Reasonable Zealots, An Oxymoron

I recently received the email below from a customer, her response to our monthly newsletter reminding customers to order their Thanksgiving turkeys:

“I’m really surprised that your advertising says “Giving Thanks” when you talk about reserving your murdered turkey. It doesn’t seem in character with what you try to portray. “Free range” or not, the birds are all murdered the same way – whether they get to breathe some fresh air or not. They end up on the same assembly line. Why doesn’t your company try to stand up on Thanksgiving and market whole, live foods instead? That would distinguish you from all the other markets. Otherwise, you’re the same as Whole Foods, Safeway, Giant, Trader Joe’s, etc, no different at all.”

Now, this is an extreme case of a zealot- and I don’t even think most animal rights zealots (let alone activists) would agree that we are “no different at all from Safeway and Giant.”  I appreciate passionate people, but when they cross the line into this perceived black and white world, they hurt the very causes for which they fight.

PerfectionEvery movement has zealots.  I can empathize with the Republican Party these days.  The Tea Party zealots are tying the hands of the entire conservative movement.  Zealots had the same impact on the 2000 election when the Green Party and those who supported Ralph Nader claimed that Al Gore and George Bush were the same- “part of the same corrupt 2-party system.”  Well, I’m pretty confident that Al Gore wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, resulting in the deaths of thousands of US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians (not to mention a huge financial price tag).  And I’m sure Gore would have supported clean energy and we’d be much further along in the battle against climate change (will those 8 years of lost time take us beyond the tipping point?).

Back in the late 1990’s I had one store- the one on Parklawn Dr. in Rockville.  One beautiful Saturday afternoon customers started complaining about a horrible smell in the store.  It was overwhelming.  We opened the doors to get some ventilation, but the stench was unrelenting and flies started coming in.  We thought we had a sewage back up.  When we closed for the day, the smell was so strong that we were actually able to track its source to the cereal section.  We took boxes off the shelves and peeked behind to find some organic, locally raised chicken cutlets bubbling up out of an exploded plastic package.  I had no idea why anyone would put them there.  Did I have an enemy?  Maybe a disgruntled employee?

The following weekend, a cashier told me she recognized an animal rights activist group in the store and that she saw them take fish sticks out of the freezer, but that they didn’t have the product at checkout.  So we traced their steps and sure enough found the fish sticks behind some other shelving.  The cashier knew one of the activists and where he lived, so I called the police.  The police went to his house and we never saw them again.

Less than 1% of our total sales at the time were from meats.  Everything we sold was free range and free of antibiotics and hormones.  Yet, this is the black and white world in which a zealot lives: either you perfectly align with their agenda or you are The Enemy. There is no grey area and no consideration for effective progress.  I used to have a soft spot for the animal rights movement, but this incident and repeated emails like the one above have pretty much taken the issue off my radar in terms of support.

A zealot doesn’t realize that making the world a better place is a process, not an event. The organic farming movement illustrates this.  People gradually educate themselves on the merits of organics and begin to explore organic products, often times purchasing basics such as milk, baby food, eggs, etc. while getting mostly conventional products at Safeway or Giant.  Then, the consumer might decide to frequent the local farmers market and start regularly going to Whole Foods for some favorite items.  And then when they really want to make organics a lifestyle, they end up walking through our doors- filling their carts with amaranth and quinoa, raw almond butter, dandelion greens, medicinal teas, sprouted whole grain flours, etc.

It pains me to see zealots on issues that I generally support, because they are just as effective at setting back the movement as the opposition is- often more so.  In their demand for perfection, they stand in the way of progress.  Enlightenment is a journey, not an event.  Zealots not only need to stop trying to whip people into submission, but to clear the way, offer guidance, and walk arm in arm down the path of progress.

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130 Responses to Reasonable Zealots, An Oxymoron

  1. Doug Percival says:

    When you use the word “zealot”, I think it is important to distinguish between a person’s VIEWS and their ACTIONS.

    Consider the two examples you discuss here — both of whom objected to M.O.M. selling meat. They share that view — they value the lives and well-being of non-human animals, and object to the unnecessary killing of animals for food, and want M.O.M. to act in accord with their values by not selling meat. Both of them are “pressuring” M.O.M. to do that.

    However, in the example from the 1990s, what did the person(s) do? They surreptitiously committed an illegal act, destroyed M.O.M.’s property (i.e. the products they dumped behind the freezer), and subjected the staff and customers to unpleasant and potentially health-hazardous conditions, all without taking responsibility for their actions or even communicating with you about their concerns. Whatever one may think of those concerns, such actions are reprehensible and unacceptable (not to mention unlikely to achieve any positive outcome).

    On the other hand, what did your current customer do? He or she simply wrote an email to you, through the channel that you provide precisely for the purpose of customer feedback, and in that email politely and respectfully expressed his or her concerns, acknowledged that M.O.M. does seek to be better than those other stores, and suggested that not selling turkeys would be a way to do so. Yes, the use of the word “murdered” may seem like strong language, but there is nothing rude, or disrespectful, or hostile in that email. Whether you sympathize with the writer’s views or not, the email seems like an exemplary way of communicating them to you.

    We all have our opinions, and we all have opinions about other people’s opinions, including sometimes the opinion that someone else’s opinion is “extreme”. But I think that the measure of “zealotry” is not so much whether we find someone’s opinions — their values — to be “unreasonable”, but is rather whether their ACTIONS in promoting those values are “unreasonable”. The folks who sabotaged your old store were clearly not acting “reasonably”; but I would say the person who wrote you this email is, if anything, a shining example of how to behave “reasonably”.

    • Drew says:

      Well said… Perhaps this Thanksgiving, Scott should consider being grateful that his zealot customers express their concerns via private email, instead of a public boycott.

      • Carolyn says:

        To Drew: but why should MOM not sell meat? I don’t get the logic of being thankful that a single group with beliefs about meat-eating isn’t acting destructively. Is it so we don’t have to be afraid of the most destructive among us? Reduced fear? Why would anyone want a single group to have such psychological power over what other groups of shoppers believe, whatever tactic of physical or rhetorical actions that single group uses? Who gets to dictate to us shopping “masses”? And why is MOM a target when gigantic supermarkets aren’t, with their vastly more unhealthy products?

      • Scott says:

        Drew- I’m not grateful for not being boycotted. One of the most wonderful things about my job and MOM’s is that I retain 100% ownership. I am VERY grateful though, that I live a comfortable enough life that I can speak my mind without worrying about the impact of losing strong-arming customers. It is my goal actually, to strengthen even further MOM’s community by populating our aisles with reasonable, civil, and polite customers, even if that means giving up some revenue.

    • Michael K says:

      I have been engaging Scott in a discussion about selling meat at his stores for over a year now. I am a vegan but I will not address the ethical issues of killing or using animals, not because I think that is unimportant, but because Scott has never claimed to be a vegetarian, nor has he promoted his stores in that way.

      But he does promote his stores to have a mission and that mission is the saving of the environment. So that is what our discussions have been based on. My email to him pointed out that the production of meat is a major source of climate change. Since climate change is unarguably the greatest threat to the environment, sellng meat is in direct conflict with his mission statement. His counter argument was that the methods used by the local organic farmers whose meat he sells has a lower impact on the climate change then conventional meats.

      I had never heard that before and told him that I would do some research on the matter. In the meantime, my mother had a health crisis which lead to her recent death, so my research was put on hold for a number of months. But now I have received an email with the beginning of what I hope to be some enlightenment on the subject. I wrote a scientist who specializes in this subject and just read her initial reply. She compared that grain fed cattle (which is usually the method for feeding of conventionally raised cows) to grass fed (which I assume is the method that is used for the majority of organically raised cows) Not only does the grass fed not lead to less methane being produced but instead leads to an increase in methane!

      Her email was complicated and if anyone would like to read it I will post it on a blog soon you to read in its entirety. I have sent her some follow up questions and will look for other resources to confirm what she has told me. When I learn more I will share the information.

      But as of now, this preliminary information leads me to believe that selling or purchasing beef in any form is contributing to an ongoing environmental catastrophe. I will be interested in hearing of any information that anyone has that contradicts this conclusion.

      • MT says:

        I guess do post what you have, but of course note that such would only be useful along with the name/credentials of any purported scientist It’s one thing for the rest of us who just have opinions and musings on a topic, even with a background in the general field, but quite another whenever there is assertion of numerical values, etc.

        My initial reaction is that it would seem a quite peculiar suggestion that animals existing on earth the way they are essentially meant to naturally is somehow damaging to a degree that warrants any time or special consideration in comparison to all the unnatural shenanigans going on everywhere. The problem with our planet is not natural organic farming–it is commercial feed lots, industrial agriculture, and all the other industrial nonsense like smokestack spewing, waterway dumping, and oil spilling, all in the government sponsored name of saving money to enrich company bigwigs so that people can buy $2 tee-shirts and $100 tvs at Walmart that are cheap enough to throw out at the first sign of trouble.

        No numbers here, but I would guess that the number of cows currently maintained for organic farming might more or less approximate the number that would exist in the wild if such were the alternate situation our world were in. (Which if I am surmising the vegan argument at least closely enough would be the practical outcome of the apparent ‘live and let live’ type of motto.) Thus, again, the fact that cows have evolved to eat grass and consequently eat grass, to me is irrelevant. They eat grass. So what if we feed them grass? The Earth means for them to eat grass. That’s why they do it. I can’t figure out what else there is to say about this.

        I still think the problem must be commercial feed lots that produce too much, too fast, and therefore too cheaply that people who don’t know better unnaturally consume too much of it–forcing around and around the cycle that is harmful to animals and damaging to the earth (not to mention the cost of the healthcare system)

      • Michael K says:

        Let me be more clear.

        The cattle industry (both meat and dairy) is one of the major producers of greenhouse gases on the planet.

        The organic segment of this business is just as culpable as the conventional segment in regards to producing greenhouse gases.

        The production of greenhouse gases is currently the greatest threat to the environment.

        Therefore the buying and selling of beef and dairy products is a major threat to the environment.

        If you disagree with any of the previous four statements please state your case.

      • Doug Percival says:

        Michael K wrote: “The cattle industry (both meat and dairy) is one of the major producers of greenhouse gases on the planet. The organic segment of this business is just as culpable as the conventional segment in regards to producing greenhouse gases.”

        The first sentence is certainly true. A study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that livestock production (including chickens, pigs and other animals raised for food, in addition to cattle) is responsible for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse base emissions, which is comparable to the entire transport sector. Other studies, including one by the WorldWatch Institute, have reported even higher figures.

        Moreover, other studies have quantified the reduction in an individual’s greenhouse gas “footprint” achieved through switching from the “standard”, conventional meat-centric American diet to an entirely vegetarian diet, and found it was comparable to the reduction from replacing a conventional gasoline-fueled car with a hybrid. And of course, purchasing a hybrid is a costly proposition, whereas going vegetarian (or vegan) will actually SAVE you money, not to mention benefit your health.

        So clearly, going vegan is certainly one of the easiest, cheapest, most effective, and otherwise beneficial steps that an average American can take to reduce his or her GHG footprint.

        Having said that, your second sentence may NOT be true. I am not aware of any studies that have quantitatively compared the GHG emissions of “conventional” vs. organically-raised livestock. However, I have seen studies (by the Rodale Institute among others) which show that organic production of plant food crops dramatically reduces GHG emissions compared to conventional agriculture, so one would expect that those reductions would also apply to grains and legumes raised for animal feed. And some studies have found that use of “best practices” in conventional livestock production can also reduce GHG emissions.

        So it is possible that organic livestock production is not QUITE as culpable as conventional methods when it comes to GHG emissions. But certainly, going vegan AND organic (AND local where possible) will achieve the greatest reductions, at the lowest cost to the consumer, and also has major healthy “side effects”.

      • Carolyn says:

        This won’t be a “case” but simply a comment I ran across while reading arguments like these on other sites (inspired by the fascinating entries on this blog). We can all notice the belief systems of everyone who comments, I’m supposing, and mostly that holds true of those on other sites I’ve been looking at (e.g. NYT, Mother Jones food debates). The comment I referred to above was that people tend to find plenty of support for their own partisanship in food matters. And Michael, you have found good support (happily I suppose) in the scientist you referred to. Pre-existing emotions/cultures/experiences count though. I myself loved the spirited comments of MT this morning; I’m a (limited?) meat-eater along with my veggies. There ARE counter arguments to yours, for sure (the methane gasses hypothesis is after all controversial). I’m left with the question about how we all make decisions about eating animals or not eating them; is it from scientific support or some big complex of experiences? Joel Salatin is hardly a scientist, but has some very humorous ideas about cows and methane gasses. I gravitate toward even that sort of thing, given my own cultural predispositions. We all may have different ways of researching meat or no meat “facts,” but can we ever erase the underlying partisanship of our life experiences that fuel those searches?

      • Doug Percival says:

        Carolyn wrote: “the methane gasses hypothesis is after all controversial”.

        It’s not a “hypothesis” and I don’t know what you think is “controversial” about it.

        Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, around 20 TIMES as powerful as CO2 at retaining the sun’s energy as heat. That’s not a “hypothesis”, it is an accurately measured, carefully observed scientific fact. And livestock production is one of the top sources of anthropogenic methane emissions — again, that’s not a “hypothesis”, it is an observed, measured fact.

        Livestock production is also, of course, one of the top sources of CO2 emissions.

        These statements are not my “opinion” or “guess” or “belief” — they are facts. See the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s report for details:

      • Carolyn says:

        In response to Doug:

        Whew! Your strong reaction to my carelessness in labeling is undoubtedly justified. What I meant by that short-cut “methane hypothesis” was “the notion that methane from burping herbivores causes climate change.” Of course these words of Joel Salatin are in no way enough to establish a controversy, but here goes with just a glance at three relevant articles. First, a note in Wikipedia referring to (1) A study in the Journal of Animal Science comparing the methane emissions from grazing and feedlot cattle concluded that grass-fed cattle produce about 4 times more methane than grain-fed cattle.” OK, so there’s some support for Michael’s point from the unnamed scientist. Then (2) in the same article is a note about the controversial UN 2006 report: “The report states that the livestock sector is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” The UN report is called “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” Meat industry protests are mentioned, no surprise. (I could probably give citations but not now.)

        Next, from a carefully written article on The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog referring to an oppositional scientific paper of 2009 by Frank Mitloehner “co-authored with Dr. Maurice Piteskyer and Dr. Kimberly Stackhouse.” Its thrust was an “assertion that Long Shadow significantly overestimates the contributions of livestock to . . . greenhouse gases … that in turn contribute to global climate change.” There’s more of course.

        One more from a cattle network site (no surprise again here) that “Despite gaining a lot of airtime and headlines from most of the national news media, the U.N. report also received a lot of criticism. . .”

        Ruminants’ “positive impact on the environment” is mentioned here, and much more on the methane/ livestock controversy. Lastly, another Salatin quote: “Soil is most efficaciously built, both today and historically, with herbivores, perennials, and predation.

        I found more, but for now I can’t dig into that grassfed vs. grain-fed assertion. Puzzling to me. But facts, I still believe in this case, can support either side of the argument, depending on which “facts” are used and by whom.

      • Doug Percival says:

        Carolyn wrote: “I still believe in this case, can support either side of the argument, depending on which ‘facts’ are used and by whom.”

        It is still not clear what “argument” you are referring to.

        The GHG emissions from livestock production are a major contributor to total global emissions, and methane is a major component of the GHG emissions attributable to livestock production. There is no real, science-based, data-based “argument” against either of those facts. The meat industry propaganda that you referenced certainly presents no such argument — it consists largely of obfuscation and simply repeating over and over that the UN report is “controversial”.

        The 2009 Mitloehner paper has been widely touted by the meat and dairy industry as refuting the FAO’s report. But Mitloehner did not, in fact, actually challenge the FAO’s comprehensive life-cycle analysis which found that total GHG emissions attributable to livestock production amount to 18 percent of total global GHG emissions. Mitloehner’s main criticism was that FAO had UNDER-estimated the emissions from the transport sector and therefore its claim that livestock emissions are comparable to those from the transport sector was an exaggeration. He also quibbles about which emissions should be attributed to which source. (Obviously there is some overlap since modern livestock production involves a LOT of transportation of feed, animals, processed meat, etc.)

        And in fact, even Mitloehner is on record agreeing that GHG emissions from livestock production are a problem and need to be reduced. Of course, as a career “animal science” academic with close ties to the meat and dairy industries, Mitloehner unsurprisingly opposes actually reducing meat and dairy CONSUMPTION to achieve those emissions reductions, which has led him to make some nonsensical claims, far outside his field of expertise, about the need to consume MORE meat and dairy to combat “world hunger”.

        Which leads to the OTHER argument that you may be talking about, which is about the extent to which GHG emissions from livestock production can be reduced, and about whether livestock grazing and rangeland management practices such as those advocated by Salatin could help to sequester CO2 in soils and biomass, so that livestock production can be more “sustainable”, or even a net reducer of atmospheric CO2.

        I think it is obvious that there are “best practices” and “worst practices” for raising livestock, and that consistent, widespread adoption of “best practices” could probably incrementally reduce the GHG emissions and other pollution produced by livestock production. But the suggestions that this is some sort of panacea, or even a “solution” to the global warming problem, have little foundation in science. And some of the proponents, like Salatin, have really discredited themselves by attacking vegetarian and vegan diets with outrageous, laughably false claims about their nutritional inadequacy.

        My view is that these arguments that “it will all be OK if everyone eats grass-fed beef” are irrelevant. First of all, the reality is that the global meat industry is moving in the OPPOSITE direction. Throughout the developing world, livestock producers are ABANDONING their traditional, small-scale, more sustainable practices and adopting the massively polluting, massively cruel, massively unhealthy industrial factory-farming practices of US agribusiness. And there is a good reason for that: it is the ONLY way to mass produce vast quantities of cheap meat.

        The reality is that Salatin-type methods — if they are going to be sustainable and environmentally benign as he claims — can only produce a small amount of quite expensive meat. It is simply not possible to produce the HUGE amount of meat that Americans consume, at a price that average people can afford, by grazing cattle on grass. Meat produced by those methods will be an expensive luxury for the few, not a staple food for the masses as it is now.

        So if that’s the future you envision, now is a good time to learn about vegan nutrition — because unless you are rich, Salatin-type beef will be something you nibble on as a snack once in a while, not “what’s for dinner”.

      • MT says:

        [If you disagree with any of the previous four statements please state your case.]

        For me it’s this one:

        [The organic segment of this business is just as culpable as the conventional segment in regards to producing greenhouse gases.]

        The organic segment is so recognizably puny that my suspicion is that the number of animals raised that way is not significantly different than the number that would exist in the wild (if instead they did). The reason I think this point is relevant is that the essence of this blog thread is the debated difference between a vegan v. non-vegan world. I am surmising that the vegan argument is not that cattle did not exist, but rather that they were not manipulated and subjugated. That is, they just lived and grazed on the land as cattle are wont to do (but note that this is just like they do on the best farms, perhaps in some situations with the sole addition of fencing for their safety).

        So, we could imagine them roaming the plains like the wild bison of yesteryear, before the arrival of Europeans. Wouldn’t they eat grass and pass gas, just like they do on the best modern organic farm? It is at this point that I cannot conceive of any net increase in carbon cost to the environment…Rather, since they are evolved to exist on this planet in this way, isn’t it that *by definition* such cattle cannot cause environmental “harm”?

      • Michael K says:

        By that logic you could say that driving a Hummer2 would not be bad for the environment because there are so few of them on the road.Iit would not matter that it burns gas and emits green house gases (GHG) at an alarming rate. But that would not make sense. We look at the miles per gallon of each car as well as the amount of miles driven. We need to look at the effect of each meat eaters beef (or dairy products from cattle) consumption in the same way. What is the GHG per pound that your beef emits and how much beef do you eat. That is the standard I am using. Clearly eating a few ounces of beef per month is a major step in the right direction and I applaud that. In that case, I would encourage that person to eat the organic grassfed beef (and organic dairy products.)

        My problem with MOMs selling their beef is that people shop there comfortable in their belief that nothing they buy will be a major harm to the environment. I have not demanded that Scott stop selling beef (or dairy products derived from cows) But Scott’s mission statement for his stores says the following :

        “We believe that education is vital to the success of our environmental initiatives. By offering new perspectives and explaining WHY it is important to take action and HOW it can be done, we can encourage others to action and join us as we work to find new ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and restore the environment.”

        So if after we do our research it turns out that I am right and Scott is wrong, the least he can do is begin to educate his clientele about the envronmental hazards of eating all beef, including the meat sold at MOMs. If on the other hand I am wrong, I will purchase $100 of organic beef per month from MOMs and donate it to a local soup kitchen.

        Unfortunately as of now, the research I have been able to find, supports the fact that pound for pound, organically grown grass fed beef contributes about the same amount (or possibly a little more) of the green house gases that are fueling global climate change. Scott wrote a post yesterday that cited 3 studies, one that purported to support my position and two that purported to support his position. I am working on researching these citations and will post what I find. My initial reading is that at least 1 of the 2 quotes that sound like they exonerate the type of meat sold at MOMs is a complete misreading of the study it cites and actually supports the opposite hypothesis – that organic grass fed beef pound for pound does push us closer to climate catastrophe as much as conventional beef does.

        Please note that I am not saying that there is no advantage to the environment in raising cattle organically as opposed to conventionally. I shop at MOMs because I want to support the organic agriculture movement. But global warming is by far the greatest current threat to the environment. So if part of the organic industry (and make no mistake about it, it is a multibillion dollar industry) Is found to be one of the major drivers of global warming, then as environmentalists we have an obligation to point that out, to educate our fellow citizens and most importantly to try to mitigate that effect. Does that sound like zealotry? Right now I am still in the learning phase. I am open to examining any relevant research and arguments. But the weight of the evidence that I have currently found indicts the organic beef industry as much as the conventional beef industry.

      • MT says:

        No, no. To me your analogy is really off-base and I don’t think addresses the point I am making at all. Let me try again.

        Whereas your mentioned Humvees are human created machines of the last few decades that are unnatural to the planet’s landscape (and except for the limited military use for which they were designed are obviously completely superfluous, ergo serve no useful purpose on the planet), ungulate-ruminants have been around for eons, evolving completely devoid of human will to be perfectly suited to life on this planet, and live so *by definition* in symbiotic harmony with all other non-“intelligent” (I guess read “manipulative”) creatures.

        Consider there were perhaps 40-50 million (maybe more?) wild bison roaming NA before European arrival, yet the sun still rose every morning. Surely even as strong as the organic market has gotten compared to say 20 years ago, it is still an infinitesimally small percentage of this number (does any know what it is?, 1/5th of 1%, maybe?–just a guess). So my point is that while managing a very few of these animals on an organic farm may be against vegan sensibilities, I don’t think it can also be effectively argued that it is damaging to the environment in any meaningful way–these animals belong on the planet–that’s how they evolved into existence…

        However, the commercial industry is a completely different story. There are several billions of animals, I believe, that are maintained for food production worldwide (I suspect only a very few are family pets). The excessive volume, cramped organization, and phony feeding techniques must contribute none of the benefits that the animals are meant to convey to the planet–it ruins the natural cycle. It is this unnatural rearing that is the environmental problem.

        So while the vegan argument may be that rearing animals at all for food is ethically wrong, I am not persuaded that organic farming of them is an *environmental* problem. Quite the opposite rather, I would suggest. Suppose for instance that the vegan worldview got its way and animal food production ceased to exist tomorrow. What would become of some of these species? Some may survive on their own, but because of the artificial landscape that humans have produced, it may be that without the healthy management of herds by farmers, some of the species would themselves cease to exist tomorrow, and that would be a shame of its own.

      • Michael K says:

        BTW the methane output of today’s domesticated ruminants is almost 20% higher than the wild ruminants that roamed North America before the Europeans arrived. That may not seem that much, but remember at the time there was no industrial civilization. Today the output of cars and powerplants is added to the methane produced by our domesticated ruminants and the result is runaway global warming.

      • Michael K says:

        MT, what i am saying is that the population of domestic cattle, is not here naturally. There is an active breeding program to maintain a large population of these animals for the sole purpose of feeding us the products of their flesh and milk. In the unlikely event that everyone in the world was to switch to a vegan diet, these animals would be slaughtered. Of course that would be their fate regardless of whether or not people want to eat their bodies and/or the milk from their bodies. The difference would be that the massive breeding program for these animals would end and their population would drastically drop. This would result in a huge decrease in greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

        Instead we are faced with the task changing one person or family at a time. Each person who stops buying animal products incrementally reduces the demand for these animals and slowly their population will decrease.

        One could argue that one person or family’s choice to go vegan would have an insignificant effect on this process. But if you believe that then you must also believe that one person’s choice to go organic would be insignificant, as well as one person’s choice to ride a bicycle. I hope that is not the attitude of anyone on this blog. The sum total of millions of aware citizens can have an impact in many ways.

        Not only that, but a person, such as Scott, can leverage his informed decisions into a higher impact than most of us. If he makes the decision to inform his customer base that the meat he sells has both negative as well as, positive effects on the environment, he can make a huge difference.

      • MT says:

        Agree. That’s what I’m saying also, that the billions strong of the industrial food industry is utterly unnatural.

        I propose a Grand Bargain that ties all the main topics together, and that as a place to start provides a compromise that gives everyone something they would like, and comes back around to the original theme of the thread (“zealotry”, in case anyone has forgotten).

        Imagine that we could:
        -eliminate the entire industrial food production trade/”farms” (leaving behind only the organic)

        …which would lead to:
        -perhaps $100/pound meat (where it was available at all), instead of the basically $1/pound it is today

        …which should cause:
        -people to eat far, far less of it (0.25oz/meal instead of 6oz ?)

        …the outcome of which yields:
        -much less animal suffering
        -extraordinary GHG reduction (w/ positively negligible future carbon impact from organics)
        -much better human population health and therefore reduced societal cost

        *I suggest that anyone of the vegan contingent who cannot agree that the above would be a worthwhile compromise to pursue is a hopeless zealot whose efforts otherwise will never amount to anything except hurting the cause they claim to champion.

      • Scott says:

        Hi Michael. Please forward all information you’ve got- it’s always good to have as much info as possible. I’ll take a look at it- and I also have someone here digging in on it as well.

        That being said, even if the carbon emissions turn out to be same with organic grass fed beef (which I’ll bet there’s data which contradicts whatever info you have), there are many other environmental factors that make organic products better for the environment (mostly, the lack of toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones used, of which would normally leech into our waterways). MOM’s Purpose is “to protect and restore the environment.” Global warming is a big part of that- albeit, the biggest, but there are many other environmental issues that we care about.

        Also, none of this covers the health aspect of why organic and grass fed beef are better- with the lack of hormones and antibiotics and chemical carcinogens that are normally found in conventionally produced beef.

        You’ve taken on what is probably an impossible task of convincing me to stop selling organic and grass fed beef, using the case that what we sell is as bad for the environment as what Giant and Safeway and Walmart sells. The reason why it’s an impossible feat, is because (I strongly believe) your premise is not true.

        As a staunch environmentalist, how do I personally reconcile eating meat? For starters, I am allergic to legumes and all nuts except for almonds. So, I can’t eat any soybeans or beans. I feel like living on whole grains and fruits and vegetables might not be nutritionally sufficient for me. Also, I never order meat out at restaurants. I do cook meat at home, but I only bring home the meats that are leftover at our stores when we receive new shipments (and to the potential shock of dinner guests, this applies to them too!)- so I’m not adding to the demand for meats. I mostly eat sustainable seafood.

        I don’t like that meat is generally consumed- or at least consumed to the massive and unbalanced extent that it is in the country. I get that it’s bad for the environment (relative to plants) no matter how organic and grass fed it is. But what we sell is BETTER than what is being sold in the conventional markets- and it’s important for us to offer it to those who seek progress, not perfection.

      • Michael K says:

        Is the buying and selling of organically grown, grass fed beef and dairy products in contradiction with the mission to forestall the global warming/climate change crisis?

        You said in an earlier post “what we sell is BETTER than what is being sold in the conventional markets.” No one disagrees with you, we all know that it is better for the environment not to use hormones and pesticides.

        But from the information that I have been able to glean, the beef that you buy and sell is no better (and possibly worse) in its contribution to the greenhouse effect which is creating the greatest environmental crisis in human history. If I am right in that assessment, then we all must do what we can to minimize (note that I did not say ban) the consumption of all beef and dairy products, regardless of whether or not it is organic.

        As an analogy, what would think of a transportation store, My Organic Transport, that sold bicycles and electric cars. But they also sold organic Hummers that belched out green house gases at an alarming rate. But these Hummers were produced in a solar factory. And the body of these Hummers was built with a soy product, similar to the one that Henry Ford experimented with 100 years ago. These were the most environmentally friendly Hummers ever built. But they still had atrocious gas consumption and CO2 from these cars poured into the atmosphere.
        On the MOTs store’s website it proclaimed its mission:

        We believe that the destruction of our environment and climate change are the biggest problems facing humankind today. We believe that through leading by example we can have the biggest impact to protect and restore the environment.

        Yes, the Hummers are helping t0 reduce the destruction of the environment a bit. But at same time they are rampimg up our march toward catastrophic climate change. The owner of the store points out that some people really need a Hummer, such as a doctor who needs to go to work at a hospital during a snow storm. But he also knows that 99% of the purchasers of organic Hummers, do not really need them. Not only that, but because they are buying a car at My Organic Transport, they believe it cannot be harmful to the environment.

        Scott, I trust that you are joining me in a good faith search for the truth. We must be open to following the facts, regardless of whether we are happy with where they lead. If the facts lead us to finding that the grassfed beef that you sell makes a significantly smaller contribution to bringing about climate change than conventional beef, I will purchase and donate $100 worth of organic beef at MOMs and donate it to a local soup kitchen. I will do that once a month for a year.

        I say that despite having been a vegetarian since 1976. Eighteen months ago my granddaughter was born. That is when I switched to a vegan diet. My concern about what Climate Change will mean for her future prompted me to action.

        I will be happy if the facts prove my fears unwarranted. But what will you do if the facts prove you to be wrong? Will you continue to sell beef that is a major contributor to our Climate Crisis? There are some people like you, whose allergies prevent them from eating both legumes and nuts. There are certainly other people who have other medical conditions that require them to eat meat. I grant you that you can make a case for providing these people a more environmentally friendly kind of meat. But you must admit, that the vast majority of those people who purchase meat from you do not need it and certainly could do well to drastically reduce their beef consumption. So assuming that you will continue to sell beef, will you inform your customers of any negative environmental consequences that we may discover?

        The way you have conducted your business for 25 years has earned you the well deserved trust of your customers. I would venture to guess that fewer than one in a thousand of the people who buy grassfed beef at your stores even consider the possibility that the meat that you sell, might be a major contributor to pouring Green House Gases into our atmosphere. Will you educate your customers about the negative consequences of eating beef, whether conventional or grassfed?

        I will end with a quote from your mission statement

        We believe that education is vital to the success of our environmental initiatives. By offering new perspectives and explaining why it is important to take action and how it can be done, we can encourage others to action and join us as we work to find new ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and restore the environment.

      • Linda says:

        The cow/methane=global warming argument is somewhat of a red herring. We gotta have the cow and his friends. They’ve been on the Earth for a loooooong time (~ 2 million years) and they’re critical components of our ecosystem — part of the foundation of how soil builds through herbivore pruning and disturbance-rest cycles, solar-grown biomass and decomposition. We have serious serious soil depletion issues that need immediate fixing and we need the cow and his friends to help us. Do you know how valuable manure is? Gold pales by comparison.

        But we have a huge man-made global warming issue. Oh, did I say “Man made” – get it? Not “cow-made.” What can each us humankind do to resolve it? It does lie in our individual hands. One might say it’s a grass roots issue, not a grass fed issue.

        So yes, fix the aspects of animal husbandry that do not work (see Salatin and WAPF sites for many supremely viable approaches). But if we’re truly concerned about methane emissions/production and other major contributors to global warming, here’s a quiz. If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you can be sure Mrs. Cow and Mr. Bull are not happy you’re blaming things on them.

        __ Yes __ No. I heat and/or air condition my home with natural gas.
        __ Yes __ No. I work in an office building that heats and/or air conditions with natural gas.
        __ Yes __ No. I get electricity from a company that uses natural gas.
        __ Yes __ No. I drive a car that uses natural gas or petroleum.
        __ Yes __ No. I ride a bus that uses natural gas or petroleum.
        __ Yes __ No. I shop in shopping malls, liquor stores, convenience stores.
        __ Yes __ No. I buy and use plastic in any of its infinite expressions.
        __ Yes __ No. I use any petroleum products in their infinite expressions.
        __ Yes __ No. I use a garbage disposal.
        __ Yes __ No. I put biodegradable items out with the garbage, which goes to a landfill or dump.
        __ Yes __ No. I use electronic devices throughout the day or at any point during the day.
        __ Yes __ No. I eat grains or anything with grains in it.
        __ Yes __ No. I would like to plant a tree but I haven’t done it in a year or so. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I planted a tree.
        __ Yes __ No. I use hot water in my dishwasher.
        __ Yes __ No. I take nice hot showers.
        The list is endless.

        What I’d like to say overall to vegans, vegetarians, meat-eaters, fish eaters, fast-food eaters, and no-food eaters everywhere: thank god we each have whatever freedom we do to put into our own mouths that which we want. How basic is this freedom! It is for no one to take from me the right, the privilege, the honor and the choice to eat what I want and what I feel I need.

        And besides, anyone who is trying to control another person is really trying to control their own self. So rather than you focusing on what I do with my own body (anti-abortionists and zealots everywhere, listen-up): GO DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR BODY, AND I WILL DO WHAT I WANT TO WITH MY BODY.

        The Rolling Stones said it well: “Hey, you – get off of my cloud.”

        • Overview of Greenhouse Gases:
        • Methane Background Information:
        • Joel Salatin responds to New York Times’ ‘Myth of Sustainable Meat’:

      • Doug Percival says:

        Linda wrote: “The cow/methane=global warming argument is somewhat of a red herring. We gotta have the cow and his friends. They’ve been on the Earth for a loooooong time (~ 2 million years) and they’re critical components of our ecosystem”.

        I suggest that you read the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization study “Livestock’s Long Shadow” which analyzes the TOTAL greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production to better inform yourself about this issue. Methane emitted by cattle themselves is, in fact, a significant contributor to anthropogenic global warming. And it is, of course, only part of the enormous greenhouse gas emissions attributable to livestock production.

        Moreover, the raising of billions of cattle worldwide, increasingly fed massive amounts of GMO corn and soy (which is the ONLY profitable way to mass produce vast amounts of cheap meat), is completely UNLIKE the natural role of ruminant animals in natural ecosystems.

        Modern livestock production is one of the world’s largest sources of air and water pollution. It is not a “critical component of ecosystems”, it is a MASS DESTROYER of ecosystems.

      • Michael K says:

        Linda I think your list of what we can do with our lives to decrease global warming is great and i encourage everyone to read it. But some of your other statements do not survive the test of scrutiny. For instance you say that the domestic cattle industry “is a critical part of our ecosystem.” i challenge you to find a single reputable source that makes the case that our ecosystem would be worse off if the domesticated cattle vanished from the face of the earth.

