To truly have your opinion be well-formed I think you have to take a serious look at many different points of view on a subject. I don’t believe that everything can be labeled black or white and that many area of gray exist in many debates. This is why I try to see all arguments on matters I feel passionate about and this includes vegetarianism.
This being said, I want you all to welcome guest-blogger, and omnivore, David Centeno. I have known David for several years and he has been a supporter of this blog since almost the beginning—all the while posting to my Facebook wall about how much he loves eating steak in the evenings. He isn’t doing this to be disrespectful or rude, but because he truly believes that humans do need to consume meat to survive.
I know David to be an intelligent man and since he argues for being an omnivore so much I decided to ask him to do a guest entry on this blog. If I am going to go meatless and encourage others to do the same I think it is only fair to take some time out to show the other side of the argument. Keep in mind, even though he makes some good points below why it may very well be necessary to include meat in one’s diet, the following essay does not represent the views of this blog.
So without further ado, take it away David.
The Case of the Missing Information
or... Meat the Opposition
by David Centeno
I was asked by a recently meat-free friend to be something of a guest-blogger on his "A Meatless Year" experiment at ameatlessyear.blogspot.com. The voice of the loyal opposition, I suppose.
So I have tried to do a little research into the various reasons people go 'meatless' in general, in an attempt to understand a concept which has, admittedly, never made much sense to me. Suffice it to say that thus far I remain unswayed.
While searching the Internet, I easily found lists of reasons to forego meat. They cited health, environmental, ethical, and even philosophical reasons. Fewer were there lists of reasons that going meatless was a bad idea, which to me sounds like a gap in information if ever there was one. Worse still, the reasons cited in many of the lists I came upon were largely false, or at least, greatly exaggerated. Some were just so unbelievable I had to repost them. Here are a couple of my favorites from "49 REASONS WHY I AM A VEGETARIAN" (1) and I swear to God I am not making this up.
"Love of animals. I love animals as I love myself."
I know how I 'love myself,' and I hope to hell they're not doing that to animals.
"Stance against Factory Farming.. I cannot make a statement against factory farming if I myself eat animals."
I blame suburbia for this one. I grew up in what I'd consider rural
"Respect for Sentient Life. I show gratitude to my Creator(s?) by eating as low on the food chain as possible."
I swear, I'm not a hippie. But we are part of the natural order of things. And nature, or God, put this order in place for a reason. We are doing our part to balance the world by eating what has been provided to us. Vegetarians know better? How? Nothing else in nature presumes to. Everything else, every other animal, plays its part happily: living and dying, eating and being eaten. Come on, watch The Lion King--its the Circle of Life. Vegetarians claim a respect for nature as a reason for their choice, but really, what's actually more natural?
"Natural diet. Our hands, teeth, feet, intestinal tract...even our body chemistry is that of an herbivore."
Ohhhh, now I get it! Wait, what are my canine teeth for again?
"World Peace. There can never be peace among men while men are declaring war on other highly developed life forms."
Uhm... Yeah. And, my favorite:
"I believe in nonviolence."
That being the case, its probably best if the author of this list never visits 'the country' due to the likelihood of a boot in the ass for being an idiot.
Now, there IS some good information out there about the dangers associated with meat... And the best arguments I have found for not eating it seem to fall into the categories of health and environment and generally come from more convincing sources than the above cited herbidork. These are reasons that I can understand because they are areas of concern for me, too. The recent salmonella scare in eggs is a great example of some of the problems inside the animal industry. But is this cause enough to stop me from eating eggs? No. Why? Because I love them, and because extremism is never the reasonable answer. Nature abhors extremes--Everything in nature works toward a homeostasis; it balances itself out. It seems to me that if you've got moral issues with chicken or eggs, eat chicken and eggs from responsible farms. Take a firmer stance on what chicken and eggs you choose to buy. Similarly, if you're feeling sluggish or unhealthy because you've been eating too much red meat: just eat less, not none. We forget that meat is an important part of a nutritious diet, and provides riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, and selenium. And just so that you understand, these are kind of important! A B12 deficiency during pregnancy, for example, puts a baby at a five times higher risk of spina bifida, which causes partial paralysis, and anencephaly where the brain does not develop and is normally fatal shortly after birth. (2) Vegetarians will tell you that you don't have to eat meat in order to get these things, but what they won't admit is that it may be the easiest way. For the love of Pete, have a cheeseburger and a milkshake, toast to your health, and enjoy your lunch for once... just don't do it everyday.
Those on the other side will tell us that there are plenty of meat-alternatives, like tofu, that we can choose instead of raising and killing animals. But tofu may not be as environmentally friendly an alternative as we once thought when you take into account all of the processes from growing and harvesting the soy up to refining and final production. According to a Dutch study, "a kilogram of tofu sold in the
And then there's the really dirty little flipside to eating meat alternatives and so-called "healthy" soy-based products like nutrition bars, veggie burgers, veggie cheese, etc. Literally thousands of other vegetarian products... even infant formulas today are made with extracted soy protein. Almost all of these use soy protein that is separated from its source beans by literally being bathed in a toxic, explosive chemical called hexane. "Organic" versions of these products are not a safer version either. Consider products such as Clif Bars with the label "made with organic oats and soybeans." They are only required by law to have 70% organic ingredients -- the remaining 30%, however, can legally be hexane extracted. Hexane residues of 21ppm have been discovered in soy meal commonly used to produce soy protein for said infant formula, protein bars and vegetarian food products. (4) Where's the healthy? Do we simply trust that either these highly processed products we're eating are free from contamination, or do we place our faith in an industry that would love us to believe that 21ppm is nothing to worry about? It took years and years to ban pthalates from children's toys and other products. How long do we have to wait until the industry and regulatory bodies wise up and we produce these things in a responsible way that doesn't leave harmful chemicals behind in our food? I think that people really need to pull back the curtain and see the truths behind their food. ALL their foods. Somehow meat, and often specifically chicken and eggs, has gotten a bad rap, an ugly reputation. I just can't see how it is justified, and how the outrage seems to be directed only toward the one side. Where's the balance?
And there again, I am forced to come around to that issue of balance. I think we need to achieve a sensible measure of balance in our diets, in our health and safety concerns, and in our lives as a whole. We should not denounce meat as unhealthy, nor should we condemn a hippie-founded health food industry gone capitalist. What we need is a balance of information; equal and open discussions about the problems inherent in any food production system or factory. A balance of both compassion for animals and of the need and necessity of farming these animals for food. And when it comes to actually improving our eating habits? How about aiming for a better balance, including more healthy foods from all groups and trying to limit those foods which go to any extreme? Avoid, at least with sensible moderation, nutritionally empty things like sodas, or any things which are extremely high in fat or calories, or anything which is excessively processed. It’s all about the yin with the yang. Maybe that's why they serve you that salad before the t-bone. Mmmm. T-bones.
(1) http://www.britishmeat.com/49.htm, "49 Reasons Why I Am A Vegetarian."
(3) http://www.slate.com/id/2232916/, Slate.com, "How Green Is Tofu?"
(4) http://cornucopia.org/soysurvey/OrganicSoyReport/behindthebean_color_final.pdf, Cornucopia Institute, "Behind the Bean, The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry"