Thursday, January 1, 2009
A Fox River Grove art teacher who was fired last year for telling his students about veganism, is still causing controversy.
Last month, Dave Warwak contacted some of his former students over the Internet and asked them to meet him at a Fox River Grove restaurant. He passed out 20 copies of his self-published book, “A Peep Show for Children Only“.
According to published reports, at least one parent complained to police, upset that a picture of an unidentified group of students in the book included her daughter. Police investigated the incident and confiscated six books, but no charges were filed in the case.
Warwak was fired from his job at Fox River Grove Middle School last September. He was initially suspended with pay after he offered copies of the book “The Food Revolution” to some of his students. He was reprimanded for giving out literature that was not authorized by the Illinois Board of Education and the school board later voted 7-0 to fire him. District officials said during his dismissal hearing that he was teaching veganism instead of art.
But Warwak said he was trying to teach humane education and get kids to have compassion for animals. According to transcripts from his dismissal hearing, he refused to teach unless all posters promoting drinking milk were removed from the school, and he also refused to stop speaking to the students about his beliefs.
“I want these kids to care,” Warwak said. “So I create lessons that teach kids to care, and I incorporate these things into art.”
Warwak’s 487-page book is available for purchase on the Internet. It contains transcripts of Warwak’s dealings with the school board over his firing, some of his art, and correspondence with some of his former students.
“People use the word lifestyle to describe veganism, but it’s more of a philosophy,” Warwak told NBC5 Next. “I think when you don’t eat animal products and you don’t use them in any way in your life, that’s what you strive for. It’s very hard in today’s world.”
Warwak said he began to tell his 5th through 8th grades students about the health benefits of a plant-based diet because he wanted to show them the other side of eating meat. He had about 80 students in his classes during the 2006-2007 school year.
“If you go to school and you learn about vegetarianism, veganism, and meat-eating and make your own choice isn’t that better than having people do it for you? That is what school is supposed to be,” Warwak said.
Warwak has appealed the school board’s decision to fire him. Fox River Grove principal Tim Mahaffey said he was told by the Illinois Board of Education hearing officer not to comment about the case.
“We are waiting for a decision from the hearing officer,” Mahaffey said via telephone.
According to an article in the Northwest Herald, the parent who complained about her daughter’s appearance in Warwak’s book could file civil charges.
But Warwak remains undaunted. He says throughout history, people with radical ideas have suffered a worse fate then he has.
“They didn’t put me to death — they fired me,” Warwak said.
Normally intelligent fine people never question much of anything under the trance of meat and dairy–especially when coupled with the idea–whatever the status quo is, must be normal and right. Conformity and denial allows otherwise good people to eat meat and drink milk unimpeded as no locust in a swarm feels individually responsible for the ravaged crops left in its wake.
People should be outraged at what the meat and dairy industries have done to our parents, us, and now our children in schools–the very places our children trust more than anything to deliver truth and to model how to behave and survive in the world.
We have been bought and sold long ago and now they are coming after our children.
Sad to think, most parents are ignorant and apathetic as they have adopted schools’ “they are only kids” attitude that further explains “we can’t change, this is how we were raised”.
We have choices. We can go with the status quo and do to our children what the meat and dairy industries have done to our parents and us; or, we can avoid the nonsense and tell children the truth about meat and dairy today. Silence is complicity.
source: Vegan School 101
Stepping away from eating meat is the single most environmentally friendly thing we as individuals can do. It actually costs us less and could help break us away from the money scam of carbon taxes that the elite so crave.
Don’t expect Obama or Al Gore to say a word about this.
Eat your cheeseburger and go back to sleep.
by Jeremy Rifkin Viva!
When representatives meet at the World Food Summit they supposedly focus on how to get food into the mouths of nearly one billion people who are currently undernourished. However, at all the dinners they attend you can expect to see the consumption of large quantities of meat. And herein lies the contradiction.
People go hungry because much of arable land is used to grow feed grain for animals rather than people. In the US, 157 million tons of cereals, legumes and vegetable protein – all suitable for human consumption – is fed to livestock to produce just 28 million tons of animal protein in the form of meat.
In developing countries, using land to create an artificial food chain has resulted in misery for hundreds of millions of people. An acre of cereal produces five times more protein than an acre used for meat production; legumes such as beans, peas and lentils can produce 10 times more protein and, in the case of soya, 30 times more.
Global corporations which supply the seeds, chemicals and cattle and which control the slaughterhouses, marketing and distribution of beef, eagerly promote grain-fed livestock. They equate it with a country’s prestige and climbing the “protein ladder” becomes the mark of success.
Enlarging their meat supply is the first step for all developing countries. They start with chicken and egg production and, as their economies grow, climb the protein ladder to pork, milk, and dairy products, then to grass-fed beef and finally to grain-fed beef. Encouraging this process advances the interests of agribusinesses and two-thirds of the grain exported from the USA goes to feed livestock. The process really got underway when “green revolution” technology produced grain surpluses in the 1970s. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation encouraged it and the USA government linked its food aid programme to the producing of feed grain and gave low-interest loans to establish grain-fed poultry operations. Many nations have attempted to remain high on the protein ladder long after the grain surpluses disappeared.
Human consequences of the shift from food to feed were dramatically illustrated during the Ethiopian famine in 1984. While people starved, Ethiopia was growing linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rapeseed meal for European livestock. Millions of acres of land in the developing world are used for this purpose. Tragically, 80 per cent of the world’s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses which are fed to animals for consumption by the affluent.
The irony is that millions of consumers in the first world are dying from diseases of affluence such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer, brought on by eating animal products, while the world’s poor are dying from diseases of poverty. We are long overdue for a global discussion on how to promote a diversified, high-protein, vegetarian diet for the human race.
Jeremy Rifkin is the author of Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (Plume, 1992), and The Biotech Century (Victor Gollancz,1998). He is also the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington DC, USA.
Despite the rich diversity of foods found all over the world, one third of its population does not have enough to eat. Today, hunger is a massive problem in many parts of Africa, Asia and South America and the future is not looking good. The global population is set to rise from 6.5 billion (2006) to 9.3 billion by 2050 (2) and Worldwatch reports (3) forecast severe global food shortages leading to famine on an unprecedented scale.
This misery is partly a direct result of our desire to eat meat. Children in the developing world starve next to fields of food destined for export as animal feed, to support the meat-hungry cultures of the rich world. While millions die, one third of the world’s grain production is fed to farmed animals in rich countries (4).
If animal farming were to stop and we were to use the land to grow grain to feed ourselves, we could feed every single person on this planet. Consuming crops directly – rather than feeding them to animals and then eating animals – is a far more efficient way to feed the world. This Viva! Guide looks at why eating meat is a major cause of world hunger and how vegetarianism can provide a solution.
The roots of hunger
The developing world hasn’t always been hungry. Early explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries often returned amazed at the huge amounts of food they saw there. In parts of Africa, for example, people always had three harvests in storage and no-one went hungry. The idea of buying and selling food was unheard of.
The Industrial Revolution changed all that. European countries needed cheap raw materials such as coal and iron ore that developing countries had plenty of. Through the process of invasion and colonisation, Western countries could not only take the raw materials but claim the land as their own and make the indigenous people pay taxes or rent. Poor peasants (many of whom had never dealt in money before) were forced to grow crops such as cotton to sell to their new masters. Wealthy countries owned the land, all the food that was produced, and decided the price. After paying taxes, peasants had little money left to buy this expensive food and often ended up borrowing money simply to live. This whole process of colonisation continued right up to the beginning of the last century.
The problem today
Drought and other ‘natural’ disasters are often wrongly blamed for causing famines. Local people have always planned for freak acts of nature and although they may be the trigger that starts a famine, the underlying cause is the system of modern day neo-colonialism.
The land in poor countries is still largely not owned by the people who work on it and rents are high. Huge areas are owned by large companies based in the West. It is common for people to be thrown off the land, often going to the towns where there is little other work. About 160,000 people move from rural areas to cities every day (5). Many migrants are forced to settle in shanty towns and squatter settlements.
Much of this land is used to grow “cash crops” for export – like coffee, tobacco and animal feed – rather than to grow food for indigenous people. Countries agree to grow cash crops in order to pay off their crippling debts. Fifty-two of the world’s poorest countries owe the rich world in the region of £213 billion. Annual repayments total £14 billion – the majority of this from countries where most people are living on less than one dollar a day (see p7: Why are countries in debt?). (6)
The sad irony is that the world produces more than enough plant food to meet the needs of all its six billion people. If people used land to grow crops to feed themselves, rather than feeding crops to animals, then there would be enough to provide everyone with the average of 2360 Kcal (calories) needed for good health (7).
