Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Radical Thoughts on Mother’s Day

May 9, 2013
Rescued cow at Animal Acres/Farm Sanctuary, CA

Rescued cow at Animal Acres/Farm Sanctuary, CA

Happy, happy Mother’s Day to all of you mamas (whether to kids or kittens) for you enduring love, which reproduces the day, every day, for those who depend on you.

Now, I know…flowers are dandy, but you’d prefer a revolution. I’m with you. In that spirit, here are some radical thoughts…

A mother cow carries her baby for 285 days—that’s even longer than the long human gestation period of 260 days. On Sunday, when we celebrate the mother archetype—the nurturer, the maker, the mender, the powerful and loving source of life—let’s hold a thought for the 9+ million dairy cows in the U.S., whose sole existence—creation, birth, and death—is premeditated for the purpose of extracting fluid from their postpartum bodies.

Imagine the life force it takes for a cow to produce an 80-pound baby in nearly the same amount of time it takes us to produce a 7.5-pound child. Imagine being repeatedly impregnated for the entirety of your adolescent and adult life; consider the chemical load that makes you produce twice the amount of milk a cow did 40 years ago. Your babies disappear, your milk is extracted by man or machine and then, whether you’ve lived on a grassy field or in a dark shed, you’ll be slaughtered once you’re spent.

These mothers endure an existence not unlike the one from which Ohio kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina De Jesus, and Michelle Knight just escaped.

Chains, ropes, life indoors, deprivation, isolation, rape, multiple pregnancies, fear, and beatdowns—as the facts emerge on the news, the nauseating descriptions are familiar—in a different context, they are the reasons we’re vegan.

If you’ve not yet gone vegan, Mother’s Day 2014 might be a great one-year anniversary to celebrate the day you did.

Take a deep breath! Forgive yourself any regrets and focus on the present and future. Mamas, have a dinner prepared by someone else. See the mess in your house as a happy sign that your loved ones are alive and within reach. Celebrate that your passion and love raises each new generation to do better than the last. Now please take action and share. Copy and paste any of the following to Twitter (or @ That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals on FB):

#MothersDay: Thinking of 9 million US cows whose sole existence is premeditated 2 extract fluid frm their postpartum bodies. Via @ruby_roth

A mama cow carries her baby for 285 days—longer than the long human gestation period of 260 days! #GoVegan #MothersDay via @ruby_roth

If you’ve not yet given up dairy, #MothersDay 2014 might b a great 1 year anniversary to celebrate the day you did. #GoVegan via @ruby_roth

Chain rope life indoors deprivation isolation rape multple pregnancies beatdowns: kidnap victims or the burger you just ate? via@ruby_roth

Love and protection to you and all mamas everywhere,


See you in Michigan April 21!

April 16, 2013


This is my favorite lecture yet! I promise you haven’t heard one like this. I can’t wait to meet all the vegheads in Michigan and find out what work you all have been up to…so be there! Let’s make this the largest VegFest Michigan event ever! Early tix available at a discount.

Eat Meat = Get Played

February 12, 2013


Sometimes our vegan passion gets mistaken for aggression. It’s only because we’re urgently trying to share what we know with you! If we didn’t care, we’d do what meat companies do—we’d keep you in the dark. When news like the #horsemeat found in Tesco’s Spaghetti Bolognese hits, guess who isn’t surprised? Vegans. What have we been trying to tell ya?! Your meat isn’t what you think it is. Eat animals? Get played. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Judge Calls L.A. Zookeepers “Delusional”—Then Balks. Ugh.

August 2, 2012

In his concluding remarks in his evaluation of the L.A. Zoo’s “Elephants of Asia” exhibit, Judge John L. Segal wrote: “The evidence at trial shows that the three elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo are emotionally and socially deprived.” After consulting experts, he acknowledged that the elephants are “stressed, frustrated, unanimated, and unhappy, and that the zoo is not meeting [their] needs.” He called the zoo employees “delusional,” acknowledged their history of abuse, caught them telling lies, and questioned whether they will even follow his court orders to discontinue the use of bull hooks. Full articles on the ruling here and here.

