Eat this, pay more on insurance... Photo: thebittenword.com
Even if you disagree with the point they're trying to make, you've got to admire the chutzpah of PETA. The well known animal rights group is calling on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont to raise insurance premiums for people who eat meat and lower them for those people who don't. This is based on the oft-claimed benefits of vegetarian diet such as lower chances of getting cancer, diabetes, heart disease; plus issues related to recent meat contamination in the state.
Despite the suggestion by PETA Executive Director Tracy Reiman that ultimately such a move would save the insurance company money, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont effectively passed the buck and dodged the health question:Vermont Law Wouldn't Prevent Such Rate Shifts
"Under Vermont law, we would not be allowed to vary rates based on the dietary and nutritional habits of various members," said Kevin Goddard, Blue Cross's vice president of external affairs. He did, however, say that Blue Cross is always looking to have the healthiest members possible, but "we have no information one way or the other if vegetarians are more healthy." (WPTZ)
PETA's Claims About Vegetarianism Are Accurate...
Full disclosure: I am a vegetarian and (despite a recent period of meat-eating undertaken because I felt at the time that supporting local agriculture trumped other concerns at the time) have been so for a long while. Pragmatically and ethically I believe it be the right thing to do for yourself and for the environment as a whole.
I think that, unless they have consciously not looked for it, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is being disingenuous in saying that have no information on the health benefits of decreasing meat consumption in the diet. The environmental and health benefits of eating lower on the food chain are numerous and well documented.
...But The Presentation is All Wrong
That said, this move by PETA is probably the exact type of publicity that vegetarianism doesn't need. Leaving aside the genuine issue of how such a rate plan would be implemented with any degree of transparency—"yeah, yeah I don't eat meat; gimme the lower rate"—all this does is push people away from the idea. It may not push anyone considering cutting out meat off the fence towards greater carnivorous behavior, but it certainly doesn't help them over it.
It's an environmental (and I'd say cultural) imperative that the level of "normal" meat consumption be lowered in the United States, but this sort of move isn't the way to help along such a paradigm shift.