Your Next Hamburger May Come With a Side of Endangered Wolf

A group argues for adding wildlife conservation facts to nutrition labels.


The remnants of uneaten hamburgers at a 2014 burger-eating contest in Washington. (Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters)

May 29, 2016
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife

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.

An environmental group would like to factor in one more thing: how food production affects wildlife. Piggybacking on the government’s overhauled nutrition label—which, despite industry opposition, now distinguishes added from naturally occurring sugars—the Center for Biological Diversity has released “extinction labels” that suggest how much impact a hamburger, a chicken breast, or a serving of bacon has on water supplies, forests, the climate, and the survival of endangered species.

“People probably don’t think that when they’re eating a hamburger they’re harming a wolf, but there’s a direct correlation,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A wolf, for example, will be targeted by predator control programs in their natural environment, at the behest of the livestock industry, to protect the cattle.”


The “extinction facts” label. (Image: Center for Biological Diversity)

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.

RELATED:  This State’s Population of Wolves Is Recovering, So Now Ranchers Can Shoot Them

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.)

Ten years later, Cascio said, he continues to get requests to use the image, and he features it in his consulting on sustainability and future planning.


The “cheeseburger footprint” label. (Image: Courtesy of Jamais Cascio)

“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.”

How to Save the World? James Cameron says Go Vegan


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.

Captain Paul Watson on LA Talk Radio June 10th

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, on State of the Oceans!

>Michael Budkie, A.H.T.,…/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: twitter: Facebook:

> 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, 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
Yana’s vegan group; VeganPower; informative tips and delicious recipes
twitter; @YanaRusinovich

>Jana Jungle; host
twitter: @RainforestRadio.

>Barbi Twins; hosts
twitter: @Barbi_Twins



The Horrors of Vietnam’s Meat Trade

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.
Chau Doan
Trapped: Dogs
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.”
Chau Doan
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.
Chau Doan
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.
Video loading
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.
Chau Doan
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


Action Alert: Don’t Let Abusers Cover Up Cruelty!

Kentucky: Don’t Let Abusers Cover Up Cruelty!

Just a few weeks ago, The Humane Society of the United States exposed horrific cruelty at a major Kentucky pig factory; including pigs locked into cages so small they couldn’t turn around and mother pigs being fed the remains of their diseased piglets. But instead of cleaning up their act, the state’s big meat producers are now trying to silence whistleblowers. The industry and its backers in the legislature are trying to sneak through an “ag-gag” law aimed at criminalizing anyone who exposes food safety violations or animal abuse on factory farms. Even worse, they have attached this poisonous provision to a formerly pro-animal bill.

Please call your legislators right away and ask them to oppose this undemocratic effort. Look up your legislator’s phone number here. You can simply say: “I am outraged that an ag-gag provision was sneakily attached to HB222. I urge you to stop the ag-gag provision, which would threaten animals and consumer safety.”

After making your phone call (please do not skip that crucial step!), personalize and submit the letter in the form below to automatically send a follow-up message to your legislators and Gov. Steve Beshear.


Hot Dogs Are Gross and Baseball is a Waste of Time

For the past few posts it seems I’ve set out to slay the sacred cows (so to speak) of American culture (and/or counter-culture). First I challenged the cow-haters—those radical anarchists who seek to extract revenge for environmental abuses by attacking the most nonthreatening (and least intentionally culpable) of all the culprits—the cows themselves. Next, I set out to re-revise revisionist history by reminding readers that all people are relative newcomers to this hemisphere and, by their very membership in the human race, destructive by nature.

Now, just to show I’m not in this for any kind of popularity or personal gain, I’m going to end this trilogy by going after two established pillars of standard American society: hot dogs and professional sports. When I say “hot dogs,” I mean the “all-meat” kind, as opposed to the “fake” ones made out of soy or seitan or some other benign, cruelty-free, plant source. “Real” hot dogs were actually an ingenious Yankee invention in response to the question, “What should we do with all the disgusting guts, eyeballs and offal on the slaughterhouse floor” (the proverbial “beaks and peckers,” according to the kid on Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade)? “I know—let’s package it, give it a fun name and market it as food!”

And finally, we come to the most consecrated of American cows: professional spectator sports. Now, I’m all for people getting out and challenging themselves by hiking, skiing, weight training or the like, but sitting around jeering, cussing or cheering at a bunch of overpaid athletes while choking down hot dogs (“real” ones, not those candy-ass, heart-healthy soy dogs) always seemed like a waste of time to me. My question is, why do we need an entire section of every newspaper or ten minutes of the nightly newscast devoted to how the “local” teams did on their rigged little games? I mean really, how are the Seattle Seahawks considered local to fans in, say, Whitefish, Montana, Pocatello, Idaho or Dillingham, Alaska?

If it’s all just for a friendly wager, that’s fine. But otherwise, I just don’t get it.



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