Issue No. 3
Welfare food labelling
Studies show a growing concern among consumers about the treatment of animals farmed for food. This has prompted a variety of food labels claiming higher standards of welfare. But what’s behind these claims, can they be trusted and what do they really mean? See the last story for a quick guide.
Plant-based for the planet
A whopping 91% of Brits are now “flexitarians” (people who only occasionally eat meat), according to UK supermarket, Sainsbury’s. Meanwhile, 48% of people in the US now purchase plant-based milks – good news for cows and the environment e.g., oat milk generates 80% less Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions than cows’ milk. livekindly.co
Global warming is here
NASA says the last five years have been the hottest on record, and 18 of the 20 hottest years have occurred since 2001. The UK’s national weather service warns the next five years could see the global average surface temp temporarily surpass 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. An increase that science tells us will have severe impacts.
speaking words of wisdom
“Life is an animal’s most cherished possession and animals, like humans, will fight to survive. It is absurd to speak of humane treatment … if you deny them the most basic right – to live out their lives.”
– Hope Bohanec, Author and Exec. Dir. of Compassionate Living.
on THE HORIZON: our changing relationship with food
“Conscious consumption replaces decadent waste society”, read the headline. Consumer attitudes towards food are changing rapidly. Recycling, food waste, scarcity and ethics are set to become the big issues governing purchasing decisions. A 2018 UK research study yougov.com Thought Works polled 2,000 people nationwide to find out which issues will determine how food will be bought in 2030. In answers that saw people putting the planet first, they responded:
Environmental Awareness – this was a bigger consideration than price for 57% of respondents, and reducing food waste was the top issue for 48%. People also want less packaging and greater use of recyclable materials.
Ethics – how it’s made, not what it costs matters most, as 32% will seek assurances that purchases are ethically-sourced from a sustainable supply chain.
Health and well-being – in a big reaction to the obesity epidemic (tackling it is the top priority for 41%), 38% said nutritional value will shape their purchasing decisions.
human Activities Impacting Wild Life Behaviours
3. Resource extraction.
4. Highways, railways, paths and towns, fragment their space and freedom of movement.
5. Fragmentation splits their herds and packs.
6. Human noise interrupts communications, and increases mortality rates especially among marine animals.
the “planetary health diet”
Here are ways to incorporate the diet that 37 scientists from 16 countries (the EAT-Lancet Commission) say would transform the planet’s future. It’s largely plant-based due to strong evidence that livestock farming is a major cause of climate change. [theglobeandmail.com, Jan 21, 2019, article by Leslie Beck, Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan]
Replace meat with pulses: (e.g., lentils, black or kidney beans, chickpeas), for ground meat in burgers, meatballs, meatloaf etc.
Replace meat with nuts: (almonds, cashews), in a stir-fry; in a nut-butter sandwich instead of turkey or ham; and replace cheese with hummus.
Decide how many meatless meals a week: e.g., vegetarian chili; tofu stir-fry; bean burgers; chickpea curries; and lentil soups are all packed with nutrients and protein. For breakfast: smoothies made from fruits and greens; soy or pea milk; whole grain toast with almond butter; oatmeal topped with fruits and nuts; and quinoa or milled porridge.
Load up on produce: five servings a day of a mix of fruits and veggies (½ cup = one serving).
Snacks: fruit; nuts; veggies and hummus; whole grain crackers and nut butters; and smoothies.
Reduce food waste: avoid buying in bulk, buy “ugly” e.g., deformed fruit, and store leftovers at the front of the fridge.
The population of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico has increased by 144% compared with last year and it’s the highest number recorded in over a decade. However, it was “a Goldilocks year, not too hot and not too cold”, said Ryan Norris, ecology prof, Univ of Guelph, Ontario. theguardian.com. Experts do not believe it is indicative of a trend.
In a Dec 2018, nationally-representative survey: “Climate Change in the American Mind”, 73% of Americans now think global warming is happening and certainty has increased by 14% since March 2015. In addition, 61% now understand it is caused mostly by human activities, an increase of 10% over the same time period.
[Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication].
If you liked the Beyond Meat burger, go to A&W Canada starting March 11 and try their delicious breakfast sausage. Also, Quesada now has Beyond Meat’s plant-based burritos!
The End of Animal Testing?
In 2018, a petition against animal testing was signed by 8.3 million people and delivered to the UN. Meanwhile, growing public concern is putting pressure on companies too. Food giant, Kellogg’s, recently struck a deal with animal rights organization, PETA, to end 65 years of animal testing by ceasing their use of animals in “harmful and deadly” tests for their food products or ingredients. They join a growing list of companies walking away from animal testing e.g., Unilever, The Coca-Cola company, Procter & Gamble and McCain Foods.
Growing awareness that every-day products such as vitamins, cosmetics, contact lenses, pet food, and diapers are tested on animals is also fueling the search for cruelty-free products among consumers. The good news is that it’s getting easier to find that information on websites such as Leaping Bunny; One Green Planet’s shopping guides; and PETA’s cruelty-free search engine.
