Tuesday, 14 July 2009

No, I Don't Eat Raw Meat Pt 1 - 'Health Reasons'

Although I haven't eaten meat for most of my adult life, I did go offtrack once, and have certainly had a lot of fish, so certainly can't claim a 'clean' history on flesh-eating (the 'About Me' on the http://www.rawforlife.co.uk/ site will give an indication).

But, a couple of months before going raw, it was as if the scales finally fell from my eyes. I started to become truly conscious of what I was eating in a way I never had before, and 'liking the taste' alone was no longer sufficient motivation to put something into my body. From that point on I knew that animal flesh would never be part of my diet again.

When I went raw, I found that most raw fooders felt the same way. But, then on one international forum I found a small group who were advocating meat-eating. I got into fisticuffs with a couple of members of the group, but, as the forum was officially 'omnivore' (the only raw forum I know that is), and not wanting to get involved in such discussions again, thought it would be easier, in future, simply to write an article and link to that if the subject ever came up. Also, I have no wish to get into 'personal' arguments with meat-eaters. After all, lots of my friends, and some of the people I am very close to, eat meat.

It's also occurred to me that some people coming to raw will ask about meat, because although in the past raw foodists tended to come to raw via veganism or vegetarianism, raw has become so high-profile in recent years that some are coming from cooked omnivorous diets, and may be thinking, 'well, if I ate meat cooked, why not eat it raw'?

In the two parts of this article, I'll be arguing against meat-eating per se, whether cooked or raw.

Some who eat meat say that because 'primitive man' ate it, we should do too. They've been persuaded by evidence from human remains that show that flesh foods, fruit and nuts were consumed by people long ago. However, I don't think they've found evidence that every primitive human consumed all these foods, just that each of the three groups was amongst the foods consumed. Just as these would be amongst the foods consumed by modern-day man.

We don't know for sure what happened thousands of years ago, or why it did. Explanations, theories, are almost always to some extent subjective. 'Evidence' to support one viewpoint invariably conflicts with 'evidence' to support another. Interpretations of 'scientific evidence' regarding diets of thousands of years ago are highly coloured by personal preferences, especially when interpreters are using them to justify meat-eating, or, for that matter, vegetarianism.

The 'thousands of years' thing has never washed for me as an argument for doing (or not doing) anything anyway. 'People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.' (Isaac Singer) The only way in which 'thousands of years' is useful for me is when I remember that for 'thousands of years' there have always been individuals, communities and even cultures, who have not gone with the prevailing mode of thought, who have objected to the mistreatment of other humans, and of animals, have not followed the herd, and who have, thankfully, spoken out.

To me, what some humans did or didn't eat in the past is pretty irrelevant anyway. I work on the basis that, as I came into he world in 1958, the only habitat that is relevant to me is the one I'm in now, in the UK, 21st century. The only digestive system relevant is the one I have now. The life I've been given, in which to learn whatever I can in the years I have, and try to make good choices, does happen to be in a country where I am free to eat anything I like.

I won't be dreaming up hypothetical situations such as 'What would I eat if I had to survive in the wild?' as this would be pointless, as right now I'm not having to do that, neither am I ever likely to have to (and if ever I was, I'd simply make choices in the situation I found myself in). I live in a society where my choices are not constrained, and, most wonderful of all, people in the hot lands from which I'm told my ancestors migrated from, will share their food with me. There may be environmental disadvantages to that, but if it makes it easier for me to eat raw vegan (and methane-producing cows have a few environmental disadvantages as well!) then I'm happy to eat a mango that's got here on a plane.

My society has developed to the point, where, thankfully, I'm not faced with the terrible choices that I'm told my ancestors might have been faced with to survive. And, because I am fortunate to have many choices, I have full responsibility for those I make.

So, why have I chosen not to eat animals?

Just saying I know it's wrong isn't very useful for those who are still wondering about the subject, and don't share that conviction. And it could be possible that the 'revelatory' experience I described at the beginning of the article could simply have come as the result of various experiences, observations and reflections throughout my life, combining to make my choosing not to eat meat finally make sense at every level.

In Part 1, I'll be looking at what are generally called the 'health reasons' for not eating meat. In Part 2, I'll be looking at what are variously called the 'moral', 'compassionate' or 'emotional' aspects of eating meat. As, I've noticed that many of those who eat meat tend to put those out of their mind and even deem them as less important than the health reasons. To me, they're by far the most important, and I'll be tackling them head-on.

But, 'health reasons' first.


Certain pig-meats are linked with various cancers - generally stomach, pancreatic. Sure, the meats in question tend to be 'processed', eg ham, bacon. But some of my readers will still be eating those, so worth a mention.

Everyone will have seen the constant flow of media reports on the links between beef and various cancers - particularly bowel/colon (and this is not just fatty meat, but lean meat as well).
'It could be the carcinogens created when meat is cooked, or meat's highly available iron, or something else in meat,' speculates Walter Willett, Chair of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health.

So, if it's the cooking, sure, that lets raw meat off the hook, as it were... However, if it's iron, that would apply whether the meat was raw or cooked. In a 10-year study, scientists looked at a large group of men and women who were initially cancer-free. The male subjects who developed cancer showed higher iron stores than the men who remained cancer-free. Cancer risk was 40% greater in men with high levels of iron in their bodies. And...Guideline No 7 from the UK Cancer Prevention Research Trust: 'low blood iron helps protect you from cancer'.

John Robbins discusses meat and iron in his book 'Healthy at 100'. Paraphrasing the information in pp149-51, for many people one of the 'health' reasons they might give for eating meat is the iron in it.

The iron in meat is called 'heme iron', and the iron found in plant foods is 'nonheme' iron. 'Heme iron' is certainly more easily absorbed by our bodies than nonheme iron and some people have taken this to mean that, because of this, nonheme iron is in some way inferior to heme iron. But excess iron poses dangers to health. Antioxidants are deservedly recognised for their role in preventing cancer and other illness. But iron is the opposite of an antioxidant; it is a potent oxidant. Excess iron causes the production of free radicals hich can damage cells, leading to disease.

'For example, when sufficient quantities of heme iron are present, as is likely to happen when diets contain appreciable quantities of beef, cholesterol is oxidised into a form that is more readily absorbed by the arteries, leading to increased rates of heart disease. With nonheme iron - the kind found in plants - it's a totally different story. Your body absorbs only what it needs.'

Dr Thomas T Perls (Harvard expert on longevity): 'It's possible that higher iron levels, which may have been considered 'normal' only because they are common in males, actually speed the aging process.' According to Dr Perls, lower iron levels in adults (up to a point, of course) are an advantage and that 'it may turn out that adults, and perhaps even adolescents, are speeding up their aging clocks by maintaining iron levels that are now considered 'normal', but may in fact be excessive.'

'The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of 'real food for real people' you'd better live real close to a real good hospital.' (Neal D Barnard, MD, President, Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine.)

Chicken has been linked with colon cancer. The American Journal of Epidemiology reports that researchers examined the eating habits of 32,000 men and women over a six-year period and then monitored emerging cancer cases for the next six years. Among participants who generally avoided 'red meat', but who ate 'white meat' less than once a week, colon cancer risk was 55%higher than for those who avoided both kinds of meat, and those who had white meat at least once per week had more than three-fold higher colon cancer risk.

A google will reveal all sorts of scientific studies linking meat-eating to various cancers. I could fill this article with more, but it would get boring.

Other illnesses

I'll skip over heart disease, as most meat-eaters have been persuaded that this is to do with the fat in meat, problems exacerbated by the cooking of it, and raw meat-eaters will say that raw fat (for those who don't find the idea of eating that repulsive - see Pt 2) is fine.

But how about rheumatism, gout, osteoporosis, etc?

Animal flesh contains uric acid. Carnivorous animals secrete an enzyme - uricase - which breaks this down so it can be elimated. Humans don't generate this enzyme. Instead, we absorb the uric acid. As a result, calcium urate crystals form and concentrate in joints, feet and the lower back, leading to arthritis, gout, rheumatism, etc.

Meat in general results in acid by-products. It's high in phosphorus. Our bodies will do everything they can to maintain a slightly alkaline (7.4) internal environment. If we ingest lots of acid-making food the body will put this right by raiding its alkaline mineral reserves, for example, by leeching calcium from the bones, resulting in osteoporosis.

Now, raw meat-eaters have their own 'evidence' that runs counter to the 'evidence' above. They debunk what they call the 'myth' meat-eating increasing the chance of cancer (and other illnesses) and say that vegetarians are just trying to 'scare' people into not eating animals. Even when they do admit there is a link between meat-eating and some cancers, they maintain that this is more to do with the way meat is eaten nowadays rather than meat as such, and they believe all's fine if the meat eaten is raw, from an animal that was organically-fed etc.

Their arguments sound very convincing and scientific - scientists (some - there are plenty of vegetarian scientists) are as keen as other meat-eaters to come up with arguments that persuade them and others eating meat is a healthy thing to do. They'll tell you that people ate meat in the past and didn't die of cancer (how do they know?). They'll cite examples of people who eat high-meat diets and appear to be thriving (did you know it's likely that half of 50 year-olds already have a tumour but just don't know it? If you think that's tosh, please ask me for details of a credible report on autopsies done on younger male victims of accidental death that I think might persuade you otherwise). They'll also tell you that cultures known for following high-meat diets, such as the Inuit and Masai, are perfectly healthy. However, I have conflicting information that includes reports that Inuits suffer from one of the highest osteoporosis rates in the world, and that the Masai do in fact suffer from cardio-vascular disease, arthritis and osteoporosis (particularly the males).

But, at the end of the day, the arguments will rage, and who can be sure what facts aren't being 'massaged' to suit an argument? Those pro-meat will want very much to continue eating it and want others to do similar. Those anti-meat want very much to persuade people to stop killing animals. There are strong motivations behind each pitch.

All I ask, and hope, is that any readers here who at this point are still skeptical about the 'health reasons' for not eating meat, will read the rest of this article, and, particularly, Part 2, which contains arguments against meat-eating that are a little more troublesome.


Essene Gospel of Peace: 'For in his blood every drop of their blood turns to poison; in his breath their breath to stink.'

Whatever studies are quoted, whatever science is used to debunk, it really is quite difficult to argue that eating meat is healthful when it is is surely unsuited to our digestion.

Meat is already decaying, decomposing flesh which, once inside us, continues to rot. A carnivore in the wild eats meat freshly-killed. The carnivore has acidic saliva which plays a significant role in pre-digestion. The carnivore's stomach secretes huge amounts of hydrochloric acid (much more than we are able to) to break down meat in the stomach quickly. The digestive tract of the carnivore is about three times the length of the body, and smooth. It's body is designed to dissolve food rapidly and pass it quickly out of the system to minimise putrefaction of the flesh.

We, on the other hand, rarely eat our meat freshly-killed (our natural abhorrence to sinking our teeth into a passing cow could have something to do with that). So, our meat, before we even eat it is decomposing, rotting. It's carcass. Most of the raw vegan foods I eat have life in them. I remember a detractor of the raw vegan diet making fun of the phrase 'life-force', so I'll explain it here in case anyone is unsure. A papaya will ripen off the tree (and this is not decomposing - it doesn't do that until it is over-ripe.) Put a carrot top in water and fronds will grow. Soak a wheatberry and it will sprout. Plant seeds from melons and mangoes and they will grow into plants. That's the life-force. But meat has no life in it - only death.

The flesh is already decomposing, and things get worse when we put it into our bodies.

As our saliva is alkalising, rather than acidic, we can't predigest meat in the way an animal can.

As we don't have fangs, and our teeth are set close together, bits of meat get stuck between them and rot, resulting in the worst 'poo-breath'. This isn't from a vegetarian or vegan site, but from a dental site: 'Most of the volatile sulphur compounds that cause bad breath are waste products created by anaerobic bacteria as they digest proteins. As we consume meat and fish, the bacteria feed on these and produce waste products. Two of these waste by-products are: cadaverine - the smell we associate with corpses, and putrescine - the compound responsible for much of the foul odour produced by decaying meat.' The worst breath I have ever smelt has been on meat-eaters. Although my breath may not always be sweet, since adopting a raw vegetarian, then raw vegan, diet, I have asked those close to me to tell me if they can ever detect that 'killer breath' on me. No reports yet.

