Welcome to Peace to All Beings. This is a place to imagine, dream, pray, and believe that we human beings can awaken to our higher consciousness, embrace a new paradigm of living in harmony, rather than in fear and domination and become "Homo Ahimsa," my term for the new nonviolent and kindhuman that we can become. This is a place to bear witness to the violence around us and at the same time hold fast to the bold vision of a world at peace, not only for people, but for all life. This is a place to explore and agree that there is hope for our species, that we will not continue to destroy. Together let us co-create a new culture and heal the wounds humanity has caused to the earth, to each other, and to the animals who share this world with us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Can Bill Gates Help Us Eat As Though the Earth Matters?

This is my latest article for the Sierra Club Planet Kansas, Fall, 2015, Issue 
My column is entitled "Eating as Though the Earth Matters"

Can Bill Gates Help Us Eat As Though The Earth Matters?

And not just Bill Gates, but also Google co-founder Sergei Brin, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and many others.  These wealthy individuals are willing to invest in companies that could help people transition to foods that are being developed to help end environmental devastation.  They are investing millions in companies such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Hampton Creek, Modern Meadow, and Muufri.  These visionary companies are using modern technology to create plant-based milk that tastes like animal milk, plant-based meat with the taste and texture of animal meat, and pea-derived eggs that taste like eggs.  These are not your basic bean burgers and soy milks.  These are foods that are mimicking meat, eggs, and dairy so well that billionaires are investing in them and expecting them to succeed. 

Josh Balk, co-founder of Hampton Creek, states, “Many socially conscious investors, including high-profile multi-billionaires, are seeking business solutions to climate change, food insecurity, disease, and other serious global problems.”  They believe, says Balk, that “moving to a plant-based system is vital to that effort.” They also believe that they are offering something different from vegan brands like Tofurkey and Gardein.  They have developed and continue to create foods that mimic the taste of animal products so well that most people cannot tell the difference.   

As we’ve discussed in this column over the years, animal agriculture is a major driving force behind deforestation; overuse of water; air, water and soil pollution; erosion; species extinction; habitat destruction; human starvation and disease, and the unrelenting violence involved in raising and killing millions of animals every single day.  These investors want to do something about all that.  But they, along with all of us, have realized that the progress we’ve made so far is too slow if we are to stop the rampant destruction of this precious planet upon which we all depend.  The U.S. population is about 7% vegan and vegetarian.  That is up from a decade ago, but the numbers are still too low. 

The next level of plant-based food—making everyone happy, not just vegans.  So these companies are taking the plant-based solution to the next level by creating food that tastes like animal foods to omnivores.  There has been a reluctance to try “vegan” foods because they seem too different and not what we are used to.  The idea of not having actual meat as the main course has kept many an omnivore from taking the plunge.  But with these new foods available, we can truly eat as though the earth matters and not miss the taste, texture, or appearance of meat, milk,  and eggs.  In addition to Beyond Meat and the others creating new versions of plant-based alternatives that taste like animal products, some giant food companies such as Pinnacle Foods (producer of Birdseye) are seeing that plant-based foods are rapidly going mainstream.  They are buying such established vegan companies as Gardein and getting them into a much broader range of stores.  As these companies succeed and people agree that they can indeed enjoy meals of only plant-based meat and radically cut down on their footprint, we will begin to see real healing taking place,   

Mat Thomas, author of “Green Giants,” (Veg News, September-October, 2015) quotes David Benzaquen, founder of PlantBased Solutions: “I don’t care whether more people identify as vegans or not, as long as animals aren’t killed, the environment is saved, and fewer people suffer from disease…”

Shorter showers aren’t enough. For decades now, people of conscience have been riding bikes and buses, taking shorter showers, composting, using their own bags at grocery stores, and doing as many things as possible to make a difference, but it obviously hasn’t been enough to turn the tide.  Podcaster Rich Roll comments that “When it comes to conservation and ecological responsibility, the dialog generally focuses on fossil fuels. A big issue, of course; and worthy of our attention. But here’s a truth that all too often gets quietly swept under the rug: the deleterious environmental impacts of animal agriculture dwarf the impacts of fossil fuel demand in every single category across the board.” 

In one of his podcasts he interviews Keegan Kuhn and Kip Anderson, the makers of the documentary “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,” which has now gained Leonardo DiCaprio as an Executive Producer.  DiCaprio has helped get the film on Netflix because he believes everyone on earth should see it. So if you have Netflix, please take the time to watch it, and if you don’t, you can purchase it at cowspiracy.com.  . 


