Vegetarianism - A Health Problem?

Religious leaders, prophets and philosophers have long been speaking out against the consumption of animals. All these religions, philosophies and ways of thinking have been saying for many centuries that the consumption of meat is harmful for human health and impairs our mental and spiritual development. They all claim that animals are the brothers of mankind and that the reason for the existence of animals is not for human convenience and food. The animal kingdom has its own goals of development which we humans with our knowledge and our capability for reflection should help achieve.
But whenever the prophet who transmitted this basic wisdom had passed away, these messages were looked down upon and their sense distorted due to a lack of understanding, egotism or greed. This type of deliberate distortion is detectable well into the age of Christianity, since all religions seeking new believers try also to convince them by way of food, since this is a vital aspect of human life. Due to egotism, the desire for comfort, feelings of superiority and the hedonism of humans, the original meaning in these words is not always transmitted. But it has been left to every individual to decide against or in favour of the laws of life. Whatever a person decides to do, he alone must bear the consequences of his decision.
One would think that the clear statement on nutrition in religious texts as well as the health-related consequences of not adhering to these rules would have been food for thought. However, this seems not to have been the case. The small number of real vegetarians and the tremendous amount of diseases in our countries due to 'civilisation' show that this type of admonishment was not very effective.
The reasons for this must also be sought in the very one-sided and incomplete information the public has received about the links between nutrition and illness which the scientific community is well aware of. Another reason might be that the concepts of metabolism which in reality are only hypotheses are always presented as the gospel truth. These findings, however, are only the reflection of the present state of science, which is not yet adequate. Should the hypothesis prove to be untrue, this is celebrated as "scientific progress" without consideration for the fact that just as the previous hypothesis had flaws, the new one might be flawed as well. Nevertheless, unprovable and often contradictory theories are accepted just like the many questions yet unanswered and the fact that close cooperations between interest groups and commerce determine what is published, its presentation and propaganda.
Food, Health and Performance
By nature, we need to eat and drink every day in order to supply our body with the energy it needs for the upkeep of vital functions and performance. Thus, we do not live in order to satisfy our culinary tastes, but instead, food is meant to keep us healthy and enable us to cope with the physical and mental requirements of everyday life. Therefore, any kind of diet that does not contribute to these aims is wrong.
This direct link between food, health and performance has always been known to us and has often been described. Animal-derived foods as a source of illnesses, however, were not looked into for a long time. Only recently did the pressure of a general decrease in health standards and a continual increase in health care costs make this a focus of medical research. In spite of the progress made here, the statements of nutrition experts (often contradictory) with regard to the role that meat, animal fats, carbohydrates, grain, vegetables and raw food play in the development of the ever-increasing "civilisation" diseases may be described as rather strange. So far, nutrition research was mainly carried out by the food industry with the goal of presenting products that had been technically produced, chemically engineered, coloured, genetically engineered, changed with regard to taste, conserved and irradiated as having the same nutritional value as natural foods. Thus, the motivation for research was generally a promotional presentation of products and our laws very much support this. While they do require that any data presented in advertisements must be correct, they do not contain clauses requiring that all known and possibly adverse effects must also be stated. Thus, the industry can use slogans like "Fleisch ist ein Stück Lebenskraft!" (meat is vitality!) which is essentially true, but only for the animal from which it has been taken.
Meat Consumption...
Meat consumption, however, not only has adverse effects on health, but also greatly affects climate, vegetation and agriculture here and in the third world.
100 years ago, our basic diet was made up of grain, legumes, vegetables, potatoes, fruit and milk products. With the increase in the standard of living, this diet was increasingly replaced by meat, fish, poultry, animal fats and sterilized, cooked and preserved foods low in vital substances. Today, consumers in the western world eat about 35% more dairy products, 52% more beef, 84% more fish, 190% more eggs and 280% more poultry than in the year 1900. An everincreasing amount of arable land is used for animal farming day, we have reached a percentage of 65% of the land in agricultural use. The animals which are fattened for slaughter consume half the world's grain and 90% of the soybean harvest. Their excrements lead to an increasing pollution of ground water and due to the excretion of methane gas, they contribute to the enlarging of the hole in the ozone layer. It is not general knowledge, but besides methane, a single cow produces as much carbon monoxide as a car when driven. Factory farming is also in part responsible for air pollution, which leads to diseases of the lungs and the upper respiratory organs as well as an increasing occurrence of allergies. Animals in factory farms in the USA and Europe alone together produce 110 000 kg/second (!) of excrements which cannot be properly disposed of due to the overwhelming amount. Depending on the animal, up to 17 kilos of grain are required in order to produce a single kilogram of meat. During this "processing", more than 90% of plant protein, 92% of carbohydrates and 100% of fibre is lost. In the USA alone, more animals are killed every year than the entire human world population. If meat consumption there was reduced by a mere 10%, more than one billion people could be fed with a vegetarian diet just from the grain that could be farmed in these areas. But for now, about 38,000 children die from mal-nutrition every year and 1991, 20,000,000 people died of hunger. These figures were published by the world's largest environmental organisation, the Earth Save Foundation in New York.
Significant Increase of Diseases
In order to produce the tremendous amount of food consumed by animals raised for slaughter, a few million tons of pesticides, vermicides, fungicides and insecticides are used yearly. These environmental poisons contribute to the pollution of our drinking water and by themselves would be enough to kill the entire world population by poisoning. During the past 100 years, i.e. during the above described shift towards animal protein, the number of fatal cardiovascular diseases rose by 4-5% a year and today account for about 2/ 3 of deaths in western countries. Also, cancer, rheumatic diseases, asthma, bronchitis, arthritis and allergies, to name but a few, have significantly increased. In children under the age of 12, cancer is the most common cause of death today.
"Modern man does not experience himself as part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. He even talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that if ever he won the battle he would find himself on the loosing side".
E.F. Schumacher, Economist
Between 1975 and 1985 alone, according to the statistics of the German Federation of Health Insurance Companies, the number of patients with cardiovascular diseases rose by 41%, that of those with tumours by 80%, the amount of people admitted into hospital rose by 114% and the illnesses related to pregnancy, birth and confinement rose by a whopping 228%.
I do not claim that this is due exclusively to meat consumption. However, statistics show that vegetarians are least affected by such developments. In spite of this, the public is constantly "informed" that vegetarians are sickly, suffer from malnutrition, weak and suffer from vitamin deficiencies. This type of propaganda is quite obviously intended to shift attention away from the true reasons for the constant decrease in general health.
Medical Studies
In order to gain reliable data, large-scale medical studies regarding vegetarianism were carried out. For instance, in Germany, to name but a few, studies were carried out by the university of Giessen, by the Heidelberg Cancer Research Center and by the Berlin health administration. We also have the results of the California Mormon study carried out on over 10,000 people who had been vegetarian all their lives, of the Norwegian intervention study with 1,232 men, of the huge American fitness study on 13,344 men and women, the Oslo study on rheumatism and the very obvious results of the Chinese Vegetarian study carried out by Cornwell University (USA) on more than 8,000 men and women.
Every one of these studies for the most part proved the above average health and life expectancy of vegetarians and their lower risk of disease. The Oslo study on rheumatism also showed that a vegetarian diet can be successfully used as a therapy and that this not only leads to a subjective improvement but also causes an objective functional improvement of the diseased joints. In the Chinese vegetarian study, the conditions under which these people lived was of great importance.
More than 90% of these people live and die in the area in which they are born. They almost exclusively eat locally grown, untreated foods, they drink the same water and live and work under the same conditions all their lives. They rarely make trips and, due to their low mobility, are a very homogenous group of people, genetically speaking. Their way of life, in contrast to that of people in the western world, basically remains the same from the cradle to the grave. Every single one of the studies I have mentioned comes to the conclusion that vegetarians have by far the most normal weight, the best blood pressure, the best blood values and are least sickly in comparison to omnivores. In spite of their greatly increased life expectancy, the rate of cancer in vegetarians was significantly lower than average and the survival rates in case of cancer were even improved if a vegetarian diet was only adopted after the cancer was diagnosed.
No deficiency diseases were diagnosed and the amount of infectious diseases in vegetarians was below 25% of the average value. Without exception, blood values were normal and the levels of serum iron and uric acid were within the normal range. The levels of cholesterol and triglyceride which put people at risk of heart disease in 80% of those tested were at the lowest end of the normal value and lowest in vegans.
