Category Archives: World News

Chicago makes history with first vegetarian museum

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Chicago is home to museums centered around art, science, nature, children’s interests, various ethnic groups, broadcast communications and even surgical science. It can now add the vegetarian/vegan movement to the list.

Chicago resident Kay Stepkin, who is herself a living part of the city’s rich vegetarian/vegan history, created what is believed to be the first museum of its type in the country and likely in the world. The idea for the National Vegetarian Museum surfaced for her about three years ago after she appeared on a local radio show to discuss the history of the vegetarian movement in Chicago.

The appearance went so well that Stepkin was asked to speak to other groups around the city, which forced her to dig deeper into the history to be better prepared. That research prompted the idea of the museum. “I knew if I didn’t know about our history, neither did anyone else,” she said. Using a private donation of $90,000, Stepkin, with the help of a museum consultant, created a traveling multipanel and video exhibit that is currently making monthlong appearances at various public libraries around the city. The exhibit will remain on the city’s South Side at the Avalon library (8148 S. Stony Island Ave.) through the middle of May 18 and then reopen later the same day at the West Belmont library branch at 3104 N. Narragansett Ave. Stepkin hopes to find a permanent location for the exhibit by February and come up with a long-term funding plan. She also would like to send traveling versions around the country tailored for individual cities and/or organizations.

Chicago’s rich veggie past
The exhibit, which is titled What does it Mean to be Vegetarian is composed of 12 interactive panels and begins with a quote from Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” The exhibit touches on the many benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet for human health, the environment and animals, including a statistic that up to 51 percent of greenhouse gases come from livestock.

While some may have the perception that the vegetarian/vegan movement is a relatively recent phenomena of the 1960s, it is actually thousands of years old, according to the exhibit. One panel quotes such ancient sources as the Book of Genesis. Stepkin said she learned that a vegetarian group from England calling itself Bible Christians arrived on the shores of this country in the early 1800s. The vegetarian epicenter began in Philadelphia and moved to Chicago by the late 1800s. The exhibit features a photo of the Vegetarian Federal Union’s exhibit at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
The first vegetarian restaurant in Chicago — the Pure Food Lunch Room — opened in 1900 and six years later, Upton Sinclair’s famous novel “The Jungle” shed light on the deplorable conditions at the Chicago’s Union Stockyards, according to the exhibit.

Importance of community
Stepkin enters the historical timeline in 1971 by opening the Bread Shop and then the Bread Shop Restaurant across the street in the 3400 block of North Halsted Street. The restaurant later became the Chicago Diner, which still exists today as a bedrock of the city’s vegetarian/vegan community. She said she opened the restaurant with the belief that everyone would soon be going vegetarian “because it’s so obvious this is the only way to go.”

Stepkin, who became vegetarian in 1970 (and vegan many years later) after coming across a reference in a James Bond spy novel about the importance of healthy eating, served as president of the Chicago Vegetarian Society between 1995 and 2001. She also wrote a vegan column for the Chicago Tribune and is founder of the nonprofit entity Go Veggie!. The exhibit lists many well-known vegetarians and vegans, and national organizations as part of its final section on the importance of community.  It Stepkin’s hope the museum will pique interest in vegetarianism and veganism, while giving some support to those who already have made the change and yet live in a predominantly meat-eating world. “I think it will help make them stronger,” she said. “Because you are not just floating through this world as a vegetarian alone. This can give you strength to know you are part of a community that has been here for some time.”

Canteens at Govt medical facilities in Malaysia to provide pure vegetarian meals


Vegetarians can now enjoy their meals without any worry when dining at cafeterias in government hospitals and other medical facilities.This follows a directive from the Health Ministry that these cafeteria operators must provide food that is strictly vegetarian to anyone who patronised their outlet.

Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the demand for vegetarian food from both patients and visitors to these facilities have been increasing. “This ruling is mandatory and it is my hope that all directors in the states, health institutes and hospitals will ensure it is complied with.”

In an immediate response, Malaysian Vegetarian Society (MVS) president Tracy Wong commended the ministry for the move. Wong said the MVS had also requested the ministry for such outlets to be opened up at R&R stops along the national highways. Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry decided to introduce the ruling after receiving many complaints from the public, especially those who had to stay at hospitals to look after their sick relatives.

