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Vegan is the ‘new green’ for Earth Day

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By Heather Moore

Earth Day, April 22, falls on a Meatless Monday this year, so people will have a double incentive to eat vegan meals. Vegan is the “new green.” You can do more for the planet by going vegan than you can by recycling, using cloth bags, taking short showers and walking to work. These actions are important and worthwhile, of course—but if you’re serious about saving the environment, you should opt for vegan foods instead of animal flesh.

Meat just has no place on an Earth Day menu. According to the United Nations (U.N.), meat and dairy products require more resources and generate more greenhouse gasses than do plant-based foods. Fortunately, a recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture report suggests that meat consumption is on a steady decline in the United States. Per capita meat consumption has fallen for four straight years, according to the most recent statistics. The 6 percent drop between 2006 and 2010—the largest decline since recordkeeping began in 1970—indicates that many Americans are fed up with meat.

Several U.S. cities, including Aspen, Colo.; Durham, N.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C., have even issued proclamations about eating less meat. And for good reason. Meat contributes to major health problems, including cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and obesity, as well as serious environmental issues, including climate change, pollution and deforestation. Researchers from the University of California–Riverside claim that cooking just one charbroiled burger causes as much pollution as driving an 18-wheeler for 143 miles.

A new Gallup poll shows that 58 percent of Americans “personally worry” about climate change. Worrying, though, really won’t do much good—but going vegan will. According to Loma Linda University researchers, vegans have the smallest carbon footprint, generating 41 percent fewer greenhouse gasses than meat-eaters and 13 percent fewer than vegetarians.

A NationalGeographic.com report shows that vegans use less water, too. The average vegan indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water a day less than the average meat-eater. U.N. officials have urged everyone to go vegan to conserve resources and combat climate change. Some scientists even predict that people will have to go vegetarian by 2050 in order to counteract ever-burgeoning environmental problems.

Let’s not wait until the planet is parched and extreme weather is a daily occurrence before we change our eating habits. Let’s continue eating less meat—or preferably, none at all. Great-tasting vegan foods are widely available. The National Restaurant Association says that vegetarian entrées are a “top 10” hot trend, and many ballparks, including Safeco Field in Seattle and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, are offering new vegetarian and vegan options this year.

Bill Gates and Biz Stone, the cofounder of Twitter, are investing in innovative new vegan companies, including Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods, which makes Beyond Eggs. These and other companies are creating vegan meat, egg and dairy-product options that are animal- and eco-friendly, cheaper than the “real thing” and just as tasty.

Vegan foods are also cholesterol-free and generally low in saturated fat and calories, and each vegan saves more than 100 animals every year. Plus, if everyone goes vegan now—in commemoration of Earth Day—we’ll all be in good company.

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

Squash your carbon footprint: Go vegan

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

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Modern tests spare animals from oil leak fallout

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By Jessica Sandler and Kate Willett, Ph.D.

If anyone out there is still wondering about the superiority of alternatives to animal tests, look no further than what is happening right now in the Gulf of Mexico. In its efforts to assist the devastated region, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is saving time, money and the lives of countless animals—those suffering in laboratories—by using efficient and effective non-animal methods to study the endocrine effects of chemical dispersants that could be used to clean up the oil gusher.

In fact, using non-animal testing methods is the only way that the EPA can get information about these chemicals in a short period of time—a few weeks as opposed to years. Without such sophisticated methods, the EPA would have to rely on crude and cruel animal toxicity tests that date back to the 1930s, and we would be waiting years to know anything at all about these chemicals. Considering the dire conditions of the region, waiting years for an answer is simply not an option. 

The modern in vitro tests that the EPA has on hand to study the endocrine effects of eight oil spill dispersants are rapid and automated, in contrast to what the EPA calls “time consuming and expensive” animal tests. Testing one chemical on animals can cost millions, versus the EPA’s estimated $20,000 using in vitro testing. And while cost considerations are important, turn-around time is even more essential as ecosystems totter on the brink of disaster. The EPA states that, on average, it would take a researcher “eight hours a day, five days a week, for 12 years” to conduct these studies using traditional animal tests. The computer-driven in vitro tests deliver results in three days. The EPA has already completed the first round of toxicity testing on these dispersants.

The situation in the Gulf highlights the necessity of toxicology testing reform. Most of the tests used in standard chemical screening today were developed in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. They are heavily reliant on animals, are slow and costly and have yielded inaccurate information about the effects of chemicals on humans. And they have allowed dangerous chemicals such as benzene and arsenic to enter and remain on the market—even after millions of animals have been killed in decades of testing. 

Our current system is overloaded and incapable of accurately screening the tens of thousands of chemicals reportedly in the environment already, with more entering every day. Scientists and government agencies are now recognizing that “it is simply not possible with all the animals in the world to go through new chemicals in the blind way that we have at the present time, and reach credible conclusions about the hazards to human health” (Dr. Joshua Lederberg, Nobel laureate in medicine).

Indeed, Congress and the EPA are now looking to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act to bring chemical regulation into the 21st century. The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) are among the scientific organizations calling for toxicity testing methods that are human-relevant, faster and cheaper and that use fewer or no animals.

In its 2007 report, the NAS confirmed that scientific advances can “transform toxicity testing from a system based on whole-animal testing to one founded primarily on in vitro (non-animal) methods.” Such an approach will improve efficiency, speed and prediction for humans while cutting costs and reducing animal suffering. As it should, the newly introduced legislation supports the continued development and implementation of this shift toward non-animal methodologies.

As the case in the Gulf demonstrates, non-animal testing is the stuff of science—not “science fiction” as critics often contend—and it is surely the future of ensuring chemical safety.

Jessica Sandler, director of PETA’s regulatory testing division, is a former government safety and health official. Dr. Kate Willett is PETA’s science policy adviser. They can be reached c/o PETA at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

July 29, 2010 at 4:57 pm

To truly help the environment, try cash for ‘cluckers’

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Car dealers are breathing a sigh of relief now that the popular “cash for clunkers” program has been extended by $2 billion. With the new funding, as many as a half-million more Americans will be able to junk their gas guzzlers and buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.

I’m not impressed. If we are serious about wanting to put the brakes on climate change, we should be offering “cash for cluckers.” Encouraging meat-eaters to trade in their chicken for chickpeas and their pork chops for “fib ribs” is the best way to help the environment. 

Under the original $1 billion set aside for the “cash for clunkers” program, officials expect that a quarter-million gas guzzlers will be taken off the roads. According to calculations done by the Associated Press, replacing those clunkers with more fuel-efficient cars will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by about 700,000 tons a year. Sounds pretty good, right?

It does until you consider that America spews out more carbon dioxide than that—728,000 tons on average—every single hour. Last year, the U.S. emitted nearly 6.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide—and that figure was lower than in previous years.

Now consider this: In its groundbreaking report Livestock’s Long Shadow, the United Nations concluded that the meat industry generates approximately 40 percent more greenhouse gasses than all the cars, trucks, SUVs, ships and planes in the world combined. The report summarizes the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

The best way to fix this problem isn’t to junk clunkers but to kick the meat habit. Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that switching to a vegan diet (which includes no meat, eggs or dairy foods) is about 50 percent more effective in countering climate change than trading in a standard American car for a Prius. And according to the Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook, “refusing meat” is the “single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.”

Vegetarians could drive Hummers and still do less damage to the planet than meat-eaters who cruise around in hybrids or switch to energy-saving light bulbs.

Even eating less meat can help. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if every American ate just one meat-free meal per week, the emissions savings would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads. If we all went meat-free one day per week, the group says, it would be like eliminating 8 million cars.

It’s time for us to face facts: Raising animals for food is destroying the planet. Not only do today’s meat factories spew greenhouse gasses, they also gobble up precious resources, sicken nearby residents, contaminate the air, pollute the water and, of course, abuse animals. If we want to tread more lightly on the Earth, taking clunkers off the road is not enough. We need to take “cluckers”—and other animals—off our plates.

Chris Holbein is the project manager of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Special Projects Division, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 20, 2009 at 4:18 pm