And this is why I’m proud to be a Texan.
By Ernest Samudio, Director of Action for Animals Austin
Ernest Samudio has been a longtime activist. At 20 years old, he came out and began to work on gay rights and eventually moved into HIV/AIDS activism. He has been involved in numerous causes but focuses on animal liberation work. You can connect with him on Facebook.
I am gay and I am proud. I am also a proud supporter of animals rights! If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or an ally then I believe that you should also support animal rights too. Why? I see them as one struggle against injustice wherever it occurs or against whomever it is being directed, human or animal. I believe that turning a blind eye to how cruelly we treat animals allows homophobia to persist in our society. Allow me to explain.
We see the effects of how similarly we view animals and gays and lesbians in our society by what we seek to deny them. Gays and lesbians continue to fight for the right to marry, to adopt children and to be accepted. Animals are denied the most minimum protection in factory farms, labs, fur farms and in the circus industry. We have done the same to women and African-Americans in our nation’s history. We call those forms of discrimination, sexism and racism, respectively. Denying gays and lesbians their complete and full rights is called heterosexism or homophobia. When we treat animals as objects who can be owned, sold, bred and sold for profit, tested on, etc., we call that speciesism. None are acceptable and all are connected by the fact that they involve treating people and animals as “less than” who they truly are.
All of these forms of discrimination come from the same place. They originate from our human tendency to decide that how we are going to treat each other will be based on what our differences are. For example, women are treated differently because they are not men (men are the only “whole, complete beings”). African- Americans and Latina/os are treated differently because they are not white (white people are the only “whole, complete beings”). Gays and lesbians are treated differently because they are not straight (heterosexuals are the only “whole, complete beings”). And animals are treated differently because they are not humans (humans are the only “whole, complete beings”).
Rather than focusing on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or species, shouldn’t we decide that how we treat each other will be based on what we have in common with everyone else? Gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgender people and African Americans and Latinos and men and women are all human beings. That is the one thing that connects all humans, from the person standing next to you at the bus stop, to the person across town, to the person on the other side of the planet. Similarly, what connects all humans and animals is that we are all living, breathing beings. We know animals experience emotions and suffer. We know that they care for and defend their young, and we know that sometimes they mourn their dead. We also know that animals can be very smart and self-aware. My point is that animals live their lives in many of the same ways we humans do and have many of the same interests.
Understanding the connection between other forms of discrimination and animal rights is becoming more common but African American author and Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker said it best when she said, “Animals were not made for humans any more than women were made for men or black people were made for white people.” Farm worker and labor organizer Cesar Chavez said, “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society.”
How can you strengthen the gay/lesbian rights movement? Be an ally to all animals. You can start by not eating them. Going meat-free saves animals from suffering in factory farms and in slaughterhouses plus it’s good for the environment. You can start by eating a couple of vegetarian meals a week and working your way up to being completely meat-free. You can also buy cruelty-free product that are not tested on animals (look for the cruelty-free bunny logo on the side of the product). Also, don’t support businesses that use animals for entertainment such as rodeos, circuses and water parks like SeaWorld. Putting animals in cages for our entertainment is not a value we want to pass on to our children. Finally, don’t wear fur or leather. Killing animals just so you can wear their skin is shallow and selfish.
As we observe gay pride, I encourage you to celebrate how far we have come, recognize the work we still have left to do, and make our movement stronger by widening your circle of compassion to include all who suffer oppression — including animals. We can change the world but to do so we must remember that what humans and animals have in common is more important than how we are different.
For more information go to ActionForanimalsAustin.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Garrett Mize is the Youth Advocacy Coordinator at the Texas Freedom Network and heads up TFN’s Youth Leadership Council, the Texas portion of Advocates for Youth’s Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative. Garrett writes below about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s tortured defense of abstinence-only sex education programs.
“It worked for me,” is essentially all that our governor could half-jokingly mutter about the statewide failure of his abstinence-only sex education policy when grilled by the editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune.
Gov. Rick Perry, who is currently running for president, has been in office since George W. Bush left the Governor’s Mansion back in 2000 (after his own election to the presidency). Gov. Perry is currently the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Unfortunately, this also means his policies on sex education are also the longest-serving in Texas.
The Texas Department of State Health Services recently drafted an application for $4.4 million in federal funding for comprehensive, evidence-based sex education (including information on both the importance of abstinence and contraception) for young people in Texas public schools. This shows us that public health professionals are ready for a change from failed abstinence-only policies that dominate instruction in most Texas public school districts, but their hands are tied by a far-right, ideological executive branch. The Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner, Tom Suehs (a Perry appointee), decided along with the governor’s office that the state should not do this. Instead, Texas applied for (and is receiving) federal Title V abstinence-only funding yet again, even though abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have not been shown to be effective.
Keep in mind that Texas has long led the nation in federal abstinence-only funding, yet we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation and the highest rate of multiple births to teens (teens who have given birth at least twice). Texas also has the third highest rate of HIV infections among young people. The human toll of failed abstinence-only programs is very serious and very high.
Over a 13-year period, teen births are estimated to have cost Texas taxpayers $15.1 billion. That’s billion with a “b.” That’s a little over a billion dollars in spending per year on teen births, yet most Texas schools — with the support of Gov. Perry — do not teach comprehensive, evidence-based sex education. Comprehensive sex education would be fiscally responsible and is scientifically proven to reduce the public costs associated with teen pregnancy and rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI). Gov. Perry can call himself a fiscal conservative all he wants, but that label couldn’t be further from the truth.
Perry peddles the falsehood that teaching young people about how to protect themselves would simply encourage them to have sex. In reality, young people who receive comprehensive sex ed are actually more like to abstain from sex longer and delay onset of sexual activity and make responsible decisions regarding their health when compared to students who only received abstinence-only. Therefore, if the goal of conservatives truly is to encourage sexual abstinence, you would think they would support comprehensive sex ed. This makes it clear that folks like Perry are more interested in scoring cheap political points rather than supporting programs that actually work. But he’s even wrong on the politics; 80% of Texans support comprehensive sex education, including information about condoms.
