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News flash: Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters

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By Heather Moore

Health news can be so depressing. Virtually every day, we see discouraging reports about heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. We’re warned that certain drugs can be nearly as harmful as the conditions that they’re meant to treat. We’re reminded that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are spreading like wildfire, and we’re cautioned that childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity now kills three times as many people worldwide as malnutrition. There is real cause for concern. But there is also a good reason to be optimistic. In a study published recently, researchers from Loma Linda University in California shared some encouraging news: Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters.

The findings from the large-scale study—which was funded by the National Institutes of Health—should remind us that we aren’t powerless victims of chronic disease. We can all be healthier just by bypassing the meat counter and opting for plant-based meals.

The researchers tracked more than 73,000 Seventh-day Adventists for nearly six years. They used questionnaires to find out what type of diet the participants ate (many, but not all, Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarian) and then followed up to find out how many of the participants had died and how.

Here’s what they discovered: The vegetarian (and mostly vegetarian) participants—people included in this group ranged from those who didn’t eat any animal-based foods at all to those who ate meat only once a week—were 12 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who ate meat regularly. Those in the vegetarian group were 19 percent less likely to die from heart disease, in particular, and were also less likely to die from diabetes and kidney failure. In addition, they tended to be thinner and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Although the researchers were quick to note that the vegetarians were more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke or drink in excess, they attributed their findings largely to the participants’ food choices. The researchers weren’t completely sure why a plant-based diet has such a protective effect, but they speculated that it’s because plant foods tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat.

And unlike meat, which contains high amounts of cholesterol, sodium, nitrates and other unhealthy ingredients, plant-based foods are cholesterol-free and contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that help combat carcinogens and other harmful substances in the body.

Other studies, including a previous one involving about 30,000 Seventh-day Adventists, have also suggested that people who eat wholesome plant-based foods live longer than meat-eaters. Because of these studies, many hospitals and healthcare facilities around the U.S., including Boston Medical Center and St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles, have initiated programs to encourage people to eat more plant-based foods. Medical providers at the L.A. facility, for example, have begun writing “prescriptions” for patients to buy organic fruits and vegetables. By promoting vegan foods, healthcare practitioners hope to help patients maintain a healthy weight and prevent—and sometimes even reverse—deadly diseases.

We can’t predict when or how we’ll die, but we can try to increase our life expectancy and quality of life. Choosing vegan foods rather than meat, eggs and dairy products is a simple way to help ensure that you’ll be with your loved ones—and not in an emergency room—for as long as possible.

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

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

July 24, 2013 at 10:02 pm

On Mother’s Day, don’t forget animal moms

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By Jeff Mackey

If you’re like most people, you’ll no doubt treat your mom to brunch or dinner on Mother’s Day. But this year, while you are saluting your own mom, please honor all mothers by celebrating with a meal that doesn’t include meat, eggs or dairy products. Some of the best mothers in the world are found in the animal kingdom, yet few animal moms on today’s farms are ever allowed to nurture their babies as nature intended.

For mother cows and their calves, for example, it’s love at first sight. The first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Their attachment and affection for each other is so deep that both mother and baby become extremely distressed if they are forced apart. Mother cows bellow in vain and their calves wail inconsolably; they cry out for each other for days. Some mother cows have even been known to escape their enclosures and travel for miles searching for their babies.

Sadly, such pitiful scenes are common on dairy farms. Mother cows are allowed to bond with and care for their calves for only a few hours before the babies are torn away so that we can have the milk that was meant to nourish them. Wide-eyed and terrified, the calves are desperate to suckle but instead are given a bottle of milk “replacer” and a short life in a veal crate (for males) or a life just like that of their sad mothers (for females). Meanwhile, the mother cows will soon be impregnated again, only to endure the same heartbreak nine months later.

If allowed, mother hens would turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to the chicks inside, who chirp back from within their shells. Once hatched, the chicks are shielded from predators by their protective mother’s wings.

Yet 90 percent of our eggs come from hens who are treated like virtual laying machines. They are crammed together in wire cages where they never see the light of day and don’t even have enough room to spread a single wing. The stench of ammonia and feces hangs heavy in the air. Female chicks will follow their mothers into a lifetime of intensive confinement and constant egg production. Male chicks are worthless to the egg industry and will be tossed into trash bags to suffocate or thrown into high-speed grinders while they are still alive.

Pigs are also devoted mothers, who, if allowed, would spend days preparing a nest of leaves or straw before giving birth. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother’s voice, and mother pigs “sing” to their young while nursing. The piglets would stay with their doting mothers for about 15 weeks.

On factory farms, however, most sows are confined to metal crates in which they are unable to lie down comfortably, much less turn around to nurse their piglets naturally. Many sows develop raw, painful sores from the bars.

The piglets are torn from their distraught mothers after just a few weeks—months before weaning would naturally occur—and spend their entire lives in extremely crowded pens on slabs of filthy concrete. The mother pigs are impregnated again and again until their bodies wear out and they are sent to slaughter.

As parents, we are compelled to love, shelter, feed, nurture and protect our children from harm. Why, then, do we ignore the very same innate needs in animals? Every time we pour milk on our cereal or fry up an egg, we are paying a farmer to tear a mother animal away from her beloved baby. This Mother’s Day, please remember that all mothers love their babies, and enjoy the day with a humane vegan meal.

Jeff Mackey is a blog writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

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.

Don’t let the drought dry up your wallet–go vegan

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By Heather Moore

Dry enough for you? No one needs to be reminded that the nation is experiencing the worst drought in half a century, with nearly two-thirds of the continental U.S. suffering from drought conditions. The dry, hot weather is fueling wildfires, scorching lawns and sending food prices soaring—especially for people who eat meat, eggs and dairy products.

If you’re concerned about your grocery bills—or your health—now would be a good time to start buying vegan foods instead of animal-based ones.

Farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the grains grown in the U.S. It takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make just 1 pound of chicken meat and 7.3 pounds of grain to produce a pound of pork. Now that many corn, wheat and soybean crops have been damaged or destroyed because of the drought, feed prices are soaring. It’s so bad that some meat companies, including Smithfield Foods, have even started importing corn from Brazil. Guess who’s going to foot the bill.

Meat-eaters can expect to see a spike in prices in the coming months. Consumers who eat cheese will probably also have to pick up the tab for all the calves who died from heat stress on Midwestern dairy farms in July.

Shoppers will likely see higher prices at the chicken counter first, though. The birds are fed mostly corn, and since chicken farmers engineer them to grow unnaturally fast, chicken flesh tends to reach the market quicker than beef or pork.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that chicken and turkey prices will rise 3.5 to 4.5 percent and that egg prices will likely climb by as much as 4 percent. Beef prices are also expected to rise between 3.5 and 4.5 percent this year and then by 4 or 5 percent in 2013. Pork will cost more in the coming year as well.

It’s cheaper, not to mention healthier and kinder, to eat grains and soybeans—and all the foods that can be made from them—directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals to produce animal products. The amount of feed needed to produce one 8-ounce steak would fill 45 to 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains. And while shoppers will see a spike in milk and meat prices, they probably won’t see a significant increase in the cost of corn on the cob, cornflakes or other plant-based foods sold in supermarkets. The corn that consumers buy at the grocery store is grown differently from the corn that’s used to feed animals and isn’t as severely affected by drought conditions.

Whole grains, beans, vegetables and other wholesome plant-based foods are even more of a bargain when you factor in the medical bills that you might rack up if you eat lots of fatty, cholesterol-laden meats, eggs and dairy products.

Of course, choosing vegan foods isn’t just a good way to save animals or money at the supermarket. It’s also an easy way to help conserve water—you can save more water by not eating 1 pound of meat than you can by not showering for six months. Even a collaborative rain dance likely wouldn’t make that much of a difference!

Whether you’re watching your budget, your waistline or just the weather channel, it’ll pay to go vegan. But if you need some extra exercise, feel free to do a rain dance anyway.

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

September 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm

‘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 Easter, choose eggs that are green, not mean

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

The White House recently announced that its annual Easter Egg Roll event will feature “green” eggs. They’ll come in a variety of pastel colors, but they’ll all be “green” because they’ll be made from Forest Stewardship Council–certified hardwood and packaged in environmentally friendly materials. Not only are these eggs better for the environment, they’re also better for chickens. Everyone who celebrates Easter can follow the White House’s lead and be green, not mean, by choosing faux eggs instead of chicken eggs this spring.

For hens who are forced to lay eggs, Easter is nothing to celebrate. Most of the eggs that Americans dye and decorate for the holiday come from chickens who are confined to filthy factory farm sheds containing row upon row of tiny, multitiered wire cages. These hens spend their lives crammed into cages with four to 10 other birds. Each bird’s average living space is smaller than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Hens on egg factory farms never breathe fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or engage in any of their natural behaviors. They can’t even stretch a single wing.

The birds are crammed so closely together that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on one another. The stench of ammonia from the accumulated feces under the birds saturates the air and burns the birds’ feathers. Disease runs rampant in the filthy, cramped sheds. Many birds die, and the survivors are often forced to live with their dead and dying cagemates, who are sometimes left to rot.

Due to extreme crowding, stress and boredom, the miserable hens peck at the only thing available: each other. Farm workers “solve” this problem by slicing off a portion of each hen’s sensitive beak with a hot blade—without giving the birds any painkillers. Many birds, unable to eat because of the pain, die from dehydration and weakened immune systems.

The light in the sheds is constantly manipulated in order to maximize egg production. Periodically, the hens’ calorie intake is restricted for two weeks at a time in order to force their bodies into an extra laying cycle. When hens are “spent” and their egg production drops at about two years of age, they’re sent to slaughter, where their throats are cut open while they’re still conscious.

Meanwhile, male chicks are considered worthless to the egg industry because they don’t produce eggs and are too small to profitably be used for their flesh. So every year, millions of male birds are thrown into macerators and ground up alive or tossed into trash bags to slowly suffocate.

Luckily, kids don’t care whether their Easter eggs came from a chicken. Having fun and spending time with family and friends is what matters, and neither of these requires real eggs.

Most craft stores sell paper or wooden eggs that are perfect for painting or decorating with crayons, stickers, glitter or markers. They are mess-free and won’t crack if dropped, and kids can display them for as long as they’d like because, unlike real eggs, they won’t rot. For kids who are dying to dye something, making tie-dyed T-shirts is always a hit.

Brightly colored plastic eggs are ideal for Easter egg hunts. They can be filled with candy, small toys, coins, stickers, love notes or any other small surprise you can imagine. They are inexpensive, can be reused year after year and are much more exciting for kids to find than a hard-boiled egg.

Real eggs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. This Easter, why not follow the First Family’s lead and have a first-class Easter celebration—without harming hens.

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

April 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Has your meat been molested?

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Every day, some of the most vulnerable females on Earth are confined against their will, denied the freedom to live as they please, sexually assaulted and even forcibly impregnated. As horrific as it sounds, we may be unwittingly funding and supporting this oppression—if we eat meat, eggs and dairy products.

PETA’s undercover investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses have documented time after time that, in addition to the routine cruelty that occurs in these nightmarish facilities, workers often take their issues out on the animals imprisoned there by violently beating them, screaming at them and sexually assaulting them—sometimes in the animals’ terrifying last moments.

At a Hormel supplier’s farm in Iowa, for example, a supervisor (who was later convicted of livestock abuse) rammed a cane into a pig’s vagina and boasted that he had thrust gate rods into the anuses of pigs who frustrated him. At the same facility, another worker, who was also later convicted of livestock abuse, urged PETA’s investigator to beat a pig as if she had scared away a “voluptuous little f—ing girl.” The employee was also caught on video urging a supervisor to beat pigs and to expose his genitals to get them to move.

PETA documented similar horrific abuse at West Virginia’s Aviagen Turkeys, Inc., which bills itself as the “world’s leading poultry breeding company.” A worker was indicted for cruelty to animals after being caught on video pinning a female turkey to the ground and pretending to rape her. When interviewed by police, he reportedly admitted that he’d done the same thing to dozens of other turkeys. Eventually, the worker was convicted of related acts.

At a Butterball slaughterhouse in Arkansas, a PETA investigator witnessed a worker repeatedly sticking his finger into a turkey’s cloaca (vagina). Another worker mimed the rape of a bird whose legs and head he had crammed into the metal shackle that would carry her to her death.

Even under “normal” circumstances, factory farms treat animals—especially females—as nothing more than meat, milk and egg machines. Pig factory farm workers confine boars to tiny carts and parade them in front of sows so that other workers can look at and touch sows’ genitals to determine the best time to insert a tube of pig semen into them.

On egg farms, four to 10 hens are shoved into wire “battery” cages that are no bigger than a filing cabinet drawer. The light in the sheds is constantly manipulated in order to maximize egg production, and periodically, for two weeks at a time, the hens’ calories are restricted to force their bodies into an extra laying cycle. After two years, “spent” hens are sent to slaughter, where many of them have their throats cut and are dumped into the scalding-hot water of feather-removal tanks while they are completely conscious.

On dairy farms, workers often forcibly restrain female cows so that an insemination instrument can be shoved into their vaginas. Cows are kept nearly constantly pregnant, and their calves are torn away from them within a day of birth so that the milk they produce for their babies can be used for humans instead. When their worn-out bodies are too spent to produce milk (usually decades short of their natural life span), they are sent to slaughter to be turned into cheap hamburger meat, soup or dog or cat food. Their female offspring replace them, and the cruel cycle continues.

The victims of this oppression may not look like us, but just like abused and exploited human women, they feel pain and fear, and they long for the freedom to live their lives as they choose. Those of us who want to end the exploitation of humans should also care about the exploitation of all beings—and do something to stop it. We can work toward a world that is more just and fair for females of all species simply by leaving meat, eggs and dairy products off our plates.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a research specialist for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 29, 2010 at 8:50 pm