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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 15, 2010 11:00am-12:00pm EDT

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>> our processing plants are just a symptom of what's wrong with our much larger industrial form of food production. particularly when it comes to raising animal protein which most people in this country consume including vegetarians which, you know, drink milk and eat a lot of dairy products as well. animal factory just came out this week, and like i said, it's already getting a lot of attention. i'm thrilled about that because i do think this is an incredibly important issue.
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i confess to have been completely ignorant about where our food came from. i kind of sort of knew it didn't come from old mcdonald's farm anymore, but i didn't want to think beyond that. i knew it didn't come from there, but i really didn't think about where it did come from. i got the idea for this book a few years ago. i happen to be very fortunate to know robert kennedy jr., and he called me, and we were talking, and just in conversation he mentioned a horrible situation which i put in the book down in prairie grove, arkansas. you may not know this, but large chicken companies feed arsenic to their birds. some of them have stopped doing it, but they continue doing it. whatever you put into an animal comes out the other end. and the manure was spread around this tiny town called prairie grove, and out of about 2500 people in the town, there are 100 or more cases of cancer
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including at least 20 cases of pediatric cases, including three 14-year-old boys with the same form of testicular cancer, very rare form. these junior high school boys all got it. and the reason i mentioned that and, of course, it got my interest piqued. it was a horrible tragedy that happened in this town, but i also wanted to know why do we put arsenic into chicken feed? what is that all about? and that got me researching this story. and my agent, todd schuster, always said if you want to tell a story well, tell it through the eyes of the people that it happened to. and that's what i did with evan's farm, and that's what i tried to do with animal factory. i think that's why people are reacting so well to this book and like reading this book, because it's about real people, and it's the stories of people and what happened to them when their lives were completely disrupted by these large factory farms that came into their communities and literally invaded them and upturned their
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way of life. we hear a lot about factory farming lately, and we often hear about food contamination and food safety, and everyone's concerned about that. we often hear about animal welfare, and that's a huge issue involved with factory farming. we hear about the corporate food chain, air pollution and water pollution, but we don't hear as much about the people who have to live and breathe this every single day. and i wanted to give them voice. and i wanted to tell this story through their stories and through what happened to them. so i always try and bring it back to the human aspect even though this book is filled with science and law and politics that i happen to find very interesting and you can't tell this story without it. fundamentally, it is about the people. this book, we call them factory farms. the official government designation is concentrated animal feeding operation, and i like to say personally i would prefer to think of my food coming from a factory farm.
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at least it has the word farm in it. concentrated animal feeding operation is so awe rell yang, it almost goes well with the name animal factory. this is fairly new way of raising animals. you know, up until about the 1940s everything we did, all farming was organic farming. everybody thinks it's a new concept. we raised plenty of food to feed this country and even part of the world without an industrial model. animals were raised generally on small family farms that were sustainable, they were closed systems, they were independent, and the animals would graze on the pasture or in the fields, and that's where they would go to the bathroom. and their manure would then go into the ground and be absorbed by the plants and grow back up and then feed the animals again. it was a closed system. highly agronomic, very, very sustainable. in the industrial model, it's very, very different. and when i started thinking about this term cfo, you've seen
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them when you fly across the country, those long white buildings. look almost like cigarettes, four, five, six in a row, usually with a large waste lagoon. when you separate out those words, you get cafo. now, i am an only any sore, i eat meat. i believe in animal agriculture, i believe it's who we are. it's part of our civilization. we've been doing it for thousands and thousands of years, and those animals provide the manure that give us the food. the o is completely innocuous. any farm is an animal operation. it's when you get to the f word that things start to get more problem mat problematic, and here's why. it's a feeding operation. first of all, what goes into that feed? additives. first of all, most of these animals are not supposed to be eating that feed.
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cows are not supposed to eat grain or corn or soybeans, they're supposed to eat grass. they're very efficient at converting grass into protein. when we put them into these feeding operations, we give them corn and soybeans and other grains, that is one way cows develop e. coli, by the way, from eating grains. chicken and pigs can eat a small amount of grain, but they're supposed to have a much broader diet. then they add things to the feed, antibiotics, low-dose antibiotics to promote growth, heavy metals like copper and zinc and arsenic, so it's not even a natural feed. and then, of course, the whole idea of having an organization is to get them to grow as fast as possible so you can get them out of there and get the next crop of baby animals in and feed them. now, there's nothing wrong with a farmer wanting to get his animal to market quickly, but when you are concentrating only
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on the feeding of the animal, that comes at the expense of all those other needs that that animal has. both physically, emotionally, health wise, sanitary wise. so when you deny an animal that is genetically designed to be outside on pasture rooting around eating bugs and grains and whatever they eat and having a social life and, frankly, having a sex life and foraging and nesting and mating and raising children. when you deny that animal all those things, it's extremely stressful on that animal and, of course, a lot of people think it's extremely inhumane. the welfare of that animal is compromised when it is raised in this industrial setting. so many animals crammed together in one place, indoors without access to fresh air, sunlight, pasture, etc. being fed. basically, just being fed. that's all they do is feed. then when you get to the c word,
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that's even more problematic. it's the sheer concentration, the sheer numbers of raising so many animals on such a small piece of land. you have now completely violated that agronomic system that a family farm has, and what happens is because you have to feed so many animals every single day, the land surrounding that facility cannot possibly grow enough food to feed those animals. so what do you do? you import grain, you import soybeans, you import feed. those are nutrients, so you're bringing nutrients on site that weren't there before. and then, of course, you're left with tons and tons of manure. and the more nutrients you bring in, the more nutrients you then have to somehow get rid of. and they start piling up really, really, really quickly. and the way the industrial system handles this is they liquefy the manure. in a pig house, the fee cease and urine are caught in a pit underneath the floors.
