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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.

Why I ‘pied’ a government official

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By Emily McCoy

I was recently banned from entering Canada for two years and placed on strict probation for lobbing a tofu cream pie into the face of Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.

Political pieings are nothing new—everyone from Anita Bryant to Bill Gates has been pied over the years—but you might be wondering what would drive someone to dish out (and risk going to jail for) such a public form of protest.

In my case, I was making a statement against Canada’s annual slaughter of baby seals, the largest massacre of marine mammals on the planet. Despite the fact that seals, like polar bears and other ice-breeding animals, are threatened by climate change—because of poor ice conditions, biologists warn that as many as half the seal pups born in Atlantic Canada this year could perish—the Canadian government continues to allow sealers to kill hundreds of thousands of harp seals each year for their fur.

I targeted Ms. Shea because she defends this indefensible slaughter in an apparent attempt to curry favor with the fishing industry. The commercial seal slaughter—which accounts for about 97 percent of all massacred seals—is nothing more than an off-season profit venture for fishermen off Canada’s eastern coast.

And while she admits that she’s never personally witnessed how painfully the seals die, Shea has no qualms about calling the slaughter “humane.” Observers of previous seal slaughters have seen conscious baby seals stabbed with boat hooks and dragged across the ice as well as wounded pups who were left to choke on their own blood as sealers rushed to attack the next helpless victim.

While other world leaders, including President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, have denounced this massacre, Shea is perhaps the strongest and most vocal advocate of the seal slaughter. Lately, she has been trying to peddle seal fur and meat in China—with little success—all in an attempt to drum up the market for a product that no one needs or wants. The U.S. and the European Union have both banned seal fur.

Looking back on my actions, I realize that there were a number of issues that I did not consider. A little tofu pie on someone’s face is hardly comparable to the blood on Canadian officials’ hands, but my actions could have caused someone in the audience to be injured. 

And I never considered the possibility that the few people in favor of the seal massacre might retaliate against others who were peacefully protesting it. This is exactly what happened just a few days later when a PETA protester in Prince Edward Island was violently pushed to the ground and had a pie ground into her face. No one was charged in that incident.
 
I didn’t consider the extent of the consequences of my actions in protesting the violent seal slaughter, and for this, I am regretful. But I don’t regret taking a stand against the shameful slaughter, as caring people around the world have done. It’s time for the Canadian government to recognize that shooting and clubbing seals for their fur is out of step with people’s evolved attitudes toward animals. It’s time for Canada to end this national disgrace.

Hopefully, by the end of my probation, Canada’s bloody seal massacre will be nothing but a sad memory and I will be able to visit Canada once again—as a tourist, not a protester.

Emily McCoy lives in New York and is the founder of Daisy Dog Studio (www.DaisyDogStudio.com). She wrote this on behalf 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

March 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm