Monday, November 29, 2010

Standing Silent Nation (documentary)


Reproductive Autonomy: Crossing the Species Border By Helen Matthews

Reproductive Autonomy: Crossing the Species Border
By Helen Matthews

Leon and Cat
From Matthew’s online slideshow: This picture, titled Break the Dull Beef Habit, which was on a t-shirt sold at Urban Outfitters, juxtaposes the fragmentation of women’s and animals’ bodies.
If we are serious about animal liberation, then we must work for the liberation of all animals, human and nonhuman. If we are serious about feminism, then we must shun speciesism just as we shun sexism. No one is free while others are oppressed. And, if we work together, understanding how seemingly different struggles are related to one another, then someday we will all be free.—Pattrice Jones

The first chilling moment of awareness I had about the connection between feminism and animal liberation occurred back when I was 15, sitting on the porch with my family about to eat dinner. My dad had barbecued a chicken and it was sitting in the middle of the table. I was looking at it and thinking about the colors, the dark brown and the black. I was thinking it looked burnt, just like burnt skin. I realized that it actually was burnt skin, it wasn’t just resemblance, it was a burnt body. That was when I said, “I’m not eating any dinner, I’m not eating that. I’m gonna be a vegetarian.”

That bird, I thought, was conscious once—was once animated with life. Now it was just the centerpiece of a meal. Parts of this once-living bird would even wind up in the trash. In that moment, this collapse—this reduction—became so vivid to me.

I think the reduction of “someone to something,” as Carol Adams puts it, is at the core of most violence against other animals. To reduce other animals to things usually means treating their bodies as resources for something you need, manipulating them while they’re alive and/or killing them. I think the way humans are constantly interfering with the bodily autonomy of other animals closely resembles the way males often subordinate females—controlling the body, which is our physical home in the world, our place, and (in a lot of ways) our sense of self. (I guess this is because both forms of domination happen under the umbrella of human-centered “white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” to use bell hooks’ analysis.) Control over the bodies of animals and human females is carried out through specific systems of domination such as sexual objectification in popular imagery, abuse in homes, labor exploitation, linguistic stereotyping, and reproductive control.

The High-heel Dichotomy 
But who are “women,” anyway? This question seems to be the—or one of the—primary issues of feminist theory. Definitions that I’m familiar with refer to a set of character and anatomical traits, political conditions, and fashion statements. But popular definitions of who women are don’t allow for much transformation out of, into, or within “womanhood,” so they can feel as painfully restrictive as a pair of high-heels or a tiny skirt that you desperately try to fit into. Not wanting to perpetuate a reductive definition of “women,” I’m just speaking of people with uteruses and ovaries and the various reproductive organs of the female sex.

For human females, reproductive control comes in the form of anti-abortion legislation, the financial inaccessibility of contraceptives through health care plans, the scarcity of abortion providers (particularly affordable ones), the illegalization of many contraceptives, “right-to-know” laws, and intimidation from anti-abortionists. According to the Abortion Access Project, 87 percent of all U.S. counties have no abortion provider. Between 1982 and 2003, they report that the number of abortion providers decreased by 37 percent. The majority of U.S. states have parental involvement laws. And over half of all abortion providers were harassed in 2000, and countless more women are intimidated by protesters just for entering a clinic, even for a regular check-up.

In the face of all of this, the media, our schools, our families, churches, workplaces and communities instruct females in various contradictory ways about our sexuality, ranging from the mandate to be celibate to the injunction to be accessible sexual objects for males. So many demands: we’re supposed to be sexually available (even objects of rape) but also chaste, we’re denied adequate contraception from our health care plans and yet are supposed to remain unfertilized. These messages vary according to race and class and physical ability and many other factors of identity. I’m a white, financially stable, 20-something female from the South. Still, from what I’ve seen in my life, I’d bet that these contradictory, confusing messages (which feminists often call the “virgin/whore dichotomy”) are familiar (on some level) to most females in this country.

African American women seem to be especially frequent subjects of public debate about reproductive control. The debates around welfare reform, for instance, particularly during the time of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, called up this hostility toward women’s reproduction, especially toward African American pregnancies, which became the imagined national problem in need of a solution. Problematizing African American women’s sexuality is an old patriarchal construct: the hypersexual “black female savage” is out of control and must be restrained, as feminist writers like bell hooks have explained. But history exposes the irony of the stereotype: white male slave owners used enslaved women as “breeders” to produce more slaves. Quoted in an interview, one formerly enslaved woman said she “brought in chillun ev’y twelve mont’s jes lak a cow bringing in a calf.”

The Reproduction Farm
A few years ago I went to a big conference on reproductive control at Hampshire College. One of the opening speakers, Mina Trudeau, boldly challenged the audience to think about how reproductive control affects other species. For so many cows, chickens, dogs, minks, and other nonhuman animals, the lack of reproductive autonomy is a guaranteed part of existence.

Consider farmed pigs. As David Wolfson writes in Beyond the Law: Agribusiness and the Systematic Abuse of Animals Raised for Food Production, “gestating (pregnant) sows and farrowing (birthing) sows are housed in stalls where they are unable to turn around (gestation crates or farrowing crates). Such intensive farming practices result in health problems, including lameness or high death losses” Gestation crates apparently prevent sows from accidentally rolling or stepping on their piglets and make their teats available during lactation.

Cows’ reproductive systems are the foundation of the milk industry. Gene Bauston, the founder of a large sanctuary for farmed animals, says:
“All cows, whether they live on dry-lot dairy factories in the Southwest or small traditional dairies in the Midwest or Northeast, must give birth in order to begin producing milk. Today, dairy cows are forced to have a calf every year because such a schedule results in maximized milk production and profit. Like human beings, the cow’s gestation period is nine months long, so giving birth every 12 months is physically taxing. The cows’ bodies are further taxed as they are forced to give milk during seven months of their nine-month gestation…it is not uncommon for dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day—ten times more than they would produce in nature.”

According to Bauston, producing so much milk can cause several common physical ailments. One is mastitis, inflammation of the udder. In 1996, about half of dairy cows in the U.S. suffered from mastitis. Dairy cows also develop ketosis, a metabolic disorder, and laminitis, which leads to lameness. Also common are Bovine Leukemia Virus, Bovine Immunodeficiency Virus, and Johne’s disease.

Chicken bodies are also captive resources of industrial agriculture. Egg laying hens are subjected to forced molting in factory farming complexes, meaning that light, food and water are withheld for up to 14 days in order to control egg output. This serves to “shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle,” as Bauston says.

Other domesticated animals, like dogs, are also reproductively manipulated. Joan Dunayer in her book Animal Equality points to an article in the American Kennel Club’s magazine that “recommends ‘holding the bitch in the proper position,’ with straps or by her legs, and ‘assist[ing]’ the male in ‘penetration.’”

