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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.

There is good reason to be optimistic about 2013

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By Heather Moore

It was practically impossible to turn on the television in 2012 without hearing a whole lot of political bickering. And when the news wasn’t dominated by presidential campaign coverage, it was filled with devastating stories about mass shootings, natural disasters, deadly factory fires and other heartbreaking events. So it was easy to miss the positive things that happened in 2012. But if you look back on the year, you’ll see that a great deal of progress was made for those whose interests are often overlooked—animals—and that there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about 2013.

Just a few months ago, for example, the Los Angeles City Council banned pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits obtained from commercial breeders. They can now offer animals only from shelters, a measure that will help countless homeless animals find loving homes. Los Angeles also passed a resolution encouraging residents to eat vegetarian meals at least one day a week, making it the largest city yet to endorse “Meatless Monday.”

It’s now easy to find animal-friendly vegan options in other cities and at popular venues, too. The Daytona International Speedway served veggie dogs at the 2012 Coke Zero NASCAR race, giving vegetarian fans a reason to cheer. Starbucks promised to use a plant-based colorant instead of insect extracts in its drinks, and many popular restaurants, including Taco Bell and Subway, added vegan options to their menus in 2012.

These changes aren’t exactly earthshaking—in fact, they’re pretty basic and long overdue—but they do illustrate society’s evolving attitude toward animals. More and more people now reject activities that cause suffering, and more and more companies are changing their practices as a result.

Ann Taylor, for example, stopped selling exotic skins in 2012, and both Alloy, an online clothing retailer, and Chinese Laundry, a stylish footwear company, stopped selling fur. Haband, an apparel and accessories company, stopped selling down—which is commonly ripped from the bodies of live birds—because of PETA‘s efforts.

More companies pledged not to use great apes in advertisements this past year, and NBC was forced to cancel Animal Practice after only five episodes, evidence that people aren’t interested in watching exploited animals on TV anymore.

Prominent financial institutions, including BB&T, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, as well as Georgetown University and the city of Cartersville, Ga., pledged not to use glue traps, because the fate of animals who get stuck in them is very cruel. They often lose skin and fur to the sticky glue while struggling to escape or else die slowly of thirst, exhaustion or suffocation.

District of Columbia Public Schools passed a dissection-choice policy, giving students the right to use humane, modern methods to learn about anatomy, and the Carolinas Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners agreed to use effective simulators instead of animals for medical training.

UPS, DHL and FedEx, the top three cargo shipping companies, now refuse to transport any animals for use in experiments, as does Nippon Cargo Airlines, which had been shipping cats and dogs from the U.S. to Japanese laboratories.

These are just a few of the many reasons why 2012 was a banner year for animals and why we can be optimistic about the changes that 2013 will bring. We can all continue to push for progress in the year ahead. All we have to do is resolve to make compassionate choices.

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

2011: A surprisingly good year for animals

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By Heather Moore

2011 was tough—when people weren’t bemoaning budget cuts, lining up outside job fairs or fretting over the stagnant housing market, they were listening to worrisome news about the war in Afghanistan, political shootings and natural disasters. But things weren’t all bad. There were signs of progress and reasons to be positive, especially when it comes to issues that impact animals. As we head into the new year, let’s reflect upon some of the things that made 2011 memorable for animals.

Eight of the nation’s largest financial institutions, including MetLife, Goldman Sachs, PNC Financial and U.S. Bank, stopped using glue traps after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explained that animals who get stuck in them often suffocate and die slowly. The Social Security Administration, Georgia Institute of Technology and Toronto District School Board—the fourth-largest school district in North America—also agreed to use more humane methods of rodent control.

While this is hardly revolutionary, it is indicative of a larger social movement to reform practices that harm animals. Many people are now less likely to accept activities that cause suffering—and it shows in our laws and business practices.

In 2011, West Hollywood became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur. City council members in Toronto and Irvine, Calif., banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. Rodeos and circuses that feature exotic animals were also prohibited in Irvine, and Fulton County—the most populous municipality in Georgia—banned the use of bullhooks, sharp steel-tipped devices that are commonly used to beat, jab or yank on elephants.

