source of joy that Connecticut has become the home to more and more eagles of different types and I hope others feel this way too.

The eagle that will be released was found by snowmobilers in the woods in early February, the DEP said in the statement.
"The bird had sustained multiple puncture wounds on its left leg (possibly from an animal it was trying to capture)," the statement said.
Then a lot of people teamed up to help the animal.
The statement said it was taken to the Sharon Audubon Center and the nature center staff took it to Kensington Animal Hospital for examination and then to rehabilitator Mary Beth Kaeser in Ashford, who transferred it to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic and Center for Conservation Medicine in North Grafton, Mass.
Even better?
"The bird was cared for by the medical staff at Tufts for over a month and is now healed and ready for release," the statement said.
As it turns out, it was extraordinary this bird turned up here at all and was just passing through.
This "population is small, geographically separate, and potentially genetically distinct from western populations," the statement said. "These birds breed in northeastern Canada and winter in the southern Appalachians so it is only possible to find this species in Connecticut during migration."