The Meat Dilemma – But what about the animals?!

When I was 15 someone told me that someone they knew lived near a slaughterhouse and a pig farm. The slaughterhouse would come pick up the pigs every 2 weeks. Apparently, the pigs would start screaming the night before, because they knew they were going somewhere bad. Now that story is probably completely false, but it hit a nerve. I researched what kind of intelligence pigs had and decided to stop eating pork. I haven’t eaten pork since I was 15. I’ve watched Food Inc., which also struck a chord. Watching chickens get turned into pink sludge for McDonald’s chicken nuggets got to me. (The reason I don’t recommend pork at the beginning of an elimination diet is because Dad is sensitive to it, and I’ve read it’s not uncommon to be sensitive to pork but not to beef and chicken. It’s not for any reason but that).

What do you do if you’ve chosen to be a vegetarian or a vegan for the sake of animals wellbeing? 

I’ve been asked this question a number of times, so here goes.

1. How sick are you? Are you overweight? Are you exhausted all the time? Do you have an autoimmune disorder? Do you have severe acne? Are you mentally ill?

  • Caring for animals and how they’re treated is important. But it’s not as important as caring for yourself. From what I’ve read, (and a huge amount of anecdotal evidence including completely changing my dad’s and my life), meat is necessary to be healthy. You can’t replace it with other sources of protein without making yourself sicker. Soy is off the table completely (and even harder on men), dairy isn’t an option, and legumes are incredibly difficult to digest and likely to cause problems. So what are you going to take care of? Your body? If not, why don’t you deserve it? Why shouldn’t you be treated as well as you can be treated? If you have severe depression or an autoimmune disorder I don’t think there should be a doubt about what you need to do. Your diet is potentially killing you. Do you deserve to suffer and die to avoid animal suffering?
  • From my dad’s book, “treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping”. If your best friend was sick, or even wasn’t in as good shape as they could be, would you tell them to keep suffering or to eat what’s good for them? If you had a kid who had an autoimmune disorder, would you keep them vegetarian for the sake of the animals? Hopefully not. Why don’t you deserve the same treatment?

2. Be aware of where your meat comes from

  • Buying meat that comes factory farm is completely avoidable. I stopped buying meat from factory farms shortly after I stopped eating pork. It was SLIGHTLY more expensive, but it made me feel better. The way they treat animals in factory farms is horrible. There’s no question about it. The answer isn’t to not eat meat and suffer health problems, the answer is to get your meat elsewhere.
  • Find a Mennonite butcher and buy from them. They’ll usually do larger orders of meat to save money as well.
  • Find a local butcher and buy from them

3. You can avoid factory farmed meat AND save money

  • This requires a bit of work. Find a local butcher (or google “1/2 a cow” or “1/4 of a cow”. You should be able to purchase a large quantity of grass-fed antibiotic and hormone free beef at an equivalent price to factory farmed meat. You may need to invest in a deep freeze to do this.
  • Buy cheaper cuts. Chicken is cheaper than beef, and if you’re concerned about price, eat chicken. It’s still better than not eating any meat.
  • Avoiding factory farmed meat isn’t just about the wellbeing of the animals, it’s also not going to be as high-quality meat (hormones, fed corn, etc.)

4. You can always go back to being a vegetarian/vegan

  • Do the elimination diet, reintroduce beef and chicken, and see how you feel. After a month, make up your mind yourself. But you can’t do the elimination diet without eating meat.

5. Doesn’t meat cause heart disease and cancer?

  • No. It really doesn’t at all. I don’t have time to get into that (comment if anyone needs information about that or if I should make a post about it). Follow Shawn Baker on Instagram. He’s constantly posting studies linking meat to health, and showing studies that have been done badly and that ending up coming to the wrong conclusion (and harming people). He’s more on top of the research than I am.

6. Animals on farms wouldn’t really exist if we didn’t eat them

  • This feels like a cheap point, but I’m going to make it anyway. If everyone stopped eating meat, we wouldn’t have cows and chicken. They’d be eaten by carnivores and wouldn’t exist anymore. Hell, we’ve already killed off the mammoths by eating them all. Is it better that we don’t eat them and they don’t exist?