 “Cowspiracy may be the most important film made to inspire saving the planet.”
Loui Psihoyos, Director of “The Cove”

This thought provoking film challenges us all to understand that there is something huge, transformative, and powerful we can each do to heal the earth.  And that something takes less effort than riding a bike to work—it is simply to stop eating animals and their eggs and milk.  Now that these new companies are producing plant-based meat, dairy and eggs that are indistinguishable from the products that are taken from suffering animals, it is easier than ever to take this next important step and eat as though the earth matters. .

The heart of veganism is the passionate desire to do no harm and as much good as possible in every area of life, not just in what we eat.  As such, it includes dedication to all environmental  and social justice causes  When we look deeply at all the justice movements, we see the same desire.  It is the desire to stop the violent and relentless destruction caused by profit and power-driven companies devoid of ethics. Each one of us must question everything we’ve been taught and even our own thoughts.  In that way, we can stop our own participation in and support of these destructive companies.  By boycotting animal agriculture, we stand in solidarity with nature, animals, and all people.  We could never take enough short showers to equal the impact of our switching to a plant-based diet. Eating as though the earth matters just got a whole lot easier, so let’s get started.  There’s no time to waste.   

 © 2015, Judy Carman, M.A., is author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animal;  2014 winner of the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist award; and owner of a truck and a car powered by used veggie oil and house powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.   

Friday, July 3, 2015

"The Backwards Brain Bicycle:" Clues to Changing Minds and Stopping Extinction

Here is my summer article for "Planet Kansas," the Kansas Sierra Club magazine

Sierra Club Planet Kansas, Summer, 2015, Issue
Eating as Though the Earth Matters column

"The Backwards Brain Bicycle:"

Clues to Changing Minds and 

Stopping Human-Caused Extinction

One extinction every seven minutes
What caused the extinction of the great dinosaurs?  No one knows for sure, but we do know it’s not the same cause that is currently leading to one species of plant or animal becoming extinct every 7 minutes.  That’s the figure we hear from the United Nations Environment Programme.  And this time we are the cause.      

Meanwhile, the G7 Summit committed to reducing fossil fuels by the end of the century.  The Environment News Service in their June 8, 2015 article “G7 Leaders promise ‘urgent’ climate action,” stated “Leaders of the G7 nations today pledged to take ‘urgent and concrete action’ on climate change this year, including a new legally-binding climate agreement to be hammered out at the UN Climate Summit in Paris in December.
“In a communique issued at the end of the G7 meeting in Kruen, the leaders said they are committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent by 2050, compared to 2010 levels, and decarbonizing their economies by the end of the century.”  So let’s see, at the rate of one species every 7 minutes for the next 85 years, who will remain?  What species will still be here?  Can human beings even survive with nature so out of balance?

Clearly, we cannot sit back and wait for big Gov and big Industry to save us.  While we are applauding them for their efforts, we have to proceed with the belief that we can, ourselves, turn this ship around. But how do we convince the general population that they have the power to do this?

What can we do to stop it?
I recently watched a Youtube called“Backwards Brain Bicycle”—a video produced by “Smarter Every Day.”  It’s short and well worth the time to watch.  In it Dustin challenges himself to learn to ride a bike that is modified so that if you turn the bike handles to the left, the wheel turns to the right.  He thought it would be a cinch to learn how to ride it, but it took him 8 months to alter his neural pathways through practicing 5 minutes each day.  He talks about learning a “deep truth” through this experiment.  He proposes that our thinking becomes very rigid especially as we grow older.  We may want to change something in our thinking, but it takes tremendous effort, and we have to really want to change.  Something has to make us think it is worth it to go to the effort to change.  Simply put, Dustin says, “Knowledge is not understanding.” We often think we understand when in fact we are simply operating from pre-programed assumptions that we haven’t yet questioned.  What we think seems like the truth, but is it?

 “Truth is truth no matter what you think about it.”
For example, millions of people may “know” that the rate of extinction is astronomically high, but they may not “understand” that.  As Dustin puts it, “Truth is truth no matter what you think about it.”  So one of the reasons we have so much trouble convincing people to take personal actions to save the planet and all who live here is because of these rigid neural pathways that lead people to contribute to planetary destruction and refuse to acknowledge our part in it.  On my walks on country roads I find broken beer bottles, half eaten burgers in paper bags, half empty pop in plastic glasses with straws, and, of course, plastic grocery bags—all tossed out windows of cars speeding down the road.  And I see new tossed trash every day. Most of these people are young enough to have heard the “Don’t Litter” message in grade school.  What happened?  Maybe it’s a rigid thought pattern from pre-industrial, pre-plastic-bag tribal days when your only discards were nut shells, fruit peelings, ropes made from vines, and temporary biodegradable dwellings. Drop it anywhere and who cares! But one thing we know—it is definitely a deeply furrowed pathway in brain pathways that says it’s still ok to litter.
What people do (and can stop doing) to cause extinction
As important as the littering problem is, especially to the animals who die eating it, it pales in comparison to the impact of eating products from animal agriculture. Let’s think about habitat destruction and extinction of species while considering these facts:

  •   In the “developed” world 65% of total agricultural land is used for livestock feed according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

  •  When you combine pasture and feed acres, we are up to 80% of total agricultural land. (FAO)

  •  Sixty percent of U.S. pasture is being overgrazed and, therefore, eroding.  It takes 500 years to replace one inch of soil lost to erosion, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They also point out that 90% of cropland in the U.S. loses soil at 13 times the rate that would be sustainable. 

  •  The EPA reports that agriculture in the U.S. has impaired the water quality of 59% of all rivers; 31% of all lakes, ponds and reservoirs; and   15% of all estuaries.  The damage is coming from siltation, pathogens, toxic herbicides, toxic fertilizers, mountains of manure, and oceans of ammonia from animal urine. Manure contains oxygen demanding substances, ammonia, disease, odorous compounds, salts, metals, antibiotics, pesticides and hormones, to name a few.  In their “Potential Environmental Impacts of Animal Feeding Operations” they state, “Manure’s oxygen demand and ammonia content can result in fish kills and reduced biodiversity…” along with “salinization and disruption of the ecosystem.”      

  • According to the USDA, there were 60,200 hog and pig operations in 2012 in the U.S.  We all know what that means.

  • We all know that bison, elks, prairie dogs, wolves, coyotes and many other animals are being mercilessly killed because they interfere with the profits of agricultural operations, many of whom use public lands for their business. Even if they somehow escape the ranchers’ guns and poisons, still their habitat is terribly compromised by the overuse and destructive nature of animal agriculture. 

As Always—the Good News
As I’ve said in every article I’ve written for this column, animal agriculture is one area in which we human beings can have the most massive and immediate impact on saving the earth, the species who are facing extinction, and—oh yes--ourselves. We can gain knowledge from reading those statistics, but can we understand what is really happening here?  More importantly, can we change our rigid brain patterns and help others do so along with us, and can we do it in time?  It is hard to change those brain pathways that have been passed along by genes, traditions, and lifestyles for generations.  But it can be done. Whether we are learning to ride a Backwards Brain Bicycle or understanding that animal agriculture is so destructive that it must be stopped—we have the capacity to do it.    This profit-driven behemoth is exterminating millions of species; polluting land, water, and air; and causing immense suffering to the farm animals themselves, the wild animals whose habitats are invaded or destroyed, and to us because of all the illnesses caused by animal agriculture and by eating its products.

Imagine freeing up 80% of total “agricultural” land from animal agriculture and eliminating the pollution, erosion, desertification, deforestation caused by it. If we look at this chart, we see that we can obviously grow enough plant food for people on a lot less than that 80%.  If you figure you can feed an average of 15 people a plant based diet on 2.5 acres and only one on a meat based diet on the same amount of land, then we would need only one fifteenth of the land to feed people. The rest of that land can be returned to its natural state and provide healthy ecosystems for those who need them so desperately if they are to survive.  

Number of people whose food energy needs can be 
met by the food produced on 2.5 acres of land.  For
example, 23 people can be fed on 2.5 acres of land producing 
cabbage, whereas only one person can be fed by 
2.5 acres devoted to raising cows.
Statistics from John Robbins' The Food Revolution

On Vox.com a National Geographic Map (2014) shows that “55 percent of the world's crop calories are actually eaten directly by people. Another 36 percent is used for animal feed. And the remaining 9 percent goes toward biofuels and other industrial uses.” However in the United States, only 27 percent of crop calories are eaten by people, while more than 67 percent of crops are fed to farmed animals. Ethanol and other biofuels make up some of the remainder.  Twelve calories of a chicken require 100 calories of grain.  The same amount of grain produces only 3 calories of meat from a cow.

