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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Past Shows


People Are Animals Too

July 19, 2009

3P-036 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the 36th episode of Third Paradigm entitled People Are Animals Too. I've wished that I had a bumper sticker that said this. I think it would make at least as much sense as the local favorite: "I like dogs and I vote." The point that I'd like to make is that being a vegan animal–rights activist in hemp sandals isn't necessarily a more ethical choice than being a chain–smoking beer–guzzling carnivore. Ethics, like the devil, is in the details. It's in the direction you're going: what you're moving towards and what you're moving away from. When I ask people why they're vegetarians, they seem startled that anyone would have to ask. Isn't it obvious? Meat causes suffering and cruelty, plus it's terrible for the environment, and by eating lower on the food chain we could feed the world. These answers are true for industrial animal farming, but they're just as true for industrial agriculture. It causes suffering and cruelty to humans. It's ruining the environment. And the food diverted into export crops, processed carbohydrates, and vegetable oils could feed the world.

Last week, I had the interesting juxtaposition of interviewing both ends of the meat production spectrum. I started with Novella Carpenter, the sassy, in–your–face author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. In an abandoned lot in inner–city Oakland, she's raised vegetable beds, bees, chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, and even two pigs which she fed entirely by dumpster diving. She likes to farm where she can get a shot of tequila and Thai take–out in walking distance. At the opposite end of the spectrum, another Free Radio Santa Cruz programmer invited me to co–interview Elise Pearlstein. She's the co–producer of Food, Inc, the wide–ranging documentary that shows what vegans and carnivores alike should be opposing.

[Participant Media, Robert Kenner – Food, Inc.]

Nicolette Hahn Niman, who I interviewed in my episode Love 'Em and Eat 'Em, was a key advisor to the film. It covers poultry and hog containment facilities, Monsanto's ruthless attacks on farmers and seed–cleaners, the link between poverty and obesity, and the treatment of immigrant workers. My daughter Veronica watched it with me and said that she'll never look at food again without wondering where it came from. She described it as factual without getting bogged down, and deeply disturbing without being overwhelming. After raising chicks ourselves, watching them tumbled by the thousands down a conveyer belt broke her heart, along with the chickens overdeveloped for breast meat that can't walk two steps without collapsing. But the only actual slaughter they show is the farmer who's doing it right, processing dozens of chickens out in the open air. That part didn't bother her. That's my girl.

We'll look at these, plus two Ironweed films called Asparagus and A Growing Season, and at a mitzvah to save the planet. But first, we'll read a poem by Wendell Berry called Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready–made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion –– put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

~ Wendell Berry ~
From The Country of Marriage

Farming was also the topic of this month's Ironweed, in two feature documentaries called Asparagus and A Growing Season. Ironweed is a progressive film club that sends out one DVD each month with movies, cartoons, and short videos. Asparagus focused on a town in Michigan called the asparagus capital until US foreign aid started subsidizing asparagus in Peru. The movie shows how Oceana County elected a Mrs. Asparagus, put on parades, developed microwave asparagus, lobbied their representatives, and targeted novelty markets. The town's residents are likeable, hard–working, and creative. Still, there's no way that thousands of union workers can compete with cheap third–world labor.

But my friend David Bayer has the other half of the story. For the last 30 years he's lived in the Ica Valley of Peru where the asparagus moved, thanks to $60 million a year of our tax money under the auspices of the so–called "war on drugs." In addition to the lives it's broken here, farm workers there are paid less than the cost of a breadbasket, which is how global aid organizations determine the minimum amount of food needed for a family. Most are single mothers living with their children in makeshift huts. Every few years the rain causes devastating mudslides into the valley, because of the deforestation of the surrounding mountains. I got to know David because I did a fundraiser for the fledgling forest he's replanted on the hills. He's also an agro–ecologist who writes about how asparagus and table grapes, both water–intensive crops, are dropping the aquifers by several meters a year. Within the next decade, the area will face severe drought and starvation because of it. Thank you Uncle Sam.

