What is it about meat? How to talk to people about Compassionate Eating

As part of my job position, I help coordinate a departmental "Green Team". One of the projects I chose to undertake was a "Meatless Monday" campaign. This included simply giving a presentation to our department highlighting the sustainability benefits in giving up meat one day a week. As I sat in my cubicle working on the presentation, a coworker, who is also a friend outside of work, came over and sat down to chit chat. He read the title on my computer screen and exclaimed "Meatless Monday?! Stop trying to push your veggie bull on everyone!" I was surprised with the "everyone" comment because I hadn't discussed this project with anyone yet but the team leader and many of my coworkers don't even know I'm vegan. So I completely ignored this and went into a different conversation. When the conversation dragged he again repeated his previous exclamation about Meatless Monday. Finally, on the third or fourth time, I addressed it by simply asking: "Aaron, do you know where your meat comes from and how it's processed?" That's when things turned ugly....

....I've run into this circumstance many times; when I bring up factory farming or ask if someone is familiar with the meat industry, the defense mechanisms ramp up! Aaron didn't answer my question at all. Instead, sitting more forward in his chair to get closer to my face, he immediately asked me what I "do" when I go to Burning Man? And asked do I "know where the weed comes from that I smoke". Hmmm, well I don't smoke weed; have tried it in the past but don't personally like it. So, needless to say, Aaron's question was confusing. Aaron was trying to attack me, on a very personal level, instead of having to engage in the conversation he had been mocking me about just moments earlier. He didn't have much to go on, so he grabbed at any straw he knew, which turned out to be that I've attended the Burning Man festival (twice to be precise) and he apparently assumes everyone there smokes weed. When a person is in this much denial and anger, I've learned it is better to diffuse the situation than to push it, so I didn't fire back; Aaron was clearly not ready to talk about what's on his dinner plate each and every night.

Another reaction I've encountered is omnivores pointing out that "cavemen ate meat", and that it's natural for humans to do so; or that any mistreatment of animals is the exception by a few "bad eggs". These people are at least willing to engage in a conversation about the topic, but still defend their position without considering the real facts about the current condition of animal agriculture. We do not live in a caveman world. We do not have to hunt down our own prey. We don't even live in a world where family farms with 50 head of cattle and 200 chickens are prevalent. Instead, we live in a world where thousands upon thousands of animals are packed into small spaces, genetically altered, saturated with antibiotics, and billions killed every year so that humans can eat them (disease ridden and all) in nearly every meal everyday. 99% of all meat and dairy comes from factory farms that run mostly automated and employ cheap, unskilled laborers: there are no "farmers" on a factory farm. You can see how the old excuses simply don't translate; yet many still cling to them.

So what is it about meat that makes people react this way? Jonathon Safran Foer, in his book Eating Animals, states:
Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I've discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory- disavowed.
This sentiment is probably true in Aaron's case and many others I've encountered, because if nothing is wrong with our meat/dairy/egg industry, then why so adverse to talking about it?

So what can you do to talk to defensive people about factory farming and adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet? A couple things to remember before engaging in conversation are:
  1. No one likes to be told that they're "wrong". If people really understood the situation and saw the conditions of factory farming, they most likely would agree with you. But not everyone out there has the education on the issue or they continue to eat meat because they've ignored the education in defensiveness, not because they want to hurt the Earth or animals. So be understanding to their situation, we've all been there. Especially when it comes to the morality of animal treatment, it calls into question the entirety of their identity: how they were raised (their parent's morality) and the choices they've made throughout life. Figuring out things for one's self is usually the best way, so all you can do is to help provide the information, not tell someone to change their lifestyle.
  2. There are other issues just as important in world. Factory farming may be a big issue in climate change, health, and animal rights, but it's not the only issue within those things. If someone rides their bike to work everyday to reduce emissions, but still eats a turkey sandwich for lunch, they should still be applauded for their efforts. Again, it's more due to lack of education that people insist on eating meat rather than them wanting to do harm.

What I've found works best is first to approach the issue from an environmental position. When you talk about the effect animal agriculture has on a larger scale, it depersonalizes the issue. Then the person doesn't feel attacked or feel like they need to entertain unpleasant thoughts about the animals themselves. They are receptive the hearing statistics, especially since factory farm statistics are so awe inspiring- for example: A third of all land area on planet Earth is dedicated to animal agriculture (FAO). Climate change's significant contributor is animal agriculture, something more and more people (both right and left leaning) are starting to accept as a critical issue facing humanity; therefore, climate change is another initial angle of approach. It also helps illustrate that eating meat/dairy is not simply a choice that affects someone only personally (many will say "it's none of your concern what I do, get off my back"), but one that affects all of us on a global level.

