On Bipeds & Brutes

National Museum of Animals & Society Blog

Vegetarian Athletes Go Pro

Prince Fielder. Click for source.

Prince Fielder. Click for source.

Though there are no conclusive studies as of yet which show that a vegetarian diet improves athletic performance, neither are there studies which prove that a diet including meat does so. You don’t have to be an animal-lover to realize from the following examples that a meatless diet can be the best decision an athlete or just a physically active person can make.

With the major league baseball playoffs now in full swing, the Milwaukee Brewers are relying on their hulking all-star first baseman Prince Fielder to smash homeruns. Weighing in at 275lbs. on a frame that is under six feet tall, at first glance Fielder looks like your stereotypical massive steak consumer. But Fielder is actually more introspective than this image portrays. Never much of a carnivore, he gave up meat entirely after conversations with his wife Chanel, who gave him the diet book Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Since beginning his animal-friendly diet, Fielder’s homerun production has seen no major drop off, while his overall performance and durability during the grind of a 162-game season have improved, making him even more valuable to his team as they vie for a spot in the 2011 World Series.

In 2007, NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. After reading T. Colin Campbell’s nutrition exposé The China Study and taking advice from outside medical personnel, Gonzalez switched over to a vegan diet. The elimination of animal products from the diet is believed by some to help alleviate the symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Gonzalez is a sure-fire hall-of-famer who, at 6 feet 5 inches and 245lbs., can still dunk a basketball with ease while being weighted down with all of his football gear. He says he initially lost some of his strength and endurance, as well 10lbs. So he did what many athletes do: he started juicing. But this is not juicing in the steroid sense, but juicing as in the Jack La Lanne infomercial sense. He was quickly back up to his preferred playing weight and is currently catching passes and scoring touchdowns as well as he ever has. Even in a contact sport such as football, it would seem a meat-based diet is not necessary for success.

Animals in Domestic Abuse Shelters Help Humans To Heal

Therapy dogs. Image via Wikipedia.

Therapy dogs. Image via Wikipedia.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and though violence in the home is tragic, there are stories of triumph that are important to learn about as well. When someone flees their home due to domestic violence, often they have to do so with little more than just the clothes on their backs. This is clearly a trying time as they are separated not only from their homes but also from loved ones, as they must avoid providing clues as to their whereabouts while escaping from their abusive partners or guardians. This is where a little-known type of therapy animal steps in. Domestic abuse shelters are increasingly employing dogs and cats to lift the spirits of adults and children who have fled abusive environments.

Many people already know that dogs and cats are used in hospitals and rest homes in order to bring love and comfort to the patients and residents. Domestic abuse shelters are now implementing a similar strategy. Studies have shown that interaction with an animal can lower blood pressure, battle depression, and help increase mental stability. Also, for those who had to leave their pets behind, having a therapy animal in the shelter brings a little bit of home to an unfamiliar place.

Safe Horizon, an advocacy organization for victims of domestic violence, explains why therapy animals are so beneficial: they don’t judge, they just love. Also, “a physically or sexually abused child may not want anyone – not even their non-offending parent – to touch them. Yet they will want to pet, hold, or even hug a dog or cat.” The animal can also provide a non-threatening presence to whom the child may verbally communicate feelings. Somewhat like when a child speaks through a doll to let go of secrets and feelings, when the child talks to a therapy animal s/he does so with his or her guard down because the child knows that the animal doesn’t understand the specific words. The child can say anything s/he needs to release and not fear having it come back.

This is just another example of how animals can bring joy and peace into the lives of humans in a multitude of ways.