Can’t we all get along?
As a nutritionist who eats meat, a common question I’m asked is what I think about vegetarians and vegans. Are they on the rise? Are vegans going to take over the world? There does seem to be much more media coverage about vegans and what they stand for. Maybe you’ve already heard the joke “How do you know if someone is vegan? Don’t worry they’ll tell you”.
No culture in the history of humans was vegan. Through history, humans knew the nutritive value of eating animal foods because that’s what we evolved to eat. Even countries like India that are held up as the golden example of vegetarian eating has been shown to be mostly full of meat eaters who prefer to under-report their consumption due to societal pressures.
Some of the nutritional needs required for us to live can only be found in animal products. Yes, we can produce vitamins in a lab now but receiving optimal nutrition is more complex than one molecule that science has deemed to be the most important. Most nutrients are found co-existing so they can act in synergy in our bodies, nowhere in nature would you ever find one vitamin or mineral existing on its own as we might find in a supplement pill.
Choosing a life with no meat is a sign of privilege. If you’ve travelled or lived in a poor country you’ve seen people just want nutritious food to eat, there are close to none “picky” eaters. Cutting out an entire food group is a recent luxury, perhaps a rebound from the modern culture of excess eating and overconsumption.
So why do I think the vegan movement can be a positive to meat eaters?
Many people are going vegan or vegetarian due to modern agricultural methods used for raising animals, eggs and dairy. This is a good thing! This means that people are getting educated on how the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) that are currently raising animals in conditions that are inhumane, unhealthy for the animals themselves and for the environment. Animals fed growth hormones and antibiotics as a rule. The animal wastes these operations produce is so toxic it cannot be used as fertiliser which contributes to why agriculture is one of the top polluting industries in the world.
The fact that some people are opting out of meat as a whole means that there are others (like me) who instead are choosing to support an industry that is setting an animal welfare standard, producing nutritious animal products and caring for the planet. I’m talking about grass-fed, local, pasture raised, organic where possible beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs. People are becoming educated on the downsides to modern agriculture and are actively looking for an alternative.
Opting out of an industry isn't going to change it because there will always be people who want to eat meat. Supporting an industry that makes sure animals are raised as they are in nature makes sure that farmers who are doing the right thing can continue to have a thriving business that hopefully can begin to influence and change the ugly, polluting side of modern meat agriculture.
So those vegan propaganda news articles and movies may be completely extreme and biased but education is the first step to making any kind of relevant change. Hopefully, people become informed about the state of the current mass producing meat industry and seek out alternate sources for their animal products.
This post barely scratches the surface of why I eat and recommend meat to my clients. There is also plenty of skewed and outdated research that hangs around like a bad smell casting a shadow over meat’s healthfulness but I’m not going to venture there today. I just hope we can all accept other informed adults’ choices in eating or not eating animal products without having to criticise or judge. At least we can all agree on one thing - the fact that modern animal agriculture is not the best way to go for us humans or the animals. But that opens up the can of worms - can we feed the billions of people on earth only ethically produced animal products? What do you think?
The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-43581122
Agricultural pollution information: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/28/industries-sectors-carbon-emissions