Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mr. Bill Gates, Chairman
1 Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052

Dear Mr. Gates:

The members and friends of the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) are writing to express our deep concern regarding the relationship that has been forged between Microsoft and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) through Microsoft’s i’m Initiative and to encourage Microsoft to end this relationship.

The i’m Initiative is an admirable program providing financial support to non-profit organizations for the betterment of a number of different causes, including humanitarian efforts. Allowing the HSUS to benefit financially from this initiative runs contrary to the very foundation of this Microsoft effort. The HSUS is not the national organization for local animal shelters and it is not what it appears to be on the surface.

The HSUS is the nation’s largest animal rights activist group and carries a dangerous and radical agenda that if proliferated, will not only directly harm farm families and rural communities in our state, but families across America and food consumers everywhere. This vegan-led organization spends millions annually attacking farm and ranch families through legislative, legal and other initiatives to eliminate veterinarian approved animal husbandry practices used by farmers to raise the food that feeds Nebraskans, Americans and the rest of the world.

Less than a year ago, at the HSUS’ Taking Action for Animals conference, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS President vowed to redouble the animal rights group’s efforts against animal agriculture. Later in the year the organization’s Vice President of Farm Animal Welfare, declared that the organization’s long-term goal for the egg laying and broiler chicken industry is, “to get rid of the industry”.

The United States is blessed to have a system of food production where the average consumer spends roughly 10 percent of their disposable income on food, allowing them to enjoy a standard of living unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Nebraska is deeply rooted in agriculture and the well-being of farmers and ranchers plays a tremendous role in the well being of all Nebraskans. Nebraska farm families are extremely proud of the their ability to take care of their animals and take great pride in providing a safe and affordable food supply improving the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere. The HSUS’ actions jeopardize the security of our country’s food production system and the well being of families and consumers whom depend upon it.

We trust Microsoft would not knowingly support such a radical organization and extremist agenda. As an organization and as individuals we are asking you to please end Microsoft’s relationship with HSUS. Furthermore, we encourage you to consider replacing HSUS with another entity that would work toward ensuring a viable and affordable food supply for our country and world. There are many that exist to promote this important cause and we would be more than willing to share candidates for this effort.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and would welcome the opportunity to visit with you or a representative of the Microsoft Corporation to discuss this matter further or answer any questions that you may have. Our country was founded on agriculture and is vibrant because of it. It is important that we never forget.

Trent Loos
The Growing Field of Animal Law is Attracting Activists and Pragmatists Alike

In the Pacific Northwest, many young people say they want to liberate animals from human subjection, so much so that defending activists who break into research laboratories to set loose animals is now a cottage industry.

Here at Lewis & Clark College School of Law, students of "animal law" are learning another way to change social practices that involve animals. They are just as passionate as animal-liberation advocates. And they may become more influential.

Animal law is the study of all laws relating to animals, whether they enable harsh treatment of animals or encourage kind treatment. "It's a lot like where environmental law was in the 1970s," says Laura Ireland Moore, founder and executive director of the National Center for Animal Law, based at Lewis & Clark.

Students in the field study animal-related local, state, and federal legislation and case law. Topics include animal cruelty, hunting, animal fighting, and performing animals; the history of animals' legal status; the use of animals in scientific research; free-speech and religious-practice limitations on animal sacrifices; and such federal statutes as the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter of Livestock Act.

Critics of the animal-law courses say they risk taking a political stance. Indeed, the conviction that humans should treat animals better motivates almost all the students who enroll in animal-law courses, says Kimberly E. McCoy, who has just graduated from the law school at Lewis & Clark. She is the outgoing editor in chief of Animal Law Review, which in 1993 became the country's first journal devoted to the subject.

After graduating from college, Ms. McCoy had no intention of attending law school. She had worked for the cause of protecting endangered species — whales, pandas, and rare tigers. During visits to developing countries, she had seen animals living in what she describes as deplorable conditions.

An article about "compassionate eating" persuaded her to become a vegan. She started hearing more about so-called animal-rights terrorism. Then one day, law school seemed like the right outlet for her passion. "There was so much fear mongering about people using tactics outside the law," Ms. McCoy says, "I decided I wanted to fight within the legal system."

'Respect Their Interests'

Like other areas of public-interest law, animal law is attracting many women, who outnumber men by 10 to one in the burgeoning field.

Interest is growing rapidly because animal welfare "is much more part of our consciousness," says Pamela Frasch, director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund's anti-cruelty division, who teaches a course at Lewis & Clark. "So it's natural that it would become a separate area of law in law schools."

