Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Reader Feedback

Before starting this article I would like to state that I have no desire to make a personal argument with any vegetarians. I did express in past writings personal feelings on vegetarianism however I intend no personal attacks on anybody who chooses this lifestyle. Though I feel that it would be a healthier choice to eat meat, this in no way influences my feelings towards my vegetarian friends. Especially some of my old Capoeira buddies who I sincerely wish not to alienate.

Now here is a letter from one of my readers

Hi Joey 

     All very interesting. However, you have to keep in mind a few things about meat - how it is produced and how it is processed. Meat and animal products are not in and of themselves negative things, it is the amount consumed and scale of production that is the primary problem. There is also the concern over bio-magnification which is a major issue in seafood but is also an issue in terrestrial food as well. Also the dietary quality of meat that is mass produced is lower in what we need from meat - omega oils etc. due to their profit driven diet.
It really not that easy to dismiss the value of a vegetarian diet - there are the internal benefits -eg. gastrointestinal health and exposure to high levels of pesticides and the external benefits eg. lower carbon emissions and destruction of natural landscapes.
Not to mention all the dietitians I know here at Acadia advocate for a low meat intake or no meat intake diet.

Its really not "good" research to discredit something based on "poor" research - find some good rigorous studies to base your information on - I am sure there are just as many studies out there that have been done badly that advocate for an animal product heavy diet. Keep in mind that there were and continue to be whole societies that were primarily vegetarian. Many much older than our own.

Thank you for bringing the subject to light and keep working on making people think about what they eat. Drop me a line if you want to talk about it.

In this letter they Brought up some very good points. So good in fact that I feel I need to bring it to light with a whole article of it's own.

In response...

        The points you bring up here are very good points and I thank you for bringing them to light.

Concerns about how meat and animal products are produced are no less valid than concerns regarding pesticides and genetic modification of fruits and vegetables. One has to agree that both these products have been so far removed from their original state that neither of them contain even close to the nutritional value they once did and we, the consumers, are the ones suffering for it.

I would also like to point out that nothing in my article mentioned how these goods are produced. That is, however, a great topic for a future article which will most definitely be addressed shortly.

If it is not "good" research to discredit somebody's "poor" research than what would you define as "good research" The studies I refer to are all "good rigorous" studies and I will happily provide references so you may review them yourself and make your own judgment.

I ask you to provide the references to the research stating that eating meat negatively affects one's gastrointestinal health and as far as exposure to high levels of pesticides... I'm not exactly sure which side are you arguing there?

In regards to destruction of natural landscapes, development of agricultural farmland has a far more devastating effect on natural habitats than farming livestock. The amount of landscaping required to produce fields for large scale agriculture requires large combine harvesters and vast open fields. This requires the destruction of thousands of miles of natural habitat. This destruction forces thousands of species of native wildlife from their homes, many of which fall victim to the machinery required to produce your agricultural fields.

Where animals are farmed (at least when they are farmed using fields), they require comparatively small fields to keep them in. This only requires fences or hedgerows and requires no alteration of the land they are kept on. In these fields they graze naturally and their droppings provide natural fertilizer. Therefore negating the need to provide artificial fertilizers in order to grow the vegetation to support the livestock.

In defense of the Moral vegetarian though, more and more of these animals are kept in pens when they should be allowed to roam free in the fields where they can graze naturally producing a meat which is much higher omega3's as opposed to the grain fed variety which produces a meat containing a proportionately high amount of Omega6 which lends itself to inflammation.

 I am not trying to argue that vegetarianism has no merit whatsoever. If you have read any of my past articles then you are aware that my position is that vegetarianism is a step away from the diet that we evolved to eat. We have thrived for millions of years eating a diet consisting of "paleolithic" foods. With the development of agriculture also came many of the diseases of civilization (ie diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, heart disease) that were largely unknown to our omnivorous ancesters.

Yes there are whole societies that continue to be largely vegetarian. The Kikuyu Tribe in Kenya are a prime example. Yet they were relatively shorter and in ill health compared to their largely carnivorous neighbors, the Masai, who were taller, leaner and in much better overall health.

The Madrassis, Bengalis and Kanarese of India also eat a vegetarian diet consisting of mainly rice yet they are short, overweight and unhealthy compared to their neighbors, Pathans, Sikhs and Hunzas. Who live in the same country, in the same climate, yet they eat meat and fish are much healthier overall.

Now I do have to thank you for calling me out on these points in my article. My intent is not to brainwash people into thinking the way I do. Rather, it is to provide people with information so they can come up with their own rational decisions therefore I do welcome any rebuttals to my articles and would love to  welcome any open discussion.

By Gary Taubes

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Lee R. B.. What hunters do for a living, or how to make out on scarce resources. In: Lee R. B., DeVore I., eds. Man The Hunter. Aldine, Chicago. 1968. 

Bryant V. M., Williams-Dean G.. The Coprolites of Man. Scientific American, January 1975. 

Hawkes J. G.. The Hunting Hypothesis . In: Ardrey R., ed. The Hunting Hypothesis . Collins, London, 1976.

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Herens M. C., Dagnelie P. C., Kleber R. J., Mol M. C. J., van Staveren W. A.. Nutrition and mental development of 4-5 year old children on macrobiotic diets. J Hum Nutr Diet 1992; 5: 1-9.           

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