Like farmed and companion animals, lab animals also are bred for mass production. The degradation of these sentient creatures is most evident in lab animal industry catalogues where they are often sold for a price per “unit.”

Horses are used to produce the estrogen replacement drug Premarin (named after its source, PREgnant MARes’ urINe). Manufacturing Premarin involves taking the urine from pregnant horses and the mares are routinely impregnated for this purpose. The animal advocacy group United Animal Nations says, “Premarin mares are confined to small stalls for months on end while their urine is collected and…their foals are herded off to slaughter every year to be sold to European meat markets.” Thousands of mares are basically immobilized in these stalls, and in the winter, as one concerned activist explains, “you see ice on the walls [of the barns], and they have to lay down on cold, ice-cold concrete floors.” Constant forced impregnation of these horses is necessary for the production of Premarin. Ironically, Premarin manufacturers exploit the reproductive systems of horses to market their product to menopausal women.

The Worn and Weary
When reproductive exhaustion has finally worn their bodies down, many animals are killed, especially those in agribusiness. No longer able to produce milk, dairy cows, for example, are killed for meat. Farmers send them to slaughter after they’ve lived only a small fraction of their lives. Sometimes they literally become trash, since their meat is usually “low grade” and used in junk food that often winds up half-eaten in a dumpster.

The fight for liberation from reproductive domination isn’t just a human struggle, although many feminists construe it this way. Similarly, if animal liberationists really want to end the oppression of other animals, we’ll have to understand how that oppression is mirrored in the daily experiences of human females. Reproductive autonomy is a need that cuts across species barriers. It is a solid and heavy example of the overall lack of bodily integrity that both human females and other animals endure.

Helen Matthews, a.k.a. Homefries, has been working on connecting social justice and animal liberation issues for five years. She has worked with Boston Ecofeminist Action, and facilitates workshops on feminism and animal liberation at conferences, community centers and universities around the country. Check out her online slideshow

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Howard Zinn - War & Civil Disobedience

click image for torrent/download

War And Civil Disobedience was recorded in Denver, Colorado on October 9, 2008.

Produced by David Barsamian and Stephanie Brown for Alternative Radio.

Post Production and editing by Sasha Lilley


For a complete catalogue please visit


Audio Codec : mp3

Audio Bitrate : 127kbps


Track List :

01 - Wars: Then And Now
02 - Governments Lie
03 - It Helps To Know Some History
04 - What Is Patriotism
05 - War Is Terrorism
06 - The Experts
07 - End War
08 - Civil Disobedience
09 - Bailouts
10 - The New Deal
11 - How Do You Start?


Black Friday Zack And Miri Make A Porno

St. Paul Bar Faces Backlash Over Thanksgiving Ad


Leonard Peltier Letter To National Day Of Mourning

A Day to Give Thanks? By Ward Churchill

Thanksgiving is the day the United States celebrates the fact that the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony successfully avoided starvation during the winter of 1620-21.

But from an American Indian perspective, what is it we're supposed to be so thankful for?

Does anyone really expect us to give thanks for the fact that soon after the Pilgrim Fathers regained their strength, they set out to dispossess and exterminate the very Indians who had fed them that first winter?

Are we to express our gratitude for the colonists' 1637 massacre of the Pequots at Mystic, Conn., or their rhetoric justifying the butchery by comparing Indians to "rats and mice and swarms of lice"?

Or should we be joyous about the endless series of similar slaughters that followed: at St. Francis (1759), Horseshoe Bend (1814), Bad Axe (1833), Blue Water (1854), Sand Creek (1864), Marias River (1870), Camp Robinson (1878) and Wounded Knee (1890), to name only the worst?

Should we be thankful for the scalp bounties paid by every English colony -- as well as every U.S. state and territory in the lower 48 -- for proof of the deaths of individual Indians, including women and children?

How might we best show our appreciation of the order issued by Lord Jeffrey Amherst in 1763, requiring smallpox-infested items be given as gifts to the Ottawas so that "we might extirpate this execrable race"?

Is it reasonable to assume that we might be jubilant that our overall population, numbering perhaps 15 million at the outset of the European invasion, was reduced to less than a quarter-million by 1890?

Maybe we should be glad the "peaceful settlers" didn't kill the rest of us outright. But they didn't really need to, did they? By 1900, they already had 98 percent of our land. The remaining Indians were simply dumped in the mostly arid and unwanted locales, where it was confidently predicted that we'd shortly die off altogether, out of sight and mind of the settler society.

We haven't died off yet, but we comprise far and away the most impoverished, malnourished and disease-ridden population on the continent today. Life expectancy on many reservations is about 50 years; that of Euroamericans more than 75.

We've also endured a pattern of cultural genocide during the 20th century. Our children were processed for generations through government boarding schools designed to "kill the Indian" in every child's consciousness and to replace Native traditions with a "more enlightened" Euroamerican set of values and understandings.

Should we feel grateful for the disastrous self-concept thereby fostered within our kids?

Are we to be thankful that their self-esteem is still degraded every day on cable television by a constant bombardment of recycled Hollywood Westerns and television segments presenting Indians as absurd and utterly dehumanized caricatures?

Should we tell our children to find pride in the sorts of insults to which we are subjected to as a matter of course: Tumbleweeds cartoons, for instance, or the presence of Chief Wahoo and the Redskins in professional sports?

Does anybody really believe we should feel honored by such things, or by place names like Squaw Valley and Squaw Peak? "Squaw," after all, is the Onondaga word for female genitalia. The derogatory effect on Native women should be quite clear.

About three-quarters of all adult Indians suffer alcoholism and/or other forms of substance abuse. This is not a "genetic condition." It is a desperate, collective attempt to escape our horrible reality since "America's Triumph."

It's no mystery why Indians don't observe Thanksgiving. The real question is why do you feast rather than fast on what should be a national day of mourning and atonement.

Before digging into your turkey and dressing on Nov. 23, you might wish to glance in a mirror and see if you can come up with an answer.

