Warning: Reality can be scarier than fiction. Some graphic content to follow.
The Nightmarish Treatment of Animals Go into an animal agriculture facility today, and you may just well think you’ve entered into a nightmare! Animal food operations are not the idyllic meadow pasture with little red barn scenes that many have in their minds when they think of animal farming. Instead, animals raised for food are subject to filthy and uninhabitable liv ing conditions, abuse, starvation, cannibalism, and more!
Egg-Laying Hens Some of the arguably worst treated in animal agriculture are egg laying hens. They are crammed into tiny cages, stacked one on top of the other, in a large shed that reeks of ammonia. If they are hens from a “cage-free” farm, they are packed into large warehouses where they technically have access to a door that leads to an outside area, but often are never able to access it because of the intensive crowding. In both of these conditions, it’s common to see what could only be described as a horror scene - half dead hens getting trampled on by larger hens, mutilated and rotting flesh, oozing eye infections, cannibalism of weaker hens by stronger ones, and birds covered in feces, unable to move. If it’s a caged facility, hens’ feet will often become deformed by the wire cages, or even fuse with them! Birds are forced to live in cages on top of, or under, dead ones, with no escape possible. However, the male chicks born in this industry don’t even stand a chance -- they are ground up alive in a macerator, gassed to death, or left to suffocate and die in large waste bins. The over 200 million that suffer this fate don’t produce eggs, so they’re seen as no more than disposable objects.
Commercial Chicken Farming The chickens raised for their flesh don’t fare too much better. 9 billion of these animals are killed on U.S. farms every year, meaning 24 million per day, 17,000 each minute, or 285 every second. Chilling, isn’t it? Like chickens raised for their eggs, they are crammed into warehouses with tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of other individuals, so tightly packed that it’s hard to move. The uric acid in the constant layer of excrement on the floor causes burns and ulcerations to their feet and bodies. From the inside out they suffer, too. Broilers, as they’re called, have been selectively bred to grow three times faster than they would normally, causing muscle mass to develop far faster than the rest of their body. This leads to deformation, broken bones, respiratory disorders, and heart failure. These birds are also routinely pumped with antibiotics, which help them grow even faster. When it’s time to go to slaughter, chickens are snatched up and stuffed into trucks, often having their bones broken in the process. Once at the slaughterhouse, they are shocked by an electric water bath designed to stun them before their throat is slit by an automated blade. Hopefully, they bleed to death at this point. But if not, they are boiled alive in a scalding tank meant to remove their feathers. This is the end for these chickens, who have lived their short six-week life in constant misery.
Cows and Beef - Another Nightmare As for cows raised for their meat, the nightmare continues. Since they, like all animals raised for food, are viewed as mere commodities, cows who grow the fastest and largest are the most valued. Thus, cows are selectively bred, with the largest males chosen as breeders, and the rest castrated without anesthetics or pain relief.
Male calves also have their horns cut or burned off, an intensely painful process. The next step of mutilation is branding, where an extremely hot or cold iron is pressed into their skin until they bear a permanent flesh wound that designates identification and ownership. For the next 6-8 months of their life, they are grazed on grassy pastures, with no protection from extreme weather. Floods, scorching heat, hypothermic conditions, and wild predators all pose threats to their wellbeing and safety. After this grazing period, cows are sent to confined feedlots where they are fed a grain based diet meant to put large amounts of weight on them in a very short time. This food is not natural for cows, and can cause huge buildups of gas or even stomach acid, causing a painful condition called acute acidosis. Most of the animals in these CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) are also given growth hormones and antibiotics, with the purpose of making them grow even larger. At only 12-14 months old, the cows are loaded onto trucks. Here they will spend up to 36 stressful hours deprived of food and water, often forced to stand in their own vomit and diarrhea. Once at the slaughterhouse, cows are supposed to be stunned with a captive bolt pistol that drives a metal rod through the skull and into the brain to induce unconsciousness. This step is not always followed, and it’s not uncommon for animals to be shackled by their feet and slit by the throat while fully conscious. They are then skinned and dismembered, sometimes while still kicking and screaming.
Dairy Cows Suffering Dairy cows suffer the same fate as cows raised for their flesh -- they are sent to the slaughterhouse and turned into ground beef. However, before they’re sent to slaughter, they endure a life even more horrific than those raised specifically for their meat. Since mammals don’t produce milk unless they are expecting a baby, cows are repeatedly impregnated every year. This is often done by strapping a female cow to a rack (which has historically been referred to in the industry as a “rape rack”) and artificially inseminating her. After forty weeks, she births a calf who is taken from her a few days later, at most, so that her milk can be used for human consumption. This is severely distressing, and it’s not unheard of for mother cows to bellow and pace for days, grieving the loss of their children. If this calf is female, she will become a dairy cow like her mom. If the calf is male, unless he’s saved for breeding, he will be sent to auction and slaughtered after a few days or months. Often he will be raised as a veal calf, subjected to extreme confinement and starvation for 16-18 weeks before he is killed for his flesh. Mother cows experience this same cycle multiple times throughout their life, meanwhile enduring two to three daily automatic milkings by a machine. This is a stressful process meant to extract the most milk possible, and it’s not un common for cows to develop mastitis. This is a painful swelling of mammary tissues often induced by trauma from these machines, in which pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria enter through openings in her teat, leading to infection, inflammation, and abnormal milk. Cows also suffer from lameness, injury, sickness, or end up collapsing from the exhaustion on their bodies. For this reason they are sent to slaughter at only five years old, too weak to continue the process. Cows naturally live over twenty years.
Pigs in Misery Another animal that suffers immensely is the pig. Raised for ham, bacon, and sausage, pigs are viewed as money making objects, and are treated only as such. Born into farrowing crates so small mother pigs can’t turn around, but have to lay on their sides to feed their piglets, pigs make a depressing entrance into the world. Their tails are docked so as to avoid serious damage when they inevitably bite each other as stressful conditions and hunger lead to aggression. Males are routinely castrated without anesthetic, and some females become destined to become mother pigs themselves. These sows will languish in in tensive confinement, where loneliness and deprivation often cause these animals to go visibly insane. Their misery will only end when they are finally slaughtered only a few years later because their bodies are so spent. For pigs that are simply raised for food, they endure a lifetime of extreme crowding, poor ventilation, and rampant ill ness. The floors are covered in feces, the air is so bad most pigs end up with pneumonia, and corpses become scattered amongst the living. They never get to see the sun, and their feet never touch anything but a bare, hard floor. The most unlucky are eat en alive by other pigs. Fed growth hormones and antibiotics, pigs grow at an alarmingly fast pace, and are ready to be shipped in transport trucks at about six months old. Around a million of these pigs will die just in transport. Once at the slaughter house, which typically kills about a thousand animals per hour, pigs are stunned and then boiled. Due to improper stunning, many pigs are scalded alive, squealing in pain and fear the entire time.
It is within your power to help end these nightmares. Here's to a truly transformational Halloween 🎃
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On August 13, my beloved father decidedly took his last breath. There is so much I could share about his life journey (like having assisted Jacques Cousteau for two weeks while serving in the Navy as a hard hat deep sea diver), but for the purposes of this blog, I will keep it focused on the amazing healing power of food, a direct extension of universal love.
My commitment to become a nutritionist happened just before my father underwent an emergency double-bypass surgery at the young age of 48. To increase my chances of being accepted into UC Berkeley’s Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics Program and his chances at living a longer life, I voluntarily led a county-wide nutrition education program for the American Heart Association. I quickly became aware of the importance of a ‘heart healthy’ diet and gave him a copy of Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. Admitted into the nutrition program, my education was furthered through my studies and practice with cardiac patients in various hospital settings.
But there were unexpected challenges. For example, I will never forget having ten minutes to educate a 65 year old man about how to change a lifetime of eating habits while he lay in his hospital bed after having a triple-bypass.
“Can I have an omelette with sausage and hash browns on Sundays after church?” he asked.
“Once in a while,” I answered.
“What about a hot dog and beer when I’m at the baseball game?” he continued. “And what about cake and ice cream at my grandson’s birthday party?”
While this was a completely understandable line of inquiry, the experience I had with my father was significantly different. He had a fierce will to live and was more than willing to make whatever changes were necessary to allow him ‘to see more things during his life.’ (Access to a nascent nutritionist and a wife who was willing to cook food differently than before were also tremendous assets!) I believe that ‘we do what we want most,’ an insight that seems to ring true no matter the subject. In my father’s case, he wanted to live more than he wanted to enjoy his standard Big Mac and Filet-o-Fish Sandwich with fries and Coke at McDonald’s. He wanted to attend his grandsons’ birthdays more than he wanted birthday cake with ice cream at their parties. He wanted to know he was doing the best for himself (and us) more than he wanted to participate in nostalgia by bringing his own snacks to sporting events rather than indulge in the fan faire.
