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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: PETA says Clinton's vegan diet will save 200 animals annually

The statement

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals estimates 200 animals will be spared annually as the result of former President Bill Clinton adopting a vegan diet.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in an article

The ruling

Former President Bill Clinton was well-known for his appetites while at the White House.

But last year the former chief executive shocked America with a real dietary stunner. Clinton announced he was giving up meat and dairy and undertaking a vegan diet. Following a vegan diet means Clinton will not eat any product that comes from animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals responded by naming Clinton its "Man of the Year," saying: "By choosing a plant-based diet, President Clinton has spared the lives of nearly 200 animals a year."

Did they say 200?

A PETA spokeswoman admitted the group has no way of knowing how many animals were slaughtered to satiate Clinton's carnivorous cravings. Instead, the organization conducted a study that determined the average meat-eating American is responsible for the deaths of 198 animals annually.

It used statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other groups to calculate the total number of animals raised in the United States and imported for American consumption. PETA then divided the total number of butchered animals by the U.S. population, minus the estimated number of vegetarians and vegans, of course.

It didn't count eggs. But it did count every chicken, cow, pig, fish and duck. But — and this is where it gets a bit murky — PETA also counted shrimp, clams, lobsters, oysters, scallops and any other animals that died as part of dairy and meat production.

Chris Hurt, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, said this sounds like a reasonable approach and could provide an accurate average. But he still thinks the way PETA used the number is misleading.

The USDA estimates the average American eats about 85 pounds of chicken, 58 pounds of beef, 46 pounds of pork, 16 pounds of turkey, 1 1/2 pounds of veal and 1 pound of lamb each year. Hurt estimated — and he stressed estimated — that comes to about 30 animals per year, well short of PETA's 200 number.

That means, Hurt said, that the vast majority of the animals killed would have to be small sea creatures for PETA's estimate to stand.

So PETA's statement is technically accurate, but it leaves out important details. That's our definition of Half True.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: PETA says Clinton's vegan diet will save 200 animals annually 08/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 8:04pm]
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