Article #3: Booklet Review - Meat And The Vegetarian Concept, Part I
This review concerns the 20-page pamphlet, Meat and the Vegetarian Concept, published by the National Livestock and Meat Board.
Intended to refute various aspects of meatless diets, it has been circulated extensively to educators, nutritionists, media people, and other individuals throughout the USA.
The text itself is carefully written and attractively presented, and at first glance seems to offer very convincing arguments in favor of eating meat.
However, a careful reading reveals a plethora of inaccurate and incomplete data, outright distortion of fact, and even the tendency to create an argument where none, in fact, exists.
Because of the extensive distribution of this pamphlet and the highly misleading statements it contains, NAVS feels that a swift and factual response is warranted.
As the pamphlet takes a rather disorganized "shotgun" approach, a point-by-point analysis would be impractical. However, NAVS has requested 3 well-known vegetarians active in the movement to comment extensively on the main points, making full use of documented material from non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian sources.
The three are: Nathanial Altman (author of Eating For Life; NAVS board member); Robert Pinkus (director of Metropolitan Veg. Assn.); and H. Jay Dinshah (Pres. of NAVS).
NAT—Very often, meat industry spokespeople, such as the National Livestock and Meat Board, find it in their interest to classify vegetarians along with those few enthusiasts of the radical and nutritional unsound "Zen macrobiotic #7 diet," which calls for the consumption of only brown rice. It should be made clear that macrobiotics and vegetarianism are not the same, as many macrobiotic diets involve the liberal consumption of seafood, such as fish, clams, shrimp and other crustaceans. In addition, certain vegetables such as eggplant are enjoyed by vegetarians but frowned upon by macrobiotic enthusiasts as "poison." Fruit and salads are also generally avoided.
Thus, it is absolutely necessary to define our terms: Vegetarians do not eat the meat of domestic or other animals, whether it is beef, pork, veal, lamb, poultry, fish or other "sea food." Most vegetarians—perhaps 90-95%—are either lacto or lacto-ovo vegetarians, eating such foods as eggs and/or dairy products in addition to plant foods. A small percentage of vegetarians—called "total vegetarians"—abstain from animal foods altogether, and consume only plant-source foods, such as grains, legumes, nuts seeds, fruits, and vegetables. "Vegans" are total vegetarians who also refuse to use nonfood animal products, such as leather, furs, silk, wool, and soon.
BOB—In his forward to this pamphlet, NLSMB President David Stroud (whose commercial interest in promoting meat-eating seems obvious) sets a very low tone in trying to equate vegetarianism with some vague and unspecified "commercial interest"; with "food fadism and nutrition quackery, higher grocery bills and complicated meal planning," as well as potential poor nutrition. All of which could hardly be further front the truth.
While commercial interests have always abounded in human endeavors, seldom have they been less important as motivations (when they exist at all) than in today's vegetarian movement, either with the average vegetarian or the more outspoken vegetarian advocates.
As we get deeper into this curious pamphlet, we shall soon see where the label of "nutrition quackery" rightly belongs.
A considerable saving can be expected on grocery bills for persons changing from a meat-based diet to a well-planned nonmeat diet, as noted briefly in Facts of Vegetarianism (10-cent booklet from NAVS).
Meal planning can, if anything, become much simpler, although with the tremendously increased available variety of natural non-animal foods that many newcomers to vegetarian living seem to "discover" for the first time in their lives, it often happens that one soon discovers that vegetarian dining can also be more fun and much more delicious.
VEGETARIAN VOICE—On page 6, the NLSMB dismisses, in a single paragraph, religious reasons for abstaining from certain or all types of meats, calling these "religious taboos." Is the characterization fair and is it accurate?
BOB—The pamphlet cites Hindus, Moslems and Jews, and 7th-Day Adventists, in regard to opposition to some or all types of meat. Conveniently omitted are such groups as Trappist and Benedictine monks, Jains, Buddhists, Essenes, and others who at various times in history help to fill out the picture of widespread partial abstention or outright injunction against flesh eating.
JAY—First, I would point out that "poor sanitation" in meat handling is hardly limited to Biblical times or the Middle or Far East as this paragraph implies: indeed, it does not seem to be altogether unknown even nowadays.
We may sympathize with the embarrassed reluctance of the NLSMB to go into further detail about the shellfish, the swine, the vulture, etc., said to be stamped "unclean" and declared by their own Creator to be unfit for human consumption (even under the more liberal demands for flesh-eating raised by erring humanity); this was clearly due to their being much less fastidious in their dietary habits—i.e., the consuming of river sewage, the omnivorous scavenging of fecal matter or carrion—than the vegetarian creatures in general. (See Deuteronomy 14:3-21; also see Genesis 1:29-30.)
Doubtless, many of our friends in the movement who happen to be 7th-Day Adventists, will be surprised to be singled out and to learn that their reason for not eating meat is supposed to be "as an expression of their religious devotion."
