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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 17, 2009

In Defense of Meat Eaters, Part 2: Animal and Human Well-Being

By Mark Sisson
129 Comments

Yesterday, I debunked a few of the common, “evolution-based” arguments leveled against meat-eaters that might have the potential to stump anyone with only cursory knowledge of evolutionary science. By and large, these are arguments that appeal to our emotions. They invoke a peaceful, gentle pre-history of slender, humane early humans co-existing in perfect meatless harmony with the animal kingdom, an image that sounds great and makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Those sharp spears found at various dig sites, you ask? Why, those were just used to skewer hard-to-reach apples, or perhaps to gently separate two squirrels battling over an acorn. But the fossil record shows distinct markings on large ruminant bones that seem to indicate cuts, tools, and butchering – how do you explain those? Oh, those? See, early humans were so grossed out by animal carcasses that they couldn’t bear to actually touch them with bare hands. They developed tools so that they could move the offending meat out of their line of sight without actually putting hands to flesh. Pretty ingenious!

Jokes aside, the reality is that life for Grok wasn’t a Disney movie. Lots of animals died to ensure our species’ survival. Lots of plants, too, plus innumerable other organisms, unicellular and multicellular alike. The cycle of life, you see, is also a cycle of death. Plants get eaten by animals, animals poop out the waste, and that waste gets consumed by the living soil, and the enriched soil makes it possible for more plant life to flourish. Similar cycles occur in every imaginable environment with different organisms, but the basic story is the same: the constant interplay between life and death.

Death, then, clearly has a place in our world. But that sounds cold and heartless (damn our evolved sense of sympathy and empathy!) to most people. “Death”? I mean, it’s death. It’s gotta be bad, right? In fact, one of the weirdest problems people have is that death is necessary for survival, even though the act of killing an animal for food is somewhat unpleasant. Omelets require broken eggs, but cracking that shell turns a person’s stomach. So when a vegetarian utters something like “Meat is murder,”I can almost understand, just as I can understand why people might think low-carb diets are dangerous – because Conventional Wisdom continuously, constantly promotes these viewpoints. All animals raised for food suffer needlessly and cruelly, and no one can stick to low-carb diets long term and if they do, they’ll get heart disease and die. Those are the talking points, anyway.

So, what do you say to an ardent anti-meatist whose evolutionary arguments have been rebuffed and who comes at you with concerns about animal cruelty and human health? Read on.

Meat is murder.

I went over this already in my review of Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth, but I’ll reiterate: life is death. Life springs from death, everywhere and always. You cannot live without something dying to make it all possible. Grain heavy vegan diets require the destruction of ecosystems and all their inhabitants; meat heavy Primal diets require the slaughter of a pig or a cow. If you’re going to exist in this world, you have to accept the fact that things will die. Oh, and things won’t just die; they’ll die to ensure your survival. You, me, all of us have blood on our hands. Your pets have blood on their paws. Those pigs rooting around in the dirt have blood on their hooves. When you have a knee-jerk reaction to the reality of death and try to escape it, either by eating a vegan diet or hurling insults at meat-eaters, you risk throwing off the delicate balance of life on this planet. When you remove death from the equation, life simply doesn’t work.

Now, there are right and wrong ways to produce meat. I won’t argue against that. In fact, I always maintain that the industrial CAFO system is unsustainable, produces unhealthy, unsuitable, antibiotic-laden meat with skewed O6/O3 ratios, and is damaging to the environment. Whereas a grass-fed, pastured farm produces healthy meat and usable manure that fertilizes the grass and helps replenish the soil, CAFOs produce mountains of sloppy manure (these animals aren’t eating their natural diet, so they poop endlessly). Whether we can support the entire world population on pastured animal products, I don’t know. I suspect not. There are better ways to farm, better ways to raise animals on their natural diets (moving animals off grains so that we can convert the croplands designated to feed them is a good start), but feeding six billion (and growing) is a tall order. The planet probably wasn’t meant to hold all of us. There are no easy answers to the environmental impact of meat, but they certainly don’t lie in the amber waves of grain and soybean farming.

Your average meat eater gets more diseases.

Superficially, this is the most effective rhetoric. It’s punchy and technically true, and it confirms most people’s suspicions of meat eaters. Meat is unhealthy; everyone knows it, right? Of course they get the most diseases, the most heart attacks, the most cancer. They can even cite mainstream studies that claim as much, studies that make the front page of every mainstream publication. The latest was the infamous red meat study that seemed to show the more a person consumed red meat, the greater their cancer, heart disease, and total mortality. It makes for a good headline, but it doesn’t mean much. For one thing, it shows correlation, not causation (establishing a causative mechanism would require controlled studies), and for another, it also showed similar connections between mortality and marriage status, smoking, high BMI, lower education, low physical activity levels, and low fruit and vegetable intake. How many of these meat eaters were also eating potatoes fried in rancid vegetable oil, swigging a jumbo Pepsi, and polishing off the meal with a bowl of ice cream? The stigma that meat is unhealthy is a potent, virulent one, and your average CAFO-meat-eating American is more likely to be the type that smokes, drinks heavily, never exercises, and lives in front of the television. If anything, these studies are strikes against the Standard American Diet and Lifestyle, which is technically omnivorous but completely and utterly different from the Primal Blueprint, which prides itself on promoting healthy, pastured, organic meat along with regular servings of fruits and vegetables, plus exercise of varying intensities. Throw a few modern Groks against your average vegan dieter (let alone someone following the SAD) and see how their health stacks up. We already know that the evil saturated fat found in animal products isn’t so evil after all, especially in the context of a low-carb Primal diet made of real foods.

We aren’t your average meat eaters.

Meat eaters don’t eat vegetables.

This one really riles me up. It operates under a totally false dichotomy: that meat eaters eat only meat. Just because a person eats a lot of meat doesn’t mean vegetation takes a backseat. I’d be willing to bet I eat more vegetables than most vegetarians out there, simply by making room and avoiding all those refined grains that form the basis for many vegetarian diets. You could conceivably remain a vegetarian and live off a diet of pancakes, fake meat, cereal, and pizza, while a plan as nutritionally-bereft as that one is impossible on a high-meat Primal diet.

And even if someone decided to go completely carnivore, so what? You can obtain all the essential nutrients that way, if you plan it well. I’d put a slab of organic, grass-fed beef liver, a heart steak, and a side of lamb brains up against a bowl of couscous and lima beans any day.

Between yesterday’s post and this one, see how long that took? It’s tough giving a quick two or three sentence rebuttal to a quip like that. You can’t link to posts or studies in real-time conversation. Try doing that the next time you find yourself accosted by vegans at a cocktail party. It probably won’t work on them, but you might convince a couple eavesdroppers.

To sum up

There’s a whole lot we don’t know, but what we do know is this: the human animal was designed to eat meat. It fuels our cells, our brains, and it builds our musculature. We designed tools to assist us in the procuring and processing of meat, and we still get that instinctual, savage urge to consume it. Meat tastes good. It provides essential nutrients and vitamins. And, contrary to popular belief, meat and meat alone is not responsible for cancer, heart disease, and a whole host of other ailments. Meat, when properly sourced, is a crucial element in the human diet. Despite the specious arguments about saturated fat and frugivores and chimps and murder, we know that meat is a good, healthy thing for the individual. And in the end, you’ve got to look out for your health and personal well-being. I refuse to sacrifice my health and happiness just so man can “evolve” past meat.

At least that’s my take on it.

What other arguments have you heard from anti-meatists? Let it all out in the comment boards.

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129 Comments on "In Defense of Meat Eaters, Part 2: Animal and Human Well-Being"

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yonkeykong
yonkeykong
6 years 9 months ago

Great posts on this topic, Mark! You covered a lot of potential vegetarian arguments. Luckily I live in Nebraska where I don’t have to defend my taste for a nice juicy steak too often. We definitely need to work on producing more grass-fed, free-range beef, though.

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Jan Jones
Jan Jones
6 years 9 months ago

Mark,

While I totally agree with the importance and value of meat/eggs and vegetables, minus all grains and added sugars…my question is what about arachidonic acid(AA)found mostly in meat and egg yolks? It has been demonized by many, Barry Sears, etc., as the cause of all inflammation in the body. Is that a concern for us on the PB plan?

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago
Barry Sears is like Loren Cordain – right on some things, wrong on others, kind of kooky in general. This is one of those areas where (IMO) Sears is wrong, like the idea that we should eat 40% of our diet as carbohydrate and only 30% as fat. That’s getting into skinless chicken breasts and rice territory. Arachidonic acid is essential for a lot of things, including inflammation, which is NOT always bad. Inflammation is involved in the body’s healing processes. It’s just when inflammation is chronic that it is bad, and as far as I can tell, the AA… Read more »
Matt
5 years 11 months ago

Minus grains and sugars? are you freaking kidding me? YOU NEED GRAINS TO LIVE. jesus christ

Grok
5 years 11 months ago

To live miserably… yes.

And yes, Jesus Christ did eat grains 😉

Ellen
Ellen
5 years 11 months ago

Since you can see that we are all thriving without the grains, maybe it’s time to open your mind.

jon w
jon w
5 years 11 months ago

troll

warmbear
warmbear
4 years 5 months ago

I suspect he was being sarcastic. I get this claim all the time. Even my dietitian said so.

Amanda
Amanda
5 years 9 months ago

Posting “you need grains to live” in this comment section is like saying you need meat to live on a vegetarian blog.

James
James
5 years 4 months ago

trust me I’ve seen it done many times, as futile as it may be…

Michael
Michael
4 years 5 months ago

Why would we need grains to live? We only domesticated and ate grains for only a couple thousand years. We’ve eaten as hunter-gatherers for, well since we exited.

Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
6 years 9 months ago
Great way to sum up the problems with anti-meat theories. They really do sound quite nice and tidy upfront, but a little digging proves them absolutely wrong. I agree that an amazing amount of nutrients can be had from quality animal products. It would be far safer and more nutritious to consume a diet made entirely from quality meat, dairy and animal fats, than to try and scrape by on vegetables. I do believe that vegetables and fruits can have their place in a healthy diet, but without the animals foods it won’t be worth much. The animals fats are… Read more »
Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago

I agree completely. I look on veggies and fruits as more of an enjoyable and nutritious complement to a animal-based diet, rather than the other way around. Of course, everyone I know thinks I’m crazy for this. All the studies and carefully reasoned arguments in the world can’t change minds about how unhealthy meat and, in particular, animal fats are.