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in some systems it sits in that pit for about six months. you can imagine the odors and the gases and the stench that will rise up from that. that's why they have to have fans going constantly in these pig houses. if the electricity goes out and the back-up generator doesn't go on, those pigs will be dead in a matter of minutes or up to on hour from their own stench. now, in other systems that pit is flushed out constantly into a lagoon, these giant waste lagoons. if ever there was a euphemism, these are not "gilligan's island". these are are cesspools. it's untreated waste. and hog waste has many, many times more pathogen ises than human waste does. so just imagine if the city of new york just pumped all of its crap out to brooklyn where i live or somewhere in a big pool, you know? [laughter] god forbid, right? we wouldn't stand for it. and yet these people have to
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live next door to these waste lagoons because there's just so much manure. so we have this net import of nutrients, and now we have to export the waste. and land application of liquified manure becomes more than just fertilizing crops, it becomes waste management. in north carolina they're out there spraying these fields constantly just to keep the lagoon levels down because the rainy season's coming. if they don't do something, it's going to overflow. and i'll read about some of those situations where that happens and of course, it's just a huge disaster, and there's fishkills and algae blooms and outbreaks of diseases and everything else. so it's a pretty serious situation, and i think most people don't realize. in my subtitle i do call it the looming threat. i do believe it's a serious threat, but i don't think we're at quite yet the tipping point where this is going to wipe out humanity. but the threat is there, and diseases are emerging in these
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factory farms, and it is a source of mad cow disease, and it it was the original source where the current h1n1 virus evolved ten years ago in a factory farm in north carolina. back then scientists warned it was going to mutate and come back and haunt us. now, thank god swine flu did not turn out to be as horrible as we thought, but it was still a huge economic disruption, and people did die. let's not forget, a lot of people got sick and died. so these issues that we're playing around with here because we want cheap meat and cheap dairy, we forget there is another added cost when you go to the big box store and buy your big box of meat. so the question is then, what do we do about it? it all seems so overpowering, and the food industry is so big and important and rich and powerful and entrenched in politics.
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this book describes people who said, enough. i'm not going to put up with this anymore. helen redout channeled harold -- excuse me, from network, the man who famously said i'm mad as hell, and i'm not going to take this anymore. that was the feeling of these people. again, these are farmers and fishermen and middle americans from rural america. they were not activists, they were not liberals, they were not environmentalists. they were defending their home, and they took on a very powerful industry, and they're winning. they're winning because industry will listen to consumers and will respond to pressure. it is a slow process. sometimes they don't feel like they're winning, and at the end of the book, unfortunately, it doesn't end on the happiest of notes, you know? we're sort of this the middle of this story, and we don't know quite how it's going to turn out. but with activists like these -- and they are now activists -- i feel like they are bringing pressure to bear in washington, in the statehouses and even
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right down at the county level where these sort of things really count. a couple of things i think could and should be done aside from all of us who i feel we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and inform ourselves. everyone has the right to buy and eat the food they want, and there are economic issues involved here, and i realize what it's like to be a struggling writer or a working family, and you go to the store. the humane way the chicken was raised is not always top on your mind. you're looking for the best price, and i understand that, but i think you need to take into account what that price really is. and maybe you might be willing to buy a different brand, an animal that was raised more humanely. and there's a group out that has standards called animal welfare approved. if you go to their web site, they list the different standards for raising sustainably-raised food in a way that is humane and didn't harm
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the animals, the environment, or the people living around it. just a couple other things i think can be done, and i'm also very interested in president obama, and i write about it immensely. he made a lot of promises to get elected and hasn't kept all of them yet although usda and the epa are quietly rewriting the rulings. and i'll be writing about this on huffington post. there is cause for optimism. the bush years were really rough on the environment, as we all know, and particularly in terms of farming. the bush white house did allowing a ri his to really kind of run roughshod over the rules. some of the things that can be done is to establish local control. if counties and states -- this is a huge issue in iowa right now -- if those people were able to say, no, we don't want these cafos coming into our county, i think it would be much harder for industry to spread them out.
