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A group of women leaders, including several women of color, are urging Vice-President-elect  Kamala Harris and the incoming administration to deliver its most radical change yet—the pivot to a plant-based economy.

Members of the JIVINITI Coalition are calling via an open letter and petition for the new administration to use plant-based nutrition guidance to address the coronavirus pandemic—alongside the ‘shadow pandemics’ of food insecurity, chronic illness, structural inequality, and climate change—and to bring about the end of animal agriculture. 

The group is also urging Harris herself to adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet and accept a 31-day vegan challenge, with testimonials and a vegan starter kit offered by coalition partner Million Dollar Vegan*. 

These trailblazers represent evidence-based nutrition, medical science, advocacy, social justice, food insecurity and anti-hunger organisations, and are directly addressing President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry, and the members of the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Advisory Committee.

The coalition is compelling the incoming team to recognize the deindustrialization of animal production and consumption, and the move to a plant-based economy, as not only a response to the pandemic but an answer to many of the issues that will confront them in office. It’s an answer that starts with plant-based leadership.

Plant-Based Leadership

“Leaders set the tone for the people,” believes Jasmine Leyva, a filmmaker who has committed her lifestyle and research efforts to veganism, and directed The Invisible Vegan—a documentary that explored how plant-based eating is linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been negatively impacted by systemic oppression that runs through the economy and modern agribusiness.

Now a JIVINITI Research Advisor and coalition partner, she wonders: “Why set a tone that is destructive, when you can show people what a healthy and harmonious world could look like if we all made better choices?”

Focusing on low-income women and women of color in marginalized and underserved communities across the United States, JIVINITI’s programs serve people often underrepresented in society.

The sweeping effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have proven that healthcare—a never-more essential sector of the US economy—rests firmly on the shoulders of women. Of the 5.8 million people working in healthcare jobs that pay less than $30,000 per year, 83 percent are women, with 50 percent being women of color.

The leaders of the JIVINITI Coalition see the incoming administration as an opportunity for fresh ideas, evidence-based solutions, and a resource for seismic change. In Harris, they see a powerful role model, one that embodies the unrepresented women and people of color in society. 

Dangerous Breeding Grounds

Animal industries are among the most dangerous breeding grounds for zoonotic infectious diseases caused by pathogens that jump from non-human animals to humans. In addition to COVID-19, Avian Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, HIV, Ebola, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Non-Pulmonary Tuberculosis and other emerging infectious diseases are strongly linked to the production and consumption of animals. 

The recent issues of the science journal Nature reported the discovery of a mutated version of COVID-19 circulating in farmed mink. Later discovered in humans, there are now concerning implications for how infectious the virus is, and how effective any incoming vaccine will be. 

The JIVINITI Coalition is pushing for the implementation of the most effective and decisive strategy to battle the coronavirus pandemic, while also laying foundations for the prevention of future pandemics.

Its campaign seeks to ensure that the COVID-19 Task Force, in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture, achieve this through issuing urgent pandemic nutrition guidance with a whole food plant-based approach. 

‘Rethink old conventions and systems

The Center for Contemporary Sciences work to replace animal testing with more effective human-specific research techniques. President and CEO Asyha Akhtar – a neurologist and public health specialist – aims to show the mutual benefit to both humans and animals when animals are protected.

Now the JIVINITI coalition’s Medical Science partner, Akhtar sees these destabilised times as precisely the environment in which new ideas and perspectives can flourish.

She said: “The current pandemic, environmental threats and widespread civil unrest expose the need to rethink old conventions and systems and create truly original and daring solutions across a wide range of issues, including the health sciences.”

Believing that whole food plant-based nutrition is the only proper solution to addressing obesity and chronic illness, saving endangered species, and rooting out the systemic racism and structural inequalities endured by low-income communities, JIVINITI sees the closing of animal factory farms and the banning of live markets as the beginning of essential change for the United States and the wider world. 

Plant Based Health Professionals U.K is also part of the JIVINITI Coalition. Its Founder, Consultant Haematologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at King’s College Hospital Dr. Shireen Kassam said: “COVID19 has highlighted concerning vulnerabilities in the US and global populations. Specifically that the rising burden of chronic disease impacts the response to threats such as pandemic infections. Unhealthy diets are one of the main risk factors for chronic diseases.

“Access to healthy foods should be a human right, yet many are struggling with food insecurity and the ability to make healthy choices. Those of lower socioeconomic means, which more commonly includes communities of colour in high income countries, are disproportionately affected by chronic disease for reasons including access to appropriate food education and healthy diets. 

“This campaign is of paramount importance as it addresses issues related to social justice and highlights the urgent need to develop food systems that are able to provide healthy and nutritious food for all communities regardless of means or race. The transition to a plant-based food system is now seen as essential to the survival of humans and the planet.” 

Devastating diseases tied to consumption of animal products

With the US Adult Obesity Rate a staggering 42.4 percent, the coalition is calling for proper, evidence-based nutritional guidance to reduce the impact of sub-optimal diets, strengthen the immune resilience of Americans, and prevent up to 80 percent of chronic conditions, all of which could save Americans over $250 billion annually in healthcare costs.

Meryl Fury, MSN RN, is the President of the Chicago-based Plant Based Nutrition Movement, committed to amplifying the message of plant-based nutrition and providing communities with resources to support the eradication of chronic diseases.

Now JIVINITI Coalition’s Nutrition Science Partner, Fury is frank about how our most devastating diseases are tied to our consumption and demand for animal products, believing now is the time for people to examine how our food choices and systems affect the health of the people and the ecosystem alike.

“Look at Coronary Artery Disease, High Blood Pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, and so many viruses including COVID-19,” states Fury. “With the causes of such devastating illnesses so deeply rooted in our insistence upon animal products, it is clear that moving away from animal-based food would be a viable solution. Viable, important, necessary, and long overdue.”

Pave the Way for a Healthier America

For the leaders of the coalition, calling upon an incoming national leader to adopt policies that go against the grain of what runs our current economic systems is a fear they’re prepared to overcome in service of the greater good.

They call upon the new Vice-President-elect to use her power to drive forward the policy change that could pave the way for a healthier America.

“A plant-forward economy is the new normal. The sooner we accept and embrace it, the safer our future generations will be. It’s time to dismantle violence-based economic structures that do not serve us anymore”, says Nivi Jaswal, founder of the Jiviniti Coalition.

The Jiviniti coalition is hosted by The Virsa Foundation Inc., a non-profit based in the Boston area, with a focus on low-income women and women of color in underserved communities. 

How you can support

To support the campaign, you can sign the petition here, and keep up to date with JIVINITI on Instagram.

You can read the open letter here.

*The coalition is not associated with Million Dollar Vegan’s usual campaign of offering $1 million dollars for public figures to go vegan

Leigh Venus

Based in North East England, Leigh has been writing professionally since 2013 and has worked at a senior level in the culture and heritage sector for over a decade. Initially writing about food and culture, his work now encompasses animal ethics, plant-based living, and sustainability, and he has delivered talks at Newcastle University, Durham University and Maggie's Cancer Care, alongside several festivals. Leigh is also a Junior Fellow at Sentient Media, trustee for a contemporary dance company, and Community Leader of the Minimalists Newcastle group.