The next best way to approach the subject is by talking about the health benefits of adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Health concerns bring the issue in more personally, but without plaguing on the moral centers of the brain. Instead, the individual retains their comfort zone and keeps the issue focused on their immediate and long term safety. Men who do not eat meat are 40% less likely to develop prostate cancer and heart disease; women are LESS likely to develop osteoporosis by not drinking milk. Though taste usually still overpowers morality, at least statistics like the ones just mentioned will help people reevaluate food choices for their own safety.

Finally, at this point, you may be able to talk about the actual concerns for the animals and their quality of life. Often people ask me what difference does it make how an animal lives if it's just going to be slaughtered anyway? In this situation I'll ask them to put themselves or their child in the place of the animal: would you rather have a pleasant, long life before a wretched death, or a life of pain and torture leading up to the kill? I think the answer is obvious (and actually surprising that it needs to be explained). Animals are sentient beings, not much controversy surrounds that fact. So helping people see that they too are sentient "animals" may help them feel compassion for factory farmed animals. As Jonathon Safran Foer said: "what we forget about animals we begin to forget about ourselves" (Eating Animals p. 37).

Admitting that in an ideal world where farmers raise animals properly and we only eat animals when necessary to feed our families sounds nice. But again, as I highlighted already, we do not live in that idealistic world and we have to ask ourselves how much meat is enough? Do we really need it everyday or in every meal? Do we really think that greater meat production will be used to feed hungry kids around the world? The amount of meat consumed in America and other developed countries is staggering and as long as agribusiness thinks that's what the people want (cheap meat in every meal), they're going to keep giving it to us. They'll pass the cutting-corner-profits onto the consumer, not to the animals; the price of meat and dairy has nearly stayed the same over the last 50 years. The almighty dollar speaks, and we as consumers need to tell agribusiness what we want by showing them with our purchases. So yes, each person can make a difference, it all comes down to individual food choices: out of many, comes one (big) voice.

"It's not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to, so it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere." - James Cameron


Op-Ed: Going veg doesn't have to be a big deal

Growing up, I was mostly served microwaved chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner. When we had a salad it would consist of iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch dressing. Needless to say, eating vegetables wasn't something that came naturally for me. But today, I find myself craving cabbage and peppers far more than a burger or brat. My transition from omnivore to vegetarian is something that I eased into and I'd like to share how it's something you can easily accomplish as well. Being vegetarian may not be ideal for everyone, but for a number of reasons I believe adopting a veggie based diet is a good idea and doesn't have to be a stressful process.

Baby steps toward a veggie diet

I didn't simply decide one day that I would never eat meat again. Instead I decided, "I'd like to eat less meat". Many people would like to do the same but find it difficult in a culture where eating meat in 2 out of 3 (if not 3 out of 3) meals a day is standard. Meat products are everywhere in restuarants, cafes, and other stores. They're also very cheap because of the production style in factory farms. So it's easy to eat meat in America, some would say a meat diet is easier than a veggie one in current social conditions. However, there are several ways to get started with a vegetarian diet:
  • Set realistic goals. You do not have to give up all meat right away. Instead of eating meat everyday, first limit it to every other day, then only once a week, then once every two weeks, until you are accustomed to meals without it at all.
  • Try chosing just one type of meat to eliminate at first. Get used to what it's like to avoid that kind of meat and how to substitute it. From there you can move on to another meat and another, until you are meat free. 
  • Use meat substitutes. Although "fake meat" can perpetuate mental dependence on meat, it can at least help in the transition until you are more comfortable with meals that don't include the texture of flesh. Of course there are soy products to use but there are other alternative as well like Quorn, so you have several options.
Is a vegetarian diet really healthier than an omnivorous one?

I don't think we can say there aren't any up-sides to eating meat. Meat does offer nutritional value and a significant amount of calroies to sustain life. Many athletes choose meat over carbohydrates/vegetables because in their personal experience that diet acheives results for them. However, as I will highlight more in the next section, you can get the same kinds of nutrition that meat offers but without the negative side effects (high cholesteral, hypertension...animal cruelty). Many seeds, grains, and even fruits can offer you high-density fatty acids, proteins, and minerals that are excellent fuel sources.

How a vegetarian diet has affected me
Eliminating meat from my diet makes weight control much easier, has given me more energy, and helped me experience new foods.

Though I maintained a healthy weight while eating omnivorously, it became even easier when those extra calories and fat from meat were eliminated. What is difficult is finding vegetarian options at fast food restaurants or other cheap food vendors. By making "no meat" a rule, it automatically took away my ability to eat at those undesireable places and cuts out fatty processed foods. No matter what I decide to eat from there is usually already an improvement on the average American diet.

During exercise, I find that I have plenty of energy needed to execute vigorous workouts and recuperate from them better. Contrary to popular belief, proteins produce a very small amount of energy (ATP) needed during exercise. Therefore, to power my workouts I rely more upon high-density fats from seeds and oils (along with certain carbohydrates). And though protein is linked to repairing muscles, I have found that I bounce back from heavy workouts more quickly since eliminating animal protein. I believe part of this is due to my vegetarian diet lowering the rates of stress hormones. Cortisol is a stress hormone known to cause sleeping problems, even insomnia. But a diet containing more whole-foods/vegetarian based is linked to lowering this hormone in humans. Therefore, because I sleep better, I allow my body more restfull time to repair itself and have more energy to keep working out.

As I've already mentioned, my upbringing didn't allow for much adventurous eating. So another benefit of going veg is being open to trying a variety of new things. I didn't even know some types of foods existed like quinoa for example. Quinoa is a South American crop grown mostly for its seeds. It's also known as the "super food" because it contains almost everything a person needs to survive within it; this includes protein and fats that are higher-density and therefore better for you than the kinds found in animal flesh. I've also explored the huge realm of vegetables previously unknown to me including a variety of dark greens not normally found in a standard American salad (kale, beet greens. etc.).

Don't let them make you feel badly

When I started telling friends and family that I was trying to go vegetarian, I got a lot of heckling or strange looks. It's almost as if being vegetarian isn't American. After all, the meat and dairy industry is huge for American companies. But who cares what anyone else thinks? It probably says more about their own defensive personality than anything about you because why should they care what you're eating anyway? Yet, on the other hand, I and other vegetarians/vegans do care about what the meat-eaters are eating. So is that a double standard or does being veg have more validity? I know what I would answer (paying someone to torture and kill animals on your behalf is wrong), but that doesn't mean I am objectively right or that there aren't other important arguments to consider. So in the end, dietary choices are up to the individual and you should eat what you believe is right for your life. Try something new and see how it affects your energy, mood , and overall health. No pressure - just adventure.


Bullshit? A Rebuttal

Though my last post was focused around genetically engineered seeds, I recently saw something that disturbed me to the point of wanting to refute and discuss this same topic again. The famous magicians Penn & Teller have a TV show called "Bullshit!". On the show they assert their opinion on different controversial matters. Often the show is informative and entertaining. However, their episode on genetically engineered (GE) foods was far below par.

The magicians support the use of GE seeds for one sole reason: it will end world hunger. They use starvation statistics from Africa to back up their point that many people in the world do not get enough to eat. Therefore, they (and many others) believe that if we can increase food production, there will be enough food to feed many, if not all, the hungry mouths around the world. That's where GE seeds come in. GE seeds are made to be able to grow in harsh conditions where soil normally couldn't support growth. GE seeds are also often made to withstand herbicides allowing them to grow freely without weeds and insects hindering them. Ideally, GE seeds have the potential to produce large amounts food.

The first flaw in this episode of "Bullshit!" is when the magicians imply that GE food is a new, up and coming technology. They juxtapose, what they call, "Green Peace assholes" protesting GE companies, with dying kids in Africa; implying that groups like Green Peace are hampering a new technology that could end starvation. Here is what's wrong with that picture: GE seeds are not new, they have been in use for the past two decades. Today, 80% of corn and corn products are from GE seeds as well as over 90% of soy, over 60% of tomatoes, and 70% of general processed foods from soda to soup. Therefore, if GE seed use can end world hunger and a overwhelming majority of our produce is already made GE... shouldn't there have been a dent in world hunger by now, at least a little? The truth is quite the contray. Starvation rates dropped dramtically BEFORE the use of GE seeds from 1970 to 1990. But now that food production has turned to GE seed use, starvation rates have stagnated [1].

