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Education > Tin Foil Hats: Exposing Meat and Dairy Lies

By Natalie Blanton

So much of what we know about our food, diets, and health has been drastically informed and shaped by self-interested governmental institutions. Now, don’t start forming your tinfoil hats just yet. urlBut do start educating and informing yourself — from sources other than those crafting our realities, particularly around animal welfare in our food system and [hopefully not] on our plates.

Last Tuesday (weekly blog day for SM), we heard from Erin regarding governmental intervention/interruption in the natural world. It is disturbing and upsetting, to say the least. But, this information is vital and we must continue interrogating, questioning, and overturning that norm of viewing/treating animals as nuisances, vermin, commodities, or impracticalities.

Recently, a friend dropped this knowledge bomb on me: the US Department of Agriculture is scrambling to bail out dairy and egg producers. Purchasing no less than $20 million of these products to prop up these producers “who are struggling with low milk prices and a sluggish export market, both of which have chipped away at their earnings. Over the last two years, dairy farmers have seen revenue drop by 35%, according to the USDA,” according to Quartz, see similar articles from Forbes and the Smithsonian Magazine.111213_cow_2d00_blue_2d00_sky

In this season of life (election year), it is unfortunately, and increasingly, common to feel lied to by bureaucratic institutions. More specifically, having been veg-inclined and vehemently against industrial animal agriculture for over a decade, the USDA making terrible ethical and/or economic decisions does not come as a surprise or shock to me. But, buying cheese outright, with our tax money, to protect the meat and dairy industry, over consumers — is not okay. Whether we are doing our best to vote with our dollars and actively avoid supporting these industries or not, our money is still being funneled into keeping these archaic and exploitive (of human, animal, and planet) practices in place.

So often we demonize Wall Street, Walmart, Unilever, and other big corporations — but “Big Ag” or industrial animal agriculture operations continue to fly under the radar — even when they should be at the forefront of allegations of injustice. See some of the recent human/animal rights violations that made the news: Tyson Chicken or Seafood Production Slaves. But, instead of being bogged down, I urge you to stay awake and aware of these issues, get loud, be a voice for the voiceless, and recognize that when the public pressure and spotlight is shone on these issues, producers start to back-peddle on traditional industry standards, reaching new welfare standards and precedents for both laborers and animals, such as recent efforts to end chick culling.

While checking out at the grocery store, the cashier held my asparagus bundle in her hand, and looked up to me with incredulous eyes, “Why does healthy food have to be so expensive?” I nodded and frowned knowingly, as this very issue of healthy food accessibility, and justice, is very much a passion of mine. I oftentimes throw out the question of “Why is an apple more expensive than a Snickers bar?Government subsidies. The US government is married to the meat and dairy industries. Those sectors are continually celebrated and bolstered by government bailouts and protective programs, as previously mentioned. Everything we are taught about eating healthy is informed by these bedfellows, just look at the old food pyramid, that has since been drastically revoked and changed to reflect more of a plant-based whole-foods diet.

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This is a wake up call. If the government wanted to be transparent, and keep posturing these agriculture sectors in positive light, perhaps they would rethink Ag-Gag laws. As for me? I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Thus, here are some helpful links that will further wedge your divide with the governmental darlings that are the meat and dairy industries:

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  • You’ve probably heard the Sage Mountain team raving about Cowspiracy, because that film and movement is so well-researched, and VITAL for the public to consume, and further, digest, and act. If you haven’t yet seen the film, we encourage you to watch it. Here are some facts from their research that are astounding, based on these government food programs:
    • We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.
    • Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock.
  • Read MEATHOOKED: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Years Obsession With Meat
    • An investigation set to answer a question that has stayed unanswered far too long, while we kept arguing health and ethical aspects of meat consumption: Why do we eat meat at all? What’s so special about meat that it keeps us hooked? From the perspective of evolution, culture, taste, marketing, biochemistry and anthropology, Marta Zaraska sets out to identify all the hooks that make meat a food that humans don’t want to easily give up.
  • What’s the cost of a Big Mac at McDonald’s these days? About $3.50? Not a bad deal (especially when you add on that value meal). But Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy delves into a number of costs we haven’t considered:

– The production of Big Macs in the U.S. every year results in a greenhouse gas footprint of 2.66 billion pounds of CO2 ($297 million)

– Costs of corn feed subsidies, courtesy of the common taxpayer ($4.6 billion)

– Costs from “social subsidy” in the form of welfare offered to minimum wage fast-food workers ($273 million)

– Public health costs due to diet-related diseases from excessive meat consumption ($30-60 billion)

– When all is said and done, the cost of a Big Mac should really be around $200 (at least).
Source: Why a Big Mac should cost $200 

And, my personal favorite:

Maybe tinfoil hats are your thing… but, I would argue that by educating yourself, your families, and your communities about the inextricable connections between animal-saturated diets, environmental degradation and climate change, and the growing health concerns associated, will go much further in efforts of sustainability and a hope for a better tomorrow.

Be gentle to yourself, animals, and others.

By Natalie Blanton

 

What has always remained so confusing, frustrating, and surprising to me is the bad taste in the mouth of our collective society when words such as “vegan” or “animal rights” are brought up.

I will most likely field some criticism for this — but I need to say something about living compassionately:

Yes, we live in a society that is built upon the backs of the most marginalized. Including animals.

Living compassionately should include the active elimination of harm, violence, and suffering inflicted upon all other humans, animals, and this planet, Earth.

Driscoll’s Workers Call for Global Boycott over Alleged Abuses at World’s Biggest Berry Distributor -- Read the Democracy Now story here.

Driscoll’s Workers Call for Global Boycott over Alleged Abuses at World’s Biggest Berry Distributor — Read the Democracy Now story here.

Granted, and unfortunately, you will never be 100% “cruelty-free” because animal products are in everything. And I mean everything. Beyond food, household cleaning products, medicine, and makeup, are all brutally, and unnecessarily, tested on animals. And those organic non-GMO veggies? They were most likely picked by migrant or undocumented farm workers, living under a cruel system/regime of oppression, non-livable wage, and silencing lack of representation. I would not qualify these fruits, vegetables, and products of industrial agriculture as “cruelty-free,” even if these processes do not involve harming animals directly.  

In light of all this doom and gloom? Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H. Neurologist, public health specialist, and author, gave me a great piece of advice: “Just do your best!” In continually seeking, creating and living a life free of violence and cruelty, there will always be that one obscure ingredient that, once you’ve researched the origins, you will be forever perplexed and saddened by our society. For now? Watch Dr. Akhtar’s TED talk here, regarding all of the reasons to keep fighting this good fight and pursuing this idea of “cruelty-free” no matter how difficult. In essence? Shop locally and ethically, never be silent about oppression, and keep educating yourself and your community.

Once you are veg, keep doing your best to stay veg.

If you are new to the plant-based life — first off, welcome. Second off, fun fact: Cheese has the same addictive properties as hard drugs. Because of this terrifying scientific fact, cravings are real. I get it. Even after many years of a vegan lifestyle — those can randomly rear their ugly heads. If there is something specific? Reach out to one of our Sage Mountain resources to ask, “Why do I miss fish so much?” or “I just can’t give up cheese,” etc. These are real questions with real answers and we live in a day and age when it is easier than ever to be vegan — with the right information, awareness, and understanding. So jump on it — reach out to any of us here at SM or local, incredibly knowledgable plant-based fitness and nutrition coaches: Lexi P., of element xii, Courtney Pool, etc.

Remind yourself why you went veg in the first place and surround yourself with support and community.

Realities of the dairy industry.

Realities of the dairy industry.

I would argue that people give veganism or plant-based living a bad wrap because of these fabled “vegans” themselves. But, you have to wonder why we are such a minority and why it is so wild for an individual to step back, say no, and abstain from consuming death and suffering at every meal/in their daily routine. I will never understand that by making the choice to go veg we become such a nuisance to society. Yes, vegans are outraged, and angry. But for good reason. We are not here to shame and blame you. We must understand that there are larger actors and systems at play here. And we are more angry at the society that continues to profit off of animal lives. The moment you open yourself up to the awareness and consciousness that is plant-based living, it is hard not to react with an incredulous, “How did I never know that milk is only produced by grieving mother dairy cows, after their baby was taken from them?” and other such sentiments.

 

It is hard enough having every meal, social gathering, restaurant visit, and drive down the interstate be a reminder and space of violence towards animals. You can not fight the good fight, sustainably and progressively, if you are weak, sick, or too depressed to go on. Compassion fatigue is real — and we must be wary of it as humans with our busy routines, plus this added layer of complexities and advocacy. Self Care is a must. Meeting other like-minded individuals helps in feeling less alone or weird in this social movement.

