Meat: Not Suitable for Children

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 Shock
The 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.

Confidential 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.

Feeding 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.

Bacterial Contamination
While 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 Bacteria
Our 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 You
Meat 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 corporate dollar.”

Industrial-Strength Toxins
You 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 children.

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.

Today, 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 Health
Research 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 their diets.

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 graduation ceremony.

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.

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  • JM commented on November 30, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    This is a very interesting article. I especially agree with the part about increased physical and mental stamina. Everyone seems to think that a vegetarian diet will decrease energy but I’ve found it to be just the opposite. It’s important to find ways to make vegetables appealing to kids, like through yummy green smoothies.

  • margot commented on December 11, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Thank you, It was very interesting.

  • kindle commented on December 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    You people are biased. What about those same toxins and poisons that are sprayed onto fruits and vegetables to make them ripen more quickly. You as a vegetarian are exposed to the same amount of toxins, or maybe even more. Red meat is good for you.

  • Sarah commented on February 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Toxins, pesticides, and chemicals aren’t on plants if you buy organic, nor are organic plants GMOs, because that is the definition of organic. Also, if you do buy non-organic plants, you can wash the plants really well and hope to get most of the chemicals off. You can’t wash the hormones, antibiotics, and other gross stuff off of meat. And red meat is not good for you, as this article is all about…

  • Meaty commented on April 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Organic meat doesn’t contain those harmful things either and eating it in appropriate amounts is not bad for you. Disagreeing with something ethically doesn’t mean you need to resort to distorting the truth to accomplish your goals.

  • Dani commented on April 14, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I am a vegetarian and intend to be vegan, this article has given me the movitvation to see it through, thank you!! I also think that eating meat is disgusting and wrong and people should face the facts rather than ignore them or find ways around the truth.

  • Chuck commented on May 14, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Eating meat will not hurt children. There are more chemicals in your little “vegitarian meal” than in my cheeseburger. parasites are found in all vegetables from the store.
    Animal cruelty is no reason to stop eating meat, or force children to stop eating meat especially when they need it most.

    Also-hunting has nothing to do with animal cruelty. If you use the right gun, the animal will die painlessly. If you eat all the meat, and do not kill baby or endangered animals you do no harm whatsoever. The deer population would increase greatly if it wasnt for hunters, would you want a deer eating your plants?

  • Charlie commented on July 8, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Yes Chuck, eating meat will hurt your children. Did you not ready any of the article above? Meat is treated with ammonia as well as with all the other hormones and toxins mentioned, while vegetables are not treated with none such harmful chemicals. Parasites cannot thrive on plant matter for long periods of time like they can on meat. Meat decays at a faster rate (meat decays in you and your children’s stomach) and there for releases more carbon based toxins, which diseases and parasites often thrive on. Eating meat will affect your children’s health, in both the short and long term. Humans have the intestinal track of herbivores. Even though we can digest meat, that does not mean we should consume it; we can also digest cardboard. Our teeth, intestines, hands, instincts, and dietary needs are all those of herbivores. It is impossible for true omnivores and carnivores to have clogged arteries due to the cholesterol in meat. However, the number one killer in the United States today is heart disease, which is connected to clogged arteries, obesity, and high cholesterol, all of which come from the consumption of meat. We are not designed to consume meat. Our bodies are designed to digest plant matter much easier and much safer. Your children will benefit greatly from a vegetarian diet, along with all the animals that will not be cruelly slaughtered for their unjust and unneeded consumption.

  • Lize commented on October 2, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Cool article, I just have one comment regarding the higher IQ of kids/people who become vegan/vegetarian – I think it is more likely that people who go vegetarian/vegan have higher IQ’s to begin with than someone who doesn’t. Going vegetarian shows you have the ability to think for yourself and make decisions based on what you have concluded in the face of mainstream diets and opinions. But I do definitely agree what is good for your body (veggies, not animal products) must be good for your brain seeing that it is kind of an inseparable part of the rest of you, so it will obviously continue to have benefits on your brain over the years! 🙂

  • fajer aldoseri commented on March 3, 2015 at 9:13 am

    my opinion is that children and adults should develop vegetarianism, because its the best for our health …

  • beza commented on July 20, 2015 at 12:38 am

    I like this

  • joshuagomezz commented on October 21, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    stop eatting meat

  • Maria commented on March 1, 2016 at 6:27 am

    This is a very interesting article. I especially agree with the part about increased physical and mental stamina. Everyone seems to think that a vegetarian diet will decrease energy but I’ve found it to be just the opposite. It’s important to find ways to make vegetables appealing to kids, like through yummy green smoothies.

  • karyurde commented on March 15, 2016 at 8:45 am

    what children should eat to help their growth ?