Friday, February 25


Turns out that mad cow back in November, that was supposedly cleared of BSE, was not tested with the same battery of tests that confirmed the 2003 mad cow. Consumers Union has publicized this and demanded a retest: "The USDA limited its confirmatory testing in November 2004 to the immunohistochemistry (IHC) test, which it describes as the 'gold standard.' The result of the IHC test was negative. USDA did not perform the Western blot test, even though it had previously used both IHC and the Western blot test in confirming the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, from Washington State in December, 2003. The USDA also sent material from the 2003 Washington State cow to the United Kingdom for further review of its results. Scientists in Japan and Belgium have reported that suspect cows may be negative on the IHC and still register as positive on the Western blot. Such cows are universally regarded as infected." Hmmm. And we should believe the USDA's analysis on this because... ?

Thursday, February 24


I suppose the rationalization for people not considering hunters terrorists despite the group's record of shooting-to-kill multiple defenseless citizens every year is that the killing is "accidental." Same with this story, except once again, hunters' seeming predeliction for illegal activity as the basis for those accidents seems to get swept under the rug. "Jason Hoskey, 26, lit a campfire when he got lost hunting on Sept. 27, 2003. The fire spread after he fell asleep. Flames had been banned in the area because of extreme fire danger. Prosecutors said Hoskey also violated the ban by smoking several cigarettes." The fire in the Mendocino National Forest, started by Hoskey's illegal campfire, burned 6,058 acres and cost $33 million to suppress, and Hoskey's fine is set at $18 million. Hey, here's the silver lining - if he actually does find a way to pay it and gets financially wiped out, he can legitimately use that "subsistence" excuse for continuing to indulge in his hobby! (Killing, that is, not firestarting.) In the meantime, remember: Wiping out 6,000 acres of habitat, destroying an entire ecosystem or more, killing countless animals and costing our government millions in order to follow your cult: Not Terrorism. Setting an SUV ablaze in a parking lot: Terrorism. Got it?


Newsday reports that "Researchers have found yet another problem that hormone pills taken at menopause seem to make worse, not better: incontinence. The findings came from the same landmark government study that has linked the supplements to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer and dementia."

The study, published in JAMA, found that of 27,347 women, those on estrogen pills for one year were 53 percent more likely to develop urinary incontinence than were women taking dummy pills. The article fails to mention the somewhat related fact that the main source of estrogen is pregnant mares' urine. Weird, huh?

Wednesday, February 23


The USDA solidified their role as apologists and promoters of the dying meat industry with a wild claim that "There's absolutely no question that it's unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans," backed up by the nonsense that "Animal source foods have some nutrients not found anywhere else." Well, sorry, but a) there sure as hell is a question as to your wacko claim, and b) no, animal source foods have ZERO "nutrients not found anywhere else." Yet these charges are reprinted without challenge or even cursory examination by so-called journalists.

What's Lindsay Allen's basis for these definitive statements? It would be laughable if the situation weren't so tragic for the subjects and ominous for the notion of truth in our culture: Rather than study the first-world vegans she's supposedly talking about, in controlled, quantified experiments against first-world meat-eaters, Allen bases the hyperbole on a meat-industry-funded "study" in Kenya whose conclusion was obvious before it was already done: Malnourished children living on nothing but corn and beans saw their health improve when their diet was diversified with the addition of meat and milk. What a shocker, eh? Note that there was no comparison with malnourished children whose diets were diversified with the addition of, say, greens, or even multiple types of beans. In other words, nothing even approaching an actual vegan diet that first-world parents feed their children; nothing that could possibly back up such a far-reaching claim.

The BBC, which before its smackdown over the Blair-Iraq situation was a pretty credible news outlet, is one of the worst offenders here, not only leaving the central claims unexamined but adding a forum parroting the USDA's framing, "Are vegan diets harmful for children?" rather than, say, "Can you believe anything uttered by these paragons of deception, collusion and incompetence?" The Scotsman is a little better, leaning on the scotsman Paul McCartney, who concisely observes that "These [studies] are engineered by livestock people who have seen sales fall off." But like other outlets, they headline the article with Allen's BS statement, and allow her to lie about the funding, something that's easily checked just by looking at the abstract. (Check for the phrase "National Cattlemen's Beef Association") It's a shameful day for journalism and for truth, which means it's a great day for the USDA and their corporate puppet masters.

UPDATE 2/28: It's interesting that the USDA believes that theoretical harm to infants from a lack of meat-eating, based on one study of third-world kids, is worth making international headlines over, while actual documented harm being done to hundreds of thousands of U.S. children from meat-eating merits no mention whatsoever (and of course, this is only one source of major harm out of many, as we document here every day): "Lower IQ levels linked to mercury exposure in the womb costs the United States $8.7 billion a year in lost earnings potential, according to a study released Monday by researchers at a New York hospital. The Mount Sinai Center for Children's Health and the Environment combined a number of previous studies to determine hundreds of thousands of babies are born every year with lower IQ (search) associated with mercury exposure." The article goes on to note that the EPA estimates that "about 8 percent of American women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their blood to put a fetus at risk." Even low-balling that population estimate at 100 million women, that's 8 million women in this country putting their unborn children at risk for permanent damage by their consumption of fish. You'd think that might merit some mention, but... huh. Nope.

UPDATE 3/1: Commentators both inside the vegetarian movement and elsewhere are beginning to question the bizarre logic behind Allen's screed. Notably, in The Scotsman (again! - is it really the Paul McCartney connection?), Dr. Mark Porter uses his "Medical Notes" column to blast the whole escapade: "At first glance, Allen’s findings do seem worrying, but scratch the surface and her conclusions appear to be built on shaky foundations. Her research was carried out on 544 African schoolchildren whose vegan diets consisted of little more than starchy maize and bean-based foods - a much poorer quality diet than one would expect to find among even the strictest vegans in the UK. Her findings fly in the face of existing research that suggests vegetarian children brought up on a carefully balanced diet often grow faster than those who eat meat."

Tuesday, February 22


"Avian flu poses the single biggest health threat to the world right now, and health officials may not yet have all the tools they need to fight it, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said earlier today. 'This is a very ominous situation for the globe,' CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Monday, February 21


It's clear now that public sentiment about caging elephants is undergoing a gradual sea change as the issue becomes impossible for Joe Average to ignore. This is fueled by a spate of needless elephant deaths in zoos, a couple of captive elephants killing their trainers (the latter one after another elephant at the zoo had just died), and the growing uncertainty as to how competent even the most high-profile zoos really are. An overview of the debate from Reuters quotes Tufts University animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman: "In the old days, when you didn't have television, children would see animals for the first time at the zoo and it had an educational component. Now the zoos claim they're preserving the disappearing species, preserving embryos and genetic material. But you don't need to do that in a zoo." Or in a circus, of course: Ringling fights charges and documentation that it routinely abuses elephants by citing its own touchy-feely elephant-breeding program, as though elephants need to pay us - by performing moronic tricks - for the right to have their species preserved.

It's good to see someone finally using the "elephant in the room" analogy to talk about people's willful blindness to the suffering we're causing elephants: This cover story from the Anchorage Press is titled just that, and though it gives more ink to the captivity apologists than they deserve, it often cuts through the BS admirably: "Animals in a zoo fascinate me because I can see them. At the same time, I don't ever really suppose they want to be there, any more than my childhood collie really wanted us to dress him up. I just blind myself to that elephant in the room to satisfy my curiosity. I'd bet I'm not the only person at the zoo lying to myself this way, pretending that this is somehow a choice the zebra or the leopard would make. What worries me is this: Isn't saying we want zoos to remain really to say that our interest in other animals is more important than their happiness?"

UPDATE 2/22: Another newspaper covers the "time to stop putting Elephants in zoos" issue. While not a complete whitewash, this is typically wishy-washy, but it does contain overview info such as "The Detroit facility is the eighth zoo in the United States to close elephant exhibits in recent years. Others include the Chehaw Wild Animal Park in Albany, Ga.; the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Ind.; and the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis." (San Francisco is still up in the air.) Also: "'I tell my staff that the justification for having live animals is that we promote conservation and we educate our visitors in a way they're not going to be educated in anymore out there in the world,' [Brookfield Zoo Director] Strahl said. Nevertheless, IDA's Smith asks what kind of education are zoogoers getting if they see elephants displaying neurotic behaviors, such as swaying and bobbing." As I've said before, they're being "educated" to understand that it's humans' right to abuse and exploit any and all animals under whatever circumstances we want to.