If everyone were to take 25 per cent of their calories from animal protein then the planet could sustain only three billion people (8). In simple, brutal terms, if we were all to imitate the average North American diet, we would only be able to feed half the world’s population.
Breeding animals means starving people
Breeding animals is an incredibly inefficient way to try and feed the world’s growing population. Yet after food rationing during the second world war, intensive animal farming was actively encouraged as a way of ensuring our future “food security”.
Most meat in Western Europe is now produced in factory farms which, as the name implies, are production lines for animals. To meet the large demand for meat, billions of animals are kept in cramped, filthy conditions, often unable to move properly and not allowed fresh air or even natural light. Unable to feed outdoors naturally, they are fed grain, oil seeds, soya feed, fish meal and sometimes the remains of other animals. High quality land is used to grow grains and soya beans – land that could be used to grow crops for humans.
The grain fed to animals does not convert directly into meat to feed people. The vast majority is either excreted or used as “fuel” to keep the animal alive and functioning. For every 10 kilograms of soya protein fed to America’s cattle only one kilogram is converted to meat. Almost the entire population of India and China, nearly two billion people, could be fed on the protein consumed and largely wasted by the United States’ beef herd (10).
Because of the demand for animal feed, a Western meat-based diet uses four and a half times more land than is necessary for a vegan diet and two and a quarter times more than for a vegetarian diet (11). The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) recommend that people reduce their intake of dairy and meat products in order to reduce grazing pressure on land (12).
Where does the animal feed come from?
The amount of land used to grow animal feed in Western countries is not enough to meet their own needs and more is imported from developing countries. Land in some developing countries, like India, is also used to grow grain for animals who are reared and killed for export.
Currently farmed animals eat one-third of the world’s cereal production. In the industrialised world, two-thirds of the agricultural land produces cereals for animal feed. The EU imports 45 per cent of its oilseeds (soya) and, overall, imports 70 per cent of its protein for animal feed (1995-6). As the European Commission admits, ‘Europe’s agriculture is capable of feeding Europe’s people but not of feeding Europe’s animals’ (4). The EU also imports cattle feed such as peanuts or soya because it is cheaper than buying animal feed grown in Europe.
At the height of the Ethiopian famine in 1984-5, Britain imported £1.5 million worth of linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rape seed meal. Although none of this was fit for humans to eat, good quality farmland was still being used to grow animal feed for rich countries when it could have been used to grow food for Ethiopians.
In the United States, farmed animals, mostly cattle, consume almost twice as much grain as is eaten by the entire US population (13). 70 per cent of all the wheat, corn and other grain produced goes to feeding animals (14). Over 100 million acres of US agricultural land is used to grow grain for animals (13) and still more is imported.
In Central and South America, ever-increasing amounts of land are being used to grow soya beans and grain for export – to be used as animal feed. In Brazil, 23 per cent of the cultivated land is currently being used to produce soya beans, of which nearly half are for export (13). The Oxfam Poverty Report explains that the subsidised expansion of the EU’s dairy and livestock industry has created a huge demand for high protein animal feedstuffs and that the demand has in part been met through the expansion of large-scale, mechanised soya production in Brazil. Smallholder producers of beans and staple foods in the southern part of the country have been displaced to make way for giant soya estates. Soya has now become the country’s major agricultural export, “however, it is a trading arrangement which had proved considerably more efficient at feeding European cattle than with maintaining the livelihoods of poor Brazilians.” (16)
Twenty-five years ago, livestock consumed less than six per cent of Mexico’s grain. Today, at least one third of the grain produced in the country is being fed to animals. At the same time, millions of people living in the country are chronically undernourished (13).
It’s not surprising that the World Health Organisation has called for a shift away from meat production so that people can consume crops directly. It says:
“Farming policies that do not require intensive animal production systems would reduce the world demand for cereals. Use of land could be reappraised since cereal consumption for direct consumption by the population is much more efficient and cheaper than dedicating large areas to growing feed for meat production and dairying. Policies should be geared to the growing of plant foods and to limiting the promotion of meat and dairy.” (17)
Governments worldwide have ignored this advice. Instead of promoting the growing of plant foods for human consumption, they offer subsidy payments and financial incentives to livestock farmers, thereby actively encouraging meat production.
Who is hungry?
Around six billion people share the planet, one quarter in the rich north and three quarters in the poor south. While people in rich countries diet because they eat too much, many in the developing world do not have enough food simply to ensure their bodies work properly and stay alive.
826 million people around the world are seriously undernourished – 792 million people in developing countries and another 34 million in industrialised countries (18). Two billion people – one third of the global population – lack food security, defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as a “state of affairs where all people at all times have access to safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” (5)
Today, some 12 million children die annually of nutrition-related diseases. The Food and Agriculture Organisation says, “Doubtless, far more are chronically ill.” (19)
There are more chronically hungry people in Asia and the Pacific, but the depth of hunger is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. In 46 per cent of countries there, the undernourished have an average deficit of more than 300 kilocalories per day (19). In 1996-98, 28 per cent of the population on the African continent were chronically undernourished (192 million people) (20).
Access to food is a basic right, enshrined in a number of human rights instruments to which states around the world have committed themselves. At the 1996 World Food Summit, leaders from 185 countries and the European Community reaffirmed, in the Rome Declaration on Food Security, “the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.” They pledged to cut the number of the world’s hungry people in half by 2015 (21) .
The FAO says that, “eradicating hunger is not merely a lofty ideal” (21). Yet it makes no sense for states to acknowledge the right of each individual to food whilst promoting diets based around animal protein. Starvation does not occur because of a world food shortage. If everyone ate a vegetarian, or better still, a vegan diet there would be enough food for everyone. The only sane way forward is to grow food for humans rather than to feed it to farmed animals.
A report, The European Meat Industry in the 1990s, explains the obscene paradox of global food distribution: “World trade relations are dominated by low-priced animal feed and meat. Low prices on animal feeds affect farmers in poor countries producing cash crops [ie animal feed crops for export]. Partly due to the use of imported feed, the rich countries today have a large surplus of meat while more and more people in less developed countries tend to be undernourished” (22).
Current trade agreements, like the Agreement on Agriculture under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), permit Western farmers to sell subsidised grain and other commodity surpluses cheaply in developing nations. This undercuts local farmers and forces many off the land. The Worldwatch Institute states, “In most cases, any benefits of this cheap food to the urban poor are likely to be transitory, as the destablisation of the rural economy encourages migration to job-scarce cities, thereby increasing the ranks of impoverished city dwellers while harming urban agriculture programmes” (23).
Dependence on foreign markets for food also means that the importing countries are vulnerable to price fluctuations and currency devaluations that can increase the price of food substantially (23).
Why are countries in debt?
During the 1970s, developing countries were lent money by developed countries for a range of projects, including infrastructure development (e.g. dams and roads), industrialisation and technology. The World Development Movement (WDM) states, “Often the projects turned out to be unproductive.” The loans were either multilateral (i.e. the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund lending to one government) or bilateral (i.e. one government lending to another) (24).
Then in the 1980s, interest rates rocketed because of the oil crisis, while at the same time, industrialised countries put high prices on many agricultural imports so that developing world farmers were not able to sell their produce (24). Consequently, developing countries were unable to pay off their loans and they have become increasingly indebted. These countries are paying back billions of pounds to the West in interest payments each year.
Often, the loans had conditions attached. When Costa Rica borrowed money from the World Bank, one of the conditions set was that they had to cut down rainforest and clear land for cattle grazing to supply rich countries with cheap beef. The destruction of rainforests is a disaster not just for its people and wildlife but for the world’s climate (see Viva! Guide 9, Planet on a Plate).
Between 1975 and 1985, thousands of km2 of forest were cleared in Thailand to grow tapioca to sell to the EU as feed for pigs and cattle. When beef and pork mountains meant that not as much meat was being produced, Europe no longer needed tapioca and stopped buying. This put Thai peasants into huge debt because they had borrowed money to spend on improving their farms to grow enough to meet demand. As a consequence, many people sold their children into child labour and prostitution.
Why not employ human testing? It would yield more accurate and useful results….