Ward Churchill is professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. He's the author of "A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present" (City Lights Books, 1998) and "Struggle For the Land: Indigenous Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide and Expropriation in Contemporary North America" (Common Courage Press, 1992).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Satya Oct 06: The Rise of the Excuse-itarians By Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Satya Oct 06: The Rise of the Excuse-itarians By Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

The American Thanksgiving: Rejoicing In Genocide And White Supremacy

By Glen Ford
27 November, 2006
Black Agenda Report

"Thanksgiving as presently celebrated is an affront to civilization.”
Nobody but Americans celebrates Thanksgiving. It is reserved by history and the intent of “the founders” as the supremely white American holiday, the most ghoulish event on the national calendar. No Halloween of the imagination can rival the exterminationist reality that was the genesis, and remains the legacy, of the American Thanksgiving. It is the most loathsome, humanity-insulting day of the year – a pure glorification of racist barbarity.
We should all be thankful that the time grows nearer when the almost four centuries-old abomination will be deprived of its reason for being: white supremacy. Then we may all eat and drink in peace and gratitude for the blessings of humanity’s deliverance from the rule of evil men.
“The near-erasure of Native Americans in Massachusetts was the true mission of the Pilgrim enterprise – Act One of the American Dream.”
Thanksgiving is much more than a lie – if it were that simple, an historical correction of the record of events in 1600s Massachusetts would suffice to purge the “flaw” in the national mythology. But Thanksgiving is not just a twisted fable, and the mythology it nurtures is itself inherently evil. The real-life events – subsequently revised – were perfectly understood at the time as the first, definitive triumphs of the genocidal European project in New England. The near-erasure of Native Americans in Massachusetts and, soon thereafter, from most of the remainder of the northern English colonial seaboard was the true mission of the Pilgrim enterprise – Act One of the American Dream. African Slavery commenced contemporaneously – an overlapping and ultimately inseparable Act Two.
The last Act in the American drama must be the “root and branch” eradication of all vestiges of Act One and Two – America’s seminal crimes and formative projects. Thanksgiving as presently celebrated – that is, as a national political event – is an affront to civilization.
Celebrating the unspeakable
White America embraced Thanksgiving because a majority of that population glories in the fruits, if not the unpleasant details, of genocide and slavery and feels, on the whole, good about their heritage: a cornucopia of privilege and national power. Children are taught to identify with the good fortune of the Pilgrims. It does not much matter that the Native American and African holocausts that flowed from the feast at Plymouth are hidden from the children’s version of the story – kids learn soon enough that Indians were made scarce and Africans became enslaved. But they will also never forget the core message of the holiday: that the Pilgrims were good people, who could not have purposely set such evil in motion. Just as the first Thanksgivings marked the consolidation of the English toehold in what became the United States, the core ideological content of the holiday serves to validate all that has since occurred on these shores – a national consecration of the unspeakable, a balm and benediction for the victors, a blessing of the fruits of murder and kidnapping, and an implicit obligation to continue the seamless historical project in the present day.
“The story provides the essential first frame of the American saga. It is unalloyed racist propaganda.”
The Thanksgiving story is an absolution of the Pilgrims, whose brutal quest for absolute power in the New World is made to seem both religiously motivated and eminently human. Most importantly, the Pilgrims are depicted as victims – of harsh weather and their own naïve yet wholesome visions of a new beginning. In light of this carefully nurtured fable, whatever happened to the Indians, from Plymouth to California and beyond, in the aftermath of the 1621 dinner must be considered a mistake, the result of misunderstandings – at worst, a series of lamentable tragedies. The story provides the essential first frame of the American saga. It is unalloyed racist propaganda, a tale that endures because it served the purposes of a succession of the Pilgrims’ political heirs, in much the same way that Nazi-enhanced mythology of a glorious Aryan/German past advanced another murderous, expansionist mission.
Thanksgiving is quite dangerous – as were the Pilgrims.

Rejoicing in a cemetery
The English settlers, their ostensibly religious venture backed by a trading company, were glad to discover that they had landed in a virtual cemetery in 1620. Corn still sprouted in the abandoned fields of the Wampanoags, but only a remnant of the local population remained around the fabled Rock. In a letter to England, Massachusetts Bay colony founder John Winthrop wrote, "But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by smallpox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection."
“The Pilgrims thanked their deity for having ‘pursued’ the Indians to mass death.”
Ever diligent to claim their own advantages as God’s will, the Pilgrims thanked their deity for having “pursued” the Indians to mass death. However, it was not divine intervention that wiped out most of the natives around the village of Patuxet but, most likely, smallpox-embedded blankets planted during an English visit or slave raid. Six years before the Pilgrim landing, a ship sailed into Patuxet’s harbor, captained by none other than the famous seaman and mercenary soldierJohn Smith, former leader of the first successful English colony in the New World, at Jamestown, Virginia. Epidemic and slavery followed in his wake, as Debra Glidden described in
In 1614 the Plymouth Company of England, a joint stock company, hired Captain John Smith to explore land in its behalf. Along what is now the coast of Massachusetts in the territory of the Wampanoag, Smith visited the town of Patuxet according to "The Colonial Horizon," a 1969 book edited by William Goetzinan. Smith renamed the town Plymouth in honor of his employers, but the Wampanoag who inhabited the town continued to call it Patuxet.
The following year Captain Hunt, an English slave trader, arrived at Patuxet. It was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them into slavery for 220 shillings apiece. That practice was described in a 1622 account of happenings entitled "A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affairs in Virginia," written by Edward Waterhouse. True to the explorer tradition, Hunt kidnapped a number of Wampanoags to sell into slavery.
Another common practice among European explorers was to give "smallpox blankets" to the Indians. Since smallpox was unknown on this continent prior to the arrival of the Europeans, Native Americans did not have any natural immunity to the disease so smallpox would effectively wipe out entire villages with very little effort required by the Europeans. William Fenton describes how Europeans decimated Native American villages in his 1957 work "American Indian and White relations to 1830." From 1615 to 1619 smallpox ran rampant among the Wampanoags and their neighbors to the north. The Wampanoag lost 70 percent of their population to the epidemic and the Massachusetts lost 90 percent.
Most of the Wampanoag had died from the smallpox epidemic so when the Pilgrims arrived they found well-cleared fields which they claimed for their own. A Puritan colonist, quoted by Harvard University's Perry Miller, praised the plague that had wiped out the Indians for it was "the wonderful preparation of the Lord Jesus Christ, by his providence for his people's abode in the Western world."
Historians have since speculated endlessly on why the woods in the region resembled a park to the disembarking Pilgrims in 1620. The reason should have been obvious: hundreds, if not thousands, of people had lived there just five years before.
In less than three generations the settlers would turn all of New England into a charnel house for Native Americans, and fire the economic engines of slavery throughout English-speaking America. Plymouth Rock is the place where the nightmare truly began.

The uninvited?

It is not at all clear what happened at the first – and only – “integrated” Thanksgiving feast. Only two written accounts of the three-day event exist, and one of them, by Governor William Bradford, was written 20 years after the fact. Was Chief Massasoit invited to bring 90 Indians with him to dine with 52 colonists, most of them women and children? This seems unlikely. A good harvest had provided the settlers with plenty of food, according to their accounts, so the whites didn’t really need the Wampanoag’s offering of five deer. What we do know is that there had been lots of tension between the two groups that fall. John Two-Hawks, who runs the Native Circle web site, gives a sketch of the facts:
“Thanksgiving' did not begin as a great loving relationship between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people. In fact, in October of 1621 when the pilgrim survivors of their first winter in Turtle Island sat down to share the first unofficial 'Thanksgiving' meal, the Indians who were there were not even invited! There was no turkey, squash, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. A few days before this alleged feast took place, a company of 'pilgrims' led by Miles Standish actively sought the head of a local Indian chief, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping Indians out!”
It is much more likely that Chief Massasoit either crashed the party, or brought enough men to ensure that he was not kidnapped or harmed by the Pilgrims. Dr. Tingba Apidta, in his “Black Folks’ Guide to Understanding Thanksgiving,” surmises that the settlers “brandished their weaponry” early and got drunk soon thereafter. He notes that “each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people's ‘notorious sin,’ which included their ‘drunkenness and uncleanliness’ and rampant ‘sodomy.’”
Soon after the feast the brutish Miles Standish “got his bloody prize,” Dr. Apidta writes:
“He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, ‘as a symbol of white power.’ Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name ‘Wotowquenange,’ which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.”
What is certain is that the first feast was not called a “Thanksgiving” at the time; no further integrated dining occasions were scheduled; and the first, official all-Pilgrim “Thanksgiving” had to wait until 1637, when the whites of New England celebrated the massacre of the Wampanoag’s southern neighbors, the Pequots.
The real Thanksgiving Day Massacre
The Pequots today own the Foxwood Casino and Hotel, in Ledyard, Connecticut, with gross gaming revenues of over $9 billion in 2000. This is truly a (very belated) miracle, since the real first Pilgrim Thanksgiving was intended as the Pequot’s epitaph. Sixteen years after the problematical Plymouth feast, the English tried mightily to erase the Pequots from the face of the Earth, and thanked God for the blessing.
Having subdued, intimidated or made mercenaries of most of the tribes of Massachusetts, the English turned their growing force southward, toward the rich Connecticut valley, the Pequot’s sphere of influence. At the point where the Mystic River meets the sea, the combined force of English and allied Indians bypassed the Pequot fort to attack and set ablaze a town full of women, children and old people.
“Many prisoners were executed, and surviving women and children sold into slavery in the West Indies.”

William Bradford, the former Governor of Plymouth and one of the chroniclers of the 1621 feast, was also on hand for the great massacre of 1637:
"Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire...horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy."

The rest of the white folks thought so, too. “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots," read Governor John Winthrop’s proclamation. The authentic Thanksgiving Day was born.
Most historians believe about 700 Pequots were slaughtered at Mystic. Many prisoners were executed, and surviving women and children sold into slavery in the West Indies. Pequot prisoners that escaped execution were parceled out to Indian tribes allied with the English. The Pequot were thought to have been extinguished as a people. According to IndyMedia, “The Pequot tribe numbered 8,000 when the Pilgrims arrived, but disease had brought their numbers down to 1,500 by 1637. The Pequot ‘War’ killed all but a handful of remaining members of the tribe.”
But there were still too many Indians around to suit the whites of New England, who bided their time while their own numbers increased to critical, murderous mass.

Guest’s head on a pole

By the 1670s the colonists, with 8,000 men under arms, felt strong enough to demand that the Pilgrims’ former dinner guests the Wampanoags disarm and submit to the authority of the Crown. After a series of settler provocations in 1675, the Wampanoag struck back, under the leadership of Chief Metacomet, son of Massasoit, called King Philip by the English. Metacomet/Philip, whose wife and son were captured and sold into West Indian slavery, wiped out 13 settlements and killed 600 adult white men before the tide of battle turned. A 1996 issue of the Revolutionary Worker provides an excellent narrative:
In their victory, the settlers launched an all-out genocide against the remaining Native people. The Massachusetts government offered 20 shillings bounty for every Indian scalp, and 40 shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery. Soldiers were allowed to enslave any Indian woman or child under 14 they could capture. The "Praying Indians" who had converted to Christianity and fought on the side of the European troops were accused of shooting into the treetops during battles with "hostiles." They were enslaved or killed. Other "peaceful" Indians of Dartmouth and Dover were invited to negotiate or seek refuge at trading posts – and were sold onto slave ships.
It is not known how many Indians were sold into slavery, but in this campaign, 500 enslaved Indians were shipped from Plymouth alone. Of the 12,000 Indians in the surrounding tribes, probably about half died from battle, massacre and starvation.
After King Philip's War, there were almost no Indians left free in the northern British colonies. A colonist wrote from Manhattan's New York colony: "There is now but few Indians upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It is to be admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand of God, since the English first settled in these parts." In Massachusetts, the colonists declared a "day of public thanksgiving" in 1676, saying, "there now scarce remains a name or family of them [the Indians] but are either slain, captivated or fled."
Fifty-five years after the original Thanksgiving Day, the Puritans had destroyed the generous Wampanoag and all other neighboring tribes. The Wampanoag chief King Philip was beheaded. His head was stuck on a pole in Plymouth, where the skull still hung on display 24 years later.
This is not thought to be a fit Thanksgiving tale for the children of today, but it’s the real story, well-known to the settler children of New England at the time – the white kids who saw the Wampanoag head on the pole year after year and knew for certain that God loved them best of all, and that every atrocity they might ever commit against a heathen, non-white was blessed.
There’s a good term for the process thus set in motion: nation-building.

Roots of the slave trade

The British North American colonists’ practice of enslaving Indians for labor or direct sale to the West Indies preceded the appearance of the first chained Africans at the dock in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. The Jamestown colonists’ human transaction with the Dutch vessel was an unscheduled occurrence. However, once the African slave trade became commercially established, the fates of Indians and Africans in the colonies became inextricably entwined. New England, born of up-close-and-personal, burn-them-in-the-fires-of-hell genocide, led the political and commercial development of the English colonies. The region also led the nascent nation’s descent into a slavery-based society and economy.

“Once the African slave trade became commercially established, the fates of Indians and Africans in the colonies became inextricably entwined.”
Ironically, an apologist for Virginian slavery made one of the best, early cases for the indictment of New England as the engine of the American slave trade. Unreconstructed secessionist Lewis Dabney’s 1867 book “A Defense of Virginia” traced the slave trade’s origins all the way back to Plymouth Rock:

The planting of the commercial States of North America began with the colony of Puritan Independents at Plymouth, in 1620, which was subsequently enlarged into the State of Massachusetts. The other trading colonies, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as New Hampshire (which never had an extensive shipping interest), were offshoots of Massachusetts. They partook of the same characteristics and pursuits; and hence, the example of the parent colony is taken here as a fair representation of them.

The first ship from America, which embarked in the African slave trade, was the Desire, Captain Pierce, of Salem; and this was among the first vessels ever built in the colony. The promptitude with which the "Puritan Fathers" embarked in this business may be comprehended, when it is stated that the Desire sailed upon her voyage in June, 1637. [Note: the year they massacred the Pequots.] The first feeble and dubious foothold was gained by the white man at Plymouth less than seventeen years before; and as is well known, many years were expended by the struggle of the handful of settlers for existence. So that it may be correctly said, that the commerce of New England was born of the slave trade; as its subsequent prosperity was largely founded upon it. The Desire, proceeding to the Bahamas, with a cargo of "dry fish and strong liquors, the only commodities for those parts," obtained the negroes from two British men-of-war, which had captured them from a Spanish slaver.
Thus, the trade of which the good ship Desire, of Salem, was the harbinger, grew into grand proportions; and for nearly two centuries poured a flood of wealth into New England, as well as no inconsiderable number of slaves. Meanwhile, the other maritime colonies of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and Connecticut, followed the example of their elder sister emulously; and their commercial history is but a repetition of that of Massachusetts. The towns of Providence, Newport, and New Haven became famous slave trading ports. The magnificent harbor of the second, especially, was the favorite starting-place of the slave ships; and its commerce rivaled, or even exceeded, that of the present commercial metropolis, New York. All the four original States, of course, became slaveholding.
The Revolution that exploded in 1770s New England was undertaken by men thoroughly imbued with the worldview of the Indian-killer and slave-holder. How could they not be? The “country” they claimed as their own was fathered by genocide and mothered by slavery – its true distinction among the commercial nations of the world. And these men were not ashamed, but proud, with vast ambition to spread their exceptional characteristics West and South and wherever their so-far successful project in nation-building might take them – and by the same bloody, savage methods that had served them so well in the past.

“The ‘country’ they claimed as their own was fathered by genocide and mothered by slavery.”
At the moment of deepest national crisis following the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln invoked the national fable that is far more central to the white American personality than Lincoln’s battlefield “Address.” Lincoln seized upon the 1621 feast as the historic “Thanksgiving” – bypassing the official and authentic 1637 precedent – and assigned the dateless, murky event the fourth Thursday in November.
Lincoln surveyed a broken nation, and attempted nation-rebuilding, based on the purest white myth. The same year that he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he renewed the national commitment to a white manifest destiny that began at Plymouth Rock. Lincoln sought to rekindle a shared national mission that former Confederates and Unionists and white immigrants from Europe could collectively embrace. It was and remains a barbaric and racist national unifier, by definition. Only the most fantastic lies can sanitize the history of the Plymouth Colony of Massachusetts.

”Like a rock”

The Thanksgiving holiday fable is at once a window on the way that many, if not most, white Americans view the world and their place in it, and a pollutant that leaches barbarism into the modern era. The fable attempts to glorify the indefensible, to enshrine an era and mission that represent the nation’s lowest moral denominators. Thanksgiving as framed in the mythology is, consequently, a drag on that which is potentially civilizing in the national character, a crippling, atavistic deformity. Defenders of the holiday will claim that the politically-corrected children’s version promotes brotherhood, but that is an impossibility – a bald excuse to prolong the worship of colonial “forefathers” and to erase the crimes they committed. Those bastards burned the Pequot women and children, and ushered in the multinational business of slavery. These are facts. The myth is an insidious diversion – and worse.
Humanity cannot tolerate a 21st Century superpower, much of whose population perceives the world through the eyes of 17th Century land and flesh bandits. Yet that is the trick that fate has played on the globe. 
“Indians who had initially cooperated with the squatters were transmogrified into ‘savages’ deserving displacement and death.”
The English arrived with criminal intent - and brought wives and children to form new societies predicated on successful plunder. To justify the murderous enterprise, Indians who had initially cooperated with the squatters were transmogrified into "savages" deserving displacement and death. The relentlessly refreshed lie of Indian savagery became a truth in the minds of white Americans, a fact to be acted upon by every succeeding generation of whites. The settlers became a singular people confronting the great "frontier" - a euphemism for centuries of genocidal campaigns against a darker, "savage" people marked for extinction.
The necessity of genocide was the operative, working assumption of the expanding American nation. "Manifest Destiny" was born at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, later to fall (to paraphrase Malcolm) like a rock on Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, Nicaragua, etc. Little children were taught that the American project was inherently good, Godly, and that those who got in the way were "evil-doers" or just plain subhuman, to be gloriously eliminated. The lie is central to white American identity, embraced by waves of European settlers who never saw a red person.

Bloody Fruits of the First Feast

Only a century ago, American soldiers caused the deaths of possibly a million Filipinos whom they had been sent to “liberate” from Spanish rule. They didn’t even know who they were killing, and so rationalized their behavior by substituting the usual American victims. Colonel Funston, of the Twentieth Kansas Volunteers, explained what got him motivated in the Philippines:
"Our fighting blood was up and we all wanted to kill 'niggers.' This shooting human beings is a 'hot game,' and beats rabbit hunting all to pieces." Another wrote that "the boys go for the enemy as if they were chasing jack-rabbits .... I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening rod, good, hard, and plenty, and lay it on until they come into the reservation and promise to be good 'Injuns.'"
In 2003, President George Bush addressed the Philippine Congress in Manila. “America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people,” said Bush. “Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule.” Bush failed to mention what every Filipino knows: immediately upon the ouster of the Spanish, the U.S. claimed the Philippines as its own colony, causing the death of a million people – Colonel Funston’s “niggers” – in the process.
At least two million Vietnamese and untold numbers of Cambodian “gooks” died as a result of U.S. aggression, two generations ago. When noted at all, these hellish consequences were often dismissed on the grounds that “Asians don’t value life the way we do.” The truth, of course, is that most white Americans don’t value Asian or other non-white lives at all, and never have.
Today, although in excess of 600,000 Iraqis are thought to have died since the U.S. invasion, the national dialogue revolves solely around the less than 3,000 American dead. Colonel Joe Anderson of the 101st Airborne Division summed up the general American attitude toward Iraqis early in the occupation. "They don't understand being nice," said Anderson. "We spent so long here working with kid gloves, but the average Iraqi guy will tell you, 'The only thing people respect here is violence…. They only understand being shot at, being killed. That's the culture.' … Nice guys do finish last here."
Col. Anderson personifies the unfitness of Americans to play a major role in the world, much less rule it. "We poured a lot of our heart and soul into trying to help the people,” he bitched, as if Americans were God’s gift to the planet. "But it can be frustrating when you hear stupid people still saying, 'You're occupiers. You want our oil. You're turning our country over to Israel.'” He cannot fathom that other people – non-whites – aspire to run their own affairs, and will kill and die to achieve that basic right.
“The Mayflower’s cultural heirs are programmed to find glory in their own depravity, and savagery in their most helpless victims.”
What does this have to do with the Mayflower? Everything. Although possibly against their wishes, the Pilgrims hosted the Wampanoag for three no doubt anxious days. The same men killed and enslaved Wampanoags immediately before and after the feast. They, their newly arrived English comrades and their children roasted hundreds of neighboring Indians alive just 16 years later, and two generations afterwards cleared nearly the whole of New England of its indigenous “savages,” while enthusiastically enriching themselves through the invention of transoceanic, sophisticated means of enslaving millions. The Mayflower’s cultural heirs are programmed to find glory in their own depravity, and savagery in their most helpless victims, who can only redeem themselves by accepting the inherent goodness of white Americans.
Thanksgiving encourages these cognitive cripples in their madness, just as it is designed to do.
In Iraq, as in the Philippines, as in U.S. occupied Haiti in 1914, we hear echoes of the words of Massachusetts Bay colony founder John Winthrop. The English had come to expropriate native land and resources, but somehow convinced themselves that their presence was benign. “So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts…have put themselves under our protection," said the Pilgrim-in-Chief.
Throughout the Middle East and in spreading regions of the globe, the U.S. invites the natives to a “feast” of “democracy” – at the point of a gun. Frustrated at native unwillingness to dine on the corpses of their own national sovereignty, the Americans threaten to punish those who demonstrate such “unthankfulness.”
In these times, we should remember the unthankful Pequot women and children roasting in the flames of their village, and the Wampanoag man, murdered by the Pilgrim saint Miles Standish, whose spiked head was displayed for years in Plymouth, the founding site of the national narrative and celebratory feast.
Things are looking up
We began this essay by saying that “the day grows nearer when the almost four centuries-old abomination [Thanksgiving] will be deprived of its reason for being: white supremacy.” We firmly believe this. The wired world works against the Bush men’s insane leap to global hegemony, while creating the material basis for (dare we say the words) brother- and sisterhood among humankind. It becomes clear that the fruits of millennia of human genius cannot be captured and packaged for the enrichment of a few for much longer – and certainly not by a cabal that cannot see beyond the bubble of its own, warped history. The dim outlines of a new and more democratic world order can be seen in the often tentative, but sometimes dramatic actions of movements and nations determined to construct a fairer way to live. As the world witnesses the brutality, stupidity and sheer incompetence of the Pirates currently at the helm of the United States, the urgency of a common, alternative human project becomes apparent to all. The “end of history” that the Bush men triumphantly announced is really the end of them, through a process they have accelerated with every deranged action and delusional strategy they have undertaken since 2001.
They are like men in quicksand. White racism as a global scourge will sink with them, and eventually whither to a mere prejudice rather than a world-threatening menace.
When that day comes, it will at last be time for a global Thanksgiving.

BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford can be reached at Glen.Ford (at) Be sure to substitute @ for (at).

Trailer for anarchist people of color documentary

V The Mini Series

V Poster


i'm currently revisiting this relatively revolutionary tv mini series.  i've only watched 3 episodes (again, but this time as an adult) and it's pretty impressive the empowering roles that women and people of color (?)  occupy in this program.  unfortunately though there are exclusively men and zero women of color thus far.  other aspects of this show i appreciate thus far are:

  • zapata referenced in a positive light 
  • struggles of undocumented immigrants 
  • the jewish experience in the holocaust being likened to the human experience with the "visitors"
  • water scarcity and food shortages

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Pattrice Jones (click link for full interview)

"It wasn't until I was researching the psycho-history of racism, which led me to investigate the origins of sexism, that I discovered the underground connections between human exploitation of other animals and the various kinds of exploitation that exist among human animals."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The End of American Thanksgivings-A Cause for Universal Celebration

Cover Story: The End of American Thanksgivings - A Cause for Universal Celebration
(click image to read the article)

Celebrating Genocide! by Dan Brook


November 26, 2002
Many people annually get as stuffed as their turkeys in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday, so much so that it is not just a holiday, but really is (as the etymology implies) one of our Holy Days, almost universally celebrated by Americans. In its sacredness, families get together to (unintentionally?) celebrate one genocide (against Native Americans) by committing another (against turkeys). Can we celebrate in good faith and conscience?
On Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks. We give thanks for being the invader, the exploiter, the dominator, the greedy, the gluttonous, the colonizer, the thief, indeed the genocidaire, rather than on the other side of imperialism's zero-sum murderous game. As Mark Twain points out in his War Prayer, wishing and being thankful for one's own success and victory is, at the very same time, wishing and being thankful for another's defeat and destruction. Do we want to make these kinds of wishes and give these kinds of thanks?
The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran declared that "it is the honor of the murdered that they are not the murderers". Perhaps, but it is a very difficult honor to uphold. Native Americans, at least those who have survived the over 500 year genocidal project, are the poorest ethnic group in the richest country of the world. Each year, a group of Native Americans gather at Plymouth Rock on Thanksgiving Day to mourn and fast in honor of their people and in memory of what is lost. What do we want to be honored for? What honors are Americans thankful for?
It was once earnestly asked by Native Americans, "Why do you take by force what you can have by love?" Christopher Columbus reports in his personal diary that when he arrived in the Americas he was amazed. The Taino, with curiosity and joy, came to greet the people coming off the ships from Europe. The Taino (whom Columbus mistakenly thought were Indians) were a peaceful people, by all accounts, willing to share anything they had, offering both emotional kindness and their physical objects. Columbus describes how remarkable these people were. So innocent of weapons and violence, Taino people would initially reach out their hands to feel the strange, shiny objects called swords. The Taino would only "work" for a few hours a day, "spending" the rest of their time relaxing, socializing, and creating their culture in the ways that people most enjoy. Columbus also tells of how the Taino had no "shame", being able to walk around naked or make love whenever they pleased. With the tiny amount of gold on their island, they fashioned jewelry to adorn themselves. As with many other pre-contact indigenous groups, the Taino essentially lived in Utopia. Can Americans be thankful for living in a utopian society? Are we thankful for having destroyed one? Should we be grateful for having so many deadly weapons? For being so greedy for gold, both actual and metaphorical?
As Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange is fond of pointing out, Columbus could have done one of a few different things after encountering the Taino of whom he was so impressed: (1) Columbus could have quit his travels and lived the rest of his days amongst this remarkable people. In fact, millions of people today spend thousands of dollars and their precious couple of weeks of vacation trying to experience modern conditions resembling these ancient ones. (2) Columbus could also have continued on his journeys, exploring other islands, encountering new peoples, and searching for India and elsewhere with which to trade. While doing so, he could have expanded and developed his writings, perhaps doing valuable ethnographic and comparative sociological research. (3) Another possibility is that Columbus could have rushed back to Europe, declaring the wonders of Taino society and urging that the best minds of Europe go to visit and study the Taino. As a result of doing so, Europeans could have incorporated aspects of Taino society into their own, if not emulating it altogether. Are we proud of and thankful for our hubris and ethnocentrism?
Of course, Columbus did none of these. Apparently, there was a fourth possibility. With grave implications, Columbus wrote in his diary that with fifty men he could enslave the entire population and capture all their gold. This was no empty boast. The "savage" Taino were enslaved, many were tortured, their labor exploited, and their wealth stolen and shipped off to Europe. During this process of imperialist super-exploitation, men had their hands chopped off, women had their breasts sliced and their pregnant bellies cut open, babies were thrown into the air, sometimes crashing to the ground and other times being impaled on those strange, shiny swords, presumably all in the name of Christianity, Civilization, and, eventually, Capitalism. The Taino were literally exploited to death and were brought to the brink of extinction, most of them having been killed off through virulent brutality, overwork, and disease. Are Americans thankful they weren't Taino? Are we thankful for not being the dehumanized "Other"?
The Pilgrims later came to America to escape religious persecution from the British, apparently in order to commit ethnic and religious persecution against the Native Americans and, later on, others. And this they did, and we in fact continue to do, effectively and mercilessly. At the time of the first Thanksgiving in the 1620s, it was also the dawn of another type of genocide. 1619 marks the first year that human beings were brutally "imported" from Africa to become slaves in America, if they happened to survive the cruel capture and horrific Atlantic crossing. So while Africans were being heartlessly torn away from their homes and families, viciously enslaved and dehumanized, tortured and killed, Native Americans were being attacked and annihilated. By the time that President Lincoln re-invented and instituted the Thanksgiving Day tradition in the early 1860s, the US was fighting its civil war. The US Civil War may have been fought over slavery (and labor more generally), though it was certainly not fought for the slaves (or for laborers). Sadly, there is much, much more to the tragic history of genocide and US complicity. Is it for this legacy that Americans give thanks? Are Americans thankful for the results of racism, sexism, and classism?
