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Health Reasons for not Eating Animals

"One day, I have no doubt, there will be wrongful death lawsuits against the meat and dairy industries."
                                           —Ingrid Newkirk

     Leading cancer authorities agree that plant foods protect against cancer.  Plant foods are loaded with nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E. and beta-carotene that have been shown to inhibit cancer in a number of ways.  Plants also contain phytochemicals like isoflavones and lycopene, some of which have been shown to inhibit cancer cell and tumor growth directly.   These phytochemicals are not found in animal foods.

     Animal foods contain compounds that raise the risk for cancer.  Chicken is higher than red meat in heterocyclic amines, which are compounds that directly increase cancer risk.

     Vegetarians have lower death rates from cancer, specifically colon and lung cancer.

     Vegetarian women have lower blood levels of estrogen, which may help to protect them from breast cancer.

     The risk of heart disease is linked to diets high in saturated fat, which is found mostly in animal foods and processed foods. Heart disease is much less common among vegetarian men, with vegans having the lowest risk of all.

     In 1996 the American Cancer Society released guidelines recommending that red meat be excluded entirely from the diet.

     Residues of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and other non-degrading toxins from the environment accumulate up the food chain and into animal products.  Non-seafood meats and dairy account for over 90% of human exposure to the toxic chemical dioxin and fish accounts for 7%.

     The second leading cause of cancer death among men – prostate cancer – is not just an inevitable outcome of getting old; it is the result of a lifetime diet of animal fats.  The fats stimulate the production of male hormones, which in turn spur prostate cancer cells to grow.

     There is no term in the Japanese language for "hot flashes."  Asians in general eat a lot of soy and scientists are crediting that food choice with easy menopause as well as lower incidences of heart disease, osteoporosis and breast and prostate cancers.  An August 1997 New York Times article about soy suggests that women might put away their estrogen treatments, but only "with a fervent commitment to a near-vegetarian diet that is rich in foods not common to American tables or palates," including lots of soy.

     In the U.S., farm animals receive 30 times the antibiotics that people do –not so much to treat infection, but to make the animals grow faster on less feed.  This practice is promoting the selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  It is also adding to the general worldwide crisis of drug-resistant disease.  Each year, 60,000 Americans die because their medications were ineffective in combating bacterial strains.

     Salmonella, E. coli and other bacterial contamination of animal products can be fatal in children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the aged.  Salmonella poisoning can come from anything animal foods and their juices touch.  The conservative estimate is that bad chicken kills at least 1,000 Americans each year.

     With the exception of E. coli, dangerous bacteria are legally considered "inherent" in raw meat.   It’s up to consumers to neutralize pathogens with cooking.  Two of the legal ones, "campylobacter and salmonella, account for 80 percent of illnesses and 75 percent of deaths from meat and poultry.  One hamburger can contain the meat of 100 different cows from four different countries.  One infected animal can contaminate 16 tons of beef.

Drains and sewers at slaughterhouses will often become backed up with guts and coagulated blood.  The pools that develop may come up to the workers’ ankles.  The muck may splash up onto the animals spreading contamination.  Or whole heads of shackled animals may even drag through it.

     A USDA microbiologist declared in a Time magazine story on processed poultry that "the final product is no different than if you stuck it in the toilet and ate it.  A USDA rule allows poultry processors to wash contaminated birds rather than discard them or cut away affected parts.   "Wash," as interpreted by the poultry industry, means "communal dunk" in what amounts to a virtual fecal soup that ensures salmonella cross-contamination.

     Only one in 300 beef carcasses and one in 20,000 chickens are sampled for microbial testing.  As much as 25 percent of broiler chicken and 45 percent of ground chicken is allowed to test positive for salmonella.

     The Centers for Disease Control estimates that campylobacter infects 70 to 90 percent of all chicken.  Campylobacter infections give their human victims cramps, bloody diarrhea and fever and lead to death for up to 800 people in the US each year.  For 1,000 to 2,000 people per year, infection will lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease that requires intensive care for several weeks.  A September 1997 sampling of supermarket chicken in Minnesota found 16 percent infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of campylobacter.

     Numerous strains of pathogenic bacteria are developing resistance to many classes of antibiotics.  Evidence indicates that this is due to the widespread use of these antibiotics in factory-farmed animals.

     In 1995, the annual health-care costs directly resulting from the nation’s meat-centered diet were estimated to be between $23.6 billion and $61.4 billion – comparable to costs associated with cigarette smoking.

