Let those words sink in for a moment. They, "Made peace with killing."
(Updated from it's original posting in 2017)
Back when I tabled at the Kaw Valley Seed Fair, where I gave away hundreds of free vegan food samples and literature. one of my most memorable encounters was with a couple of young women just barely out of their teens. These women, one of whom indicated she had been vegan at one point, told me with earnest conviction that as a result of interning on a small local farm, they now ate animals and no longer found it uncomfortable because they had, “Made peace” with killing them.
Let those words sink in for a moment. They, "Made peace with killing."
I originally wrote this post two years ago. I have just added a bit of video from the entertainment at last year's (2017) Summerfest --- It's a really funny musical skit featuring Miyoko Shinner (Founder of Miyoko's Kitchen) Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org and Dr. Ted Barnett (Rochester Lifestyle Medicine). This year, (2018) The big news is that Vegetarian Summerfest will henceforth be called Vegan Summerfest. Enjoy!
Highlights of the 2016 NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest
If you've never been there -- words and pictures simply fall far short of capturing the magic, the love, and the soul-affirming feeling of connection, hope and healing that is the essence of the North American Vegetarian Society's Summerfest Conference. Scroll down to see lots of pictures from this year's conference -- and notice what a vibrant looking bunch of humans are there! I've been to many other conferences -- and although they may share similar speakers, offer equivalent educational opportunities, provide tantalizing food and fun social gatherings, nothing I have yet experienced comes close to creating what the majority of the 600 plus attendees who pilgrimage to this event each year experience: Summerfest quite spectacularly and reliably renews people by immersing them
Is history about to repeat itself?
Back in the 1990's a group of activists in the UK created and passed out a flyer, titled, What's Wrong With McDonalds. In response the fast food giant hired under cover agents to infiltrate the group and then served them with legal papers threatening to take them to court for libeling the McDonald's corporation. The activists didn't know it at the time, but the McDonalds company had a history of threatening it's critics with a libel suit, but then offering to drop charges, if the defendents would apologize, never criticize McDonald's again and keep confidential McDonald's threatened legal action.
But this one time McDonald's bullying didn't work as planned. The activists
I remember clearly how I felt the day I learned that I might be at risk of exposure to Mad Cow Disease from buying and eating locally grown organic kale from my food co-op.
I'd been vegan at that point for over 20 years. One of the benefits I had counted on for myself and my family from our choice to be vegan, was the fact that by not eating meat or dairy, we were not being exposed to the prions that cause Mad Cow Disease.
But that was before I signed up for a gardening class taught by local organic farmers. Imagine my surprise when I heard them describe how they sprayed dried animal blood, bone-meal and fish emulsion right onto the leaves of their organicly grown greens. This they said, was a superb way to quickly, "feed" the plants nutrients which they would absorb directly through their leaves.
I felt sick.
It had never occurred to me that by supporting local organic farmers and buying their garden
"Beware of Vendors Promoting Batteries, Solar Panels and Other Gizmos" Warns Out-Of-Touch Kansas Country Living....
Margaret Kramar just shared with me a letter that she sent to Paul Wesslund of Kansas Country Living Magazine. As I doubted that the magazine will print Margaret's excellent letter, I wanted to do my part to amplify her important sentiments. So here it is:
No matter which candidate you supported, one thing is absolutely clear – this election has been the most intense and divisive of our lives. While the KKK celebrates its outcome with a rally, and reports of bullying and racial harassment are exploding nationwide, others are taking to the streets across the country in protest. Although most pundits were wrong in their forecasts of who would win, one book, The Fourth Turning, by Strauss and Howe got it eerily right, predicting decades ago that based upon historical cycles, America would be ripe about this time, to put into power those embodying nationalism, and advocating reductions in civil liberties. That book also suggests that HOW we manage this turbulent time, could determine whether we will still have a democracy, or even IF the US will even survive.
