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Archive for June 2012

Fight cancer with food

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By Jonny Imerman

June 11-17 is Men’s Health Week—a good time for men of all ages to kick-start healthy habits. In my 20s, I survived two bouts of testicular cancer. Since that time, I’ve helped create a one-on-one cancer support organization, Imerman Angels, that connects someone fighting cancer with a person who’s been in the same shoes and survived. It gives me so much joy to give back. However, for years my own body didn’t feel its best. Last year, I went vegan, and I’ve never felt better.

I’m not here to lecture. I ate meat and dairy products for years, so who am I to judge? We cancer survivors should never judge regardless; we’re happy just to be here still. But I hope that by hearing about my experience, you’ll feel a little more empowered to take your health into your own hands.

One of the turning points that helped me decide to go vegan was listening to leukemia researcher Dr. Rosane Oliveira—herself a vegan—from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign speak about how dietary changes can help people lead healthier lives. I learned that research has linked the standard American diet—full of cholesterol and saturated fats—with serious illnesses, including cancer, while vegetarians have been shown to have a much lower cancer risk.

Animal proteins and saturated fats found in meat promote the growth of cancer cells and increase our risk for certain types of cancer. Cornell professor T. Colin Campbell’s China Study concluded that proteins from animal foods are the most cancer-causing substances ingested by humans. The study also found that casein, the primary protein in cow’s milk, “turns on” the growth of cancer cells. A link has even been discovered between dairy products and testicular cancer, which makes me even more confident in my decision to dump dairy.

Vegan foods, in contrast, help fight cancer. A study of men diagnosed with prostate cancer found that a diet rich in plant foods can slow or even halt the progression of the disease. Dark, leafy veggies like spinach and kale and fruits like blueberries are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, and beans, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods help rid your body of excess hormones that can contribute to cancer growth.

Vegan eating has other benefits, too. Following my treatment, I felt so tired and beaten down—my immune system was rattled. Now, even though I regularly meet and shake the hands of many people, I haven’t been sick once (and for people with cancer, an immune system boost can make all the difference). I feel great, I’m strong in the gym and my energy levels are high.

I also love animals, and it feels good knowing that the food I’m eating doesn’t contribute to their suffering. Another turning point for me was watching the video that Sir Paul McCartney narrated for PETA, “Glass Walls,” which includes undercover video footage showing how animals are slaughtered, suffering and in pain. There seems to be a great synergy between cancer survivors, who value their lives and health so highly because they are lucky to be alive, and people who choose to eat compassionate and healthy vegan foods.

You don’t have to take my word for it about the advantages of eating vegan, though. Try it for yourself. Healthy vegan foods provide all the nutrients that we need, so there’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

Jonny Imerman is the founder of Imerman Angels, a nonprofit group that provides one-on-one support to people touched by cancer; http://www.ImermanAngels.org. He wrote this for People for the Ethical Ttreatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm

The drug days of summer horse racing

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By Kathy Guillermo

There’s quite a buzz surrounding the possibility that I’ll Have Another will cross the finish line first in the Belmont Stakes on June 9 and become the first Triple Crown Winner since 1978. The subtext to this public discussion is a lot seedier: I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, has a long rap sheet of drugging violations.

For more than a decade, O’Neill has been in trouble over and over again for administering substances illegally to horses. Just last week, the California Horse Racing Board suspended O’Neill for 45 days in that state and fined him $15,000 for a drugging violation. Statistics show that the horses he trains suffer catastrophic injury at twice the rate of the national average—an indication that somehow (anti-inflammatory drugs? Painkillers? Muscle relaxants?) horses are raced when fatigue and injury should dictate rest and recuperation.

To those of us not involved in thoroughbred racing, the questions are obvious: How is it that this man can still be training horses? How can it be that someone who wouldn’t even be allowed to unload a horse van on a track in one state is garnering accolades as he prepares to run a horse in another? And why has the racing industry embraced him and not kicked him out on his chemical-laden can?

So here’s a message to the racing industry: Stop blaming your bad image on the animal protection organizations that work to improve living, racing and retirement conditions for thoroughbreds. Quit your griping and clean up your act.

Thoroughbred racing needs a zero-tolerance policy. This means much more than a multiyear debate about whether or not furosemide, also known as Lasix or Salix, should be allowed on the day that a horse races. The discussion about this drug, which purports to prevent bleeding in the lungs during exertion, is the racing industry’s delaying tactic: If they focus on this one medication, they won’t have to talk about the 25 or 30 injections of drugs that are often given to horses in the week before a race.

“Zero-tolerance” means that repeat offenders need to find a new career.

The misuse of legal drugs to keep unfit horses racing is what is killing racing—and thoroughbreds—in America. Everyone from the groom to the top trainer knows it, but few are willing to admit it, with notable exceptions. At a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission hearing on race-day medications at which I testified last fall, famed thoroughbred owner Arthur Hancock commented: “Therapeutic drugs are given to a horse who is ailing or recovering. Is every horse in every race ill or injured?”

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens recently testified before Congress on the use of drugs to keep horses running: “Horses need down time. … Horses need time off to heal naturally. … [A] lot of good horses would still be running today, if medications weren’t used in the way they are. Would you inject your son or daughter so they could run in a track meet? I don’t think so. You would let them heal and miss a race or two until they could come back and not damage themselves more. So why would we do it to horses?”

Because there’s no federal oversight of horse racing, the Jockey Club, too, is trying to deal with the deadly proliferation of drugs. They’ve proposed sensible rules and penalties that could get the worst of the offenders out of racing altogether. But they need every one of the racing boards in 38 separate states to buy into the plan.

It’s clear that these racing heavy-hitters can’t stop the excessive drugging by themselves. The entire racing industry needs to embrace reform instead of syringes. Every trainer could start by firing the veterinarians whose answer to an ache is a regimen of drugs instead of rest. Every thoroughbred owner should fire or not hire trainers with violations. This would mean a good many track vets and trainers would be filing for unemployment. But it might also mean the beginning of clean racing—and this means fewer injuries and deaths on the racetrack.

Until this happens, don’t go to a race and don’t bet on one. If the racing industry won’t do the right thing for the right reasons, let’s make sure their already plummeting profits fall through the floor. Maybe then they’ll quit doping the horses.

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

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm