Meat is no treat:
The hazards of eating animal flesh
The health hazards of eating meat are legion. For example,
world health statistics consistently show short life expectancies
among heavy flesh-eating peoples. Eskimos, Laplanders, Greenlanders,
and Russian Kurgis
During World War I a land and sea blockade of Denmark forced that country to adopt a 1-year rationing program that virtually eliminated meat from the diet of its people. To the amazement of the authorities, statistics at the end of the year showed improved health and mortality rate lowered 17 per cent. Norway’s similar rationing program in World War II yielded the same results, with a drop in deaths from circulatory diseases in particular. Significantly, the mortality rates of both countries rebounded to pre-war levels after the rationing programs had ended and meat had been reinstated in the diet.
Cancer is probably the disease most often correlated in scientific studies with a high meat diet. Reporting on cancer of the colon in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Drs Bandaru Reddy and Ernest Wynder stated, Populations in high risk areas consume diets high in animal protein and fat; people in low risk areas eat food low in such components but high in vegetable protein and fiber. Dr john w berg wrote in the wall street journal (Oct. 25, 1973): There is now substantial evidence that beef consumption is a key factor in determining bowel cancer.
Meat, with its high content of saturated fat or cholesterol, is considered by many researchers as the leading cause of heart disease. Studies have found lower levels of both cholesterol and blood pressure in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians. The journal of the American Medical Association has reported, “…a vegetarian diet can prevent 90 per cent of our thrombi-embolic disease and 94 per cent of our coronary occlusions.”
Meat consumption has been widely implicated as contributing not only to the chronic and the degenerative diseases, but to acute diseases and infections as well. Why? First of all, slaughter terminates the normal cleansing functions of the body and leaves the animal saturated with its own waste substances. The Encyclopaedia Britannica touches briefly on some of these “extras” available to the meat eater: Toxic Wastes, including uric acid, are present in the blood and tissue, as also are dead and virulent bacteria, not only from the putrefactory process, but from animal diseases, such as hoof and mouth disease, contagious abortion, swine fever, malignant tumors, etc. The uric acid deposits in the muscle fibers of meats are too much for ones kidneys and liver to eliminate in addition to the bodies own daily production of uric acid, and the excess can cause gout, rheumatism, headache, epilepsy, hardening of the arteries and nervousness. Uric acid that has become putrefied produces an effect similar to caffeine, so that a higher level of restlessness, anxiety, and aggressiveness is usually the result of eating meat over a long time. Uric acid putrefaction also causes body odor.
Slaughter also initiates the rapid process of decomposition, putting the meat packers, transporters, and retailers in a race all too often lost to spoilage. Meat putrefies more readily than any other food, since animal flesh is dead matter, and unless refrigerated or preserved it decays immediately. Frankfurters, hamburgers, and other ground meats are particularly susceptible to putrefaction for the reason that grinding breaks down tissues and releases cell fluids that provide a hospitable breeding ground for bacteria. Consumer reports stated in an August 1971, survey of hamburger that 20 per cent of the 126 ready-ground samples it analyzed had begun to spoil. In its study of frankfurters, released in February 1972, the same was reported of more than 40 per cent of the samples.
But long before putrefaction and bodily waste deposits can do their damage the artificial poisoning of meat begins. In 1979 the General Accounting Office (the congressional audit agency) issued a report of a study showing that “Of the 143 drugs and pesticides GAO identified as likely to leave residues in raw poultry and meat, 42 are suspected of causing cancer, 20 of causing birth defects, and 6 of causing mutations. The chain of burgeoning toxicity begins in the fields of grain, which are full of artificial pesticides and fertilizers that when transferred through the food chain can acquire deadly potency. Frances \lappe in her acclaimed Diet for a small planet elaborates as follows: thus, as big fish eat smaller fish, or as cows eat grass (or feed), whatever pesticides they eat are largely retained and passed on. So if man is eating at the “top” of such food chains, he becomes the final consumer and thus the recipient of the highest concentration of pesticide residues.
Although in the United States the use of DDT in pesticides has now been banned, in Mexico it is still legal, so that livestock imported from there may have been fattened on feed laced with it. Since DDT accumulates in an animal for the 15 months or so it is being raised, it is estimated that DDT infected meat contains thirteen times the concentration of DDT found in similarly tainted vegetables, fruits, and grains.
Diethylstilboestrol (Des, or stilboestrol), a powerful synthetic sex hormone which when mixed into feed or implanted directly stimulates growth while decreasing food consumption, was finally declared illegal in the us (after thirty six other countries had done so) in 1979 because of strong evidence linking it to cancer and sterility in humans. Yet almost a year after its ban, a far reaching investigation by the us food and drug administration (da) and us agriculture department revealed that as many as 200,000 head of cattle were involved in nation wide illegal Des operations. Furthermore, the drug is still legally used on livestock from Mexico that are subsequently shipped into the us.
Even with Des having fallen from grace, livestock breeders in this country face no shortage of growth-promoting chemicals for their herds. Those now used include melengestrol acetate (mga, which provides a 6 per cent weight gain over Des), zeranol, progesterone, testosterone propionate, furazolidone, 3 nitro 4 hydroxyphenyl arsenic acid, sodium arsanilate, and tylosin phospate. Arsenic, another notorious carcinogen, is stirred into the feed of meat animals in the form of arsenic compounds, used again as growth stimulants. It is also the main component of chemical solutions into which cattle are “dipped” to rid them of mites, ticks, and other parasites.
Currently it is antibiotics that are generating more widespread concern than any other additive used in the meat industry. According to the office of technology assessment (the scientific research arm of congress), almost all livestock in the us receive, in addition to antibiotics given therapeutically and regular vaccinations, some kind of antibiotics in their feed on a continual basis. Why? Partly because livestock breeders discovered decades ago that supplementing feed with low, subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics inexplicably improves weight gain and feed efficiency in farm animals and also because breeders contend that keeping animals on a continuous supply of antibiotics is cheaper than maintaining a certain level of sanitation in the environment. This steady diet of antibiotics eliminates the bacteria still sensitive to them, which are normally in the vast majority, while the resistant bacteria multiply and, say a growing number of scientists, eventually reach the human population through the food chain as well as by contact with farm animals and the environment.
Meanwhile, antibiotic resistant organisms in humans are proliferating worldwide at an alarming rate. According to a 1980 report, in the 1960’s and 70’s thousands of hospitalised Americans died because of antibiotic resistance. Strains of gonorrhoea, pneumonia, infantile meningitis, typhoid, and salmonella (food poisoning) all are growing more stubbornly resistant to penicillin and tetracycline – significantly, the two antibiotics most popularly used both in human therapy and animal feed.
Other countries have responded to this growing threat. In 1971 Britain proscribed the supplementing of animal feed with antibiotics that are used in the treatment of human disease, a ban supported by the world health organisation and later joined in similar measure by Holland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Scandinavian countries. In the United States increasing numbers of scientists, government task forces, and the FDA itself struggle in vain against the pharmaceutical industry to enact similar legislation. Meanwhile doctors switch to more toxic, less efficient drugs in order to bring these resurgent diseases under control.
Despite the proliferate use of antibiotics by livestock breeders, a disturbing incidence of cancer and other diseases among animals raised for slaughter continues. According to the meat handbook, there are over seventy known animal diseases that can be transmitted to man. One government report stated that over 90 per cent of chicken from most of the flocks in this country and abroad are infected with leukosis, or chicken cancer, the poultry processing industry has been listed by the Bureau of Labor as one of the most hazardous occupations due to the dangers of contracting diseases More over, leukoss usually occurs in carrier form, without tumours large enough to be spotted by even the most conscientious inspector. And what if cancers or other signs of disease are visible to inspectors? Often, if not usually, the growth is simply cut out and the rest of the carcass that nurtured the malignancy or disease sent through. The Washington post reported on February 10, 1970, that more than 10 per cent of the 30.1 million cattle carcasses approved by federal inspectors underwent some post mortem whittling for removal of offending parts. Still, consumers can be grateful when even part of a diseased animal is rejected, for it is not uncommon for carcasses to pass before a meat inspector at the rate of up to 11,000 an hour.
It is also widely acknowledged by experts that livestock breeders will often rush diseased animals to slaughter to avoid having them die first from sickness. The slaughterhouse is the salvation of the farmer, reports Dr Richard Walden, an MD and veterinarian who worked as a meat inspector. When he is losing his animals to disease he just ships them off to market and hopes they are accepted One of the first suggestions a vet is supposed to make is, “Ship it to market”. Since of course no blood studies or other laboratory analyses are required before slaughter, diseases not advanced enough to manifest themselves outwardly go undetected – and straight to the supermarket.
Still more poisons go into animals destined for slaughter: tranquillisers such as promazine, reserpine, and zinc bacitracin to enhance their appetites (often they are force-fed) or to increase their milk production through activating the hypothalamus; enzymes that accelerate the “aging” process of the meat of the slaughtered animal; and, just prior to slaughter, sodium pentobarbital, an anaesthetic, to delay colour changes in their muscles and retain the redness of fresh meat.
After slaughter comes the problem of retarding the decay and putrefaction process. To preserve sandwich and luncheon meats, meat packers utilise sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, which carry the cosmetic bonus of rendering meat a freshlooking pink. Sodium nitrite has been shown to combine with chemicals in the human body to form cancer-producing substances called nitrosamines and to deprive the haemoglobin of its oxygen carrying properties. Dr Charles Edwards, commissioner of the FDA, testified to a House Subcommittee in March 1971, that it can also be poisonous to small children, can deform the foetuses of pregnant women, and can severely harm anaemic persons.
Sodium sulfite, which destroys vitamin B, is yet another carcinogenic chemical commonly added to meat. It masks the door of spoiled meat and causes it to retain its “fresh” red colour no matter how old or rancid it is.
Finally, investigations of meat processing plants continue to yield horror stories of unsanitary conditions and corrupt and grossly inadequate inspection practices. Federal inspection required of only those 20 per cent of the country slaughterhouses, which sell meat across state lines, in theory demands higher standards than local and state inspection. Yet in 1968 a health inspector found seventy-five violations in a federally inspected New York kosher sausage plant, reporting:
The worn gears in the meat grinder were rusty and caked with bits of old fat and meat. Paint was scaling off the equipment and falling into the hot dog mixtures. Fresh meat was being stored in rusty tubs.
A steriliser required in Federal plants to contain 180-degree water for sterilisation of knives that are dropped on the floor was full of cold, greasy water. A dead roach floated in the scum of the water surface.
Evidence of rats was everywhere, even whee meat was being handled. And there was a Federal inspector on the premises.
Three years later consumer reports, in its August, 1971, article on hamburger, examined 250 one pound samples for wholesomeness, measuring the count of coliform bacteria, which usually indicates fecal contamination and the presence of disease causing organisms. Only 27 per cent of the samples passed their test, while 52 per cent had coliform counts higher than ten times their upper limit of wholesomeness.
In 1973 the New York Times obtained a copy of the latest meat plant survey by the us department of agricultures internal policing agency, the office of the inspector general, whose reports are rarely made public. The survey found “conditions that could endanger consumer health in 43 per cent of meat and poultry plants checked. Besides detailing many conditions, the report cited other widespread problems revealed in a study 3 years earlier that still persisted: inadequate supervision of meat import inspections, inadequate training and laxity among inspectors, conflicts of interest, neglect of duty, and falsification of records.
As one educates oneself to the slovenly inspection practices and filthy conditions of meat processing plants, as well as to the antibiotics, hormones, tranquillisers, pesticides, dyes, deodorants, radiation, preservatives, stabilisers, plastic residues, and other harmful substances contained in meat, not to mention its own bodily poisons, putrefactive properties, and diseases, one acquires an appreciation of the following story:
When a woman on a plane was served the vegetarian meal she had ordered she noticed that the man siting next to her had also ordered one. Turning to him she asked, “Pardon me, but are you a vegetarian too?”
“No”, he replied, “I’m a meat inspector.”