In 1942 President FDR – husband to social justice hero Eleanor Roosevelt, signed an executive order that caused thousands of law-abiding Japanese American Citizens to be forcefully removed from their homes and put in prison camps. There was little outcry. Up until the 1970s, our government, in collaboration with credentialed medical doctors deliberately forced African American men to endure late stage syphilis for the sole purpose of observing what would happen to them, and few people with knowledge of this objected. The history of America begins with our founders violently removing the indigenous inhabitants from their ancestral lands. Shockingly, some of the most ardent abolitionists of the 1800’s opposed giving women the right to vote, and today there are caring people who staunchly support civil rights for people of color but oppose marriage equality for LGBTQ identifying individuals. In the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, we learn that a large American hospital in the 1950’s injected cancer cells into hundreds of patients without their knowledge or consent just to see what would happen – and the only people to object were three Jewish doctors – whose views were marginalized as being, “overly sensitive,” due to the Holocaust having just happened. History is full of similar examples prompting Albert Einstein to say, “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
One of the most egregious examples of the human capacity to look away and disregard injustice against others is the Holocaust, which prompted people to ask.…”how did so many seemingly average people allow such a thing to happen?” The classic experiment by Stanley Milgram sought to answer this, and suggested that over half of us will go along with things that we know harm others if environmental conditions are right, and Milgram said,"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process." However, some cultures (and by implication their cultural practices) appear to be less vulnerable to this phenomenon. So it’s worth asking ourselves…What can we do, to promote compassion and foster conditions that make individuals less likely to ignore injustice, and more able to put ourselves in the position of others so that we won’t, “look on and do nothing” when injustice is threatening someone else?
Having raised two children to adulthood as vegans while teaching them the ethical basis for this lifestyle, I have been happy to see how this practice has laid a foundation for each of them to think critically about what is going on in our world and how their personal actions may impact injustice happening to others. From speaking up to a bully who was threatening a peer, to expressing concern about planned classroom activities that would harm animals, I have been heartened over and over to see my children risk disapproval in social situations because they believed that by failing to speak out, they might miss an opportunity to prevent harm.
While increasingly the main vote we really have is how we spend our dollars, the real power of veganism is not due to its boycott of violently produced consumer goods. Rather it is the ripple effect that results each time one of us stands firmly in solidarity with justice, nonviolence and compassion. This inspires those around us to consider their own choice of where to stand. Every major human caused tragedy that has ever plagued the world, was enabled to occur for one main reason: Human beings have the capacity to ignore injustice happening to those we have been taught to, “otherize”. Throughout human history, no group has been more victimized and exploited by this phenomenon than the non-human beings that we eat, hunt, experiment on and use for our entertainment.
By embracing a vegan ethic, three times a day, we participate in an activity that not only seeks to prevent our complicity in violence and exploitation against the vulnerable, but actually changes brains in ways likely to create more peace and justice in the world. (According to the latest neuroscience research, our thoughts and actions alter brain structure in ways that make it more likely we will have more thoughts and engage in more actions along the same lines!)
While we may feel powerless to impact what our leaders are doing, the example of how we live each day – by modeling a conviction to practice non-violence in our diet, and in what we buy and wear, may be the single most powerful action any of us can take at this time in history. Furthermore, if those in power are successful in drilling more, and thwarting US actions to reduce worldwide carbon emissions, by becoming vegan, we can still significantly reduce our own carbon and water footprint enormously – and again, through the example we set and by educating others, this action could have a huge ripple effect and be powerful!
We don’t know what the next four years will bring, that’s why now, more than ever before, becoming vegan matters. Please join this peaceful revolution!
If you would like a printer friendly version (shortened to fit the front and back of a single page of paper) of this essay to share with others, it is downloadable HERE.
For the record, I typically avoid casinos. The gambling thing seems exploitative of those who can least afford to gamble and the noise, sounds and blinking lights of the slot machines jar my senses, plus I find the lack of windows oppressive. But worst of all is the SMOKE! Casinos are one of the few places left where people can legally burn tobacco in the faces of others indoors.
