My Open Letter to President Obama

January 20, 2009

President Barack Obama
Office of the President
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW
Washington, DC  20006

Dear President Barack Obama:

On behalf of the Veg Climate Alliance (, a group that represents the views of many environmental, health-related, vegetarian, animal rights and other groups in promoting a societal shift to plant-based diets as an essential step in responding to global warming and other current threats, I want to join many other people of good will in congratulating you on your historic election and wishing you the best of luck in all of your future activities. 

In this critical time, when the US and the entire world face so many serious problems, we, along with so many others have been very impressed by your initial efforts to address today's urgent issues, and we wish you continued success.

We would like to very respectfully suggest an action that is seldom considered by our leaders, but one that can help dramatically in responding to many of today's threats  -- that you (and possibly your wonderful family) seriously consider switching toward a vegetarian diet and that you urge the American people to also sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products. This would be consistent with your desire to reduce diseases by stressing  prevention and the recent statement of Chicago Health Commissioner Terry Mason, whom you know, encouraging Chicagoans to join him in going vegetarian for at least January, 2009.

In your response to Nikki Benoit, that young lady in the “Vegan Outreach” T-shirt (, you showed that you are well aware of the issues. As you pointed out in that response, “Americans would benefit [health wise] from a change of diet.” At a time when there is an epidemic of diseases related to animal-based diets and medical costs are soaring, a shift to plant-based diets would reduce medical costs, and thereby help reduce the massive budget deficits that are currently projected and help enable you to carry out your objectives of providing tax cuts, improving our nation's infrastructure, and creating good jobs.

In your response, you also indicated that current food system is under enormous pressure in that so much grain is being fed to animals at a time when hunger is spreading, food prices are soaring and there have already been food riots in Haiti and other poor countries. In addition, at a time when droughts are spreading and increasing numbers of people will soon live in areas chronically short of clean water, an animal-based diet requires up to 14 times as much water as a vegan diet. Perhaps most important, as we increasingly see the effects of global climate change and when some climate scientists are projecting that global warming could spin out of control within a few years, with potentially disastrous consequences, unless major changes soon occur, a 2006 UN report “Livestock's Long Shadow” indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars, planes, ships and other means of transportation worldwide combined (18% vs. 13.5%).  That UN report projects that the number of farmed animals will double in the next 50 years, with the result that the increased greenhouse gas emissions would negate many positive changes and make it almost impossible to reach the greenhouse gas emission reductions that you and others seek.

As you know, in 2007, eleven retired U/S. generals and admirals indicated that global warming, by increasing the number of hungry, thirsty refugees fleeing global warming-related droughts, storms, flooding, diseases and wildfires, makes instability, violence, terrorism and war more likely. Hence, a societal shift toward plant-based diets could help you accomplish your desire to reduce terrorism and reach a more peaceful, harmonious world.

So, in many ways, a dietary shift by you and an education campaign to increase awareness of the urgency of a major shift toward plant-based diets would be a great step toward reaching many of your goals.

In addition, your response to Nikki Benoit mentioned the importance of getting more fruits and vegetables into school lunch programs and subsidizing healthier plant-based foods rather than animal products and processed foods, so we also hope you will follow up on these important initiatives.

One other thought: as you get a dog for your charming daughters, they would probably be happy to know that switching to nutritious, delicious plant-based foods can reduce the current mistreatment and slaughter of ten billion farmed animals in the US annually. 

Thank you for your kind consideration. We would be very happy to provide further information and/or help in any other way. We believe that the future of the US and, indeed all future generations depends on your putting our suggestions into practice.

Very respectfully,

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and over 150 articles located at He is President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) at, Director of the Veg Climate Alliance at www.vegclimatealliance.orgs, President of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV) at, and can be contacted via