BUT. After his scathing review, Segal stopped short of shutting down the exhibit, as called for in the suit, because the situation was “not cruel beyond the ‘ordinary’ circumstance of captivity,” he said.

WTF? Infuriating doesn’t come close to properly describing this failure. What would have to happen—that has not already happened—in order to be considered “abnormally” cruel? (Versus “normally” cruel, of course.) Is this lashing fake? Is it just a slap on the wrist to placate the public so business can continue as usual? Would it shock you? Judge Segal has been under fire for alleged corruption and deprivation of rights in his courtroom before.

By the way, this abusive, useless exhibit, funded by L.A. city council, cost tax-payers $42 million (excuse my language) fucking dollars. Meanwhile, the L.A. Unified School District has a $400 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 year, which caused massive recent layoffs and will result in classrooms with roughly 44 students per teacher next year. The elephant money alone could have provided salaries for over 900 teachers who would have been educating about 30 kids per class, 5 classes per day. I know funding is complicated and I’m no economics wizard, but this seems one of a million ways the money could have been better invested.

This is not the end of the story. Plaintiff Aaron Leider, who initiated the lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers (thank you!), and attorney David Casselman, who has worked pro bono on this case for five years (bless his soul!), both hope that Segal’s orders for the exercising of the elephants, the roto-tilling of the soil, and the discontinuation of bull hooks—however superficial it may turn out to be—will cause the public to heed the zoo’s lies and failures and in turn put pressure on city council to ultimately shut down the exhibit.

•If you live in L.A., In Defense of Animals makes it easy. Use this form.
•If you’re outside of L.A., you can use IDA’s text in the form above and email it to our mayor and every city council member, addresses below: or (213) 978-0600 or (213) 978-0721
And if you’re really feeling ballsy, here’s Judge John L. Segal’s phone number.

My 30th Birthday and a Decade of Veganism

June 27, 2012

Image: © Jill Greenberg;

Today is my 30th birthday. Let me be honest. It comes on the tail-end of a week which included an unstoppable (though quiet) public meltdown I had at the farmer’s market,  a good cry at an osteopath’s office, the researching of Big Ag plans to bio-wreck Africa, a viewing of One Nation Under Dog, petitioning against military testing in the oceans, and yet one last cry sesh yesterday morning on the last day of my 20s (awesome week for Justin).

But don’t feel sorry—the week also included new work, a photo shoot for a new vegan mag, two invitations to speak at large veg fests next year, sunshine, and lots of fresh figs, hummus, peaches, cherries, and zhatar-topped greens. Isn’t that life, though, all wonderful and horrible at the same time. In the grand scheme of things, and when I think of the lives of my late grandparents who survived the Holocaust, my life is incredibly safe and full of good. The crying is just a release of things I absorb, hold onto, or am po lite about when I really want to break glass (if you’ve seen any of my media clips from the last few months, you probably shouted at your monitors for me). One thing I’ve learned: as activists, I think it’s especially crucial to take time to manage and release all the negative things we read, hear, and see, so that we do not manifestly become the things we are combatting. Note to self.

I am deep-down-thankful for this life. I mean it when I say I don’t take any of my comforts and joys for granted. It truly occurs to me to feel glad that relatively clean water comes out of the faucet when I turn the handle. There is so much to celebrate and do.

And on that tip, this day also marks my embarking on a tenth year of veganism—a little health experiment which began when I was twenty. What  essentially started as a dare by my love, Justin (vegan 16 years), has been the greatest and most activating discovery of my life—a gift I’m aware of every day. Not only has veganism provided me a high-quality of health—true wealth, it has become the basis of a meaningful career (I was never comfortable creating art solely for art’s sake), it has pointed me to some of the greatest minds and leaders of our time, and has granted me the company of people with truly golden hearts. Sometimes I can’t even believe how good people can be. Most drastically, though, veganism has provided me a clarity about the public realm; it has taught me the profound meaning of political freedom. I feel safeguarded in mind and body against the invisible forces that shape public thinking and behavior. That’s power.

