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Friday, February 20, 2004

Mrs. (Sp)Atkins

Vegetarian taliban -- hysterical!

Less than a month after publicly lambasting Mayor Bloomberg for tarnishing her husband's legacy, the widow of Dr. Robert Atkins already has a new target in her sights - people who don't eat meat.

"They're like the Taliban. They're the vegetarian Taliban," Veronica Atkins fumes in an interview with "Dateline NBC" set to air Friday in conjunction with the last American TV interview with Dr. Atkins before his death.

"They're nasty. I've seen them. I've been to conventions, and everything else. They are nasty, nasty people," Mrs. Atkins continues.

Mrs. Atkins was infuriated when the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine - a group that promotes a vegetarian diet - obtained the diet guru's medical records that showed that he weighed a beefy 258 pounds when he died.

Mrs. Atkins contends the group then leaked the medical records to the Wall Street Journal in an attempt to prove that Dr. Atkins' low-carb, protein-rich diet was responsible for his massive girth.

"If they had obtained them, [that's] one thing," she said. "But they send them around to everybody. As a physician, is that honorable? Is that honest? Have they forgotten . . . their oath?"

The president of PCRM says the Atkins people brought this on themselves by using Dr. Atkins himself as a spokesman for the diet.

"Dr. Atkins used details of his own heart health in a completely inappropriate way for the sole purpose of promoting his diet," said Dr. Neal Barnard.

"This absurd claim that Atkins was in great heart health has gone forward, and it has been simply untrue."

Atkins supporters claim he gained an astounding 63 pounds from attempts to save his life - including being fed intravenous fluids - during the eight days he spent in the hospital prior to his death.

Several doctors told The Post that a brain-injured patient on life support can easily gain 20 to 30 pounds of fluid in a week, but they called a 63-pound weight gain implausible, even ridiculous.

Many who saw Dr. Atkins in his last years noticed he was a little heavy around the middle.

While not calling him fat, some say the controversial diet guru was pear-shaped and had a flabby gut. "He wasn't Dom DeLuise, but he wasn't thin," said radio host Mark Simone, who saw Atkins several times.

"He didn't look like a guy who you'd ask, 'You look great. What diet are you on?' "

As for Mrs. Atkins' feud with Bloomberg, who called Dr. Atkins "fat" and suggested he actually died from health problems and not a slip on icy pavement, Mrs. Atkins says the hatchet is officially buried.

The mayor "created quite a storm," she says, laughing. "But I don't think he really meant harm."

By Stefan C. Friedman

Posted by Richard
2/20/2004 04:06:51 PM | PermaLink

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Waking up Weyerhauser

This morning, Rainforest Action Network kicked off a new chapter in the fight to preserve old-growth and endangered forests around the world. Dangling hundreds of feet above downtown Seattle, a team of RAN supporters unfurled a 2,400 square foot banner reading "Wake Up Weyerhaeuser: Protect Forests Now." Find out more at RAN is working in collaboration with Canada's Forest Action Network on today's launch -

"Protect Forests Now" is a message long overdue for the number one destroyer of old-growth forests in North America. The trans-national logging company is one of the world's largest lumber and wood products companies with annual sales of over $19 billion and logging rights to over 43 million acres of forestland. To put it another way, Weyerhaeuser has operations in all but 6 of the United States and 18 countries around the world. By the company's own estimates, the company logs an average of over 70,000 acres every year on publicly owned U.S. National Forests.

Last September, RAN wrote Weyerhaeuser CEO Steve Rogel a letter conveying the growing market demand for the company to completely phase out all logging and buying of wood products from the world's endangered forests.

He didn't listen.

Today is his first wake-up call, and we need your help to drive the message home. Help us tell Weyerhaeuser that destroying old-growth forests is an immoral and outdated practice: Please also take a moment to pass this message along to people you know.

Thank you. Together, our voices really will transform the U.S. logging industry.

If you'd like to get more involved in this campaign, please join us on a planning call next Thursday, February 26th, at 5 pm PST. To RSVP, send an email with your contact information to and we will send you the call information.