        I looked at the three links you listed at the end of your post to find out what facts you were using to back up what you wrote. In two of them I could not find anything that was relevant. I did find something interesting in the Joel Saladin article. He stated that 95% of methane that is released into the atmosphere comes from natural wetlands. If that was true then I would have to admit that everything I have been thinking about the cattle industry’s contribution to global warming was wrong. But he did not mention any source for his fact. I went to his website and but he does not list an email, but he does list a phone number. I tried to call but only got a recording. i will try again, but in the meantime I did some independent research and I came across this website from NASA

        The pie chart shows wetlands to contribute closer to 20% than rather than 95%. Joel Salatin is an awesome farmer and he has a lot of interesting things to say. But on this issue, I have to go with NASA and the Department of Energy Technology Laboratory, at least until I can talk to Joel Salatin and he can convince me otherwise.

        Finally, Linda, as much as i love the Rolling Stones, I have to take exception to your use of that quote. I agree that you should have the freedom to do what you want, but only so far as it does not harm others. When people are doing something that endangers my granddaughter’s future, we have an issue and I will not be quiet about it. Right now global warming is the biggest danger to her future and the more I look into the issue the more I am convinced that the entire cattle industry, (and that includes the organic segment) is a major contributor.

        So lets minimize our use of cars, air-conditioners and do everything else on your list that will lower our carbon footprint. But let’s add one more thing to that list. Even if we do not go vegan, let’s minimize our consumption of meat and dairy products.

      • Doug Percival says:

        Michael K wrote to Linda: “I agree that you should have the freedom to do what you want, but only so far as it does not harm others.”

        It is impossible to eat meat without harming others — namely, the animals who are killed so that their bodies, a.k.a. “meat”, can be eaten.

        Of course, as I wrote in a previous reply to Linda, some people just don’t care about harming “others” as long as those “others” are members of a different species, a species that our culture categorizes as a “food animal”. Then, those “others” can be regarded as inanimate “things”, rather than sentient, thinking, feeling fellow beings with lives of their own, which makes it “OK” to harm them.

        It is remarkable to me how many meat-eaters, when confronted with the plain, simple facts about the suffering of billions of animals raised and slaughtered for food, will either (1) cover their ears and pretend they can’t hear it, or (2) deny that animals suffer, or (3) proclaim that it is “god’s will” or some such thing, or (4) attack the messenger as a “zealot” who is trying to “control what they eat”, just for simply telling them the facts.

        What they rarely do is to tell the simple truth: “Yeah, I know that animals suffer, but I really just don’t care.”

      • Linda says:

        Some rules of engagement for civil discussion: no goading and innuendo, and ideally no black and white summations. We live in a multidimensional world of 7 billion viewpoints. Let’s respect that.

      • Linda says:

        oooo Michael K – I sure as hoot did NOT say that the domestic cattle industry is a critical part of our ecosystem. Come on now, that would be goofy, as I’m down, big-time down on industry. What I said was “…the cow and his friends [have] been on the Earth for a loooooong time…and they’re critical components of our ecosystem.” BIG DIFFERENCE.

        Just needed to point that out, that is, We Need The COW; We Do Not Need the INDUSTRY. The industry, as is, should be dispensed with, wiped clean, no good, bad juju, terrible suffering and I don’t mean this lightly. CAFOs are one of the saddest things on earth. The industry as a whole is one of the lowest, lowest. (I hope you heard that, Doug).

        Re the Rolling Stones and your perceptions of “harming others,” I won’t quibble with your particular definition of what/who constitutes “others.” But I can say that “others” to you may not be “others” to others. For example, not only animals have consciousness. Plants, too, have consciousness. Rocks, in my opinion, even have consciousness. All energy in the Universe is expanding consciousness. Plants also have “emotions,” crazy as that may sound but they are energy that’s receptive to energy and they react to it (plenty of books on plant-human interaction). Okay I’m generalizing – please don’t tear this apart point by point.

        My point is that the animals and the plants and the rocks, unlike humans, are pure positive energy. They know their place in the scheme of life — life that lives upon life that lives upon life that lives upon life that lives upon life — on and on and on into infinity.

        Some day we will be evolved enough in our human form and consciousness that our bodies will not need or seek or yearn for or hunger for animals for sustenance. Clearly we are not yet there because, well, we have 6.5 billion meat eaters (heck I don’t know how many there are, but obviously veggies and vegans are not in the majority).

        That said, it is good that we consider the possibilities, and I appreciate that you and Doug and others are doing this! But certainly it is a basic human right to let people eat what they want to eat. I’m not going to budge on this point. It is simply not right for you to tell me what’s right for me to eat. I’m human, doggonit. I’ll eat what I want to eat, given the power and the opportunity and the money and other resources.

        In our modern world, though, having enough power/opportunity/$/resources is not easy with the crazy laws that make local and small farmers into criminals; that make many inner city people into trans-fatties for lack of viable food options; that take science and sell it for profit at the profound expense of our health. “Food-like substances” are what billions of people are subjected to, and toxic chemicals, etc. All abominations.

        But I believe we can evolve to higher levels in body, mind and spirit, and I appreciate that you, too, are striving for this, like everyone is who’s working to create positive change.

        But if we really want to create positive change, we can’t shove our principles down someone else’s throat like goose farmers making foie gras. Who’s abusing whom here? I’m ready to hear the rationalizations, but I won’t digest them easily.

        So for today, here and now, in this intense world where my strength and my grounding are imperative, I ask for the grace of my creator and the grace of whatever I consume to help me expand my consciousness and live another day.

        So please forgive me if I offend your principles, but I am doing what feels right to me now. I ask that others respect this and not try to wrangle me to the ground with their principles. That is the very definition of zealotry.

        And that is how this whole discussion started. We must must must respect each other. We can’t destroy in order to build. We can’t fight in order to resolve. It just doesn’t work. It’s an ego trap that leads nowhere for anyone.

        Ironically, perhaps, herewith I convey my thoughts in an effort to convince you of their merits. I hope I’m not wrangling.

        How to bring about change in our food system? Think peace. And please pass the bread and butter at this table we share.

      • Scott says:

        Beef Magazine agrees with you, Michael- that factory farming is better for the environment, they claim due to the efficiencies of growth hormones and cramming the animals into tighter spaces (uses less land)…

        There is also this article from NIH which states: “Raising cattle for beef organically on grass, in contrast to fattening confined cattle on concentrated feed, may emit 40% less GHGs and consume 85% less energy than conventionally produced beef.”

        Another article [] says this:

        C. Organic and Pasture-Based Livestock Management

        The methane emissions generated by livestock digestive processes and manure management account for approximately half of California agriculture’s GHG emissions, which makes this sector an important one to understand. Livestock-related emissions come from a combination of gases emitted directly from the animals (enteric fermentation), from manure management, and from the emissions associated with the feed, energy and water use during production.

        Sustainable management of rangelands — which cover half of the total land area of California27 — can be an effective tool for carbon sequestration and GHG emission reductions. Cattle grazing can increase above ground productivity of vegetation and species richness, which is frequently correlated with increased carbon in the soil29. Grazing has also been found to increase the rate of soil carbon sequestration30,31. In a study modeling the impacts of various dairy and beef management practices it was estimated that intensive grazing and rotation through paddocks increased carbon sequestration by 10 percent, and increased to 15 to 30 percent when combined with improved production efficiency and no-till feed production.

        Livestock grazed on high quality forage or a diet containing plants typically found in pastures may emit less enteric methane. Studies comparing the energy inputs required for different livestock management systems also suggest that conventional feedlot livestock require twice as much fossil fuel energy compared to grass-fed livestock due in large part to the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used to produce the feed crops.”

    • June says:

      Doug, you still think the word “murdered” is wrong to describe a young turkey who has a family structure and social relationships, who is raised in a box, fed garbage, and has her head chopped off? What do you call that?

  2. Doug Percival says:

    One thing I would add is that the only reason that “free range” and so-called “humanely produced” poultry products exist is because of the demand for such products from people who are concerned about the well-being of animals.

    And many of those people, even those like the Humane Society of the United States, who do not promote completely vegetarian diets and simply advocate better conditions and treatment of animals raised for food, have been called “zealots” and “unreasonable” by the factory farming industry — for nothing more “extreme” than advocating larger cages.

    Meanwhile, there remain concerns about whether such labels as “free range” or “humanely raised” have any real meaning when it comes to animal welfare. Unlike USDA Certified Organic, which has a precise, documented meaning, and is subject to verification and regulation, the terms “free range” and “humanely raised” have no regulated legal meaning. Investigations of some “free range” poultry facilities have found truly horrific conditions, both in terms of animal welfare as well as sanitation & health.

    Since M.O.M. is in a position to know something about the conditions in which animals are raised and slaughtered by your suppliers, perhaps a helpful response to the email you received would be to provide some information about the actual conditions of animals at those specific facilities. This might be done in a blog post here, or an article on your website or newsletter. This might not satisfy the most “zealous” vegans among your customers, but it would at least acknowledge their concerns, and it would reassure all of your customers who care about the welfare of farmed animals that M.O.M. is seeking to differentiate itself from those other stores in that regard.

  3. Carolyn Ericksen Hill says:

    No question that the Rockville example is more egregious than that of the current emailer, but on a continuum, both examples are actions: language has been thought an action since ancient times, and words matter. The writer’s actions might be thought milder than the lawbreaker’s, but zealotry grounds both in their obvious enthusiasm for the rightness (righteousness?) of the vegetarian cause. DP minimizes the use of the word “murder,” for example, but that use’s meaning of deep wrongness in our culture is NOT respectful to a non-vegetarian, nor are the comparisons with MOM and Giant and Safeway respectful. Yes, DP has a good idea about thinking through the differences between the food uses. But one good start for those opposed to meat-eating could be Lierre Keith’s Vegetarian Myth. Meat-eaters themselves have plenty of healthy and ethical rationales that send them to the likes of MOM; vegetarians need not believe their own choices are rightfully best for all

  4. Barb Aunchman says:

    I think it’d be wise to leave the your political views out of the conversation.

  5. Dave says:

    Producing meat is horribly damaging to the environment. It can take several pounds of grain to feed an animal to produce one pound of meat. It takes lots of petroleum to grow all that grain. It also takes huge amounts of water, so much so that experts are worried that the Ogallala Aquifer will not be able to irrigate crops for much longer. Livestock produce huge amounts of feces. The whole process is so wasteful and unsustanable that China is having difficulty meeting the demand for meat in their country. Smithfield Ham is now owned by the Chinese.

    It’s really disingenuous to claim you are being environmentally responsible when you are selling a product that can only be considered a wasteful, unsustainable luxury for the richest people in the world.

    • MT says:

      I think your comments in this particular conversation are a bit out of place to say the least. The cycle really can be pure. The earth obviously is meant to work this way and it could. Modern petroleum products of course are meant rather not to have been dug up but instead remained a carbon sink. That is agreed.

      But the sorts of products these stores retail tend to be pasture raised, the way the animals are designed to exist–it doesn’t take grain to do that. Ergo, it doesn’t take petroleum. Even if there is an organic producer that chooses to unnaturally grain feed, the feed would still be organic, which also does not involve petroleum. Waste of naturally raised animals is a perfectly good fertilizer on its own. The cycle really can be pure, and sustainable, even with meat.

      Like it or not, the biological fact is that humans are omnivores. As such, perfectly normal people will have a perfectly normal drive to consume meat. That in itself is not a problem. One big problem, I think rather, is that in modernity the world’s most developed nations have a preposterously skewed conception of how much meat constitutes a suitable portion for a meal and how many meals require it over the course of a week. As you imply, this turns it into a luxury for others. Amongst other changes, if food were not wasted in this way, I suspect that producing it would neither be unsustainable nor only a luxury for the few.

      • Doug Percival says:

        MT wrote: “Like it or not, the biological fact is that humans are omnivores.”

        Humans are behavioral omnivores — which is simply to acknowledge that yes, we can observe that in fact, some humans do eat meat, dairy and eggs.

        However, humans are anatomically and physiologically herbivores. Our digestive systems, from our teeth and jaws and the chemical content of our saliva, right on through our stomachs and intestines, are like those of our closest biological relatives, the other Great Apes — all of whom are herbivorous, and in some cases fruitarian — and completely UNLIKE the digestive systems of true omnivores like dogs and bears, and even less like those of obligate carnivores like cats.

        This, of course, is the reason that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that consuming anything more than VERY tiny amounts of meat on a regular basis causes serious health problems, up to and including cancer and heart disease. Our bodies have simply not evolved to metabolize meat (let alone dairy, which is not consumed by ANY other animal after weaning, nor does any other animal consume the mother’s milk of a different species).

        Moreover, there is no actual need in human nutrition to consume animal products. All the nutrients needed for optimal nutrition, health and strength are plentifully available from non-animal sources.

      • MT says:

        With degrees in biology and animal science, I neither have the energy nor feel the need to make a debate of the topic. Though others, laypeople or not, want to make it a discussion, I am not aware of any credible scientist that would agree with the suggestion against the omnivorousness of the hominids. Some monkeys may approximate fruitivores, but all apes (including humans) are decidedly omnivores, whether that is eating insects or, gruesomely, other apes. Having said that, it is the case that the others are largely vegetarian, which I agree humans would do better to emulate. For the other apes it’s a matter of convenience–far easier to pluck a stationary nut from a branch than to hunt a living creature that either bites, stings, or refuses to stay in the same place.

        In developing further my earlier point, and along with Scott’s point about the issue being best viewed as a “process”, and along with yours about quantity, the current and solvable problem is the ridiculous quantity of meat that modern humans consume in the developed world. This is in large measure because it has been made so easy as plucking instead an already processed package from the supermarket shelf. And to tack on to your other post about cost, and as I alluded to myself earlier, the whole concept of producing meat cheaply for the masses to afford is another big part of the problem. If all meat were produced the responsible more costly way it should, people would in theory eat a lot less of it, like they should. As it is, the natural ape model has been turned upside down–it is no longer inconvenient or labor intensive for people to procure animal meat for their meals.

        Also, humans are perfectly well-evolved to eat meat anatomically and physiologically, because we are in fact omnivores. The reason the stereotyped cave-dwelling humanoid of old is portrayed in cartoons as carrying a spear is because there is in fact truth to that. I would contend the difference that you are alluding to is that those early humans did not live long enough to contract heart disease or cancer from their meat eating prowess, not because they or we are not designed to eat it. Naturally, I agree that modern people are statistically more likely to live healthier longer if their plate was more like 90% veg/fruit/unprocessed grain and at most 10% animal based protein rather than what seems like the current rate of 50/50. Better still would be whole meals that were 100% vegetarian with only a handful a week with the 10% meat added for those for whom it is pleasurable (and I cannot stress this point enough, naturally so). But as per Scott’s point, education is a process.

      • Eva says:

        Great comment, MT.

      • Michael K says:

        Rather than focus on what we disagree about, I would like to focus on agreement. Humans are capable of thriving on a vegan/vegetarian diet, with possibly minor supplementation.

        In our society our the percentage of our diets that is based on the consumption of animal products is not only unhealthy nutritionally but also unhealthy for the planet.

        I wonder how many customers at Mom’s (who tend to be more environmentally aware then your average consumer) understand the link between the use of farm animals and the release of green house gases? If they did, would you agree that most Mom’s customers might lower the percentage of animals products they consume? That is all I am arguing for – education.

      • MT says:

        I expect that they do know more than that average consumer, but I’m equally sure we could all know more than we do–the proverbial ‘never stop learning’ thing. The ‘process’ Scott refers to does resonate with me because I recognize that has been my own path and that of my own family. I didn’t get any of this as a child, but discovered and changed on my own as an adult (and now my super-conventional conservative parents intentionally shop for organic things from time to time where they live [central VA, so they don’t have MOM’s yet]). So we’re teaching them–go figure.

        Though my family is not vegan or currently considering trying to be, we have curbed our intake for all the reasons you describe–long-term personal health being no small part of that. I suspect ancient humans ate as much meat as they could get, and it was fine because they probably died by their 30’s from a run-in with a fox or a stick that left them with a fairly superficial infection that today we would nix with a $3 bottle of bubble-gum flavored amoxicillin. Now that modern science/medicine knows that if you live into your 50’s or 60’s with that sort diet it will have created substantial otherwise unrealized problems like heart dz and cancer (like mentioned somewhere else in this thread), there is no doubt in my mind that the wisest people are eating the least animal products over the long-run. I guess basically we all want to be retired, healthy and wealthy in our 80’s so we can go hang gliding with our grand-kids or whatever we fancy, and the best way to short circuit those expectations, it seems to me, is with frequent 16 ouncers at the strip-mall steakhouse with a side of butter-sopped mashed potatoes (meanwhile the busser scrapes the token, steamed broccoli into the garbage).

        It frustrates me to know that I pay more in healthcare premiums in order to cover the insurer’s expense for my neighbor’s (diet-preventable) quintuple bypass, which is on top of the quadruple s/he had the year before. I definitely prefer to believe that a MOM’s typical customer is contributing less to that problem (and environmental degradation in general) than the typical consumer elsewhere.

    • Scott says:

      Dave- with this statement, you are Exhibit A of the black and white thinking of a zealot…

      “It’s really disingenuous to claim you are being environmentally responsible when you are selling a product that can only be considered a wasteful, unsustainable luxury for the richest people in the world.”

      You are claiming that we are not an environmentally responsible company. Really? Please let me know of any other retailer (or company) who is more environmental than MOM’s is.

      I’ve already made my point in the original post, but I’ll post it again- this is a process, not an event. Let’s assume that our meat isn’t as eco-friendly as veggies and fruits: The meat we sell is better for the environment than what is sold at 99% of other grocery stores. Our meat is mostly local and grass fed. There is no factory farming of our meats.

      Part of the process that one takes when becoming an environmentalist is moving from factory fed, non-organic meats to grass fed, pastured, local meats. You abort that process with your accusations that anyone who eats any kind of meat (or sells it) can’t claim to be environmentally responsible.

      I drive an electric car. Do you? Hmmm- is it disingenuous for you to claim yourself an environmentally responsible person unless you do?

