The epidemiological link between red meat and cancer is no longer debatable – what remains uncertain is how exactly this happens, and why the human species appears to be unique in its susceptibility.
Heart disease is the number one human killer, but most other members of the animal kingdom are much less susceptible to it than we are. What is it about other animals that has allows them to dodge this epidemic while we humans suffer? Linus Pauling thought Vitamin C was the answer; Robert Sapolsky has pinned the blame on stress. But what theory do you believe?
We have been handed a dying Earth – a mysterious object of concern. We look at it despairingly, not quite sure what to be concerned about, nor to what degree concern is required. We are full of information (and misinformation), yet we feel empty of knowledge, and this paralyses us. It is tempting to turn our eyes away and bury our heads as the planet burns – after all, humans have been doing it for years, as though it were a dream.
“If cows were a country”, says Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, “they would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases”. Like slaughterhouses, greenhouse gases are invisible. This makes it easy for us to pretend that they don’t exist.
Why is it that we place such value on the sense of taste, above all other human senses? If the scream of a cow was to make the most beautiful sweet song, would you slaughter it to hear that music? If the blood of a horse could produce the most exquisite works of art, would you kill it to see those paintings? Many condemn the use of fur for clothing, while eagerly sporting leather and wool coats. Many criticise animal testing for cosmetics, while routinely purchasing meat, dairy and eggs for food. There is a murky disconnect in the way we humans think about and treat animals, and it needs to change.