Posts Tagged ‘vegetarianism’

Should we eat meat?

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 | Food, Health & Wellbeing


Last month Michael Mosley made a Horizon documentary on “should I eat meat?”.

The documentary started with a discussion similar to the one we recently held at Leeds Skeptics. The spoiler answer is yes. Meat is incredibly nutritious and often a centrepiece of family life. A non-meat diet can be very healthy (after all life-long vegetarian Lizzie Armitstead won an Olympic gold medal), but you do need to think a bit more about your nutrition. Meat makes it easy to get it.

The program dismissed white meat (chicken, poultry, fish) as not showing any signs of negative health effects, and so concentrated on red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meat (bacon, sausage, ham).

Red meat comes out somewhat negative. It could have some positive health effects, but overall it is a negative. We’re just not sure why. Originally it was thought to be saturated fats, but this does not seem to be the case.

Processed meats come out hugely negative. 35 grams per day could increase your risk of premature death by as much as 30%. While the Harvard study and European EPIC study disagree on red meat, they come together on the danger of processed meat.

So what should we conclude?

Cutting down on your meat is probably helpful. Processed meat should be cut out entirely; red meat should be eaten 1-2 times per week at most. Such a diet will not only extend lives by as much as five years on average but will increase the quality of life of those years as well.

Would you like me to change my gloves?

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 | Thoughts

I popped into Subway for lunch today and noticed they had a staff notice up in their baking area that asks “what as your position’s today?” I’m fairly sure there shouldn’t be an apostrophe in that.

Anyway, one of the people in front of me in the queue asked for a vegetarian sandwich and the artist asked her if she would like her to change her gloves. The customer said yes. But what is the point of all this?

For me, even as a vegetarian, I just don’t see the point in offering to change your gloves for vegetarian sandwiches. But maybe I’m missing the reason entirely, as I can only think of two reasons.

Firstly, it’s a principle issue. You don’t want gloves which have touched meat to touch your sandwich. But this is just stupid. You’re not advocating the slaughter of animals just because someone uses the same gloves to prepare your sandwich as they did to prepare someone else’s. Besides, where does it end? Why just change your gloves, why is it OK for the same person to prepare a vegetarian sandwich if they have previously been in contact with meat?

Secondly, it’s in case the sandwich then tastes of meat because the gloves have some kind of meat smell on them. This doesn’t make sense either though, because why would you just do it for vegetarian sandwiches? Someone ordering a chicken sandwich doesn’t want their sandwich to smell of meatballs for example.

Why then, does it matter if someone changes their gloves at Subway?

Why does meat taste so good?

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 | Science, Thoughts

I’m a vegetarian. And I think everyone should try it.

The problem is though, it’s very heard because steak tastes so good. So do ribs. So does chicken. And many, many other meat based foods. Meat tastes amazing!

So here is the question – if vegetables are so good for us, why don’t they taste amazing? Think about it from an evolutionary perspective – if you had a human who preferred eating food that was good for them, then they would prosper, so you would expect natural selection to lead us to humans that love vegetables because they are really good for us.

But we don’t have that, we live in a world where many people eat vegetables because they are good for us but enjoy eating meat far more.

This seems strange, much like the problem of natural selection and homosexuality, and much like that problem, I’m sure there is an answer to it.

My guess would be this – back when humans were evolving, there was a lot of plant life and vegetables to be eaten. Humans didn’t actually have to like them to eat loads of them because they were the most abundant food source and so people ate plenty of vegetables anyway, by default almost.

People do need a bit of meat though, or at least, did in those days, and that was much rarer and indeed, harder to get hold of. So it had to taste good to motivate humans to go out and hunt down animals for meat.

Of course, that could all be nonsense, that’s the best-educated guess I can come up with sitting here as a computer scientist with a casual interest in evolutionary biology and the combined knowledge of the first two chapters of Richard Dawkins’ Climbing Mount Improbable.

Another reason is that it could just be an accident of the way that the human taste sense has evolved and the texture of meat. Maybe someone who studies biology can enlighten us?

Why the future of animal welfare may depend on frankenfoods

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011 | Tech, Thoughts

I’ve recently re-read Ray Kurzweil “The Singularity is Near”, which is nothing else, really enlivens your passion in AI. One of the many interesting points made in the book was the idea that we will eventually be able to grow new body parts in a lab.

This has one great advantage for animal welfare – the idea that we could grow lumps of meat in a lab.

This would essentially end the need for vegetarianism.

For vegetarians like myself, who really, really love meat, this really would be a utopian future. Vegetarianism is based on the idea that it is wrong to kill conscious animals for food (some so called vegetarians say it is because of the taste, but these people aren’t real vegetarians), and this would entirely get round that.

We could eat our lab grown meat, without having the ethical implications that you where causing the death of an animal by doing so.

Of course, people would object that they didn’t want to eat meat grown in a test tube. But then, the fact that people can stomach meat now is mainly thanks to the lack of thought put into the factory farming and slaughter methods already in use.

Other advantages of doing this include:

* It will, at least after the initial development, be much more cost effective that having to rear an entire animal for an extended period of time and use less resources to satisfy our meat needs. Meat is incredibly inefficient, the amount of vegetarian food it takes to feed one animal to produce some meat is huge.

* Given the reduced cost and increased efficiently, there would be more food available for the third world, both vegetarian and meat.

* While we’re doing this, it’s a lot easier to generically engineer (or even using traditional refinement methods) to make the meat higher quality.

Try Vegetarianism Week

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 | Thoughts

This post is aimed primarily at my vegetarian friends.

I’m going to put this forward as a supposition: you believe that for a number of possible reasons including the good feeling from being ethical, the health benefits associated with avoiding meat, the fact that meat can be expensive (though some vegetarian alternatives are also) it is better to be a vegetarian.

Surely it follows then that if only more people tried it, more people would become vegetarian and this would be good because you think vegetarianism is the best, most ethical position.

So how about this idea: Try Vegetarianism Week. It is a week (or a fortnight, or a month, it might not work over such a short time period) in which one of your friends gives up meat and tries vegetarianism, and in exchange, for period of time, you eat meat.

This would mean that many more people try vegetarianism and hopefully some of them like it and stick with it and as a result, we’ve won a fresh convert.

Of course the next likely question is “why do I have to eat meat instead of them?” The reason is that most meat eaters are arrogant bastards about it, using quips like “we’re naturally meat eaters” and “I’m a real man” and “why don’t you eat eat, you giraffe, you!”

Indeed, there is nothing most of them would enjoy more than a vegetarian eating meat. That’s the hook, that is what sells them. Most of them would never try vegetarianism (otherwise they would probably be vegetarians), but breaking a deal with them such as this could finally get them to give it a go.

Secondly, it doesn’t increase the number of animals being killed for food by you eating meat for that period because they will have stopped eating meat, so it balances out (and hopefully in the long term reduces the number of animals breed and killed for food because they will hopefully like being a vegetarian and convert).


Btw, to my non-vegetarian friends, just as a quick gauge of its popularity, who would be interested in this?