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a ban on antibiotic use other than treating sick animals would help level the playing field. basically, the idea through policymakers is to make it a little bit harder for factory farms to produce so much meat so cheaply and for smaller independent farmers to produce more meat at, perhaps, lower cost so that we get a little bit more equality in the price because right now the difference, of course, is huge. then there's this whole question of the processing plants, the packers. right now in most places packers are able to own the animals they slaughter. you have to realize this is a heavily vertically-integrated business, so from semen to cellophane, these companies own the animal. if you only have a few processing plants to get your product to market, you have a bottle neck, and it gives the processers tremendous power to decide who's going to get in and have their product processed and who's not. and a farmer with an animal that can't be processed has a worthless product, unfortunately. you have to go through that
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process. so those are just some of the things that can be done. but i really want to talk, also, about the people that suffer these problems and the way the environment suffers from these problems. and then i just want to read a little bit about what rick had to say about the future. i'm only going to read three passages. they're not too long, so, please, bear with me. the second one is slightly longer. the first one i'm going to read about is these waste lagoons because they have 20, 30 million gallons of fermenting, stinking waste, they emit gases. hydrogen suggest tide, ammonia. the ammonia will go up, and it will convert into nitrogen, fall into waterways, convert into nitrogen and then feedalgy blooms which cause fishkills. this contributes to dead zones like we see in chesapeake bay
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with, like we see in the gulf of mexico where the mississippi river comes out. these lagoons sometimes they break because of bad weather, sometimes they break because of bad engineering, sometimes they break just because they're old and worn out. but they're not always pits dug into the ground. very often they're made with raised earth and berms, and if that berm goes out, all of that water is going to leak. but it's not water, it's -- let's face it, it's crap, and it smells like crap, and it will make you extremely sick if you come in contact with it. now, in the book i describe rick dove, he's one of my flee dethree main characters. rick is a former -- i always say that, he's a retired marine. never say former marine, there's no such thing, i've been told. and testifies a jag, he was a prosecutor and a lawyer, and when the river he lives on
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basically got sick and started dying with fish turning up by the millions with big red sores on their side caused by a protozoa which was thriving off of all the nutrients washing into the waterways, he said enough, and he's now one of the leading national activists working with the water keeper association to rein in some of the excesses of the factory farm. now, north carolina had three giant hurricanes in the late 1990s, the biggest one being, excuse me, the name will come back to me. three giant ones, and when they came through, of course, they wiped out the lagoons, they wiped out the pigs, and i describe it in some detail in the book, and it's very colorful and really getting your blood going when you read it. i didn't choose one of those because hurricanes come every so often. i chose another lagoon rupture just to show you this can happen in beautiful weather at any time of the year because these lagoons are not always
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constructed very well. rick got a call from another river keeper on the new river which runs by jacksonville, north carolina, where camp fort lejeune is, the marine base, and this is what happened. rick met tom in jacksonville, a town of 20,000 people next to camp lejeune, they dropped the lonesome d -- that's the boat -- in the river. tom explained the genesis of the spill. it happened near the town of richland. the pure arena-run site had 11 barns housing 1,000 animals apiece. those are pigs. one of the earthen berms had given way leaving a 25-foot gash in the side. within several chaotic minutes, 25 million gallons surged acrossroads, driveways, crops, wetlands and woods before draining into a new river tributary. for more than a mile around the lagoon surrounding the property became a nightmarish moonscape
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of tobacco and soybeans painted black in a sticky coating. on state road 1235, motorists were forging a foot-deep river of brown water cleaning the shit from their undercarriages would be a nasty job. i don't know if c-span can run this word, don't use that very often, but that was a particularly apt moment. you actually have to go under and spray it yourself if you want to get rid of the smell. it's just disgusting. much of the neighborhood was choking in a dank, heavy cloud of gases. downstream dead fish dangled from muck key bushes like devilish ornaments. nearby stood a sign: welcome to richland, town of perfect water. they're calling it the worst manure spill in north carolina history, tom said. ironically, the state's biggest spill had also happened at its
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first hog farm to meet requirements for protecting waterways. and then i describe how they go through the river and they actually come across the foam that was floating down the new river, streaks of discoloration floating could downstream, wides of yellow with flecks of maroon around the edges. then rick says to his friend, this big old blob of crap is going to reach jacksonville in a couple of hours. we need to alert the officials down there. they spun around, throttled the boat to 50 miles per hour and headed south through the foamy water. back in jacksonville on a warm sunday afternoon, the river front was teeming with vacationers and u.s. marine corps families unaware of the incident. rick could not believe his eyes. it's been three days, he said, why have no warnings been posted? where the hell is our government, which is a constant
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refrain among my characters. he reached for his cell phone and dialed the health directer. he left a message. he called ron levine, same story. he even tried the local hospital, but they had no idea what to do. ticked off, rick asked tom to hand let arer warning signs alerting people to dangerous pathogens in the water. he posted them on the docks and bridges. hog crap, they cried to anyone in sight. there's hog crap coming downstream. bacteria, viruses! as it dawned on vacationers, they quickly abandoned the water. within an hour, the river front was deserted. still disgusted by the inaction of the authorities, rick pulled the boat onto his trailer ask -- and drove home. so as that went on, algae bloom, fishkills, this is just one. i had so many manure lagoons rupturing that my editor suggested i get rid of a few of them because it was starting to
