There are a number of vegans and vegetarians here at Seeing Red, as well as a bunch of us who also love meat. But not the idea of meat eating and the meat industry pushed by Pete Ricketts, which is just embarrassing.
It’s embarrassing because he packs so many lies about meat eating into his proud proclamations that it’s like watching someone stuff a blood sausage. Then he shrugs with disinterest when someone asks about the infection rates or vaccination progress among the workers who process all of that glorious Nebraska meat. Having a billionaire daddy means you can afford not to care about the people who produce your 3 oz of beef. It’s a vicious elitism with a long history that is embedded in the very words we use to talk about animals and meat: the English word “beef” comes from the French language, the language of the people who conquered England in 1066. The English word “cow” comes from Anglo-Saxon, the language of the conquered. It’s clear who was caring for and butchering the animals, and who only encountered it after it appeared cooked and seasoned on their plates.
We need to confront facts when we are choosing how to feed ourselves and our families or how to plan for the future of Nebraska and its place in the world. Facing these facts doesn’t mean we all need to turn vegan overnight (although that would solve a lot of problems!). But it does mean we need to have an adult conversation about what we’re doing to ourselves, our state, and our planet. Unfortunately, it’s clear our governor is not interested in having an honest conversation. A real leader wouldn’t lie to us. A leader who cared wouldn’t keep driving us faster and faster towards the edge of the cliff. A real leader would start a discussion about finding a responsible path for Nebraska’s future, one that protects our economy and traditions, and helps us prepare for an increasing number of natural disasters. A real leader would talk about how to preserve the things many people love about eating meat while acknowledging the approaching cliff and taking steps to turn us away from its edge.
Instead we get this propaganda from the governor:
- “Meat is healthy”. Define “healthy.” The World Health Organization recently classified processed meat and meat as Class 1 and 2 carcinogens. To put that in perspective, smoking is also a Class 1 carcinogen. And that’s just cancer. As one Harvard doctor put it, “It is well known that besides increasing the risk of some cancers, high red and processed meat intake can also increase risk of other chronic and potentially life-threatening diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes”. Look, if you’re starving, meat will provide calories—that’s health-promoting in that case. If you’re suffering a severe B12 deficiency, meat can help with that too (or you can just take a supplement). If your feet are swelling and your teeth are falling out from a protein deficiency—known as Kwashiorkor—by all means, down some meat as fast as you can, because it will improve your health. But if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, then eating a ton of meat (more than a few ounces per week) is only going to make your health worse.
- If you don’t eat “3 ounces of meat” then you’ll have to eat “3 cups of quinoa” to get the proper amount of protein. Putting aside the point that eating 3 cups of quinoa rather than a slab of beef will help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and increase your insulin sensitivity if you’re a Type II diabetic, do you really need that much protein? Actually, no. If you need a basic measure of how well America is doing in its protein intake ask yourself how many people you know with Kwashiokor versus heart disease or diabetics (which are linked to consuming an excess of animal-derived protein) and you have your answer. You may not realize it, but most foods have some protein, some fat, and some carbs in them. So yeah, an ounce of sirloin steak has 8.5 grams of protein, but an ounce of peanut butter has 6.3 grams of protein in it. If you thought of your steak as providing you with “protein” but not your PB&J, you’d be wrong. The fact that all those vegans out there haven’t shriveled up and died might also give you a clue about how it’s possible (and in fact easier) to stay healthy and strong without eating any meat at all. Guys, if you’re worried about muscle, you might take comfort that one of the strongest men in the world, Patrik Baboumian, is a vegan. He notes that many of the strongest animals in the world– gorillas, elephants, buffalos, etc.–are plant eaters.
- Meat eating “is great for our food security”. Meat eating is terrible for global food security for the simple reason that cropland devoted to feeding a single cow could feed lots of human beings if we just cut out “the middle cow”. Here’s a simple graphic of how many human beings can be sustained on the same amount of arable land if the humans eat lots of meat versus if they eat a lot of plants.
Here’s the same info put another way: note how much agricultural land is used for raising livestock versus how many calories they provide for the world’s population. (Note the bottom bar regarding protein too.)
- Pete wouldn’t mention climate change, but we all (should) know that the massive flooding events, the polar vortexes, and severe droughts that Nebraska has experienced in the last decade are a result of increasing instability in our climate. Raising animals for meat is a significant driver of climate change, and as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted in their recent report “if more of the world’s population shifts toward plant-based diets and reduces their meat consumption, it could significantly boost the planet’s ability to fight climate change.” (Here’s a summary in Time Magazine. Or if you want it, the full report.)
All of this should make clear that we need to think clearly and creatively about the future of our state, in terms of the health of the population, the likely increase in natural disasters, and how we should envision our major economic drivers in upcoming decades. We can’t just keep speeding towards the edge of the cliff with our eyes closed, touting the awesomeness of hamburgers. Sorry, Pete, but I don’t want your meat. We deserve something better.