Mexico City bars children from bullfights

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

MEXICO CITY–Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told news media on Decem-ber 28 that he would not try to undo an ordinance barring persons under 18 from attending bullfights. The ordinance was part of a 70-article omnibus animal protection act adopted on December 27 by the Mexico City Metropolitan Assembly, 51-6. It was “pushed through the left-leaning assembly by the small but forceful Green Ecologist Party, which has long campaigned against bullfights and cockfights,” reported Los Angeles Times staff writer Chris Kraul.

Green Ecologist assembly member Arnold Ricalde told Kraul that the Greens would seek passage of similar ordinances around Mexico. “To kill for enjoyment is an act without justification,” Ricalde said.

The new ordinance was opposed, however, by Mexico City News columnist Ricardo Castillo Mireles. “Some assembly members are questioning their own vote,” Mireles said, “as they claim they did not see this particular provision” within the larger bill. “A main problem created by the new law,” Mireles continued, “is that young novilleros will no longer be able to cape at Plaza Mexico. In a business that needs to start bullfighters early, this could mean a death blow. Expect a very strong protest,” Mireles warned, “from Mexico City’s Taurine Com-mission, the bullfighters and cattlemen associations, and parents who want to retain the right to choose what their children should see.” But whether the bullfighting industry still has enough clout to win a reversal is uncertain.

“In exchange for their support in the 2000 presidential election,” Kraul wrote, “the Greens extracted a promise from
[victorious Mexican presidential candidate] Vicente Fox that he would not attend a bullfight or a cockfight until after the elections.” Implied is that the Greens enjoy more political support now than the bullfight promoters.

Similar legislation was proposed in Madrid, Spain, in January 1998 by regional government ombudsman for children’s rights Javier Urra, but was not enacted.

BLM slows horse captures under Fund pressure

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

WASHINGTON D.C.–The Bureau of Land Manage-ment on December 19, 2001 agreed to suspend until May 2002 a plan to remove 40% more wild horses than the official “appropriate management level” from 11 sites on the western range.

The Fund for Animals and the Animal Legal Defense Fund in September 2001 jointly charged in a lawsuit against the BLM that, “The [removal] strategy violates the 1971 Wild and Free Ranging Horse and Burro Protection Act,” by allegedly failing to consider the environmental impact of the removals, and also allegedly failing to consider alternatives.

“In order to avoid an immediate court ruling on the part of the strategy whereby the BLM removes wild horses and burros to 40% below the official appropriate management level, the BLM agreed that it will not undertake such removals without first giving the plaintiffs significant advance notice, to ensure that the court can rule on the practice before it happens again,” said Fund for Animals vice president Mike Markarian.

BLM spokesperson Celia Boddington said that the 11 scheduled wild horse roundups would be held, but would capture only about 4,500 horses instead of the 7,500 originally targeted.

A final ruling on the Fund/ALDF case is due in early 2002, but not before January 20, when the captures are to begin. Altogether, the BLM wants to remove 21,000 of the estimated 48,000 wild horses left on federal rangeland in 10 western states. The temporary agreement came less than 10 days after Fund for Animals attorney Howard Crystal released to news media BLM reports documenting that at least 600 wild horses gathered in previous roundups since 1998 have been sold to slaughterhouses. The horses were adopted by private citizens, who by law were not allowed to
sell them until receiving legal title to them, issued one year after the adoption date.

“Forty wild horses adopted out by the BLM were sent to slaughter in the most recent six-month period covered by the records, four of them within four weeks of the owner receiving title,” summarized Robert Gehrke of Associated Press. “Two others were slaughtered within two months of being titled. However, the quick turnaround seems to be less frequent than it once was,” Gehrke wrote. “A BLM report covering March 1998 to September 1999 showed 186 horses were slaughtered within three months of being titled, a rate of nearly 10 per month.”

Responded Fund for Animals western office representative Andrea Lococo, via Deborah Frazier of the Denver Rocky Mountain News, “If you look at the legislative history, it is clear that Congress never intended for wild horses to be slaughtered.” Wild horses were once a mainstay of the U.S. horse slaughter industry, along with cast-off racehorses and saddle horses, while about half of the horses killed in Canada were foaled by the mares used to produced pregnant mare’s urine, the base material for the hormone supplement Premarin. As recently as 1990, U.S. slaughterhouses killed 315,000 horses, and Canadian slaughterhouses killed 235,000 more. France reportedly bought most of the meat, and Italy bought most of the hides.

The collapse of trade barriers between eastern Europe and the European Community in the early 1990s brought a glut of ex-workhorses into France and Italy at prices well below the cost of importing horsemeat and hides from North America, where the market collapsed. In 2000, U.S. slaughterhouses killed only 50,449 horses; Canadian slaughterhouses killed about 62,000.

Equine slaughter resurges

However, scares over mad cow disease and hoof-and-mouth disease scares sent demand soaring again in 2001. As the eastern European horse supply ran thin, killer-buyers began importing horses from South America. The average price paid for horses by U.S. killer-buyers rose 37% in three months, while in Canada killer-buyers paid 50% more. Botswana and Namibia began governmentally encouraging plans to slaughter donkeys for meat, and rumors flew in India about the alleged slaughter of donkeys for illegal export.

Although donkey meat would be rejected by many Europeans, it is often eaten in parts of Asia. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il in July and August 2001 shocked Russians by serving donkey meat mislabeled “heavenly cow” to local dignitaries who visited him at stops on an 11-day train visit to Moscow and back. Some reports claimed Kim Jong-Il brought live donkeys aboard the train to be sure of always having fresh meat.

