[Prison Food] Could there be stranger bedfellows than PETA and people doing time in prison?
Believe me, the animal-loving vegans at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals see the irony. Nonetheless, they have cheerfully aligned themselves with some of America's most violent people in recognizing several state prisons for the animal-friendly foods being served to inmates.
PETA, based in Norfolk, Va., recently surveyed state prisons in all 50 states to determine how animal-friendly their institutional menus are. Newsweek decided to write about the effort in the Dec. 17 issue. PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt says while not all corrections officials responded, "most were receptive." Utah's Division of Corrections ranks sixth in the animal-rights organization's survey for systems that offer the most vegetarian and vegan options to prisoners, says Rajt.
"Utah is very progressive in offering its prisoners delicious meat-free items," says Rajt. "It's pretty standard fare nowadays for most prisons to offer veggie burgers and dogs, but we gave extra points to states like Utah for being imaginative."
Well, who knew that the words "progressive" and "Utah" would land back-to-back on PETA's agenda--or anyone's agenda, for that matter?
At our own beloved Point of the Mountain, the Big House offers veggie meatballs, tofu and veggie chow mein, rice and tofu casseroles and other "delicious" options, Rajt says.
Guess what? Our own redneck neighbor to the north--Idaho (ironically, it's shaped like a pork chop)--ranked first in the PETA rankings. Massachusetts, Hawaii and yes, North Dakota also fall in the top 10.
I called state corrections spokesman Jack Ford for a comment on this big accolade, but he didn't phone back yet. He will. I know it's something our state prison would want to trumpet. My skepticism tells me it's much cheaper to feed the cons a starchy, soy-based diet (soy's shelf life, as most vegans know, is close to permament), and the vegan options have little to do with a sudden switch to holistic health in Bluffdale.
Still, Rajt tells me it's not so surprising that men and women doing time for various heinous crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery and child sex abuse would be going vegan and trying to eat more healthily.
"There are people in prison sincerely interested in changing from a more violent lifestyle to one that respects life, including animal life," she says. "We're happy to help people who want to make the transition to meat-free in any way we can."
Rajt says PETA has sent several prisoners the organization's vegetarian "starter kit," which includes free and tasty recipes--all of them vegan--for favorites like pot pies, casseroles, cakes and cookies. Go here if you want one, too.
BTW, what effect do you think an all-vegan diet might have on the re-offender rate? Feel free to weigh in. (Holly Mullen)