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Health Controversies

The Naive Vegetarian

People are turning to vegetarianism because, they believe, it is healthier, or kinder to animals, or the planet. . . The fact is that vegetarianism is less healthy; and if we all became vegetarians, we would starve.

There is . . . but one categorical imperative: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

Immanuel Kant. (The Categorical Imperative)

Protein calorie deficiency from largely vegetarian diets is a significant cause of learning difficulty . . .

Postgrad Med 1986; 80 (5): 225-8

has psychological consequenses that also raise legitimate concerns about neurological development . . .

Am J Clin Nutr 1989; 50: 818.

caused nutritional dwarfing . . .

Semin Adolesc Med 1987; 3 (4): 255-66.

the development of clinical rickets . . .

J Hum Nutr & Dietet 1989; 2: 105-16

and even a trend of increasing risk of tuberculosis as frequency of meat-eating declined. Lactovegetarians had an 8.5-fold risk of TB.

Thorax 1995; 50: 175-80

There is at present a growing trend towards vegetarianism. One of the results of the 'healthy' diet's recommendation to eat less red meat has been an increasing numbers of people who are becoming vegetarians. Polls carried out in 1988 and 1989 indicated that some three percent of British subjects called themselves vegetarian or vegan -- a slight increase on figures obtained during the previous four years -- but a number that has grown still further since. Motivations given included disapproval of intensive animal farming methods, rejection of animal slaughter, dislike of the taste or texture of meat, and about half of those polled mentioned health concerns.

This paper looks at our evolution using data from archaeological and anthropological studies of bones and fossils spanning some four million years to show that there is no doubt that, as a species, we have evolved to eat a mainly carnivorous diet.

The arguments in favour of vegetarianism today that are discussed and refuted include:

  • Animal farming is an efficient use of land. Much of the land used for animal farming, cannot be used for arable farming. With a rapidly expanding world population, a large proportion of whom are already starving, how can taking this land out of production help?

  • The killing of animals for food is morally wrong. Some animals are born to hunt, others to be hunted. This is natural. Does the lion have a moral right to kill an antelope? What are an antelope's 'rights' not to be eaten by a lion? Such questions are meaningless.

  • If killing animals is wrong, what about fish? Four-fifths of the Earth's surface is covered in ocean. Could the world's rapidly growing population be sustained if we did not farm it?

    The Vegetarian Society in Britain also allows membership to those who eat chicken, presumably on the grounds that while a cow is an animal, a chicken is a vegetable!

  • Vegetarianism is healthier. Many become vegetarians because they believe that such a lifestyle is healthier. But vegetables, fruit and salads are not as healthy as we are told. They are contaminated with sewage sludge, viruses, polluted irrigation water, pesticides and herbicides. Lettuce is the worst of all.

    Comparisons of the health and longevity of cultures with different dietary habits confirms that meat eaters can expect to live longer than vegetarians and don't need to visit their doctors as often as vegetarians. And, by the way, vegetarians have exactly the same risk of colon cancer as meat eaters.

  • Vegetarianism -- a form of child abuse. Many aspects of vegetarianism are harmful, particularly to growing infants. An infant's nutrient needs are great but it has a small stomach. Nutrient-dense foods are essential. Most foods from vegetable sources are nutrient poor. Doctors have suggested that vegetarian fad diets should be classed as a form of child abuse.

  • The vegetarian's dilemma. Being a lacto-ovo-vegetarian (those who eat milk and eggs) carries little or no health risk for its adult adherents. But while these vegetarians don't kill animals for food, they rely on the rest of us to carry that burden of guilt for them -- for a cow to produce milk a calf must be born each year. What are we to do with those calves? They cannot all be kept and fed. They must be killed -- there is no other option. Isn't it a waste not to eat them?

The Western vegetarian at the moment is in a very privileged position. So long as not too many join him, he can afford to indulge his naïve dietary fads in a way that is denied to most of the people of this Earth. While he ponders on this fact, he might also apply himself to Kant's Categorical Imperative which may be rewritten:

What would be wrong for all, is wrong for one

By Barry Groves
For more articles by Barry Groves exposing dietary and medical misinformation see Second Opinions

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