Editorial: The Power of One: Putting Our Decisions to Work
Every day at PCRM we see the power individuals carry through decisions made in their day-to-day lives. Recently, one of our members became concerned about his company's sponsorship of the March of Dimes. Despite being the nation's largest birth defects charity, the March of Dimes has never made the concerted effort necessary for tracking down the causes of these tragedies in human populations and continues to fund animal experiments many find objectionable. Other major charities, such as Easter Seals, the American Kidney Fund, and the Association of Birth Defect Children, fund no animal experiments at all. Our member discussed the issue with others at his workplace, and eventually the company decided to send its support elsewhere. Support for Easter Seals, for example, funds an abundance of patient services as well as nonanimal research projects.
Others have done the same in their own workplaces. Whether we act as individuals, families, or companies, every donation to a cruelty-free charity can be a vote for ethical research and compassionate services to those in need.
Medical students are faced with an important decision of their own: whether or not to participate in laboratory exercises in which animals are experimented on and killed. With PCRM's support, more and more are saying no, and many medical schools—approximately 60 percent at last count—have discontinued them.
The most important decision we make, however, is the seemingly mundane choice of what to put on our dinner plates. Americans eat, believe it or not, more than one million animals every hour. Most are chickens, and we gobble them up just eight weeks after they emerge from the shell. But the switch from red to white meat has not made us healthier. With heart attacks hitting 4,000 of us every day, cancer reaching one in three, and obesity at an all-time high among both adults and children, we are more out of shape than at any time in our nation's history.
In this issue, we explode lingering myths about chicken. It is not a low-fat or low-cholesterol food, and the carcinogens that form when it is cooked are dangerous enough to grab any cancer researcher's attention. Chicken products carry infectious bacteria, especially salmonella and campylobacter, causing repeated outbreaks of food-borne illness.
The supposedly "heart-healthy" diet typically prescribed to heart patients is based on modest servings of skinless chicken and fish. It has turned out to be a waste of time, lowering LDL cholesterol (the "bad cholesterol") by only 5 to 6 percent. Our research studies at PCRM have shown that a low-fat vegan diet is much more effective. It lowers LDL by 17 percent, makes diabetes more manageable, and reduces body weight by an average of one pound a week, among innumerable other benefits.
Every day we hear from more and more people who are changing their charitable giving patterns, their diets, and many other aspects of their lives. The collective result is a dramatic shift in the kinds of research we propel forward, in the way animals are treated, and ultimately in our own health and that of our children. It is not government or industry that accomplishes these things. It is the power of individual decisions.
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
President of PCRM