Animal rights activists carry the bodies of slaughtered animals as they hold a protest march during the 9th Annual National Animal Rights Day in Los Angeles on June 2, 2019.Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
THE FACTORY farming industry has had enough of Direct Action Everywhere, the controversial animal liberation activist group.
The California Farm Bureau Federation, the powerful agribusiness trade group, along with its local affiliates, has pushed for aggressive policing and prosecutions of Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE. Now, records obtained by The Intercept show that the California Farm Bureau worked behind closed doors to limit legal exemptions that DxE has long claimed provide protections for its work.
DxE, which is based in Berkeley, California, has waged a provocative campaign of civil disobedience in recent years, staging actions that the group calls “open rescues,” in which volunteers brazenly walk into meat plants and seize animals, many of which are facing slaughter, often ferrying them to medical tents erected outside the facility or to local veterinarians.
The actions, which have included rescues at meat and egg plants over the last two years in Sonoma County, have seized headlines and drawn national attention to the organization’s cause — while mobilizing opposition within the factory farming industry. DxE has claimed that its actions are protected under an obscure section of state law, California Penal Code §597e, which authorizes individuals to enter pounds to provide nourishment for neglected animals.
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In DxE’s view, the statute allows legal entry into an area in which animals are confined if the animals have been deprived of food and water for over 12 hours. The group consulted with Hadar Aviram, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, to develop a modern legal interpretation of §597e, which was originally passed in the 1870s and has rarely been cited in court. In DxE’s view, any commercial animal agriculture site constitutes a pound, given that the term simply refers to a facility for confined animals, a standard that is reflected in eight states with similar statutes.
That argument has enraged the animal agriculture interests throughout California, which have leaned on authorities to take a more aggressive response to DxE.
“In my view, what they are doing is bordering on terrorism involving the use of illegal practices to push their points of view,” said Tawny Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, an affiliate of the California Farm Bureau Federation, in an interview with KSRO radio host Pat Kerrigan. Following an action in which hundreds of DxE activists entered an egg farm in Petaluma to free chickens and care for them in medical tents set up around the facility by the group, Tesconi called for farmers to “work more closely with law enforcement and the DA’s office to provide the tools they need to fully prosecute actions like this.” (The police, notably, euthanized many of the chickens, which were found by veterinarians to be starving and unable to walk from being bred in sheds with thousands of birds.)
Behind closed doors, the California legislature moved last summer to redefine §597e, adding language to the code that explicitly exempts factory farms. The legal shift received virtually no attention or substantive legislative debate. The legislation that made the change was sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, whose bill, AB 1553, was presented as a “technical, nonsubstantive” changethat required a lower threshold of scrutiny. The bill sailed through committee and was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last June.
DxE strongly disputes that the bill was merely a technical change and was shocked to discover the discreet push to amend the code. “Over one hundred activists have relied on §597e to protect them from politically-motivated prosecutions,” said DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung, who is also a former visiting law professor at Northwestern School of Law. “We’ve obtained dismissal or diversion of charges in dozens of cases where people were trying to give aid to starving animals.”
The California Farm Bureau denies promoting the bill, despite disclosures showing that the group lobbied on the Fong bill. “The California Farm Bureau did not actively advocate on the legislation, either for or against,” wrote Dave Kranz, a spokesperson for the California Farm Bureau. “We did take part in technical discussions about the bill and potential impacts to California agriculture, as was correctly disclosed.”
Fong’s office and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The California Farm Bureau’s claim that the group acted merely as a neutral observer, and did not seek to limit the scope of §597e, appears unlikely given the group’s advocacy over the last year.
Robert Spiegel, a lobbyist with the California Farm Bureau in Sacramento, spoke at the Flamingo Resort & Conference Center in Santa Rosa last May to explain to farmers in Sonoma County how his organization had worked to respond to the threat posed by animal rights activists.
During his remarks, Spiegel referenced the interpretation produced by Aviram on behalf of DxE and informed the group that California Farm Bureau’s “senior legal counsel as well as other individuals in our operations” produced a counter-memo to dispute Aviram’s arguments. DxE shared a recording of Spiegel’s remarks and, using a records request, obtained a copy of Spiegel’s memo, which had been sent to the Sonoma County district attorney’s office as well as to other prosecutors in California.
The memo attempts to dispute DxE’s rationale for its use of §597e by claiming that even if animal farms are “pounds,” the group may not claim there is an “imminent threat” if they rely on past video evidence of abuse or deprivation.
Far from taking a neutralstance, the memo strongly suggests the California Farm Bureau’s lobbying team took an active role in shaping the interpretation of §597e.
Around the country, animal agriculture interests have worked carefully to criminalize similar forms of activism around factory farms, including hidden camera investigations. The Intercept previously obtained emails showing a bill signed into law in Idaho that provided criminal penalties for filming animal abuse at factory farms had been quietly authored by a dairy lobbyist — one of many so-called ag-gag laws enacted around the country. A federal judge later overturned most of the statute. Farm Bureau groups have worked to enact similar laws in Missouri, Iowa, Utah, and other states.
The California Farm Bureau wields significant influence in state politics. The group spends upward of $600,000 a year peddling influence in Sacramento with a team of eight in-house lobbyists, according to disclosures.
In 2018, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, responding to a wave of open rescues, brought in a national farm industry group known as the Animal Agriculture Alliance to host seminars for farmers on how to push back against future DxE activism. The group has promoted ag-gag laws and in more recent years sought to pressure law enforcement to view animal rights activists as terror threats. The alliance relies on financial support from the American Farm Bureau, the California Farm Bureau’s national affiliate, as well as the National Pork Industry Foundation.
“The Farm Bureau wants to change §597e because it knows that factory farms routinely allow animals to starve to death,” added Hsiung. “It’s the result of a system that has operated in secrecy, and ruthless pursuit of profit, for decades.”
Australia is burning. The bushfires have devastated the continent since September and continue to ravage the country at an alarming pace. Photos and videos of charred animals—unable to escape the overwhelming blazes—have gone viral.
One inane tactic that officials have come up with to combat the problem includes shooting up to 10,000 thirsty camels from helicopters, just because they drink large amounts of water.
MORE THAN A BILLION ANIMALS HAVE ALREADY DIED, AND AUSTRALIAN OFFICIALS WANT TO ADD THOUSANDS MORE INDIVIDUALS TO THE DEATH TOLL—INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE JUST AS MUCH RESIDENTS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA AS ITS HUMAN INHABITANTS AND WHO ARE JUST AS DESERVING OF MAKING IT OUT OF THE AUSTRALIAN FIRES ALIVE.
In the video below, a bystander recorded dozens upon dozens of dead, burned animals scattered along roads:
This Is Climate Change, and We Must Take Action Like Never Before
Many blame climate change for exacerbating the wildfires, which have burned more acres than recent Amazon rainforest and California fires combined. Around the world, prolonged heat and drought have extended seasonal wildfire periods.
All the while, the U.N. has stated that meat consumption must decrease by as much as 90% in order for us to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. To put it in perspective, the carbon emissions from all of the world’s planes, trucks, ships, and cars are equivalent to the emissions from animal agriculture!
Kangaroos hop uphill in smoky New South Wales to escape the smoke and raging fires in Australia. The country’s bushfires have scorched millions of acres, putting millions of people and animals at risk.
We can (and must) fight climate change. By far, the easiest way is for people to stop eating animals and go vegan right now. It requires zero governmental initiative or promises from some giant corporation. It only involves choosing to leave animals out of the shopping cart on that trip you’re already making to the grocery store.
GOING VEGAN CAN HELP PREVENT ANIMALS FROM BEING BURNED ALIVE IN A WILDFIRE OR BEING SLIT ACROSS THE THROAT IN A SLAUGHTERHOUSE.
It’s estimated that, at a minimum, about 800,000 million animals have been killed in Australia’s fires. This is about the same number of land animals who are horrifically slaughtered every few days just so that people can eat their flesh.
No matter if it’s a kangaroo trapped in a barbed-wire fence after running from a scorching fire or cows screaming for their lives as they’re hoisted up by chains to bleed out from their wounds, every one of these animals feared for their lives and did all that they could to stay alive.
The Best Time to Go Vegan Was Yesterday—the Next-Best Time Is Right Now
Many of us feel relatively powerless when facing mass extinctions, rising sea levels, and record-breaking fire seasons, but we actually have a great deal of power to change things if we harness it.
This is exactly why being vegan isn’t some fad diet. It’s a revolutionary action. It’s us exclaiming, “We will not let this planet and countless sensitive animals die on our watch!”
Join the vegan movement today and ask everyone you know to do the same. The Earth itself depends on it.
By Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns
If we cannot imagine how chickens must feel being grabbed in the middle of the night by men who are cursing and yelling at them while pitching them into the crates in which they will travel to the next wave of human terror attacks at the slaughterhouse, then we should try to imagine ourselves placed helplessly in the hands of an overpowering extraterrestrial species, to whom our pleas for mercy sound like nothing more than mere noise to the master race in whose “superior” minds we are “only animals.”
– Karen Davis, The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale
“The garbage dump is crammed with our heads and entrails.”