Witnessing the huge changes and challenges one faces when confronted with a chronic disease clarified my desire to focus upon prevention rather than treatment and to reach as many people as possible. I next pursued a Master’s Degree in Public Health Nutrition, also at UC Berkeley. Alongside my studies, I worked as a nutrition researcher for Project LEAN (Lowfat Eating for Americans Now), a grocery store education program intended to influence consumers to purchase lean cuts of meat. At the time, it fit my perspective of moving the public towards ‘heart healthy’ diets. But I remember one of my colleagues teasing me with a scornful tone that I was working for ‘that meat project.’ Indeed, it was a program funded by the California Beef Council. In my professional immaturity, I hadn’t quite grasped the political and financial undertones of the program.
As I often repeat, we are in a dynamic and life-long relationship with food. And, we can only make the best decision possible with the information and experience we have at the time. Well, I next attended Holy Names College in Oakland, California, to study Culture and Creation Spirituality. Pregnant with my first child during that time (1996), I served as a living example of concepts central to the program: creativity, transformation, and compassion. During one of our class meditations, I had an image of being pregnant with the earth which (long story short) propelled me into adopting a plant-based diet.
Of course, I shared my new perspective on food with my parents and they, too, began to adopt more plant-based meals. Soon after, a dear friend told me about JuicePlus+. It was a bit shocking to her that I wasn’t familiar with the product, but it made sense since the company doesn’t use traditional forms of advertisement. After doing loads of my own research, I enthusiastically ordered the supplements for my own family and encouraged my parents to do the same. They did and we never stopped. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that taking JuicePlus+ every day for the last 15 years helped extend and improve upon his life. He even took his supplements the night before he died (and probably that morning, too). He was, indeed, committed to the things he knew were helping him!
Fast forward to 2017, my father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and given three to six months to live. My mother’s health was sharply declining as she suffered with dementia (albeit, always with a smile on her face). In 2018, he was additionally diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, placed on immunotherapy, prescribed eight medications, and, once again, given another three to six months to live. This diagnosis came just months before my mother passed away, so there were many sources of strain on his heart. With so much fluid retention and other factors that made life difficult, he asked me if I could do anything to help him pass. As such, we went through all the steps required to give him end-of-life medicine. But, perhaps selfishly, I thought, ‘It’s now or never. Have I done everything I can?’ Because his cooking skills were limited to pouring himself a bowl of cereal, I began preparing all of his meals (using organic ingredients whenever possible) and decided to take him off the immunotherapy. Within several weeks, the red blotches on his face had disappeared and the excess water weight came off. We also restricted his fluids and sodium intake. Fortunately, the food still tasted good and he ate whatever his daughter put in front of him. I also fortified his daily shakes with mushroom extracts that benefit the lungs. The hospice team could hardly believe what they were observing and eventually ‘graduated’ him. As time passed, he got off all medications except one for his thyroid that he had been on since his 30’s. He looked great and was able to do all the things he liked to do.
We continued on this track for almost three years! But, in time, it became too difficult to breathe and activities were increasingly limited as the cancer grew. He was back on hospice, albeit continuing to surpass the odds and amaze the nurses. With the eventual realization that there was ‘nothing more that the doctors (nor his daughter) could do about the shortness of breath' and that the path ahead was simply not his style, he made the decision to depart from this world. It was a peaceful transition. I held his hand until his last breath.
We keep what we have by giving it away. My father gave me an education in nutrition - definitely a worthwhile investment; I used that education to extend and improve upon his life. His openness to my recommendations helped expand my capacity to heal. His steadfast commitment to nourishing his body provided testimony to the healing power of food. May my father’s commitment towards life gift you with an ongoing reminder of the mighty healing power of prayer, love, and food.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG! Today, at 3:37 AM Mountain Daylight Time, we celebrate the Spring Equinox in Aries (Autumn in the southern hemisphere). Aren't we all more than ready to usher in the new? Well, now is our time. And in order for something to arise, something must die. This is the continuous play of paradox in our lives. The pregnant woman transforms into a mother with the birth of her child. The college student becomes the graduate when studies are completed. The fianceé becomes spouse after marriage vows are exchanged. When it comes to our relationship with food, I invite you to explore those parts of yourself that need to die in order for you to grow into something new. Of course, we looks towards growing in positive directions, toward greater and greater levels of physical, mental, financial, and spiritual wholeness. Following are some questions to consider during this spring equinox. You just have to choose one area of focus to create a positive change. And then, of course, is the time to take action.
1. What is ready, or getting ready, to die in your relationship with food:
· The habit of adding salt to your food before tasting it?
· Rewarding your children with unhealthy snacks?
· Reliance on caffeine to sustain your energy levels?
· Eating meat on a daily basis?
· Eating while driving, working, and/or talking on the phone?
