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PETA pays Detroit woman's water bill for pledging to go vegan

More than 7,000 Detroit residents face water shutoffs, owing a total of $89 million in overdue bills.
By Aileen Graef   |   July 30, 2014 at 1:36 PM

DETROIT, July 30 (UPI) -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is paying a Detroit woman's water bill after she accepted an offer to pledge to go vegan in exchange for the group paying off her debt.

Leslie Turner jumped at the opportunity to have PETA pay her $147.12 overdue water bill. The only caveat was she had to pledge to go vegan for 30 days.

"I heard about it on the radio," said the 46-year-old social worker. "This would be a tremendous help -- it will be one less expense that I have to worry about."

Turner mailed her bill and her pledge to PETA, who, in turn, paid the bill off.

Thousands of people have faced water shutoffs in the city, which is struggling to recover from a financial disaster.

"It was unwarranted, and it was a surprise to a lot of people," Turner said of the shutoffs. "People have been trying to contact the water company to make payment plans and also had been going to the water company, but the lines would be horrendous or they weren't even able to get in."

Turner has yet to see her water shutoff, but is concerned it will be soon. Despite having a job, she still struggles to make ends meet.

The offer has been criticized by some for taking advantage of people facing hard times due to the collapse of Detroit's economy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Detroit's unemployment rate stands at 14.5 percent, 8.4 percent higher than the national unemployment rate. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in 2012 38.1 percent of households were living under the poverty line and the average income is just $26,955.

PETA, however, called the pledge a "win-win" situation.

"We had a generous PETA member who saw this as an opportunity to help people in need, while also helping animals," said PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt. "Not only will people get their water bills paid, they'll be introduced to a healthy, plant-based diet that will reduce their costs in the long run."

Detroit residents interested in the program must mail in their bills and pledges by Friday. PETA said it has received five applications so far.

Follow @AileenGraef and @UPI on Twitter.
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