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Does the New York Times Hate Meat?

February 4, 2008

After a while, one grows accustomed to the environmental rants that appear in The New York Times. This newspaper, so often pointed to as an exemplar of the highest standards of journalism, has been repeatedly revealed to employ fantasists for whom truth and facts are mere impediments to the advancement of their obsessions and agendas.

A perfect example of this is the January 27th rant, "Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler" by Mark Bittman, identified as the author of "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" along with the disclaimer that "He is not a vegetarian." He writes for the "Dining in and Dining Out" sections. If it looks like a vegetarian, walks like a vegetarian, and quacks like a vegetarian, it probably is a vegetarian.

His commentary is a cornucopia of assertions and cherry-picked facts that beg to be rebutted, but I shall choose just a few, starting where he started. "Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government." By subsidized, the reader is asked to assume that the raising, packaging, and distribution of meat products depends on government subsidies to exist and that the oil industry does as well. Unlike the European Union, those engaged in either industry in the United States are expected to make a profit on their own without such dependence. It's called capitalism.

"Finally-like oil-meat is something people are encourage to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible." Visible to whom? Do supermarket sections offering abundant choices of meat products suggest anything other than the fact that people want meat as part of their diet? Does anyone really give any thought to how it got there?

The only people recommending we eat less meat are vegetarians. Indeed, they would have us not eat any meat! But Mark Bittman, we are duly informed "is not a vegetarian." And Santa Claus does not live at the North Pole. (In 2000, The New York Times reported that it was melting and had to later retract this absurdity.)

The heart of his screed about meat is this: "These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water, supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasingly amounts of corn, soy, and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world's tropical rain forests."

Where to start disassembling this environmental horror story? Let's begin with the fact that there are now more than 300 million Americans, most of whom enjoy a good hamburger, a tasty barbeque, a thick steak, a slice of ham, a rasher of bacon, the endless ways chicken can be prepared, ad infinitum. Millions more around the world have adopted our food preferences, just as we have adopted theirs.

If parts of the rainforest, in Brazil for example, are being destroyed, the Wall Street Journal recently informed us that the U.S. mandate requiring more ethanol has driven up the price of corn and soy. Brazilian ranchers and farmers want to cash in as well. As the leading exporter of meat, ranchers "looking for pasture land are clearing forests, accounting for about two thirds of the loss..." Brazilian farmers want to plant more corn and soy. This is what is meant by unintended consequences.

Since the day when the Pilgrims got off the boat at Plymouth Rock, Americans have been totally obsessed with what they eat. Other than the Fourth of July, the most quintessential national holiday is Thanksgiving, a huge feast to celebrate the good fortune of being American.

Does it take energy to raise, butcher, and transport meat? Yes, but it also takes energy to light our cities and towns. Does this generate greenhouse gases, i.e., carbon dioxide and methane? Yes, but humans exhale about two pounds of CO2 every day. Cows also contribute in their own way. How much of the earth's atmosphere is represented by its CO2 content? Somewhere in the vicinity of 0.038 percent.

Bittman piled "fact" upon "fact" to demonstrate the horror of meat production and consumption, but a funny thing is happening around the world as economies in China and throughout Asia are now improving, putting more money in the hands of more people, many of whom are now buying and consuming meat.

Bittman, of course, attributed "heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes" in part to our enjoyment of meat. Other than the morbidly obese, the American preference for meat as part of our diet, does not point to any specific disease factor.

For example, the Japanese eat a very low fat diet and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. The French eat a high fat diet and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. You cannot connect the dots because there is no connection.

It is only the crypto-environmentalists and vegetarians who are making claims that eating meat is bad for the environment.

In November, Associated Press reporter, Seth Borenstein, wrote that "America's obesity epidemic and global warming might not seem to have much in common. But health experts suggest people can attack them both by cutting calories and carbon dioxide at the same time." This is pure quackery. It's absurd nonsense, based on the increasingly discredited hoax called global warming.

As Dr. Jon Robinson, who holds a doctorate in health education and exercise physiology, and a master of science in human nutrition, noted several years ago, "We are in desperate need of a serious serving of common sense when it comes to eating. Viewing foods as weapons of mass destruction is scientifically unsound and psychologically destabilizing. In fact, our burgeoning fear of foods has actually spawned a new eating disorder-orthorexia nervosa-the obsession with eating only 'healthy' food.

I will not cite any more nonsense from the Bittman article, but I call attention to it to remind you that your stomach is designed to eat meat, while other organs are herbivorous.

Meat is meat. It is part of the environment, not its enemy, and neither are you. Eat! Get some more exercise. Enjoy life and pay no mind to The New York Times.

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Copyright ©2008 Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba is an American public relations counselor and freelance writer who is a frequent critic of environmentalism, Islam and research on global warming. In the late 1970s Caruba founded the PR firm The Caruba Organization, and in 1990, the National Anxiety Center, which identifies itself as "a clearinghouse for information about 'scare campaigns' designed to influence public policy and opinion" on such subjects as global warming, ozone depletion and DDT.