In the U.S., it is unclear if higher prices are encouraging more adoptions of wild horses for speculation on resale to slaughter, or are just encouraging adoptors with problematic wild horses to sell them for slaughter while the selling is lucrative. Even at the present prices, giving a horse bought fodder for a year in anticipation of sale for horsemeat would not be profitable.

Alleged wild horse speculator Haven B. Hendricks was charged on December 7 with four counts of cruelty for allegedly leaving 24 horses to starve and suffer from exposure on land he owns in Cache County, Utah. Hendricks, a Utah State University associate professor of agriculture, reportedly told news media that he bought the two dozen horses at a BLM auction in southern Utah, and said, “They were really thin when I got them.” On December 16, Salt Lake City Deseret News staff writer Twila Van Leer reported that, “An internal review of the performance of USU associate professor Haven Hendricks has resulted in a recommendation that he be dismissed.”

Mad cow casualties

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

TOKYO, LONDON, PARIS–Accused of covering up the risk of mad cow disease hitting Japan, three months before it did, Japanese agriculture minister Tsutomu Takebe on Christmas Day announced the apparent forced resignations of vice minister of agriculture Hideaki Kumazawa and livestock industry department chief Takemi Nagamura.

Kumazawa and Nagamura walked the plank a week after the Tokyo newspaper Mainichi revealed that the Japanese Farm Ministry had ignored a European Union warning that Japan was vulnerable to mad cow disease. The warning was included in a 12-page report commissioned by the Farm Ministry itself in 1998, delivered on February 1, 2000. The report put the likelihood of mad cow disease afflicting Japanese cattle– and perhaps causing the invariably fatal new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans–at about 75%.

The risk was so high because the Farm Ministry allowed farmers to continue feeding cattle recycled bone meal from cattle already butchered for meat after 1996, when scientific evidence first clearly indicated that bone meal was not only the agent by which the sheep disease scrapie evolved into mad cow disease, but also showed that mad cow disease then became nv-CJD in people.

Allegedly suppressed in Japan because the Farm Ministry did not wish to hurt beef sales, the EU warning–and what became of it–was publicized elsewhere. On June 18, 2001, for instance, the Straits Times of Singapore prominently published an Agence France Presse report that the Farm Ministry was “pressuring the EU to block publication” of the findings.

The first mad cow disease case in Asia was diagnosed in Chiba prefecture, Japan, on September 22, 2001. Several more cases were identified by the end of 2001, but nv-CJD has not yet been detected.

Japanese beef prices fell 47% by September 25, and two weeks later were still down 20%, as beef consumption fell 30% and beef sales at restaurants dropped 50%, reported Agence France Presse.

The risk of contracting nv-CJD is statistically almost nil compared to the risk from bacterial contamination, high cholesterol intake, and other known hazards of beef-eating, but identification of mad cow disease among the herds of a nation usually brings an immediate drop in beef consumption. Pollsters suspect the drop results more from loss of confidence in regulation, however, than from fear of the disease itself. Cover-ups meant to protect the beef industry have previously interfered with stopping the spread of mad cow disease in Britain, France, and Germany.

Brains & spines

Britain, for example, banned feeding bone meal from cattle back to cattle in 1988, and was advised in 1990 by national chief medical officer Sir Donald Acheson to ban exports of bone meal for use in cattle feed as well. Instead, Ottawa Citizen reporter Mark Kennedy revealed in June 2001, “The U.K. decided to risk being seen as the nation that gave mad cow disease to the world,” to protect beef trade profits.

At least one unnamed British meatpacker meanwhile used high-risk “mechanically recovered meat” in baby food and meat sold to school lunch programs until 1997, British officials admit–and in August 2001 the British Meat Manufacturers Association claimed to have lost a list of baby food makers that used the high-risk meat during the 1980s. “Mechnically recovered meat” is considered high-risk because it often contains spinal cord tissue.

In October 2001 the British Laboratory of the Government Chemist discovered that five years of testing to see if mad cow disease might be passed back into sheep in some form had been wasted because the researchers were testing cows’ brains instead of sheep brains. Then in December the lab found that a robot used to handle blood samples taken to detect scrapie had mixed up the samples from 350 different farms.

In France, a French senate commission reported in May 2001 that in 1994-2000, “The Agriculture Ministry constantly tried to hinder or delay precautionary measures [against mad cow disease],” exposing the nation to six years of needless risk.

Mad cow disease was first recognized in Britain in 1986. Since 1996, it has been detected in every European nation except Sweden. Nv-CJD has now killed nearly 100 people, mostly British or known consumers of British beef products, but the disease is also now appearing among other Europeans.

An ailment similar to mad cow disease, called Chronic Wasting Disease, has been identified since 1966 among deer and elk in the U.S. and Canadian Rocky Mountains. Considered very rare until circa 1998, CWD spread rapidly with the recent growth of elk ranching, for so-called canned hunting and the production of antlers and antler velvet for use in traditional Asian medicine. Saskatchewan authorities shot 7,500 captive-raised elk in late 2001 and Colorado counterparts shot 1,450 in an effort to eradicate herds with known exposure. Other elk with known exposure were killed in Kansas, Missouri, and New Mexico. CWD is also believed to be occurring in the wild. Several U.S. hunters have died from suspected nv-CJD apparently linked to eating deer and elk, but the linkage of cause and effect is still incomplete.

“What kind of God asks for the blood of the innocent?”

“What kind of God asks for the blood of the innocent?”

God’s Covenant with Animals:
A Biblical Basis for the Humane Treatment of all Creatures
by J.R. Hyland
107 pages. $14.00 paperback.

The Bible According to Noah:
Theology as if Animals Mattered
by Gary Kowalski
128 pages. $12.00 paperback.

Judaism and Vegetarianism
by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
256 pages. $18.00 paperback.

All from Lantern Books (1 Union Square W., #201, New York, NY 10003), 2001.

Ordained evangelical minister J.R. Hyland brings to her work among prisoners and farmhands an enduring passion for animals and feminism. Her previous books include The Slaughter of Terrified Beasts: A Biblical Basis for the Humane Treatment of Animals (1988), and Sexism is a Sin: the Biblical Basis of Female Equality (1995). From 1996 through 1998 she edited the magazine Humane Religion.

A reprint of The Slaughter of Terrified Beasts forms the opening section of God’s Covenant With Animals, which digs deeply into troubling aspects of Biblical history that some of us might prefer to forget. Hyland first extensively covers animal sacrifice in Judaism. She explains that just as Judaism forbade human sacrifice, Jesus tried to end animal sacrifice. She postulates that Jesus overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, his only recorded aggressive act, because the slaughter of animals in the temple offended him. The sale of animals for ritual sacrifice was, however, the economic foundation of Jerusalem. Just four days later Jesus himself became the “sacrificial lamb” of Christianity on the cross.

Hyland goes on to compares her interpretation of the intent of the 10 Commandments with actuality. Hyland points out that even in times of peace, “Thou shall not kill” is not obeyed in the Christian world, where hunting is not only tolerated, but is often even encouraged as a church activity. “Thou shall not covet or steal” is not followed either, Hyland argues, when people wear furs to church. Unfortunately, the people who may need Hyland’s sermons most are those least likely to attend them or read her writings.

Hyland argues that God intended for humans to be vegetarian. “The eating of flesh is a pervasion of God’s law,” she writes, “indulged in by a fallen human race.” Animal activists may find her study useful in preparing for outreach to religious communities, such as the Northwest Animal Rights Network pro-vegetarian leafleting campaign outside Seattle churches. In 2002 NARN plans to send speakers to address Unitarians and members of other progressive Christian denominations.

Gary Kowalski, author of The Bible According to Noah, also wrote The Souls of Animals, a 1991 category best-seller, and Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet (1997). A Harvard-educated Unitarian minister, Kowalski exhibits a prolific imagination and a poetic nature. The Bible, for Kowalski, is just a point of departure. Each chapter opens with a Biblical excerpt, but he then goes off on many tangents, sometimes only
casually related to the Biblical passage, and ends the book with his own biocentric rather than human-centered interpretation of Biblical teaching.

Though I share Kowalski’s views about the obscene way that animals are treated, I found some of his digressions rambling to the point of discomfort. He seems to use Biblical reference mostly just to tie together the many important things he has to say. Nevertheless, Kowalski packs many engrossing facts about nature, stories of indigenous people, and personal reflections into this small volume.

Kowalski explores blind obedience to authority, from Nazi doctors experimenting on Holocaust victims to current laboratory animal research, through the example of Abraham agreeing to sacrifice his son Isaac to win the favor of God.

“The greatest strength of the modern animal rights movement,” Kowalski writes, “has been its willingness to raise fundamental and far-reaching questions–questions that had been studiously ignored or considered settled beyond dispute for far too long. It is almost as though a long conspiracy of silence has been broken, or as though Abraham had suddenly cast off his docile demeanor and begun to raise objections: ‘What kind of God asks for the blood of the innocent?'”

Kowalski imagines many things that might have gone through the old man’s thoughts as he stood trembling at the altar; but that finally, “Abraham fingered the razor’s edge and looked into the little lamb’s eyes [the animal in the Biblical version is a ram], before putting down the knife.” We can envision Issac and the lamb walking away unharmed from the sacrificial table and now everyone can cheer.

Theology as if animals mattered is what Kowalski offers. His epilogue beautifully describes the lost paradise of Biblical times, when abundant wildlife roamed a region which is now mostly desert. The Middle East then formed a land bridge between the animals of Africa and the similar but now long separated species of Asia. Mesopotamia, in modern-day Iraq, was especially fertile ground. Here, however, archaeology reveals that the domestication of goats and sheep brought about one of the first human-made ecological crises, as deforested hills eroded, allowing silt and salt to ruin
the land. Kowalski’s hope is that the rest of the planet does not go the same way, and that through drawing on the wisdom of all beings we can revise our spiritual traditions to avoid destroying whatever is left of Eden.

Adopting vegetarianism is imperative, and Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., shows the way in his latest of several updated and revised editions of his 1982 classic Judaism and Vegetarianism. Schwartz covers all the basics: a vegetarian view of the Bible; how Jewish vegetarians can help animals, their own well-being, the struggle against hunger, the environment, and the cause of peace; the history of Jewish vegetarianism, including the stories of many well-respected rabbis; biographies of other well-known and often much-loved Jewish vegetarians; and the details of how to be an observant Jewish vegetarian, along with facts about vegetarianism and health.

I wish that every rabbi and synagogue could be given this valuable book. It can inspire and guide Jewish people in taking the next obvious step, for those who are not already vegetarian, toward the way of peace that Judaism teaches, and in the direction that the laws of kashrut (kosher) lead.

Schwartz explores some intriguing ideas from various rabbis as to how human meat-eating began, and came to be condoned by the Bible. The Torah prescribed how animals should be killed and meat should be prepared, since humans were determined to eat meat, but many passages indicate that vegetarianism has always been a more holy
choice, and that once the Messiah arrives, the whole world will be vegetarian.

In view of the ecological devastation wrought by livestock agriculture, the notorious health problems meat eating brings, and the pain inflicted upon animals by modern agribusiness, which makes authentic kashrut impossible, Schwartz asks the obvious question: Why not become vegetarian now?

Schwartz even covers one little known Jewish esoteric reason for eating meat, which may be summarized as the notion that a holy person could, by consuming flesh, elevate the “sparks” of the being who is consumed toward higher consciousness. This is part of tikkun, or healing-of-the-world, and explains the phrase, “Only one who understands the Torah can eat meat.” This belief somewhat parallels the Tibetan Buddhist rationale for eating meat. Yet in both cases
these esoteric teachings are often misunderstood by those who cite them, and have absolutely nothing to do with present-day meat consumption. Here one can argue how much more of a mitzvot (blessing) it is to save an animal’s life, rather than try to help the spirit of the animal after it is dead.

Schwartz reviews Jewish and non-Jewish views of the link between heavy meat eating and violence among people, and how vegetarians can fit into and influence both the Jewish and non-Jewish world. He also includes information about Jewish vegetarian societies and Israeli animal rescue groups.

Jim Mason, co-author with Peter Singer of the 1980 classic Animal Factories (revised 1990), opines in the November/December 2001 edition of Veg News that it is not too far fetched to imagine that churches, mosques and synagogues will pray for animal liberation in the near future because there are signs that these religions are reawakening to the concept of compassion for all beings that Hyland, Kowalski, and Schwartz argue was within Judeo/
Christian religious teachings from the beginning, albeit corrupted by centuries of meat-eaters trying to rationalize their behavior.

These and other recent Lantern Books titles explain from a variety of theological perspectives what we did to exile ourselves from the Garden of Eden, and what we must do to get back there.

–Eileen Weintraub

Meet the Animal Sanctuary of the United States

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

SAN ANTONIO, Texas–New Texas legislation allowing counties to opt into a ban on keeping any of a long list of dangerous and exotic species is raining big cats and wolf hybrids on sanctuarians–and may force some sanctuaries to move or close, as well. Although the law also allows counties to regulate keeping the animals as an alternative to enforcing the outright ban, few are choosing the additional work and expense that regulation requires.

Wild Animal Orphanage founder and American Sanctuary Association president Carol Asvestas says the new law has added 40 animals to the 600 already under her care. But Asvestas also has a Texas-sized dream to counter the nightmare. Effective on January 1, 2002, her organization became the 10-division Animal Sanctuary of the U.S.

WAO, started in 1983, continues as the “permanent sanctuary for unwanted, abused, or neglected wild and exotic animals” it always has been, along with six existing satellite programs. The biggest satellite is the Primate Sanctuary of America, described as “a permanent sanctuary dedicated to the lifetime care of primates retired from research and the pet and entertainment industry,” and “the only bio-safety level 2 sanctuary in the U.S.” It is not open to the public because many of the 300 resident macaques, vervets, and capuchins were exposed to deadly diseases in laboratories, and/or could transmit endemic simian diseases to humans.

Chimp-Aid, nearby, houses chimpanzees formerly used in labs and entertainment. It is also closed to the public.
Cat Haven and the Feral Cat Rehab Center are no-kill facilities to assist domestic cats. Kids On The River is an
environmental and humane education program. The Humane Train, on the road since early 2001, provides
“humane transportation for animal rescues throughout the U.S.,” which Asvestas discovered was in short supply in 1996 while attempting to fly three big cats back to WAO, near San Antonio, from a defunct roadside zoo in western Washington state. Flying the animals required prolonged confinement in small cages. Heavy sedation
was needed–and a tiger and a puma died on the plane from apparent oversedation.

Fined by the USDA, Asvestas endured bad publicity that might have crushed some sanctuaries, although veterinary experts told ANIMAL PEOPLE that she really just had bad luck. Asvestas herself told ANIMAL PEOPLE that she would find and implement a way to move big cats and other problematic species in greater comfort, with less sedation and the ability to provide veterinary care as needed en route.

Formerly a registered nurse, in Britain, Asvestas may never have met a creature in need whom she didn’t try to help. Programs listed as “Under Development” include a wildlife care center, bird sanctuary, and horse sanctuary, each to look after species for whom the present facilities are inadequate. All of this will take a lot of money, Asvestas admits, but like her heroine Martine Colette, who founded the Wildlife Waystation sanctuary near Los Angeles in 1973, Asvestas believes that if she takes on a mission and gets started in the best way she sees, the necessary support will come.

Also like Colette, Asvestas has come through years of hard times with some bitter critics among other sanctuarians and a growing number of admirers. Some first noticed Asvestas in April 2000 when Wildlife Waystation was closed for nine months by the California Department of Fish and Game and was repeatedly bashed by the Los Angeles Times over allegations which mostly fell apart under scrutiny. When the flak was thickest, Asvestas stood up for the Waystation in media statements, risking getting hit herself.

“The International Fund for Animal Welfare to date has given us $244,000,” Asvestas told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “$175,000 was used to purchase 52 acres adjoining WAO’s 50 acres, giving us a total of 102 acres. The balance has been used for enclosure and transport costs,” in connection with the December 2001 evacuation of 23 lions and tigers from the so-called Gate Keepers Animal Sanctuary formerly run by Ken Alvarez near Rapid City, South Dakota. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service seized the big cats after an investigation by the activist group Wild Cat Valley and the Humane Society of the Black Hills found them starving, diseased, in a three-week accumulation of feces, mud, and snow. Alvarez, said Asvestas, had “left for Mexico, leaving only $30 with the inexperienced ranch hands for food.”

An elaborate prospectus assembled to help attract further funding for ASUS doubles as an excellent primer on sanctuary management–by intent, because in Asvestas’ American Sanctuary Association role her job includes mentoring other sanctuarians, much as Colette mentored her. Another part of the work of both ASUS and the ASA, the
prospectus mentions, is dealing with “hundreds of facilities that call themselves sanctuaries or wildlife preserves,” like the Gate Keepers Animal Sanctuary, which “even acquire nonprofit status,” but “breed, sell, trade, and exploit these animals in deplorable, substandard facilities,” as Asvestas knows from having accepted the collections of many that eventually failed.

Currently Asvestas is preparing to receive 24 Bengal tigers from the Tigers Only Preservation Society in Jackson Township, New Jersey, as soon as the state Division of Fish & Wildlife completes seizure proceedings. Tigers Only founder Joan Byron-Marasek is apparently out of room to appeal, after contesting the seizure since January 1999. The case began when police shot an allegedly escaped tiger in a nearby residential neighborhood. Byron-Marasek denied
involvement, but genetic tests linked the tiger to her colony, begun in 1975 with five tigers she kept following a five-year stint as a trapeze artist for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife previously relied on Asvestas and ASA wildlife coordinator Sumner Matthes to accommodate lemurs, mandrills, jaguars, and two tigers left homeless by the 1997 closure of the Scotch Plains Zoo.

BOOKS: The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living & Nonviolence In Early Christianity

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

The Lost Religion of Jesus:
Simple Living & Nonviolence In Early Christianity
by Keith Akers
Lantern Books (1 Union Square W., #201, New York, NY 10003),
2001. 260 pages, paperback. $20.00.

Denver vegetarian advocate Keith Akers, best known for compiling A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983), earned his B.A. in philosophy 30 years ago at Vanderbilt University. He turned to computer programming to make a living, but never forgot his philosophical interests. Decades of meticulous study later, Akers has joined the growing legion of historians and theologians who are coming to believe that the real focal issue of Jesus’ life and death was opposition to animal sacrifice–and, by extension, to all meat-eating, since animal sacrifice was practiced in Judaism as a means of sanctifying the consumption of any flesh. According to Genesis, God explicitly excluded meat from the human diet at the time of Creation. Only through the invention of animal sacrifice, purporting to “share” meat with God at God’s alleged own request, could the Hebrews rationalize transgressing their oldest commandment.

Others have made the same argument, but Akers’ examination of the evidence is unusually free of sectarian bias, since– unlike most Biblical scholars–he is not aligned with any one religion. Akers seeks the truth of Biblical history by painstakingly finding and removing corrupted bits to resolve each system conflict. Comparing the Biblical accounts of Jesus clearing the temple, Akers notes that, “There are several groups whom Jesus directs his anger against, and the moneychangers are nowhere at the top of the list. In Luke they are not even mentioned. Rather,” Akers reminds,
“it is the ‘dealers in cattle, sheep, and pigeons,’ ‘those who sold,’ or ‘all who sold and bought’ who are his primary targets. In John, he speaks only to the dealers in pigeons, and in Luke he speaks only to ‘those who sold.’ The primary practical effect of the cleaning of the temple was in John to empty the temple of the animals who were to be sacrificed, or in the synoptic gospels, to drive out those who were taking them to be killed or were selling them. We must remember,” Akers emphasizes, “that the temple was more like a butcher shop than like a modern-day church or synagogue. ‘Cleansing the temple’ was an act of animal liberation.

“The conventional interpretation of Jesus’ motivation,” Akers writes, “is that the moneychangers and dealers in animals were overcharging Jews who had come to the temple to make a sacrifice…Nowhere else in the New Testament is there any suggestion that profiteering by animal dealers was a problem.” Jesus did not visit the temple as a consumer advocate, Akers believes. Rather, “Jesus did something that struck at the core of temple practice. The priests wanted Jesus killed, and even after Jesus was dead, they wanted to destroy his followers. Was all this effort simply to safeguard some dishonest moneychangers? It is much more plausible that Jesus objected to the practice of animal
sacrifice itself…It was this act, and its interpretation as a threat to public order, that led immediately to his crucifixion,”
Akers argues.

Objecting to animal sacrifice, Akers explains, was consistent with the interpretation of Judaism that Jesus otherwise
advanced, following a line of Biblical prophets including Ezekial and Isaiah. Opposition to animal sacrifice, moreover, was a growing trend within Judaism at the time, possibly though not necessarily as result of increasing commerce with India, where many Jews fled less than a century later after the Diaspora.

Apocryphal stories and some scholarly investigators long have postulated that Jesus spent part of his youth in India, and that the Golden Rule was a recast form of ahimsa. Akers, however, believes from examination of Jesus’ words about animals that he did not need to go so far to be immersed in similar teachings: they were already current in his time and place. Akers cites passages indicating that, “The principle of compassion for animals is a presupposition of all
of Jesus’ references to animals…Jesus in the gospels does not argue the question of whether we should be compassionate to animals; rather, he assumes it from the outset.”

As Akers portrays Jesus, he was not well-traveled and worldly. Having possibly grown up away from animal sacrifice, he suffered a profound shock upon encountering it in the temple. He responded in outraged naivete, and was in effect sacrificed himself because of his apparent innocence of the force of the institution he challenged.

Akers argues that bits of Gospel such as accounts of the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the Last Supper, which seem to show Jesus condoning flesh consumption, were corrupted by the Paulists who took Christianity away from Judaism. Key evidence is that the Jerusalem church first led by James (who claimed to be Jesus’ brother) kept vegetarianism as a central tenet for all of the 300-odd years that it existed.
Akers argues, based on a confluence of geography and teachings about animals, that remnants of the teachings of the
Jerusalem church were incorporated into the Sufi branch of Islam, which much later originated where the last branch of the Jerusalem church had settled after fleeing Jerusalem. “Jesus is not an unknown figure in Islam,” Akers acknowledges, “but the Sufis express an extraordinary interest in Jesus and have sayings of Jesus and stories about Jesus found nowhere in Christianity. Especially interesting and significant is the treatment of Jesus by al-Ghazali, an 11th century Islamic mystic who is widely credited with making Sufism respectable within Islam.”

The Jesus described by al-Ghazali “lives in extreme poverty, disdains violence, loves animals, and is vegetarian,” Akers summarizes. “It is clear that al-Ghazali is drawing on a tradition rather than creating a tradition because some of the same stories that al-Ghazali relates are also related by others both before and after him, and also because al-Ghazali himself is not a vegetarian and clearly has no axe to grind. Thus, these stories came from a pre-existing tradtion that describes Jesus as a vegetarian,” which Akers illustrates with examples from al-Ghazali.

Vegetarian saints, poets, and teachers, including women, have been prominent among the Sufis from the beginning of the tradition. Akers briefly reviews their examples, and explains how the pro-animal descendants of the Jerusalem church could have found a place in Islam after suffering violent rejection by both Judaism and mainstream Christianity –largely due to their vegetarian teachings.

“Notwithstanding the approval of meat consumption and animal sacrifice in Islam,” Akers writes, “animals have a status in the Qur’an unequaled in the New Testament. According to the Qur’an, animals are manifestations of God’s divine will, signs or clues for the believers provided by God. The animals in fact all praise and worship Allah. The beasts pay attention to God and the birds in flight praise him as well. Allah has given the earth not just for human domination, but for all his creatures.

“Animals have souls [in Islam] just like humans, for we read, ‘There is not an animal in the earth, nor a creature flying
on two wings, but they are peoples like unto you…Unto their Lord they will be gathered.’ “Indeed,” Akers concludes, “it would appear that [in Islam] animals can be saved on the Day of Judgement.”

Akers hopes that as growing numbers of Christians become vegetarian, they will return to the religion of Jesus, which he argues was the practice of ahimsa, whether Jesus knew the term or not, and is the oldest and purest theme common to every religion based upon ethical teaching.

BOOKS: The Food Revolution

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:
The Food Revolution:
How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life And The World
by John Robbins
Conari Press (2550 9th St., Suite 2001, Berkeley, CA 94710), 2001.
488 pages, paperback. $17.95.

A few vegetarian advocates achieved transient public notice before John Robbins hit the bigtime with Diet For A New America in 1987, but they were mostly focused on personal health and fitness. Frances Moore Lappe had only transient impact in linking meat-eating with world hunger, and even the most influential writers addressing the animal welfare aspects of meat, such as Ruth Harrison, Peter Singer, and Jim Mason, barely reached beyond those who already cared.

As the heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune who rejected the money, Robbins had the story, charisma, and energy to reach beyond niche audiences, and had perhaps the first book that presented the whole picture of what meat-eating does to the world. Robbins also had good timing. The word “diet” caught the attention of Baby Boomers just beginning to hit middle age, and as the U.S. approached the 20-year celebration of the first Earth Day, and the end of the 20th century, we were ready for the promise of “A New America,” even if there would be no “dawning of the Age of Aquarius” or genuine New Age.

Robbins went anywhere and everywhere to sell his book and his ideas. I met him, somewhat skeptically, on a freezing cold morning at a failed New Age festival where the audience for his outdoor lecture could almost have fit in a hot tub–and probably would have, if there had been one. Half were young female animal rights activists who sat at his knees, some with their boyfriends. The rest were vendors, mostly older men, who stopped to listen because they had no customers and nothing else was happening.

As a second-generation lifelong vegetarian, I have seen veggie evangelists come and go, and have seen some go on to selling snake-oil, too, so I hooked my thumbs in my belt and slouched at the back of the gathering among the men I sized up as probable hecklers. I wasn’t there to heckle, but I wasn’t there to acclaim the latest cult hero, either. I wanted to see if Robbins really knew his stuff, if he meant it, and if he could preach convincingly to anyone but the choir.

He could and did. A seller of bogus “Native American” fur wares, whom I had confronted the day before, was the first
potential heckler to drift away. A Native American elder who had backed me up in the argument stroked his chin and nodded agreement. One by one, Robbins won the skeptics over. At the end, they all shook his hand. I was last. Everyone else bought the book. I already had it.

“Good work,” I said, introducing myself. “I thought you were the guy who was going to be trouble,” Robbins admitted.

Update and sequel

The Food Revolution is a combination update and sequel. The most memorable content of Diet For A New America is all within it, and Robbins’ delivery is as charismatic, upbeat, and persuasive as ever–but his timing with this book is terrible. He missed the milennium, and after September 11 no one wants to hear about revolutions.

Instead, the November 26 edition of Newsweek reported, sales of ice cream have “spiked,” foie gras sales jumped 50%, and Butterball turkey sales rose 8%. Faint comfort for animal welfare advocates, but not vegetarians, might be that free-range turkey sales jumped 10%.

And this time I am the guy who is going to give Robbins trouble, because this time he has made some of the silly mistakes that separate a cult book from one that might persuade a well-informed person holding opposite views.

It may be a small matter, in context, that on page 166 Robbins cites animal shelter data that is now 20 years old and four times too high, but on page 209 he repeats the error in asserting that “commercial meat, dairy, and egg products often come from animals whose diet included the ground-up remains of cats and dogs, including the flea collars some were wearing and the euthanasia drugs injected into their bodies.”

Indeed, among the offal of the 10 billion chickens, turkeys, pigs, cattle, and other slaughterhouse remnants that are
processed into livestock feed each year are some remains of cats and dogs. But they were either roadkills collected by highway crews or were killed by gas. If they contain “euthanasia drugs injected into their bodies,” they are hazardous waste under U.S. law, and are supposed to be incinerated or buried in lined landfills.

On page 313, Robbins calls agricultural herbicide use “largely unnecessary,” then one sentence later advocates “no-till
farming” as an alternative to it. Actually, “no-till” is the use of herbicides and seed-drilling instead of ploughing and seed-casting. No-till markedly decreases soil erosion and seed loss to birds, feeding more people per acre and permitting cultivation of less land to get a greater yield than conventional tillage, but it is heavily herbicide-dependent.

Robbins in the next paragraph quotes Indian food issues crusader Vandana Shiva, who says that, “In India, at least 80 to 90% of the nutrition comes from what the agricultural industry terms ‘weeds.’ [Agribusiness] has this attitude that the weeds are stealing from them, so they spray a field which has sometimes 200 species that the women of the area would normally use as food, medicine, or fodder.”

Shiva is arguing, in essence, that it is preferable to grow 200 species in each field, instead of much higher volumes of each species in separate fields. Her approach works in India, where most people still live on the land and most farm work is still done by poorly educated women who furnish abundant cheap labor. If female work and intelligence is ever properly valued, however, many women will choose less strenuous, less tedious, and more rewarding work, and Indian agriculture will have to become much more efficient. Further, when Indian women are doing work that allows them to buy quality food and medicine, they will no longer have to scavenge weeds to eke out survival, and the “weeds” with real nutritional or medicinal value will be cultivated as crops.

Denouncing biotechnology, Robbins on pages 315-316 asserts that, “Even with nearly 100 million acres planted in 2000, and with genetically engineered crops covering one quarter of all cropland in the U.S., their products had yet to do a thing to reverse the spread of hunger,” although the famine-stricken portions of the world have been shrinking and have been mostly confined to war zones for the past 30 years.

“No commercial acreage had been planted in crops which had been engineered to produce greater yields or that had any kind of enhanced nutritional value,” Robbins continues. “There was no more food available for the world’s less fortunate. In fact, the vast majority of the fields were growing transgenic soybeans and corn that were destined for livestock feed.”

In fact, most of the genetically engineered crops have been modified for pest and weather-resistance, with does bring greater yields. Greater yields mean greater nutritional output per acre. Even if none of it goes anywhere except into livestock feed, increasing the feed output from 25% of U.S. cropland reduces the demand for feed production on the rest–and that does make more land available to grow other things, including the greater portion of all the food that all the nations of the world export to famine areas.

On page 353, Robbins claims that, “Even as we assault our farmland with millions of pounds of poisons annually, bugs are eating as large a share of the world’s food crops as they did in medieval times.” This in itself is a good argument for using biotechnology instead of pesticides to fight insects. It also underscores the value of increasing food yields per acre, so that the loss of a significant share to insects does not leave whole nations to starve.

In the same chapter, Robbins simultaneously fulminates against the unwanted spread of pollen from genetically engineered crops and the use of “Terminator” seed technology that would leave the pollen harmlessly sterile.

Robbins made a much stronger case for vegetarianism before he tried to hybridize his argument with the muddled case against biotech, which except when applied to animals is an issue apart from animal agriculture. Indeed, many foes of biotech–like Vandana Shiva–would increase human reliance on animals for transportation, if not necessarily for food. Abandoning biotech would also markedly increase the number of cows used to produce milk, calves killed for
veal or beef, and pigs killed for pork, if not accompanied by a sharp drop in demand for animal products.

This time Robbins has produced a cult book. It won’t achieve mainstream popularity, and that may be better for animals than if it had.

USDA can’t close dirty meatpackers, court rules

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

NEW ORLEANS, La.– A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on December 6, 2001 affirmed a series of late 1999 and early 2000 rulings by U.S. District Judge Joe Fish of Dallas which held that the USDA has no authority to close meatpacking plants in response to detecting salmonella bacteria on carcasses.

The appellate court agreed with Fish that salmonella cannot be considered an adulterating substance in meat because it is killed if meat is fully cooked at the normal recommended temperatures. Therefore, Fish and the appellate court agreed, the USDA cannot limit salmonella contamination.

The USDA has for the past five years used the presence of salmonella as a warning that other harmful bacteria may be present in meat, under the 1996 Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points inspection protocol, which replaced old-style “poke and sniff” inspection with a scientific standard.