Dave, RN
Dave, RN
6 years 9 months ago
arachidonic acid, while being an omega6, is still necessary. We actually need just a bit more of 6 than 3. The problem is that we get WAY to much 6 and not enough 3 because of the Standard American Diet. I take krill oil, and I’m going to cut back to one tab a day. All I eat meatwise is grassfed meats or wildcaught fish, both of which are balanced as far as the 6’s and 3’s go. Then there’s the dozen or so eggs (from a local farm, mostly). I eat 0 grains and 0 processed foods, so no… Read more »
Kevin Teague
6 years 9 months ago
Yes, that sounds right. Here’s an interesting post on O3-to-O6 ratios in relation to quantity which sums up, “this suggests that the single best way to avoid a heart attack is to reduce omega-6 consumption and ensure an adequate source of omega-3. The lower the omega-6, the less the omega-3 matters.” It also suggests that an overconsumption of omega-6 can be fairly well off-set with an increase in omega-3, but that a lower omega-6 intake overall is preferable. The average Americain diet gets an astonishing 7% of calories from omega-6 and almost no omega-3! Which makes sense given that the… Read more »
Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago
As long as you don’t eat any vegetable oils except for olive, palm, coconut, and certain nut oils, your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio will be automatically much better than the standard American diet. I would guess that polyunsaturated veggie oils, rather than CAFO meat, are the main contributor of omega 6s in the SAD. It’s what nearly everyone, restaurant or individual, cooks with; they’re in “healthy” salad dressings, including the low fat ones; and they even manage to find a way into places they blatantly don’t belong, like ice cream. Ice cream! On the other hand, fish tend… Read more »
Siddharth
Siddharth
6 years 9 months ago
Mark, I’m a fan of your blog and, as a 21 year old lifetime vegetarian, I’ve taken to heart the importance of reducing refined carbohydrate consumption while increasing protein intake. I’m in wholehearted agreement with you that many vegetarians, as well as non-vegetarians, make poor dietary choices based mostly on refined and processed foods. However, the “meat is murder” argument that Keith “debunks” in her book fails to address the nuanced and more subtle tenants of a belief in non-violence that many vegetarians, including myself, invest in as an inspiration for our dietary choices. In short, I acknowledge that the… Read more »
fbw
fbw
6 years 9 months ago

Those Eastern belief systems are pro-vegetarian because it reduces physical capability and libido, allowing oneself to be more disconncted from one’s bodily realities and feel more like a being of pure spirit.

It’s really not about the animals at all, but about a particular sort of religious solipsism.

Matt
Matt
6 years 4 months ago

This is simply not true.
What you term ‘Eastern belief systems’ is really made up of a vast range of beliefs and practices. I’d be interested to know which specific belief system you’re referring to?
I don’t know much about many ‘Eastern belief systems’ but I know that the reason that Theravada Buddhists avoid meat eating is to do with compassion for all beings and the belief that people can experience ‘re-birth’ (similar to reincarnation) into an animal; so all beings should be respected.

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago

Your friends are healthy and vegetarian because the seriously unhealthy vegetarians tend to “drop out” and stop being vegetarians, as Lierre Kieth did. What’s left are the lucky ones who didn’t gain weight or have a bazillion other new problems, making it look like vegetarianism is a healthy choice. It doesn’t always take as long as it did for Keith, either; take Chris Masterjohn’s article on his own experiences with vegetarianism: http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Vegetarianism.html

So, yes, your evidence is quite anecdotal and thoroughly useless to prove that vegetarians are not nutritionally deficient. If a diet requires supplementation, can you really say it’s healthy?

paleo_piper
6 years 9 months ago

I’ll offer myself up as a vegetarian drop-out too. I was a vegetarian for 27 years. I was a vegan for about 9 of those. (Btw, I’m 28 years old)

I got tired of being fat, sickly (getting 15 colds a year) and depressed. I’m still fat, but not nearly as depressed and have only had one cold since I went primal a year ago.

James
James
5 years 4 months ago
I think some people may be built more for vegetarianism than others. My grandma ate steak and veggies for every meal, so did my mom, and I was fed hot dogs and cheddar cheese (quite poor quality food imo that I would never eat now days) as a little kid. I spent a year and a half as a vegetarian, a year as a vegan, and in all honesty felt absolutely terrible. I was tired and freezing all the time. I was getting stress fractures from running less than 10 miles per week (yes, i’m somewhat guilty of chronic cardio).… Read more »
Kaizen
Kaizen
6 years 9 months ago
I’m all for organic cleaner meat, who wouldn’t be? The only reason people don’t is because it’s expensive, solely because they’ve created this chain of making it easy and faster to produce. It may be expensive now, but much cheaper in the long run. I’d rather be healthy and live long, than to save a few bucks. I just watched the movie “Food inc” and all this rings true, it’s pretty sad and almost insane how they can produce such poisonous food, and the government and most public has no clue, or is blinded. I hope Organic food continues to… Read more »
Steve-O
6 years 9 months ago

Man, that movie is an eye-opener isn’t it?

Ali
5 years 9 months ago

have you read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma?”
If you haven’t you should. It forever changed my view of “organic.” Look for the label “sustainably harvested” instead. Organic still usually means its conventionally grown. It is true that meat is free of hormones and antibiotics, and veggies are free of pesticides. But it doesn’t mean that the cows eat grass or that the chickens don’t live in claustrophobic, poop filled houses.

Johnny at The Lean Saloon
6 years 9 months ago

Great post, once again. I have no qualm with people making dietary choices to the like of vegetarianism, fruitarianism and other dietary lifestyles. But I have a distaste for those who turn their dietary choices into a religion by condemning others for their dietary choices, through such guilt weaponry like “meat is murder.”

Jennifer
6 years 9 months ago
Beyond the fact that we have evolved specialized jaws and teeth to be an omnivore (which takes a very very long time to do), we did have one distant cousin that evolved to eat nothing but plant matter. Australopithecus Robustus had a massive jaw, jaw muscles and large flat teeth that were better equipped for grinding and mashing plant matter. I seem to recall my professor telling us that they knew they ate bark (perhaps from a dig?)and other fibrous materials. I should also add that the Robustus line…died out. As well, some of the earliest evidence of brain growth… Read more »
boomer
boomer
5 years 1 month ago

It wasn’t meat that our earliest ancestors ate that enhanced brain development, it was seafood, well known for supporting brain growth.

And certainly eating GRASS-FED meats in small quantities may support a healthy diet, but 16-oz steak? And how can the earth support the production of enough meat to support the growing appetite of 7 billion human? It is not sustainable and the factory-farming of beef tortures animals, poisons humans and destroys the environment.
Need any more reason to not eat meat or at least, to eat it in very small quantities?

Jon
Jon
6 years 9 months ago

Mark,

Did you see this research?

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=humans-feasting-on-grains-for-at-le-2009-12-17

This suggests that humans have been eating grains for 100,000 years.

Nick L
Nick L
6 years 9 months ago
While interesting, this doesn’t change the fact that many people can’t tolerate grains in their diet, whether from reactions to gluten or simply the carbohydrate content. I would also venture to guess that the intake of grains prior to modern agriculture was 1) sporadic, 2) (when seasonally available) of limited quantities relative to modern consumption, and 3) even that amount of time is not sufficient for the kinds of genetic adaptations that would be necessary for our species to consume large quantities of grains without trouble. That this is the case can be seen by the numerous incidences of celiac… Read more »
Jon
Jon
6 years 9 months ago

If 100,000 years is too long to adapt to a food source, then why do milk-drinking cultures have such a higher rate of milk tolerance despite only several thousand years of using livestock for milk?

Also, there are known genes that are correlated with gluten intolerance, and these genes are somewhat rare. Doesn’t this show that most peoples have evolved to tolerate at least moderate amounts of grains well in their diets?

Donnersberg
Donnersberg
5 years 4 months ago
Also, I think humans have been drinking raw milk and domesticated animals for much longer than we think. My grandfathers family is of nomadic middle-eastern descent (spelling?). All of his children and grandchildren (me included) have 2 extra ribs at the bottom of the rib cage (females on top of their extra rib), 1 extra vertabrae and 3 kidneys. What do the scientists make of this? We all have a HUGE craving for raw milk and our health actually goes down hill if we don’t have it. Could it be that the extra bone formation has to do with the… Read more »
Simon
Simon
3 years 7 months ago

Surely we all have the ability to drink milk when we are infants, we just loose it when we get older. The mutation to keep doin something we could do at birth is much simpler than to evolve something we have never been able to do….

Donnersberg
Donnersberg
5 years 4 months ago

Prof. Dr. Iain Stewart actually says the grain in the early ages was used to replant grasses in areas that humans figured out how to move water from underground, above ground and form artificial ponds.
Besides using the water for themselves of course and their gardens. He observed some of the evidence in the desert regions of northern Africa.

Those artificial ponds lured prey to them so they could hunt it without having to march 30 miles a day and track it.

Prof. Stewart says that the early agriculture was not for us, but for the prey.

James
James
5 years 4 months ago

For that reason, thats why I’m not quite as down on grains as Mark. He always rants about lectins, phytates, etc, but these things are present in just about all seeds, nuts included, which he eats. I don’t think seeds of any form, whether they be nuts, grains, beans should form the bulk of the diet, but to me using a few oats to make a meat loaf isn’t much different than eating a handful of almonds and I don’t consider either one particularly harmful.

Duda
Duda
5 years 4 months ago
Marks also allows (on top of daily nut consumption) dark chocolate which is extremely high in phytates. So if you figure someone eats daily nuts, seeds and dark chocolate that’s pretty damn bad for your bones and teeth. I don’t think your occassional oats in meat loaf will hurt you compared to the nut, seed and chocolate consumption suggested. The part of the plant that is needed to procreate the plant is toxic, no matter which plant. Even the seeds on the strawberries are toxic…xept we swallow them whole, they are indigestible and come out whole. Grinding up seeds, nuts,… Read more »
Erika
Erika
6 years 9 months ago
I’m loving these articles in defense of meat…uhh I mean food. The point you make about death being necessary for life is very important, a lot of people forget this, not just vegetarians but religious people. They forget how life works and then get caught in these mind traps. When I talk about food I get really passionate and people think I’m getting mad or something. I’ve just always had this fire inside me. Next time I meet a vegetarian, instead of having this long, annoying debate over meat eating, I’ll just tell that person to go to your website.… Read more »
Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
6 years 9 months ago
Siddharth, Thank you for such an articulate and open-minded response to Mark’s post. It surprises me, to be honest, because in my experience vegetarians and vegans can be rather hostile towards those who have different beliefs. Thank you for showing a more respectful side than I have been exposed to in the past. However, I want to comment on the difference between vegetarians and vegans, because I realize many people tend to categorize these as the same when there are marked differences. Many vegetarians can eat eggs and dairy without crossing their beliefs, since these foods aren’t associated with violence… Read more »
Alex
Alex
6 years 9 months ago

“Many vegetarians can eat eggs and dairy without crossing their beliefs, since these foods aren’t associated with violence (if produced humanely).”

Good luck finding eggs or dairy in which both the males and females lived out their entire natural lives. The reality is that egg and dairy production requires very few males, so most are slaughtered or destroyed. And, when the females get too old and production drops off, they often go to slaughter as well.

jon w
jon w
6 years 9 months ago

eggs and dairy are most definitely associated with violence. when you need to produce large numbers of female animals to consume their products, the males get “the final solution.” male chicks are killed, male calves are veal. “lacto-ovo” is such a copout.

Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
6 years 9 months ago
And yet when you define violence in this way, you run into the presumption that a vegan diet involves no violence or death, which cannot be true. Of course, it may depend on your definition of violence. I understand how the idea of physically slaughtering a cow is perceived as “violent.” But agriculture is not without its form of violence. Burning acres of natural habitat to grow crops doesn’t seem non-violent to me. Crowding out natural species to make room for crops and causing some animals to die off through starvation doesn’t strike me as non-violent, either. And to sustain… Read more »
jon w
jon w
6 years 9 months ago

I should qualify this – I am not against violence to animals 🙂 I just think eating eggs or milk or fish as a copout (or plowing a field for that matter) is no less violent than eating meat. the wild pig I killed last month will feed us about 100k calories, one death only, and that frees up a tenth of an acre of prairie for a year that I dont depend on for bread. violence is necessary, cruelty is not.

Jack
6 years 9 months ago

I know it’s kind of your “job” to argue these things, but I’ve pretty much given up. I could care less what vegetarians do.

If it came down to a life or death situation, it takes half of a second of looking at our physiques vs. theirs to understand who survives and who doesn’t. Who “gets the girl” and who doesn’t.

The question is, would you rather be a pure vegetarian or a “grainivore”?

Daniel Merk
6 years 9 months ago
Great read! I still have one problem with it comes to the meat vs plant argument. Most AHA adhering docs will tell you it’s ok to eat lots of cold water fishes because they contain lots of “healthy” saturated fats. Isn’t a saturated fat a “saturated fat?” I know this is not a fat discussion, but its fodder for this discussion. The response is that eating a pig yields heart unhealthy saturated fats, but eating flax, olive oils, and salmon yields heart healthy saturated fats. I try to respond saturated fat is the same no matter where you get it… Read more »
Grok
6 years 9 months ago
Great post Mark. I (like you) KNOW I eat more vegetables than most vegetarians. The thing that bothers me most, is when vegetarians/vegans (and even clinical studies on fats) try to stick paleo/primal meat eaters into the same category as SAD folks. “Meat is unhealthy” – No it’s not! Eating a big grain fed steak, downing 4-5 pieces of garlic bread w/margarine, a glass or two of pasteurized non-fat milk (or pasteurized sugary juice drink), chased by a cup of HFCS/soy/gluten infused ice cream w/a little HFCS syrup is unhealthy! Most Americans probably feel that is reasonably healthy, or at… Read more »
Uncle Herniation
Uncle Herniation
6 years 9 months ago

“And, contrary to popular belief, meat and meat alone is not responsible for cancer, heart disease, and a whole host of other ailments.”

Mark, if you are going to criticize epidemiological or case-control studies for not determining cause and effect, you can’t make definitive statements like the one above without better evidence. So I ask, can you cite a controlled trial designed to test the hypothesis you stated as fact above?

Enough of the double standard.

jon w
jon w
6 years 9 months ago

hernie – that’s the beauty of understanding evolution. the default position is that the foods we have eaten since the dawn of human history do not kill us. new foods are suspect until proven safe. old foods are assumed safe until proven otherwise.

Mark might have more accurately said, “the hypothesis that meat is responsible for any of these ailments remains unproven”

Andy
Andy
5 years 1 day ago

Evolution can only prove that the foods we have eaten since the dawn of human history don’t kill us before we reproduce.

Given that most arguments against the health side effects of animal products are relative to diseases that usually occur later in generations enjoying unprecedented life length, that “evolutionary” argument seems wanting.

bigmyc
bigmyc
3 years 9 months ago

Andy, I would counter that with the notion that our offspring would inherit the nutritional disadvantage until the offspring of their offspring’s offspring are rendered completely vulnerable to the challenges of the big, bad world and it’s microbial denizens…playing out over several hundred thousand years of course.

DebFM
6 years 9 months ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mark, in pointing out that in order to live something has to die – not matter how you eat. We’re all fodder for something!

Siddharth
Siddharth
6 years 9 months ago
Elizabeth Thanks for the response. Solid point regarding veganism but to be honest I bet I could find more than just a few vegans who also enjoy health and vitality late in their lives and live almost a century or more. That’s not really the point though, as I said earlier, its all anecdotal anyways – there are countless stories of pack-a-day smokers and hard alcoholics living till their past 100. As I understand it, and I think Mark would agree, keeping fit and eating clean, unprocessed and unhealthy are just hedging our own bets against future ailments and not… Read more »
Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
6 years 9 months ago
Great reply! I hope my initial response didn’t seem close-minded. I simply wanted to address the difference between eating no meat and eating no animal products (realizing you understood that already). But I don’t think this difference is understood by many others. Someone considering a meat-free diet may find it helpful to know how nutritious quality eggs and dairy can be for many people. As much as possible, people should have the information available so that ethics and nutrition can coexist. Traditionally vegan diets were often prescribed to those who sought a higher calling, as a way of cleansing and… Read more »
boomer
boomer
5 years 1 month ago

Well said. And though life style decisions are an individual determination, there is not only your own health, but the health of the planet to consider when making food choices.

boomer
boomer
5 years 1 month ago

Excellent post Elizabeth.

And I might add that eating meat in large quantities on a daily basis is NOT an ancestral thing, but a development of modern man. And eating meat has become a sign of affluence causing the peoples of emerging economic powers to desire more and more meat though they have, for centuries, eaten a low meat diet, and maintained a higher degree of health than most meat-eaters.

Rachel Allen
6 years 9 months ago

Many vegetarians are quick to praise the health of olive oil. Oleic acid is the beneficial part of it coming in at 70%.

Funny thing is, lard is the next best fat to provide that particular healthy substance with a whopping 45% oleic acid. So if you run out of heart healthy olive oil and need to cook something up, break out the maligned lard. It does do a body good.

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago

I keep the grease from Sunday morning bacon frying for that very reason!

Also, an addendum: stearic acid, a saturated fat commonly found in animal products (including lard!) is metabolized in the body as oleic acid. So the real percentage of oleic acid in lard is more like 55%. Take that, AHA!

jon w
jon w
6 years 9 months ago

“abolitionist veganism” is a new approach I’ve just learned about. they maintain that animals have a natural right to free existence and should never be considered human property. presumably, if you accept this premise you not only have to stop eating them, but can’t keep an aquarium, can’t kill pests, and so on.

http://eatinganimals.com/fora/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=144

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago

Obviously they don’t have a “natural” right to freedom if it is possible to keep them penned up. This applies to every other natural right, too. Rights are a human construct which are clearly not observable in nature. Property is a human construct, too.

