PETA babes dog Congress

National Hot Dog Day draws anti-meat activists to Capitol.

Published July 23, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals tried to get a rise out of Congress on Wednesday -- National Hot Dog Day -- by sending Melynda DuVal, the group's curvaceous spokesmodel, to throw a "Not Dog Lunch" on Capitol Hill to draw attention to PETA's claim that meat-eating causes impotence.

While the American Meat Institute was hosting a hot dog lunch inside the
Rayburn House Office Building, DuVal, accompanied by two curvy sidekicks in red, white and blue bikinis, stood outside the building handing out veggie
wieners and sodas. Invitations to the Not Dog Lunch showed a scantily clad
DuVal posing over the caption "I'm throwing a party -- can you come? Eating meat can cause impotence."

PETA claims that the fat and cholesterol in meat and other animal products can play a key role in the development of erectile dysfunction. In an article on PETA's Meat Stinks Web site, Dr. Neal Barnard writes that "artery blockages, a major cause of erectile dysfunction, are strongly linked to one of America's most popular food categories -- meat."

But is PETA's theory really true? "One of the recognized risk factors for E.D.
is long-term elevated cholesterol which affects the cardiovascular system,"
says Dr. James Barada of Upstate Urology in Albany, N.Y. Barada served on the American Urological Association panel that developed ED treatment guidelines. "However, that's not the only cause of E.D. PETA's assertion is appropriate, but how significant it is is open to debate."

Barnard, the executive director of the Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine, claims that meat clogs the arteries that carry blood to the penis,
causing impaired erections at first and finally complete impotence. A low-fat
vegetarian diet cleans up those arteries and puts more drive in your sex drive, Barnard says, all without the use of Viagra. "With the right food and
exercise," Barnard writes, "many men can cut back on, and even discontinue,
drug therapy."

"Show me the data," says Barada. "Unfortunately, when the [artery] damage is done, it's very unusual to see a reversal. If you take meat-eaters and make them into vegetarians they're probably not going to see a significant
improvement. If you advocate a healthy lifestyle you're doing your body a lot of good in a lot of different ways, but to quantify it [as a remedy for erectile dysfunction]
has not been done."

DuVal's congressional visit was just one of many stops on her national
anti-meat campaign. A traveling 16-by-6-foot billboard shows the vegan seductress holding a string of limp sausages with the caption, "I threw a party but the cattlemen couldn't come. Eating meat can cause impotence." PETA parked the mobile billboard outside the National Cattlemen's Beef
Association's annual conference in Denver in May to make the cowboy carnivores think twice about their allegiance to beef.

But doctors remain divided on the question of whether a strict veggie
diet can boost your sex drive. Other
research has suggested
that a vegetarian diet can actually kill your sex drive by depleting the
body's store of zinc.

Barada is equally skeptical of the zinc theory. "An old wives' tale," he says.

By Jon Bowen

Jon Bowen is a frequent contributor to Salon.


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