Monday, October 26, 2015

WHO, Meat?

How can you tell that you live in an oligarchy, where money and profits trump human health and well-being?

When the consolidated corporate media frames a new report showing that red and processed meats cause cancer around how mad and sad these findings make the meat industry feel. Not about how each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases your chance of colorectal cancer by 18%.

As far as they're concerned, this is not only about how eating certain foods might make you sick and dead, but about how shockingly un-American the report by the World Health Organization truly is. Hating hot dogs would be as unpatriotic as hating Exceptional USA, dontcha know.

The Wall Street Journal's lede:
 Red and processed meats have the potential to cause cancer in humans, according to a report by a World Health Organization agency that is drawing ire from meat industry groups that argue the science is inadequate.
 The Washington Post's take:
The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States.
Get ready for outraged The War Against Steak coverage to vie with The War Against Christmas on Fox. Get ready for the congressional sausage-makers to open up their gluttonous maws for millions of lobbyist dollars to help them bring home the bacon even as they continue to cut food stamp stipends for the working poor and retirees. According to the Post, it isn't the meat that's deadly: it's the international health group itself:
 But the panel’s decision was not unanimous, and by raising lethal concerns about a food that anchors countless American meals, it will be controversial. The $95 billion U.S.  beef industry has been preparing for months to mount a response and some scientists, including some unaffiliated with the meat industry, have questioned whether the evidence is substantial enough to draw the kinds of strong conclusions that the WHO panel did.
It looks as though carcinogenic meat will be the next big Climate Change Debate. Gluttony will be given equal time with moderation and abstention in order to make the coverage, as well as the meals, fair and balanced. The debate largely centers around semantics. Although red and processed meats have long been linked to cancer, this is the first time they have actually been said to cause cancer. 
In recent years, meat consumption has been the target of multi-faceted social criticism, with debates erupting not just over its role on human health, but the impact of feedlots on the environment and on animal welfare. The public debate over the WHO's findings will likely play out with political lobbying, and in marketing messages for consumers.
But at its core, the dispute over meat and cancer revolves around science, and in particular the difficulty that arises whenever scientists try to link any food to a chronic disease.
In order for scientists to prove once and for all that red meat causes cancer, long-term studies of red meat consumers and non-red meat consumers would have to be conducted. And it would be so inhumane to force-feed tons of bacon to groups of hungry guinea pigs just to prove that they will develop cancer at higher rates than vegans and fish eaters. And goodness knows, the food industry only has our health and best interests at heart. Therefore, they suggest that we simply ignore the WHO report.

The meat industry is already taking tips from Big Tobacco and getting their big lies ready. 

They will repeat the lies often enough and loudly enough to give them the patina of truth.

The North American Meat Institute derides even less strident findings than those of WHO as "flawed and nonsensical," claiming that today's modern meat is less fatty and more nutritious than yesterday's meat, and that processed meat is more readily consumed than ordinary meat, and that it also makes you feel fuller faster because of  its "nutrient density."

If this sounds like bunk, it's because it is bunk.

As if that were not enough, the Institute also claims that the excessive salt added to processed meat is good for you, too! 
“As an ingredient in meat products, salt is used as a preservative, which is one aspect of a multi-hurdle approach toward maintaining product safety,” AMI said. “In the last 20 years, the meat and poultry industry has also learned in more quantitative fashion the importance of sodium chloride in managing pathogenic bacterial risks presented by L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, and pathogenic E. coli in processed meat and poultry items.”
Who wouldn't pick a slow death from colorectal cancer or hypertension or heart disease over an instantaneous, nasty case of food poisoning?  Or, as the Lesser Evil Caucus  phrases it, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

And if you feel guilty about eating a formerly living animal, don't. Because slaughtering methods are so much more humane than they were when Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle. So says Big Meat.

Most important, the meat industry is the biggest sector in the agriculture industry, which in turn is the biggest sector of the whole lousy US economy. Therefore, if you don't eat carcinogenic food, there will be no metastatic growth and progress.  Forgoing bologna sandwiches would destroy thousands of low-wage jobs in charnel houses and meatpacking plants. Never mind that thanks to "free trade," American meat is now being shipped to such slave-wage countries as China for processing and shipping back to our dinner tables.

And did I mention that the North American Meat Institute is one of the secret negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Did I even have to? They truly put the mystery back into the Mystery Meat.


Pearl said...

That was a great comment, Karen, to Blow's shallow column about the invincible Hillary. Most of which commenters missed or forgot the real history therein.
Bernie Sanders presence in Iowa has been barely mentioned and I hope he will make some comment about the facts behind the real Benghazi activities one day.

We will be going the way Canada has by demolishing the right wing but losing
the progressive voice in the process. However, the Liberals offer some hope in my adopted country whereas Hillaryism is status quo in disguise.

It should be an interesting year where memory loss of the facts will prevail. Maybe those cursed Hillary e-mails might reveal the truth and Bernie will backtrack from his dismissal of their importance. Another inquisition for Hillary by real interrogators might be in store and give us a history lesson of what went on behind the scene regarding Benghazi before 10 years pass, which is what it took to recognize the truth about Iraq.

Karen Garcia said...


I will be curating my recent(few) Times comments in an upcoming blogpost.

Sounds like Bernie is getting into the real meat of the campaign and going on the attack against Hillary. Just when I was starting to wonder about him, "where's the beef?"

