Friday, August 27


Well, they can expect whatever they want, but that sounds like a tall order. "The Vegan Society, which was established in 1944 as the world's first vegan organisation, estimates there were 250,000 vegans in the UK at the start of the year but predict after the jubilee celebrations over the coming weeks [actually starting in October] there will be more than 500,000." OK... if you say so. Of course I'm dubious, but there are a couple eye-openers here: "UK sales of foods free from meat and dairy products have risen by 165% in the past two years (2000-2002), with dairy-free products alone rising 125%." And: "When the Vegan Society was created, its founder Donald Watson, who is now 94-years-old and spends his spare time climbing mountains, was restricted to eating just fruit and vegetables. However, vegans today can choose from meat and dairy versions of almost anything, from ice cream to bacon and fish-less fish fingers." Uh huh. We'll ignore that "fish fingers" business, but Jesus! Donald Watson is 94 years old and climbing mountains? I really had no idea. And of course the cynic in me can't help but imagine a Weekend-at-Bernies-type scenario where, as the original "vegan," he's not allowed to be publicly dead, and fellow vegans are, you, know, helping him up the mountain and all. But no, this is great, and I wish a very happy 60th birthday to our British comrades-in-arms and a hearty how-d'ye-do to Donald Watson!

Thursday, August 26


Now that the EPA has officially reported that more than 1/3 of our lakes and 1/4 of our rivers have fish contaminated with mercury, dioxin, PCB and pesticide pollution, and now that the entire world is acknowledging the dangerous levels of industrial-strength fire retardant in wild and farm-raised salmon worldwide (and now that Harry Shearer contributed his own self-produced radio ad offering a possible spin - "Sammy, The Salmon That Won't Burst into Flames"), you'd think we've hit bottom on this constant drumbeat of bad fish news.

But no, because researchers who analyzed 22 years of government catch records say Recreational fishing seriously harms threatened species - recreational fishing accounts for 64 per cent of the reported catch of overfished species along the Gulf of Mexico and 59 per cent along the Pacific Coast (and way worse for some species, e.g. "93 per cent of the catch of red drum from North Carolina to Florida and 87 per cent of the bocaccio catch in the Pacific"). You'd think guys out in boats catching a fish or two here or there couldn't possibly compare with the numbers of fish caught by commercial outfits, "but with 10.5 million amateurs fishing in US marine waters, the amateur catch adds up." There's quite a bit of interesting stuff here straight from the researchers' mouths, including the fact that "a large percentage of small fish die from the trauma" of catch-and-release fishing, and the point-blank statements "Too many people are fishing" and "Recreational fishing should no longer be seen as benign." If you're "hooked" on fishing, maybe you should start "casting about" for another hobby.

Wednesday, August 25


"The company that produced the Siegfried & Roy magic show has refused to give federal investigators a video of the tiger attack that badly injured illusionist Roy Horn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to obtain the video through two subpoenas, but Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment would not hand over the footage, a USDA source familiar with the case said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity." Gosh, I wonder why these producers would be so attached to this video that they'd defy the USDA.

Feld Entertainment. Hmmmmm. Why does that name sound familiar? Oh yeah, that's who runs RIngling Bros., who are having their own problems with the USDA. Remember Clyde the dead lion from last week? You may recall that one of the disputes there between Ringling and the ex-employee was what the company called "false allegations that our company and employees were withholding information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.''

Tuesday, August 24


"The United Nations health agency is seeking further details from China about the first-ever reported natural infection of pigs with a highly infectious strain of bird flu, a development that could be of particular concern as it would increase opportunities for the emergence of a new human influenza virus with pandemic potential." For now, though, China is saying the current strain is not in pigs, it was all just a big, you know, misunderstanding.. Let's hope so - this was the pattern, after all, of the 1918 pandemic.
UPDATE 8/26: Even worse: "A key weapon in the medical arsenal that will combat any future pandemic of killer flu may be worryingly at risk to resistance by the influenza virus, according to an early Japanese study published in Saturday's issue of The Lancet."

Monday, August 23


It's been, like, months since we've had an honest-to-God Friday Recall, but it's also been a while since we've had a 20-ton beef recall for E.Coli. The most interesting thing here is the lede in the story from this Iowa paper (rewritten from an AP story): "In an announcement that will have dire consequences for both consumers and producers, an Illinois firm recalled more than 400,000 pounds of beef on Saturday." (My emphasis). But don't be fooled by that last word - USDA says this was in fact a Friday Recall.

One other item of note: "Some of the steaks in the recall were packaged under the Applebee's brand name." Heh. Applebee's. What losers. We made the mistake of going to an Applebee's recently, thinking they'd have A vegetarian option, maybe even, you know, an appetizer, a gardenburger at triple the price, whatever, but no such luck. They lost the entire six-person party due to their utter cluelessness. As far as real veggie options, Mc-Frickin'-Donald's puts their menu to shame. At a restaurant named after APPLES. So when I see this I can't help saying... enjoy your steak, patrons!

UPDATE 8/27: Frank Ybarra, spokesman Applebee's, said the company's best initial estimate "is that only about 80,000 pounds of this involved Applebee's." Ybarra said it was not likely that Applebee's still has any of the suspect meat because "this is the kind of inventory we would burn through pretty quickly." Well, that's reassuring. So only 40 tons of Applebee's meat was potentially contaminated with a deadly pathogen... and was served to, and eaten by, customers. I feel safer already!