Traditional Diets and Animal Rights: Traditionalism vs Activism

April 16, 2017

 

THERE IS NO singular, all-encompassing dietary answer for everyone; adherence to a particular fad diet or one born from a movement of social activism may foster an attitude of superiority, correctness or virtuousness, but rarely will either option bring us--individually or collectively--to a state of real health and vibrancy. A true 'paleo' diet is less about the myriad books you will find in the store, the articles you find on the internet, or even the communities that adhere to absolute certainties about this way of eating. Everyone is slightly different genetically, and not all foods work for all people, however the basic blueprints of our species are fundamentally the same. Certain biological and metabolic functions remain true for everyone, and this is where we come to the divide of 'what is good for our feelings' vs 'what is good for our bodies'.

 

In a recent discussion with a friend, I was unable to articulate my knowledge and thoughts regarding the traditional diet of Okinawans--the longest lived people on the planet--on the spot, which in turn spurred me into research mode. I knew that despite popular belief, this wasn't a society that could claim the highest number of centenarians on the planet due to a diet of seafood, rice and tofu; it is due to a diet that revolves heavily around the consumption of fatty, nutrient dense wild boar and pork.  [1] [2] Okinawans, the Abkhasians near the Black Sea in Russia and many other relatively isolated cultures with the highest degree of longevity, even those that function as agricultural society, have diets that revolve predominantly around animal foods, rather than incorporating them as asides to plant based foods. These societies and others, such as the indigenous people of the Americas had and do still have a strong connection to the natural world, and a strong respect for the lives within it, especially those which they must take for sustenance.

 

This is the traditionalist ideal when it comes to both 'how to live as a species, with other species' and with regard to our allowance to live in as close to optimal health as we possibly can. The foods we consume affect more than just our weight and appearance; they affect our hormonal balance, the function of our internal organs, our ability to fend off pathogens and parasitic infections, and much more.

 

It is without a doubt that Vegan and Vegetarian proponents can be among the most cult-like groups and individuals around when it comes to diet and nutrition; if nothing, they are most definitely the most vocal and most adamant on spreading their message. But, what exactly is that message? What does it entail? Is it the promotion of a way of life that is overall 'better' for us biologically, or is it a thinly veiled virtue signal geared to make us feel better emotionally and spiritually, providing us with an ethical 'cause' to adhere to?

 

Let us take a look at 'Forks over Knives', the de facto modern visual Bible for those attempting to convert people to a vegetarian, vegan or at the very least 'plant oriented' diet, which carries with it a narrative that relies heavily on the extremely flawed 'China Study' [2] [3], as well as further debunked and cherry picked scientific claims and studies. To many, the film looks to have it's heart in the right place; unfortunately when you dig deeper, it reaches its hands into the same pool of dogmatic thought and misguided information. It is a propaganda piece more than a guide to healthy living.

 

There are most certainly those who view these convictions with absolute clarity because they truly believe it is the right thing to do, and that we as a species shall be judged based on how we life that is 'below' us. This is where activism and traditionalism in terms of how and what we eat intersect; again, with respect for all life. The fundamental difference is that traditional cultures respect human life and well-being just as much as they respect animals and natural order. Outrage over (admittedly awful) factor farming conditions and shock images of poor animal welfare certainly ring clear with truth, but these are issues of ethics that must be addressed, not methodology for changing our dietary guidelines.

 

The Traditionalist approach to nutrition, diet and animal rights becomes clear: Return to our past ways, and respect for the aforementioned natural order of our world. Reliance on animal products is not simply something we can give up or throw away; it is of fundamental importance to our biochemical makeup and overall health. We are, despite minor individual differences in metabolic ability, still finely tuned machines that prefer a particular type of fuel and require similar maintenance. The continuing climate of Animal Rights Activism certainly feels good to many, but carries with it a strong of focus on 'self' more than animals, and a path of righteous indignation which propels it into the same territory of other social and political movements that equally disregard facts, science and historical evidence/context. Perhaps one day we will collectively come to realize that our ancestors had it right, all along.

 

 

“What do plants eat? They eat dead animals; that’s the problem. For me that was a horrifying realization. You want to be an organic gardener, of course, so you keep reading ‘Feed the soil, feed the soil, feed the soil…’

All right. Well, what does the soil want to eat? Well, it wants manure, and it wants urine, and it wants blood meal and bone meal. And I…could not face that. I wanted my garden to be pure and death-free. It didn’t matter what I wanted: plants wanted those things; they needed those things to grow.” 
― Lierre Keith, Author of The Vegetarian Myth

 

 

References:

 

1. Stanley A. Fishman, 'Eat Fat, Live Long—the Real Food of Okinawa'

2. Weston A. Price Foundation, 'How Much Soy Do Okinawans Eat?'

3. Denise Minger, 'China Study: Fact or Fallacy?'

 

Recommended reading: The Vegetarian Myth

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