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Not Our Beef!

12 Jun

We had our friends Peter and Stacey over for the weekend. And although I am very much a raw vegan these days, my family is only partially. My husband and son love Marzella Hazan’s Spaghetti Bolognese and I was going to actually make it (why??? I ask myself now. Oh yeah, to make them happy… then I woke up). We buy either the grass fed beef at the health shop or we buy Greenwise products at Publix – but after reading the first page of Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth From The Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat (buy book here) by Howard F. Lyman, I suddenly did not have the energy to cook it… so everyone ate raw Marinara and raw Alfredo sauces instead. I don’t know if they liked it – but at least I felt guiltless about poisoning their bodies.

All I have the energy for these days is reading up on vegetarian options for my boys who love beef. I had my husband read the same first page of Mad Cowboy and when I asked him what he wanted me to buy at the grocery for next week’s meals, he said: ‘tofu, not chicekn just eggs…’ I turned around to write my grocery list with a very big smile on my face – it’s a start.

Some excerpts:

I am a fourth-generation dairy farmer and cattle rancer. I grew up on a dairy farm in Montana, and I ran a feedlot operation there for twenty years. I know firsthand how cattle are raised and how meat is produced in this country.
Today I am president of the International Vegetarian Union…
If you’re a meat-eater in America, you have a right to know that you have something in common with most of the cows you’ve eaten. They’ve eaten meat, too.
When a cow is slaughtered, about half of it by weight is not eaten by humans: the intestines and their contents, the head, hooves, and horns, as well as bones and blood. These are dumped into giant grinders at rendering plants, as are the entire bodies of cows and other farm animals known to be diseased. Rendering is a $2.4-billion-a-year industry, processing forty billion pounds of dead animals a year. There is simply no such thing in America as an animal too ravaged by disease, too cancerous, or too putrid to be welcomed by the all-embracing arms of the renderer. Another staple of the renderer’s diet, in addition to farm animals, is euthanized pets – the six or seven million dogs and cats that are killed in animal shelters every year… Added to the blend are the euthanized catch of animal control agencies, and roadkill… When this gruesome mix is ground and steam-cooked, the lighter, fatty material floating to the top gets refined for use in such products as cosmetics, lubricants, soaps, candles and waxes. The heavier protein material is dried and pulverized into a brown powder – about a quarter of which consists of fecal material. The powder is used as an additive to almost all pet food as well as to livestock feed. Farmers call it “protein concentrates”…
In August 1997, in response to growing concern about… Mad Cow disease, the FDA issued a new regulation that bans the feeding of ruminant protein (protein from cud-chewing animals) to ruminants; therefore, to the extent that the regulation is actually enforced, cattle are no longer quite the cannibals that we had made them into. They are no longer eating solid parts of other cattle, or sheep, or goats. They still much, however, on ground-up dead horses, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens and turkeys, as well as blood and fecal material of their own species and that of chickens. About 75% of the ninety million beef cattle in America are routinely given feed that has been ‘enriched’ with rendered animal parts.

Nearly all meat in America is contaminated with such man-made carcinogens as dioxins, a family of chemicals related to Agent Orange, and DDT, the notorious chemical that was banned domestically over 25 yeras ago but that remains in the ground (and will remain there, unfortunately, for thousands of years to come) and therefore in the crops fed to animals. Crops grown for cattle feed are permitted, and almost always do, contain far higher levels of pesticides than crops grown for human consumption. About 80% of pesticides used in America are targeted on 4 specific crops – corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat – that are the major constituents of livestock feed. Since animals store pesticides and other toxic substances in their fat, they get their most concentrated doses of these carcinogens when they eat other animals. And we in turn get even more concentrated doses of carcinogens when we eat them.

Many people concerned about the health risks of a meat-based diet have adopted the half-measure of cutting down on red meat and eating more chicken and fish… Unfortunately for them, chicken and fish are not plants, and they are not health foods. It is not even clear that they are lesser evils than read meat… Substituting chicken and fish for red meat will not help you avoid any of the health risks associated with the meat of mammals. It will not save you from heart disease, strokes, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, or osteoporosis. Chicken and fish will in fact contribute to the danger of developing those conditions… A 3.5 oz serving of beef contains 85 mg of cholesterol. The same size serving of chicken (white meat, skinned) also has 85 mg of cholesterol. With equivalent servings of pork, trout, and turkey, you can clog your arteries with 90, 73 and 82 mg of cholesterol, respectively.

What fish does have that those other foods don’t are high cholesterol content and a wide assortment of such chemical toxins as mercury, lead, pesticides and PCBs. The municipal wastes and agricultural chemicals that we flush into our waters become absorbed in the tissues of fish and shellfish and thus into most of the items on the menu at your favourite seafood restaurant. The Consumer Reports study found PCBs in 43% of salmon and 25% of swordfish. Catfish had significant levels of DDT, clams had high levels of lead, and 90% of swordfish contained mercury. The study concluded that for “pregnant women or women who expect to become pregnant, there’s little choice by to avoid many popular types of fish. Salmon, swordfish, and lake whitefish may well contain polycholorinated biphenyls… which can accumulated in the body to the point where they pose a risk to the developing fetus.”

Just as the tobacco industry survives by keeping millions of people addicted to its murderous product, which it until recently claimed was harmless, so the meat and dairy industries thrive by keeping the general population too confused or misinformed to change their destructive eating habits.

In Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: “This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible.”

When the dairy farmers were confronted with the fact that rBGH was overstraining and destroying their cow herds, an ingenious solution was found: create super cows. Feed them a diet rich in protein from animal sources – such as ground-up dead cows.

A study at Ohio State University comparing various types of meat with various types of plant
foods found that even the least efficient plant food is nearly ten times as efficient as the most efficient animal food. There is almost always an unseen pollution cost to the production of energy. Lowering the energy requirements of our nutrition would thus help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil and nuclear power plants.

We often hear about water shortages in areas such as Southern California, where citizens are recurrently requested not to wash their cars, not to overwater their lawns and to use low-flow showers and toilets. Good ideas, all. But you never hear city, county or state governments combating drought by urging their citizens to cut down on meat consumption, even though the water required to produce just 10 pounds of steak equals the water consumption of the average househould for a year…. Well, you may say, so much for grain-fed beef. Clearly the environmental and energy costs of growing sixteen pounds of grain to get one pound of beef are luxuries humanity can no longer afford. But what about steers that are fed more naturally on grass, not grain…?

Ranch-raised beef is probably even more environmentally destructive than feedlot beef, though from the Earth’s point of view, that’s little like comparing Hitler to Stalin… Public lands ranching… results in extraordinary destruction of native vegetation and wildlife, causes widespread flooding, soil erosion and water pollution, costs the American treasury $1 billion or more annually – and produces only 3 % of American beef!

The bovine is truly a formidable and resourceful killer in the disguise of an innocent, melancholy, big-eyed grass-eater. All kinds of animals have suffered under its domination of the West. Rabbits are endangered by the lack of vegetative cover for shelter and food; frogs, toads and insects miss the rich, moist soil that livestock have dried and hardened; wild pigs are deprived of grasses, nuts and berries; fish go belly-up in the cow-polluted streams and rivers; elk and antelope perish from diseases borne by livestock-spread bacteria; people get heart attacks, diabetes and cancer.

Make no mistake: there are other factors that aggravate flooding. Logging, mining, road-building, and overdevelopment certainly play their part. But nothing compares in impact with the widespread crew-cutting of the earth by cattle.

…humans were meant to be meat-eaters, some plead. We evolved as hunters. We have canine teeth. You can’t fight Nature – we have blood lust.
The reality, thankfully, is otherwise. We are not inexplicably doomed by Nature to a diet that destroys our bodies. Evolution created many carnivores, such as the lion, dog, wolf, and cat. They all have a short digestive system, roughly 3 times the length of their bodies, to facilitate the speedy removal of decaying flesh, which can poison the bloodstream if it lingers too long in the body. Carnivores also differ from herbivores in having acidic saliva and stomachs with large amounts of hydrochloric acid-useful in digesting flesh and bones. Animals that hunt at night and sleep by day don’t need sweat glands and so don’t perspire through their skin; instead, they sweat through their tongues. And carnivores of course have claws, powerful jaws, and long, sharp ‘canine’ teeth to tear living flesh. They do not possess molars needed for grinding their food, or the enzyme ptyalin for predigesting grain…
Plutarch… pointed out that man “has no curved beak, no sharp talons or claws, no pointed teeth… on the contrary, by the smoothness of his teeth, the small capacity of his mouth, the softness of his tongue and the sluggishness of his digestive system, Nature sternly forbids him to feed on flesh.”