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be too repetitive. and it's pretty colorful stuff, as you can tell. you can almost smell that lagoon as it wreaks, and just -- breaks, and just imagine the people that live with this. again, the book is about the people. i mean, they have victories, and they have defeats. they get sick, some of them die, some of them come close to dying because of what they have to breathe, because of the water they have to drink, and very often it's the poorest people who get hit the hardest. we have something called environmental justice in this country. we have what's called environmental racism, and i've seen it firsthand. right now in the yakima valley where helen redout has been fighting and took the dairy factories to court, this one guy that they sued and they won under the clean water act, he was so intransigent and i detail in the book i thought it was so important just to show even with enforcement, this sometimes doesn't work, he would tell the government inspectors to two to
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hell. they would come to his property with fines, he wouldn't pay it. they would tell him to get a permit, he wouldn't do it. he would write to them and say, the next time you come, i'm going to sick my dobermans on you. he refused to clean up his act, and he got sued, and it cost him millions of dollars. the money went to test well water in the valley, and, of course, only the poorest people relied on well water, and what did they find? very high levels of nitrates in the water. nitrates in drinking water are extremely danger. they can cause diabetes, spontaneous abortions, they can cause blue baby syndrome in small children. extremely unhealthy, and the levels are above the ten parts per million that are considered dangerous. so right now partly because of helen's lawsuit, the eps has inspectors -- epa has inspectors testing well water right this minute in yakima valley, and they're going to determine the
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source and why these poor people have to put up with this in their well water. and i suspect what they're going to find is that the nitrates are coming from all the manure that gets sprayed on all the fields in the yakima valley. this, this one is a little bit longer, and bear with me because it's very poignant, and i think as i read it you'll understand why i chose this passage. this just gives you some idea of not only the physical hardship that some of these people have to endure this being sprayed with waxy, oily, stinky liquid from the spray fields that on a windy day crosses the road and covers their laundry so that they have to run into their homes and shut the doors and windows and hide, and i write about a woman who was undergoing chemotherapy, and the guy was spraying hog and cow crap onto her property, but the helplessness that they often
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feel and particularly in poor communities and disenfranchised communities and particularly in north carolina in african-american communities where, i mean, i love north carolina, and i'm not knocking the state. but i went to counties where the kkk is still active. actively active. and black people have a very hard time sticking up for themselves and defending their communities. and they are organizing, and they are fighting back, but it's brutal. and this one woman, her name is elsie, my main character rick was working very closely with a group in duplin county, north carolina, which is exceedingly poor. and elsie was an african-american woman whose grandfather had been a tobacco farmer on about 61 acres of land in north carolina. quote, several years ago a white family just walked into the deed office and we wrote the deed.
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she told me, i could not believe this could happen in 20th century america, 21st century america. elsie told rick who had a hard time believing something like this could happen in late 20th century america. they took 45 of our acres. they said we never registered the deed on that parcel, there was nothing we could do, she said. the land they took goes right up to 8 feet away from our house. then the neighbors put in a hog cafo. it's a living hell, elsie claimed. they haul their sprayer behind a truck, so they know exactly where they're going. and when he complained, they just sprayed some more on our lawn, our house, even the laundry on our clothesline. it's like rain coming down, but it's raw sewage. you can't stand out there, you can't open your windows, you can't cook out, you can't have company over, and you've got flies everywhere. meantime, everyone's got a headache, it's hard to breathe
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or swallow from the ammonia. it actually makes you itch, and identify been there, it does -- i've been there, it does. you just want to get out of your skin, it's so overpowering. devon, one of the leaders of the group, explained that lots of people in the area were having similar problems, many were worried their wells would have been contaminated with night rate levels. rick sat in disgust and listened. what did you do, he asked elsie? they've got a lot of guns and ammo in that farm. that's another thing, people in north carolina are very well armed, and that works both ways. i also describe another scene where people who we would consider, you know, not new yorkers -- [laughter] with their pickup trucks and their rifles,
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>> her sister was not allowed to testify in court. elsie, her family and friends had seen this brand of justice many times before. elsie spent the next nine months calling the health department, the state attorney general and her members of congress. sometimes people actually came, did come out when we complained, she said, but it was four or five hours later after the spraying stopped. we showed them the dark ground that had been saturated, but they just went back to raleigh and filed reports saying there was no problem at all. several weeks and many complaints later -- this just goes on and on -- the sheriff returned to the house. this time bearing handcuffs. he'd come over to arrest me, elsie said. i was out mowing the lawn, and he wanted to put me in handcuffs. my mother had passed away, and i said my downs syndrome brother was in the house. they were going to take me away and leave him there alone. it was a disgrace. what did they arrest you for, rick asked.
