Thursday, November 3, 2011

The National Conference to End Factory Farming: Day 2

 {photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary}

Read my recap of Day 1 here.

Day 2 of the conference began at 8:00 a.m. at, yes, the Starbucks on Dupont Circle. The day was frigid, rainy and pretty miserable. Despite my 7 hours of sleep the night before, I felt my energy levels nosedive during the drive to Arlington. Luckily we got to the conference in time for a hearty breakfast spread - surprisingly delicious tofu scramble, crispy breakfast potatoes, and bagels. I filled my plate high and got ready for a pretty stellar Day 2 opening.  The focus today, the final day of the conference, was on building solutions.

First up was David Wolfson, a partner at the NYC office of Milbank Tweed and an adjunct professor at NYU.  {Note: All photos in this post are courtesy of Farm Sanctuary's FB page.}

 I was more than surprised to see his name on the program the day before. A partner? Of a big law firm?? Very interesting. Well, Mr. Wolfson did not disappoint. He is an adorable, British lawyer who is passionate about animal rights and has been doing legal work in the field since the mid-80's. He teaches Factory Farming and the Law at NYU School of Law (I wish UT had a class like that when I was there!)  Oh and his wife is the mastermind behind Get Vegucated - how cool is that?

Some key points from David's presentation:

  • There are no federal laws that deal with how farm animals are treated.  As such, the only laws that exist re: the treatment of animals are state laws.  The problem with state laws are that they are: (1) written in a way so that farm animals are excluded and/or (2) rewritten by those in the agricultural industry (as they are often also the people with the power to make those laws - conflict of interest much?).
  • The Humane Slaughter Act is lacking - athough more than 168 million chickens (excluding broilers) and around 9 billion broiler chickens are killed for food in the United States yearly, the Humane Slaughter Act specifically mentions only cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep and swine.
  • In November 2002, over 2 ½ million Floridians voted to prohibit the cruel confinement of pregnant pigs in factory farms. It was the first time that a farming practice had been banned because of its inherent cruelty in the United States. After a six year phase-out period, this initiative took effect on November 5, 2008.  The vote sent a powerful message to the pork industry, and motivated animal welfare advocates across the country. Since 2002, six states have followed Florida in banning gestation crates. The intensive confinement of pregnant pigs was banned in 2006 in Arizona after a ballot initiative effort. In 2007, the governor of Oregon signed a measure prohibiting gestation crates. In 2008, Colorado's governor signed into state law a ban on gestation crates and Californians overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative. In 2009, new laws were enacted in Maine and Michigan which will prohibit gestation crates.  (from the ARFF website)

I later attended a breakout panel with Mr. Wolfson and introduced myself to him afterwards.  I told him I would've never expected there to be a partner at an event like this, and that it was incredibly inspiring as a young lawyer to see that.

Next up to the plate - the one and only John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. 

John was a bit awkward at first, but he quickly found his rhythm and was awarded afterwards with a standing ovation.  Some key points from his presentation:
  • Diseases of affluence (heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, etc.) are killing Americans.
  • More Americans will die of cancer in the next 24 months than died in all the wars in America's history.
  • We're spending less and less money on food and more and more in health care.  Coincidence?
  • He thinks olive oil sucks and that we shouldn't be eating it - I found this to be interesting and need to get more info.  Thoughts?
  • If you want to promote a vegan diet, then you need to be a healthy example!  Don't live on pasta, bread, french fries, sugar and processed food - eat green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes and fresh fruit.
And last, but not least, Dr. Joel Fuhrman - one of my newest favorite people.  I've seen Dr. Fuhrman on a number of documentaries (Forks Over Knives, Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead, etc.), and I'm a big fan of his and his message of how eating the right foods can prevent and even reverse the diseases most Americans face.  Some key points from his presentation:
  • Processed grains are continuously linked to breast cancer "so thank you to the conference organizers for providing those white bagels!"  - I just about died when he said that.
  • Eat a HUGE raw salad every day.
  • Women who ate mushrooms every day reduced their risk of breast cancer by 64%.
  • Add green tea and leafy greens to the mix, and that percentage goes up.
  • Green veggies have an extremely high percentage of protein per calorie - more than poultry, meat and eggs.
  • Eat GOMBBS every day - Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Beans, Berries and Seeds.