Adding to the controversy is a variety of studies which demonstrate a weak link between non-human testing and usable results including research by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Some studies are saying 90% of discoveries based on animal tests fail to lead to human treatments, and 95% of all drugs shown to be safe and effective on animals fail in human trials. Animals are usually imperfect analogues for the human body. “We have cured over 200 diseases in rats and mice that haven’t translated to humans because our physiology is different …”, says Biomedical Science and Electrical Engineering Professor, James Hickman.
sources of inspiration (even small actions make a difference)
This website explains how eating plants will help save the planet
You may have heard of the Million Dollar Vegan Challenge issued to Pope Francis by 12-year-old activist, Genesis Butler. The group of celebrities, scientists and doctors behind the campaign -- which was rolled out in 15 countries in early Feb -- challenges the Pope to go vegan for Lent. If he does, a million dollars will be donated to a charity (or charities) of his choice. The website https://www.milliondollarvegan.com tells you all you need to know about the impact of our broken food system on animals, human health and climate change. Beautifully presented with stories to inspire you, and facts and an excellent starter kit to help you make change, this is a “one-stop-shop”.
NYT best-seller, “What a Fish Knows”, by Jonathan Balcombe (biologist and author). The science is no longer in doubt, fish experience pain and they are sentient. Balcombe has spent years exploring their inner lives. Among other things, he describes how they plan, recognize, remember, play, innovate, manipulate, collaborate, communicate with gestures, form attachments, use tools, learn by observation, and form mental maps. A “must-read” if you want to learn more about our extraordinary cousins living beneath the waves.
THE DEEPER DIVE
The rise of superbugs is killing 700,000 people a year but most people don’t realize how this issue connects with the meat on their plates. According to the WHO, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and antimicrobials in humans and farmed animals is accelerating the growth of drug-resistant bacteria and other pathogens. The resulting annual human death toll is expected to increase dramatically year by year until it reaches 10 million in 2050. Prior to the introduction of antibiotics, 43% of people died from infection and life expectancy was 20 years lower than it is today. How did we get here? Today’s antibiotics are losing their effectiveness and no new ones have been developed in the last 30 years due to lack of incentives. Approximately, 80% of antibiotics in Canada and 70% in the US are given to farmed animals. Why? Because farmed animals live in densely-packed, filthy, factory farms, and are given massive doses of these drugs to treat or prevent disease, or promote growth (the latter is now banned in the EU and Canada). “Scientists around the world have provided strong evidence that antibiotic use in food animals can lead to resistant infection in humans,” CDC. The WHO says we must stop using antibiotics in animals for growth and disease prevention without a diagnosis to preserve the effectiveness of these drugs for human medicine. [WHO, UK govt report, CDC, Health Canada, OECD]. To read more, go to our blog for a more in-depth article.
Buy: organic, antibiotic-free meat OR plant-based, meat alternatives.
Lobby for: more restrictions on using antibiotics in human medicine and animal agriculture; food labelling that defines antibiotic use; more regulation of antibiotic discharge levels from farms, factories and sewage systems; and long-term incentives for drug companies to develop new antibiotics/antimicrobial drugs.
A guide to animal welfare claims on food labels
We’re seeing more labels on foods like eggs and meat claiming “cage free”, “free range”, “grass fed”, and “organic” but what do they actually mean? Are they truly representative of higher standards of welfare for animals raised for food or are they designed to make consumers feel better about the impacts of their food choices (and pay more in the process)? It’s hard to know exactly as there’s little regulation or legal definition of these terms but here’s a brief guide. vox.com
Better than battery cages (see above image) but still no outdoor access and not cruelty-free (animals are subjected to beak-trimming and, like caged hens, transported long distances without food or water).
Applies to chickens and other birds used for meat and eggs but quality of space is not defined and it’s only for at least 120 days a year which means these birds still spend most of their lives indoors.
This only refers to what animals are fed so they could be living in factory-farm conditions and still qualify. The best you can say about this label is that the treatment is generally less inhumane.
NATURALLY RAISED & PASTURE RAISED
The former is not defined by the USDA or the FDA and there is no legal definition of the latter so both are considered essentially meaningless.
This has a specific legal definition regarding feeding standards and medication. Animals are fed only organic grass or grain with no byproducts, and receive no antibiotic or hormone treatment. It also refers to welfare conditions. Animals must graze outside on pasture for 120 days a year to meet USDA requirements. Living conditions must accommodate health and natural behaviours i.e., access to shade, shelter, exercise, fresh air, clean water, sunlight, freedom of movement, reduction of stress, clean/dry bedding and comfortable temperatures. These requirements are enforced by on-site inspections. However, conditions can still vary due to the lack of definition of the outside space.
What’s a consumer to do? The one thing you can trust are the independent rating systems applied by advocacy groups. They hold producers accountable via independent audits to ensure claims are implemented. The three most common are:
GAP (Global Animal Partnership) – Certified
Animal Welfare Approved
Regrettably, only about 3% (290 million) of US farmed animals are raised according to these standards.
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