Animal Or Vegetable?
( Originally Published 1938 )
Human nature isn't happy without fads. Fads are after all nothing but glorified hobbies and everybody now and then likes to ride a hobby. In the beginning of the century it was the fad for women to be plump; during and immediately after the war, thin and without any suggestion of anatomy; now anatomy is very much in evidence but the too plump silhouette is taboo. A few years ago calories were the talk of the town, but of late they have been supplanted by vitamins.
Vegetarianism is a fad that regularly sweeps the country indeed, so strong was it a few years ago that one of the largest restaurant chains in America ventured to go vegetarian: But in spite of the variety of dishes offered, the reasonableness of price and the beautifully printed arguments on behalf of vegetarianism placed at each table, patronage dwindled down to such an extent that meat once more appeared on the menus. Which all goes to prove that while we might try anything once, we are at heart flesh-eaters.
With those of you whose religion forbids the eating of meat and for those of you who find that meat "disagrees" with you, we are not concerned, but to you enjoying average health and whose religion permits meat eating, we should like to say that it is our own conscientious conviction that the true solution of the question of the source of food is to be found in the happy medium. A. mixed diet, that is, one of both animal and vegetable food is the best for mankind under existing conditions.
Meat is a most palatable form of protein. It insures meals against monotony, and monotony can be just as harmful as an unbalanced meal. We shall see later that palatability is an important factor in good digestion and general well-being. Moreover extractives of meat in the form of soups have a soothing, relaxing effect on the digestive system and tend to promote the flow of digestive juices. Certain kinds of meat, such as liver, have a value greater than their mere calorie value in their content of iron, copper, vitamins and other accessory food factors. Liver contains a substance which stimulates and regulates blood formation in the marrow of the bones and is therefore a specific cure for pernicious anemia. Generally speaking, too, the protein of meat is easier to digest than vegetable protein. Therefore we believe and we feel sure that you agree that meat is a most wholesome form of food. The only objection to it can be found in its excess consumption, for the reasons given before. But the same objections hold true for an excessive amount of vegetable protein. Protein in the correct amount is absolutely essential for life and health. Indeed, you will recall that men can live on a diet consisting wholly of protein, but not one consisting wholly of fats or carbohydrates.
We feel sure that you must be convinced that a diet containing some meat is the better one, but to be on the safe side, let us examine the arguments of our vegetarian faddists.
The main argument against flesh eating is the humanitarian one. You are familiar with all the objections the brutalizing effect upon the human mind of so much ruthless bloodshed of the sacredness of life, and of man's presumption in daring to deprive a living creature of existence. But with all due respect to the sensibilities of these worthy people, we are inclined to think that the argument is scarcely tenable.
First of all, at least in this country, the animals are well taken care of during their existence far better than many human beings. Their death is immediate and therefore practically painless which is more than can be said of most humans' death.
In the second place, the taking of life is inseparable from existence. It is simply a question of degree. There is a sect in India, the members of which are so scrupulous regarding the sanctity of life that they carefully brush every step of the path in front of them, lest they should inadvertently step upon any creeping thing. In doing this they lift the burden of responsibility from themselves for any wanton injury; but the microscope has shown us that there is a countless world of infinitesimal life all around us, and that it is practically impossible to draw a breath, or drink a mouthful of water, without destroying some living thing. Knowing this, and still persisting in the avoidance of flesh foods, vegetarians are inconsistent, to put it mildly.
Their inconsistency is evidenced in other directions, too. Many a vegetarian will solemnly lecture you on the brutality of killing animals for foods, all the while wearing shoes made of leather, keeping his money in a leather wallet, holding his trousers up with a leather belt, and sitting on a leather covered chair. We'd be willing to wager, too, that he wouldn't hesitate an instant to grab the leather hanger if he were standing in a speedy street car or bus that suddenly swerved around a corner. Surely, on a basis of humanitarianism, using animals as food is far more justifiable than using them for easily substituted articles of apparel and furniture.
The purely health angle has already been discussed, so that there is no need here to refute the arguments of the vegetarians. But it should be pointed out that here again they reveal an inconsistency. It would be difficult indeed to find a vegetarian so called who did ,not drink milk or eat butter, cheese, eggs or dishes which contained them. Milk and eggs are just as much animal foods as pork, beef and lamb; and eggs, it will be recalled, are our purest form of food protein. If milk, milk products and eggs may be eaten there surely is no reason why the diet cannot be varied by the flesh of animals that produce them.