Everyone wants to do what's best for their kids, but many
well-meaning parents don't know that meat can contain dangerous toxins and that
feeding meat to their children increases the odds that their kids will become obese
and develop life-threatening diseases.
Toxic ShockThe vast majority of meat and fish in supermarkets today contains
one or more of the following types of contaminants: antibiotics, hormones, heavy metals, or other toxins. These
contaminants are bad enough for adults, but they can be especially harmful to
children whose bodies are still growing and developing.
Cattle raised on U.S. factory farms are dosed with
hormones and other animals are fed large amounts of antibiotics in order to
make them grow more quickly and to keep them alive in filthy, severely crowded
conditions that would otherwise kill them. Feeding the drug-tainted flesh of
these animals to our kids is risky—children's small bodies are especially
vulnerable to antibiotic and hormone residues.
The risk to children is so great that many other countries
have banned the use of antibiotics and hormones in animals who are raised and
killed for food. In 1998, for example, the European Union outlawed the use of
growth-promoting antibiotics in farmed animals. In the U.S., however, most
farmers continue to administer powerful growth-stimulating steroids to cattle and
antibiotics to all animals raised for food, and it is very likely that our
children are ingesting these drugs every time they take a bite of chicken,
pork, fish, or beef.
HormonesConfidential industry reports to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration show that beef contains high levels of hormones and that these
hormones are especially dangerous to children. The Cancer Prevention Coalition
warns, "No dietary levels of hormones are safe, and a dime-sized piece of
meat contains billions of millions of [hormone] molecules."
The negative consequences of feeding meat to children were
clearly shown in the early 1980s when thousands of children in Puerto Rico experienced premature sexual growth and
developed painful ovarian cysts. The culprit was meat from cattle who had been
treated with growth-promoting sex hormones. Meat-based diets may also be to
blame for the early sexual development of young girls in the U.S.: Nearly
half of all African-American girls and about 15 percent of Caucasian girls now
enter puberty when they are just 8 years old.
AntibioticsFeeding meat to children exposes them to powerful drugs that
have not been prescribed by their pediatricians. Roughly 70 percent of the
antibiotics used in the U.S.
each year are given to animals on factory farms. On factory farms across America today,
the antibiotics that we depend on to treat human illnesses are being used to
promote growth in animals and keep them alive in horrific conditions.
The fact that people are exposed to these drugs whenever
they consume meat is not the only cause for concern: The American Medical
Association and other health groups warn that the overuse of antibiotics can lead
to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. In other words,
the abuse of powerful pharmaceuticals has spurred the evolution of countless
new strains of antibiotic-resistant "super-bacteria." This means that
when you get sick, the drugs that your doctor prescribes may no longer work.
Children are particularly vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant
bacteria because their immune systems are not fully developed. As new
antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread into the meat supply, we can no longer
count on antibiotics to fight common childhood illnesses.
ContaminationWhile the hormones and antibiotics in meat may slowly sicken
your children, the bacteria found in animal products can strike quickly and
unexpectedly. If your children consume bacteria-contaminated meat, it will at
best make your children sick; at worst, it can kill them.
If you're giving animal flesh to your children, you're potentially
exposing them to pathogens such as E.
coli, listeria, and campylobacter. Meat recalls and news stories about children
who have died after eating contaminated animal flesh are now commonplace. Much
of the meat from the 10 billion cows, pigs, and birds who are slaughtered for
food in the U.S.
every year is contaminated with fecal bacteria. Children are especially
vulnerable to bacterial infections from meat because their immune systems often
aren't strong enough to muster a defense.
The Spread of
Antibiotic-Resistant BacteriaOur intestinal tracts are home to healthy bacteria that help
us digest our food, but eating meat that is tainted with antibiotic-resistant
bacteria can cause our own "good" bacteria to turn against us.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham Medical School in the U.K. found
that antibiotic-resistant bacteria from contaminated meat can cause the normal
bacteria in our intestines to mutate into harmful strains. These harmful
bacteria can survive in our guts and cause illness many years later.
