By William J. Furney
What’s the essential, absolute best diet for people? No one seems to know. Is it meat? Just plants, maybe? Or nuts or fish or a combination of everything? None of us really looks at government food pyramids and for the supposed best advice on what to eat and how much of it to consume — because most of us are fueled by the desires or our gut, which is why we have the exploding health and planetary crisis that’s threatening us all.
My own diet has been vegetarian for decades (born out of insipid, meat-based boarding school fare) and vegan in the last few years,having evolved my food choices to take not just myself into account but the rock I live on as well as everyone on it.
It’s just food.
And I’ve never been healthier, more muscular or fitter: when I hit the gas while out running, which is almost daily, I dare you to keep up, let alone catch me or pass me out.
Yet say the V word to most people and they’ll either immediately sum you up as a loon or run a mile, if they’re able. But with more food manufacturers making vegan dishes and more big supermarkets selling them (they wouldn’t if there was no demand) and vegan options peppering restaurants’ menus, this is all, thankfully changing.
Equally mercifully, brick-minded folk are increasingly shying away from making such vacuous, throwaway remarks as “rabbit” and “lettuce-eater” when they see someone chomping away on something that doesn’t have meat in it. Most recently this happened to me during a tour-group lunch in Morocco, several years ago now, as everyone else tucked into all they meat they could muster (the chefs buried large lumps of chicken beneath my pre-ordered “vegetarian salad — which, admittedly, may have contained lettuce).
With a meat-based diet leading to ballooning obesity rates across the world, and meat also killing the people that eat it and contributing to the widescale destruction of the environment — and a vegan diet now widely believed to be not only the healthiest and optimal diet for humans, but also sustainable — who is the joke on now?
But all too often, people think only of the watery rumblings of their overstuffed stomachs and the fleeting sensations of their overburdened taste buds than of everything dying around them just because they can keep fed.
You may well salivate over just the thought of a lamb dinner, but do you want to spare a thought for the terror of slaughter the poor creature had to endure — as I saw in a shocking image yesterday. No. To have any such compassion at all is to evoke suspicious, contemptible looks from the meat-eating fraternity and be branded “soft”.
People who actually care about their health and that of the planet, and their fellow sentient beings on it, are anything but. They have the courage to stand up when no one else will, as I do with my sticker-based vegan campaign in countries around the globe.
To hold the view that eating meat is good for you (“vital for your survival”, “humans are carnivores” and it’s so very manly — until you develop heart disease, colon cancer and other potentially fatal diseases because of it, and die early, leaving your family behind — not so manly, after all) is not only scientifically incorrect but, increasingly, out-of-touch and old-fashioned — a relic of a fast-receding past when we were so much more ignorant about how the world works.
Like the deluded notion that nothing could be more delicious than a meat-and-two-veg dish, when the world of vegan fare is rich, indulgent and brimming with a kaleidoscope of incredible tastes and exotic flavours.
Animal welfare and rights are now the new frontier, and just as women and gays struggled, fought and outright battled to get theirs, so too are many people now standing up for the voiceless. Including me.
And, excuse me, smug meat-eaters of the world, but your addiction to corpses is my problem too. You don’t own the world, yet the meat and dairy industries are now on track to be the world’s biggest climate polluters, overtaking the oil and transport industries with all those jets spewing carbon dioxide high up in the atmosphere.
“Unlike their counterparts in the energy sector, the big meat and dairy companies have thus far escaped public scrutiny of their contribution to climate change. The lack of public information on the magnitude of their [carbon] footprints is one contributing factor,” says a forecast.
Meanwhile, the Worldwatch Institute, a research organisation based in Washington, DC, that’s focused on initiatives to develop a sustainable world, says “meat-eating is becoming a problem for everyone on the planet.” And a recent study says that going vegan and ditching meat and dairy is the best possible thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint — because it only delivers 18% of calories that people need but swamps 83% of farmland.
Arguably the most intelligent person to ever live, Albert Einstein — who with his equation E = mc2 that says matter (including people) is just a form of energy and made wonderous discoveries about gravity and the universe — is also famous for saying: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Today he would surely say “vegan”.
Meat is not only the cigarettes of today but it’s likely to soon be shunned and deemed highly socially unacceptable — to inflict such an incredibly hazardous habit on yourself, your home and those around you.
We can all do so much better.
- Title image by Ja Ma on Unsplash, of a market in Barcelona, Spain.