I’m not sure whether Gov. Perry actually believes in abstinence-only or not. His smug reply in the video indicates that he may be simply trying to evade a tough question about his record. What’s odd is that he doesn’t even seem to know how to talk about this issue. He seems to be pretty ignorant of the facts, the buzz words or even a coherent conservative argument. Maybe he’s “playing politics” and simply appealing to his base – who knows? Either way, he is playing politics with the health and well being of young people in Texas — and it’s costly, dangerous politics.
Caring for the environment is an important part of the progressive movement. Ever since the 1970′s, the general public’s knowledge and awareness of environmental issues has increased dramatically. We are now entering a point in time where the rejection of scientific evidence explaining global warming is no longer politically fashionable – even many Republican political candidates cannot ignore the message that scientists are telling us any longer – to do so is not only irresponsible and disingenuous, but the worst kind of political pandering. Young people, by and large, get it. We understand that our environment is important. Whether it is our “cause” as progressives is really irrelevant – we are all in support of taking better care of the planet. In other words, in both the scientific community and in the progressive community – this “debate” is over. It has been resolved. We agree that we have to take care of the environment. So now what?
The Devil, of course, is in the details.
Caring for the environment is a no-brainer. Without a healthy environment, your quality of life suffers. This is a basic concept that even young public school children could explain to you, but what are we going to do about it? I think we can easily agree that nobody should litter. Right? That’s an easy one. “Don’t mess with Texas”, the Texas Department of Transportation litter-prevention campaign, has become a national treasure and a badge of pride for Texas, because after all, “Don’t mess with Texas means don’t litter.”
I think progressives can also agree that it is wasteful and wrong to drive a Hummer or a similarly inefficient car. I personally do not know any progressive who has ever owned a Hummer. But I’ve known plenty of progressives (and conservatives) who drive the most fuel-efficient car they can afford. Whether that be the holy-grail of the 2000′s, the Toyota Prius, or the practical, no-nonsense Honda Civic. In this way, we all do our part. We understand that when we turn on our engine it creates byproduct gasses that contribute to global warming and climate change, therefore we should drive less and carpool when possible. I even know a lot of folks who commute by bike and public transit. (I commute to work by bike and the Capital Metro Rail nearly everyday.)
Progressives also understand the power of recycling. How cool is it that you can re-use virtually everything? Maybe I’m a geek, but the concept is exciting to me. Young people, generally those ages 30 and under, get this concept really well. They educate their parents about the importance of recycling. They set up recycling programs in their middle and high schools. When they move off to college and get their own apartment, they take full advantage of the recycling services available to them and keep recycling baskets in their house in addition to trash cans. They are strengthening recycling programs at their places of employment and leading by example. The reasons for recycling are obvious. When we throw away recyclable material (which is generally more than half of our refuse) we are putting things in landfills that could literally last thousands of years, leaving future generations to inherit a legacy of our environmental shortsightedness and frankly, laziness. Not to mention, it is a waste of resources (oil, water, trees) to constantly create new disposable material when we can simply recycle what we have already made. Not recycling is becoming the new littering.
What progressives can’t seem to agree on though is the most important thing we can do to combat global warming and protect the environment. Ending our addiction to meat, dairy and eggs. When we evaluate our behavior with the scientific scrutiny of protecting the environment, we can all agree readily that litter-prevention is key, recycling is a must and driving fuel-efficient cars is necessary. We can also all agree on simpler changes like switching out old incandescent light-bulbs for new compact florescent light-bulbs (which will become law next year when incandescent bulbs will no longer be sold). These are all incredibly important ways in which we can do our part to live green and help the planet – but they pale in comparison to the environmental effects our diet has on the environment. We are willing to make the aforementioned conventional changes, but why are progressives so resistant to even considering changing their diet in an effort to help stop global warming? I think for some reason people have built a defensive wall around their habits regarding food. They take any criticism personally and associate their cultural ideas surrounding food with the sacred. And progressives in particular don’t want to be told that they are harming the planet with every bite. I certainly became defensive the first time I learned the negative consequences of meat, dairy and eggs – and most people become this way when they are first introduced to the concept. Close-mindedness is not a progressive value though, but being open-minded is. The truth in the matter is that we ought to approach our diet from a practical, environmental perspective just like we do with other aspects of our lives, like transportation, waste, water-usage and conservation. When we get lost in selfishness, defensiveness and resistance to scientific reason and change we become nothing more than…well, conservatives.
Animal agriculture (the production of meat, fishes, dairy and eggs) is the number one cause of global warming. Originally a UN report by the Food & Agriculture Organization estimated that animal agriculture accounted for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, this report has been retracted due to improper calculations and a lack of information regarding the impact of fish agriculture. A more recent report by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of the UN’s World Bank and International Finance Corporation has found that animal agriculture plays an even more significant role in climate change. They found that meat, dairy, egg and fish agriculture accounts for at least 51% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Their scientific report utilized much more accurate calculations and processes and reveals the true threat that animal agriculture poses to our environment. You can read this ground-breaking scientific study for yourself, but the findings are clear. Our addiction to meat, dairy and eggs is fueling climate change and warming our planet faster and with more intensity than any other human activity – even more than all forms of transportation combined. That means more than all cars, all trucks, all trains, all ships, all jets combined. We so often villanize the car – and rightfully so, but our diet is the true culprit in the fight against climate change. We’re willing to call out gas-guzzlers when pointing the green finger, but most progressives dodge the dire consequences of their own milk-guzzling ways. When some of the leading scientific bodies in the world tells us something this plainly, with this much certainty, we have an obligation to listen. As progressives we value scientific evidence and reason – and the evidence could not be more clear.
The reasons animal agriculture has such a dangerous effect on increasing global warming are many. One of these is the issue of methane. Cows and other ruminant animals such as sheep, release methane as a by-product of their digestive process. Counter to what many people believe, this is not just an issue of flatulence, but the exhalation of methane from the mouth. Cows originally existed only in their wild forms, such as the Bison and the Buffalo. These wild populations fit perfectly into nature and helped to balance the ecosystem. However with our insatiable desire for meat, mega agri-corporations have factory farmed cows, and other animals, to keep up with the demand and the opportunity to make profits. As a result the population of cows and other farm animals has soared out of control to an unsustainable level that is in the tens of billions just in the United States alone.
