Sunday, January 17, 2016

Animal Experiments at Rutgers University Must End

The Vegan Vine
by Bethany Cortale

For some twenty years I have been a proud Rutgers University alumna, but having recently discovered that the State University of New Jersey has been clandestinely participating in animal experiments for many years, I can no longer stand behind my alma mater.

In a Buzzfeed article, "The Silent Monkey Victims of the War on Terror," Peter Aldhous revealed that since 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense has been funneling taxpayer monies to major universities in support of often painful and unethical experiments on nonhuman primates and other animals. After a little research, I learned that Rutgers University is one of those universities.

Since 9/11, taxpayer monies have been doled out to universities to test new drugs and vaccines in the name of biodefense to combat potential biological, chemical, and radiological warfare. Defense programs are big business and universities recognize this, benefiting from government subsidies that fund innocuous sounding "research programs," which Rutgers has been fond of touting lately in its quest to obtain ever more donations from alumni.

The United States Department of Agriculture operates a database called the Animal Care Information System which provides an annual list of the types and numbers of nonhuman animals experimented on by a research facility.  I encourage every Rutgers University student and alumnus to visit the database here:

Simply type "Rutgers" into the search box and then select the "Research Animal Report Information" tab. In 2014, at least 6 nonhuman primates, 12 guinea pigs, and 14 rabbits were exploited for research. In 2010, 9 nonhuman primates, 12 cats, 3 pigs, 114 guinea pigs, 86 rabbits, and 445 "other" sentient beings (deer, gerbils, voles, and mice) were left to languish in laboratory cages, experimented on, and/or subjected to pain, and killed at Rutgers. (Click on the link to export the data into a spreadsheet and you will see the number of nonhuman animals experimented on at Rutgers as far back as 1999.)

Click on the "Details" tab for a further breakdown into these categories:
  • Column B (animals held by a facility but not used in any research that year)
  • Column C (animals used in research; no pain involved; no pain drugs administered)
  • Column D (animals used in research; pain involved; pain drugs administered)
  • Column E (animals used in research; pain involved; no pain drugs administered)
After a little more research, I discovered a dizzying number of Rutgers offices and departments with varying acronyms that claim to be involved in the manipulation of some 10,000 nonhuman animals for daily research and teaching. For one, the Office of Research Advancement (ORAd) is expressly involved in animal research, but some information on their websitehow much they charge to conduct testing, what vendors they use to order and ship animals fromis password protected and hidden from the public. Rutgers is a public university so there is no reason why any of this information should be concealed from taxpayers, alumni and students. Furthermore, there is no information provided under the headers "Reporting Animal Concerns" and "Standard Operating Procedures" for those interested in the well-being of these animals.

Some of the ways in which ORAd uses nonhuman primates and other animals is to test the effects of drugs on their bodies and the various ways to administer drugs into their bodies, including the injection of drugs directly into the organs of animals. Rutgers subjects nonhuman animals to surgical procedures and also manipulates their bodies, creating genetically modified beings under the Rutgers Genome Editing Core Facility.

It comes as no surprise that ORAd is headed by a "Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutics" in view of the fact that NJ is widely considered the pharmaceutical and medical capital of the world and that Big Pharma accounts for one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the state and federal economies. As university scientists have allied themselves with corporate interests, they have become less transparent in their research practices.

Animals in labs lead miserable lives. Kept in confinement, they are restricted from engaging in natural behaviors often leading to abnormal, neurotic, and even self-destructive behavior, such as incessant pacing, swaying, head-bobbing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation. In addition to confinement, they are deprived of love and kindness and are treated as mere tools, subjugated to constant pain, anxiety and loneliness.

According to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), the Food and Drug Administration reports that 92 percent of drugs approved for animal testing fail to receive approval for human use. In addition, more than half of new drugs approved are later withdrawn or relabeled due to serious or lethal adverse effects in humans. Rats, mice, and birds comprise over 90 percent of all research animalsnot because they are effective modelsbut because they are relatively inexpensive to buy, easy to manage and maintain, and are considered disposable without much public clamor or concern.