What the Government
Doesn't Tell YouMeat recalls are voluntary and the meat industry is vastly
underregulated, so you can't count on the government to watch out for the
safety of your children. According to an investigation conducted by The Philadelphia
Inquirer, "The United States' flawed meat-inspection system, which
relies heavily on self-policing by the industry, discourages aggressive
enforcement by government inspectors and often fails to protect consumers until
it is too late."
There have been countless cases of children who died after eating
contaminated meat, and their grieving parents often find themselves pitted
against an industry that apparently cares more about profits than consumer
safety. Suzanne Kiner, whose 9-year-old daughter endured three strokes, 10,000
seizures, and a 189-day hospital stay after she ate a hamburger contaminated
with E. coli, says, "You just
want to tell the meat producers and the Department of Agriculture to shape up.
The industry needs to make wiser decisions—not ones solely based on chasing the
ToxinsYou would never feed your child a meal laced with mercury,
PCBs, lead, arsenic, pesticides, or industrial-strength fire retardants. But if
you're serving tuna, salmon, or fish sticks to your family, you could be
dishing up all these toxins—and more. The U.S. government has already issued
advisories warning parents about the many dangers that fish flesh poses to
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 600,000
of the children born in 2000 are at risk for developing learning difficulties
because their pregnant or nursing mothers were exposed to mercury through the
consumption of fish. Fish flesh is a veritable toxic-waste dump, and feeding
fish to children can have tragic results.
ObesityToday, 9 million American children over the age of 6 are
overweight, and two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. We all know that
excess weight takes a toll on our physical health, but overweight children also
face the psychological trauma of being teased and excluded by their peers. The physical
burden and emotional stress of being the "fat kid" can have
devastating effects on your child's well-being.
Fortunately, feeding children a balanced vegetarian diet can
help them maintain a healthy weight and feel and look their best.
Brain HealthResearch shows that meat consumption may also adversely
affect children's mental abilities in both the short and the long term and
indicates that a meat-free diet can give children an academic edge in their
grade-school years. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that while
American children have an average IQ of 99, the average IQ of vegetarian
children is 116.
Dr. Antonia Demas, a world-renowned researcher and president
of the Food Studies Institute, is a longtime advocate of a meat-free diet for
children. Dr. Demas' "Food Is Elementary" nutritional program now
provides healthy, plant-based foods to kids in 60 schools in 12 states.
Officials at one school district in Florida that implemented the program were astounded
by the positive changes that they saw in students who eliminated meat from
According to an article published in The Miami Herald, some students at Bay Point School, a public school for troubled
youth, saw substantial increases in their grades after they went vegetarian—one
student's GPA jumped from a 1.6 to a 3.4! Speaking about his new meat-free
diet, another student said, "I'd look at a rib, and I'd look at a
vegetable, and I'd think, 'Why is my mind picking the vegetable?'"
Mary Louise Cole, the founder of Bay Point School, agrees that vegetarian diets
have increased the physical and mental stamina of her students. She says,
"They seem to have a lot more energy—they don't have the down times."
The students also saw dramatic improvements in their
athletic performances after they cut meat out of their diets. Gabriel Saintvil,
a senior at the school, was astonished by the improvement in his athletic
ability. He says, "I used to get tired when I ran laps or lifted weights.
Now I get endurance and keep on doing it." Several students even spoke
about the positive impacts of their new meat-free diets at the school's
Dr. Demas' nutritional program demonstrates what vegetarian
parents have long known: Kids often speed to the head of the class when they eliminate meat from their diets.
Make a difference for your kids and yourself today! Take PETA's Pledge to Be Vegan for 30
Days and try a vegetarian
diet for yourself and your family for one month. We can provide all the tips
and recipes that you'll need to get started.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.