HEALTHY LIVING — vegan diet benefits and risks
Why Adopt the Vegetarian Diet in 2020?
Animals, like humans, continuously eliminate waste products from their tissues and cells to the surrounding blood. This natural process comes to an abrupt halt when the animal is slaughtered; the waste material then present remains intact, and we ingest it when eating its flesh.
You might say that our bodies’ various organs of elimination—lungs, bladder, kidneys, sweat glands, and liver—should be adept at disposing of such wastes, but do you really want to add to their workload, which is already consumed with ridding our bodies of worn-out cells and the by-products of digestion? Asking them to take on the additional task of dealing with animal wastes is hazardous at best.
Our organs may well respond, if overloaded, by developing any of several degenerative diseases.20 I talked earlier about the dangers of meat staying for too long in the digestive tract; it begins to putrefy, which can cause noxious gas, headache, and lethargy, among other symptoms.
However, I neglected to mention that meat can also be putrefy outside before we even consume it. Unlike fruits and vegetables, the meat starts to degrade the moment the animal dies and continues to degenerate during processing, packaging, and transportation to the market or butcher. After slaughter, a steer is sectioned and moved into cold storage.
Some cuts may then be aged for a time to increase tenderness. The meat may be stored in a warehouse before finally being sent to a butcher or supermarket for packaging.
Of course, when it is refrigerated degeneration is slowed, but for parts of its processing time, it is not kept cool.
It is important to note that for any of the time that the meat was left out of refrigeration, the bacteria were proliferating like mad. Each gram of sausage stored at room temperature for 20 hours has its live bacteria count increase by 70 million, each gram of beef by 650 million, and each gram of smoked ham by a whopping 700 million.21 While no one would, except by accident, let the meat sit out for such a long time, you really can’t be sure how the meat was handled before you bought it. If you are a meat consumer, you are unlikely to leave meat sitting out for extended periods but you may well reheat the food one or more times.
Then, once the leftovers are set aside, the spores germinate and grow. The new bacteria may be strong enough to survive second heating.
The Michigan State University Department of Human Ecology came out with a warning against the practice, noting that reheated food could contain the toxins of bacteria previously in the food, and it warns that though the bacteria may have been killed by the original cooking, the toxins might still be present.22 And even worse, some bacteria form spores that are not killed by cooking.
Moreover, even if new bacteria do not grow, the toxins they release may stay around to inflict damage. Dr. Al B. Wagner, Jr., of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, backs this notion by saying of certain bacteria, that “although cooking destroys the bacteria, the toxin produced is heat stable and may not be destroyed.”23 A February 2008 article in Science Daily News details the debilitating effects of bacterial toxins that may be left in meats after the bacteria are killed.
They can shut down the body’s immune response by affecting a cell mechanism essential to attacking threats such as viruses and bacteria.24 In other words, they are what in military terms used to be called “sappers,” soldiers who undermined the walls of the fortress so the enemy (bacteria) would find it easy to invade when they came on the scene. I’m not saying, by the way, that the toxins in reheated meat wouldn’t also be in the meat (if it contained bacteria) the first time around—that is, when it is first cooked.
They certainly would be. In any case, this whole issue of remaining toxins is not one that seems to have been learned by agribusiness directors, who think nothing of taking bacterially contaminated meat and cooking it in order to “purify” it, as has been the practice of companies looking to cut their losses from sick slaughterhouse cattle.25
A 2002 Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service article describes how ConAgra Foods was planning to recycle beef contaminated with E. coli into cooked canned foods for either human consumption—such as chili, beef ravioli or meat spaghetti sauce—or for pet consumption. The article reports:
Consumers might buy a meal containing recalled meat [and this is perfect] legal—and wholesome—according to the US Department of Agriculture. The federal agency must OK the company’s plans for recalled meat. [But this is hardly unusual in that,] cooking recalled meat is common practice in the food industry.
“I think we can say any product that is cooked per the guidelines established by the USDA and recommended by the Colorado Department of Health is perfectly safe for human consumption and to indicate otherwise is irresponsible,” ConAgra spokesman Jim Herlihy said.26 Even though the USDA seems to find this procedure safe when done by meat companies, on the USDA’s own website, they take time to warn consumers, not meatpackers, that “if raw products are left out at warmer temperatures, pathogens can produce a heat-stable toxin that might not be destroyed by cooking.”27 Given what to most will seem like a reckless procedure in terms of meat safety— all to save a few bucks—by selling meat that is known to be contaminated, you can now see why I have little confidence in the meat industry.
After mulling over these latest findings, I have even less. Would you knowingly eat meat, or any food for that matter, that was recalled for containing E.coli or other harmful bacteria? Of course not. But big food companies have decided that it’s okay for you, and they’ve got the FDA’s blessing.
More than the dangers that face us through the ingestion of these animal products is an even greater danger—our inaction toward a healthier vegetarian lifestyle that does not include a diet of animal products. How is it that we can stand by—when we know the suffering of these innocent, sentient creatures—and allow this insanity to continue? Have we lost all connection to our humanity and our sensibilities?
It appears so, as many can still seemingly justify this means to an end. Yes, there are very practical health reasons for putting an end to factory farming as we know it today, but there are even more compelling reasons for putting an end to the human behavior that is causing suffering—not just in these animals—but to ourselves. In truth, we cannot be truly healthy when we are actively engaged and participating in the suffering of others—be it animals or humans.Find out more about veganism and how to live a vegan lifestyle in Dr. Gary Null's book!