I rarely pay full price for books these days, but when I saw that Dr. Fuhrman was signing books, I picked up a copy of his latest, SUPER IMMUNITY, and had him dedicate it to my Uncle Mel, who is fighting colon cancer.   (I'm also reading/highlighting The China Study for him and plan to send both books to him at the end of the month.)

Next I attended a breakout panel on Consumer Awareness and Activism.  Along with Mr. Wolfson, the panel included a presentation by Dena Jones, the farm animal program manager at Animal Welfare Institute who discussed food labels and marketing claims.  Key points from her presentation:
  • "Humanely raised" is the hot claim right now.  Unfortunately, it's the "humane myth" - 
    • There is no regulated definition, and label approval decisions are made inconsistently and on a case-by-case basis.
    • The terms are misleading.
    • Enforcement of what it means to be "humane" is inconsistent.
    • There is NO ON-SITE VERIFICATION (same is true for "free range" claims)
  • Companies essentially submit an affidavit claiming to be humane, and that's about it.
  • "Natural" means no artificial ingredients and minimally processed.  It says nothing about how the animal was raised.
  • "Organic" -> there are no standards for animal welfare; up to each certifier.
  • "Free range" = access to outdoors.  Problem is there are no specific requirements tied to that definition, and again, there's NO ON-SITE VERIFICATION.  (In other words?  It doesn't mean a thing.)

After breakout panels and a break, the conference ended with a session on building coalitions for change.  Paul Shapiro, senior director of farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States spoke, and he was fantastic.  Full of energy, very engaging, funny and obviously very passionate about what he's doing.

"Animals can't wage and win these campaigns for themselves, the planet can't wage and win these campaigns, it's up to all of us to do it for them" 
I'm going to end this very long blog post with the following (oh so helpfully put together by Top Five Ways to End Factory Farming, Five Things You May Not Know About Factory Farms, and Top Five Problems with Factory Farms.
Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur: “The best way to end factory farming is to make the system transparent and accountable, and to align agribusiness practices with our citizens’ values and interests. The cruelty of industrial animal agriculture is an affront to basic human decency. It is inefficient, unhealthy and unsustainable, and costs our nation hundreds of billions of dollars every year.”

Whole Foods Market Co-CEO John Mackey: “The best way to end factory farming is to first create more humane alternatives to it in the marketplace.  The great majority of people are very unlikely to become vegans for the foreseeable future.  It is therefore essential to create more humane alternatives that help raise peoples’ consciousness about what factory farming really does to animals by providing strong contrasts to compare against.  Until there are widespread humane alternatives to choose from most people will prefer to remain wilfully ignorant and very little is likely to change.”

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter: “Factory farming is a threat to public health, the environment, and the rural communities upon which our food system desperately depend. The next farm bill must urgently reverse the policies that have given all of the advantages to intensive farming operations while pushing out the small and mid-sized farms that are the backbone of a system that provides us safe, healthy and sustainable food."
Sierra Club Water Sentinel Lynn Henning: “The best way to end factory farming is to eliminate government subsidies, incentives, and tax breaks for CAFOs [Confined Animal Feeding Operations]. CAFOs are NOT sustainable. We must rethink agriculture to teach the next generation to farm. Family farms have fed this country for generations.”

Farm Sanctuary National Shelter Director Susie Coston: “The best way to end factory farming is to show people that farm animals are intelligent, emotional beings who possess just as much desire to enjoy life as the dogs and cats who we know a bit better.”
John Ikerd, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri, Columbia: “Factory farms are not necessarily more economically efficient than smaller-scale independent family farms. Factory farm operators use their political influence and their ability to manipulate market prices to drive more efficient family farmers out of business. Food prices are no lower with factory farms than with independent family farms.”

Jim Motavalli, contributor to the New York Times, Audubon Magazine, Mother Nature Network and NPR's Car Talk, and author of the forthcoming book High Voltage: “Since the popular image of farms is of old-time barnyards populated by happy pigs and chickens, most people don't even know that factory farming exists. They'd be horrified if they knew how their food is produced, but the industry does an excellent job of keeping them from that reality.”

