Meat is among the most delicious foods known to man. It has been known as the source of important nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, and mineral salts throughout human history. For a long time, people have been consuming meat with disregard to the effects on the animal species that supply it. People also disregarded the health hazards posed by meat. The extinction of some animal species and continued technological research have made people aware of the negative effects of consuming meat. Various researchers have proved that meat perpetrates some cancers and other diseases such as diabetes. These concerns have led numerous health organizations such as the French National Cancer Institute (FNCI) to discourage people from eating meat. Although it has a higher protein value than most plant products, eating it does more harm than good to both the consumers and meat animals.
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Issues Associated with consuming Meat
Endangerment of Animal Species
The consumption of meat is a habit that causes a great reduction in the population of animals at a rate higher than that at which they reproduce. More than 150 billion animals have been slaughtered annually for consumption worldwide (ADAPTT 1). The percentage number of animals slaughtered increased by about 4.6% in 2015 and 2016. This situation reduced the total population of the slaughtered species by 1.4% (ADAPTT 1). This rate is critical and calls for actions such as a reduction or a complete boycott of meat consumption and other animal products such as eggs. If the animal populations continue to reduce at this alarming rate due to meat-eating, many animal species will become extinct in the near future.
Examples of animals whose species are on the verge of extinction due to over-slaughtering include the southern Bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii), and the blue whale (Baleonoptera musculus). If the current slaughter rate continues, such animals will be extinct, just like the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes moratorium), which was over-slaughtered to extinction in the 20th century. These animals are very important in the aquatic ecosystem because they bring equilibrium by reducing the population of other species such as krill, crustaceans, and planktons. Other animals that are slaughtered every day also have important roles to play in their respective niches.
The call to stop eating meat not only helps to protect the animals from extinction but also enables the animals to live their lives to the fullest. These animals serve as pets and are beautiful to have around. Having them around gives scientists a chance to conduct studies and solve different mysteries such as diseases and feeding habits, thereby improvising ways of improving their health. This undertaking will help in conserving the animal species for future generations. Apart from the need to safeguard the lives of animals, the call to stop eating meat also arises from the concerns about how these animals are handled and slaughtered. All animals have senses, including the feeling of pain, just like humans. Many methods of slaughtering animals for consumption are barbaric and painful and go against animal rights. Most of the commonly used methods, such as harpooning of whales and cutting animal throats, are painful and humiliating. Although the animals do not complain, their colleagues that witness the ordeal are greatly affected.
Health Concerns brought by Meat-Eating
Meat is the leading foodstuff that causes diet-related cancer, which affects 30% of the population in developed countries and 20% in developing nations (Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine p1). Studies show that meat is likely to increase cancer risk by more than 40% (PCRM 1). According to the same study, meat-eaters are three times likely to develop colon cancer than vegetarians. Meat contains several harmful contents that can perpetuate or cause cancer. Carcinogenic compounds present in meat include polyaromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons are produced when organic foodstuff is burnt, such as grilling and barbecuing of meat. Heterocyclic amines are produced when meat is cooked at high temperatures. These two classes of compounds are highly carcinogenic (PCRM 1). Gradual exposure to these chemicals from meat can eventually lead to cancer. Meat also contains high levels of fats, which lead to high rates of hormone production. This situation advances the risk of developing malignancies related to hormones such as prostate and breast cancers, which can be perpetrated by a continuous upsurge of estrogen and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) as a result of eating fat-rich meat.
Meat consumption increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Fats from meat are among the biggest causes of cancer. Studies conducted on the relationship between meat and breast cancer have indicated that women who eat meat are about 9 times likely to develop breast cancer than those who do not eat (PRCM 1). One proposal for the breast cancer risk associated with meat is the fat in it, which increases the levels of hormones to a limit where cancer develops. A better plant alternative to meat is the soya, which is rich in proteins and has been found to guard against premenopausal breast cancer if consumed from adolescence to adulthood (PRCM 1).
Studies have shown that frequent consumption of large quantities of meat (including processed meat) is likely to cause colorectal cancer (Corpet 310). The risk of contracting cancer as a consequence of eating meat is estimated to be between 20% and 30%. Although this percentage seems small, it is alarming. As a result, organizations such as the French National Cancer Institute (FNCI) have been prompted to recommend a reduction in meat consumption to less than 500 grams in a week (Corpet 311). The consumption of both red and processed meat is associated with increasing the risk of developing colorectal cancer as a result of the surplus protein, iron, and mutagenic elements induced by heat.
Grassi et al. refer to gout as a painful illness caused by swellings on the joints as a result of the accumulation of uric acid (2432). The condition arises when the level of uric acid rises above normal, sometimes due to a problem with the excretory system, and more commonly, due to over-production of uric acid (Grassi et al. 2433). Urate crystals build up and accumulate in the joints to form swellings. The biggest contributor to uric acid in the body is meat. It is known to be the biggest supplier of harmful purines that are broken down to uric acid. A lot of health complications such as diabetes and hyperactivity syndrome worsen with increasing meat diets.
Benefits of Eating Meat
Although meat consumption is associated with numerous health hazards and violations of animal rights, meat is a source of important nutrients such as proteins, mineral salts, fats, and vitamins. While plants are alternative sources of these nutrients, meat has been shown to contain the highest value of proteins per gram of foodstuff (Cao et al. 400). It has a higher protein reward value than plant proteins. This situation makes it more suitable for physically active people as compared to plant proteins. Plant proteins cannot match the great taste of meat. According to Cao et al., the occurrence of the health risks associated with meat also depends on other factors such as genetics, which largely determines the development of diseases such as cancer and diabetes (401).
Meat consumption has many undesirable effects on the global ecosystem. It has led to the extinction of many amazing animal species in human history. It is still putting many other animal species on the extinction vortex. It is important to conserve these animals not only for the benefit of future generations but also for the conservation of their ecosystems. They play an important role in the food chain and can help scientists solve problems related to their habitats. Although meat contains high protein levels and is a source of fats, it poses many adverse health effects such as some cancers and diabetes to human beings. There are good protein substitutes from plants that can supply the same proteins and other nutrients supplied by meat. Due to these concerns, many health organizations have been prompted to advise consumers to minimize or stop consuming meat.
ADAPTT. More Than 150 Billion Animals Slaughtered Every Year, 2012, Web.
Cao, Jay J., et al. “Calcium homeostasis and bone metabolic responses to high-protein diets during energy deficit in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 99.2 (2014): 400-407.
Corpet, Denis. “Red meat and colon cancer: should we become vegetarians, or can we make meat safer?” Meat Science 89.3 (2011): 310-316.
Grassi, Davide, et al. “Chronic hyperuricemia, uric acid deposit and cardiovascular risk.” Current Pharmaceutical Design 19.13 (2013): 2432-2438.
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PCRM. Meat Consumption and Cancer Risk, 2016, Web.