– Rooster narrator of “Cockadoodledoo” by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Month-old chickens in a commercial operation courtesy of the PEW Charitable Trust
Some people will say that treating creatures badly in order to eat them is a far cry from treating creatures badly simply because you hate them, but Charles Patterson notes in his book, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, that the psychology of contempt for “inferior life” links the Nazi mentality to that which allows us to torture and kill billions of nonhuman animals and millions of human beings with no more concern for them and their suffering than Hannibal Lecter and Jame Gumb feel for their victims, apart from the pleasure they derive from the taste of their victims’ pain, in Thomas Harris’s book, The Silence of the Lambs. That book says that the plight of the lambs screaming in the slaughterhouses – the whole human enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and murder – “will not end, ever” (Harris, 366).
Eternal Treblinka reminds us of all those other slaughterhouses that were running alongside the human ones under the Nazis – “Around-the-clock killing and butchering” conducted at Treblinka, Auschwitz, in Dresden, and elsewhere (Patterson, 129). In their diaries and letters, Nazi officials note indifferently such things as “huge slaughter of chickens and pigs” (Patterson, 125), and they dote on their meals. One writes to his wife: “The sight of the dead – including women and children – is not very cheering. Once the cold weather sets in you’ll be getting a goose now and again. There are over 200 chattering around here, as well as cows, calves, pigs, hens and turkeys. We live like princes. Today, Sunday, we had roast goose (1/4 each). This evening we are having pigeon” (Patterson, 129).
In Eternal Treblinka, chickens and pigs shriek as they are being cursed and butchered. Nazis bear their souls in letters and diaries. We read the opposing testimony of Holocaust survivors and their descendants. A question raised over and over by those who became vegetarians rather than perpetuate the legacy of butchery in their own lives, is “How can ‘we’ do to ‘them’ what was done to ‘us’ and not even recognize it?” Because, says Albert Kaplan, “we have learned nothing from the Holocaust” (Patterson, 167). Kaplan tells of a visit he made in Israel to a kibbutz Holocaust museum near Haifa: “Around two hundred feet from the main entrance to the museum is an Auschwitz for animals from which emanates a horrible odor that envelops the museum. I mentioned it to the museum management. Their reaction was not surprising. ‘But they are only chickens’” (Patterson, 166).
Degradation of the Victim
Christa Blanke, a former Lutheran pastor in Germany and founder of the organization Animals’ Angels, cites a link between how we treat animals and Nazism. First we strip the animals of their dignity – “The degradation of the victim always precedes a murder” (Patterson, 228). But, we want to know, why do humans want to degrade and kill? Serial killer Ted Bundy said it wasn’t that he had no feelings of remorse for his victims, but that those feelings were weak and ephemeral compared to his rapacious emotions (Rule). Naturalist John Muir wrote that the people he knew enjoyed seeing the passenger pigeons fill the sky, but they liked shooting and eating them more – “Every shotgun was aimed at them” (Teale, 46).
Comfort with Cruelty
The Holocaust thus raises questions, and we long for answers. Why, asked Isaac Bashevis Singer, do we pretend animals don’t feel in order to justify our cruelty, but even more importantly, why do we want to be cruel to animals? Is comfort with cruelty, taking pleasure in cruelty, a trait we carry from our past in our genes? Why, when we have the technology to duplicate animal products, do people insist they have to have meat? Why do we praise technology for developing substitutes for cruder practices in other areas of life while balking at its use to end slaughterhouses, which technology can do?
The Holocaust epitomized an attitude, the manifestation of a base will. It is the attitude that we can do whatever we please, however vicious, if we can get away with it, because “we” are superior, and “they,” whoever they are, are, so to speak, “just chickens.” Paradoxically, therefore, it is possible, indeed requisite, to make relevant and enlightening comparisons between the Holocaust and our base treatment of nonhuman animals. We can make comparisons while agreeing with philosopher, Brian Luke: “My opposition to the institutionalized exploitation of animals is not based on a comparison between human and animal treatment, but on a consideration of the abuse of animals in and of itself” (Luke, 81).
Paradoxically, while the words “Nazi” and “Holocaust” represent unique historical phenomena, they can transcend these phenomena to function more broadly. And a broader approach to the Holocaust would appear to hold more promise for a more enlightened and compassionate future than attempting to privatize the event to the extent that its only permissible reference is self-reference. A broader approach provides a more just apprehension of past and present atrocities, while connecting the Nazis and the Holocaust to the larger ethical challenges confronting humanity.
Identity or Exclusivity?
In A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, Native American scholar Ward Churchill writes that the experience of the Jews under the Nazis is unique “only in the sense that all such phenomena exhibit unique characteristics. Genocide, as the Nazis practiced it, was never something suffered exclusively by the Jews, nor were the Nazis singularly guilty of its practice” (Churchill 1997, 35-36).
One of the many questions that emerge from the current debate about the use of the Holocaust to illuminate humankind’s relationship to billions of nonhuman animals is the extent to which the outrage of having one’s own suffering compared to that of others centers primarily on issues of identity and uniqueness or on issues of superiority and privilege. The ownership of superior and unique suffering has many claimants, but as Isaac Bashevis Singer observed speaking of chickens, there is no evidence that humans are more important than chickens (Shenker, 11).
The Fascist Within
There is no evidence, either, that human suffering, or Jewish suffering, is separate from all other suffering, or that it needs to be kept separate and superior in order to maintain its identity. But where, it may be asked, is the evidence that we humans have had enough of inflicting massive preventable suffering on one another and on the individuals of other species, given that we know suffering so well, and claim to abhor it? In Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, Charles Patterson concludes: “the sooner we put an end to our cruel and violent way of life, the better it will be for all of us – perpetrators, bystanders, and victims” (232). Who but the Nazi within us disagrees? If we are going to exterminate someone, let it be the fascist within.
Faced with growing cultural criticism of large-scale animal agriculture, corporations, manufacturers, and consumers alike are turning towards so-called “humane” methods of animal farming and seeking out alternative labels on their animal products. These falsehoods and myths–the Humane Hoax–range from large farms with thousands of animals to your neighbor’s backyard, yet exploitation and suffering are omnipresent in every method of husbandry. The Humane Hoax Online Summit brings together experts on a wide variety of topics in order to expose the Humane Hoax in all its forms.
For our second conference, we will dig deeper into The Humane Hoax with speakers from a range of different perspectives. We will have activist attorney Kelsey Eberly from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, who has dedicated her practice to pushing for farmed animal justice through false advertising lawsuits. We will have Deborah Blum of Goatlandia, a rescuer who saves male goats destined to die in the goat dairy industry. Regenerative grazing is now the darling of the locavore meat movement, touted as the answer to all the problems of animal agriculture. Dr. Sailesh Rao, Executive Director of Climate Healers, will explore this topic with a critical eye and challenge this supposed environmental cure-all. And much more.
Please join us on January 18, 2020 for this inspiring event as we advance our much needed conversation about The Humane Hoax!
African swine fever will wipe out hundreds of millions of pigs
Global pig-meat index is headed for steepest jump in 15 years
Bringing home the bacon will cost more. Blame African swine fever.
The deadly pig disease is wiping out hundreds of millions of hogs, mostly in China, driving a global surge in pork and bacon prices from Auckland to Vancouver. In Europe, swine carcasses have soared 31% and piglets 56% in the past year. Pig-meat is poised for the steepest jump since mad cow disease and bird flu outbreaks in 2004 led consumers to eat more pork, according to an index compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world at the moment, pork prices are up,” said Justin Sherrard, Rabobank’s Utrecht-based global animal-protein strategist, in a telephone interview. “China is the market to focus on. Firstly, because it’s big and, secondly, because this is really the first place that African swine fever started to hit.”
Read More: The Deadly Virus That’s Killing Off Millions of Pigs
Prices will remain high for at least the next three months in the lead up to the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25, a peak time for pork consumption in China, Vietnam and other countries that celebrate the festival. Retailers will have “no choice” but to pass on at least some of the extra cost to consumers, Sherrard said.
By the end of 2020, China’s swine herd will slump to 275 million head, down almost 40% since the beginning of 2018, before the world’s largest animal disease outbreak began, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That will pull down global pork production by 10% in 2020.
“African swine fever has had a significant impact on the production of pork in China and increasingly in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries,” said Tim Foulds, Euromonitor International’s head of research for Australasia. “Government attempts to control the crisis, including the large-scale culling of animals, resulted in pork production dropping dramatically in 2019.”
Reduced domestic supplies will boost China’s demand for foreign pork, resulting in record prices and imports. However, Chinese consumers will “feel the pinch,” with a 32% slump in per-capita pork consumption over two years, the USDA said in an Oct. 10 report.
Swine fever is causing pork prices to go up in China
African swine fever, which kills most pigs in a week but isn’t known to harm humans, has had a greater impact in China than in any country or previous outbreak, and the disease there is now considered endemic, or generally present, according to the USDA.
A protester interrupted a keynote interview with Jeff Bezos at Amazon’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas last week to plead with the billionaire executive to help “abused” chickens.
The protester, identified as Priya Sawhney of Direct Action Everywhere, walked on stage to plead with the Amazon CEO about the welfare of chickens in factory farms.
“I am Priya Sawhney and I have been inside Amazon’s chicken farms where animals are criminally abused and I’m asking you today …” Sawhney said before security agents swarmed her and ushered her offstage.
