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Archive for October 2011

‘Pinkwashing’ has me seeing red

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By Heather Moore

It’s no longer enough to wear a pink ribbon to commemorate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Head-to-toe pink is the new black. You can buy pink hair coloring, pink mascara and pink pumps—not to mention pink pistols, pepper spray, scouring pads, chip clips, can koozies and just about anything else—to benefit breast cancer charities. A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 84 percent of Americans now buy products with a breast cancer tie-in. The pink mania doesn’t stop at the mall. Entire cities are celebrating “Pink Week” this month. NFL stars will sport pink wrist bands, pink cleats and pink chin straps; golfers will hit the green with pink golf balls; and boxers will pull on pink boxing gloves in an effort to help knock out breast cancer.

Most people have good intentions, but all this pink has me seeing red. It just won’t make much of a difference if more people don’t eat green.

“Awareness does not equal commitment,” says Timothy Seiler of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, who points out that when people purchase a pink item, they often feel that they’ve done their part to beat breast cancer. We need less pink and more action. If the race for the cure includes pit stops at McDonald’s and KFC—which has sold its unhealthy chicken in pink buckets—we aren’t ever going to reach the finish line.

Too many businesses are “pinkwashing”—passing themselves off as breast cancer crusaders while peddling products that can actually contribute to the disease. Many companies sell animal-based foods in pink packaging—because nothing says “breast cancer awareness” like macaroni and cheese. Some mean well, but featuring a breast cancer survivor on a package of shredded cheese, as Kraft is doing, is like displaying a lung cancer patient on a carton of cigarettes.

Meat, eggs and dairy products contain concentrated protein, hormones and saturated fat, all of which contribute to cancer. Fish flesh often contains PCBs and other cancer-causing chemicals. But that’s not stopping Quaker Steak & Lube, a nationwide restaurant chain that specializes in chicken wings, from offering “special” shrimp and salmon dishes because “the mono chromatic seafood can offer a reminder to the public of the steps women can take to save their lives.”

That’s pretty hard to swallow. Food companies that care about their customers’ health should offer vegan options. A newly released study, which followed 86,000 U.S. nurses for 26 years, suggests that women who eat diets high in plant-based foods—and low in meat, sodium and processed carbohydrates—are less likely to develop certain breast tumors.  

The Harvard Nurses Health Study indicates that women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by 20 to 30 percent just by eating more vegetables. Scientists have found that women who eat a typical Asian diet, which is high in soy and vegetables, have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who eat a typical Western diet, which is high in meat and processed foods. Musician Melissa Etheridge, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, recently blamed her health problems on a Western-style diet and urged women to eat more plant-based foods.

That’s good advice. Looking at breast cancer prevention through rose-colored glasses isn’t going to eradicate the disease—but we can increase our chances of staying cancer-free by exercising, getting cancer screenings and, most importantly, choosing vegan foods. October is also World Vegetarian Awareness Month. You can observe both months by picking healthy pink vegetarian foods, such as Pink Lady apples, pink grapefruit, pink rhubarb or even mushrooms in special pink packaging.

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

This October, ‘fall’ for a dog from a shelter

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

I walk my dog, Pete, every day, and people are always stopping us to ask me, “Where did you get your dog?” Pete looks like a common breed, so I guess many people just assume that I bought him from a breeder. It’s fun to see the surprise on their faces when I smile and say that Pete is a mutt and I adopted him from the local animal shelter.

October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” Month, and for people who are ready to commit to caring for a canine companion, I can say from experience that there is no better place to find your new best friend than a shelter or rescue group. I wasn’t sure what to expect when my husband and I adopted Pete almost eight years ago, but now I know that we will never look anywhere other than a shelter for our animal family members.

At shelters, you will find all kinds of dogs. We were thrilled when, on our very first visit, we found a dog who had all the qualities that we were hoping for in a canine companion: large size, long hair and lots of energy. Of course, if we had wanted a small, short-haired dog who loves to snuggle, the shelter had plenty of dogs who would have fit the bill. As we walked past cage after cage, dogs of all ages, personalities and sizes—mutts and purebreds alike—poked their noses through the bars, wagged their tails and watched us with pleading eyes, as if to say, “Please pick me!”

