Editorial: Having a Heart
The ambulance pulled up at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas on Feb. 11 and took the diner away. The scene was a grim reminder of last year’s death of the Grill’s 29-year-old, 575-pound spokesperson, Blair River. With its “Quadruple Bypass Burgers” and “Flatliner Fries” cooked in lard, the restaurant has people everywhere shaking their heads. “Over 350 pounds? Eat for free!” says the sign.
The Heart Attack Grill is, in a word, sickening. But it touches on something that goes far beyond its grease-covered front door. An anti-health rebelliousness finds an eager audience.
We see it in the baby who bites the spoon his mother offers to nourish him. It comes up in the teenager experimenting with cigarettes, liquor, and drugs. Paula Deen tapped into it with her thumb-your-nose-at-health approach to cooking—her Hot Buffalo Wings pack 910 calories and 85 grams of fat in a single serving. “Don’t tell me what to do!” they all say.
It is hard to understand why this behavior endures past adolescence. But it does. And too often our own risk-taking takes many other victims. Why is the U.S. Government buying up 7 million pounds of “pink slime”—ammonia-treated rendered meat—and feeding it to schoolchildren? Why does the very government whose research proved that processed meats cause colon cancer still send bacon and hot dogs to schools, setting off lifelong habits that kill 50,000 Americans per year? Why does factory farming persist when we know how bad it is for animals and the environment? Our decision-makers are far too willing to take risks that others have to pay for.
In the end, it’s business. The Heart Attack Grill is not founded on principle, but on cash. Paula Deen is an alchemist who turned cholesterol into gold. And too many in our government believe that business is boss.
Counteracting these forces is a big job. At PCRM, we tell the truth loudly and clearly, in terms people—including adolescents—understand. From research articles, continuing medical education, and scientific conferences to talk shows, books, and billboards, we are working hard to get the word out. We are rebelling against unhealthful, dangerous, and unethical practices—on farms, in restaurants, in the government, and everywhere else—so that one day they will be things of the past.
Neal Barnard, M.D.
President of PCRM