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.