By David Irving
We live with an inescapable dilemma. With each passing year we become more vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Animal researchers believe that the solution lies somewhere within the boundaries of their profession just waiting to be discovered. The media follows their lead jumping on every little report they put out telling us about the latest “exciting” research project that surely gets us closer to a cure for these killer diseases. But animal researchers have been saying this for as long as anyone can remember. Moreover, the public is growing ever more disenchanted with their research for a variety of reasons. One reason is that animal research is unreliable. The metabolism of animals is and will always be completely different than that of human beings. Tylenol, for example, kills cats. Countless, flawed drugs that passed animal tests have caused health problems for human beings, one of the most notorious being the infamous Thalidomide that caused babies to be born with deformities. Other examples include Methoxyflurane, an anesthesia that caused kidney malfunction; Flosint, an arthritis medication that proved fatal to humans; Opren, a cough medication that killed 61 people; Zelmid, an antidepressant that caused severe neurological problems for humans; and Practolol, a drug for emergency cardiac arrhythmias, which killed 23 people and blinded 78 others. Yet medical researchers continue to experiment upon animals knowing that this research often leads to dangerous applications and can at best provide only inconclusive theories since it cannot directly translate to human beings.
Animal research is also a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too, permissive, corrupt profession that largely ignores one of the most obvious causes of cancer, heart disease, and stroke – diet. Animal researchers thereby lull the public into the mistaken belief that it can continue the bad habits that are chiefly responsible for spawning these diseases under the misperception that animal researchers are busy in their laboratories finding cures that will protect it. This creates a somnambulant public ready to be bilked out of billions of tax dollars. As Linus Pauling wrote in regard to cancer, “most cancer research is largely a fraud.” Even those few researchers who are motivated by humanitarian impulses perpetuate this fraudulent enterprise by refusing to denounce the fake research in which their fraud-minded colleagues are engaged. This money could go to far more creative medical research that does not rely on animals and would lead to more meaningful results than animal research has ever produced since it would be aimed at the actual causes of these diseases.
The indisputable fact remains that it is morally reprehensible and cowardly to enslave another living creature against its will for a hoped-for benefit for the so-called superior human race. Scientists who practice animal research have acquiesced to a mindset that relies on the exploitation of the weak and helpless. In doing so they have accepted a lower intellectual and spiritual plane where animal exploitation is the norm. It is only in such a reduced environment that animal researchers could ever achieve the acclaim they enjoy today. Refusing to respect the credentials of the lesser world these animal researchers inhabit and control, George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Prize winner in literature, wrote “vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.” Samuel Johnson, thought by some to be the most distinguished person of letters in the history of England, put it just as succinctly 300 years ago. “Men who have practiced tortures on animals without pity, relating them without shame [in the medical journals], how can they still hold their heads among human beings?”
Those who object to animal research for finding a solution to our health problems are looking for alternatives especially in consideration of the mounting evidence that links the major killer diseases to diet. John Robbins made the following observation in his book Diet for a New America: “We know how to prevent heart attacks and strokes. We know how to prevent the killers that account for more than half of the deaths in the United States every year. But most of us, thanks to the endeavors of the meat, dairy and egg industries, have not gotten the good news. We still think we must eat animal products in order to be healthy. We still think heart attacks and strokes are regrettable but more or less inevitable by-product that comes with living well and growing old. The heart attack has become so much a part of American life as to be virtually an institution. We take it for granted.”
In the search for finding a means by which to ward off heart disease, cancer, and stroke, it will help to recognize some of the enemies to good health. Robbins names three of them in the paragraph above. They are: 1. Meat. 2. Dairy. 3. Eggs. With these enemies serving as the mainstays of our diet, our lives are like a game of Russian Roulette. A pistol with bullets of heart disease, cancer, and stroke is pointed directly at our temples. We do not know if the next chamber in the gun is empty or loaded, and we are not the ones holding the gun and pulling the trigger. That assignment goes to diet. It is apparent then, that we need to know more about the affects of the food we consume.
A look at some of the work done at the Framingham Project – an ongoing cardiovascular study of the causes of heart attacks begun in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1948 – gets us off to a good start. According to the current director of the project, Dr. William Castelli, they have never “had a heart attack in Framingham in 35 years in anyone who had cholesterol under 150.” Obviously, then, if we can get our cholesterol levels down to 150 we’ve taken a big step in reducing the chances of becoming heart attack victims. The very simple way to do this is discussed further below.
It is up to us to try to put the odds for good health and a longer life in our favor as much as possible so that we can boot the killer diseases from our doorstep. A following fact sheet offers information about heart disease, cancer, and stroke in relation to diet. It is copied directly from the sources listed with links provided in each section to web sites where verifications, referenced footnotes, and additional information can be found.
One final point. There is no cutoff age for changing to a better diet. Whether a person is twenty, forty, or ninety, the health benefits that result from such a change will most certainly follow.
THE KILLER DISEASES
About Those Omega-3 Fatty acids
If your cholesterol is too high how should you reduce it and what’s the story with statins.
Meat and dairy products are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. As these fatty substances, or “plaques,” build up inside the walls of arteries, blood flow to all areas of the body is impeded. This artery damage is called atherosclerosis. It often begins very early in life and develops gradually. When too little blood reaches various regions of the body, normal immune systems are impaired, setting people up for a number of diseases, most notably heart disease. Heart disease is the number one health problem in the United States today and, according to the American Heart Association, the single leading cause of death. Most heart disease is diet-related—caused by animal products. Research shows a highly significant correlation between the consumption of even small amounts of animal-based foods and the increasing prevalence of heart disease.
For example, a major study published in February 2005 reconfirmed the link between meat consumption and heart problems. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that among the 29,000 participants, those who ate the most meat were also at the greatest risk for heart disease. The researchers also reported that a high intake of protein from vegetable sources like tofu, nuts, and beans lowers our risk of heart disease by 30 percent. Dr. Linda E. Kelemen, the scientist who headed the study, told reporters, “Not all proteins are equal”—while vegetable protein can help keep our hearts healthy, eating animal protein can put us in an early grave.”
Studies have shown that a vegan (pure vegetarian) diet—rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—can stop and even reverse heart disease. People following a plant-based diet have 2.5 times fewer cardiac events, including heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery, and angioplasty. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can significantly reduce and almost eliminate your chances of dying from heart disease.
Elevated cholesterol—anything above 150—promotes atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol, fat, and cells in the arteries that feed the heart muscle. Incidentally, while the average cholesterol level in the U.S. is 210, the average vegetarian’s cholesterol level is 161 and the average vegan’s cholesterol level is 133.
As noted earlier in this article, nobody with a cholesterol count of 150 and below has ever died of heart disease in 35 years in the Framingham study. To lower our cholesterol count to 150 and lower, we only have to stop eating animal products.
For additional information on heart disease visit http://www.goveg.com/heartdisease.asp Links at the bottom of each web page are provided for further information.
Dr. Dean Ornish, author of Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Eat More, Weigh Less, has been featured in all major medical journals and news media including NOVA on PBS as the result of his revolutionary study proving that heart disease can be reversed through diet and exercise. He explains that “In Japan and other countries where the consumption of animal fat is much lower, breast cancer is rare. It’s not because their genes are different. When Japanese women move to the United States and begin consuming a high-fat diet, they develop breast cancer at about the same rate as Americans–more than 400 percent higher than in Japan.” A 2007 study of more than 35,000 women published in the British Journal of Cancer found that women who ate the most meat were more likely to develop breast cancer than women who consumed the lowest amount of meat. For a further description of Dr. Ornish’s study see the section below If your cholesterol is too high how should you reduce it and what’s the story with statins.
A study comparing the dietary habits of men in 32 countries found that the highest risk factors for prostate cancer mortality were meat and dairy products. By contrast, another study of men diagnosed with prostate cancer showed that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains can slow or even halt the progression of the disease. The ACS (American Cancer Society), which has launched a “Five a Day” program encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables, believes that the “intake of saturated fat-animal fat from red meat and dairy products-is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.”
And the American Cancer Society web site states that “a diet mostly from animal sources” is a risk factor for colorectal (colon and rectal) cancer. As a result, the ACS “recommends choosing most of your foods from plant sources and limiting intake of high-fat foods such as those from animal sources.”
Upon reviewing an array of studies discussing the link between diet and colon cancer, scientists from the Bremen Institute for Prevention, Research, and Social Medicine and the German Cancer Research Center stated in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that “the relationship between a vegetarian and fiber-rich diet and a decreased risk for colon cancer has been reported in many studies.”
A review of population studies published in 1996 in the prestigious Italian medical journal Annali dell’Istituto Superiore di Sanita found that meat and other animal fats are among the most consistent risk factors for colon cancer and that vegetarian diets reduce the risk of colon cancer.
A population study conducted by the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found that “animal fat was positively associated with the risk of colon cancer.” The authors also reported that in another large-scale clinical study, women who consumed beef, lamb, or pork as a main dish at least once a day were more than 250 percent more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer than women who consumed meat as a main dish less than once a month.
For additional information visit http://www.goveg.com/cancer.asp Links at the bottom of each web page are provided for further information.
All the cholesterol and saturated fat in animal products also clog the arteries in your brain, which can lead to strokes. Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States—after heart disease and cancer—affecting one American every 45 seconds and killing one American every three minutes.
On average, vegetarians have significantly lower blood pressure than meat-eaters do. People with high blood pressure are far more likely to suffer from strokes. Researchers who tracked 72,000 women over a period of 14 years recently confirmed the fact that those who adhered to diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains were less likely to suffer from strokes in comparison to those who ate the typical American meat-heavy diet. If you want to protect yourself against strokes and other serious chronic diseases, the science indicates that going meat-free is one of the best steps that you can take.
In fact, high blood pressure is the single-most important risk factor for strokes, according to the American Heart Association.8 On average, vegetarians have lower blood pressure than meat-eaters do. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that 26 percent of meat-eaters studied suffered from high blood pressure, compared to only 2 percent of vegetarians.9 Further studies by scientists at Harvard Medical School have confirmed that “[s]trict vegetarians, who eat little if any animal products, and lacto-vegetarians, who regularly eat dairy products, have lower blood pressures than the general population after adjustment for the effects of age, sex, and body weight.”10 Since vegetarians have a lower risk of having high blood pressure in comparison to meat-eaters, they reduce their chances of having strokes or developing other cardiovascular problems associated with hypertension.
According to Teresa Fung, a researcher who studies strokes at the Harvard School of Public Health, “In essence, an ischemic stroke is much like a heart attack that occurs in your brain and [that] can result from atherosclerosis.”6 Atherosclerosis is the narrowing and hardening of our blood vessels that is caused by the consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are the leading sources of saturated fat and the only sources of cholesterol in the human diet. Although the average cholesterol level in the U.S. is 210, the average vegetarian in the U.S. has a cholesterol level of 161, and the average American vegan has a cholesterol level of 133.7 Since vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels and lower intakes of saturated fat than meat-eaters do, they are less likely to suffer from the hardened and clogged arteries that often lead to heart disease and strokes.
For additional information visit http://www.goveg.com/strokes-meat.asp Links at the bottom of each web page are provided for further information.
ABOUT THOSE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Although fish and fish-oil capsules have been promoted for their omega-3 fatty acids as a means of lowering heart-disease risk, these acids have highly unstable molecules that decompose quickly and unleash free radicals. Free radicals are damaging to living tissues and cells, but that damage can be prevented by antioxidants. The kinds of fatty acids found in vegetables, fruits, and beans lower free-radical activity while increasing antioxidant levels. When you choose vegetarian foods, you naturally and safely lower your risk for heart disease and other serious illnesses. You get twice the level of protection every time you eat.
IF YOUR CHOLESTEROL IS TOO HIGH HOW SHOULD YOU REDUCE IT AND WHAT’S THE STORY WITH STATINS
Even if you’ve been diagnosed with atherosclerosis, there’s still hope. Dr. Dean Ornish has demonstrated that the disease can be reversed without drugs and their sometimes dangerous side effects. In a landmark study, he put a group of patients on a completely vegetarian diet with less than 10 percent fat. They also had to engage in moderate exercise. Within a year, the plaques that had been growing in their hearts for decades actually started to dissolve. Patients’ chest pains disappeared, and their cholesterol levels dropped. Nearly 80 percent of people with severely clogged arteries who follow the Ornish program for at least a year are able to avoid bypass surgery and angioplasty. Says Dr. Ornish, “I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it’s medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.”
The world’s largest randomized study of cholesterol-lowering drugs, or “statins,” followed 20,000 patients for up to eight years. It revealed that cholesterol-lowering drugs reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke by at least one-quarter for those at highest risk, proving that these drugs are effective. However, the effectiveness of these drugs is far outweighed by their expense and inherent risks. Americans spend billions of dollars annually for cholesterol-lowering drugs that often have dangerous side effects. The two main complications from taking cholesterol-lowering drugs are liver problems and myopathy, a painful muscle condition.
In contrast, adopting a vegetarian diet is cheaper and more effective than cholesterol-lowering drugs, and it has absolutely no adverse side effects. Dr. Dean Ornish, head of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in California, says, “Most people can accomplish comparable reductions in LDL-cholesterol [bad cholesterol] by diet and lifestyle alone.” In a 1998 study, Ornish [reported a 40 percent reduction in LDL-cholesterol after one year among a group of patients with heart disease who followed his program, including 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily and a low-fat, vegetarian diet.
Drugmakers spend billions of dollars marketing cholesterol-lowering drugs, and the advertising works. Doctors write millions of prescriptions. The pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars. But since the focus is on treating the disease rather than preventing it from happening in the first place, the vicious cycle repeats itself.
For additional information visit http://www.goveg.com/heartdisease_drugs.asp Links at the bottom of each web page are provided for further information.
David Irving is a Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude graduate of Columbia University, class of 1980, School of General Studies. He subsequently obtained his Masters in Music Composition at Columbia and founded the new music organization Phoenix in New York City.
By Dr. Steve Best
Currently, it is estimated that in the US “somewhere between two percent and five percent of the nation’s eaters classify themselves as vegetarians, of that number perhaps five percent are strict vegans” (Koerner 2007). Although “vegetarians” renounce animal flesh, they consume animal fluids (milk and milk-derivates such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream) and/or eggs. The vegetarian tribe is divided into “lacto-ovo” vegetarians who eat dairy products and eggs, “lacto-vegetarians” who eat dairy but no eggs, and “ovo-vegetarians” who eat eggs but no dairy. Some describe themselves as “vegetarians” who eat fish (“pescetarians”) or chicken (“pollo-vegetarians”) or both (“pesco-pollo vegetarians”). In truth, these oxymoronic hybridists are carnivores whose pretense to vegetarianism depends on the double fallacy of equating “meat” with “red meat” and conflating sentient beings (e.g., chicken and fish) with nonsentient things (plants).
But vegetarianism itself has been criticized as inadequate and inconsistent by a more radical approach known as “veganism” (pronounced “vee-gun-ism). For every reason vegetarians renounce meat-eating, vegans find it necessary also to repudiate dairy, cheese, eggs, and honey; clothing items such as fur, leather, wool, and silk; and animal-tested products including shampoo, cosmetics, and, drugs. Vegans believe that vegetarians only partially – and therefore inconsistently — break from a health-destroying, violent, and ecocidal system. For, like meat and the livestock industry, dairy and egg products are toxic and disease-promoting; milk cows, birds in battery cages, and veal calves are confined and killed for “lacto-ovo” consumption; and dairy and egg farms pollute the air and water. Thus, vegan pioneer Donald Watson (1910-2005) disparaged vegetarianism as “but a half-way house between flesh eating and a truly humane, civilised diet” (1944). As with vegetarianism there are sub-categories of veganism, including fruitarianism, raw food veganism, and freeganism (a minimal consumption lifestyle).
“Vegetarianism” (which I will use here to include veganism) has a long and rich history as old as Western society itself (see Berry 1998, Iacobbo and Iacobbo 2004, Spencer 2002, Walters and Portmess 1999 and 2001, Spencer 2004, Tristram 2007, and Phelps 2007. As a health-promoting diet and an ethic rooted in compassion for all living beings (ahimsa), vegetarianism emerged over three thousand years ago as a philosophy and practice of the ancient religions: Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. From this matrix, vegetarianism migrated into Western society through the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras (ca 496-552 BCE), whose vegetarianism and animal protectionist ethics spread throughout the ancient world and resurfaced in the seventeenth century (indeed, until 1847, those who abstained from meat were called “Pythagoreans”). At the dawn of modernity, vegetarianism became increasingly influential throughout European society, such that radicals deployed its non-violent and egalitarian outlook as a critical weapon against class rule and Western barbarism and prominent medical figures espoused it as ideal for health and morality as well (Stuart 2007).
Deep Vegetarianism, Radical Holism, and the Omnicidal Juggernaut of Corporate Agriculture
In the turn to the twentieth century, however, the influence of vegetarianism in the US began to wane as the livestock industry became increasingly powerful and meat became an affordable staple for working-class families (Rifkin 1992). Amidst a culture believing that meat promotes strength and vegetarianism encourages weakness, a dramatic revival, growth, and broadening of vegetarianism began in 1971, with the publication of Francis Moore Lappe’s book, Diet for a Small Planet. In this and subsequent books (1977, 1998, 2003), Lappe described a corporate-controlled, industrialized, factory-farmed system of animal agriculture that was inefficient, wasteful, cruel, and destructive to every facet of the environment. The global livestock industry was, as well, a vehicle of Western imperialism that displaced millions of people from the land, destroyed independent farmers, exacerbated poverty and inequality, and aggravated world hunger by diverting resources into producing feed rather than food. To this destructive, unethical, unjust, and unsustainable system of agriculture, Lappe contrasted a vegetarian mode of farming that produced maximum output with minimum input; that promoted health, rights, justice, and democracy; and that was environmentally sound and sustainable.
Lappe’s work — along with Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (1975), Singer and Jim Mason’s Animal Factories (1990 ), and John Robbins’ Diet for a New America (1998 ) — vividly portrayed the human, animal, and environmental costs of the global meat culture and inspired the vegetarian environmentalism movement. The panoramic outlook advanced here fused issues of health, animal rights, social justice, world hunger, violence, globalization, and environmentalism into a holistic theory unrivalled in depth, comprehensiveness, and awareness of the multidimensional crisis – health, moral, social, and environmental – facing humanity. Since these theorists’ pioneering lead, a number of significant books have documented the central role of the livestock industry in the devastation of the social and natural worlds (see Mason and Singer 1990 , Jacobs 1992, Rifkin 1992, Hill 1996, Robbins 2001, Lyman 2001, and Jacobson 2006). Beginning in the 1990s, vegetarian environmentalists described how the livestock industry was the principle cause of the most serious threat confronting humanity: global warming.
By 2000, growing alarm over the human, animal, and environmental toll of the global meat, dairy, and egg industries percolated into scientific sectors, international government bodies, and – in a bewilderingly slow and hesitant way – some mainstream environmental groups such as the Sierra Club. Throughout 400 startling pages, a landmark 2006 United Nations report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” identified the livestock industry “as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global” (Steinfeld et. al. 2006). The data compiled in this report and countless thousands of corroborating studies leave little room for doubt in identifying the livestock industry as the main planetary threat. The number of farmed animals in the world has quadrupled in the last 50 years, putting an incredible strain on air, land, and sea. Livestock uses 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface (Steinfeld et. al. 2006). Crops grown for animal feed rather than human food consume 87 percent of the nation’s fresh water, 90 percent of the soy crop, 80 percent of its corn, and 50 percent of all grains (Vesterby and Krupa 1997, Pimentel 1997). Compared to a vegetarian diet, meat production demands 7 times more land (Leckie 2007), 8 times more fossil fuel energy (Pimenel 1997), and ten times as many crops (Cornel University Science News, 1997, Robbins 1998 and 2001, Horrigan et. al. 2002). In this grotesquely irrational, inefficient, indirect system of carnivorous consumption, 41 million tons of plant protein for cows returns a paltry 7 million tons of protein for humans (Pimentel 1997).
Not only inefficient and wasteful, the livestock industry is a key cause of air pollution, soil erosion, and desertification, and the main source of water pollution. Agriculture produces two-thirds of the ammonia gases that produce acid rain. US farms generate 130 times as much excrement as the nation’s entire population (Worldwatch Institute 1998). Factory farm effluvia – a toxic brew of manure, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and fertilizers — poison water supplies, decimate fish populations, degrade coral reefs, and have generated over 150 oxygen-starved “dead zones” in the oceans (Larsen 2004).
Moreover, 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been slashed and burned to graze cattle and much of the remainder goes to producing feed. In addition to being a principle cause of forest destruction and species extinction, the livestock industry is the primary cause of global warming (Steinfeld et. al. 2006). Meat, dairy, and egg industries emit 18 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, 37 percent of the methane gas (20 times stronger a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide), and 65 percent of nitrous oxide gases (300 times more potent than carbon dioxide). The UN report concluded that the livestock industry produced more greenhouse gases than the world’s transportation systems combined (Steinfeld et. al. 2006).
The Missing Piece to the Puzzle
These alarming facts clearly demonstrate the importance of vegetarianism and animal rights for environmentalism and the urgency of finding the common ground for a triangular alliance. Yet rather than uniting in the war to prevent massive die-offs, catastrophic breakdown, and irreversible climate change, vegetarian and environmental camps divided, torn apart by deep differences in philosophy and lifestyle (see Motavalli 2002, Sapontzis 2004). Both camps break with the domineering and dualistic mindset of anthropocentrism, but whereas vegetarians and animal rights advocates reject its mirror image in speciesism, environmentalists cling to speciesist ethics that privilege human interests and frame animals as resources for human use.
Environmentalists promote the need for a new “ecological consciousness” and “land ethic,” but rarely if ever champion vegetarianism and a new ethic to govern our relation with other species. Whereas vegetarians identify themselves as environmentalists, few environmentalists embrace vegetarianism. At stake are competing views on animal rights, whether or not hunting and meat-eating are ethical and compatible with environmental values, and how to balance the values of individuals and ecosystems.
Thrill Kill Cult
Ethical vegetarians shift the criterion for having rights from rationality to the far broader characteristic of sentience, such that a necessary and sufficient condition of having rights is the capacity to experience pleasure and pain (Singer 1975, Regan 1983). Given the fundamental moral axiom that it is wrong to cause injury, suffering, or death to another individual unless there is a compelling reason to do so, ethical vegetarians argue that — except in very rare cases such as self-defense or “subsistence” hunting — we never have adequate reason to harm animals. This is true not only for exploiting animals for “sport,” “entertainment,” and fur, but also killing them for food.
Many environmentalists opposed to industrial agriculture agree that factory farming is cruel and unethical, but nonetheless assert that animals raised on small “family” farms without intensive confinement and manipulation is acceptable and good. Their justifications for raising animals for slaughter include the argument that animals would not live at all if not bred for food, that they live a satisfying and worthy life on non-industrial farms, that killing and consuming others is a natural fact of life, and that animals exist to serve the interests of human beings. This position turns on a “welfare” rather than “rights” position (see Regan 2004), such that the moral wrong is in causing animals severe or unnecessary suffering (such as on factory farms) rather than exploiting them for human purposes. On the welfare view, slaughtering animals for food is ethical, so long as it is done “humanely” – a concept ethical vegetarians dismiss as Orwellian doublespeak, insisting that there is nothing “humane” about violent killing.
Whereas vegetarians view hunting as unnecessary and therefore unjustifiable killing, environmentalists support hunting as a recreational lifestyle. Indeed, they argue that hunting has positive ecological benefits by stabilizing game populations such as deer that would otherwise overpopulate (Lott 2007, Miniter 2007). Vegetarians respond that hunting in fact is the prime cause of deer overpopulation, and argue that hunters’ predilection to kill large healthy males over weaker individuals and females disrupts ecological and evolutionary dynamics (Pickover 2005). Unlike the animal rights ethic, which defends the rights of sentient individuals as inviolable, environmentalism is a holistic ethic that values ecosystems and species populations over individuals. Whereas many environmentalists champion Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” (1970) as the most comprehensive embrace of the biotic community (Callicott 1993), animal rights philosopher Tom Regan (1983) denounced it as “environmental fascism” that sacrifices the individual to the whole. Others still worked to reconcile these contrasting positions (Jamieson 1997).
While some environmentalists might agree with vegetarians that factory farming is cruel, they support obtaining meat from non-commercial wild sources through “sustainable” hunting and fishing. Moreover, environmentalists argue that small-scale, organic farming is “humane” and beneficial for the environment (Eisenstein 2002, Pollan 2007). Whereas low value land – such as prairie and steppe regions – is unsuited for plants, it can be used to graze cows and sheep and thereby improves land efficiency and productivity (Science Daily 2007, Land 2007). Rebutting vegetarians who boast the ecological virtues of a plant-based diet, environmentalists point out that a frugal organic farmer who consumes modest amounts of meat from his own cows can leave a lighter “ecological footprint” than a vegetarian who drives a Hummer, is a frequent flyer, and buys produce from global rather than local sources.