If you avoid factory farming, I don’t believe that there’s anything morally wrong with eating animals. In fact, if you’re harming yourself by not eating meat, I think there’s something morally wrong with that. If you are unable to avoid eating factory farmed meat because of cost, or where you live, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Factory farming is horrible, but if that’s what you need in order to be healthy, that’s what you need.

 

TL;DR

  • You deserve to eat healthily, and avoiding meat is probably killing you
  • You can avoid factory farmed meat and save money doing it
  • If you’re worried about animal suffering, buy from butchers and farmers and avoid factory farmed meat (1/4 of a cow saves money)
  • Chicken is cheaper than beef. If that’s all you can manage, start with reintroducing chicken into your diet.
  • You can’t do the elimination diet and see a really positive change in your health without eating meat. (That being said, removing grains, sugar and cutting out dairy would help, but it won’t fix all of your issues, and you need to eat more than that!)

Reminder: I am not vetting comments. I am randomly going on the blog when I have time, responding to the ones that are most recent (at the top), and then doing it again later. I’ve had questions about where people’s comment are  – I’m not ignoring you, I just can’t keep up. I enjoy the comments! If you have comments or concerns about eating meat, post below and I’ll try to get to them.

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27 thoughts on “The Meat Dilemma – But what about the animals?!

  1. rose says:

    Is it possible that an IgG test would present allergies to beef and pork and other meats? It would justify going vegan.

    • Pork shows up on IgG tests quite frequently actually, but beef is pretty rare. It’s safe for most people. I did have one person contact me who had an IgG response to beef. I’m not entirely sure what to think of that… It’s incredibly rare.

  2. Jean says:

    Hi Mikhaila, thanks for the post. Do you have strong references to share (i.e. “From what I’ve read”) about the need to include meat in one’s diet? My research leads me to many contradictory opinions which, of course, all claim to be “true science”. I would like to feed myself while doing the least harm possible but I struggle to make my mind on the subject.

  3. Asya Usvitsky says:

    Thanks for your sensible comments about eating meat. I believe humans evolved eating meat and that is part of God’s design. As long as the animal is humanely raised and butchered. This is the way animals live in nature until they are killed and eaten by carnivores. Carnivores are very efficient at dispatching prey and I do not believe the prey suffer. I have also improved my health through diet by following Dr Ray Peat. I highly recommend you check out his writings online. I am a follower and admirer of your father. I hope he stays healthy because the world needs people like him.

  4. Steve H says:

    I’ve tried to go vegetarian several times and each time, I felt lethargic and weak within a week and even less emotionally stable. I can eat only seafood and feel 80% but my health deteriorates rapidly on a vegan or vegetarian diet. On the other hand, its obvious that some people, including some professional athletes, absolutely don’t have this experience and do well on the diet. The conclusion I’ve come to is that individual factors- genetics, micrbiome, sensitivities- make the difference and I’m just not able to be veggie.

    Here is an interesting little article about some of the genetic factors:
    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/4-reasons-some-do-well-as-vegans

    It is written by Denise Minger, a former vegan who is bright star of the paleo blogosphere. If you don’t know her, check this out, I think you’d like her.

    https://deniseminger.com/2017/05/05/if-youre-having-a-hard-time-read-this/

    btw since I am concerned about animal welfare, I eschew factory farmed meat and only eat free range. I think factory farming is one of the great evils of our time.

  5. Dora Judy says:

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  6. Kelly Carter says:

    Thank you for a very sensible post. I will agree that some people do do better on a vegetarian diet, but it is usually for more rare health conditions, and as a general rule is not the optimal diet for people. So I personally hate the “I am a vegetarian because I love animals argument”. My dad was a biochemist and he always said that we need meat in our diet particularly red meats because there are some essential amino acids and enzyme co-factors necessary to a health metabolism that really are not easily replaced by vegetarian alternatives. In other words as a vegetarian you need to be very aware that you are meeting your nutritional requirements, and it is my opinion most vegetarians just do not do the proper due diligence or research.

