Cultured Meat – A Welsh Bacon Farmer’s Take

Cultured meat is the future. I’m sure of it. Even monolithic meat companies like Tyson Foods think so. And now here we have the view from the other end of the spectrum – small-scale Welsh farmer and traditionalist, Illtud Llyr Dunsford, otherwise known as Bob.

Illtud’s family has farmed animals in south Wales for more than 200 years.

“One animal in particular has a special place in my heart” he says “- the pig.”

He goes on:“We’d always salted our pork in the traditional Carmarthenshire method, encasing the animal in salt in a slate tray before hanging and air drying. Using traditional family recipes we’d also produce brawn and faggots. I guess it’s in the blood, my Auntie Ethel had a stall for years on Carmarthen Market selling faggots, her produce is the stuff of legend now, and the recipe is a closely guarded family secret.”
(Clearly when he talks of loving pigs, he means something very different from me.)
Drawing on that tradition, he founded Charcutier Ltd, an award-winning company producing niche artisan meats – heritage hand-salted bacons and hams.
His philosophy was to make products using every part of the pigs. As he so graphically puts it, “everything but the squeal”.

Illtud, who in a former life worked in the film industry (Harry Potter, Robin Hood, Dr. Who) also happens to be a Nuffield scholar. If you’ve been listening to The Archers recently, you’ll know all about the Nuffield Scholarship program. But if you’re not an addict of the soap like me, here is the lowdown:

The Nuffield Farm Scholarship program gives awards to successful applicants so they can “search out and bring back to farmers in the UK details of good and innovative agricultural husbandry, from different parts of the globe.”

And the best thing Illtud/Bob brought back from his trips to Ireland, France, Italy, Brazil, and the U.S. was his discovery of developments in cellular agriculture. This technology was completely new to him when he encountered it at the 1st International Symposium on Cultured Meat. The event was hosted by Maastricht University in the Netherlands, home of the very first $330,000 cultured meat burger which was unveiled, cooked and tasted in 2013.

It was at the symposium Illtud experienced his lightbulb moment (they call it a”Nuffield Moment” in the program) – the revelation that cellular agriculture really does offer a viable solution to all of the many serious problems meat production poses, whether it’s carried out on an industrial scale, or even on a small scale like his own family farm. His travels had exposed those problems surrounding ethics, the environment, sustainability, animal welfare, and the urgent need for the new and better methods technology is now able to provide. In his own words:

“I sat on the bench in the centre of the Belgian University town of Leuven — eating the most delicious fries which had been cooked in beef dripping — contemplating veganism. Like a dieter who promises that the evening blow-out meal before the diet starts will be the last of its kind, I didn’t hold up much hope that I would be turning vegan. However, having come from an agricultural background, raised in a tradition where I was at the heart of the rearing and processing of our own animals, I had never stopped and questioned the consumption of meat… I sat in that square the best part of the day, my head aching from the pressure of thinking. I was a man anguished by a moral dilemma. How could I, an advocate of traditional farming practices, heritage recipes, and processing methods, be even contemplating this new world?”

Illtud’s second “Nuffield Moment” was witnessing for himself the vast swathes of Amazonian rainforest laid waste for grazing cattle and growing livestock feed. Brazilian law stipulates that 80% of the Amazon must remain untouched by agriculture, but seeing at first hand the lack of enforcement of this law troubled him deeply. He left the Amazon shaken:

“I would never consider protein production in the same way again. The reality of the pressure of feeding the 9bn by 2050 was becoming ever greater. Though traditional agriculture held some of the answer, it was becoming clearly obvious that if we followed that path alone, our planet, and its resource might survive 2050, but not for the generations of 11.2bn projected for 2100… Deforestation is a global issue, its impact is global and the reality is that any protein production we support, even adding milk to our tea, becomes of itself an environmental act. “

The last leg of Illtud’s trip took him to the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. It was as horrible as it sounds. He was shocked by the aggressive commercialism and poor animal welfare standards of the large-scale pork industry, in full view right there before his eyes.

Feeling thoroughly depressed he set off for his final destination, California for New Harvest’s first conference. What a difference! The mood was upbeat. Here was real hope of a truly sustainable future for meat production, and not just meat. Other ‘animal products’ too.

cultured-meat-resized

 “The field is growing immensely; panelists delegates and exhibitors at the conference included a raft of companies who are looking at a range of products. They are predominantly developing products that are specifically animal derived [cultured from animal cells]: Gelzen (gelatine), Modern Meadow (leather), Muufri/Perfect Day (milk), Spiber (spider silk), Pembient (rhino horn) and Sothic (horseshoe crab blood) and span a range of applications, both food, clothing, and also medicine. [But] cultured meat is still held as the holy grail of products…”

Sad to say, back home in Wales Illtud has not yet abandoned his hand-salted bacons and hams. But the great news is, he is pushing forward with biotech. He’s founded Cultivate, a hub for discussing developments in cellular agriculture. And our farming pioneer has taken over a new start-up called, would you believe, Cellular Agriculture Ltd, with a view to making his very own cultured meat.

This has to be of huge significance for British farming.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before folk up and down the country will be tucking into Illtud’s bacon and ham cultured from pig cells, proudly labelled “Made in Wales”, rather than the cruel kind that comes from “everything but the squeal”.

Let’s just hope cellular agriculture here and in the States develops fast enough to halt the devastation of the planet, and the slaughter of billions upon billions more innocent lives.


Postscript

Interesting to compare.

es-2011-00130u_0006

Read more

Sources

What Does This Artisanal Meat Producer Think About Cultured Meat? – written for Medium by David Leibowitz of New Harvest

Charcutier Ltd – WordPress

Related posts

Which is Your Burger of Choice for the Future of Food

This is the Future – 5 Awesome People Make Fabulous ‘Post-Animal’ Food

Sink Your Teeth into this Meaty News!

Dairy in Decline? It’s Not That Black & White

Down on the dairy farm, US farmers are weeping into their breakfast cereal. Because milk is hitting the headlines once again. Honestly though, when is it ever out of them? Not that that is surprising since we are drowning in a deluge of the stuff, here in the UK, in Europe, and in the US too.
american-flag-793891__340It seems that across the pond, people are losing their appetite for dairy. Americans are buying 37 percent less of it than they did 50 years ago.That’s quite a drop.
On the other side of the scales, plant-milk sales have shot up to a $1 billion.“Veganism has turned mainstream”, and plant-based milk brands are winning a huge customer base, admits the industry’s own paper, The Dairy Reporter.
This downturn in dairy and upturn in plant-milks no doubt have something to do with the US’s colossal ‘cheese mountain’.¹ It would take each woman, man, child, infant and babe in the country devouring an additional 3lbs of the stuff to make any significant impact on the surplus.

(Dave Schilling for the Guardian suggests a few absurd ideas of what to do with all the excess, such as towing it out into the Pacific Ocean to make a large floating island. “It’ll be a great place for cruise ships to stop for a cheesy photo opp. Plus, you can take a hunk of it home, like the Berlin Wall.”)

Meanwhile back in the US, dairymen with their heads screwed on have been quick to implement the ‘if you can’t beat’em, join’em’ principle, and are busy knocking down cowsheds and planting almond groves in their place. The number of Californian almond groves has nearly doubled over the past decade.²

But of course there are many who are simply not willing to bow to the inevitable and are putting up a fight. What they hope will be their weapon against the ever-growing unwanted surplus of their dairy products and rocketing sales of plant milks is the proposed Dairy Pride Act. Dairy Pride in case you didn’t know – I didn’t – stands for “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.” Hmm.