In Europe, during the 1930s and 1940s, various demographic groups were being systematically targeted by the Nazis: Jews especially, but also leftists and unionists, people with physical and mental disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses, gays and lesbians, the Roma (so-called Gypsies) and the small number of Blacks, as well as other misfortunate minorities. Although we now know that the US had accurate aerial photographs of the rail lines leading to and from the death camps since 1941, among other pertinent information obtained even earlier, the US did not enter the war against fascist Germany until almost 1942, only after the US was physically attacked by Japan. Even then, however, the US neither bombed the rail lines or the death camps themselves, nor allowed in large numbers of refugees from fascism. Indeed, just like Haitians in the 1990s and Afghans in 2001, Jews in the 1940s were sometimes turned back to their respective Hell. Millions and millions of people died unnecessarily. Adding insult to injury, the US government even paid war reparations to US corporations, including General Motors, which were supplying the Nazi military with much-needed machinery and vehicles, for the damage done to their German factories due to the Allied bombing campaign. (The US government went further by guaranteeing safe passage for many Nazi officers and even employing a number of them, some of whom helped advance biological and chemical weaponry as well as death penalty technology in the US. Other Nazi officers were supported, especially in Europe and Latin America, as an oppositional force against real or suspected communism.) Likewise, the US was seemingly uninterested in Japan's genocide against the Chinese in Nanking, and then did (and does) little to stop China's genocide of the Tibetans since the 1950s. The US has also never been interested in the genocide against the Kurds or Armenians. The US was interested, however, in setting up detention camps in 1942 for Japanese-Americans and, to a much lesser extent, Germans and Italians. Are Americans thankful for our hypocrisy and selective democracy?
In 1965, the US supported and facilitated genocide in Indonesia. Under the US-supported military dictatorship, half a million to a million communist-sympathizing peasants were killed in Indonesia. Their lives are considered so worthless that a more accurate number of those killed is nearly impossible. (A more recent example of this mentality is from the Gulf War, during which US bulldozing tanks buried an unknown number of slaughtered Iraqis in the desert. When asked how many were killed and buried in these mass unmarked graves, General Colin Powell coldly replied that he wasn't interested and didn't care. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright followed up that mentality by stating on TV that the hundreds of thousands of additional kids who have died since the war, due to sanctions, are a worthwhile price to pay. For whom?) The US supplied some 90% of the weapons and training to the Indonesian military, in addition to favorable trade and investment, but also provided logistics and specific names of Indonesian activists to be targeted for death. The Indonesian military gladly obliged, taking the US hit list and then accomplishing their task as best as possible.
Since 1975, similarly, the US has sponsored and abetted genocide in Indonesian-occupied East Timor, culminating in the latest round of "newsworthy" massacres at the end of 1999. Nearly the same time that the modern Indonesian/East Timorese tragedy began, the US condoned genocide in Cambodia, after committing acts of genocide throughout South East Asia in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, the US supported vicious and murderous wars in Central America, central Asia, and southern Africa, in which hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, were killed, with many more disabled, displaced, and disappeared. The US also sat idly by during the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s, while almost totally ignoring slavery and genocide in Sudan throughout that entire decade. Furthermore, the US persists in continuously building, vigorously marketing, and violently employing chemical, biological, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, some of which was sold to both Iran and Iraq during their war against each other. Further, the US continues to use deadly depleted uranium, which has caused the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in southern Iraq since the last Gulf War, while we ignore the actions of NATO ally Turkey as it persecutes, tortures, bombs, and kills Kurds in its continuing genocide against them. The US also refuses to sign a treaty banning anti-personnel land mines. Are Americans proud of US foreign policy? Of supporting murderous dictators and regimes? Of maintaining deadly double standards?
At the same time that the US has, by far, the most expensive and powerful military on Earth, it also has a high poverty rate, the largest prison population, a relatively high infant mortality rate, tremendous over-consumption and waste, a stingy and demeaning welfare program, an active capital punishment program, and almost as many privately-owned guns as people. Are Americans proud of US domestic policy? Of supporting murderous policies and programs? Of maintaining deadly discriminatory standards?
There are many reasons to celebrate and Americans have a lot to be thankful for. Genocide should not be one of those things. What are we doing on Thanksgiving Day? We would be appropriately appalled if Germany or Austria were celebrating a Holocaust Memorial Day, where Germans and Austrians got together with their families for dinner on their official day off, joyously remembering the things that are important to them, just as American families get together for Thanksgiving Day and think of things to be thankful for. (Similar scenarios, just as ugly, could be constructed for white supremacists, rapists, and murderers.) Some activities and events are inappropriate just because of the context in which they occur and the history of suffering they represent. Thanksgiving Day is clearly part of that history. Are Americans thankful for forgetting their own history, for having collective cultural and political amnesia?
We do not have to feel guilty, but we do need to feel something. At the very least, we need to reflect on how and what we feel. We should also review our history and what it means to us and others, while we must rethink our adopted traditions, including our Thanksgiving High Holy Day. My personal (and therefore political!) resolution for the new year is to stop celebrating genocide. American Thanksgiving may be sacred to some, but it's utterly profane to me. 
Dan Brook teaches sociology at the University of California at Berkeley and can be contacted

Poet Mark Gonzales Live at The Cabaret Voltaire Los Angeles from Longridge Video Productions

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UhuruRadio : Play : Rebroadcast: Why We Don't Celebrate Thanksgiving

UhuruRadio : Play : Rebroadcast: Why We Don't Celebrate Thanksgiving

Poetic Pilgrimage Spoken word 2: I am Malcolm X Tour

Thanksgiving Mourning | Teaching Tolerance

Thanksgiving Mourning | Teaching Tolerance

PCRM >> Health >> Fish Report 2009


Few food products are as controversial as fish. A leading source of heavy metals and other contaminants, fish is frequently the subject of government health-risk advisories. However, some people promote fish as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Let’s look at the issues.

Understanding Mercury

Mercury accumulates in aquatic life, concentrating especially in large predatory fish. Of the potential sources of mercury contamination, the consumption of fish and shellfish contributes most to the mercury concentration in humans.1
Nearly all fish contain traces of mercury. Some fish and shellfish tend to contain higher levels, either because they live in more contaminated waters or because they are larger carnivores consuming many contaminated smaller fish. Because mercury is eliminated slowly from the body, it may build to very high levels in the systems of animals—including humans—that consume it.
Levels of contamination vary widely from place to place and even among individual fish. Therefore, even well-informed consumers have no way of knowing whether the fish they have purchased has a high or low level of mercury contamination. Even modest consumption of moderately contaminated and commonly eaten fish can put consumers at risk very quickly.2

Effects of Mercury Contamination

Mercury exposure has been linked to a wide variety of ills, including acute and chronic effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have designated mercury as a possible human carcinogen.1

Mercury and the Heart

Mercury accumulates in the heart, as well as other tissues, and has been associated with increased blood pressure, irregular and increased heart rate, and increased rates of death from cardiovascular disease in at least 12 scientific studies.1
Consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenonic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, has been associated with decreased risk of heart attack in individuals consuming a Western-style diet.3,4 However, three recent studies have shown that mercury exposure may have the opposite effect. In one study, mercury levels were 15 percent higher among those patients who had suffered a first heart attack.5 A second study showed increased risk of cardiovascular mortality with increasing mercury exposure.6 The third study found that a high content of mercury in hair may be a risk factor for acute coronary events, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality in middleaged men. This study also found that mercury may negate the purported protective effects of fish on heart health.7

Other Pollutants in Fish

There are several other pollutants that accumulate in fish and shellfish. Taken together, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, chlordane, DDT, and mercury account for 98 percent of all fish advisories issued in 2004.8 Many other toxins, including other heavy metals and organochlorine pesticides, find their way into water and aquatic life as well.
These pollutants are toxic to humans, fish, and other animals that consume and bioaccumulate them. Many of these chemicals are especially problematic because they are not readily cleared from the body and accumulate over a lifetime. Thus, even if exposure is limited to a discrete period of time, the potential risks persist.
According to the EPA, PCBs are known carcinogens in some species and probable carcinogens in humans. PCBs also have been shown to disrupt immune function, cause learning disabilities, and disrupt neurological development; they may have endocrine effects as well.
Dioxins, too, are known carcinogens and have also been shown to cause liver damage, weight loss, skin rashes, and reductions in immune function.9 They are especially dangerous during fetal development and early childhood.10
Chlordane and DDT, an organochlorine, are pesticides that have been banned from use in the United States. Nonetheless, appreciable levels of these highly toxic chemicals remain in waterways and bioaccumulate in fish.11

Nutrient Composition of Fish

Like other meats, fish are especially dense in animal protein (15 to 20 grams in a three-ounce cooked portion). People in the United States already consume well above the daily value for protein (50 to 65 grams). Protein intake averages about 15 percent of total calories, for a mean intake of approximately 100 grams per day for men and 70 grams per day for women.12 Much of this protein comes from animal sources.
Diets containing excessive protein are associated with increased risk of impaired renal function,13 osteoporosis,14 and complications of diabetes.15 Promotion of fish products may increase protein intake and aggravate these risks.
Furthermore, increasing fish intake would likely increase total fat and saturated fat intake. Although some of the fat in fish is in the omega-3 form, much of the remaining fat is saturated. Chinook salmon, for example, derives 52 percent of its calories from fat, and swordfish derives 30 percent. About one-quarter of the fat in both types of fish is saturated. Fish and shellfish are also significant sources of cholesterol. Three ounces of shrimp have 166 milligrams of cholesterol, while the same amount of bass has about 80 milligrams; in comparison, a 3-ounce steak has about 80 milligrams.16

Other Health Risks

There may be specific risks to fish consumption as well. For example, a 2004 study looked at diet and prostate cancer in Japanese men. It showed that a high consumption of fish was significantly associated with prostate cancer risk.17
In a comprehensive review, the Center for Science in the Public Interest determined that fish and shellfish dishes caused more foodborne illness outbreaks than any other food between 1990 and 2003.18 Such outbreaks can result from bacterial or viral contamination or from naturally occurring toxins. These naturally occurring toxins are not destroyed by cooking.19

A Healthier Way to Beat Heart Disease

Fish is often touted for its possible benefits relating to heart disease. However, it is already known that vegetarian diets help prevent, and even reverse, heart disease. Animal products are the main source of saturated fat and the only source of cholesterol in the diet. Vegetarians avoid these risky products. Additionally, fiber helps reduce cholesterol levels20 and animal products contain no fiber. When individuals switch to a high-fiber, low-fat diet, their serum cholesterol levels often drop dramatically.21,22 Studies have demonstrated that a low-fat, high-fiber, vegetarian or vegan diet combined with stress reduction techniques, smoking cessation, and exercise, or combined with prudent drug intervention, could actually reverse atherosclerosis—hardening of the arteries.23,24

Safer Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

High levels of toxins, fat, and cholesterol and a lack of fiber make fish a poor dietary choice. Fish oils have been popularized as a panacea against everything from heart problems to arthritis. In fact, fish oil supplementation may increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias in some patients, specifically those who require a pacemaker for this problem.25 Research has shown that omega-3s are found in a more stable form in vegetables, fruits, and beans.26,27
Alpha-linolenic acid, the only essential omega-3 fatty acid, is found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits. It is concentrated in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil and also found in oils such as canola, soybean, walnut, and wheat germ. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as beans, vegetables, and whole grains.28,29 Corn, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed oils are generally low in omega-3s. Fish consumption is by no means the only way to ensure adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids.


Given the clear evidence that fish are commonly contaminated with toxins that have well-known and irreversible damaging effects on children and adults, the consumption of fish should not be encouraged. The risks are known and, especially for infants and women of childbearing age, significant. The other risks associated with the consumption of fish and shellfish, which are high in animal protein and often saturated fat and cholesterol, are also considerable. It is best to avoid the consumption of fish and shellfish. Other, more healthful foods from plant sources offer the full range of essential nutrients without the toxins and other health risks in fish.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...