Jonathan Safran Foer looks at our dining habits, insatiable appetites and the cultural meaning of food. He explores the ethical, environmental and health risks behind commercial fishing and factory farming and discusses his journey from carnivore to vegetarian.
Hear from the man that actress Natalie Portman claims changed her from a "20-year vegetarian to a vegan activist."
Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan Safran Foer made his fiction début in The New Yorker in 2001, with "The Very Rigid Search," which was part of his first novel, "Everything Is Illuminated." His other books include the novel "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" and "Eating Animals," about the ethics of eating meat. In March, he and Nathan Englander published "New American Haggadah."
Raj Patel holds a doctorate in Sociology from Cornell University and has worked at the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and the United Nations.
He is a writer and activist concerned with land reform politics, development studies, and food sovereignty. He authored Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. His most recent book, The Value of Nothing, was on The New York Times best-seller list during February 2010.
Theory or practice of eating only plants. The vegetarian diet includes grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts; it excludes meat, poultry, and fish, but some vegetarians eat dairy products (lactovegetarians), egg products (ovovegetarians), or both (ovolactovegetarians). Those who eat no animal products (including honey) are called vegans. Motivations vary and include ethics (both unwillingness to kill animals and abhorrence of modern methods of raising animals for meat), self-denial or religious taboo, ecology (including concern about the wastefulness and environmental costs of beef farming), and health. Vegetarians point to the many health benefits of their diet, including low rates of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity. While obtaining sufficient protein is seldom a problem in affluent societies, vegetarians must be careful to consume enough iron and, especially for vegans, calcium and vitamins D and B12. The most influential early proponent of vegetarianism was Pythagoras, in the 6th century BC. Many Hindu sects and most Buddhists are vegetarian, and much of the world eats hardly any meat because it is unavailable. The Enlightenment led to a humane concern for animals; in the 19th century Britain became a major centre of vegetarianism, and vegetarian movements soon arose in Germany, the U.S., and other countries.
Since I live in an area that produces a lot of tasty animals, I have seen very little of cruelty. I have seen on the news programs stories about crowded conditions in some growing operations. Most of the animals in this area are free range, which means that they grow larger, have less confinement illnesses, and are allowed to grow a little longer before processing. I will also agree that people eat too much high density protein, whatever its source, animal or vegetable. The main driver of this overeating is the low cost of food. Which is driven by the increase in productivity by the American farmer to produce by the most efficient methods possible. Another driver is the Socialists provisions to feed and house the so called poor, which costs all citizens on ever large percentage of there production. I also agree that the evolution of Homo Sapiens was driven by our use of protein as a food source.
Stop me if I am wrong, and no, I am not going to dig up the links to the studies, but I am pretty sure that studies have yet to show life expectancy of vegetarian diets to be greater than 3.5 to 5 years above normal. I will agree that it does seem to decrease disease rates prior to 60 by substantial amounts, but those benefit decrease sharply after that age. However, I would guess and some studies suggest that those who are more likely to watch their diet are also likely to make healthier choices in other areas concerning healthy living. Anthropologically speaking, there has been a link between our ancestors beginning to eat calorie dense foods and the evolution of bigger brains. The two theories are that learning to cook liberated more calories in existing foods and the other theory suggest it was the addition of meat to the diets that fueled that evolutionary leap.
Now, the manor we keep our livestock in commercial facilities is just cruel but it has come to that because people are either uneducated or are willing to look the other way if it saves them a dollar.
Micheal Pollan quoted someone saying "food science today is where surgery was in the 1700's: very interesting to watch, but not quite to the point where I'm willing to get on the table" If I recall correctly, that person was a nutritionist.
Well then let us look at the science. Food science is in its complete infancy right now. Any nutritionist, dietitian or gastroenterologist will admit this without blinking. We DO understand how some things work in the body under certain circumstances, in certain people, in certain regions (Vitamin A effects night blindness, carbs are used as energy before fat etc). However, what we are only beginning to even look at, are long term health effects of our diets. For instance, it has only been discovered why Asians are lactose intolerant 2 years ago vs while Caucasians and blacks tend not to be. If the understanding of our eating of every single molecule was represented as A-B-C-D-E-F, we only currently know enough to claim knowledge over A-B or D-E, certainly not the entire thing.
When a person is unable to eat in a hospital (coma, can't swallow, aspiration risk) we often give them something called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). TPN is the absolute best we can do right now with the science that is available to give a person the ideal diet. The effects of TPN are so variable, that we have to blood test patients and alter the nutrition daily in order to stop what can sometimes be lethal levels of micro nutrients and even simple lipids. This phenomenon rarely occurs with patients who have the same disease process, but can eat normally. That there is the best our science can currently do under almost ideal situations. If you want the facts, then the fact is that our food science is currently developing too rapidly to discuss much, because the moment you set a standard, the paradigm has already shifted, and you are outdated. Food pyramids ringing any bells?
So, because the science still needs time to catch up, what we have to do in the meantime is look at the world around us for our answers. We can look at healthy cultures and see what they are eating. We can look at healthy individuals within unhealthy cultures and see what they are eating. Also, lifestyle plays a huge role in all of this and is yet another x factor hurdle for a theory of all things eating to jump.
As far as protein, yes, grain protein can be as bad as animal protein if the amino acid chains from both were taken and isolated and given to a person. However, this just simply isn't how it happens. Things that accompany meats tend to be less healthy (fatty tissue, connective tissue) and many of the other parts have increased nitrogen, which means ammonia in our blood, which (again) wreaks havoc on the liver and kidneys. Also, that fat that comes with meat? makes a layer over time on blood vessel walls causing poor perfusion, and over time can lead to low perfusion of the internal organs, making it harder and harder to process proteins. Grains can do this, but more often than not, the disease process would come prior to the grain protein leading to those problems (diabetics are a glaring exception, they tend to have perfusion problems, which is why you hear about them losing toes and limbs.) The things grains come with are sugar and water mostly. The partners grains bring a long over time can make you fat, but doesn't do as much to line arterial walls as meat.
Also, please don't misunderstand me, I LOVE science, it can have my baby. I'm a stone cold atheist, and in debates with friends, they like to point out that science doesn't have all the answers. I only have to point out that science doesn't claim to have all the answers, but it does have the best way of getting them. I just think our food science needs time to catch up. So for the time being, we have to make like astronomy and lead a mostly observational science and view the world and cultures around us to see what works. Thanks.
"I don't think" is not science! Why not look at the science and discuss the evidence? What you think reminds me of much of what passes for science and a "REAL" talk about matters of fact. If you like strawberry or coffee then that is a matter of taste or what you prefer. You are entittled to an opinion and to opine but some things are a matter of fact and some things have evidence to support or refute the matter at hand.
Science not bleeding hearts or opinion may do more for human health than all the Veggie wishing in the world. The facts Ma'am just the facts! If grain protein kills just like cow protein then let the chips or pie fall where they will.
I think if people just manage to eat a normal human diet, they'll be okay. People tend to eat [I]way[I]to much meat right now in the U.S.. I'm not a full on vegetarian, but I haven't purchased meat in months, just because there really isn't any need. I get all the protein I need from REAL breads made at home, beans and all sorts of other things. I don't think that you will see a drop in heart disease so much from a lower protein diet though, there are several highly more relevant factors leading cardiomyopathy than high protein (exercise, genetics, BMI, smoking, alcohol, birth control, hormone replacement therapy all stand in line before protein, but protein can wreak havoc on kidneys and liver, leading to high levels of Nitrogen in the blood.)
I can't wait for the day when people eat meat reasonably, say maybe once a day and a small serving. It will be better for our health, economy, society and environment.
Why just talk about animal protein?
For those older people limiting all protein to about 6 percent may increase lifespan and reduce or eliiminate heart disease and other cronic illnesses leading to morbidity and mortality.
Grain can kill just as much as red meat. Soy protein can kill just as a high protein diet can kill.
Get the facts. Demand more life, more studies, and longer life with reduced medical costs. Older people should eat less protein!
If it is true for insects then how long before proof in humans?
Macronutrient balance and lifespan