It is worth it to me to absorb often horrendous realities so that I can more effectively be an agent of change.  I owe that to my grandparents. When I am down—be it for physical, personal, or professional reasons—I keep the animals in mind. We can change our lives any time we want to. We can leave anytime we want to. A cow, a sow, a shelter dog, a rabbit in a pillory can not. Their lives consist of moment-to-moment tormented frustration. Though the environmental hostility can be burdensome, and change can never come fast enough, I feel privileged to be at work in the beginnings of introducing the mainstream to veganism. I believe this movement is affecting every major industry and every corner of the world as we speak and that introducing kids to the idea veganism will eventually revolutionize all aspects of society. Another thing I’ve learned: never waste any valuable energy on in-fighting. It’s a surefire way to divide and sabotage our own movement. Let’s be good to each other as we work. At this point in history, we’re all fighting on the same side.

To celebrate my 30th birthday, I am recommitting to my inner Tank Girl, my punk rock idol since adolescence. She’s a tank-riding anti-heroine whose mission, along with her posse of animal toys and mutant Kangaroo boyfriend, is to destroy mega-corporations. If this were the Wild West, what a gang we’d all make up, right?! And since I prefer not to be the center of attention if not for the good of animals, Justin and I will just celebrate just the two of us by going to a respected rabbi’s talk on moral psychology—always inspiring, and then drive to Santa Monica for a raw food lunch and a stop at the beach. It seems the right place to set intentions and goals…like if you tell the ocean, then it’s for real, you’d better keep your word.

After that, back to work—professional and personal.

Thank you for believing in me and for being part of the Wild West posse I imagine has my back. I’ve got yours.

Stay tuned, more to come. -RR.

Madagascar 3: It’s personal.

June 22, 2012

Sigh. We just took Akira to see Madagascar 18, I mean 3. While she thoroughly enjoyed herself, Justin and I white-knuckled our way through the movie, suppressing our fantasies of lecturing the audience. The disappointment began one minute into the film when the first goal of the gaggle of main characters is to escape their free lives in the wilderness of Africa and return to the confines of the New York zoo. Ugh.


The plot tracks this gaggle’s adventure on the lam from an animal control officer who wishes to add Alex the Lion’s head to her taxidermy trophy wall (see, with kids we can address killing animals in the context of a villain’s work, but not our own everyday habits).

In order to catch a ride “home,” the crew joins an animal circus where they experience the “joys” of performing for humans—zebras love being shot from cannons (it’s like flying!), lions are thrilled to jump through hoops of fire, the primitive, speechless bear rides a bike (wow, wild animals are dumb!), the hippo is a master on the tightrope, and horse-llamas (?) love to wear makeup and dance. It is even stated outright by Alex the Lion that people don’t make the magic of the circus—animals do.

This film is a clear example of how children become desensitized to the use and abuse of animals. It is full of both obvious and subtle moments that normalize the idea that some animals are to be loved, celebrated, and protected, while others are literally worth no more than garbage. On a high-speed car chase, the good animals employ their “Omega Slick” escape-tactic which involves dumping a barrel of oily fish (whether they’re dead or alive is unclear) onto the road behind them in order to lose the antagonists—who incidentally run over the fish and skid to a halt.

Once the main characters finally land back in their dreary New York zoo cages, they do have a change of heart—but it only marks the desire to return to the circus. Ugh, ugh.

Are the anti-animal subtleties lost on kids amidst the 95 minutes of whizzing, zooming, flashing, crashing, dancing, songs, and maximum color-saturation? Maybe in the moment. But the naive supremacy that allows us to use and abuse animals in adulthood is a miseducation that begins in childhood—on our plates, at the zoo, and in the movies.

