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In the face of contradictory evidence
December 4, 2010 11:00 AM   Subscribe

From the journal Nutrition, a paper(pdf) criticizing the new American dietary guidelines.

From the paper:
It is of interest to consider the opinion of the American Medical Association (AMA) with respect to the first implementation of dietary guidelines. In an editorial, it was stated:
We believe that it would be inappropriate at this time to adopt proposed national dietary goals as set forth in the Report on Dietary Goals for the United States. The evidence for assuming that benefits to be derived from the adoption of such universal dietary goals as set forth in the Report is not conclusive and there is potential for harmful effects from a radical long-term dietary change as would occur through adoption of the proposed national goals. The guidelines recommended at that time show great similarity to the current recommendations:

The Report sets forth six dietary goals of the United States.
These goals are as follows:
1. Increased carbohydrate consumption to account for 55% to 60% of energy (caloric) intake.
2. Reduce overall fat consumption from approximately 40% to 30% of energy intake.
3. Reduce saturated fat consumption to account for about 10% of total energy intake; and balance that with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which should account for about 10% of energy intake.
4. Reduce cholesterol consumption to about 300 mg/day.
5. Reduce sugar consumption by about 40% to account for about 15% total energy intake.
seled to be in the care of a physician who can offer dietary advice
6. Reduce salt consumption by 50% to 85% to approximately 3 gm/day

In the three decades since, carbohydrate consumption has increased; overall fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol consumption have decreased to near or below targeted levels; caloric intake
remains within recommended levels; and leisure-time physical activity has increased slightly (pp. D1-1, D3-10, B2-3). At the same time, scientific evidence in favor of these recommendations remains inconclusive, and we must consider the possibility that the “potential for harmful effects” has in fact been realized. Notably, “the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the US has increased dramatically in the past three decades” (A4); the number of Americans diagnosed with T2D has tripled.
posted by peacheater (74 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I started reading this closely, and could see that Hite, et al, were terrifically pissed off about something, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

From what I know of the rhetoric of scientific papers, it's clear from the first paragraph that they're writing a polemic, not just a disinterested observation or review of nutritional studies. But as I read, I couldn't quite figure out what axe they were grinding. There's lots of controversy in the field of nutrition, but scientists don't usually get up on such a high horse from the very first paragraph like these guys do.

Then, I found what I was looking for. In the middle of page 921. Meat. That's the point. All the other prose is just so much wadding behind their real bullet: the attack on government's recommendation that people eat less meat. These are the meat boys. Their pockets are stuffed with money from ranchers and slaughter houses and meat processors. Their lips are flecked with blood, and their guts are swollen with gas of rotting corpses.

They're like the "scientists" who, from the 1950s through the 80s, tried to prove that smoking cigarettes was not associated with lung cancer, and that second-hand smoke was no danger to children. Now their death-drunk masters see that America is turning away from meat in its diet, and the blood-maddened killers are roaring with rage. Clearly, the meat industry has decided it will no longer be on the defensive, but will attack -- the same way that the tobacco industry did: using corrupt scientists and skewed studies.

These "plant-diet deniers" can see that their mission is a pretty desperate one, since it's obvious that cattle farming is right up there with the internal combustion engine as a degrader of the environment, and that meat in the diet is leading cause of death in the developed world.

So they can't come right out and make their big point in a reasoned way. They need to overturn the whole applecart, and cast doubt on the government's complete set of nutritional guidelines, and pray that when the dust settles and the revolution is over, they'll be on top, grinning and waving a forkful of steaming cadaver.
posted by Faze at 11:34 AM on December 4, 2010 [19 favorites]


Purely and entirely anecdotal, but personally I feel better when I am eating fewer simple carbohydrates. I feel best when I am eating mainly vegetables, meat (including quite fatty meats, like sausage), eggs, and some grains/beans/legumes. So while I don't have any clear idea what these dietary recommendations would do on a national level, I'm reasonably sure that they aren't the ideal way to eat for myself.

we must consider the possibility that the “potential for harmful effects” has in fact been realized. Notably, “the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the US has increased dramatically in the past three decades” (A4); the number of Americans diagnosed with T2D has tripled.

Maybe they dig into it in the full paper, but I would hope there's some way to tease out the impact of the dietary guidelines from the super-sized soft drink kind of caloric intake that a lot of people are drinking every day.
posted by Forktine at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


...and their guts are swollen with gas of rotting corpses.

Vegitarians fart too.
posted by deliquescent at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2010 [19 favorites]


Before I realized that "921" was the journal page numbering, I thought Faze waded through 921 pages of the linked article and I was going to award him the Grand RTFA medal of all time.

I still give him the Commendation for In-Depth Analysis.

Now I'm going to go RTFA.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:46 AM on December 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


It's certainly frustrating when someone can't come right out and make their big point in a reasoned way.
posted by box at 11:46 AM on December 4, 2010


Vegitarians fart too.
posted by deliquescent at 2:43 PM on December 4 [+] [!]


But for vegetarians, it smells of roses and sounds like distant panpipes.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:47 AM on December 4, 2010 [25 favorites]


So they can't come right out and make their big point in a reasoned way. They need to overturn the whole applecart, and cast doubt on the government's complete set of nutritional guidelines, and pray that when the dust settles and the revolution is over, they'll be on top, grinning and waving a forkful of steaming cadaver.

Says the guy churning out English 101-level propaganda with no footnotes and a simplistic analysis that doesn't even attempt to engage with scientific research.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:48 AM on December 4, 2010 [26 favorites]


Salvor Hardin: "sounds like distant panpipes."

I was reading too fast and read "distant puppies".

arf, arf arf arf!
posted by notsnot at 11:53 AM on December 4, 2010 [23 favorites]


They're like the "scientists" who, from the 1950s through the 80s, tried to prove that smoking cigarettes was not associated with lung cancer, and that second-hand smoke was no danger to children.

I don't think that's quite fair, Faze. There are some valid points in here.

Here are a couple of their criticisms that I think may be fair:

a) Recommendations of increased carbohydrate intake (in trade for decreased fat intake) are poorly supported.

I think that's fair. I've got to check some of the sources. Since Atkins has taken off, people have consistently predicted doom and gloom for Atkins dieters, and those predictions have failed to materialize. The role of dietary fat is still highly contentious.

b) Recommendations for decreased salt intake are appropriate for people with other health problems, but not otherwise; these recommendations are intended for the general public.

There are some claims that they're making that I want to check out in more detail. In particular, the claim that we're not eating more calories but we're getting more obese, which is an important leg of "This might even be harmful" claim-- that increased carbohydrate intake at the expense of fat, and not overeating in terms of calories, is leading to weight gain.

By the way, here are the dietary recommendations they're referring to.

It's really easy to cite poor nutritional research, because there's tons of epidemiological stuff, which is pretty much worthless, and there's tons that relies on food questionnaires, which are completely worthless, and there's tons based on food product sales rather than consumption, which is completely worthless.
posted by nathan v at 11:54 AM on December 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


After studying something like 170 villages all over China over a longitudinal period of 30+ years (supposedly the most comprehensive study of it's type ever done), the science is in: Animal protein bad, vegetable protein good. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, so much of what plagues modern society is tied back to what we eat. And mostly it's tied to how much animal protein we eat.

And even more startling, they can be reversed by going to a plant-based diet. The movie Raw For 30 is available in it's entirety online. Yes, diabetes can be reversed with diet.

Big Meat is killing us. It's killing the planet. I used to be the biggest, meatiest, 5-types-of-meat-&-xtra-cheese-pizza kinda of guy. Given my druthers, I'd live on that and hamburgers with bacon.

I'm halfway through The China Study and I'm discovering how delicious ceasar salads and field roasts are. I'm not quite a vegetarian, And how unappealing liver cancer, diabetes, and morbid obesity sound.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:55 AM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


EDIT: Animal protein bad, plant protein good
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:56 AM on December 4, 2010


What? Seriously? The China Study? Did you ever actually read it?
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:00 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the part where the people whose lips are flecked with blood and whose guts are swollen with the gas of rotting corpses, whose death-drunk masters are blood-maddened killers roaring with rage, are "writing a polemic".
posted by Flunkie at 12:04 PM on December 4, 2010 [54 favorites]


whose guts are swollen with the gas of rotting corpses, whose death-drunk masters

Jackie Chan in Death-Drunken Zombie Master, this Summer!