Reading these facts and figures is part of creating new neural pathways, new ideas, innovative ways to save the earth, and most importantly, a desire to do so.  As activists, we need to share what we know.  When people argue or deny what we are saying, they are responding to brain pathways that have been laid down for generations.  It’s hard to try new things, to ride a different kind of bicycle, but if we are going to stop this destruction dead in its track, we can.  Adopting a plant based diet is the simplest, most far reaching, and most powerful action we can take.

Yes, it helps the earth for us to ride our bikes more (even backwards bikes) and not to litter, but the benefits to causing the extinction of the T-Rex of Animal Agriculture are vastly more far-reaching and healing.
Let’s cause the extinction of destruction instead of the extinction 
of living beings who share this earth with us.        

© 2015, Judy Carman, M.A., is author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animal;  2014 winner of the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist award; and owner of a truck and a car powered by used veggie oil and house powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.   

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on
the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of
compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this
complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it
destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and
places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this
gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this
spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in
however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think
human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself
a marvelous victory.”

Howard Zinn

Monday, April 20, 2015

From "Humane Washing" to "Truly Humane"

This is my latest Sierra Club "Planet Kansas," article in the
"Eating as Though the Earth Matters" column

From “Humane-Washing” to “Truly Humane”
Spring, 2015 issue

“Surely a better time must be drawing nigh when godlike beings will become
truly humane and learn to put their animal fellow mortals in their hearts
instead of on their backs or in their dinners.” John Muir, Founder of the Sierra Club

The Wizard of Oz is not just in Kansas.  He is everywhere attempting to fool us and admonish us to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”  But when “the man behind the curtain” is in it for the money, we really need to pull that curtain down.  As buyers become more educated and discerning, sellers look to find as many ways to confuse and confound as possible.   We’ve watched some of the worst, most environmentally destructive companies adopt “green washing” campaigns.  On the one hand, it’s encouraging to realize that we are having an impact.  Otherwise these companies would not feel the need to appear green.  On the other hand, their ads serve to confuse the people who have not studied the issues in depth. 

Craig Volland questions false labels: Now that the public is becoming more aware of food and cruelty issues, the same strategy is taking place with many of the same companies, who are, after all, just as destructive to animals as they are to the environment.  In the Fall, 2014, issue of Planet Kansas, Craig Volland pulled the curtain down on Hen House’s “Farm to Fork” campaign in his article “How Not to Buy Free Range, Humanely Produced Animal Products.”  In their brochure promoting chicken consumption were false terms, parading as the truth, such as “cage free,” raised on local farms, and “Treat yourself to chicken that’s been well-treated.” Of course this is happening in advertisements and grocery stores everywhere.  We could call it “humane- washing.”

Not “local,” “humane,” or “cage-free:” With a little “behind the curtain” detective work, Volland discovered that the chickens being sold at Hen House were, in fact, not locally raised or “cage free.”  They came from a deceptively named “Forester Farmer’s Market” which is so- named to confuse the public and lull us into a feel good state of maleability and acceptance.  Forester bears no resemblance to a farmer’s market.  It is actually a huge 240 million dollar enterprise that obtains broiler chickens from 8 different confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s, aka, factory farms).  As with green washing, this humane-washing is firmly rooted in the belief that we human beings can be manipulated by advertising and corporate shell games.  The good side of this coin--the silver lining of this cloud--is that these corporations do understand the power of boycotting and seek to prevent it by spending billions on ads, legislation, and other tactics.  They know they can lose profits if we wake up and look at the wizards who are trying so hard to convince us that they have the best interest of our health and the animals’ well-being at heart. In other words, we have power over them, and they know that.  The more green-washing and humane-washing they do, the more we are seeing their fear of what we can do as consumers.

An example of that is found in Volland’s same article.  He explains that the Kanza Group confronted Balls Foods (owner of Hen House) with the fact that the pork they were selling as “humanely treated” and local was in fact coming from factory farmed pigs. As a result, the humanely treated claim was removed from the ads.  That is consumer power, but if no one had confronted them, we can be sure the false claim would still be on the ads.  