The other film, A Growing Season, follows Ontario farmer John Gorzo from spring planting through fall harvest. He plants organic crops, sells to the farmer's markets and to agribusinesses capitalizing on the organic market. He builds good housing for his immigrant workers, and pays a fair wage. He's smart, experienced, hard–working, and even sells property he's inherited to tide them over. But after dealing with unpredictable weather and globalized prices, he concludes that he'll have to find a regular job the next year. My husband thought this was one of the most depressing films he's seen, even though all that happens is a good man going broke. He should see the segment in Food, Inc when Monsanto goes after one of the few people still in the business of seed–cleaning, which helps farmers to save their own seed. They subpoena his client list to make everyone who's ever used his services a target of Monsanto's lawyers, putting him out of business and making him a pariah to his community.

In my interview with Elise Pearlstein of Food, Inc, I read a statement Monsanto gives on their corporate social responsibility. My husband's an alumnus of the University of Arizona. Their business school, Eller College of Management, puts out a magazine. In their ethics issue, they gave Monsanto the last word about being a positive force in the world, giving $15–25 million a year for "science–based education and nutritional improvement through agriculture," and being recognized for their integrity and ethics. Barf bag, anyone?

We'll now break for Cows With Guns by Dana Lyons.

[Dana Lyons – Cows With Guns]

You can hear a jukebox with all of Dana Lyon's great songs on politics and nature at his website. I'll be playing another Dana Lyons song to end the show.

We just did our third Food in the 'Hood – our frontyard Farmer's Market for Peru Amazonians and Hondurans. This time we had two little girls who call themselves Nature's Friends. For quarter donations to environmental causes, they'd made bookmarkers, posters, and origami boxes where you can keep your notes on everything ecologically–minded that you do. The boxes were 50 cents because they took them a REALLY long time to make. For another quarter, you could get a charming hand–written lecture from them. They read,

"Dear American Citizen, Our world is falling apart and we need every hand we can get to hold it up. Be green and plant flowers and trees. Go on a 'pick up trash walk.' Be sure to wear gloves to do this. Most people say, 'reduce, reuse, recycle' so take their advice. We hope you use our ideas to save the earth."

At our next Food in the 'Hood, I'm hoping to bring them more customers because everyone needs a good 10–yr–old to boss them around.

We also had a couple who describe themselves as mostly vegans, but who eat eggs their hens lay, or pork and rabbit raised by friends, or chickens they've hatched that turn out to be roosters. Their food ethic is based on the particulars – how it's treated and how sustainable it is. It was refreshing to hear their practicality. I told them that someone had reported me to animal welfare because one of my menus included rabbit. When the animal welfare officer showed up unannounced, the bunnies were free–foraging in the vegetable garden, chasing the chicks through the brussel sprouts. Rabbit–wrangling has become the family sport – it takes all five of us to corner Ninja–bunny especially. The lover bunnies had eloped next door to a 6–foot wide morning–glory hedge they use as their honeymoon cottage. The Albert Einstein rooster was strutting his punk black and purple 'fro, dyed by the Rooster Booster we put on his bald spot to keep the other roosters from picking on him.

The officer agreed that few pets have it so good and had no problem with what we're doing. But it feels weird to know that someone alerted them. Let's examine this food ethic in the light of Food, Inc. I could be serving Foster Farm chickens, Smithfield hams, and Costco burgers at my fundraiser, like every other church, school, and nonprofit. My money would then reward those who perpetrate horribly inhumane living conditions and brutally inhumane killings. It would also be complicit in creating pandemic viral strains, aka swine or avian flu, which breed in these pits of close–quartered misery. If I did these things, causing a world of suffering to animals second–hand, I'd be a hero in my community rather than being branded as a bunny–killer. I asked my middle daughter why people don't join together in taking on the big issues. She said, "Because it's easier to go up against a neighbor than a multinational corporation." She has a point.

Even though Food in the Hood hasn't yet sent any money, I can sense that it's helping. Rights Action posted photos of the thousands of people blocking roads. They're laughing and carrying signs, singing and playing drums, selling food and wearing ranch hats that say "Mel" on them. The women are under a sea of colorful umbrellas against the drizzle, and there's good energy. Mel Zelaya's family home had been taken over by the army. But on Friday, a crowd of 4–5000 people marched to the house. The soldiers pulled back and 2000 people respectfully entered the property to keep it safe for his return.

No one knows what will happen. Otto Reich, implicated in the Venezuela coup attempt, used US influence to bring pressure against Zelaya. The special advisor to the coup government is Billy Joya Amendola, whose name makes the blood of those who lived through the '80's freeze in their veins. His resume includes founding two death squads, at least 11 extrajudicial executions that are certain, and kidnapping and torturing six students who had been staying with the Attorney General's assistant, four of whom are still missing. He studied under Pinochet, and under an Argentinian dictator known for child–kidnappings. But this is all the more reason that Hondurans are determined not to let things slip backwards. Like people scaling the face of a sheer cliff, they know how long the fall is if they let go of each other. We'll break for None of Us Are Free by Solomon Burke and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Information Clearing House has an excellent contemporary video using this soundtrack which is still unfortunately relevant.

[Solomon Burke – None of Us Are Free]

That was Solomon Burke with None of Us Are Free on his Don't Give Up on Me CD from Fat Possum Records. So how do we break our link in the collective chains keeping us from being free? Well, the answer, according to an article in Tikkun magazine, is to be a vegetarian. Daniel Brook is the author of "the Planet–Saving Mitzvah: Why Jews Should Consider Vegetarianism." He writes, "Beyond being spiritual, we are called upon to uplift ourselves and make the world a better place for ourselves, our families, our communities, and others." Ever since working on a kibbutz in Israel, Daniel has been a vegetarian, and gives thirteen categorical imperatives on why it embodies Judaism's highest ideals.

Before exploring vegetarianism, I'd like to question the idea that any religion has exclusive rights to higher ideals. I'm not just picking on Judaism. I had the same reaction when my parents wanted us to send our kids to Catholic schools to learn morality. If morals are worth their salt, they transcend all religions and are part of the superset. Salt, by the way, represented wisdom in the Gnostic vocabulary, which makes you wonder about Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt while Lot steals his daughters off to a cave and impregnates them. Be that as it may, belief in moral superiority has been the rationale for every land grab and oppression of another culture. Someone once asked me rhetorically what was the root of all sin. I said sin was an acronym for seeing inferiority. Seeing oneself as superior in the eyes of God, often through discipline and rituals, makes it possible to commit atrocities. Hitler, for instance, was a vegetarian.

In each of his thirteen categorical imperatives, the examples Daniel gives are of factory farming. But I'd like to particularly take exception to #3, the conservation of resources. Meat–production, Daniel claims, is more wasteful and less efficient. In my forays into animal husbandry, nothing could be further from the truth. At the Farmer's Market today, I went dumpster–diving, raiding the scrap boxes that the bunny rescue people hadn't beaten me to. In addition to carrot tops and Jerusalem artichokes for the rabbits, I picked up potatoes and cabbages to go visit the pigs. It's impolite to arrive at a pig party empty–handed. Someone else's pig is being traded today, in the form of pork, for three Nubian goats. It has me wondering if I could have my own goat cappuccino machine, or whether this would push my fragile family over the edge. Next Saturday Veronica and I are going to a bee–keeping workshop at Love Apple Farm. In Novella Carpenter's talks, she recommends starting small and adding one new thing a year. Since November, I've started chickens, rabbits, vegetables, fruit trees, a radio show, and a frontyard market, which I think count as nuts. But it's such a beautifully efficient system that I'm determined never to have another useless plant, animal or thing in my life.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thanks and apologies to Novella Carpenter – my recorded interview with her was sabotaged again by my inner Luddite. Thanks to Janea, who invited me to interview Elise Pearlstein of Food Inc on her show, Tickling the Belly of the Beast. This interview can be found on our Third Paradigm archives at Thanks to Skidmark Bob for production, music, and editing. We go out with another Dana Lyons, Berries Overgrown.

[Berries Overgrown]

Listen to Berries Overgrown

Thanks for listening.