12 June 2014
by Clare Mann
As a psychologist with over 20 years’ experience, I admit that I have a mental health disorder.
Some professionals might say I have an eating disorder because I am vegan. Others would show concern that I regularly feel anxious, depressed, experience panic attacks and even post-traumatic stress symptoms at what I have and continue to see in society’s abuse of animals.
I say this because, in the past year I have seen an increase in GPs referring people they believe are suffering from mental illness, particularly eating disorders. However, upon meeting them, I find that these preliminary diagnoses follow these patients explaining that they are vegan.
What if their associated symptoms were not signs of mental illness at all, but instead signs of extreme anguish, grief, betrayal and the madness of speciesism?
So if you are reading this and are actively involved in animal advocacy and consider yourself to be an ethical vegan, then perhaps you should be issued with a health warning?
Not a physical health warning because with the proper nutritional advice, your health will positively improve by adopting a plant based diet, but with a mental health warning.
Once you lift the veil on what is going on behind our speciesism, you will most likely reach the same conclusion – that it is a form of madness but not your madness. The madness of how our society thinks speciesism – our unspoken superiority over the animal kingdom and differing treatment of different species – is ok.
Is Lab Grown Meat Vegan?
Veganism is all about reducing the harm we cause to sentient beings to the best of our ability. This is why we don’t eat animal products. It’s impossible to take the body part or secretion of a living being without exploitation and pain.
Or is it? If meat and other animal products could be made without harming animals, would there finally be such a thing as vegan meat? [tweet this] When it comes to lab grown meat, there are vegans on both sides of the debate. With the potential for massive reductions in the environmental impact of animal agriculture and an end to the suffering and death of trillions of animals every year, why wouldn’t every vegan be championing the cause for test tube meat?
Well like most topics I set out to cover, cultured meat production is far more complicated than it may first appear. We’re going to cover some of the pros and cons of cellular agriculture and why it’s a hot button within the vegan community.
As always, I’ll be barely scratching the surface, so you can dig into the citations and resources at the base of this post for more information.
The concept of growing and maintaining muscle outside of the body is not new. Starting in 1912, biologist Alexis Carrel kept cells from an embryonic chicken heart beating in a nutrient bath in his laboratory for more than 20 years. In 1931, Winston Churchill wrote in a predictive essay optimistically entitled Fifty Years Hence that, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”
Over the decades from NASA-backed fish fillets made of goldfish cells to the 2013 taste test of the first lab-grown burger, the cultured meat, well, culture, continues to grow. [See a brief but thorough timeline in the ‘In-Vitro Meat” section of this essay]
The advantages of this method of meat creation are obvious. Despite the efforts, hopes and dreams of vegans and activists alike, the global demand for meat is on the rise with India and China leading the charge.
With animal agriculture contributing as much as 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, using a third of the earth’s fresh water, up to 45 percent of the Earth’s land, causing 91 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction and serving as a leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, and habitat destruction, the environmental implications alone could be staggering. [tweet this]
A 2011 study concluded that, “cultured meat involves approximately 7–45% lower energy use … 78–96% lower GHG emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82–96% lower water use depending on the product compared.” While these numbers sound promising, the study was largely criticized for basing its numbers on a not-yet-proven method of cultured meat growth.
While still theoretical, a 2014 study accounting for other potential production methods found that energy use for cultured meat actually exceeded current levels for beef production, but had significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and land usage and was only higher than poultry in water usage.
The reality is that the actual environmental impact of cultured meat remains unknown because it’s still in such an experimental phase. The ground meat grown for 2013’s seminal burger was a relatively simple creation of pure protein. It lacked any of the fat and blood that give meat its flavor or the firmness of once-active muscle tissue. In order to create meat products of more substance, the muscle, which is what meat is after all, has to be exercised and provided with artificial blood flow, oxygen, digestion and nutrition.  Some scientists speculate that this increased energy demand may negate any reduction in land usage and agricultural input. 
Basically, when it comes to the environmental benefits, it’s still too early to know.
Here is where cultured meat has the potential to shine.
There are several significant hurdles to overcome before lab-grown meat can be called anything near “cruelty and animal-free.” The major issues on the ethics end are establishing self-renewing stem cells and finding plant-based materials for the growth medium and scaffolding.
To understand what that means, I’ll give a very simplified version of in-vitro meat production. Initially, cells are taken via biopsy from a living animal and deposited into a growth medium where they proliferate and grow. Eventually, in order to produce meat products with more structure than the ground patty, they will need a form of scaffolding to hold their shape.
The first ethical issues arise when considering the long-term viability of the initial harvested cells. Professor Mark Post, the man behind the famous taste-tested burger, has said that, “the most efficient way of taking the process forward would still involve slaughter,” with a “limited herd of donor animals” kept for stock. Others in the movement envision the establishment of a self-renewing stem cell line, meaning only an initial biopsy would be required at which point the cell line would replicate indefinitely.
Yet another concern is that, given humanity’s love of the new, different and exotic, we may start breeding specialty animals for cell harvesting, which would still require the confinement and reproductive control of sentient beings.
As a side-note, Post’s famous burger was made with egg powder to enhance the taste, introducing another level of animal suffering. This is by no means, however, a necessary practice.
The second major ethical issue and one that isn’t widely addressed in most of the news reports on cultured meat, is the growth medium into which the cells are deposited. At the moment, the most widely used medium is bovine fetal serum. Fetal serum from an array of animals is commonly employed in a wide range of experiments, including those for tampons, which I covered in my “Are Tampons Vegan?” video.
The harvesting of bovine fetal serum is far from transparent. One study reached out to 388 harvesting entities with only 4% responding with any kind of methodology data. Five sources explicitly declared their harvesting methods to be confidential.
Of those that did respond, the typical procedure for fetal serum harvesting was “by cardiac puncture” meaning a needle directly into the beating heart of the fetal cow. They specify that, “Fetuses should be at least 3 months old; otherwise the heart is too small for puncture.” The general process is as follows:
“At the time of slaughter, the cow is found to be pregnant during evisceration (removal of the internal organs in the thorax and abdomen during processing of the slaughtered cow) … The calf is removed quickly from the uterus [and] a cardiac puncture is performed by inserting a needle between the ribs directly into the heart of the unanaesthesised fetus and blood is extracted.” This bleeding process can take up to 35 minutes to complete while the calf remains alive. Afterwards, “the fetus is processed for animal feed and extraction of specific substances like fats and proteins, among other things.”
The study continued with a detailed debate as to whether the fetal cows can feel this procedure and their possible slow death from anoxia, meaning lack of oxygen, from placental separation, and estimated that between 1 and 2 million fetuses are harvested annually for serum.
All in all, fetal serum from any animal is not, by any stretch of the imagination, cruelty-free. The good news is that the champions of the cultured meat movement seem to be invested in finding plant-based medium alternatives with both algae and mushrooms providing promising options. Fetal serum’s drawbacks don’t stop at the ethical line. There are scientific concerns as batches vary considerably in their composition. It also poses the threat of pathogen introduction, is not environmentally friendly and is cost-prohibitive. Dr. Neil Stephens of Cardiff University states that: “Everyone in the field acknowledges this as a problem … It currently undermines a lot of the arguments that people put forward in support of in vitro meat.”
This leads into two of the additional pros of cultured meat, both revolving around human health. Though I personally believe that health is the last worry when it comes to producing a possible alternative to mass animal slaughter, it’s worth noting that the composition of cultured meat can be altered to provide superior nutritional benefits. The level of fat and type of fat can be selectively controlled. The threat of food contamination and spread of pathogens would also be greatly reduced, as cultured meat would not involve all the biohazards of traditional slaughter.