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my neighbor said i was trespassing. he lied, and the police believed him. by this time she had gained help there a lawyer in durham. she agreed to appear at an arraignment later that day. she cleaned up from gardening and arranged for someone to look after her brother. she called her lawyer again, he advised her to seek a warrant against the neighbor for trespassing. so she went down and asked the magistrate to do that and, quote, she laughed in my face. she was the same person who signed my arrest warrant, and she said to me, we're just going to let this whole thing pay out in court. eventually, elsie had to make the 45-mile round trip drive many times where eventually the judge dismissed the case. rick was having a hard time fathoming this kind of jim crow bullshit was taking place just two hours away from the sparkling new convention center overlooking the sleek sailboats
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crisscrossing the river. devon assured him that such harsh harassment was not at all uncommon inside the hog belt. it's devastating for these people. they get sick, they die, they try to get redress, and they get arrested. obviously, this is just one case. north carolina has a long way to go and just one example. i heard these stories in texas, california, in the central valley where the mega dairies are taking over and, of course, in yakima valley where people are drinking poison in their water probably because of agribusiness. so when we go to reach for that pork chop in our goeser's, you know, meat section, we don't think about elsie, but maybe we should because she had to breathe the fumes and be sprayed with the waste water that went into raising that pork chop. and someone said to me, we all live downstream, we all live
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downwind. which it's true -- and it's true. and that sort of leads to my final point which is where is all this going and what's going to happen to us and to these farms? and rick, you know, and in my book i describe taking these polluters to court. i describe lots of things that go on in washington, lots of laws that they're trying to pass to make things better. you can sue all you want, you can write all the laws you want, you can try to reform these cafos into universal set bl -- acceptability, but they're still going to be there, they're not going to go away. what rick is worried about is forget the laws of man, what about the laws of nature? laws of people, i should say. and it's the laws of nature that we're breaking every single day. and these animals, as i said at the beginning, were not genetically designed to live under these conditions, deprived
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of sunlight, deprived of open pasture, deprived of their normal feeding, mating, foraging and breeding purposes. it is stressful on them. the more stressed out an animal is, the worse its immune system. the worse its immune system, the more we have to keep it alive with pharmaceutical products. and then we get things where nature's biting us back, and that is where antibiotic resistance becomes such a huge problem, and this is rick's point. you can legislate and litigate until the cows come home, excuse me, but that's a good pun, and it won't make a difference if mother nature decides that she doesn't want this to continue. and we have had warping after warning after warning, and mrsa is a big warning. # % of fresh pork samples -- 3% of fresh pork samples bought in the united states were found to be contaminated with mrs. i don't eat much at all, but
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some families eat it quite a bit. if it's a 3% chance, well, that's one in 33. so if be you buy pork, you know, a few times a month, you have almost 100% risk of bringing mrsa into your homes, and it kills more people than aids in this country, and yet we don't hear about these things. mad cow i started out talking about, that came from factory farms. and by the way, all the mad cow, i believe, there's been three or four cases in this country and a few in canada that we know of, they were all dairy cows. and i don't know if most people know this, but when dairy cows, when we're done with them, they don't just go away, they get ground up into hamburger. most of our hamburger comes from used up, dried-up dairy cows. and they're getting used up and dried up much fatser than -- faster than ever before because of genetics and growth hour mine
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d hormone that's still given in large numbers in this country and makes the cows produce more, but they don't live as long. while they're producing, they produce more, so the farmer makes more on his investment. well, those are the circumstances under which this mad cow, this bse developed. we feed cows to cows three different ways in this country, and i have an e-mail right now to the usda i'm doing a huffington post piece on on what the obama administration is or isn't doing. the bush administration allowed this to go on. one way we feed cows to cows is through restaurant scraps. a lot of restaurant scraps get turned into livestock feed, and it gets mixed into everything else, and so you have beef in cattle field. that should be illegal. a second way, and this is very gross, but in chicken barns they generate so much litter sometimes there's just too much to dispose of, so what do we do with it?
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we feed it to cattle. well, we feed beef to chicken, so there's beef by-products in the pellets, the chickens are eating the pellets, the chicken litter gets fed to the cows. so gross enough that this -- the cows are eating chicken crap. and the third way is in dairies, and i think maybe this is why dairies seem to produce the most amount of bs e.. and there's a place in indiana. i won't name it, but it's a dairy where you can go and bring your kid, and they have field trips where schools go to see this megadairy, and can it's done up -- it's done up like disneyland and little interactive displays. you drive through the barn where all the cows are lineed up, and it takes about 15 minutes to drive through this barn, that's how big and long it is. then you drive through what they call the veal hutches. now, a male cow has no use at a dairy, even an organic dairy,
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let's face it. male cows don't give milk, so as soon as as soon as they're born, they're called off to the hutches which isn't as cute as it sounds. they are white plastic boxes where there's a little hole cut for the animal to stick his nose out, and his neck is typically tied and chained to the box. he can't turn around, he can't sit down, he can't exercise because if he were to exercise, his muffle tissue would -- muscle tissue would develop, and he wouldn't be so tender. so they keep these veal cows in these hutches, and the bus literally drives past this prison camp of baby male cows peering out their little hole. and then you go to the birthing barn which is a feed or, and they have -- feeder, and they have two different separate areas on stage behind blass, and one after the other they bring these cows in that are about to
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birth. and they have straw there, and, of course, the kids get to watch it. it's an interesting thing to watch a cow give birth, and i think it's educational. i have no real problem with that, except the cow is petrified, and she's looking out on these people sitting on benches watching her as she's about to give birth, and then the second the baby pops out, male or female, they yank that calf away as quickly as they can. the calf is trying to get at the milk, but the milk is, what? a product. a commodity. it's valuable. so you don't want to give milk to a newborn calf. you would lose money. and now the mother cow is screaming and wailing and crying, and they're taking the baby away. school kids are watching all this. i don't know what's going through their minds, but instantly you see them with a baby bottle, and they just stick it in that cow's mouth. well, that's not milk because milk is valuable. it's formula, and most of that formula is made with cow blood.
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so, again, we're feeding cows to cows. we also occasionally feed surplus pet food to our animals. you may remember the big mel a mean scare when all those dogs and cats were dying. when they recalled it all, they didn't throw it away. guess what they did with it? they fed it to pigs and chickens and probably cows as well. so rick is worried, and he should be. you know, we did dodge a bullet with swine flu, but the next time around it might not be swine flu. it might be swine/avian flu. in iowa i saw a hog cafo next to chicken cafo next to -- lined up in a row. the wind is blowing this way, there's always kinds of ways a virus could get into these facilities. if an avian virus were to start circulating among the hogs and mutating and then jump to the people because hogs are a vessel where viruses can cross over,
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now you have a zucchini superbug, an avian/swine flu, and those workers are going to go out into the community and start infecting people. it's a nightmare scenario, and that's what rick talks about, it's in my last piece and i'll wrap it up. i guess at most readings they don't read the very, very end of the book because you're supposed to be in suspension, but i already told you how this bookends. it doesn't. this is at the end of the book and rick is stating on -- sitting on the river with his wife joanne. i'll be going down there next week, by the way. i'm very excited about that. rick is a great guy. this river is where it all started and where the fishkills began happening. and he's talking to his wife, and he's feeling guessed, and he says -- depressed, and he says, you know something? i get the feeling that the battle is lost, and now the only way thicks will change is if -- things will change is if something so bad comes along to
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make the government do something, but why in the hell do we have to wait? nature's been telling them the same thing we have, she's been warning them about the nitrogen and phosphorous in her waters. she warned them with people getting sick from pollution. she warned them with dead zones and mad cow and mrsa and e. coli and even asthma in little kids. and now swine flu. but the politicians didn't listen to nature any more than they did to us, rick went on. so now it's going to be something so bad that the government will have no choice but to fix it in order to save mankind. rick's on the phone with his friend, don webb, who's a very colorful character. this story isn't over yet, don said, and you're right, nature will have the final word. and with that, the two friends said good-bye. rick hung up and put his arms around joanne who was staring out over the winter.
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a warm arc of yellow orange, off many the distance a wild os pri wailed through the haze i have air. the river looked the same, but there were so few fish anymore, very few fishermen could make a living just from the water. human nature is a strange thing, rick thought. we have an uncanny knack for ignoring warnings even as we are urged not to break the rules. everyone knows that nature did not intend for humans to inhale tobacco smoke, yet millions of people still do. but nature is generous with her admonitions. first comes the shortness of press, then some wheezing and a deep mematic cough, but these are brushed aside as mere annoyances from the overall pleasures of cigarette smoking. in so many cases the final alarm bell rings too late. maybe the swine flu outbreak would turn out to be nature's final alarm. the big one, as rick called it.
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or maybe it was just one more generous wake-up call, one more slap in the face to remind us that rules are rules. nature did not design farm animals to be confined indoors by the thousands. we broke her laws, rick thought, and she will exact her price from all of us. you know something, joanne? i have no idea where this story ends, rick said with a deep sigh. and that's what scares me the most. it's scary, you know? it really is scary. we are playing around with nature. we're playing around with fire. we've seen this picture before. we know it happens when nature decides enough is enough. so that's why it's a looming threat, you know? it is a threat, but it hasn't reached crisis proportions. i don't want to blow this situation out of proportion, and i do want to say there are good farmers out there, there are responsible farmers out there. farming is a wonderful profession, it's not an evil profession, and i even met
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conscientious cafo operators who win awards for their stewardship because they do take care not to pollute the water and the air to the extent they can. but they're rare, i hate to say. so we have embarked on a path of industrial food production that i do not believe is sustainable. we've seen the warnings that nature has begin us, we've -- given us, we've seen the impact this has on people, and now we're seeing in our food that it's making us sick. so something is wrong, something is off kilter. everybody eats. [laughter] not everybody votes, not everybody goes to the opera, not everybody reads books. everybody eats. so this is everybody's problem. and, again, even if you are the strictest vegan and have never touched animal protein in your life, you're still responsible, and you're still a potential victim if nature decides to come
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calling. so i'm going to leave it there. thank you for coming, and i'd be more than happy to answer some questions. [applause] are there any? >> [inaudible] >> i think so much -- oh, is this on? i think so much of this starts with the maltreatment of these animals, and i know like a few months ago i saw this youtube of what they do to the male baby chicks in all of these, you know, dairy farms, and just on a tiny level i have never once now bought an egg that i don't know what it came from. just from seeing that one little piece. and so i think that so much of this can be the shock value, that if we saw pictures of all of these baby cows with their little noses coming in, that
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would strike new yorkers, you know, in a different -- who feel so removed from farms. >> nobody would buy these products if they saw those pictures. >> exactly. so to me, that would be -- >> that is why i have been thinking about this. industry is so big and so powerful, right? why are they so intent on keeping out the little producer? they go, they spend millions of dollars to keep these people out of business. what are they afraid of? i thought they couldn't possibly be afraid of competition from a couple little producers, and then i realized you know what they're afraid of? they're afraid of their own customers. it's amazing. and they're battling their own customers because when these initiatives come on the ballot in states like california, arizona, florida, there's one coming up in ohio, industry funds these things with millions of dollars to defeat them whereas the humane society funds them to support them. so the voters are their customers, and they're battling their voters. so your point is absolutely right. if people saw where they came from.
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the question of the chicks, that's a tough one because just like there's no place for a boy on a dairy, there's no place for a boy chick in a laying operation. and i didn't know this, but back in the day when we just had chickens clucking around, we didn't have -- now they're called broilers and layers. they're two different species of birds. one is just designed to lay eggs, and the other one is designed to grow breasts as quickly as possible. back then they were one and the same, so a boy check was fine. you kept him around for meat. if you go to the supermarket and you see hen, it's usually on special and very cheap, that is an old, used-up laying hen that's not very good to eat. but, yeah, it's an issue, and i think it also speaks to buying food from smaller local, you know, if you go to the farmers'
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market, they do a great job of sourcing their food, their eggs, their meat from upstate, from hudson valley. you know that the animals were raised humanely, and one hopes they were slaughtered humanely. those videos if you've ever seen them, they're unwatchable. they're really rough. yes, mic? oh. >> thank you so much -- [inaudible] is it on? yeah? okay. thank you so much for coming tonight. i heard your interview today on npr. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. and you talked about organic milk that what people don't know, and what i didn't know is that often organic milk is only called organic because the food fed to the cows is organic. >> correct. >> they don't have to be cows that are grass-fed, they don't have to be cows that are allowed outside ever. >> correct. >> how do we find out which
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brands? >> sure. >> are humane and which brands -- >> sure, sure. i almost made it sound like all organic dairy is that way, and that's not the case. it's a couple of major brands. i hope i can mention them. is there a lawyer around? [laughter] horizon dairy is one. and it's been sued by the government, and the usda has come in. they raise their cows indoors in a factory farm, and they feed them the same thing every factory farm cow eats which is soybean and corn and something called stylage that happens to be brown in an organic fashion. but that's not what organic means when it comes to dairy or meat or beef. it should mean raised on pasture outside. so the usda just very, very recently they're writing brand new rules that says in order to have the organic label on your
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product, those cows have to go outside. i think it's quite a bit. i think it's 140 days a year minimum outside, and at least 30% of their diet has to come directly from pasture. so that's a huge improvement, and that's going to apply to any meat product as well. so i buy, i'm not going to name the brand, but i buy a brand i believe comes from vermont, and it's delicious, and it's pasture-fed. you can really taste a difference. >> is there a web site you can recommend. >> yes, absolutely. the best web site to find good local is called sustainable table. the sustainable, and then also the animal welfare they list, and i can read some of the things they prohibit. they're really kind of horrible things like tail -- [inaudible] force feeding, and the other thing that people don't think
