Veggie Libel Law

Over the past couple years I’ve heard an awful lot about a documentary called “Food Inc.” Many of my friends source it as a stimulant for changing their diet or becoming more selective about what  brands they support. I finally watched it this weekend and it was amazing. Terrifying, but amazing. If you haven’t seen it you definitely should check it out (I watched it off Documentary Addict). If anything, it’ll help you rethink your purchasing power as a consumer. The documentary covers so many topics I’ll probably reference it in other posts, but today I’m very much concerned with one thing: veggie libel laws.

What’s a veggie libel law?
More formally known as food disparagement laws, veggie libel laws give food producers the power to sue critics of its products for libel. They were passed in 13 states including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas.

Why are these laws even a thing?
Food producers realized that sales significantly decreased when their products were mentioned to be unsafe or unhealthy or  [insert other negative descriptors here].

My sassy thought process: Wow! You mean negative feedback can affect your sales? Must be an entirely new concept very specific to the food industry. Hey, how about let’s take away freedom of speech so we can produce food that may or may not be up to health standards and no one can say anything about it. 

What would be considered “libel”?
Technically “libel” is a false statement that damages one’s reputation. There are a lot of gray areas about this, especially because sometimes opinions can come across as factual assertions in a certain context.

One of the most well-known cases of a veggie libel lawsuit is the lawsuit between Oprah and the meat industry. Oprah was sued by the meat industry after talking about her fears of eating hamburgers after learning about the practices of beef product producers and its connection to “Mad Cow Disease”. On the show Oprah said she was “stopped cold from eating another burger.” This episode apparently had a devastating impact on beef sales. Thankfully she won the case, but her legal fees amounted to more than one million dollars.

I’m baffled that these laws can even exist given that they limit the freedom of speech and create a chilling effect, which discourages people from exercising their natural rights out of fear. Further, it seems as though the laws are being invoked more for opinions than false disparagement of food products. If there’s any industry that should be open to criticism from its consumer population its the food industry because preservation of health should be top priority in all of our lives and to our government. It’s evident that these laws were created to squash the voice of the little guys and protect the big corporations. If you’d like to learn more about these laws, this video gives a pretty solid history and overview.

How do you feel about these laws? Do you think it’s right to limit our freedom of speech to stabilize food sales? Will you be more wary of what you say about meat and other food products?

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Water Footprints & Food

It’s not really “in” to be concerned with your water footprint. A Google search of the phrase “water footprint” retrieves 8 times fewer results than a search for “carbon footprint” (723,000 compared to 8.5 million).  Even in the dialogues I’ve had of water conservation most focus on reducing water use at home: take shorter showers, use a basin to wash dishes by hand, turn off the faucet while I brush my teeth, etc. With all the hullaballoo centered on household water use, it must have the most impact on reducing our water footprint, right?

Wrong. Only 4% of the water footprint of humanity relates to water use at home, meanwhile 27% is related to the production of animal products.  (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2011).

This means that if you want to make a significant effort to reduce your water use you can start by decreasing your consumption and purchase of animal products and byproducts. The quarter pounder is worth more than 30 average American showers (National Geographic). Forget for a second that I’m vegetarian; personally, I would choose being clean for a month or two over a 5-minute inhalation of beef.

  • The average water footprint per calorie for fruits or cereals is 20 times smaller than that for beef and 3 times smaller than that for chicken.
  • Producing a typical American Thanksgiving dinner for six people requires over 30,000 gallons of water.
  • Pork costs water to produce, and traditional pork production—to make your sausage, bacon, and chops—has also been the cause of some water pollution, as pig waste runs into local water sources.
  • California officials identify agriculture, including cows, as the major source of nitrate pollution in more than 100,000 square miles of polluted groundwater
  • On average, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet.

Water conservation is not a local or regional issue— it’s global. The food consumed in Boston could determine the water footprint of a cocoa farm in Brazil or a cheese factory in Wisconsin. The decision to cut out meat and dairy is not all insignificant and will not only help water conservation efforts around the globe, but also reduce the negative consequences that production of animal products have on the environment and by default our own health.

Sources:

Hoekstra, A. Y., A. K. Chapagain, M. M. Aldaya, and M. M. Mekonnen. 2011. The Water Footprint Assessment Manual: Setting the Global Standard. Earthscan, London, UK

Hoekstra, A. Y. 2012. The Hidden Water Resource Use behind Meat and Dairy.

Natural Resources Defense Council

Veganism Myths

Myths often exist because of a lack of knowledge. Ethical Ocean, an online marketplace for ethical products & service in North America,  created this handy-dandy infographic to dispel some common misconceptions about the vegan lifestyle.

(Note: please disregard the unnecessary sex differentiation of protein intake. I acknowledge that adequate protein varies per person according to physical activity, size, and other factors that aren’t essentially sex-related). 

Veganism Myths Debunked

via Ethical Ocean – eco friendly products, fair trade and vegan shopping.