Archive for the ‘Nutrition & Exercise’ Category

Early this morning I visited the Stouffville Flea Market and got a look at the livestock stalls, mostly selling live birds.  I witnessed ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigeons crated in containers, in tight quarters, but not dramatically so.  I witnessed them being picked up and moved into larger cages for display, handled in a way so that when they were put down they just continued about their business, not really showing any displeasure or ill effects.  I saw them purchased by many people, mostly of obvious Italian, Greek or Oriental ethnicity, and placed in large onion bags for individual transportation after sale.  Once in the bags, the birds didn’t seem alarmed.  I talked to many of the stall owners and workers, discovering that they were from small businesses and farms as far away as Kitchener or Kingston.

All in all I did not witness any overt mistreatment of animals.  They were not in an animal, free-range heaven, but they were being treated respectfully, though in the clear knowledge that they were going to shortly end up as food.

In my opinion, the controversy and protest spearheaded by Heather Clemenceau is highly misguided and hypocritical.  In a world where animal mistreatment in the large food factories of agribusiness is a well known fact, why would you protest against small family farmers trying to sell their livestock directly to the public.  I can guarantee that the conditions in which the Flea Market chickens and ducks were raised are infinitely superior to conditions suffered by the animals that end up on styrofoam trays in our big supermarket chains.  Have these protestors looked into conditions at King Cole Ducks, just north of Stouffville?  Have they seen the slaughterhouses that produce a large amount of our beef?  Why protest the most humane source of animals rather than demonstrating against the supermarkets?  These small business farmers are in direct competition with the large supermarkets, and by zeroing in on them, she is helping to stamp out any alternative to the cruelty of agribusiness animal factories.  It seems counterproductive to the cause that she is at least pretending to support.  I say “pretending” because her being a vegetarian, I can’t help but wonder what her true motives are.  Perhaps she’s one of those shallow vegetarians (-and I don’t presume to paint all with the same brush-) who just doesn’t like to see animals in cages (especially cute ones), but it’s all right if they suffer some place where you can’t witness it before they get sliced, diced and presented in a sanitary tray.

Clemenceau’s worry about how these animals might be killed is a bit farfetched, especially when witnessing the ethnic, old world, customers that were doing the purchasing.  I seriously doubt that any of the chickens were going to end up as unwilling participants in some voodoo ritual.  These people know how to care for, slaughter and clean animals to prepare their own food.  While the “Killing standards”, as she puts it, of the factory farms may be more quick and uniform, every stage up to that point is comparatively a travesty.  Choosing to ignore that is blatantly ignorant.

Heather Clemenceau, if you want a cause, go to the seafood section of a large supermarket, where they keep the lobsters.  Claws bound shut, these animals are packed into a tank until they become part of someone’s bourgeois dinner by being dropped, still living, into boiling water.  Anyone who doesn’t think that these animals suffer when boiled alive haven’t heard the scream when they’re plunged into the water.  (Not that I, personally, don’t enjoy the occasional lobster.)  And yet, you don’t see Heather and her group of “enlightened” protestors in the local Metro or Supercentre protesting in the fish department.  Why not?  Well first of all, I doubt that the supermarkets would be very amused.  Seeing a threat to their business, these large businesses would be very intolerant to any such protest.  They’d be out on their asses in no time.  Second, protesting lobsters or the source of the products in the poultry or meat sections, is not going to sit well with an unsympathetic public which is satisfied with animal suffering as long as they don’t have to see it.  This is the paradox.  A huge level of animal cruelty to bring you your BBQ steak is tolerable, but seeing relatively better cared for animals in cages at the Flea Market is not tolerable.  This is the height of hypocrisy, on which Heather Clemenceau is capitalizing in order to garner a little bit of attention in her community.

If you are a small, family farm, pig raiser in Michigan it will be hard for you to accept any government party claims which assert that the U.S. is the land of the free.  In a country that constantly praises itself for respecting individual rights and small government, April 1st will see a small army of state officials descend upon family farms to systematically murder pigs that are the wrong colour.  Farm owners who still have these pigs also face being charged and arrested.  This new policy was announced several months ago without any consultation or questioning allowed by the farmers, and will be instituted in several days.  No this isn’t an April Fools joke.  Check out the interview.

The Michigan DNR have defined a certain species of open range pigs, which have been raised in the state for decades, as being an “invasive species”.  It just so happens that the farms and pigs in question do not belong to the Michigan Pork Grower’s Association and are clearly in competition with the big business.

Big Agribusiness like Monsanto wants a monopoly on food production, using government restrictions and patents to corner the industry.  Independent food production is becoming criminalized.  We see it here in Ontario with the raw milk controversy.  In Michigan there was recently a case of a woman who was charged with growing tomatoes in her yard.

If there is an argument for classifying some farm animals as invasive species, I’m not finding it in my research.  Really, when you think about it, most animal and plant products on farms are probably invasive species.  What this government initiative seems to do is redefine the word “invasive” to mean, not a species which is foreign to a natural environment, but rather a species which is contrary to the dominant species used in the conventional industries.  Local food initiatives and specialty farming is in competition with big agribusiness, and it seems that government may be being used to intimidate these small businesses.

The argument around agribusiness may be debatable, but what is undeniable is that a government that is supposed to trumpet individual freedom is invading small farms and telling them what kind of animals they can raise.  Be clear, there is no question of quality control here, in fact the small farm animals are probably far more healthy than conventional animals, and are treated in a far more humane way.  There are no practical reasons for culling these animals.  The issue seems only to be one of economics and business politics.  Agribusiness will ruthlessly destroy small family farms, using the government as their tool.

