veganism4182898562_cfcf720592_b_wide The recent news that obesity is now going to be considered a disease by the U.S. American Medical Association could have very far reaching consequences – for individuals, doctors, insurance companies, the food and pharmaceutical industries – and animals? Maybe. There are many concerns about how this new classification of obesity is going to affect the practice of medicine, the distribution of health care dollars, and the personal investment of individuals trying to lose weight. Since this blog is about animal rights, though, I am going to let others sort out the economic and policy issues of this decision. But in terms of animal rights, this decision could make a difference. IF the focus becomes lifestyle over medicine and food choices over the latest-greatest weight loss pill, it COULD make a difference. If a vegan diet is seen as a real treatment option rather than just the choice of a few people who are concerned about animals, it COULD make a difference.

Excluding weight issues in those for whom weight gain is due to a primary medical condition (and there are some), most medical and weight-loss experts agree that weight management has to do with diet more than any other lifestyle feature. Sure, exercise is important for creating a calorie deficit and building muscle, and getting enough sleep is important for hormone balance. There are many important aspects to losing weight, but the most important by far, is WHAT WE EAT – day in, day out, month after month, year after year. And on this point, the science is clear. Individuals who consume a plant-based diet have lower body fat and cholesterol, lower bmi and blood pressure, and are at reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. It has even been shown to create conditions that may slow the human aging process. The very visible physical transformations of high profile plant eaters, such as President Bill Clinton, who is now following a diet that is very close to vegan (reports are that he occasionally eats fish), only drive home the point that eating a plant based diet is healthier. It is more conducive to weight loss and maintenance. It lowers risk for a variety of diseases that are weight related, as well as diseases that are a result of too much salt, cholesterol, or pesticide or hormone intake. No matter how much the farmed animal industry might wish to deny it, it is healthier.

The question is, with this new classification of obesity as a disease, will the patients trying to lose weight be treated differently? Will there be more of a focus on a healthier diet? Will physicians educate their patients on the benefits of a plant based diet? – assuming, of course, that they physicians are themselves educated on the issue. Will the interests of science and medicine be able to stand up to the farm and pharm lobbies, who will be only too happy to try and breed a lower fat cow or whip up a new weight-loss drug?

IF the emphasis can be focused on individual lifestyle choices, IF people are willing to see the reality which is supported by science, and IF the desire of people to lose weight and be healthier is stronger than the influence of the groups who do not want to hear about the benefits of a plant based diet because it hurts their bottom line, then yes, there is a chance that this latest reclassification of obesity as a disease could not only end up helping many people, but many animals as well.


If we asked everyone who works in any capacity towards ending animal suffering, my guess is that many would say the work brings a lot of fulfillment. It also brings a lot of pain. Unable to go through life in ignorant bliss, we know, see, and hear things that many of our fellow world citizens will never know. Whether on factory farms, in shelters, fur farms, the oceans, or in laboratories, immense suffering is all around us, and sometimes when we can’t sleep at night, we know why – we are haunted by the memories, the images, the sounds–of suffering. I have had several occasions recently to speak with others on the journey who have expressed a feeling of overload – the bad news has just been too much lately. So that knowledge, combined with the fact that it is approaching the end of the week, and that summer has begun for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, inspired me to look for some good news to share. And I am happy to say I found some – a good amount, in fact. So much that I had to make decisions about which links to include and which to leave out. How’s that for good news?

So here are some recent and hope-inspiring developments in the continuing fight for our fellow creatures

In laboratories

The European Union banned cosmetics with animal tested ingredients

Harvard University is closing its primate research center

The USA’s National Institutes of Health is expected to release to sanctuary most of the 451 chimpanzees currently in research facilities

Support for vivisection is dropping, especially among young adults (USA survey)

Our companions

The American Board of Veterinary Specialties has designated a new specialty in the College of Animal Welfare, and the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists has an Animal Welfare Chapter

More than 2,000 US stores representing all 50 states will no longer sell puppy mill puppies and will promote adoption instead

The city of Toronto, Canada has banned pet stores from selling puppy mill puppies and kitten mill kittens

Israel has banned the declawing of cats

In the wild

Japan had its worst whale-murdering season ever thanks largely to the efforts of the Sea Shepherd Society

Poaching in Kenya will be classified as a capital crime, eligible for a life sentence

Unarmed drones to monitor poachers will soon be a critical tool in the war against poaching

Bolivia, Peru, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Greece have all banned wild animal circus exploitation, Portugal and Denmark are on the way to banning, and the UK will probably not be far behind

The hideous atrocity of torturing moon bears for their bile has been exposed for all the world to see – and pressure is mounting on the few remaining countries to stop

Factory farms

In vitro meat is coming and may put an end to killing animals for human consumption

The agri industry’s attempt to hide the truth about the horrific cruelties on factory farms (knows as AgGag laws) will ultimately not stand

Gestation crates for sows are being phased out all over Canada

Several major food companies, such as Burger King, Kroger’s and Chili’s, will be phasing out their use of suppliers who do not follow a no-gestation crate practice