December 12, 2006

12/10/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

ACTION ALERT: Efforts To Ban Foie Gras Sales in New York City

1. Happy Chanukah

2. Some Thoughts on Vegetarianism and Prayers

3. Toward A Strategy for the Vegetarian Movement

4. "Community Supported Agriculture" (CSA) Group Started

5. My Article on Environmental Threats To Israel

6. JVNA Advisor Featured in a Jerusalem Post Article

8. Threats to the Jordan River

10. Consumers Report Article on Dangerous Bacteria in Chickens

11. Rolling Stone Magazine Has Article on Negatives of Factory Farming/Letters by Rina Deych and Me/Please Write

12. Kosher Conservation Crews Announces 2007 Outdoor Summer Program

13. New Film Shows Horrors of Factory Farming

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


ACTION ALERT: Efforts To Ban Foie Gras Sales in New York City

Forwarded message:

New York City Could See Foie Gras Ban

Councilman considers introducing compassionate proposal

Thanks to author and JVNA advisor Charles Patterson for forwarding this message:

New York City Councilman Alan Gerson is currently thinking about proposing a ban on foie gras in the Big Apple. This major metropolitan Mecca for gourmands is one of the country's biggest markets for foie gras. New York State is also where two of the three producers of fattened (and diseased) duck liver do their dirty business. The vested economic interests based in New York—including restaurateurs, distributors and producers—makes the possibility of a ban a highly charged political issue.

Councilman Gerson has been endorsed during two elections by the League of Humane Voters New York City based on his record in office, and has a history of supporting other bills to help animals. Through meetings with the League of Humane Voters, he became informed about the foie gras production process and is "sympathetic" to the ethical problems it raises. Fully understanding the delicacy of the situation, he is currently reaching out to constituencies (such as the restaurant and food industries) that would be impacted by a ban while considering a proposal.

The foie gras industry is already actively lobbying to kill the ban before the City Council even gets an opportunity to consider the matter. They have reason to be scared, as New York could easily become the next Chicago, where two City Councilmen are challenging a foie gras ban that has been in effect since August 2006 (even though most people support it).

Meanwhile, the Natural Resources and Culture Committee of the San Diego City Council is scheduled to hold a hearing today, Wednesday December 5th, to discuss a possible ban on the sale of foie gras in that city. The Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), a San Diego-based group that partnered with IDA on a successful campaign to ban the sale of foie gras in California (it will be illegal come 2012), is one of the driving forces behind the proposal. They are working with progressive Councilwoman Donna Frye, who is sponsoring the ordinance, and have flown in expert witness Holly Cheever, a Cornell/Harvard educated veterinarian, to explain the cruelty of foie gras production from a scientific perspective.

Amidst the debate and controversy over foie gras, the undeniable fact is that ducks suffer and die during its production. By force-feeding ducks—literally shoving food down their throats—self-styled foie gras "artisans" make huge profits for themselves but cause animals an immense amount of absolutely unnecessary suffering. The ducks' livers become diseased, and swell up to 10 times their normal size. Some of them explode from the deliberate overfeeding. From the ducks' point of view, just the horror of what they go through is enough to justify a foie gras ban.
What You Can Do

- New York City residents: please ask your City Council Member to support the proposed foie gras ban in New York City. To find out who your Council Member is and how to reach him or her, visit or call (212) 889-0303.

Also contact Council Speaker Christine Quinn:
Tel: (212) 788-5615
Fax: (212) 788-7207

- Chicago residents: Tell your Chicago City Councilmember that you support the ban on foie gras. Let them know that the majority of Chicago residents are proud to live in the first U.S. city to take a stand against the abuse of ducks and geese for a frivolous and overpriced "delicacy."

- Learn more about foie gras, including how you can help ban it in your area.

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1. Happy Chanukah

I wish everyone a very joyous, meaningful Chanukah. It begins at sundown on Friday, December 15.

Please see my article relating Chanukah to vegetarianism Please feel free to forward that article or any of my other articles. Also, please use some of the material in the article or in my letter below that I have sent to the Jewish media for talking points or as the basis of letters relating Chanukah to vegetarianism. Thanks.

Dear Editor:

This year, I hope that Jews will enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Chanukah by applying Judaism's highest moral values by moving toward a vegetarian diet.

Chanukah commemorates the miracle of the oil that was enough for only one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days. A switch to vegetarianism on the part of the world's people could result in another great miracle: helping to end the scandal of world hunger, which results in the death of an estimated 20 million people annually, while over a third of the world's grain is fed to animals destined for slaughter.

The miracle of the oil brings the use of fuel and other resources into focus, and vegetarian diets make resources go much further, since far less water, fuel, land, pesticides, fertilizer, and other agricultural resources are required for plant-based diets than for animal-centered diets.

Besides moving our imperiled planet to a more sustainable path, a switch toward vegetarian diets would greatly benefit the health of individuals and would sharply reduce the present mistreatment of billions of farmed animals. It would also help revitalize Judaism by showing the relevance of our eternal values to current critical issues.

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D

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2. Some Thoughts on Vegetarianism and Prayers

The following are excerpts from my book Judaism and Vegetarianism:


Since the destruction of the Temple and the end of animal sacrifices, prayer, called the service of the heart, has played a major role in Judaism. The following questions related to vegetarianism should be considered as we prepare for prayer:

* Might our prayers for compassion be answered more favorably if we showed greater compassion for God's defenseless creatures?

* Might our prayers for sustenance be responded to more positively if our eating habits helped needy people obtain an adequate portion of God's bounteous harvests?

* Might our prayers for good health receive a more favorable response if we did not consume animal products with high doses of pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals, as well as cholesterol, saturated fat, and animal protein?

* Might our prayers for rain to nourish our crops produce better results if much of that rain was not used primarily to grow feed crops for animals destined for slaughter, while many people lack adequate food and water?

* Might our prayers for peace (Sim Shalom) be answered more favorably if we shared God's provisions more equitably, thereby reducing the prospects for war and violence?

* Might our chant every Sabbath morning "The soul of all living things shall praise God's name..." (Nishmat Kol Chai T'va'rec çh Et Shim'Chah) be better received if we do not have a diet that depends on treating living creatures as machines whose sole purpose is to feed our stomachs?

There are many prayers in the Siddur which stress concern for compassion to animals. For example, every synagogue service contains a recitation of the words, Baruch ha'm'rachem al ha'briyot (blessed is the One [God] who has compassion on the creatures) and kol ha'n'shamah t'hallel Kah (every soul, including animals, shall praise God). Judaism teaches that God will show special mercy to the person who treats animals mercifully.

Are the following words of Isaiah valid today if we fail to show compassion to animals as well as people?
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly;
Your new moons and your appointed feasts,
My soul hates.
They have become a burden to me,
That I am weary to bear.
When you spread forth your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you,
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:12-15)
The following lines from a poem by Coleridge are also applicable:
He prayeth best who loveth best
all things both great and small
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all.
The following story of Rabbi Israel Salanter placing compassion for animals ahead of Yom Kippur evening prayers reinforces these teachings:

Rabbi Israel Salanter, one of the most distinguished Orthodox Rabbis of the nineteenth century, failed to appear one Yom Kippur eve to chant the sacred Kol Nidre Prayer. His congregation became concerned, for it was inconceivable that their saintly rabbi would be late or absent on this very holy day. They sent out a search party to look for him. After much time, their rabbi was found in the barn of a Christian neighbor. On his way to the synagogue, Rabbi Salanter had come upon one of his neighbor's calves, lost and tangled in the brush. Seeing that the animal was in distress, he freed him and led him home through many fields and over many hills. His act of mercy represented the rabbi's prayers on that Yom Kippur evening.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, an outstanding twentieth-century Jewish philosopher, stated that more than worship is required by God. "Worship without compassion is worse than self-deception; it is an abomination." The word "prayer" (t'filah) comes from the Hebrew word I'hitpallel, which means self-evaluation. Perhaps our self-evaluation would be enhanced if we acted with compassion toward hungry people and defenseless creatures.

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3. Toward A Strategy for the Vegetarian Movement

I believe that the vegetarian movement should build a major campaign around educating people about the necessity of shifting toward vegetarianism as part of the response to the current unprecedented threats to humanity.

When climate scientists, such as NASA's James Hansen, tell us that we have about a decade to make changes before global climate change spins out of control, with disastrous consequences, when a recent 700-page UK report tells us that we may lose up to 20% of global gross domestic product due to global warming if we continue on our present path, and a recent FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) report indicates that animal-based agriculture contributes more than vehicles to global warming, I think a major campaign to educate people about why a switch toward vegetarianism (and veganism) should be a top priority of the vegetarian/AR movements.

Comments and suggestions for initiating such a campaign are very welcome. Thanks. I plan to spell out possibilities in much more detail in a future special JVNA newsletter.

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4. “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) Group Started

Forwarded message:

Dear Friends,

I'm pleased to announce that following a meeting at the First Narayever last Monday night, the much anticipated CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project is underway!

We currently have close to 30 people signed up, and we are anticipating this number will grow significantly by the time we are up and running.
We ask that you 'spread the good word' around and fwd this email to friends/ family who might be interested in joining our group.

I have attached two links regarding this amazing program, these links will enable you to find out more about: what is a CSA (community supported agriculture)?

why eat organic?
why eat local?

what is 'Tuv Haaretz' (the Jewish CSA)?

We are going to put together a short survey with questions about your personal preferences for the Toronto CSA. This will be followed by survey results and our policy and structure.

This is very exciting! We hope to be the trail-blazers for more local and Jewish CSAs in Canada and elsewhere!

Happy to hear your feedback and answer any of your questions.


Ahuva Goldshmidt
Torat HaTeva - the Jewish Nature Centre of Canada

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6. JVNA Advisor Featured in a Jerusalem Post Article

Forwarded message from JVNA advisor Steve (Shaya) Kelter:

[Kudos to Steve for his splendid effort, and best wishes for continued success.]

Dear family and friends,

"The Jerusalem Post" decided to do a cover story for Friday, 8 Dec. 2006, in the "In Jerusalem" section of the paper on the subject of bicycling in Jerusalem. As no newspapers are published in Israel on Saturday, which is the Sabbath, the Friday paper is the weekend and the most important edition. The reporter sent me a copy of the final draft sent to the editor. I am not sure how it will actually appear in the paper. He also sent me a photo of me, but again I am not sure what photos the paper will use. To see the article on-line from Friday for about a week, go to Scroll down and in the left column you will find the word Sections surrounded by red background. Below that towards the bottom of the list of sections is In Jerusalem. Double click on that and look for the article on bicycling in Jerusalem. If it is the cover story it will be at the top of the page and with a picture.

In this year's Alyn Hospital Charity Biker Ride "Wheels of Love 2006", a month ago, I rode 625 mountainous kilometers (390 miles) in 5 days. In case you have not sponsored a rider and wish to help support the loving work that Alyn Hospital does to help very physically challenged children, you can sponsor me in any amount at and enter Steven Kelter as the name of the rider. Contributions are tax-deductible in many countries. You can also send checks payable to Alyn Hospital or for tax deduction in the U.S., to American Friends of Alyn Hospital to my office address:

Steven Kelter
9 Diskin St. Villa 11A
96440 Jerusalem Israel
If you have questions, my email is
Following is the draft of the article sent by the reporter to the editor of the "In Jerusalem" section of "The Jerusalem Post".

Shaya Steven Kelter
Shaya is my Hebrew nickname
La Tour de Jerusalem may be the break local cyclists have been waiting for

by Gil Zohar

Lance Armstrong and his fellow Tour de France athletes may never have to contend with the problems faced by Jerusalem cyclists.

Take Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen, who 11 years ago was stabbed in the back while riding home on his bicycle on David Street in the Old City. Rabbi Cohen, a teacher at the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, managed to fire off two shots in the air scaring away his assailant. After undergoing a three-hour operation at Hadassah Hospital, the rabbi was reported in fair condition. He no longer rides his bike in the Old City.

More commonly, bike riders in Jerusalem encounter rude drivers who feel that the roads belong to exclusively to motorized four-wheel vehicles. Then there are potholes and endless other impediments bicyclists encounter.

Not to mention hills. Steep hills. Many steep hills.

But enthusiasts like Steve Kelter are not deterred. The 58-year-old insurance agent originally from New York gave up his car in May after riding progressively more for the last three years. Today, dressed in his bright yellow reflective vest, reflective Velcro cuff fasteners, helmet equipped with a battery-operated laser blinking rear lamp, and a purpose-designed sweat absorbing skullcap, he regularly gets chuckles and stares wherever he goes in the city.

Serious cyclists like Kelter do not see their activity as just another sport, but rather as a complete culture with its own special characteristics, lingo and symbols. A cyclist, for example, can recognize another aficianado by the tan on his arms and legs.

Kelter's zeal began with the Alyn Orthopedic Hospital's annual fund-raising bike-athon, first held in 2000. "They do such caring and beautiful work for physically challenged children. I wanted to be part of this," he recalls of his decision to get on a bicycle after a 40-year hiatus.

He always carries a picture of a child from Alyn taped to his handlebars dedicating his biking year round to the children he helps. In 2004 Kelter raised $3,300 for Alyn. He made $3,800 in donations for the hospital in 2005, and more than $6,000 so far this year in pledges from the United States, Canada and Israel.

Kelter started training for the Alyn Ride in October 2003. A few weeks later he was involved in a near-fatal accident on Graetz Street. Losing control on a gravel patch while speeding downhill, he flew over his handlebars. Kelter credits his helmet with saving his life – though he was hospitalized for three days with a concussion.

Three months later he received a registered letter. Overcoming his skittishness to mount his bike, he pedaled to the post office where a parking ticket awaited him – which he gladly paid. "It got me past the psychological barrier of getting back on the bike after nearly being killed."

Kelter then began his Alyn Ride training in earnest, beginning with progressively longer trips on top of his daily three km spin from his home in Katamon to his office in Shaarei Chesed. Today he uses his bicycle to meet clients, go to the office and get wherever he needs to go. He averages up to 50 km a day. But when training for the annual Alyn Ride, he can easily double that.

He fondly recalls a Sukkot 2004 training spree from Jerusalem to Zichron Ya'acov carrying a 20-kilo backpack and the four species – which he had attached to his bike with rubber bands.

The 2005 Alyn Ride wound from Mitzpe Ramon north to Jerusalem via the Dead Sea. Kelter recalls climbing the particularly steep cliff road of Metzuke Dragot with the small group of riders who attempted the optional challenge. Reaching the apex, he broke out in tears of thanksgiving to God for saving his life the previous year.

Not surprisingly, riding has made Kelter muscular and fit. Being an avid cyclist and a vegetarian complement each other, he observes. For him, cycling is an environmental statement. He rides "to protect the Earth from global warming and air pollution, and to reserve more petroleum for plastic for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Biking is great aerobic exercise and promotes fitness. I have a back problem, and unlike jogging, biking doesn't hurt my back. Also it's convenient. I can get to most places faster by bicycle than by car, particularly if there are traffic jams. And I don't have a problem with parking."

"I'm helping Israel save foreign currency, and I have no interest in enriching Iran, Saudi Arabia or Venezuela by encouraging demand for oil products. I save a lot of money not spent on gas. Repairs are also much less expensive."

"The initial expense does not have to be high. My first bike, purchased second hand - which I rode for 8,000 km within a year and a half including the Alyn Ride - cost me NIS 400." Kelter jokes that he traded in his 1988 Citroen BX for NIS 300 to buy a NIS 6,000 magnesium-frame road bike.

Cyclists in Jerusalem tend to be passionate about their sport, he notes.

What's it like to get around the city almost exclusively by bike? (For transporting his 7-year-old son, Kelter takes a taxi or bus.)

"It can be a thrill passing cars stalled in traffic," Kelter smiles. If a street is narrow or one way, he will often drive in the middle of the lane to prevent being side-swapped, going as fast as the cars. On down hills he can reach harrowing speeds of 80 km per hour.

"It's hard to find flat in Jerusalem," he laughs. "You get good training just riding around town."

Jerusalem, unlike flat Tel Aviv with its extensive bike path network, is not an easy city for bike commuters, he notes.

"For some motorists, bicycle riders are invisible. Drivers don't yield right of way, and will pull out suddenly as if you're not there. Drivers and passengers open car doors without looking for passing bicycles. So cyclists have to be extremely defensive."

Wearing a helmet is essential, he says.

Riding on sidewalks is not an option, both because it's illegal and the many parked cars there.

In Jerusalem Kelter prefers an off-road bike with front shock absorbers because of the many potholes, reserving his road bike for interurban trips. He carries an extra shirt to change into before visiting a client. You have to drink a lot in the summer, he cautions. And make sure you have a heavy-duty coil lock. As an extra precaution, whenever possible, he locks his bike in plain view of where a security guard is stationed.

Shopping by bike has its own challenges. Kelter frequents the Machane Yehuda market and carries home his weekly groceries in his two panniers and backpack. "I balance it all carefully before I start. It takes some getting used to."

What about the rainy season?

"When I sold the car in May, people asked what I would do in the winter. Well, I purchased special rain gear, including waterproof sweat permeable bike pants, mud guard fenders and a bright yellow rain coat. But I haven't really faced any serious rains yet," Kelter says of this year's drought.

* * *

Kelter is hardly alone in his enthusiasm for two-wheeled, self-propelled transportation. A group called Yerushalayim bishvil ofnayim (Jerusalem for Bicycles) is registered as amuta (non-profit group) no. 6-613-028-58 and maintains a Hebrew and English website It's loosely affiliated with Israel bishvil ofnayim (see and the Israel Cycling Federation ( - the governing body for competitive cycling in the country.

