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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.

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.

Eat vegan to beat breast cancer—doctor’s orders

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By Heather Moore

Now that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has begun, many doctors and nutritionists are dishing out dietary advice to help women ward off the deadly disease. After reviewing the latest research, responsible medical experts, including those with the American Cancer Society and New York’s Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, have come to a consensus: Women should eat a plant-based diet rich in phytochemicals, which fight inflammation and knock out carcinogens. This invaluable advice should shift our focus from wearing pink to eating green—in other words, to eating wholesome vegan foods.

While fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and soy foods contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals, all that animal-based foods have to offer are cholesterol and cancer-causing substances, including concentrated protein, hormones and saturated fat. As many as one-third of common types of cancer, including breast cancer, are linked to excess weight and inactivity, and it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight if you eat vegan foods. They tend to be low in fat and calories, unlike fatty animal-based foods, such as hamburgers, chicken and cheese. Studies even show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters and that vegans are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than nonvegans. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that October is also World Vegetarian Awareness Month.

A Washington State University professor recently identified more than 40 plant-based compounds that help slow the progression of cancer. His findings, which are published in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, support the claim that people who eat a plant-based diet are less likely to get cancer.

High-fat animal-based foods raise estrogen levels, accelerating the growth of cancer cells. In contrast, plant-based foods tend to keep estrogen at a safe level. Researchers with Boston University tracked more than 50,000 African-American women for 12 years—1,300 of them developed breast cancer, and 35 percent of the cases were estrogen receptor-negative, a highly aggressive form of the disease. The women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day were 43 percent less likely to develop highly aggressive breast cancer than those who ate less than four servings of vegetables per week. Women who eat carrots and cruciferous vegetables, in particular, seem to have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

The lead researcher noted that high vegetable consumption offers significant health benefits, including protection against cancer. This conclusion is hardly an earth-shattering revelation, but it should give both men and women some food for thought. People who are concerned about cancer—or heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions—would be wise to choose vegan foods.

Another study, conducted by the University of Utah, found that women who eat healthy “native” Mexican foods, including beans, spices and tomato-based sauces, have a 32 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who eat a typical Western-style diet, which is heavy in meat and cheese.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who stars in the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives, says that “no chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” He urges people to eat vegan meals in order to prevent cancer and other common diseases. More doctors should follow his example. While many physicians can perform mastectomies, administer chemotherapy and offer other important medical services, the ones who give patients preventive dietary advice will ultimately be the real lifesavers.

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

Season’s eatings: How to avoid the holiday spread

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By Paula Moore

If you’re like most people, the turkey probably wasn’t the only thing that got stuffed on Thanksgiving. The average person consumes an extra 600 calories per day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and gains 1 pound during the holiday season. That doesn’t sound like much until you remember that most of us never lose that extra weight. The weight stays on throughout the winter and keeps adding up, year after year. For people who are already overweight, the news is even more depressing: Overweight people tend to gain 5 pounds or more during the holidays.

But you can help fend off the annual holiday spread with one simple strategy: Stick to festive meat- and dairy-free treats and avoid calorie-dense, artery-clogging animal-based foods.

Vegans—people who consume no meat, dairy products or eggs—tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters and more likely to stay slim even during the season of eating.

A British study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that vegans have a significantly lower body mass index than meat-eaters; vegetarians fall somewhere in between. When researchers at the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asked overweight patients to try a low-fat, vegan diet, not only did the patients lose weight without counting calories—they also kept the weight off during the holidays.

So how bad can some traditional holiday fare be? Let’s look at the numbers. Just one cheese straw contains a third of your daily limit for saturated fat—and who ever ate “just one”? One bite-sized cheese ball can contain more than 500 calories, more than half of your daily limit for cholesterol and almost a day’s worth of total fat. Shrimp cocktail may look harmless, but this perennial party favorite is a cholesterol bomb waiting to happen. A typical serving of shrimp contains two-thirds of the daily maximum for cholesterol.

One serving of prime rib contains 45 grams of fat—and that’s before you add seasonings or a sauce. Turkey is loaded with even more fat and cholesterol than many cuts of beef. A turkey leg contains more than 700 milligrams of cholesterol and more than 1,600 calories—40 percent of which are derived from fat.

And before you toast the season with a glass of eggnog, consider that one cup of this sugar, cream and egg concoction can contain 19 grams of fat and more than 20 grams of sugar. Factor in the risk of salmonella in raw eggs, and eggnog might not be such a good idea.

Eating plant-based foods has other benefits too. The American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals, found that vegetarians have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer than meat-eaters, in addition to a lower rate of obesity. And vegans don’t just give their health a boost—they save more than 100 animals a year from immeasurable suffering.

With so many people trying vegan foods these days, you’re bound to find delectable vegan options—such as savory vegetable pot pie, baked acorn squash drizzled with maple syrup, wild mushroom pâté, roasted pumpkin soup, chocolate mousse tart and vegan eggnog—on the holiday buffet. By consciously choosing these good-for-you foods instead of mindlessly munching your way through the holidays, it is possible to survive the season without feeling deprived or packing on unwanted pounds.

And if you should happen to overindulge, it’s never too late to get back on track. Just make eating vegan your number one New Year’s resolution.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510. For vegan holiday recipes, visit http://www.PETA.org.

The meat industry endangers motorists and animals alike

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By Dan Paden

Out along highways and rural roads throughout the U.S., you’ll see tractor-trailers loaded with pigs—or cattle, turkeys or chickens—taking the animals to their fate. Most of us prefer not to think of the gruesome end that these animals face. But scenes of slaughter play out along these same roads again and again as the trucks overturn. Recently, a truck loaded with cattle overturned on Interstate 74 in Illinois after the driver reportedly fell asleep at the wheel. At least two other motorists struck the terrified animals as they tried to run away.

In many of these cases, critically injured animals are left to lie on the roadside for hours without veterinary care. Try to imagine the horror of surviving a serious car crash only to be left to suffer in agony before either being loaded back onto a truck to be taken the rest of the way to the slaughterhouse or having a bolt put through your head (which may or may not kill you, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association). Shockingly, PETA has uncovered evidence that the meat industry has failed to take even basic steps to prevent these chaotic wrecks—putting both humans and animals in harm’s way.

Consider the case of Jonathan Leggett, a former truck driver for Smithfield Foods. In June 2010, Leggett crashed on a ramp leading off Interstate 95 south of Richmond, Virginia, while hauling 80 pigs for Smithfield subsidiary Murphy-Brown, LLC. Approximately 46 pigs were killed. This time, no humans were injured. According to public records, Leggett was cited for reckless driving and failure to maintain control.

Just three months before the June wreck, Leggett had rear-ended an SUV and crashed while hauling cattle in North Carolina. The SUV’s driver was taken to a hospital, and 35 cattle were killed. Leggett was cited for failure to reduce speed and for improper passing.

The previous summer, Leggett had been fined for traveling 56 mph in a 35 mph zone. A month before that, he had been fined for failing to obey a traffic signal. Earlier in 2009, he had paid $91 to clear up a tinted-windshield infraction. And so on, back to 2002, when officers found him operating an overweight vehicle in Fauquier County, Virginia.

The pork giant apparently lacked the initiative, the personnel or the 30 minutes that it took PETA to discover all this in public records. In late October, another driver, William Orville Barnett, was issued a summons for reckless driving in Suffolk, Virginia, after he overturned a trailer containing nearly 200 pigs headed for Smithfield; 47 pigs were killed. Easily found records show that Barnett allegedly violated federal transportation safety laws twice last year.

As an animal protection worker, I want the meat industry to prevent these wrecks for the sake of animals. One can’t smell the aftermath of five of these crashes, see debilitated survivors be electro-shocked and dragged by their ears and hear those who are the worst off have bolts driven into their brains without grasping the urgency with which meat-industry officials should be acting to prevent crashes.

But even those who are reading this over a bacon or sausage breakfast should be concerned about the motorists who share our nation’s highways and narrow, rural roads, often in low light, with these trucks and the civic responders who wade into these dangerous scenes.

Children and animals differ in important ways, of course, but we would not stand for a school district hiring a school-bus driver who had just crashed a bus, killing a few dozen kids, and had a long record of reckless driving. At the very least, the meat industry must prohibit employing, in any fashion, drivers who have repeated driving-related offenses or are found to have been at fault, ever, in any crash.

It’s a cruel irony that the final road leading to one of Smithfield’s slaughterhouses is Virginia State Route 666. But the rest of our nation’s roads don’t have to be hell for animals and people alike.

Dan Paden is a senior research associate with PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.