Nor “compassion:” Whole Foods supermarket is hiding behind inaccurate labels as well.  Now they have added “compassion for our animals” to their list of false claims.  Undercover investigators released a video in January that showed extreme suffering of hens at Petaluma Farms, a giant egg supplier for Whole Foods.  Whole Foods claims these eggs come from “Chickens Raised with Care.”  Instead investigators found debeaked hens and roosters who were starving, crowded in dark buildings polluted by their own feces—a typical factory operation.  The owner of Petaluma Farms defended the practice of treating the birds in this manner because they were not from the “certified humane” flock.  As Hope Bohanec stated in a letter to the editor of The Press Democrat, “So let me get this straight—the Mahrts [the owners] are OK with having some of the birds suffer, as long as they are not the certified humane hens?  If the owners truly cared about the birds, they would have the highest standard for them all…”  Hope concludes, “Let’s embrace a new ethic.  Bring farmed animals into our circle of compassion and not eat meat, dairy or eggs.”

But let’s say we actually find a local farm that allows chickens access to the outdoors.  For every egg laying chicken on that farm, a male chick was killed shortly after hatching either by being ground up alive or suffocated in a trash can.  The egg laying chickens and their brothers, of course, never saw their mothers, and their mothers were deprived of caring for their babies.  Nearly all of these hens will have had their beaks mutilated without anesthesia.  Once their production declines, usually within two years, they are killed, often ground into fertilizer or simply thrown away as trash.  In nature or at a sanctuary, they can live ten years or more.  Ironically, the organic label for all animals often spells even greater suffering.  Since the “organic” industry withholds antibiotics, sick animals suffer from their illnesses without the medicine they need. 

Or, let’s say that in our research we actually find a local farm that claims to sell milk from happy cows.  Is that possible?  In order to keep cows producing milk, they are forced to stay pregnant.  When their babies are born, they are taken away from them so that human beings can drink their milk, not their babies.  Moms and babies cry for one another and suffer greatly from this forced separation.  The baby boys are usually confined in veal crates and killed at about 4 months of age  To re-impregnate the mother dairy cows (whether labelled “humane” or not) they are restrained on rape racks.  The scientific sounding “artificial insemination” involves someone crudely and disrespectfully inserting his arm into her rectum in order to position the uterus while an insemination instrument is inserted into her vagina.  Cows that could live into their twenties if they could live normal lives, are usually unable to produce milk by the young age of 4 to 6. By then, they have lost enormous amounts of calcium.  Their bones can break while being transported to slaughter, and they often are sick and very weak. It is difficult to imagine how someone could refer to these sensitive animals as happy.          
The impossibility of raising animals outside of factory farms and of killing them humanely.  But what if Big Ag and small farmers actually did commit to pasture-raising each animal? It would be physically impossible to produce the amount of animal products currently being eaten by human beings that way. There is simply not enough land available to do it.  The film Cowspiracy calculates that when a person commits to eating a plant-based diet, (compared to someone on the standard American diet) that one person saves 1100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forest, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life every single day.  The “Facts” page on Cowspiracy.com includes mind-blowing statistics to show the destructive impact on the environment of eating animal products, regardless of what label is applied to the neatly wrapped package in the supermarket. Another good source of information is humanemyth.org.  The over-arching dilemma that permeates all these issues is the simple, heart-wise, inner knowing that there is simply no way to kill an animal for meat humanely. Other oxymorons pale in comparison to “humane slaughter.”       

“Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.”  Thankfully, there is a logical and most rewarding solution to this dilemma. There is only one way to be certain that we are not supporting the agriculture industries that are simultaneously degrading the environment and causing immeasurable suffering, violence, and death to billions of animals all over the world.  By committing to a nonviolent, vegan philosophy of life and a healthy plant-based diet, we do not have to concern ourselves with labels and ads or wonder if Whole Foods really does have compassion for animals.  Regardless of whether an animal is raised in a factory farm or by a neighbor in a green pasture, that individual animal has been deprived of his or her right to live free and happy,  to not be owned, to not be used, and ultimately to not be barbarically transported to slaughter and then mercilessly killed. In fact, we are being insulted by the industries that are attempting to convince us that meat, milk, and eggs can be produced humanely.  As we reflect on the savagery of owning, abusing, mutilating, chaining to rape racks, confining, and killing, we see  living beings who demonstrate at every slaughterhouse that they want to live just as much as we do.  As Isaac Bashevis Singer stated: “As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.”

© 2014, Judy Carman, M.A., is author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animal;. 2014 winner of the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist award; and owner of a truck and a car powered by used veggie oil and house powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.