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April 2007

 

GREETINGS

Plans for the Great American Meat-Out are falling into place. We have definitely arranged to table during the lunch hour at Alverno College on March 20, the Meat-Out day itself (which is a Tuesday). Jean Groshek and I will be there, but another person to help would be useful. Call (414) 962-2703 to volunteer.

At this writing, we are still trying to connect with people at the Urban Ecology Center to propose a tabling event there the weekend before (probably on Sunday since Saturday is St. Patrick’s day). It would seem very timely (see News and Dialog below) to point out the ecological impacts of vegetarianism versus meat-eating, and the Urban Ecology Center would seem to be a good place to do this, so one would think that this would be a good idea, and a new place at which to do Meat-Out activities . If anyone out there can help with this, or if you want to know about it and help with it if something can be arranged, contact me (Louise) at 962-2703.

Alliance for Animals does not seem to be doing anything about the Meat-Out this year. Oh, well.

As far as connecting with our new Whole Foods store goes, I’ve been frustrated to notice that they do seem to offer a vegetarian cooking class at the beginning of each month – yet my efforts to connect with a person who will talk to me about one or two of us showing up at the class and just letting people know that MARV exists and is eager to give out information and have people come to potlucks has not yet borne fruit. Is there anyone out there with an “in” at Whole Foods who’d like to help?

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, March 4, 5 PM, regular potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl. in Riverwest (from Humboldt Blvd., go east on Auer a few short blocks to the parking lot). Theme is “Eating of the Greens.”

Tuesday, March 20, 11:30 AM to 1 PM, Great American Meat-Out informational tabling at Alverno College

Subsequent regular potlucks will be on April 1 and May 6.

Other veg-friendly potlucks

There will not be a macrobiotic potluck in March.

The Urban Ecology Center’s vegetarian potluck will be on Thursday, March 15, 6:30-8 PM at 1500 E. Park Pl.; bring plate and fork as well as your meatless dish. Phone (414) 964-8505.

Call the Cloughertys at (414) 355-7383 to find out about a raw foods potluck.

QUOTES OF THE MONTH

I…take issue with the characterization of the vegan diet as ascetic… My husband and I enjoy Thai, Korean, Japanese, Caribbean, Mexican, Italian and Ethiopian cuisine, and cook at home …often and…creatively. I am, however, depriving myself of the growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, arsenic, prions and fecal matter present in factory-farmed meat.”

-- Devery Doleman, in a letter responding to a New York Times article

“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top 2 or 3 most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

-- recent United Nations report

NEWS

The bird flu issue just won’t go away. There were more human cases, and more deadly ones, in 2006 than in 2005 or ’04. It’s also still spreading among wild birds, and being transmitted to flocks kept for food, with cases recently reported in Hungary, Britain, and South Korea. Authorities are therefore especially upset that Indonesia, with a high incidence of the disease, has decided to stop giving samples of the virus to UN agencies and started selling samples to a pharmaceutical company instead. Indonesia, however, is rationally worried that a UN-produced vaccine would mostly benefit people in rich countries and leave Indonesians unprotected. Meanwhile, Illinois will be conducting more monitoring for bird flu, and the US Center for Disease Control conducted a drill for how to respond if there is an outbreak of avian flu among people here.

In other animal-food news, a farmer who had a government contract to collect samples for the government to test for mad cow disease was found guilty of sending in samples from healthy carcasses instead of the suspect ones (at least he was prosecuted…). A group of scientists has proposed a new idea to stop mad cow disease: don’t stop feeding cows to cows, just genetically engineer a cow that is resistant to getting mad cow disease from eating bad prions… And in the “Is nothing holy” category, PETA released the results of its investigation into an egg farm run by Trappist monks, which turned out to be just as nasty as any other confinement egg factory farm, alas.

And as noted above, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report at the end of 2006 titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow: environmental issues and options” which stated in no uncertain terms that raising animals for food is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, accounting for huge amounts of greenhouse gases as well as rainforest and rangeland destruction, hunger among the poor, and on and on.

Then there were this month’s food issues that were not about meat-eating. New Hampshire’s legislators want to follow New York in banning trans-fats. The Organic Consumers’ Association announced a boycott against Wal-Mart for refusing to address complaints that they are selling food as organic which may not actually be organic. Another OCA issue is the recent FDA approval of a bioengineered yeast for US wine-making (the wines made using it will not be labeled as such).

One recent water issue is a lawsuit by Montana against Wyoming claiming that rivers the two states share are running dry due to Wyoming’s overuse of their waters. Another is a plea by Massachusetts for disaster relief for its fishermen due to strong new federal limits on the taking of such fish as cod and haddock; the effort to save these species is an economic burden for the fishers…

Then there are non-animal foods that can still cause problems. Tainted Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter caused a salmonella poisoning outbreak, resulting in a recall and several lawsuits. Prevention magazine responded to a question about fruit and vegetable safety by recommending careful segregation of produce from meat, as well as scrubbing of all produce before eating it; thorough cooking can also help. Whatever happened to the good old days when being vegetarian meant (almost) never having to worry about food poisoning?