Seriously, if there's going to be zombie everything, at least let me live long enough to see a Zombie kung-fu epic.
posted by zippy at 12:09 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Haven't read the study itself, am reading the book written about the study by one of the main researchers. Same title.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:10 PM on December 4, 2010


921 pages in 34 minutes has to be a record.
posted by DU at 12:10 PM on December 4, 2010


...and their guts are swollen with gas of rotting corpses.

Since I began with low[er] carb, and especially low wheat and low beans, I can eat as many corpses as I want but nothing swells any longer. I can also choose to not eat any meat, result the same. Refine your argument. This sucks.
posted by Namlit at 12:17 PM on December 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, Faze, care to provide evidence that a high-carb, low-protein, low-fat, low-sugar diet (as recommended by the new dietary guidelines) is actually good for you?

Whether you put meat into that equation or not, there's plenty of evidence that high-carb diets cause insulin spikes, eventually leading to diabetes and obesity. Look at how many carbs are recommended for diabetics, and then ask yourself why we're telling Americans, many of whom are pre-diabetic, to eat more "healthy" things like rice and bread. It's as if we believe that Type II diabetes just comes out of nowhere, after which "healthy" carbs suddenly become cursed.

I find it pretty ridiculous to claim that this paper is "about meat", when meat makes up only three paragraphs which follow pages and pages of data about fat, macronutrients, and carbs. Hell, the part about salt is longer than the part about meat; care to froth at the mouth about our sodium-encrusted overlords cackling as they sprinkle cold white death out of their bulging Morton-pockets onto our foods?
posted by vorfeed at 12:21 PM on December 4, 2010 [22 favorites]


Kudos on this post. I feel the evidence is persuasive for lower-carb diets and against the idea that eating fat makes you fat. And salt... here in Canada, the government and newspapers have declared sodium Public Enemy Number One and are considering legislating its use... nonsense.
posted by kevinsp8 at 12:37 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, I need a sandwich.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:39 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


A little more context would be helpful. The document in question is criticizing the output of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion which issues recommendations every five years which affect, among other things, food in public schools.

The recently passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act cements that document's authority in determining what kids eat, especially for school lunch programs.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:56 PM on December 4, 2010


Just a gentle reminder that the vegetables and grains you eat were also once alive and are dead when you consume them.

Sometimes (as when you pick a carrot and give it a quick wash from the garden hose before gobbling it down in its couldn't-be-fresher glory) the vegetables *are still alive when you eat them*.
posted by Sublimity at 12:56 PM on December 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just a reminder that vegetables don't have central nervous systems and were treated humanely! Enjoy your corpse gas!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:58 PM on December 4, 2010


"Then, I found what I was looking for. In the middle of page 921. Meat. That's the point. All the other prose is just so much wadding behind their real bullet: the attack on government's recommendation that people eat less meat."

Wow. So much effort and conspiracy to try and get me to eat more food I find delicious. Imagine how crazy this message would be if they were trying to get me to eat more of things I didn't like the taste of, like vegetables.

Seriously, if you want people to eat less meat, try sounding less like someone advocating alien abduction theories.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:59 PM on December 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't even have to RTFA to be highly entertained by this thread! Arguing about food really seems to bring out Metafilter's most inspired and stimulating prose.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:14 PM on December 4, 2010


You guys are all filthy hipsters, every friggin' last one of you.
posted by AugieAugustus at 1:22 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


So instead of talking about Faze, let's talk about food.

Myself, I'm find portion sizing to be the key to good health. Somehow, I developed a habit of eating more than enough. And in all honesty, my portion sizes weren't that big to begin with—but my weight/waist were clearly not in agreement with that perception.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:25 PM on December 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love the graphs on page 917. It stands out immediately that over time, Americans, especially American women, are consuming more calories, by eating more carbs. So the ratios of where your calories come from look as though they're improving, but actually, people just eat too damn much, and the difference between how they eat now and how they used to eat is that they've added starch and sugar.

