Posts Tagged ‘meat’

FSA allows the selling of meat and dairy from cloned animals

Yesterday, the Food Standards Agency published its verdict on whether the sale of meat and dairy products from cloned animals should be allowed. The dispute over this issue broke out nearly a  year ago, when it was found that some butchers’ shops had been selling meat obtained from the offspring of a cloned cow and had been doing so without telling their customers.

It was uncovered that several farmers had been breeding cows with cloned parents in an effort to boost productivity of their cows and their size. Some have also hoped to create cows with better immune systems. The cows who were being bred from clones were not receiving any form of assessments either as to whether they were healthy or whether their products were fit for human consumption, despite requirements by the FSA.

An investigation into food products from cloned cattle and their offspring was launched last year, and discovered that there was “no substantial difference to conventionally produced meat and milk, and therefore is unlikely to present a food safety risk.”

Yesterday though, the FSA stated that there is no reason for products coming from cloned animals and their offspring to be an issue and that consumers should “definitely be able to eat these controversial products.” It said that licenses would still need to be acquired though. However, once again, there has been a failure to look at the wider picture. ‘So long as in the immediate future, humanity will be better off, then it’ll all be fine’ seems to be the view of the FSA.

Dolly, the first cloned animal

By allowing cloning into farming there will undoubtedly be a host of problems that follow it. Whether or not meat and milk is safe for human consumption is one issue, but the FSA seem to have completely neglected all of the others. My main concern lies with animal welfare. Once again, animals are treated as products, not as living beings. This isn’t like genetically modifying a tomato. A tomato is not going to suffer throughout its life by growing beyond its natural size. Meanwhile, cloned animals often develop health problems. Contrary to the idea mentioned above that cloning will develop better immune systems in animals, cloned animals often have horrific mutations, physical problems, and terrible arthritis. It is inhumane to raise these aberrations in the name of better productivity. Also, some of these clones are pumped full of antibiotics – surely there’s a health risk there somewhere?

But a bigger issue also lies here. Everyday, farming seems to become further and further removed from the stereotypical vision one has in their head. Nowadays, people don’t even tend to make a connection between the animal on a farm and the meat that’s on the plate. The world needs to be moving towards a greater understanding of what the consequences of what they’re eating are, but by introducing cloning into the mainstream then we are destined to move further away from this.

If you don’t know how cloning works, then read a little into it (you can watch a short video on this page). It’s an interesting process, but it strikes me as utterly bizarre and unnatural at the same time. It made me think of that scene in Jurassic Park, where they’re all sitting around having dinner and first discussing the park. Dr Ian Malcolm, talking to the park’s creator John Hammond, states that “genetic power is the most awesome force that this planet has ever seen, yet you wield like a kid whose found his dad’s gun.” I feel Dr Malcolm’s words ring true here too. Is it truly rational to accept this process into mainstream farming, just for the sake of allowing a few farmers to hold onto their prize cows for longer?

For more information on cloning and animal foods, please check out or go and have a chat with Dr Malcolm.

Korean Pig Slaughter

For those unaware (as I was up until a few days ago), South Korea has recently faced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. This disease is responsible for decimating animal populations in a variety of countries over the last century, and the number of animals which have suffered the fate of being culled in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease is well into the tens of millions. During the UK’s outbreak alone in 2001 the alleged death total was over 10 million.

The important thing to note is that foot-and-mouth disease is not the killer here though. Roughly 2.5% of cases of foot-and-mouth turn out to be fatal, although many animals who recover are left with permanent damage in the way of being more susceptible to future infections, heart trouble, fertility, and more. The main issue for humans is that it effects production of dairy. After cattle have suffered from foot-and-mouth disease, their dairy production rate may be significantly lower. Now, obviously this shouldn’t be a problem, but due to the multi-billion dollar animal-based food industry, it is. This leads me to say then that foot-and-mouth disease is a man-made disease due to the fact that its outbreaks are the result of farming animals in close quarters, and that of the incredibly large number of animals that have been killed due to foot-and-mouth disease, about 97.5% of them would not have lost their lives without man’s interference. Thus, without the meat and dairy industries, the cases of foot-and-mouth would be far fewer and have a far lower mortality rate.

