Tag Archives: eating

Global conflicts and the end of meat

By Ingrid E. Newkirk

PETA has long said that nonviolence begins with what we eat, and an alarming new study shows that we have no time to waste in ditching chicken kebabs and steak sandwiches and choosing humane veggie burgers and falafel instead. According to a team of University of California–Berkeley researchers, unless we get our act together and take steps to mitigate climate change, violence will increase substantially, along with the increasing temperatures. They predict that between now and 2050, because of higher temperatures and extreme weather patterns, interpersonal violence (murder, rape and domestic abuse) will increase between 8 and 16 percent. War and civil unrest could increase by more than 50 percent.

The most effective way to fight climate change is with diet change — by going vegan.

The United Nations reports that the meat industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” including land degradation, air pollution, water pollution, water use and loss of biodiversity.

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming—and raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the largest source of both methane and nitrous-oxide emissions. And when you add up all the energy-intensive stages of producing enormous amounts of grain to feed to farmed animals, plus killing and processing the animals and transporting and storing their flesh, it’s easy to see why producing one calorie of animal protein requires more than 11 times as much fossil fuel as producing one calorie of plant protein.

The meat industry wastes a tremendous amount of water at a time when wars fought over water are no longer seen as a movie plot but a looming threat. PETA tours the country with a portable outdoor shower to remind everyone who stops to look at it that producing just a single pound of meat requires the same amount of water as six months’ worth of showers. That’s because the crops that are fed to farmed animals have to be irrigated, the animals have to be given water, and filthy factory farms and slaughterhouses have to be hosed down regularly. So indirectly, the average vegan consumes nearly 600 gallons of water less per day than the average meat-eater.

No wonder the United Nations Environment Programme says that we need “a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

The heat waves, intense storms, droughts, rising sea levels, crop damage and other problems caused by climate change are also draining billions of dollars from the world economy. British economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicts that if we do not reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it will take less than 40 years for climate change to cause up to a 20 percent drop in the world’s gross domestic product. He fears that it could be “market failure on the greatest scale the world has seen.”

For those who simply can’t—or, rather, won’t—stop eating flesh foods, we are now one giant step closer to laboratory-grown meat that will end massive animal suffering, make the food supply safer and reverse environmental damage. On August 5, history was made with the first-ever taste test of an in vitro hamburger. Dr. Mark Post, who developed the burger, believes that other “test-tube” meat products could be available commercially in as little as 10 years. PETA predicts that it will be sooner than that, as scientists share their findings and commercial interests fund the work.

But why wait? There are already so many delicious vegan products on the market that taste like chicken, beef, pork, milk and cheese—with more on the way—that many people are making the switch now. To avert environmental disaster and the global conflicts that will accompany it, we should all go vegan today.

Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters

By Heather Moore

Health news can be so depressing. Virtually every day, we see discouraging reports about heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. But there is also a good reason to be optimistic. In a study published recently, researchers from Loma Linda University in California shared some encouraging news: Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters.

The findings from the large-scale study—which was funded by the National Institutes of Health—should remind us that we aren’t powerless victims of chronic disease. We can all be healthier just by bypassing the meat counter and opting for plant-based meals.

The researchers tracked more than 73,000 Seventh-day Adventists for nearly six years. They used questionnaires to find out what type of diet the participants ate (many, but not all, Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarian) and then followed up to find out how many of the participants had died and how.

Here’s what they discovered: The vegetarian (and mostly vegetarian) participants—people included in this group ranged from those who didn’t eat any animal-based foods at all to those who ate meat only once a week—were 12 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who ate meat regularly. Those in the vegetarian group were 19 percent less likely to die from heart disease, in particular, and were also less likely to die from diabetes and kidney failure. In addition, they tended to be thinner and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Although the researchers were quick to note that the vegetarians were more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke or drink in excess, they attributed their findings largely to the participants’ food choices. The researchers weren’t completely sure why a plant-based diet has such a protective effect, but they speculated that it’s because plant foods tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat.

And unlike meat, which contains high amounts of cholesterol, sodium, nitrates and other unhealthy ingredients, plant-based foods are cholesterol-free and contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that help combat carcinogens and other harmful substances in the body.

Other studies, including a previous one involving about 30,000 Seventh-day Adventists, have also suggested that people who eat wholesome plant-based foods live longer than meat-eaters. Because of these studies, many hospitals and healthcare facilities around the U.S., including Boston Medical Center and St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles, have initiated programs to encourage people to eat more plant-based foods. Medical providers at the L.A. facility, for example, have begun writing “prescriptions” for patients to buy organic fruits and vegetables. By promoting vegan foods, healthcare practitioners hope to help patients maintain a healthy weight and prevent—and sometimes even reverse—deadly diseases.

We can’t predict when or how we’ll die, but we can try to increase our life expectancy and quality of life. Choosing vegan foods rather than meat, eggs and dairy products is a simple way to help ensure that you’ll be with your loved ones—and not in an emergency room—for as long as possible.

