Mark Bittman has an opinion article in the NY Times that questions the amount of meat most Americans eat. The article is called, “Hooked on Meat” but the web address suggests an alternate title is “Meat: Why Bother?”
One of the claims he makes is that in regards to human health, “In limited quantities, meat is just fine” and I agree with him there. I might catch some slack from other vegans, but I know the truth is that small amounts of animal protein (unless they’ve been contaiminated) are unlikely to harm your health. The problem is, most people don’t have the strong will that it takes to consume meat (or other animal proteins like cheese) in small amounts. Most people overdo it and eat too many animal products, whether they intend to or not.
If you’re not vegan, this is a good place to start. Reduce the amount of animal products you eat so that they contribute less than 10% of your total diet. Make the other 90% full of plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Combine that with plenty of water and exercise and you’ve got a great recipe for good health.
If, at a later date, you feel ready to take the next step and eliminate animal cruelty from your diet, then switch out the animal products and replace them with legumes.
Back to Bittman’s article. Here’s the essential point of the piece:
Right now, primal urge and modern availability form a deadly combo.
We’re crack addicts with a steady supply. Beyond instinct and availability, there’s a third factor: marketing. When you add “It’s what’s for dinner” to the equation, you have a powerful combination: biology, economics and propaganda all pushing us in the same direction.
Those who were born in mid-to-late 20th century America take this for granted; I grew up eating meat seven days a week, usually for lunch and dinner, sometimes for breakfast, too. But the phenomenon is global: there’s more than twice as much meat available per person than there was in 1950.
This last fact – that many people are consuming far more meat than ever in history – not only risks human health by significantly increasing the amount of fat and protein and decreasing the amount of fiber that people consume, but when coupled with the rising human population means a significant increase in the amount of damage to the environment and the amount of animal suffering required to produce this much meat. This, this is something we need to fix now!
So, no matter where you stand on the issues – whether you want to abolish all animal exploitation or you simply want to avoid mass environmental damage and you think “meat animals” deserve better than factory farms – we need to fix this now! We need to encourage people to eat fewer animals. We need to make eating vegan alternatives easier. We need to encourage people to be respectful of animals and the environment. We need to change the laws that allow animal cruelty. We need to enforce the existing laws and the new laws. We need to get active and make a difference. And it has to be done now!