Concern about animals has increased as farming has shifted from a "part of the family" to a "factory farm" model. At the same time, the public has become more aware of the harmful effects of intensive fishing on marine mammals and reptiles, such as the catching of dolphins in tuna-fishing nets. Advances in scientific knowledge of animals — and their consciousness — have played a role, too. "When we learn that animals have emotions, and feel pain, and are intelligent, and

have social structures, we have an obligation to respect their interests," says Ms. Moore.

But it is arguments like that that prompt blunt criticism from legal educators who are skeptical of the way advocates of animal "rights" are shaping the teaching of animal law. Yes, the human use of animals is an important component of the law, and has been since ancient times, says Richard A. Epstein, a professor law at the University of Chicago. But that does not mean, he says, that "preposterous" and "overinflated" claims about animal emotions and intelligence should guide it now.

"Very few people will take the side of saying, 'Yes, animal protections are appropriate,'" he says, "but 'No, animal rights are not.' That's a very uncomfortable position to be in, because you can always be painted as an ogre."

Reasoned discussion of animal law can include such topics as the lessening need for some kinds of animal testing, and yet fall well short of what he considers to be outlandish advocacy of purported animal rights. So, he adds, one can teach animal law without taking a position on such largely emotional topics. "Animal law is a neutral topic," he says. "What I get nervous about are courses that take sides, that are the equivalent of 'human rights for victims' or 'property law for developers.'"

To hear students here at Lewis & Clark, however, idealism is not the whole story. Many are pragmatists. Danielle Thompson became a vegan at the age of 17, nine years ago, after devouring a book from the 1950s about food production that she happened on in a thrift store. "It was out of concern for animals and the horrific suffering they go through every minute of the day," she says.

"Most of the suffering is due to our eating them, and their being in factory farms."

Ms. Thompson became involved with Vegan Outreach, a national organization that advocates sparing or easing animals' lives by eating no animal products, and the Animal Defense League, another national advocacy group, while studying political science and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and then decided to study animal law at Lewis & Clark. "I wanted a career where I could have a reasonably good life," she says, "but also help animals."

In another expression of pragmatism, each year 40 to 60 Lewis & Clark law students work on Animal Law Review, enhancing their résumés even as they support a cause. The students edit and publish articles on standards of care at private wildlife sanctuaries and Native American tribal whaling rights, among other subjects.

Virtually all submissions advocate for animal welfare, but there are exceptions. "We take pride in being nonbiased, says Ms. McCoy, the editor. "We have published articles saying that animal experimentation is ethical and necessary."

In animal-law classes, debates involve questions about which human uses of animals are acceptable. Students generally deplore the use of animals in the testing of cosmetics and household products but are divided about their use in medical research. Attitudes toward food production often vary according to students' dietary practices.

The sparse enforcement of existing animal laws also prompts debate, students say. So do arguments about the adequacy of the laws. The Federal Humane Slaughter Act of 1958, for example, specifically exempts poultry, which composes 92 percent of animals killed for food in the United States. Is such a law just, or sufficient?

Meaningful Work?

Impassioned debates aside, not all experts are sure the field can grow fast enough to provide meaningful work for all of its graduates.

Geordie Duckler, an animal-law attorney in Portland who often helps teach the courses at Lewis & Clark, believes that animal-law students frequently graduate with what he calls "the naïve, unreasonable, and problematic goal of working to 'protect the animals.'"

"There is only so much money that can be spent on promoting fashionable cruelty legislation," he says. "If the idea is to actually make a living, most new practitioners are going to have to swallow hard and get on the unpopular side of a huge number of legal questions on custody, neglect, conveyance, and injury." That, he says, might mean representing universities using animals for research, ranchers breeding horses, or even pet marketers accused of operating "puppy mills."

Animal-law instruction, he believes, should focus on laws as they are written and enforced, not so much on moral arguments.

Ms. Moore and others in the field do not agree. They claim that, far from breeding radicals, animal law signals that more and more Americans simply care about animals. "One in 31 people in the United States is a member of the Humane Society, and that speaks volumes," says Ms. McCoy. "Most people, even if they support animal research, eat meat, or wear fur, want to be assured that those animals were treated humanely while they were alive."

As in any kind of social-welfare law, an advocacy element is perhaps inevitable. "It's hard," she says, "to separate personal from professional with something like animal law."
Section: The Faculty
Volume 53, Issue 43, Page A6
Here's a recent article that I find quite unsettling:

Balanced veggie diets give kids a healthy choice

Even before her quintuplets were conceived, Florida's Gayle Nelson Folkersen knew she didn't want her kids eating meat, fish, eggs or dairy products. A committed vegan since age 16, Nelson Folkersen has said she values both the nutritional benefits of the strict vegetarian diet and its lessons in compassion and kindness toward animals. But in an unusual custody battle, the father of the 10-year-old quintuplets is seeking primary residential custody, charging that Nelson Folkersen has "serious psychological control issues" and won't let her children eat animal products. One of the rewards, she said, was knowing that her children weren't ingesting pesticides, chemicals and hormones. Another was raising children who are "growing into compassionate human beings who care about other living beings and the environment."

