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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Newsletters - Winter 2008 Issue

President's Message
The diary of a not quite mad vegan

Wednesday January 23 – MHVS Membership Chair Judi Gelardi and I are spending a week in Vieques, Puerto Rico, where my daughter Andrea Kaufman lives and has a veterinary practice. I am sitting on the front porch. If I look out I can see the bioluminescent bay where, at night, little dino-flagallates light up the water. Coming into the yard now is a family - a mother hen and her chicks. They could pose for an illustration in a child’s book of fiction “Life on the Farm”. The mother hen is all black as are two of her chicks; another two are the fluffy yellow we have come to associate with all chicks. One looks unlike his or her siblings being several shades of brown interspersed with white, odd chick out, but probably does not know this. They all seem to be having an orderly morning, following her every step. One of the black ones does keep back, like a teen-ager who does not want to be seen at the mall with his parents. Mama scratches up some leaves and they all immediately check out whatever tasty goodies are found under them. The little black one comes running too, although he retreats to his rear position after claiming his treat.
 
While enjoying this scene I thought of the chickens cut into parts in supermarket cases everywhere, the multitude of “nuggets” and “wings” available in fast food outlets and bars everywhere. Those babies never saw their mothers and were slaughtered at six weeks when they still would have been sleeping under their mother’s wing. Of the one million animals slaughtered each hour, most are chickens. And, of course there are the egg laying hen slaves, existing in cages, thousands of them together in ammonia filled buildings. Many of their “cage-free” sisters have the same miserable life only without being in a cage, just crowded together, inside a large structure. Both have had their beaks seared off with a hot iron to keep from pecking each other. Meanwhile the hen and chick family walk easily under the fence, continuing their quest. Tomorrow they will return.
 
Wednesday, January 30 – I return to Rhinebeck, among the many emails are several commenting on an article in the New York Times Week in Review Section for January 27 called “Rethinking The Meat Guzzler” by Mark Bittman. Please read it if you have not already. Let me know if you want it emailed to you. He does a good job informing people about the conditions of factory farming of beef cattle. The photo of a feed lot is good, but would have been better if it were the road and truck that were out of focus and the cattle were in focus. For those of us who know about the conditions, we can “see” what is happening. If I were learning this for the first time, I might not have been so aware of the misery that is depicted. I am glad that Mark Bittman is not a vegetarian, as more people will listen to him. On the other hand, I heard him interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air program about his book “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian”. In the first part of the interview he explained how he learned about the variety of grains and how to cook them. In the second part he and the interviewer kept telling each other that they were not vegetarians and Mark explained in detail his unique way to prepare a rib-eye steak. That said, do read the article.

Saturday, February 2 – Our second-annual Souper Bowl was held at the Reformed Church in Rhinebeck. Thirty-eight people attended. It was a good mix of long-standing and newer members and some new people who came with friends or from reading about it in one of the local papers.
 
We had six different kinds of homemade soups and a selection of appetizers and desserts. We especially enjoy showing people how delicious and varied vegan foods can be.
 
Sunday, February 3 – The documentary King Corn was playing at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck. It is very well made, both entertaining and informative. Two young men from Boston decide to move to Iowa for a year, acquire an acre of land and grow corn both to learn how it is done and to see what happens to it. They are inspired to do this after finding out that most of the carbon in their bodies is corn based. They learn that not only has the family farm that grows a variety of crops mostly disappeared in favor the monoculture of seemingly endless fields of corn, but also the corn itself is inedible for humans. Cattle eat a lot of it. Some of it goes for bio-fuel. Humans consume the rest in the form of high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener, increasingly popular since the 1980s is much cheaper to produce than beet or cane sugar and is used not only in soft drinks, ice cream, baked goods and other foods that are normally sweetened, but also in many products that never had sugar such as sauces, soups, and vegetables. Take some time to read labels in a supermarket. It is hard to find foods without it. Health food store products are much less likely to contain it. (They tend to have “evaporated cane juice” which is still sugar). The process of extracting high fructose corn syrup is so involved and intense it is not really recognized by the body as a food (See explanation on page 3 by George Eiseman, RD). Many health experts feel that is contributing to the epidemic of diabetes. We get to see the feedlots up close in this film. One of the most telling scenes shows a man in a car with the vanity plate “Cornfed” chomping on a burger while talking about the cattle that produced his meal. He says that it is a good thing that they are slaughtered when they are as the corn and other inappropriate items in their diet destroys their digestive systems and they would die soon anyway. My daughter informs me that dairy cattle walk this line all the time; almost reaching acidosis, but not quite. After all, they need to live until their prime milk-producing days are over and then they too will be slaughtered for mystery meat in school lunches and prison food. As Mr. Cornfed swallows his last bite and smiles, we see that none of this bothers him, nor does it pose a problem for the film makers who have themselves filmed downing burgers and fries (the fries cooked in corn oil). Watching it I did get the hopeful feeling that many sensitive, caring and concerned people who see this will think more carefully about continuing to consume food that uses huge amounts of water, fuel and fertilizer which come from animals manipulated to produce a higher yield (the same as is done with the land on which their food is grown). And will they smile while eating the flesh of a diseased animal?
 
Monday, February 4 – Opening up yesterday’s Poughkeepsie Journal, I reach for the Healthy Living Section. I am pleased to see an article on the front page called. “Got Grains? You Should”. It comes from the Gannett News Service, so it should be widely read. It is well written and a good introduction to those who have not yet learned about the value of eating whole foods. It describes several grains in an easy to understand way. Forty percent of Americans never eat whole grains, it states. A recipe called “Make Healthier Chicken Fingers” follows the article. The coating is quinoa and whole-wheat flour rather than white flour. Chicken tenders are one of the products made from the bodies of spent laying hens. The recipe came from Healthy Ways Nutrition Counseling. Who wants to help out with a vegan recipe spread to present to the Poughkeepsie Journal? They no longer produce these segments but will take submissions. In the same section is another news service article entitled “Vegans: Read Up Before You Eat Up”. It has a good description of what a vegan diet is and states that it can be healthful. Then comes the advice that it must be very carefully planed to get all needed nutrients. There is nothing wrong with this, if these articles would state that all diets ought to be carefully planned and most people (see the 40 per cent reference above) are living on white flour, meat, high fructose corn syrup (see above again) and a very limited amount of vegetables and fruit. Yes, there are some junk food vegans who are not much better off than those consuming the SAD (Standard American Diet), but a lot of us eat more healthfully than the general population and keep striving to reach an even better nutritional level.

I am happy to see more of these articles appear. Appropriately worded letters to the editor can make up for information lacking and start more dialogue.
 
Tuesday February 5 – The New York Times, in the Science Times Section, features an article about the Quality Pork Producers plant in Minnesota where several workers have been stricken with a serious neurological disease that keeps them from not only working but doing everyday activities. All of these workers came into contact with brain tissue that was removed from the pigs’ heads with high-pressure hoses. Epidemiologists are working on finding the causative agent. Spam anyone? (For our younger readers, not the computer kind rather the product that comes in a can whose name means spiced ham.)
If you want to improve your diet or know someone who does, please contact us. We can help.

Roberta Schiff, President

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