TRYING MEAT: TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT?
As a child, I grew up tall and skinny and a lover of meat. (Meat doesn’t necessarily make you fat neither does lack of meat makes you lean). I remember my mom’s cooking with fondness and even salivate remembering my teeth ripping through the tasty sumptuous chicken, curried goat, oxtail, and fish which was my favourite dish. The bones didn’t get away either. It was so tasty that I use to lick my lips, lick my fingers and if mom was not looking, licked the plate too. To make matters worse, in elementary school we were reminded that not only is meat tasty, it is also nutritious. It is an easy ready source of nutrients such as protein and Vitamin B12. Those were the days.
Sigh. Then I grew up and start to take life more seriously: worrying about the meaning of life; who we are; what we are and many things that teenager ponder as they transit from child to adult. Fortunately or unfortunately, as a young teen, my friends were older and in their late 20s and embracing the conscious roots, Rasta 1970s Jamaican vibes. Back then trimming, eating meat and holding black people in bondage were seen as Babylon and ungodly.
As such, my friends influence let me began to see that “to rise, kill and eat” was barbaric, inhumane and nonsensical. So as the Desiderata said, I did “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth”. Saul (Paul) said, in 1 Corinthians 13:11, When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
I gave up meat in 1995 (with the exception of fish) and I am still tall and skinny. I must admit that the only problems I have with being a vegetarian are that it is costly (the best things in life are expensive); it is hard to get a meal as most restaurants sell flesh (do not follow a multitude to do wrongs) and it is a daily test of will and commitment (many are called, few are chosen).
However, it was easy for me not to eat flesh as I had questions about our mental, physical, social and intimate being in relation to what/who we eat, when we eat, how we eat, where we eat, and why we eat. We are what we eat.
Here is the “beef” with vegetarianism that prompt this blog. I discovered that today’s wo/man needs a very important nutrient called vitamin B12. That’s cool. No problem. Get it.
Now, here is the dilemma. It is found mainly in animals and is not in most commonly eaten vegetables and fruits.
You got to be kidding me!!!!! Give me a phone line to God. This needs a big explanation as I thought that wo/man in its ideal form do not spill blood or eat meat yet vitamin B12 is mainly in animals. (See Genesis 1. 29 and the biblical perspective at end of this blog for details).
I don’t know if this discovery would bother you or even you ever find yourself wondering if we should eat meat? how does it affect who we are and is it wicked and sinful? This is an interesting and maybe provocative topic but I have nevertheless delved into it and am sharing some arguments in support and some against meat eating. A biblical perspective is attempted at the end.
THE BENEFITS OF EATING MEAT
Kris Gunnars, BSc in her article, 7 Reasons Not to Avoid Meat at https://authoritynutrition.com/7-evidence-based-health-reasons-to-eat-meat/ has this to say about the topic.
1. We Can Function Eating Both Plants and Animals
The truth is that humans have evolved from herbivores to omnivores and our digestive systems have adapted to make use of the fats, proteins and nutrients found in animal foods.
2. Meat Contains Nutrients
High quality, unprocessed meat is high in many nutrients. A 100 gram portion (3.5 ounces) of raw ground beef contains vitamin B12, B3 (Niacin), B6, iron, zinc, selenium and various other vitamins and minerals. (It would take a much more sizeable amount of plant matter to produce an equivalent amount of nutrients).
Vitamin B12 is particularly important because it cannot be got from commonly consumed plants. Many people who avoid animal foods are deficient in it. (This is scary for vegans as very low B12 intakes can cause anemia and nervous system damage. The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements.
Vegans have countered that B12 was an issue requiring no special attention as it is in some plants, or even an elaborate hoax. They proposed specific foods, including spirulina, nori, tempeh, and barley grass, as suitable non-animal sources of B12.