      • Doug Percival says:

        Scott wrote: “Part of the process that one takes when becoming an environmentalist is moving from factory fed, non-organic meats to grass fed, pastured, local meats.”

        With all due respect, Scott, please speak for yourself. That may be the process that SOME take.

        But for many of us — including myself and the MANY other vegans and vegetarians who regularly shop at MOM’s — the process is to simply stop consuming meat at all and eat a 100 percent plant-based diet. Vegetarian diets have been recognized as an environmentally responsible choice at least since France Moore Lappe wrote “Diet For A Small Planet” over 40 years ago!

        I suggest that if we were to engage in a respectful, fact-based, impartial comparison, we would find that in terms of environmental impacts, it is indeed better to eat meat from local, organic, “naturally” raised animals rather than from factory-farmed animals — but it is even better still to abstain entirely from meat and eat an entirely plant-based diet (with a comparable environmental standard of organic, local, etc). I won’t attempt that comparison here for lack of space — after all, whole books have been written about that.

        As you know I have shopped at your various Rockville stores for decades, beginning back when the PETA office was just down the road and us vegan animal rights people were a big part of your early customer base. As a vegan for 25 years (and lacto-ovo vegetarian for 14 years before that), I have ALWAYS been and continue to be grateful that MOM’s is there, with a great supply and selection of all the fresh produce, whole grains, legumes and plant-based foods that make up a healthy vegan diet. I honestly cannot think of any store in the DC area that better serves vegans and vegetarians than MOM’s.

        I also recognize that MOM’s customer base also includes those who choose to eat animal products, and I respect your right to decide, for business reasons or personal choice or both, to provide meat, eggs, dairy for those customers in whatever way, and from whatever sources, you feel will minimize the negative environmental impacts of those products.

        I still think that it would be better for the environment, for your customers’ health, and for animal welfare if you were to stop selling animal products, and proactively promote and encourage plant-based diets with the same “zeal” that you have shown in eliminating bottled water and educating your customers on that issue (which as you know was not a popular move with some of your customers, including me).

        Nonetheless, I am certain that you are acting in good faith and that you are genuinely trying to reduce the harm caused by consumption of animal products in accordance with your views on the matter.

        So, I won’t be badgering you or harassing you or sabotaging the meat cooler in the store! I’ll just continue to grimace and quietly grunt “yuck” to myself as I walk from the produce section through the meat section to the rest of the store … and maybe post a zealously reasonable comment here once in a while …


      • Doug Percival says:

        Dave wrote: “… a product that can only be considered a wasteful, unsustainable luxury for the richest people in the world …”

        Scott wrote: “I drive an electric car. Do you?”

        Um, Scott, speaking of “luxury” items for “rich people”, not everyone can afford to buy a Tesla. Or even a Nissan Leaf.

        So, some of us who are every bit as concerned as you are about the air pollution from our tailpipes but can’t afford to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars for an EV just try to drive less, or walk and take the bus when possible, and drive as fuel-efficient a car as we can afford.

        There is a reason that the whole factory-farm system exists: because that is the only way to produce huge quantities of cheap meat for mass consumption. That’s why NINE BILLION animals every year in the USA alone are kept in confinement, fed GMO corn and soybeans, given antibiotics and all the rest, before their short miserable lives end in slaughter — because that is the only PROFITABLE way to produce such vast amounts of meat at a price that ordinary consumers can afford.

        And that’s why the kind of local, grass-fed, pasture-fed, organically produced meat that MOM’s sells is drastically more expensive than “conventional” meat — and why only much smaller quantities of it are available. If you are going to raise animals for meat “responsibly”, then there is going to be a lot less of it, and it is going to cost more. Which means that it will, indeed, increasingly be a “luxury” item.

        For people with a limited food budget who want to reduce the negative environmental impacts (and negative animal welfare impacts) of their diet, it is a lot cheaper and easier to go vegan and eat beans (even organic beans) than it is to buy boutique grass-fed beef.

  6. I would add that Mom’s has taken great effort to buy food products, including meat/dairy, from sustainable local farms. In so doing, they foster greater connection with the manner in which food is grown/raised and they promote a healthy ag based economy.

    As to whether meat/poultry/dairy can be raised sustainably… I have seen extraordinary advances, on local farms, in the growing practices that benefit not only the animals but the health of the land. Matt Rales of Grassessentials perennial grass based livestock in Montgomery County is a great example. New, healthy soil and healthy animals from Matt’s growing techniques that work with natural systems are really going to make a huge difference not only environmentally but also nutritionally.

    Caroline Taylor
    Montgomery Countryside Alliance

    • Michael K says:

      Carol, I hope you read my post about the effects of raising cattle on grass as opposed to grain. I understand the benefits of this method, but my initial research indicates that it actually increases the amount of methane produced in a cows stomachs and in doing so is hurtling us even faster towards a climate change catastrophe.

  7. Scott says:

    Hi Doug. As always, I appreciate your civil demeanor- and your passion.

    DP- “With all due respect, Scott, please speak for yourself. That may be the process that SOME take. But for many of us — including myself and the MANY other vegans and vegetarians who regularly shop at MOM’s — the process is to simply stop consuming meat at all and eat a 100 percent plant-based diet.”

    I understand that. People have different processes and journeys towards becoming more environmental- I don’t dispute that at all. But the difference between me and Dave is that I’m not judging or criticizing anyone’s process- and yet those of us who go slower get SEVERELY judged and criticized by the zealots of the movement. I actually respect those who go 100% vegan all the sudden- takes quite a bit of discipline and determination.

    Check out this email that I received (from “animal lover”) just yesterday through our website for a prime example of such rigid and judgmental thinking…

    “You claim to be organic and planet friendly… Well, start paying your employees a living wage and STOP SELLING DEAD ANIMALS! YOU ARE SIMPLY GREEN WASH!”

    btw- nobody at MOM’s makes less than $10 per hour.

    DP- “Um, Scott, speaking of “luxury” items for “rich people”, not everyone can afford to buy a Tesla. Or even a Nissan Leaf.”

    Yes- I know. I was being facetious. My point is that it’s silly to use single litmus tests to render a “guilty” verdict, as the animal rights zealots often do. I think people who drive gas cars can be completely dedicated to protecting and restoring the environment.

    So MOM’s sells mostly organic, free range, and local meats. Our Naked Lunch concept is completely vegetarian. We are the most environmental retail chain in the US. And yet we are the target of many hostile animal rights advocates.

  8. Michael K says:

    Scott, I have engaged you in an email discussion about what I believe is a conflict between your stated goal of saving the environment and the sale of animal products. I am curious if you label me a zealot. I have never argued that you should not sell animal products, although I would be pleased if you decided to make that decision. I have proposed that you try to educate your customers about the link between our livestock production and dairy production and carbon emmisions. You countered with a claim that the meat and dairy products that you sell contribute significantly less to greenhouse gas emmisions than conventional products. I said I had never heard that and that I would research that point. (unfortunately my mother had and health crisis in August and passed away a few weeks ago, so I have delayed my reasearch)

    If you consider me to be a zealot on the basis of the emails that I sent you, I would question your judgement. But the tone of your comments in this thread would lead readers to believe that anyone who has been engaging you on this topic is a zealot. Not only is that wrong, but it also ignores an important point that a businessman such as yourself must know. The people that go to the trouble of filing a complaint with a store are not representative of your customer base. Most people do not take the trouble to write or call if something bothers them. Those who do will usually be disproportionately extreme in theier views. So it would be surprising if the emails and feedback that you receive on this subject would not trend to the extreme. By holding them out as an representative example of all of us who question the wisdom of offering anibmal products for sale, regardless of our reasons, I believe you are engaging in the rhetorical use of a “strawman” arguement. The overwhelming majority of your vegetarian and vegan customers are not zealots and our views should not be dismissed as zealotry.

    PS I will soon begin to do the research I promised you.

    And kudos for not paying anyone less than $10 per hour. I do not know how that compares to other natural food stores, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

    • Scott says:

      Hello Michael K.! I’m really glad that you commented on this blog.

      As I wrote this blog post, I almost went back and dug up our correspondence as an example of reasonable discourse on the topic. It would’ve been too much to read, so I didn’t do it- but I almost just cut and pasted our entire conversation as the the sole content of the post.

      I don’t view you as a zealot one bit. You are a shining example of someone with passion, but who is willing to be open, curious, nonjudgmental, and civil. In my mind, you left an impression- a gold standard if you will- of a “reasonable animal rights activist”.

  9. Doug Percival says:

    For the record, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “zealot” as follows:

    “A person who has very strong feelings about something (such as religion or politics) and who wants other people to have those feelings”

    Based on that definition, who among us has not been a “zealot” at one time or another?

    Scott, I would suggest that your stance regarding bottled water makes you a “zealot” on that subject — and I don’t mean that as a criticism, but as praise.

    • Scott says:

      Doug- the difference is that I’m not walking around strongly judging and condemning those who drink bottled water. I’m not accusing them of green washing, being disingenuous or a hypocrite. I’m not telling them they’re “raping” the land (or “murdering”). And I’m not drawing irrational non-sequitor assumptions that they’re immoral in other ways (like not paying a living wage).

      Drinking bottled water isn’t good for the environment, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who drinks bottled water isn’t passionate about the environment. Like the sign says: “Perfection- population 0”.

  10. Catherine Turner says:

    Scott, you remind me of my dear late husband (also named Scott) who would invite Jehovah’s Witnesses in to the livingroom to argue with them.
    Please just keep the area’s (perhaps the country’s or the world’s) only genuinely socially responsible grocery chain going for those of us sensible enough to be grateful for it. The Ralph Nader reference is spot on.

  11. steve says:

    Scott, first off great post. This is YOUR blog and you can express whatever opinion you want. I can relate to your experiences with zealots to some extent. I remember first trying to go vegetarian about ten years ago. I had gotten out of a serious relationship with a girl at the time and wasn’t in the best place, mentally at least. Some friends suggested I go out and get something to eat with them, to just get out of the house some. They thought it might do me good. One friend’s wife, a good, well-meaning person, mind you, always had very strong opinions and wasn’t afraid to use them on folks without thinking first. She was also newly vegan. I recall ordering a plate of shrimp, after swearing off beef, pork and poultry. It was an attempt in my transitional phase from carnivore to vegetarian. Without hesitation she let the hammer fall, saying how harmful it is to dolphins, the oceans, etc. It made me even more miserable. Do you think it also convinced me to go veg? heck no, so out of (immature, but human) spite I ordered up another plate and let it sit. I had since gone veg, then vegan, and back to some meat here and there in my diet in the past ten years. I think it was Eckhart Tolle who wrote about the futility of creating an “us vs them” scenario in trying to win over hearts and minds for a certain cause. It’s human nature to push back, which zealots don’t seem to get, no matter what their beliefs or views may be. As in the case with personal diets, not everyone is the same – human biology is a complicated thing. I can write a whole post on how my wife got bloodwork done by a very knowledgeable naturopath after experiencing some chronic health issues, especially after cutting back on meats and taking plenty of supplements. She was advised to consume red meat on occasion, and it has made a huge difference. I advise folks to be more open-minded, patient and tolerant when it comes to these matters – this is the only way we as humans will get anywhere with anything.

  12. R says:

    I’m seeing a lot of negativity in the comments, so I’m just gonna leave something a bit nicer here: Everything discussed in your post is why I’m proud to work for you, Scott. Thank you for your outlook and the store.

  13. Scott says:

    This just in…

    “Your purpose is to protect and restore the environment? By selling dead corpses who lived miserably on land that should’ve been used for produce? So people can die of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer? Is that how you’re restoring and protecting the earth?

    • Caroline says:

      Perhaps some that are commenting do not realize that a number of our local producers are growing our food humanely. A number of area farms have garnered this certification:

      It is correct that we as consumers should press businesses to sell products that represent respect for our Earth and fellow creatures. Painting farming operations with a broad brush as cruel and abusive is simply incorrect.

      Caroline Taylor

      • Doug Percival says:

        Caroline Taylor wrote: “Perhaps some that are commenting do not realize that a number of our local producers are growing our food humanely. A number of area farms have garnered this certification …”

        Two comments.

        First, as I am sure you are aware, many of us disagree that the completely unnecessary killing of intelligent, emotional, sensitive animals like turkeys so that human beings can enjoy the taste of their flesh can be considered “humane”, regardless of the conditions in which the animals were raised. I’m not asking you to agree with that view, but let’s not pretend that it doesn’t exist, or that it is a view embraced only by “zealots”. There are millions of ethical vegetarians and vegans in America.

        Second, the “Certified Humane” label that you linked to (run by an independent nonprofit organization, Humane Farm Animal Care) — like the stronger “Animal Welfare Approved” labeling program run by the Animal Welfare Institute (which the Humane Society of the USA calls “the highest animal welfare standards of any third-party auditing program”) — does, at least, address some customer concerns about animal welfare.

        Which leads me to ask why Scott did not mention those programs in his original blog post, or in any of his subsequent comments, since they do directly address the issue of animal welfare — which the discussion of “sustainability” of meat production does not?

        So here’s a question for Scott:

        Would it be “reasonable” to ask that MOM undertake to identify the strongest currently existing certification program for “humanely raised” animal products, and then commit to selling ONLY animal products that obtain that certification?

  14. Doug Percival says:

    Drew wrote: “Scott should consider being grateful that his zealot customers express their concerns via private email, instead of a public boycott.”

    I am already expressing my concerns through a “public boycott” which I have been carrying out for the last 20 years or so.

    I publicly boycott the meat, dairy and eggs that M.O.M. sells every week, when I very “publicly” DON’T BUY THEM.

    Sometimes, I even wear a “Vegan” T-shirt in the store when I walk past the meat, dairy and eggs and DON’T BUY THEM. Just so people will know that I’m a fanatical zealot.

    I guess the question I would have for those who would boycott M.O.M. completely because the store sells meat, dairy and eggs, is where exactly ARE you going to buy groceries?

    Because I am not aware of any grocery stores in the DC area that are 100 percent vegan. Whereas M.O.M. probably has the best prices and best quality and best selection of vegan products of any store in the area.

  15. Doug Percival says:

    The one suggestion I would have for Scott about all of this, is to engage the ethical, animal welfare concerns of the customers directly and forthrightly, and to recognize them as legitimate concerns, and not as in and of themselves necessarily “extreme” or “unreasonable” or the mark of a “zealot”.

    A lot of the discussion on this thread has been about the environmental impacts of producing meat, dairy and eggs. As far as that goes, I think anyone who has studied that issue at all is well aware that industrial-scale, “conventional” livestock production a.k.a. “factory farming” has huge negative environmental impacts.

    And Scott has responded to that concern directly, with the argument that the local and/or organic and/or “sustainable” producers from which M.O.M. buys its meat, dairy and eggs are better in that respect. And in the case of USDA certified organic animal products, there is a well-defined, well-regulated, legal standard that we can refer to (although this is not the case with “sustainable” claims).

    But what about animal welfare concerns? Some of the animal products sold at M.O.M. are marketed as “humanely raised”. Yet there is no well-defined, regulated standard for “humane” as there is for “organic”. So “humanely raised” may mean anything — or nothing. And in fact, investigations of “cage free” and “free range” chicken farms have exposed many of them as just as horrific as conventional chicken farms.

    So, what if anything can M.O.M. tell customers about how the animals whose flesh, milk and eggs are sold in the store were actually treated? Especially those marketed as “humanely” produced? Does M.O.M. actually look into the conditions in which the animal are raised, how they are treated, how they are slaughtered? Or does M.O.M. simply rely on the marketing statements of the suppliers?

    Does M.O.M. in fact give ANY weight to animal welfare issues, as it clearly does to environmental issues? Does M.O.M. regard animal welfare as a legitimate customer concern, that merits a substantive response including accurate and verified information about exactly how its suppliers treat animals raised for food?

  16. Chantal says:

    To echo the words of too few people here, (and as a vegan and long-time customer myself) thank you for the work you do and for the ethics that you guys uphold in the store. I actually find it exemplary and could only dream to have the Safeways, Giants, and Whole Foods of the world follow in your footsteps!

    To anyone’s comments on MOM’s stance on animal welfare, some of the moments that actually strengthened my loyalty to MOM’s was when I noticed how attentive they are in the details. A couple years back, my husband was looking for a specific product that was stocked there (can’t remember what it was anymore). When he couldn’t find it and asked where it was, the sales rep told him that they were no longer carrying it because they found out the company used practices that weren’t dolphin-friendly or sustainable in some sort of similar way. We were so impressed that MOM’s had been proactive like that. Similar occurrence have repeatedly happened. We’ve only ever found MOM’s to be helpful, knowledgeable, and willing to answer these types of questions if you just ask and treat the kindly rather than attack.

  17. Doug Percival says:

    This is a follow-up to my previous reply to a post from Caroline Taylor, who mentioned that “a number of our local producers” have earned the “Certified Humane” label, by meeting the animal welfare standards of the nonprofit organization, Humane Farm Animal Care.

    It seems to me that Scott was particularly irked when the person who emailed him wrote that by selling meat, MOM’s is “the same as” or “no different from” other stores, including Whole Foods.

    As it happens, Whole Foods has in fact partnered with a nonprofit organization, the Global Animal Partnership, “to certify our producers’ animal welfare practices”. According to the Whole Foods website, the company has “rolled out their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards in every Whole Foods Market store in the United States and Canada”.

    Those standards are documented both on the Whole Foods website and on the Global Animal Partnership website, so consumers can clearly see exactly what they are. The Global Animal Partnership’s board of directors includes representatives from the Humane Society of the USA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and Compassion in World Farming.

    By publicly and formally committing to the implementation of documented animal welfare standards for its suppliers, it would seem that Whole Foods has gone a step further than MOM has yet done to address the animal welfare concerns of its customers.