The one modicum of truth that I enjoyed occurred when, while jumping on a bed, a penguin’s pillow explodes and he laments, “Chimichanga! These pillows are filled with baby biiiirds!” Of course, the audience “awww’ed” in sympathy while they chewed on hot dogs.

If you do go see Madagascar 3, let your kids have fun, laugh, and enjoy the crazy feats of animation. But afterwards, maybe even a couple days after—please make sure to remind them that often in cartoons, animals seem to enjoy being in the zoo and circus, but in real life, real animals do not.

Animals in Entertainment

May 16, 2012

Image: Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski

A few years ago I went to the Los Angeles Zoo for the last time. As I stood amidst a rowdy crowd of laughing frat boys, parents with cameras, and children tapping at the pane of glass that separated us from a troop of chimpanzees,  I felt a profound shame. I was fixated on the graying shoulders of one elderly chimp who sat alone in a corner near to us, his massive hands laying still on the concrete.  He had the muscly forearm of a strong old man, so eerily familiar, it was dizzying. I was staring at life-sentenced prisoner who had lived, aged, and would die in this enclosure…for what?

Image: Suzi Eszterhas/Getty Images

The zoo and marine life park industries know the discomfort their visitors are apt to feel.  In the face of growing eco-consciousness, their public relations committees have responded with concerted efforts to market themselves in the same unified way across the board—as centers of civic pride and educational enrichment. At every turn, they assure us of their benevolent mission of conservation, sensitizing children to animals, and protecting endangered species so that we ignore what’s obvious before our very eyes.

The reality is that zoos and marine life parks are the opposite of what they purport themselves to be—and industry insiders all know it. They are not in the business of education or conservation, but rather entertainment, and they only further desensitize us to the use and abuse of animals.

Even the best zoos and marine life parks have track records of abuse, unnecessary death, and the illegal trafficking of animals. The majority fail to engage in effective programs for conservation or the protection of endangered species. With limited access to a broad gene pool, the infrequent success of breeding endangered animals tends only to produce weak specimens. In the rare case when an animal is successfully bred, their survival in the wild is unlikely—especially because animals born in captivity are hardly ever released into natural habitats, but more often used to propagate the industry.

A vast number of zoo and marine life park animals suffer stress-related diseases, abnormal maternity, self-mutilation, and aggression. Tilikum, the infamous orca who landed at Sea World San Diego after being stolen out of the waters of Iceland in the 1980s, has been responsible for the deaths of three people,  yet Sea World continues to “rehabilitate” and keep him at work for profit. A vast number of zoo elephants are fed a daily diet of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to hide ailments caused by inactivity and confinement in artificial enclosures. The list goes on.

Animals in entertainment also exhibit stereotypies—repetitive movements associated with schizophrenia, trauma, and autism. If you’ve been to the zoo, you may have noticed it. Swaying, rocking, tics, and marching in place—common to captive animals—are signs of suffering, trauma, and poor conditions. In many cases, stereotypies are caused by the abnormal growth of brain cells called dendrites in the seeking systems of the animals’ brains, a consequence of solitary confinement and lack of stimulation. These signs signify that these captive animals live in consistently frustrated states. The worst rescue cases don’t exhibit stereotypies whatsoever, but stand still and unresponsive, having biologically “given up” on exerting their instincts. Because dendrite growth is like a scar on the brain, recovery is rare.

What do we really learn from the captive animals we observe on display at zoos and marine life parks? They are but representations of the idea of their wild counterparts, whose movements, eating and hunting habits, and familial behaviors remain unseen.  The placards we read tell us about the lives of those free and wild animals, not those before our eyes, whose individual stories the park directors hide.

Zoos and marine life parks may elicit a feeling of wonder from our children, but they do not encourage an authentic or lasting reverence for the lives of animals. If they were effective, people would run straight from the zoo to join animal protections organizations. Instead, most families head to the park’s café for hot dogs. In fact, under the San Francisco Bay Aquarium website’s “Conservation” tab you’ll find a seafood restaurant advertisement masked as a call to sustainable action. Why not list the bay area’s many veg restaurants instead? That would truly be “voting with your fork!” At San Francisco’s Steinhart Aquarium, you can admire the octopi downstairs and then dine finely on them upstairs at the Moss Room.

