Eat Meat Or Vegetables? Let’s Put A Face On The Debate.
Clearly, there’s something wrong with the inhuman way factory farms produce meat. This and the Paleo movement have renewed the debate about whether meat is worth eating. Watch and see if your view changes, even if a bit. Votes are presented below.
Actually, unless your parents were vegetarians, the question never was uttered. Instead, it’s likely that you ate what they ate, once the macaroni and cheese phase expired.
But now we’re adults, and most of us know at least one vegetarian/vegan who might have made us entertain the thought for at least a nanosecond. The thought that vegetarianism might be somehow better for our health and the environment, and – clearly – better for the animals we eat.
I’ve been wrestling with this issue for years.
Some years ago, I noticed that I was gravitating to a no-meat diet without intent. I would look at all that beef and chicken gussied up in their fine cellophane wrappers on the refrigerated supermarket shelves and crinkle my nose.
All those hunks of meat simply seemed unappealing.
Besides the visual antipathy, was that my taste for meat turned. Even smelling it cook made me scurry for a gulp of fresh air.
Without conscious intent, something was turning me away from consuming meat, and I embraced it because everything I read about eating meat underscored that it was relatively unhealthy.
Relative to the vegetarians.
Science vs Science in the Eat Meat Or Vegetables Debate
It wasn’t long ago that medical doctor versed in nutrition will shower you with the recitation of studies that confirm that meat eaters suffer more disease in greater numbers than non-meat eaters.
To the question, “eat meat or vegetables”, those studies resoundingly shout, “eat vegetables”!
But these days not every medical type agrees.
Now some doctors have joined the Paleo diet movement that espouses meat eating and are citing studies of their own to underscore their position, or – more likely – are knocking holes in those studies that argue against meat eating.
It seems that the crux of the human health portion of the debate levers on grass, as in whether the meat (and butter and other diary products for that matter) is grass fed.
The Paleo camp says that none of the studies differentiate between meat raised in hormone-pumping, antibiotic-rich industrial farms versus meat from animals raised on pastures and eating grass. If the studies were adjust for grass fed meat, they argue, the results would be very different.
All this makes this humble health blogger’s head hurt. And if you’d really like to dig into this debate as well as the ones brewing for coffee (good/bad) and saturated fat (good/bad), then dig into my post, What You Need To Know About Coffee, Saturated Fat and Red Meat.
The meat debate is on my mind lately primarily because I recently watched a very smart debate about it, which I’ll next address, and because I’m visiting the lass that birthed me.
Mom eats meat, and there’s plenty of it.
“It won’t hurt you this once”, she exclaims as she begins cooking some meat for the third time since I arrived.
Then Mom’s neighbor and her family came over for dinner last night. She’s Dutch, and so she declares in this sweet accent:
“This lamb I brought over is so healthy for you. It’s grass fed. In Holland, we used to gnaw on the bones till every bit of meat and gristle was consumed.”
Well, I didn’t have to hold my nose to eat it, but it didn’t give me the gustatory pleasure of a bowl of savory lentil seaweed soup.
Now, whoever you are, dear reader, you likely have a preference when it comes to eating meat. Question: Will debate I’m about to present more strongly confirm your bias or erode it?
And, indeed, that’s the objective of the debates hosted by Intelligence Squared U.S. So far they have presented 70 debates constructed to make you rethink your point of view.
The debate under review here:
Don’t Eat Anything With A Face, Yes or No?
Here are the debate participants:
Dr. Neal Barnard, Clinical Researcher & Author, 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart
Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder, Farm Sanctuary
Chris Masterjohn, Nutritional Sciences Researcher & Blogger, The Daily Lipid
Joel Salatin, Farmer & Author
John Donvan, Author & Correspondent for ABC News
Before I embed the video of the debate, take a scan of some the highlights of their respective positions.
Pro veg claims and assertions:
- People can live without eating meat very well, even thrive, so why kill animals and degrade the environment?
- Meat causes atherosclerosis (blockage in arteries).
- Meat causes more cancer, including the cooking of range fed, etc skeletal muscle.
- B 12 supplementation is also recommended for meat eaters, as eating meat does not typically provide sufficient B 12.
- Even on organic, pasture raised farms the animals are murdered.
- Live your life so you cause no harm.
- Slaughter is a psychologically troubling horrific act of murder.
- High protein/meat dominated, low carb diets only enable weight loss if the total calories consumed are less than calories expended; however even in this case the long term health effects are deleterious.
- Fish eaters are slimmer than red meat but not as slim as vegetarians/vegans.
- Eating vegen doesn’t have to be expensive, and can be done for $4 a day.
- If meat subsidies ended, prices would be much higher, which would reduce its attractiveness relative to vegetarianism.
- Eating meat in moderation is not the answer because even eating less meat still requires killing unnecessarily.
- Even if bacterial is harmed in growing veggies (and it had a “face”), it’s not the intention as is slaughter.
Pro Meat claims and assertions:
- Without animals grazing we have soil depletion.
- Vegetable growing requires very rich soil, which is made so by pasture-fed animals that graze.
- Poor need the animals we eat for wealth, portability, and on-demand cultivation (slaughter) so there’s no spoilage.
- B 12 supplementation is needed for vegetarians.
- Grass fed, no antibiotic, no hormone-filled animals are not being tested in studies indicating meat is unhealthy or increases probability for diseases.
- Mono culture should be replaced by grazing animal, as they would not require the thousands of mono acres of soy and corn to feed non-grazing farmed animals.
- Given the variation in people’s genomes some can be healthy as vegans, others require meat.
- Every tablespoon of soil has millions of organisms that maybe harmed when growing vegetables.
Both Sides Agree that:
- Factory farming is bad.
- Mono crop cultivation is bad.
- If an animal lives out its natural lifespan and dies it’s ethical to eat it (since you haven’t killed it, says the veg side).
What side are you on? Watch the closing arguments of the debate…
Want more? See the whole debate here.
As is the custom of this debate forum, the audience gets to vote. People got to vote before the debate ensued and after. The wining team is the one that garners the most changed votes, not the total votes.
Here’s how the audience at the debate voted:
So, as you can see from the pie charts above, more people were swayed to the position that nothing with a face should be eaten than the alternative (aka: eat those faces), so the debate was won by Dr. Neal Barnard and Gary Bauer.
Here’s how the online audience at the debate voted:
The online audience only voted once, and so their votes did not reflect a shift in opinion but rather the post-debate view. As you can observe above, a larger percent of people voted for “Don’t eat anything with a face” from the online audience than those present at the debate, 62% versus 45%.
I’ll venture to guess that this is because vegetarians and vegans are more motivated to promote their views and so were both attracted to watch the debate and then vote on it.
You can vote here.
Want to dig deeper?
The research used by both sides for and against the proposition, “Don’t Eat Anything With A Face” may be viewed here.
If any of this motivates you to chime in, please do so in the Comments below.
Over and out.