Saturday, August 11, 2007

MM Daily Dispatch

Rights group assails exploitation of baby greens in salads

From ‘Ban foie gras’ to ‘Don’t walk on the grass’?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offshoot PET-V announced in a release distributed to major news outlets yesterday that it is calling for a boycott of the growers and purveyors of baby greens, widely used in--and increasingly, as--salads in homes and eateries around the world.

Originally a trendy niche item like sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and “designer” salty snacks such as Pringles and Sun Chips, the little-understood “bistro effect” has led to a broad demand for the confetti-like mixtures of young spinach, callow arugula, immature lettuce and something tantalizingly dubbed “escarole” by savvy marketers.

Now that ordinary supermarkets sell the forage by the bagful directly to unwitting consumers, PET-V has put its foot down, it says (though only on designated paved walkways). Following on successful campaigns of decades past to raise awareness of the brutal clubbing of baby seals for their oh-so-silky pelts, PET-V says as a parallel effort to the boycott, thousands of volunteers will commit civil disobedience, trespassing at organic farms throughout California’s Central Valley, lying in the path of mechanical harvesters before they neatly, inhumanely, and with chilling efficiency, shear off millions of the young sprouts in the prime of infancy.

PET-V’s release pointed to the seminal example of the late anthropologist Carlos Castaneda, whose training as a Yaqui Indian medicine man included not only talking to plants, but constantly apologizing to them, especially to the female specimens of dioecious, or sexually differentiated, varieties. Shortly prior to his death a decade ago, Castaneda said plants, including fresh salads, had finally begun talking back to him, and that--while, unlike erstwhile comedian and noted amateur early childhood development specialist Steve Martin, he does not “speak baby talk”--he could detect especially heart-rending sighs and plaintive-sounding whispers when consuming underage salad ingredients, especially chervil.

Addressing how, in addition to just eschewing “baby greens” whenever detected on menus and in stores, consumers might recognize them in unlabeled situations, the PET-V release said, “they’re not crunchy, and they don’t taste very good.” The lack of turgor pressure “crispness” otherwise normally found in fresh samples of Romaine, and, especially, iceberg-based salads, “also means the leaves of juvenile lactucas are much too flaccid to really support the frequently added walnuts and cranberries, not to mention leaden globs of goat-cheese-laced dressing,” the release noted. “Observing these rules of thumb may also help consumers avoid regular, but very wilted, salads,” it added.

A visit to the PETA website also turned up news of the imminent formation of PET-M, one of whose first campaigns will be to seek alternatives to the brutal culinary grinding of natural, defenseless sea salt--a practice that harks to the grinding of human bones to make bread for giants, who cited their need for the additional high-quality dietary calcium and phosphorus in justifying the now frowned-upon practice.

Meanwhile, civil rights groups have called for activists as well as members of the media to cease the demeaning use of “boycott” in their promulgation and coverage of rights campaigns.

--David Tell

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