Such a scenario could indeed be true, but vegetarians respond that they have not taken an innocent life to satisfy their need to eat and they resent the glib and clichéd responses by environmentalists concerning the value of an animal’s life. As the world has yet recognize a global ecological crisis spiraling out of control (Agence-France Presse 2007), vegetarians rightly argue that environmentalists have been slow to grasp the disastrous impact of meat consumption. Vegetarians point out that environmentalists have not explained how their vision of a global network of small farms can satisfy the competitive need for profits (Collin 2003), let alone the surging demand for meat — especially in the world’s most populous nations, China and India – and a burgeoning population projected to double to 12 billion by 2050 (Worldwatch Institute 1998, Steinfeld et. al. 2006, Freston 2007). Moreover, they argue, environmentalists’ uncritical praise for “organic farming” as the alternative to factory farming confuses hype for reality and increasingly is yet another form of mass production and killing of animals (Cienfuegos 2004, Davis 2007, PETA).
Now or Never
In sum, environmentalists’ work on behalf wilderness preservation benefits animals and ecological holism is a necessary broadening of ethics beyond the “sentientism” of ethical vegetarianism. Animal rights campaigns to protect species are crucial for sustaining ecological systems, and vegetarians promote a comprehensive vision for a new world. These are fertile grounds for alliance politics, and yet there are deep if not incommensurable differences over the ethics of meat-eating and hunting, a sentientist ethic opposed to a land ethic, and the value of ecosystems and populations contrasted to the rights of individual animals. While it remains to be seen whether these differences can be negotiated in favor of a strategic alliance, but it is certain that productive working relationships among the vegetarian, animal rights, and environmental communities would give humanity more of a fighting chance to confront the greatest challenge it has ever faced.
Vegetarianism is not a panacea for ever-worsening social and environmental crises, but it is a crucial part of major changes that people — in the developed worlds above all — must make. These include reducing their population numbers and consumption levels and shifting from industrial to local agriculture, from chemically-intensive to organic farming, and from fossil-fuel to alternative energy. Yet the shift from a meat-based to a vegetarian or plant-based diet would benefit not only the environment in every facet, but also endangered species, billions of animals suffering in factory farms and slaughterhouses, farmers displaced from their land, and billions of people suffering from diseases of excess (in the developed world) and of lack (in the undeveloped world).
Moving from a carnocentric diet is especially important in the US, whose citizens consume 260 pounds of meat per year, more than any other nation. The mountain of meat quaffed by glutinous Americans is 1.5 times the industrial world average, three times the East Asian average, and 40 times the average in Bangladesh. Some researchers are optimistic that even small reduction in meat consumption by enough people in the US and other Western nations could have a significant regenerative impact on the earth. Leo Horrigan of the Center for a Livable Future writes: “One personal act that can have a profound impact on these [environmental] issues is reducing meat consumption… Considering [the tonnage Americans consume] even modest reductions in meat consumption … would substantially reduce the burden on our natural resources.”
If true, small changes can have large consequences if enough people accept the responsibility and take the initiative. Vegetarians can considerably lighten their ecological footprint by going vegan; vegans can always waste, consume, and pollute less; and both should be active in social movements rather than being lifestyle environmentalists trying to heal the planet one tofuburger at a time. And if environmentalists are not changing their ideas, lifestyles, policies, platforms, and priorities to address the issues engaged head-on by the vegetarian communities, I cannot think of a more momentous failure in their professed calling to defend the earth.
Best is Cyrano’s Journal Special Editor for Animal Rights, Speciesisim and Human Tyranny over Nature.
Source and to see Bibliography:http://www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/?p=824#more-824
“Champions of hunting and meat-eating fail to grasp that what was once a necessary survival mechanism and functional behavior is now – putting aside the debatable exception for any rare prehistorical cultures still left — an unnecessary, unjustifiable, addictive, health-destroying, environment-devastating, dysfunctional behavior and social practice.”
By Dr. Steve Best
In their myriad telling, “scientific” narratives of human evolution have accumulated a ton of ideological baggage; human origins accounts often are more rooted in fiction than fact, and many were spawned before recent archaeological and scientific breakthroughs. Few models are as dominant as the story of “Man the Hunter.” This theory of evolution and human nature argues that human beings: (1) are natural carnivores; (2) were always hunters; and (3) are inherently violent and aggressive. Not only prevalent in science, these assumptions spread into culture and everyday life, where they shaped anthropocentric worldviews and sedimented into “common sense.” Yet each element in the Man the Hunter model is a fiction and myth that both stems from and perpetuates false concepts of human identity. The prevalent notion of “human nature” has no grounding in historical reality and in fact is a social construction with troubling implications and consequences.
Clearly, these three assertions sustain and support each other. If humans are natural carnivores, they have to hunt to survive; since hunting, moreover, is impossible without killing, violent behaviors form the basis of social life. To say that humans are natural carnivores is to state that since our hominid beginnings 5-8 million years ago we ate a meat-based diet and killed animals to satisfy our cravings for flesh and blood. But it also makes a stronger claim that the human physiology requires meat and cannot flourish or function properly on a vegetarian diet. Meat consumption is primordial, natural, good, and necessary. Thus, humans cannot and should not live without killing animals, and violence is inherently and necessarily a part of their existence. Natural carnivores are therefore born to hunt and kill; they are violent not only toward animals but also toward each other: carnivorism is our original sin.
The Man the Hunter view has influenced many views about the biological basis and evolution of violence in human life. These are arbitrary claims rooted in speciesist, carnivorous, and patriarchal biases, and we shall take them apart one at a time.
The fact that our early hominids ate some animal flesh in no way mandates that they were “carnivores.” Our australopithecine ancestors were opportunist omnivores who ate anything they could, with a diet largely composed of fruits, nuts, seeds, plants, and any scraps of flesh they could find. For at least three million years, they maintained this diet and the little meat they consumed came from scavenging carrion or eating insects, but not hunting. The jaws, small incisors and canines, and blunt and flat molars of australopithecines were hardly suited for cutting, tearing, and masticating meat.
According to many theorists, however, once the genus Homo emerged over two million years ago, and with it the first primitive tools, the hominid diet changed. Whereas ten percent of australopithecine food intake was meat, this figure doubled for Homo erectus, the first hominid species thought to actively hunt animals. In the turn from scavengers to hunters, many argue, Homo erectus established a dramatic new mode of life whereby human survival was secured not by whatever the environment provided, but rather through actively securing sustenance by hunting animals. The Homo erectus diet was far more versatile than other hominids, as Homo erectus could freely move about independent of the food supply of any specific locale, and thus to begin a dynamic exodus out of Africa to other continents.
For many anthropological interpreters, meat was not just a key part of the Homo erectus diet two million years ago, it was a crucial stimulus to the human brain and the evolution of society. In Ape Man: The Story of Human Evolution, Robin McKie writes: “Meat …made us brainy. Easy to digest and rich in energy, meat provided the vital resources that our expanding brains demanded … The new diet provided mothers with high-quality for the brains of their developing babies, and provided continuing neurological sustenance as those infants grew up. And not just meat, but fat and bone marrow – easily digested, energy-rich foods that permitted the evolution of smaller stomachs which in turn saved internal energy… We started to eat meat, got smarter and thought of clever ways to obtain more meat.” As hunting demanded intelligence, stealth, communication, and cooperation, it sparked the development of a more complex social life.
Behold how patriarchal carnivorist fantasies are projected from the present to prehistory. There is no evidence linking meat consumption and the qualitative advancement of social life and the human brain. Moreover, the gathering or production of any plant food source surely required as much cooperation as hunting and would logically have brought about the same evolutionary result. Indeed, whereas hunting is framed as an exclusively male activity, gathering plants involved the cooperation of men and women and thus – as a practical activity — should have been a greater catalyst for social cooperation and brain development than hunting.
The claim that human beings are natural carnivores who thrive from eating meat is falsified by mountains of scientific evidence and everyday experience in modern populations plagued by heart disease, cancer, strokes, obesity, osteoporosis, and other diseases. An overwhelming body of scientific data demonstrates that animal fat causes disease processes in the human body, such as prostate and breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. Carnivores are many times more likely to fall victim to these diseases, along with obesity, than vegetarians and vegans. No truly carnivorous animal dies from the fat and protein of another animal. Human physiology is radically different from that of bona fide carnivores such as tigers and hyenas. Humans lack the teeth, saliva, and digestive systems necessary to eat and digest meat efficiently.
Even if humans have been carnivores and killers throughout their history, even if meat-consumption was crucial to the stimulation of the human brain and social evolution, it does not therefore follow that a carnivorous mode of existence continues to be a healthy lifestyle, an ethical diet, or a positive stimulant of social evolution. Appeals to tradition always beg the question of whether or not the tradition is valid and viable and should be perpetuated rather than ended.
The entrenchment of carnivorous lifestyles makes it difficult to change, to be sure, but not impossible and not undesirable. Because the intense propaganda of modern meat and dairy industries drives consumer appetites, now at staggeringly high levels on a global scale, in the last century an omnivorous hominid has mutated into a carnivorous ecomorph. Champions of hunting and meat-eating fail to grasp that what was once a necessary survival mechanism and functional behavior is now – putting aside the debatable exception for any rare prehistorical cultures still left — an unnecessary, unjustifiable, addictive, health-destroying, environment-devastating, dysfunctional behavior and social practice.
Whatever greater adaptability and brain stimulation meat eating might once have provided (a dubious proposition), hunting and meat consumption also endowed Homo species with the technologies to massacre one another, to exterminate countless other animal species, and to colonize the planet. Armed with spears, knives, swords, guns, blades, and forks, Homo sapiens — no longer a vulnerable source of prey — became the most powerful predator on the planet and an agent of mass extinction. From scavenging and hunting to factory farming and the erection of the Global Meat Culture on the ruins of ancient rainforests, humans’ socially constructed carnivorous appetites have become a driving force of social and ecological crisis.
Our hominid ancestors secured their meat primarily through scavenging, not hunting, and therefore were dependent upon the efforts of other species. In contradistinction to the killer-carnivore dogma, Donna Hart and Robert Sussman’s book, Man the Hunted, emphasizes that our ancestors were prey far longer than they were predators, and this vulnerability sparked the evolution of intelligence.
Adults were only 3-5 feet in height, weighed 60-100 pounds, had small teeth and no claws, and lacked tools or weapons. Whether sleeping in caves or walking through savannas, hominids were constantly vulnerable to attack from mega-predators such as hyenas, saber-tooted cats, reptiles and raptors who regularly dined on hominids and other primates. Outnumbered, slower and weaker than the ferocious beasts that hunted them, they had to band together, be versatile, communicate with sounds, guard sleep sites, and on the whole be clever and smart. The status of hominids as the hunted instead of the hunters destroys the image of powerful hominids at the top of the food chain, and it also underscores a key dynamic in human evolution, involving a coevolution between humans (as prey) and powerful carnivorous animals (as predators).
Thus, obtaining the social skills and smarts necessary to avoid being eaten by deadly predators, not eating their flesh, stimulated the growth of social complexity and the hominid brain. The first evidence of stone tools was 2.3 million years ago; the earliest human fossils date back at least seven million years. Thus, our ancestors walked about for five million years before inventing tools. As there is no good evidence of our ancestors using fire until 800,000 years ago, and the “first unequivocal evidence of large scale, systematic hunting … is available from paleoarchaeological sites possibly only 60,000-80,000 years old,” Hart and Sussman conclude that “meat consumption could not have been the main or only catalyst in the qualitative leap toward humankind.”
If, as Hart and Sussman argue, large-scale hunting does not begin until 60,000-80,000 years ago, this aspect of human behavior has been grotesquely overemphasized. It is a strange “hunter” species who has hunted only a small fraction of its existence, who mostly killed insects and small animals, who scavenged more than killed, and who — until very recently in Western nations – obtained the bulk of its calories from plant foods. As Jared Diamond writes in The Third Chimpanzee, “Studies of modern hunter-gathers with far more effective weapons than early Homo sapiens show that most of a family’s calories consumes from plant food gathered by women. Men catch rabbits and other small game never mentioned in the heroic campfire stories…I would guess that big-game hunting contributed only modestly to our food intake until after we had evolved fully modern anatomy and behavior. For most of our history we were not mighty hunters but skilled chimps, using stone tools to acquire and prepare plant food and small animals.”
Clearly, the Man the Hunter theory is a patriarchal construct which inflates the role men played in social reproduction and minimizes the contributions of women. Observing chimpanzees, feminists have discerned that most food is obtained by gathering, not hunting; analysis of modern human hunter-gatherer cultures shows that tools are also used mainly for gathering (plants, eggs, small insects and animals) not hunting, that most of the tools are made and used by women, and that women collect 60-90% of the food. Thus, a far more accurate view of early human history would single out not Man the Hunter but rather Woman the Gatherer, for in early societies women play the more important role in feeding families, socializing the young, and acquiring and sharing knowledge that is passed to subsequent generations.
The unfortunate mythology linking carnivorism, hunting, and violence was spawned in large part by archaeologist Raymond Dart. Looking at the holes and dents in australopithecine skulls, Dart concluded that our ancestors not only hunted and killed prey, but also murdered each other by using the bones of animals as clubs and weapons. In the 1960s, Robert Ardrey popularized Dart’s theory in a number of books that were influential on the public and scientific community alike. Following Dart’s thesis, Ardrey believes that “Man is a predator whose natural instinct is to kill with a weapon.” Killing stimulated the development of big brains, and war and territorialism have led to great accomplishments of Western man.
In the mid-1970s, however, a South African fossil specialist, C.K. Brain, refuted the killer ape-man theory through meticulous research and common sense. He realized that the bones Dart interpreted as the lethal weapons wielded by australopithecines were actually fragments of hominids and other primates discarded by tigers and hyenas. Brain examined the marks and indentations in the skulls of baboons and australopithecines and saw that they were consistent not with weapons used by hominid, but rather with bites from predators such as leopards and hyenas, who dragged their prey into a cave. Dart confused cause and effect: the hominids were the meals – not the diners.
Brain’s critiques began the shift in anthropology away from Dart’s theory, but the killer-ape view persisted in many quarters of science and certainly in the popular imagination. On top of Dart’s initial error, elaborate falsehoods were written about the aggressive, territorial, bloodthirsty human type whose true beastly nature lies simmering beneath the veneer of “civilization” and morality. Forced to hunt and kill throughout its history, the argument goes, humans have a violent nature that can explode at any time, and is barely subdued with morality and law.
In his book, Primates and Philosophers, Frans de Waal takes apart the “veneer” model of civilization, which sees animality as inherently violent and brutal, such that civilization succeeds only to extent it covers it over, holds it back, and creates a gauzy and fragile barrier between primates and humans. Morality is a “thin overlay on an otherwise nasty nature.” We are “bad” when we lapse into “nature” and “good” when we stave it off. The veneer model commits two grave errors: (1) it denies the continuity between animal and human; and (2) it gives a one-dimensional view of animal conduct as selfish and violent, completely missing the empathetic and cooperative side of primate behavior.
While portrayals of humans as natural born carnivores, hunters, and killers were highly distorted, for the last two centuries Western culture and anthropology have spawned yet another myth. Rejecting Thomas Hobbes’ view of human beings as inherently violent and warlike, many theorists during the last decades turned to the opposite extreme and embraced Jean Jacques Rousseau’s vision of the “noble savage” and the peaceful nature of preliterate cultures (before the emergence of agricultural societies ten thousand years ago). As discussed in Lawrence Kelley’s War Before Civilization, however, an overwhelming amount of evidence shows that war, murder, and massacres were pervasive throughout prehistory, such that violence was actually more frequent and lethal in nonstate societies than in state societies, especially the modern nations we think to be the most violent in history.
The truth of human nature is somewhere between the Hobbesian view of people as inherently wicked though manageable through coercive social authority, and the Rousseauian belief of humans as innately good but corrupted by society. The very same species that produced the rock paintings in the caves of Lascaux, the Parthenon, Hamlet, the Sistine Chapel, and the Eroica Sympathy also operated the ovens of Dachau, dropped atomic weapons on civilian populations in Japan, and fertilized the killing fields of Cambodia with bones and blood. As Homo ambiguous, we are a Janus-faced species capable of peace and warfare, love and hatred, good and evil, compassion and contempt, and creativity and destruction.
We need to acknowledge the dark side and violent tendencies of human nature without lapsing into pessimism and determinism. We should recognize that human violence is more pervasive than often thought, but also that peaceful cultures have existed and that hierarchical societies invariably spread violence, warfare, and ecological destruction. We need a frank evaluation of human nature, social history, and the gravity of the current social and ecological crisis, while also envisioning alternative ethics and social institutions. We must realize that traits which are “natural” are not unchangeable, nor are they bad (e.g., reciprocal altruism in primates). Once we grasp that culture itself is a product of nature, that our capacities for language, thought, and ethics stem from potentialities and dynamics inherent in evolution, and that genes require suitable environments to be expressed, the rigid wall between biology and culture comes crashing down. It’s not nature vs. nurture, but rather nature via nurture.
We are not infinitely plastic, pliable, and malleable, but nor are we rigidly fixed and inflexible due to our biological make-up. Everything turns on the basic but crucial distinction between being influenced by genes and being controlled by them; genes shape us in a wider social, cultural and psychological context, which in turns conditions genes. If we have the capacity to change by learning and education, as has been demonstrated countless times in human history, then we are not defined solely by our biological nature and genetic make-up, and our socialization and cultural practices play a major if not decisive part of who we are and become. This leaves the door wide open for education, moral evolution, and progressive social change.
Best is Cyrano’s Journal Special Editor for Animal Rights, Speciesisim and Human Tyranny over Nature.
Award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.
A Vegan’s Response to Nicholas Kristof’s 7/31 NY Times Op-Ed piece, A Farm Boy Reflects.
By David Irving
Nicholas Kristof’s happy-go-lucky New York Times Op-Ed Page article A Farm Boy Reflects (7/31/08) reminds me of Ring Lardner’s short story Haircut in which a small town barber mindlessly recounts the thoughtless and cruel exploits of some of the town’s local characters. Kristof cheerfully describes his boyhood days on the farm where the geese “virtually become family friends,” but only after years of being slaughtered. He relates that he was troubled by the “unforgettable character and obvious intelligence” of the pigs, which the reader is left to surmise ended up in the stew. But Mr. Kristof quickly lets us know that such “trouble” does not penetrate deeply. With tongue in cheek he cleverly notes that “pork chops” are his intellectual equals even as he eats them. Funny! But aside from expressing a hunch that in a century or two our descendants will be repulsed by factory farms, Kristof offers not a hint that he is aware of the connection between eating animals to the larger issues of animal cruelty, individual and public health risks, environmental damage to the earth, and world poverty. He gives a nod of approval in the general direction of the animal rights movement while at the same time pushing his love of meat eating in the face of everyone who has become aware of just what eating meat is all about. His article can only serve to function as a good ol’ boys guide to meat eating and cannot go unchallenged.
To briefly set the record straight, factory farming that produces the meat of which Mr. Kristof is so enamored, is notoriously cruel to animals as has been well documented. Reports describing cattle whose hides have been ripped from their bodies and their feet cut off while they are still alive are all too common. Many animals slaughtered for food are kept in crates or stalls so small they are unable to turn around their entire lives before being transported to the slaughterhouse without food or water. Chickens are thrown with brute force into cages filled with excrement and other chickens many of which are injured or dead. Pigs and chickens genetically engineered to make them grow faster than normal often break their legs which aren’t strong enough to support their own weight. If they then cannot stand and are too injured to survive the journey to the slaughterhouse, workers throw them against the concrete floor, stomp on them, or beat them to death with pipes. Those badly injured but able to survive continue on to the slaughterhouse without any relief or pain for their suffering. Their journey through hell only finally ends when their throats are slit or they are scalded to death, often fully conscious.
Thanks to courageous undercover operators, some of the horrors described above have been filmed and brought to the public’s attention. See, for example, http://www.meat.org This is a video the whole world should see. Unfortunately, these cases barely scratch the surface of an industry that has lived well protected from public scrutiny beneath the skirts of the USDA for decades. Meanwhile, the world consumes 25 billion animals every year for food. That’s more than three times the human population of the earth. Not only does this vast aggregate produce enough artery-clogging cholesterol to make heart disease one of our greatest killers, it pollutes our streams and rivers with waste and fills our atmosphere with methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide that damages the ozone layer. At the same time, the food and water necessary for feeding 25 billion animals is enough to eliminate world poverty entirely.
Perhaps Mr. Kristof will contemplate the sketch above the next time he gleefully munches on whatever meat product he is feeding himself that day.
Kristof insists that he is on the side of animal rights, but he is sure not to let those rights interfere with his love for pork chops and hamburgers. He isn’t about to give up his barbeque even though it makes him feel guilty. As a boy of 10, when it came time for the monthly slaughter it was his job to lock the geese in the barn where they cowered in terror with no good place to hide. He had to corner one, grab it while it screeched and struggled in his arms, and then take it out and hold it by the wings on the chopping block while his dad or someone else axed it. That some of the terrified geese bravely registered their protest “pitifully” and “tremulously” approaching him after he had grabbed a loved one, arouses thoughtful respect from Kristof, but not enough to give up relishing that tasty morsel of flesh. He’ll still eat a goose even today, albeit “hesitantly.” I guess the “hesitantly” part represents his compassion for the geese he “came to admire.” In the meantime — Hmm yummy! Dinner is on the way!
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait a century or two as Mr. Kristof has suggested for a more enlightened humanity to take issue with the world’s abuse of and cruelty to animals. There are plenty of aware people already, past and present, and that includes Plutarch (46AD-120 AD) who wrote, “But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.” That is the stuff of which great minds are made. But great thoughts can hardly compare with Mr. Kristof’s love of hamburgers. Smother it in onions, please, and pass the ketchup!
As a boy growing up in a small Midwestern rural community myself, I am very familiar with Mr. Kristof’s narrative. How often have I seen a decapitated chicken run around a yard spurting blood, its wings wildly thrashing the air, the head lying grotesquely off to the side with a startled, fearsome look in its eye. Farm kids know well, too, the squeals and screams of pigs when they are castrated without anesthesia and their terror waiting in line knowing something terrible is about to happen. They make a sound one never forgets. In a country setting, you try to take in stride the cuts and gashes in innocent sheep shorn for their wool. But you don’t forget it. In those days the annual pest hunt at school awarded 500 points for a hawk’s claws all the way down to 10 points for a mouse’s tail, creating another unforgettable impression. During the summer it was common enough to go frog hunting in the creek in the woods in the deep of night, suddenly turning on the flashlight hoping to spot a frog which, if caught in the light, was rendered immobile so you could snatch it up and plunge it into a burlap bag.
But a frog is just a frog. And if a frog is just a frog so is a pig just a pig, a goose just a goose, and so on and so on. At the apex of the chain of command stands our super race dictating the rules by which all other species need to comply. To date, it has arrogantly and obtusely shown itself incapable of understanding the simple concept that animals, just like humans, have rights.
The question that Kristof’s article raises is should we stay with the mindset that gives approval to our continued consumption of animals once we learn that to do so aids the cruelty required to serve them up on our dinner plates? We know full well that the propaganda provided by the meat industry to a meat eating society is nothing but public relations invented to shield our eyes from the cruelty upon which our meat eating rests. We are all too happy to ignore the risks eating animals poses to not only ourselves but the entire world just as does Mr. Kristof, who excuses his “dining on animals” because his “view was shaped by those days in the barn as a kid, scrambling after the very geese” he eventually “came to admire.”
Mr. Kristof deserves credit for recognizing and wanting to promote the cause of animal rights. But he needs to emerge fully, not half-way, from his established mindset. Otherwise, he gives aid and comfort to a meat eating society that is practically impervious to the dangers that confront it. This continuing ignorance means further abuse and cruelty towards animals, more threats to individual health with the needless premature loss of loved ones, constant danger to the environment, and a continuation of the world poverty that is becoming an increasingly vital concern for the welfare of the planet.
If we believe that life is more than a little mouthful of flesh it is time to leave old mindsets behind and reach for a vision worthy of humankind’s loftier possibilities. That includes the recognition that all living creatures have rights. And that means the right not to be eaten just to satisfy human appetites. When we stop eating animals we will begin creating a world that is safer for the earth and its creatures, including ourselves. This is the path to a more enlightened future towards which many people of good conscience are traveling today.
David Irving is a Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude graduate of Columbia University, class of 1980, School of General Studies. He subsequently obtained his Masters in Music Composition at Columbia and founded the new music organization Phoenix in New York City.