Should we eat Meat? Why and Why Not?

So, how are you guys? Today I am going to deal with a different type of question, better say debatable question: “Should we eat Meat?” Inspired by the ongoing debate between vegans and meat-eaters I wrote this episode. Hope you’ll enjoy it. So let’s begin.

The Debate on Meat

Veg-vs-Meat
Vegetarian vs. Non-vegetarian | Marisa Gertz, TIME

First of all, let me tell you who are ‘Vegans’Vegans are those people who don’t eat meat and sometimes even don’t consume or use any animal product like milk, butter, leather goods etc. Compared to the past, the percentage of vegans is increasing constantly.

According to Report Buyer, the vegan population in US has increased from 1% in 2009 to 6% in 2017, which is around 6 times the previous population. And if we see the overall world population, then we’ll find that around 21.8% are vegans. A study from 2010 estimated that there are 1450 million vegetarians of necessity and another 75 million of choice. [1] 

 

Vegetarianism in world
Map indicating vegetarianism as a percentage of the population | Wikimedia

So what’s the reason behind this sudden change. Why are many people moving towards a pure-vegetarian diet? The reasons may be health issues, ethics or love for animals. This is related to one of the hotly debated topics of all time: Should we eat meat or not? Isn’t a vegetarian diet healthier?

Even before arguing about health and nutrition due to meat consumption, many ethical objections are raised. It is argued that in this modern developed world meat is not necessary for survival or health. It is considered morally unjustifiable to kill animals only because people like the taste of their meat.

But this statement is countered by the meat-eaters with another argument, we definitely like meat because body demands for it, as many nutrients(like some types of vitamins and iron) are there which are only found in animal products and meat. They also say that vegans also kill plants for food, aren’t they living?

So, you may have got some glimpse of this controversy and debate. This is there throughout the world. This topic is debated by animal lovers, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and other similar organizations. Religion and culture is also an important factor influencing people to follow a purely vegetarian diet. Even sometimes meat is regarded as the chief cause of cardiac disorders, cancer and other health issues like obesity, which make people argue against meat containing diet.

While on the other hand many non-vegetarians support meat-eating for their nutritional value. Even some animal-lovers don’t regard meat-eating wrong, as every superior animal eats the inferior one and we are capable of hunting. Scientifically, it is also argued that our teeth and digestive system is actually made for omnivorous food (veg + non-veg). And it is also regarded that meat was an important factor for the evolution of human beings. It was important for development of our intelligence. So, meat is a historically important food. But how?

Role of Meat in Human Evolution

Human Evolution
Evolution of human beings | Public Domain

Around 2.6 million years ago meat was included in the pre-human diet. Our ancestors, Australopithecus (homo habilis) were herbivorous, ate abundantly available fruits and vegetables. But that food was not much calorie-rich. So, a better alternative was underground vegetables (like beet, potato, carrot etc.) and nuts. But one problem was there in underground food, they were hard to chew and thus time consuming. According to evolutionary biologists of Harvard University, Katherine Zinkand Daniel Liebermann, the authors of the Nature paper,

“proto-humans eating enough underground (root) food to stay alive would have had to go through up to 15 million chewing cycles a year”. [2]

This is when meat made its entry in the diet of our ancestors. Maybe there was scarcity of fruits and vegetables (probably due to drought or snow), which pushed them towards hunting and meat-eating. The prey, that was killed, was prepared either by slicing, pounding or flaking and was easier to chew than root food. At that time, meat was consumed raw and was much more calorie-rich than vegetarian food. (However, later on cooking made the thing much easier, but it was not achieved until 500,000 years, when early humans discovered fire.)

Slowly our ancestors started developing hunting capabilities and their bodily structure changed. They developed bi-pedalism, a smaller intestine and an efficient digestive system which could easily digest meat. They also developed different teeth structure with canines (tearing teeth) which could help them to easily consume raw meat.

Meat was very nutritious diet full of protein and calories. Eating meat resulted in a better physical growth in pre-humans and thus they became better hunters. A brain is a very nutritionally demanding organ, and consumption of meat fulfilled this demand. This resulted in the growth of a larger brain and intellect. Thus our ancestors evolved to become homo-sapiens (humans), a more intelligent and tool using species.

 

Early Humans Hunting
Early humans hunting in group | Quora

Meat not only made us intelligent but also resulted in our socialization. Hunting was required for meat, but a single early-man was not capable of hunting big animals, so they did so in group. This resulted in planning, cooperation and socialization among early-humans. They gradually started living in groups, which resulted in the formation of human society and later civilizations.

A coordinated hunting was not possible on a non-verbal communication. A good communication system was needed to be developed. They first developed a simple elementary language. This led to the evolution of their vocal organs. And later on humans formed a well-developed language for communication.

So, we saw how meat was an important factor in the evolution of human beings. But is it required even in today’s modern world? Is it good to eat meat when we are so much developed, sensible and more knowledgeable than barbarous early-man? Let’s find out.

Arguments Supporting Non-Veg Diet

Non-Veg Diet
Non-vegetarian food | Pexels

Meat eating is mainly argued due to its nutritional value. As we saw in the history of meat-eating that meat is a more calorie-rich diet than veggies. Meat helps in a better physical growth and provides strength to muscles due to the high quality protein present in it.

Nowadays, humans use their brain more than their physical body. In today’s world, brain is the most valuable asset of our body, since people with better brain have achieved greater success. And also our brain is the most power hungry organ of our body and uses more than 20% of our total energy. Meat fulfills this energy demand in a better way than any other food product. So, meat is a better medium of high protein and calorie for the development of our brain and intelligence, as it did for our ancestors.