Posted by Richard
2/19/2004 06:44:10 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

USDA Downed Animal Ban Under Attack by Agribusiness

Passing this along:

On December 30, 2003, the USDA implemented several measures to address public concern over the discovery of mad cow disease (a.k.a. bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) in the United States, including a ban on the slaughter of downed cattle, animals too sick to stand, for human food. Alarmingly, agribusiness and their legislative allies in Washington, DC are lobbying the USDA to lift the downer ban. It is absolutely critical for USDA to hear from citizens who support the ban on slaughtering downed animals for human food.

The USDA is accepting public comments on its downer ban until April 12, 2004. Please write, and encourage your friends, family and others to write as well. Urge the USDA to retain their ban on downer cows, and urge the agency to expand the ban on downers to include other species, such as sheep and pigs. This public comment period provides a rare opportunity to formally express concerns about the irresponsible and inhumane marketing and slaughter of downed animals.

The USDA's recent downed cow ban represents a long overdue policy shift, and it is imperative that we do everything in our power to maintain it, and hopefully to expand it. Please write today:

FSIS Docket Clerk
Docket 03-025IF
Room 102, Cotton Annex
300 12th and C Street SW.
Washington, DC 20250-3700
Fax: 202-690-0486

You can submit a letter online or see a sample letter on the No Downers web site: It is said that original letters, that demonstrate competance in the issue (such as demonstrated in the sample), are the only ones counted as part of the process. Personally, I encourage people just to send something in...numbers are undeniable ultimately.

Posted by Richard
2/18/2004 10:03:23 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Reptoids -- Link Corrected

The other day I posted a link to a recent essay on David Icke and the utopian and dystopian motifs of his ideas of the reptoid. Unfortunately, the link was incorrectly coded. I have fixed it, and the correct link is now up: see post.

Posted by Richard
2/17/2004 10:08:14 PM | PermaLink

Unpaving the Path to Freedom

So they paved paradise and put up a parking lot in the 60s and forty years later that parking lot is a mini mall. You are a daily reader of the Vegan Blog and you are becoming convinced that there are large-scale structural problems in society that go beyond individual choices and involve a long history of institutional norms, values, and policies. You are not an institution, just a person (or family). What can you do to stop the madness?

Of course: don't get mad, get vegan! But, importantly, this means transforming one's understanding and practice concerning lifestyle and diet means basing it in a denunciation of the status-quo and an annunciation of a new form of relations. A local project that I am very interested in hooking up with is the Path to Freedom -- fixing up an urban/suburban dwelling in conjunction with the ecological, anticapitalist principles of permaculture. Reading through their exhaustive website, I am just so impressed with all that the Dervaes family has accomplished and it serves as a sort of living testament of the move that we all must start making in our lives to produce anything like a sustainable community.

Though my own progress is not advanced as the Dervaes', I am following a similar path in moving away from the green, water-hogging lawn to the organic and native yard garden. They could not be more correct that one of the immediate bounty's of doing such -- besides the sheer beauty that will have neighbors and passers by oohing and ahhing -- is that new species of birds, insects, and mammals move in immediately to reclaim the habitat. This results in what I'll call the sanctuary effect, which if done on mass in a local region, could lead to create an interlocking network of reclaimed yards to form the sort of large-scale sanctuary that can engender real ecological complexity and renewal.

But one yard in a neighborhood is a real start. And if it can lead to growing one's own food, as the Path Project is doing most admirably, then one is truly out in front of the revolution.

Via: Path to Freedom
A family of five, we live just a ten minute walk from Old Towne and famous Colorado Boulevard.  Our 1917-built house in which we have lived for sixteen years sits on a typical small city lot. 

Five years ago we started a home based business providing many fine, local restaurants and caterers with the edible flowers and herbs that we were growing in our yard.  

Today we have shifted our efforts to growing our own food year round, and selling the surplus to restaurants and caterers in the area.   

We have attempted to grow as much of our own food as possible in the city {See: FACTS & STATS }.  In our society growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts.  It is truly the only effective protest, one that can--and will--overturn the corporate powers that be.  By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world -- we change ourselves. 

