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Ariel Kaminer writes a weekly ethics column in the New York Times Magazine, which I often enjoy.  This week’s edition announces a new essay column for Times readers, inviting them to submit 600 words stating the strongest case for eating meat.  You know what that makes me want to do?  State my OWN case, which is now 37 years old.

The studies about red meat being bad for you have people genuflecting all over the country . . . as if this is something new?!?!  Honestly, I made a choice to eat less meat in 1975 BECAUSE I saw many studies indicating it is bad for you.

Muhammad Ali, who was a vegetarian when he won the title back from George Forman in 1975.  So much for the myth that one must eat meat in order to excel in athletics.

Then, I sometimes think about the story of the 4-H gal who raised her sheep with all the love and affection a child can give an animal.  She came home to find that her beloved was to be dinner, didn’t eat a thing that night, and never ate any meat again.

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        The studies about red meat being bad for you have people genuflecting all over the country . . . as if this is something new?!?!  Honestly, I made a choice to eat less meat in 1975 BECAUSE I saw many studies indicating it is bad for you.  Dick Gregory was one of my original nutrition mentors, and his book, Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat,”was my nutritional Bible starting out.  We know more now – Dick and I.
    Ariel Kaminer writes a weekly ethics column in the New York Times Magazine, which I often enjoy.  This week’s edition announces a new essay column for Times readers, inviting them to submit 600 words stating the strongest case for eating meat.  You know what that makes me want to do?  State my OWN case, which is now 37 years old.  Damn, I just gave away my age.
    At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I made a decision to eat less red meat because I read that it slows down the digestive process, metabolism and mind-body performance. I was playing basketball and running track at Rhodes College, a Division III school, and felt like this would help me perform better.  I didn’t decide to become a vegetarian, but rather to cut out all pork, cold cuts, junk meats, burgers and other abominations.  I would still eat a good steak once a week.  As November wore into December, I was eating less and less of the steak and just lost my appetite for it.  It began to feel heavy and taste dirty.  Over the next several months, I cut out chicken & poultry in the same manner.  I didn’t plan to stop eating fish, but a series of bad meals and limited choices took care of that.  Plus, I moved to Michigan in 1978 at the height of the Great Lakes fishing ban.  Mercury, lead and arsenic were showing up at alarming rates in fatty fish, and it was prohibited as food.
    Higher development of uric acid as a consequence of heavy meat-eating has been well-documented for decades.  Hello gout, arthritis & rheumatism.  Studies also show that uric acid build-up increases the likelihood of a variety of cancers.  
    Heavy red meat never fully digests in the human body.  Residual fat and chemicals from the animal husbandry process lingers for decades, if not a lifetime.  Why?  Because the human body is not designed to digest meat, and does a very poor job of it.  When compared to others in the animal kingdom, the human body more closely resembles the anatomy and digestive system of the apes, who are natural vegetarians.  Big cats and other natural carnivores have very short digestive tracts, with powerful enzymes for breaking down the meat and tissues, which humans do not have.  People have elongated digestive tracts, similar to the apes.
    Though Dick Gregory was my primary mentor, I also took great inspiration from Muhammad Ali, who was a vegetarian when he won the title back from George Forman in 1975.  So much for the myth that one must eat meat in order to excel in athletics.  Training tables in the NBA, NFL and NCAA also reflect this common acquiescence to common knowledge.  MLB players, on the other hand, have no sense of good nutrition, body chemistry or right & wrong, so they’re nobody’s example to follow.  Muhammad noted in both a Playboy and broadcast interview, “Since I quit meat, I sleep better, I rest better, I perform better, I feel lighter . . .”  THAT was all the positive reinforcement I have ever needed for this lifestyle I have chosen.
    So, my reasons are selfish, aside from the big picture of the world’s ecology.  Twenty pounds of grain to make one pound of meat?  Well documented?  Eating all the unhuman chemicals and hormones injected into the animals at feed lots?  Don’t need it.  Overconsumption of water and other scarce resources to maintain a feedlot?  Check.  The unconscionable cruelty of herding animals for slaughter, subjecting them to the cries and smells of death right before its their turn?  Please no.
    Then, I sometimes think about the story of the 4-H gal who raised her sheep with all the love and affection a child can give an animal.  She came home to find that her beloved was to be dinner, didn’t eat a thing that night, and never ate any meat again.
    Well, I exceeded my allotted 600 words, but no apologies!

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to H Scott Prosterman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM PDT.

Also republished by Meatless Advocates Meetup.

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