A vital mistake the magicians make is assuming that companies who make and distribute GE food actually want to help starving people. They assume people are naturally kind-hearted and as long as there is enough food, no one will starve. That is historically incorrect. The fact is, there has been plenty of food even before GE seeds. But poor, starving people can't pay for corn, tomatoes, etc. Starving people would have to get it for free. Yet, distributing food freely and equaly is "socialism" and simply not profitable for companies. That is how you get half of Americans at obese weight levels while people starve to death in other countries.

The answer to starvation is not to make more and more food because that food is going to go to people who can pay for it and who, frankly, don't even need it anyway. For a male of average height to maintain a weight of over 300 pounds, he would have to eat up to 3,000 calories per day. Knowing that a man of that description (which also describes 30% of Americans) could survive on not even 2,000 calories, he could feed a child every single day on the amount of food he consumes just for himself. The hunger problem is not in amounts of food, it's in distribution of that food - it will go to the highest bidder everytime. GE seeds could be helpful, but only in the hands of people not out for profit.

Since we have just reviewed reasons why GE food is not the answer to ending world hunger, the question becomes, why bother using GE at all? There are documented negative effects of GE seeds including health risks to humans and degradation of soil for future crops. So, again, if it is not helping world hunger and is in fact harmful, what really is "bullshit" here?


Soy's Problem

In the United States, 75 million acres of land are dedicated to Soybean crop. Soy is a $40 billion business in America which is a number that's been increasing steadily every year [1]. With the rise of health conscious dieting, including awareness of the affects of processed food and factory farming, individuals are turning to soy for their protein and dairy supplement needs. Unfortunately, soy may not be as healthy or environmentally friendly as some believe because of a big business takeover of the American seed market.

Nelson Farms grows soybeans as well as wheat and sugar beets on their 8,000 acres [2]. The farm is ran by Roger Nelson and his two sons; they are being sued by the world's largest seed distributor Monsanto. The Nelsons bought Monsanto's Genetically Modified (GM) seeds in the 90s and due to a contractual agreement, must buy seeds from Monsanto every year. This is because in Monsanto's terms farmers are prohibited from saving their own seeds from their crop each year, forcing them to purchase new ones every growing season. Monsanto has accused the Nelson's of "seed saving"; the Nelson's deny the charges.

The problem with Monsanto's terms is not just that farmers must buy new seeds each year, but that Monsanto has eliminated nearly all of its competitors through ruthlessly squeezing smaller distributors. Monsanto has bought out several smaller companies and started many spin-offs from them as well, the little companies can't compete with such a giant and so have no other choice [3]. Another incentive Monsanto has used to corner the market is that their seeds are "Roundup Ready" (RR). Roundup is another product Monsanto manufactures and so they've modified their seeds to be compatible with this particular herbicide; it saves the farmers time and money, theoretically, as well as forces them to rely solely on Monsanto for their farming needs. 95% of all soy and 80% of all corn in the US are from Monsanto GM, RR seeds: a staggering figure.

What does this mean for you and me? It means two things: unjust prices and inferior nutrition.

With so many products being made from soybeans these days and Monsanto controlling 95% of those products, when Monsanto raises its prices virtually every single dinner table in America is affected. And they have raised their prices. Within the last decade, seed costs have doubled [4]. The seed market, and many items on your own personal grocery list, are directly affected by Monsanto's pricing decisions and by hardly anyone or anything else. That is the epitome of a monopoly.

You and your family's nutritional intake is also directly affected by Monsanto's decisions. Genetic modification twists seeds into great money making tools, but also, unfortunately, twists them into pale nutritional comparisons to their natural brothers and sisters. Plants grown from RR seeds have increased numbers of parasitic colonies at their bases and roots and have been found to suffer more from Sudden Death Syndrome than non-RR plants. Robert Kremer conducted this research and in his own words RR seeds, "[alter] the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability" [5]. One of Kremer's future studies is to find ways to combat the negative effects of RR seeds which would need to include supplementation of nutrients as foods made from RR seeds do not provide enough for your body.

In laboratories, rats and rabbits that were fed a diet of RR seeds suffered from: liver cell problems, pancreatic problems, unexplained changes in testicular cells, altered metabolism in organs, and offspring dying within a few weeks of birth. One farmer even claims that his animals instinctutally know to avoid foods made from GM seeds when they are given the choice.

