From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:

NEW YORK, N.Y.––”In the wake of
the Oprah Winfrey beef victory,” Animal Rights
International announced on March 4, “new
research reveals that nearly two-thirds (63%) of the
public think the meat, poultry, and egg industries
should be held liable for illnesses and deaths
caused by their products.”
Commissioned by ARI, the telephone
survey of 1,006 adults was conducted in late
February 1998 by Opinion Research Corporation
International, of Princeton, New Jersey.
“Also reacting to the Centers for Disease
Control’s findings that 4,500 Americans die each
year from tainted meat, poultry and eggs, and that
five million more become ill,” the ARI release
continued, “two out of five (43%) agreed that
meat, poultry, and eggs should be labeled ‘potentially
hazardous,’ with warnings similar to those
required on tobacco products.

“Sixty-two percent of the public feel that
most people would be healthier if they ate less
meat. “ Three out of four, the opinion survey
found (74%), “would be likely to eat more vegetarian
meals if delicious vegetarian food was as
widely available as fast food.”
The ARI survey also found that Oprah
Winfrey’s noted antipathy toward beef may be
shared more by Afro-Americans than by any other
segment of the public. After the examples of vegetarian
civil rights activist and comedian Dick
Gregory, and many top Afro-American athletes,
the 98 Afro-American respondents were twice as
likely as all others to be already vegetarians (4%
compared to 2%). Eighty-one percent of the AfroAmericans
agreed they would eat more vegetarian
meals if good vegetarian food was readily available,
along with 78% of the Hispanic respondents,
none of whom were already vegetarian.
Both minority responses were more
favorable than the Caucasian response, although
72% of Caucasians also said they would eat more
vegetarian meals.
Two-thirds of Afro-Americans (67%)
and more than half of Hispanics (56%) agreed that
meat and dairy products should be labeled “potentially
hazardous,” against only 39% of Caucasians.
Responses to questions as to whether the
meat, poultry, and egg industries should be held
liable for illnesses and deaths caused by their products
and whether most people would be healthier if
they ate less meat were virtually uniform across
racial and ethnic groups, within ranges of 60%-
63% and 62%-68%, respectively.
Afro-Americans were, however, about a
third more likely to not only agree but “strongly
agree” with each statement.
Similar findings have emerged from
other surveys of American attitudes toward food.
Researchers usually attribute the popularity of vegetarianism
among Afro-Americans to the influence
of Seventh Day Adventist religion: about half of
all Adventists are vegetarians, and about half of
them are of African descent. But there seem to be
at least 1.1 million Afro-American vegetarians––
and only about 800,000 members of all Adventist
churches, counting Afro, Caucasian, and “other.”
Asked to comment, Afro-American
wildlife-related crime investigator Carroll Cox of
EnviroWatch pointed out that Winfrey and Gregory
are as influential among Afro-Americans as they
are in part because, “It is not difficult for us to go
vegetarian if we stick with our traditional diet.”
As a child in rural Missisippi, Cox
recalled, “We had no refrigeration. With no ability
to freeze anything, we couldn’t keep meat or dairy
products. We didn’t have the income to buy meat,
either. My grandma made $15 a week as a cook.
The rest of us were field hands. We’d get up at
four o’clock in the morning and chop cotton until
the sun went down. We didn’t have money for
grain, or the time or land to manage a pig or cow.
The bulk of our diet, and I mean for 90% of our
people, was tomato gravy soup, biscuits, oatcakes,
corn, and we’d wrap up a sweet potato and
take it out into the fields with us for lunch.”
The Cox family, and other rural AfroAmerican
families, grew most of their own food in
a small garden patch. They got meat when uncles
would slaughter pigs for Caucasian neighbors and
be given the ears, tails, and intestines, or when
Cox and other lads would be hired at 50¢ a day to
retrieve doves for bird shooters, and would be
given the most mangled carcasses.
“We got into heavy meat-eating after we
went up north and became more prosperous,” Cox
said. “Then we could afford bad habits.”
Paradoxically, the major U.S. vegetarian
societies and national animal protection groups
which espouse vegetarianism have among them not
even one Afro-American senior executive or ranking
board member, and––five years after A N IMAL
PEOPLE pointed out the lack with our
January 1993 lead feature––still have no programs
specifically addressing Afro-Americans.

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