LIFESTYLE | FOOD

The scourge of vegetarianism

Nicole Doughty

Many vegetarians eat meatless diets for ethical, moral and health reasons, but as NICOLE DOUGHTY points out, being a meat eater is not a bad thing.

BurgerAs a half-Filipino, growing up in a household where every other meal included pork, chicken, or fish, I’m confused as to why anyone would willingly deny themselves the goodness that is meat.

Meat is real protein. It’s real sustenance. If you ask any anthropologist, it’s pretty obvious that we have meat to thank for the fact that we rule the planet today, instead of dragging our knuckles along the ground with our fellow primates (see article Meat-eating was essential for human evolution, says UC Berkeley anthropologist specializing in diet). Meat is even more important for babies, who need it for growth and brain development. So if you’re a strict vegetarian, as many are choosing to be these days, you are not ignoring evolution, you’re possibly harming your babies. Face it: we didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat a soy loaf with a side of rice crackers for dinner.

If evolutionary theory doesn’t convince vegetarians then there is the fact that a meatless diet has some very real cons. Sure, it may sound nice to reassure yourself that you don’t have rotting animal carcass simmering in your stomach juices, but the fact of the matter is that not all vegetarians are health-conscious, well-informed nutritionists. Nine times out of 10, poor meal planning or just a lack of time leads to vegetarians missing out on omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, calcium and iron. Cutting through all the boring stuff, these nutrients – which are common in a meat-eating diet – are known to help make DNA, personality disorders, transporting oxygen, strengthening your bones, and producing and maintaining cells (see article Benefits of eating meat). At this point many vegetarians will cry out, claiming that their iron/oxygen/lame levels are higher than when they ate meat. This is unfortunately not the case for the majority of vegetarians and vegans who regularly suffer from a lack of these nutrients and associated health problems.

Now, one of the reasons many people become vegetarians is because they’re concerned about animal welfare. This is a fair enough point … to an extent. You see, sanctimoniously referring to chickens bred for food to the holocaust (yes, someone actually said this to me once as I was eating a chicken burger), or talking about the cruelty of a cow being killed to make mincemeat, not only turns meat-eaters off totally from ever talking to you, it makes you look like an idiot. Yes, keeping pigs in cages where they can barely move is cruel. Yes, clipping off chickens’ beaks is cruel. But my problem with the smug “we are pro-animal rights, you are a kitten-squasher” PETA-style of thinking, is that those same people who proclaim that killing animals is cruel would not hesitate to stamp on a cockroach, swat a fly or squish an ant. Where do you draw the line, people? Does the ‘living beings should not be killed merely for human satisfaction’ rule only extend to creatures that you find cute? Spiders have mothers too, you know.

Finally, and for me what is the most important point: meat is delicious. Think of all the classic, home-style, heart-warming comfort foods that always make you feel better – chicken adobo, beef caldereta, pork sinigang. Notice there was no ‘steamed tofu pancit’ or ‘black beans with green beans and more beans plus a steamed carrot’ on that list. This is because vegetarian food is incredibly hard to make interesting, and dining out as a vegetarian is difficult – just ask my friend who recently had to make do with a tasty meal of vegie-balls while the rest of us had salmon and steak at a university function. While vegetarian food may not in itself be bland, it generally lacks the flavour and satisfaction of a meat dish.

So for those people who think they’re doing the world a huge favour by not eating meat (I doubt many are Filipinos, given our cuisine) please get over yourselves. Meat-eating played a fundamental role in shaping human evolution and making us what we are today. It keeps us healthy, and most of all, it’s incredibly tasty.

Homer Simpson said it best when he reminded Lisa, “All normal people love meat … you don’t win friends with salad.”

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