Friday, May 14


I don't think I even posted that original "Flexitarian" article from a few months back that had people all atwitter, but I did want to point out this estimate: "Flexitarians [people who usually or often, but not always, eat vegetarian] could be as high as 40 percent of the U.S. population, according to Charles Stahler, co-director of the Vegetarian Resource Group." Now, of course Stahler has good reason to want to see the proportion that high, but it wouldn't surprise me. The grocery store trends are showing it - grocers aren't trying to stock meatless and dairyless items for vegans, but for the growing number of people who want them some of the time. And however you slice it, that's a good thing.

Thursday, May 13


A civil probe was already underway by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, but now federal prosecutors are looking into possible criminal violations by commodities traders who may have received advance knowledge about the first U.S. case of mad cow disease and used it to reap profits in the cattle futures market. The disclosure of an investigation by criminal authorities was made today in testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Dunno how any insider trading could be possible here - after all, the USDA would've been the first to know if the test was positive, and they wouldn't have wasted one minute to let people know about this - wouldn't have allowed cronies to profit while they scheduled the release of potentially life-saving information for Christmas Eve, would they? Nah.


OK, so this is not news to anyone who's been paying attention, but now a whole bunch of people are paying attention to the fact that Atkins and its low-carb ilk will give you bad breath. Doesn't mention whether your breath improves once you gain the pounds back.


A professional trainer speaks out in USA Today: "As a person who works with horses and sees the humanity that these animals possess and their importance to the history of this country, I am deeply troubled that thousands of them are being led to the slaughterhouse. I suspect Americans who cheer on race day, have seen their giggling children ride horseback and have an appreciation for the days of the Pony Express, will understand my outrage."

Wednesday, May 12


While one arm of the government reaffirms the trope that nobody could get Mad Cow in the U.S., more disturbing signs emerge from other branches:

Ann Veneman is casually softening us up for the next Mad Cow "discovery," saying the USDA "won't be surprised" if it turns up additional infected animals. "There is certainly a likelihood we will find more (diseased) cows," Veneman said Friday. And on the same day, the FDA announced it has "not yet finalized long-awaited rules to prohibit cattle blood and poultry litter from U.S. cattle feed as a precaution against mad cow disease. Remember, these are the rules that were supposed to be "published swiftly" in January so they could be implemented immediately.

Meanwhile, that Texas No-Test Downer case gets more and more suspicious: "The vet condemned the animal as unfit for human consumption and recommended to a regional director with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Austin that samples from the cow's brain be tested, Burley Smith, vice president of Lone Star Beef, said.  But the regional director told the vet not to test the cow, Smith said. Instead, it was taken a rendering plant where the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates rendering plants, approved it for use in swine feed." Steve Mitchell, as always, has much more: In addition to the departmental infighting reported in the above story, there was a May 6 e-mail order from the USDA "instructing its inspectors in Texas, where federal mad cow disease testing policies recently were violated, not to talk about the cattle disorder with outside parties." The USDA is facing possible legal action from the national inspectors union, which considers this a violation of inspectors' free speech rights and a breach of their labor agreement with the agency. Additionally, "Stanley Painter, chairman of the National Joint Council, said the USDA has sent out notices in the past stating inspectors cannot talk to reporters. 'It's an intimidation thing,' Painter told UPI." As always, spokesman Steve Cohen is on hand to be "not familiar with" whatever national-crisis document is being discussed on a given week.

Even the New York Times has started to remark on the man-behind-the-curtain stuff: "The federal Department of Agriculture is making it hard for anyone to feel confident that the nation is adequately protected against mad cow disease. At a time when the department should be bending over backward to reassure consumers, it keeps taking actions that suggest more concern with protecting the financial interests of the beef industry than with protecting public health." Well, yeah. That's why they keep reminding us that the 200,000-cow test plan is a "surveillance, not a food safety" plan.


"The president of the Japanese unit of McDonald's resigned Wednesday following recent moves by the U.S. fast-food chain to reshape its leadership to turn around the struggling business here." Oh....kay, but how come this? "A replacement has not yet been chosen for Yasuyuki Yagi, a 30-year employee of McDonald's who also stepped down as chief operating officer, the Tokyo-based company said." I'm puzzlin' it.

Tuesday, May 11


In Charleston, S.C. the cost of a gallon of milk is well over five dollars for "high-end brands," and prices for some brands have gone up by 50 cents a gallon in the last month.

"I better slow down on drinking milk," said Connie Hare, as she noticed the price for a gallon.


"The egg industry should stop advertising its products as humane as long as it continues such practices as clipping hens' beaks and depriving birds of food and water, according to a ruling issued Monday by the Better Business Bureau. The ruling comes from the bureau's New York-based National Advertising Review Board, its highest authority on advertising issues. The board recommended that the United Egg Producers either discontinue labeling eggs as "animal care certified," or significantly alter it to stop misleading consumers. 'It is unimaginable that consumers would consider treatment they find 'unacceptable' to be humane treatment,' the ruling stated." Props to Compassion Over Killing, the folks behind this effort.

Monday, May 10


"If state lawmakers have their way," the New York Daily News warns, "vegetarian dishes like meatless meatloaf could replace baloney sandwiches on the school lunch menu." But the interesting item is this: "But salt-craving, French fry-happy children might not bite, according to food expert Antonio Demas. 'Even if they put out the most nutritious food in the world, the kids aren't going to touch them unless they understand the effect that food has on their body,' Demas said." First, I really doubt Mr. Demas was saying it wasn't worth putting out vegetarian food - I'd like to see the full context of that quote. Second, I wonder if Mr. Demas has a twin sister


"The San Francisco Zoo has decided to permanently close its pachyderm exhibit amid criticism over the deaths of two of its four elephants." Meanwhile, "Faced with dwindling audiences, sliding profits and increased pressure from animal rights organizations, traveling circuses, including Cole Brothers, New York's Big Apple Circus and Missouri's Circus Flora, have sent their elephants into early retirement - canning one of the most costly acts for such shows to maintain. 'In the next 10 years, we think even zoos may no longer have elephants,' said Bob Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, which represents more than 4,000 circuses, carnivals and other acts in the United States and Canada." Both of these developments are welcome, even if they're largely bottom-line driven: Caging and maintaining elephants invites all kinds of extra expense and liability. As the Baltimore Sun points out, "Cole Brothers' elephants became even more of a financial burden last year, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture slapped the circus with a $2,750 fine when a trainer hit one of the pachyderms with a broom."