Methane is 72 times as powerful as CO2 at trapping heat in our atmosphere. That means one ton of methane has the same negative effects as 72 tons of CO2 or other similar green house gas pollutants. And whether you’re buying meat, dairy or eggs from a factory farm (like 99% of animal products available) or from a locally-operated farm (less than 1% of animals raised this way) there is still methane being produced at alarming rates. In addition to methane, Factory Farms and local farms also use intense amounts of energy and fossil fuels. Chicken, fishes and other non-ruminant animals aren’t the solution though; those types of meat production also contribute greatly to climate change. In fact it takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein. Forget your carbon foot-print, it’s your carbon food-print that you need to be concerned about.
Factory Farms and local farms are also massive users of potable water in the country. And considering that meat, dairy and eggs are 100% unnecessary for human health, and actually harmful, Factory Farms are the biggest waste of water because we simply don’t need their products. While most of our cities and towns are put on fire-watches, and many children are growing up without getting to enjoy the spectacle of fireworks on the 4th of July due to droughts and water shortages, Factory Farm corporations and their CEOs are living it up. It seems a bit unfair to me that we must meticulously monitor how much we water our yard when corporate and local animal agriculture is wasting so much. After all we don’t need to eat meat, dairy and eggs to live; science proves that we would be healthier and live longer on a vegan diet.
Nearly half of our drinkable water resources are wasted every year by Factory Farms and animal agriculture. Farm animals are just like dogs, cats and people – they have to drink water to live! And when you keep billions of them alive for months to years at a time just to kill them to make one meal, you waste a lot of water in the process. Of course, the largest waste of water in raising animals for slaughter is the water used to irrigate the crops that are fed to the animals. Growing all of the grain that they eat, including the grass that “free-range” cows are given (The grass doesn’t just magically get rained on all the time – they irrigate it), requires an immense amount of water. In fact in order to produce just one pound of meat you need 2,500-5,000 gallons of water. In order to grow just one pound of vegetables or grain you only need 25-60 gallons of water. A person who eats a vegan diet could leave their shower running 24/7, 365 days per year and still use less water than a meat eater. That is because in order to produce just one pound of meat, it requires the same amount of water as 6 months of showers would use. A totally vegan diet requires only 300 gallons of water per day, while a typical meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day. One of these is sustainable. One of these is not. One of these is progressive; the other is not.
Meat, dairy and egg production is also one of the biggest polluters of water. In fact “animals raised for food in the U.S. produce far more excrement than the entire U.S. human population, roughly 89,000 pounds per second,” according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This massive amount of fecal and urine matter is not legally required to be processed like human waste in a sanitary water treatment station. Factory Farms commonly fill entire fields, dug into ponds, with this filth. The odor is so horrendous that you can smell it from miles away. People who drive the highways in California will notice this awful stench from the dairy farms that dot the rural landscape. It is far worse for people who live in these areas. Some folks lives and homes have been ruined from the stench caused by nearby dairy and meat factory farms. Imagine what it is like for the animals who are trapped inside of these windowless, non-air-conditioned factory farm barracks.
When these fecal ponds are overfilled or improperly managed, a simple rainstorm can cause them to overflow and ruin nearby vegetable crops intended for human consumption. This is almost always the source of E. Coli contamination on plant foods like spinach or sprouts, because E. Coli is a bacteria that is present in the stomachs of farm animals and never grows naturally on plants. These overflowing incidents also pollute rivers and streams and groundwater that rural communities depend upon for bathing and drinking. Sometimes factory farms use rivers as a dumping ground for the excessive excrement caused by their operation which suffocates the fish in the water and makes the water unsuitable for other uses. To learn more about this particular issue, I highly recommend the documentary, “A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms” by Cinema Libre Studios.
Raising animals for meat, dairy and eggs also is the leading cause of the destruction of the rainforest – the greatest piece of biodiversity that we have on the planet. Most species within the rainforest have not even been discovered yet, but we’re slashing and burning them all down so that we can produce cheap meat and dairy instead. Is this ethical? The majority of all food crops produced in the world are fed to animals to produce meat, dairy and eggs. For every meat-based meal that you eat, you could eat the equivalence of 20 plates of vegetarian food. You would never waste or throw away 19 plates of perfectly good food – yet this is what you are doing every time you eat meat, dairy and eggs. This process is an inefficient use of food resources, but also land. People who live near the rain forest are tempted to slash and burn to either grow crops to feed farm animals or to create grazing land for additional cattle. According to Greenpeace, from 2004 to 2005 nearly 2.9 million acres of the rainforest were destroyed (including the animals who naturally live there) in order to make room to grow crops to feed to factory farm chickens. Also, the majority of the world’s soy is fed to farm animals, when we could be feeding this complete, protein-rich food to humans. Most of the soy used in veggie-burgers and other vegetarian products like soy milk is exclusively grown domestically in the United States and not on the ashes of the rainforest. If you have any modicum of concern for deforestation of the most vital natural ecosystem in the world, our rainforest, who’s abundance of trees actually help to reduce global warming, then you ought to stop eating meat, dairy and eggs.
Fishes are incredibly intelligent animals that exhibit personality traits, the ability to use tools and certainly the ability to feel pain. Aside from the cruelty associated with fish consumption, the environmental effects are jaw-dropping. The scientific community predicts that by the year 2050, essentially all fish will be extinct. How is this possible? Trawling nets, which always kill ‘by-catch’ (meaning dolphins, turtles and sharks), are employed by fishing fleets to catch salmon, tuna and other fish to sell in supermarkets, restaurants and sushi bars. However this process is eradicating the ocean of fishes at a faster rate than they can naturally reproduce. The human demand for fish consumption is so great that even Bluefin Tuna is being considered an endangered species in Europe. As countries like India and China continue to see economic development and a consequential rise in meat consumption, the demand for fish is exploding past sustainability.
