Advocate: Readers Who Make a Difference
By Jack Rosenberger
In my June/July
column, I urged readers to write the
Sara Lee Corporation because its print ads for Ball Park Franks suggested
are not only weird, but possibly un-American.” The ads are insulting,
detrimental to the public image of vegetarians, and mean-spirited.
Moreover, in a time when America is increasingly polarized and civil
discourse seems a rarity, ads such as the Ball Park Frank ones have
no place in our society. Due to Satya readers like Hilary Friedman,
who complained to Sara Lee, the Chicago-based company has pulled the
ads and trashed them. Thanks and congratulations to everyone who contacted
As a minority, vegetarians are still striving for a seat at the adults’ table.
(Though the laughter at the kids’ table often sounds like more unrestrained
fun.) We need to be heard, understood, and our lifestyle must be appealing to
others. That’s why letters and emails and calls to companies like Sara
Lee are important.
Vegetarian protest campaigns, if orchestrated correctly, often have a positive,
sometimes long-term effect on a company: they make the corporate management more
My upbringing centered on the notions that “Everyone matters” and “Everyone
can make a difference.” Henry Spira liked to talk of pushing the peanut
forward—of creating a series of continuous small changes. That’s
something all of us can do.
Aren’t You Glad You’re Not a Carnivore?
Scandals aside, former President Bill Clinton is well known for his lust for
red meat, particularly spare ribs and Big Macs. Many Americans were caught off
guard by the news that Clinton, only 58, was forced to undergo a quadruple heart
bypass operation in early September to save his life. Clinton had complained
of chest pains and shortness of breath to his doctors and subsequent tests disclosed
that his heart arteries were clogged. In fact, during the course of the four-hour
heart operation, the doctors discovered the blockage in some of Clinton’s
arteries was in excess of 90 percent.
Let’s not mince words: the cholesterol buildup in Clinton’s heart
is largely due to his meat consumption. Smoking and a lack of exercise are contributing
factors, but it was Clinton’s meat-heavy diet that nearly did him in.
While I am glad Clinton received medical attention in time, I also feel sorry
about the countless meat-loving, lesser-known Americans who have died from heart
disease. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. One
American dies from heart disease every 33 seconds.
The month before Clinton’s bypass operation, a team of Canadian medical
researchers published a major study demonstrating that most heart attacks can
be predicted by nine easily measurable risk factors that are identical in almost
every region and ethnic group worldwide.
The Canadian study is a landmark event for it’s the first time researchers
had conducted a large-scale study of risk factors for heart attack in major ethnic
groups around the world. Previously, it was unclear if the risk factors were
similar or different for varying ethnicities, regions, sexes and age groups.
The study of 29,000 persons in 52 countries included all of the world’s
inhabited continents, found that nine factors can predict more than 90 percent
of the risk of a heart attack. The leading factor? Abnormal cholesterol. What
causes abnormal cholesterol? A diet high in saturated fat—i.e., meat and
While the study showed that the leading risk factor is diet related, it hasn’t
spurned calls for less meat consumption. (The other leading factors are smoking,
abdominal obesity, depression and stress, high blood pressure, and diabetes.)
The study’s lead author, Salim Yusuf, has suggested that food advertising
Fast-forward a year: In a perfect world, Bill Clinton will recover from his heart
operation, have taken the time to reflect on his life, and embraced vegetarianism.
Yes, it’s a fantasy, but one I will relish for the moment. Is it possible?
One encouraging factor is that Chelsea Clinton is a vegetarian and Hillary had
veggie burgers served in the White House.
Also, Clinton might, after his near-brush with death, be more inclined to re-evaluate
his Big Mac-infested diet. Is it likely? Frankly, no. But, in the meantime, while
Clinton recovers, I will entertain the fantasy of Bill Clinton playing the dual
roles of a recovering meat eater and a well-spoken advocate for vegetarianism
on the world’s stage.