Our stomachs secrete far less hydrochloric acid in terms of concentration and quantity than carnivores' stomachs, which means our bodies labour to digest meat, lots of energy is expended, and further putrefaction occurs while digestion is delayed.

Our digestive tracts are five to six times the length of our body, that is, proportionately much longer than an animal's. They're also corrugated as opposed to smooth. Our bodies are designed to retain food as long as possible, until all possible nutrients have been extracted; this is ideal for plant food, but is the worst possible condition for the digestion and processing of flesh. For, meat has no fibre. As it moves through our long digestive tracts far more slowly than plant foods, poisonous byproducts of bacteria (their poops, basically)are released. Meat rots further in our guts.

Meat-eaters don't generally wait for meat to be digested and evacuated before they eat the next meal. So more food piles in on top of the meat. Because the undigested meat is blocking the exit of the new food, even innocent plant food (eg fruit) will get up to tricks as it...waits. That food starts to rot (in that warm, moist environment!),resulting in fermentation, gas, big tum, bad smells...and a packing of undigested food, resulting in constipation.

I'm not saying vegetarians never get constipated, but the problem is far more common in meat-eaters, and, consequently, their poos (when they come...) can smell dreadful. Arthur M Baker ('Awakening Our Self Healing Body') says: 'After several years on a conventional low-fiber diet, the average adult carries about 10-20 pounds of fecal matter on the colon walls. In many cases, the distended abdomens of those who are overweight are not due solely to fat as they are to the accumulation of faeces over a period of years. Autopsies have revealed over 50 pounds of fecal material within some bodies.' Now, OK, Arthur's statement most certainly has been disputed - included more for gory fascination! However, even if 'impacted faeces' aren't in fact present in the colon, a googling of medical sites and the experience of many says that they can most certainly be 'impacted' in the rectum, and, wherever faeces are 'impacted'...it's not good.

I don't actually need any of the above to explain to me why a vegetarian diet is easier on the digestive system than an omnivorous one, and perhaps some readers will identify here. I remember as a child often passing hard poos, infrequently, sometimes painfully, as a result of a diet that included meat daily (usual in the Sixties). When I turned vegetarian as a young adult, constipation was a thing of the past. In fact, even in the years I ate vegetarian+fish, I only remember having a problem twice in 20 years - after giving birth, and on a Greek holiday once. So I'd grant our bodies appear to struggle less with fish. I've heard some meat-eaters talk of routinely 'going' only every few days! As on a raw vegan diet I go quickly and easily twice a day at least, I can't imagine feeling that uncomfortable.

If there's anyone reading who still believes that human beings should be eating animals, consider this (with thanks to the poster known as Carl Andrews on 30BaD):

'William C. Roberts MD has five decades of experience in the field of cardiology, written over 1300 scientific publications, a dozen cardiology textbooks, and has been editor in chief of the American Journal of Cardiology for a quarter of a century. He is arguably the most highly regarded cardiologist in the world today.

In his 2008 editorial "The Cause of Atherosclerosis", published in the peer reviewed journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice, Roberts reminds us that high cholesterol causes heart disease. What is the cause of high cholesterol? Saturated fat and animal products.

He says: Atherosclerosis is easily produced in nonhuman herbivores (eg, rabbits, monkeys) by feeding thema high cholesterol (eg, egg yolks) or high saturated fat (eg, animal fat) diet…Indeed, atherosclerosis is oneof the easiest diseases to produce experimentally, but the experimental animal must be an herbivore.It is not possible to produce atherosclerosis in a carnivore…"He elaborates in an earlier editorial:I t is virtually impossible, for example, to produce atherosclerosis in a dog even when 100 grams of cholesterol and 120 grams of butter fat are added to its meat ration. (This amount of cholesterol is approximately 200 times the average amount that human beings in the USA eat each day!). (The American Journal of Cardiology, 1990, vol. 66,896.)

He then utterly annihilates the human omnivore myth in a single sentence. here it is:***Because humans get atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis is a disease only of herbivores, humans also must be herbivores.***'

'Essential nutrients'

It is not necessary to eat meat to obtain essential nutrients. I know most of my readers won't need educating on that one, but as I was surprised to hear one of my young relations recently come out with that old chestnut 'if you don't eat meat, where do you get your protein?', here's a link for anyone who hasn't noticed that the millions of vegetarians (including athletes, bodybuilders etc) are doing just fine!

Furthermore, there is no good reason for a raw vegetarian/vegan to have problems with calcium, or iron, or Vitamin D. Contact me if you'd like more information on this, and, if you don't want to take my word for it, I can put you in touch with a raw vegan nutritionist.

B12 is a much-debated area, with some believing it to be problematic for raw vegans rather than raw vegetarians (although many meat-eaters are deficient in B12). Suffice to say that some raw vegans supplement for B12, whilst others believe there is no need to. There is certainly no evidence to suggest that if you are a raw vegan and don't supplement it is only a matter of time (as one pro meat-eating site will tell you) before all sorts of awful things will happen to you for sure. The 'B12 thing' is a little more complex than that.

If the US stopped eating meat, it could feed the world.

Whilst people protest at the amount of grain used for biofuels, more than seven times as much is fed to farmed animals so that people can eat meat. A unit of land can produce far more grains and vegetables than meat, so using it for meat is wasteful. According to a Feb 2008 article by the USDA, it takes 7 lbs of corn to produce 1 lb of beef, and 2.6 lbs of corn to produce 1 lb of chicken. A reduction in meat-eating of just 10% would enable resources to be diverted to feed millions of people.

So, there are the 'health reasons' for not eating meat.

There may well be meat-eating persons out there sharpening their quills...However, the arguments above are but chicken-feed (possibly unfortunate turn of phrase) compared with the real arguments against eating animals. You know...those daffy, 'non-scientific', emotional ones...

I'll be discussing those in Part 2.

PS Here's a video where a medical doctor explain, graphically and entertainingly, exactly we should not be consuming animal products. Yes, it's an hour long, but if you're omnivore, please watch at least the first 15 minutes.

Here's a five-minute video that shows the inside of the colon of someone who eats meat and dairy and the difference when they do not.


Rita said...


I've been vegetarian or nearly so for most of my adult life. I've also had problems with anemia and deficiency in Vitamin B12. The solutions ranged from:
1. ferrous sulfate and b12 shots (per a MD)
2. Argentinian grass-fed beef dessicated liver (per midwife)
3. Pills containing dried bovine spleen, thymus, & stomach (per Naturopathic doctor)
I was also prescribed Porcine hypothalmus (per acupuncturist)to balance my hormones.

The last two while eating green smoothies made from a rotating variety of organic greens everyday. So, I'm wondering if some people DO in fact, need meat. I've read "Eat Right for Your Blood Type" and while not thoroughly convinced, given my ongoing history, I wonder. More recently I've been eating some meat & feel less tired. I'm in a quandry. lovelyrita962@yahoo.com

Debbie Took said...

Hi Rita

If you've been vegetarian (rather than vegan) there will have been a great deal of B12 in your food (eggs and dairy). So, it would seem to me be more of an absorption problem rather than a lack of B12 ingested. I don't subscribe to the 'blood type' diet theory, or believe that anyone 'needs' meat, but can understand that you are looking for answers. I don't know if your meat is raw or cooked, but if you are eating something that your body is not used to digesting, and especially if the meat is cooked and contains toxins, there may well be a 'stimulating effect as your body goes 'all systems go' to marshall energy to cope with it...I know that doesn't sound encouraging, but remember where I am coming from - my analysis will not be 'value-free'!

Please do research the subject of B12 (if you have not done so already). I suggest asking about it on vegan forums. Very, very best wishes - I can appreciate the situation you are in.

Rita said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response. My history does point to an problem with absorption. Seems obvious now that I look over my post! I will continue to research this issue.

Thanks for the link to 'Earthlings' in your current blog posting.

clare_1107 said...

Hi Debbie,

I am wondering if you could provide links to the reports on Inuits and Masai suffering from disease related to their high-meat diets?

I would love to be able to use this information to answer some of the many questions I get as a vegan!

Thanks in advance,

Debbie Took said...

Hi Clare

I'm on holiday in Thailand right now and, as I might forget to follow this up otherwise, could you please e-mail me the same question via the Contact Page of www.rawforlife.co.uk in early September? Then I'll be able to copy and paste to you whateer information I have on the hard disk at home.