Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mark Bittman is Right

My skills development class, which focuses on critical thinking, was assigned to prepare for a debate. There were three groups and one of the groups was focused on climate. The question presented: whether it's too late to avoid catastrophic events that will extinct the human species. (Debating climate science is so 1984.) Another topic was whether or not humans should eat meat so I have been following the New York Times essay contest--Calling All Carnivores: Tell Us Why It’s Ethical to Eat Meat: A Contest--closely. (Here are the responses from the winner and the finalists.)

I read the public editor's follow-up piece, In the Middle of a Food Fight, with interest and today Mark Bittman, who was one of the illustrious judges along with Peter Singer and Michael Pollan, weighs in.

He reports, "Meat consumption in China is now twice what it is in the United States (in 1978 it was only one-third). We still eat twice as much per capita as the Chinese, but when they catch up they’ll consume more than four times as much as we do." But one commenter, Marilyn Diamond of Miami, FL, has written:
Eat like the Chinese used to eat? That caused 150 million cases of diabetes in China! The Lancet warned in 2011 that by 2030 the cases of diabetics will rise so dramatically in the U.S,, the cost of care will bankrupt our government. Think of the suffering! With negligence in caring for diabetes comes a 76% greater risk of heart attack, blindness, neuropathy and amputations, and kidney failure.

When we eat less meat, we are hungry. We guzzle soda, snack on junk, eat bread, chips, cookies, potatoes, sugar and all kinds of junk carbs. Then comes obesity, insulin resistance...and diabetes.

I was a vegan for nearly 25 years. I encouraged my meat-eating husband to follow my lead. After 18 years, I had wasted my skeletal and heart muscle to the point that I suffered from serious sarcopenia and anxiety attacks, emaciation and depression. My husband was diagnosed in 2009 with Type 1 Diabetes--with a Hba1c reading 1/2 of 1% point from death. Six months later, under stress, he had a near fatal diabetic heart attack.

There is great risk in cutting out meat for "ethics" and philosophy. Both my husband and I have rebuilt our bodies on a meat-based/plant rich, low carb diet. We'd never turn back. We've reversed decades of aging.

Subsidize organic meat generously, end corn/soy subsidies, ban Monsanto, replace corn crops with grass for grazing, fund community gardens, reforest our nation! Start there! Change the world by making things better, not taking away our most ancient food. 
I think the question is complicated. In his usual take-no-prisoners style, my friend (and Project Laundry List board member) John Ranta writes:
Bittman takes a very simplistic and naive view of meat as food. Here in New Hampshire, raising pasture fed meat is far more sustainable than raising many vegetables, grains and fruit. The soil here is thin, the growing season for vegetables is short. We can't grow grains, and we can barely grow most vegetables without pouring fosil fuel energy and effort into greenhouses and other mechanical aids. But we can raise beef, lamb, pork and chicken easily. Pasture fed meat requires no tractors, no tilling, no fertilizers, no artificial warmth or cover from frost. Raising pasture fed meat requires no weeding and little in the way of cultivation and harvesting. In New Hampshire, pasture fed beef, lamb, chicken and pork is far more efficient at converting solar energy into food than is vegetable or grain farming. Granted, this reality doesn't fit into the Bittman's mythology that "meat is bad and vegetables are good", but nonetheless is it true.
What do you think?