Planning a weekend picnic? You might want to skip the ham sandwiches, unless you like a little listeria with your mustard and Swiss cheese. California’s Demes Gourmet Corporation recently recalled 1,800 pounds of hams that may be contaminated with listeria–a potentially deadly bug that can cause flu-like symptoms, meningitis and blood infections. Eighty-eight percent of people who are seriously infected with listeria end up in the hospital and 25 percent die.
Listeria isn’t the only nasty ingredient lurking in your ham. Every single bite contains a hearty dose of animal suffering. On a typical factory farm, pigs are crammed into crates barely larger than their own bodies, pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, fed offal and other junk, and then unceremoniously shipped to slaughter. Each year, 92 million pigs are killed in the United States alone.
And don’t forget that meat consumption has been linked to heart disease, cancer, obesity and many other debilitating diseases. Studies have shown that vegetarians are 30 percent less likely to suffer from heart disease than are their meat-eating counterparts, and 40 percent less likely to die from cancer.
Fortunately, consumers can still enjoy “ham” sandwiches without incurring health risks or promoting animal abuse. Health food stores and most large supermarkets sell a variety of vegetarian deli slices by companies like Lightlife and Yves Veggie Cuisine that have all the taste of the “real thing”–but none of the added cruelty or contaminants.