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Archive for June 2011

America the meatless—we’re one step closer

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By Heather Moore

America just got a little bit greener. Earlier this month, Aspen, Colo.—John Denver’s “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise”—became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign. Local restaurants, schools, hospitals, charities and businesses, including the Aspen Valley Hospital, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Aspen Elementary School, have signed on to promote plant-based meals on Mondays.

For our own health and the health of the planet, the rest of us should go meat-free as well—at least for one day a week.

According to Dawn Shepard, who is heading Aspen’s Meatless Monday campaign, Aspen is a very health-conscious community, and residents are also concerned about the environmental costs of meat production. 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.

Shepard says that if everyone stopped eating meat one day each week, it would reduce carbon emissions as much as would taking 25 million cars off the road for a year. Chris Weber, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Melon University, has pointed out that not eating meat and dairy products for one day a week has an even bigger impact on the environment than buying local foods every single day of the year.

In an effort to save the environment and animals, a growing number of people—not just in Aspen but across the country—are swearing off meat, at least on Mondays. A May 23 FGI Research study shows that 50 percent of Americans have heard of the nationwide Meatless Monday movement, which was started in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. That’s up from 30 percent just six months ago. At least 27 percent of consumers who know about the campaign have opted to eat less meat as a result, and a significant percentage of people would like to see Meatless Mondays promoted in restaurants, fast-food chains, supermarkets and cafeterias.

At the rate things are going, they may soon get their wish. This month, the board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., officially proclaimed Mondays as “Meatless Mondays.” Last year, officials in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., passed resolutions urging people in those cities to choose plant-based meals on Mondays. City schools in Baltimore have been observing “Meatless Mondays” since 2009, and in February 2010, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer proposed that all New York City public schools follow suit. Several schools have followed his recommendation.

This January, Sodexo, a leading food-service provider, began offering a weekly plant-based entrée option to the 900 hospitals and 2,000 corporate and government clients that it serves in North America. Vegetarian Day observations and activities are also taking place in Israel, Australia, the U.K., Finland, Belgium and other parts of the world.

We’re off to a good start—especially in Aspen—but the Meatless Monday campaign needs to keep on snowballing throughout the country. Americans eat twice as much meat as the average person worldwide. Not surprisingly, we spend more money on health care than does any other nation. Unlike vegan foods, which are cholesterol-free and generally low in fat and calories, meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

While going vegan is the best way to save the planet and to save lives—our own and those of animals—people who aren’t yet willing to stop eating meat entirely can still help by not eating meat for at least one day a week.

If you’re already observing Meatless Mondays, try extending your efforts to Tuesdays too. Or help Meatless Monday campaigners reach even more people by telling everyone you know about the initiative. It will help bring us all a bit closer to that “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise.”

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Lions and tigers and E. coli

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By GemmaVaughan

While the deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany is making headlines, people might be shocked to learn that right here at home, E. coli lurks in a most unexpected place: the petting zoo. Yes, those seemingly innocuous fair and carnival attractions can put people’s health at serious risk—so it’s best to walk on by.

E. coli infection is far from a rare occurrence. All around the country numerous people—mostly children—have been made ill by this potentially deadly bug after visiting petting zoos. E. coli can spread through having direct contact with animals, by inhaling or ingesting the bacteria (such as when a child sucks his or her thumb or pacifier) or by coming into contact with something an infected animal has touched. The bacteria have been linked to everything from sawdust to sippy cups. Many children with E. coli infections have suffered acute kidney failure requiring long-term dialysis and transfusions. Some have needed kidney transplants.

No one attends a local fair expecting to come home with a debilitating or even life-threatening disease. But the summer fair season is just getting underway, and potentially dangerous animal displays will be presented, right alongside the Tilt-A-Whirl and cotton candy. Hauled around from city to city and forced to interact with constant streams of excited and sometimes careless children, animals who are used in petting zoos can become stressed and afraid. It’s little wonder that many are in poor health.

It’s not just petting zoos that put fairgoers at risk. Why would any parent trust a transient carnival worker to keep a child safe on a five-ton elephant or a cranky camel? There’s no stopping an animal who becomes spooked or who just has had enough. While giving rides at theNew YorkStatefair, an elephant panicked, injuring a 3-year-old girl and knocking down and stepping on the handler.

Animals don’t like being hauled around in cramped tractor trailers, and they are often skittish and unpredictable. A handler was airlifted to the hospital after a camel who was being used for rides inMiamiknocked him to the ground and stomped on him.

And why would you put your little one in the arms of a predator? Tiger cubs look adorable, but they have teeth and claws that nature means them to use. Cubs are frightened without their mothers and often react as any scared youngster would: by striking out.

A 4-year-old boy was clawed by a tiger on display at the Saratoga County Fair in New York and needed 14 stitches for a 1-inch gash on his head. AtFlorida’s St. Johns County Fair, a handler suffered puncture wounds and a 14-year-old boy was knocked down and scratched by a tiger before police used a stun gun to stop the attack. A 5-year-old boy suffered facial cuts requiring plastic surgery after being attacked by a tiger at a photo booth at the North Dakota Sate Fair.

If the word “zoonosis” isn’t familiar to you, brace yourself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians have issued warnings about the multiple bacterial, viral and parasitic agents associated with animal contact. Ringworm is very common in camels and is highly contagious, as is tuberculosis in elephants. Those cool chameleons one can win in the ping-pong toss often harbor salmonella.

For the sake of your little ones as well as for the animals who are exploited at these fairs, the safest course of action when it comes to petting zoos, photo ops with tigers, game booths offering animals as prizes and rides on elephants and camels is to avoid them altogether. Both kids and animals will be better off.

Gemma Vaughan is an animals-in-entertainment specialist for PETA, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Fight cancer with your fork

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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), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Adopt, don’t shop, for your four-legged friend

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By Paula Moore

Several years ago, I added a Siamese cat to my family. Mochi had been picked up as a stray by a local animal control agency. When no one claimed him, he was turned over to a Siamese cat rescue group. The first time I took him to my veterinarian, a man at the vet’s office peeked into Mochi’s carrier and then said to his wife, “He’s a Siamese.” “I just adopted him from a rescue group,” I explained. Incredulous, the man responded, “Siamese cats don’t need rescuing!”

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and for people with the energy, resources, patience and love to devote to a feline companion, it’s the perfect time to save a life by adopting a cat from an animal shelter or reputable breed-rescue group. Whether you have your heart set on a rambunctious kitten or a more sedate “lap cat,” a regal Persian or a sassy tabby, animal shelters are overflowing with cats of every stripe.

I’ll never understand why some people still turn to breeders, classified ads or pet stores—all of which contribute to the animal overpopulation crisis—when animal shelters and rescue groups are filled to the brim with lovable, affectionate cats (and dogs) who would make wonderful companions. With so many more animals than there are good homes, shelters have no choice but to euthanize many healthy and friendly cats. Every year, 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in animal shelters.

If you’re determined to have a specific breed of cat, you can still rescue an animal in need of a loving home. Having a pedigree doesn’t protect cats or dogs from being tossed out like old furniture when they’re no longer wanted. I recently adopted a second Siamese cat who, like Mochi, was a stray. Romeo had been neutered and declawed, so obviously he was once someone else’s companion, but no one had come forward to claim him.

The rescue group from which I adopted Mochi is currently caring for several Siamese cats who were left to fend for themselves when their owners moved away. One cat was stuffed into a box that was taped shut and left outside an animal shelter.

Another older Siamese was given up because his owner didn’t want to spend the money to find out why he was sick. Then there are the Siamese kittens who were born homeless because someone didn’t bother to spay or neuter his or her cat and an unwanted litter was the result.

These same sad scenarios are repeated time and time again all over the country, and they affect mutts and purebreds alike.

There are other reasons to visit an animal shelter or rescue group rather than supporting breeders and pet stores. Pre-loved cats are more likely to be litter box-trained, and they’re pros at sharpening their claws on a scratching post instead of your favorite sofa. Shelters screen animals for specific temperaments and behaviors, and most have trained adoption counselors available to help you find the perfect fit for your family. Animals in shelters and rescue groups are also checked out by a veterinarian when they arrive, and they leave spayed or neutered, microchipped and vaccinated.

Mochi and Romeo went from life on the street to a loving home where they lounge on windowsills on sunny days, playfully chase each other up and down the hallway and snuggle in bed with me at night. If you’re ready to share your home with a feline companion, why not give a homeless cat—or two—a second chance at life? Your new best friend could be as close as your local animal shelter.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm