Sometimes a news item comes along that makes me angry. I may rant at many stories, but this article’s nonsense is beyond anything imaginable. So, even though the article is more than three months old, I’m still going to comment on it.
I’m a vegan. I’ve written a little about that in the past, but not much because I don’t care to preach to anyone. I think it’s the right choice, but I know most won’t agree. So be it. If you’re interested, I’m more than happy to give you information about why I choose veganism. Basically, I subscribe to the “Don’t tell, unless asked”. Most carnivores don’t want to know, believing that ignorance is bliss. Fine, enjoy. However, I expect the same because yes, I can get enough protein and no, I don’t really want a burger. I don’t even sneak them when no one is looking, even though I know many don’ t believe that. Somehow, I survive.
A few months ago, the American Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting. One topic was veganism and whether or not its healthy, appropriate, or ethical for children. Professor Lindsay Allen, a US scientist with the US Agricultural Research Service. (The ARS is part of the US Department of Agriculture.) Those credentials seem impressive, but this is what she had to say:
“There have been sufficient studies clearly showing that when women avoid all animal foods, their babies are born small, they grow very slowly and they are developmentally retarded, possibly permanently.”
Really? Hmmm, maybe she’s on to something. I’ve read the exact opposite in almost every book I’ve read in the last eleven years, but perhaps she’s studied more. I want to know more.
“If you’re talking about feeding young children, pregnant women and lactating women, I would go as far as to say it is unethical to withhold these foods [animal source foods] during that period of life.”
Unethical? That strong? What would be better? Blue Kool-Aid® drinks? That occurs naturally in the wild. Chocolate milk? Ditto. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven by a pasture only to witness three, sometimes four children suckling the teat of some grateful dairy cow. She nurses them so well, it’s stunning to think that, not only did she not give birth to those children, they’re not even the same species. Yet she cares so much. Cows are cool.
Professor Allen’s studied enough to know this. She’s even done studies. Consider:
Research she carried out among African schoolchildren suggests as little as two spoonfuls of meat each day is enough to provide nutrients such as vitamin B12, zinc and iron.
The 544 children studied had been raised on diets chiefly consisting of starchy, low-nutrition corn and bean staples lacking these micronutrients.
This meant they were already malnourished.
Time to interrupt this just to emphasize that point. The children were already malnourished. Remember that as the story continues.
Over two years, some of the children were given 2oz supplements of meat each day, equivalent to about two spoonfuls of mince.
Two other groups received either a cup of milk a day or an oil supplement containing the same amount of energy. The diet of a fourth group was left unaltered.
The changes seen in the children given the meat, and to a lesser extent the milk or oil, were dramatic.
These children grew more and performed better on problem-solving and intelligence tests than any of the other children at the end of the two years.
Adding either meat or milk to the diets also almost completely eliminated the very high rates of vitamin B12 deficiency previously seen in the children.
Look at how completely the oil aspect dropped from the conclusion, but no matter. The point is obvious. Eat more meat and dairy. It gives the kids what they need. Damn, what an amazing elixir meat is. I’m just stunned. I would’ve never guessed that any adjustment to a nutrient-poor diet would make a difference. Who knew that consuming a variety of foods could make a difference? And I won’t mention how happy I am that Professor Allen concluded that it’s unethical to feed a young child a vegan diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and oils, but it’s ethical in the name of science to deliberately withhold nutrition from a group of children known to be malnourished. I have so much to learn.
Professor Allen did make a concession.
She accepted that adults could avoid animal foods if they took the right supplements, but she said adding animal source food into the diet was a better way to tackle malnutrition worldwide than quick fixes with supplements in the form of pills.
“Where feasible, it would be much better to do it through the diet than by giving pills,” she said. “With pills it’s very hard to be certain that the quantity of nutrition is right for everybody and it’s hard to sustain.”
Right. It’s too hard to take B-12 supplements, so let’s just go to the easy answer. That’s how civilization achieved every advancement until this study, so it must work. Oh, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the National Cattleman’s Beef Association partially supported the study.
One final revelation in the story shows how generous developed, carnivorous nations can be. Consider:
In Africa, good results had been obtained from giving people a dried meat on a stick snack which proved both nutritious and appealing.
In two hundred years of economic and scientific advancement, the best we can do is export corn dogs?