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March 1996
Eat Tofu, Save the World
By Mickey Z.


For me, being a vegan is as logical as not smoking, practicing safe sex, and driving with my seat belt on. This is not about ideology or opinion — the numbers are in and eating animals is out; not to mention, the evidence for being an "ideological vegan" is equally convincing. While there should never be a litmus test for progressives, it amazes me how so-called activists for freedom and justice engage in self-destructive, anti-social habits that only serve to fatten the wallets of Corporate America (i.e. drinking, smoking, watching television, and yes, consuming animal products).

You see, it’s not like the basic four food groups scheme was carved in stone on Mount Sinai (in fact, it was invented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1956 under the watchful eyes of the meat and dairy industries). And, contrary to all flesh-eating fanfare, the World Health Organization recommends only five percent of caloric intake be protein. Obviously, Americans are over-consuming blood, bone, fat, and muscle in a big way and this nasty little secret has not only helped bring us a virtual holocaust of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes, it affects the entire world as we know it. Read on.

We’re not Bela Lugosi
Unlike a true carnivore, homo sapiens — with the possible exception of Bela Lugosi — lacks sharp teeth to cut through flesh, hide, and bones. Also, our saliva doesn’t contain the enzyme that breaks down uric acid, a build-up of which can result in osteoporosis, rheumatism, and other unpleasant predicaments. Further demonstrating our herbivore roots, our digestive tract is quite long — 22 feet — which means animal protein can sit for as much as three days to putrefy and release dangerous carcinogens. Plant foods, however, increase overall systemic efficiency by speeding through our digestive tract like it was a highway in Montana. Tofu: good. Salami and provolone: bad, very bad.

Now, when I say "animal protein," I’m talking about dairy products too. Despite those annoying "milk mustache" ads, dairy products are not only high in fat, but they make no sense for human consumption. In case you haven’t noticed, calves grow much faster than us so, not surprisingly, the biochemical make-up of cow’s milk is not exactly apropos for a babe in swaddling clothes. Here are the figures: cow’s milk has three times more protein and seven times more mineral content than human milk, which has ten times as many essential fatty acids, three times as much selenium, and half the calcium of cow’s milk. You don’t have to be either or both Dr. Spocks to appreciate the logic of human milk being consumed by human infants. Once breastfeeding has stopped, milk of any kind is no longer needed. (The ugly practice of injecting cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone [rBGH] and antibiotics is another solid reason to experiment with soy milk). Eat tofu, leave the cow’s milk for Baby Elsie.

The carnage caused by eating our furry and winged co-inhabitors is not limited to our bodies. Did you know that up to 14 times as many people could be fed by using the same land currently reserved for livestock grazing? I’ll bet you haven’t seen anything in The New Republic lately about how the water needed to maintain this bloody enterprise is drained from rivers, depleting hydroelectric plants, and inspiring Westinghouse to build more deadly nuclear power plants to eventually leak and anoint us all with a steady dose of plutonium aromatherapy. Well, now that you do know all of this, I’d suggest you start encouraging others to "just say no" to cheeseburgers and ice cream. Eat tofu, not Ben & Jerry’s.

And then come pesticides. Insect repellent sprayed directly on farm animals (or on the grains they eat) lodge in the fat cells of these long-suffering creatures and the next stop on the neverending DDT World Tour is your fat cells if you indulge in meat. Dairy products? They’re just as bad: they contain 550 percent more pesticides than plant foods. Eat organic tofu, not Agent Orange.
And in this election year...

With all the election-year hype about societal violence, no one seems to care that billions of American chickens are murdered each year. This ongoing crime wave targets victims who are kept in crowded battery houses where they never see daylight and are debeaked to avoid "merchandise damage." Such treatment not only terrorizes the birds, it adds more toxins to your body because all animals being led to slaughter release hormones (the "fight or flight" response) that remain in the meat — adding to the pesticides, antibiotics, and other toxins already there. Eat tofu, not fear.

Lastly, eating animals promotes corporate welfare (another issue strangely ignored during Campaign ‘96). As Howard Lyman noted in Satya, (1:9) "In the U.S. we can buy a hamburger for 79 cents. If the American taxpayer was not involved in subsidizing the beef industry, the same hamburger meat would cost over $12.... We can’t afford roads, or schools, or health care, and yet we are paying $11.21 for every $12 of something that is helping kill one out of every two Americans today." Eat tofu, don’t subsidize Wall Street.

Okay, if you’re still not convinced, try the "John Harris Test" (created by the host of Urban Healthbeat on WBAI-FM in New York): Go to your local morgue, er, butcher shop, and take a good look at the raw meat and the blood. Smell the smell of death. Check out the sheep hanging on hooks. Inhale deeply and ask yourself: Am I getting hungry? Am I salivating? Is my stomach growling? Do I want to grab the ground beef and eat it raw? Next, try the fruit and vegetable stand. Smell the strawberries, the papayas, the peppers. Inhale deeply and ask yourself: Am I getting hungry? Am I salivating? Are the sights and smells tantalizing me? Do I want to grab that pear and eat it? At that point, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the natural foods for humans are.

Or, maybe the "Mickey Z. Test" will wake you up: Each day, 27 American children die from poverty and starvation while 15 million animals are slaughtered for food. On planet earth, 60 million people starve to death each year. Every 55 seconds, an American dies of cancer. Every 45 seconds, an American suffers a fatal heart attack. Every two seconds, somewhere on this planet, a child starves to death. Go ahead, do the math. How many have we lost while you read this article?

By now, I hope you can understand that for anyone who sees her- or himself as an activist for peace, freedom, and democracy, it all starts with this simple phrase:

Eat tofu, not death...

Mickey Z. is a columnist for Curio Magazine. He teaches martial arts and holistic health privately and can be reached at: Box 9103, Long Island City, NY 11103-0904.



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