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Obama Asks For Vegetarian Input, PETA Gives Him A Mouthful

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Earlier this week, President Obama said that he was “open to any idea, whether it comes from a Democrat or a Republican or a vegetarian.” Guess who was listening?

PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk has sent a letter to the White House urging the Obama administration to take a closer look at school lunches — and send them in a more veggie direction. “Teaching our children the benefits of vegetarian meals would save animals, help stop climate change, and help keep kids at a healthy weight as well as help them avoid our nation’s biggest and most costly killers—cancer, heart disease, and obesity,” she writes. “If promoting a vegetarian diet isn’t already part of the proposed stimulus package, it should be.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have no idea what the state of school lunches is like today, but 12 years ago I remember it being a mostly meaty affair. Would be great to see much more emphasis on local, organic, and vegetarian dishes for the nation’s children.

February 12, 2009
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 2 million members and supporters, thank you for saying that your administration is open to any idea, whether from “a Democrat or a Republican or a vegetarian.” May I suggest an idea that would indisputably bolster the economy, reduce work days lost, improve the health of our nation’s children, reduce medical costs, and spare millions of animals from needless suffering? Please direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to end purchases of meat, eggs, and dairy products for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and replace them with healthy vegetarian foods like fruits, vegetables, veggie burgers, faux-chicken patties, and more.

As you know, obesity and its associated health problems have reached a crisis level that is now affecting our nation’s young people. America’s children are already overweight, and as they get older, their health-care costs will increasingly soak up money that could otherwise be invested in new American technology and businesses. As these children enter the workforce, the economy will suffer another blow as they take more sick days. Fortunately, the long- and short-term human and economic effects of the epidemic could be largely reversed by giving plant-based meals to children now in order to instill healthy eating habits in them.

As you know, vegetarian foods have no cholesterol and lots of fiber; meat, eggs, and dairy products contain a lot of cholesterol and have no fiber. No wonder that meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than vegans are. The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada are among the many health organizations that are reporting that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; … lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.”

In addition to harming Americans’ health, the meat industry is a leading cause of environmental degradation and pollution, is energy intensive, and causes enormous animal suffering through debeaking, dehorning, castration, and other painful procedures, which are carried out without any painkillers. Conditions of intensive confinement, inhumane transport, and poorly regulated slaughterhouses also cause animals great stress and fear.

Because of the lobbying efforts of the meat and dairy industries, NSLP meals are heavy in saturated fat- and cholesterol-laden animal products. We ask you to direct the USDA to reverse its policy of propping up these politically powerful industries at the expense of our economy, our health, our children’s health, and animals.

A bright, healthy future for our economy and our children can begin with a nutritious, delicious vegetarian lunch in the school cafeteria. We would be happy to discuss this proposal further or to advise you on this issue. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,
Ingrid E. Newkirk

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