So, eating meat causes cancer? This must be a joke, right?

Recently the World Health organisation released a report linking colorectal cancer to the consumption of processed meats and red meat. Processed meats are those that have been processed in some way to enhance flavour or improve shelf life. When it comes to red meat, the problem is more to do with cooking – grilling, barbecuing and pan-frying meat can create potential carcinogens. Now the interesting thing is that WHO quickly moved to clarify what this report actually meant and to reassure people it wasn’t advocating giving up eating meat. The link is not necessarily proven and the risk itself is small, something like a 18% increased risk over a lifetime.

However, the initial reporting of this study’s findings unleashed a firestorm of protest everywhere, particularly from those fearing the loss of bacon from the public food trough. I am pretty sure I even heard one lady journalist on television bemoaning how life would no longer be worth living if she couldn’t eat bacon.

The funny thing to me in all of this was the utter despair and even anger this idea evoked. Tell people enough about climate change and next thing you know they are all hiding under beds wringing their hands, swearing off fossil fuels for life and denigrating anyone sceptical for all they’re worth. But suggest that the same science might indicate that meat isn’t really a healthy choice of food and well… everyone is suddenly a denier. Funny that eh?

What is sad about this whole kerfuffle though is that really, it is an indictment of our society that firstly it takes a report of the health risks of eating meat to actually stir anyone into thinking about the matter at all, and the best they can then do is to collectively howl in protest. Yet never once did anyone consider that maybe the real issue is the absolutely gargantuan scale of the misery human beings force other beings to suffer for our entertainment.

I did not hear one comment in the first few days that even touched on the question of ethics or morality in eating meat. No, all I heard was an orgy of self indulgent drivel.

Interestingly, I did see a journalist comment on the real issue. Paul Sheehan wrote a great little article for the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s well worth a read.

I can only agree. What we should be thinking about is what we do to millions of animals in the name of the food industry and our pleasure. Choose to live in a way that considers other animals in a more humane manner, reduce or eliminate your consumption of meat and you won’t need to worry about meat induced cancer.



Some thoughts on the Dear Vegan blogpost…

A recent blogpost by a young lady in South Australia unleashed a flurry of words about vegans and their sometimes forceful promotion of their views. You can read it here:

I guess without a record of the original conversation it’s hard to evaluate the truth of this post, but I hope that the vegan concerned didn’t really use such insulting language as is claimed.

That said, I can understand the passion that many vegans express – my wife is a vegan and I have many deep discussions with her about veganism and animal treatment.

The thing of it is that it’s very difficult to argue from a position of care and consideration for an animal if your object in raising it is to kill it for food. In doing so you are not working in the animal’s interests – that is, you claim to have its interests at heart by treating it well until such time as you choose not to treat it well.

Arguing that you kill it humanely doesn’t really carry any weight. Consider for example what it might mean to kill a human being humanely – to what extent is that in the person’s interests, regardless of how altruistically you acted towards that person up to that point.

Regardless, for me the critical issue is pretty simple, so let me explain why I think we can boil this issue down to a pretty simple consideration.

Pretty much all of life consumes other life. And I wouldn’t feel any particular concern at human beings doing that naturally. But when I say naturally, I mean as we lived thousands of years ago. And that is as hunter/gatherers living a natural lifestyle. We trapped and killed what we needed to eat because there weren’t too many other options. Today however, we do something rather different.

Modern people, in Australia and many other nations, have risen above our evolution. We don’t have to do what our natural heritage might demand (see my take on this in my earlier post “Let your pork walk”). Consequently we do NOT have to eat meat to survive. We can quite successfully get all our nutrient needs from other sources. It just takes more effort and thought.

In that light then, meat eating is a choice, not a necessity. Few people in Australia eat meat sparingly for sustenance and nutrition because there are no other options. No, most people eat meat, especially pork and bacon, just because it’s nice. The result is that quite literally millions, if not billions, of animals suffer awfully for our entertainment.

Now, most vegans know this, and they can’t quite see the value proposition in harming animals because we like to. Which is essentially what it boils down to. I think most people know this too, the sad thing is they don’t want to think about it. Vegans do.

Kathy, I don’t doubt your compassion and thoughtfulness in how you raise your animals, and frankly if all you did was raise a few animals to supplement your diet I’d have little disagreement with your views. But I assume as farmers you sell your animals to businesses who serve it up for people as entertainment. Not too many of their customers HAVE to eat meat.

So, I have to say that while I don’t agree with the vegan who allegedly insulted you, I understand why they may have acted that way. They weren’t really reacting to you, but to the bigger problem, the bigger inhumanity, the greater unconscious, unconsidered cruelty.

Personally, I have to sympathise with their point of view – I simply don’t understand why we have industrialised the torture and killing of untold millions of sentient aware beings just because we like their taste.

What I’d like to see is a ban on pig farming (because in Australia it is largely done on factory farms in awful conditions), a ban on killing of lambs and calves (who after all are babies – imagine your own child being treated so), and a far more thoughtful approach to just how much meat we eat (we could all just eat a couple of portions a week if health was the primary concern and completely move away from hamburgers, restaurant ‘experiences’ and so on).

Kathy, I respect your views, but I also respectfully disagree with your position that you are as caring and compassionate towards animals as you say you are. Because when it comes to animals, you simply cannot be compassionate if your end game is to kill them for fun.

Let your pork walk

I want to talk today about something I only thought of recently. Why, when I drive through the countryside, don’t I see pigs all over the place? Cows, sheep, yes. Pigs, not so much… I did some digging and discovered why, and it’s not a nice discovery.

In Australia, the meat of the pig is generally regarded very highly by pretty much everyone (well, except for those whose religion maintains a prohibition against eating pigs). And why not, it’s one of the tastiest cuts of meat, isn’t it? Not much to worry about here, right? Well, no. Frankly, it’s just not OK as far as I can see.

Now, you’ve probably heard or thought of all the arguments in favour of eating meat. We are omnivores. We evolved to eat meat. See these teeth. How else to get protein. It’s the natural way.

Fair enough, but do you honestly believe those arguments?

Modern humans (and here let’s just focus on Australia as that’s where I am) do not have to do everything that we evolved to do. We have the good luck to combine three features – large brains with the capacity for abstract thinking, language and utile hands. We can pretty much do anything we like, and we do. We don’t live in caves. We don’t die from disease as much as we might. We have medical care. We aren’t hunted by anything at all in the usual scheme of things.

We have also developed in a social sense. Again, we don’t have to do what other animals do. We have a strong and complex social structure. We know what it is to be noble and have compassion. We strive not to have slavery, inequality, repression/oppression, we offer women and men equal rights and status and so on. We don’t kill indiscriminately.

In short, we have risen above our evolution. Consequently we do NOT have to eat meat to survive. We can quite successfully get all our nutrient needs from other sources. It just takes more effort and thought.

In that light then, meat eating is a choice, not a necessity. More than that, in most cases it’s an entertainment. Do we eat just enough meat to survive, cooked at home in the form we prefer? Or do we have an enormous industry that caters to our every whim? Every possible cut of meat. Many different kinds of creature eaten – cows, pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens, turkeys, kangaroos, fish, etc. Endless restaurants, fast food houses, TV shows, cookbooks, you name it.

The truth is, we eat way more meat than we need to because we like to. There’s more that could be said here, but I want to further refine our focus to one creature alone.

The pig.

Some argue that bacon is the ultimate food. Others love their pork chops and crackling. Tasty low fat white meat. Yep, we consume huge quantities of pork every year because well… we just love that stuff. And I agree, it really does taste good.

But do you ever think about how you come to do this?

The pork industry would have you believe that this is a wonderful, informed and compassionate industry. Forgetting for the moment how compassionate it might be to raise an animal to be eaten, let’s consider some facts.

* In Australia, over 90% of all pigs farmed are raised in factory farms – indoors, in artificial conditions, with minimal freedom.
* Some pigs are kept in stalls, only just big enough for the pig to stand in. The industry standard is that there is enough room for the pig to stand, turn around, and lie down. That’s it.
* Other pigs are housed in sheds with concrete floors or deep litter floors.
* Piglets can have their tails clipped and their teeth cut down, without pain relief. This is to stop them biting and damaging each other or the sow.
* Sick or underweight pigs can be killed via a variety of methods, including by hammer if small enough.
* Many are mistreated, brutalised even.
* Industry standards commonly suggest “should” in terms of treatments. For example, and at random: 5.6.13 states that when teeth clipping “only the tips… of the teeth should be removed”.

There’s so much more that could be said, including pictures, videos, industry statistics and so on. But I shan’t because a lot of it isn’t nice. Now, I am not necessarily suggesting that all farmers are negligent or cruel or intentionally mistreat their livestock. However the industry standards are not exactly generous and there have been no shortage of cases where farming practices have been shown to be cruel and neglectful. The bottom line is, quite simply, that many if not most Australian pigs are treated poorly, even brutally, in their millions, so we can enjoy our bacon.

My simple question is this – is that OK?

Modern science has shown us how conscious experience arises from the processing of the brain. It turns out that all mammals operate in much the same way (and birds too). There is ample evidence that pigs experience the world in much the same way you do. They think, they feel, they experience. Yet we pen them, we hurt them, we kill them after short brutish lives, so that we can enjoy the taste of bacon. So that we can enjoy the taste of their flesh.

Make no mistake, no single Australian EVER needs to eat pork. Yet we do, in monstrous quantities. For fun. And millions of sensitive, sentient beings suffer for that.

Is that a reasonable equation?

There is an industry slogan – “Get some pork on your fork”.

How good would it be if we as a nation stood up and spoke for those who cannot and said NO.

I want MY pork to walk.