for The Times of India on May 16, 2008
Totally unrelated, George W. Bush learns cricket at the US Embassy in Islamabad.
WASHINGTON: One way to beat the worldwide grain shortage is for meat-eaters to turn vegetarian, and the movement should start with US President George Bush, the Indian affiliate of the animal rights organization PETA has said.
Jumping headlong into the controversy that began with Bush’s misconstrued remarks about India’s role in the rise of food prices worldwide, PETA India has written a letter this week to the US President urging him to become a vegetarian and asking other compassionate Americans to follow his example.
How will kicking wealthy countries’ addiction to meat help feed starving people? PETA India’s letter points out that the world is already growing enough crops to feed every human being, but food that could be used to nourish starving people is instead fed to billions of chickens, pigs, and cows who are slaughtered for their flesh.
“In addition to being extremely cruel to animals, meat production is also staggeringly inefficient: It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat,” says PETA.
PETA, which stands for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, also points out that although biofuel production is blamed for skyrocketing food prices worldwide, “humans’ wasteful addiction to eating animal flesh” is a far bigger culprit.
While 100 million tons of grain will be used to produce biofuel this year, “a staggering 760 million tons will be used to feed animals farmed who are destined for the dinner table,” according to the organization.
The India affiliate of the Virginia, US-based outfit said it has sent President Bush an easy-to-follow “Vegetarian Starter Kit” and a basket of tasty vegan foods “to help him embark on a healthy new diet.”
“Eating meat — more than anything else — takes desperately needed grain away from the world’s poorest people,” PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk said. “In light of the global food crisis, it’s the perfect time for President Bush to lead the fight against hunger by going vegetarian.”
Not that Bush is likely to follow the advice any time soon. The US President’s home state Texas is the nation’s leading cattle producer, and although a fitness fanatic — he works out almost daily — he is known to have a preference for meat. So have all US presidents in the past.
Despite the efforts of PETA, whose supporters include stars such as Pamela Anderson and Paul McCartney, and American Vegan Society (which was founded by Indian-American Jay Dinshaw) vegetarianism has made only slow inroads into the US, among the world’s largest meat-eating countries, and now under counter-attack from the likes of PETA for causing the world grain shortage.
The US has even had political party to espouse vegetarianism (American Vegetarian Party, founded in 1947), but it never took root, even as PETA itself was spoofed by an organization calling itself People for Eating Tasty Animals.
Only about 3 per cent of Americans (about 10 million) are vegetarian according to a 2004 poll, compared to around 30 per cent (400 million) in India.
India remains possibly the only country in the world where the question “Veg or Non-Veg?” is routinely posed to ascertain dietary preferences.