To eat meat or not to eat meat? – That is the question.
Updated: Dec 2, 2023
Several factors can come into play when we decide to eat meat or not, In my belief Culture would be the greatest influence, our faiths and upbringing will most likely determine this outcome but why is this the inspiration, and how does either diet, meat or no meat, relate to our wellbeing?
I want to start looking at this topic by going back to the beginning of time, when it is very much assumed that the ‘Caveman’, a primitive human character born in the Paleolithic period, only ate meat which I question because if you think about it they didn’t have sophisticated weaponry to capture such beasts, they used rocks and bones to fashion tools. The Hunter Gathers would normally come back empty handed after days of tracking however the harvesters of the family would be out digging up flora and fauna to subsides their diet. Which leads to the question of when did we start eating meat as a main source of diet when our predecessors were mainly vegetarians?
Jumping forward to the Medieval lifestyle it very much depended on whether you were Royalty or a Peasant as to how much meat you ate, coming down to what you could afford and the rich ate well, Mutton, Beef & Pork were the main stays, followed by poultry and fish whilst the peasants mostly ate vegetables and bread.
Coming right forward to today and looking at the way society, culture, and religion consider the consumption of meat in our diet. Starting with culture, eating meat can be associated with feasting, the traditional Sunday roast at grandmas, turkey for Thanksgiving, fish and seafood for Good Friday, it can symbolise wealth and masculinity, the phrase “you are what you eat” encourages some humans to eat bloody meat as they believe it will make them stronger, some believe that eating Deer will make you timid. In ancient Egypt, kings would once a year slaughter the bull-god Apis and eat its flesh believing it made them more fierce.
Which brings us to religion. If we consider India as the reference, Several of India’s most widely practiced religions includes strict dietary laws. For instance, Islamic teachings have guidelines for halal eating, forbidding the consumption of pork and other products. Majorities among all of India’s major religious groups say they follow at least one of these restrictions on meat in their diet. Jains nearly universally abstain from meat either fully or partially (97%). Christians and Muslims are the least likely to abide by such dietary restrictions; still, about two-thirds of these groups abstain from meat in some way, including 53% of Muslims and 46% of Christians who abstain from eating certain meats. (By Neha Sahgal, Jonathan Evans, Ariana Monique Salazar, Kelsey Jo Starr, and Manolo Corichi).
There is the belief that meat must be consumed to fulfill our nutritional needs however over time and research the results are showing that whilst meat is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, it is also a source of high saturated fats. Red meat provides us with iron, zinc, and Vitamin B as one of the main sources of Vitamin B12. On the downside, meat contains a high level of Saturated Fats which can lead to high blood cholesterol and coronary heart disease. White meat is particularly high in Vitamin B, especially B3, and B12, and many necessary minerals, Vitamin D is found in Chicken which helps with calcium absorption. Fish is filled with Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as Vitamin D and B2 (Riboflavin). Fish is rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.
However, there are many alternative ways of receiving the goodness that meat has in it such as Eggs, Nuts, Milk, Beans, Cottage Cheese, Peanut Butter, and Greek Yoghurt which all are perfectly good substitutes. You can receive Iron via leafy green vegetables, B-12 and Iron through the above list.
According to UVA Health, “Vegetarians are healthier than meat-eaters”.Myth. The terms “plant-based,” “vegetarian,” and “meatless” don’t automatically equate to “healthy.” There are plenty of foods that come from plants that aren’t considered to be good nutritional choices, including white bread, white rice, and french fries.
And many foods that don’t come from plants offer nutritional benefits. For example, dairy products provide calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. Seafood is a good source of vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.
With any diet, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting adequate amounts of important nutrients. And that you’re consuming the right amount of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates for you.
My last consideration around Meat and I offer a sensitivity warning for the following, is the way in which the animals are treated. According to RSPCA. The majority of food animals destined for slaughter overseas are first mustered on their property of origin, then loaded onto livestock trucks, transported to a feedlot or assembly depot, loaded once again onto trucks, transported to the wharf, and loaded onto the ship. Live export sea voyages may last up to 5 weeks and animals will experience a range of serious welfare problems and high mortality rates on a routine basis. Once the vessel arrives in the importing country, animals will be subjected to another series of loading, transport, and handling events before they are finally slaughtered. The cumulative stress of these events is one of the key animal welfare problems associated with live exports. In Australia, the slaughter of livestock is strictly regulated. Animals intended for slaughter must first be rendered insensible (stunned), then killed before they can regain consciousness. The adoption of a chilled and frozen meat-only trade would prevent the suffering inherent in long-distance sea transport and save millions of animals from the cruel fate awaiting them in foreign destinations.
Over the last 50 years, research has shown that all major meat types have been increasing in absolute terms. For example, in 1961, poultry meat accounted for only 12% of global meat production; by 2013 its share has tripled (approx.) to 35%, in comparison, beef and buffalo meat as a share of total meat production has nearly halved, now accounting for around 22%. Pigsmeat’s share has remained more constate at approximately 35-40% (according to Our World in Data).
My parting words to you are, this is a very small cross section of information on why or why not to eat meat, I hope it has produced some thought provoking for arguments either way but ultimately you all have free will and can make your own decisions. There are no right or wrong answers in my humble opinion.