Food, animals and opinions about food and animals in the news, compiled by a team of experts for your convenience…
Baylen Linnekin: Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food Control
Oliver launched the Feed Me Better campaign, which he designed with the admirable goal of getting British school kids to eat healthier food. But while he could have argued in favor of parents or kids packing the cheap, easy, and tried-and-true alternative to school food—brown bag lunches—Oliver opted instead to urge more government control and increased spending on big-ticket items.. [...] Negative reaction to the British government’s nationwide implementation of Oliver’s school-lunch recommendations was swift and widespread. Parents, some of whom labeled Oliver’s food “low-fat rubbish,” pulled 400,000 kids from the school-lunch rolls, choosing to brown bag it rather than have their kids eat Oliver’s “healthier” options. Parents opposed to Oliver’s scheme handed food to their kids through the gates of schoolyards. Some vendors and parents set up shop outside schools and sold food to students. Enterprising students, in turn, sold food to peers in schools, which led to suspensions for pupil transgressions as absurd as “crisp dealing.” [...] The current issue of his magazine Jamie (Feb./Mar. 2010) recommends several school lunch recipes the magazine bills as “wholesome meals to take to school.” The magazine’s suggested meal for Thursday is a tuna Waldorf pita with hot vanilla milk, an oaty biscuit, and a banana. According to the nutrition information provided in Jamie, this youngster’s lunch contains an astonishing 1,183 calories, 55 grams of fat (20 of them saturated), and 65 grams of sugar. That’s 73 calories, 12 grams of fat (11.5 saturated), and 3 grams of sugar more than the same student would get from eating both a McDonald’s hamburger Happy Meal (hamburger, fries, Sprite) and a Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal (McNuggets, fries, Sprite).
Kate Connoly: How going green may make you mean
When Al Gore was caught running up huge energy bills at home at the same time as lecturing on the need to save electricity, it turns out that he was only reverting to “green” type. According to a study, when people feel they have been morally virtuous by saving the planet through their purchases of organic baby food, for example, it leads to the “licensing [of] selfish and morally questionable behaviour”, otherwise known as “moral balancing” or “compensatory ethics”. [...] The pair found that those in their study who bought green products appeared less willing to share with others a set amount of money than those who bought conventional products. When the green consumers were given the chance to boost their money by cheating on a computer game and then given the opportunity to lie about it – in other words, steal – they did, while the conventional consumers did not. Later, in an honour system in which participants were asked to take money from an envelope to pay themselves their spoils, the greens were six times more likely to steal than the conventionals.
The trouble started when Raj Patel appeared on American TV to plug his latest book, an analysis of the financial crisis called The Value of Nothing. The London-born author, 37, thought his slot on comedy talkshow The Colbert Report went well enough: the host made a few jokes, Patel talked a little about his work and then, job done, he went back to his home in San Francisco. Shortly afterwards, however, things took a strange turn. Over the course of a couple of days, cryptic messages started filling his inbox. “I started getting emails saying ‘have you heard of Benjamin Creme?’ and ‘are you the world teacher?’” he said. “Then all of a sudden it wasn’t just random internet folk, but also friends saying, ‘Have you seen this?’” What he had written off as gobbledygook suddenly turned into something altogether more bizarre: he was being lauded by members of an obscure religious group who had decided that Patel – a food activist who grew up in a corner shop in Golders Green in north-west London – was, in fact, the messiah. Their reasoning? Patel’s background and work coincidentally matched a series of prophecies made by an 87-year-old Scottish mystic called Benjamin Creme, the leader of a little-known religious group known as Share International. Because he matched the profile, hundreds of people around the world believed that Patel was the living embodiment of a figure they called Maitreya, the Christ or “the world teacher”.
Katherine Faulkner: KFC diner told ‘you can’t have bacon in your burger here – we’re now halal’
A diner was left fuming after a KFC restaurant took his favourite meal off the menu because it breached their new halal regulations. Alan Phillips was told he would have to travel five miles to another branch if he wanted the Big Daddy, a chicken burger, topped with bacon, cheese and salad. The branch, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, is one of 86 KFC restaurants which is running trials of a scheme where they sell nothing other than halal meat.
Jessica Vander Velde and Shelley Rossetter: Polk woman who died alone while fasting was following God’s call, husband says
Evelyn Boyd was on a mission to pray — for her husband, her church, her city, the nation and the president. So on Feb. 7, she locked herself in a bedroom to pray and fast. She brought water and prayer requests and told her husband not to bother her. “This is what I have to do,” she told him. For more than three weeks, Boyd, 55, didn’t emerge. Her family could have come to her aid if she needed help, but her husband wanted to respect her wish to be alone. He figured she’d be okay, just like the last four times she fasted. But on the 26th day, family members forced the door open. They found her dead.
A Muslim chef who lost a claim of religious discrimination against Scotland Yard after complaining he was forced to cook sausages and bacon faces a legal bill of more than £75,000. Hasanali Khoja accused the Metropolitan Police of failing to consider his Islamic beliefs when he was asked to handle pork products as a catering manager at a police station. The £23,000-a-year chef claimed suggestions by his bosses that he should wear gloves and use tongs left him ‘stressed and humiliated’. Muslims are banned from eating pork under Islamic law. But Mr Khoja, 62, lost his claim in May after a police employee told an employment tribunal how she saw Mr Khoja eat bacon rolls and sausages.
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Demian Bulwa: Pies-in-face attack roils anarchist-vegan world
An ex-vegan who was hit with chili pepper-laced pies at an anarchist event in San Francisco said Tuesday that her assailants were cowards who should direct their herbivorous rage at the powerful – not at a fellow radical for writing a book denouncing animal-free diets. Lierre Keith, a 45-year-old Arcata resident, was attacked at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the 15th annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair while discussing her 2009 book, “The Vegetarian Myth.” A 20-year vegan, Keith now argues that the diet is unhealthy and that agriculture is destroying the world. As Keith stood at a lectern at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, three people in masks and black hooded sweatshirts ran from backstage, shouted, “Go vegan!” and threw pies in her face. While they fled, some in the audience cheered or handed out leaflets. [...] “The whole thing was designed for social humiliation,” said Keith, speaking Tuesday from her sister’s home in Kansas. “We’re supposed to be against sadism and cruelty and domination, and these people were willing to do this to me.” Keith said her values are similar in most ways to those of her attackers. She believes in militant action, even property destruction, if it can lead to change. In her book, she said, she railed against factory farming and promoted the restoration of prairies and forests.
Dana Chivvis: PETA’s Euthanasia Rates Have Critics Fuming
When Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld trainer, was killed last month by one of the park’s orcas, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was quick to condemn SeaWorld for keeping its animals constrained in small tanks. Indeed, PETA is often on hand whenever there is an incident involving animals and humans. The group is well-known for its edgy, graphic advertisements, its support for radical animal rights groups, and its throngs of celebrity supporters, from Charlize Theron to Tim Gunn. But PETA has a lesser-known claim to fame that has critics fuming: The organization euthanizes over 90 percent of the dogs and cats relinquished to its headquarters in Norfolk, Va. In 2009, PETA euthanized 2,301 dogs and cats — 97 percent of those brought in — and adopted only eight, according to Virginia state figures. And the rate of these killings has been increasing. From 2004 to 2008, euthanasia at PETA increased by 10 percent. [...] PETA reported an annual revenue of more than $34 million in 2009.