I feel there should be some special formatting for Faze's comments so that people unfamiliar with his work can be alerted to their special qualities.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:34 PM on December 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Apropos the China Study -- this interesting criticism has been doing the rounds.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2010


five fresh fish, I'm sorry to inform you that your comment wasn't very stimulating at all. Maybe if you put some hot sauce and melted cheddar on it, or something...
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Vegitarians fart too.

You meat eaters could never dream of the volume, force, and intensity of the gas we expel. It's just one of the many ways in which we are superior to you.

I myself am providing the methane to a small village in Northern Minnesota as we speak, singlehandedly saving their economy from ruin thanks to my taste for legumes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:12 PM on December 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


singlehandedly
Mixed methan-fer
posted by Namlit at 2:18 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


MethaneFilter.
posted by unSane at 3:08 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Then, I found what I was looking for. In the middle of page 921. Meat."

Brilliant. Ludicrous.
posted by eeeeeez at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mixed with my previous multilingual typo: MethanePhilter.
(Now I can sleep in peace. Thanks)
posted by Namlit at 3:13 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since I began with low[er] carb, and especially low wheat and low beans, I can eat as many corpses as I want but nothing swells any longer. I can also choose to not eat any meat, result the same. Refine your argument. This sucks.

Yes. I hate hate hate hate hate saying it, but one of the reasons I started eating meat and stopped being vegan was the flatulence I suffered from. I usually took Librax and Gas-X for it and it would clear up, but when I realized that I could just avoid it by not eating fodder, I haven't looked back. I haven't touched my bottle of Librax in two years now, but I keep it on hand in case the vegans take over the world :)
posted by melissam at 3:40 PM on December 4, 2010


As for the China Study, I think my friends Denise and Chris demolished it.
posted by melissam at 3:41 PM on December 4, 2010


Is this where I come in to say, as in all the other carb argument threads, there is already a book that has evaluated over a hundred years of the nutritional science and untangled many of the reasons (political, historical, scientific) for all the contradictory advice that people are bombarded with now? If so, that book is Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.

Everyone's already covered why Faze's argument doesn't engage with the science. If you want to engage with the science, then go to the library and get that book; MeFi is a great resource but Taubes's book takes several hundred pages to thoroughly examine and explain everything because it takes that long to do a good and convincing job; over and over, people on the high-carb side will inevitably reference studies and arguments that Taubes addresses in great detail, often because they don't know any better and are (understandably) convinced that fat is bad because they've heard it for years and it's an intuitive, though ultimately incorrect, idea. (Fun fact: the intuitiveness is one reason why the argument was pushed in nutritional guidelines; though the science at the time was inconclusive at best and much was argued against it and in favor of low-carb, they didn't think the American public could understand anything more complicated "eat fat, get fat." All this and more political history in -- you guessed it -- Taubes's book.) They will also repeat a lot of misinformation about low-carb diets -- the tired "water weight" argument, or the idea that people's cholesterol must then be bad when it's actually better, etc -- because, well, they hear it repeated.

A consequence of years of incorrect information is that people won't stop arguing until the equivalent of a tome is handed to them, and I don't blame people for the skepticism. However, it's tiring to rehash the same thing over and over because that tome exists, out there in the world. This isn't going to be settled to anyone's satisfaction in a thread on the internet, so I try to point people who genuinely want answers toward that book instead.

Incidentally, the exact argument of Americans having lowered their fat intake and increased their carbohydrate intake as a result of the guidelines over the past several decades is addressed by Taubes in the book. It is true. This is because carbohydrate metabolism is what leads to fat storage. Read the book for tons of detail, try it yourself, or do neither. I've talked about this before so rather than pressing the issue further, that's all I've got to say in the thread; I don't really have any interest in arguing further because I don't have the energy to be a low-carb evangelist. I do know how frustrating it can be to want to do the right thing for your health but not know where to begin reconciling the contradictory information, though, and those are the people I hope will read this and decide to give the book a shot.

