Residential water shutoffs serve as a dramatic example of struggles in Detroit, and national news coverage prompts efforts to help families in need.
Tiffani Ashley Bell. a startup founder in Boston, and designer Kristy Tillman of Oakland, Calif., last week launched a website for person-to-person donations. Now a nonprofit animal rights group offers to cover all water debts for 10 Detroit families.
That helping hand from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) comes with an unusual dietary condition, Michelle Kretzer explains Thursday in a blog post at its site:.
With the help of a generous PETA member, we have come up with one small way to assist Detroit residents and save animals, too.
Thanks to this donor, PETA will be able to pay off the water bills for 10 families who commit to going vegan for one month.
That's right -- in exchange for covering a tab that may date back months, PETA wants recipients to sign a vegan vow -- a pledge that burgers, wieners, bacon, pork chops, chicken, fish or even eggs, cheese and milk shall not pass the lips of adults and kids being helped. Family pets apparently can continue eating as usual.
It's for their own good, says PETA, which will toss in "a basket of healthy vegan foods and recipes" to help diet converts. Beans, lentils and brown rice will be among the starter kit items.
Not only will families be getting an immediate financial boost and helping animals, if they stick with it, they’ll also lower their risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and strokes.
Philanthropy in support of an organization's mission is customary, though it's typically not tied to a lifestyle-change pledge -- even one that won't be monitored -- as a condition for help. The word for that, it could be argued, is at right:
Lindsay Rajt, a spokesperson for PETA, defends the dietary pledge request approach as an effort to spread awareness of meal alternatives that have health benefits and generally are less costly than meat, poultry, seafood and dairy items.
"All we're asking is that people try something new. They'll be introduced to a healthy, plant-based diet," she tells Deadline Detroit in a phone interview. "Many people who go vegan find they have more energy, lower food costs and reduced cholesterol."
As for linking a meatless month to getting water service restored or avoiding a possible shutoff, Rajt says: "Sometimes we need incentives to try something new, to skip the drive-through lane with artery-clogging fast food."
Still, the pledge requirement draws online criticism.
"This is church-level shameless proselytization," software developer Sagar Keer comments under a Detroit News article. "Reminds me of missionaries preying on the poor in Third World countries, promising them food in exchange of conversions."
"PETA is insane," posts Rick Suhrheinrich of Brighton. Philip Wahlström, another News reader, sees "a ploy for PETA to stay relevant in the news."
In a similar reaction, Michael F. Copado of Fraser posts at our Facebook page: "Charity with conditions is not charity at all, but control . . . and publicity."
PETA describes itself as "the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 3 million members and supporters."
- How to apply: Send your most recent overdue water bill and your pledge to go vegan by Aug. 1 to PETA, Attn: Detroit Water, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510. Include a phone number.
Related coverage at Deadline Detroit:
Person to Person: Here's How to Help Detroiters With Unpaid Water Bills, July 21