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Vegetarians should adopt less gruesome means of activism

If you eat meat, buy animal products or do animal testing, beware: You’re at risk for being bombarded by fake blood, flour bombs or even fire.

Last week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gave an unsuspecting group of children eating at McDonald’s ‘unhappy meals’ filled with rubber chickens dyed with fake blood, meant to criticize the chain’s chicken-killing practices. Last quarter, the Animal Liberation Front took credit for firebombing UCLA researchers’ vehicles, responding to UCLA’s animal testing practices. Last year, Lindsay Lohan was hit by PETA’s flour bombs because she wears fur.

I’m vegetarian, and I’d like to call myself an animal lover, so I’m even more annoyed by the antics of some animal rights advocates than my meat-eating counterparts. Acts of violence like these get negative press, fuel outrage and are a sheer waste of time for these protesters, since they’re counterproductive.

I agree with efforts to improve the quality of life for animals. I don’t agree with the consequent violence against humans. The group UCLA Pro-Test was founded in reaction to animal rights extremists who insisted on defacing the property of researchers, eliminating any positive image animal rights activists may have once had. These extremists went so far as to threaten researchers’ families and destroy private and university vehicles.

Terrorizing consumers or even morally guilt-tripping them through grotesque brochures and videos is not going to make them vegetarian or even any more sympathetic to the plight of animals. In fact, doing so is likely to increase their skepticism and make them wary of animal rights groups. Moreover, preaching won’t convert non-vegetarians into vegetarians, but it will convert willing listeners into annoyed non-listeners.

Animal rights groups need to tap into and publicize the plethora of lesser-known but equally important reasons for eating less meat that are far more likely to garner the attention of consumers. PETA has already proved that it knows there are many reasons beyond the reduction of animal abuse for becoming vegetarian by the extensive information it provides on its sister Web site, goveg.com.

For example, eating meat is less environmentally sustainable than eating vegetarian fare. According to the Web site, ‘if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads.’

Furthermore, according to a United States Department of Agriculture study done in 2001, 90 percent of soy crops, 80 percent of corn crops and 70 percent of grain crops grown in America go toward feeding animals bred for meat. That requires about half of the U.S. water supply and 80 percent of its agricultural land. Not to mention the serious methane gas problems the animals create. If you don’t believe me, try driving through Coalinga with the windows down and you can see for yourself how bad it is.

Cutting down on your meat intake has a multitude of health benefits as well; vegetarians have stronger immune systems, are about 50 percent less likely to have heart disease, have only 40 percent of the cancer rate of non-vegetarians, and are nine times less likely to be obese as those who eat meat.

Some studies have even shown that those on a vegetarian diet grow taller than those who aren’t and also have higher IQs.

Only 3.2 percent of the U.S. population is vegetarian, making eating meat just about as popular as brushing your teeth. It’s naive to think that this statistic will change overnight, which means there needs to be increased advertisement for certified humane meat, organic milk and cage-free eggs.

If vegetarians and Vegas are serious about saving animal lives, they should support any measure of meat-reduction in another’s diet, even if it means only substituting one or two meat dishes a week. Expecting someone to quit meat cold turkey is simply unreasonable.

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