    I live in Alberta near a lot of feed lots, and also know a lot of cattle farmers. I buy my meat from local farmers because I figure a friend may as well benefit directly from the money I would otherwise spend, and I personally like the convenience of that half cow in my freezer. I would like to say that factory farming is not necessarily horrific, or even that bad. 1) it is somewhat a necessary evil as factor farming is truely the only way to produce enough meat to feed the growing population on the amount of space available (every year more land becomes urbanized and is therefore lost to agriculture). 2) while the reports about the process often have an element of truth, much is over blown and demonized by groups such as PETA. They try their utmost to make people horrified of the process, and in many instances they use one example of bad animal husbandry and then sell that to the masses as common in the industry. I encourage you to check out “the farmers daughter”. I have her on FB, but I believe she also has a blog. She is often commenting on the differences between organic and conventional farming, as well as explaining they whys behind some of the process. Some of what looks horrific from the outside of the industry is actually based in safety/health for the animals and/or the farmer. 3) for many reasons I personally feel that conventional farming is the more environmentally friendly option, and that includes eating meat.

    I have not yet read your other articles, but look forward to reading them. I also have an autoimmune disorder (AS) related to yours In that it is in the HLA B27 group of immune problems. However, it is less well understood and studied. Basically I get episodes of very painful “flares” usually affecting my hips, and sometimes my eyes. Funny thing is over time you learn to self treat which is not always the best idea, but certainly I have a high pain tolerance. I control my symptoms with reducing stress in my life, and large doses of ibuprofen when I feel a flare coming on. I am finding out that keeping the pain under control is actually the easy part as in particular this winter I have been really struggling with low energy and depression. Anyway, like I said I look forward to reading your other posts as I am always open to some ideas (I will never be a vegetarian) and certainly making dietary changes is easier than the alternative.

  7. Steffen says:

    Have you looked at any guidelines of research authorities? According to them, your claim of meat beeing vital for health is false:
    The American Dietetic Association is the largest organisation of nutritionists/nutrition researchers in the world. According to the following statement, a purely plant based diet is adequate in ALL stages of life, including pregnancy, infancy and as an athlete: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864/
    I’m no scientist (yet) but I can’t see how they can be so wrong or corrupt to make such a drastic claim if its false.
    Greetings from Germany!

  8. jess says:

    I was a vegetarian for about 10 years when I began to re-introduce meat into my diet. At first it was mainly beef from local farmers (I live in Texas), but eventually I included chicken as well. I almost immediately noticed a substantial change in my overall health. In the seven years since I started eating meat again, I have rarely been sick and my other Auto-Immune related illnesses vanished. The one thing I haven’t been willing to eat again is pork. For years my mostly Mexican neighbors raised pigs and goats and I got extremely sensitive to the idea of eating these highly intelligent creatures. I just can’t bring myself to do it, no matter how they were raised. My question is, is there anything that pork has that cannot be obtained thru eating beef or chicken? I’m perfectly happy with my diet now, but I still wonder if I’m missing out on any essential nutrients or elements contained in pork. thanks for the insight.
    cheers..:)

    • You definitely aren’t missing out on any essential nutrients contained in pork, as long as you eat other meats, don’t worry about it!

    • My daughter bottled fed a day old calf, (she called it Silky) just twice when we were staying on a bed & breakfast farm for a night. 3 years later we went back and walked towards the now fully grown cow who was in with the herd grazing. My daughter walked towards the herd, the farmer and I followed, Silky lifted her head, saw my daughter, walked towards her, climbing over a broken down wall, went right up to her and licked her face. The farmer couldn’t believe it. Cows are highly intelligent, in fact all animals are. I would love to get her to eat meat as her health is appalling, but she refuses and to be honest, I totally understand why.

  9. Katherine Sage says:

    My family switched to coconut milk or almond milk which made a big difference, but I was wondering about yogurt. How do you think yogurt affects the inflammatory response as it seems to be good for those with celiac or chrones. Cashew milk yogurt seems to work. Thoughts?

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