Standing on two stools

Let me just state first of all that I like meat. And fish. And plenty of other things which go about their daily life until it ends with a hatchet buried in their necks. I don't see anything morally wrong in eating other creatures - in fact, that's pretty much what those other creatures do to survive. So why not me?

However, I do hear the arguments that vegans and vegetarians make. From economical and energy-efficiency point of view, it does not make much sense to use grain to feed a beast, when you could use the grain directly to feed people.

So, from the beginning of this year, I've sort of switched to being a half-vegetarian. I try to keep two-three days a week when I don't eat meat or fish products - or at least I don't have them as a main meal. I wanted to blog about this earlier, but I wanted to check that I could actually keep this promise to myself for a while before I went all public with it. I don't know about you, but at least for me it's always been too easy to just pick whatever meat or fish the corporate cafeteria is offering. This decision is making me actively choose other things now, and it's kind of working.

I'm not seeing any health benefits though, nor any other effects, except that I've started to be a bit picky about the beef I eat - it needs to be cooked just right; be the juicy, succulent, tender variety that you can slobber at by just thinking about putting it in your mouth... Not the "generic meat" that is so often served in places calling themselves restaurants. Makes you appreciate the good stuff more, when you don't ruin your taste with crap.

Actually, now that I think about it, the cause-effect relationship might go the other way, too - maybe I've just become too picky first?

Update: corrected terminology.


Yes, the vicious grain-eating fish are a serious threat to the world economics.

--NimetönPelkuri, 06-Mar-2008

Heh. Not exactly the image I was shooting for ;-)

--JanneJalkanen, 06-Mar-2008

You should consider adding lamb more to your diet. It lives and eats in places practically no edible plants live. So you are not wasting energy as you would be for other kinds of meat.

--Mikko, 06-Mar-2008

I think most of the lamb in the local shop freezer is flown in from the New Zealand. Then again, cheap beef comes from Brazil. I wonder how much of the damage done by the air cargo is compensated by the efficiency of mass production?

--JanneJalkanen, 07-Mar-2008

Nice, thats conscious decision!

But I think its hard to change your eating habits if you consider just doing it for the world and not to yourself. Anyway Im sure you'll find some changes in your vigour pretty soon because now your digestion gets off lighter than before.

Sad thing is when you live in Finland, its hard to find decent domestic vegetables and stuff in the winter -> air cargo again.

--Mikael, 07-Mar-2008

Janne, as a long time vegan, I'm glad to see that you're even considering moving toward it. I understand your position on the animals. I used to share it. However, after much consideration it occurred to me that we don't (generally) kill each other, rape each other, or harm each other and that those choices in restraint should be extended to all the other living creatures as much as possible. In other words, looking at what animals do to each other is probably a poor social guide for humans - we've adopted many practices that differ from basic animal behavior and these changes allow us to have the societies we enjoy.

As for the health benefits, it's unlikely that you would notice anything. I know you may find it controversial but you've only cut back to poisoning yourself 2 - 4 times a week. That's not exactly healthy. Is it better environmentally, sure - is it better health wise? Probably not. Think of it like this, would you get healthier if you only drank until drunk 3 nights a week vs five? Would it help if you only smoked 4 days a week? Not really. Eating healthy is more about not putting the toxins (think animal protein) in, and to a small extent the health benefits of plants. Since the damaging effects of animal foods are huge and the protective effects of plants (vitamins, fiber, water, etc) are tiny, just cutting back rarely has much of an effect.

You start out your blog entry by saying that "you like meat." I have no doubt about this. One thing they are finding is that concentrated foods (foods which are in the thousands of calories per pound - think basically anything except fruits and vegetables) is that they trigger the dopamine response centers in the brain to fire in a way that is very similar to drugs. This is particularly true of dairy, and in particular cheese which is not only one of our most concentrated foods but also one that contains proteins known as casomorphines - actual morphine like substances. All of these dense foods are addictive (it makes biologic sense to build in a STRONG drive toward dense foods - we needed to favor any chance to get them up until recent times). So, by cutting back, it's like a smoker that never stops - you keep the addiction alive. That's ok, I applaud your efforts, I'm just pointing out addictive fact. You are unlikely to loose the DRIVE to eat meat until doing without it for some time - something you may not ever chose to do.

In the amazing book on the dangers of animal proteins, "The China Study," the world's leading scientist on animal proteins (he's the scientist that discovered dioxin, the chemical in agent orange) talks about how his study, the so called "China Study" shows that unless you eat considerably less than 10% of your calories from animal sources (he suggests around 1 to 3%) you are not likely to see much of a health benefit - though he does point out that cutting back is better. He grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm and after years and years of study at Cornell now calls animal proteins the "most carcinogenic thing we've ever studied." This from the guy that discovered dioxin!!! You can read his story in the intro to his book, it's only 7 pages:

I'd be happy to share some tasty vegan recipes with you if you're ever looking for inspiration. -- Scott

--ScottHurlbert, 07-Mar-2008

Guys, just to make sure we're on the same page here: I have no intention whatsoever in giving up meat altogether, and I am not moving "towards" anything. Another reason I hesitated to write about this is that I figured I would start getting comments similar to Scott's above.

