European Vegetarian Union

written/translated by: Georgia Blackwell

Open Letter to Mr. Kofi Annan

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

On the occasion of a WHO/FAO meeting in Rome, the FAO distributed a press release, dated 18 May 2006, stating that "the EU diet has gradually deteriorated and has become too rich in fats, particularly saturated fats, sugar and cholesterol," thus contributing to the dramatic situation that 400,000 more children become overweight every year.

Rampant obesity threatens Europeans with heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, arthritis and certain types of cancer.

Also in the USA, public health is dangerously undermined by the continuing increase in the number of overweight people in the last decade.

During a conference in Brussels on 11-12 May 2006, EU and US have joined forces and developed a common strategy against obesity, which is described by Markos Kyprianou, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, as the "biggest health threat of the twenty first century". (1)

Sedentary lifestyles certainly play a role in this dramatic situation but, also according the FAO's explanations, diet is a main culprit.

If they are so dangerous, why do people buy an excessive amount of fatty animal products?

The EU-agriculture policy which heavily subsidizes all but vegetable products may be one of the reasons why consumers prefer cholesterol-laden food stuffs over healthier but more expensive fruit and vegetables.

The situation in the US is similar. Mark Muller, Director of Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Environment and Agriculture program (2), comments: "If we want to seriously deal with obesity, let's create markets that promote healthy food production and consumption. Right now, farm policy is doing just the opposite."

It is becoming clearer by the day that the research and promotion of alternatives to the traditional meat-based nutrition is long overdue and therefore the undersigned vegetarian organizations appreciate UN's fight against weight. However, we would like to invite FAO/WHO experts to take also the next step, namely examining the benefits of a healthy vegetarian diet (3) which, among many other advantages,

- removes saturated fats and replaces them with antioxidants and fibre

- reduces cholesterol which is only found in animal products

- considerably reduces or even eliminates a great variety of health threats

- may result in weight loss (vegetarians have been shown to be leaner on average than the general population).

Mr. Secretary General, we stand ready to support any of the United Nation initiatives leading to a promotion of the beneficial and compassionate vegetarian lifestyle which will bring better health to humans and play a crucial part in building a more wholesome world for all.

Yours sincerely

Renato Pichler
European Vegetarian Union


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