Industrial agriculture is bringing about the mass extinction of life on Earth, according to a leading academic.
Professor Raj Patel said mass deforestation to clear the ground for single crops like palm oil and soy, the creation of vast dead zones in the sea by fertiliser and other chemicals, and the pillaging of fishing grounds to make feed for livestock show giant corporations can not be trusted to produce food for the world.
The author of bestselling book The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy will be one of the keynote speakers at the Extinction and Livestock Conference in London in October.
Organised by campaign groups Compassion in World Farming and WWF, it is being held amid rising concern that the rapid rate of species loss could ultimately result in the sixth mass extinction of life. This is just one reason why geologists are considering declaring a new epoch of the Earth, called the Anthropocene, as the fossils of soon-to-be extinct animals will form a line in the rocks of the future.
The last mass extinction, which finished off the dinosaurs and more than three-quarters of all life about 65 million years ago, was caused by an asteroid strike that sent clouds of smoke all around the world, blocking out the sun for about 18 months.
Prof Patel, of the University of Texas at Austin, said: “The footprint of global agriculture is vast. Industrial agriculture is absolutely responsible for driving deforestation, absolutely responsible for pushing industrial monoculture, and that means it is responsible for species loss.
“We’re losing species we have never heard of, those we’ve yet to put a name to and industrial agriculture is very much at the spear-tip of that.”
Speaking to The Independent, he pointed to a “dead zone” – an area of water where there is too little oxygen for most marine life – in the Gulf of Mexico that has grown to the same size as Wales because of vast amounts of fertiliser that has washed from farms in mainland US, into the Mississippi River and then into the ocean.
“That dead zone isn’t an accident. It’s a requirement of industrial agriculture to get rid of the sh*t and the run-off elsewhere because you cannot make industrial agriculture workable unless you kick the costs somewhere else,” he said.
“The story of industrial agriculture is all about externalising costs and exploiting nature.”
The Amazon and surrounding lands in South America are also under increasing pressure from soy plantations.
“Extinction is about the elimination of diversity. What happens in Brazil and other places is you get green deserts — monocultures of soy and nothing else.
“Various kinds of chemistry is deployed to make sure it is only soy that’s grown on these mega-farms.
“That’s what extinction looks like. If you ever go to a soy plantation, animal life is incredibly rare. It’s only soy, there’s nothing there for anything to feed on.”
And that soy is then turned into food for humans, often by “passing it through cattle and chickens”, Prof Patel said.
Some of the world’s most iconic animals, such as elephants, jaguars and penguins, are threatened due to these current farming practices.
In Sumatra, forests that are home to elephants and jaguars are being destroyed to make way for palm plantations, often to make feed for livestock kept in industrial meat factories.
And small fish like anchovies and sardines are being caught on a massive scale to be ground into fishmeal for farmed salmon, pigs and chickens. That means animals like penguins, which normally feed on them, are in trouble.
The South African penguin population alone has plunged by at least 70 per cent since 2004.
Asked what people could do “as a consumer” to try to avoid contributing to such problems, Prof Patel said people needed to think on a bigger scale.
“‘As a consumer’ you are only allowing yourself a range of action. ‘As a consumer’ you can buy something that’s local and sustainable, that’s labelled as organic or fair trade,” he said.
“But ‘as a consumer’, you don’t get to do a whole lot of good. As a citizen, as a decent person, you can demand more from your government, from one’s employer, from yourself.
“Be more aware of your power as part of a society where we can change things. We have this power to change things in the future. What we have to do is make that change.”
He said some people thought being a vegetarian avoided contributing to the extinction crisis.
“I’m vegetarian but it’s not enough. If you are vegetarian and you walk around with your halo of virtue but you are eating tofu that comes from Brazilian soy, then you’re just as complicit in all of this as if you are eating the beef fed on Brazilian soy,” Prof Patel said.
Vegetarianism did not provide a “pure and simple” route out of the problem.
“Capitalism is involved. The capitalist will take your vegetarianism and make money from it with the same kind of techniques they’ve honed in meat manufacture,” he said.
Instead, Prof Patel argued it was time to switch to a world in which resources were shared and looked after, harking back to the days when people had access to common land.
“The commons is only a tragedy because the commons in England were eliminated. Before they were eliminated there were people who could manage resources and nature in ways that were sustainable,” he said.
“The idea of a commons that is managed collectively and the way in which nature is managed well and sustainably, that’s a memory that needs to be recuperated.”
Admitting that changing society so radically would be a challenge, he argued it was essential as people’s current aspirations were based on “images of consumption that are entirely unsustainable”.
Humans, Prof Patel said, would need to find a way to live with less material wealth.