Effectively overturning the use of salmonella as an indicator, the case began in November 1999 when the USDA tried to close the Supreme Beef Processors Inc. meatgrinding plant in Dallas after it flunked three sets of tests for salmonella. Now in bankruptcy, Supreme Beef Processors was a major supplier of hamburger to school lunch programs.

“The case took on a much wider significance with the appeals court decision because the judges also agreed to allow the National Meat Association to intervene,” explained Washington Post staff writer Marc Kaufman. The National Meat Association has fought the salmonella standard ever since it was introduced, and used the Dallas case to challenge the whole USDA inspection system.

“What happened to Supreme Beef could happen to any grinder,” National Meat Association spokesperson Jeremy Russell told Kaufman. “The salmonella was coming in from the slaughterhouses, and there is nothing a grinder could do to remove it.” That could also be phrased: there is no such thing as “clean” processed meat.

Cancer risk

Elio Riboli, chief of the nutrition division of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in June 2001 hinted at
a similar finding in presenting the preliminary results of an ongoing study of the influence of diet on cancer to the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer in Lyon, France. Following the diets and cancer histories of 406,323 Euro-peans since 1993, the Riboli study indicates that eating preserved meat products may increase the risk
of bowel cancer by 50%.

Further studies will be necessary, however, to attribute specific risk to particular products such as hamburger, hot dogs,
salami, bacon, and cured ham. The International Agency for Research on Cancer is a division of the World Health Organization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that Americans suffer 76 million food-borne illnesses per year, resulting in 323,914 hospitalizations and 5,194 deaths. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths occur among the oldest and youngest victims, pregnant women, and people whose immune systems are already weakened by disease or treatments such as chemotherapy.

By comparison, the terrorist attacks of September 11 killed 3,187 people at all sites combined.

The most common food-borne illnesses are caused by the campylobacter and salmonella bacteria. They are transmitted mainly via poultry products–and, because of the heavy prophylactic use of antibiotics on factory-style chicken farms, antibiotic-resistant strains of campylobacter and salmonella are afflicting humans with increasing frequency. Salmonella already kills about 550 Americans per year. As the antibiotic-resistant strains spread, the toll is
expected to rise.

Study suppressed

Only some of the increase of the past decade in meat contamination cases is attributable to so-called “superbugs,” factory farming, and meat production lines running faster than inspectors can monitor, however. Others involve contaminants and illnesses which previously could not be detected, or were rarely recognized.

Biological hazards have attracted the most attention since the Jack-In-The-Box e-coli bacteria episode of 1993 alerted the public to the vulnerability of children, especially, to mutated forms of bacteria which were once seen as harmless. Chemical contamination, however, could grab back the spotlight if and when the Environmental Protection Agency releases a report in development for nearly 16 years which reportedly shows that trace amounts of dioxin found in animal fat and dairy products can cause cancer in humans, with a risk factor as high as one victim per 1,000 consumers–or even as high as one victim per 100 consumers in the worst-case scenario.

Drafts of the EPA report were circulated for peer review in 1985, 1994, and June 2000.

“Industry officials are lobbying the Bush administration to postpone indefinitely the release of the EPA study until other
agencies, such as the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration, can conduct lengthy studies [of their own],” Washington Post staff writer Eric Planin explained in an April 2001 preview of the findings. “The politically active chemical, livestock, and meatpacking industries contributed $1.2 million to the George W. Bush presidential election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics,” Planin added.

Animal obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

Animal obituaries


Sunset Sam, 21, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who painted with acrylics and provided therapy to disabled children, died on December 4 at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, 17 years after he was found beached in Old Tampa Bay and was rescued by a team including Dennis Kellenberger, now the Clearwater Marine Aquarium executive director. Florida dolphin freedom advocate Mary Mosely led an unsuccessful campaign during the late 1980s to return Sunset Sam to
the wild. In response, the aquarium doubled the size of his tank.


Abigail, 41, a Sumatran orangutan noted for using lipstick and nail polish, flirting with male visitors, and blowing them
kisses, died in late December at the Toronto Zoo, her home since 1974 when she arrived from the defunct Riverdale Zoo. Captured from the wild in the early 1960s, Abigail was also fond of sitting down with her keepers for hot coffee. She left six children, including son and daughter Sekali and Dinar, who lived with her.

Bjorne, Bolli, and Bomba, “surplus” bear cubs at the Lycksele Zoo in Sweden, were shot on November 8, stuffed, and their meat sold, despite international protest. That they were bred and exhibited in the first place “demonstrates the irresponsible and ruthless treatment of zoo animals,” said Catharina Krongh of Animal Rights Sweden.

Donna Duck, a favorite of Humane Society of Charlotte founder and longtime duck rescuer Patti Lewis, died on November 5 during surgery to replace her lower bill, lost in an entanglement with fishing line. “I felt she was a gift from God to me for all the critters I have saved,” said Lewis.

M’Chawi, 23, the quiet-natured dominant chimp at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago since July 2001, died of a sudden heart attack on December 3–like both of his parents, Sam, who died at 19, and Shauri Jet, who died at 21.

Roscoe, 15, among the oldest California sea otters on record, died on November 14 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, his home since he was rescued in March 1986 as a stranded infant.

Beethoven, 11, a Great Dane who spent six years on death row in Pinellas County, Florida, for injuring a four-year-old girl in 1995, was euthanized by consent of owner Lorraine Blackwood on September 13. Blackwood, who kept Beethoven alive through a series of legal actions, continues to contest an $11,000 bill for shelter boarding.

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