So for you guys who are still interested:

The book deals with more than just fat and carbohydrates and calories: it goes into great detail about cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar in general, exercise, and many diseases linked to diet -- the obvious being diabetes and heart disease and arteriosclerosis, but also cancer, Alzheimers and dementia (development in recent years have examined the role cholesterol and clogged arteries can play), and some others. It examines the history, politics, and science in great detail -- year by year, all the major studies and some you probably haven't heard of as well, and the science down to a molecular level. It is a thorough, cautious, and well-reasoned book. It is positively dense with information and analysis but I found the prose engaging and approachable. It is NOT a diet book and will not tell you what to eat and in what amounts, and Taubes is not trying to sell anything (other than the book, I guess); Taubes is a science journalist (and apparently, masochist) who decided to tackle the behemoth and figure out how everything got so confusing. If you want everyday information about what to eat you'll have to seek that out on your own afterward.

Incidentally, contrary to Faze's comment, one of the big reasons high-carb was pushed? Cereal companies. BAM! Honestly, whatever one thinks the fact of the matter might be, there is a fact of the matter about whether it's excess fat or carbohydrates that cause weight gain. Motivations of greed assumed and put aside, one group of corporations is going to be lucky enough that nutritional science is on their side so that they don't have to lie to argue people should eat their products, which is why bias alone is a weak, weak argument. That the meat industry wants to sell meat is hardly surprising, but it doesn't mean the sugar industry doesn't want to sell sugar, or the wheat industry doesn't want to sell wheat, and their analysis -- unsurprisingly -- is just as biased in their own favor. For an issue like this, when both sides are backed by powerful lobbies, the science is what matters.
posted by Nattie at 6:06 PM on December 4, 2010 [17 favorites]


Whatever he has, it appears to be viral.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:12 PM on December 4, 2010


A good critique of Good Calories, Bad Calories.

A slightly more formal critique.
posted by nathan v at 7:46 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I found Krieger's take on Taubes pretty devastating, to be honest.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:27 PM on December 4, 2010


Yeah, even I think Taubes missed a lot. Yes, I agree with his exoneration of fat, but blaming carbs ignores the many many cultures that are healthy on high carb diets from the traditional Pima to the Kitavans.
posted by melissam at 10:00 PM on December 4, 2010


blaming carbs ignores the many many cultures that are healthy on high carb diets from the traditional Pima to the Kitavans.

We don't live the way the traditional Pima or Kitavans do. It's entirely possible for other cultures to be healthy eating high-carb diets, and for carbs to be the primary problem with our diet.
posted by vorfeed at 10:04 PM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]



We don't live the way the traditional Pima or Kitavans do. It's entirely possible for other cultures to be healthy eating high-carb diets, and for carbs to be the primary problem with our diet.


I suppose, but what's the mechanism? In the paleo/low-carb community, there has been a gradual, but noticeable, re-carbing. I switched to a higher-carb paleo diet a year ago and none of the problems I had pre-paleo went back. My blood work is nearly identical and I'm saving a boatload of money. It's not like I went back to waffles and soda though. I added in yams and stopped restricting fruit. I'm still under 100 grams carbs a day or so. I've tested my insulin levels and I don't get spikes.

BUT I do know people who tried to go higher carb and their insulin levels reacted badly. I started this diet when I was about 20, some of those people started it when they were in their 40s. It's possible they broke something from decades of eating certain truly bad foods like sugar and soy oil.
posted by melissam at 10:54 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meat eating is a meme like war. We eat meat and fight wars because we think that those are things that people do. But if you rule out those particular memes, you see that there are many different solutions to the problems of nutrition and the settling of national conflicts that don't involve killing sentient beings. It is possible to enjoy optimum health without eating meat. Therefore, a diet that requires the killing of animals (much less a national diet that involves the killing of millions of animals, usually cruelly) should not even be under consideration in anything but immediate life-endangering circumstances. Same with war. If there is any way to solve our problem (optimum nutrition, for instance) without killing, we have to use that option. This is basic morality. Killing another creature is not an acceptable solution to your problem, whatever that problem may be -- not when there is another solution right (as in the case of nuritition) "on the table."
posted by Faze at 5:47 AM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Killing another creature is not an acceptable solution to your problem

This is only true (in the case of food, not war), if your existing moral code considers death of an animal a negative. This is where the argument gets lost when the meateaters and nonmeateaters clash on the principles of diet. To a nonmeateater, it's blindingly obvious that killing animals has a negative connotation and therefore the moral imperative is to stop doing that. To a meateater, killing an animal for food (no starvation arguments required) has no negative connotation, and therefore even enjoyment of the food is an acceptable reason for the killing.

So, therefore, the nonmeateater has three avenues to make their argument convincing:
- meat lacks enjoyment of any kind - this means hunting is boring, meat tastes bad, and the killing of animals does not produce any benefit (for example, protecting crops or safety of people or resources). Realistically, without a ridiculously dramatic societal change, this is never going to happen
- the benefit of keeping animals alive far outweighs the negatives - this is the emotional argument that revolves around "cute" animals, though this is a wedge to the effort to keep all animals alive, this is probably doomed to failure because the positive that meateaters experience is very difficult to overcome
- there is no negative or positive for killing animals for food, whatsoever, therefore don't kill animals - this may be the best way to approach this, and depends on food technology. Make non-meat foods so much better than meat, or even absolutely indistinguishable from meat, and provide the additional benefit of price or availability, and most people will switch
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 9:45 AM on December 5, 2010


Killing another creature is not an acceptable solution to your problem

Unless your problem is "I want to eat something tasty".
posted by Justinian at 1:15 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meat eating is a meme like war. We eat meat and fight wars because we think that those are things that people do. But if you rule out those particular memes, you see that there are many different solutions to the problems of nutrition and the settling of national conflicts that don't involve killing sentient beings.

In other words: "if you decide to become a vegetarian/pacifist, then it is possible not to eat meat or kill people".

Nobody seriously refutes this; it's the "if" part which is the question at hand, not the "then". Killing sentient beings for food or in war is not necessarily immoral -- and, indeed, is not considered so by the vast majority of human beings -- so you need to give reasons as to why it should be, not just assume that it is.

I've seldom seen a more obvious example of begging the question.
posted by vorfeed at 1:23 PM on December 5, 2010


Killing sentient beings for food or in war is not necessarily immoral -- and, indeed, is not considered so by the vast majority of human beings

Um... I think the vast majority of human beings do consider killing sentient beings for food immoral. I politely decline that invitation to dinner at your place.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:45 PM on December 5, 2010


It is possible to enjoy optimum health without eating meat.
I wish. Meat is expensive and since I slaughter or process most of my own meat myself now, it's also a tremendous amount of work. I'd go back to veganism in a heartbeat if I felt I could be healthy on it. Vegans insist that their diet can be optimum for everyone, but I strongly believe humans are more varied than that.

Either way, as an agronomist, I can tell you that YOUR diet also requires the killing of sentient beings. Just because it's unintentional doesn't mean it's right, particularly if you truly believe that animals have just as many rights as humans. If that's so, what gives us the right to plough over their homes to grow wheat? Nevermind that most crops are fertilized with animal manure.

Sure you say nobody *needs* meat, but vegans eat unnecessary food as well. If you truly believed in animal rights, you'd eliminate all unnecessary foods from your diet, like an Athonite monk. You'd eat a simple low-calorie diet (maybe throw in some fasting to reduce that further, it has health benefits anyway) of very low impact crops, trying to grow as much of your food yourself as possible to take advantage of low-impact methods like veganic permaculture (unfortunately very low yield with current tech).
posted by melissam at 2:02 PM on December 5, 2010


I love meat eaters who argue against not eating meat based on veganism and pretend vegetarianism does not exist, is not vastly more common, and has not been long proven to be able to provide a perfectly nutritious diet.e
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2010


Um... I think the vast majority of human beings do consider killing sentient beings for food immoral. I politely decline that invitation to dinner at your place.

Despite what you learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation, human beings have a moral problem with killing sapient beings for food, not sentient beings. Many of our food animals are indeed sentient (i.e. they can feel pleasure and pain).
posted by vorfeed at 2:31 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge, how is vegetarianism more ethical than eating meat? In that, the vegans are right. I'd encourage you to visit the horrific dairy farm next to my family's farm and to talk to some dairy farmers.

In the future this will change because there has already been research done into price-competitive sex selection so they don't have to have a surplus of male calves that end up being veal/getting shot at birth because they are unwanted.

But in the end what happens to layer hens and cattle that are at the end of their productivity? On every farm I know if, they eat them. Perhaps vegetarianism is preferable if you are a utilitarian, but not from a rights-based perspective.
posted by melissam at 2:49 PM on December 5, 2010


Despite what you learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation, human beings have a moral problem with killing sapient beings for food, not sentient beings.

Argh. I can only plead that I have been grading all weekend, and I had forgotten that sapient does not always equal sentient....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:47 PM on December 5, 2010


furiousxgeorge, how is vegetarianism more ethical than eating meat?

For real? This is an actual serious question? Ok, it's more ethical in the same way it is more ethical to beat someone up if you have to instead of murdering them.

Everything in life comes with benefits and costs. If your goals are to have a healthy diet, reduce animal abuse, and not have a massively disruptive lifestyle change...vegetarianism is the way to go.

Veganism has less animal abuse but at the cost of health and lifestyle. Meat eating has serious abuse and health issues. Vegetarianism is the best middle ground for those who have ethical concerns but aren't fundies.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:12 PM on December 5, 2010


it's more ethical in the same way it is more ethical to beat someone up if you have to instead of murdering them

So torturing animals (or humans for that matter) is more ethical than killing them outright?
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 5:24 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


So torturing animals (or humans for that matter) is more ethical than killing them outright?

I dunno, I'd rather be the deer I just ate than a dairy cow. A dairy cow lives its entire life being milked dry and when it has a calf it is taken away from it on most farms. The deer I ate kinda just did whatever it wanted until my friend killed it.

Even more "ethical" would be bi-valve/invertebrate but no dairy/meat/eggs like most of the Athonite monks. What is more ethical: getting your animal nutrients from completely non-sapient oyster or from a tormented cow?
posted by melissam at 5:36 PM on December 5, 2010


it's more ethical in the same way it is more ethical to beat someone up if you have to instead of murdering them

and seriously? with vegetarianism you beat the animals up AND murder them, just on a different time scale. At least beef cattle get to spend a large amount of their life roaming. Factory dairy doesn't and in the end they get ground up into hamburger.

Take it from a former vegan: milk is liquid veal :)
posted by melissam at 5:40 PM on December 5, 2010


Are we pretending the factory meat first world nations consume isn't tortured too? Harm reduction people, not fundamentalism, please.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:40 PM on December 5, 2010


Are we pretending the factory meat first world nations consume isn't tortured too? Harm reduction people, not fundamentalism, please.

Yeah, fundamentalism is foolish. I prefer evaluating my food on a per-food basis rather than whether or not it's an animal. And yes, factory-farmed cattle for beef DO have a better life than most dairy cattle.

My rough list of worst animal industries based on agricultural school and 5 years of experience in agriculture: factory pork > factory dairy > factory poultry > "free range" poultry > factory beef/organic dairy > truly pastured dairy > pastured meat > game

So yeah, I think eating venison is less cruel than eating any dairy.
posted by melissam at 5:48 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yes, factory-farmed cattle for beef DO have a better life than most dairy cattle.

I agree, they endure slightly less torture before you murder them. But, you know, YOU MURDER THEM.

So yeah, I think eating venison is less cruel than eating any dairy.

I agree, but when I enter discussions like this I am looking at it from the society wide point of view, the big picture. If you will base your argument on the perfectly behaved and informed meat eater who consumes only wild venison they kill with their own bare hands....you have to compare that to the perfectly ethical vegetarian who only consumes well treated dairy and egg products. Apples to apples. When you take it to the industrial scale, the meat eating doesn't come ahead.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:04 PM on December 5, 2010


...or are these meat eaters eating meat but skipping dairy and eggs? There is simply no way the math leads to less suffering when any of the suffering involved in feeding vegetarians is multiplied in a meat eating diet that contains all the same food vegetarians eat PLUS MORE dead, tortured animals.

