Every Meal is Illuminated

October 12, 2009

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Over the weekend, the New York Times “Food Issue” featured the ingenious Jonathan Safran Foer’s (“Everything Is Illuminated”) article “Against Meat“. This article is adapted from his coming book, “Eating Animals,” which will be published in November. You can read an interview with him about the project here. Thanks to our friends at Dawnwatch for pointing this out!

Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood-facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf-his casual questioning took on an urgency  His quest for answers ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir and his own detective work, Eating Animals explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting. Marked by Foer’s profound moral ferocity and unvarying generosity, as well as the vibrant style and creativity that made his previous books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, widely loved, Eating Animals is a celebration and a reckoning, a story about the stories we’ve told-and the stories we now need to tell. – Amazon.com

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Killer Bacon Bugs, Bid on Stars & Recycling Myths

March 18, 2009

1. An Op-Ed published by the New York Times last week has linked killer MRSA, also known as the  antibiotic-resistant “Flesh Eating Bacteria” to more than 18,000 deaths per year in the US. That’s more than AIDS. And what is the source of this superbug? You guessed it: cheap pig products. “Probably from the routine use — make that the insane overuse — of antibiotics in livestock feed. This is a system that may help breed virulent “superbugs” that pose a public health threat to us all.

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A small Dutch study found pig farmers there were 760 times more likely than the general population to carry MRSA (without necessarily showing symptoms), and Scientific American reports that this strain of MRSA has turned up in 12 percent of Dutch retail pork samples.

Now this same strain of MRSA has also been found in the United States. A new study by Tara Smith, a University of Iowa epidemiologist, found that 45 percent of pig farmers she sampled carried MRSA, as did 49 percent of the hogs tested.

Death on a Factory Farm

And now with the NYT review of the Documentary “Death on Factory Farm” which is taking HBO viewers by

storm, I can only wonder how these animals that are smarter than dogs (yet some dogs chew delightfully on their dried ears & limbs) will fare int he coming months? And au contraire Mike Hale and the Wiles’s community, we can all eat veggies and thrive.

2. Bid on me! Help Farm Sanctuary raise some funds, and get a private brunch for two prepared by yours truly! Also bid on items from Bill Mahr, Amy Smart, Joan Jett, Chloe Jo, Daniela Sea, Heather Mills, Matt & Nat, Wendy Kidd, Dan Piraro, Gloria Steinem, Joelle Katcher, Rachael Sage, 30 Seconds to Mars, Maureen Burke, Gabrielle Brick, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Nigel Barker, and more!

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3. Is recycling really all that it claims to be? Have you ever been confronted by someone who is a total recycling skeptic and didn’t know what to say?

Read: “Recycling Is Too Difficult and 9 Other Obnoxious Myths

Read the Economist article: “The Truth About Recycling

Read: The Economics of Recycling

Watch: William McDonough on ‘Cradle to Cradle’

Recycling is a tricky issue because it’s really a problem of over-production and over-consumption. But one thing is certain. We do not have infinite resources on this planet, and people who are in the industries that use up these resources, and are in positions to do something about it have a responsibility to figure out how to not leave devastated ecosystems for future generations. Just because the recycling systems aren’t perfect does not justify throwing caution to the wind and continuing ‘business as usual’.

The real issue is that recycling is not enough. Reuse is better, and ‘green’ products with toxic by-products need to be more thoroughly sourced, because there are products that come from closed loop systems, also known as EIN Eco Industrial Networking or EIP- Environmental Industrial Parks. But again, the root problem is still there.

Bottler of an idea ... Crushed drink bottles at a recycling plant in Chullora

One major problem is that recycling systems are often based on dollars as opposed to ecological and personal well-being. Dollars are abstract and when you work towards achieving such an abstraction (as opposed to working towards sustainability, good health, community, friendship, etc) the consequences to the physical world become secondary, when in fact ecosystems are primary and without functioning, healthy ones, we’d all be gone. The reason recycling appears to be useless to some people is not because re-rendering products into new products is impossible – it’s because they are seeing the effects of basing a recycling system upon a system that in itself is not sustainable.

Does that mean we shouldn’t recycle? Of course not! It means we should do that, and much much more! It also means the problems haven’t been solved and we need to get some serious critical thinking done.


Candle 79 Redux

October 15, 2008

I wrote this response to the New York Times review of Candle 79 today:

Candle 79 is truly an amazing experience! Mr.Bruni approached his review of Candle 79 as if he were a Broadway critic reviewing a school play. Better yet, as if he were an insecure straight man reviewing a gay bar. Manliness and meat-eating are inseparable in our culture, after all.

Was it a good review? Maybe. He seemed more intent on reminding everyone he likes meat the entire time while giving 79 a somewhat patronizing pat-on-the-back.

Frank Bruni, like most other ‘food experts’ base their entire system like so: animal products are primary, and vegetation is complimentary or secondary – as he admits. This stereotype of vegan food as being a bland pile of grass clippings has been nearly overturned in the last decade. Places like Candle 79 are largely responsible. And unlike Mr. Bruni, I think the Seitan Chimichuris are delicious!

So why is there such a huge surge in vegan cuisine? Certainly there isn’t some mass of martyrdom. An uprising of grassroots and DIY restaurants, cookbooks, bakeries, and other food products has proven that vegan cuisine can be so delicious, successful and lucrative in the last 10 years that the old-school has finally recognized it. Just yesterday Oprah did a special on factory farming and Proposition 2 in California that would ban cruel confinement conditions on animal farms. Ellen Degeneres and Portia are both newly vegan. New York Times best selling book “Skinny Bitch” is still selling like mad. There is a huge demand for conscientious hedonism! The Farm Sanctuary Gala and Genesis Awards are as star-studded as any Hollywood party.

The lamb, the calf, the aged udder secretions (cheese) and chickens’ menstruations (eggs) and diseased goose & duck livers (foie gras) of animals confined and put through hell for their entire lives are, of course, not things we want to consider while eating them… much less something that would carry weight in a food critique. Infantile self-gratification at any cost, including convenient illusions of Utopian farm life for these animals is crucial to mainstream food reviewing. It’s much easier to call it a burger or cheese or veal or Foie gras, and not let the reality remove pleasure from the illusions. You eat ‘pork’. You don’t eat ‘a pig’.

That being said, I consider myself a vegan, a foodie and a conscientious hedonist. Silence your gasps! It is possible to lose pleasure when certain truths are uncovered, and it is possible to gain pleasure knowing you can have your cake and eat it too – and in this case, it’s an amazing vegan cake with cinnamon ice cream (made from coconut cream, of course).

For people wanting to experience some of the BEST vegan food out there, go eat at Candle 79, or go to Whole Foods and try Field Roast’s Apple Sage ‘Grain Sausage’ (www.fieldroast.com), Dr Cow’s Tree Nut Cheese (www.Dr-Cow.com), Purely Decadent Coconut Cream Ice Creams (www.turtlemountain.com/products/purely_decadent_Coconut_Milk_CookieDough.html), or just come over to Brooklyn and I’ll make you a batch of cinnamon, chocolate  pistachio, vegan rugelach that even my very picky, non-vegan, Jewish mother told me ‘put all other rugelachs to shame’ including her own. (I’ll be posting the recipe tomorrow!)

Mainstream food criticism insists it owns certain terminology – but ‘meat’ is not defined as animal flesh, and ‘milk’ does not mean ‘cows milk’. These terms have been taken by the dominant culture, but meat can be the meat of an apple, and milk can be coconut milk. The idea of veganism being only a one way street; taking OUT certain ingredients, is only half true. We also put IN delicious ingredients most non-vegans wouldn’t typically use like coconut oil, cashew cream, flax, sea vegetables, and nutritional yeast. Most chefs wouldn’t know what to do with these ingredients, like how to turn flax into a whipped egg-substitute in baking, or combining cashew cream with nutritional yeast and black truffle oil for a creamy, cheesy sauce – which is why Vegan cuisine has been so DIY!

The only place Candle 79 falls short is in having to accommodate people like Frank Bruni by referencing animal products in their menus for fear of being overlooked in a meat-obsessed culture. Critics who have trouble experiencing food made without animal products fear a loss of identity. But they are no less into food than those who are vegan. Psychologically, there are many more things going on with defiant ties to a zealous affiliation with animal products (but that’s a whole other article).

Veganism can taste amazing! Go enjoy the hundreds of veg restaurant NYC has to offer.

Joshua Katcher
TheDiscerningBrute.com
Fashion, Food & Etiquette for the Ethically Handsome Man


Fresh Friday Finds

October 3, 2008

1. Uncaged! Check out the animation for Prop 2! Vote YES!

Ellen Degeneres & Portia de Rossi speak on the animals behalf:

2. Online stores like Saks, and Nordstrom have ‘eco’ and ‘green’ shopping sections for men! If you don’t see it on your favorite website, just search: ‘ organic ‘ in the mens’ section.

Organic Cotton Hooded SweaterNordstrom Smartcare™ 'Mitchell' Classic Dress Shirt

3. Woodstock Farm Sanctuary only has four weekends left for visiting! If you haven’t been to see them, you must go! Hang out with the animals, take a tour of the farm, and meet the awesome, headline-making staff!

Little Lamb!

This is why I won't eat Lambs!

Here are upcoming events at the farm:

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• Oct 5th: “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals” Reading & Signing with Author Karen Dawn (official site)

Thanking The Monkey“…With wisdom and insight… A bridge between worlds for both the committed and the curious…”
– Gloria Steinem

First, take a sanctuary tour 11:00-3:30. ($5 suggested donation). Then 3:30 – 5pm: Reading with Karen and special guests — then vegan snacks and wine. The reading is free but we hope you will buy a book as all book sale proceeds will go the sanctuary!

• October 11: Institute for Humane Education’s MOGO Workshop at the farm.

You don’t need a spandex outfit and cape to help save the world,  instead hone your activist skills at this one-day intensive workshop focusing on environmental, human and animal issues, run by the prestigious Institute for Humane Education. SPACE IS LIMITED – BOOK NOW – >>click for details<<

ThanksLiving

4. Fall Scarves

These are some wool-free, organic cotton scarves to keep your neck all cozy!

organic cotton scarf

Also check out the organic Hemp Scarves, and these organic scarves :

Mociun Printed Scarves

5. Veganic Farming

Although organic farmers avoid pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified crops, many still use animal manures and slaughterhouse byproducts like bone, blood and fish meal. Find out more!

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6. Walk For the Animals

There is still time to Walk For The Animals for Farm Sanctuary! See the calendar for dates and locations!


Songbird Self, Hot Rod Heros, and Virtual-Meat

August 25, 2008

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1. BIRD IN THE MIRROR: One of the major arguments made to rationalize cruelty toward non-human animals is that they have no sense of self. However, there is a test that researches have used to see if an animal can recognize that a mirror image belongs to its own body. Among those that have passed this test are apes, bottlenose dolphins and elephants. A new study suggests that a magpie (as well as crows and ravens) recognizes itself in the mirror, too. Signs of self-recognition are illustrated above: a bird looking in the mirror attempts to remove a paint spot, using its beak and then its foot. Full story.

2. THE NEW YORK TIMES reported yesterday on a group of tattooed bikers that rescue animals and are vegetarians.

I’m a vegetarian,” said Mike Tattoo (real name Mike Ostrosky), a former bodybuilding champion with a shaved head, great arms covered in art and a probing clarity in his blue eyes…

Having run in crowds where animal abuse was rampant, often involving pit bull fights, the men volunteered at shelters and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Toward Animals, and they tried to solve cases of missing or abused animals that other organizations had neither the time nor the resources to address…Next month, the bikers will begin a program in the city’s public schools to educate children about being kind to all animals…

3. iMeat

https://i2.wp.com/i7.photobucket.com/albums/y289/tecknopuppy/labmeat.jpgWelcome to the not-too-distant future, where meat is “grown” without factory farms, slaughterhouses, or the killing of animals. Sound like science fiction? Maybe. But a group of determined scientists believes it could be possible to mass-produce meat using cloned animal cells well within the next decade. They claim this lab-grown “cultured meat” will be healthier and safer to eat than meat sliced from slaughtered animals, and will produce less pollution and require fewer resources than harvesting livestock for human consumption. Full Article


Vivisection Takes Front Stage in New York Times, Today

May 28, 2008

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The journal Nature, and the NYT today displayed a cold-hard celebration of vivisection at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. In what was purported to be a scientific breakthrough for advancements in brain-machine interface technology, two macaque monkeys – who were shot at a very specific angles to hide the hideous science-fiction-like wires connecting their brains to computers (notice the big metal tube conveniently covering the monkey’s head in the NYT video, and the black box in the Youtube Video below) – were forced to fetch food with a robotic arm using their brain implants.

The resounding result of this study should be a call to end horrific experiments on animals. If these monkeys are intelligent enough to master the complexity of controlling robotics, and intelligent enough to be considered suitable models for humans – then how can we justify imprisoning them and conducting disgusting and torturous experiments that we wouldn’t conduct on dissenting humans? In short, if their brains are so similar to ours, why is it OK to do this?

There are many paralyzed and/or limbless humans who would gladly participate voluntarily with the potential of regaining lost motor skills.

“…the new report “is important because it’s the most comprehensive study showing how an animal interacts with complex objects, using only brain activity.” – NYT

Over 100 million animals are used in experiments worldwide every year.Vivisection effectively reduces sentient beings to the status of disposable tools, to be used and discarded for the benefit of others. In the words of Mark Twain:

I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t…The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.

Had the Monkey’s been given a key to unlock themselves and return to their friends and family in a natural habitat, I’m sure the grapes and marshmallows would not be missed. For more info on  vivisection and alternatives, please visit NAVS.

Please write to the New York Times and express your opinion, and ask why the ethics of such experiments were not even raised.


Veggie Baseball Star

April 29, 2008

Thanks to Karen Dawn of Dawnwatch for alerting us Brutes to an addition to our gang… Yesterday in the New York Times, Prince Fielder dished on what it’s been like since switching to a vegetarian diet as a Major League, 265 lb., hot-shot, home-run slugging, first-baseman. And get this…while he doesn’t mind the increase in energy and loss of fat, he did it for ethical reasons.

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“Fielder, 23, decided to make the switch over the winter after reading how cattle and chickens were treated and “was totally grossed out,” he said. His wife, Chanel, preferred a no-meat diet as it was, so he embraced a new approach…Fielder, a first baseman who walloped 50 home runs last season, has become more than the face of the young and improving Milwaukee Brewers — he has become a lightning rod for his off-season decision to spurn meat and fish, including the bratwurst that tailgating Milwaukee fans hold so dear. – NYT.com

For guys like me who still like to play ball, this spring I recommend Carpenter Trade’s vegan baseball glove. They are hand-made to order (and expensive, but well worth it). Scott Carpenter started making vegan gloves in 2001. Star players such as Roger Clemens, Chris Carpenter, and Johan Santana, are opting for synthetic backs.

If you need something cheaper, get a used glove.