Animal research is an inherently cruel, archaic, and ugly business, and Rutgers University should no longer be allowed to utilize public monies and private donations to fund it. Newer, sophisticated, non-animal technologies are already available that are more efficient, more accurate, and less costly. If Rutgers wants to be cutting-edge, they should be investing in such technologies.

No matter what the University says in its Animal Welfare Policy, animals held in laboratories and subjected to experimentation and research are notby their very usetreated humanely.

Animals confined in Rutgers laboratories should be released immediately to a sanctuary and all such research involving nonhuman animals should terminate at once. I hope students will exercise courage and pressure the university by standing up for those with little voice and no power, who are suffering in silence.

To find out if your university is involved with animal experiments, start by visiting the USDA site here. You can also find a list of facilities that test on animals in each state here

Saturday, December 5, 2015

An Open Letter to Pope Francis Regarding Animals

Dear Pope Francis,

As a Catholic, I can’t tell you how happy I was when I learned of your appointment as Pope, especially your chosen namesake in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi who had a special kinship with nonhuman animals. In the spirit of St. Francis, I am writing to urgently ask you to expand the Church’s commitment to all God’s creatures, particularly those exploited and oppressed in the name of food, fashion, entertainment and science.

Currently, some 58 billion nonhuman land animals are bred and slaughtered every year for human consumption. Not only is this killing cruel, but it is also unnecessary. Furthermore, it is robbing the hungry of nourishment and doing irreversible damage to our planet.

Compared to plant protein, raising animal protein requires 100 times more water, 11 times more fossil fuels, and 5 times more land. In addition, growing crops to feed nonhuman animals to feed human animals—instead of feeding crops directly to people—is completely wasteful, inefficient and unsustainable for a population of 7 billion people that is expected to rise to 9 billion in less than 40 years. If the grain grown in the United States to feed livestock were instead fed directly to humans, it alone could feed 800 million people, potentially eradicating world hunger as we know it.

Factory farming is a large part of the problem, accounting for 99 percent of all nonhuman animal consumption, however, there is no way to raise other animals in a humane way as the end result is always the same—needless suffering and death. Organic and free-range farms are often just as abusive as factory farms and employ the same barbaric procedures such as debeaking, tail docking, dehorning, and castration—all without painkillers. Cattle have their horns cut off and their testicles cut out of their scrotums, and many are branded with sizzling-hot irons, resulting in third-degree burns. Pigs on organic farms often have their tails chopped off and their ears notched, and some have rings forced into their sensitive noses in order to permanently prevent them from naturally rooting in the grass and dirt. Chickens on organic egg farms usually have part of their delicate beaks cut off, causing acute pain and often death. In addition to widespread cruelty, free-range farms are completely unsustainable and cannot be duplicated on a mass scale to meet the current demand for animal flesh. And in the end, just as with factory farms, babies are separated from their mothers and innocent creatures are killed by caretakers with whom they had come to trust.

Technology has also diminished the value of other animals and has increased the ways in which they can be manipulated into machines and commodities. For example, the egg industry views male chicks as worthless because they are unprofitable for egg production, so hatcheries breed chickens and then divide the males from the females along an assembly belt. The males are separated and quickly discarded in one of three ways: they are gassed, suffocated in plastic bags, or tossed into a grinding machine—all within 72 hours of birth. This happens to 150,000 male chicks every day at just one facility.

Friday, November 6, 2015

This Is Your Brain on Animal Products

The Vegan Vine
by Bethany Cortale

Addictions come in many different forms. Some people are addicted to substances like caffeine, drugs, and alcohol, while others are hooked on activities like buying and collecting stuff or watching porn. There are sexaholics, chocoholics, shopaholics, and workaholics. But another type of addiction that gets very little attention is our addiction to animal foods: meat, dairy, and eggs.

When I first went vegan there was an adjustment period in which my taste buds had to learn new flavors and textures from non-animal foods. For example, back in 1997, veggie burgers, vegan ice-creams, and vegan cheeses were limited and not as advanced as the vegan options on the market today, so they were somewhat unfamiliar compared to the cruel and cholesterol-laden products I had grown accustomed to.

Though I was concerned about flavor and taste, it was not my overriding interest. For me, being vegan was and will always be about ethics and justice, and eliminating animal cruelty from my diet; that meant all animal products had to go! For this reason alone, I was excited and more than willing to try new foods that might take some time getting used to. In actuality, it took no time at all.

I started out with meatless and dairy-free substitutes. As the years went by I learned to cook more, try different recipes, and incorporate more healthful, whole foods into my diet. Now, I rarely need to add sugar or salt to any recipe as my taste buds have detoxed from the heavily masked and preserved animal products that pass for food.

The majority of consumers, however, are still addicted to processed meat and dairy products and don’t even realize it. They are easily persuaded—dare I say hypnotized—by advertisers to go out and buy whatever’s being pitched to them. Keeping in line with social norms, most consumers seem unable and unwilling to exercise any discipline or self-control when it comes to animal foods and defend their preferences under the presumption that might makes right. Consider the latest fixation with bacon, which can be found in most anything these days including cupcakes and ice-cream.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Neo-Marxism, Capitalism and Animal Exploitation

by Bethany Cortale

The story of capitalism universally has been one of the oppressor versus the oppressed. While an analysis of the history of capitalism has taken a decidedly anthropocentric focus over the centuries, the recognition of nonhuman animals as one of those subjugated groups—and the significance of animal rights and the ethical vegan movement in actively working to end this oppression and raise human consciousness—has been garnering more attention, specifically by Neo-Marxists.

For centuries, capitalism has justified abusive labor practices and the destruction of nature and nonhuman animals in the pursuit of wealth. With the added aid of technology, nature and animals are being destroyed at alarming rates as modes of production, and the use of distance and concealment, encourage indifference towards them as nothing more than inanimate commodities.

Hundreds of live male chicks thrown out in plastic bags every day.

For example, male chicks are deemed worthless and costly to the egg industry because they don't produce eggs. Hatcheries breed chickens and then divide the newly born males from the females along an assembly belt. Once separated, the males are then quickly disposed of in one of three ways: they are gassed, suffocated in plastic bags (above), or tossed into a grinding machine and ground up alive—all within 72 hours of birth. This happens to 150,000 male chicks every single day at just one facility; some 260 million are killed this way every year.

"Cattle were the original capital," explained Pattrice Jones in her book, The Oxen at the Intersection. "The Latin capitalis comes from the term caput (head) and the habit of referring to a group of captive cows as however-many 'head of cattle.' As a form of wealth that was both moveable and tradable, captive cows featured prominently in the development of both agricultural capitalism and mercantilism, each of which contributed to the growth of industrial and consumer capitalism."

Capitalism exploits labor while it successfully alienates and conditions labor (people) to turn their frustration and angst—not against the capitalists who warrant it—but on those who have no power. Many slaughterhouse workers have few options and are treated less than human, and bear out their grievances on the least among them and those who can’t fight back—the animals which society has tasked them with needlessly killing for consumption.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

It's Time to Be Veganized!

The Vegan Vine
Julie, Santos, Chef Ron, Annie and EL during a Saturday brunch. 
Photo from

by Bethany Cortale

For years I've been asking the same question over and over again: when will there be a vegan restaurant in New Brunswick, New Jersey?

I spent my late teens and early twenties in New Brunswick as a Rutgers University undergrad. While I was a student, I was also a member of the local George Street Co-op, a natural foods market started by vegetarian Rutgers students in 1973. I've visited New Brunswick often throughout the last twenty years and yet, despite the spirited and diverse city life and the collegiate atmosphere, there has not been one bona fide vegan restaurant within the city's walls...until now!

The Vegan Vine
Veganized is a friendly, clean and inviting establishment located in the heart of New Brunswick. It beckons to you before you even walk through the door with its vibrant logo and rainbow of colors, which are reflected in every dish.

You can tell that Chef Ron and General Manager EL, brothers who opened Veganized earlier this year, take pride in their new restaurant. The service at Veganized is impeccable. I am not one who likes to be constantly interrupted while dining, however, the servers at Veganized seem to strike just the right balance between letting you enjoy your meal and conversation, and knowing exactly what you need and when you need it.