Vitamin B-12
The unproven claim which continues to be made that vegetarians have a deficit in vitamin B-12 led the authors to focus their attention on this subject. Those who claim this danger exists say that there is no vitamin B-12 in plants and the human body cannot produce this vitamin, so that vitamin B-12 would need to be consumed through animal protein.
These claims have been disproven, since all vegetarians and vegans tested had normal values of vitamin B 12. This means that humans must be able to produce this vitamin, probably in the enteron area. Also, the levels of vitamin B-12 consumed in the shape of microorganisms and ground bacteria appear to be sufficient to prevent a deficiency of this vitamin in vegetarians.
Vegetarian Women
In addition, the theory that animal protein and fat are not only partially responsible for the large number of cases of heart disease, but also create conditions in which the common forms of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and many metabolism diseases can result. The larger the share of animal foods in the diet, the more often this type of "surplus diseases" was diagnosed. The statistic link between breast cancer and meat consumption was also established. Vegetarian women have a significantly lower rate of breast cancer than omnivores. This well-known fact is also often mentioned in connection with the fact that vegetarian girls reach puberty two to three years later than other girls, on average.
Vegetarian women were also shown to have a much lower risk for and a lesser degree of post-menopausal osteoporosis. The Chinese vegetarian women tested only consume about 1/3 the amount of calcium European women do, but in their case, all the calcium is derived from plant foods instead of dairy products, as is often the case in western countries. Osteoporosis as we know it is virtually unknown in this area and not one of the women tested had this disease! The result of all these studies can be summarised in a single sentence. As Prof. Colin T. Campbell, who led the research for the Chinese vegetarian study, said: "Diets containing animal protein and fat make us all much sicker than we want to admit." Suicide with Knife and Fork Considering that more than 70% of fatal diseases are caused by dietary factors, the claim that it's possible to commit suicide with knife and fork is certainly no laughing matter. But this is a problem everyone has to deal with on their own and no one can make that decision for someone else. However, clear and well-founded information makes this choice easier. There is a Chinese saying that the first steps on a long trip are the hardest ... At any rate, the religious statements on the relation between man and animal as conceived by our creator should also be taken into consideration the ruthless, profit-hungry perversion of this can be seen in the horrifying pictures of animal transports through Europe to Asia and Africa. This type of irresponsible exploitation mentality has not only been made legal, but also subsidised by the taxes we pay and justified by churches using quotes from the bible. Change our Way of Thinking Vegetarianism shows us the way to a healthier lifestyle, to necessary spiritual realisations, to the increase in the overall health of the population, to the reduction of health care costs and to the avoidance of the deaths of millions of people from starvation now and in the future. In addition, vegetarianism leads us to the protection of our fellow beings, which is more necessary now than ever before, since the role of the animal kingdom in the plan of creation is not for animals to be the subject of any kind of exploitation or to serve as food for humans. Quite the contrary: as sapient beings with superior knowledge and more insight, we are actually obliged to help animals in their lives. So the real question is what is keeping us from living and eating as vegetarians. The answer can only be found in the wishes and desires of every individual. The environment in which we live with our fellow creatures is a product of our way of thinking. The world we have created in this way can only be changed if we ourselves change our way of thinking and thus, our way of living.
Dr. Hartinger is a specialised surgeon and President of the association 'Physicians against animal experiments'. Dr. Hartinger has published several books: 'Das Tierexperiment in der Humanmedizin', (Animal experimentation in human medicine); 'Christentum und Tierschutz Das vergessene Evangelium', (Christianity and animal protection The forgotten Gospel); Das Tier in Thora, Tenach und Talmud',(Animals in Thora, Tenach and Talmud); Die Mauer des Schweigens', (The wall of silence) 'Seelenrätsel', (Mystery of the soul); 'Der Tierversuch zwischen Wissenschaft und Wirklichkeit' (Animal experimentation between science and reallity; 'Geschwister der Evolution', (Brothers and sisters of evolution)
For contact:
Dr. Werner Hartinger
Im Klingnauer 30
D-79761 Waldshut-Tiengen
Tel: +49 7741 2100
Fax: +49 7741 621 01