To this I would say: If you are going to remove hormones from your diet you will starve. It amazes me how the buzz words such as hormones, antibiotics and chemicals generate such fear. In fact they have all contributed to extending the life expectancy of the American citizen to nearly 80 years of age.

Furthermore, the ignorance about science slays me. A mother who avoids animal products for fear of hormones turns to soy? One serving of beef with the assistance of hormones in the production phase contains 1.89 nanograms of estrogen. One tablespoon of soybean oil contains 28,000 nanograms of estrogen. In fact recently USA Today ran a story about the trend in American women increasing soy consumption instead of taking Hormone Replacement. Link here to read, Seeking soy as alternative to hormones

If you read and follow the impact of estrogen and hormones on cancers and healthy living, you know that it is very complex and ongoing. Here is what we do know - healthy living is a combination of a balanced variety of foods and exercise. Looking for the silver bullet or fad never has, nor ever will, improve on that.

This week's Amanda Nolz Chewing the Cud.

Tumbleweeds, rugged mountains and sloping sandhills weren't the only things greeting me as I arrived in Raton, New Mexico. I was welcomed into the state with a raging hail storm. This didn't damper the spirits of the New Mexico Cattlegrower's Association members who had gathered for their mid-year meeting this weekend. Link here to listen to Amanda's shows.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Between the fields where the flag is planted, there are 9+ miles of flower fields that go all the way to the ocean. The flowers are grown by seed companies. It's a beautiful place, close to Vandenberg AFB. Check out the dimensions of the flag. The Floral Flag is 740 feet long and 390 feet wide and maintains the proper Flag dimensions, as described in Executive Order #10834. This Flag is 6.65 acres and is the first Floral Flag to be planted with 5 pointed Stars, comprised of White Larkspur. Each Star is 24 feet in diameter; each Stripe is 30 feet wide. This Flag is estimated to contain more than 400,000 Larkspur plants, with 4-5 flower stems each, for a total of more than 2 million flowers.

Ocean Ave. in Lompoc , CA ! ..

Aerial photo courtesy of Bill Morson Soldiers' Prayer

For our soldiers....Please don't break it
Barbecue: Relax, it’s not really French
By Eric Berg, Meat-animal Scientist, North Dakota State University

Another July 4th has passed and we are in the middle of “grilling season”. It is the season of barbecue cook-offs and other assorted celebrations that include outdoor roasting of meat. With all this attention to the BBQ, I started wondering; what is the origin of this cooking method and the word itself. I had always thought that both the word and the method had come from a French origin. So I did some digging. Turns out the origin of the word remains a point of debate and (as with many things) the French claim the origin of not only the word itself, but the cooking style.

According to one source, French pirates who sailed the French West Indies were called “Boucaniers” (the prequel to our Colonial Buccaneers). Seems the root word for Boucanier, or “Bouc”, is French for male goat and these swashbucklers got the name from their favorite meal. They would impale the goat carcass “de la barbe au cul” which loosely translates to “from beard to butt”. Since the “l” in ‘cul’ is silent in the French tongue and since the followers of this method of cooking had a hard time understanding the pirates, the word barbecue was passed on.

So you say you can’t quite stomach the fact that a French Captain Jack Sparrow invented one of the most sacred rituals of American summer-time? Then maybe you would prefer this origin. Harold McGee (in his book On Food and Cooking) links the word and cooking style to the West Indies, but not to French pirates. He states the word comes from the Spanish barbicoa which is a Taino word referring to a “framework of green sticks suspended on corner posts” where fish and meat are cooked over an open fire of coals. Just like your Weber grill, both the height and fire were adjustable to allow fast or slow cooking. From barbicoa to barbecue.
But wait gentle reader, there is more. Turns out, there were two Taino words that may have sparked the origination. This one may hit closer to home for some of you out there. The Taino word for “sacred fire pit” is barabicu. So there you go. Barbecue IS a spiritual ritual.

Okay. Let’s review. American BBQ originated with a pre-Columbian indigenous Amerindian inhabitant of the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles islands (which include Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica). Note to reader: the former was obtained from the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia since I didn’t know what a Taino was. Now back to our summary. The BBQ process was then stolen by the French (Okay; French pirates) who washed up on America’s Southern shores where Southern Barbecue was born! Originating with the whole hog because it was inexpensive and available to the masses, the post civil war Southern Barbecue came to be known as a central point of celebration and community fellowship.

The origins of the word and the cooking style have stayed loyal to their base. The next time you host your community ritual of cooked meat you will be able to tell the tale of barbecue’s origin. Be sure you tell it in a Pirates brogue. Yo ho ho!