Tonight, Saturday, August 25, actors Alec Baldwin and Marilu Henner will host Research Without Cruelty, a benefit in support of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine(PCRM). Founded in 1985, the PCRM is a nonprofit organization advocating preventive medicine and higher ethical standards in research. The event will be held at the home of Amagansett resident John Bradham and will serve a dual cause: to remove animals from medical research laboratories and to prevent disease through plant-based diets.
The PCRM has managed to garner a great deal of excitement for their causes through the use of celebrity advocates, including Natalie Portman, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, and, of course, Baldwin and Henner. Dietary concerns and compassionate treatment of animals are some of the most prominent issues in the national spotlight today. And the event’s two hosts, Baldwin and Henner, are outspoken champions of the PCRM cause.
Celebrities draw attention in a way that lay people cannot, and that is even true when looking for governmental support. In a letter written to Senator Barbara Boxer to support the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, Baldwin wrote, “I’ve made a pledge not to be in any movies or TV shows that use chimpanzees or other great apes. But unfortunately, my tax dollars are still being spent on chimpanzee abuse—and I’m writing to ask for your help in changing that.” According to Baldwin’s letter, the United States is the only industrialized nation that still funds invasive experiments on great apes. Chimps are locked away behind laboratory doors where their social and emotional needs simply cannot be met. Baldwin writes, “Some of these chimpanzees have been in laboratories for longer than I’ve been acting—and I started three decades ago.” Supporters feel that the experiments are not only inhumane, but are also unnecessary for the advancement of human health in general.
The other issue at hand, concerning the effects of diet on health outcomes, is perhaps more pertinent to American life in general. According to a study conducted by the PCRM, “approximately 65% of Americans are overweight, increasing their risk for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.” The strains on the economy caused by these health outcomes are huge and are “estimated at approximately $13 billion, including those attributable to health insurance, life and disability insurance, and sick leave costs.”
The PCRM has been conducting studies and clinical trials on the efficacy of plant-based diets in reducing these health risks that plague so many Americans. According to Susan Levin, the director of nutrition education at the PCRM, “our clinical research into vegan diets has shown positive results for Type 2 Diabetes as well as other cardiovascular risks associated with obesity.” As their research continues, they are finding that a whole-food, vegan diet has health benefits for other ailments. “We are not about calorie counting,” says Levin. “We are about getting back to the basics with fruits, vegetables and whole foods to reverse the trends in obesity.” This reversal, according to Levin, starts with raising awareness and changing the menus at schools across the country. To underscore the importance of this change, Saturday’s event will have an all vegan menu, featuring dishes such as, cucumber vichyssoise soup shooters, roasted cauliflower florets with scallion ginger aioli, and sweet potato canapés.