Sorry, I just can't seem to help myself. Plus it is lunchtime.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Sure, your colon is important and deserves a little consideration. But there's another problem, fellow omnivores, a larger problem, one affecting the onset of that scary development picking up more speed every day called the Sixth Extinction.

From Mother Nature's point of view, Big Meat is much, much, much more dangerous to her creation than Big Oil. How come? Because CH4 (methane), the unavoidable byproduct of animal husbandry, is a much better fuel than CO2 (carbon dioxide) in driving climate change to peak performance. Until the northern tundra warm up a tad more and begin to release vast irreversible plumes of methane, the greatest source of methane rising into the atmosphere right now comes from the colons of all those pigs, sheep and cows on farms around the globe.

"Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all worldwide transportation combined—cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes. Livestock and their waste and flatulence account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock causes 65 percent of all emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Crops grown for livestock feed consume 56 percent of the water used in the United States. Eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals, and most of this soy is grown on cleared lands that were once rain forests. All this is taking place as an estimated 6 million children across the planet die each year from starvation and as hunger and malnutrition affect an additional 1 billion people. In the United States 70 percent of the grain we grow goes to feed livestock raised for consumption."

Fortunately, the slate is wiped clean every time we hold hands and say grace unto the Lord before meals.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Robert Burns

Karen Garcia said...


Thanks for reminding us of the silent but deadly cow farts. Coupled with the methane emissions from fracking, I can only imagine the levels of pollution in places like North Dakota, which from outer space is as brightly lit as NYC and Chicago. It also makes me wonder how many of those climate change-spawned wildfires get some of their added fuel from a carelessly tossed match in the vicinity of a dairy farm.

There is no escaping meat. Whether it gets into our bowels or gets into our lungs makes no difference.

Pearl said...

Very informative report, Karen and Jay. My problem is due to cholesterol difficulties as well as a history of bypass heart surgery,and animal fats especially with beef is very unhealthy. The retirement development I live in has a dining room where beef, pork spare ribs plus heavy gravies and the likes are major offerings and they are not schooled in healthy cooking. As a result, I am forced to do a lot of cooking which is difficult when you are arthritic.

Since we have to pay a certain amount into the meal set up which forces us to use up our credits, I have been battling this situation for a long while. Canadians and folk from England many of whom are residents here love this kind of food. So as Karen and you state, we are being poisoned by such a style of eating which shows up in obesity, heart problems and the like.
Of course fast food and love of fatty burgers and French fries further the decline in health standards.
I agree that a change in food production is vital for the planet, but how do we manage to do this when people are uneducated in proper eating and demand a meat based diet in advanced countries?
Maybe we can convince the Republicans that this is a nutty notion and they should adopt this different way of eating.

What about the safety in eating chickens if they are not fed antibiotics and the like plus being penned in crowded cages? You can find them for sale but at very inflated prices.
Any alternate diet suggestions would be helpful to learn about.

Jay–Ottawa said...

As Karen and Pearl remind us, one way or another we are all caught in traps set up by fellow humans. Ignorant rulers, ignorant geeks––can you hear me now, Steve Jobs?–– and even ignorant institutional cooks––they set the traps. Lots of luck with the great escape from the debilitating lifestyles that smother us.

No reason to go full bore vegan tomorrow morning. That can't work if you live in a family or setting with holdouts. Little escapes, maybe only temporary and personal, are possible for people who bother to take a step in the direction of sanity, then another little effort and another, bit by bit, until one is no longer able to tilt towards anything.

I've read an author recently who advocated something along that line. It wasn't Emerson but a later author who also believed in the possibility of transcendence. What was important to him was that we set a better course in a new direction. Even if we never get far, never reach the ultimate goal, the best we can do is to stay on course in the most noble direction open to us.

On the other hand, to surrender or make peace with impenetrable stupidity, in this author's view, was not the way to achieve all, or even a small percentage, of that transcendence that humanity is capable of. And he had a high regard for human potential. Be at peace with your little steps, Pearl, hemmed in and seemingly ineffective, just so long as you set your course in a good direction. I'll try to follow.

4Runner said...

If you're thinking about eliminating the flesh of dead animals from your menu, consider also the products from live cows and goats. Which is to say milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, etc. The healthier food stores---hopefully there's one in your neighborhood---offer alternatives. The most common is soy milk, but if you're allergic there are also dairy-like substitutes such as almond and pecan milk (easily made at home with a blender) plus yogurt and cheese made from these nuts. Also try coconut milk ice cream. Trust me, there's nothing that needs be ascetic or austere about a plant-based diet.

Valerie said...

Yep, It is time to cut way back on meat and dairy. The more I know, the scarier it all becomes. But what does the World Health Organisation know? They better be careful - we all know how Doctors Without Borders ended up after publicly going up against the TPP.

Kat said...

on salt:

I believe the compelling reason to quit eating or at least cut down on meat consumption is that it involves taking the life of sentient being, and even worse condemning them to a short life of brutality. The case for meat eating becomes increasingly untenable as we learn more and more about the minds of animals.
The lifetime risk for getting colorectal cancer is 5% (one of the most common types). If it were to increase 18%, the lifetime risk would be 5.9%-- nothing to sneeze at, but lets get a grip. I guess this will be one of those things where the oh so healthy get to accuse someone of causing their illness.