Americans are also eating more seafood now than ever before. At the current rate, without a widespread adoption of a vegetarian or vegan diet, meat-eaters and pescetarians will be responsible for the extinction of all the fish populations that live in ocean depths reachable by humans. In addition to the damage being done to coral reefs, an incredibly important ecosystem, by climate change, trawling nets and anchors directly damage them when dragged across the ocean floor scraping to death these fragile and delicate natural life systems. It is wrong for our generation to be so selfish to obliterate all of the fish populations into extinction within 40 years. The demand for shark fin soup and whale meat in Eastern Asia has already pushed most shark and whale species to the brink of extinction. Without legal protection most fish species will become extinct by the year 2050, and our children will suffer grave environmental consequences as a result. We cannot allow that to happen, and the only way to stop it is to quit buying and eating fishes, lobsters, shrimp and other aquatic individuals.
There’s a saying in the vegetarian community: “There’s no such thing as a meat-eating environmentalist.” It’s really quite true. In the same sense that environmentalists don’t drive hummers and waste electricity, environmentalists also don’t eat meat, dairy and eggs. Now, you don’t have to call yourself an “environmentalist” to care about nature. Plenty of progressives who have other passions, like religious liberties, reproductive justice, labor, and LGBTQ equality make a concerted effort to not litter, to recycle and to use energy more efficiently. They aren’t hardcore environmentalists, just progressive folks who are doing their part. Eating vegan should be a part of that if we have any sense of basic concern for the environment.
If we are willing to change certain things in our lives in order to benefit the environment, we ought to change our diet too – otherwise we should stop bellyaching about global warming and water shortages. It’s kind of like voting. If you don’t vote, you don’t have much of a right to complain about the outcome of the election. The same is true for how we live environmentally. If you don’t try to live in harmony with the environment when easy green options are presented to you, then you don’t have much of a right to complain about the destruction of our natural environment. I believe that it is time that the EPA regulate Factory Farm corporations at least as stringently as they do oil companies and other corporate polluters. There’s an elephant in the room and this time it’s not the Republican Party; it’s us and our addiction to meat, dairy and eggs. It is time we adopt a solution for the sake of the environment. A vegan diet.
Factory Farm corporations and Big Agriculture should be taxed for the environmental damage they cause. Animal Agriculture industries should be taxed at least as much as the cost to repair their extreme environmental violations. After the BP oil spill, progressive Americans demanded that the company pay for its mistakes and rightfully so. But BP’s oil spill was literally a drop in the bucket compared to the problems caused by animal agriculture. Where are the progressives demanding that Hormel, Smithfield Pork Producers, Tyson, Pilgrim’s pride and the major dairy and egg corporations pay their fair share? The progressives are nowhere to be found. Calling for oil companies to clean up their messes while giving meat, dairy and egg corporations a free pass is simply hypocritical and self-serving.
Just as progressives demand an end to the massive corporate subsidies that currently go to oil companies, we should take away the subsidies that are enjoyed by factory farms. After all, if our purpose in taking away subsidies from oil and gas companies is to improve the environment, wouldn’t it make just as much sense to take away subsidies from mega-agricultural factory farm operations that are contributing more to global warming than all the oil being burned from all of transportation combined? Moving forward, any environmental policy that does not include restrictions on meat, dairy and egg producers is not only ineffective but downright flawed. Living green matters more than just using a reusable shopping bag when you’re at the grocery store. It matters what you put inside of it too.
The Democratic Party and its politicians ought to get a backbone and acknowledge this issue. It is time that progressives start demanding better environmental protection. I support President Obama. I voted for him and will vote for him again, but I hope that he will have the courage to stand up to Big Agriculture and speak up for the environment. It was recently reported by CNBC that the President, and various other parts of his administration including the United States Department of Agriculture, were lobbied to the tune of $325,000 in the first quarter of this year by the Dairy Industry. That is unacceptable, and we should hold our progressive politicians to higher standards. Food choices are not sacred. They are up for political debate and scientific scrutiny. Other aspects of our lives like health care, transportation, and education are all the topics of hot political debate; food should be no different. Progressives should stand together on the side of a diet that is more compassionate and better for the environment: a whole-foods, plant-based vegan diet.
As a progressive political activist, I attend a lot of political get-togethers and events. But if you take a look at the food offered at any one of these events, you’d think I was at a Republican fund-raising dinner for Sarah Palin. At fancy dinners steak, pork tenderloin, and lobster is on the menu. At activist events and phone-banks cheese pizza with pepperoni and extra sausage is the preferred choice. At morning grassroots planning meetings breakfast tacos filled with egg, cheese and sausage and bagels with flavored cream cheese are the expected progressive staples. We know these foods are unhealthy for us. Shouldn’t we be doing something different? More importantly, do our progressive values apply to food, or is food an “untouchable” topic for political critique?
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to chow down on pizza while phone-banking for health care reform, or to have a BBQ party to celebrate a successful legislative session that included the expansion of public health insurance programs. Ironically we celebrate our progressive victories by eating something that is completely unhealthy and regressive. Why do we continue to eat what is the leading cause of America’s health problems?
Who would have thought that health, such a fundamental part of our lives, would become such a hot-button political issue. Like all topics though, when it comes to politics nothing is off the table…at least for those of us with open minds (and stomachs). Food for some is an emotionally charged topic, but we should approach it from a rational point of view, especially in the context of health. And speaking of what’s on the table, food is quite possibly the most crucial factor in determining our health care needs as a nation. However, you wouldn’t know this from the recent health care debate. We heard a lot about insurance, medicine, preconditions and doctors, but very little to nothing about food. Just how does food play into the health care debate?
You’re probably telling yourself, “I’m healthy, this doesn’t apply to me”. Well, are you sure? Food is the foundation of our health and the fuel for our bodies. If we choose not to eat healthfully, or if we choose not to challenge the accepted western diet that is offered to us as the status-quo, we are doomed to experience the same health problems that so many other people in our society experience. Simply because we are progressive, or because we think of ourselves as healthy people does not make us immune from the same deleterious diet-caused health effects that plague more than half of the people in this country.
The person who has a poor diet also has a rich doctor.
