Omnivores

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When I was living in Iqaluit in the 1980s, I knew a couple of vegans. They were not quite as proselytizing as the ones today but they were imbued with a high moral tone and always willing to tell you how your diet was both unhealthy and immoral. After a couple of months eating nearly spoiled vegetables and expired tinned goods which comprised the entire local supply of greenery, they developed a lean and hungry look.

Their solution was — unique. They decided it would be okay to eat caribou and fish caught by local Inuit hunters. It was ‘country’ food and came from ‘the land.’ So that’s sort of like a vegetable, right?

Recently, there was a minor tempest in Ottawa when the experimental farm’s dairy hosted a educational event called ‘from cow to cone,’ which not only instructed young people about farming, it also gave them free ice cream. What a treat!

Apparently not. Immediately there was a demand to provide a non-dairy option (soy cream, I guess) “to be inclusive.” You know, the way vegans offer a ‘steak’ option to their dinner guests.

I’m not a big vegetable eater – the list of ones I can’t stomach is much longer than the list of those I can tolerate. But I try not to complain. I don’t always succeed but I try. And eat what I’m offered and if there is a lot left on the plate — I just wasn’t very hungry

Back at the dairy farm, things have escalated. People raised the spectre of cattle-rape and asked about the fate of the calves. Last time I was there the calves were frolicking — though make no mistake; this is a working farm so they may not frolic forever.

The final blow came in a comparison of dairy farming to Nazi death camps. Seriously?

Evolution provided humans with the tools to pretty much eat anything (except cellulose — that’s why we have cattle). The environment, sweet old Mother Nature, pretty much demanded we do that to survive. Humans have for a million years been hunters, gathers and yes, scavengers. In olden times, road kill was called lunch. We are, by nature, omnivores.

Some cultures have adopted dietary restrictions as part of their religion — such as kosher or halal foods or vegetarianism among Hindus. Religion masks this as ethical but evidence suggests there is a big — horrors — economic motive as well. You can’t afford to eat animals if they are more valuable as sources of labour. One of the best ways to stop people chowing down is to make it immoral with threats of supernatural punishment.

The demands of radical vegetarians that we all stop eating meat products have no more basis in fact than most other religious beliefs. Too much of anything is probably bad for you but too little leads you to taking dietary supplements and enriching the coffers of big Pharma or its whole earth equivalent.

I look at it the way I look at homeopathy. It doesn’t work but no real harm done. And if you get really sick you can always turn to medicine. Like those northern vegetarians turned to caribou.

But that’s ten minutes.

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