July 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm

PETA will pay water bills for 10 Detroiters willing to go vegan

Members of The People's Water Board Coalition protest Detroit's water shutoffs on July. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Detroit — An animal rights group is offering to pay outstanding water bills for 10 Detroit residents on the condition they become vegan for one month.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking Detroiters to mail the group a copy of their most recent overdue water bill and a pledge by Aug. 1.

“Anyone who tries a rich, varied, and tasty vegan diet stops contributing to the immensely wasteful use of water in meat and dairy farming,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Vegan meals are also a cost-effective way to help prevent health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart conditions, the last thing that someone who is struggling financially needs to deal with.”

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department had cut off water service to 17,000 households for overdue bills as it faces a staggering amount of unpaid bills. Bill Johnson, department spokesman, said 89,000 customers owe about $91 million.

Opponents of the shutoffs have appealed to the United Nations, filed a federal legal challenge, blocked the vehicles of contractors whose job it is to connect and disconnect service, and marched 1,000 strong in downtown Detroit.

In wake of the opposition, water department officials on Monday suspended shut-offs for 15 days.

PETA organizers will provide participants with a gift basket of vegan-friendly foods and a recipe book.

“We certainly want to be supportive as people take that on,” PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt said.

The effort is to promote a diet high in low-cost vegan foods such as rice, beans, lentils and vegetables, which can reduce one’s risk of developing a range of health conditions. The group also aims to reduce people’s carbon footprint, citing animal agriculture a large contributor.

Detroiters interested in participating in the program are asked to mail information to PETA Attn: Detroit Water at 501 Front St., Norfolk, Va. 23510.

(313) 222-2541