Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Never one to miss an opportunity, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has tried to use Grafton Street School’s mercury contamination as a teachable moment.
Heather Robbins Drennen, a graduate of Nelson Place school who now works as special assistant to the executive vice president for PETA, sent a letter to Mary McKiernan, the principal of Grafton Street Elementary School, asking her to take the next step in mercury removal: to stop serving fish in the cafeteria.
From the letter:
I urge you, in light of Grafton Street School’s recent mercury scare, not to overlook the most common source of mercury in schools: fish served in cafeterias. Won’t you please protect your students from mercury poisoning and be kind to animals by pledging to leave fish off Grafton Street School’s lunch menu?
The full letter, after the jump.
Dear Principal McKiernan,
On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the world’s largest animal rights organization, with more than 2 million members and supporters, including hundreds in Worcester, I urge you, in light of Grafton Street School’s recent mercury scare, not to overlook the most common source of mercury in schools: fish served in cafeterias. Won’t you please protect your students from mercury poisoning and be kind to animals by pledging to leave fish off Grafton Street School’s lunch menu?
Serving fish in the cafeteria could cause students to flounder in the classroom. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that eating mercury-contaminated fish flesh can cause heart damage and irreversible impairment to brain function in children. The Wall Street Journal reported on 10-year-old Matthew Davis, whose blood-mercury level was almost twice the EPA’s safety limit and who was struggling in school until he stopped eating canned tuna for lunch. Numerous other studies have found high levels of mercury and other toxic chemicals (including DDT, PCBs, and dioxin, which have been linked to cancer, nervous system disorders, and fetal damage) in farmed fish as well as lake and ocean fish. Nutrients like Omega-3’s and protein can be found in vegan foods, but without the toxins and cholesterol in fish.
Not only is eating fish toxic, it’s also cruel. Kids would lose their lunch if they knew how fish suffer before they end up on their cafeteria trays. Fish are painfully hooked through their sensitive mouths or dragged in nets before being suffocated or cut open while still alive. Farmed fish are crammed together in feces-filled, antibiotic-laden tanks or cages, where chronic sea lice often eat their faces down to the bone. This abuse continues despite scientific evidence showing that fish are intelligent animals who feel pain.
I’d be happy to put your culinary team in touch with chefs who can help you implement a delicious and healthy lunch menu that contains none of the contaminants or cruelty found in fish and other animal-derived products. As a Worcester school system alum, I hope to hear that Grafton Street School will implement a fish-free lunch policy for the sake of the kids and fish.
Heather Robbins Drennan
Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President