- Ancient Proverb
As a country, we like to think of ourselves as #1, and in many ways we are the best at what we do. But let’s face it, we’re not healthy and it’s costing us a fortune. The United States is #1 in having the most expensive health care system in the world but only the 37th in overall effectiveness and 72nd in terms of overall health according to the World Health Organization. Americans shell out more for health care than anyone else in the world, yet we are more sick and more overweight than most other developed countries who spend much less on health care. We even rank 42nd in life expectancy. What gives? We’re literally doing this whole health care thing backwards, that’s what. Our system would be more appropriately called “sick care” because that’s how it works. You get sick, then you seek medical attention. By simply changing the order of how we approach our health, we could be saving hundreds of billions of dollars and living longer. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Most Americans die from preventable diseases that are generally caused by behavioral and dietary choices. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death of Americans. Think about that. More people in the United States die from heart disease than any other cause. More than car accidents. More than smoking. More than cancer. More than old age. It’s a sobering fact, and it is something that affects many of our families on a personal level. This year, over 500,000 people will need open-heart surgery in order to continue living. Each of these heart surgeries will cost between $100,000 to $200,000. Their chests will be cracked open, their heart exposed, an artery taken from their leg, and then sewn onto their heart. This is the result of the average meat-and-dairy diet. Some people call veganism extreme, but I would say omnivorism is taking that cake. There’s nothing really extreme about avoiding heart disease by eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. As a country we are willing to spend trillions of dollars to ward off the perceived threats of terrorism, but are we willing to make simple changes to what we eat in order to prevent what is actually killing us at alarming rates?
“The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of ‘real food for real people’ you’d better live real close to a real good hospital.” -Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D. President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
How can we stop the top killer of Americans? The answer is simple. A whole-foods, plant-based diet. In other words, a vegan diet. A vegan diet is one that excludes all animal products and by-products. This means eating no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs. Essentially a vegan diet is a vegetarian diet without the dairy and eggs – it is a diet that is based completely on eating plant foods. But why should we eat this way? Well for starters, people who eat a vegan diet are more likely to live longer, not develop certain types of cancer, not suffer from heart disease, have lower Body Mass Indexes (BMI), and not have diabetes.
All animals produce cholesterol, a waxy substance that our cells use in the manufacturing of their walls. In fact, as animals ourselves, most of our bodies make just the right amount of cholesterol (a Goldie-Locks portion of cholesterol if you will…appetizing isn’t it?) But when we eat additional cholesterol from other animals’ bodies, we put too much into our bloodstream, which leads to blockages in our arteries. It’s not hard to understand. Eating too much of the waxy substance leads to a buildup in our bloodstream, eventually causing heart disease, heart attacks or stroke. Plants do not produce cholesterol, so by eating a vegan diet, you never consume additional cholesterol and your arteries remain free and clear of the fat, waxy substance and consequently the blockages that cause heart attacks. Major dietary sources of cholesterol include cheese, eggs, beef, pork, poultry, and shrimp. In fact, a recent medical study by Canadian cardiologists found that a single egg contains more cholesterol than the KFC “Double Down” product. The physicians wrote in their scientific report, “In our opinion, stopping egg consumption after myocardial infarction or stroke would be like quitting smoking after lung cancer is diagnosed: a necessary act, but late.” Based on this simple science any cardiologist will tell you that it really is a good idea to avoid these foods entirely.
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
Scientists have also found evidence that animal protein can be a factor in cancer. People who eat a vegan diet are much less likely to suffer from certain types of cancer, including colon, prostate and breast cancer. Also, avoid falling into the trap that you need milk and dairy products as a source of calcium to strengthen your bones – milk actually does the opposite. Milk does not “do a body good,” it actually does a body “real, damn horrible.” According to a Harvard Medical School study and the PCRM, milk products have an acidic effect in the body, causing the body to release an easily accessible base substance to combat this acidity. Our bodies release our calcium reserves from our bones, which weakens our bones and causes osteoporosis. There is a reason why countries like the US which consume more dairy and meat than anyone else in the world, have the highest rates of certain types of cancer and osteoporosis while plant-based dietary cultures suffer significantly less from these diseases.
Milk is also incredibly fattening. If we consider what milk is, this is not difficult to understand. Cow’s milk is a high fat, high cholesterol food meant for baby cows as they grow. Cows, if you haven’t noticed, are huge. They can easily grow to over 1,000 pounds. Why would you want to drink a beverage meant to help an incredibly large animal grow even larger? No wonder it is making us fat. As mammals, our mother’s produce milk that we need as infants, and like all other mammals we do not need milk after infancy. In fact, we suffer health consequences from consuming milk as teenagers and adults. This is a major reason why at least 30% of adults are lactose intolerant. Yet many people suffering with lactose intolerance still believe they need to consume dairy products.
The only reason we don’t think of milk as being gross is because we have been trained by the dairy industry to believe it is a healthy product. Commercials depicting “happy cows” and white-mustached celebrities not only mislead us about the appalling cruelty that occurs in dairy factory farms, but they hide the fact that milk is filled with infectious pus, growth hormones and antibiotics. We are the only species that artificially impregnates other animals in order to take their milk for our own consumption. Health issues aside…it’s just weird. If the idea of drinking milk from your own species as an adult would be gross (which I agree, would be disgusting) why are you okay with chugging the mammary secretions of a giant animal? If you want calcium, ditch the dairy and grab some spinach or calcium fortified soymilk instead. With so many dairy-free alternatives, like soy and ricemilk, coconut milk ice cream, vegan butter, vegan mayonnaise and vegan cheese, you’ll never want to go back to drinking cow’s milk again.
Think you won’t get enough protein on a vegan diet? Think again. Vegans who eat a well-planned diet get all the protein they need, while the average American eats an excessive amount of protein leading to an over-consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol. Many plant-based foods are full of protein, like beans and nuts, and even many vegetables have protein. If you eat a whole-foods vegan diet, as long as you are eating enough calories, you’re probably eating enough protein. I doubt you are a body builder or triathlete, but even then you’d be better off vegan like Robert Cheeke and Rich Roll.