So if scientists are able to create a self-replicating cell line, thus eliminating the enslavement and potential slaughter of animals, and find a suitable plant-based growth-medium and scaffolding, thus eliminating the cruelty of fetal serum and other animal byproducts, what objections remain against going after this concept in full force?
Two of the largest are cost and what’s best described as “the ick factor.” Surveys involving every range of dietary practice seem to indicate that the majority of people are put off by the concept of lab-grown meat. Interestingly enough, those people with the highest rates of meat consumption appear to be the most sensitive to disgust.
Of course cultured meat proponents emphasize that “lab-grown” is a bit of a misnomer. While in the testing stages, the meat is grown in laboratories. However, were it to go to commercial production, it would be made in factories just like all of our packaged food items, and some could argue, would be more natural than other chemical concoctions the public readily consumes. [see for an illustration of potential production methods].
Also, given what all we inject into our food animals from hormones to antibiotics, to our outright manipulation of their genes, one could ask just how natural “standard” animal products really are.
While cultured meat doesn’t require the use of GMO’s, it’s possible that genetically modifying cells may allow them to reproduce faster and thus prove more economical.
As with any new technology, the initial cost investments will be steep, but Post and others in the movement see cultured meat eventually attaining a competitive price to traditional products, though most likely not for at least another decade.
The vegan community is most dramatically torn on either side of this issue. [ See  for examples]Some feel that any product derived from an animal remains a form of exploitation. Others believe that with the insurmountable fight against the ongoing animal holocaust and more non-vegans being born every day, we need to search for practical and viable solutions to replace humanity’s rising demand for meat. The vegans on the pro-cultured meat side I’ve come across through my research say their motivation is putting the animals’ interests above all else. They believe it’s unrealistic to expect humanity on a global scale to cease or even reduce their consumption of animals. Thus, providing an alternative that not only looks and tastes like but actually is meat could be, with the proper harvesting method and growth medium, the most immediate path to animal liberation currently available. With the concurrent rise of research into milk and egg-producing yeast and leather and other animal byproducts, could it be that the laboratory and not the picket line will be the ultimate genesis of a vegan world? [tweet this]
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this hot debate in the comments below. Check out resources below for more on cultured meat and other animal-free animal products.
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When it comes to valuable real estate, the square inches that comprise the official food nutrition label may be a hotter commodity than the most impressive street address in Manhattan. How consumers react to the label’s black-and-white facts about calories, fats, sugars, and vitamins is worth billions of dollars to the food industry.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other animal welfare groups have charged that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program, which kills millions of wild coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, bears, and other animals annually, lacks transparency as well as scientific justification for its practices. States also run such programs.
There are other impacts as well. Increasing amounts of livestock manure are the leading driver of growing methane emissions from agriculture. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and can also degrade air quality. Raising alfalfa for cow feed uses up 2.7 trillion gallons of water a year in California alone.
The Center for Biological Diversity would like the government to advise the public on how to make eating choices that have less impact on wildlife and natural resources. “We’re in the sixth major extinction crisis, the first human-caused extinction crisis, and it’s highly related to our diet,” said Molidor. “Americans eat about three times the global average of meat consumption. If the rest of the world ate like Americans ate in terms of meat and dairy, we would need four more Earths.”
Author and futurist Jamais Cascio has experience using the nutrition label format to make an environmental point. His “cheeseburger footprint” graphic, which was based on his research into the carbon emissions created by a quarter-pound cheeseburger, went viral in the mid-2000s, landing him an appearance in a National Geographic documentary about climate change.
(Full disclosure: Casio and I were colleagues on a blog-and-book project called Worldchanging during the mid-2000s.)
“I can say from my experience that adding that carbon facts image dramatically increased the amount of conversation around carbon footprints,” he said. “I started to see, in some places, the cheeseburger as the symbol of unintended climate consequences.”
Cascio called the extinction label “a good first draft,” but noted that “it doesn’t pretend to be objective.”
“This looks like they’re combining the nutrition label with a cigarette warning,” he said. “If you want to blame the elimination of sage grouse and wolves on beef production, I can understand that. I’m not sure how it factors into polar bears.”
