William Harris, M.D. -- The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism
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Oral Testimony
of William Harris, M.D.
given on February 23, 1998 regarding HB2547 HD1 HSCR 33-98
at 4:30 PM on Monday Feb. 23, 1998, in conference room 308 at the State Capitol

Thank you, Representative Say, and Members of the House Finance Committee, for hearing my opposition testimony on HB2547:

The language of House Bill HB 2547 is inflated with questionable assertions. It is stated, for instance, that a new slaughterhouse is needed because "continuation of the livestock industry is critical to the State's economy."

The state-wide production value of cattle, hogs, and "other livestock" (the creatures to be processed in the proposed slaughterhouse) added up to $25.1 million in 1995 according to "Statistics of Hawaiian Agriculture 1995." (Hawaii Department of Agriculture). The value of Hawaiian agriculture, fisheries, mining, manufacturing, and services is put at about $8 billion by the Grolier Encyclopedia so the actual contribution of the livestock industry to the state's economy would be around 25/8000 or about .3%. A call to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism ( DBEDT) this morning
returned an estimate for the annual Gross State Product at $33.5 billion. Using this figure the contribution of the livestock industry to the state's economy falls to 25/33500 or .07%.

"...The legislature finds and declares that the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds under this Act (HB 2547) is in the public interest and for the public health, safety, and general welfare of the State."

The cholesterol and saturated fat in meat is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and six types of cancer. Animal protein is a risk factor for auto-immune disease, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. By estimate in my book "The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism," about 1/6 of the almost trillion dollar yearly U.S. medical bill can be traced to the consumption of animal source food. DBEDT puts the annual Hawaii medical bill at about $3.5 billion and 1/6th of that is $583 million.

The peer-reviewed article, "The medical costs attributable to meat consumption," Prev Med 1995;24(6):646-55, places medical costs due to meat consumption for 1992 between $28.6 and $61.4 billion. $28.6 billion/50 gives a figure of $.57 billion ($570 million) in medical costs for Hawaii, the 50th state, close to my own estimate of $583 million. So, this bill is asking us to float $10 million in bonds to generate about $576 million dollars worth of human misery, suffering, and death for the
benefit of a special interest group that contributes between .07% to .3% of the state's economy. If your FIN committee were really concerned with " the public health, safety, and general welfare of the State" it would quash this bill.

The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Hawaii Department of Health with its "Five a Day" program, are all recommending less meat and more vegetables and fruit. But when the meat industry is given government support for its products, which are apparently unable to compete successfully on the open market against plant foods, it plows its profit margins into advertising and nutritional misinformation. This ties up the media, which is driven by advertising revenues (consider for a moment, the fast food ads on TV), and makes it very difficult for nutritionists and scientific authorities to present healthy eating information to the public.

Those of us who work hard for the improvement of the "public health" would very much appreciate it if our government would stop using any part of our tax moneys to bail out the meat industry. If its product is all that essential to the "general welfare of the State," it should have no difficulty getting loans from a bank, the same as other upstanding entrepreneurs.

Finally, as an investor, I find that I hold Hawaii Revenue Bonds in the amount of about $93,000. If the legislature passes HB 2547, I will have to instruct my portfolio manager, Merrill Lynch, to buy no more Hawaii Revenue Bonds. It is likely that many of the other ~ 50,000 people in the state who describe themselves as vegetarian, will follow suit.

If HB 2547 passes, it will minimally improve the state's economy, but the long term medical costs will outweigh any short term gain.

I urge you not to pass this bill.


William Harris, M.D.