MANILA, Philippines?Here?s the latest challenge leveled at President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: Fight the hunger crisis by going vegetarian.
The challenge was made Thursday by the group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who said that most of the crops in the Philippines and the rest of the world were being grown to feed, not humans, but livestock to be later killed for their meat.
?Adopting a vegetarian diet and publicly advocating the same would do far more than any photo op. It would set a great example and show a deep commitment to ending the food crisis in the Philippines as well as world hunger,? Jason Baker, PETA?s Manila-based director for the Asia-Pacific, said in a letter sent Thursday to the President.
In a press statement, Baker said that ?eating meat from farmed animals?more than anything else?takes desperately needed grain out of the mouths of the country?s very poorest people.?
?In light of the food crisis, we ask President Arroyo to lead the fight against hunger by adopting a vegetarian diet,? he said.
PETA also listed the numerous health benefits of kicking the meat habit, including fewer heart attacks, decreased incidence of cancer, and smaller waistlines.
Founded in 1980 and based in Norfolk, Virginia, in the United States, PETA and its affiliated organizations claim more than 1.8 million members and supporters worldwide.
In the letter to Ms Arroyo, a copy of which was furnished the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Baker said the world was growing enough crops to feed every human, except that food that could be used to nourish hungry people was being fed instead to billions of chickens, pigs and cows grown for their meat.
?What you may not know is that by raising animals for food, we?re condemning people in the Philippines and around the world to starvation. Animals raised for food consume nearly one billion metric tons of food ... every year?that?s enough to feed about half the world?s population,? Baker told the President.
In addition to being extremely cruel to animals, meat production is also ?staggeringly inefficient,? he said, adding that it could take up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat.
Baker quoted the President?s own words in challenging her to show her leadership.
?Your moral invocation that ?poverty and inequity are the main culprits that [threaten] our peace, our stability and the ability to sustain our growth? is absolutely correct. And you?ve said in the past that ?the only way to build a brighter future for the Philippines is leadership by example.? Will you now lead the Philippines in the charge against hunger by going vegetarian and advocating a vegetarian diet?? he said.
Freedom of choice
Baker said PETA was ready to meet with Ms Arroyo to discuss the group?s suggestions on efficient food production.
But in Malacańang, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said it was unlikely that his boss would shift to a vegetarian diet just to set an example for the rest of the populace.
?The President is one who believes in freedom of choice,? Bunye said at a press briefing when asked to comment on PETA?s challenge.
?Her reaction will be tempered. You cannot impose on others,? he said, adding that some people had ?diet restrictions? and some were free to choose what to eat.
Bunye, however, volunteered the information that some Cabinet members had gone vegetarian.
He named Conrado ?Dodie? Limcauco, head of the Philippine Information Agency, as an example of Cabinet members who are ?non-meat eaters and non-carnivores.? With a report from Michael Lim Ubac