I would have taken every one of those sweet dogs home if I could have, but with the help of the shelter’s adoption counselor, we were able to narrow down our decision. She walked us through each step of the process, asked us questions and told us about Pete’s personality and background to help ensure that our lifestyle, activity level and experience would make us a good fit. Then she showed us to a private visiting room and gave us plenty of time to get to know our potential new family member one-on-one.

It didn’t take long to fall in love with Pete, and after considering the decision for a day or two (adopting is a lifelong commitment, after all!) we signed the papers to make him a part of our family. For a nominal adoption fee—hundreds less than what breeders typically charge—our new addition came home neutered, vaccinated, dewormed and microchipped. The elated shelter staffers hugged and kissed Pete goodbye and offered us follow-up support and classes to ensure that his transition to a new home would be a success.

Pete has become such an important part of our life that it’s difficult to think about what might have happened if we had not adopted him. Every year, open-admission shelters across the country are forced to euthanize up to 4 million dogs and cats. Breeders, pet stores and people who don’t have their animals sterilized put shelter workers in this heartbreaking position because they bring more animals into a world that is already tragically short on good homes.

But you can help change that this October, by ensuring that your animal companions are sterilized and, if you are ready, opening your heart and home to one of the many lovable dogs waiting in a shelter. Just get ready to have lots of people ask you where you found that smart, sweet, one-of-a-kind dog of yours.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Racing young horses at reckless speeds needs to stop

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By Kathy Guillermo

If you thought your 9-year-old son had the makings of a great football player, would you force him, under threat of whipping, to conduct extreme physical drills designed for the top college prospects just to impress NFL scouts? Fortunately, that wouldn’t come until some 10 years and a hundred pounds later.

Thoroughbred racehorses aren’t so lucky. Before they are ever entered in a race, juvenile horses, some of whom are not even 2 years old, are being forced to sprint at top speeds on fragile, undeveloped bones and joints for an eighth of a mile—sometimes to their deaths. This is an ugly first step into an industry that exploits animals as commodities and then throws them out like trash when their bodies are worn out and broken.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) went undercover to document what happens at the “under tack shows” that thoroughbred auction companies put on before the annual auctions. The sprints are meant to impress potential buyers, and young horses are made to run at speeds faster than they ever would in an actual race.

PETA’s video footage shows terrified horses panicking and running into guard rails. Some suffer career-ending injuries or catastrophic breakdowns in which their still-developing bones snap like twigs.

One of the horses captured on video suffered a compound fracture of her cannon bone while being pushed hard to sprint at breakneck speed at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Auction in Timonium, Maryland, on May 19. Fragments of bone can be seen exploding from her foot.

Because the auction failed to cancel the event despite unsafe weather and track conditions, PETA has asked the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office to bring cruelty-to-animals charges against the auction.

PETA also videotaped another young horse who suffered a fatal burst aorta when pushed to sprint in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company auction in Florida on June 19. The danger of sprinting in severe heat is well known in the racing industry, and some tracks cancel races in such weather. PETA is urging the county attorney to file charges against the company for violating Florida’s anti-cruelty laws.

Recklessly endangering—and even killing—very young, inexperienced horses simply to put on a show for potential buyers is animal abuse, plain and simple. It’s also what happens when animals are viewed as “investment opportunities” rather than individual beings.

PETA has sent thoroughbred auction companies a list of simple, lifesaving recommendations, including preventing horses under 2 years of age from sprinting, eliminating the timing of sprints, mandating that under tack shows be postponed in unsafe weather conditions and banning whips and other devices that force the horses to run at excessive speeds. It’s time for the “sport of kings” to do right by the animals it claims to love.

Kathy Guillermo is vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

 

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 5, 2011 at 6:54 pm