Whether in Hebrew or English, the Jerusalem pedal pushers have an ambitious agenda. Dedicated to raising awareness about bike riding in the city, the group – which according to its website boasts of hundreds of members - ostensibly works with Safra Square and other government agencies to create bike paths and encourage cycling as an alternate means of transportation. It has prepared a comprehensive plan for a 100 km network of bike paths across the city.

The website further notes the members meet at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at the Baka Community Center. On December 29, as on the last Friday of every month, cyclists will be meeting in front of the Mashbir department store on King George V Street at noon for its "Critical Mass" bike ride to promote bicycle paths in the city.

Alas, notwithstanding its ambitious program as outlined on the website, in the past Yerushalayim bishvil ofnayim seemed to be spinning its wheels.

Gad Natan, a retired professor of statistics who still pedals almost daily from his home in Old Katamon to his office at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was a founder of the group in 1995, and served as president from 1999 to 2001.

Yerushalayim bishvil ofnayim's biggest achievement to date came on September 10, 2000 when then Mayor Ehud Olmert dedicated the city's first – and only – bike path. Extending for 3.9 km, the path begins in Sacher Park and winds southwest through the Valley of the Cross and along Herzog Street to the Patt Junction. Spurs to the Israel Museum and other sites constitute a further 3.8 km.

In reality, the bike path is a pedestrian walkway shared with cyclists with some signs posted and a splash of paint.

With considerable frustration, Natan, a spry 71-year-old, describes his group's futile negotiations with Egged and Israel Railroads to make provisions to carry bicycles.

Interurban buses are now legally required to allow passengers to put their bikes in the luggage compartment – if there's space. But "drivers aren't keen on it," he adds in case of reality trumping theory.

Bikes are presently forbidden on trains in Israel. "We've had long discussions with Israel Railroads. We've never gotten anywhere," he shrugs. Currently the group is circulating a petition seeking a change of policy regarding transporting bicycles on trains. (To sign on-line, go to


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8. Threats to the Jordan River

River Jordan: Sacred, tainted and dying
By Joel Greenberg
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published December 3, 2006

DEGANYA, Israel -- At a baptismal site on the Jordan River just south of the Sea of Galilee, pilgrims kneel in the water as a priest intones a blessing, a high point of their visit to the Holy Land.

A few hundred yards downstream beyond an earthen dam, a pipe spews raw sewage into the riverbed, next to a canal dumping saline water collected from springs. With the fresh river water blocked by the dam, all that flows on is a polluted, salty stream meandering 60 miles south to the Dead Sea.

The Jordan, venerated by Christians as the place where Jesus was baptized and the scene of many biblical narratives, is dying, depleted by water projects in Israel, Jordan and Syria.

"A river that is holy to half of humanity has become little more than an open sewage canal," said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental advocacy group. "The demise of the Jordan has nothing to do with climate change. It is totally man-made."

The process has been going on for decades, but it has been accelerated by growing populations and rising demand for water in countries bordering the river. Now, environmental advocates say, the condition of the river is so desperate that parts of it have begun to run dry in summer, with matters certain to get worse if action is not taken to reverse the trend.

Fed by tributaries flowing from Lebanon, the Israeli-held Golan Heights, Syria and Jordan, the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee but is dwindling south of the lake, a victim of competing demands in a region where water is scarce and political conflict has prevented cooperation.

"There is no river there," said Hillel Glassman, head of the streams monitoring unit of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority. "What exists is not in its natural state."

In a written account of an expedition he led down the Jordan River in 1848, U.S. Navy Lt. William Francis Lynch described swiftly moving water and rapids, an abundance of fish and birds, and lush vegetation along the banks.

Today more than 90 percent of the natural flow of the Jordan has been taken, leaving its lower part a mixture of sewage, saltwater, agricultural runoff and discharge from Israeli fish-farming ponds.

Natural habitats and biodiversity have been damaged by the changes in the river's composition. Freshwater plants have died out, leaving only those that can grow in saline soil, reducing feeding grounds for animals and for birds migrating between Europe and Africa through the Jordan Rift Valley.

About 60 percent of the flow of the lower Jordan River has been diverted by Israel, most of it pumped from the Sea of Galilee into the National Water Carrier, which supplies water for drinking and irrigation down to Israel's arid Negev region in the south.

Jordan and Syria take 40 percent of the river's supply, mostly by damming or diverting water from the Yarmuk River, the largest tributary of the Jordan.

Recently Jordan and Syria completed construction of the Unity Dam, a joint project on the Yarmuk that will catch winter floodwaters that would naturally flow into the lower Jordan River. The dam is to provide water for irrigation, drinking and hydroelectric power.

"The Unity Dam is the final nail in the coffin of the Jordan River, because it will prevent the remaining flow of the Yarmuk into the Jordan," Bromberg said.

The dwindling of the Jordan has caused the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth and the world's saltiest body of water, to recede sharply, losing a third of its surface in the last 50 years.

The deterioration of the Jordan has continued despite a clause in the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty obliging both countries to protect the river "against any pollution, contamination [or] harm."

While Israeli and Jordanian officials meet regularly to discuss water issues, there has been little joint action to rehabilitate the river. Last month, Friends of the Earth Middle East mobilized mayors from both sides of the river to sign a statement committing them to work together to clean up polluted tributaries, but there has been no such coordination at the national level.

Uri Schor, spokesman for the Israel Water Commission, said a major sewage-treatment plant on the Israeli side of the Jordan valley would become operational as early as next year, removing a source of river pollution and shifting the treated sewage water to agricultural irrigation. There also are plans to dilute the salinity of the water dumped into the lower Jordan River, Schor said.

But Schor said Israel would continue to draw water from the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River's main reservoir, despite the operation of the first of several planned desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast.

"Even with desalination there is not enough water in Israel," he said. "We can't give up anything."

Bromberg says that through conservation and shifting to agricultural crops that use less water, enough of the precious resource can be freed to revive the Jordan.

Officials and environmental advocates agree that the best solution lies in cooperation among all countries in the basin, Syria and Lebanon included, but that this will have to wait for broader peace agreements.

"If there were good neighborly relations, we could find solutions for the basin," said Yaacov Keidar, a Foreign Ministry official who has participated in water talks with the Jordanians.

At the baptismal site, where the water is still clean, Dacia Voicu, 39, a Romanian pilgrim, filled a bottle from the river to take back to Bucharest. She planned to sprinkle it in the rooms of her house, she said.

"This was a very emotional experience," she said after her baptism, oblivious to the pollution downstream. "This river is holy."

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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10. Consumers Report Article on Dangerous Bacteria in Chickens

Dirty birds
Even ‘premium’ chickens harbor dangerous bacteria
January 2007

If you eat undercooked or mishandled chicken, our new tests indicate, you have a good chance of feeling miserable. CR’s analysis of fresh, whole broilers bought nationwide revealed that 83 percent harbored campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of food borne disease.

That’s a stunning increase from 2003, when we reported finding that 49 percent tested positive for one or both pathogens. Leading chicken producers have stabilized the incidence of salmonella, but spiral-shaped campylobacter has wriggled onto more chickens than ever. And although the U.S. Department of Agriculture tests chickens for salmonella against a federal standard, it has not set a standard for campylobacter.

Our results show there should be. More than ever, it’s up to consumers to make sure they protect themselves by cooking chicken to at least 165° F and guarding against –cross-contamination.

Think premium brands are safer? Overall, chickens labeled as organic or raised without antibiotics and costing $3 to $5 per pound were more likely to harbor salmonella than were conventionally produced broilers that cost more like $1 per pound.

Moreover, most of the bacteria we tested from all types of contaminated chicken showed resistance to one or more anti–biotics, including some fed to chickens to speed their growth and those prescribed to humans to treat infections. The findings suggest that some people who are sickened by chicken might need to try several antibiotics before finding one that works.

In the largest national analysis of contamination and anti–biotic resistance in store-bought chicken ever published, we tested 525 fresh, whole broilers bought at supermarkets, mass merchandisers, gourmet shops, and –natural-food stores in 23 states last spring. Represented in our tests were four leading brands (Foster Farms, Perdue, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Tyson) and 10 organic and 12 nonorganic no-antibiotics brands, including three that are “air chilled” in a newer slaughterhouse process designed to re–duce contamination. Among our findings:

* Campylobacter was present in 81 percent of the chickens, salmonella in 15 percent; both bacteria in 13 percent. Only 17 percent had neither pathogen. That’s the lowest percentage of clean birds in all four of our tests since 1998, and far less than the 51 percent of clean birds we found for our 2003 report.

* No major brand fared better than others overall. Foster Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Tyson chickens were lower in salmonella incidence than Perdue, but they were higher in campylobacter.

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11. Rolling Stone Magazine Has Article on Negatives of Factory Farming/Letters by Rina Deych and Me/Please Write

Forwarded message from DawnWatch:

The current, December 14, edition of Rolling Stone magazine includes a lengthy piece, by contributor Jeff Tietz, about Smithfield pork producers. It covers the conditions the animals are kept in, and the environmental impact. The article is headed, "BossHog" and sub-headed, "America's top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history. Welcome to the dark side of the other white meat." (pg 89.)

The lead photo is of a huge pile of pig carcasses, with the caption, "Pork producers generate millions of tons of hog waste each year including millions of dead pigs."

The article opens:
"Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pig processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year."

It tells us that hogs produce three times more excrement than humans do, and that "The best estimates put Smithfield total waste discharge at 26 million tons a year." We read, "So prodigious is its fecal waste, however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city governments do -- even if it came close to the same standard -- it would lose money."

It explains that the "pig shit" is so toxic because of the concentrated conditions the pigs are kept in:

"Smithfield's pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like barns, in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated and fed and delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot turn around. Forty full grown 250-pound male hogs often occupy a pen the size of a tiny apartment. They trample each other to death. There is no sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth. The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens....

"The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter than ninety degrees. The air, saturated almost to the point of precipitation with gases from shit and chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. Enormous exhaust fans run 24 hours a day... If they break down for any length of time, pigs start dying....

"Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs' immune systems. They become susceptible to infection..."

So they are infused with antibiotics and doused with insecticides.

We read about the huge excrement holding pens, called lagoons, which often overflow: "Major floods have transferred entire counties into pig shit bayous."

The lagoons are so toxic, workers have been overcome by them and fallen in and drowned in pig shit.

The article tells us that according to the EPA, Smithfield dumps more toxic waste into the nation's water each year than all but three other industrial facilities in America. But, "The industry has long made generous campaign contributions to politicians responsible for regulating hog farms." We read, "In 1998 corporate hog farms in North Carolina spent $1 million to help defeat state legislators who wanted to clean up open-pit lagoons."

Tietz writes, "Studies have shown that lagoons emit hundreds of different volatile gases into the atmosphere, including ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. A single lagoon releases many millions of bacteria into the air per day, some resistant to human antibiotics."

With an environmentalist, he flies in a small plane over the Smithfield area, and watches as "several farmers spray their hog shit straight up into the air as a fine mist." He writes, "It looks like a public fountain. Lofted and atomized the shit is blown clear of the company's property. People who breathe the shit-infused air suffer from bronchitis, asthma, heart palpitations, headaches, diarrhea, nosebleeds and brain damage."

He writes that the ascending stench can nauseate pilots at 3,000 feet, and He goes into some detail about the suffering of people whose homes are down-wind of the farms. He visits a lagoon to take a good whiff, and writes that even as he thinks about the smell he fights an urge to vomit.

We read some specifics of Smithfield's environmental impact in North Carolina. In a span of four years its lagoons have spilled:
"2 million gallons of shit into Cape Fear River, 1.5 million gallons into its Persimmon branch, one million gallons into the Trent River, and 200,000 gallons into Turkey Creek."

The waste kills plants and animals outright and also consumes available oxygen and suffocates fish. We read about various disastrous spills. For example:
"The biggest spill in the history of corporate hog farming happened in 1995. The dike of a 120,000 square foot lagoon owned by a Smithfield competitor ruptured, releasing 25.8 million gallons of effluvium into the headwaters of the New River in North Carolina. It was the biggest environmental spill in United States history, more than twice as big as the Exxon Valdez oil spill six years earlier. The sludge was so toxic, it burned your skin if you touched it, and so dense it took almost two months to make its way sixteen miles downstream to the ocean. From the headwaters to the sea, every creature living in the river was killed. Fish died by the millions."

He describes dead fish covering the riverbanks, and the article includes a shocking photo of that phenomenon.

Please pick up a copy of Rolling Stone (Snoop Dogg is on the cover), and give the article to a friend who eats factory farmed bacon. And please send a huge thank you to Rolling Stone for the coverage. The article presents a great opportunity for letters singing the praises of veggie diets.

Rolling Stone takes letters at

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at You are encouraged to forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts but please do so unedited. Leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)
Letter sent to Rolling Stone by Rina Deych:

Touché to Jeff Tietz for his excellent exposé on Smithfield, the largest pork processor in the world. The conditions these animals live and die in are atrocious. It's hard to believe that we, as a species, are capable of treating any living being so badly. I became a nurse over two decades ago because I could not stand to see anyone suffer without trying to help. I became a vegetarian 22 years ago for the same reason, after seeing a documentary (the Animals Film) on how animals suffer on factory farms and in other exploitive industries.

Agribusiness is not only killing the animals, but destroying human health and contributing to the destruction of the planet. Last year, Smithfield killed 27 million hogs and spewed 26 million tons of toxic waste into the atmosphere. This week a report released by the UN attributed one fifth of the world's pollution to agribusiness.

There are so many reasons why it's imperative that we move toward a plant-based diet. My only hope is that we adopt one before it's too late.

Rina Deych, RN
My letter to Rolling Stone magazine

December 6, 2006

Editor, Rolling Stone

Dear Editor:

Kudos on Jeff Tietz's December 14 article "BossHog," which discusses that "America's top pork producer (Smithfield Foods) churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history." The article should be a wake-up call to the insanity of animal-based diets, involving the raising of ten billion farmed animals in the United States alone, at a time when there are almost daily reports on the effects of global warming, widening water shortages, deforestation, soil erosion and depletion and many additional environmental threats. A recent Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report indicated that animal-based agriculture contributes even more to global warming and other environmental problems than automobiles and other vehicles. So, for our health and that of our precious, but imperiled, planet, it is essential that there be a major shift toward vegetarian diets.

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12. Kosher Conservation Crews Announces 2007 Outdoor Summer Program

Forwarded message:

SCA is a nationwide force of high school and college-age volunteers who are committed to protecting and preserving the environment. SCA's Kosher Conservation Crews provide participants with an opportunity to spend a month working on a service project while building community and gaining a deeper understanding of their connection to the environment.

SCA is currently accepting applications for Crew Leaders and Crew Members for the 2007 summer program. Attached are flyers with more details. Feel free to print, distribute, and forward this message.

An article focusing on the 2006 SCA Kosher Crew ran in the Washington Jewish Week along with a photo.

Kiddush in the Wilds: New 'Kosher Crew' Mixes Ecology, Faith

Washington Jewish Week August 10, 2006
Click here to read the article


Rachel Lettre
Program Manager
National High School Program
SCA Mid-Atlantic Region
1800 N Kent St, #102
Arlington , VA 22209
P: 703.524.2441 F: 703.524.2451 CFC #0941

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13. New Film Shows Horrors of Factory Farming

Forwarded message from author and vegetarian activist Pamela Rice:

Our Daily Bread
A Film by Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Links, images, home page for film

Theaters where playing (Rhinebeck, NY, as of Dec. 15.)


In sealed rooms, as sterile as computer microprocessor factories, chicks hatch while being closely monitored. A huge hose sucks salmon out of a fjord. Metal teeth chomp up fields of sunflowers which, thanks to chemicals, have withered at just the right time. On mechanized conveyer systems, chickens are cut up and pigs are gutted in seconds, although cows take a little longer.

OUR DAILY BREAD reveals the little-known world of high-tech agriculture. In a series of visually stunning, continuously tracking, wide-screen images that seem right out of a science-fiction movie, we see the places where food is cultivated and processed: surreal landscapes optimized for agricultural machinery, clean rooms in cool industrial buildings designed for maximum efficiency, and elaborate machines that operate on a 'disassembly line' basis.

There's little space for humans here. They almost seem like flaws in this system: undersized and vulnerable, though they adapt as best they can, with chemical suits, respirators, ear protectors, and helmets. They do the jobs for which machines have not yet been invented.

Dispensing entirely with explanatory commentary or 'talking-head' interviews, OUR DAILY BREAD unfolds on the screen like a disturbing dream: an endlessly fascinating flow of images, an insistent gaze, accompanied only by the persistent industrial soundtrack-whirring, clattering, booming, slurping-of the ingenious marvels of mechanization employed by agri-business.

While this remarkable documentary will likely engender fascination, awe and even shock amongst viewers, OUR DAILY BREAD simply aims to show the industrial production of food as a reflection of our society's values: plenty of everything, made as quickly and as efficiently as modern technology permits.


"OUTSTANDING! PROVOCATIVE! Eccentrically lovely and frequently horrifying."-Premiere

"A POWERFUL CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE! A series of shocking and indelible images... unremittingly merciless and nightmarish... A great and important film."-Joris Ivens Jury, Amsterdam International Documentary Festival

"Critic's Pick!"-New York Magazine

"The 2001: A Space Odyssey of modern food production."-Stuart Klawans, The Nation

"Geyrhalter can be compared with suspense master Hitchcock... a pure cineaste and motion scientist."-Der Standard (Austria)

** 2006 New York Film Festival

** Grand Prize, 2006 Paris Intl. Festoval of Films on the Environment

** EcoCamera Award, 2006 Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal

** Science & Religion Prize, 2006 Visions du Réel

** Best Film, 2006 ECOCINEMA Film Festival

** Nominee, 2006 Prix Arte, European Film Academy

** Joris Ivens Jury Award, 2005 Amsterdam Intl. Documentary Festival

92 minutes / color / 2005
Sale/video-dvd: $440
Rental/video: $150

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