Meat also provides other important nutrients like iron. Iron is an essential component of our body. It helps in the formation of hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin delivers oxygen to our cells and myoglobin in muscle cells accepts and uses it. Meat is one of the biggest source of good quality iron. Yeah, vegetables also provide iron, but they are not as good as that of meat. Consuming vegetables gives us nonheme iron, a type which is less easily absorbed by the body. While, on the other hand, meat (especially red-meat) provides us heme iron, which comes only from life forms with hemoglobin, like pork, poultry and fish. According to WHO (World Health Organization), 30% people of the world suffer from iron deficiency or anemia, they are mostly from vegan community. [3]

 

Vitamin - B12
Vitamin B12 (Cynocobalamin) | Public Domain

Another important component of our diet which cannot be obtained from plants is Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 (Cynocobalamin) is important for our body as it helps in the formation of Red Blood Cells in the bone marrow, strengthens nerve cells and also helps make genetic material. The deficiency of B12 is very scary. It may lead to pernicious anemia and nerve damage, which can mimic Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

So, to have a balanced and healthy diet, meat is an important element.

In this whole world one animal must kill another animal to survive. This is the rule of life. The only difference is that herbivores kill plants, carnivores kill animals and omnivores kill both. So, what’s wrong in humans killing animals for food when they are capable of it.

Also our digestive system is that of an omnivore. The moderate size of our intestine, presence of meat digestive enzymes and canine teeth suggests a non-vegetarian diet we are capable of.

Arguments Supporting Pure-Vegetarian Diet

Veg-Diet
Different colorful vegetables | Pexels

Vegetarian food is no less nutritious. Even there are many health benefits of vegetarian food. While meat causes obesity, different cardiovascular diseases and sometimes even cancer, vegetarian food saves us from all these diseases. Most vegetarian diet is full of antioxidants which reduces aging and risks of heart disease.

Eating animal fat has no health benefit at all. On the other hand, it causes many health risks; it increases cholesterol level which can cause blockage in heart and may even stroke. It is also an important cause of obesity, which is the source of many other diseases. After examining the effects of vegetarian diet for a long time, Korean researchers have concluded that body fat and cholesterol levels were lower in vegetarians than omnivores. [4]

A vegetarian diet also reduces risk of other diseases like kidney stones, cataract and even diabetes. And yes, a vegetarian diet can fulfill all our nutritional needs. One can obtain good quality protein from soy productsand milk (if he/she is not an extreme vegan). Milk and soy can fulfill our needs of Vitamin B12. Thus, a vegetarian diet can give you a healthy life and may increase your life-span by few years.

Milk and Soya
Milk and Soya – abundant source of Protein and Vitamin B12 | Tetrapak

It is also found that food also affects our mind and emotions. We may find in nature that those animals which eat meat are usually aggressive and violent, while the animals which eat grass and fruit are more gentle, calm and peaceful. At the time of war, a big quantity of animal meat was given to the soldiers to make them more aggressive. So, vegetarian food is more peaceful for mind. Eating meat may lead us to develop meat-addiction, a recent book argues. [5]

But vegans also kill plants. Well, if we see at the minute level, we are actually killing thousands of bacteria every second. Many-a-time we ignorantly kill many ants underneath our feet. So the point is, it doesn’t matter whether we kill or not, the point that matters is the complexity of the organisms we kill.

Vegan-Quote
A Vegan Quote

Plants don’t show emotions like human beings but animals which we slaughter for meat do show emotions similar to human beings. They feel the fear of death. They feel the suffering and pain of slaughter-house and inhuman transportation. So, is it really ethical to kill animals only because we like to eat meat?

Majority of world population takes a non-vegetarian diet, there is high load on animal farming. Around 70% of US grain production is used to feed farm animals. It also requires huge amount of water, more than half the water used in United States. Also raising animals for food is the biggest polluter of water and topsoil. The waste in slaughterhouse also gives rise to many harmful bacteria which flows down to water and soil and then pollutes them. [6] Thus, vegetarian food is also environment-friendly.

Conclusion

So, we saw the arguments of both the sides and both seem to be logical. I am really undecided, still I am trying to conclude the entire thing. There is no doubt about the fact that meat is a very nutritious food and our biological features support an omnivorous diet. Our ancestors who used to eat meat, were wild and used to live in jungles, they fought with animals to hunt them. But in today’s world, we are simply slaughtering helpless animals, who have no chance to escape. (Who wants to die after all?) Is it ethically good for human beings who are so much advanced and intelligent?

But one thing we (non-vegetarians) can do to minimize it. We can reduce our meat consumption, like once or twice a week. We can preferably eat smaller organisms like fish rather than big animals like cow, which has a greater sense of understanding and emotion.

Animal Suferring
The suffering of animals | Quillette

Also due to reduction in the demand, the pressure on meat industry will reduce. Then it will be possible to reduce cruelty on animals in slaughtering industry. Animals can be provided with better habitat and less suffering in their short lifespan.

Also some medical methods should be adopted to reduce pain and suffering of animals during slaughter. Artificial growth hormones should not be injected to the animals; it is also harmful for the people who will eat their meat. Animals should be allowed to grow naturally.

So, this is high time to think about our action and our health. We should love animals and try to understand their suffering. It’s time to plan for the future of this world.


So, what are your opinions? On which side are you? Do share your ideas and views through your comments. Your feedback is important for me.


References

[1] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_by_country
[2] – http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature16990
[3] – http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/ida/en/
[4] – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22586505
[5] – Zaraska, M. (2016). Meathooked: The history and science of our 2.5-million-year obsession with meat.
[6] –http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Practical/Health/15Reasons2NotEatMeat.htm
Bibliography – Vaclav Smil (2013) : Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

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