I commend to you the chapter on Flesh As Food, including, "Reasons for Discarding Flesh Foods," in The Ministry of Healing, by Ellen G. White: the reader may judge whether the health reasons for vegetarianism presented so eloquently therein are mere superstitions or "religious taboos." But it will be crystal clear why the meat promoters may wish the public to think so, especially when one considers the long and illustrious tradition of SDA researchers, dieticians, and M.D.'s in documenting and publicizing the superiority of vegetarian living, purely from the secular standpoint of better health and longevity.
In a recent year, the livestock feed production alone in the U.S. was 165 million tons, not including the wheat consumed by animals. One half of the total of all U.S. crops are fed to animals, including 86% of corn, oats, and barley, 90% of the non-exported soybeans, and 42% of the wheat Americans consume, for an overall consumption picture of 78% of all U.S. grains going to feed animals.
Nor does this include the huge areas of land misused for grazing purposes. And all this is IN ADDITION to any molasses-soaked old newspaper, silage, excrement, or whatever else they now call "recycled" feed, either experimentally or commercially.
JAY—Obviously, the 3:1 ratio cited in the NLSMB booklet refers to the very "best" meat producer—the chicken—although all fowl and fish are conveniently omitted when the board wants to convince Americans that they aren't eating enough meat (p. 10). We are not going to say that the use of a 3:1 figure is a deliberate attempt to distort the facts; an alternative explanation would be that the experts of the National Livestock and Meat Board just don't know the difference between a chicken and a steer, and hope the public will be just as much in the dark. So it might be an honest mistake.
Of course, it is not just vegetarians who are drawing the public's attention to "preposterous stories" of the waste of grain in feeding food animals. But it is the practice, not the stories, that we find preposterous. The figures that Nat and Bob gave are corroborated in the special section on the "World Food Crisis" in the Nov. 11, 1974, Time magazine. It notes the 400 lbs. of grain eaten by a person in a year in a poor country versus an American consuming "five times that amount, mostly in the form of grain-fed beef, pork and chicken. The industrial world's way of eating is an extremely inefficient use of resources. For every pound of beef consumed, a steer has gobbled up 20 lbs. of grain. Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer notes that "the same amount of food that is feeding 210 million Americans would feed 1.5 billion Chinese on an average Chinese diet." This is a food ratio of 7:1, and it would be much worse but for the fact that "meat-eaters" do not eat only meat, but rather a mixed diet, and this helps keep the ratio down to "only" 7-to-l in this case.
The booklet does seem to confuse the protein-conversion ratio with the grain-to-meat conversion ratio, which is obviously not quite the same thing. In the 20 lbs. of grain cited by Time magazine, there might run, say, 2'/i lbs. of protein (about 1/8). In the single pound of beef produced, it might run around 1/6 lb. of protein. So the actual protein conversion ratio (grain:beef) would run about 15:1, close enough to the 17:1 cited by Nat (allowing for reasonable variables), but five is as great as the meat propagandists would have us think, by their literary legerdemain of just lumping everything together as "meat" and claiming the greatest "efficiency" as if it represented an average. I feel we have every right to "beef" about this figures finagling, because that's just too much bull to hide behind a little chicken.
Averaging out the food waste factors on the various types of meat—even including fowl—in the quantities actually consumed, you would probably come up with a rule-of-thumb average in the vicinity of that of Prof. Isaac Asimov's estimated 90% waste, or 10:1 ratio overall (see "Our Wasted Land" in Facts of Vegetarianism, published by NAVS). You know, Dr. Asimov is a noted science writer, who is also in the top ranks of science-fiction authors. He used to be my favorite in the latter field until recently. But now I eagerly await further literary efforts of the NLSMB, as I find their creative style of subtly blending science with fantasy to be so much more imaginative and entertaining than even that of Dr. Asimov, providing one does not take them too seriously, of course.
In all candor, though, I must admit that we vegetarians must be stronger of conscience than of stomach. Personally, I don't think I would have the guts to stand right up and look down on a starving sister or brother and say right out that I have "only" three lbs., or 10lbs., or 20lbs. of food, but I'd rather throw it to the pigs or the cows than share it with a human being. I don't think I could bring myself to brag about the efficiency of "only" throwing two chapatties out of three into the dung-heap. It really takes a rare kind of cool to pour water from your overflowing canteen onto the desert sand in front of a fellow human dying of thirst. It really must have taken a lot of nerve for the NLSMB to make a statement like that.
This kind of machismo, we can all live without. But the real question is: can this hungry world live with it?
Home > Lesson 32 - Why We Should Not Eat Meat
P.S.If you would like to learn more about how to go raw and experience the best health and vitality of your life, please subscribe in the form below or visit Fit On Raw.
In addition to weekly raw food and fitness advice, you'll also receive my free report The 4 Principles of a Healthy Raw Diet and my 5-week mini-course The Fool Proof Transition to Raw just for subscribing: