A growing number of people want the president to stop eating meat in public. As Health Educator in Chief, many people expect President Obama to set a good example by eating healthier food in public and at the many official photo opportunities.
Now let’s be clear: it’s no-one’s business what a political leader eats in his or her private life. But these are photo ops, each one carefully arranged by the White House in order to create an intentional image. And time and again, they feature exactly the food products that federally funded research has shown to cause heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other health problems, and that health officials are encouraging us to avoid.
For many people, the holiday season is a time for gift giving. We consider following a vegetarian diet a profound way of giving the most precious gift of all, the gift of life. Consider that, on average, vegetarians live longer and healthier lives than non-vegetarians. In fact, those who have followed a vegetarian diet for at least half their lives live an average of 13 years longer than others, while experiencing lower rates of most common diseases. In this way a healthy vegetarian diet can give you the gift of life, by adding years to your life and life to your years.
A vegetarian diet also gives life to the earth and to the animals who share it with us. Many people are surprised to learn that there are now 56 Billion farm animals in the world. That’s eight times the human population. This enormous population does not come without consequences. For instance, a report by the UN said that raising livestock causes more global warming than all the cars, buses, trains, boats and airplanes in the world all put together – that’s from all the methane the animals produce, in addition to the fuel used to grow, fertilize and transport the food to the animals, the animals to the slaughterhouses, the refrigeration and transportation of the meat. Read more
France has taken a bold step in the wrong direction and it’s one that, if not overturned, could hurt every vegetarian student in the country.
A decree and bylaw, published in the “Journal Officiel” on October 2nd, forces school canteens to respect a set of standards meant to guarantee the nutritional balance of the meals. Each meal necessarily has to contain a protein dish where proteins are exclusively animal-based (meat, fish, eggs or cheese), overriding the plentiful availability of vegetable proteins. A dairy product is supposedly necessary as the only way to cover calcium needs, ignoring untold vegetable and mineral alternatives. For meats (beef, veal, lamb, or offal…) and fish, a minimum frequency is specified as mandatory.
So, from now on, it is impossible for regular school cafeteria users to be vegetarian, or impossible for them to maintain their vegetarian diet every day, and it will be impossible to be vegan for even one meal. Vegetarian children, who may manage to leave the meat on the edge of their plate, would be forced to have unbalanced meals, as no alternative would be available.
This decree appears to be a short-sighted political move designed to protect the French animal farmers, who have been scared by the success of speeches by famous people such as Paul McCartney, advocating eating no meat one day a week. Let’s hope there’s sufficient uproar by health and human rights advocates in France, for the politicians to see the folly of such a move.
If you care about the animals and value their lives, you’re not alone. Caring about animals has never been more popular in America. For instance, a study published in the Congressional Quarterly found that two thirds of Americans believe that an animal has a right to live free of suffering. In addition, a third of Americans are worried that existing laws are inadequate to protect animals. That same concern has also been contributing to the rise of mainstream friendly animal welfare organizations. For instance the Humane Society of the United States now boasts over 11 million members.
Recently, the growing concern has also become translated into legislation. A measure that, by 2015, bans farmers from raising egg-laying hens, veal calves, and pregnant pigs in overcrowded cages and crates so small that the poor animal can not even turn around, has passed in California by a substantial majority. Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have passed similar laws for pigs and veal calves. Fearing a massive victory in an Ohio voter initiative, the state’s farmers have voluntarily agreed to humane reforms.
The following is an extract from our latest book, Say No to Meat, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose:
Raising meat is weakening America and threatening our future. That burger at McDonald’s may cost only a dollar but it’s really very expensive. Meat is costing us dearly in human terms, in terms of health-care costs, and in terms of the quality of our land, air, and waterways.
A country is only as strong as its people are healthy. Meat has cost more American lives than all the wars in history put together. There’s a nutritional crisis in America today threatening the health of its people. Deadly diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers linked to a meat-centered diet are running rampant, causing needless suffering, shortened lives, and a staggering medical bill that our country no longer has the money to pay.
Part of the richness of America comes from our beautiful and bountiful land and waters. Raising the grain needed to feed livestock erodes our soil, the waste produced by livestock pollutes our waters, and the greenhouse gases the animals emit contribute to global warming. Fixing the damage caused by the livestock industry is costing America a fortune.
While America still faces serious threats from abroad, there’s also a battle to be fought on the home front. Meat threatens our lives and our land. Seen from this perspective, there are few acts more patriotic than becoming a vegetarian. America has always risen to meet every challenge. A country strong enough to save the world from both fascism and communism can save itself from damaging food choices.