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A Compassionate Thanksgiving

Every November, families gather together to give thanks. At some point in American culture, eating turkeys became the symbolic way to give thanks. We are hoping to encourage our readers to rewrite that tradition. There has never been a more compelling time to rethink how we treat animals raised for food.

Thanksgiving usually marks the beginning of the holiday season. The holidays are often filled with family and friends, desserts and presents. Since we will all find ourselves on the giving and receiving ends, it’s the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate our role in the global community and how our choices affect everyone.

A Compassionate Thanksgiving is easier than you think. First we will offer you some important information regarding the detriment eating animals has caused and then showcase some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Why Choose A Compassionate Thanksgiving?

For the Environment- The UN has noted the imperative of a shift toward a more vegetarian/vegan diet for sustainability.

For The Animals– The animal advocacy group, Mercy For Animals, has released their second video from an undercover investigation at Butterball’s turkey farms. The video exposes violent acts of animal cruelty and inhumane treatment.

For The Food!

One Green Planet– Acorn stuffed with Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf 

Fat Free Vegan– Traditional Stuffing

Oh She Glows- Mashed Potatoes

Miso Vegan– Holiday Brussels Sprouts

Fit Sugar– Curried Pumpkin with Raisins

Happy Herbivore– Cranberry Sauce

Oh She Glows– Sweet Potato Casserole

Wicked Good Vegan– Tofurkey Loaf

Post Punk Kitchen-Maple Pecan Pie

Veggie Dream Girl– Pumpkin Pie with Chocolate Crust

Skies The Limit!

If you are looking for more information, FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) has a great resource for all your Compassionate Holiday needs.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Corn, Drought, and Hunger

The drought in the Midwest is causing concern about the increasing prices of corn and other crops as their supply drastically decreases. However, prior to the drought bringing crop prices to headline status, waste and misuse have been the standard with our taxes providing outrageously large and misguided subsidies… mostly to animal feed crops that don’t directly feed our families.

The trouble is that animals eat much more food than they produce. It is a very inefficient process that wastes vast amounts of crops. These crops would feed many more people if used as food directly.  In fact, eighty percent of all the crops grown in the United States go into livestock feed.

The USDA reports that “sweet corn, eaten by humans, is distinct from field corn (used for feed) and is not being heavily affected by adverse weather at this point.”  With corn and the other crops, the drought is primarily placing strain livestock feed. Perhaps this drought will encourage dialogue about subsidized crops so that the government places a higher priority on the farming of fresh produce for direct consumption.

The following is taken from the EPA’s website:

Corn: The United States is, by far, the largest producer of corn in the world. Corn is grown on over 400,000 U.S. farms. In 2000, the U.S. produced almost ten billion bushels of the world’s total 23 billion bushel crop. Corn grown for grain accounts for almost one-quarter of the harvested crop acres in this country. Corn grown for silage (animal feed) accounts for about two percent of the total harvested cropland or about 6 million acres. The amount of land dedicated to corn silage production varies based on growing conditions. In years that produce weather unfavorable to high corn grain yields, corn can be “salvaged” by harvesting the entire plant as silage.

According to the National Corn Growers Association, about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn. About 12% of the U.S. corn crop ends up in foods that are either consumed directly (e.g. corn chips) or indirectly (e.g. high fructose corn syrup). It also has a wide array of industrial uses including ethanol, a popular oxygenate in cleaner burning auto fuels.

While covering the drought, The San Francisco Chronicle introduced us to Kenny Brummer, an Illinois corn farmer. Mr. Brummer has lost “800 acres of corn that he grows to feed his 400 head of cattle and 30,000 hogs.” Crop insurance will cover up to 150 bushels per acre. But no coverage is available for Brummer’s livestock, so he figures he’ll lose $350,000 to $400,000 on that side of the operation.

The article also mentions: “Already tight supplies and fears that the drought will get worse before it gets better have been pushing up grain prices, which are likely to translate into higher food prices for consumers, particularly for meat and poultry.”

The drought has the potential to increase retail prices for beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products later this year and into 2013.  But in the short-term, there may be increases in meat supply as higher feed costs lead to herd culling (the “removal” of less desirable cows). This extra supply could decrease prices for some meat products in the short-term, but that trend should reverse when product supplies eventually shrink.

When the experts report on increasing food prices, they neglect the inefficiency of meat and the role of livestock on climate change. It’s imperative that we connect the dots between the raising of livestock, high food prices, and environmental devastation (especially climate change).

At A Well-Fed World we advocate the redistribution of subsidies away from corn and other feed crops to fresh fruits and vegetables (especially for those in need).  Also, by promoting plant-based foods we lessen the demand for meat and other animal products helping decrease agribusiness’ push for feed subsidies. Finally, plant-based foods eaten directly instead of funneled through animals, can decrease food prices and increase food security around the world.

Philip Wollen’s Blazing Speech

Philip Wollen opens with a quote from King Leer and you are instantly hooked: “How do you see the world? I see it feelingly.” The venue at which he is speaking is The Wheeler Center in Australia and the debate was entitled, “Should Animals Be Off The Menu?” On the pro side is animal rights philosopher Peter Singer, food writer Veronica Ridge and Mr. Wollen, former VP of Citibank turned ultra activist. This compelling speech has been spreading quickly through the internet and drives home points about animals and our imperative to treat them with kindness and give them equal moral consideration.

Mr. Wollen leaves out nothing in his 10 minute speech. From the environmental damage caused by our current factory farming system, to the lifestyle diseases inflicted by diets high in meat and other animal  products, as well as the detrimental affect our taste for meat has on the increasing daily hunger battles all over the world.

The opposition although (mostly) thoughtful and polite, by no means grip at your heart or your humanity quite like Mr. Wollen. He reminds us that vegetarians and vegans are a powerful new and up and coming demographic with the power to change the world. We urge everyone to watch this debate and join the conversation.

You can view the debate in it’s entirety here.

“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”– Victor Hugo

Ethical Meat Essay Contest Full of Hot Air?

A recent NYT essay contest sparked a lot of controversy. The paper asked readers to write in and give their account on why eating meat is ethical.  Dissecting our disappointment with this topic could span several blog posts, we would rather showcase how this contest encouraged one of the judges, Mark Bittman, to write a great blog piece not on the ethics of eating meat per se, but on the reality of the consequences of that choice.

The focus of Bittman’s blog is not ethical or theoretical but pragmatic: eating meat is detrimental to our planet and its finite resources.  Research from both the United Nations and World Watch Magazine conclude that livestock account for more greenhouse gases than ALL transportation combined. Depending on the timeline and what’s counted, the livestock industry could be responsible for 51% of human-caused GHG emissions.

It’s true there has been some debate over the exact number, but according to Bittman that number doesn’t matter:

“What does is that few people take the role of livestock in producing greenhouse gases seriously enough. Even most climate change experts focus on new forms of energy — which cannot possibly be effective quickly enough or produced on a broad enough scale to avert what may be the coming catastrophe — and often ignore the much easier fix of adjusting our eating habits.”

Bittman also invokes China’s eating habits which tends to displace blame, especially because Americans still eat twice as much per person.  As Americans, we set standards that are often emulated, and with regards to our poor eating habits can have devastating consequences far graver than our expanding waistlines.

Because of our heavy taste for meat we are depleting our water supply, land is being cleared to grow animal feed (Bittman’s number is 45% of land is used by the livestock industry), and our clean air supply is being compromised.

“Here’s the thing: It’s seldom that such enormous problems have such simple solutions.”

By decreasing our meat consumption, regardless off our ethical position on meat, we could be, as Bittman notes, heroes. Heroes to the next generation, to those who go hungry, and heroes to the animals.

U.S. Veg Week 2012

Today marks the beginning of the fourth annual VegWeek celebration. If you’ve thought about eating more vegetarian or vegan foods but aren’t sure where to start, today is the perfect week to start experimenting.

Yesterday was Earth Day which aims to get individuals around the US thinking about ways in which their diets and food choices impact the planet. Today, VegWeek seeks to continue that trend and highlight the many benefits of vegetarian eating as well as encourage trying new vegetarian recipes and restaurants.

Join the thousands of people nationwide—including elected officials and community leaders—by pledging to choose vegetarian foods for seven days.

It’s easy: simply pledge today and you’ll get a free Vegetarian Starter Guide, including recipes and product coupons. Each day of VegWeek you’ll also receive an e-mail with even more meal ideas, nutritional information, product recommendations, and motivational tips.  You can follow VegWeek on Facebook and Twitter, too!

DC Meat-Free Week!

Today kicks off DC Meat-Free week!  Washingtonians are lucky to be living in one of the most veg friendly cities in the country, and now we have an official week to pay our respects.  DC Vegan has arranged for the veg curious to reap the benefits of great discounts on vegan fare through out the city.  The inaugural meal is being hosted by our own Cupcake Wars winners,  Sticky Fingers Bakery, tonight from 7-9.

For more information on all the events for Meat Free Week, click here!

Enjoy!!