The U.S. spent $2.26 trillion on health care in 2007. This is more than any other country in the world according to the World Health Organization. It is also more than double what we spend on the defense budget each year. 38% of Americans are obese – more than half are overweight. Obesity has already become a national security issue, as 27% of 18-24 year olds are not eligible to serve in the army because they exceed weight requirements. These higher rates of disease cost us about $100 billion to $150 billion on treatment of chronic illness for people over age 50. Heart disease is the leading chronic illness, and many diseases such as diabetes are also affected and caused by diet. We are even beginning to see obesity and Type 2 Diabetes affecting young people at alarming rates. In fact, one third of children are overweight or obese. When do we stop and say to ourselves, “Ok, this has gone on long enough. How can we fix this?”
It is estimated by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a leading cardiologist, that if most Americans adopted a whole-foods, plant-based vegan diet, we could cut health care costs by 70 to 80%. Imagine what that would do to the already false argument peddled by conservatives that health care reform will “cost too much”. By eating a vegan diet ourselves, and by encouraging others to do it too, we are making the most fiscally responsible choice possible for ourselves and for our country. By investing in our own health with a vegan diet, we are literally investing in the financial strength and well-being of the entire nation. The trend is catching on in Washington. Representative Dennis Kucinich, quite possibly the most progressive Democrat in the House, has been a vegan for years and cites the diet as a way to bring down health care costs and improve our well-being. Kucinich follows the Democratic platform without deviation. Perhaps it is time the Democratic Party started shaping some of its policies around his ideas.
As a liberal Democrat, I strongly support President Obama’s health care reform and I am incredibly happy to see that First Lady Michelle Obama has championed the issue of preventing childhood obesity as her issue. I would even go a step further to say that I support a single-payer, universal health care system. Nonetheless, I believe that all people have a right to health care that is both preventative and responsive to their needs. Access to health care should be a right – not a commodity. Nobody should have to choose between a doctor visit and food. Nobody should have to choose between medication and rent. This is something I firmly believe, and most Americans support this position too. We have a social responsibility to take care of those who are sick, weak or less fortunate. It is a matter of morality.
However, I also believe fully in the concept of individual responsibility. Just as we each have social responsibility to take care of one another, we have an individual responsibility to take care of ourselves. By doing so we will not burden others unnecessarily and can maximize our ability to help others. This is what it means to be a part of society. When we choose to eat a vegan diet, we are taking responsibility for ourselves. We are making the choice to avoid heart disease, obesity and other preventable diet related diseases. Those of us who live in affluent urban areas have no excuse not to do this, as our options for vegan food are plentiful (and delicious). We must all strive to live our best so that we can continue to serve others. It’s a part of what it means to be American.
Health Care Reform Should include:
- An end to massive subsidies for the Meat, Dairy and Egg Industries.
- An increase in subsidies for fresh fruits, vegetables and organic farming.
- School-lunch programs that include at least a “Meatless Monday” or “Fruits and Veggies Friday”.
- Greater influence of the CDC in creating dietary recommendations rather than the USDA which is tasked with promoting the meat, dairy and egg industries’ products.
- Public education programs about the benefits of a vegan diet and the negative health effects of eating meat, dairy and egg products.
- Plant-based nutrition education in public schools, either as a part of currently existing health curriculum, or as an entirely new course. It’s good to teach math and science – it’s also good to learn how to eat properly.
- Consumer taxes on meat, dairy and eggs products. As a society we are willing to put heavy taxes on tobacco, which accounts for far less health spending than animal-products do.
- Ethics laws that prevent free-for-all lobbying by the meat, dairy, egg and slaughter industries.
More and more young people are choosing not to smoke because they have seen the effects this deadly habit can have on an individual and a society. Young people recognize that smoking is being irresponsible to yourself and to others. It’s time for us to start thinking about food in the same way – because it has a much bigger consequences. Currently it is socially acceptable to ask others not to smoke. Someday it will be acceptable to ask others not to eat meat or to eat less dairy. More and more young people are making the choice to become vegan too – because, well, it’s cool to be healthy.
It is inevitable that the US will move towards a universal approach to health care as most other industrialized nations already have. This has proven to be the most effective type of health care system, but it means that we will have to be even more vigilant at preventing disease. It will increasingly become the taxpayer’s interest for people not to eat meat, dairy and eggs as the government will be footing the health care bill. Therefore, as we move towards a single-payer system it is important that we walk the walk when it comes to preventative medicine, which includes a whole-foods vegan diet. I am in full support of government playing a major role in providing health care to people, but I am also in favor of fiscal responsibility and having the most efficient government programs as possible. We can’t eat meat and cheese and have low health care costs. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s already not working that way. It’s not really a matter of emotion or choice, but rather common sense and pragmatism. If we want to save money, live longer and prevent chronic disease, we need to switch to a vegan diet.
As progressives we want to ensure that all people have equitable access to quality health care so that they can lead a good life. Rather than expecting health care reform to take care of us, let’s take care of ourselves to strengthen health care reform. Let’s support this aim every time we pick up a fork or sit down to eat for our own health and for the health of others. Let’s lead by example. We’ve come a long way with health care reform in the past couple of years, but we can do so much more. Let’s get to work.
I’ve always found it a little strange when my fellow progressives scoff at the idea of veganism. After all, aren’t progressives supposed to be open-minded? I’m usually not surprised when conservatives deny the concept of veganism and compassion for animals – because many of them do not even possess compassion for all people, nonetheless animals. I think it is fair to say that most conservatives are generally opposed to effective, government programs that help the poor, the elderly and the downtrodden. Some are even opposed to equal rights for LGBTQ folks (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer / Questioning) and often support strict laws against immigrants who are seeking better lives and opportunity in this country. Not all conservatives are like this though. Many conservatives are independent-minded and support much more moderate approaches to public policy, and good on them for it. I even know a number of conservatives who are vegetarian. Despite this, it is not difficult to see why most conservatives have trouble extending compassion to all animals. Progressives on the other hand, have less of an excuse.
Progressivism is a noble cause and one that I most fundamentally identify with. It is the notion that all people deserve equality and ought to be treated with fairness. Progressivism values the environment and seeks to protect it. Progressivism is practical, and rejects wastefulness. Progressivism is a line of thought that all people, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should be treated with respect, dignity and at the very least, should be spared from cruelty and suffering. Yet many progressives contribute greatly to cruelty and the suffering of animals. We’ve been fooled into thinking that animals are too “stupid” to matter, or that their interests either shouldn’t be taken seriously or are so far below the interests of humans that it is laughable to question the matter. The fact is – animals do matter. Their interest in living a good life, free from pain and suffering and the threat of dying is greater than our fleeting interest in tasting their flesh.
Discrimination is the idea that it is somehow acceptable to use others or to not take their interests into account because you believe you are superior to others and therefore your interests should always be considered first. When Anglos enslave and deny rights to people of color this is called racism. When men deny women the right to vote or treat them as sexual objects or inferior this is called sexism. When straight people deny gay and lesbian people the right to marry or adopt children this is called heterosexism. When humans refuse to consider animals’ interests and instead treat them as objects meant to be eaten for pleasure, this is called speciesism. Specieisism is so common because we are taught since childhood that it is normal to only view animals with the purpose of satisfying human interests. This is easy to do – because the majority of people in our culture accept this form of discrimination, and it is personally challenging to speak up on behalf of the oppressed when everyone around you agrees with the oppression. It’s a lot easier just to go with the flow rather than stand up for what is right. But like all other forms of discrimination, the reasoning for treating certain animals as objects is arbitrary and baseless.
Speciesists disregard the interests of animals because they are not of the human species and are different than us in some ways. But we know through our relationships with dogs and cats that animals do have interests, and therefore any distinction we make between dogs and pigs, or cats and chickens is false, based upon nothing, and morally irrelevant. Eating animals is illogical, and runs against our better sense to see what interests we have in common with animals – not arbitrary differences. After all, humans are animals. Humans, like animals, don’t want to feel pain. We don’t like to suffer. We don’t like the threat of death or being killed. We enjoy living a peaceful life, free to be with our families and free from those who would harm us. Animals are exactly the same. Many of us are unfamiliar with the intelligence and emotional side of farm animals because we have never had the opportunity to meet them, and we are encouraged by those around us, beginning in childhood, to believe that farm animals are “dumb” and don’t feel anything. Well, it’s time to wake up and smell the fair-trade coffee! I have had the opportunity to spend time around farm animals, and I can tell you that it is an eye-opening experience. They are exactly like dogs and cats in that they like to get their neck rubbed, play chase, sit next to you and just be your friend. This can only happen though if you allow it to – you have to open your mind, and think about animals differently than you did before. Speciesism is the belief that the superiority of the human species discounts even the most basic consideration of animal welfare or decent treatment. Are you a speciesist?
There are far too many progressives who spend their days running animal shelters while eating bacon (which is made from the belly fat of pigs who are more intelligent than dogs). There are far too many progressives who try to end world hunger, but every time they eat meat, dairy or eggs are eating 20 times the amount of resources of a vegan meal. There are far too may progressives who campaign for the protection of the environment, and yet partake in a diet that is incredibly destructive to our water and land resources and contributes more to global warming than all transportation combined. There are far too many progressives who demand fair treatment of workers, yet purchase animal products from factory farm corporations that routinely abuse their workers, deny them the right to collectively bargain or form unions and subject them to some of the most dangerous working conditions in America. There are far too many progresives who admirably defend a woman’s right to choose and make decisions regarding her own body and sexuality, yet who choose to eat dairy and egg products that are the result of incessant forced pregnancies, and the abuse of the female reproductive system in mother cows and hens. There are far too many progressives who call for universal health care in order to make sure that all people are insured, yet eat and promote a meat-based diet and lifestyle that directly contributes to the #1 cause of preventable death in this country: heart disease. Why is this?
Lets take a look at the facts:
Meat, dairy and eggs are the only source of cholesterol, a leading factor in heart disease.
People who eat a vegan diet live on average 7 to 10 years longer than meat-eaters and they are much less prone to develop preventable diseases including heart disease, weight issues, diabetes and even some cancers.
People who eat well-planned vegan diets get all the nutrition they need, and usually get above-average protein, calcium and iron.
Animal agriculture is the #1 cause of global warming and climate change according to the United Nations. Even more than all forms of transportation combined.
A vegan could leave their shower running 24/7, 365 days per year and still use less water than a meat eater.
Animal Agriculture is the #1 consumer of drinkable water, and also the biggest waster of water. Factory farms pollute rivers and streams.
One of the primary causes of rain forest deforestation is to clear land for cattle to graze or to raise crops to feed to animals.
It uses so many resources to produce animal products, that every time you eat a meat-based meal, it is like throwing away 20 plates of food.
It takes 16 pounds of grain and 5,000 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat. It takes 0 pounds of grain and 60 gallons of water to produce one pound of fruit or vegetables. Producing animals for food is inefficient and wasteful – counter to progressive values.
40,000 people starve to death every day – most of them are children, yet the average American is using 20 times the amount of food resources at every meal. Think about how many more people could eat if we didn’t use so much.
99% of meat comes from corporate factory farms where cruelty to animals is the standard – not the exception. The other 1% comes from smaller farms, where animals are still killed in inhumane ways.
95% of Americans say they are against cruelty to animals, yet 95% of Americans contribute to cruelty to animals by buying and eating animal flesh and dairy secretions at grocery stores and restaurants.
Over 10 billion animals are killed each year in the US for food. This does not include fishes.
Animals that are killed for food are just as capable of feeling pain and suffering as dogs and cats are. They are equally as intelligent as dogs and cats and enjoy being loved by humans like your dog or cat.
Being progressive includes keeping an open-mind. It also includes not turning your eyes from cruelty when it occurs. Educate yourself about the food you eat everyday at restaurants and your own kitchen by watching this short video:
As progressives, we will only be successful when we champion all of our issues in unison – they are as interdependently connected as we are with each other. Abraham Lincoln saved the Union and declared freedom for all people, and he was also a vegetarian. Gandhi worked for independence and peace, but also animal rights. Cesar Chavez demanded that minorities and immigrants be treated with respect and fairness, and he was also a vegan. Many of the great progressive leaders who have come before us have worked on multiple progressive causes simultaneously and that included animal rights and welfare. So, why aren’t you a vegan? Advocating for animal rights has a rich tradition in progressivism. Many people may think it is strange to care so much for animals, but I think it is strange to treat animals with disregard and wanton cruelty. There’s nothing strange about compassion.
We must not fall into the trap of tradition. Simply because something has always been one way, doesn’t mean it always will be or that it always should be so. It used to be tradition that women did not have political power. It used to be tradition that children were used for hard manual labor. It used to be tradition that people were segregated by their skin color. As progressives, we challenge out-dated “traditions” and demand a more fair and equitable society. Let the conservatives cling onto the status-quo as it inevitably fades into the past – we’ve got work to do. Many people tell me that their family members are involved in animal agriculture, and therefore they can’t become a vegan. I challenge this notion. First of all, some of my family has been involved in animal agriculture – and that doesn’t stop me and thousands of others from giving up meat, dairy and eggs. Some of them have even worked in factory farms. This logic is ultimately flawed though because people rarely employ it to defend other choices. If your uncle worked in a Hummer factory, would you be compelled to buy and drive a Hummer? No. You wouldn’t, and because you’re a progressive you’d probably drive a more sensible car, maybe a hybrid or even ride your bike. The same principle should apply to what, or who, you eat. Eating a vegan diet, regardless of whether or not your grandparents have a dairy farm, is a very progressive thing you can do. Our decisions should be dictated by our conscience and our rationality – not our uncle’s job.
Isn’t it about time that progressives grew a backbone, and made a stand for the environment, world hunger, health, worker’s rights and animals? Eating a vegan diet is the easiest thing you can do as a progressive to create positive change in the world. Most people live in large cities where vegan-friendly restaurants abound and where there are sure to be grocery stores that offer limitless vegan options. There is simply no excuse not to try it. It literally requires no effort at all, and it does not take away from your advocacy on other progressive issues. To the contrary – it increases your advocacy for many other progressive issues many times over. By withdrawing your support from massive factory farm corporations and by adopting a plant-based vegan diet, you are showing that you are not only a progressive during the day, but also at the dining table. Don’t set your values down every time you pick up a fork.
Join millions of other progressives in adopting a vegan diet. You’ll be healthier, the environment will be cleaner, workers will be treated better and animals will be spared from needless cruelty. Thanks for reading, and please post this on Facebook and Twitter.
Recently I was able to meet the Reverend Barry Lynn. He is the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It was his appearances in the media and leadership of this organization that helped me to decide to do the work that I do today. It was an honor to meet him and it is good to know that there are intelligent, passionate people like the Rev. Barry Lynn who are working everyday to support our religious liberties.
President Obama recognizes our religious diversity and believes it is a strength. “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and Non-Believers.”
Kennedy also recognized the importance of the separation of church and state – and he eloquently and ardently defended it. I encourage you to watch this video of him, speaking before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960. As a Catholic candidate for president, and eventually the first Catholic president, he was charged with having allegiances to the Church that would inappropriately influence his policy objectives. He cited his deep understanding and support of the separation of church and state as the reason why this would not happen.
The term “separation of church and state” was coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptists. Later he went on to author the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment. At that time, Baptists were a religious minority that often had their rights infringed upon by the state-sponsorship of particular Christian denominations. Today, there are still a number of Baptist churches that honor their traditional stance of supporting the separation of church and state.
This past weekend, I traveled to Washington D.C. with a group of ten dynamic young people I work with to lobby our Congress to support comprehensive sex-ed. Together, they make up the Texas Youth Leadership Council. At our conference put on by Advocates for Youth, Lieutenant Dan Choi was the keynote speaker. He spoke about the necessity of demanding equal rights and the importance of identity. He reminded us that we all have to represent who we are, truthfully, to those around us if we want to create real change.
I had the privilege of meeting Lt. Dan Choi. He is truly an amazing person and his story is one worth telling. He is a graduate of West Point and is a veteran of the Iraqi War. He is also fluent in Arabic – a critical tool in achieving progress in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lt. Dan Choi is a valuable person to the public. His skill set and expertise is literally worth millions – however, he has been fired because of who he loves. It costs us $1.3 billion to conduct these ridiculous trials and remove gay and lesbian people from the military. It is not fiscally responsible by any sense of the term and it is entirely bigoted.
Lt. Dan Choi is gay and told other people in the Army that he was gay as well as the public on the Rachel Maddow Show. As a result, he was prosecuted under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy which prohibits gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. It serves no purpose other than discrimination and prejudice. This law creates two classes of people and it must go. It punishes free speech by limiting what gay and lesbian people may say about themselves, and as Lt. Dan Choi says, this policy is undermining unit cohesion. People can only trust each other when they are able to tell the truth to each other. Honesty is the foundation of trust and integrity – integral values of the military.
Our allies, Britain and Israel, allow straight, gay, bi and lesbian people to all serve openly in their armed forces and they have no problems. I am grateful that there are people like Dan Choi who are courageous and are speaking up about this issue and I am confident we will see the right course of action taken in the end. If someone is willing to give their life for their country, should their country not also be willing to allow them to serve with integrity, honesty and dignity?
Many people are familiar with the problems associated with large-scale animal agriculture operations. Animal cruelty and environmental degradation are commonplace, so it is easy to understand why we should avoid those products. But what about local and organic meat, dairy and eggs?
A lot of people with good intentions buy “free-range” or “cage-free” meat, eggs and dairy. The problem is that the use of these terms is not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or any other organization in a legally binding manner, meaning that companies can use them even if they don’t really apply to their products.
Also, in an attempt to to help animals, people often buy local, organically produced meats and animal products. Buying local may cut down on the emissions created from transporting the products to market and organic may reduce chemical usage, but local and organic meats, dairy and eggs can still invovle a great deal of cruelty to animals. Not to mention, it always uses less resources to raise vegetables and fruit than animal products. Please don’t take my word for it though. Watch this short documentary, Free Range, that my friend made to see for yourself if local/organic/free-range is really any better. A young girl, animal rights activists, a local chicken farmer and a vegan animal sanctuary owner all offer their opinions on this subject.
A while back, my roommate and I came across some abused chickens in our neighborhood – this is what we did. What would you do?