“Re-imagining a world with less stuff but more joy is probably the way forward,” he said.
“There’s a strong case for saying there’s room for … less individual consumption and loneliness … and more sharing and communality, getting together around the table, rather than sitting alone in front of the TV.”
To answer that question, look no further than the lone star tick. Although the tick’s traditional range in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic includes the eastern half of the Lone Star State of Texas, it gets its name from a white, star-like “splotch” on its back. But thanks to climate change, this nettlesome little critter is on the move. It’s moving into the Northeast as far as Maine. And it’s gone well past its usual bailiwick in the Ohio Valley to make its way into the upper Midwest and into Wisconsin.
It’s not surprising that ticks, like half of all species, are moving with the changing climate. What is surprising is what the lone star tick brings with it. No, it’s not Lyme disease, although warming-catalyzed deer ticks arespreading that debilitating malady into new areas. Instead, the lone star tick carries another little-known disease—alpha-gal syndrome.
That’s because alpha-gal syndrome often expresses itself hours after the infected person eats a big, juicy steak. Or pork chops. Or a cheeseburger. Yup, the lone star tick is spreading a meat allergy. It’s severe, too. One unfortunate victim profiled in Mosaic cannot risk eating the “meat of mammals and everything else that comes from them: dairy products, wool and fibre, gelatine from their hooves, char from their bones.” Alpha-gal’s delayed trigger also makes it hard to diagnose. People often don’t connect their symptoms with eating a meal they’ve eaten without consequence throughout their whole lives.
That’s a big deal in the U.S., where meat is king and it’s cheap and plentiful, thanks in no small part to industrial-grade agriculture. In 2018, Americans broke their previous record for meat consumption, gobbling down 222.2 pounds of meat and poultry per person, according a United States Department of Agriculture estimate. Americans’ beef consumption is four times higher than the world average, according to the World Resources Institute. The consumption of dairy was also on track to hit an all-time high in 2018.
To meet this insatiable demand for meat, Big Ag deploys heavily subsidized, industrial-grade agriculture with massive feedlots that gobble up megatons of grains. These factory farms also suck up huge amounts of water. They generate epic amounts of ecosystem-denuding, water-contaminating runoff. And they produce billowing gigatons of greenhouse gases — both carbon dioxide (CO2) from the industrial complexities it takes to fuel these factory farms and methane from the noxious flatulence produced by many millions of animals. Then those animals are transported to die on increasingly mechanized slaughter-lines that whirl along at faster and fasterspeeds. Their carcasses get chilled or frozen and then shipped out by fleets of fossil-fueled trucks on their way to energy-sucking processing factories, to suburban supermarkets and to fast-food chains, where people often sit in running cars awaiting their share of the U.S.’s seemingly endless bovine bounty.
So, here’s where Mother Nature steps in.
Industrial agriculture — and meat production in particular — is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Americans trail only Uruguay and Argentina in per capita beef consumption, and the U.S. is by far the leader in climate-disrupting factory farming practices that, in turn, stoke anthropogenic climate change. But the changing climate across North America is catalyzing the expansion of tick populations. And now tick populations are spreading diseases like the alpha-gal red meat allergy to meat-gorging Americans.
How’s that for putting some irony in our diets?
The “Capitalism One” Credit Card
For most scientists, that’s a bridge too far. They’d understandably reject assigning “Mother Nature” with an anthropomorphic trait like a sense of irony. But this planet’s macro-ecological system does have an undeniable sense of accounting … and it keeps a running tally. From alpha-gal syndrome to herbicide resistance, from rising seas to superstorms, we’re watching Mother Nature’s accounting system repeatedly expose the fatal flaw driving economic growth during the Anthropocene era. That flaw is the fallacy of externalities.
The simple Wikipedia definition of an “externality” is a “cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.” Up to now, we’ve thought we were only imposing it — externalization, that is — to other human beings. Usually, externalities impact those who are too politically or economically powerless to fight back. That’s why they’re targeted. Whether through offshoring polluting factories; or dumping toxic waste into the commons like the rivers, lakes, the seas or the air; or locating poisonous industries in political and financially disempowered neighborhoods and towns, externalization is a quick, easy and profitable way to take the true cost of doing a business and make someone else pay for it.
Aren’t humans grand?
The idea of “externalities” doesn’t just reflect our willingness to abuse others for profit. It also reflects a collective delusion held by those with power — the belief that they can exempt themselves from the closed loop that is Earth’s accounting system.
In the case of climate change, think of it like a CO2 credit card. Let’s call it the “Capitalism One” card. We’ve been charging our skyrocketing carbon emissions to that card for many decades. Every car purchased, every plane ride taken, every Amazon Prime Delivery selected and every Big Mac picked up at the drive-through has externalized the true cost of that purchase. Missing are the greenhouse gases that never get calculated into the purchase price of anything. Instead, we charge that cost onto our collective Capitalism One card.
