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Media Coverage of California Water Shortage Omits Biggest Culprit — Animal Agriculture

April 7, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

In its extensive coverage of the California drought, the New York Times has consistently focused on the cultivation of crops without so much as mentioning animal agriculture, which is far more water intensive.

Cattle during California drought (photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Cattle during California drought (photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The glaring omission has sent readers the message that fruits, vegetables and nuts  – not beef and dairy – are responsible for the state’s grave water shortage. Following are excerpts from the NY Times over the past three days.

April 6th: “Even as the worst drought in decades ravages California, . . . millions of pounds of thirsty crops like oranges, tomatoes and almonds continue to stream out of the state and onto the nation’s grocery shelves.”

April 5th: “The expansion of almonds, walnuts and other water-guzzling tree and vine crops has come under sharp criticism from some urban Californians.”

April 4th: ”There is likely to be increased pressure on the farms to move away from certain water-intensive crops — like almonds.”

Cultivating crops might be be water intensive, but it uses a fraction of the water consumed in animal agriculture. On California’s factory farms, which house tens of millions of chickens, pigs and cows, water is used not only to hydrate these animals but also to grow their feed and clean the facilities and slaughterhouses where they are raised and killed.

Cows in a California feedlot

Cows in a California feedlot

Eliminating animal agriculture, which inefficiently uses of a scarce resource and is altogether unnecessary, would undoubtedly help to curb California’s water shortage.

2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply

2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply

Following are just a few statistics that demonstrate the impact of animal agriculture on the water supply:

  • 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of beef compared to 100 gallons for a pound of wheat.
  • Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons of blue* water per ton. Pork, beef and butter use 121,000, 145,000 and 122,800 gallons per ton respectively. (*Blue water is water stored in lakes, rivers and aquifers.)
  • Each day, cows consume 23 gallons of water; humans drink less than one.
  • The amount of water needed to produce a gallon of milk is equivalent to one month of showers.
  • 132 gallons of water are used every time an animal is slaughtered.

One year ago (March, 2014), the NY Times published an op-ed, Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty, that included statistics comparing the amount of water used for crops and animals. So why is it omitting this vital information in its current coverage of the drought? Could it be a mere oversight? Or is it something more sinister?

2014 Climate March participants highlighted the the amount of water used in animal agriculture.

2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply

Filed under: Food
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In Defense of Horse Carriage Trade, NYC Papers Fabricate Lies

December 3, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The three major NYC newspapers (NY Times, Post, Daily News) are not only compromising their journalist integrity by consistently publishing biased news stories in support of the horse-drawn carriage trade, but they are also misrepresenting advocacy groups and fabricating outright lies to discredit the Mayor; marginalize the activists; and protect the trade.

Yellow journalism on the front page

Yellow journalism, the front page of the Daily News

The advocacy groups consistently describe the operation of horse-drawn carriages in NYC as “inhumane,” but the papers report that we describe it as “torture,” a strategy used to marginalize us as extremist and shift attention away from our valid arguments about the humane issues. In fact, in their lengthy articles about the issue, the papers omit any substantive explanation about the humane issues and state that the horses are treated well.

The advocates believe, for example, that depriving herd animals of a pasture for physical interaction and grazing is inhumane, but newspaper readers, most of whom wouldn’t think about the pasture issue on their own, only see “torture” and dismiss the humane issues altogether.


When horses aren’t pulling carriages in midtown Manhattan, they are kept in stalls.  NYC has no pasture where the horses can move freely.

The papers have also falsely reported that Steve Nislick, the founder of the animal advocacy group NYCLASS, is working to ban horse-drawn carriages so that he can buy the midtown stables. By using phrases like “land grab” and “back room deal,” they have convinced the public that Mr. Nislick is a developer masquerading as an animal advocate.

But would readers believe that fabrication if the papers actually spelled out what the are alleging — that Mr. Nislick went so far as to create a charity and hire a staff of animal advocates for the express purpose of shuttering the industry so that could buy their buildings, even though the owners would have no legal obligation to sell those buildings to Mr. Nislick and despite the fact that Mr. Nislick retired from real estate several years ago.

carriage stable

Carriage horses are kept on upper floors of this midtown building

By creating a campaign to “Save Our Horses” and by publishing front page stories denouncing the Mayor’s plan, one newspaper, the NY Daily News, has relinquished any claim to being an unbiased news organization.

One of many front page stories promoting horse-drawn carriages

One of many front page stories promoting horse-drawn carriages

The public is unaware of the motive behind the Daily News’ campaign, but many people speculate that it’s an easy way to discredit Mayor de Blasio, who the paper consistently attacked before the 2014 election in order to bolster his opponent in the race and the candidate they endorsed, Christine Quinn.

Horse-drawn carriages will eventually be taken off of the streets of midtown Manhattan, and NYC’s newspapers will be on the wrong side of history. Perhaps the owners and editorial board members are unconcerned about their unabashed promotion of horse-drawn carriages because, by the time history judges them for their regressive thinking and opposition to social justice advances, they will have long since left their posts.


In the future, our defense of the exploitation of animals will be added to graphics like this (Photo:

One thing is certain. If midtown Manhattan did not have horse-drawn carriages today and someone proposed to introduce them, the papers would unanimously oppose the idea on the grounds that the congested streets of NYC are no place for large flight animals to be pulling rickety 19th century carriages.

Your Turn

1. If you live in NYC, please join NY-CLASS in its efforts to rally support among lawmakers for the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. If you live elsewhere, please sign their petition.

2. To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages by sending an email to

3. Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS to see why people have been fighting for years to take the horses out of NYC:

4. Respond to the Wall Street Journal poll

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Australia & China Inching Closer to Horrific Live Export Deal

November 24, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

For the past several years, Australia and China have been working on an agreement which, when signed, could lead to Australia shipping up to one million live cattle to China each year. The deal is being finalized at a time when local and international opposition to live exports has reached a fever pitch due to the extreme animal abuse exposed in undercover investigations.

TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell speaks to Tanya Hardy, a veteran activist in Australia, about the deal with China and the cruelty of live exports.

According to Animals Australia, “Most animals who are exported live for slaughter have their throats cut while fully conscious. Millions have died at sea. Some 30 investigations have revealed that in destination countries, many animals endure routine abuse and brutal slaughter in places where laws do not protect them from cruelty.”  Following is one of many examples of extreme suffering experienced by animals exported from Australia.

Australia’s live export controversy has not received much media attention in the U.S., but the impending $1 billion deal with China is so substantial that the New York Times wrote a story about it. At the end of the lengthy article, the Times mentions – and virtually dismisses – the humane issues, leading readers to believe that they have been adequately addressed:

“The leader of the exporters’ group, said that all animals exported from Australia were closely tracked and that there were strict regulations about their welfare before export, during shipping and even after they landed in a foreign country. The regulations were tightened after export bans were imposed after accusations of cruelty in some Indonesian slaughterhouses.”

Cattle being loaded onto ship

Cattle being loaded onto ship

Your Turn

Send a message to the Australian embassy in your country.

please visit Ban Live Export for more information about Australia’s grisly live export trade and to find other ways you can help.

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Consuming Songbirds for Supper, Illegally

October 15, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Is there nothing we won’t eat?

songbird in pot

In its Dining section this week, The NY Times reported that “one essential dish” has been missing from the menu of  renowned restaurants in Southwestern France — ortolans (songbirds). “Gourmands consume the head, bones and body in a single, steaming mouthful, while covering their faces with a white napkin to conceal the act.”

Eating songbirds (Photo: Richard Cottenier/MAXPPP)

Eating songbirds (Photo: Richard Cottenier/MAXPPP)

Hunting ortolans has been illegal since 1979, when the European Union declared them a protected species. In an effort to “revive the tradition” of eating them, French chefs are lobbying to legalize their consumption, but activists are pushing back, arguing that the chefs’ publicity stunt will further endanger the birds and subject them to egregious abuse.

And abusive it is. Poachers lure ortolans into ground traps during their migration from Europe to Africa. Once captured, the birds are held in a dark box for three weeks; force fed until fattened to three times their normal size; and drowned alive in liqueur.

Allain Bourgrain Dubourg, president of the Birds Protection League in France, argues that “Good cuisine cannot be used as an excuse for the conditions these animals are kept in.”  Chefs, of course, insist the birds are treated humanely.

Frustrated by the illegal poaching, activists put themselves in harm’s way to liberate the birds from traps —  as shown in the trailer to Emptying The Skies, a (brilliant) documentary on the “the secret war to save the songbirds.” In 2013, the film received the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award at the Hamptons Film Festival in New York.

Your Turn

To learn more about and/or support the heroic efforts by activists liberating the birds and holding poachers accountable, please visit the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

Please sign the petition to stop ortolan hunting.


Filed under: Food, WIldlife
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NY Times Op Ed Writer Says Animal Liberationist Has “Shaped the World”

August 14, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

In an a op ed about the importance of humanities in education, NY Times writer Nicholas Kristof says that one of the three philosophers who has “shaped the world” is Princeton Professor Peter Singer, who “pioneered the public discussion of our moral obligations to animals” with his 1975 book “Animal Liberation.” Kristof points out that, in his book, Singer argues that “it’s wrong to inflict cruelty on cows, hogs or chickens just so that we can enjoy a tasty lunch.” That is an extraordinarily important message for NY Times readers to see.

Kristof has written extensively about the cruelty of factory farms, but, oddly, he still eats meat. In a beautifully written 2008 op ed in which he describes how thoughtful, intelligent and aware the animals were on his childhood farm, he says “Perhaps it seems like soggy sentimentality as well as hypocrisy to stand up for animal rights, particularly when I enjoy dining on these same animals.”  In today’s op ed, he says, “I’m not a vegetarian, although I’m sometimes tempted.” Mr. Kristof: If you know about the horrors of modern-day animal agriculture and are tempted to go veg, then just do it – for the animals, for your health and for the environment.

Peter Singer (Photo: Joel Travis Sage)

Peter Singer (Photo: Joel Travis Sage)

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