Letters for the week of December 21-27, 2005 

Gas hogging, fish saving, egg laying, chick slaying; sucks to Swan and Rauber; and how about that Nancy Nadel?

"Think Globally, Lease Locally,"

Bottom Feeder 11/30

Gas hog, hypocrite
I had to write to say I got a chuckle out of Mayor Brown leasing a gas-hog luxury car for almost $1,000 per month from a dealer in Vallejo. As Bottom Feeder pointed out, this is contrary to Brown's stated concern with CO2 emission, AND his "Buy Oakland" campaign. The icing on the cake was the lame excuses from his staff that he would have leased it here, but the dealer went out of business. Does this mean we won't have to see any more of those annoying commercials? We can only hope.

Steve White, Berkeley

"Fishy Business," Cityside, 12/7

For the fish
As the steward of 36,000 acres of protected watershed lands around Alameda Creek, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has a tremendous interest and a significant role in restoring steelhead populations in Alameda Creek. In fact, the SFPUC has taken concrete steps for fish both above and below Calaveras Dam, which Robert Gammon chose not to include in his article.

Above the Calaveras Dam, the SFPUC recently completed a project that injects oxygen into Calaveras Reservoir, which improves water quality and benefits resident fish in the reservoir while water levels are kept low due to seismic vulnerability. Further downstream, the SFPUC is set to remove two smaller dams on the creek next year, eliminating existing barriers to fish migration. And the SFPUC will spend $50 million over the next ten years on watershed improvement and protection, with a significant portion of these funds going to improve conditions along Alameda Creek.

Alameda Creek fishery issues are complicated and involve three different water agencies, including the SFPUC, multiple state and federal regulatory and resource agencies, a local flood control district, the Regional Park District, and other numerous interests, including the Alameda Creek Alliance. The SFPUC is committed to work with all of these stakeholders to develop practical, long-term, and sustainable solutions to fisheries health and restoration on Alameda Creek.
Michael Carlin, assistant general manager for water, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco

Robert Gammon responds
It's true that the commission plans to remove two smaller dams that are no longer in use below Calaveras Dam, thereby improving the steelhead's migratory habitat. But Carlin acknowledged to me during our interview that the removal of the dams is not for the benefit of the fish, but for legal liability reasons. A swimmer drowned at one of the dams a few years ago.

"Endangered Species," Feature, 11/30

Eating meat is fatal too
In response to the biggest Really Scary Imminent Epidemic since mad cow disease, Carol Cardona, poultry health and food safety specialist, states in support of confinement of egg-laying chickens in large industrial operations that "in my opinion, we have the obligation to protect our birds from a virus that kills 100 percent of them."

Animal agriculture as an industry is, inherently, 100 percent fatal. On factory farms, even the animals whose flesh we don't eat -- like egg-laying hens -- live and die based on their profit potential, not based on what well-meaning people might do to protect their interests. And let's not forget about the male chicks born for the egg industry -- "useless" as egg-producers, industry practice is to kill them immediately after hatching, often by simply tying them up in plastic bags and tossing them, literally, in the trash. How does 50 percent infant mortality strike you as something we might have an obligation to protect our birds from?

Is it our goal to allow our bucolic ideas about "millennia-old traditions" of farming to be the Band-Aid with which we cover over our feelings of vague discomfort at the moral ambiguities brought up by the practice of raising and killing animals for food? Or is our goal to come to reasonable terms with the facts underlying that discomfort? We can't logically accommodate a belief that animals have a right to be free from unnecessary suffering -- whether brought on by an avian flu pandemic or by the horrific conditions in which they live and die as a matter of course in commercial egg-laying facilities -- while simultaneously dance-stepping around the fact that we continue to eat them. Industry scaremongering aside, the onus is on consumers to confront that cognitive disconnect. No wonder we'd rather focus on hypothetical crises over which we have no real control.
Lisa Franzetta, Oakland

Inhumane treatment
I have just begun to read your article on free-range chicken eggs and the Humane Society of the United States' urging of stores to sell only free-range eggs. I'm always in favor of treating animals better, but to be honest, I don't really have an opinion on chickens.

The reason I'm writing is to ask that you consider referring to the Humane Society of the United States either by its full name or by its acronym, HSUS. By simply referring to the "Humane Society," it gives people the impression that those shelters where many have adopted dogs and cats as pets is also out harassing big business and working to eliminate hunting, fishing, and most other outdoor sports. The two organizations couldn't be more different and people should be aware that they are not one and the same.

I know the "anti" activities I refer to don't pertain to your article, but the point I make is that the HSUS hides behind the Humane Society name when they basically have nothing to do with shelters and spend most of their annual budget on lobbying and litigation ... not directly helping animals.
Tristan Scott, Merriam, Kansas

Editor's note
Point noted.

Close, but no organic
Thank you for your interesting and informative article on poultry farming and avian flu. I did want to correct one detail. Art Davis' eggs are not certified organic. I have visited his farm and have the feeling that he does produce "good stuff, clean stuff." Kaki Farm also brings eggs on a regular basis. We used to have B&B Farm coming fairly regularly to just our Saturday Berkeley Farmers' Market, and they have been the only certified organic egg producer that we've ever had.

Kirk Lumpkin, special events & promotions coordinator, Berkeley Farmers' Market

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