Just consider lone star ticks to be one of nature’s little bill collectors. Alpha-gal is the cost, with interest. The same goes for the earthquakes and contaminated water that come from fracking reinjection wells. We use hydraulic fracturing to forcefully break open natural subterranean formations, to release oil and gas that we blithely burn into climate-altering CO2 while also leaking climate-altering methane. Then, in an externality twofer, we take the wastewater from the process, which can become radioactive, and we “dispose” of it by re-injecting it into the ground through wells, which, in turn, Mother Nature “bills us” with contaminated water, earthquakesand health problems.
All the while our mantra remains “out of sight, out of mind and onto our Capitalism One card.”
Now think of the many trillions of dollars of wealth that has been charged on that card since the start of the Anthropocene era and, more directly, throughout the great acceleration of the industrial age. We’ve voraciously taken — and taken for granted — resources from the Earth and processed them to our own ends. Thanks to a toxic combination of convenient ignorance and willful, short-sighted indifference, we’ve simply loaded the true costs of those processes right back onto our de facto credit card, a.k.a. into the land, the air and the water.
An AccuWeather analysis estimates the total cost of all the flooding will rise to $12.5 billion. It also led to government resource-draining “state of emergency” declarations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, with the last two being hit particularly hard. Beef Magazinecalled the bomb cyclone “devastating” because the “timing couldn’t be worse as many [farmers] are in the middle of calving season.” Some in Nebraska compared the devastation to the Dust Bowl, which, not coincidentally, happened to be a human-made disaster.
And that’s just the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. The 2018 Pacific typhoon season hammered nations around Asia to the tune of $18.4 billion in damage. In 2018, natural disasters generated $80 billion in insured losses, which is “well above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years of $41 billion,” according to the Munich Reinsurance Co. In 2017, the Munich Reinsurance Co. also found that insurance claims spiked to a record $135 billion due to the combination of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria with the wildfires in California, which also “created overall economic losses” of $330 billion. The U.S. Air Force is struggling with a $4 billion shortfall as it struggles to find the $5 billionit needs to remediate the massive damage done by 2018’s Hurricane Michael and this year’s bomb-cyclone-fueled flooding. New Orleans is now facing a $14 billion bill to counter the combo of rising sea levels and sinking levees that were rebuilt by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina wiped them out in 2005.
Even more dauntingly, researchers at the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom estimated that the “climate-change-driven feedbacks in the Arctic” currently driving up the rate of warming could add “nearly $70 trillion to the overall costs of climate change — even if the world meets the Paris Agreement climate targets,” according to a report in National Geographic. To put that in perspective, global GDP in 2017 was $80 trillion.
Even the staid Bank of England recently warned of a “sudden and severe” loss of up to $20 trillion if and when “stranded assets” like “unburnable carbon” become worthless during the peak of the climate crisis. In other words, all the investments in hydrocarbons could be zeroed out by the maelstrom of climate change. The Bank of Canada recently echoed this warning and predicted both “fire sales” of these stranded assets and “transition risks” from climate-stoked decarbonization. The Bank of England also said climate change will trigger a “disorderly transition” to the new economic reality of a climate-altered world should the finance sector fail to “change investment and business practices to meet the needs of lower environmental impact,” according to a report in The Telegraph.
Consumers and markets are adjusting, too. Even as ticks spread the alpha-gal meat allergy, Burger King is responding to growing demand for the plant-based Impossible Burger. It’s being “spread” nationwide, not by ticks but by franchisees, after a smashing test run in St. Louis. At the same time, Carl’s Jr. is featuring Beyond Meat’s plant-based meat-alternative. That success fueled its new initial public offering (IPO) to the tune of a $3 billion valuation. Essentially, IPOs are Wall Street’s first chance to render judgment on the viability of newly public business. In the case of Beyond Meat, it’s been dubbed the most successful IPO of 2019thus far. It even surpassed the much-anticipated IPOs of CO2-generatingrideshare companies Uber and Lyft. In fact, meat alternatives are becoming so popular that the meat industry is working at the state level to outlaw the use of the word “meat” on meat-alternative packaging.
Still, these are not the kind of shock-to-the-system changes some see as the only hope for averting the catastrophe predicted by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change if humanity does not meet the Paris Accord target of limiting global temperature increase to between 1.5 and 2°C. That, according to a report in Nature, would mean reducing our collective carbon emissions by almost half by 2030 and then achieving “carbon neutrality by 2050 to meet this target.”