     In 1997, a bird virus jumped to a human for the first time in history.  By early 1998, the avian influenza strain had killed 6 people as well as entire flocks of chickens in Hong Kong.  Reacting in fear, authorities slaughtered and buried 1.3 million chickens in the city in a three-day period.

     PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are highly toxic chemicals once used in the U.S.  Although they are now banned, their residues tend to accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish.  In the fall of 1996, a study showed that prenatal exposure to PCBs, even relatively small amounts, can impair intellectual development in children.  Aside from fish, PCBs can be found in other high-fat foods such as cheese, butter, beef and pork.  Women who plan on becoming pregnant were advised by the study to avoid foods containing PCBs because the chemicals can remain in their bodies for years.

     Until it was made illegal late in 1997, farmers saved money by feeding slaughterhouse by-products to their cattle.   Farmers have now turned to another low-cost and virtually unregulated form of feedstuff:  chicken manure.  According to the FDA, the practice is safe if the feces are allowed to reach high enough temperatures that harmful bacteria are destroyed.   The problem is, farmers rarely take all the necessary steps in the composting process.

     Two-thirds of the human population experience sensitivity to milk sugar.  U.S. milk is imbued with drug residues.   Cow’s milk has been linked to internal blood loss, allergies, anemia in babies, and some cases of childhood diabetes.

     Though osteoporosis is a disease of calcium deficiency, it is not one of low calcium intake.  One cause of the bone disorder is too much protein in the diet.  Excess protein can leach calcium from the bones.  The typical meat-eating American is eating about five times as much protein as needed.

     In 1978 there were 12,000 USDA meat inspectors.  Today 7,500 are employed to cover 6,500 private meat and poultry plants.  Inspectors have about 2 seconds to examine a poultry carcass and 30 seconds to examine an entire cow.  A word to the wise:  Cook your meat thoroughly…to neutralize those maggots, abscesses and animal diseases that get past the inspectors.

     To ward off udder infections, farmers administer antibiotics to their cows.  The U.S. Government allows 80 different types to appear in specified concentrations in the final product and claims that less than 1 percent of the country’s milk is dumped for violation limits.  The problem is that the government tests for only four of the antibiotics.

     Due to faster line speeds as slaughterhouses today, fecal matter is getting on carcasses a lot more often.  A mere 1 to 10 microbes in a hamburger can kill a child.

     An early ‘90’s EPA report found that 95% of human exposure to dioxin, a known carcinogen, comes from consuming red meat, fish and dairy products.  Later, chicken and eggs were added to the list.  Dioxin builds cumulatively in fatty tissue.  The only way to flush it out is through rigorous fasting or via lactation.

     Mad Cow Disease, a human version of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has a 15-20 year incubation period. 23 Britons and 1 Frenchman who died from it probably became infected after eating beef from cows that had been fed brain and nerve tissue from scrapie-infected sheep.  Recent evidence confirming the transspecies link gives credence to the notion that the disease may someday become much more widespread.  Though feeding ruminant remains back to ruminants was made illegal in the US in 1997, the practice had been going on for decades.  It is not unreasonable to believe that it could be only a matter of time before America suffers its own version of the English saga.

     Though considered more healthful than beef, fish is still a high-fat, high-calorie, fiberless food imbued with artery-clogging cholesterol.  It is concentrated with protein so it raises the risk of osteoporosis and kidney problems and is often loaded with dangerous toxins absorbed from polluted environments.  In 1994, the EPA issued more than 1000 warnings against eating fish from chemically contaminated waters.

     In 1995, a USDA study found that greater than 99 percent of broiler carcasses had detectable E. coli.  Though in most cases the E. coli strain was not the dangerous one, the finding points to the fact that nearly all chicken comes in contact with fecal matter some time during processing.

     Albania recently became the setting for an epidemiological study that compared the diets of two segments of its population. One segment subsists on foods that are mostly of animal origin; the other mainly on fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals and olive oil.  Death rates were found to be notably higher in the segment that primarily consumed animal foods.

     The iron in animal foods is more readily absorbed than the iron in plant foods.  Once this was thought to be an advantage of meat, but researchers have found that excess iron can be a catalyst in the formation of free radicals.  Overloading on it can lead to increased risk for cancer and cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and infertility.  A vegetarian diet is likely to have safer levels of stored iron.

     Animal foods are high in sodium which causes the blood to retain water.  They also cause plaque to build up in the arteries, narrowing the flow area for blood.  The result can be a disease which afflicts about 50 million Ameicans: high blood pressure.

     When meat, fish or poultry are barbecued, dripped fat over the open flame sends up plumes of smoke that coat the food with carcinogens.  Other unhealthy chemicals are created just be extended cooking times.

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