Recently the centre of Melbourne was shut down by a vegan protest. Police charged 39 people after the vegan demonstration blocked one of Melbourne’s busiest intersections – the corner of Swanson and Flinders Streets.
Have you ever wondered if you should be eating meat? Or do you just dismiss these protesters as crackpots?
Vegan Rising campaign director Kristin Leigh said the protesters wanted people to stop supporting animal abuse. “I don’t believe any good person supports what is happening in the slaughterhouses and so-called farms today, these are places of exploitation of innocent vulnerable beings,” Ms Leigh said.
In the next two blogs I want to look at the case for and against eating meat from an ethical and health viewpoint. The truth is there is a strong case for both. Okay, I’m going to start with the case for eating meat:
We evolved eating meat
The earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans come from the Middle Palaeolithic era which is about 200,000 years ago, and guess what, people ate meat back then! As hunter gatherers we ate meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, berries and insects. We started farming around 10,000 years ago and that’s probably when we started eating dairy foods. Over six million years our ancestors evolved into humans with highly complex brains on a diet that included meat.According to ‘Real Food’ (2009) author Nina Planck, there has never been a human society that survived living on plant foods alone, even predominantly vegan groups give animal products to their women before marriage or during pregnancy to ensure healthy development of future generations.
Meat may protect against diseases
Eating meat has been connected to a range of diseases including obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancers. However not all scientists are convinced meat is the culprit. Harvard School of Public Health has discredited theories linking saturated fats found in meat to heart disease saying these studies “are based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences”. Another study of 118,000 people found no evidence of significant association between egg consumption and heart disease. Rather people who eat up to six eggs per week actually have a lower risk of heart disease.
Meat, eggs, dairy and fish are stocked with nutrients
Meat, eggs, dairy and fish are packed full of good nutrients. They are the best and sometimes only source of numerous macro and micronutrients essential for good health. This includes:
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin is essential for red blood cell production, which prop up the cardiovascular system and protect against anaemia. It also supports the brain and nervous system. Few plants contain vitamin B12 (except mushrooms and fermented foods which are a fungus and contain microorganisms). Strict vegetarians are recommended to take a B12 supplement to ward off illness caused by deficiencies. Best food sources of vitamin B12 are: sardines, salmon, tuna, lamb, beef, yoghurt and milk.
- Iron: Iron, in conjunction with vitamin B12, carries oxygen from the lungs to cells in the body and help to make blood. Although several plant foods contain iron (greens, lentils and beans), the iron in plant foods (called ‘non-heme’) is poorly absorbed compared to the iron in meat (called ‘heme’ iron). Non heme iron can also cause constipation! The best food sources of iron are: red meat, liver, fish and poultry.
- Protein: Protein is needed for muscle growth and repair. It also helps produce hormones and antibodies, which protect the body against disease. Animal foods contain essential amino acids (protein) needed. Vegetarians get their iron by eating lots of beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables and whole grains. Protein from meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs provides more protein compared to plants for less calories. Eggs are packed with protein.
- Calcium: Calcium is essential for health bones and preventing osteoporosis in later life. It also aids muscle and nerve function and balances acid in our bloodstream. Plants, grains and tofu contain calcium – but these also include phytic acid and oxalate, which interfere with the body’s absorption of calcium. The best dietary sources of calcium are milk, yoghurt, and cheese, which contain vitamins A and D to enhance absorption.
- Omega 3s: The human brain is made of 60 per cent fat and essential fatty acids. Omega 3s, are essential for brain health and are now linked to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia. Omega 3s also help with your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega 3s are good for your skin and joints because they have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.The sources of Omega 3s are fish, cod liver oil, eggs, and meat and dairy from grass-fed cows.
Meat is yummy!
Who can resist the smell of bacon frying in the morning? There is no way you would pass up a serve of my lasagne. I would struggle to give up eating meat and lso find it easier to keep my weight in check if I eat a high-protein, meat-rich diet. However when choosing your meat I recommend you choose the most nutritious, environmentally responsible and ethically raised meat, fish, eggs and dairy possible. Buy local and organic. This is not only kinder to the animal, but the meat will be more delicious. Buy grass-fed meat because these contain the most nutrients and are the diets traditionally eaten by grazing animals. Eat small wild fish as they are the healthiest fish and shouldn’t have mercury. Avoid processed meat like sausage as this meat is highly processed, high in salt and high in fat. Finally don’t over-eat. Eat the recommended servings of meats and diary.
In my next blog, with an open-mind I will look at the advantages of going vegan – and yes, increasingly I see the sense of giving up meat, but at heart I’m still a carnivore.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.