    So I would like to present this as a respectful challenge to Scott, by reiterating my previous question:

    Would it be “reasonable” to ask that MOM go at least as far as Whole Foods has done, and undertake to identify the strongest currently existing certification program for “humanely raised” animal products, and then commit to selling ONLY animal products that obtain that certification?

  18. Neva says:

    I was unaware of this post until it was published on the Washington Post website. I have been a huge supporter of MOM for many years. And I spend a lot of money there weekly. Also my husband and I have often said we’d rather pay a little more for a product we can order on Amazon for less if we’re supporting a local business (MOM) in the process.

    I’ve written to you before to express my gratitude for your wonderful, kind, caring employees, and I probably haven’t done that often enough.

    I’m also a long-time vegan. I’ve walked past the huge sign urging people to order their Thanksgiving turkeys and I’ve wondered why you didn’t also urge them to order the gardein alternatives, or even have a sampling of the wonderful vegan products out there. Even my meat-eating mother acknowledges that vegan foods are better for the environment and the animals.

    After reading this and some of your comments here I have to wonder if I’m welcome in your stores. Do you think no vegans and vegetarians shop there or do you simply not care if you alienate us by calling us zealots.

    You cite one criminal vandalism incident 20 years ago and an email, if not precisely polite, it was also not really rude, and then say this is why you simply don’t care about animals or people who care about animals? I’ve been in your store and seen people raving about you shouldn’t sell wheat because it’s poison or making fun of organic products and your employees rightly just politely brush them off and go about their business. You don’t suddenly say all people follow a gluten free diet are zealots or nuts.

    I’m so disappointed. I know longer feel welcome in a local business I loved up until today.

    • Scott says:

      Neva- I’m baffled as to how you’ve come to the conclusion that I think all vegans are zealots.

      Vegans who claim we’re “no different at all from Safeway and Giant”, or that we are “disingenuous” to claim we are environmental, or that our “motto is hypocritical and we destroy and devour the environment”, or that since we sell meat we must be immoral in other ways in that we “don’t pay a living wage”, or that we are “simply greenwash”… These are all comments made above from people who are without question unreasonable zealots. And let’s not forget the zealots who vandalized my store.

      Most of the vegans I know are reasonable activists. As a vegan yourself, I would think you would agree that the zealots hurt the very cause for which you’re passionate.

      • Neva says:

        Ok, I’ll let you know why I drew the conclusion I did. Very simply you don’t say anywhere in your post “Most of the vegans I know are reasonable activists” but zealots hurt their cause. Nowhere do you say “I’ve spoken to many who are concerned about the treatment of farmed animals and I respect their views.” If I wrote a post about store owners and cited two examples of money-grubbing bullies who were unkind to their employees and nowhere said “I know of many store owners who foster a kind working environment and pay their workers a living wage” you might conclude I’m painting all store owners with the same brush.

        The second reason I felt that way was this: “I used to have a soft spot for the animal rights movement, but this incident and repeated emails like the one above have pretty much taken the issue off my radar in terms of support.” This pretty clearly implies that most, if not all of your interactions with animal rights activists have been so negative that you don’t even care about the message any longer.

        The thing is that aside from an occasional t-shirt I wear while shopping at your store, or if you paid particular attention to the vegan products I put on the belt, or if you happened to run into me when I was passing out leaflets about the cruelty to animals in the circus, you might never id me as either a vegan or an activist. I imagine it’s that way with many of your vegan customers, they don’t call it to your attention and so they are invisible. But I’m still a customer in your stores, I’ve still really supported your stores and bragged to people about how great it is to have a nearby MOM to shop in, and I’m still very concerned about animals issues and wish MOM would do more to promote vegan foods.

        I agree that doing something so destructive as destroying items in your store and causing a potentially unhealthy situation for you, your workers and your customers does nothing to help animals, is hurtful and damaging, and doesn’t cast a good light on the whole message. But just because some anti-war protestors do something stupid or wrong, we don’t ignore their entire message as a result. As for the email above, I can see why it’s hurtful to you, but I just can’t put it in the same category as vandalism. I’ve been vegan for 19 years, and involved in many other social causes too, from environmentalism to prison reform to feminism. There seems to be a consistent pattern that when people first become aware of something they become so emotional that they speak a little to loudly and harshly at times. Someone might run around the community picnic scolding people for using plastic water bottles and holding up pictures of rivers clogged with trash. Someone else might over-react and shout a little when someone around them refers to a grown woman as a girl. It’s not productive, I agree, but it does come from an honest place and it’s not meant to be cruel or punishing. They are overwhelmed with the injustices they have just learned about and haven’t found a way yet to regulate their emotions about it. Sometimes the best response if we can manage it, is to be respectful and make them feel heard. I don’t blame you for feeling slighted by the comparison, I guess I just see the message in a different light.

      • June says:

        What is a reasonable activist?

  19. PaulW says:

    My wife and I are vegans who have been spending $200 a week at your stores for over a decade. It’s good to finally learn what you think of us. Go to hell.

    • PaulW says:

      Incidentally, your blog post calls to mind James Laveck’s essay about the strategy you seem to be following, set forth by agri-business insiders:
      “1) Isolate the radicals
      2) “Cultivate” the idealists and “educate” them into becoming “realists”
      3) Co-opt the opportunists into agreeing with industry.”
      At the time, there was criticism for the likes of John Mackey (Whole Foods CEO), referenced in the essay. I had somehow imagined MOM as being better than Whole Foods. I guess not.

  20. Mary Finelli says:

    People should not be misled into believing that meat, milk or eggs can be humanely produced on a commercial basis. Those industries are inherently inhumane. See, for example:

    Very disappointing and illogical commentary from the owner of what has been my favorite grocery store.

    • I remain perplexed and a bit sorrowful as to why some are not acknowledging farmers who care to do better. I appreciate the individual choice to eat or not eat foods for whatever reason. I do not judge nor hope not to be judged. Here is a Thanksgiving sentiment from one of our area producers that might help folks know that all producers are not horrible and abusive but indeed stewards and compassionate, albeit with a different opinion from some of what constitutes the human animal’s diet:

      “I am thankful for waking up every morning and being able to do what I love. I’m thankful for a supportive family. I’m thankful for the blue sky and crisp air. I’m thankful that my body still responds to my call, most of the time. I’m thankful for the sheer joy my pigs express when it is feeding time, talk about a welcoming committee! I’m thankful for my land, all the wonders it holds and for all it tries to teach me. I am thankful for the people who are part of the community that we are preserving. Most of all, I am just thankful. I wish you all joy and happiness this holiday season.”

      Happy Thanksgiving to all of us – regardless of how we make our meal.

      Caroline Taylor

      • PaulW says:

        [I remain perplexed and a bit sorrowful as to why some are not acknowledging farmers who care to do better.]

        I suppose it’s because some of us object to the exploitation and killing of animals, even when you put a pretty bow on it. I will celebrate “humane” killing no sooner than I will celebrate “humane” rape.

        I never really expected MOM to be all vegan, though I was a bit disappointed when I saw the sign in front about ordering turkeys, with no suggestion of a compassionate alternative (apparently, it’s OK to say “Eat a turkey,” but saying “Eat vegan” makes one a zealot). I just did not expect a kick in the gut from the owner of MOM, who seems to be saying, “I’m rich now, thanks to you and others like you, now sod off.” I did the math and realized I’ve spent over $100,000.00 at MOM, and have recommended MOM to so many people. So much for appreciation from the now-rich owner to the base that helped him get there.

  21. Doug Percival says:

    PaulW wrote: “I had somehow imagined MOM as being better than Whole Foods. I guess not.”

    MOM is drastically better than Whole Foods — in most ways. When it comes to addressing the animal welfare concerns of customers, however, Whole Foods may in fact be better than MOM.

    As I mentioned in a comment here yesterday, Whole Foods has partnered with a nonprofit organization, the Global Animal Partnership, to certify that all of WF’s suppliers of meat, dairy and eggs are in compliance with that organization’s “5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards”, which are documented on the WF website so that customers can clearly see exactly what they are.

    I don’t see anything similar on the MOM website. The MOM’s Mission Statement page makes no mention of animal welfare — whereas the Whole Foods Mission & Values page prominently features animal welfare as a “core value”.

    And while Scott has devoted a blog article to denouncing vegans as “zealots”, the Whole Foods blog has an article entitled “A Vegan Thanksgiving Feast” that offers recipes and tips for preparing vegan versions of classic holiday favorites.

    I wonder whether the attitude of the writer whose email prompted Scott’s blog post would have been different, if the MOM’s advert promoting turkey sales had also featured a vegan alternative?

    • Scott says:

      Doug- your posts are thoughtful and civil, but you’ve made an erroneous (and unfair) assumption that I think all vegans are zealots.

      Too many certifications are gimmicks. And whole foods’ internal ratings are too disingenuous in my opinion. They labelled all of their seafood as red (endangered), yellow (threatened), and green (sustainable)- yet continued selling endangered seafood for years and still continue to sell mostly threatened species.

      They’ve done similar gimmicky rstings on the GMO issue- their “goal” of labeling all GMOs by 2018 is like a squirrel taking credit for evolution. That train is already rolling, being pushed more by companies like MOM’s than whole foods (and mostly consumer driven, btw)- but they’ve attempted to jump atop the engine and take credit for steering it.

      And now they’re about to roll out a rating system for their produce, yet I’m sure they’ll keep selling mostly chemically farmed produce.

      We’ll see how their “humanely raised” ratings turn out, though. Maybe they’ll do a good job with it, since John Mackey is a vegan himself. I wouldn’t be surprised at all though, if after researching the issue, MOM’s is doing a better job ensuring that our meats are humanely raised.

      We don’t do ratings of our products because our customers are different than Whole Foods’ customers. Our customers are far more educated on these issues- they’re more dedicated. They trust us and rightfully so- we’ve earned their trust through our actions, not marketing statements and ratings systems.

  22. Doug Percival says:

    Here’s a “thought experiment” for Scott.

    Suppose, hypothetically, that you decided that MOM should undertake a new Company-Wide Initiative, similar to “Think Outside the Bag” or “Stop the Stuff” or “Plastic Surgery”, to ensure that ALL the meat, dairy, eggs and other animal products sold at MOM’s are produced according to the highest possible, CERTIFIED animal welfare standard available (there are several such standards some of which have been mentioned in earlier comments here).

    Moreover, as part of that Initiative, MOM would not only strive to respond to customers who are already concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food, but to educate all of the store’s customers about the issue — similar to the educational efforts (e.g. in-store videos) that went into the “Plastic Surgery” initiative.

    IF you were going to do that, how would you go about it? What would it take?

    • Scott says:

      I believe that every animal product we sell is humanely raised. Ayrshire, our largest supplier of meat (and not available at whole foods) is certified humanely raised. I think they were the first in the country to become certified, but I’ll need to confirm that.

      Doug- I will dig deeper on the issue and at a minimum confirm that first statement. The humanely raised certification process is still in its infancy. Our purveyors are often very small operations and the certification doesn’t seem to be on farmers’ radars much just yet- and I’m not sure how valid/consistent the actual certification process is.

      Similarly, we had to do a ton of research with the sustainable seafood certification process/issue and we still need to remain diligent in our research for every seafood item we bring in, as sustainable certification is also early in its evolution (but further along than humanely raised certification).

      All that being said, I need to get more clarification on all of this and much of what I’ve said is more than a hunch, but I still need to confirm. I have tasked our grocery department with reporting to me on these issues and they will when everyone gets back to work next week.

      It’s terrible the way the conventional meat industry operates and treats animals. Making any creature unnecessarily suffer is wrong. However, as evidenced in the comments here, on our Facebook post, and in the Washington post article, the zealots of the movement aren’t interested in progress. They will only accept “perfection” and to them, anyone who eats meat, no matter how it’s raised, is The Enemy and inevitably becomes the target of their anger.

      • Doug Percival says:

        Hi Scott,

        You wrote: “I need to get more clarification on all of this and much of what I’ve said is more than a hunch, but I still need to confirm. I have tasked our grocery department with reporting to me on these issues and they will when everyone gets back to work next week.”

        I think that is a terrific response to this whole thing. There is an opportunity for MOM to become a real leader on this issue, both in implementing the best available practices to ensure that your suppliers treat animals raised for food as “humanely” as possible, AND in informing your customers about those practices, and about the limitations of existing certification programs.

        I am old enough to remember the time before USDA organic certification existed, and there were a variety of independent, and sometimes inconsistent, certification organizations, and organic certification had some of the same problems that you describe with “sustainable” seafood or “humanely raised” meat certifications. And it took a long effort by the organic community to get the USDA standard in place, and to make sure that it was strong, and to keep it that way.

        You also wrote: “Making any creature unnecessarily suffer is wrong. However, as evidenced in the comments here, on our Facebook post, and in the Washington post article, the zealots of the movement aren’t interested in progress. They will only accept “perfection” and to them, anyone who eats meat, no matter how it’s raised, is The Enemy and inevitably becomes the target of their anger.”

        Let me be clear about my own view:

        I am absolutely one of those “zealots” who is opposed to KILLING any animal for food, and I agree with the other “zealots” that there is no way that KILLING an animal for food can be considered “humane”. That’s why I became a vegetarian almost 40 years ago.

        Moreover, I believe that producing eggs and dairy products, in anything like the quantity that present-day Americans consume them, involves some degree of inevitable and inescapable cruelty, which arises from the necessity of keeping large numbers of animals in confinement (not to mention “disposal” of the male offspring of “laying hens” or dairy cows). That’s why I became a vegan 25 years ago.

        Moreover, I recognize that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that a vegan diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes provides the optimal nutrition needed for superior health, strength and longevity, and that there is NO need whatsoever in human nutrition for ANY food of animal origin, and that indeed consuming anything more than VERY small amounts of animal foods contributes to serious health problems, including the epidemics of chronic and degenerative disease that impose so much suffering and such enormous costs on our society.

        So when you write “making any creature unnecessarily suffer is wrong”, I absolutely agree. Where we disagree is about what is “unnecessary”. Since there IS NO NECESSITY to consume ANY animal product, then ANY suffering inflicted on an animal — including killing it — is “unnecessary” and therefore, “wrong”.

        That’s why I will always be a vegan and will always advocate vegan diets.

        Having said that, I also recognize that for the foreseeable future, BILLIONS of animals (over 9 billion per year in the USA alone) will in fact be raised and slaughtered so that humans can eat their flesh, milk and eggs. So as long as that is going on, I also feel it is important and necessary to do whatever can be done to lessen the suffering and relieve the misery of those animals.

        And that basically involves two things: first, eliminating the WORST practices, ideally through legislation, as well as through boycotts of the companies who engage in them; and second, through promoting the adoption of the BEST practices, which is where certification programs and the leadership of companies like MOM can play an important role.

      • Scott says:

        Doug- I don’t believe that just because someone thinks killing animals for food is wrong, that that makes him/her a zealot (although, I don’t agree with that belief). A zealot to me is someone who sees no compromise or acknowledges ANY progress- or that progress logically comes before “perfection.” They believe in this case that if you eat animals, you are wrong (and evil?) no matter how humanely the animal is treated during its lifetime. A zealot simply sees NO difference- you’re either 100% with them or you must be 100% against them. Just look at the numerous comments…

        Because we sell meat, any meat (no matter how humanely raised)- and because I make the case that to most effectively change the world, it’s more important to seek progress than perfection, I am called a hypocrite and someone who can’t possibly care about the environment. I am accused of not paying a living wage (what a nutty accusation!), that now that I’m “rich” I don’t care about what vegans think, that all vegans are zealots and unwanted in my stores, that MOM’s policies on the meat we sell is exactly the same as Safeway’s and Giant’s, etc. And apparently, that it’s ok to vandalize my stores (I am sure you know of the person who did it- he is now a prominent figure in the animal rights movement).

        These people are irrational, angry, and sometimes hostile. Every serious movement has such zealots, no matter how noble the cause. I am certain that if they weren’t a part of the animal rights movement, the movement would be further along than it is.

      • June says:

        You actually believe that every animal product you sell is humanely raised?
        What planet are you living on? Have you asked the cows how they feel about their young being stolen from them on their first day of life? Have you asked them if they enjoy being raped so they can continue to produce milk for their entire life? Seriously?
        Let me know what the cows and goats think about that, ok?

      • MT says:

        I don’t think you can rightly make that charge when you can’t produce the answer either. For that matter, what do the plants in your salad think about being pulled out by the root and chopped up into bits and covered in a half-vinegar solution before you grind them into oblivion? I mean, vinegar stings…

      • June says:

        Let me guess, M.T….You’re an 8th grade bully, because I can see you have no ability to empathize with non-human beings. Yes I can certainly produce evidence of this. There are books written on the subject of the emotional lives of animals and there are thousands of online videos of mother cows who, after giving birth, have their young carted off in a wheelbarrow to be slaughtered for veal, while the mother is now at the peak of her milk production, so she is once again hooked up, having her milk stolen for humans instead of her own young. There are videos of these mother cows running after the farmer who is stealing her young. She’s crying and then she spends weeks in a mourning period, like any other animal who loses her young. Animals who are untouched by humans have their own social structure, communication, family relationships, etc. They do not exist so humans can suck on their milk and eat their flesh.

  23. Carolyn says:

    Doug and Paul W: Could you please re-read Scott’s original blog? He is not calling all vegans zealots; there is more subtlety to his argument.

    • PaulW says:

      He seems to have a low requirement for the word zealot. Such as people who write in and suggest promotion of vegan food (or voted for Ralph Nader, gasp). He’s taken the issue of “animal rights” off of his radar, written off the whole movement apparently after getting a pro-vegan email. It’s not zealotry to have a sign out front *promoting” the consumption of turkey; but it is zealotry to suggest the opposite. What makes the sign in front of the store — effectively marketing and advocating the killing of turkeys — not zealotry, but it is zealotry to ask him to instead market vegan foods for Thanksgiving?