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I encourage you to reach out to us, or other veg-inclined folk. These conversations are so rejuvenating, I promise. Come to our monthly vegan potlucks, #ThirstyFirstThursday events [there is one coming up this week at Este PC], SLC’s very own VegFest taking place on Sept. 10, or the SLC Vegan Facebook page’s meet-ups are amazing!

selfcaresundayBe gentle to yourself, animals, and others. There is an unhealthy amount of infighting in the plant-based, vegan, and animal rights movements. And these schisms between this community of like-minded, progressive individuals will only do more harm than good in pushing the momentum. If a veg individual decides to, for whatever reason, re-integrate animal products back into their lives — then that is on them. It is okay to feel angry and disappointed with that person, but do not shame and blame and kick and scream and yell, or call them a “sell-out”. This will only further wedge the divide between the individual and the veg-lifestyle/community. This is where that bad taste in the mouth comes from, and subsequently, the distaste for “vegans” in general. It is wasted energy and resources spent shaming, guilting, or pressuring people back into being fully veg. And it is not sustainable. People should make the transition to plant-based living for themselves, or whatever reasons feel right for them — that way, they are more likely to stay veg, and, as so many of us have realized, thrive. Take your vegan rage and channel it into new avenues — write your political representatives about the dismal state of animal agriculture, host a fundraiser for your favorite animal rights organization, or, meet up with youth in your community and have an honest conversation about all of the wonderful reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

Art by Sue Coe.

Art by Sue Coe.

I understand it is easy to be frustrated with friends and family who remain [or return to being] stubborn omnivores. Most of my immediate environment of kin is not veg whatsoever. And that is okay. Remember, this world, unfortunately, revolves around the use and abuse of animals, and it is not “normal” to be vegan, yet. But the tide is shifting. And it is getting easier, more accessible, and celebrated by governments, health organizations, celebrities, and individuals alike. Do not lose your temper with people who have not yet had their eyes opened to the truth, or the windows opened into slaughterhouses. Or those who believe the self-congratulatory lies that the dairy and egg industries are profiting off of daily [see resources regarding these “happy farm animals” such as the Humane Myth, “Cage Free,” or Free Range Fraud].

 

You do you. And do your best. Keep fighting. For yourself, for the animals, and for this planet. Continue fostering these honest and vital conversations of awareness and advocacy. Because it matters. And this is a brave, valiant and hard fight.
We are all here for you. And we must do this together.

Sage Mountain Celebrates All Mothers

happy mothers dayBy Natalie Blanton

We at Sage Mountain are celebrating all mothers today, both human and animal.

Animal agriculture co-opts and profits off of motherhood in every way. We all know slaughterhouses are horrific. But, in this industrialized nation of ours, the “meat” and dairy industries are very much tied to the productive capabilities of a female cow, chicken, or pig, and the systemic control over that body, her life chances, and the offspring she is forced to bear, repeatedly, but will never be able to raise naturally.

9hphD8wWJ9nUFhd7W7R3GXWCDt25AS_975_compprodIn celebrating Mothers today — we ask you to observe the vital questions that link back to motherhood and animals — who had to birth that animal to then be raised and “harvested”? What does motherhood look like in factory farming? Why do we have a constant supply of milk? Why are we the only mammals who drink milk into our later life?

Think about the processes of production and the animals behind much of what we eat, use, buy, and wear. Within the dairy industry, not only are these rape racks a horrific “industry standard,” but further still, newborn cows are ripped from their mother immediately after birth. Male calves go directly into the veal industry and the females begin growing so that they can produce offspring and milk as quick as possible. Today, factory farmed dairy cows produce 100 pounds of milk per day–10 times that of cows a few decades ago. The increase is due to bovine growth hormones and constant breeding to increase milk production. Imagine being chemically induced to produce more milk for the financial benefit of another being, against your will, all while having your baby stripped from you and taken to their own tragic fate.

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The egg industry is equally as vile, what with hens crammed into tiny cages and forced to grow and lay multiple eggs daily via hormones. Male chicks are simply “disposed of” or thrown in a grinder while alive — viewed as worthless in their inability to lay eggs or produce breast meat. “Breeding sows” or pigs in the “pork” industry are kept in gestation crates for their entire life–not allowed to move, merely a fuel station for their piglets and kept pregnant, lactating, and miserable. And these are just the cows, pigs, and chickens of the animal agriculture system — the unfortunate truth is that this fate happens to these and millions of other animals for human “need” and “benefit” every single day. By choosing not to take part in these systems of torture, suffering, and exploitation, you are making a deliberate and powerful, and, I would argue, “Honor your Mother [Earth]” statement.

Join us in celebrating mothers today, and everyday — be that yourself, or the mothers in your life, inclusive of the cows, pigs, chickens, etc. who are unable to mother, nurture, or live naturally within the animal agriculture system.

Adapted from original post by author