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Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan has dressed up in a gown made of lettuce leaves to promote a greener, vegetarian diet in China. Gao promised to stop eating meat after her pet dog suffered food poisoning two years ago.
As meat consumption continues to rise, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, has hired Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan to encourage consumers to go vegetarian.
Gao has become the 'Lettuce Lady', draped in a gown made of lettuce leaves and a red chili pepper necklace.
Gao says she became a vegetarian in November 2009 after her dog was hospitalized for food poisoning. She promised to stop eating meat for a year if her pet survived.
[Gao Yuanyuan, Chinese Actress]:
"After going vegetarian, I feel so much lighter. When I first started the vegetarian diet, I was not used to it and so I ate starchy foods in big amounts so I gained a little bit of weight. Still, I felt much more energetic. After that, I regained my figure and stopped gaining weight, and that has remained consistent."
Vegetables have historically been a big part of the Chinese diet, but as incomes and living standards rise among China's growing middle class, more people are eating more meat.
Activists say China's soaring demand for meat has resulted in various health problems.
[Jason Baker, Vice President, PETA Asia]:
"The per capita consumption in China is still lower compared to the Western world, but it's changing, it's getting worse. The consumption is going up, and related to that are diseases related to meat consumption -- cancer, heart disease."
However, recent food scandals have increased food safety awareness among Chinese consumers, sparking a small number of Chinese to adopt a meat-free diet for health, religious and environmental reasons.