Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has rejected an appeal by animal rights activists to convert to a vegetarian diet to help fight rising food prices, her spokesman said Thursday.
"The President would be for freedom of choice," was her spokesman Ignacio Bunye's reaction to a formal letter sent by the Asia head of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The group, which regularly pickets a popular chicken restaurant chain here, criticised Arroyo's approach to fighting poverty and her response to soaring food prices in the Philippines, one of the world's top rice importers.
Its regional director Jason Baker said in his letter that Arroyo should instead adopt and promote a vegetarian diet, which "would do far more than any photo-op -- it would set a great example and show a deep commitment to ending the food crisis in the Philippines as well as world hunger."
Baker claimed raising animals for slaughter exacerbates the food crisis because they consume nearly a billion tonnes of grain per year, which he said was enough to feed half of mankind.
But Bunye said the dietary preferences of individuals should be respected, noting that a number of Arroyo's cabinet members are vegetarians.