How can you avoid non-GM soy? Unfortunately, there is no easy way. Products in grocery stores are not required to indicate whether or not they are genetically modified and, frankly, even if they did, 95% of your choices at the store would be GM foods anyway. Yet, if we could get a labeling system imposed, it may be a great step in the right direction. "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." -Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co. Requiring GM labels on food is something Monsanto is terrified of. As outlined by the Organic Consumers Association, a clear indication of the impact of warning labels was established in California in 1986 when voters passed a ballot initiative called Proposition 65, which required consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels. Rather than label their products sold in California (and all over the nation) as likely carcinogenic, most companies reformulated their product ingredients so as to avoid warning labels altogether.

Soy may be a good source of vegetarian protein and have other positive health effects, but that's not necessarily true for the type of soy we're given in American products. Monsanto's grip on farming stifles our opportunity for fair nutrition. Slowly, our personal nutritional choices are being taken away. Encourage your state representatives to initiate a bill requiring GM foods to be labeled. Or if you'd rather stay out of the political arena, you can always seek out alternatives to soy products. Instead of soy milk you can purchase almond or rice milk. Instead of buying "fake meat" made from soy, you can buy meat substitutes made from mushrooms like Quorn. We can fight monopolizing big business, that cares less for our health and more for their profits, one refrigerator at a time.


Animalkind - A Short History of Animal Rights and Activism

Animal rights and activism can be traced centuries into the past. Bear-baiting was first prohibited in England in 1835. Yet even further back than that, some of the first animal rights laws passed were in 1635 when it was made illegal to pull the wool off of sheep or tie plows to the tails of horses. Therefore, the collective social concern for the wellbeing of non-human animals is not a new concept. However, the modern age of animal activism can't be said to have began until the mid 1970s when philosopher Peter Singer published his book, Animal Liberations. Singer based many of his arguments on utilitarianism. In his book, Singer asserts that humans and non-humans alike do not have distinct natural rights but instead have equal consideration of interests. Animal Liberations sparked the interests of many scholars and to this day it stands as the canonical piece of animal rights literature. Since the mid 70s more and more groups and agencies have risen to aid animals against mistreatment.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was formed in 1980. This group advocates veganism; highlighting that eating meat is only one way in which animals are mistreated. They rally against fur/leather clothing, vivisection, circuses, and other animal abuses. PETA is known for collecting undercover evidence at various animal facilities and filing lawsuits when they find mistreatment. Currently, PETA has a lawsuit open against SeaWorld on behalf of the Orcas that are kept there. What is interesting about this case is how PETA asserts that the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, doesn't just apply to humans but to all species. PETA is sometimes called "radical" or even "crazy" for the extreme enthusiasm their members exude toward helping animals. Though everything can be taken too far, calling PETA "crazy" is not a constructive argument against their work and undermines the progress they've made in legitimately relieving animals of harmful situations.

Five years later marked the first annual Great American Meatout organized by Farm Animal Reform Movement. The year being 1985, many Americans didn't even know what a vegan diet was, hence the Meatout ads may have been the first exposure some families had to this idea. Now individuals could consider different options to factory farming which was growing greatly at the time (and still is).

Animal rights really came to the forefront in 1987 after a high school student in California refused to dissect a frog in her science class. She believed that ''animals are just as alive as we are". Though this seems like a small gesture from a child, it made headlines around the nation and spurred a four year lawsuit. The up and coming generation was beginning to view animals differently. They were also starting to question what is justifiable as means to an end in the pursuit of scientific enlightenment.

Here is a short list of animal rights landmarks that followed:

1989: Avon and Revlon stop testing their products on animals [1][2].

1993: General Motors stops using live animals in car crash testing. Over 19,000 animals had been killed in crash tests since 1981 [3]; [4].

1997: PETA releases a VIDEO showing animal abuses at Huntingdon Life Sciences. (WARNING: before you click on the link to the video, know that it is very disturbing and could upset some viewers. Then again, hiding from the truth empowers these things to continue.)

2001: Compassion Over Killing stages a documented rescue at a battery hen facility [5].

2002: McDonald's settles a lawsuit for mis-advertising their french fries as vegetarian. (The "natural ingredients" added to enhance flavor include beef extract) [6].

