Does the term “terrorist” even mean anything anymore?

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The current Vegan Freak podcast talks about two stories in the news recently that have really gotten my blood boiling. The first is about Tony Blair’s vocal support for animal testing and his classification of animal rights activists as “terrorists.” Blair was crafty in his use of implying a (non-existent) connection between a letter-writing campaign targeted at shareholders of GlaxoSmithKline and an isolated incident of a weirdo exhuming a someone’s corpse. We have to be very careful when things like this hit the press to remind friends and family that a.) only a select few animals rights activists (like any other group) are wacky, and b.) a significant portion of animal experimentation has nothing to do with finding life-saving answers to diseases but rather with developing drugs for things like erectile dysfunction.

A related story worth mentioning is one from Germany where researchers say that stem-cell testing can be used to replace hundreds of thousands of experiments on animals. That’s outstanding news, but may not matter much here in the United States until we (and by “we” I mean he) wisen up with regards to the use of stem cells.

The second story that raised my ire is about how animal rights activist Adam Durand was sentenced to six months in jail for a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor? Trespassing in Wegmans’ egg facility to gather the footage for Wegmans Cruelty. This is the maximum sentence Durand could have received and no one was actually expecting any jail time for him. It’s an absurd judgement and I won’t speak any more on it at this point, but I will redirect you to what I wrote about Wegmans a month or so ago. If you’d like to help Adam out or just write him to show your support, Compassionate Consumers has the information.

It’s getting more than a little scary with the government declaring animal rights’ activists “terrorists,” legal action being taken against those that do open rescues, and rights for food animals being stripped more and more. But as scary as it is, these actions wouldn’t be taken if an impact weren’t being made. The average consumer is becoming much more aware of what’s happening to make their food and that scares the industry to death. And, really, it’s not privacy matters or even property destruction the industry is most worried about… they’re worried about industry practices becoming common knowledge which can only serve to hurt them in a big way financially.

SHAC 7’s Josh Harper on Vegan Freaks

If you haven’t checked out this week’s Vegan Freak podcast, make sure you do soon. The Freaks’ interview with SHAC 7 defendant Josh Harper is essential. Even if you’re not down with direct action, this case goes far beyond that, with some seriously scary implications for the future of free speech.

The most mind-blowing fact I heard in this interview: in 2003, the FBI spent used money and resources investigating animal rights groups (who collectively have caused exactly zero fatalities in the last three or more decades) than they did Al-Qaeda (anyone have a source for that? I’d love to link it up…).

Yahoo! Animal Rights

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It seems that Yahoo! now has a separate news category for Animal Rights and Welfare. Even more stuff here. Even though the news feed isn’t updated very frequently and seems to focus a lot on stories about “animal rights extremists,” it’s still kind of nice… but where’s the RSS feed? (via greeniv.com)

Food labeling in 2006

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2006 Food Forecast

The good news:

More allergy information will be included on labels, which is not only good for people with severe food allergies, but for vegans since dairy and eggs are common allergens. The best parts:

  • “If there are any egg, peanut, nut, fish, shellfish, wheat or soy in a product, the label will have to say so.”
  • ” Goodbye to non-descriptive words such as “artificial” or “natural” flavors, colors or additives. Labels with those ingredients also will have to specify which allergens they contain.” Whether this means that any animal-derived products in the natural flavoring will need to be labeled is not clear.
  • “If “casein” is included, “milk” would be listed after it.”

Also good: trans-fat will appear on labels. As a result of having to add this to the label, many food companies have cut back significantly or eliminated trans-fat from their products.

The bad news:

There’s still no universally accepted “Vegan” symbol on food packages. This may actually be a good thing, because really there hasn’t been enough discussion on the issue. For instance, if something is produced on equipment that is also used for dairy, should it be labeled vegan? If a product is made by a company that also makes meat products, is that product vegan? There are some tricky issues.

Also bad/stupid: well, I’ll let the article do the talking:

[F]ood forecasters are predicting some provocative trends, including such possibilities as Christian-raised chicken…

Trend expert Faith Popcorn, keynote speaker at the Future of Food conference last month in Washington, and the person who predicted the “cocooning” craze of the 1990s, sees faith-friendly food showing up in the marketplace, an outgrowth of what her company calls “clanning,” or the desire to belong to groups with common ideas.

Tyson Foods, which makes chicken, beef and pork products, already has begun offering free downloadable prayer booklets on its Web site. The booklets provide mealtime prayers in a variety of faiths.

Before I comment, I love the fact that the food trend expert’s name is “Faith Popcorn.” I would have killed to be born with that name.

I hadn’t heard of the idea of “Christian-raised chicken” before, and predictably, it strikes me as pretty stupid. If you’re that concerned about how your religious beliefs coincide with how your food is raised, shouldn’t you consider just, you know, not eating meat? I suspect that this kind of falls into the same category as halal meats, but without the long-standing tradition.

And does anyone else find it hilarious — and at the same time, deeply troubling — that Tyson Foods is producing prayer booklets?

Feel free to suggest prayers in the comments that Tyson could include on their web site.

The Presidential Turkey Pardon 2005

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Federal Turkeys Wing It This Year

As I mentioned a few years ago, the whole presidential turkey pardon is a frustratingly annoying event. It’s meant to be this cutesy gesture, all “Hey, look, it’s so cute and funny! We’re pardoning turkeys from their death sentence! Tee-hee!” (Interestingly, as a blogger somewhere pointed out, it’s a gesture that the death row inmates in Texas rarely got…)

This year, after pressure from PETA, the turkeys won’t be going to Frying Pan Park in Herndon, VA. Many pardoned turkeys in recent years have died within a year. Frying Pan Park denies any wrongdoing and points to the unnatural weight these turkeys have to hold. I can’t say for sure whether the turkeys were treated well or not, but I know that we’ve got a number of would-have-been-Thanksgiving turkeys at Poplar Spring and all of them have lived long lives well beyond a year. This year’s birds will be flown first class to Disneyland.

Of course, this pardon doesn’t do much to bring to light the life and ultimate fate of 45 million other turkeys each Thanksgiving (that’s 15% of all turkey consumed each year in the United States). In honor of the millions of birds that wind up on Amercia’s table on the fourth Thursday of each November, some facts about turkeys and the conditions they’re raised in: