<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Monday, December 29, 2003

What Are We Allowing to Happen to Us and Our Kids? 

You know, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking over the past week or so while I have been enjoying the holidays. Things have settled down around here for a couple of days before the next wave of family descend upon us to do it all over again. Ah, the holidays - family bonding, the smell of baking goodies, exchanging gifts, etc.

But, with that, also goes the stress of what we, as a society, have allowed this season to become. We talked about the fact that even though we have a lot of fun, the holidays are stressful. Christmas has become so commercialized and full of expected happenings that the whole meaning and spirit of the holiday gets lost in all of it.

When you find it, it is kind of like finding a broken toy, perhaps never even having been played with yet, under the mounds of wrapping paper in the floor after all the gifts have been opened. I am not trying to say everyone needs to go to church and sing hymns praising the birth of Jesus. That's not what I mean. I mean the spirit of the season that endured for many centuries. The one that was about family, love, peace, and the oft-heard phrase "good will toward men." What happened to the simply joy and celebration? Why do we have to make things so complicated and stressful? Why does the "Christmas break" leave us feeling even more stressed and tired than we were before we took the holiday break from work or school or whatever?

This morning we decided to spend the day trying to catch up a bit on the unread emails and other accumulated unfinished business we have before we had to neglect it again for a few days. I just finished reading an article one of the members in my Yahoo group posted. I wanted to comment on it and post some of it here.

It is another example of a situation that society has let get out of hand - just like the above example of what we have gradually allowed to be done with Christmas. (I mean, I saw Christmas stuff being put out this year in the stores, Wal-Mart in particular, before Halloween was even over!!!)

The average consumer has indeed become so removed from the source of their food that they hardly give it a thought throughout the day. Things didn't used to be that way at all. People spent quite a bit of time thinking about, raising, harvesting, and otherwise producing a good bit of their own food. This doesn't happen so much anymore, with so much of the population concentrated in cities. It's just not possible, but people should still know what is truly going on behind the scenes. There are actually children today that do not know that the hamburger they eat comes from a cow. But, they should. Especially now that things have gotten so unsafe and scary.

Society should know where their food comes from and what happens to it in the process of getting it to their tables. But, there is, but for a small minority of those who bother to take the time to learn about this, an utter lack of true understanding as to how out of control this situation has gotten. I believe that is because it has happened so gradually and most of it has happened behind closed doors. Also, I believe there is a certain desire NOT to know about what happened to get that piece of meat on the plate for many people. They don't like to think about it. They have this idea of, "It's distasteful and a shame, but the way things are" when they do find out how utterly bad the situation is. It is a kind of denial, I think. A way to avoid having to make any changes to their comfortable lives, their set of beliefs, to avoid accepting responsibility for the choices they make in everyday life and how those choices' ripple effects have on others and on the environment in which we all must live.

Well, because of all these years of sticking our heads in the sand, we are starting to realize that we are getting bitten in our butts while they were up in the air. But, only now are we starting to feel the pain from the bites. The problem is, will enough of us start feeling the pain in time? Will enough of the public pull their heads out of the sand and look around at what they see biting them to change things in time to save ourselves? Only time will tell.

For those readers in the group, you have probably already seen this, but I thought that it should be shared with a greater audience. I am glad that we have a place to share things with each other like the group. For anyone that is reading this blog for the first time, many times you will find that certain things discussed here will be gone into in greater depth there. Just follow the link at the bottom of the page to read the archives at the group. They are open to the public, although you must join to post your own message or use any of the other features. (This helps protect the group from spam. I have seen what happens in other groups when that gets started.)

Anyway, on to the excerpt of the post of the article. (There was no link to it, but the full article, including where it was found is at the group.) There are apparently a couple of books reviewed here, called, "How the Cows Turned Mad," by Maxime Schwartz, and "Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism," by Marion Nestle. This BSE is a very important issue, as are many other factory farming practices that need to be really looked at more closely than we do, especially those that may cause terrible pandemics and kill lots of people. It is only a matter of time before we REALLY have a MAJOR problem that kills a good percentage of society if we don't get a handle on things, and quick. What kind of scary, unsafe world are we leaving to our kids - and theirs??? And how cruel and callous will it be???

"[P]roducing safe food is not impossibly difficult," writes Marion
Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York
University, in "Safe Food, " the companion to her critically praised
"Food Politics." But if it's so easy, then why are 76 million of us
getting sick, 325,000 becoming hospitalized and 5,000 dying
every year from unsafe food? Nestle's answer is, in large part,
that corporate influence has subverted democracy.

As an on-again, off-again insider in federal agencies
responsible for food safety, as well as a nutrition adviser for the
likes of the American Cancer Society, Nestle offers a unique
vantage point, letting us in on conversations we'd never
otherwise hear. What we learn may be more than we can

The subversion of our food safety, Nestle says, begins with
overlapping and unclear authority within the federal bureaucracy.
For example, the Department of Agriculture regulates dehydrated
chicken soup, but the Food and Drug Administration regulates
dehydrated beef soup. The FDA regulates chicken broth, while
the USDA regulates (you guessed it) beef broth. In the latest
bureaucratic twist, Nestle sends up this red flag: The FDA is not
identified as a key department within the Office of Homeland
Security, even though it's responsible for the safety of
three-quarters of our food supply.

While convoluted bureaucracy poses safety threats, Nestle
argues, corporate influence over public policy is even more
worrisome. Exposing what she sees as the revolving door
between the food industry and regulators, Nestle notes
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman's choice for chief of staff: a
former National Cattlemen's Beef Association lobbyist.

Corporate food and agriculture interest groups also influence
policy through their contributions to the Republican Party, known
for its anti- regulation stance. In 2001, for example, the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association donated 82 percent of its total
campaign contributions to Republicans, the National Food
Processors Association 96 percent and the United Dairy
Farmers 100 percent.

Nestle also argues that big business has consistently used
litigation to prevent strict food safety rules. In 1993, the American
Meat Institute, the nation's oldest and largest meat and poultry
trade association, brought the Agriculture Department to court for
mandating that meat and poultry be labeled with handling and
cooking instructions. The public, the association argued, would
be unnecessarily frightened. The association won; public health
lost. Less than a week after the court ruling, three children in
Texas died from eating meat contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Another result of this bullying: Federal agencies can only request
recalls, and even when companies do so voluntarily, product
recovery rates are abysmal. From 1997 to 2000, the average
percent of products recovered in recalls fell from 40 percent to 17
percent. A late-1990s Beef America recall recovered only 400 of
442,656 pounds of contaminated meat.

From widespread antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture (the
leading cause of antibiotic-resistant bacteria) to the appearance
of salmonella (by the late 1980s, officials were finding it in
one-third of all poultry), to traces of nonhuman-approved
genetically modified products in our food chain (the StarLink corn
scandal cost the Agriculture Department $20 million to buy back
commingled seeds), to the presence of potentially fatal E. coli
O157:H7 (unheard of a few decades ago), our food is less safe,
not safer, than ever before.

Nestle asks us to consider food safety in the context of
bioterrorism. She offers this red flag: Though the FDA is
responsible for the safety of three- quarters of our food supply,
it's not even identified as a central department within the Office of
Homeland Security. She offers the case of anthrax as another:
From front-page headlines and the rush on Bayer's Cipro, we all
became familiar with anthrax and the drug that best protects
against it. Most of us probably didn't know that at the same time,
Bayer was making $150 million annually on sales of Cipro's
close cousin, Baytril, to poultry farmers worldwide. By 1999,
research on poultry was revealing bacterial resistance to Baytril
that, Nestle argues, could increase the numbers and kinds of
resistant bacteria, potentially reducing Cipro's effectiveness
against anthrax. The FDA feared the same thing. In 2000, the
agency proposed banning the use of this particular antibiotic in
poultry feed. Nestle writes: "Bayer contested the ban. " And
Baytril? It's still on the market.

Bioterrorism, genetically modified foods, food irradiation, "Safe
Food" weighs in on all the hot topics. While Nestle's arguments
are consistently solid and persuasive, she makes a few
definitive scientific claims where others would argue the science
is still up for debate. For instance, she states that the effects of
food irradiation "are not so different from those induced by
cooking," while new research from France suggests that a group
of gene-damaging chemicals is produced by irradiating meat
and that these chemicals are picked up and stored in fatty
tissues with as-yet-unknown effects. She states that
nontransgenic and transgenic plants are inherently the same:
"DNA is DNA no matter where it comes from," though other
scientists have argued that similar DNA can behave differently.
DNA of an anthrax bacterium, for instance, will force it to make a
lethal toxin, while DNA of related bacteria is unlikely to do so. I
mention these examples only to underscore Nestle's own
thesis: Because our knowledge about these complex issues is
constantly evolving, open dialogue is essential, and caution,
instead of presumption of safety, should be paramount.

"Safe Food" gains weight when read alongside French
molecular biologist Maxime Schwartz's "How the Cows Turned
Mad," which traces the scientific history that has led to mad cow
disease and its presence as Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in
humans. We now know CJD is transmitted to humans by
consuming meat of animals fed meal made from rendering
(grinding up dead animals to make meat and bone meal). It's
one thing to worry about a stomachache from rancid meat, it's
another to worry about a fatal disease that attacks the brain,
leading to delusions, wasting and eventual death. Schwartz says
there was nothing inevitable about its spread from sheep to
cows and other animals and ultimately to humans...

...In her book, Nestle reminds us that food safety is profoundly
political. It forces us to ask: Who benefits? Who decides? In a
democracy, the answer should be us.

I agree. The few greedy elite that are benefiting from "the way things are" have managed to make their billions at the cost of the rest of the world and we have let them!!!

How much longer before we wake up??? How much longer are we going to sit here, doing nothing at all, while our world is destroyed around us and we are sickened and killed by the food we consume? How far can we let things go? How much more will it take before we realize we have let it go too far?

Will it be too late by then??? Only time will tell...
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