So, I feel that if you are not vegan then you are supporting the industry that results in this disease and the holocaustic reaction which humans take in order to ensure that milk production continues to run smoothly once the outbreak has died down. Despite various containment methods, such as usual sterilisation of equipment, quarantines, and attempts at vaccination, the only real method of preventing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease is through mass culling – millions and millions of animals have lost their lives just to prevent a disease from spreading which is largely non-fatal, but may affect milk production. Does this not seem ludicrous?

I am aware that the disease is painful, and in some cases can result in disability (but this is mainly due to secondary infections which are a result of poor aftercare), but it usually lasts only 2-3 weeks. If these animals were pets then they would be cared for intensively, given effective aftercare, and would undoubtedly be fit and healthy in under a couple of months.

Which brings me onto the tragedy and inhumanity of the Korean pig slaughter over the last few months. Firstly, the degree of ignorance surrounding this disease has been astounding. There have been reports of people killing their dogs in fear that it could be spread via them. Key health experts have also feared that the disease could be transmittable to humans – something which is so incredibly rare that it is almost impossible.

The real problem with the recent South Korean cull though is the cruelty involved in it. Usual culling methods for food-and-mouth crises involve killing the animals before burning their carcasses. In South Korea, this was deemed too ineffective and expensive, thus, despite some efforts to vaccinate animals, others suffered horrifically being buried alive.

Live piglets being thrown into a pit, ready for burial

It was Gandhi who said that “the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated” and from this shocking exposé into Korean culling methods, we can safely say that South Korea is not so great. At least 3 million pigs have suffered this shocking fate so far, and over 100,000 cows have also been killed (although I’m not sure if they’ve been buried alive).

The disease continues to hamper North Korea’s meat industry, as laws have not been strict enough to prevent the sales of infected meat. To me the simple answer is to abolish the meat industry altogether. Whilst this may be a drastic option, it is surely the most harmless. I defy even the most hardened meat eater to watch the following video, filmed by Korean animal activists Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) and not be disturbed. But the important thing to remember is that this would not be happening were it not for the meat and dairy industry. It is time to end this, and it is time to go vegan.

People regularly give out their condolences to others when they face tragedy and anguish, yet even animal activists treat animal deaths as a statistic most of the time. So let me dedicate this post to the pigs who have died in Korea this year, and I hope they are never forgotten. It’s time we progressed though, as I find it hard to see humanity heading further backwards than this, although inevitably we probably will.

James Cromwell and ‘Farm to Fridge’

Throughout my life I’ve met at least three vegetarians who attribute their change from an omnivore diet to a vegetarian one to a single film – Babe. Yes, the film about the pig. One of those people is our very own wrosie, actually! I always find it kind of charming when someone goes vegetarian due to Babe, probably because all of the people I can think of who made the switch did so of their own accord whilst they were still children. I have one friend who immediately went vegetarian when he asked his dad “where’s Babe’s mum going, Dad?” in the scene where Babe’s mother is transported off to the meat processing plant. His dad replied “to make your McDonald’s burgers” and at that point he stopped eating meat at the age of 8.

One of the heroes of Babe though is Farmer Hoggett, played by James Cromwell. He is probably one of my favourite actors, and not because he’s necessarily of the calibre of the likes of De Niro, or because he’s in a variety of classic films (in fact, I can’t really think of that many films or series he has been in), but because he’s just one of those nostalgic faces which remind me of being young. But what makes him cooler is that Babe actually changed his eating habits too, from vegetarian to vegan.

Recently James has lent his calming voice to a new short film by Mercy For Animals called Farm to Fridge (see below). He is the narrator for the 12 minutes of footage, but sadly his soothing voice cannot overcome the distressing footage shown. The film is a short summary of some of the vile processes that go on behind closed doors in the meat industry. The film is enlightening for those who perhaps haven’t seen this kind of stuff before, and is one of the most informative of these kinds of videos, but just to warn you it is also very distressing.

(As a quick sidenote: please view wrosie’s post on the recent laws being discussed around filming in slaughterhouses which could prevent informative footage like this from ever seeing the light of day.)

