|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Vegetarianism is Love for Animals and Humans
I have accepted the invitation to speak here in Zurich about vegetarianism with great pleasure for the 1st of October is World Vegetarian day and the 4th of October is World animal day.
I am talking to you as a representative of the Swiss Union for Vegetarianism and as the secretary of the EVU the umbrella organisation for about 90 vegetarian associations in Europe.
I would like to begin with the definition of different types of vegetarianism for sometimes they are not quite clear. Vegetarianism means nutrition without any products from dead animals such as meat, poultry or fish.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat plant food plus dairy products and eggs.
Now even children know what vegetarianism means. It was quite different when I was young. I was born to vegetarian parents and when I grew up it was very difficult to explain to my friends and acquaintances the meaning of: "I am a vegetarian." The suppositions went from a sect to a strange disease (Vegetarierin – Diabetikerin sounds similar). In general they were horrified: "What? You don’t eat meat? Then where do you get your proteins and iron from?"
Today we have come a long way. There have been epidemiological studies all over the world on thousands of vegetarians which proved without any doubt that the meatless lifestyle is decisively healthier.
In the studies of the University of Giessen, the Cancer Research Centre of Heidelberg, the Federal Department of Health, Berlin, the Oxford studies, the Californian study and the Chinese study the following coinciding results where brought to light: animal protein and animal fat are the main causes for most chronic diseases.
In spite of a longer life there were significantly (up to 80%) fewer cases of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and many other illnesses.
There were clear advantages of plant based nutrition: ideal body mass, normal values of bloodpressure and cholestorol, as well as a far better functioning of the kidneys. No lack of anything could be found either of amino acids or of vitamin B12 or calcium or iron.
During the last century our nutrition has changed a lot, through better economic conditions and most of all through one-sided consumer information. Compared to the year 1900, today a person consumes on average 35% more dairy products, 50% more cattle meat, 70% more fish, 120% more eggs and 280% more poultry.
During the same period, with the exception of the war years heart disease and cancer has gone up 3-5% annually and keeps on doing so. Cancer is the most common cause of death for children under the age of 12.
In the last 10 years there have been 12,000 official cases of food born illnesses in Switzerland. The number of unrecorded cases is believed to be many times higher. Nearly all the official cases were connected to poultry, meat or dairy products.
After the BSE scandal nobody was amazed that cows as natural vegetarians should fall ill when forced to eat animal food. It would be an "unbelievable nonsense", you could read in a newspaper, to feed a cow on meat as if it were a carnivore.
Now the most famous naturalists, beginning with Carl Linné via Alexander Humboldt up to Charles Darwin do not leave us in any doubt that plant food is the only right one for humans deducing from the history of origins and comparative anatomy. If those famous naturalists are right would it then not be an "unbelievable nonsense" to feed the plant-eater man with meat?
Speaking of humans we would then have to talk about Creutzfeld-Jakob Syndrome, cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatism, artheriosclerosis, diabetes, etc.
The wrong nutrition has not only effects on our own health and health care system (a by-pass operation costs about 30,000 Fr. in Switzerland) but also serious effects on our environment.
We have to see clearly that meat based nutrition requires 20 times more land and 14 times more water than a plant-based diet. The production of 1kg of meat requires 10-16 kg of cereals and other plant food. The fodder which is given to our pigs, cows and chickens could feed 80% of the Swiss population directly, according to the St. Galler Tagblatt (newspaper) of the 26th of August 1996.
In the same article it said that the world’s cereal reserves have reached the lowest levels for 20 years and that they would last for only another 48 days.
70% of the world’s water consumption is needed for the production of fodder. It has been calculated that to produce 4kg of meat, the amount of water needed is equal to what a normal family consumes in one year.
Animal excrement which is responsible for half the pollution of our lakes, rivers and groundwater, amounts to 110t per second in Europe and America. 2/3 of it is liquid manure. The nitrate and ammonia in it contaminate our waters.
The evaporation of the ammonia from this liquid manure causes part of the acid rains, after having changed to nitric acid. Ammonia clouds from our liquid manure can be found even in Lapland.
The "Weltwoche" (Swiss newspaper) writes in the edition of 19th October ‘96: "37,000t of nitrate of the 40’000t which annually find their way into Swiss groundwater come from farms. Our farmers are responsible for 40% of the nitrogen-induced strain on air and water."
60-70% of meat production is waste. In Bazenheid St. Gallen alone 290’000t annually. The mad cows have shown us what happens if the waste is used as concentrated food.
There would be many more reasons for abstaining from meat which cannot be mentioned here for lack of time. But finally I am coming to the most important reason why we should not eat meat: sentient, suffering creatures have to give their life for it. Every year 13 billion animals are slaughtered on earth, in Switzerland 30 million animals!
The production of such a big number of animals is only possible in factory farms. The animals are closed in a narrow space, with no place to rest, with unnatural food, no social contact. All this causes a lasting stress and tortures in the animals which have to be combated with a growing amount of medicines, antibiotics, hormones, phycotropic drugs, tranquillisers etc. Those medicines accumulate in the animals and finally are served on the plate of the consumer.
Deeply upsetting pictures of animal transports through Europe have been shown recently on TV and some of the viewers might have been put off meat already. Recently we could read that a ship carrying 67,000!! sheep from New Zealand to Jordan burnt and sank. "The crew were saved" it was said laconically " all the sheep died."
Not every meat eater is aware of the fact that cows are inseminated artificially once a year and that the young calves in general are torn away from them shortly after birth. The young lives often end after a couple of months in the slaughter house.
But pigs and chicken suffer likewise in their short life. Every year in Switzerland 500,000 chickens die without anaesthetic and often with broken wings and legs during the transport. Male chickens are thrown into the meat mincer alive and are made into concentrated food for other animals. The list of atrocities could be continued without end.
But even when the animals are kept in "natural conditions" and after some time become so-called biological meat the fact remains that their most valuable possession is taken away from them far too early: their life.
"Bio" (coming from the Greek) means "life" by the way and about meat Brigitte Bardot said not long ago that it was "nicely decorated corpse."
I have tried to show briefly the main reasons for a meatless diet. In the media following the BSE scandal articles went into it in quite a lot of detail. "Are vegetarians right after all?" a newspaper wrote in a big headline. On this occasion you could also read which famous people are at present living a vegetarian life. I will name only a few: Martina Navratilowa, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Richard Gere, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Robert Redford, Madonna, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Montserra Caballé, Paul Newman, Barbara Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Nina Hagen, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Alain Sutter, Astrid Lindgren.
At the latest with the Swiss transport and energy minister, Moritz Leuenberger, who is described as a "confessing vegetarian" we have become socially acceptable and are no longer regarded as exotic types and eccentrics. There are innumerable reasons against meat-eating and actually only one which could be stated in favour of meat: If someone says that he just likes to eat it.
For all those people the food industry has recently launched a lot of products which are vegetarian, sometimes even vegan and are said to taste good, "as good as meat", as you can read in one advertisement. I am convinced even more products will come onto the Market if the demand for them lasts.-
I would like to end with three quotations by famous vegetarians which refer to the subjects treated this afternoon. Mahatma Gandhi said: "The most terrible crime which is committed today in this world is vivisection and has to be combated with all means available."
Albert Einstein said the following: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chance for a survival on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
Finally a quotation from Wilhelm Busch, German painter and poet: "There will only be a true human culture, when not only the eating of humans but all kind of meat-eating is regarded as cannibalism."
And don’t forget, vegetarianism is the most effective animal protection!