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Saturday, May 31, 2003

Irradiated Meat OK'd for School Cafeterias

Via: Reuters

The US Agriculture Department, despite opposition from thousands of parents, said yeterday it will offer irradiated hamburgers, chili, and meat loaf to be served in school cafeterias, but the final decision would be left to the schools. The USDA said it decided to give districts the final say on buying the beef products, treated with low doses of bacteria-destroying radiation, from the federal government after thousands of parents said they did not want their children exposed to irradiated beef.

Posted by Richard
5/31/2003 07:52:03 AM | PermaLink

Paraguay: Poison in the air

Farmers blame health problems on agricultural chemicals sprayed on GM soy.

Surrounded by hundreds of hectares of soybeans, Pirapey 35 looks like an island in the middle of a green ocean. The village, 100 kilometers north of Encarnación, the capital of the southern state of Itapúa, was the home of Silvino Talavera, 11, who died on Jan. 7 in the Encarnación Regional Hospital after suffering convulsions for several days. "He went out to run an errand and when he was returning, he crossed the path of the sprayers," his father recalls. "The rest of my children were having a siesta under the trees, and a breeze came up and started blowing the poison this way. My wife and I ran to take the children into the house."

According to Justo Amarilla, director of Educational Area No. 5, which includes the northeastern part of the state, Silvino was not the first child to die as a result of pesticide spraying in the area. "Several children have died. The problem is that the real cause was never diagnosed," he said. An initial autopsy found the herbicide glyphosate in Silvino’s blood, as well as other compounds commonly used in agricultural chemicals. In March, under pressure from rural women’s groups, indigenous organizations, environmentalists and human rights groups, the courts ordered that the body be exhumed and tissue samples taken. Results of those analyses have not yet been released. "You don’t know what life is like for us here," said Ana María Santa Cruz, principal of the 400-student Lt. Aniceto López School 2340, which sits between two large soybean farms in Pirapey 35. "The children are always fainting and no one at the health center knows what to do."

Posted by Richard
5/31/2003 07:44:16 AM | PermaLink

Take a Moment to Help an Elephant

UPDATE: Hurrah! A victory for Tina is in the making.
5/27/03 Via: Lavaland

"Some of you may have seen the news last week about Tina the Elephant, who is the lone elephant at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. She has a foot infection and is not happy being the lone elephant in a non-optimal facility (elephants need to be in social groups of at least three).

Tina has an opportunity to go to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, which is a large accredited elephant sanctuary for female elephants. Apparently the Zoo is making a decision today about whether Tina should be sent to the Elephant Sanctuary. It would really be the best option for her. More information is available at the website"

If you have time, please send an email to the Zoo expressing your support for Tina's move to the santuary. Their address is

See for more info.

Posted by Richard
5/31/2003 07:28:43 AM | PermaLink

High Mercury Levels Found in Rain

Thanks to Shari, who sent this one in...All I can say is thank you President Bush for deregulating the pollution industries -- your "clean skies" are apparently giving us contaminated lakes. Bassmasters and good ole' boys take note: you've got enough problems without adding a gallon of mercury to your system.

Here's a link to the government's tracking of this issue as of 2000, when 3/4 of all states had advisories against eating fish caught there due to mercury poisoning and here's the USGS's factsheet on Mercury (which entirely evades the problem as industrial pollution). Finally, here's a link to the DOE's riff on mercury (which does admit industrial causes, but which promotes a technocratic solution of more science and industry to eradicate the problem caused by science and industry).
WASHINGTON, DC, May 29, 2003 (ENS) - Rain falling over 12 eastern states has been found to contain high levels of mercury that exceed federal safe standards for people and wildlife, according to a new National Wildlife Federation report.

The paper, titled "Cycle of Harm: Mercury's Pathway from Rain to Fish in the Environment," found that mercury contamination levels in rain and snow falling over Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas consistently exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's safe standards for mercury in surface water.

"We usually think of rain as pure and clean," said Mark Van Putten, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "But this report reveals that the rain falling over these states contains ominous levels of mercury and threatens the health of people and wildlife."

Mercury attacks the brain and nervous system and can be dangerous to sport fishermen, subsistence anglers, Native Americans and anyone who eats freshwater fish. Health officials in 44 states have issued advisories warning people to restrict or entirely avoid eating fish caught in thousands of inland lakes and streams.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 12 women of childbearing age has blood mercury levels that exceed the federal safe level for protection of the fetus. This translates into approximately 320,000 babies born annually in the United States at risk for neuro developmental delays.

In wildlife, mercury inhibits reproduction among species such as rainbow trout, zebra fish, mallard and American black ducks, loons and terns, otters and mink.

Air pollution is considered the major cause of mercury in lakes and streams. Eighty five percent of all mercury pollution is created by coal fired power plants and municipal medical waste incinerators that send mercury into the air, where it falls back to Earth as rain or snow, according to the Mercury Policy Project, a nongovernmental organization formed in 1998 to raise awareness about the threat of mercury contamination.

In addition to calling for nationwide controls on mercury emissions from coal fired power plants and the elimination of mercury in products and manufacturing, the report recommends specific actions each state can take to safeguard the health of people and wildlife.

To read the full report, visit:

Posted by Richard
5/31/2003 07:26:44 AM | PermaLink

Friday, May 30, 2003

Thanks Tori! Tees Still Available to All Who Want Them!

This was so wonderful to hear -- Tori donated to the site and so we sent her one of our "Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan!" tees as a way of saying thanks:
"Wow, Richard!

That was fast! Just got the t-shirt today and it's just way too cool! Thank you SOOO MUCH! I absolutely LOVE it!"
Tori is producing some heady and independent sounds north of the border -- with lots of her music freely downloadable -- running from grooving ethereal pieces to industrial trance feminist...very interesting stuff, in my humble opinion. And here she is showing off the new tee!

Donate $15 that helps to keep this blog working hard and we'll be happy to send one to you too (M, L, XL). Remember to give your size preference and shipping address. Let's make this whole world peacefully vegan!

Posted by Richard
5/30/2003 08:05:31 AM | PermaLink

Money Gone, U.S. Suspends Designations of Habitats

Many Americans probably have no sense of the intricacies of protecting species at the governmental level -- what might be as simple as valuing another being and seeking not to destroy its habitat, is in our reality in fact a messy moray of leglislative machinations, bureaucratic paperwork, and field contracting. If not absolutely centralized -- the US Fish and Wildlife Service has a variety of state and local offices that work in conjunction with their Washington superiors -- this still represents a technocratic approach that is bound to suffer through all the wranglings that technocrats have historically bred. Case in point -- the law says that when endangered species become listed, the habitats upon which they depend must become designated as critical and deserving of protection...not entirely unreasonable, eh? But such things cost money, often a lot more than one would expect, in a technocratic system -- and it turns out that despite Congress allocating the President's request for a record $400 billion+ for military expenditures, protecting critical habitats gets barely a dirty kleenex. So, they've blown through this year's cash, the President isn't allocating more, and there's a stack of habitats to be designated that will take them through 2008 at this point...the Democrats want to score points with this issue, but in my mind, this is again the System (Bush being the diabolical embodiment of why the Earth is slipping away from us and being kicked out with a bang, but he's not the sole cause).

From Steve Best:
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service says it will temporarily stop designating tracts of land as critical habitats under the Endangered Species Act within a matter of weeks because the program has depleted its money for this fiscal year.

At the same time, the agency said it would negotiate with plaintiffs and the federal courts to move back pending deadlines for designating certain areas as critical habitat.

"We are out of money, or will be in a few days," said Craig Manson, the assistant secretary of the Department of Interior who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Designations as critical habitat, defined as geographic areas that "contain habitat features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species," are required under the 1973 Endangered Species Act to curb development that may threaten those species.

Read the entire article.

Posted by Richard
5/30/2003 07:45:51 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, May 29, 2003

GM Crops 'May Push Poorest Farmers into Debt'

Via: UK Independent

Genetically modifided crops will not tackle world hunger and could threaten the livelihoods of Third World farmers, a new study has said. The report is published today by the charity ActionAid, before the start of the Government's long-awaited debate on GM next week. US President George Bush claimed last week the EU had blocked efforts to use GM crops to fight famine because of "unfounded, unscientific fears". But the research found that the new technology threatened to push poor farmers deeper into debt. Using evidence from Asia, Africa and Latin America, the report concludes that rather than alleviating world hunger, GM is likely to lead to more hungry people, not fewer. Matthew Lockwood, ActionAid's head of policy, said: "GM does not provide a magic bullet solution to world hunger. "

Posted by Richard
5/29/2003 09:43:39 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Exxon Shares = All Profit, No Hope

I wouldn't buy from Exxon if they were the only gas station in a 100 mile radius, I had a gallon in the tank and was in the middle of the noon-day desert. Here is a case of a company so anti-progressive that they aren't even trying to greenwash their image, they (and their shareholders) simply announce that they're in it for the dough and unconcerned about anything that would eat into their bottom-line profit. This despite well known public education efforts alerting people to the detrimental consequences for all if such oil company practices are not significantly transformed:
Exxon shareholders vote down environment proposals

Exxon Mobil Corp. shareholders on Wednesday voted down proposals concerning global warming and renewable energy, as the head of the global energy giant said profits take precedence over social causes.

"We won't jump on the bandwagon just because others may have a different view," Chief Executive and Chairman Lee Raymond said. "We don't invest to make social statements at the expense of shareholder return."

The proposals failed to sway many shareholders, who rejected the renewable energy measure with 79 percent opposed, compared with 80 percent opposed a year ago. A new proposal calling for a report on climate change was voted down with 78 percent opposed.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and other groups that advise mutual fund and pension managers, recommended investors support these proposals.

Advocates say these issues have become so controversial they threaten Exxon Mobil's bottom line. One group, Campaign ExxonMobil, claimed a "strong showing" in the face of marketing efforts by the company to play down the issue.

Another measure calling on the oil giant to state it was against discrimination based on sexual orientation, was voted down with 73 percent opposed, down from 76 percent a year ago.

Posted by Richard
5/28/2003 01:18:13 PM | PermaLink

EPA Faults Water Pollution Monitor

"Hi, I'm calling to report that there appears to be a disgusting black sludge coming out of my faucet and when I drove by the local river I noticed a few thousand fish floating at the surface." "The EPA notes no reason for fear of pollution in the area, Ms. Are you sure its a black sludge, sometimes there's temporary outages of sediment in the drinking water." "No, this is not sediment -- this is noxious tar." "Well, the computer shows that everything is in compliance with the local water facilities -- you have no reason to fear...go ahead and drink it." "But sir, what about the fish -- the ones floating belly up on the surface of the river?" "Maybe they were just sunning themselves -- again, I'm looking at the EPA's computer records here and I'm finding that everything is in compliance for your region. You have no reason to fear, and thanks for calling."

Via: The Guardian
The computer system used by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor water pollution is incomplete, obsolete and difficult to use, the agency's internal watchdog says. In a report dated May 20, the Office of Inspector General criticized the agency for devoting insufficient funds to upgrade the Permit Compliance System, or PCS. ``It is essential that this system, used by EPA and many states to administer permits for water discharges and ensure enforcement, be modernized,'' it said. ``However, the modernization program is facing a large cost escalation and a consequent funding shortfall and slippage in time frames.'' In addition, it said, ``consideration is being given to reducing the functionality of the system to save money,'' with the result that ``the future viability of PCS may be endangered.'' PCS is a data system that tracks issuance of permits, permit limits, self-monitoring and enforcement and inspection activities for more than 64,000 facilities regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Posted by Richard
5/28/2003 12:13:43 PM | PermaLink

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Protesters Gearing Up for Global Farm Expo

Via: Sacramento Bee

The U.S. government will host an international gathering on food and farming next month in Sacramento that will attract thousands of people, probably the majority of them uninvited. The first Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology, at the Sacramento Convention Center, is billed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a showcase for scientific know-how and technology aimed at boosting farm productivity, alleviating hunger and improving nutrition worldwide, especially in developing countries. An alternative point of view sees the conference as the United States pushing industrial-style farming and genetically engineered products on poor countries as part of a broader agenda to promote big-business interests and global free trade.

Posted by Richard
5/27/2003 10:18:06 AM | PermaLink

Monday, May 26, 2003

Intensive Farming Means Farewell to Many Bird Species

From (ANI): "Massive" industrialisation of agriculture has led to a fall in the count of many wild animal species in England and Europe.

A study conducted at the University of Stirling said in the U.K., ten farmland bird species, including the skylark, tree sparrow, linnet and starling have declined by ten million over the past 20 years, Newsin Science has reported.

Also, there is evidence of widespread declines throughout much of the rest of Europe, the report said.

Further, it was found that many birds such as the red-winged blackbird in North America are on the decline as well. Ecologists have registered sharp falls in the number of insects in Scotland to butterfly populations across north-western Europe.

Contrary to the common belief that use of pesticides is behind these disturbing trends, the study found that it was only because of agricultural intensification.

One similar study, conducted recently, found that hedges increased the biodiversity of beetles for up to a kilometre away, while others had identified the importance of strips and clusters of dense vegetation for birds and small mammals as shelters, breeding sites and dispersal routes around the countryside.

The findings said crops and pastures of non-uniform height and density, and weed patches within them, support a diversity of insects, which in turn support spiders, birds and other predators.

Improved grassland sowing techniques have also cut species diversity by killing weeds, and re-seeding with palatable competitive grass species that are favoured by drainage and fertiliser use.

Posted by Richard
5/26/2003 09:18:42 AM | PermaLink

Tide of Humanity Alters Long Island Sound

This is an interesting piece from the New York Times about how human flourishing and bad urban planning have historically served to kill the Long Island Sound. Now, through means both legal and scientific, Sound towns like Mumford are attempting to revive the sound -- not to its original condition -- but as something entirely new: the 21st century estuary.
"It's the first 21st-century estuary," said Glenn R. Lopez, a professor of marine sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, on Long Island. "Its issues are all about human habitation."

Profound philosophical questions have emerged from this. If the Sound cannot be restored to what it was in the pre-European past and no one thinks that is remotely possible then what should it be? What is the optimum natural state in a system that has been overwhelmingly and permanently transformed by human presence? Should the Sound be managed for the sake of nature and biological diversity, or for the human pocketbook, to maximize the species people want to extract and attract the most tourists?

But perhaps the biggest question is whether people are smart enough to chart the course at all. Nature, for every push that people impose, has pushed right back.
The town couldn't be more aptly named, as it was the urban social theorist Lewis Mumford who called for the evolved drive towards eco-topia, the balancing of cultural and natural interests through science. However, as the article makes plain, against our present style of governance, economic interests, and lifestyle traditions, the return of Nature to once dead areas is often much more than science could have expected. It is truly the Return of the Repressed -- in the end, Long Island Sound communities may need psychoanalysts more than they do ecologists.

Posted by Richard
5/26/2003 09:10:33 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Studies Find Vegetarianism Rising in the UK and Americans Feeling Very Progressive About Animal Rights

Shari sends in this article about a recent study completed by the Consumer Analysis Group and Safeway that found 2000 Brits converting to vegetarianism per week -- a figure that would have Britain totally vegged out by 2047.

Meanwhile, VeganPorn has a link into a new Gallup Poll which (I agree) has some impressive numbers for animal rights in America (though Gallup predictably doesn't spin it this way):
The poll, conducted May 5-7, finds 96% of Americans saying that animals deserve at least some protection from harm and exploitation, while just 3% say animals don't need protection "since they are just animals." Twenty-five percent of Americans say that animals deserve "the exact same rights as people to be free from harm and exploitation."

The poll also shows that among four proposals made by animal rights activists tested in the poll, Americans oppose three and support one:

By 64% to 35%, Americans reject banning all medical research on laboratory animals.
By 61% to 38%, Americans oppose banning all product testing on laboratory animals.
By 76% to 22%, Americans oppose banning all types of hunting.
And Americans support passing strict laws concerning the treatment of farm animals, by 62% to 35%.
Gallup then goes on to describe how the 25% of Americans believing animals deserve the same rights as people (a startling number) must be confused because elements of those who said this also voted against banning all medical and product research and hunting. In fact, Americans may be of a split mind on this issue and voting both ways -- but it shows how the tide is turning and how popular education efforts at outing animal realities are finding willing homes domestically. Further, however, I have bold-faced the "all" in the above research questions of Gallup to highlight an important term that the pollsters themselves spin away from. Keywords like "all" in polls serve to define absolutes that people tend to vote against, hence here. Thus, I think it is more important that one read against the grain and realize that even if we can't say from this poll that Americans would have voted in a majority for banning some hunting, as well as medical and product research on animals, we can say that a large minority of Americans felt that ALL hunting and testing should be banned! Now that's some news to my ears...

Posted by Richard
5/25/2003 09:54:32 PM | PermaLink

Mass Slaughter is Planned to Restore Faith in Beef

To me there is hardly a capitalist spectacle more cruel and sickening than the way in which governments and the meat industries react to international news that their inhumane practices have bred disease amidst their herds. For efficiencies sake -- these are market tactics after all, no one is really concerned with the actual animals -- and also for the counter-spectacle of "eradicating" the disease at its roots, mass slaughters are implemented to restore consumer confidence and promote "safety." Of course, the entirety of the process borders on the irrational -- for an investigation of a majority of the industry meat farms would reveal elements of disease and criminality across the board on a regular basis. Something like Mad Cow, as tragic as it is, might serve as the in-road to a larger public examination of governmental policy and industry practices. This educational venture might in turn lead to either real reforms towards humane standards or even -- gasp -- to the more revolutionary position of people changing their diets and lifestyles to accord with their newfound insights into reality. But no: instead we get Jean Chretien sitting down the following day for a mass-mediated steak luncheon -- "Yum, the pleasures of 100% Candian beef in my mouth!" And the same is true the world over...but what is this "faith in beef" and why must people have it so? I am reminded form the annals of history of other mass slaughterings that occured in the name of faith generally. Don't Crusade for beef -- take the time to change the tune and wake up to what's happening here.
The first case of “mad cow” disease in Canada in ten years has led to the slaughter of hundreds of beef cattle and the quarantine of thousands more on 17 beef farms, devastating the £13.3 billion-a-year Canadian beef industry.

Eight countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Mexico, have banned imports of Canadian cattle and beef. Canada is the world’s largest beef exporter and 78 per cent of its exported meat is shipped to the US. Clay Serby, the Agriculture Minister for Saskatchewan province, called yesterday for the wholesale slaughter of beef cattle, with full compensation to farmers, to restore confidence in Canadian beef.

Mr Serby said: “It’s about erring on the side of safety.” Only the extreme approach to BSE that was taken in Britain could restore the reputation of the Canadian beef industry before it was destroyed for ever, he said.

Shirley McLellan, the Agriculture Minister in neighbouring Alberta, the country’s leading beef producer, where the infected cow was found, said that she was also considering such drastic action.

Potential costs

The ban on British beef exports that followed the BSE outbreak cut off foreign markets worth nearly £650 million a year, reducing farm incomes from £4.1 billion in 1996 to about £1 billion in 1998. Thousands of industry jobs were lost.

Read the article at: Times Online

Posted by Richard
5/25/2003 03:43:30 PM | PermaLink