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1 April 2001 Issue
Vegan Sons & Daughters

by Brenda Shoss
printed in the Healthy Planet, February 2001
from Trevor Chin - tmchin@yahoo.com

As a vegetarian, I encounter a lot of misconceptions. I'm a protein-deprived "bunny-hugger" who shuns materialism and doesn't shave bodily hair. Puh-lease. I grew up in the seventies, a middle class brat who mall-hopped along the asphalt straits of suburbia.

I do not find meat repulsive. In fact, Mom's broiled pork chops and Dad's barbecued chicken elicit fond childhood memories. I simply prefer live animals over dead ones, as do my now vegetarian parents and sister. A glimpse behind the slaughterhouse wall forever ruined my cheeseburgers and turkey sandwiches. There, I saw gentle creatures slung upside down from meat hooks. I heard pigs scream like terrified children. I watched half-stabbed birds hobble through pools of blood. I will never forget the
mournful look of fully conscious cow, seconds before his throat was slit.

Six years ago, after watching the graphic HBO special, To Love Or Kill: Man Versus Animal, I confiscated all meat products from my refrigerator and proclaimed to my surprised neighbors: "Please accept these cellophane-wrapped remnants of tortured creatures. I can never eat an animal again."

I may be a tad theatrical, but I'm no health guru. I love sweets and drink coffee and diet soda. Yet whenever I mention my vegan diet free of meat, dairy and eggs, someone ardently confesses: "Hey, I've cut out red meat!"

"Good for you," I silently think. According to Michael Klaper, M.D., author of Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet, "We now live in a world of Salmonella-tainted chickens, Listeria-covered cheeses, and beefburgers laced with estrogenic hormones and residues of potent antibiotics. There are very good reasons why parents would want to raise their son or daughter without fatty and contaminated meat and dairy products pouring through the child's bloodstream each day."

The recent birth of my son prompted research into the benefits of an animal-free diet. Though I hope to foster Elijah's kinship with animals (rather than teach a strict doctrine of vegan do's and don'ts) I realize he'll one day face outdated "food facts" invented by the United States Department of Agriculture. Their Food Guide Pyramid advises two to three daily servings of dairy products along with meat as a main protein source. While this concept champions the meat/dairy industries, it offers sparse nutritional guidance. It ignores numerous studies linking saturated fat and cholesterol in meat, eggs and dairy products with heart disease, cancer and stroke - the three top American killers.

One of two Americans will die from heart disease. The excess saturated fat (mostly from animals) and cholesterol (completely from animals) will be the cause in almost every case. The American Dietetic Association claims that vegetarian diets reduce the risk for coronary artery disease, hypertension,
diabetes mellitus, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, kidney disease, and obesity.

In a 1999 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions report, one in six teenagers' hearts showed significant blockage and the arteries of five-year-olds were clogged with fatty patches. Cancer, the number two U.S. killer, is similarly associated with our huge consumption of animal fat and protein.

Still, wary carnivores warn: "Kids won't grow big and strong without meat!" Yes, they will. They may, however, avoid contaminated meat goods, which according to the Food and Drug Administration contribute to six and a half million cases of food poisoning and six thousand deaths every year. The
media regularly report new outbreaks of E. coli infection, Camplyobacter and Salmonella poisoning - all potentially fatal in children, pregnant or nursing women, and the aged.

When you serve an animal-based meal, you serve residues of growth-inducing chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides. Factory farmers are encouraged to pump hormones and steroids into animals to maximize their economic return. Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher and author of Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth From the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat, describes today's mega-farms as unnatural settings where disease is rampant. Intensively confined animals ingest high doses of antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to yield milk or meat.

Over 50 percent of the antibiotics produced in the United States are sold to meat and dairy manufacturers, rather than sick people. Antibiotic abuse by farmers has led to what the scientific community refers to as Super-Bugs-Bacteria (SBB). SBB are resistant to current antibiotic therapies.

And what about milk, the American cure-all for kids? Cow's milk can cause deficiencies in iron, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E, as well as contribute to juvenile onset diabetes and colic in babies. Cow's milk, with its high levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), is associated with elevated risks for prostate cancer and breast cancer, according to a review by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

American dairy farmers use Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (R-BGH) to boost milk production. BGH increases the incidence of bovine mastitis. Antibiotics administered to treat this painful inflammation of the cow's udder are passed on to humans who drink cow's milk.

Contrary to the myth that vegetarians subsist on tofu and grass, I serve hearty fare such as: Corn tacos with veggie-meat hamburger and pinto beans; oat bran muffins with vitamin fortified vanilla or chocolate soymilk; veggie cheeseburgers on whole wheat buns; pasta in red sauce with soy meatballs; oatmeal with sunflower seeds & raisins; soy-based meatloaf with mashed potatoes; veggie-bacon, lettuce, and tomato on rye bagels; or veggie-chicken stirfry in peanut sauce with cornbread stuffing.

All of the essential carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and water are found in the Vegan Six Food Groups - ”Whole Grains and Starches, Legumes, Green and Yellow Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds,
Fruits, Vitamin and Mineral Foods. My kitchen is stocked with "fake meats" and calcium-rich soy/rice/almond-based milks and cheeses. I don't mind that the soy impostors resemble the real thing. Meals made with mock beef, ham, turkey, chicken, or tuna don't sacrifice living creatures.

There are 18 million American vegetarians, and that number multiplies by one million or more every year. If I can nurture Elijah's taste for food free of animal fat, I can offer him a fit body with healthy arteries and a reduced cancer risk. Better yet, he'll know the wonder of a curious pig's warm snout or a hen's contented purr. Call me a cow-hugger, if you must, but I'd rather love 'em than eat 'em.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1.) Eat lower on the food chain. Trade animal flesh for grain, soy, and legume proteins and replace animal fats with plant oils. Use the "fake meats," found in most supermarkets, in your favorite recipes.

2.) Learn more about vegetarian living and recipes. Contact any of these groups for informational literature:
* Physician's Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM): 202-686-2210;
* Humane Society Of The United States (HSUS): 202-452-1100;
* VegNews: 408-358-6478;
* Farm Sanctuary: 607-583-2225;
* People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA): 757-622-7382;
* Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM): 301-530-1737;
* Vegan Outreach: 412-247-3527;
* EarthSave International: 206-525-9903;

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