AN OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR TOM HARKIN FROM UNITED POULTRY CONCERNS
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The Honorable Tom Harkin
Dear Senator Harkin:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for your Animal Waste Management Summit on May 5, 1998, and for your report on Animal Waste Pollution in America: An Emerging National Problem. Thank you for putting the important issue of animal waste pollution vividly before Congress and the nation.
However, the discussion will continue to be greatly limited to the extent that dietary responsibility for the manure problem is omitted. Vegetarianism would eliminate farm animal waste pollution rather than merely managing it at great expense. This expense includes the exorbitant health care cost of an animal- based diet. The USDA's Economic Research Service stated in 1995 that "The annual cost of human illness [in the U.S.] caused by seven foodborne pathogens for which we have estimates ranges between $5.6 billion and $9.4 billion. Meat and poultry are the primary sources. . . . Foods most likely to carry pathogens are high-protein, nonacid foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs."
In contrast, The Washington Post Health Section reported in an article on February 3rd this year that "Well-planned vegetarian diets are increasingly endorsed by doctors, researchers and organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, American Heart Association, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and, most recently, the American Dietetic Association."
Thus, while your campaign is critical and commendable, I was disappointed by your quick dismissal of my and others' proposal at the Animal Waste Management Summit that vegetarianism be seriously incorporated into the discussion as a rational, ethical, and environmentally responsible solution to the animal waste problem that you have identified.
Vegetarianism is not about eliminating agriculture. Vegetarians buy and consume just as much food as meateaters. However, vegetarians support agriculture while assisting in the reduction and elimination of the environmental and health-care costs of an animal-based diet as well as the enormous suffering this diet imposes on animals.
I am therefore urging you to incorporate a vegetarian perspective into your program to reduce farm animal waste pollution. The animals who are glaringly missing from the discussion are imprisoned in that waste, which is generated solely to satisfy, as you yourself said at the Summit, a mere taste for meat. Meanwhile, more and more people are becoming vegetarians in part as a result of finding out that the taste and texture of meat are already available at the store in creatively processed soy and wheat-based products. And we are just at the beginning of this revolution. If we are serious about our planet and our future, vegetarian food production is where our investment should be.
Thank you for your consideration and for effectively drawing our attention to the animal waste pollution problem in the United States.
Karen Davis, PhD