Squash your carbon footprint: Go veggie!

By Heather Moore

Worried that you have a sasquatch-sized carbon footprint? Eat less meat and cheese. That’s the advice of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which recently calculated the ecological impact of 20 conventionally grown foods. The figures show that many animal-based foods have a supersized carbon footprint—in addition to a whopping amount of fat and calories. In fact, according to the EWG, if every American stopped eating meat and cheese for one day a week, it would be the same as if we collectively drove 91 billion fewer miles a year.

Imagine what a difference we could make for animals, our own health and the health of the planet if we stopped eating meat and cheese entirely—or at least for a couple of days a week.

The EWG found that in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, eating a pound of lamb is equivalent to driving about 39 miles. Every pound of beef represents a 27-mile trip, and eating just one pound of cheese is akin to driving more than 13 miles—a worrisome thought considering that the average American eats more than 31 pounds of cheese per year. Eating a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese means not only consuming 740 calories, 42 grams of fat and 155 milligrams of cholesterol but also contributing to climate change and other serious environmental problems.

A 2010 United Nations report revealed that meat and dairy products require more resources and cause higher greenhouse-gas emissions than do plant-based foods. Instead of choosing pork chops, hamburgers, cheese pizza and other fatty, cholesterol-laden foods that take a toll on your body and the planet, opt for wholesome, climate-friendly foods such as lentils (which were rated best on the EWG report), beans, tofu, nuts and other plant-based protein sources.

Chris Weber, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, has pointed out that not eating meat and dairy products one day a week has an even bigger impact on the environment than buying local foods every single day of the year. Since Americans eat twice as much meat as the average person worldwide—and, unsurprisingly, America spends more money on health care than does any other nation—it will only benefit us to eat more vegan meals.

Fortunately, many people are now opting for more plant-based foods in an effort to save the environment, animals and their own lives. Last month, Aspen, Colo., became the first city in the country to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign, with local restaurants, schools, hospitals, charities and businesses promoting plant-based meals on Mondays. Durham County, N.C., recently proclaimed Mondays as “Meatless Mondays,” as have officials in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. City schools in Baltimore as well as some public schools in New York observe “Meatless Mondays,” and Sodexo, a leading food-service provider, now offers a weekly plant-based entrée option to the 900 hospitals and 2,000 corporate and government clients that it serves in North America.

It’s a great start—but it falls far short. Would it really be so hard for every American to leave meat and cheese off the menu for at least one day a week? If you need help, you can find plenty of delicious vegan recipes online. Once you see how easy it is to eat great-tasting vegan meals one day a week, you’ll realize that you can save the planet, help animals and eat healthily all week long.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation.

Fight cancer with your fork!

By Bruce Friedrich

According to a new study, one of the deadliest types of cancer is also one of the most preventable. The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research found that eating too much meat raises the risk of colorectal cancer and that eating fiber-rich vegetarian foods reduces the risk. What’s more, nearly half (45 percent) of colorectal cancer cases “could be prevented if we all ate more fiber-rich plant foods and less meat.”

This serves as yet another reminder that one of the best weapons in the war on cancer is a fork.

Scientists at Imperial College London conducted the new analysis as part of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s groundbreaking Continuous Update Project (CUP). They found that a person who eats just 3.5 ounces of pork, beef or lamb every day has a 17 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than does someone who eats no meat.

Three ounces of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards. That’s just one serving size as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, yet it’s far less than most Americans ingest in one sitting, let alone in one day.

Just about any meat is loaded with the saturated fat that the American Cancer Society believes is linked to cancer of the colon and rectum, but processed meats such as ham, bacon, hot dogs and deli slices carry an even greater risk. According to the CUP report, if a person eats 3.5 ounces of processed meat every day, his or her risk for colorectal cancer increases by 36 percent. The more meat you eat, the higher your risk will be.

Almost as bad as what’s in meat is what’s not in it: fiber. Meat and dairy products have absolutely no fiber at all, while fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are loaded with it. Fiber helps speed the passage of food through the colon. Meat, on the other hand, tends to hang around and, well, rot.

In my work with PETA, I’ve been researching and writing about vegetarian issues for more than 15 years. And the conclusion of each new nutritional study is nearly always the same. There is overwhelming evidence linking meat to some of our society’s most severe health problems. Conversely, eating vegetarian foods can greatly reduce your risk of developing many of these same diseases—and in some cases, actually reverse them.

For example, according to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” than meat-eaters do. The American Cancer Society recommends “choosing most of your foods from plant sources and limiting your intake of high-fat foods such as those from animal sources.”

If we take away anything from such nutritional research, it should be that the best prescription for good health is always prevention. And if making the sensible switch to a vegan diet can so greatly benefit our health—not to mention save animals’ lives—why not at least try it? With summer fast approaching, and with it a wealth of locally grown fruits and vegetables available in farmers’ markets and at produce stands, now is a great time to start eating for life.

Bruce Friedrich is a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).