Monday, June 30, 2008

"Mad Cowboy"

I finished reading "Mad Cowboy" by Howard Lyman yesterday and highly recommend the book.

Lyman was a fourth-generation cattle rancher in Montana until a health issue prompted him to re-evaluate what he'd been taught about farming and about food. Now he speaks out against factory farming and the use of chemicals in agriculture, and he's a vegan. I'll see him talk at the Animal Rights Conference in August.

As you likely remember, Oprah Winfrey was sued after she said she wouldn't eat hamburgers any more on her show in the mid-'90s. Lyman was also on her show that day and also got sued. Both defendants won.

I encourage you to read "Mad Cowboy" because it's everyone's right to know what is in the food that they put into their bodies -- and into their children's bodies, if they have children. His chapter on Mad Cow disease is especially eye-opening.

He speculates how governments have covered up -- and continue to cover up -- Mad Cow disease. We also learn that from the time you eat tainted beef it can take 10 to 30 years before the symptoms of Mad Cow disease emerge. (Yet another reason I wish I had gone vegan decades ago.)

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Adopt an Older Dog (or Cat)

My boyfriend, Keith, and I attended a luau today with Poncho, my 8-year-old Chihuahua/rat terrier whom I adopted two years ago from Young at Heart Pet Rescue in Palatine, IL. In the picture on the right he's standing on the back of Victor, a great Dane whom he met at the party.

The luau was sponsored by Young at Heart to benefit their sanctuary fund. They hope to buy land to house dogs and cats who are too ill to be adopted.

Young at Heart specializes in placing older dogs and cats. Because Poncho was found as a stray, the people at Young at Heart didn't know his exact age. Their vet estimated him at 6-8 years old. My vet estimated his age at 4-6 years old. So I used 6 years as a safe bet. Poncho was a good fit for my lifestyle. I enjoy watching TV or reading, and I value my sleep. Poncho still has spunk, but he's not hyper or demanding of attention. And he, too, highly values his sleep.

If you're considering getting a dog or a cat, look into getting an older one. They may be housebroken, and they're past their puppy chewing stage. This article from the Humane Societ of the United States' Web site is a favorite of mine regarding the benefits of senior pets.

And, of course, please adopt from a shelter or a rescue organization. Don't buy from a backyard breeder. And don't support puppy mills by buying from pet stores.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Animal Rights Conference

In February I registered for the 2008 national Animal Rights Conference, to be held in August in Alexandria, VA. Since then I've visited the conference's Web site regularly, eagerly seeking updates.

FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement), the conference organizer, published the conference's schedule today, and it looks fantastic. I'm so excited! Among the topics to be discussed:

n Animal abuse for food, clothes, entertainment and research
n Advice for activists
n Social movements and oppression
n Animal-rights philosophy
n Engaging children, youth, businesses, the media and politicians
n Current and historical threats to activism
n Animal cognition
n Worldwide initiatives

Because this blog is new, I haven't devoted many posts to animal rights yet. But as you will see, the movement has many facets and it shadows other movements -- women's liberation, child labor, civil rights, gay rights. A threat to one movement is a threat to all. And a success for one movement is a success for all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Weekly Spin

"The Weekly Spin" is a newsletter I discovered several months ago, and I look forward to reading it every Wednesday. Produced by the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, WI, the newsletter comments on articles in newspapers, magazines and journals and on broadcasts on TV and the Internet -- all of which deal with "spin" through misinformation, PR, outright lies, etc.

I encourage you to subscribe to "The Weekly Spin" to become more aware of the background behind items you read about or hear in the mainstream media.

Even though I majored in journalism and worked for two daily newspapers, I only recently realized that mainstream media -- for a variety of reasons -- typically doesn't dig deep enough or question "facts" thoroughly enough.

As an example of the informative pieces in this newsletter, this week we learn:

n Cigarette giant Philip Morris used ammonia as a "freebasing" agent in cigarettes, thereby making the nicotine stronger. This method allowed the company to claim that it had reduced nicotine in cigarettes (and maybe it had), leading people to think the product was healthier than it actually was.

n The Corn Refiners Association has launched a PR campaign to change the negative image it's had for the past few years. According to the newsletter, the trade association is talking to "mommy bloggers" to get them to use their influence. I first heard about this story a day or two ago on NPR (National Public Radio). In that broadcast I learned that natural sugar is actually cheaper than high-fructose corn syrup. But because the U.S. wants corn growers to make more money, our government has jacked up the price of sugar. So companies have used high-fructose corn syrup in its place. You may be thinking that its good for American farmers that the U.S. did this. But we're not talking about small family farms. The Corn Refiners Association is made up of giant corporations like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.

n A no-bid deal for oil companies ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron to regain drilling rights in Iraq is in the works. We sent our young troops to die so the big oil companies could get even richer.

n The nuclear industry is going to be touting the creation of jobs. The leader of the nuclear industry's front group, Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), is former Bush EPA leader Christine Todd Whitman. We also learn that we could create more jobs -- and have a safer form of energy -- if we used renewable sources. (As an aside, I used to admire Whitman for being one of the few female leaders in government. But she clearly doesn't care about the environment, so she's lost my respect.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Californians for Safe Food

And speaking of industry groups spewing misinformation ...

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, has written about Californians for Safe Food in his blog today.

Everyone is for safe food, right? Of course. Despite the name of this group, though, they don't care about safe food; they care about profits. This group is made up of egg producers. They cram hundreds of thousands of chickens into tiny cages in an effort to maximize egg production.

The HSUS, along with a few other groups, is putting an initiative on the November ballot, in which Californians can vote on more humane conditions for farm animals. The egg producers don't want that, so they've created this front group -- Californians for Safe Food -- to disseminate lies and misinformation to the residents of California.

How does this pertain to those of us in Illinois? For one thing, we must investigate who is paying for the ads we hear. Who is behind seemingly innocuous groups like Californians for Safe Food or the Center for Consumer Freedom? (We'll be talking a lot about the CCF in future posts.)

If you know anyone in California, share with them the truth behind the California front group and tell them to vote to support more humane treatment for farm animals.


While blogs have been around for quite a few years, I've resisted creating one. I didn't want all my personal information online for everyone to see -- and I still don't. But I've decided to start a blog anyhow, for two reasons:

1.) I want a place where I can store all of the information I find online regarding animal rights, the environment and health.

2.) I want to be able to share this information with friends and family and complete strangers.

As stated above, this blog will primarily focus on animal rights, the environment and our health. For some of you, these issues may seem disparate. But you will soon discover that all three are interrelated.

I hope to keep this blog informative but also a bit sarcastic and funny. We'll see how I do.

As for the name -- Digging Through the Dirt -- it can be taken a variety of ways. I'd like to get back to nature by starting a vegetable garden. But more important the goal of this blog is to sift through the misinformation that various industries throw at the public and to allow my readers to know the truth about their health, the Earth and its animals.

Thanks for joining me as we begin digging through the dirt.