PETA Urges Government Minister to Sue Meat and Dairy Industries Over Soaring Health Costs

On the heels of an announcement by Queensland Minister for Health Lawrence Springborg that he is considering suing tobacco companies to recoup some of the estimated $6.3 billion in health costs, lost productivity and premature death from smoking, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia is entering the fray with a call of its own: sue the meat and dairy industries, too. In a letter to Springborg, PETA points out that, like cigarettes, meat and dairy products have been linked to heart disease and cancer and also to obesity and diabetes. PETA cites studies that show that vegetarians and vegans are, on average, fitter and trimmer than meat-eaters are and more likely to remain healthy. In fact, health insurance companies in the Netherlands and the UK offer discounted rates for vegetarians.

“Just like smoking, eating meat and dairy products can increase the risk of getting sick, sending your medical bills through the roof”, says PETA Australia Director of Campaigns Jason Baker. “Suing the meat and dairy companies would help replenish the treasury and also send the message that the best way to protect the well-being of animals and the humans who eat them is to go vegan.”

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PETA’s letter to Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg follows.

The Honourable Lawrence Springborg, MP
Minister for Health
GPO Box 48

Dear Mr Springborg,

On behalf of PETA Australia, an affiliate of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals US, the largest animal protection organisation in the world, I’m writing with regard to recent news reports that you are considering possible legal action against tobacco companies to help recoup the costs of illnesses related to smoking. We would like to suggest that you also consider suing the meat and dairy industries since the diseases that consumption of products derived from animals is linked to add up to a mountain of medical expenses.

The World Health Organisation has found that dietary factors account for at least 30 per cent of all cancer cases in Western countries. According to a recent report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, bacon, sausage and other processed meats are so strongly tied to bowel cancer that no one should ever eat them. Patients with advanced forms of bowel cancer – the second most common cancer in Australia – cost the healthcare system $66,000 each, on average. Other studies have linked meat consumption to breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer, and studies in England and Germany have found that meat-eaters are 40 per cent more likely to develop cancer than vegetarians are.

Vegetarians (and vegans, in particular) are significantly healthier than meat-eaters in other respects as well and are less likely to rack up huge medical bills. The US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conducted a comprehensive review of scientific studies on this issue and concluded that vegetarians “have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer”. Cardiovascular disease, which is “one of the biggest burdens on our economy” according to the National Heart Foundation of Australia, is largely preventable with a plant-based diet.

It’s not surprising that health-insurance companies in the UK and the Netherlands now offer discounted rates for vegetarians. Scott Forslund, the communications director for Premera Blue Cross, says, “The connection between a vegetarian diet and reducing the costs of these high-impact health conditions is clear as a bell”.

Holding tobacco companies accountable for medical expenses linked to smoking is a great start, but if we really want to get serious about cutting costs, we must target drumsticks as well as “cancer sticks”. Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information. Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Jason Baker
Director of Campaigns
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Australia