Photo: San Francisco Bay Aquarium

Photo from the Moss Room.

Nearly every option on Sea World’s dining menus is animal-based.

Don’t we have “bigger fish to fry than zoos and sea life parks?” some people will ask. I say turning our attention to the use and abuse of animals reveals a great number of issues we need to face—and they are all connected. To patronize live animal displays reinforces the anthropocentrism our society tends toward. This self-involved outlook is the root cause of the environmental, ecological, economical, and health crises we find ourselves in.  It teaches us that our technology, education, material objects, and daily desires are more important than the very ground we walk upon, more important than the wellbeing of all living things across the world. The same mindset that allows us to abuse animals and irreversibly violate nature drives our desire to eat what we please without consequence, buy homes we can’t afford, and dangerously fracture the earth for temporary supplies of petroleum.  These are distractions from true solutions and change. It may seem invisible at first, but this kind of corruptive education begins in youth—at the zoo, at the marine life park.

We don’t have to miss out on anything. We can explore new ways of instilling a reverence in children for nature and the true lives of animals, ways that have an authentic impact on our hearts and minds. This kind of education lasts a lifetime.

Find a local animal sanctuary to visit or volunteer at a shelter near you.

Fear, Ignorance, and Collusion: The Real Reasons Why Experts Dis’ Veganism

April 5, 2012

Available April 24, 2012


“Propaganda.”  “Brainwashing.”  “Child abuse!”

I’d never have guessed my children’s book would provoke such claims. That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, though well received, also caused some controversy, garnering attacks from the likes of animal agriculture trade magazines and even Farm Bureau CEOs. Though veganism is swiftly gaining momentum, it still provokes knee-jerk reactions—for me, each case of opposition a study of the invisible forces that shape our thinking about food, health, and animals. My upcoming children’s book, Vegan Is Love, was recently reviewed by Nicole German, a registered dietician on Diet Blog whose occupation and critique perfectly exemplify the real reasons why “experts” often dis’ veganism: fear, ignorance, and industry collusion.

“The main problem I have with this book,” German writes, “is that children are impressionable, and this is too sensitive of a topic to have a child read this book.”

We tend to shelter children from the “adult” world because we fear shattering the fragility we imagine they inherently possess. We follow this concept of childhood because we inherited it from the Victorian age—not because it is universally accepted. Throughout history and the world, various cultures consider their children to have capabilities beyond what we acknowledge here in the West. In some cultures kids are contributing members of the community by the time they’re four—watching siblings, pounding grain, helping collect firewood. Kids are more competent and sturdy than we think. Surprised parents have repeatedly told me that their child reacted with curiosity—not fear—when they learned about factory farming in my books. During readings, I’ve never once seen a child overwhelmed—only adults. Kids learn when we teach them.

I do, though, agree that kids are impressionable, which is exactly why they need information at an early age that will help them make educated choices. In my experience, when kids understand options, they choose wisely.

With constant media and technological stimulation, kids are being “impressed” upon by biased messaging up to hundreds of times a day—by whom? Follow the money. Seventy-five percent of government subsidies go to meat and dairy while less than half a percent goes to fruits and vegetables. The Milk Mustache campaign, driven by the National Milk Processor Board (administered by the USDA) spent $190 million in 1998.  Colluding industry-led campaigns like these cause massive increases in demand, in this case, billions of pounds of fluid milk. These profit-seeking systems are the ones we should be concerned about influencing our kids—not a picture book about choices. If we don’t intercept the all-pervasive, concerted efforts between Big Ag, Big Pharma, and federal nutrition programs, today’s youth will inevitably join in the animal cruelty and the dysfunctional cycle of disease and medication we are experiencing in this country at an all-time high. The most important message to teach kids is that we don’t have to fear anything we have the power to change.

“[This book] could easily scare a young child into eating vegan, and without proper guidance that child could become malnourished.” writes German.

Typical of doctors and nutritionists educated through conventional programs, German’s paternalistic, cautionary advice is based on remedial knowledge of veganism. Yes, everyone needs protein (some more, some less). But this warning perpetuates the most common myth about veganism—that it leads to deficiencies. Even without science, this is an issue long disqualified by the nations of people who have thrived on plant-based diets throughout history—the Essenes, many Buddhists, Hindus, Rastafari, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jainists among others. With all the supporting evidence—from scientific research to factory farm exposés—we should really be warning people that going from a plant-based diet to an omnivorous one is the path that more likely to lead to disease—and positively, to violent consent. Studies continue to show the link between animal products and chronic disease (which, on a side note, one might interpret as the physical or even spiritual manifestation of consuming ill, abused, and terrified animals).

The highest quality proteins—the most absorbable and least toxin-accumulative—come from plant-sources like spirulina and chlorella, for example, which contain approximately 60-70 percent protein with 40 percent absorbability. The protein in red meat, fish, and chicken is less than 20 percent absorbable, especially because amino acids like tryptophan are heat sensitive, destroyed during cooking. It takes a lot of animal flesh to supply sufficient amounts of protein, meanwhile, we’re building a toxic load not worth its weight in nutrients. When 80+ percent of cows on American farms have bovine leukemia, isn’t it in our best interest to regularly eat almonds for calcium instead of pus-filled milk? There may be nutrients in milk from a cow untainted by environmental toxins, but that’s not what’s for sale—anywhere. It doesn’t exist.

German also writes, “The worldly problems presented in this book …are meant for the government, businesses, and large groups of adults to conquer.”  The problems presented in my book are caused by government, big business, and large groups of consenting adults. They will not be the ones to fix them. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In U.S. history, social and legislative change has always been achieved from the bottom of the ladder up, not the top down. Most of the rights we experience as part of daily existence—from the 40-hour work week to equal opportunity housing—are due to the activism of regular citizens, specifically the working class, people of color, and women, who led until government and big business were forced to follow.

We can’t afford to wait for the next generation to grow up before teaching them to live consciously. Sugarcoating or avoiding truths only hinders what children are actually capable of, psychologically, spiritually, and physically. And hindering their capabilities delays the potential we have to green our society, improve our health, and do best for all living things.

Unless one works behind the scenes or actively seeks out the truth, it is unlikely one would know the degree of collusion between government and big pharma, agriculture, and food corporations in getting us to abide by their guidelines and consume the products. When the level of their organization and calculation becomes clear, the reality is dizzying.The revolving door between “watchdog” institutions like the FDA, the USDA, the Department of Health and Monsanto, large processed food corporations, and pharmaceuticals ensures the alignment of public services and education with industry interests.The very Dietetics program at the University of Georgia where German received her degree is accredited by the American Dietetic Association, which regularly receives sponsorship from corporate giants like Monsanto, the National Dairy Council, Aramark, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. [1, 2, 3]From elementary school to graduate programs, everything from school events and lectures to vending machines and curriculums are known to be organized for potential gain by colluding industries. Medical students are routinely influenced and educated by pharmaceutical-sponsored events and learn to deal with disease by prescribing medication, not advising changes in diet. What they prescribe will often depend simply on whichever brand got a hold on their school first.

In Western medicine, there is little connection between food and health—and these corporate alliances aim to keep it that way. In 2002, Pharmacia merged with Monsanto to become one of the top-tier companies in both agriculture and pharmaceuticals. They want us to think we can eat whatever we want without consequence. When we become ill, we go to doctors who prescribe their medications. It’s win-win.

So, veganism, relatively new to the mainstream, is bound to remain extra-curricular. Neither moral nor ethical imperatives, nor environmental toxins, may ever be addressed as part of nutritional science, nor taken into consideration in the nutritional profiles of different foods. Neither will the cognitive and emotional lives of animals.

And so, conventional nutrition degree programs produce advisors like German, who suggest that you can’t get full unless you include animal protein in a meal. Her idea of a healthy choice salad dressing contains 30+ processed ingredients including 6+ kinds of milk products fortified with vitamin A (protocol for replacing nutrients lost in processing). But look, no added sugar! It’s healthy. Calorie-counting, trans-fats, and Trader Joe’s-informed “health” (TJ’s private label foods come from companies like PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Danone, and Tasty Bite, by the way), are all fine distractions from understanding true health and the consequences of animal agriculture.

I am not attacking German personally, but the system that produces views like hers. Like most, she trusted that system. But at this point, “experts” like German should either find new occupations or take their knowledge up about 600 notches, because what they’re really doing is harm—in German’s case, the extent of which is masked by her inclusion of small bits on truly healthful, cruelty-free foods.

It may seem maniacal to have built a grand case against such a small critique, but this is truly what comes to my mind when I know that on flipside of a pebble hides a mountain. It is the underbelly of things I’ve always been interested in. It’s why I write children’s books. I want the next generation to be exposed to alternative thinking, educational experiences that will allow them to compete with “expert” opinions about health, animals, and the environment as they grow into adulthood. I believe in the capabilities of children. They need but little guidance in learning to love deeply, think critically, and act responsibly. No corporation or industry can interrupt this kind of education.

U.S. gets punked: Mad Cow in America

December 1, 2011

Photo from Farm Sanctuary collection

Just when we think that nothing else about animal agriculture can shock us…The following post is summarized from Gabe Kirchheimer’s incredible, must-read article Bovine Bioterrorism and the Perfect Pathogen.

While the US government continues to deny the existence of mad cow disease in America, autopsies, studies, statistical probabilities, and private research proves—as usual, that the USDA serves to protect agricultural and financial interests rather than protect the American public (expected from an entity notorious for corroborating with their buddy-lobbyists, for example, at the National Cattleman’s Beef Association). Meanwhile, a massive epidemic is brewing. Just another goddamn good reason we don’t eat animals to begin with. Here’s the deal:

The parent group of chronic wasting diseases that turn brain tissue to sponge in cows, deer, sheep, goats, and humans is called TSE, transmissable spongiform encephalopathiess. BSE aka “Mad Cow” disease is the bovine form; in humans it’s called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), in sheep and goats Scrapie, and in deer Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). In humans, it is a devastating disease, starting with tremors and memory loss and increasing with violent seizures, hysterical breakdowns, mental deterioration, and loss of speech and faculties.

The disease is caused by forced cannibalism (routine in U.S. animal ag), feeding cattle corpses back to animals. These animals become infected with abnormal “prions”—malformed proteins that comprise an entirely new class of pathogens. With no genetic material, and able to withstand routine sterilization (scary! Even HIV is neutralized in boiling temps), these abnormal prions spread upon contact causing a cellular domino effect until the host loses nervous system function, suffers fatal holes in the brain, and dies.

•Some autopsies of patients who had Alzheimers/dementia have tested positive for actually having CJD. With upwards of 2 million Alzheimers cases in the U.S., there could be a “hidden epidemic,” even if only a fraction of Alzheimers turned out to be CJD.

•On animal farms, BSE “mad” cows, who behave just like downer cows (thought to be just too sick to stand), are often rendered into animal feed without testing, possible leaving thousands of infected animals unchecked as they are processed and distributed.

•In 1985, a Wisconsin investigation of a mink encephalopathy outbreak revealed that the minks’ diet was primarily downer cows.

•One in a million cows develop BSE naturally. With 100 million cows in the U.S., approximately 100 cows could be infectious carriers at any given time.

•Leading researchers from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control’s National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center, the Consumer Policy Institute of the Consumer’s Union, and a Nobel Prize winner who discovered prions all contend that mad cow exists in the U.S.

•Meat: The USDA has banned feeding cows to cows. But concentrated in brains and spinal tissue, TSE can not easily be kept out of the human food supply because of modern slaughter practices. AMR (advanced meat recovery) machines, widely used in modern slaughterhouses, mechanically strip flesh from spines, often leaving spinal cord fragments and nervous system tissue in the meat. AMR meat paste (which looks like pink ice cream) is used to make hundreds of millions of pounds of hot dogs, nuggets, hamburgers, pizza toppings, and taco fillings.

•Blood donations, transfusions, etc: CJD can take decades to incubate. Meanwhile, infected blood donors, whose donations are fractioned and sent around the globe (in one particular case to 46 different countries), could be responsible for spreading CJD to thousands of people around the world.  Because the USDA denies mad cow’s domestic existence, entities like the American Red Cross don’t test their blood collections for CJD.

•Vaccines: Vaccines use and are grown in human/animal embryonic fluids, for example fetal cow serum, which cannot be guaranteed free from abnormal prions. These vaccines include polio, diptheria, tetanus, flu shots, and hepatitis.

•Drugs: Many drugs contain bovine by-products including growth hormones, adrenaline products, cortisone, insulin, ulcer medication, and common blood coagulants used in surgery.

•Supplements: A currently popular supplement (especially in Eastern medicine and popping up in the non-vegan raw food world) is Deer Antler, which may be high risk for CWD as velvet is collected from growing antlers that contain nerve tissue and blood.

Even if the USDA does officially “discover” that BSE exists in the U.S., they would most likely try and avoid an industry collapse by suppressing the information. The revolving door between the government, the USDA, the FDA, and animal agricultural lobbyists is always in full effect. They don’t like to let each other down.  If you still think the USDA is like a good parent watching out for us, you’re getting punked. Your best bet? Stop eating animals, use 100% vegan supplements only, and get help to wean yourself from unnecessary medications. We don’t even think it’s a crazy idea to bank your own blood in case of emergency.

But I only eat grassfed bison…

September 12, 2011

Years of study has led us to the following rule: Whether it’s a feather hair extension or grass-fed bison you’re buying, whenever and wherever animals are exchanged for money, you can bet it’s dirty business.

Switching from factory-farmed meat to grass-fed bison, for example, doesn’t eliminate environmental degradation, water and energy waste, water-deprived truck rides to the butcher, slaughter, or lowlife politics. Switching meats often just changes the set of problems. For example:

•Many bison ranches are adjacent to natural parks where wild bison and wild elk roam. When wild animals carrying brucellosis (an infectious bacteria transmittable to humans and other animals) cross park boundaries during their winter migratory routes, they can infect ranched herds—the common consequences being that the rancher must kill his entire stable. So in the interest of cattle farmers, the state of Montana, under, for example, the Interagency Bison Management Plan, drives back its wild bison herds using helicopters, hazing, slaughter, and penning. In 2004 at Yellowstone National Park, 264 wild bison were rounded up and slaughtered in order to protect 180 cows grazing on land nearby. Another 198 were rather corralled until the following season, but for lack of space in the pen, 57 were killed without even testing for brucellosis. In 2008, 1,616 bison were driven from park borders and slaughtered.

•North America used to be home to 50 million bison.  Now, the last free-roaming, genetically pure herd—descendents of 23 wild bison that survived mass slaughter— exist in Yellowstone National Park, numbering 3,000. Wildlife advocates have been working to restore Yellowstone’s bison populations for relocation onto protected areas nationwide, but ranch lobbyists around the country stand in the way. Because of ranchers’ fear of brucellosis spreading to their cattle, wild bison may never be allowed to repopulate public land again, especially because the competition against livestock owners for cheap grazing land is fierce.

•Even if your grass-fed bison is “organic”  today, it still may have been genetically modified and bred in the past. Being that the only pure herd exists in Montana, the many ranched bison across America are not as natural as a consumer might hope, but rather mixed with cattle genes.

So think about it: Are organic grassfed bison farmers the people you want to be giving your money to? What side of  politics do you want to be on?

Sources: LA Times1, LA Times2, and Save the Buffalo Campaign.
Photos from: Photos from

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