But images can evoke interest and reactions in ways that pages full of text can’t match, he added.
“Greenhouse gases, water, manure, all have links to beef production,” Cascio said. “If they can draw a more direct link to the consequences, I could see this being applied across a wide array of products—or even a political candidate.”
Oscar-winning director James Cameron is promoting the best way to fight climate change—eliminating animal meat and dairy from one’s diet.
James Cameron is a famed director, a well-known climate change activist and he has a message for the masses: go vegan to fight climate change. Cameron spoke at the US-China Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles on 15th of September. During the summit, leading cities from both countries will share city-level experiences with planning, policies, and use of technologies for sustainable, resilient, low-carbon growth.
Cameron conducted his talk titled “Food for Sustainable Nations”, with Sam Kass, the former White House senior nutrition policy adviser. Cameron, who went completely vegan four years ago along with his family, focused on food systems (consumption and production) and the relationship between food and climate change. He explained how cutting out meat and dairy products can help lower carbon emissions in an interview with Fortune.
The thing that became abundantly clear to us when we met with the experts who are working in nutrition and energy sustainability and climate change is that we can’t actually meet our emission goals if we don’t address animal agriculture, and that’s the thing that’s been left out of the conversation. Everybody’s focusing on the energy sector, which of course is huge, and to a lesser extent the transportation section, but they’re missing the second biggest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This is a thermostat that we can turn down just by our personal choices. We can do it instantly.
— James Cameron
This message is crucial because many people who care about the environment still have no idea that raising animals for food is so incredibly destructive. Animal agriculture is actually responsible for a much higher amount of global greenhouse gas emissions than what is most commonly quoted. At the 2014 UN Climate Summit, startling new estimates by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) put the estimates of agriculture being responsible for 43-57% of global emissions.
It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. Agriculture operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones around the world in our oceans. Farmed animal production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet. 80% of land deforested in the Amazon is for raising cattle. The rapid deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest is actually causing a drought in many major urban communities in South America.
Our world is in a big feedback loop where climate will effect food security among many things because of drought, desertification, saltification, loss of acreage and deltas, which are some of our most fertile areas because of sea water rise. It’s going to negatively impact our food supply and our food security at exactly the same time that we need to increase our food production by 70%. By 2050 we’re supposed to have 9 billion people on this planet. These two things are moving in the wrong direction and yet the second biggest way we can control climate change is by reducing our reliance on animal meat and dairy.
While the outlook may look grim, James Cameron’s advice echoes that of many people:
The simple resounding message is you can be healthier and your planet can be healthier based on a very simple thing that you can do today. It’s cheaper to produce plants. It’s less carbon footprint, less water footprint, less money footprint and better for you.
Join our host Captain Paul Watson on LA Talk Radio June 10th for Sea Shepherd updates. We have my vegan pal and a great leader of the animal rights movement, and co-founder of SAEN, (Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!), Michael Budkie with breaking lab animals news. Join us, Yana Rusinovich, Paul’s wife and our Vegan corespondent and Ambassador of Galgos Ethique Europe, Shane Barbi of Barbi Twins and Jungle Jana, Wed, 11am http://www.latalkradio.com/Oceans.php, on State of the Oceans!
>Michael Budkie, A.H.T., http://www.animalliberationfront.com/…/In…/MichaelBudkie.htm) is the co-founder and Executive Director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN), that works exclusively on the animal experimentation issue by successfully terminating research projects, forcing the USDA to take legal action against laboratories, and coordinating release of animals into sanctuaries. After witnessing the atrocities of animal experimentation during his education, he successfully ended a head injury experiment on cats at the University of Cincinnati that launched his career leading to positions with several national organizations before he co-founded SAEN in the mid-1990s. He has been published and he travels extensively, appearing on TV and radio programs to expose the truth about animal experimentation. For more about SAEN and Michael’s amazing work for animals go to: http://www.SAENonline.org twitter: https://twitter.com/SAENonline Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialSAEN
> Yana Rusinovish, Captain Paul Watson’s wife, is our “State of the Oceans” International Vegan host; Yana is a devoted vegan and avid animal activist that is a proud member of L214 http://www.l214.com/, The association L214 Ethique et Animaux , which is a French (non-profit) association for animal protection, governed by the 1901 Law. It was founded in 2008 by the collective “Stop Gavage” for the abolition of foie gras, which now continues its actions within L214.It is devoted to the welfare of the animals used to be consumed (meat, milk, eggs, and fish), putting into question the links between society and animals.
