It's been quite a couple of days for animal pieces in the New York Times! Yesterday, Thursday April 12, Nicholas D. Kristof headed his column, "Is an Egg for Breakfast Worth This?" Then today, Friday April 13, James E. McWilliams, whose work we know from a series of terrific pro-veg pieces in the Atlantic, has an op-ed piece in the New York Times headed, "The Myth of Sustainable Meat."
Kristof discusses a Humane Society undercover investigation of Kreider Farms, "a major factory farm that produces 4.5 million eggs each day for supermarkets like ShopRite." He shares information from the Humane Society video that details suffocating ammonia fumes from manure pits that test positive for salmonella, birds jam-packed into tiny cages, and feeding carts that run between the cages and sometimes decapitate hens as theyre eating.
We read, "Corpses are pulled out if theyre easy to see, but sometimes remain for weeks in the cages, piling up until they have rotted into the wiring...."
Kristof writes, "The police would stop wayward boys who were torturing a stray dog, so should we allow industrialists to abuse millions of hens? Shouldnt we agree on minimum standards?"
It's a welcome question and minimum standards would be a step forward, but today's even more welcome piece by James E. McWilliams makes clear that working on minimum standards for animal agriculture is too small a step. In an article that hits perfect pitch McWilliams acknowledges that good instincts drive people to choose alternative animal products from "sustainable" systems and that the trend is encouraging (he writes "exciting") surely because of the attention to animals and the environment it represents. Yet he makes clear that the real answer is to move away from animal products entirely.
"Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the countrys land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable."
The piece offers other useful information and then ends with:
"Opponents of industrialized agriculture have been declaring for over a decade that how humans produce animal products is one of the most important environmental questions we face. We need a bolder declaration. After all, its not how we produce animal products that ultimately matters. Its whether we produce them at all."
How refreshing to read that bold declaration in the New York Times. How ironic that we can now indeed read it in the New York Times yet not on the web pages of some well-known animal advocacy groups who seem to be playing it too safe to ever mention the benefits of plant-based diets.
Kristof's excellent piece on egg production is at
McWilliams' groundbreaking piece on "The Myth of Sustainable Meat" is at
Check them out, email them to your friends, post them on facebook. Then, importantly, please send a letter to the editor appreciative of either or both articles and singing the praises of plant based diets. You can cite any or all of the reasons covered in the articles or perhaps focus on the well documented health benefits you have enjoyed. Write, briefly, about whatever works for you.
The New York Times takes letters at email@example.com
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely to be published.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts only if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)
Please go to http://tinyurl.com/254ulkx to check out Karen Dawn's book, "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals," which in 2008 was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of The Year!"
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Date: Fri Apr 13 18:27:05 2012