Rebel: Become an Enemy of the Steak


During one week of January 2005 three things happened. Together they crystallized into a decision to eliminate meat from my diet.

(1) My 48-year old cousin, a major carnivore, suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery. (2) Mad cow disease in Canada made the headlines again. It seemed though that the possibility was remote, so the clincher was: (3) a colleague’s (Mr. Haliburton) account of how cattle are raised.

The males and females are separated a few weeks after birth. The former are mostly castrated, while only a few of the latter become milking cows. The rest are fattened and slaughtered at a tender age to become veal on our plates. This is civilized behaviour?

When I was a teenager I visited a mechanized pig farm and was disgusted by what I saw. A few years later I worked in the lab of a hot dog company. I learned that a hot dog consists of a mixture of hearts, intestines and other spare parts. Spices disguise the taste of the concoction, and sodium nitrites colour the otherwise pale product red. But as a young man, I just did not have the will to give up meat. Having my pet rabbit stolen and roasted by my neighbour removed that defenseless animal from my diet, but I kept getting most of my protein at the expense of other shortened and compromised animal lives.

Of course, human lives are important than those of beasts, but our survival does not depend on the consumption of meat. There are so many other ways of getting essential amino acids into our bodies through legumes, nuts and dairy products. A company by the name of St.Yves has brilliantly created a variety of soy products that mimic hot dogs, hamburgers and even bacon. Put enough ketchup and mustard on those, and you may not taste the difference. Some may argue that the taste of a traditional burger cannot be duplicated through vegetable products alone, but we have so many other ways of indulging our senses. Yet what other source of pleasure remains for animals that are castrated? They can’t ski or sit in a whirlpool bath.

Prions are tiny infectious proteins that can be transmitted through consumption of meat. The molecules are abnormally-structured versions of proteins normally found in the host. They convert normal molecules of the normal protein into the abnormal structure, resulting in diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease  and BSE(mad cow disease. These affect the structure of brain tissue, making all prion diseases fatal and untreatable. Although the evidence for the hypothesis is still weak, there is even a possibility that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by prions because prion-like material has been found in the brains of such victims.

We belong to a class of animals known as mammals. Birds are also related to mammals in the sense that they are warm-blooded and care for their young. Should we really kill and eat creatures that we are genetically connected to? Should we be serving sheep brains to cattle? These practices have nothing to do with survival. They are far more related to a form of lust and to profit-taking.

People will not give up meat overnight. It took me twenty-five years. Let the meat industry slowly adapt. There are so many other ways of making money that are far more humane.