2006: Under the Animal Rights Terrorism Act, the "SHAC 7" are convicted for operating a website that reported on and expressed support for protests against Huntingdon (from the PETA video) and their associates; a blow to animal activism [7].

2007: Horse slaughtering is banned in the United States [8].

RECENT UPDATE- 2011: Horse slaughter ban has been lifted with PETA's support.

Another recent event in the world of animal rights happened this November (2011). The USDA has fined Ringling Bros. circus for mistreatment of animals. Ringling Bros. have agreed to pay $270,000 for violating the Animal Welfare Act on several occasions. In short, the elephants were being chained improperly, forced to work while sick, and abused with "bullhooks". The USDA can fine up to $10,000 per incident. Also, the circus moguls have agreed to instate new training protocol for individuals working with the animals. This is the largest fine in circus history [9].

Animal rights and activism are concepts stemming back through the centuries, but they are evolving concepts struggled with to this very day. From cosmetics, to farming, to fast food, many industries have been affected by new laws triggered by activism. Though there've been great steps forward in obtaining fair and ethical conditions for all animal species, there are still problems as well. Vivisection facilities still exist on many college campuses and the huge consumption of meat in the US has increased the harshness of living conditions for animals being raised for slaughter. To put into perspective of how much we rely on animal products, check out THIS LIST of products made from cows alone. The history of animal rights is expansive and even conjures questions about our own place on this planet and our moral role within the universe.

UPDATE 12.5.11
America's 5th largest egg farm caught for animal abuse by undercover video taken by Mercy for Animals. WATCH HERE.
UPDATE 12.2.11:
I came across this ARTICLE describing the second chimp in space and the malfunctioning equipment that made his journey devastating.


The Reagan Standard

I started working on this post a while ago when the death of bin Laden was fresh news. It's something not on our minds so much now with Occupy Wall Street and what not, but it's never NOT relevent:

What is terrorism and how should the world deal with terrorists? The killing of Osama bin Laden has stirred these questions for some. As an American, I feel I have been given an inaccurate view of terrorism and terrorists. I've seen the celebrations on mainstream media of Americans over-joyed with the death of bin Laden. In fact, his killing has seemed to bring both liberals and conservatives together admitting that either way "he had to go". Yet, I believe something is missing. Though the death of bin Laden is not something to be sad about, I wonder why Americans aren't more angry at their government for operating with such hypocracy.

Terrorism is defined as: systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve ideological or political gain.

In the 1980's, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans were killed by bombings and shootings in, some would say, the worst acts of terrorism the world has seen. This was done is the name of ridding the world of Communism by the Ronald Reagan administration. Reagan stood to gain a lot from terrorizing the people of Nicaragua: namely, the overthrow of a non-allied ruler. Stomping out the Nicaraguan government and supporting the Contras ensured a new ruler who would bend to the will of the US government (sound familiar?). Reagan funded his "war" by illicit arms sales to Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran (and in turn, to the Taliban). All the while, and to this day, Reagan was able to keep the guise of the good guy; he was spreading democracy and "the American way" to less fortunate people (again, sound familiar?).

You may be asking yourself, if what Reagan did was so bad then why hasn't anyone spoken out or tried to do anything about it? The answer is: they did take notice and they did try to do something about it. In 1984 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled, in the case of The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America, that U.S. support for rebels fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua violated both "customary international law" and a 1956 Nicaraguan-U.S. friendship treaty. The US was guilty of illegally placing mines in Nicaraguan harbors. The court also ruled that  the U.S. encouraged human rights violations by the Contras. ICJ demanded that the US pay reperations to the Nicaraguan people. However, the Reagan administration simply said it would ignore the ruling because the court has no power to enforce its decision. Seriously. They were seemingly correct and to this day the U.S. government has taken no responsibility for their acts of terrorism. The United Nations established ICJ after WWII to, basically, rule on morality and put a checks and balance system into place so large nations/armies cannot steamroll their way to political gain. The U.S., historically, accepts the court's jurisdiction only on a case-by-case basis (or when it's convenient).

Who are the bad guys and who are the good guys? Apparently, we're afraid to view our own country's actions as terrorism and are willing to let history repeat itself over and over while small, impoverished groups take the blame. In the late '80s a top CIA official, Jonh Stockwell, testified that, at the time, over 6 million people had been killed by American acts of terrorism in covert operations... how many more have been killed since then under the false flag of democracy?