With the new ruling, cafeteria operators have also been told to be sensitive to the needs of vegans who consumed only greens, lacto-vegetarians who also took milk and dairy products and lacto-ovo-vegetarians who were okay with eating eggs. “The cafeteria operators can based on the demand for such food, set up a special corner or designated area in their eatery for them.

“Proper and clear signages must be put up so that these are visible to patients, employees and visitors,” he said.

If demand for vegetarian food was small such as in smaller facilities, the operator was duty-bound to put up a sign that preparation will be done based on request.

“Operators must also be sensitive to the fact that the utensils including woks used to cook meat should not be used to prepare food for the vegetarians,” said Noor Hisham.

The ministry, he said would issue a set of comprehensive guidelines on the vegetarian diet in due course.

When contacted, MVS past-president Dr P. Vythilingam said he hoped the Education and Higher Education ministries would also introduce a similar ruling.

Dr Vythilingam, who is also president of the Asia-Pacific Vegetarian Union, said many students who are vegetarians are forced to bring food from home as canteens do not provide pure vegetarian food. “Such a move if implemented, would also help the Government tackle the problem of obesity among the young,” he said.


Will others follow the Netherlands in phasing out animal experimentation?


In a groundbreaking move, the Dutch government recently announced it is working to end all experiments on animals. The Netherlands had already passed a motion in parliament to phase out experiments on nonhuman primates, and now its goal is to be using only human-relevant, nonanimal testing methods by 2025.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals UK scientists have met with government officials and provided a 70-page document outlining areas of experimentation that can be ended immediately and a strategy for moving forward. Now the United States and other nations should follow suit.

The Dutch government’s bold decision promises great progress not only for the millions of animals who are intentionally infected with diseases, force-fed chemicals, blinded, burned, mutilated and left to suffer without veterinary care inside laboratories every year, but also for human patients desperately waiting for therapies and cures for their illnesses.

We’ve long known that mice are not just tiny human beings and that experimenters who cling to the archaic animal “model” as the gold standard of research are wasting precious time, resources and lives — both human and animal.

Although animals have the same capacity to feel fear and pain that we humans have, our physiology is vastly different, and results from animal studies are rarely relevant to human health. Multiple systematic reviews have documented the overwhelming failure of experiments on animals to benefit humans in the areas of neurodegenerative disease, neuropsychiatric disorders, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory disease and more.

Nine out of 10 experimental drugs that pass animal studies fail in humans, and the few that are approved often need to be relabeled or pulled from the market after they sicken or kill human patients. Decades of HIV and AIDS experiments have failed to produce effective vaccines for humans, even though at least 85 were successful in primate studies. And while “(w)e have cured mice of cancer for decades” — according to former National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Richard Klausner — “it simply didn’t work in humans.”

No wonder John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and of health research and policy at Stanford University School of Medicine, says it is “nearly impossible to rely on most animal data to predict whether or not an intervention will have a favorable clinical benefit-risk ratio in human subjects.”

There are better ways to conduct research than intentionally sickening and injuring animals. For example, scientists can replicate human organs on microchips to test the impact of potential drugs. Sophisticated computer models can simulate the progression of developing diseases and accurately predict the reaction of drugs in the human body. Advanced brain-imaging techniques — which allow the human brain to be safely studied down to the level of a single neuron — can replace crude experiments in which animals are intentionally brain-damaged.

In the field of toxicity testing, nonanimal methods harnessing scientific advances in molecular and cell biology, genetics, computational power and robotic testing systems can test more chemicals in a single day than have been tested in the past 20 years using animals. These methods allow scientists to test mixtures of chemicals, assess chemical effects on vulnerable populations or life stages, and detect sensitive effects that animal tests cannot.

But setting aside the fact that experimenting on animals is bad science and that there are more relevant and efficient methods, it is morally wrong to poison, infect, burn and cut up animals in a laboratory. Just as our science has advanced, so has our understanding of the other beings with whom we share the planet. Other animals, like us, are conscious beings who develop friendships, have complex social structures, use language and make tools, are capable of understanding cause-and-effect relationships, solve problems, form abstract thoughts and show empathy.

Fortunately, this is not a case of us vs. them. By embracing bold policy initiatives as the Netherlands has done and investing in exciting and progressive nonanimal methods, we will have far more promising treatments and cures for humans, and more effective and reliable methods for toxicity assessment, while also sparing tens of millions of animals unimaginable suffering.


Climate change may be escalating so fast it could be ‘game over’, scientists warn

New research suggests the Earth’s climate could be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than thought, raising the spectre of an ‘apocalyptic side of bad’ temperature rise of more than 7C within a lifetime. It is a vision of a future so apocalyptic that it is hard to even imagine.

But, if leading scientists writing in one of the most respected academic journals are right, planet Earth could be on course for global warming of more than seven degrees Celsius within a lifetime. And that, according to one of the world’s most renowned climatologists, could be “game over” – particularly given the imminent presence of climate change denier Donald Trump in the White House.

Scientists have long tried to work out how the climate will react over the coming decades to the greenhouse gases humans are pumping into the atmosphere. According to the current best estimate, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if humans carry on with a “business as usual” approach using large amounts of fossil fuels, the Earth’s average temperature will rise by between 2.6 and 4.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2100. However new research by an international team of experts who looked into how the Earth’s climate has reacted over nearly 800,000 years warns this could be a major under-estimate. Because, they believe, the climate is more sensitive to greenhouse gases when it is warmer.


A reconstruction of the Earth’s global mean temperature over the last 784,000 years, on the left of the graph, followed by a projection to 2100 based on new calculations of the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases (Friedrich, et al. (2016))

In a paper in the journal Science Advances, they said the actual range could be between 4.78C to 7.36C by 2100, based on one set of calculations. Some have dismissed the idea that the world would continue to burn fossil fuels despite obvious global warming, but emissions are still increasing despite a 1C rise in average thermometer readings since the 1880s. And US President-elect Donald Trump has said he will rip up America’s commitments to the fight against climate change.

Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University in the US, who led research that produced the famous “hockey stick” graph showing how humans were dramatically increasing the Earth’s temperature, told The Independent the new paper appeared “sound and the conclusions quite defensible”. “And it does indeed provide support for the notion that a Donald Trump presidency could be game over for the climate,” he wrote in an email. “By ‘game over for the climate’, I mean game over for stabilizing warming below dangerous (ie greater than 2C) levels. “If Trump makes good on his promises, and the US pulls out of the Paris [climate] treaty, it is difficult to see a path forward to keeping warming below those levels.”

Greenpeace UK said the new research was further evidence that urgent action was needed. Dr Doug Parr, the environmental campaign group’s chief scientist, said: “The worrying thing is the suggestion climate sensitivity is higher [than thought] is not incompatible with higher temperatures we have been seeing this year. “If there is science backing that up, that there’s a higher sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases, that puts at risk the prospect of keeping the globe at the Paris target of well below 2C.

“Anybody who understands the situation we find ourselves in would have already have realised we are in an emergency situation.” Dr Tobias Friedrich, one of the authors of the paper, said: “Our results imply that the Earth’s sensitivity to variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide increases as the climate warms. “Currently, our planet is in a warm phase – an interglacial period – and the associated increased climate sensitivity needs to be taken into account for future projections of warming induced by human activities. “The only way out is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.”

Dr Andrey Ganopolski, who was involved in the research and on the IPCC’s latest report, admitted their work was controversial with some scientists disagreeing and others agreeing with their findings. “In our field of science, you cannot be definite by 100 per cent. There are always uncertainties and we discuss this in the paper,” he said. “If we have more and more results of this sort, then we have more reasons to be concerned.”

Dr Ganopolski, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, suggested their findings meant it would be harder to prevent the world entering dangerous global warming of 2C or above. “Our results mean it is not impossible to stay within 2C but it probably – if we are right and climate sensitivity is higher than this – would require even strong cuts in carbon emissions,” he said. “Whether it’s feasible politically … I believe it is feasible technically. “It would be really good to stay below 1.5C or close to that, whether it’s feasible I’m probably a bit sceptical about that.”

Commenting on the paper, Professor Eric Wolff, of Cambridge University, said using data from the past was a “powerful way of understanding the climate”. But he noted the authors had used different ways of estimating average global temperature, some of which had produced “a lower range of values”. “The estimates of temperature in this paper are subject to large uncertainties, and therefore the range of estimates for 2100 is also very wide,” Professor Wolff said. “Still, it’s encouraging that it overlaps with model estimates and confirms that the emission reductions promised in Paris are essential to avoid unacceptable climate changes.”

Mark Lynas laid out what would happen as the temperature rises in his award-winning book, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. He was shocked by the researchers’ results. “It sounds on the apocalyptic side of bad and, in some ways, it is realistic because ‘business as usual’ just got more likely as Trump wants to rebuild the pipelines … the complete ‘fossilisation’ of the US,” he said. “It was game over at six [degrees] to be honest. I don’t think there was much more to add, other than turning the planet into Venus.”

Nasa recently said Venus may once have been habitable before runaway global warming turned the planet into its current version of hell with temperatures of more than 460C, almost no water and an atmosphere of mainly carbon dioxide with clouds of sulphuric acid.



Italy’s first Vegetarian City

From vitello tonnato – veal with tuna sauce – to beef braised in the Piedmont region’s most famous red wine, brasato al Barolo, meat dishes have been central to the food tradition of northern Italy for centuries.

But Chiara Appendino, the new mayor of Turin and a force in the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), could be about to change all that with her pledge to promote vegetarian and vegan diets as a “priority” in her administration. According to M5S’s 62-page manifesto – which also called for better urban planning and the protection of public land – Turin’s new mayor said the endorsement of meat-free and even dairy-free living was fundamental to the protection of the environment, health, and the wellbeing of animals. While the specifics of the strategy have not been disclosed, the city is expected to set up educational projects in schools to teach students about animal welfare and nutrition.

The move is unprecedented in Italian municipal government, but is in keeping with the views of the eurosceptic M5S. The party espouses some progressive values, such as environmentalism, conservation and green energy, but is ambiguous on migration and did not support a recent extension of parental rights to LGBT Italians. Earlier, Luigi di Maio, the deputy speaker of the Italian parliament – who would likely lead the M5S in the next general election – celebrated his 30th birthday by indulging in a vegan cake. Though Beppe Grillo, the M5S founder and a former comedian, has said eating meat is part of his nature, his widely followed blog has occasionally praised the vegetarian diet, including a post on the Leonard0 Di Caprio-produced documentary Cowspiracy, and an article that promoted vegetarianism at childcare centres.

Appendino’s surprise victory in June, in which she handily defeated the incumbent Democrat Piero Fassino, has made the 31-year-old the darling of M5S. But the new mayor’s rallying cry against meat could still backfire. The news was met with some ridicule on Twitter, where she faced accusations of attempting to create a nanny state. “If you disobey [the mayor’s agenda] in Turin you’ll go to bed without dinner”, said one tweet. Another critic pointed out that the mayor’s agenda lacked any mention of industry, even though Turin is the longtime home of carmakers Fiat and Alfa Romeo and is considered Italy’s industrial heartland.



Norwegian Army Placed On Strict Vegetarian Diet

The Norwegian military has announced plans to introduce ‘meatless Mondays’ into army diets, in a bid to battle a more unusual enemy – climate change. Troops will be placed on a strict vegetarian diet once a week to reduce the amount of ecologically unfriendly foods they eat, whose production can contribute heavily to global warming.

Military spokesperson Eystein Kvarving told AFP the move was “a step to protect our climate”. He said: “The idea is to serve food that’s respectful of the environment.” Kvarving said the initiative was not designed around saving money, but was instead about “being more concerned for our climate, more ecologically friendly and also healthier.” The new dietary regime has been trialled at some of Norway’s larger bases and military bosses now plan to roll it out across all units. They hope to reduce their meat consumption by 150 tonnes per year.
Their scheme has been praised by The Future in Our Hands (FOH), a Norwegian organisation that aims to reduce the consumption of natural resources by society. FOH claim an average Norwegian will eat more than 1,200 animals in their lifetime. ”The defence ministry deserves a lot of praise because it’s taking climate and environmental issues seriously”, the group’s director, Arild Hermstad told AFP.