The stark contrast between our frenzied reaction to unfamiliar hazards and our reckless tolerance of familiar ones never ceases to amaze me.
The current incidence of swine flu, which killed five Americans, has captured the headlines, canceled public events and closed dozens of schools. At the same time, we have blithely continued our consumption of meat and dairy products, which has been linked conclusively with elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases that kill 1.3 million Americans annually.
But it's not just about chronic diseases. According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to catastrophic floods, droughts and sea level rises, which threaten human survival. It uses more fresh water and dumps more deadly wastes into our water supplies than all other human activities combined.
Each of us has a shared responsibility for our society's health and welfare. The best time to exercise this responsibility is on our next trip to the supermarket, where we can explore the rich variety of meat-free and dairy-free, ready-to-eat frozen dinners, veggie burgers and dogs, lunch "meats," and plant-based cheese, ice cream and milk. Helpful transition hints and recipes galore are available at www.tryveg.org and www.chooseveg.org.