International Fund for Africa President and Co-Founder Dr. Anteneh Roba: “The one thing most people don't know about factory farming in Africa is that it even exists. The one thing most people don't know about factory farming in the USA is how extremely cruel it is.”

Greenpeace Senior Legislative Representative Kyle Ash: “Public health and animal welfare are inseparable. Forever, industry has tried to divide communities over factory farming, with false claims that industrial food production reduces the need to destroy our air, water and lands. The truth is that factory farming makes every public health problem worse. Shutting down factory farms is a common solution to some of our greatest animal and environmental abuses and we should work together to shut them down.”

Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur: “Most people don’t know how terribly animals are treated on today’s factory farms, and that they are legally excluded from basic humane protections.”
John Ikerd, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri, Columbia: The biggest single problem with factory farming is that it shows no respect for the sanctity of life — either the life of farm animals or human life. Factory farming treats feedlots as biological assembly lines, where the animals are simply machines that produce meat, milk, or eggs for nameless, faceless consumers, with no respect for the people who work in them or live in the communities where they operate. This lack of respect for life undermines the ethical and moral fabric of society.

International Fund for Africa President and Co-Founder Dr. Anteneh Roba: “It causes environmental disaster.”

Jim Motavalli, contributor to the New York Times, Audubon Magazine, Mother Nature Network and NPR's Car Talk, and author of the forthcoming book High Voltage: From an environmental point of view, the worst thing about intensive animal agriculture is it's huge inefficiency. It takes five pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat, and a 10-acre farm that could feed 60 growing soybeans would support only two people raising cattle. Reducing American meat consumption by just 10 percent would free up enough grain to feed 60 million people.

Greenpeace Senior Legislative Representative Kyle Ash: “The unnecessary torture and abuse of other animals is one of the worst human atrocities of our time. Humanity's self-aggrandizing misconception that humans rule the world with no moral responsibilities to those with whom we share this planet is reinforced by how we treat other animals, and this ironic view is facilitating destruction of the planet even for ourselves.”

Michael Greger, M.D.: "When we overcrowd thousands of animals into cramped filthy football-field sized sheds to lie beak-to-beak, or snout-to-snout atop their own waste it can present a breeding ground for disease, a perfect storm environment for the emergence of new strains of influenza and other animal-to-human diseases. These so-called factory farms are a public health menace."
And last, but not least, my top five takeaways...


  1. It's worth being a little uncomfortable to live my life in a way that aligns with my values.  In other words?  Veg For Life, baby. 
  2. If I ever thought it'd be impossible to find a hot veggie boy, I was WRONG.  There were some seriously fine, intelligent, and compassionate vegan men at this conference!
  3. Change is happening.  The movement has begun.  We are beginning to make some noise.  The road ahead is long and daunting, but make no mistake, we are making progress.
  4. Vegan mushroom ravioli is delicious - I must get the recipe and recreate.
  5. For my 29th (ACK!) birthday, I want to take a trip to Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York with my friends, stay overnight in one of their awesome cabins and spend some one-on-one time with those gorgeous animals.


Jessica said...

Book recommendation for you. It's about animal welfare as applied to cats and dogs in America's shelter system. Redemption by Nathan Winograd. It honestly changed my life.

Lauren said...

I love these recaps! They are really inspiring and informative. Also? SO jealous that you met Dr. Fuhrman!!! I just reread "Eat To Live" this past weekend.

TheAnalyst said...

Carolyn, I'm glad you had a great time! If you come to Farm Sanctuary, we must meet up! And don't worry about your 30th is less than two weeks away...ack x 3!

Abby L said...

C- Just wanted to let you know you are the world's BEST blogger! I seriously feel as if I went to this thing- how did you remember all this?! I definitely forwarded this and "Day 1" to my parents... I hope it at least teaches them something! I think this is so great and I'm so jeal you got to go. We must collaborate your fav recipe ideas, etc, so I can hopefully get with the program and go vegan myself. My next task is to find a few vegan recipes to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner this year!!

Angela {Phit Chicks} said...

This is awesome; thanks for posting.
I had to mention you.