Yet in spite of all that, and in contrast to my usual behavior, yesterday I ventured inside of one. My husband and I were passing by the Hollywood Casino on our way home from somewhere else, when he mentioned to me that he had a credit to spend at this one, that was not transferable to anywhere else and he had noticed that they had some ladies handbags in their gift shop...and wondered if I might need a new purse. (And I DID.)
For a gift shop it was incredibly sparse. The major items they had, were souvenir glasses, a few polo shirts and ladies handbags - lots of them. I assumed that since it was a casino, the purses were probably all leather...but I started looking at them anyway, and now I am so glad that I did! About half the purses there had tags on them that declared them, "VEGAN." The clerk told me that this was because many of their customers are looking for products containing fewer toxic compounds. (Leather of course fails miserably in this regard.) People in Casinos are looking for non-toxic goods...REALLY? (I myself was looking for a breathing mask hooked up to an oxygen tank!) Anyway it was so exciting I bought myself TWO new purses. I felt like a kid at the carnival redeeming my tickets for prizes!
This post was inspired by Dr Michael Greger's recent article addressing the safety of Genetically Modified (Bt) corn. Normally I find Dr Greger's analysis compelling and thoughtful, but this time I think he is missing important aspects to consider. I know he is all about the science, and loath to ever make a statement that can't be well supported by credible published studies, but in the absence of adequate (and unbiased!) studies showing the safety of GMO's in humans, and given a number of solid theoretical dangers, I think the burden of proof should be upon those attempting to foist the new technology upon the rest of us -- and not the other way around. (Also, this FABULOUS book is filled with essays that explain the egregious behavior of GMO-profitting companies which keeps good studies, that might show just how dangerous GMO's are, from ever being pubished!) However while Dr Greger does reference a new study that found significant levels of Bt toxin in the cord blood of newborn babies, he also suggests that because organic farmers are allowed to spray the common soil bacteria, Bacillus Thuringiensis on organic food crops without it harming anyone, that genetically modifying corn to produce the same specific insecticidal toxin that this bacteria makes after infecting an insect, presents a similar risk (essentially none.) But this leap in logic is without scientific merit.
It is a well-established principal of toxicology that often "the dose makes the poison." When an organic farmer sprays Bt bacteria on food crops, the bacteria produce the Bt toxin. The amount of the Bt toxin present is incredibly small, it is only on the surface of the plant, and it degrades in the presence of sunlight and water in about a day. It is doubtful that anyone eating organic food sprayed with this bacteria would have detectable levels of the toxin this bacteria produces in their blood.
Now compare how organic farmers use Bt to what happens with GMO Insecticidal corn. With GM corn, the gene from the Bt bacteria that enables the bacteria to produce the toxin, has been inserted into the corn plant in such a manner that now every cell in the entire corn plant is continuously producing that toxin in amounts large enough to kill any caterpillar who attempts to eat any part of the plant. This means the toxin is now present in amounts many orders of magnitude higher than ever before, and being produced within the cells little if any would be degraded by sunlight and rain. This is why we can now find this toxin in the bloodstream of pregnant women and in the cord blood of their babies.
While some have speculated that the Bt toxin might also cause holes in the human gut, as it does in the insect gut, leading to leaky gut syndrome, allergies and more, I am not aware of any published studies that confirm this. However a lot of insecticidal GMO corn, is also specifically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Round-up). This enables farmers who grow it to spray extremely large amounts of Round-up on the corn fields to kill all the weeds -- and not have it damage the corn crop. While Monsanto argues that GM crops can reduce the use of herbicides, the fact is, Round-up sales and use has skyrocketed because of this technology, and likely anyone consuming GMO corn has also increased their exposure to Round-up. Now we have evidence that Round-up itself may be a factor contributing to leaky gut in humans.
Furthermore, I think there is an even bigger hypothetical risk --based upon one of my daughter's high school science fair projects (for which she was given an award by the EPA.) My daughter was looking to see if antibiotic resistance could be passed from genetically modified corn to gut bacteria (a gene for antibiotic resistance is typically inserted in the corn gene as part of the GMO process). Although she was not able to demonstrate such a transfer, her experiment did reveal a surprising phenomenon: The longer GMO corn plants decomposed. the less likely e coli bacteria (a normal inhabitant of a healthy gut) were to live and grow at all after exposure to the remains of the corn. Her data raised the possibility that eating GMO's could dramatically alter the gut microbiome -- which a growing body of research makes clear could have profound impacts on gut health, immune system functioning, general levels of inflammation in our bodies and even how our brain works and how likely we are to suffer with depression!
When I worked as a microbiologist for Merck and Co. Inc, I spent time in commercial hatcheries. Although I could easily spot the cruelty in those places, for a long time after that I was still unable to spot the cruelty when I visited friends who were raising chicks in incubators to have backyard eggs. I think it was because of my education -- beginning with classroom chicken hatching projects -- that had taught me to NOT see the injustice we forced upon chickens, I literally, "Did not see," the injustice of depriving baby chicks of the experience of being raised by their own mother, just so humans could eat their eggs -- something we do not need to do, and which the science now clearly shows is actually causing harm to the humans who do this! Below is my compilation of reasons why I now oppose backyard chicken farming.
1) It supports industrial animal agricultural operations. Most backyard chicken farmers purchase baby chicks from commercial hatcheries. There is much cruelty in commercial hatcheries. For example chicks who get under the wheels of carts are left half-smashed and still alive for hours on the floor. Others get their tender innervated beaks singed off with a hot iron. They are slammed into stationary vaccination needles so rapidly that some get the shots in the eye or die from the roughness.
2) Most backyard farmer's chicks have been sent through the US Postal service. This may take up to 72 hours during which time they have no food, no water, no warmth. Not all of them survive this abuse -- and the hatcheries know this -- so they usually include a few extras to replace those killed in the transport process.
3) Most hatcheries suffocate or grind up alive the male chicks. There is no market for them as they are the wrong breed to use for meat production. But some take a more humane approach and use the males as live, "packing material" in their shipments of female chicks to farmers -- letting their customers figure out what to do with these unwanted individuals.
4) Even if you can find backyard farmers who do not get their chicks from commercial hatcheries you are still perpetuating violence and exploitation of other beings. Most cities only allow the keeping of hens, not roosters. Since about half of eggs hatch into males, these birds are not wanted. Even in places where keeping them is allowed, most urban egg farmers don't want them, as they are not useful for producing eggs, take up space and cost money to feed and house. And they crow loudly. So most males are either killed at birth, allowed to live for awhile and then killed and eaten, or set loose in areas that they are not adapted to survive in, or they end up at animal shelters.
5) Backyard poultry increase rodent populations in urban areas. Even under the most well-maintained conditions, the straw and feed that is put out for the birds, is a huge draw for mice and rats.
6) The natural reservoir for influenza is birds. All strains of human flu started out as bird flu. Bringing human populations into close repeated contact with birds (chickens and ducks) exposed to wild bird populations increases the possibility of a new strain of influenza making the cross species jump.
7) Chickens and their feces often contain pathogenic organisms like Salmonella, and Campylobacter. When it rains, runoff from a yard with chickens can find its way into neighboring yards spreading these bacteria. Privacy fences do not prevent this, and children playing in other yards are more likely to be exposed via playing in the dirt or cuddling with cats and dogs who have also been exposed.
We not only don't need to raise and kill animals for our survival, doing so contributes to the major environmental problems plaguing humanity, is an inefficient use of limited resources, is exploitative of other beings and harms human health. If you are reading this, please go vegan. For more on this topic visit:
What's Wrong With Backyard Eggs?
I love them in my garden. Not so much in my house. But of all the invertebrates that I could have suddenly invading my home -- I'd certainly prefer Ladybugs. I prefer them to roaches, ants, arachnids and flies. At least ladybugs stay mostly up high or around windows. They don't damage anything, and are not known to transmit human diseases. If you have them in your house now, it means that last fall, when they were looking for cracks to hibernate in, some found cracks that led into your home. But you likely didn't notice them then, because they were looking to hibernate, and once inside your home, quickly found cracks around light fixtures, windows and wood trim and remained there out of site until now. They have sensed the rising temperatures, and increased sunlight and are emerging ready for more activity, looking to feed -- except that now they find themselves trapped inside your home. For years I spent hours tediously attempting to collect them one by one into jars for release into my garden beds...but when their numbers reached into the hundreds -- with a new batch emerging day after day, this became untenable. But I have found a great solution which I'd like to share with you. A small hand held vacuum will allow you to suck them up quickly and without harm. Do not try this with a full size vacuum -- it is WAY too powerful -- even when I devised a contraption to fit over the end and to keep them from going all the way into the vacuum - they came out obviously dazed and I am not sure that they lived. But the hand held vac is perfect -- mine has a little filter inside that is very easy to open and gently tap them off -- right into my garden beds, and hoop houses. It's a win-win for all of us! By the way -- this photo doesn't really do the situation justice -- it didn't occur to me to photograph the first few days -- when the majority emerged -- I was too focused upon moving them outside. I have taken close to 1000 of them out -- these are just the stragglers. Below you can see a recent transport starting their new life in my garden.
Judge for Yourself....This is what The Merc's Board Wanted me Kicked out of the Education Department for....
The Lawrence Community Mercantile encourages owner/members to attend the monthly board meetings, and on March 2, 2015 I went and requested ten minutes to share the slides below with the board. The red text below each slide is the narrative I read with each. Following my presentation, the board tried to put an end to my teaching cooking classes there...and I still don't understand why THAT presentation made them want to get rid of me. I do not know if the board was unanimous in this, or if some members might have spoken up on my behalf, but were overruled by the majority. I am posting my presentation here, because I want Merc members and the citizens of Lawrence to judge for themselves. Do YOU think my making the case below to the board, justified them trying to get me kicked out of teaching classes there, or do you think I was just acting in good faith on my conscience and attempting to exercise my rights as a member/owner, and they were the ones who were out of line? You can read the whole story of them attempting to censor me Here.
1. You may remember me from when I almost ran for the board last election. As I result I probably appreciate more then most people just how much work you all do to support the Merc. I just want to express my appreciation for that, as well as the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today. I saw in last month’s minutes that you may be updating the ends and that is what I’d primarily like to address.
2. Remember when The Merc was in this building? Two things stood out in my memory from that time. 1) Wild Oats came to town and undercut our prices – but customer loyalty was so strong Wild Oats closed their doors and left town. 2) Very little shelf space was dedicated to meat, dairy and eggs.
3. Here are five things that our main shoppers probably all care about. We do a great job with the first, but could do much better with the other four. We give lip service to these and make a big deal about minor factors while ignoring the much more important ones.
4. Here is the latest ad. I asked this question, “What if someone spent their food dollars according to what marketing encouraged? I realize most people don’t do this, but the point I want to make is this: The more closely shoppers’ economics reflect what marketing encourages the more closely we approach 90% of calories from animal foods.
5. So what is our main message to people about how their food choices can help the environment?
6. Isn’t this pretty much the only message the community hears from the Merc?.
7. Why are we emphasizing food miles when they are less then 10% of the carbon footprint, while ignoring the 80% piece?
8. The biggest problem we face is human modification of weather and the biggest contributor is animal agriculture.
11. This really puts it into perspective. We talk about food miles and organic, while encouraging meat and dairy which are the problem.
14. But why give shelf space to beef at all?
16 The US Dietary Guidelines just came out. Here are two lines from the executive summary.
17. Even Pollen, who has spent his career trying to justify his desire to eat meat says “Eat mostly plants”. And why is that?
18 Look around the room. According to statistics, half of us will die prematurely from heart disease – which is almost entirely preventable.
19. We also know meat eating is linked with Diabetes. These studies suggest…
20. And this study found that for every 5%....EPIC with 38,000 Dutch participants, NHANES study of over 6,000 participants followed for over 20 years showed a high protein intake (which was 20% cal from protein). There was no association for vegetable protein.
21. It’s not just meat. The science clearly shows dairy is harmful too.
22. Most of us claim to oppose unnecessary violence to animals. It’s much easier for us to see the normalized violence in other cultures while ignoring our own – especially it is connected with something that brings us pleasure.
23. I realize the Merc has important relationships with local meat, dairy and egg producers, so let’s begin phasing out non-local.
24. Utimately we cannot compete with Sprouts and Natural Grocers on their terms (price). We must define what matters and educate the community.
25. The old Merc emphasized plant food, had a better moral compass and more loyalty.
Be sure to read the rest of the story about how The Merc has attempted to censor my free speech HERE.
Just so you know -- my intent here is to start a community wide conversation: Do the people of Lawrence (and Merc member/owners) think it is in everyone's best interest to allow small groups in leadership positions, based upon their personal bias, to exclude thoughtful perspectives they don't like, from participating in the venues they control -- often without the public even knowing the censorship has occurred, or do you want to create a cultural imperative that opposes such censorship as undemocratic? Do you value free speech?
More has happened since this powerpoint was posted. You can read about it here: The Merc Makes Another Move -- JoAnn Farb responds
Feb 26, 2016 update to this post: When I was creating this power point, in preparation to give it to The Merc's board, I went to their meat department at that time and looked to see what beef they were selling. I recall they had some from a farm that I think was in Arkansas, and when I called that farm, they told me that ALL of their beef was "finished" for three months on grain (making it NOT truly "grass' fed) I then brought this up with a woman who worked in the Merc's meat department and asked if they had any truly grass fed beef and she apologetically told me that they did not, and I included that fact in my power point. A few days ago, The Merc just advertised that they have grass fed beef for sale and when I went to the website of this newer vendor, I saw that they state that their cows are 100% grass fed. People should be aware that with regards to climate change, this is actually worse. Cows fed grain grow more quickly then grass-fed (even though they feel miserable eating grain and are more likely to be sick and their flesh contaminated with more pathogenic strains of bacteria) and the more quickly they reach slaughter size, THE LESS methane and CO2 is emitted per pound of beef. Also -- any farms feeding their cows alfalfa in the winter (and I don't know if they do or not) that has been grown in California is very unsustainable. Alfalfa is one of the most water intensive crops grown in that state, and a big contributor to their water crisis.
The only good alternative is to go vegan.
I just have to share these three extraordinary videos with you.
First up, the producers of Cowspiracy are about to release their new film, "What the Health" You can check out the 3 minute trailer HERE. And if you have been following my blog and care about free speech,...then you should especially watch this trailer --- it is right on point to what I have been writing about.
Second, is this 23 minute interview with law professor/ Legal scholar Gary Francione. If you are not familiar with Francione's work, then I especially hope you will take the time to watch and listen to this interview. Perhaps more than any other speaker/philosopher I have ever heard, I find Francione to be inspiring, cogent, compelling, and articulate, while speaking plainly and with a vocabulary that non-scholars can readily understand and find interesting. If you are someone who disagrees with my views or with my methods and is simply baffled as to what logical rationale might possibly motivate me to do what I am doing, this Francione Interview will help you to understand.
Third I'd like to share this six minute video from Dr. Michael Greger founder of www.NutritionFacts.org, that places in context some of the evolving science related to our understanding of non-celiac disease gluten intolerance.
WHOOPS---gotta make that FOUR. Do check this one out too -- it looks fantastic! Here is the trailer for a new documentary to be released in 2016, called "Eating You Alive" It looks like most of the top scientists and doctors whose work I have been following for years are in it too.
Ok -- that's all for now. And if you are looking for more videos to watch too -- be sure to check out my resources page -- I have added these four to it as well.