Yana is also the official ambassador for Galgos Ethique Europe https://www.facebook.com/galgos.ethiqueeurope
Yana’s vegan group; VeganPower; informative tips and delicious recipes
>Jana Jungle; host
>Barbi Twins; hosts https://www.facebook.com/thebarbitwins?fref=ts
Oct 02, 2014 22:30
by Nelufar Hedayat
Reporter Nelufar Hedayat looks at the terrible conditions dogs are forced to live in just to keep the black market in dog meat supplied
A shocking new TV documentary will reveal how hundreds pet dogs are being stolen every day in Vietnam for the lucrative dog meat trade. Unreported World shows disturbing evidence of how dogs are stolen, force-fed, kept in cramped cages and slaughtered for meals. Here, reporter Nelufar Hedayat exclusively reveals the horrors she witnessed.
The smell of dog and filth permeated the whole room along with frantic, high-pitched barking from the hundreds of dogs crammed into the large metal caged room.
Inside, line upon line of smaller crates were already packed with dogs who seemed to be vomiting rice onto the wet floor.
Grabbing one dog by the throat, the four men dragged it to a contraption at the back of the room, where one of them attached a tube to small buckets full of rice. He then pushed the other end of the pipe down the dog’s throat as the fourth man pulled down hard on a pump, forcing rice into the dog’s stomach.
The terrified local Vietnamese mutt screamed in pain, defecting and urinating as it was forced out and caged again, only to vomit the rice he’d just been force fed.
I watched horrified as this then happened again and again and again, presumably something happening to the hundreds of dogs here.
To call it a house of horrors would be no overstatement. But this is the reality of the dog meat industry in Vietnam, where thousands of dogs are force-fed to increase their weight, and therefore their market value when they are sold on.
Breathtaking, after what I’d just seen, I asked the owner if the dogs feel pain when they are force-fed like that. His off-hand reply was “no-not at all, no pain”.
On the flight to Vietnam to investigate the dog meat trade in the country, I had prepared myself mentally. I knew what I was about to see would be brutal, difficult and shocking. But what I found was beyond even what I had imagined.
Almost certainly some of the dogs being force-fed in that room will have once been people’s pets.
The insatiable appetite for eating dog in Vietnam has sparked a huge black market in it and has provided a huge payday for thieves who steal thousands of dogs to sell on and meet the demands of the lucrative market.
Traditionally, dogs were trucked over in their hundred of thousands from Thailand where they would go without food and water for days on end till they reached Vietnam.
In the last six months the Soi Dog Foundation has worked hard with the Thai government to stop these criminals and bring an end to the dog meat silk road.
But the lack of dogs coming into the country has meant that criminal gangs have taken hold of the trade and need to find dogs from elsewhere.
In Hanoi, I spoke to two thieves fresh from a night’s work stealing dogs in a local village. They told me business is booming and gangs like his now prey on villages in Vietnam, stealing pets and guard-dogs by the hundreds.
“In the seven years I’ve been working, I’ve stolen round 3,000 dogs, big and small” one of them tells me.
Pets, strays or family guard dogs – they didn’t care because they had no-one to answer to and lots of money to make in the multi-million dollar industry.
But those whose animals have been stolen certainly care.
One man, Dang, who lives in the town of Nghe Ann, keeps his dog in a cage to prevent it being stolen and told me: “Along this road, all the failies living on both sides have lost dogs.”
Sold: Dog trade
Almost 300 have been stolen over the last few months.
But it is a drop in the ocean of the dog meat trade overall.
It’s eaten in a host of countries including Thailand, South Korea, Philippines and China among others for a variety of reasons, from purging yourself of bad luck to increasing male sexual prowess.
It’s estimated that millions of dogs a year are raised, farmed and stolen to meet the ever-growing demand.
Every day or so I would I would see trucks in Hanoi with cages upon cages of deathly silent dogs all staring at passers by without so much as a bark.
They would be sold to slaughter houses or restaurants, kept for a few days and then killed in front of one and other by the roadside in the markets of Hanoi.
At one of the marketss the street is lined with holding pens, each with up to 500 dogs inside. The will be weighed to assess their value before being packed into incredibly cramped crates.
For sale: Dogs as food
At busy times, the holding houses on this street process around 2,000 dogs in a single day.
The lust for dog meat grows as the Vietnamese become increasingly better off. The country has been transformed from one on the brink of starvation 30 years ago, to a place on the up and up by rapid economic changes.
People now have more money to spend on food, going out and partying and dog meat fits perfectly into that culture.
Any celebration and especially the end of the lunar month calls for a trip to the many dog meat only restaurants there. But do these people know where the meat they feast on comes from?
“We don’t know but we don’t care” one group of young teenage diners told me. “We only care about how it tastes and we love it” he said as his pals nod in agreement.
But in Vietnam, dog theft is not a crime, all you get charged with, if at all, for stealing dogs is a fine of up to $100 (about one night’s work for thieves).
But that’s rare as dog thieves operate in the dead of night and are notorious for being armed with home-made stun guns, swards and machetes to stop any pet owner from fighting them off. They’ve viciously attacked and even killed people who have fought back.
But the tension is getting to much to bear and now some villages across the country are fighting back. Numerous mob killings of dog thieves have made national headlines.
In one such village, N-hi Trung, in the centre of Vietnam, 68 people confessed to the killing of two dog thieves who they say stole over 300 dogs from them that year alone.
“We are not scared of them” one pregnant villager who took part told me. “We won’t beat them to death, just break their arms and legs.”
It felt surreal, just bizarre, to think people were being killed for someone else’s dog meat dinner.
But more than anything, what was the most upsetting was the scale and truly inhumane way the dogs that had been caught were treated.
You don’t have to be an animal rights campaigner to see blatant cruelty at almost every turn and some of the killing and brutality I saw will stay with me for ever.
Horror: Caged dogs
There are no health and safety or hygiene regulations for the killing of dogs and at a slaughterhouse I watched as a dog was grabbed from a pit and rendered unconcsious with two blows to the head before its throat is slit.
And I cannot forget the terrible scenes of those dogs being force-fed at one of the largest dog-trading market villages in the north of the country Son Dong Village.
In a single day seven tonnes of live dogs would be packed into massive metal crates piled high on top of one and other and shipped to Hanoi City alone for the restaurants and slaughter houses.
From what my team and I saw, the whole situation seems to be coming to a climax in Vietnam.
I’m not against people who eat meat, far from it, and our Unreported World film isn’t about that. What we have uncovered is a world of lawlessness when it comes to dog meat in Vietnam.
A government with a don’t ask don’t tell policy; middle-men and thieves who do unspeakable things to the dogs for better profit margins and the dog meat lovers who rarely question where the meat they were eating came from.
Whether the answer is regulating it, like pork or beef here in the UK, or banning it outright – as it currently stands people and dogs are suffering pointlessly as a result of the dog meat trade in Vietnam.
My hope is that after watching this film, people, campaigners and even the Vietnamese government are moved to end the cruelty in the dog eat trade. It simply isn’t right for things to continue as they are.
* Unreported World: Vietnam’s Dog Snatchers is on Channel 4 tonight(FRI) at