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[…] In defense of meat Part II. The support keeps coming for the Primal […]

Alec
Alec
6 years 9 months ago
I have been a vegetarian for the past three years for many of the reasons listed in the post and the last one. I believed it was not healthy to eat meat, I only pictured CAFO animals and its many problems, etc. After finding Mark, the paleo diet (through Crossfit), Weston Price, Robb Wolf, and others, I have become pretty convinced about the merits of healthy meat and fish. However the one thing which still is preventing me from reintroducing meat back into my diet is the worry I have over fat soluble heavy metals and pollutants. Even with organic… Read more »
jennifer
6 years 9 months ago
jan- that arachidonic acid question is a good one. but the largest contributor to AA in the american diet is from corn. and corn is in EVERYTHING! luckily, meats and eggs have omega-3s as well as others, so the greatest danger is corn (a grain) not meat and eggs. of course, the closer meat and eggs are raised to the way they’re supposed to be (i.e. free-range, grass fed, cage free, grazing) the higher their omega-3 content. just as an aside, the closer we raise ourselves to the way we are supposed to be(i.e. eating a diet rich in antioxidant… Read more »
Charles
6 years 9 months ago
1. Plain and simple: I feel BEST when I eat red meat with a lot of fat on it. My energy is good, I think clearly, my sleep is excellent, my immunity is strong. And yes I eat a LOT of vegetables, too. But when I eat only vegetables — as I have tried on several occasions and for extended periods — I am not the same person. 2.Most of the vegetarians I have known — and yes this has been my experience — a) have a political axe to grind; and b) look frail, tired and sickly. Yes I… Read more »
thecarla
thecarla
6 years 9 months ago
Several years ago I put myself and my twins on a vegetarian diet, my one son did fine my other son and myself were plagued with continual bouts of gas and lethargy. In fact my son who didn’t do well is autistic and developmentally delayed and his teacher sent home a note with him complaining that he farts all day long in class. If vegetarianism is such a good and healthy way to eat why were we plagued with so much gas? I don’t think our digestive systems were meant to eat that way. So though people may choose to… Read more »
John
John
6 years 9 months ago

Grain fed meat¿

John
John
6 years 9 months ago

I take that back. You’ve already covered it.

If anyone hasn’t read it yet, please read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. It’s a tough read, but it’s an eye opener to the bad science that has led to this gross epidemic.

Alex
Alex
6 years 9 months ago
I am a meat-eater who has not consumed any fruit or vegetables for the last 18 months and it hasn’t done me any harm! The only addition to my diet from the plant kingdom nowadays are a pinch or two of herbs/spices to my meat for additional flavouring when required. I plan a momentary deviation from that on Christmas day and that’s about all. I don’t miss fruit or vegetables enough to make them a mainstay of my diet again (actually I was never that keen on vegetables but forced myself to eat them in the past because the CW… Read more »
Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago
I eat carnivorously intermittently (IC – intermittent carnivory!) and I have to admit, those are the days when I feel best. I can’t describe it, except that I feel “well” on those days – not too much energy, but not lacking, either. No digestive problems at all. But it’s too expensive and too bizarre in the presence of others for me to keep it up all the time, so I still eat dairy, eggs, berries, and a few veggies most of the time. But, honestly, if I could afford to buy steaks and chops every day, I’d eat that way… Read more »
Grok
6 years 9 months ago

I’m exactly the same way. I feel best running on mostly red meat. I’m a volume eater, so I go through meat real fast when I’m a carnivore.

I love all the textures a flavors so I enjoy veg too, but the best part about vegetation is you can eat a ton and keep calories low. I love to eat so this is great, but my guts aren’t ever real excited about it.

Mike
Mike
6 years 9 months ago

There may be truth in this red meat report. Red meat is rich in iron, which man above ~24, and women after menopause have too much, and no good way to get rid of: except of blood donations or blood letting that few do.

Bill Sardi wrote about this in book “Iron Time Bomb”.

Alex
Alex
6 years 9 months ago

This is not strictly true. The iron in meat is the heme form, while the iron in plant foods is the non-heme form. Heme iron is not assimilated when iron stores are full. Non-heme iron is not so readily assimilated (which is why vegans tend to get anaemia, also due to low vitamin B-12) but it is also not as well regulated by the body’s existing iron stores, so can build up to toxic levels over time.

Icarus
Icarus
6 years 9 months ago

Also, the liver will hang on to non-haem iron when endotoxins are present; fructose and alcohol both allow endotoxins from the gut to enter the bloodstream and subsequently the liver. It’s possible that alcohol and/or fructose can influence iron overload disorder in this fashion.

Lee
Lee
6 years 8 months ago
You guys, Mark and co., just proved my point against supposed Paleo advocates “proof” that our ancient ancestors were heavy meat eaters.. because they DID at times eat meat, doesn’t mean humans are MEANT or BUILT to eat meat… plus the “tools” used to hunt/kill animals-meat, or the “cut marks” on fossil animal bones, doesn’t prove anything… those spears, tools, etc were used LARGELY for protection for humans AGAINST large carnivorous predators.. same reason as residues, partial circumstantial evidence FOR eating grains as early as 100,000 years ago pointed out in this article, is shoddy at best… The human digestive… Read more »
JYC
JYC
6 years 7 months ago

why can none in EITHER camp get these arguments right and complete, and take ego or emotion out of it and look at pure physiology/anatomy/digestion/etc?

because each side is full of advocates, zealots out to convert everyone they can. that’s the simple reason.

HomerJ
HomerJ
6 years 8 months ago
For all interested in this topic, I would recommend “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, which presents a variety of scientific data related to this topic. In particular, the book describes the various types of scientific studies which correlate consumption of animal protein and certain diseases. (As one very interesting example, Casein, one of the two protein families in cow’s milk, has been shown in a multiple studies to essentially act like miracle-grow for cancer cells.) The idea that no culture could ever thrive on a largely vegetarian or vegan diet seems to be ignoring that roughly 1 Billion… Read more »
JYC
JYC
6 years 7 months ago
1 Billion Chinese live on what is very close to a vegan diet? Hardly. You forget that most vegetable dishes in China are flavored using available meat sources, most often fish. In fact, the basis of many sauces in china are seafood proteins (Oyster Sauce, Fish sauce, etc.) Further, eggs are used a lot in Chinese cooking, as they are a highly affordable, highly nutritious source of protein. Most Chinese soup bases are also composed of meats (particularly fish). The Chinese also only recently started eating fresh vegetables (and in the poorer areas they do not, because nightsoil is used… Read more »
bigmyc
bigmyc
3 years 9 months ago
That China Study example that you cited is about as intellectually dishonest as a big study can get..at least from the perspective that it has been promoted and recieved. Keep in mind, all the rats surveyed were given massive portions of aflatoxin, a mold based poison (found relatively often in peanuts, btw) in order to deliberately INDUCE liver cancer. So the rats who ate the most protein garnered the most cancer, yes. That’s because the rats who didn’t eat protein at all were so sickly that cellular proliferation, both healthy and unhealthy, was unable to happen. The protein was keeping… Read more »
wd
wd
6 years 7 months ago

Mark,

An article HAS to be written about this guy… impressive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariusz_Pudzianowski#Diet

Grok
6 years 7 months ago

Aint no thang. Going unmetered I easily eat that much or more and I only weigh 170 +/- 20lbs.

Matt
Matt
6 years 4 months ago

Mark,

I feel you made a strong argument against many reasons for vegetarianism. However I don’t feel that you’ve adequately addressed the common concern among vegetarians for the suffering of animals.
While I see no issue with the killing of animals, I feel that modern forms of meat production inflict far greater suffering than what would occur in nature.
If animals are capable of feeling pain in the same way that humans do, shouldn’t we take this suffering into account?

Cheers

Mo
Mo
5 years 11 months ago

Should we avoid pointlessy torturing / injuring animals? Sure.

Should we let the fact that they clearly feel pain serve as a justification for sacrifice? No

Does the fact that animals feel pain give them rights? No.

Deborah
Deborah
6 years 4 months ago

Unfortunately, you didn’t address cruelty or animal rights at all, the real reasons for eschewing meat. You did address the animals’ deaths and countered that we vegans also must kill to live. But harvesting a vegetable is not a violent act in the same way as slaughtering a mammal. Of course we evolved eating meat. We also evolved waging wars, but I doubt you advocate for that. We have the capacity to evolve spiritually beyond that point now.

jon w
jon w
5 years 11 months ago

the absolute evil is the sterilization of millions of acres of prairie for the legions of soy and wheat worshippers. how many animals were killed so the ecosystem could be converted for your use? how many more are poisoned, burned, plowed under and mangled so that you can harvest a crop? me, I’ll happily “eschew” on a hunk of beef liver that required only one animal be killed.

Gabe
Gabe
4 years 9 months ago
What’s a moral vegetarian to do? She briefly entertains studying with a mystic breatharian, hoping to (tongue-in-cheekily) learn to subsist purely on oxygen. She spends hours picking slugs from her garden and goes to relocate them. Nothing works. She keeps coming back to death. “Let me live without harm to others. Let my life be possible without death.” Keith realizes this vegetarian plea (which “borders on a prayer”) is impossible to fulfill. She can’t live and eat without something dying, and that’s the whole point of it all. Death is necessary and natural. Circle of life, you know? Without death… Read more »
Mo
Mo
5 years 11 months ago

except that animals don’t have “rights”. Do you understand the nature of rights and where they came from ?

antipodes
4 years 3 months ago
Drawing a plow across the ground is indeed a violent act to the grubs, bugs, and worms who are sliced in two or three pieces by it. Removing insect larvae from the crop before harvest in whatever way it is done (by pesticides, birds, other insects, or by good old fashioned picking and smashing) is pretty violent to those little baby insect larvae. The removal of gophers, moles, deer, and bunnies from agricultural areas has quite often been violent. Scissor traps and poisons. Awesome. But if they were not removed or protected in one way or another, there would be… Read more »
Jeff H
Jeff H
6 years 1 month ago

The absolute horror that meat farms inflict on animals is atrocious. Meat eating has never been the issue, it’s the f’ing evil nature that is attached to the production of it. Where do you think those 99 cent cheeseburgers from Wendys come from?

chad
chad
6 years 1 month ago

who here is proposing anyone ever eat those 99 cent cheeseburgers from wendys?

Tanner Crawford
Tanner Crawford
5 years 11 months ago
?”And even if someone decided to go completely carnivore, so what? You can obtain all the essential nutrients that way, if you plan it well. I’d put a slab of organic, grass-fed beef liver, a heart steak, and a side of lamb brains up against a bowl of couscous and lima beans any day.” Do you have any training or formal education on human nutrition? If you did you would know that if the diet does not provide enough carbohydrate the body will make its own glucose from protein. This involves breaking down the proteins in blood and tissues into… Read more »
jon w
jon w
5 years 11 months ago
do you have any training in biochemistry? it is not impossible to survive without carbohydrates, many animals do it, from centipedes to sharks to eagles to tigers. have humans somehow evolved a DISABILITY in this area? don’t think so. from what you’re saying, I should be sure to consume plenty of blood, tissues, heart, liver and kidneys so that I can fuel my gluconeogenesis… I know, I know, my apparent good health after years of eating this way is physiologically impossible. there must be some hidden possibly irreversible damage of which I am unaware and one day 7 or 8… Read more »
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[…] Defense of Meat Eaters Part 1 In Defense of Meat Eaters Part 2 Did Grok Really Eat That Much […]

Trav
Trav
5 years 9 months ago

I fail to see where eating eggs is a violent act. When you eat an egg, you’re eating an unfertilized ovum. Hens still lay eggs with no rooster around, they just don’t develop and hatch into chicks. I can see the violence aspect if one is speaking of factory farm chickens kept in poor conditions, but free range chickens eating their natural diet and providing eggs to humans I see no ethical issue with.

Alex
Alex
5 years 8 months ago
The ethical issue with eggs, even those that are unfertilized, is what happens to unwanted males and old laying hens. Farms with no roosters buy hens from breeders, and breeders need very few of the 50% of chicks that happen to be male. So, most male chicks are destroyed. And while it’s certainly possible to let laying hens live out their natural lives, egg production falls off as they get older, so old hens are typically slaughtered, even on small farms raising pastured eggs. There are similar issues with dairy. Bottom line: slaughtered animals are a byproduct of egg and… Read more »
Ross
Ross
5 years 8 months ago

Really? You feel the need to DEFEND meat eaters? You guys are absolutely insane, the way you FREAK out if a vegetarian or (god forbid) a vegan is within 10 feet of you. YOU KNOW you guys freak out and get all defensive if someone happens to mention he or she doesn’t eat meat. Go eat your dead animals you nerd.

jonw
jonw
5 years 8 months ago

wow Ross. ironic much? chill out with the caps lock. a better diet might calm you down a bit.

Joe @ FullSpike
5 years 6 months ago

I’ve been in bodybuilding for 10 years and I’m curious – Ross, do you think non-vegans / non-vegetarians run the other way when they sense the presence of a vegetarian/vegan because they don’t feel like being judged, being “accused of murder”, or “being a bad person”? I personally eat a lot of veggies and some meat, and more often than not, if someone engages in conversation on this subject, it usually comes with a hostile undertone – almost like imposing religion on someone. I just think there are better ways to approach the subject.

david
david
5 years 6 months ago
was hoping for a bit more from this article, but these arguments are pritty weak really. it’s easy to just wash your hands of battery farming and condemn it as unsustainable without offering a useable altenative that the whole world can use. but, as you admit, pasture farming can’t feed the world. it@s an idealistic, relatively cruel way of providing meat which the average person never sees or buys from. another beef I had is when you point to the correlation between red meat consumption and cancer, heart disease etc and say it’s a correlation, not a causation. if there… Read more »
John
John
5 years 6 months ago

So what you are saying is that association is science and we need no further evidence. If that’s the case, let’s get rid of all firefighters. They are 100% associated with house fires. Get rid of them and house fires will go away.

Ridiculous you say. Of course it is. We know firefighters don’t cause house fires. When it comes to red meat, we do not know that it causes anything.

Association is not causation. It is complete and utter folly make any decision based soley on association. You are making huge assumptions when you do. Bad science!

El Grok
El Grok
5 years 5 months ago

Humans can work well (and be healthy) with many fuels, from the blood / milk / meat diet of the Massai people to the almost vegetarian diet of many asians. As I can see you need and certain amount of animal food plus vegetables to have a good and long life. Ethical cuestions are different for health ones and you are mixing all. We domesticate farm animals many years ago and use them like the plants that we cultivate: To eat them. Farm animals have the same rigths of humans? please!!

Brendan
Brendan
5 years 5 months ago
Vego’s/vegans have it wrong… when you eat meat you’re not eating death, you’re eating life! I’m not saying humans as a whole are necessarily more important than other species, but i will say that MY life and those i care about are way more important than any other species. Six years of a supposedly nutritious and well-planned vegan diet left me with many nutritional deficiencies as well as the pain of brittle dry skin, rashes, digestive disturbances,high cholesterol, anxiety, aggression, feeling miserable and constantly being ravenously hungry despite stuffing myself full. Converting to a regular “healthy” diet slightly improved some… Read more »
Brendan
Brendan
5 years 5 months ago
No living thing wants to die, whether it is plant, animal, bacteria or fungus. That’s why they all have defence mechanisms, including plants. Poisonous alkaloids, enzyme inhibitors, thorns, tannins. Many species even chemically communicate threat of insect plague to other same-specied plants to increase their tannin content to deter such threat. If you talk to anyone who practices energetic therapies such as kinesiology or reiki they will tell you they can feel the life force in plants just as readily as they do in animals. Regarding vegans and vego’s i propose that having “sap on your hands” is no different… Read more »
Danielle Meitiv
5 years 5 months ago
I stopped eating meat when was 14 years old. I didn’t want to kill animals and that seemed like the most sensible way to stop. Although that was before the whole vegetarianism is healthier craze, my parents respected my beliefs and supported my choice. Over the years I went on and off fish, but mostly on (thank God for that!) Fast forward 14-20 years. As an adult I started having all sorts of digestive and allergy issues. First it was lactose, then gluten. Now I can’t eat cow’s milk, gluten, eggs, corn or soy without getting eczema, hives or an… Read more »
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5 years 1 month ago

[…] Those Darn Vegetarians In Defense of Meat Eaters Part 1 In Defense of Meat Eaters Part 2 Did Grok Really Eat That Much Meat? Protein Amounts in Foods Ten Best and Worst Protein Sources. […]

Earl
Earl
5 years 7 days ago
God gave people the following things in it’s most organic form possible: 1) Fruits 2) Leaves, stems, and flowers 3) Nuts & seeds 4) Grains 5) Legumes 6) Animal flesh of grass-fed animals 7) Milk 8) Honey 9) Squeezed fruit juice (VERY limited) 10) Clear water He did not give us: 1) Dietitians 2) Pesticides 3) High-fructose corn syrup 4) Dessert 5) Added sugars & sweeteners 6) Eggs 7) Processed food 8) Olestra 9) Trans fatty acids 10) Blood from animals He also instructed us to practice self-control, so that means we may not drink or eat to our heart’s… Read more »
emily
emily
4 years 11 months ago

Correlation does not equal causation in this instance because a. Red meat is carcinogenic depending on how you cook it – look up acrylamide b. Preserved meat studied separate to just meat shows a correlation to heart disease , look it up. 🙂 loads of people don’t get correlations and causations

emily
emily
4 years 11 months ago

Correction, look up hca, not acrylamide. Acrylamide is for high heat starchy veg and bread. Browning sugars means carcinogens. Burning meat means carcinogens.

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