Washington Post Brings Cruelty to the Forefront: Challenging USDA Policies

This past week, reporter Roberto Ferdman penned an article in the Washington Post discussing uncover footage collected by animal rights group Compassion Over Killing. The article states:

“An undercover video taken at one of the nation’s largest pork producers shows pigs being dragged across the floor, beaten with paddles, and sick to the point of immobility. By law, pigs are supposed to be rendered unconscious before being killed, but many are shown writhing in apparent pain while bleeding out, suggesting that they weren’t properly stunned. ‘That one was definitely alive,’ a worker says.”

The footage is from Quality Pork Producers, a Minnesota slaughterhouse affiliated with Hormel Foods. The graphic video can be viewed here, if you are interested. Compassion Over Killing describes the scene as, “USDA-Approved High Speed Slaughter Hell”.

The account of the investigator is very unsettling and the article raises some large marco-level concerns present in industrial animal agriculture in the US. There is a particular focus on the recently approved and controversial high kill line speeds that have been criticized as dangerous to workers, cruel to livestock (as they are often not properly stunned prior to slaughter), and difficult for inspectors to monitor. In fact, earlier this year, Kimbery Kindy wrote an article for the Post regarding USDA inspectors safety and welfare concerns about new line speed standards which would increase the rate of slaughter. To make matters worse, in an effort to cut costs, the USDA has called back its number of inspectors, allowing them to be replaced by industry-based inspectors. As the article asserts:

“Over the years, HIMP has drawn a growing number of skeptics, including former inspectors and factory workers, who say the changes allow processors to increase profits at the expense of animal welfare and food safety. They point to a key difference between the traditional inspection system and the pilot program, which places the responsibility for the initial stages of inspection — the sorting out of diseased and contaminated carcasses — on the plant instead of the government. This, they say, allows for companies to speed up the process, hide violations, and, ultimately, compromise the food supply.”

Shout out to the Washington Post for regularly bringing these issues to the forefront, demonstrating that the USDA continues to fail animals and consumers through cost-cutting, as well as the grim consequences our insatiable appetite for meat.

Warm Up and Cleanse Yourself with Delicious Tom Yum Hed!

Hi all,

If you live in the Northeast or the Midwest, you’re in for a cold weekend! At times such as these, I like to relax inside and enjoy some healthy and delicious Tom Yum Hed, a Thai soup that is vegan friendly. Here is our official Urban Hermits recipe! Enjoy!

Preparing Tom Yum Hed is very easy, the tricky part is making sure you have all of the right ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

8 cups water

1 lime

1 stick of lemongrass (if you can’t find the whole stalk, go ahead and buy a couple roots or packages of stalk, whatever your local store has. Full stalks are easiest to find at ethnic/asian grocers)

4-5 button mushrooms, but other types will do fine.

3 cubes of salted vegetable bouillon

1 firm tomato

fresh cilanto

2-3 stalks of green onion

thai basil (optional)

a chunk on ginger

3 cloves of garlic

1 red bell pepper

dried cayenne/red pepper

soy sauce

Put the 8 cups of water is a pot and heat it until a boil. While you wait, chop the red pepper and mushrooms, tomato and cilantro. Dice the garlic and green onion. When the water comes to a boil, add the 3 bouillon cubes and wait for them to dissolve.IMG_0759

Next, add the lemongrass, chunk of ginger, chili/cayanne pepper (to taste), the thai basil, and green onion. Also, cut the lime in half and squeeze out as much juice as possible into the broth.IMG_0762

Let the broth simmer with the added ingredients for a couple of minutes. Then add the mushrooms and chopped bell pepper.IMG_0764

Once the mushrooms and chopped bell pepper cook down a bit, add the chopped tomato and cilantro. You don’t want these to cook too long to avoid them becoming mushy. Let it go for a couple of a minutes and then you’re set!

For additional flavor, add soy sauce to taste! Enjoy!

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Arctic Vortex and Vegetarian Sushi

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Source: WeatherBell, National Weather Service

If you live just about anywhere in the Eastern US, you are likely confined to indoors as temperatures plunge below zero, in addition to lots of ice and snow on the roads. Here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we are enjoying wind chills of -40 F, colder than I ever remember. The spike in cold temps is caused by a low pressure system that is usually present far to the North, near the arctic. Instead, temperatures typical in Northern Manitoba are here in Southeastern Michigan and the Midwest. Brrr! Things are expected to begin improving later this week, but in the meantime, we have to keep ourselves sane indoors.

Below, Lauren keeps her peace by making vegetarian sushi. She used cucumbers, shiitake mushrooms seared in tamari and mirin, avocado, turnips, and chives stuffed in sushi rice and seaweed. How did you keep away from the cold? Comment and let us know!

Photo Jan 06, 6 32 42 PM

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Source: Detroit Free Press, 06 January 2014

Sustainability, Ag-Gag, and the Fight to End Animal Cruelty

If you haven’t seen it, Rolling Stone has released a disturbing but well-done piece of some of the horrors of large scale animal agriculture, as well as considerations of sustainability and the menacing threat of ag-gag, which I previously declared war on. The piece is titled “Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat” (click title to access the article). Thanks to Paul Solotaroff for this effective piece of journalism and bringing attention to one of society’s most threatening social problems in a mainstream magazine. Its a sad read and feel free to avoid the videos if you don’t care for graphic content, the words are enough. Share this with who you think would benefit. This article explains a lot of the motivations for why I am who I am today.

Sunday Night: Let’s Make Soup!

Okay, so if you live anywhere from the Midwest to the Northeast, chances are the weather is intimidating and you are stuck inside. Use up some of your produce that is not so fresh, but still good to eat and let’s make some black bean soup! I love cooking ahead on a Sunday evening, looking forward to a great meal I can enjoy at my convenience all week. If you work or have kids, save yourself some trouble and work ahead!

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I based this recipe loosely off one I pulled from Allrecipes.com. Check it out here. We had a lot of produce and good spices we made use of. Significant alternations from the original recipe include using vegetable stock mixed with water, as opposed to just water, increasing amounts of salt and cumin (as you will find the source recipe a bit bland) and using a slow cooker instead of a soup pot. The slow cooker allows the spices to mix in better and you don’t need to sauté anything, eliminating the need for cooking oil. As is the case with the slow cooker, the longer you let this cook, the better. 10 hours is ideal. This is a healthy and filling meal, a vegan’s (or meat eater’s!) dream! My fellow Hermit, Lauren, gave me a enormous can of Eden Organic black beans (108 ounces!), good stuff grown in the midwest. I am excited to see how it comes out and enjoy it through this November weather. Enjoy your week!

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Images: Mark Suchyta, Urban Hermits

Thanksgiving is Coming! Let’s Talk Turkey!

Thanksgiving is around the corner! If you are like me, you are waiting for an excuse to put work aside and see your family and loved ones, perhaps hit the bar with old friends! In the meantime, preparations are necessary. This Thanksgiving, choose compassion over violence, and for that matter, balance out your gluttony with some pacifism! Last month, I posted about my trip to the wonderful Farm Sanctuary, a shelter for rescued farm animals, that provides both advocacy and education about a lot of the animals we take for granted. During this Thanksgiving season, they are promoting an Adopt-a-Turkey program. On behalf of the Penn State Vegetarian Club, others and myself adopted one of the friends we spent time with at the Watkins Glen, NY sanctuary: Turpentine! (pictured below). Sponsorships start at a very reasonable $30 dollars. This is something great to do yourself or with family or friends. This Thanksgiving, don’t enjoy a turkey, enjoy it with a turkey!

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Turpentine at Farm Sanctuary! Mark Suchyta, Urban Hermits

Mark and Lauren Go Places: Farm Sanctuary!

Hey everyone,

In our latest installment of Mark and Lauren Go places, we take you to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY! Although Lauren was not present, she was there in spirit and would have certainly enjoyed the trip. Farm Sanctuary is an organization that focuses on rescuing farm animals, educating the public, and advocating for animal welfare. They are funded by a grant from the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). They have three locations, one being Watkins Glen, and then two in California (Orland and Los Angeles). If you are interested in finding out more or donating, definitely check out http://www.farmsanctuary.org. I purchased an awesome American Apparel hoodie in their shop that states, “Vegans: Saving the World with Every Bite!”, which is available in their online shop if you would like to support them in that way.

My trip to Farm Sanctuary was with the Penn State Vegetarian Club, based in State College, PA, which I am a part of. For more information about the club, check us out on Facebook! Below are some photos I took. I just bought a new camera and am still figuring it out, so excuse the timestamps!

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Photos by Mark Suchyta, Urban Hermits

“I’m Doing Something Beautiful” – Toddler Contemplates Animal Consumption

Young Luiz Antonio has an epiphany during dinner that meat is the result of lost life. After having a deep conversation with his mother over the issue, he decides he will only eat his vegetables. “When we eat animals they die!” he exclaims. “I don’t like that they die. I like that they stay standing up.” He then asks his mother why she is crying, baffled as this realization seems clear as day. “I’m doing something beautiful.”

Definitely. Can this just be my kid?

Source: Stephen Messenger, TreeHugger, 31 May 2013