We use a variety of agricultural methods, such as permaculture, bio-intensive farming, plus our own unique gardening system developed over time by trial and error.  

Everything is grown as organically as possible, and no harmful chemicals or insecticides are used on our garden.  We also try to follow agrarian principles outlined in the Bible and tithe ten percent of our increase. 

Nature in Southern California presents a tough challenge even for the typical lawn landscape because the average rainfall is just 19"  a year.  From May to November rain does not fall here.  So, to contend with this semi-arid condition, we brought in several loads of chips from local tree-trimming companies as a way of conserving water in the soil.

Each day, especially during the abundant harvest of summer, our meals consist primarily of our own healthful, organic produce.  Many times we make desserts using fresh fruits from trees growing on our lot.  We eat according to the seasons; from nature's shelves we make our meals.

Practicing stewardship of the land has turned our small property into a haven for many "wild" animals.   There are a variety of birds feasting on the multitude of bugs and seeds, butterflies and bees that busily pollinate our plants, and a family of squirrels.  We get night visits from possums and even a cute little skunk has taken up residence under a neighbor's house. 

Besides providing our wholesome daily "bread,"  gardening gives us one  good workout.  And, where else can one enjoy  serenity everyday but by living in a garden?

Posted by Richard
2/17/2004 06:06:04 PM | PermaLink

Monday, February 16, 2004

Trying to Make Sense of "When Slaughter Makes Sense"

In a growing wake of controversy, Karen Dawn of DawnWatch has contextualized her piece co-written with Peter Singer, "When Slaughter Makes Sense", for a recent New York Newsday edition. Says Dawn, neither she nor Singer endorsed or used the title that appears to endorse the slaughter of some animals as sensible. Dawn is to be believed -- Newsday is after all a mainstream and moderate-right paper that would be looking to spin the issue. A bigger question continues, however, as a media expert why would she have expected a free forum to air her views uncorrupted? In what ways does publishing in Newsday demand that the argument be that some slaughter makes sense?

While I think it is important to accept Dawn's re-statement of her ethics and intentions, I think it is just as important (if not more so) to closely read the piece she has published in its own right...that is: deal with the argument as presented and not the ethical or moral beliefs that either Dawn or Singer claim to hold. Most Newsday readers, after all, will know neither Dawn nor Singer -- to publish a piece in that forum, then, was simply to engage the carnivorous masses for the first time. In this respect, then, Dawn and Singer took the approach of attempting to deflect public resentment against animal rightists by demonstrating (as animal rightists) the "reasonable" sense behind the animal slaughters being conducted worldwide by agencies on behalf of disease prevention in humans and animals. Their point is that these are understandable in a way that the billions of animals killed reprehensibly for meat is not and so mass culls are to be considered tragically acceptable, with the back door caveat that changes in diet generally could avoid all of this mess in the future. And so they are imploring people to change their diet who would otherwise not.

Again, considering who the argument was pitched to, their approach is understandable but it remains questionable. For one wonders how much public utility there ever is in an opinion piece published on pg. 30 of a New York tabloid? Especially for a leftist opinion in a rightist forum? There may be some -- but the real question is to think about "How much?" How many city laborers riding the subway really took the time to read the Dawn/Singer piece, think about the deeper issues, and so allow it to transform even their opinion about whether or not to grab an Egg McMuffin w/ Sausage on the way into work?

Of course, the piece has also been promoted widely throughout the animal rights community -- Dawn herself is an expert promoter of media materials concerning animal issues and has every reason to want to promote this piece in particular...after all, let's not deny how exciting it must be to write public texts with a sort of contemporary godfather of the movement like Peter Singer. It gives one not only a sort of ideological credibility and prestige, but also the satisfaction that one's work is valued by the community at all levels within its ranks.

This, however, is where the piece becomes truly dangerous in my opinion. Tailored to the meat-eating mind, it doesn't take up the deeper implications of this issue and the true horror that is being committed daily as part of the highly inhumane and unethical institutionalization of the mass culling of animals in the name of livestock disease prevention. Dawn and Singer's piece doesn't get into critique of the legal, economic, and bureaucratic norms that produce the monstrous status quo, choosing to concentrate on the liberal implications of individual emotion and personal choice.

Again, taking the bourgeois route is understandable for Newsday (its all one would be allowed to print). But failing to critically connect both the disease the slaughter up with an analysis of the social structure doesn't make sense for leftist audiences such as compose the animal rights community. With the cache of Dawn and Singer's name attached to this argument, and with the piece then promoted widely, the risk is run that what amounts to an instrumentalist and questionably utilitarian take on the issue (one which does in fact say that current animal culls do at least make some sense) becomes the dominant view within animal activist communities. The mere circulation of the piece and Singer's name-value almost guarantees it.

But animal welfare, rightists, and liberationists all need to set a more strident and issue-directed tone on the cruel and commodified treatment of livestock generally. Yes, Dawn and Singer are right: it boils down to eating habits ultimately. But in the meanwhile, a million poultry are being put to death in ways that are not only truly insidious, but also preventable...with or without people changing their carnivorous eating habits. We need to understand that the argument is not one or the other -- vegan/vegetarianism or livestock welfare -- but that the two need to be thought through together as part of an unflinching commitment to all animals and people regardless. And thinking this through together means looking at and changing the ways in which governments legislate and enforce, industries policy and regulate, and business and organizations understand and enact social values and norms.

Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns, and a leader in the movement in her own right, has written a definitive answer to the problems inherent to the Dawn and Singer piece, and which moves to take a more rigorous and unflinching ethical stance. It is my pleasure to re-publish this essay in its entirety here, which is also available at UPC, and I hope that animal activists will promote this sort of answer as the more meaningful and transformative approach.
When Murdering Animals Makes Sense
By Karen Davis, PhD

For the past year, United Poultry Concerns and other animal advocacy organizations have sought to have California veterinarian Gregg Cutler removed from his position as poultry welfare representative on the animal welfare committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Cutler authorized the killing of thousands of unwanted battery-caged hens by throwing them into wood-chipping machinery last February. This method of killing chickens is not approved by the AVMA, who announced last April that "Wood Chippers [are] Not To Be Used for Euthanasia of Poultry."

If instead of wood chippers, Cutler had merely advised the Ward Egg Ranch to use any of the standard AVMA-approved methods of killing the birds like breaking and stretching their necks and/or asphyxiating them with carbon dioxide -- inhumane methods notwithstanding their AVMA classification as "euthanasia" ("merciful death"), this episode would not have been noticed.

Cutler claims in his defense that he was just acting as part of a government-industry task force established to block the Exotic Newcastle disease epidemic that threatened California's poultry and egg industry last year. The mass-extermination of over 3 million birds conducted by this team, at a cost of more than $160 million including indemnities paid to cockfighters, was not paid for by the industry but by U.S. taxpayers, belying the idea that "eggs and chicken are cheap."

Cutler was part of a team. The San Diego County Department of Animal Services report showing that he authorized the wood-chipper killings includes a document titled "Southern California Biosecurity: Eliminating A.I. [Avian Influenza]: Protecting Us All From the Next Bad News." This document, a 9-page industry guide for dealing with avian influenza outbreaks, includes a procedure for disposing of "spent hens" by throwing them alive into wood chippers:

Compost or Cremate, on the farm, wherever possible. Most farms in Southern California can do this. A few face neighbor or regulatory hurdles. When done correctly this should be cheaper than sending birds to Valley Fresh [for slaughter]; and much safer. You don't need to bring suspect equipment or personnel onto your ranch at all.
Whole birds can be composted on site. We have Southern California farmers who have done this with limited #s. You can ask for help.
Grinding birds first aids composting considerably. We have Southern California farmers who have done this very successfully. You can ask for help.
A large chipper can be rented and set-up to discharge directly into a loader bucket or other container.

Death is instant and humane.

The remains can then be dumped in a row on top of a generous bed of manure, and covered with a deep mound of manure.

Bury the remains deep and away from the edges of the pile and you should not have a problem with varmints.

The pile should heat up, and then start to cool. It should then be turned, or churned, and allowed to heat up again. Continue the process until you have compost.

Some hay or other carbon source added in the chipping process is recommended.
The use of wood-chippers, in other words, is just business as usual, sensible and efficient, a way of getting rid of some of the millions of unwanted "spent" hens that the egg industry unloads each year, just as it gets rid of its millions of unwanted male chicks by grinding them up alive and/or suffocating them in trash cans at the hatchery.

As Ward Egg Ranch plant manager Ken Iryie told the San Diego County humane officer last February, "chipping" chickens is so common that "tree chipper rental places even advertise in the poultry industry for that use." He said his company was "authorized to do this by veterinarians Dr. Cutler, Dr. Kerr, and Dr. Breitmeyer [Richard E. Breitmeyer, California state veterinarian]" all of whom are with the Newcastle Disease Task Force. Iryie said that the hens, who "were placed in the tree chipper, were not infected with Newcastle" and that "'chipping' chickens as a means of euthanization had been authorized for the last three years." In industry terms the word "euthanize" simply means "kill," as when Cutler told DVM Newsmagazine: "My only regret is speaking as a scientist to county representatives and consumer media who misconstrued my openmindedness for new alternatives to euthanasia during a crisis" (January 2004).

Such crises are now taking place around the world from Delaware to Indonesia. To protect the global animal food industry and save people from the avian influenza epidemics brought on by humans, millions of chickens, ducks, turkeys and other animals are being buried alive, gassed, drowned, beaten to death, and burned to death, including actual old-fashioned ritual holocausts of thousands of chickens by villagers in Bali, Indonesia. The chickens are being set on fire "to send off the evil spirits that they say brought on the bird flu outbreak of thousands of chickens" (AP, 2/11/04).

Although what is happening in other countries is being shown on American television, we don't get to see the atrocities being conducted here at home. Where were the TV crews last year when millions of birds in California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada were being shot with pellet guns, beaten to death, tied up in plastic bags, gassed with CO2, trashed and buried alive? Why didn't we get a glimpse of the "humane depopulation" of the 86,000 birds so far in Delaware? If our methods are so humane, why can't we watch them on television and compare the ethical superiority of our own solutions to the atrocities being conducted elsewhere?

Here, anyway, is an eyewitness account of one such episode that took place in Maryland, in 1993, during an avian flu outbreak that according to The Washington Post, 2/12/04, resulted in "the destruction of tens of thousands of birds, according to state officials."
On November 26 and 27, 1993, there was a holocaust on a game farm operated by John L. Tuttle near Centreville, Maryland. Over 30,000 captive game birds [pheasants, chukars, and quails raised and sold for hunting in Maryland and surrounding states] were gassed, burned alive, clubbed, swung by the neck or shot to death by a joint United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-APHIS) Maryland Department of Agriculture task force. This operation was supervised by Drs. Hortentia Harris and David Henzler of USDA-APHIS [Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service] and Drs. Archibald Park and Henry Virts of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Approximately half of the game birds (17,000) were housed in buildings. The remaining birds were housed in outside flight pens. On Friday, November 26, large tank trucks brought in carbon dioxide gas (CO2) which was pumped into the buildings which housed a variety of game bird species some of which were suspected of harboring a pathogenic avian influenza virus. The plan was to asphyxiate the birds with CO2 gas, then carry them to a trench in a front end loader where they would be sprayed with an accelerant and burned. Unfortunately, we learned that CO2 is not lethal. As soon as the unconscious birds were exposed to fresh air they began to revive. Many of these birds were burned alive. A fruitless attempt was made to asphyxiate the remaining birds with exhaust gasses from an automobile. It did not work. Many more of these birds were burned alive that day.

The remaining 17,000 birds, which were housed in outdoor flight pens, were dispatched in a similar cruel and inhumane manner. Many birds were clubbed until unconscious and then burned alive. Finally, over 500 rounds of shotgun shells were used to wound, maim and kill the remaining game birds which could not be captured. Many of these birds were burned alive. After the carnage was over, this virus was determined to be non-pathogenic. The depopulation was totally unnecessary (letter from a "remorseful participant" to the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, March 24, 1996).
What if the depopulation had been deemed "necessary"? Would what was done to the birds be okay, then?

An op-ed by philosopher Peter Singer and producer Karen Dawn suggests that it could be ("When Slaughter Makes Sense," Newsday, 2/8/04). They defend the mass-extermination of animals "to stem the spread of avian flu" and call public concern that the killings are purposeless "misplaced." According to the logic, we should kill all humans suspected of having, or known to have, infectious diseases like flu and AIDS. Maybe if we had exterminated suspected AIDS carriers at the beginning we could have stopped the tide of AIDS.

Their argument for humane vegetarianism is psychologically undercut by their first argument in which animals are represented as mattering so little that the "waste" of their lives is compared to the "waste" of time forced on us in airports going through scanners and being searched in case of hijackers. The tone is patronizing towards the animals and towards the human emotions that are suffering with these animals. They say of the exterminations that: "[s]ince we are both actively involved with the animal-rights movement, most people would expect us to think of them as atrocities. We are saddened, of course, by the mass killings, but at least there is a valid purpose to them, as they are designed to stop the spread of diseases that could cause many more deaths."

How many animal advocates will commit to the idea that the cheap, crude, cruel, pitiless methods that are being used to murder all these animals are "valid"? Or to the implication that short of immediate worldwide vegetarianism, nothing less drastic could be done?

It is painful enough to contemplate what the evolution of our species on earth means for the rest of the living world, without the added sorrow of seeing our animal victims be morally abandoned, subtly sacrificed and derogated by their only "defenders." By such unfeeling logic, the wood-chipper solution makes perfect sense just as Gregg Cutler has been saying all along. And if the wood-chipper killings got people to go vegetarian, then what was done to those hens was "balanced," and we could assure the hens, if only we could, that their "sacrifice" was not in vain.

Posted by Richard
2/16/2004 08:45:51 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, February 15, 2004

David Icke: Utopia, Conspiracy Theory, and Reptoids

My colleague, Tyson Lewis, and I have written a paper which I would like to post here. It is on alien conspiracy theorist David Icke and examines both how he represents an important and interesting move within the popular fringe towards mixing new age themes with hard political critique as part of a utopian social project, even as he uses the conservative and reactionary image of the alien as animal (reptoid) to signify the horrific histories of imperialism, capitalism, and other forms of domination in a way that is hardly utopian.

The Reptoid Hypothesis: Utopian and Dystopian Representational Motifs in Contemporary Alien Conspiracy Theory
Alien reptilian invasions, blood-sucking, pedophilic Illuminati agents acting as totalitarian world leaders, trans-dimensional alien-human interbreeding to support a program of cosmic imperialism at an unimaginable scale -- no, this is not an X-Files episode, neither is it an undiscovered Philip K. Dick or Thomas Pynchon novel, nor is it the latest Hollywood science fiction spectacle. Rather, it is the real life and ever-evolving conspiracy theory of the self-proclaimed "most controversial speaker and author in the world," David Icke. Icke is the most (in)famous proponent of what we are calling the "Reptoid Hypothesis" -- the idea that alien lizards conspiratorially control the Earth and with it human destiny. In as much as this figure of alien Otherness also takes on decidedly animal overtones, we will seek in this paper to examine how Icke's narrative stands today as representative evidence of a popular reactionary dystopianism -- in line with speciesist discourse -- that projects onto the animal (as cause) the sum total of the fear and discontent that has arisen around contemporary issues such as global imperialism and transnational capitalism. Yet, a closer investigation of his work also yields that alternative readings of Icke are possible in which it is theorized that the end to global domination can only be arrived at via the formation of new human/reptoid alliances toward peace. We will argue that such alternative readings represent a progressive utopian fringe at work in the popular mindset that evokes the hope for a new co-constructed ecotopia in which the divisions between the human and the nonhuman, and thusly also the division between culture and nature, are adequately reconciled.

Posted by Richard
2/15/2004 06:10:27 AM | PermaLink