Tuesday, 25 September 2007

No More Bull (edited Sept 28th)

I've just finished this book and being a vegan of course I agree with everything Howard Lyman says! However I do like reading this sort of book, because apart from confirming that I have made a good choice in being vegan, he has given me more ways of supporting a good argument should one arise.

He compares meat-eating with smoking. All the scientific evidence points to smoking being really bad for your health. Some people think that they should be allowed to treat their bodies as they wish and that their choices are not affecting others. With smoking, however, we have the second hand smoke problem - the rest of us don't want to breathe in all those carcinogens or have the stink of smoke in our hair and on our clothes when we go out in public. Most public buildings now ban smoking. I'd just like to add that smoking creates one hell of a litter problem. I was helping to weed around the building that my husband works in at the weekend, and the amount of cigarette butts tossed into the undergrowth was gross. Why do smokers think that cigarette butts are not litter - perhaps they think that they are biodegradable! Not! Factor in all the smoke breaks that employees take throughout the working day, and there's a lot of man-hours (person-hours?) going up in smoke. If by smoking you give yourself lung cancer or whatever, that is also causing pressure on the health-care system that could easily be avoided - more taxes for all.

Mr Lyman says that many meat-eaters would argue that it's up to them what they put into their bodies. However, here again, the scientific evidence is that a plant-based diet is way healthier. Meat (and here I include chicken and fish, people, anything with a face - oh, and dairy and eggs too) provides no worthwhile nutrition. We can get all the protein and carbs and fibre and vitamins and minerals we need from plant foods. Over and over again, it is the SAD (Standard American Diet) that has been proved to cause cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Mr Lyman also makes a good point about Alzheimer's being a result of our addiction to a meat-based diet (the symptoms being very similar to CJD, that lovely human version of Mad Cow disease).

So back to my point. Yes, people have a choice what they eat. However, there are good reasons for me to continue to publically speak out in support of a vegan diet and not just quietly get on with it. Raising animals intensively for meat is a waste of land. Growing plants to feed direct to people, instead of growing plants to feed to animals to feed to people, is a way better use of the land. Piles of stinking manure - now that's a reason to quit having feedlots. They have made large areas of the US unlivable and there's tonnes of methane polluting our air and piles of this shit are burning right now.

And I haven't even started on animal abuse, cruelty, slaughterhouses, fecal contamination of meat during "processing" (read - killing and mutilation, not necessarily in that order).

I think the world would be a much better place if the killing stopped - maybe if we stopped killing animals and ingesting their fear and sickness, we would all be pacifists who could then create a world without wars.

My hope is that meat-eating will, in the next few years, become something that is viewed like smoking - something that the minority do, despite the health warnings on the packets!


Anonymous said...

I think that book makes a very interesting point (I say as a red-faced occasional meat eater). Eating meat especially that produced in the regular mass way does affect the quality of life for non-meat eaters..... hmmmmm I really have never thought of it that way. I have been reading Ecoholic and learning about the devastation on the planet from non organic cotton production too. I also think about the mass production of veggies and fruit using all kinds of nasty pesticides. Personally I find I am stretched to the limit financially trying to buy organic produce (and I must admit meat).... and that is before I even thought about organic cotton. What is the answer to all this? hmmmm....

Nicola said...

The only answer is a drastic change in the way people think, which of course is unlikely to happen in one day! However, just think of the difference it would make if the big businesses suddenly started thinking about the health and welfare of the people instead of money, money, money. They say you can't go back - but I wish we could, even 100 years, and with the knowledge that we have now, perhaps we could be taking a very different route to a cleaner, healthier future.

Heather said...

I did very much enjoy both of Howard Lyman's books, and I do agree, in theory, with almost everything that he says. That said, I still feel that I disagree with you on a few of your points Nicola. Especially this one,
"If you're a "green", an environmentalist, a global warming worrier, then a vegan diet is the only way to go. " In my opinion there is never only one way to go. I think that, no matter how "green" we try to be, the fact of the matter is that we are all responsible for a portion of the damage being done to this earth. In my opinion, saying that a vegan diet is the only way to go, is rather like saying that never driving a vehicle is the only way to go, or never buying any thing made in China ever is the only way to be green, never using the computer, never buying any veggies grown anywhere except in your own town, never buying any cotton because it is a crop that uses excessive amounts of water, not having more than one child, never supporting any corporation that does any damage to the earth with its company policies is the only way to go, never using any plastic, etc, etc. I don't believe there is only one way to be "green", nor do I think there is any "best" way to be green. IF there is a best way to be green, then I would say it is the one that works the best and most consistently for your own family. A person could follow a vegan diet that includes mostly French fries, coca-cola and packaged vegan convenience foods, this I think is an extreme example of not being the best for the earth or a person's health. I think we each of us need to choose what works best within our families to do our part to help the earth in a way that is most meaningful, or works best, for us. In my family we are no longer vegan as it is more important to me that my children (and husband) will eat a wide variety of vegetables, grains and legumes and the way that I have found to do this best is with a little bit of cheese for a topping. It is also important to me that my family is able to take part in and enjoy meals with other friends and family members, something that I know, from experience, is made more difficult by being vegan. We do still tend to eat a lot of vegan meals but I do not think it is the only way to go.
All that being said, there is nothing that would make me happier than for people to stop eating industrialized meat. I think we are about to come into a time where we will need to "go back in time" as it were. We have spent the last one hundred years building this global food supply, thinking it real progress from our past when pretty much all of food was local. I can see, and hope, that in the near future we will be coming back around to that "old" way of thinking, and really begin to build our local food supply chains again.

Samantha said...

I always hope that when someone reads this type of information, they become more conscious of how they are spending their money. And hopefully, they decide to eat less meat. I agree there isn't going to be any quick changes because in my experience, people only care if it's convenient for them.

If some big scientist guy came out and stated that if everyone gave up eating meat, gave up plastic, and stopped using any gas powered items (including cars), then global warming would halt - do you think everybody would jump on board with this? I highly doubt it.

In the big picture, I think it's important to do what we can but that nothing will really change until Big Business changes. They are the big polluters, they have the $$ and the power to make the changes that will help but they choose not to because it would cut their profit.

Nicola said...

I see your points, Heather and Samantha. When I said being vegan is the only way to go, I wasn't saying that there are not other ways of protecting the environment. This is the dietary way. Maybe I should have said being vegan is ONE of the ways to go - when you think about it, it's probably one of the easiest things to do, compared to the thought of giving up our cars and plastic.

Of course, big businesses are in it for the money, and let's not forget that if people don't buy something, they won't make it or sell it. So imagine what would happen if people, just us little dots on the face of the earth, all decided not to eat at Macdonalds any more. They'd go out of business (yay). Same goes for anything else. If enough people can make an informed choice, then the supply and demand system will follow. Of course, that's assuming we CAN make an informed choice, considering how we are kept in the dark about so many things by the big corporations and the governments, who are of course totally in the pockets of those aforementioned big corporations.

Anonymous said...

I think you make a good point Heather that just by being alive we tax the earth. It is then up to each person to come up with their own way to minimize that as best they can. Unfortunately so many people are asleep to the effects of their actions.

I think what you said, Samantha, is also important that even if there was clear evidence of what has to change to stop Global Warming most people wouldn't take notice... and worse still you would get some critic refuting it and then people wouldn't believe it. I guess people only hear what they want to hear.

I, personally, would love to see global laws passed to outlaw industrial meat production, styrofoam packaging, and the use of pesticides but I just don't think it is going to happen.... and I also have my concerns about living in a heavily controlled society.

Throughout history it does seem that the pendulum swings back and forth between ideas. Perhaps the reaction to this disconnected, materialistic society will be a return to the local community living of the past.

As far as big business changing, I think that is paramount, but I don't really see how. They are being supported by the people who go through life asleep. Doesn't that then mean it is up to the individual? Perhaps it is the people like you guys who talk about this stuff on blogs and live it in your lives who will really effect the necessary change.

hmmmm.... great discussion btw