      See, Scott sets the standard — consumption of turkeys — as the norm. Contradict that, you’re a zealot. Why not instead imagine a world where there’s a sign in front of MOM that promotes a vegan roast, and the person who suggests he instead promote turkey slaughter is the zealot?

      I think I’m getting the message quite clearly.

      • MT says:

        Maybe this is the right time to bring the discussion back around to the actual original message, which was education. Maybe you could educate some of the others of us on what “vegan roast” is, for example, so people can make their own more informed assessment of how reasonable it seems…?

      • MT says:

        I wouldn’t make light of the Ralph Nader thing. Despite a few goofy twists of logic from some, the mathematics speak for themselves, and it is essentially axiomatic that without the volume of votes he garnered that year (still a senselessly paltry < 3%) Bush v. Gore would have gone the other way.

        The original post is about how education is a process, not an event. Ergo, voting for Nader is block-headed stupidity: deliberately failing at something in order to make a forgettable ideological point is foolish at best and hopeless zealotry at worst.

        Emphasis on forgettable. The early colonial settlers standing up to the British: that worked; voting for Nader: forgettable. But no one can forget the status quo governmental style of that decade the block-headedness yielded. Least of all will we be able to forget after the ocean rise causes the earth to break free of its orbit or something and go hurtling helplessly toward the sun. Personally, I would hope to die of heart disease or cancer from too many bacon and egg breakfasts before that happens…

      • PaulW says:

        [Maybe you could educate some of the others of us on what “vegan roast” is]

        Sure. My favorite is the Gardein holiday roast, in a smaller version as the stuffed turk’y. I even posted it to my Facebook status, and told people locally they could get it at MOM. That was before I knew the owner of MOM said he’d already made enough money off of vegans and rather they now get lost. There are other brands as well (Tofurkey and Field Roast to name 2).
        I agree with the original emailer who said that MOM, as a retailer, ought to be featuring this information more prominently. They have a huge sign about ordering turkeys, why not offer some vegan alternatives. I did not write that email, but I share the sentiment that MOM could have done a better job of featuring vegan alternatives for Thanksgiving. They are in a better position than I am to get the word out to their customers, don’t you think? If that emailer was a zealot, then so am I, and based on discussions with vegans I know, the consensus is we are pretty angry about Scott’s blog and rejection of animal rights, now that he made his fortune due in part to our previously overwhelming support of his stores.

      • MT says:

        Is there a way to make that stuff normally in one’s own kitchen. My initial and considerable concern is how processed it all seems to be. I mean, stuff made in a food lab and shipped in a box certainly isn’t by definition better or healthier than anything else, quite the opposite actually–especially all the data pointing at processed soy these days.

        If it has to be produced that unnaturally, doesn’t that say something against the whole premise of veganess? (I don’t know if that last one counts as a word)

      • R says:

        [I agree with the original emailer who said that MOM, as a retailer, ought to be featuring this information more prominently. They have a huge sign about ordering turkeys, why not offer some vegan alternatives. ]
        We’ve been sampling vegan roasts at customer service all week, as well as vegan pies, and today we had a vegan pumpkin pudding.

      • PaulW says:

        [If it has to be produced that unnaturally, doesn’t that say something against the whole premise of veganess?]
        Being vegan has a moral component. It doesn’t offend that morality if something is processed or not. You asked about a vegan roast, so I told you. You can choose to eat something else if you like, made of whole, fresh foods. I generally try to do that as well, but if someone is looking for a quick and easy mock-option for the turkey, they are available.

      • MT says:

        Ok, so I appreciate the moral component. What is your take on the sometimes apparent scientific component? Earlier there was discussion on this–not the modern medical aspect, which I think is certainly settled against high quantity consumption of animal products, but rather the sense that consumption is somehow biologically erroneous. I have the most difficult time being persuaded of this latter aspect. Maybe you would say it is not really prominent overall?

      • PaulW says:

        [We’ve been sampling vegan roasts at customer service all week, as well as vegan pies, and today we had a vegan pumpkin pudding.]
        That wasn’t exactly Scott’s response was it? It was get lost, vegan zealots, I’ve already made enough money off of you. (And again, he did not directly call all vegans zealots, but given how low he sets the bar, and that many of us share the sentiment of the email that MOM ought to promote vegan foods in lieu of more turkey consumption, that yes we do expect more of MOM than we expect of Safeway when it comes to veganism, well that makes a whole lot of us “zealots.”)

      • Neva says:

        MT said
        “Is there a way to make that stuff normally in one’s own kitchen. My initial and considerable concern is how processed it all seems to be.”

        I became vegan before many of the meat-imitation products became so widely available and I feel like I ate quite well and many of the things I ate were extremely healthy whole food based recipes. One thing I made quite a bit were “Chickpea Croquettes” from the UPC (United Poultry Concerns) cookbook “Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey.” They are tasty little chickpea balls made with pure tahini, brown rice, fresh herbs, garlic and onions and wheat germ. They were always one of my favorites for holidays and taste surprisingly like turkey and stuffing, though the texture is different. Put those together with a big green salad, some organic green beans and oven-roasted winter squash and sweet potatoes and you have an amazing holiday meal, and far healthier for you, for the animals, and for the environment than the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and creamy green bean casserole.

        Sometimes eating a “greener” diet means adjusting some expectations, like a big chunk of meat dominating your plate at every meal. However a lot of people like to remember holidays with things that look, taste, and have a similar texture to their old favorites. I believe the gardein is made with both wheat and soy using age-old Chinese techniques for creating protein-rich vegetarian foods. There’s nothing chemical or GMO about it.

        Actually I always admired that Scott refused to carry many vegetarian meat and dairy analogs that contained unhealthy ingredients. I believe any vegan food you buy at MOM will meet the same standards they apply to other foods.

      • MT says:

        [Chickpea Croquettes: chickpea balls made with pure tahini, brown rice, fresh herbs, garlic and onions and wheat germ]

        This does sound good. So instead of classic potato croquette, I’m envisioning this, it would be cooking the chick peas from scratch and then processing them basically into a paste (taking place of potato) to hold everything together? We eat other beans/lentils from scratch regularly, but have typically avoided chick peas b/c they always seem so dense, even after cooking. But mashing them up as a base to carry other things…ok, duh. Now I get it—basically exactly what hummus is! Sorry, having an epiphany here. Yes, we can totally do this.

        Is the wheatgerm in it or just out, like a crust. Does it bake to finish?

      • PaulW says:

        [whether consumption is somehow biologically erroneous.]
        For me it’s irrelevant. It’s easier on the environment. I can be healthy as a vegan (more than 20 years now). It’s kinder to the animals. I don’t really need more than that.

        An omnivorous diet may be biologically appropriate, though not as meat-centric as we tend to be in developed nations. But as a general rule, a well-planned vegan diet is exceptionally healthy. It is becoming more of a challenge, as veganism gets easier, it becomes easier to eat the same processed junk that everyone else is eating. But if one cares to do it right, it’s as healthy as it gets.

      • Neva says:

        MT, yes, you mash the chickpeas to whatever extent you like. I like them a bit chunky, but you could blend them smooth. You add tahini and your seasonings and whatever vegggies or herbs you like in them, add some veggie broth to thin if needed, whole grain bread crumbs to thicken if needed and then shape them into balls and roll in wheat germ for the crust. Delicious. I make a veggie gravy to go with them–mushroom gravy is excellent with them but then so is carmelized onion gravy.

      • Neva says:

        Sorry, doing this off the top of my head, I forgot to say there’s brown rice mixed in and you bake at 350. Not having luck finding a link to the recipe either… Sigh

  24. Shocked says:

    @PaulW – did you just compare eating animal products with rape?? That is appalling.

    • MT says:

      Exactly. I suppose this is part of the definition of zealotry–that blinded by their conviction that only they can be right, the zealot is then too closed-minded to recognize their own absurdity?…

      • PaulW says:

        I am saying that you cannot justify cruelty or exploitation by believing there’s a way to do it humanely. It’s a fiction. For some people, you’ll never be able to comprehend why “humane meat” is an impossibility. It may help to draw an analogy so some violation against a human, to put it on terms you can comprehend. You can accept or reject the analogy, but it’s perfectly valid. That you reject it as zealotry, or even a majority of humans do (who generally have a vested interest in rejecting it) does not make it invalid.

        I am not going to temper my words just because it may upset you. i’d rather say something true that you will reject than tell you a lie you will accept.

      • MT says:

        Naturally you’d have to define things like “exploitation” in order to make any feasible point about this. So, if for instance raising a pig in a nice friendly paddock and petting and loving on it everyday until its time has come is “exploitation”, then what is hunting a wild one down in the woods with a pointy stick that leads to a long tortured death the way it might otherwise be done and certainly was done for millenia?

        And if everything having to do with anything is “exploitation” by vegan reckoning, then doesn’t it invalidate the whole concept and movement? I mean, the world works the way it works and has worked for eons upon eons–lions eat gazelles (or whatever it is they eat), bears eat fish, frogs eat flies, fungi eat everything (including the frame of my basement recently, which was an “exploitation” to the tune of several thousand dollars to fix).

        More and more it seems to me that the whole vegan sensibility is flawed. It is one thing to have a personal conviction of that persuasion, which would be fine, but is it not completely ego-maniacal to believe that one’s own convictions supersede the basic circular functioning of our universe as all empirical data and observational experience indicates?

        If the vegan theory is that all the past is wrong, or otherwise should be considered wrong now, I suppose it’s plausible that could be demonstrated, but it would need to be done far more persuasively than it has been able to, to date. I guess that’s why veganism is not entirely mainstream–most people are not persuaded. I don’t know much about the philosophical arguments, which I suspect are numerous, though I would be interested to. However persuasive they may be, I expect problem will often be the science which would be equally strong but not very supportive.

      • PaulW says:

        [So, if for instance raising a pig in a nice friendly paddock and petting and loving on it everyday until its time has come is “exploitation”,]
        It would be so for a human, right? Even if the human is raised in such a way as to know nothing different? Then to be killed in childhood for food.
        I’m relatively agnostic on survival hunting. I don’t judge the Brazilian jungle people for what they do (even if they kill a human who comes across them, for that matter). But most of us are far beyond that point. I oppose animal agriculture, even if you try to put a pretty bow on it. In the developed world, I’d like to see us abandon theft, pillaging, murder, wars, rape, etc., even if they happened for thousands of years.

      • MT says:

        [But most of us are far beyond that point. I oppose animal agriculture, even if you try to put a pretty bow on it. In the developed world, I’d like to see us abandon theft, pillaging, murder, wars, rape, etc., even if they happened for thousands of years.]

        Naturally, any opinion is based by necessity on some sort of presumption (though that may not always be the term used for it) and it seems to me that one such presupposition for the vegan cause is that of the “equality” (I’m not sure if that is the preferred term, but that’s the quickest thing I came up with), in some sense, of other animals to humans specifically. That occurs to me because the examples you’ve tended to use equate everything and don’t indicate any room for distinction, so I’m supposing that’s a foundational tenet.

        I get the philosophical attractiveness of that premise. Where I have trouble is from the empirical area of neuroscience, which suggests that we are so different from the sorts of species that are relevant to this discussion that we can hardly begin to explain it. Is it right or possible to argue that we should compare humans to other species in a manner of direct equivalence (e.g., your rape example)?

      • Doug Percival says:

        MT wrote: “Where I have trouble is from the empirical area of neuroscience, which suggests that we are so different from the sorts of species that are relevant to this discussion that we can hardly begin to explain it.”

        With all due respect, MT, as a matter of scientific fact what you have written there is wildly incorrect. Neuroscience has in face demonstrated the opposite of what you assert.

        The empirical evidence from neuroscience, as well as other scientific disciplines that study the cognitive, emotional and social capacities of non-human animals, is overwhelming that they are far closer to humans in those regards than has previously been thought.

        In particular, research on chickens and turkeys shows that they are highly intelligent, emotional, social, sensitive animals — and this is powerfully reinforced by the experiences of people at animal sanctuaries, like United Poultry Concerns in Virginia, who have worked closely with rescued poultry. And of course this is also true of mammals raised for food, including pigs and cows (and the dogs and cats who are commonly eaten in Asian countries).

        What is “relevant to this discussion” is that these animals, with their complex and highly evolved central nervous systems and brains, are fully capable of experiencing all the physical, psychological and emotional pain that results from raising and slaughtering them from food.

        As for what is “relevant”, in the words of ethical philosopher Jeremy Bentham, “The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”

        Of course the answer to that question is yes, they can suffer. And clearly, BILLIONS of animals raised for food — including the 45 million turkeys slaughtered each year for Thanksgiving — DO suffer.

        So the questions for you are, do you care? And if so, what will you do about it?

      • MT says:

        [they are far closer to humans in those regards than has previously been thought]

        I know, I know. The structures and pathways are conceptually similar–this is evolution at work. But the common mistake is somehow equating this sort of statement to being ‘like people.’ The phrase you use there “than…previously…thought” only has meaning with context, the context being exactly what the *previous* *thinking* was. If the previous thinking was dirt poor, then it doesn’t take much at all to be able to argue that now we know better and other organisms are “far closer” than we thought, but that doesn’t on its own make them next door neighbors. The dynamism of the human brain is positively unparalleled (on our planet at least); if not, then ferrets or something would have been the first species to land a space pod on the moon.

        Naturally we all recognize they can’t think and reason the same way, as you pointed out [“’The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk?'”], but that’s where I find it challenging to figure out what precisely you mean by [“with their complex and highly evolved central nervous systems and brains”]. We fly people to the moon (correction: we used to fly people to the moon)– the chasm in development between our species and the rest makes us an absurdly bizarre aberration. Your answer to this clearly drills down to suffering [“‘Can they suffer?’”].

        It is a quintessential philosophical question of humanity–from the dawn of our time. In fact, far, far before Philosophy existed as a discipline, Religion has existed essentially to do one thing: understand and explain the plight of the suffering. We all suffer. All living things do. Clearly this is why the questions surrounding it are foundational. But are the ones you ask the correct ones? [“So the questions for you are, do you care? And if so, what will you do about it?”]

        What about the issue of whether these other species would exist at all were they not cultivated? If they can’t answer for themselves, then who has the authority answer for them? Is that a task that vegans have decided to subsume for themselves, since they know better than all others? I mean, if cattle for example haven’t the capacity or environment to thrive wildly (which is likely in our current circumstances of land use) then would they rather not exist at all? Do you decide for them?

        I’ll go ahead and answer for the feed-lot cows. Totally, they would not want to live at all. I can see that in their eyes. You know, but maybe places like the Polyface Farm cattle, of movie fame, feel their lot in life is acceptable given a non-existent alternative. How does vegan philosophy address this?, I would really be interested to understand.

      • PaulW says:

        [Where I have trouble is from the empirical area of neuroscience, which suggests that we are so different from the sorts of species that are relevant to this discussion that we can hardly begin to explain it. Is it right or possible to argue that we should compare humans to other species in a manner of direct equivalence (e.g., your rape example)?]

        I see someone else has answered the question. I am not talking about equality per se, but that the interests of animals be considered without regard to mere species membership. Animals experience death and it’s just as real to them as it is to us. In some situations, animals may experience things more deeply. Consider giving animal chemotherapy to treat cancer, for instance. Veterinary oncologists give low doses to animals because the animals will not be able to comprehend why they are being put through it (the benefit), so it’s thought to cause more suffering to a dog or cat than it would a human who understands the benefit.

        But really, why worry about ranking these things? I don’t have to kill animals. I don’t have to watch animals at the circus or Sea World. I am certain these things harm animals regardless of whether they would harm humans more (or less). So I don’t do them. Choose the path of least suffering. Minimal philosophical gymnastics required.

      • MT says:

        On the issue of animal thinking and ability to perceive suffering, examples like this are remarkable:

  25. Nick Z says:

    Hi Scott,

    Like many individuals who read your blog, I have shopped at MOMs for years. I am a vegan and I am happy to find products which suit my lifestyle at your store. MOMs is more progressive than its competitors regarding various issues, including workers’ rights, environmental policies, and the availability of vegan products. However, I am surprised by some of the points in your article.

    You simplify positions of your foes in order to present a straw man argument. “I used to have a soft spot for the animal rights movement, but this incident and repeated e-mails like the one above have pretty much taken the issue off my radar in terms of support,” you state. You are using the fallacy of composition. That is, applying one example to the whole. Every animal rights activist and group differ. You cite two examples of actions from animal rights activists: critical e-mails and very limited incidents of sabotage. Yet, your view of the “animal rights movement” is evidently summarized entirely from these incidents.

    Your examples of zealots are misguided. Self identified members of the Tea Party in the House of Representatives are arguably obstructionists. Yet, some have legitimate concerns that other members of the House ignore entirely. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is a favorite of Tea Party activists. He introduced an amendment this year to enact various legal limits on the NSA. Many Tea Party activists supported him. However, his amendment died, thanks in part to House members who obstructed its progress.

    There is far more obstruction in Congress when members introduce amendments or spending bills that are critical of, or attempt to, defund U.S. backed Israeli aggression in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The same can be said of crackdowns of corporate crime. Most members of Congress will obstruct its progress. Using the Tea Party is cliche.

    Mr. Nash, you mischaracterize Ralph Nader. “Nader claimed that Al Gore and George Bush were the same,” you state. Nader never claimed that the two major party candidates were entirely identical. He did state the differences between the candidates are dwarfed by their similarities. That’s different than claiming the policies of the two are entirely identical.

    “I’m pretty confident that Al Gore wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, resulting in the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians (not to mention a huge financial price tag).”

    Gore supported sanctions that were responsible for the premature deaths of approximately 500,000 children under 5-years-old in Iraq. Whether he would have invaded Iraq is besides the point. He’s still a militarist and his record supports that title.

    “And I’m sure Gore would have supported clean energy and we’d be much further along in the battle against climate change. (Will those eight years of lost time take us beyond the tipping point?).”

    The Clinton/Gore administration oversaw the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and facilitated the entry of China to the World Trade Organization (WTO), without serious environmental conditions. Both moves significantly increased carbon emissions.

    This leads to the next bizarre claim. You imply that if Gore was elected, his administration would limit carbon emissions below a “tipping point.” Presumably, you mean the tipping point is limiting carbon dioxide emissions below 350 parts per million. Many climate scientists believe this is the threshold for reducing the chances for permanent and significant climatic change due to human activity. Carbon emissions have been increasing since the Industrial Revolution. The Bush administration did little to nothing to limit carbon emissions. However, it’s a trend that’s occurred for centuries. It’s doubtful that the Gore administration would have limited industrial growth below a “tipping point.” It’s not clear that’s practically possible. The Clinton/Gore administration’s environmental record is mixed, anyway.

    With respect, I am doubtful you were ever serious about animal rights. You use limited examples to dismiss an entire movement. The e-mail from the customer was probably not helpful, but your response is worse. I’m disappointed you used a gimmick to dismiss animal rights.

    Thanks for your time.

  26. Rebecca says:

    I am not a vegan but considering to be one. The reason that I’m not vegan is that my family won’t give up meat because “meat tastes good”. The reason that I’m considering on a vegetable diet is the thought that = why, we human, have the right to kill animals for consumption? why we human are above all the creature in the world?

    We often say “put yourself in other people’s shoes”. I don’t want to see human raised for consumption by another species (if it exists in another world).

  27. Doug Percival says:

    I’d like to add a note about the whole Ralph Nader thing.

    First of all, I don’t think that it is particularly relevant or that it sheds much light on the vegan / vegetarian / meat-eater conversation about what constitutes a “zealot” on the issue of eating animals. So I really have nothing to say about it in that regard. However, I do want to point out that some of the factual claims made here are simply not correct.

    First of all, Nader did not cause Gore to lose the 2000 election — in fact, Al Gore WON the 2000 election.

    Gore won the popular vote nationwide, and as the post-recount analysis of Florida’s vote showed, if every legally cast ballot had been accurately counted in accordance with long-established Florida election law, then Gore was also the close, but clear winner of the Florida election and thus of the Electoral College. The simple fact is, that Al Gore was the legitimately elected President of the United States in November 2000, and that George W. Bush seized power in a bloodless coup when the partisan Republican majority on the Supreme Court violated their oaths of office to stop the Florida recount and install Bush in the White House.

    Moreover, the claim that the “Nader vote” made Florida’s election close enough to steal does not hold up to scrutiny.

    First of all, exit polls showed that more Florida Democrats voted for Bush than voted for Nader. Nader didn’t take those votes away from Gore — they were Gore’s votes to lose, and he lost them.

    Second, the Florida election was actually stolen BEFORE the vote, when Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Kathleen Harris conspired to disenfranchise TENS OF THOUSANDS of mostly African-American, eligible Democratic voters, by fraudulently identifying them as “felons” and purging them from the rolls. When they arrived at the polls, they were turned away and not allowed to vote. If they had not been disenfranchised, Gore would have won Florida by an overwhelming majority.

    • MT says:

      [Nader did not cause Gore to lose the 2000 election]

      Right. But contrary to how you’ve couched it, I think the point is that it has nothing to do with what Nader did (or what Gore lost), but what voters did. I.e. the blame rather falls in part on those who voted for Nader (assisting Bush in winning).

      [exit polls showed that more Florida Democrats voted for Bush than voted for Nader. Nader didn’t take those votes away from Gore — they were Gore’s votes to lose]

      Ok again, so what?, if those votes were never in play. But the point here is rather that those who went out of their way to vote for Nader, instead, presumably, of the candidate of closest persuasion with an actual chance of winning, played a role (whether directly or tangentially) in the unfolding of events. Without such defiant acts of senseless zealotry, perhaps great victories could otherwise be won, *despite* often significant obstacles (like in this case, the governor’s office meddling that you mentioned).

      I think the main point still holds:
      People can’t hide behind the way history turned out, saying *after the fact* that “look it would have happened anyway”, thereby avoiding the designation of pig-headed zealotry. The purpose in voting Nader (or not voting at all if he/equivalent weren’t in the picture) was to take an ideological stand and make a show of it. In isolation or occasionally, in order to draw attention to a cause, maybe it’s acceptable from time to time. But when it damages real progress that is *actually achievable* it certainly seems like nothing more than fool-headed zealotry–since as already mentioned several times over in this thread, history suggests that change is typically a process. Aren’t those who are so “passionate” that they delay or set their cause back far worse than those doing nothing at all?

      • Doug Percival says:

        No doubt the impact of Nader’s campaign in the 2000 election will be debated and rehashed forever. (For the record, I was a registered, card-carrying Green Party voter in 2000 — and I changed my registration to Democrat in protest against what I felt was the dishonesty of Nader’s campaign and his cynical use of the Green Party for his own self-aggrandizement.)

        But again, I don’t think it is remotely relevant to this conversation. It’s not as though we were having an election contest between George Meat-Eater, Al Vegetarian, and Ralph Vegan, and only one of them can win, and voting for Mr. Vegan might cost Mr. Vegetarian the election and leave us stuck with George. Or whatever.

        On the contrary, in this situation, each and every one of us is, to use George W. Bush’s term, “the decider”. We get to sit “in the Oval Office” ourselves, and we not only GET TO DECIDE, but we HAVE TO DECIDE, for ourselves, whether we will eat the turkey — or pardon him.

      • MT says:

        [contest between George Meat-Eater, Al Vegetarian, and Ralph Vegan]

        That’s funny. Sounds like the plot for a Sesame Street skit…I wonder whether they would all go on the show together if invited?

  28. Scott says:

    I just received this email from our grocery department:

    “Hi Scott,

    Overall, I think that “humane” certification is very subjective. In my opinion, all of our meat is humanely raised and slaughtered. That being said, most of our brands are certified humane by a third party certifier. The list of those is below.

    For those that are not audited by a third party, I have either personally been to the farm to see the husbandry practices or they are certified organic which inherently has welfare standards. Those are in the list below as well.

    Here are the standards put forth by the USDA organic certification:

    Organic Livestock must have access to the outdoors, shade, clean and dry bedding, shelter, space for exercise, fresh air, clean drinking water and direct sunlight. For Ruminants, they must have free access to pasture for the entire grazing season (minimum of 120 days).

    In terms of the writer’s requests that we have only certified humane meat, I think it is a reasonable request. I would have to give our non-certified providers a timeline of becoming certified. It would really only require a few of our suppliers to become certified. However, I do not believe that we should just choose only one certifier as another writer requests.

    Whole Foods partnered with Global Animal Partnership. I think their rating system is weak. Their standards can be found here:

    Here are our meat suppliers:

    Ayrshire – Certified Humane I have been to the farm and can personally attest that their animals live in very good conditions.

    Eberly – Humane to the standards of the USDA organic certification. They are a large COOP of organic poultry farmers.

    Koch – Certified Humane

    Piedmont – Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Certified.

    Fields of Athenry – No certification. You can read about their husbandry practices here: I have made several trips to this farm and seen their husbandry practices. Elaine would be the poster child for humane standards. We can ask her to become certified if necessary.

    Fresh Source Beef – Humane to the standards of the USDA organic certification. This is a large multi-farm business out of the Pacific Northwest.

    Garret Valley – Global Animal Partnership certified.

    Niman Ranch – No certification, however they helped develop one of the original Animal welfare standards. Here is what they say about their practices

    Applegate – Humane to the standards of USDA organic certification.

    Vermont Smoke and Cure – Certified Humane”

    • Doug Percival says:

      Thanks, Scott!

      Perusing the linked info on the Certified Humane, Fields of Athenry and Niman Ranch standards, there is fairly detailed information on how the animals are raised. But one thing that is notably missing is information on how they are slaughtered. The Fields of Athenry site has the most to say, which isn’t much: “Livestock is then loaded from our fields or our partners’ fields, and delivered by us for processing the same day … The processors we use follow strict and humane butchering methods.” But there is no detail on what is meant by “strict and humane butchering”.

      Given the EXTREME stress and suffering that animals experience during the slaughtering process, this is a pretty significant gap in the “humane” standards.

      All animal slaughterhouses in the US must comply with the Federal Humane Slaughter Act, and compliance is monitored by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. However, the Human Slaughter Act does not cover chickens, who make up the vast majority of the nine billion animals slaughtered for food in the USA each year, and as recently as 2004 a GAO report found compliance problems.

      So it would be good to know which, if any, of these various “humanely raised” standards, or the “strict and humane butchering” that Fields of Athenry mentions, actually go beyond the minimum and poorly enforced standards of the Federal law, and exactly what they consist of.

  29. Carolyn says:

    To Doug’s Dec 5 entry, his responding to my “. . . facts, I still believe in this case, can support either side of the argument, depending on which ‘facts’ are used and by whom.”

    Though you start with a note that “It is still not clear what ‘argument” I’m referring to of yours, you somehow manage to be the one who finds your way and discerns and responds to my own disagreements with you. Your take on my clarity seems to set the tone here. I’ll do my best to reply to your objections, and not take that tone-setting personally. I know that my comments will have a certain bias, as yours do. I’m also supposing that down the line in a generation or maybe less, these vegan/vegetarian vs. meat-eating debates might well open into a larger global context that frames them.

    First: You didn’t think much of the scientist I proposed to challenge the UN/FAO 2006 report’s figures on livestock emission’s contribution to global warming. Mitloehner is his name. You find him “being touted by the meat and dairy industry as refuting the FAO’s report” and explain why the report’s overlooking the transportation angle doesn’t actually refute the report’s conclusions. But even he, you continue, believes the livestock emissions are higher than proposed (you do explain this) and need reducing, though not by reducing meat and dairy consumption. Uh oh. Now, you say, “he has made “some nonsensical claims far outside his field of expertise.” Nevertheless, Mitloehner is thought enough of an expert to be working closely with an author (Gerber) of the UN/FAO report to find ways to find solutions to livestock emissions.

    OK: secondly: “the OTHER argument [I] may be talking about” concerns management practices that might help overcome these GHG problems. Here I myself bring up a reference to a bit of Joel Salatin’s work (which you do believe is a “best practice,” for raising livestock, though not a “panacea” for the problem). Joel Salatin, having spent his life with livestock, will scarcely have cultural capital with vegans or vegetarians, and I won’t imagine that you will find hope in his ideas (I’m not knocking you for this, btw). But he has made some great leaps, and his work is worth looking at. His own bias is obvious in his belief in eating meat (calling forth your sense that he, among others has “discredited [himself] by attacking vegetarian and vegan diets with outrageous, laughably false claims about their nutritionally inadequacy”). Finally, your sense that Salatin-type methods . . . can only produce a small amount of quite expensive meat” leads to a conclusion that I could either consider your humor at work or. . . surely not serious thinking: “So if that’s the future you envision, now is a good time to learn about vegan nutrition–because unless you are rich, Salatin-type beef will be something you nibble on as a snack once in awhile, not “what’s for dinner,”

    That’s actually kind of cute if I’m reading it as a clever ending tone. If not, I’ll just keep remembering the good soup I make from varied bones from Polyface farms. And I can also hope Joel’s ideas find some large community action in the future.

  30. Linda says:

    Wow, what a conversation. I love reading about food freedom, but I’m amazed by the mean-spiritedness of some of the writers. Zealots, you know who you are by your meanness.

    Bottom line for me: I need meat to be healthy. I was fairly vegie for quite a few years and finally fell down. Now as a full-fledged meat eater I feel better, much better, much healthier, stronger, vital, alive, energetic and happy. I get many essential minerals and nutrients from meat.

    -> Consider that vegetarians both men and women have a higher death rate. -> Consider that none of the vibrantly healthy societies researched the world over by Weston Price was vegetarian. -> Consider that not a single long-term tillage system on earth exists without an herbivorous (e.g., cow) component (Salatin). -> Consider that the cow is not just to eat (if you don’t want to eat the cow, don’t eat it, but some people really need it and want it). -> Consider that there are many many many important uses of herbivores besides just eating them, and we ought to make the best use of all. -> Consider that there is great knowledge and wisdom to gain in not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    And please consider that My Organic Market is providing a phenomenal service. Do you realize how lucky you are to have the food choices you have? OMG we are so unbelievably fortunate to have real food choices. I’d like to put in a request for raw milk – but alas, it’s not legal to sell it in grocery stores in Maryland. Big boo.

    My magic wand, then? CAFOs, goodbye. Industrial food system, goodbye. Fast food, goodbye. Laws that force us into bad food choices, goodbye. But small farmers, hello hello hello! A garden in every front yard, hello! A grocery store in every town that gives us REAL food choices, hello! Human beings that act with wisdom, respect, value and appreciation for these gifts, hello!

    Thank you, Scott, for giving us all a forum to share our thoughts. Thanks for MOMs.

    • Doug Percival says:

      Linda wrote: “Bottom line for me: I need meat to be healthy. I was fairly vegie for quite a few years and finally fell down … I get many essential minerals and nutrients from meat.”

      The bottom line is that ALL THE NUTRIENTS needed for optimal human nutrition are plentifully available from non-animal sources. That is a scientific fact. There is simply no “need” for human beings to eat meat to “be healthy”. There are simply no “essential nutrients” that can only be obtained from meat.

      Over the decades that I have been a vegetarian and then a vegan, I have talked to many people who have told me similar things about their unsuccessful attempts to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. In every case where I had an opportunity to get more detail about their experience, it turned out that one or more of the following was true:

      1. they had been eating an unbalanced or inadequate diet, often due to ignorance of the basics of nutrition;

      2. they had tried to change their diet too radically, too quickly (e.g. by jumping into a raw food or fruitarian diet);

      3. they were eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and consuming large quantities of dairy products in the mistaken belief that this is necessary to get enough protein or calcium;

      4. they had some underlying disease or an allergy to a particular food, or some other physical “lifestyle” problem such as lack of exercise;

      5. they were not really committed to a vegetarian / vegan diet, felt resentful and deprived, emotionally craved meat and dairy, and experienced these psychological stresses on the physical level.

      The first four of those problems can all be addressed through education and appropriate dietary adjustments (and if necessary, medical attention to an underlying disease condition) — IF the person really wants to follow an optimal vegetarian / vegan diet and achieve superior health and strength.

      The fifth one is, of course, another story. If a person doesn’t really want to “go veg” to begin with, my advice would be don’t bother with it then. If for some reason you feel like you “should” go vegetarian even though you still crave animal foods, then you need to RESPECT that inner conflict and resolve it as best you can — perhaps by gradually reducing your consumption of the most unhealthful animal foods (my advice is to start by eliminating dairy products) and gradually introducing more vegan foods and meals into your diet.

      The bottom line is this: there is OVERWHELMING scientific evidence from both clinical and epidemiological research showing that balanced, natural food-based vegan and vegetarian diets provide complete, optimal human nutrition, and that consumption of anything more than VERY small quantities of meat and dairy causes and contributes to VERY serious health problems, including cancer and heart disease.

      What you choose to do about that is up to you.

      • Linda says:

        We are all entitled to believe that which serves us best. Are we are happy? Are our teeth and bones strong? Is our countenance cheerful? Do we sleep well? Do we treat each other with respect and value? Are our words uplifting and caring? Is our productivity good? Are our relationships uplifting? Do we wake each day excited about what we will do?

        If yes, we are likely in very good health. If no, then it’s time to look at change.

        My sources of health information have given me my life and comfort back, and it’s primarily on this basis that I commend them and the approaches they endorse. They are seriously smart, wise, insightful and well-directed.

        -> In particular for food, farming and the healing arts I infinitely praise the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation – Dr. Price’s very last words were about how to change the world: “You teach, you teach, you teach.”

        -> And for magnificent advocacy and leadership in creating change in farming practices, I am deeply grateful to Polyface Farms and all things Salatin – Joel Salatin has a wicked sense of humor, and he is so full of energy I can’t stand it! 😉

        -> And I have to tell you I just love having a MOM’s five minutes from my house. What a treasure. Grateful, grateful!

        There are so many other people and institutions, writers, family, friends that have guided me and helped me. From them all, and from my own experience, I better understand each day that I am a chemical factory in body, mind and spirit. Keeping my chemistry in optimal condition is an exquisite balancing act. Meat, for now, helps me with that balancing act.

    • Doug Percival says:

      Linda wrote: “Consider that vegetarians both men and women have a higher death rate.”

      With all due respect, that is a blatant falsehood. In reality, the opposite is true.

      Linda wrote: “Consider that none of the vibrantly healthy societies researched the world over by Weston Price was vegetarian.”

      The research you refer to was conducted by a dentist, Dr. Weston Price, and published in 1939 — almost 75 years ago. It has long since been superseded by modern nutritional research.

      As Dr. Stephen Barrett wrote on “Price made a whirlwind tour of primitive areas, examined the natives superficially, and jumped to simplistic conclusions. While extolling their health, he ignored their short life expectancy and high rates of infant mortality, endemic diseases, and malnutrition. While praising their diets for not producing cavities, he ignored the fact that malnourished people don’t usually get many cavities.”

      And contrary to your assertion, Price’s primary conclusion was that PROCESSED foods consumed in modernized countries were detrimental to health — not vegetarian diets. His research actually found that indigenous people who consumed vegetarian or near-vegetarian diets were among the healthiest populations he studied. Price’s nutritional advice to his own family, from a 1934 letter, was “The basic foods should be the entire grains such as whole wheat, rye or oats, whole wheat and rye breads, wheat and oat cereals, oat-cake, dairy products, including milk and cheese, which should be used liberally, and marine foods.”

      So Price himself actually advocated a grain-based lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, supplemented (last on the list) with “marine foods”, which would include both sea vegetables (e.g. kelp) and fish.

      Yet, the nonprofit Weston Price Foundation, which claims to base its advocacy on Dr. Price’s theories, advocates massive consumption of saturated fats, palm oil, lard, butter, beef, pork, and other high-fat meats, and attacks grain-based diets as unhealthy — all of which is contrary to Dr. Price’s research AND to modern nutritional science. The Foundation makes outrageously false claims like denying any link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease, a link which has been established by innumerable scientific studies as being AT LEAST as strong as the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer. The also promote the claim that you cited regarding relative longevity of vegetarians and meat-eaters, which is proved false by EVERY study ever done of the question.

      Moreover, the Foundation propagandizes against vegetarian diets with claims that have, once again, been thoroughly refuted by modern nutritional research. In particular, the Weston Price Foundation has funded a propaganda war against consumption of soy foods in any form, with publications full of pseudoscience, unsupported claims and outright falsehoods.

      While the Foundation claims to have “no ties” to the meat “industry”, the reality is that their funding sponsors are meat and dairy producers like Green Pasture, Vital Choice, and U.S. Wellness Meats. They are little more than a propaganda mill for grass-fed and “natural” meat and dairy producers, whose mission is to promote consumption of high-fat animal foods and attack vegetarian diets with falsehoods and pseudoscience.

      Linda wrote: “Consider that not a single long-term tillage system on earth exists without an herbivorous (e.g., cow) component (Salatin)”

      That is incorrect, and irrelevant. It is typical of the claims that pervade Salatin’s writings — he also likes to attack the nutritional benefits of vegetarian diets with falsehoods and pseudoscience, irrational arguments, as well as personal attacks against vegan advocates. Indeed, Salatin pretty much meets the definition of “zealot” in every way. And his business is not providing accurate nutritional and environmental information — his business is selling more meat. You might as well rely on Monsanto for information about GMO foods, as rely on Salatin’s nutritional and environmental pronouncements.

      Linda wrote: “Consider that there are many many many important uses of herbivores besides just eating them, and we ought to make the best use of all.”

      Consider that “herbivores” are sentient beings with lives of their own, and they don’t belong to us humans to “MAKE USE OF”.

      • Linda says:

        We are all entitled to believe that which serves us best. Are we are happy? Are our teeth and bones strong? Is our countenance cheerful? Do we sleep well? Do we treat each other with respect and value? Are our words uplifting and caring? Is our productivity good? Are our relationships uplifting? Do we wake each day excited about what we will do?

        If yes, we are likely in very good health. If no, then it’s time to look at change.

        My sources of health information have given me my life and comfort back, and it’s primarily on this basis that I commend them and the approaches they endorse. They are seriously smart, wise, insightful and well-directed.

        -> In particular for food, farming and the healing arts I infinitely praise the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation – Dr. Price’s very last words were about how to change the world: “You teach, you teach, you teach.”

        -> And for magnificent advocacy and leadership in creating change in farming practices, I am deeply grateful to Polyface Farms and all things Salatin – Joel Salatin has a wicked sense of humor, and he is so full of energy I can’t stand it! 😉

        -> And I have to tell you I just love having a MOM’s five minutes from my house. What a treasure. Grateful, grateful!

        There are so many other people and institutions, writers, family, friends that have guided me and helped me. From them all, and from my own experience, I better understand each day that I am a chemical factory in body, mind and spirit. Keeping my chemistry in optimal condition is an exquisite balancing act. Meat, for now, helps me with that balancing act.

      • Carolyn says:

        Astonishing that you would use legally and ethically challenged Stephen Barrett (Quackwatch) as support for ANYthing.

      • Doug Percival says:

        Carolyn wrote: “Astonishing that you would use legally and ethically challenged Stephen Barrett (Quackwatch) as support for ANYthing”

        It’s not astonishing that you would completely ignore the substance of my comment, and indeed ignore the substance of Barrett’s criticism of Weston Price’s research, and choose instead to make an ad hominem attack (a.k.a. attacking the messenger rather than the message) on an individual whose remarks made up a tiny part of what I wrote.

        The facts are that:

        (1) Dr. Weston Price’s original research is almost 75 years old and has long since been superseded, and much of it proved WRONG, by decades of modern epidemiological and clinical research which firmly establish the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets.

        (2) The propaganda of the Weston Price Foundation, which is funded by meat and dairy producers, has little to do with Dr. Price’s actual research, and in fact is completely CONTRADICTORY to that research in important ways, and moreover contradicts the overwhelming evidence of modern nutritional research, and advocates dietary practices that have been scientifically demonstrated to be unhealthy and even dangerous.

        What impresses me is the lengths that people need to go to — and are willing to go to — to deceive themselves that a meat-based diet is healthy.

      • Carolyn says:

        Oh Doug, this was not an ad hominem attack on you; rather an attack on Barrett’s take on Weston Price. Neither you nor I need to believe Weston Price’s ideas are flawless (or in your case, totally wrong) to know Barrett’s history of misinforming others about “alternative” health issues (e.g. you can research that he did everything possible to take down the entire chiropractic field). He is well funded (and well involved in big problems with those he has attacked). The substance of your entry about Weston Price uses his deceitful words and substance, misleading these readers about W.P’s integrity. I want to assume that you simply didn’t know the context, and therefore, wouldn’t have used Barrett’s claims to support WPs “unhealthy and even dangerous” dietary practices.

        I don’t consider the way you described WP to be a “tiny” part of your substance, when you need to frame your supporting material in such a negative light as “propaganda.”

  31. Carolyn says:

    correction to the date of Doug’s entry to which I replied today (Dec. 7). hIS ENTRY WAS DATED dEC. 6

  32. Doug Percival says:

    Linda wrote: “thank god we each have whatever freedom we do to put into our own mouths that which we want. How basic is this freedom! It is for no one to take from me the right, the privilege, the honor and the choice to eat what I want and what I feel I need.”

    You are of course, correct, Linda. You have the “god-given right” to subject billions of cows, pigs and chickens to short, wretched lives of unspeakable brutality and misery, and to horrific, traumatic and agonizing slaughter, so that you can have the “honor” of tasting their flesh, just because you “want” it. (As a matter of nutritional science, though, you absolutely don’t “need” it.)

    Let me ask you a question. If you were walking down the street, and you saw someone beating a dog to death with a baseball bat right in front of you, would you intervene? Would you say anything to them at all? Would you call the police, or call Animal Control, to make them stop? Or would you just ignore it, because the person beating the dog has the “god-given freedom, the right, the privilege, the honor and the choice” to do whatever he “wants and feels he needs” to do to an animal?

    Are you aware that dogs are a traditional food animal in Korea? And that it has long been a common practice there to hang living dogs by the neck, and beat them to death with baseball bats, because it is believed that makes them TASTE BETTER? How is that different from the equally cruel and brutal treatment of cows, pigs and chickens raised for meat in the USA?

    Linda wrote: “The Rolling Stones said it well: ‘Hey, you – get off of my cloud’.””

    I’m very sorry if pointing out that cows, pigs and chickens are intelligent, emotional, feeling, sentient beings who suffer hideously because of your “choices” disturbs your little “cloud”.

    • Linda says:

      Doug, I sense you want to feel wretched. It oozes from your words. But if others won’t join you in your suffering or condemnations or criticisms or vitriol or resentments or anger or poison spewed, it’s understandable. People create happiness and joy and good things for the Earth when they share that kind of energy. It’s the only way. Law of Attraction. Let’s get back on track, shall we. What makes a zealot? What is good in zealotry? What is not? How does change truly come about? Can we crack change over people’s heads, or might we more effectively walk gently into meaningful change? Who are the zealots that have made a difference in history? Who are the thinkers, the innovators, the inspirers, the peace-makers? This is a conversation I’d rather have than what you think I should eat and how I should eat it.

      • Doug Percival says:

        Linda wrote: “I sense you want to feel wretched. It oozes from your words.”

        Wretched? That’s nothing more than name-calling, Linda. Which is something that zealots do.

        In this case, I “sense” that you are calling me names as a way of ignoring what I actually wrote. In particular, you would like to ignore the suffering of the animals who are killed so you can eat their flesh.

        Linda wrote: “vitriol or resentments or anger or poison spewed”

        There was not one single “resentful” or “angry” word in what I wrote, Linda. NOT ONE. Nor was there any “vitriol” or “poison”. My post was entirely polite and respectful and reasonable.

        Again, making such false accusations against me is just a way of ignoring the substance of what I actually wrote — and of ignoring the suffering of the animals who are killed so you can eat their flesh.

        Linda wrote: “People create happiness and joy and good things for the Earth when they share that kind of energy.”

        People don’t create “happiness and joy and good things for the Earth” by subjecting NINE BILLION ANIMALS EVERY YEAR to confinement, misery, disease, brutality, cruelty and slaughter in order to eat their flesh. What that creates is massive suffering — suffering that you prefer to ignore to such an extent that you brand anyone who even acknowledges its existence as a “zealot”.

        Linda wrote: “This is a conversation I’d rather have than what you think I should eat and how I should eat it.”

        For the record, I am not telling you what to eat or how to eat it. In fact, there is not ONE WORD in ANY of the comments that I have posted here about telling ANYONE what to eat or how to eat it. By all means, go ahead and eat whatever you want, however you want.

        The most striking thing about your comments is your absolute REFUSAL to even mention, or even acknowledge, that non-human animals — cows, pigs, chickens — are sentient, sensitive, feeling, thinking, emotional beings who SUFFER as a result of being raised and slaughtered for food. And when I mention that FACT, your response is to attack me with name-calling.

        Look, I get it. Different people care about different things. Some people just plain DON’T CARE whether or not animals suffer. All they care about is that they like the taste of meat. The suffering of the animals who are killed to put that meat on their plate means nothing to them. And they simply cannot understand why in the world anyone else WOULD care about animal suffering. Animals are not living, feeling beings to them — they are merely “things”, merely “food choices”.

        Perhaps you are one of those people. In which case, why not just come out and say so, rather than expending so many words trying to ignore that basic fact?

    • June says:

      You are a wonderful human being.

  33. Carolyn says:

    Please note the call for best practice in this update to the FAO 2006 report (Thu 26 Sep 2013).

    GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM LIVESTOCK CAN BE CUT BY 30%, SAYS FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation says farmers can slash emissions merely by adopting better methods)

    Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock could be cut by up to 30% if farmers adopt better techniques without having to overhaul entire production systems, according to a study released on Thursday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

    The FAO said emissions associated with livestock added up to 7.1 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) per year – or 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse releases, slightly less than its controversial estimate in 2006.

    In its highly influential report seven years ago, Livestock’s Long Shadow, the FAO said global meat production was responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions – a little more than all of the world’s cars, trains and planes combined. Environmentalists and, in particular, vegetarian advocacy groups have cited the figure ever since as a key reason to reduce meat consumption.

    FAO experts said the new figure was based on a revised modelling framework and updated data, using new guidelines from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which unveils its report on Friday. “The absolute volume of emissions is very similar to 2006, even with the revised framework,” said Pierre Gerber, senior policy officer with the FAO.

    To arrive at its estimates, the FAO carried out detailed analysis of emissions at different stages of various livestock supply chains, including the production and transport of animal feed, on-farm energy use, and emissions from animal digestion and manure decay, as well as post-slaughter transport, refrigeration and packaging of animal products.

    The latest report, Tackling climate change through livestock, said the main sources of emissions are: feed production and processing (45% of the total), outputs of greenhouse gases during digestion by cows (39%), and manure decomposition (10%). The remainder is attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products.

    “These new findings show that the potential to improve the sector’s environmental performance is significant – and that realising that potential is indeed doable,” said Ren Wang, FAO assistant director general for agriculture and consumer protection. “These efficiency gains can be achieved by improving practices, and don’t necessitate changing production systems. But we need political will, better policies and most importantly, joint action.”

    The report emphasised that improvements can be made within existing production systems. There is no need to shift from backyard to industrial livestock farming, for example. The report called for wider adoption of best practices and technologies in feeding, health and husbandry, and manure management – as well as greater use of underused technologies such as biogas generators and energy-saving devices – could help the global livestock sector cut its outputs of global warming gases by up to 30% by becoming more efficient and reducing energy waste.

    Specifically, the FAO said better-quality feed, improved breeding and good animal health helped to shrink the unproductive part of the herd. Many of the actions the FAO recommended to improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions would also boost production. This would provide people with more food and higher incomes. Livestock rearing supports hundreds of millions of people and represents an increasingly important source of protein in many regions that have long struggled with chronic hunger and malnutrition.

    With world demand for livestock products continuing to grow strongly in almost all poor countries, said Wang, “it is imperative that the sector starts working now to achieve these reductions, to help offset the increases in overall emissions that future growth in livestock production will entail”.

    The greatest potential for cuts in emissions are in low-productivity livestock systems in south Asia, Latin America and Africa. However, in developed countries, where emission intensities are relatively low but the overall volume of production and therefore emissions is high, the FAO said even small decreases in intensity could add up to significant gains.

    This is the case, for example, for dairy farming in Europe and North America, and for pork raising in east Asia. Cattle-raising contributes 65% of the livestock sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions, but also offers the largest potential for reductions.

    In developing countries, the FAO urged governments to pursue policies to encourage poorer and risk-averse farmers to adopt measures that would mean spending money upfront. “The provision of microfinance schemes can be effective to support the adoption of new technologies and practices by small-scale farmers,” said the FAO. “Where the adoption of technologies and practices are costly for farmers in the short or medium term, but provide large mitigation benefits, abatement subsidies should be envisaged.”

  34. Scott says:

    This has been a fascinating, educational, and at times, passionate discussion. I’m thankful for it and it has actually personally moved the needle somewhat for me.

    Both sides of this issue are going to be able to refer to any number of studies that support their point of view (regarding which farming method is worse for the environment- conventional or organic). This happens with the issue of global warming itself, even though it is so obvious that it is happening and being caused by manmade emissions.

    With the carbon emissions of conventional vs. organically raised, which is more debatable than global warming, both “sides” will be able to find an infinite # of sources to support their points of view- which is why I believe neither side will convince the other absolutely… neither side will find “proof” of anything.

    This issue is somewhat similar to the pro-choice/pro-life debate. That conflict will never be resolved because one group generally believes that the moment a sperm meets an egg, it is a person. The other group generally believes it is a person when it can live on its own outside of the womb. And there are extremes who believe contraception prevents a life, which = taking a life- and the other extreme that believes it’s not a person until the fetus is brought full term. Neither side is going to convince the other, because there is no proof. It’s like trying to convince someone of the existence of God.

    The animal rights issue is similar in that some think that no animal should ever be killed (or used) for human consumption/benefit, whereas others enjoy killing animals for sport. And there are those of us- so many of us- who fall into the vast spectrum in between.

  35. Doug Percival says:

    A new analysis entitled “Ruminants, climate change and climate policy” by a team of scientists from the USA, Britain, Germany, Austria and Australia, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, finds that:

    “Greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant meat production are significant. Reductions in global ruminant numbers could make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation goals and yield important social and environmental co-benefits.”

    According to the Center For American Progress (CAP), the new analysis “estimates that the greenhouse gas emissions of raising livestock are 19 to 48 times higher than from growing high-protein plant food, such as beans and soy. Last month, a study found that methane emissions in the U.S. were about 1.5 times greater in 2007 and 2008 than previously estimated, and that livestock produced about twice as much methane during that time period than the EPA previously estimated.”

    The scientists suggest that “taxing meat as an attempt to discourage consumers to buy it could be an effective way to reduce methane emissions from livestock … Implementing a tax or emission trading scheme on livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions could be an economically sound policy that would modify consumer prices and affect consumption patterns.”

    CAP notes that “This isn’t the first time that scientists and economists have called for a reduction in meat consumption as a way to combat methane emissions. Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the U.K. on the economics of climate change, has called for more people to adopt vegetarian diets to reduce emissions from livestock. ‘Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases,’ he said in 2009. ‘It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better’ … Scientists have also called on people in the developed world to cut their meat consumption in half. Mark Sutton of the U.K.’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has urged people to reduce their meat consumption …”


  36. J.H. says:

    To the writer who said this: “I wonder whether the attitude of the writer whose email prompted Scott’s blog post would have been different, if the MOM’s advert promoting turkey sales had also featured a vegan alternative?”

    It was I, that crazy “zealot,” who posted that original email last year. According to what I’ve read, I suppose I’m a “zealot,” or fanatic, because I have compassion for non-human, sentient beings, and I don’t think we have the right to put animals on an assembly line and butcher them, just because we can. In our world, the fanatics are the ones who pay the slaughterhouse to kill for them, and then go and eat animal flesh and drink the milk meant for their young.

    Yes, I’d really appreciate seeing an advertisement for vegan options at holiday time this year, and I don’t mean Tofurkey. I mean whole, plant-based dishes that are beautiful to the eye and make for a family feast. When are we going to see ads for whole plant foods for Thanksgiving, instead of corpses who were once beautiful, innocent creatures leading miserable, short lives?

  37. JH says:

    Well, one year later now….

  38. JH says:

    Thanksgiving 2014: Numerous customers have written in to talk to Scott over the past year.
    The norm here is still, “Get your Turkey,” and for the insane zealots, “Order your Tofurky.” When will Normal = Compassion instead of violence and misery? I will choose to be the “zealot” he wrote about, the one with a clear conscience at the Thanksgiving table, filled with a peaceful and compassionate feast.

    Almost forgot to mention: Thank you to MOM for the large bags of leftover produce we brought to the rescued farmed animals at the sanctuary. We had our vegan Thanksgiving feast, where the once-tortured animals ate at a large communal table, while the humans overlooked with great love and joy. It was an amazing event. I recommend that everyone take their families to this lovely annual Thanksgiving event.

  39. Michael Karpman says:


    Even if I disagree with Scott on some issues, he is always open to respectful debate. He is a capitalist in the best sense of the word. If every business owner could be even half of what he is, the world would be a much better place.

    So I give thanks for that.

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