The American Zoological Association (AZA) announced that bullhooks will be forbidden at all AZA-accredited zoos by 2014. The Toronto Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit and send its remaining elephants to a facility that does not use bullhooks. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture slapped Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which routinely uses bullhooks to “discipline” captive elephants, with a $270,000 fine—the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history—for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Also in 2011, eight top advertising agencies pledged never again to feature great apes—who are often torn away from their mothers shortly after birth and beaten in order to force them to perform on cue—in their advertisements. Capital One pulled an ad featuring a chimpanzee and pledged not to use nonhuman primates in its advertisements again. The blockbuster film Rise of the Planet of the Apes featured CGI animation to create realistic-looking apes without exploiting and abusing animals.

U.S. Army officials announced that monkeys will no longer be used in a cruel chemical nerve-agent attack training course at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The University of Michigan, Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City and Naval Medical Center San Diego began using sophisticated simulators instead of live cats for intubation training. And the world’s largest tea-maker, Unilever—maker of Lipton and PG tips—stopped experimenting on pigs and other animals just so that it could make health claims about its tea.

Aspen, Colo., became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign—local restaurants, schools, hospitals and businesses are now promoting plant-based meals on Mondays. The board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., also signed a “Meatless Mondays” resolution, and several more celebrities, including Russell Brand, Eliza Dushku and Ozzy Osbourne, went vegan in 2011. The Rev. Al Sharpton also ditched meat from his diet.

Many of these developments were brought about, at least in part, by PETA, but everyone can bring about change simply by resolving to be kinder, greener and healthier in the coming year. By taking simple steps such as buying cruelty-free products, choosing meatless meals, wearing animal-friendly fashions and enjoying animal-free entertainment, we can all help make 2012 even better than 2011.

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

 

America the meatless—we’re one step closer

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By Heather Moore

America just got a little bit greener. Earlier this month, Aspen, Colo.—John Denver’s “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise”—became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign. Local restaurants, schools, hospitals, charities and businesses, including the Aspen Valley Hospital, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Aspen Elementary School, have signed on to promote plant-based meals on Mondays.

For our own health and the health of the planet, the rest of us should go meat-free as well—at least for one day a week.

According to Dawn Shepard, who is heading Aspen’s Meatless Monday campaign, Aspen is a very health-conscious community, and residents are also concerned about the environmental costs of meat production. 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.

Shepard says that if everyone stopped eating meat one day each week, it would reduce carbon emissions as much as would taking 25 million cars off the road for a year. Chris Weber, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Melon University, has pointed out that not eating meat and dairy products for one day a week has an even bigger impact on the environment than buying local foods every single day of the year.

In an effort to save the environment and animals, a growing number of people—not just in Aspen but across the country—are swearing off meat, at least on Mondays. A May 23 FGI Research study shows that 50 percent of Americans have heard of the nationwide Meatless Monday movement, which was started in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. That’s up from 30 percent just six months ago. At least 27 percent of consumers who know about the campaign have opted to eat less meat as a result, and a significant percentage of people would like to see Meatless Mondays promoted in restaurants, fast-food chains, supermarkets and cafeterias.

At the rate things are going, they may soon get their wish. This month, the board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., officially proclaimed Mondays as “Meatless Mondays.” Last year, officials in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., passed resolutions urging people in those cities to choose plant-based meals on Mondays. City schools in Baltimore have been observing “Meatless Mondays” since 2009, and in February 2010, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer proposed that all New York City public schools follow suit. Several schools have followed his recommendation.

This January, Sodexo, a leading food-service provider, began offering a weekly plant-based entrée option to the 900 hospitals and 2,000 corporate and government clients that it serves in North America. Vegetarian Day observations and activities are also taking place in Israel, Australia, the U.K., Finland, Belgium and other parts of the world.

We’re off to a good start—especially in Aspen—but the Meatless Monday campaign needs to keep on snowballing throughout the country. Americans eat twice as much meat as the average person worldwide. Not surprisingly, we spend more money on health care than does any other nation. Unlike vegan foods, which are cholesterol-free and generally low in fat and calories, meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

While going vegan is the best way to save the planet and to save lives—our own and those of animals—people who aren’t yet willing to stop eating meat entirely can still help by not eating meat for at least one day a week.

If you’re already observing Meatless Mondays, try extending your efforts to Tuesdays too. Or help Meatless Monday campaigners reach even more people by telling everyone you know about the initiative. It will help bring us all a bit closer to that “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise.”

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