Veganism

Vegetarians are people who do not eat meat. Their diet consists mainly of plant foods but they will often consume animal products like milk, cheese, yoghurt and eggs. Some of them are pescatarians and they will include fish in their diet. Vegans take things a step further and exclude all animal foods. They only consume plant foods and some will also refuse to use any animal products like wearing leather shoes or belts. There has been a surge of interest in veganism in recent times. Reports in the media suggest that a vegan, or plant-based, diet is more healthy than an omnivore diet; it is kinder to animals and it is better for the environment. Are these claims true?

No, they are not true. An important aspect of this site is to demonstrate the benefits of animal-sourced foods for our physical and mental health and the necessity of correctly managed livestock for environmental health. An entirely plant-based diet leads to nutrient deficiencies, especially in children. The intensive farming of single plant crops involves herbicides and pesticides with devastating effects on biodiversity. Vastly more creatures die in the production of grains and vegetables than die for the meat on your plate. This section of the website concentrates on why the pro-vegan story is a fallacy.

How did veganism begin?

We evolved into the people we are because, for millions of years, our ancestors ate the meat and fat of large animals. Our species is the most dominant species on the planet and we have adapted to life in all the extreme climates that exist on Earth. Indigenous tribes, unaffected by modern life, still exist around the world from rainforests and deserts to the Arctic Circle. Their diets vary but none of them have adopted a meat-free, vegan diet.

The avoidance of animal-based foods began in America in the 1850s within an illogical, religious sect called the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I call them illogical because, although they believe that God created them, they believe that sexual arousal is a sin. (Surely, if God created us, God created arousal so we ‘would go forth and multiply’.) Their leader, Ellen White, also believed that eating rich foods, like meat, stimulated sinful passion and bland foods diminished it. She preached this doctrine with great determination and convinced everyone in the Seventh Day Adventist Church to accept this idea as part of their belief. (John Harvey Kellogg was a member of this church and you can read about him here.)

In Britain, veganism began with a man called Donald Watson who founded the Vegan Society in 1944. He is credited with coining the word ‘vegan’ which he created by joining the beginning and end of the word vegetarian. He was an animal rights campaigner whose interest in veganism began when he witnessed the slaughter of a pig on a farm. He campaigned for a meat free diet because he thought farming was cruel to animals.

A plant-based diet, without the animal foods that our ancestors ate for a million years, was invented in America to reduce sexual arousal and was copied in Britain because one man thought it was cruel to animals. In neither case did it have anything to do with improvements to human health or the environment. Both of those false ideas have been added later in a cynical attempt to persuade unsuspecting people to avoid the most nutritious foods available to us, namely meat, fish, eggs and dairy.

Save the planet from Experts

Many years ago, we were warned about the dangers of ‘global warming’. The name for this impending doom was later altered to ‘climate change’. Presumably, this was done so that whatever happened to the climate, our self-indulgent way of life could be blamed. The media have now started to ramp up the fear by referring to this concept as the ‘climate crisis’ or ‘climate emergency’. Daily fearmongering across mainstream media has shown that people can be persuaded to believe implausible ideas if they have already been made to feel sufficiently scared.

Outrageous notions are now coming thick and fast. Recently, we had the Cabinet Minister, Kwazi Kwarteng, telling us we must go vegan to ‘save the planet’. In the Times Magazine of April 24th, there is an article which attempts to rank foods by their greenhouse gas emissions. The piece is inspired by “one of Britain’s top scientists”, who has written a book about food and climate. The top scientist is a Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy. She has become a vegan because of what she believes to be the greenhouse gas emissions produced by livestock.

The headlines in the article included ‘Butter is five times worse for the environment than vegetable spread’ and ‘Eating a large steak is equivalent to driving a fossil-fuelled car for 40 miles’. My first thought was that if I drove 40 miles I would still be hungry, but if I ate a large steak I would be satiated and well-nourished. Sadly, the extraordinary level of misinformation in this is article is no laughing matter.

There are two major problems the Professor has failed to understand. The first one is basic biology and the second is the purpose of food.

1.The rhetoric goes along these lines: cows belch methane; methane is a greenhouse gas; we need to get rid of cows. People who push this idea insist we must stop eating meat because farm livestock are responsible for ‘emissions’ which are so huge they are heating the planet to dangerous levels. The thing none of them seem to grasp is that it is impossible for cows and sheep to emit greenhouse gases; they can only recycle some of them.

Cows and sheep only eat plants. A lot of people think plants grow out of the ground, but this is not strictly true: they are rooted in the ground and get water and minerals from the ground but they grow out of the air. Every carbon atom in the structure of a plant was taken out of the air, as carbon dioxide, during photosynthesis. When animals eat and then digest those carbon atoms to create their own structure, the process produces methane gas, as a byproduct, at a rate of about 5% of the food eaten. After a few years in the atmosphere that methane is converted to CO2 and the ‘carbon cycle’ continues, as it has for tens of millions of years.

When we drive a car 40 miles, we burn carbon-rich fuel, which has been stored underground for millions of years. Therefore, cars emit greenhouse gases which add to the total in the atmosphere whereas cattle recycle some, which does not add to the total. This basic difference seems to be totally ignored in reports on this subject.

We are often told that cattle farming is ‘unsustainable’. This, of course, depends on how it is done. When the settlers and farmers from Europe arrived on the plains of mid-west America, they found the most fertile soil they had ever seen and in places it was between six and ten feet deep. That soil existed because 75 million bison and deer had roamed the land, for thousands of years, eating the grass that grew there and leaving their ‘manure’ upon it, before moving on. This process involves a symbiotic relationship between ruminant animals, grassland plants and trillions of bacteria and fungi in the soil. Universities and farmers around the world have proved that regular movement of herds of livestock to fresh grass, in a way which mimics nature, increases carbon storage in the ground and simultaneously improves soil fertility. Wild herds of ruminants have been doing this for 50 million years; a timescale which suggests to me that it is ‘sustainable’.

One hundred years ago those American farmers were growing wheat on as much of that land as they could because wheat prices were high. They did so much ploughing and planting of a single crop, they turned those deep, fertile soils into what became known as the ‘dust bowl’. The grass, which had covered the prairies for a million years, was turned over; the fungal network was destroyed; the land dried out; and when a period of drought came, the soil was turned to dust and blown by the wind, across the country, as huge, dark clouds. Thousands of farmers were made bankrupt and there was an enormous exodus of people from the mid-west to California, in search of work. The US Government bought millions of acres of land and replanted it with the original prairie grass. History shows us that it is mono-crop arable farming which is unsustainable.

2. In the Times Magazine article the Professor listed a wide variety of foods and quoted the supposed emissions of each. Throughout the article, however, there is no mention of the nutritional value of any food, which is, surely, an essential factor in our diet. Suggesting that we should eat vegetable spread instead of butter, for example, ignores the fact that butter is a natural product with considerable quantities of vitamins A, B12, D, E and K2 and omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetable spread is a highly processed, unnatural food substitute usually made from sunflower oil. This oil contains high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which are known to increase inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and age-related macular degeneration.

Plant foods contain no vitamin B12. A deficiency of this essential nutrient can lead to brain atrophy in children, psychosis, hallucinations, weakness, unsteady gait, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, symptoms of depression and megaloblastic anaemia. Sadly, many people, like the Professor, are willing to risk the health consequences of a vegan diet because, somehow, they have been persuaded that the climate of this planet is controlled by the digestive system of cows. A far bigger problem, which is not being tackled, is the enormous burden of obesity, diabetes and all the related metabolic disorders suffered by millions. This health catastrophe is intricately linked to a diet containing too much processed, fake-food and not enough nutrient-dense real food, like butter and meat.

Guaranteed weight gain

The dietary guidelines, which the NHS want us all to follow, advise a high percentage of carbohydrate and a reduction in animal sourced fats. These excerpts, below, are taken directly from the NHS website.

We need to remember that all carbohydrates are broken down by digestion into sugar molecules, usually glucose. So the NHS recommends that over a third of your intake should consist of foods that your body regards as sugar. They also recommend that the natural animal fats which our ancestors have eaten for millennia should be replaced with vegetable oils.

Many decades ago a lot of people were thin and some were very thin. A product was developed and heavily advertised to help those people gain weight. Appropriately, it was called Wate-On. The adverts typically suggested to women that they would be more attractive to men if they gained some ‘female curves’ by adding a little subcutaneous fat.

The manufacturers were so confident that their product worked they offered a money back guarantee if you failed to gain weight after taking it.

What ingredients did Wate-On contain to ensure people taking it would increase their weight. There were some added vitamins to give the product a ‘healthy’ profile but the two main ingredients were sugar and maize oil. Maize oil is the same thing as Corn oil.

Putting more weight on is very rarely an objective for people nowadays because 65% of the UK population are overweight and more than 25% are obese. How did we become so heavy? We became so heavy because we have been following the NHS advice to consume the ingredients of Wate-On, sugar and corn oil.

Everybody in the UK loves the NHS. We have just given up a year of our freedoms to ‘save it’. Parts of the NHS do a wonderful job but their official dietary advice is a national scandal of out-dated misinformation. What they call the Eatwell Guide is nothing of the sort. It is the reason we have an obesity crisis and surging levels of type 2 diabetes. We would all be so much better off if we ignored what they say about food and ate the diet our ancestors ate.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is usually associated with good vision and especially night vision. As a child I was always told to 'eat my carrots so I could see in the dark'. While it is true that vitamin A is vital for vision, it also has a multitude of beneficial functions throughout the body. However, it is not true to list carrots as a source of this essential vitamin. The biologically active form of vitamin A is called retinol, because it is so prevalent in the retina of the eye. Carrots and other brightly coloured vegetables contain no vitamin A. They contain a pre-cursor to retinol known as carotene or beta-carotene, which has to be converted to the active form before it can do it's work. This conversion is never very efficient and quite difficult for some people. Genetic variations, too much fibre in the diet, a lack of bile salts and eating raw vegetables can all play their part in making the transition from carotene to retinol more difficult. Healthy individuals without these problems convert beta-carotene to retinol at a ration of about 6:1, which means they need to eat 6 molecules of beta-carotene to absorb one molecule of true vitamin A.

A study from Newcastle University on a group of women showed that 47% of them had a gene variant that made it difficult or impossible to convert beta-carotene into active vitamin A. It is easy, therefore, for some people to become deficient if they do not consume retinol in their food.

The only dietary sources of the active form of vitamin A are found in animal foods. Liver and eggs are the most abundant, (which is one of the reasons we have meal suggestions for these in our recipes section). Vitamin A gets very little attention compared to vitamins C and D, which is unfortunate because it is absolutely vital for our health and for the proper development of babies and children. It has such a profound effect on our health because it regu­lates the action of over five hundred genes in the body, which makes it a major controller of all of our cells and how they function.

Long before we knew what vitamin A is, ancient people from around the world were aware that eating liver could prevent or reverse blindness. The Egyptians described it at least 3500 years ago: Assyrian texts dating from 700 BC and Chinese medical writings from the 7th century AD both call for the use of liver in the treatment of night blindness. It has also been written about in 18th-century Russia and among the inhabitants of Newfoundland in 1929. 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates prescribed liver for blindness in malnourished children. Despite all this knowledge, vitamin A deficiency is still the leading cause of blindness in some parts of the world. It is extraordinary that all this ancient knowledge is ignored and the NHS recommends that pregnant mothers should avoid eating liver in case they consume toxic levels. (More about this later.)

Vitamin A helps to prevent us from becoming ill; it keeps our immune system from overreacting; it is necessary for growth and reproduction. We need vitamin A for building bones and teeth, and for the actions of our hormones. It is essential for the development of a foetus into a perfectly formed human baby. These are major roles, which are vitally important for our health.

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