But it is also not insignificant that elemental behaviors like eating are beginning to change, particularly as the people in the U.S. have finally crossed the tipping point from climate skepticism to climate dread. Like all human beings, Americans are starting to see, feel and pay for the impacts of our prolonged, supposedly externalized overuse of hydrocarbons.
The upshot, though, is that nature doesn’t just punish bad behavior with a huge bill. It pays dividends if and when we’re willing to settle our accounts. Mother Nature tends toward an ecologically balanced budget. The problem is that we are not just deeply in arrears, but, as Earth Overshoot Dayshows us each year, we are wantonly piling on even more debt. That’s the day when humanity “overshoots” what the planet can provide to us in one calendar year. Everything consumed after that threshold is crossed cannot be replenished and we are officially “in the red.” Last year, that day was August 1, the earliest ever. Those are debts we may never be able to repay. But that also means it is imperative that we begin paying as we go. We have to stop relying on our Capitalism One card to defer the true cost of what we exploit and consume.
And if not? Mother Nature will keep on tabulating the cost of our appetites and evolving new ways to collect on our debts. One way or another, our collective account will be settled because there are no externalities in nature.
WASHINGTON (AP) — EDITOR’S NOTE: This release is being reissued as an expansion of the March 21, 2019 recall, which consisted of 69,093 pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strip products. The scope of this recall expansion now includes more information and an additional 11,760,424 pounds of product.
Tyson Foods, Inc., a Rogers, Ark. establishment, is recalling approximately 11,829,517 million pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strip products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically pieces of metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.
The frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strip items were produced on various dates from Oct. 1, 2018 through March 8, 2019 and have “Use By Dates” of Oct. 1, 2019 through March 7, 2020. The chart contains a list of the products subject to recall.
The products subject to recall bear establishment number “P-7221” on the back of the product package. These items were shipped to retail and Department of Defense locations nationwide, for institutional use nationwide and to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The problem was discovered when FSIS received two consumer complaints of extraneous material in the chicken strip products. FSIS is now aware of six complaints during this time frame involving similar pieces of metal with three alleging oral injury.
Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.
FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.
FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.
Consumers with questions about the recall can contact Tyson Foods Consumer Relations at 1-866-886-8456. Members of the media with questions about the recall can contact Worth Sparkman, Public Relations Manager, Tyson Foods, Inc., at Worth.Sparkman@Tyson.com (479) 290-6358.
Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov.
The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday.
Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.
We live in a pivotal moment. Billions of animals and people around the world are affected by global warming and environmental damage. If we don’t start making small changes now, the consequences will be anything but. Millions of animals already die each year in climate change-fueled hurricanes and wildfires; it’s estimated that 50% of all the world’s species could go extinct by the year 2100. The primary culprits to this widespread destruction are among the most unexpected.
Factory farming is an alarming contributor. Did you know …
… that factory farms are one of the largest sources of powerful methane emissions, which have 86 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide? Altogether, the food we eat makes up nearly 30% of our total greenhouse gas footprint—more than all of the emissions from cars, buses and airplanes combined!
… that confined farm animals generate 500 million tons of manure annually? On most factory farms, chemical-laced feces and urine are funneled into massive waste lagoons, making them a major source of water pollution and contamination that threatens approximately 119,948 miles of rivers and streams and 450,892 acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds in the U.S.
… that animal agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation? Nearly 80% of the world’s agricultural land is used to raise livestock or to grow feed for livestock. More than two million hectares of tropical forest are cleared each year for animal agriculture—an area the size of the state of Massachusetts. In the U.S. alone, 10 billion animals are raised for dairy, meat and eggs each year.
It’s up to us to protect our planet. This Earth Day, pledge to make one (or all!) of three small changes to your lifestyle and eating habits that will have a lasting impact on the future of our environment. By committing to help animals, you’ll help our planet too—not just on Earth Day, but every day of the year.
How will you choose to change the world?
Even the smallest changes can make a big difference.
Commit to reducing or replacing meat in your diet, whether by participating in Meatless Mondays eliminating meat from one meal per day. If every American ate a plant-based diet just one day a week, it would be the equivalent to cutting 500,000 cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions!
Take action on state and federal legislation that cracks down on factory farming and promotes a more humane food system. Mass confinement has profound effects on animal welfare, human health and the environment; several states now have laws banning extreme confinement of farm animals. (Text EARTH to 30644* to receive text message updates so you know when it’s time to act!)
Be savvy with your support and consider buying directly from more humane producers who reject the factory farm model. Not all farms are created equal! If you consume meat, eggs or dairy, take the time to understand how different farms and suppliers treat their animals and the land. Make sure you know the meaning of different labels on meat, eggs and dairy, such as “free-range,” “grass-fed” and “pasture-raised.”