Harm reduction. Learn it, love it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:13 PM on December 5, 2010


I agree, they endure slightly less torture before you murder them. But, you know, YOU MURDER THEM.

Um, guess you missed the part where dairy cows and broiler hens go to the slaughterhouse too. Not to to mention the fate of their male offspring, who are killed when young.

I agree a single life of a dairy cow probably results in more net calories from a utilitarian perspective.

Murder is an awfully strong word to use for animals. If this all really is murder, we should be vegans.

The problem with most of these discussions I have on Mefi is that people want to find a diet for EVERYONE. What I advocate is that people differ, local agricultural conditions differ, and you can't advocate a blanket solution.
posted by melissam at 6:20 PM on December 5, 2010


I've never tried a ham reduction. How does one prepare that?
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:25 PM on December 5, 2010


Again, if we base our arguments on the perfectly ethical vegetarian and perfectly ethical meat eater...the dairy cow will not be slaughtered in either case. I'm only pointing that out because every time issues like this come up in any conversation anywhere the .000000000001% of the population of the world that only eats ethical meat is suddenly involved in the conversation.

In the real world of our diet, meat eaters consume the products of the dairy cow and the products of cows for meat. There is less total suffering created by someone who only eats the dairy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:27 PM on December 5, 2010


furiousxgeorge, there are fewer dairy farms that don't slaughter their cows than there are good grassfed beef operations. I know of one such project by a rich Hindu couple (http://www.otarian.com/). Otherwise, meat is a byproduct of dairy.

Maybe I'm biased because I work in local food infrastructure and I see pastured meat as nothing but expandable. I have people writing to me every day looking for this stuff and not being able to find it easily... yet. I'm working on it :) I also have a farm to school project. Most of the people considering vegetarianism are in that top 2% bracket that CAN do grassfed meat.
posted by melissam at 7:18 PM on December 5, 2010


Buy local meat from smaller farms. Then you know the animals had something close to a natural domesticated animal life. They spent a lot of years in barn and field conditions; we surely know enough about the social life of these animals to give them a close simulacrum of a decent farm/ranch/coop/whatever life for the short time they need to hang around as aware beings.

Or invent meat vats. No cute eyes.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:14 PM on December 5, 2010



Or invent meat vats. No cute eyes.


Unless the Japanese invent them first.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:29 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


A high carb diet makes a lot more sense when it involves high fiber food sources like green vegetables, brown rice, yams, and cracked or sprouted wheat rather than refined flour. Personally I find I gain a lot more weight when I eat according to the nutrition guidelines, and always feel unsatisfied. But most reasonable nutrition guidelines could be made into a bad or a good diet depending on how much processed food you eat.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:31 PM on December 5, 2010


furiousxgeorge, there are fewer dairy farms that don't slaughter their cows than there are good grassfed beef operations.

Again, actual consumption in the US means that meat eaters are consuming the worst of the dairy products AND the worse of the meat products.

Again, in a perfectly ethical situation the dairy the vegetarian eats is not slaughtered.

We can look at the best case and the worse case, and either way the vegetarian comes out on top.

Not to mention that it is amazingly ironic to blame vegetarians for dairy cows being slaughtered. They aren't being slaughtered to provide anything to the vegetarian, they are slaughtered for the meat eaters.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2010


I thought the slaughter of calves was intrinsic to dairy production? As far as I know, dairy consumers subsidize veal eaters, and not the other way around. I don't actually drink milk, so I don't have much of a stake in this.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:02 AM on December 8, 2010


Why would it be intrinsic? If there was no one to eat the veal no one would make it. Hindus certainly don't eat a ton of it and they eat plenty of dairy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:19 AM on December 8, 2010


Because cows produce milk after pregnancy, and if the calves aren't drinking it there is more to sell? Can you buy milk in this country that is certified no calves killed?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:08 PM on December 8, 2010



Because cows produce milk after pregnancy, and if the calves aren't drinking it there is more to sell? Can you buy milk in this country that is certified no calves killed?


Yes. Well, not certified. But I know a guy, an honest man, who could make you that promise. However, the farm might have been raided by the government by now and taken out.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:39 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


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