If you haven't already guessed by the name, all the fare at Veganized is completely vegan, but what you may not have expected is that it is also 95 percent Organic. Furthermore, the brothers use local, seasonal, and Fair Trade ingredients whenever possible. Even the table water is not your average water, but deliciously infused with real, organic fruit. They pay attention to every detail.

The Vegan Vine
Photo by Laura Kogan
Veganized's modern vegan menu is robust and varied. Strike out with a salad, like the Quinoa Salad of mixed greens, sherry vinaigrette, tricolor quinoa, roasted beets, edamame, goji berries, and toasted pine nuts. Or start with an appetizer like the Timbale (left) consisting of black beans, sweet potato, guacamole, cashew sour cream, and tortilla chips.

I couldn't decide between the Falafull, a twist on the standard falafel wrap incorporating baked chickpea patties, hummus, cucumber tomato salad, pickle, and a side of tahini, and the Mex-I-Can, made up of brown rice, black beans, charred corn, cucumber salsa, guacamole, and cashew sour cream. In the end, I chose the delicious Falafull and made a mental note to order the Mex-I-Can during my next visit.

The food at Veganized has been described as rich and hearty, without being heavy. The restaurant also offers flatbreads, sandwiches, burgers, sides, and even a veganized version of mac 'n' cheese with pasta, sweet potato cashew cream, smoked shiitake mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and bread crumbs.

And don't forget dessert! How can you with offerings like Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte, 14 Karat Cake, and Vanilla Cheese Cake, a strawberry compote with an oat coconut crust?

The Vegan Vine
Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte
Photo by Laura Kogan
Veganized is a little pricey, but worth every dollar spent. I'm thrilled that the New Brunswick area and Rutgers University community finally have a vegan restaurant to call their own!

Veganized is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and serves brunch on the weekends. They are located at 9 Spring Street in downtown New Brunswick, just a block from the train station. For more information, visit their website at

Vegan Starter Kit

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cows Have Vaginas, Too!

by Bethany Cortale
Vegan Feminist Network, The Vegan Vine
Forcible insemination (rape) of a dairy cow.
When I tell people new to animal activism that veganism is also a feminist issue, I usually get some quizzical looks. Did you say feminism? What do women have to do with farm animals? This typical response is reflective of speciesism. When we think of animals as others, we are acting speciesist.

There are female nonhuman animals just as there are female human animals. And yes, cows have vaginas, too!

Is it really that incredible to believe that a cow loves her calf as much as any human loves her baby, or that the calf with whom she also spent nine months nurturing in her womb is just as precious to her as any infant to its human mother? Sadly, our anthropocentric society conditions us to dismiss the lives and feelings of nonhuman animals in order to justify the horrendous acts committed against them. We don't want to hear about mothers bellowing for their calves for days on end after having them ripped away after birth or their desperate attempts to jump fences and evade captors to reunite with them. Wouldn't any human mother do the same for her child?

The majority of animals exploited for human consumption are females for their feminized protein: milk and eggs. Dairy cows are inseminated against their will using what the industry candidly calls a rape rack. “Rape rack is a term that makes no apologies,” said Talia of the Vegan Feminist. A rape rack restrains a cow while a human violates her by forcibly and violently penetrating her vagina with an object or device in order to impregnate her. The rape rack is utilized to make it easy and efficient for humans to inseminate cows in order to produce more animals for milk and meat.

In a recent exposé, the New York Times reported on taxpayer-financed experiments on farm animals for the meat industry in which re-engineered cows were bred to have twins and triplets, often resulting in weak and deformed calves, and operations on the ovaries and brains of pigs to make them more fertile. One grisly incident involved a young female cow who was put into a rape rack and left with six bulls. Dr. James Keen, a scientist and veterinarian who worked at the facility said "The bulls were being studied for their sexual libido and normally you would do that by putting a single bull in with a cow for 15 minutes. But these bulls had been in there for hours mounting her . . . her back legs were broken. Her body was just torn up." Too much for her to bear, she died a few hours later.