Meat, Nutrition & Tradition

First in a five part blog series…

One of the most controversial and curious subjects in modern nutrition is the place of animal protein in a healthy diet. The evidence has been building over the past twenty years that our reliance of meat and dairy foods are a mistake. Most epidemiological studies indicate that excessive consumption of meat and dairy is a primary factor in most degenerative disease. These studies, coupled with the fact that the economic and environmental damage of the modern meat and dairy industry far outweighs its social and nutritional value, do not seem to shake the public belief that animal fats and protein are essential for a healthy diet. That more and more people reject these foods on ethical grounds related to the animal abuse sets the stage for a food fight of epic proportions.

Photo: Don’t Don’t Gobble it Down All at Once! by Matt Shalvatis. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence.

There is certainly adequate information regarding the horrific and unhealthy conditions that factory-farming methods impose on cows, pigs, chicken and fish as well as the many other animals that are slaughtered for food daily. Most people would not eat the meat they consume daily if they had to witness the events that brought it to market. The fact that we need around 150 billion animals killed every year to survive seems strange when we look at the physical, anthropological and nutritional facts. We can only come to one conclusion – the argument has nothing to do with nutrition, science, compassion or common sense. No – the subject of animal food consumption is ruled largely by emotion and cultural mythologies.

Against the backdrop of the linkage between animal products and the increases in heart disease, stroke, cancers and even diabetes we have to ask ourselves what kind of visions or urges could bolster the desire to continue using meat as even a small part of a healthy diet, several spring to mind:
• The brave hunter returns to the cave with an antelope strapped on his back, which he offers his family as they cower in the shadows of their cave.
• The independent cowboy hunkers down beside the campfire for a big plate of fried meat and cornbread.
• The wealthy landowner sits down to the groaning table filled with roasted birds, fishes and legs of lamb.
• Dad fires up the grill and throws on the burgers and hotdogs, the flags are flying.

Powerful images that operate below the surface of consciousness often define who we think we are. Man the hunter, rugged individualism, dominion over the earth, wealth and shared experience all factor in our attitudes regarding what we eat and how we use all of the resources essential to our existence. What arguments could the proponents of a meat rich diet possibly use to justify this habit that is creating illness, brutality and ecological ruin? Well the answers to that question are simple, a heady mix of bad science and a fear of change.

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