This in a state where 60% of the state legislature controlled by Republicans, the party that cries and whines about the evils of big government and the decline of individual freedom.

UPDATE:  Doing some more intensive research, it seems that Michigan does in fact have a minor feral pig problem.  After reading the material is seems that the do have to do something about the problem, but the action which is being proposed is still kind of like killing a fly with a sledge hammer.  I’ve posted some of the feral pig information in the comments.

Here’s a reputable CTV news report talking about a very real lead on a cheap drug to treat or cure cancer.  Whether or not it pans out, the significant point in the story is that we may never know because big pharma companies will never consider testing it.  The reporter says that she knows of at least two other promising drugs that died because they couldn’t go through the expensive hoops to get approved as there was little profit to be made from them.

Here’s an example where capitalism breaks down and government needs to step in to accomplish something important to society but not something that will line the pockets of the already rich.  Drug approval procedures are important to protect society from dangerous drugs, but the big drug companies still find ways to circumvent them.  Here we have the opposite;  the approval procedures are being used by big drug companies to kill an inexpensive drug which may cure cancer.

It’s a year and a half later.  Anyone heard a follow up on this?  I have a feeling that if it were being pursued it would have made the news.

As usual, many of the comments after the YouTube video are worth reading, and give a strong indication that there’s been no movement on this.

A very different view of vegetarian and vegan values and motives from Lierre Keith who was a vegetarian for over twenty years.  Looking at the arguments about personal health and destructive agriculture, she comes to the conclusion that vegetarianism is not what it pretends to be.  I’m not sure about all her facts, but she makes a very convincing argument.

Probably as I’m writing this Michael Schmidt is facing sentencing for the crime of selling raw milk.  His Ontario farm was raided in 2006, with 15 counts of selling raw mild laid against him.  He was originally acquitted, but the Province appealed and found him guilty a few months ago.

Raw milk is unpasteurized and therefor does not meet the standards set by the Food and Drug Administration.  However I’ve met Schmidt several times and he is far from some unintelligent quack.  He runs a certification program for farmers that want to produce raw mild safely and believes that the health benefits of raw milk are superior to those of pasteurized milk.  He subscribes to the agricultural philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, a German philosopher who also is also responsible for the Waldorf school system.  Steiner’s “Biodynamic Farming” promotes farming in a way that respects the land, animals and claims to maximize healthy, nutritious benefits.  Michael Schmidt holds classical concerts in his barn for the locals and his neighbors in the Dundalk, Ontario area.  He is not unaware of health concerns nor someone who is likely to produce a reckless product.

And I don’t understand what the problem is.  We live in a society where cigarettes are still sold in corner stores and kids can go into any convenience store and purchase Red Bull or Monster stimulants.  And yet informed, consenting adults are prevented from purchasing raw milk if they choose to do so.  Schmidt does not try to hide the fact that his milk is unpasturized, …in fact he advertizes it.  If adults want to purchase this product, why would the government try to prevent this?

The answer is that the large milk boards are pressuring the authorities to take this stand.  They don’t want any competition.  It’s similar to the campaigns in Canada and the U.S. to criminalize the sale, and in some case even the collection for personal use, of medicinal plants for use as herbal remedies.  Pharmaceutical companies can’t make a profit if you can go out and pick your own remedies in the woods.  Similarly, the Milk Board in Canada doesn’t want farmers to be able to sell their products without it passing through their intermediary step.

As a result, even if you feel that it is healthier, even if you have confidence in the farmer’s attention to safety and health standards, you can’t go to a farm and buy milk that’s come straight from the cow.  Whether you believe in Steiner’s philosophy or not, whether you believe in the health benefits of raw milk or not, that’s a serious injustice and unfair manipulation of the law by a conglomerate.

Regulate it.  Certify it.  Do whatever is necessary to make sure that farmers who are less savy than Schmidt don’t sell a harmful product.  But let common sense reign here.  The Ontario government has been dealing with Schmidt and his campaign for well over 5 years as I know that he had run ins with the government long before 2006.  There’s been lots of time for the government to update their laws.  I understand Schmidt’s impatience and his recent hunger strike.

What do you think theatre popcorn costs compared to other foods?  You might be surprised to find out that it is one of the most expensive foods you can purchase.

I visited my old school yesterday to do a lesson with the Gr. 8 students involving finding net weight and calculating unit costs.  We used the Internet to establish the unit costs of lobster and sirloin steak.  The lobster came up at about $9 per kilogram and the steak at about $15 per.  We then found the mass of a $6 bag of theatre popcorn and converted it to a price per kilo.  The final cost for the theatre popcorn averaged out at just under $60 per kilogram!!!  That makes popcorn about 4 times as expensive as steak bought in a supermarket (not on sale) and about twice as expensive as steak served in a good restaurant!


Now, let’s talk about bottled water.  My estimate is that it is about 4 times as expensive a gasoline…

But don’t run out to your local drug dealer.

A few years ago it was discovered that Ecstacy, taken in huge, lethal doses, would kill blood born cancer cells like leukemia.  Now scientists have modified the molecule to require less dosage (by a factor of 100) in order to accomplish the same thing.  Cancer cells seem particularly vulnerable to the new molecule, which attacks the cell walls and makes them softer without doing the same to healthy cells.  The redesigned drug works in a test tube but has not been tried in live subjects, so a usable drug is likely at least a decade away.  However, the prospects are described as being very positive and exciting.