A diet consisting of mainly meat is good for your health and good for the environment? Seriously?!
Lately, I've been hearing a lot about the carnivore diet and other high protein diets, including claims about how healthy and environmentally friendly they are. As someone who enjoys a plant-based diet for ethical reasons, and has done so for thirty years, I find the promotion of meat-based diets very disturbing. Animals are suffering on a tremendous scale so that humans can satisfy their taste for meat, and animal agriculture is a significant contributor to global warming.
It leaves me wondering, is the promotion and consumption of animal protein heavy diets irresponsible and ignorant?
Eating a meat-based diet is good for you?
This claim seems to be promoted as the main reason why we should all be eating more meat. Here are a few of the reasons being thrown around about the health benefits of this diet:
animal protein is high quality protein
plant protein is inferior to animal protein
you can only build muscle with animal protein
it helps you lose weight
it's good for the digestive system
it's the key to longevity
plant foods are toxic and should only form a minority of our diet
The argument about animal protein being a higher quality to plant protein is not a new one. And don't get me wrong, I appreciate the role that protein plays in our diets. Protein is essential and it plays a super important role in the building and repair of tissues. But I'm not convinced that animal protein is superior to plant protein.
Some say that plants make protein to feed plants and animals make protein to feed animals; that we are animals and therefore we should eat animals. But hang on, gorillas are animals and they eat plants and gorillas are HUGE..... Sure, they have a different digestive system to us but so do carnivores, which we are not. Gorillas are not humans but they are animals, as we are, and a simple analogy like this one has complete disregard for non-human animals who thrive on a plant-based diet and are packed full of muscle.
If animal protein is the only way to build muscle then what's with all the vegan bodybuilders (eg. Robert Cheeke, Billy Simmonds, Patrick Reiser, Derek Tresize, Samantha Shorkey, Natalie Matthews, Simone Collins and Crissi Carvalho)?! Sure, they exercise a lot and they may be supplementing with plant based protein powders and branch chain amino acids but other than that, they're eating plants and building muscle.
As to meat being the key to longevity, have you heard of the Blue Zones? If not, the Blue Zones are areas that are being studied because people in these areas are thriving into their 100s and are considered the world's longest living people. Diet is just one part of what is considered the Blue Zones lifestyle (things like community, purpose, reduced stress and a sense of belonging are just some of the other components).
The Blue Zones diet is not a diet that consists predominantly of animal protein. In fact it's the opposite.
The diet of those who are living the longest is a diet that is based on plants.
Some proponents criticise the studies that conclude that plant based diets are healthy. I'm not a scientist and I'm not going to even try and argue the science, other than saying that science is not permanent, it's ever-changing with new findings being discovered all the time.
And as for the claim that plants are toxic....!
Plants contain phytonutrients, which cannot be found in animal protein and that are essential for good health. Curcumin, beta-carotene, quercetin, and resveratrol are all examples of common phytonutrients that have major health benefits.
Eating a meat-based diet isn't as bad for the environment as everyone thinks?
The fact is that every part of our modern way of living takes a toll on the environment. It's not just about if you eat meat, it's also about how your food is produced (plant or animal); where your food comes from; the car (or cars) you drive; the clothes you purchase; increased property development; deforestation; burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation; food waste; consumerism - all of these factors, and more, contribute to climate change. But it is misconceived to think that eating meat has no or little impact on our environment.
Sure, eating meat from organically raised animals may be better for the environment than meat from factory farmed animals but the reality is, most people who consume meat are eating factory farmed meat.
I doubt that the United Nations is lying when they say that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% (nearly one-fifth) of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. That is significant.
According to the World Resources Institute, shifting to a diet that reduces consumption of animal-based foods, naturally having a greater share of plant-based foods, could significantly reduce agriculture’s pressure on the environment.
Reducing your consumption of animals and eating a plant based diet is just one of the many ways in which you can reduce your footprint on Mother Earth and help the environment. It is ranked #4 on the Drawdown Project's solutions for combating climate change. See the full summary of solutions here.
What about the animals?
This is the main reason why I am so affected by the promotion of a meat-based diet.
The impact that a meat-based diet has on animals is an issue that is practically ignored by people who promote heavy meat diets.
I don't know about you, but I love animals and I respect and appreciate them. I expect that if you're on my website, you feel the same.
If we were to increase the amount of meat in our diets to the extent that the carnivore diet propaganda machine recommends, that would entail a huge cost - a huge impact on the lives of animals.
Nearly 50 billion animals are killed every single year across the globe to satiate people's desires for meat, dairy and eggs. And that's just the animals raised in a factory farming environment.
And carnivore dieters are saying we need to at least double the amount of protein we're eating. For the animal suffering factor alone, this idea is horrendous to me.
It's horrendous because animals are sentient beings. Cows, chickens, sheep, pigs - they are no less sentient than humans' favourite animal companions, the cat and dog. A cow feels pain, just like a cat does. A chicken can suffer from the same level of fear that a dog might. And they all form bonds with other members of their species in a similar way that we form bonds with other members of our species.
Regardless of any health or environmental benefits claimed to exist by eating a meat-based diet, which I'm not convinced of, to me, they do not justify increasing the level of animal suffering that already exists.
I don't think human beings need to increase their animal protein intake, those who are living the longest show us that. Rather, I think human beings need to increase their level of compassion and find more compassionate ways to be healthy.
A plant based diet is definitely a more compassionate way to eat and be healthy. If you would like to consume more plants in your diet (and less animals), I'd love to help you as your plant based coach. Book in a free chat with me and let's discuss how you can help animals by eating less of them, and be healthy.
We are here for only a short time, let us tread lightly on Mother Earth.