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The Body: Should We Really Be Eating Meat?

What The Body Needs

 

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about meat. Not in my usual ‘hmmm... what juicy, tender pieces of meat am I going to eat today?’ way. But rather in an uncomfortable and self-conscious, ‘should I really be doing this?’ way.

 

I do not believe that eating meat is unhealthy. Meat, especially red meat, is variously alleged to give you cancer, cause heart attacks, and make you fat. Strangely, none of the bright sparks making these arguments have considered that our ancestors consumed considerable amounts of meat for the best part of two million years without a single one of them developing cancer, suffering heart disease, or getting fat. It’s not eating meat which causes problems. It’s eating meat which has been burnt into charcoal or treated with huge quantities of chemicals so that it can sit on a supermarket shelf for 12 months. Or in the case of getting fat, it’s meat which is being consumed inside a burger, with fries and a coke.

 

 

Nor do I agree that killing animals is wrong. However unpleasant to consider, the reality is that animals have always consumed other animals. Without the evolutionary pressures that exist from the relationship between predator and prey, it is unlikely we would even exist.

 

What I do think is wrong is the unnecessarily cruel treatment of animals which has become endemic in the food industry. I use the word unnecessary because meat consumption is a luxury enjoyed by the wealthy, and a well-educated and wealthy population should be willing to pay more to avoid the barbaric practices which take place. A calf in an industrial meat farm doesn’t just lack the freedom to move around as it pleases – it is separated from its mother at birth and kept in a cage so small it cannot even walk. When the option to buy free range meat doesn’t exist, abstaining from consumption is the only way for consumers to support more ethical meat production.

 

 

If the ethical argument against intensive animal farming is strong, the environmental case might be even stronger. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production exceed the emissions of any other human activity including coal burning. Every kilogram of beef produced requires seven kilograms of feed and up to 15,000 liters of water. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, growing crops for farm animals requires nearly half of the US water supply and 80-percent of its agricultural land. There is strong evidence to suggest that the single most important thing we can do to slow climate change is shift towards a vegetarian diet.

 

Last month I began my own shift – I started taking meat out of my diet for one day per week. Amazingly, my muscles didn’t disintegrate nor did my energy levels drop. In fact, it helps me sleep better and feel fresher the next day. Although I’m not sure I’m ready to go 100-percent vegetarian, for myself and anyone who is concerned with the meat industry, perhaps the goal should be a form of ethical omnivore-ism – eat meat sparingly and preferably only from free-range sources. 


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