Whilst this video is disturbing, it displays routine practices in the meat and dairy industries. Try to share this footage around, as this kind of film presents an image of an industry that I’m sure most people wouldn’t want to support.

James Cromwell’s involvement in the film came about through his association with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). He was recently interviewed about his participation by Ecorazzi, stating that his involvement was due to the fact that when he saw the footage it made him want to “tear somebody’s eyes out” but he settled for narrating the film instead. Probably the wiser choice in the long run, James.

He was also asked about what his number one green tip is, to which he replied “Go vegan. If you love animals, don’t eat them!” What a dude, now why can’t we get a decent sequel to Babe?

Vegetarian Couple refused the right to adopt child

This is an odd one, which stinks of the usual backward anti-vegetarian discourse that claims that no one can be healthy without meat and dairy. In Crete, Greece, a couple has been refused adoption of a child based on the fact that they eat a vegetarian diet. Now I may be able to accept that if the reasoning had been along the lines of “well the child must eat souvlaki, otherwise he/she is not a real Greek,” but sadly it comes from the usual tired vegetarians-are-unhealthy rhetoric that’s so abundant in seemingly everyone. Whilst I don’t mind my friends bullying me over living a vegan diet, and they can call me unhealthy all they wish, it’s a whole different issue when it’s Crete’s welfare services and Crete University’s medical school who are backing such statements, and when the effect is as drastic as disallowing a couple to adopt.

I think the statement that got to me more than any other from the article I read on the issue was from Antonis Kafatos. He said “A child needs to eat fish, seafood and dairy products among other things, without meat being essential.” Now, this guy is allegedly a paediatrician and a nutrition researcher, but that statement makes me wonder what the hell he has been researching for the past however many years. Here’s the thing, there’s certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that a child, and indeed any human body needs to survive and function properly. Yes, these requirements can be found in meat and milk, but they’re among many other things (most of which contain far less cholestrol, bad fats, and are generally better for the human body to digest than the animal products). To say a child needs meat and milk is ignorant logic.

Not only that, but who says that a meat and dairy-based diet is inherently healthy? I’ve seen some unhealthy vegetarians, but go and look in your local KFC and you’ll see several teen mums shovelling fried chicken and chips into their 3 year olds’ mouths. I know this situation is in Greece, but I’ve been to Greece several times and seen my fair share of obese Greek people, so I’m able to say I don’t think their diet is by any means the healthiest. The olive oil plays a hugely positive role in staying healthy, as does the sunlight, but the Greek diet is not necessarily a healthy one.

Pretty sure Stavros could lose some of that gut on a veggie diet

For more info on ridiculous anti-vegan arguments check wrosie’s post here. This decision is in the process of being examined, so hopefully it will be over-turned. In the meantime, perhaps Greece’s nutritionists should actually do some work?

Chickens lay eggs anyway…

Veganism can be hard to comprehend if you don’t look into its ethical reasoning. Vegetarians clearly oppose the killing of animals, but when it comes to veganism it’s different. I mean, no animal is killed for its produce, at least directly. Such a practice would be counterintuitive, right?

Let’s, for a minute, just forget the complexities of arguments to do with the life span of produce animals, their livelihood, and free range vs. battery farming. Let’s forget about what happens to dairy cows, the issue of whether milking is natural, and what happens to their calves. Let’s forget about conditions for chickens and issues with genetic modification and human intervention into the egg-laying process. All these issues are important to vegans and ethical vegetarians, but understanding the implications of many of these things and the processes that go on behind closed doors can be difficult and require plenty of time to get your head around.

For now, let me put to you a single issue within the egg industry that highlights to me why veganism is the only diet which minimises death through eating practices, and why ethical vegetarianism falls short, and also explains why around 40 million chicks are killed each year in the UK alone during egg production. In fact this issue is so difficult to swallow (as I’m sure eggs may be after we’ve talked about it) that I can put to you the best case scenario for egg production, besides keeping your own chickens.

First it’s important to note that farming is a business, and like any other business it needs to make money. It is due to this fact that I have yet to come across a farm that is, by my standards (which I don’t think are unreasonable), ethical. But picture the closest thing you can to this in your head. Picture a local, truly free range farm, where chickens are given ample space and are respected.