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about at all is long distance transport. that's really rougher on these animals. sometimes they're in these trucks for 36 hours at a time. they can't sit down, they can't eat, you know, they're cold, they're hot, it's really rough on the animals. so thank you. >> it's obvious the industrial method in which they get all this meat is, you know, they want to turn a profit fast or whatever it is, but isn't it -- it's possible to organically do this on a scale large enough to provide the people of just say alone in the united states to benefit from? >> sure. >> i mean, why wouldn't they use a method to kind of change over? i can't imagine it would be less money from them, it probably would be the same, i guess. i mean, if organics -- >> that's a really, really good
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question. the big companies are starting to have organic brands and things like that. that's not me. [laughter] i'm sorry, the exact question was -- >> i'm sorry. >> that's okay. >> what i was asking is it theoretically possible -- >> oh, of course. yeah. well, i guess my answer to that is we always fed ourselves as a nation by having all organic food, all sustainably-raised food. can that happen again? industry says it's absolutely impossible. there's no way we can go back to just a simple system of family farms feeding the nation. >> but have they tried? >> no, of course not. [laughter] they like the system the way it is. the farmer assumes the liability for the manure, the nationaller assumes -- farmer assumes the liability to go into huge debt to build these facilities, the company owns the an halls --
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animals and reaps the profit but doesn't assume all that liability. you know, this is subject of great debate. can we 100% feed ourselves through sustainable agriculture? there's an economist at the university of missouri, if you want to read -- he seems to think it's absolutely possible that we can have completely sustainably-raised meat in this country and have it affordable. i don't know if that's true. but even the expensive, you know, like in my supermarket commercial eggs are 1.# 9 a dozen -- 1.99 a dozen, the humane cage-free sustainable eggs are 3.99 a dozen. yes, that's twice as much, so that's 100% increase, but they're eggs. you know, how many eggs are you going to eat a day? it works out to about 13 and a half cents more per egg. so my omelet in the morning is, therefore, going to cost me 27 cents more. i am willing to pay 27 centss
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more to know that those chickens were raised humanely and sustainably. conversely, in the same supermarket right across the aisle they were selling whole chickens from a big company down in maryland for 69 cents a pound, and they were young chickens, i guess they had too many and they slaughtered them young, had to get rid of them, so they weighed maybe 2 or 3 pounds. so you're talking under $3 for a whole chicken. i also think that chicken's life was worth more than $3. i don't want to pay $20 for that chicken. i've seen $20 chicken in the farmers' market. it makes your head spin. but, you know, somewhere in the middle there. >> thank you for addressing this important topic.
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just these animal products, it's a question of the space to satisfy the appetite this h this country -- in this country for meat and other animal products. so i think mark goodman addressed this issue in his recent book. there's just not enough space to grow meat and other animal products in the way that we would like to think is humane. and just addressing the issue of this labeling and just only buying free range or only buying cage-free, the fact is most of those labels in this country have absolutely no legal meaning, so you can feel good if you pick up a carton of eggs that have, you know, a happy picture of hens and it says cage-free. it might mean that these animals come from, live in sheds where the animals are crammed in just as tightly as they are in cages. and i'm just wondering, have you -- i know you said you eat meat.
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what about our personal responsibility to reduce the amount of animal product consumption or go vegetarian or vegan? i'm a vegan personally, so full disclosure. that can be the least expensive diet, and also it's been shown to be a healthy diet for humans. so how do we address this? >> well, first of all, as far as the labeling things, i know i used the term cage-free, and you're right, it's a meaningless label. that's why -- >> even animal welfare approved -- >> they're the strictest standards that exist. >> but there's exceptions throughout those standards. for example, it says that hens can't be transported for more than four hours to slaughter. that's unless the farm happens to be more than four hours away from slaughter plant. >> well, okay, that gets back to my very first point, it's not just personal responsibility, it's not just what you do at the supermarket, it's what you do at
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the statehouse, the white house, and in congress. get on the phone and tell them to pass laws so that we can increase the number of processing plants so that we can have mobile processing plants so the chickens don't have to go anywhere -- >> i understand. or go ve goon. >> it's not a perfect world, i agree with you. quite honestly, i have reduced the amount of meat i eat. i just wrote a piece showing how you can reduce your reliance on factory farm meat, and one of the pieces of advice because i advise people, i don't tell them what to eat or not eat, was to eat less meat. and there's a program called meatless mondays, and most people in the world are going to have meatless 2010. for us to give it up 52 times a year is not that big of a deal. people who eat meat should probably reduce the amount of meat they eat for their own health and the health of the planet. someone pointed out on the
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huffington post, it was a great suggestion i wish i had thought of it, cook asian food because you can take one chicken breast and saute it with a bunch of vegetables and stretch it out. you now have cut down your consumption by 75%. but, you know, you're a vegan by choice, okay? nobody's telling you not to do that. nobody's wagging a finger at -- >> right. i'm not arguing -- >> so people have a right to eat meat. >> right. i encourage everyone to go vegan, but what i'm saying is it's not just getting our government to pass more or laws, i think we all need to take more responsibility whether it's you go vegetarian or vegan or reduce -- >> i love this conversation, and i have lots of vegetarian friends, some of them are in this room, and, you know, we get along. [laughter] and that's great. i mean, everybody gets to choose for themselves. but, again, i think that animal


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