This would mean unless Almond Breeze, Silk, White Wave et al,  are “the lacteal secretion… of one or more healthy cows,” (yummy) you won’t be able to call them ‘milk’. Because calling them milk is so confusing to the poor consumer, right? They might buy almond milk thinking it comes from cows. (Heavy irony in case you can’t tell.)

Emily Byrd gives us Dairy Pride Explained, her witty assessment of the contentious issue. It’s well worth a read. She imagines a few alternative product descriptions if the DP bill passes into law:

  • Cream of Wheat might have to called “liquefied wheat”
  • Almond Milk  – “nut juice”
  • And my personal favourite, peanut Butter – “peanut sludge”
But Dairy Pride is more than just a joke. The Animal Legal Defense League sees its dangers:

It’s “a blatant attempt by the dairy industry to stifle the rise of plant-based products that many consumers choose as healthier and more humane alternatives by prohibiting such products from using “milk” or “cheese” in their names.”

And, “designed to discourage people from purchasing healthy and humane alternatives to dairy milk products and to ensure the continuation of cruel factory farming despite consumers’ growing interest in products that don’t require animal cruelty.”

 If you agree with them please sign & share ADFL’s petition against the bill here

Tell Congress to Dump the Dairy Pride Act here

The Good Food Institute lawyers call the Act unconstitutional. Read more here


dutch-flag-889734__340Meanwhile over on this side of the pond and across the channel, Dutch dairy farmers too are wringing their hands and crying into their porridge. The Dutch dairy industry, now at four million cows, has been told it’s got too big and bloated and the EU is not happy.

This time it’s not just about stemming the flow of the white stuff into the European milk lake. Brussels says dairy farmers need to put a lid on the spiralling levels of phosphates in feed and of nitrates in fertilizer use, both well over EU permitted limits for their country. What is the problem with that? Neatly explained for the layperson like myself here.

So on 1st March this year the Netherlands, Europe’s third largest producer of dairy, began a painful program of shrinking the industry by 5%, down to 2015 levels.

The Dutch government is paying dairy farmers to stop farming dairy – crazy world we live in! Wouldn’t we all love to be paid for stopping doing something? So much for the free market beloved of capitalists.

Is this enforced Dutch dairy slim-down good news? Of course it is. It means fewer animals to endure the life of suffering that is the lot of the dairy cow.

But the dark side of the program will see 100,000 of these gentle creatures sent to an even more untimely death than is the norm. I’m not sure that knowing they will be saved further suffering is much consolation for the sadness of seeing over the next couple of months those 100,000 individuals’ lives snuffed out.


globe-868846__340So yes, markets for dairy are shrinking in America and Europe. That’s the good news. Worldwide the picture is not so bright. The global trend for dairy is not down as it looks from our western perspective, but up. And up by a lot. According to the milk production facts from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO):

In the last three decades, world milk production has increased by more than 50%, from 500 million tonnes in 1983 to 769 million tonnes in 2013.

2020_symbolAnd global sales, though slowing a little, are expected to keep on growing. So while the US domestic market is shrinking, futurologists for the US Dairy Exporter Council (USDEC) actually forecast a positive outlook for their exports.

“We are encouraged to see that, despite the recent prolonged soft export market, long-term global dairy demand fundamentals are still in place that will again pressure available milk supplies,” said USDEC President Tom Suber. “This should bring both higher prices and a resumed export upside for U.S. suppliers.”

USDEC’s latest report says: “Growth will be driven by economic and population dynamics in developing countries.”

And it looks like Dave Schilling can forget about his fantasy cheese island in the Pacific, since cheese is identified as presenting “the most significant growth opportunity for the U.S. dairy industry.” Seems they are confident of shifting that particular mountain after all.

So the future is looking bright for the world’s dairy farmers. But bleak for the environment.

environmental-issues-in-the-dairy-industry-farm-level-assessment-10-638

Bleak too for those of us who are fighting for the environment and animal rights.
But most of all for the 264 million dairy cows in the world right now, and the even greater numbers to come.

.dairy_2D00_milk_2D00_infographic

Please don’t forget to sign and share those petitions. Thank you!

And please support the Vegan Society’s Grow Green plan for the future of food here

¹ A Cheese Glut is Overtaking America – The Wall Street Jopurnal

² It’s Finally Happening – Dairy Farmers Are Converting to Almond Groves – One Green Planet

Read more about the Dairy Pride Act here

March 18th 2017

Some good news: Large Dairy Company Ditches Dairy after 90 years and Starts Producing Plant-Based Milks Instead

Sources

Dutch dairy cull plan agreed by EU – Farmers Weekly

5 Global Dairy Trends for 2020 for U.S. Exporters – U.S. Dairy Export Council Blog

Statistics: Dairy Cows – Compassion in World Farming

Related posts

Will New Pea Milk Spell the Demise of Dairy?

Mountains of Cheese, Lakes of Milk, and What We Can Do about it

Why Cows Need Their Friends

I’ve seen you in the meat aisle

EU Animals Face Abuse And Torture During Live Exports | Care2 Causes

This is no less appalling for being not entirely unexpected. Who really would want to insist on buying chunks of our fellow animals’ tortured bodies to eat knowing they were personally contributing to such horror?

An investigation by Animals International has found that live animal exports from the European Union are subjected to inhumane treatment and conditions that have been described as abuse and torture. 

In an extensive exposé The Guardian reports on the Animals International operation that collected footage from various ports and abattoirs over an eight month period:

Dozens of undercover videos and photographs obtained by the Guardian show live cattle and sheep from EU countries being beaten, shocked with electric prods, held for days in overcrowded pens and covered head to toe in faeces as they are transported from Europe to their final destinations in Turkey and the Middle East in conditions that breach European law.

At their destination, at least some of the animals are slaughtered in appalling conditions. The footage shows cattle and sheep from France, Romania and Lithuania kicking and flailing violently as their throats are crudely cut or sawed at repeatedly, often in crowded street markets and run-down abattoirs.

The export of live animals has been a contentious issue for the EU for a number of years, with campaigners saying that not only is the practice unsound from a food safety point of view, it is deeply harmful to the animals and rife with abuse.

Please read on: EU Animals Face Abuse And Torture During Live Exports | Care2 Causes

The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Cover pic from Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Two news items clicked together in the brain one week last year: one on the surface at least quite frivolous, and the other of such profound significance it has the potential to throw a bomb into life-as-we-know-it and blast us into utterly uncharted terrain.

Let’s start with the harebrained one. Do you remember when designer dogs first became the must-have accessory? Or maybe they always were. But a few years ago, someone came up with the bright idea of taking established breeds and cross-breeding them with each other in the search for the cutest combo-pup. Nowadays, puggles, goldendoodles, labskys and cockerpoos are everywhere. There was, and still is, good money to be made and breeders are cashing in.

Of course, this is nothing new. Humans have been interfering with natural selection for centuries, cross-breeding both animals and plants in the worlds of farming and horticulture, in search of desired ‘improvements’: more productive milk cows; heavier meatier livestock; disease-resistant crops; or just prettier flowers.

But cross-breeding as a way of getting what you want, is so yesterday. Make way for CRISPR.

CRISPR is not a typo, as one might be excused for thinking, describing how omnivores like their breakfast bacon. It is, apparently, the acronym for

Clustered   Regularly   Interspaced   Short   Palindromic   Repeats

Gene-editing to you and me. In the simplest of terms that I can understand, it means cutting out a section of the DNA double helix (see below) with something called Cas9 – biological scissors, in effect – and replacing the removed section with a new piece of DNA- which can be just about anything the scientists want it to be.

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

What has made this biotechnology possible are the huge strides in genome mapping over the last couple of decades. Because of course, you don’t want to just cut out any old piece of DNA. Now, because each bit of the double helix can be identified, you can target the exact piece you want to remove, and replace it with the piece of your choice.

So your new designer dog can now be gene-edited any way you want. No more need for crossbreeding, lots more scope for innovation, and better control over results. Genetic-engineer James West has spotted the money-making potential. His Nashville-based firm AgGenetics engineered Angus cattle to have white coats instead of black or brown, to make them more heat-tolerant, thus doubling beef production. (And milk cows are already being gene-edited to be born without horns, so they no longer have to be burned off.)

Inevitably, it didn’t take Mr West long to realise that the change-the-coat-colour technique could be applied to other animals too. He tested his idea on mice, and produced poor little newborns sporting their little fur coats patterned with squares, stripes and spots.

dachshund-1532974_960_720

Maybe soon he will be taking orders for the customer’s choice of novelty designer dog picked from an online catalogue. There are so far four colourways: red, brown, yellow and black. And would you prefer squares or stripes, Sir/Madam?

Ludicrous as it sounds, gene-editing for striped dogs provokes serious questions. Who knows where it could lead, and what the implications could be – and not just for dogs?

And the designer stripey dog is one thing, but how about wiping out an entire species at will?

We ran across this even more worrying application for CRISPR earlier this year, in Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth? With CRISPR it’s possible, for instance, to delete the mosquito DNA involved in reproduction and replace that section of the sequence with DNA that makes the insect sterile. This ‘permanent solution’ for mosquitoes is being researched for obvious reasons – these insects carry malaria, zika and dengue fever, and by transmitting malaria in particular, have probably killed more than half the humans that have ever lived.

This seems to be the default human mindset: how can we use this new technology for the benefit of our own species before and above all others?

With CRISPR, humanity now holds in its hands the power of god, the power to gene-edit Nature. I’ll say it again,

Man now has the power to gene-edit life itself

And that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

In 2011 a group of geologists called for the recognition of a new era in the history of the Earth – the Anthropocene, to acknowledge the impact of humans on the planet. How much more apt now than it was just five short years ago.

So when we ask that question, how can these new technologies be used to further our own interests, there are other, and even more important questions that need to be addressed: Should we be doing this? What are the ethics controlling our ever-increasing powers? And who gets to decide?

This is what natural scientist and poet Melanie Challenger has to say about the new power we have, to deliberately wipe out a target species if we so choose (as opposed to accidentally wiping out random species which tragically, we’re proving spectacularly successful at)

If we start getting cavalier about the existence of a living being, if we start to think it’s OK to eradicate something because it’s a threat to us, we put other ideas about the sanctity of life in question”

Striped dogs, a world without mosquitoes, can it get any more bizarre and perturbing? Well yes it can – the Chimaera (chimera in the USA), already here. In Greek myth the Chimaera was a monstrous fire-breeding hybrid, a goat-headed lion with a serpent-head tail. These days, we’re more familiar with the electro-petroleum kind of hybrid on four wheels. But the very latest kind of Chimaera hybrid has more in common with the one of Greek myth – it’s a nightmarish combination of human and pig.

So what would you say to Organ Farms?

A while ago I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel ‘Never Let Me Go’. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it)  As you turn the pages you start to realise the horrible truth, that the young people we are getting to know as they grow up, are in fact clones. Then an even more disturbing truth is revealed – the characters have been created solely for their organs and will undergo a cycle of ‘donations’ until their bodies and their lives are consumed.

Well, reality is catching up with fiction once again. Only, as is always the case in the real world, it’s the infinitely useful nonhuman animal that humans deploy for the task. The unfortunate ‘donors’ will not be human but porcine. Pigs have drawn the short straw because their organs are about the size and weight of human organs. Not that they will be using the animals’ own organs though, because pig organs would be rejected by the human body. So what’s needed for the sick people on the long waiting list for transplants are proper healthy human organs.

No cloning here though – just CRISPR and the new Chimaera. This is what you do. You get a brand new pig embryo in your lab. You delete the genes responsible for the formation of, say, the pancreas. You introduce the appropriate human genes. You implant the genetically-engineered embryo into a female pig on your Organ Farm, and hey presto, there will be a lovely human pancreas ready to transplant into a human recipient in need. Farms of pigs incubating clean healthy human organs, and on demand.

images

Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, but that is where the research is heading. And it will happen. As the title of last night’s Panorama proclaimed, “Medicine’s Big Breakthrough”. The scientists are excited by CRISPR’s potential. So are the medical professionals. And who can blame those once considered incurably ill for holding on to such promise of a complete cure.

But what about the animals? And what about the planet? The waves in the wake of this technology could sink us before climate change gets a chance to.Just a final note to send you to bed with nightmares: there’s a guy in San Francisco selling Do-It-Yourself CRISPR kits online out of his garage, so everyone can do their own gene-editing at home. He calls it the democratisation of science. Sweet dreams.
Time now for an update

Above piece posted June 7th 2016, but there have been developments.

Gene-edited organs are on their way. Just last week (on the 26th January 2017) scientists in California were excited to announce a world first – Chimaera lives. They have indeed succeeded in making embryos containing both pig and human cells.

These so-called human-pig chimeras (which contained only a small number of human cells) were allowed to develop for several weeks in female pigs before the pregnancies were terminated, according to a new study.

“The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that,” study researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, California, said in a statement. “This is an important first step.” LiveScience

I don’t know about you but I find this deeply disturbing, and their triumphant announcement poses more ethical questions for me than it answers:

  • How exactly were the pregnancies terminated?
  • Did the sows give their consent? Silly question
  • What happened to the sows post-abortion?
  • Do we know the physical and emotional effect on the sows?

Scientists would dismiss such questions as irrelevant but that is exactly where the problem lies. Not only do they feel entirely justified in their research, but any thought that something could be horribly wrong here would never even come near to entering their heads.

How did the Nazis square their conscience over the barbaric experimentation they conducted on gypsies, Poles, Russian POWs, Jews, and even Germans if they were unlucky enough to be disabled? They were brainwashed by propaganda that created in their minds a ‘them and us’. Their victims were ‘other’, of a different and lesser order. They de-personalised them, designated them vermin. And of course, as we all know, nonhumans only exist for human use, human benefit, and ‘vermin’ are at the very bottom of the heap. For ‘vermin’, anything goes.

Last week the BBC news highlighted the terrible shortage of donor organs in the UK. Patients in need of transplants are going to Pakistan where they can buy an organ from the poorest, people in dire need of the money. And even worse, criminals are cashing in, lining their pockets trafficking people to harvest their organs by force.

The scientists at La Jolla are looking to forcibly harvest organs from the pigs. True, they’re not exploiting living beings for illegal personal gain like the traffickers. They would say they are doing it for science, for medicine, and indeed out of humanity. It is sanctioned by society. But only because society has also been indoctrinated into arbitrarily dividing animals into ‘them and us’, making the nonhuman animals other and lesser than the human animal, declaring, “We are not animals.” But we are. Bestowing on ourselves like gods the power over life and death. Holding the fate of those ‘others’ in the palm of our hands.

But cruelty, coercion and exploitation are always cruelty, coercion and exploitation. The end does not justify the means.

