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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 11 March 2002 Issue

Howard Lyman on The O'Reilly Factor

On Tuesday, February 26, for the second time in a week, Bill O'Reilly  interviewed a leading figure in the vegetarian movement on The O'Reilly Factor. (He also made statements last week on the need to adopt rather than clone pets, providing euthanization statistics on his show.)

Tuesday's guest was Howard Lyman, Oprah's co-defendent in the cattle feedlot  industry's suit against her, and president of Voice for a Viable Future.    (  )

O'Reilly opened the segment with:
"In the 'Personal Story' segment tonight, we continue our reporting on the  American diet - because illness costs all of us so much money. Medicaid  payments were more than $120 billion last year. Food is coming under  increasing scrutiny, the thinking being that bad food causes illness. Meat and dairy products are in the middle of all this and there's a push to keep kids away from them. But is that healthy?"

Lyman was asked why he is vegan and managed to impart the following information:

"America is becoming the most obese nation on the face of the earth. CDC said between 1991 and '98, there was a 50 percent increase in obesity in the United States. We're 4 percent of the world's population. We have 30 percent of the world's diabetes. Main contributing factor for diabetes happens to be obesity. The average American eight-year-old child today is eating 6.25 burgers a week.  A burger is 40 percent to 60 percent good, old greasy, yellow fat."

Lyman said that he had once been three hundred pounds, in very poor health, and that vegetarians live on average ten years longer than people on average American diets.

Bridget Chufo, from the "Healthy Performance Weight Loss and Wellness Center" was also on, admitting that vegetarians live 9-10 years longer but saying  that its because we have healthier life styles - we don't smoke, we don't drink. (This news would come as a surprise to the our local wine merchant who knows me and some vegan friends rather well.) She said that it was hard for children to get protein from a vegan diet - as if lack of protein, rather than heart disease, was a common problem in this country.

Lyman replied,
"You can feed kids and you can feed them healthy with foods that are out there, that are not full of saturated fat and cholesterol. And, you know, you can get all of the protein you need on the vegetable side of the diet. There is absolutely no reason to go out and eat meat and dairy products. That protein myth is an absolute red herring."

Asked if he would raise a child vegan, Lyman said,
"Absolutely. And I would talk to them so that they knew why they were eating it. You know, it's not only about living longer, it's about living healthier."

Then, once again sharing his personal taste for meat and milk, O'Reilly said, "Yes, but it's also about quality of life. So if I was your kid, I'd run away from home. I would go over to Mrs. Chofu's house."

To which Lyman, God bless him, smiled and shot back:
"Well, If you were my kid, Bill, I'd let you run away."

O'Reilly smiled and said, "Very good, Mr. Lyman." Then "You see, that vegan
stuff makes your mind sharp."

O'Reilly asked Lyman if he is an animal rights person, saying,
"Now Mr. Lyman, you realize that the whole vegan/vegetarian movement is tied in with the animal rights movement, and that, you know, that alienates a lot of people. They say these are fanatics and they put the animals above humans and all that. Is that in your resume here? Are you an animal rights person?"

Lyman said,
"I came from a ranch where I had 7,000 head of cattle. And I will tell you today that knowing what I know today, the happiest thing I'm able to say is no animal has to die for me to live."

Asked again he continued, "What I am saying right now is we kill the animals, but the animals are killing us. Look at Dr. Charles Atwood, who said that 12-year-old kids - where they did autopsies - that were eating the standard  American diet, 40 percent of their circulatory system was already occluded."

O'Reilly went on about the fact that his Grandmother, who mainlined twinkies, lived to be 98 and that he thinks it is all hereditary. He said,

"And I'm with you. If you have a heart problem, if you're getting, you know, cholesterol through the roof, you've got to change your diet. But for many Americans, you don't." He and Chufo both decided all things in moderation and O'Reilly closed with:

" I really believe in the moderation deal, but I will say in Mr. Lyman's case, if he had the cholesterol and, you know, you've got to cut it down little bit. Thanks all. Very interesting conversation. We appreciate it."

I know some activists were disappointed that O'Reilly did not conclude that the vegan diet is obviously the best choice and that everyone should raise their children vegan.  When a commentator, such as Don Imus, does promote a vegan diet it is a cause for celebration. But I don't think it is something we can expect from most. Yet.  During the show O'Reilly said, "On this program, we want people to have options. And I'm trying to get to the bottom of whether this vegan deal is actually good or bad for kids. It's a very controversial thing." Yes, it still is considered controversial, whether or not we would like it to be. I am just thrilled that twice in one week this talk show host addressed it as such, and did so in a serious manner, rather than ignoring the issue as the networks have traditionally done and as the meat industry would no doubt prefer he did.

Also, to some of us who grew up in a world where meat and milk were the food group kings, who were told to consume them in vast amounts for good health, the suggestion by a right wing commentator that they should be eaten in moderation is a sign of real progress.

If you wish to see more spokespeople for the vegetarian movement on the O'Reilly factor then let the show know that the segment got attention. Please thank O'Reilly for having Howard Lyman on as a guest and encourage him to keep looking at the issue. There may be other guests you would like to recommend - go for it!

The O'Reilly Factor takes comments at: [email protected]

Source: [email protected]  (DawnWatch)

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets.  You can learn more about it at To subscribe to DawnWatch, email [email protected] and tell me you'd like to receive alerts.  If at any time you find DawnWatch is not for you, just let me know via email and I'll take you off the subscriber list immediately. If you forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts, please do so unedited and include this tag line.)

Return to Animals in Print 11 Mar 2002 Issue

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