3. Meat Doesn’t Raise Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease or Diabetes
Studies now show that saturated fat in the diet is not linked to heart disease, however, these studies found a significantly increased risk for processed meat. Seems if you want to avoid chronic disease, then it makes sense to avoid processed meat as much as possible but unprocessed meat seems to be fine they claim.
4. Meat Contains High Quality Protein
Proteins are long strings of amino acids that are linked together and folded into complex shapes protein is important for bone health. There are about 9 amino acids that we cannot produce and must get from our diet. In this regard, animal proteins is given the edge over many plant proteins but easy doesn’t make it right.
5. There is Only a Very Weak Correlation With Cancer
There are some studies showing a link between red meat and cancer but new studies seem to be suggesting that while it is true that processed meat strongly correlates with increased cancer risk, the same is not true for unprocessed red meat. That being said, it is possible that the way meat is cooked has an effect, because carcinogens can form when meat is cooked excessively. For this reason, it is important to use gentler cooking methods and cut away all burnt or charred pieces.
THE BENEFITS OF NOT EATING MEAT
Michelle McMacken, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine physician and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine. According to her, http://www.forksoverknives.com/7-things-that-happen-when-you-stop-eating-meat/, people go plant-based for lots of reasons. These include losing weight, feeling more energetic, reducing the risk of heart disease, and decreasing the number of pills they take. She also touted the flowing reasons not to eat meat:
- You’ll reduce inflammation in your body.
Eating meat, cheese, and highly processed foods elevate the levels of inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, among other conditions. In contrast, plant-based diets are naturally anti-inflammatory, because they are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, and much lower in inflammatory triggers like saturated fat and endotoxins (toxins released from bacteria commonly found in animal foods).
- Your blood cholesterol levels will plummet.
Saturated fat—primarily found in meat, poultry, cheese, and other animal products—is a major driver of our blood cholesterol levels which is a key risk factor for heart disease and strokes, two of the leading killers in the United States. Cholesterol in our food also plays a role.
Whole-food, plant-based diets reduce blood cholesterol because they tend to be very low in saturated fat and they contain zero cholesterol. Moreover, plant-based diets are high in fiber, which further reduces blood cholesterol levels.
- You’ll give your microbiome a makeover.
The trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies are collectively called the microbiome. Not only do they help us digest our food, but they produce critical nutrients, train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, keep our gut tissue healthy, and help protect us from cancer.
Plant foods help shape a healthy intestinal microbiome. The fiber in plant foods promotes the growth of “friendly” bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, fiber-poor diets (such as those that are high in dairy, eggs, and meat) can foster the growth of disease-promoting bacteria such as obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.
- You’ll dramatically reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.
Animal protein, especially red and processed meat, has been shown in study after study to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Several reasons: animal fat, animal-based (heme) iron, and nitrate preservatives in meat have been found to damage pancreatic cells, worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and impair the way our insulin functions
You will dramatically lessen your chances of getting type 2 diabetes if you eat whole grains, which are highly protective against type 2 diabetes. Also, a plant-based diet can improve or even reverse your diabetes if you’ve already been diagnosed.
- You’ll get the right amount—and the right type—of protein.
Meat is an easy rich source of protein and this strength is its weakness and danger. Contrary to popular perception, this excess protein does not make us stronger or leaner. Excess protein is stored as fat or turned into waste, and animal protein is a major cause of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer.
On the other hand, the protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases.
- Huge impact on the health of our planet and its inhabitants.
Animal agriculture has led to many development and improvements in the type of life of man. It has led us to save time that went into a shift from being nomadic to city building; creation of industries and the use of food, cosmetics and clothing from animal. However, animal agriculture is extremely destructive to the planet. It is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and is a leading cause of land and water use, deforestation, wildlife destruction, and species extinction. The current food system, based on meat and dairy production, also contributes to world hunger—the majority of crops grown worldwide go toward feeding livestock, not feeding people.
Equally important, animals raised for food are sentient beings who suffer and know pain. Eating a plant-based diet helps us lead a more compassionate life. After all, being healthy is not just about the food we eat; it’s also about our consciousness—our awareness of how our choices affect the planet and all of those with whom we share it.
A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
Phase 1 – pure man
In Genesis 1.29-30 we read: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (NIV).
In short, man at the beginning of creation, while in its righteous and sinless state was commanded to be a vegetarian. This would suggest that man’s body was made to be herbivores and the need for canine to rip flesh was not necessary.
Phase 2 – Fallen man
Then, after Man became vile and sinful, and after the Flood, in Genesis 9.1-5 we read: Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal.” (NIV)
It appears after the Flood, permission was given to eat meat and man’s body evolved into omnivores. (This is where I think that the need for Vitamin B12 start to evolve).
Phase 3 – Laws
Then after the Israelites came out of Egypt and were trying to be a bit more righteous, Moses said God told him that the new order would be as follows: Leviticus 11: The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: 3 You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. 7 And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. 8 You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
Phase 4 – Modern man
The bible has been silent on the eating of meat since the Moses laws. However, many verses in the New Testament have been quoted to “legalize” the eating of blood and unclean animals such as pigs, rabbits and dogs but none is a commandment of God.
For example, a popularly quoted verse, Acts 10 is used because in it God said “Rise, kill and eat as nothing I have cleansed is unclean or common”. In fact this was a vision and was simply preparing Peter for the meeting with the Centurion, who was a gentile. (The Old testament taught that all non Israelite were unclean, inferior and were dogs). Can you believe that?
It is true. That is why the Apostle Peter was given the vision so he no longer hung on to such bigotry and racism. “[Acts 10:7-16. He recognized its meaning when the gentile Cornelius invited him to dinner the very next minute after the vision. At Cornelius’ dinner, Peter related to his hosts, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean “. Peter then baptized the first gentiles (non-Israelites) God called into the Church who were not initially Jewish proselytes (Acts 10:45-48). (The analogy of unclean meat to clean meat is to do with human beings).
SHOULD WE EAT MEAT?
As was seen, science, the bible and expediency of survival taught us it is okay to eat meat. On the other hand, science, religion and expediency have taught us it is not okay and maybe even sinful to eat animals. Seems there is no clear winner.
Meat is a ready and cheap form of nutrition and it has allowed man to switch from nomadic societies to domestication of animals and the creation of great towns and cities. None of that, of course, means that increased meat consumption—or any meat consumption at all—is necessary for today’s’ man.
Maybe with the increased wars, lack of brotherly love and the breakdown of basic morality, not eating meat may reverse these tendencies. After all, quality of life should be measured by how we treat the poor, less fortunate and dumb creatures. I am sure ALL animals would give vegetarianism a YES vote. Although it might seem trivial, animals are our friends and co partners and should not be our dinner.
I am still puzzled why B12 is not readily available in common plants but realize that the need for Vitamin B12 is evolutionary as man switched from being a herbivore to Omnivore. For example, did you know that science claims that the Brown Bear over thousands of years underwent evolutionary change and became the Polar bear? Surviving the harsh polar environment of cold and no plants resulted in molars becoming canine and skin coat change to white to fit the snow. It seems we are what we eat so would we live to eat, or eat to live. .
Before you eat your next meal of sweet savoury delectable meat, don’t selfishly think of the rich source of nutrition you are getting. Instead think of the horror those farm animals faced when they noticed that the man that raised them, took care of them, and protect them, has turned around and killed them. Maybe the eating of this “horror” meat is the reason we are what we are. Callous, inhumane and sick.
Summarily, meat eating is a choice but its outcome is a consequence. So, as we rush in where even angels fear to tread remember that the way that seems easy wide and fully lit might be the way to destruction.
Solomon sums it up neatly in Ecclesiastes 12 vs 13 – 14.
The commandment that instruct us to eat royally and in harmony with life is in the first chapter of the first book of “our” bible and suffice to say, “As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end”.
Gen 1 vs 29. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat…….And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.