You might say to me, what if it was your son’s, your daughter’s life in the balance waiting for a transplant? A hard question to answer. But two things I can say:

  • There should be far better ways to increase the supply of donor organs. For instance, Wales now has an ‘opt-out’ system. If you don’t register as not wanting to donate your organs, you will automatically be considered as having no objection. Isn’t that preferable to harvesting organs for humans by violating pigs?
  • And secondly, are the sow’s powerful maternal feelings worth less consideration than ours? And isn’t hijacking her reproductive cycle in this way, as with dairy cows, as with laying hens, both sexist and speciesist?

Are we to accept any horror perpetrated on nonhuman animals if it is in human’s interests? Surely it is more than time to acknowledge that

“We are one species among many who share a common ancestry with all other species in the animal kingdom. The false dichotomy between us and them pits humans against the rest of the animal kingdom and reinforces the myth that humans are so superior from the other animals that it’s practically blasphemous to even suggest that other animals possess lives that matter to them in the way our human lives matter to us.” Robert Grillo

 eyes_collage

Postscript This is a huge topic with more ramifications than it is possible to imagine. I don’t pretend to any expertise and my descriptions of the science are just my way of getting my head around it a little bit. This is just skimming the surface of a technology of infinite significance that is surely ushering in the next Age of Life on Earth.

APOLOGIES – WORDPRESS HAS DONE SOMETHING WEIRD TO THE LAYOUT & I CAN’T SEEM TO CORRECT IT.

Update

23rd February 2017 – CRISPR promises a better way to stop mosquitoes spreading malaria, and without the need to render the insect extinct. Tony James from the University of California is “using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to create a ‘gene drive’ system that spreads an anti-malaria gene inside the mosquito population. The gene basically destroys malaria, and then spreads on to the next generations.”

It sounds like a very promising approach, but it’s early days and the strategy would not be without its problems. Find out more from ZME Science.

Sources

Quote & pic Free from Harm

Let’s Not Buy Into Genetically Modified Fur – Care2 Causes

Medicine’s Big Breakthrough – Editing Your Genes – Panorama

Human/Nonhuman Chimera – Do We Really Want to Go There? – The Kimmela Centre

Related posts

Get Your Pet Fox Here

Planet at the Crossroads

Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

I’ve Seen You In The Meat Aisle

I’ve seen you in the meat aisle,
Seen you choosing who to eat,
Eyeing up their body parts
In rows all nice and neat.

 

 

I’ve seen you grabbing bottled milk
That wasn’t made for you
And I know you never think about
The suffering they knew.

.

 

I’ve watched you fill your trolley up
With misery and pain,
Eggs and cheese, a leg, a wing,
My heart just broke again.

 

 

You say I should respect your choice,
That it’s your right to choose,
Well, legally perhaps you win
But morally you lose.

I don’t know how you do it
But you close your ears and eyes
To the slaughterhouse, the blood and screams,
Their fear, despair and cries.

 

 

It doesn’t even cross your mind,
You bite and drink and chew,
And you keep yourself from knowing
That they died because of you.

So no, I don’t respect your choice,
There’s no respect from me.
You are putting in your stomach
Someone you refuse to see.

 

fast-food-445581__340

The animals, they have no voice,
Convenient for you,
But have a heart and look at those
Who lost their lives for you.

 

Emma Murphy

Choose Compassion – Go Vegan here
Or here
Or here

 

Source

A friend posted this on Facebook. In the light of the message, I feel pretty confident that Emma (whom I do not know, but would like to) would be happy for me to share it with you.

I added the photos to her powerful words.

Favourite Food for Cows?

When you’ve been vegan for a few years, you always think you’ve seen everything the world can possibly throw at animals. Until you get hit with the next enormity you could never have dreamed up in your wildest imaginings – as happens day after day.

But how about this for a piece of news to sock you straight between the eyes:-

Cows love Skittles!

Well, if I’m honest no-one’s asked the cows their opinion, but whatever, love’em or loathe’em they do have to eat them. Because there’s a little secret US cattle farmers successfully kept under ‘wraps’ until Tuesday night last week. That was when a truck shed its load and turned the icy Wisconsin highway the hottest of hot pinks with tons and tons of spilled Skittles. You could say it spilled the beans.

Here are the sweets in all their elemental pinkness.

skittles-1
Image credits Dodge County Sheriff’s Office / Facebook

The truck was delivering ‘feed’ to a farm. It seems that on the quiet the farmers have been feeding Skittles defects (not always pink, in case you’re wondering) to their animals for years because they’re cheaper than corn.

But don’t worry, says local Agriculture Educator Liz Binversie, there’s no need for concern that the cows’ candy consumption will spoil your meat. She’s quite sure of that – after all they’ve been doing it for years and no-one seems to have noticed.

Well, that’s all right then. As long as it doesn’t affect the humans, heaven forbid.

And full marks to all concerned for their efforts to spin a PR disaster into a fine bit of agitprop. Despite being put on the spot so spectacularly, they’ve rustled up some excellent reasons why pink Skittles are as good if not better for cattle than corn.

“Cows need carbohydrates. They need sugar. It provides energy and calories for them,” continues Ms Binversie. “Your body doesn’t really distinguish candy vs syrup vs corn vs whatever.” Whatever.

“It actually has a higher ratio of fat (than) actually feeding them straight corn,” says Joseph Watson, owner of United Livestock Commodities. Actually.

“I think it’s a viable (diet),” professor of animal nutrition John Waller throws in. “It keeps fat material from going out in the landfill, and it’s a good way to get nutrients in these cattle.”

So there you go – better for the environment too. Everyone’s a winner.

If you want to know just how credible are those apologists for cows consuming candy, you might want to consider this snippet from NBC News:

Watson’s feed appears to contain wrapped candy. [Professor] Waller admitted that there seemed to be candy wrappers in the feed, but he still wasn’t alarmed.

“It didn’t look like a tremendous amount (of wrappers). If they’re paper, those same microbes can digest that paper,” he said.

And if they’re plastic?

“They probably would just pass through. I think it would pass through just like excess fiber would,” Waller said.

Hmm. In what universe is it not utterly disturbing that cattle are fattened up on reject pink sweets – with or without plastic wrappers – before being butchered for the dinner table? Tell me that.

Source

ZME Science

 

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Why I Love Loud Women, Especially Loud Vegan Women

“Well behaved women seldom make history”

… Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Dutch-born vegan Nancy Holten is a long time resident in Switzerland. Her kids were born there. She’s raising them there. But because her activism for the animals is “too annoying”, she has had her application for Swiss citizenship turned down for the third time.
Passionate vegans are no strangers to activism backlash. It comes in all shapes and forms, from the prosecution of Toronto Pig Save’s Anita Kranjc, and Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project’s incarceration and deportation from Japan, through to violent physical attacks on hunt sabs and vicious bullying in the school yard.
“People were telling me to kill myself by drowning in milk or by cutting myself with a razor blade. One teacher at the school told me I should go to TAFE¹ because I am ‘not a mainstream student’.”

… 16-year-old vegan schoolgirl Kaila Mackay.

More commonly, vegans experience backlash in the form of vitriolic abuse on social media. Unpleasant though that may be, the personal cost to the vegan post-ers is hopefully not as life-changingly prejudicial as being refused citizenship of the country where you’ve lived most of your life. Nancy Holten’s case has to be a first.

Speaking for myself, I was a child of the 50s and the youngest of 3 – a small girl in the shadow of two bigger, stronger, faster, cleverer brothers. In the small island where we lived everyone knew everyone, and you fell over backwards never to give offence. A setting for a golden childhood, but sterile soil for growing gobby girls with the promise of sprouting into loud proud women. It would have taken someone very special, and that very special someone I was not. So on the outside I became exactly what the island community thought I should be, a “well-behaved” girl who kept her maverick thoughts entirely to herself. This little girl had felt to her cost at a young age the angry stamping-on those kind of thoughts invited if she dared to speak them out loud. I never looked like making history.

You could be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ and ‘gentle’ and ‘good’, all acceptable ‘feminine’ qualities. But if you were loud you were clearly none of those things, because being loud was the very antithesis of what was expected of the female of the species.

From then until now I’ve always had problems with my throat and my voice. My daughter puts it down to my having been effectively silenced, unable to ‘speak my truth’.

That was all last century though, before second-wave feminism came along. You would hope that kind of suppressive social pressure is long departed. But apparently not. It seems it’s alive and well in vegan Nancy Holten’s little Swiss town of Gipf-Oberfrick. Nancy however, is not to be silenced.

We’ll let you be an animal activist as long as you’re not too darn active, is what the residents of Gipf-Oberfrick are saying to her. It’s OK if you have views as long as you play nice, keep them to yourself, don’t be loud, absolutely don’t go public, don’t shove them down our throats, and above all don’t be annoying.

And what these good burghers think of her actually does matter, not just because the power of peer pressure is in inverse proportion to the size of a town’s population, but much more specifically, because under Swiss law they all have the right to sign off – or not – on her application for Swiss citizenship. The town’s spokesperson, Urs Treier, says they keep rejecting Holten’s application not because of her opinions but because she makes such a public display of the things she objects to.

Nancy is described as “not the quiet kind”. The local branch president of the Swiss People’s Party, Tanja Suter, says Holten has “a big mouth” and doesn’t deserve the “gift” of Swiss citizenship. Jeez!

This unstoppable lady has publicly voiced her opinions about piglet racing, hunting, animals in the circus, and horse breeding. But the one that really gets up the townsfolk’s collective nose, is her rant against their cows having cowbells slung around their necks. Is that so terrible? Yes, when you see the size of the bells, as in the pic below. They weigh in at 5kg apiece and rub and burn the cows’ skin. Plus the sound of the ringing must be deafening to the cows at 100 decibels. That is loud.

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The good people of Gipf-Oberfrick’s though view her campaigning as an attack on treasured Swiss tradition:

“The importance of the cow bell is highlighted in Swiss folklore, which reflects a period when a great Trychel, or large cow bell, was a rare and much-coveted item. The legend of the Simmental tells how a young cowherd strays inside a mountain, and is offered by a beautiful woman the choice between a treasure of gold coins, a golden Trychel, or the fairy herself. He chooses the Trychel.”²

But tradition can never be a justification for inflicting harm. In 2016, 200 million women in 30 countries suffered FGM³ because it is ‘traditional’ in their communities. That doesn’t stop it being wrong.

Let’s face it, the crowd, the majority of folk who prefer to do what’s expected and think what they are told to think, will always lash out at someone swimming against the current and threatening to rock their comfortable boat. These ‘loud’ activists are speaking the truth no-one wants to hear like the Old Testament prophets, who were invariably persecuted for their pains.

Speaking out the truth is never without cost to yourself. If you stick your head up above the parapet, nothing is more certain than that you will get it shot off.  What immense courage it takes to stand up and be loud, especially for a woman. But loud vegans’ courage is fuelled by compassion for the suffering, outrage at the injustices humans are inflicting on animals everywhere, and burning passion to see equality, liberation and justice prevail.

Here’s to all loud vegan women. I salute you. Heroes, everyone.


As for Nancy Holten, she knows full well what is at stake, having had her citizenship application turned down twice already. Yet still she refuses to shut up, refuses to stop being “annoying”, refuses to stop ruffling feathers in her little Swiss town. Because the fate of the animals is so very much more important than a few ruffled feathers – more important even than the coveted Swiss citizenship. I hope she finally does get what she wants. Switzerland should be proud to claim as one of its own an amazing person like Nancy who refuses to sacrifice her principles for her own expediency.

Give that loud annoying vegan woman a medal. We need more of her kind.

“Never be bullied into silence.”

… Harvey Fierstein


Postscript
We can’t all be Nancys. I know I’m not. If you are struggling with simply maintaining a veg*n lifestyle, you are not alone. 63% of new vegans polled said they couldn’t hack sticking out from the crowd.
If you are depressed at all the horrors you see, or burned-out from all your activism, you are not alone.
Don’t give up. Awesome help and support is available here. For the sake of the animals, and for your own, please check it out.

 

¹Technical & Further Education

 ²Wiki

³Female genital mutilation

Source: Town Says Animal Activist Can’t Be Swiss Citizen Because She’s ‘Annoying’ | Care2 Causes

Related posts

Vegan Race Driver Leilani Münter Banned from SeaWorld

Eight Women Changing the World for Animals 2

Eight Women Changing the World for Animals 3

No Age Limit on Activism for Social Justice

My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

 

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A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

If the interests of animals are properly embedded in the democratic process…the laws adopted by a society are less likely to infringe their fundamental interests.

1822 is a date we lovers of justice and animals should all have tattooed on our hearts. Because 1822 was the year Richard Martin MP won for animals an important protection which was also a right: the right – for their own sake – not to be gratuitously harmed.

A 19th Century Irishman who fought more than 100 duels with sword and pistol – and obviously survived them all! – seems a most improbable man to put forward as father of the modern Animal Rights movement. But the small snowball he set in motion has just kept on rolling and rolling for the last 200 years, and growing into what we hope will soon become an avalanche.

For Martin it was who introduced a new Act to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Cattle, which made it an offence, punishable by fines up to five pounds or two months imprisonment, to “beat, abuse, or ill-treat any horse, mare, gelding, mule, ass, ox, cow, heifer, steer, sheep or other cattle.”

Up until ‘Martin’s Law’ was passed, it was the animal’s owner who was considered wronged by any harm done to the beast, not the poor animal itself. The animal had no greater status than a table or a chair, so harm inflicted on it was simply damage to the owner’s property. Martin’s Law changed that.

The prolific and accomplished duellist followed up his great legislative achievement by personally bringing the first prosecution under the new Act. The criminal – a fruit seller. The crime – beating a donkey. When the MP led the donkey into the courtroom to exhibit its injuries to judge and jury, he provoked a storm of publicity. Political cartoons appeared depicting him with donkey’s ears. Instead of being praised for his unusual-for-the-times passion for animal protection, he was publicly ridiculed.

Before another two years were out, this remarkable man was instrumental in founding the SPCA –  later the RSPCA – the very first animal protection organisation in the world, prompting the birth of similar groups in Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Only welfarism as yet, but animal advocacy began to spread around the world.

But that was 200 years ago. So where is Animal Rights today?

Well, because human society and its treatment of nonhuman animals is still, it goes without saying, regulated by law, changes in the law are what we continue to wrangle for in our pursuit of Rights for Animals. And laws that win new rights and protections for our nonhuman cousins have really gathered pace in the last decade.

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But when, just to take one example, badgers – a ‘protected’ species – are being slain in their thousands year upon year supposedly to safeguard other animals, dairy cattle – which later farmers will send to their deaths in the slaughterhouse  – there is clearly still a very long way to go.

So what if we didn’t need to change the law concerning animals at all? What if nonhuman animals had the right to have their interests properly taken into account before any human proposals were cemented into law?

Well, we just may have an exciting new way forward for Animal Rights, a way that could sweep aside the drawbacks inherent in all the various AR theories to date: it is the principle of political theory called the “all-affected.”

“The interests of animals are affected – often devastatingly – by collective decisions and, therefore, they, or – more specifically – their representatives, have a democratic right to have some say in the making of those decisions” says Professor Robert Garner.

If I can beg your patience a little further? To appreciate just how promising this approach could be, we need a super-quick run-through of Animal Rights in the past 40 years or so. Animal Rights is, as it always has been, dependent on two disciplines:

Philosophy, which deliberates on human perceptions of nonhuman animals, and their status relative to us.

And Law, which regulates that status.

I am neither a philosopher or a lawyer, so forgive my lack of expertise, simplifications of a complex subject, and any glaring omissions in my brief summary. This is a personal view, not by any means a definitive account of Animal Rights.

Utilitarianism

One of the first and most influential in recent years to grab hold of Richard Martin’s snowball and give it an energetic push down the mountain was Australian philosopher Peter Singer. He famously shook things up in the 1970s with his book Animal Liberation. His approach to Animal Rights was based on two principles:

  1. The separation of ‘human’ from ‘animal’ is illogical and arbitrary – there is far more difference between a great ape and an oyster than there is between a human and a great ape
  2. The utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham that ethics and morality are dictated by what will achieve “the greatest good of the greatest number”

It necessarily follows from his first principle that nonhumans must not be excluded from that “greatest number” for whom it is our moral duty to obtain “the greatest good”.

Drawback

The problem with this approach to Animal Rights is that if it can be established (by humans, nonhumans having no say) that the greatest good can only be achieved for the greatest number by the use of animals, even if this means inflicting pain upon them or causing them to die, then such actions are justified. Singer for example condones the use of animals where ‘necessary’ in medical research – a position I for one totally reject.

Subjects-of-a-Life

Following quickly on Singer’s heels, Tom Regan gave the snowball another hearty shove with his book “The Case for Animal Rights”. His was a very different argument. He proposed that if animals are ‘subject-of-a-life’ as unquestionably humans are, then their value lies in more than just their usefulness to humans.

“Such an individual has inherent value independent of its utility for others. Because of this inherent value, a subject-of-a-life has rights to protect this value and not to be harmed. Other subjects have a duty to respect these rights.”¹

Drawback

It seems a promising approach until you realise how high he set the bar for non-human animals to be worthy of consideration as ‘subject-of-a-life’, strangely, higher than is set for human beings.

The Big Stumbling Block – Species Criteria

For Regan, to be ‘subjects-of-a-life ‘ nonhumans must have “beliefs, desires, memory, feelings, self-consciousness, an emotional life, a sense of their own future, an ability to initiate action to pursue their goals, and an existence that is logically independent of being useful to anyone else’s interests” – his criteria any species must fulfil.

Humans all have rights independent of Regan’s requirements: newborn infants, certain disabled people, elderly people with failing mental and physical health – none of these could fulfil his criteria, but their rights are nevertheless guaranteed.

He is said not to be speciesist but so many species would be left by the wayside. Would the honey bee, for instance, reach Regan’s bar? Does the honey bee have ‘an emotional life’ and ‘beliefs’? And who decides? Humans of course. When it comes to nonhuman animals, Regan limits those supposedly deserving of rights to ‘normally mental mammals over a year old, several species of birds, and possibly fish’.

Apart from the few wild animals that qualify, certain farmed animals – cows, pigs and sheep – could benefit from his approach. But not calves, piglets or lambs, and very probably not (in spite of what we now know of their intelligence and complex emotional and social life) hens. Certainly not the millions of day-old chicks that drop off the conveyor belt into the grinder.

The criteria he has set would leave billions of animals, and a very large slice indeed of the estimated 8.7 million species on the planet without rights.

Abolitionism

In the here and now, animal advocates fall broadly speaking into two camps: the abolitionists and the welfarists. The foremost spokesperson for Abolitionism is Professor Gary Francione. As a lawyer with a background in philosophy the Prof is peculiarly well qualified, one would think, to set out the ideal path for the AR ‘snowball’ to travel.

Abolitionism is based upon the philosophical premise that all animals, human and nonhuman, have the basic moral right not to be treated as the property of others. Therefore any human use of nonhumans is unjustifiable, just as human slavery is unjustifiable. All animals exist for their own purposes, not others. The moral baseline is veganism.

The battle for Abolitionism is legal as well as philosophical since in law, with a few notable exceptions, such as in a limited way in France², the status of nonhuman animals is still that of property. And most laws that relate to animals simply protect their welfare to a greater or lesser degree – without changing their status.

So how to get that legal status changed?

Two ways the status of nonhumans can be changed:

  1. By governmental legislation
  2. In the law courts. If a change in status can be established in a court of law, a legal precedent is set which would subsequently apply to all similar cases.

There are heroes for animals like Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Animal Rights Project in the US, and the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) in Argentina, toiling tirelessly to get that status change from property to person accepted in a court of law.

Drawback

It’s a tough battle, less like giving the AR snowball a gentle nudge on its way, much more like pushing an elephant up a mountain. And once again there is a major problem. We are back to the dreaded Species Criteria. Bringing a case to court, a lawyer has to limit him/herself to a particular client or clients on whose behalf he/she is pleading. And we’d be crazy to think a judge would grant personhood to, say, a silkworm, let alone to the entire animal kingdom. The right client has to be chosen.monkey-256420__340

So what are the criteria by which a lawyer selects a client that has the best chance of success in court? The NhRP’s current plaintiffs are “members of species who have been scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales.”

This list of the species that qualify is even more meager than Regan’s. The idea, of course, is to ‘get a foot in the door’ for one species, which would pave the way for others. But I’m guessing it will be a long long while before science decides silkworms are self-aware and autonomous, the first hurdle they need to jump if their advocates are to pursue this particular route to legal rights.

I applaud their efforts and don’t wish to sound unduly pessimistic, but short of turning the entire world vegan, it is unclear how in practical terms Prof Francione is going to achieve his Abolitionist goal.

Protectionism/Welfarism

Certain animal charities such as PETA, Animal Aid, Viva, also advocate total non-use of animals for human purposes. But where out-and-out Abolitionists are at odds with them, is their pursuit at the same time of incremental welfare improvements to reduce the suffering of animals alive now.

Drawback

It could be – and is – argued that campaigning for greater protections is a distraction from the goal of Animal Rights. Or worse, counter-productive, allowing the public to believe they can keep right on using animals, as long as it is done ‘humanely’. Abolitionists certainly think so and reject single issue campaigns. But that’s an argument we won’t get into just at the moment!

And the majority of other animal charities like ASPCA, HSUS and the RSPCA make no bones about their purely welfarist agenda.

Out-and-out revolution

There is absolutely no doubt that nearly all the exploitation and abuse, legal or illegal, humans inflict on nonhumans is in the service of the great capitalist god Profit. When it comes to lining their pockets humans have no regard for the rights of animals. So the answer is simple –  bring down capitalism.

Drawback

Or is it? Personally, I can’t see the overthrow of capitalism stopping people wanting to eat meat and cheese, use leather or wear fur. Isn’t it likely, or at least possible, that today’s capitalist factory farms would be tomorrow’s communist or socialist state-run operations?


Finally, the good news!

At last we come to Professor Garner’s exciting new paper Animals and democratic theory: Beyond an anthropocentric account” published in Contemporary Political Theory less than two months ago. Even the title whets the appetite!

The Prof bases his thesis on the ‘all-affected principle’, already current in political theory. It goes like this: in a democracy, the interests of every sentient being affected by legislation must be considered. And those who clearly cannot speak for themselves must have their rights represented by those who can.

“A democratic polity should take account of animal interests, not because a substantial number of humans wish to see greater protection afforded to animals, but rather because animals themselves have a democratic right to have their interests represented in the political process.”

So exactly why should we believe Garner’s new political theory could do better for animals than what has gone before?
  • Firstly, because it removes disputable questions of morality, ethics, and humanity (humaneness) from the equation. Under this principle Animal Rights is a purely political matter. You don’t have to believe it immoral to exclude nonhumans from democracy – it’s enough that it’s undemocratic.
  • Secondly – and I think this is huge – because it sweeps away all those contentious species criteria we were talking about. Here there are no criteria to fulfil, except that of sentience alone.

So no longer does AR depend upon humans deciding whether an animal is ‘intelligent enough’ or has a ‘sufficiently complex emotional life’. A life need only be sentient. And that, says Professor Marc Bekoff, author of a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience³, is now beyond dispute:

“After 2,500 studies, it’s time to declare animal sentience is proven.”

Not so very long ago black people and women, though most certainly affected by the collective decisions of their society, were entirely excluded from the democratic process. They battled hard for their rights, their vote, their say.

And won.

Because the ‘all-affected’ principle is surely the very heartbeat of Democracy.

Animals next!

To get general acceptance for Professor Garner’s new approach to AR, to help turn that snowball into an avalanche, please share widely!

You can read his complete paper here

Check out CASJ (Centre for Animals & Social Justice) who commissioned his work, and whose aim is to achieve:

• an overarching legal/political status for animals
• the institutional representation of animals’ interests within Government
• a government strategy and targets to improve animal protection

¹Subject-of-a-life – Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy

²What France’s New Animal Rights Law Actually Means For Animals – The Dodo. This change in French law “only applies to pets or wild animals tamed or held in captivity. The sentience of wild animals, meanwhile, is not recognized.

³A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience – Psychology Today

Footnote: The EU already implements something approaching Prof Garner’s thesis.

“In terms of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the European Union (EU) is the most progressive one in regard to including animal welfare in its sphere of policy work. Its activities in this area are based on the recognition that animals are sentient beings.

An amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into effect on 1st December 2009, now includes this principle and made it a binding condition to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and implementing policies in relevant areas.This puts animal welfare on an equal footing with other key principles such as: gender equality, social protection, human health, combat of discrimination, sustainable development, consumer protection and data protection.”

 

Other Sources

There are three Animal Movements – Armory of the Revolution

Animals have democratic right to political representation – CASJ

The Case for Animal Rights – Wiki

Animal Rights – Wiki

Related posts

Persons Not Property – Could The Tide Be Turning?

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Vegan Rights & Why They Really Matter for the Animals

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Vegan Artist’s Surreal Vision of Animals & Our Planet

Art that speaks volumes

“Artist Amy Guidry uses dreamlike images to make a statement about the relationship between humans and the world.”

by Starre Vartan for MNN 19th December 2016

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‘Expatriate’, a comment on climate change

Fine artist Amy Guidry is a Louisiana-based painter who has been making art since she was 3 years old. Her surrealist art tackles the subjects that she’s interested in exploring — she has looked at depictions of women via fairy tale narratives, and the wide variety of human experience. In her newest series, “In Our Veins,” she delves into the human relationship with animals and the natural world.

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‘Shelter’ hints at Guidry’s promise: ‘What seems illogical can come to life through a painting

What was the impetus for your surrealist series about animals and environment, In Our Veins?

I’ve had an interest in animals and the environment since I was very young. I’ve been vegan for almost 18 years now. However, despite the fact that animals and the natural world were often present in my work, I felt the need to up the ante. I wanted to challenge myself both technically and conceptually. My paintings were becoming progressively more surreal, lending themselves to dreamlike backgrounds and unusual imagery. Surrealism allows me to delve into environmental issues and animal welfare issues, creating strange worlds that reflect the current state of our planet. What seems illogical can come to life through a painting. Though in many ways, I feel like what I paint is a mirror-image of our reality.

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The Pack,’ Guidry says when we ignore the threads that connect everything together in nature, we see animals in pieces and parts

How do you use psychology in your work?

This series focuses on our relationship to the natural world and our connection to every living thing. As humans, we often view nature as a means to an end. Animals are viewed as pieces and parts — head, rump, wing, and so on. They are no longer sentient beings but things we eat or wear or put on our walls. If they are food, animals are renamed: cow becomes beef, chicken becomes poultry, etc. It’s as if we’re distancing ourselves from nature. While I have depicted this common viewpoint through paintings of just the head or bust of an animal, I have endowed them with personalities or traits that would be considered more “human” to emphasize their importance and do away with the notion that animals are less than humans. So each animal, be it mammal, bird, etc., has been endowed with something we consider a “human quality.”

I’ve also explored what I consider the opposite approach to these paintings. While in some works, I rely on eyes and facial expressions to convey a sense of connection and relatability to animals, other paintings show animals without faces or covered faces. I wanted to explore the idea of anonymity vs. connection. Without seeing their faces, does that make them any less personable or meaningful? And how does this apply on a global scale? For me, even without seeing their faces, I still see so much life and personality in these animals. I still see them as sentient beings.

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‘Survival of the Fittest’ puts cows in an unusual role — both predator and prey.

‘In Our Vein’s is dominated by horses, deer, bears, wolves, rabbits, cows and humans. Why these animals?

I feel like a lot of these animals blur the line between what would be considered domestic and what would be considered wild. As more wild habitat is being encroached upon by new houses and shopping malls, these animals are being forced out of their homes and find themselves having to adapt to this new urban landscape. They are wild, yet at the same time, people either think of them as cute nomads or dangerous intruders, depending on the species.

I’ll use cows because I feel like they are the epitome of the agribusiness animal. They are used for meat, dairy, and leather, and it’s because of them that forests are cleared and “predatory” animals are killed — all for the sake of ranching.

As for incorporating humans, I do so to emphasize that we are all part of the animal kingdom. I’ll sometimes combine a human with another animal to illustrate that connection. Other times, I may just paint the human brain as a symbol of sentience and our moral obligation to the welfare of these animals.

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‘Untitled ‘Heads’

How do you find your images when you create a new painting?

The images I come up with are inspired by issues or events that I feel a need to cover through my work. I start out with thumbnail sketches of the basic concept behind a painting and I’ll do maybe 50 variations on that concept until I have the right one. Then I’ll draw out the piece to size. If I feel like it would work better a bit larger or even smaller, then I’ll draw it out again. Once I have that final composition worked out, I’ll then transfer that drawing to canvas, sometimes just tracing what I just did with tracing paper. I try to keep my drawing on canvas fairly basic, and work out the rest with paint. Then I do a rough layer of paint, just working out the basic image and getting the colors down. The subsequent layers of paint are to build the colors, and refine the details of everything, getting more detailed until the final layer of paint.

If I need a reference, I rely on my own pets, myself, or my husband as live models. I also have anatomical models and books, though I use that as a guide. I take a lot of artistic license because sometimes a literal translation just doesn’t suit what I’m going for.

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‘Crutch’ hints at the sacrifices animals make to make way for human development

How does your local environment (or another one) find its way into your paintings?

So far what I’ve been painting has been on more of a global scale, really, though I do plan on doing some pieces more specific to this area (Louisiana), especially because of our wetlands. I’ve been focused on climate change, so oceans have been a dominant theme as of late. I also incorporate desert scenes for not only an apocalyptic feel, but to also illustrate the change in landscape due to the clear-cutting of forests.

Your color palette is very specific; is this to make it easier to reproduce colors time and again or for some other reason?

The colors are really dictated by the subject matter, that being said, there are some choices I make regarding the background which are completely intuitive. I may use a more dramatic sky if I want the overall feel of the piece to be a bit dark.

All photos by Amy Guidry

amypic2013Visit Amy’s website and view more of her amazing work in her gallery

“Stunning work of tremendous depth, sublime imagination, tranquil visions, and an attention to detail that is second to none. It should be no surprise that Guidry’s work is garnering serious attention in the art world, and rightfully so”

Ryan Kittleman, Collector and Editor of Noble Row, San Francisco, CA

Source

See Animals & the Environment through a Surrealist’s Eyes – MNN

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‘The Serious Intensity of Being’ in Animal Art

If Rembrandt Painted Farm Animals They’d Look Like This

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

A Picture of Compassion – Chantal Poulin Durocher – Artist for the Animals

The Art of Compassion for the Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meat to Come with Health Warning Label?

In a world first, California is about to decide whether to put health warning labels on packs of meat.

You know how supermarket oranges are packed in orange nets to make them look even oranger? Well, they do the same to meat, except that what they use to get that lovely red fresh blood colour are the carcinogenic chemicals, nitrites and nitrates. The World Health Organisation has placed meats treated with nitrites and nitrates (processed meats) in Risk Category 1 – as great a cancer risk as cigarettes and asbestos.

A daily 50g portion of processed meat – roughly 2 slices of bacon – increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Even nitrite- nitrate-free processed meats are carcinogenic, according to the WHO report published in 2015.

It just so happens that in California they have something called Proposition 65, which requires the state to keep a list of all substances known to increase the risk of cancer. Once an item is added to this list, it is up to the producer to prove that the product – processed meat in this case – is not dangerous enough to warrant a warning label. And California is about to put meats processed with nitrites and nitrates on the list.

Senior environmental health scientist Nathan Donley is adamant on the label issue: “There should be no question that all Californians should be properly warned .” 

Why stop at Californians? Shouldn’t everyone be warned? Or is it that meat-producers are protecting their interests with no regard for people’s health? Surely not!

Proposition 65 is giving major meat producers and processors like Hormel Foods Corp, of Spam fame, quite the headache. It’s not the prospect of their meat doing harm to their customers’ health they’re losing sleep over. Their worry is that the inclusion of nitrites and nitrates on California’s list may indeed lead to the state slapping health warning labels on their products – which, dear oh dear, might stop some people buying them.

On cigarette packs in the UK, large black letters proclaim, “SMOKING KILLS”. Just imagine picking up your pack of hot dogs, bacon or ham, or your can of corned beef and have similar large black letters staring you in the face: “EATING THIS MEAT KILLS”.  And what if this nightmare scenario were to spread to other states in the US?

If such a prospect weren’t apocalyptic enough for these poor unfortunate meat-producer giants, including their products on the carcinogen list could also open the door to their being sued by people diagnosed with certain types of cancer. Advice to shareholders: you might just want to start looking for somewhere else to invest your dollars.

You can be sure the battle lines are being drawn up as we speak. “Any move to add red or processed meat to the Proposition 65 list would be challenged by the industry,” said Mark Dopp, a senior vice president of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) which represents mega companies like Cargill Inc, Tyson Foods Inc and Kraft Heinz Co. The corporate opposition is not to be underestimated.


But Proposition 65 aside, there’s more bad news for meat on the health front. It’s not just cancer consumers need to fear from eating Hormel’s products. A whistle-blowing USDA inspector reported “that Hormel employees were not only poorly trained but that government standards were lowered, allowing defects previously identified as cause for condemning carcasses to now be cleared for sale to consumers. ‘This includes things like bile, bruises, bone fractures, scabs, toenails, and skin lesions.’

“It also meant much less concern about fecal contamination. When he complained to an older inspector he says he was told, ‘It’s not whether or not people are going to eat shit—they are. It’s just how much.'” 

Fancy a touch of E coli anyone? Or maybe a dab of Salmonella?

You’re not safe eating other producers’ meat either. Hormel is far from the only culprit.

“Federal health authorities have estimated that food-borne diseases sicken 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people), cause 128,000 hospitalizations, and kill 3,000 Americans every year.  Likewise, a number of studies have confirmed the presence of harmful bacteria in meat in the US. After collecting ground beef samples from meat processing plants around the country in 1996, the USDA determined that :

  • 7.5% of the beef samples were contaminated with Salmonella
  • 11.7% were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes
  • 30% were contaminated with Staphylococcus Aureus
  • and 53.3% were contaminated with Clostridium perfringens.  

“These unacceptable levels of contamination are caused by the crowded conditions in which conventional food animals are raised, as well as the high speed at which meat is processed. In order to maximize profits, meat processors have continually increased the speed of their production lines. Twenty years ago, meatpacking plants slaughtered about 175 cattle an hour, but due to increased line speeds, today plants can slaughter as many as 400 cattle per hour” – The Sustainable Table.

If you think that is old news and things are better now, they’re not – they’re worse.

“All ground beef eaten in US contains food poisoning bacteria”headline in The Daily Mail August 2015. “Consumer Reports tested 300 packages of ground beef from 103 stores in 26 cities across the country in order to test the prevalence of bacteria in the meat. Incredibly, every product purchased contained bacteria showing faecal contamination.”

Other health issues associated with eating meat:

  • increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • increased risk of high blood pressure
  • increased risk of stroke
  • increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • increased risk of osteoporosis
  • ingestion of deleterious hormones and antibiotics
  • shortened lifespan

I may have forgotten a few, but here is a new one – the noxious ‘icing on the cake’ for meat as far as health is concerned:

New research reveals a strong link between eating meat and autism. The increase in the incidence of autism between 1961 and 2009 is positively correlated with the steep rise in meat consumption during those years – the findings of a 2014 study carried out in China, the UK and Israel.

“The data show that per capita consumption of all three types of meat (bovine, pig, and poultry) is positively correlated with autism prevalence. The correlation is particularly strong in the case of poultry meat, and the authors note that ‘the correlations of AD [autistic disorder] with poultry meat consumption approach high statistical significance.'” – Faunalytics

So, after all that, will or won’t the world’s first ever health warning labels soon be adorning packs of meat in Californian stores? I can’t wait to find out. One thing is certain – they absolutely should.

PS If you’re still not convinced, look what happens to the animals – 21 shocking animal industry practices revealed

Updates

4th November 2016 Canadian government rebuffs pressure from meat industry to stop contributing to United Nations Research Agency that conducted the research on meat for the WHO – Mercy for Animals

21st November 2016 Is Some Store-Bought Meat Blasted With Carbon-Monoxide to Keep it Red & Juicy? – Inside Edition

22nd November 2016 The Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a suit against Hormel “alleging the company is misleading consumers through the advertising of its Natural Choice® brand of lunch meats and bacon. Contrary to Hormel’s branding campaign, the suit alleges, meats the company advertises as “natural” actually comes from animals raised in the worst factory farms that employ additives, hormones and antibiotics, and contain ingredients that constitute artificial preservatives.”

18th February 2017 Fears of ‘dirty meat’ entering food chains after 25% of abbatoirs fail tests in the UK- The Guardian

 

 

Sources

What the State isn’t Telling You about Processed Meat – Center for Biological Diversity via The Medium

Whistleblower USDA Inspectors on Hormel’s Pork Plants: It’s “Just Nuts” – New Republic

Health and Environmental Implications of US Meat Consumption – John Hoskins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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