· Eating to avoid doing other things?
· Eating to fill an emotional void?
· Carrying home your groceries in paper or plastic?
· Purchasing packaged foods when alternatives are available?
· Something else?
2. What is ready, or getting ready, to be born or to spring forth with regard to your relationship with food:
· Tasting a new fruit or vegetable?
· Starting to make regular visits to your local farmers’ market?
· Planting a fruit tree in your backyard?
· Using a TowerGarden to grow produce in an environmentally sustainable manner?
· Exploring your artistic side by learning, creating, or teaching a few new dishes?
· Considering the planet when deciding what foods to eat?
· Considering alternatives to traditional fast food while traveling?
· Taking your first step to being Imperfectly Vegan?
· Eating a meatless meal for the sake of the planet, if not for yourself?
· Taking a moment to give gratitude for your food before eating it?
· Something else?
Please share how you are releasing the old to become something new!
I love the way the universe works! Way back in 1993, my then fianceé and I had been attending Unity Church in Walnut Creek, California. Dr. Will Tuttle played the piano at the services and we fell in love with his music! So, we asked if he would play at our wedding and he said, ‘YES!’
What I didn’t realize at the time was that he and his lovely wife, Madeleine, were vegans. And not only vegans, but advocates for the lifestyle! Now I joke myself that ‘It’s no wonder they left after the ceremony, given we were offering salmon and prime rib (or some other fine cut of meat) for dinner.’ I can, however, give myself a small break in that it wasn’t for another approximately 10 years that he would publish The World Peace Diet, one of the most important books of the 21st century, currently published in over 16 languages worldwide.
And while I was already a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who was a very strong advocate for the relationship between food and spirituality, I had not, as said, begun my own plant-based journey.
Fast forward, all the beautiful learning and experiences I had been receiving combined to deepen my understanding of this connection and I proclaimed myself to be Imperfectly Vegan. After publishing my book, The Sacred Art of Eating, I was honored to speak at the 2015 San Francisco World Veg Fest. As I visited the vendor tables, there he was: Dr. Will Tuttle! After all these years, we had a new connection that was at the core of each of our lives.
Below, I share a podcast that I did with Dr. Tuttle in 2018. In it, he helps us understand what is meant by “the domination of the feminine” and how it relates to our food choices and enlightens us about the foundation of a more conscious society based on the truth of the interconnectedness of all life. He makes explicit the invisible connections between our culture, our food, and the source of our broad range of problems—and the way to a positive transformation in our individual and collective lives.
I have long maintained that we can voluntarily contribute to world peace every day by making conscious decisions about what to eat. Dr. Tuttle has a provocative, challenging, and ultimately inspiring way of highlighting that concept. If you have been vegan or plant-based for a while, you will no doubt find strong affirmation within this podcast. And if you are just opening to the idea, or even if you have no interest in releasing an omnivorous diet, this podcast will enlighten anyone wishing to understand the big picture of our culture and why we have the unyielding dilemmas we face. The connections run deep! I hope you enjoy this podcast even half as much as I did!
MY GUEST, DR. WILL TUTTLE
Dr. Will Tuttle, visionary educator and musician, is author of the international best-seller, The World Peace Diet, published in 16 languages. He is a recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award and the Empty Cages Prize. Dr. Tuttle is the author of Your Inner Islands: The Keys to Intuitive Living and is the editor of Circles of Compassion: Connecting Issues of Justice, focusing on the interconnection of social justice issues. A vegan since 1980, he is a frequent radio, television, and online presenter, and has created several wellness and advocacy training programs. Featured in Cowspiracy, he is the co-founder of the Worldwide Prayer Circle for Animals. With a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, Dr. Tuttle focused on educating intuition and altruism in adults. A former Zen monk and Dharma Master, Dr. Tuttle is also a noted composer and pianist, and lectures and concertizes extensively throughout the world promoting peace and cultural healing. See www.worldpeacediet.com for more details.
TWO PLACES TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with degrees in nutrition and spirituality, Lisa is uniquely qualified to help us understand our dynamic relationship with food. Her passion about the unbreakable links between food and spirituality is the result of over twenty years of academic, professional, and personal exploration. In 1987, she graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics and received the Nutrition Sciences Departmental Citation Award. In 1990, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health Nutrition from UC Berkeley with High Honors. In 1996, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Culture and Creation Spirituality from Holy Names College, and is a Shamanic Soul Coach with certification from the Integrative Arts Institute. She is the Founder of the Imperfectly Vegan movement and author of The Sacred Art of Eating.
A sustainable lifestyle for ourselves and the planet.