Then there is salt, another non-animal food which is nonetheless not good for you. Prevention ran a whole article on how much salt is hidden in prepared foods, and why this is bad. The problem is actually sodium, which can drive up blood pressure, an effect that increases as people get older; as much as 90% of people who live long enough may develop hypertension, which then makes them vulnerable to strokes. Suggestions to control one’s intake include buying whole foods and preparing them with no or minimum salt, and selecting the version of a prepared food (such as canned soup) with the least sodium per serving.

On the other hand, there were some happy news items too. Karen Hussar, a Harvard graduate student, did a study on why young children (aged 6 to 10) choose vegetarianism – and she found enough such children to do a study. In Britain, 9 volunteers agreed to live in a zoo for 12 days and be fed an ape’s diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and honey; once they got over the shock, they all found they had more energy, as well as losing weight and decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

And in a real surprise, the new Farm Bill proposal is actually a good one! Among other things, it would substantially increase spending for conservation, and direct money to growers of fruits, vegetables, and other “specialty” crops (i.e., not commodities like corn and soy), while cutting off subsidies to farmers who earn over $200,000 per year. Do write to your congresscritters and tell them to support this one!

And as always, many plant foods are simply good for you.

Featured produce this month predictably emphasizes winter-keeper kinds of vegetables. White potatoes, despite their high glycemic index (they digest into sugars quickly), are still great sources of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, as well as tasting good and being highly versatile in the kitchen; the only caveat is that you lose many of the nutrients if you peel them. Cabbage is high in fiber and vitamin C, as well as containing those good cancer-fighting sulforaphanes; red cabbage has beta-carotene as well. Beans were praised by Prevention as full of fiber, low-fat protein, and antioxident flavonoids, and therefore being useful in fighting heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers (many of them are also good iron sources). A European study has proven the folk wisdom that onions and garlic keep you healthy, by finding that they do cut rates of several cancers: onions fight colorectal and esophageal cancers, while eating garlic cuts risk of ovarian, kidney, esophageal, and oral cancers. And kumquats are full of vitamin C and may help reduce stomach cancer risk.

Prevention also ran an item on the foods to eat most and least of to keep your heart happy. “Eat often” foods included whole grains, beans, tofu, soy milk, nuts, and canola and olive oils, while “avoid or eat rarely” foods were white flour products, cakes, sugared cereals, candy, various meats, full-fat cheese and milk, and butter.

An Outpost Exchange article listed foods that may have an aphrodisiac effect (for anyone interested). They included bananas (for the B vitamins and potassium), raspberries, strawberries, fresh figs, and vanilla for the ambience, garlic and ginger to warm things up, asparagus, honey (part of old folk cures for impotence and sterility), pine nuts for the zinc, and celery.

Finally, an Outpost Exchange article offered tips for getting the most nutrients from produce. When eating raw fruits and vegetables, buy organic and eat the skin. Steam vegetables to cook them, so that nutrients don’t run off into the water and get lost. Use vegetables and fruits whole if possible, or cut them into larger rather than smaller pieces. And use foods as soon as possible after buying or cooking them, since they lose nutrients as they age.

DIALOG

Until now, the main reasons that people gave for becoming vegetarian were personal health, and compassion for animals. Social justice was sometimes there too. But environmentalism has mostly been in a fairly distant fourth place.

That may be about to change.

This is not to say that we didn’t already know that environmental preservation is a significant reason to eat less or no meat and dairy. We did; in fact, my subscription to E Magazine dates from their cover article a few years ago that asked how anyone can call him/herself an environmentalist if s/he still eats meat. But the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that came out in December has brought this issue to the forefront, as well as spelling out in some detail all of the environmental problems of keeping livestock – and it named the (obvious) options for reducing the impact.

For one thing, livestock account for 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (from the manure), as well as 37% of all human-induced methane. Both are greenhouse gases, and taken together form a very major component of global warming. Further, for every calorie of meat that people eat, 10 calories of fossil fuels were burned to produce it. One reporter on the subject called livestock-raising “an even more inconvenient truth” (and one that Al Gore didn’t mention): in fact, so as far as stopping global warming goes, buying a more fuel-efficient car turns out to be a paltry effort indeed compared to simply ceasing to eat meat.

But it isn’t just global warming. Livestock raising very often causes water pollution, either from confinement-operation “lagoon” spills or from pastured animals that are allowed to wander right into streams (and defecate near and in them). The air pollution near large animal-confinement operations is often extreme.

Grain-fed livestock, unless they are certified organic, are fed grain grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides that contribute heavily to additional water pollution and consequent devastation of wildlife. When you count both the land the animals are on and the land that grows their food, a whopping 70% of all agricultural land is taken up. And most of the agricultural land carved out by destruction of rainforests is used either as grazing land or to grow crops for cattle – so rainforest destruction is part of the picture as well. No wonder the FAO report stated that “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

The action that is required is obvious (at least to us vegetarians). The FAO report does note and praise ongoing movements to increase organic food consumption and sustainable agriculture, which are all part of the solution, and also specifically names the rise of vegetarian diets and healthier eating habits. But vegetarianism and near-vegetarianism need to grow a lot faster if they are to help solve Earth’s crisis. This FAO report ought to be taken as a call to vegetarians to make new and greater efforts at educating people about the real and enormous impact of what they put on their plates and in their mouths. It is an impact each of us can completely control – and a really effective way each eater can change the fate of the Earth.