Now, first you need to realise that these chickens are probably there for one of two purposes – either meat or eggs. Notice that I said either-or. For the last few decades, there has been specialisation and cross-breeding to ensure that the most efficient chickens are used for each job. There are certain types of chickens which lay eggs infrequently and irregularly, but grow fat quickly – these are broiler chickens (i.e. they will be used as meat). There are others which don’t grow so large but lay eggs nearly every day – these are layer chickens. Now, the farm in your head will realise this and will be breeding specialised chickens for each purpose. It wouldn’t make sense to just breed one type of chicken because they would not be maximising their possible output as a farm in terms of either egg production or meat, and as a farm is a profit-making business it must choose specialised breeds of chickens. This is logic, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So, keep that picture in your head of your farm, with the broiler and the laying chickens. The farm is going to need to ensure that it breeds these chickens to keep their levels up, otherwise when the chickens die out the farm will be left without any. To do this, some eggs are fertilised from both the broiler and laying chickens. The broiler chickens will hatch, they will be grown until their slaughter date, at which point they will be killed for meat. The laying chickens also hatch, but here’s where the difficulty lies.

Only female chickens lay eggs. But there is no way to ensure that only female chickens are born. So, as with all birds and most of the animal kingdom, half of the chickens born are going to be female (and therefore can be utilised in egg production) whilst the other half will be born as males. This is where things get a bit depressing I’m afraid. There is no use for these male chicks whatsoever. Remember, the farm is a business. Keeping these chicks when they can’t perform the duty they were bred for, egg-laying, would be wasteful and has a negative effect on profits. Even the most ethical farm, that one you’ve hopefully been picturing in your head, would have a very hard time justifying the keeping male chicks for the sake of their lives when they have nothing to offer. These chicks are thus killed at birth.

Methods for killing the chicks tend to be through the use of mass-scale death machines. Some are dropped straight onto large electric plates, frying the chicks (who are barely hours old) alive. Others are gassed with their carcasses being utilised as reptile and snake food. The “humane” way (as recommended by the RSPCA and Humane Slaughter Association) is to drop the live chicks into a macerator – essentially a machine which minces the chicks into a paste, quite literally (not too dissimilar to the machine that destroys Preston at the end of the Wallace and Gromit film, A Close Shave). For arguably the least fortunate, they are simply placed in giant bin bags on top of each other and left to die, like the rubbish that the industry thinks that they are.

There is no farm that has any use for male chickens from an egg-laying specialised breed. This to me is the single biggest argument for veganism in terms of animal ethics. Whilst this focuses purely on eggs, it highlights to me why vegetarianism is severely ethically lacking. The logic behind the argument is obvious and strong, so please think about this when it comes to questioning the importance of veganism as an ethical movement.

For more information on the fate of males in the egg industry, please watch this investigation by Viva! Just to warn you though, whilst the footage is not gory it is nevertheless very distressing.

Vegan for Lent – the Impact

If you’re remotely interested in the Vegan for Lent Challenge, here’s an added incentive courtesy of The Informed Vegan. He has compiled the effects of going vegan for Lent on the Earth, and although there will obviously be variation due to diet this is an excellent list and a great incentive to get you thinking seriously about the challenge.

The effects of going vegan for Lent if you are on the average American diet could be

Save the lives of 40 animals.

Leave the cheese for the mice for the next 40 days

Save 70 pounds of grain.

Save 9,375 gallons of water.

Avoid 4 pounds of artery clogging cheese.

Avoid guzzling 2 gallons of fatty milk.

Do head over to The Informed Vegan blog and have a browse, it’s full of interesting info, and also think seriously about the Vegan for Lent Challenge, it’s definitely a worthwhile sacrifice.


*UPDATE* If you have decided to take up the challenge please do check out this website here for a free e-book download that has ALL the information on going Vegan for lent!!

Save the lives of 40 animals.

Save 70 pounds of grain.

Save 9,375 gallons of water.

Avoid 4 pounds of artery clogging cheese.

Avoid guzzling 2 gallons of fatty milk.

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