I find the rhetoric which talks about eating meat as an addiction very offensive. Eating meat is not like destroying yourself with nicotine, alcohol and other drugs - which cause millions of deaths every year. Humans are omnivores, and eating is not an addiction. This is demeaning to all those people who are currently hooked on hard drugs, are being driven out of their homes due to drunken husbands or wives, or suffer through the tortures of cancer treatment because of the lies spread by the tobacco industry.

I don't think your statement is controversial. I think it's complete baloney, spread by self-made health gurus to sell their books better. Human physiology varies quite a lot from person to person - there are even people for whom animal proteins are necessary to survive! A person needs a healthy, balanced diet; not one extreme or another. Whatever works for you, might not work for others.

I am also puzzled by your statement that "because we don't generally rape each other, we should all be vegetarian". Are you perhaps suggesting that I like raping my food before eating it? I can assure you that if that were the case, I would much rather use vegetables.

Mikael: I agree. I never quite understood how exactly Fenno-vegans (people who eat only domestic vegetable products) survive the winter. It sounds very dumb to me.

--JanneJalkanen, 08-Mar-2008

First, please read the 7 pages I pointed you to before how offended you are. The leading expert in the world on nutrition called animal protein the most carcinogenic substance they ever studied. This is not my opinion and he is not someone just trying to sell books. He invested a lifetime in the study of protein and those are his words. He was originally hired by the US government to find cheaper sources of protein to help feed the third world. He noticed that in poor countries liver cancer in children was concentrated among the children of the richest people - their families could afford and ate the most meat. Just read the 7 pages at:

In any case, the statement about rape was meant to contrast animal behavior with those of society. Animals take each other's possessions, jump each other's women, steal each other's territory in ways that human societies have tried to shun (obviously we're not perfect, the US esp.). My point is that to say it's ok to kill animals because a lion kills a rabbit is to say manslaughter is ok. We've chosen to frown on manslaughter and it's my belief that one day we'll frown on the killing of animals as food.

As for the foods are addictive comment, again these verifiable things. No one disagrees that coffee is addictive. No one disagrees that chewing tobacco is addictive. But what about chocolate, or a rich steak? Well one of the ways they treat heroin addiction (or tobacco) is to give them a drug called narcon. It's used in emergency rooms and treatment centers all the time. It works by blocking the dopamine centers of the brain and taking away the pleasure effects of heroin or cocaine. Turns out that if you give narcon to a chocolate lover (and I mean a real chocolate lover - a true binger - not someone like me that has a piece every once in a while) they lose their taste for chocolate. They will take a bite or two and put it down.

The casomorphine's in cheese are easy to google. The strongest of these morphine like compounds is 1/10th as strong as morphine. No one would argue that morphine is not addictive, yet cheese has many different casomorphine's in it's structure. I'm not saying cheese is morphine. I am saying that long term heavy eating of cheese has a measurable and explainable addictive factor.

Mikael, you make a very good point. I'm from Alaska and we share the difficulties getting fresh vegetables in the winter. Winter staples include the root and starch vegetables such as winter squash, potatoes, all the grains and beans. Stores and carry enough other green stuff year round now to make full and interesting meals, but it is more diverse in the summer.

By the way, in regards to your comments about "health guru's just selling books," T. Colin Campbell is now and old man in his seventies - he does not need the money and his world famous "China Study" was the largest epidemiological study ever done. So he's no light weight and no guru. This is as good as it gets into real scientific research. His suspicions in regards to the dangers of animal proteins actually came from reading a study done by Indian researchers after noticing that richer children got more cancer. This lead his study for the next 40 years and it was only just recently that he wrote the book "The China Study." It's hard to believe he's just saying this to sell books.

Janne, I'm actually surprised. You know I've been following your blog for a few years now and I've written you several times. This is the most incredulous I've ever heard you sound yet I can back up every claim I'm making. Why not be inquisitive.

As for it being offensive to call food addictive and that it is demeaning to all those who are currently hooked on hard drugs, I agree that's a sad thing, but it hardly undermines them to add this very real problem to the list of addictive problems. Drugs as a kill are way way way down on the list in most countries. What leads the western worlds lists of top killers are cancer, heard disease, and diabetes. All of which have at least some component in obesity.

Look, it will take you about 10 minutes, please read this PDF:

I'm not trying to convince you of anything, but you are very smart and I'd be curious to hear what you think.


--ScottHurlbert, 09-Mar-2008

Sorry for all the typos in that last comment, please read around them. I think my meaning is clear in most cases. Also, I called the addition drug narcon but it's really Narcan, sorry if that caused any confusion. -- Scott

--ScottHurlbert, 09-Mar-2008

Janne: the imported meat (or at least the vast majority of it) is not flown to Finland. It is transported in cargo ships, vacuum packed in cold containers. At least Brazilian beef is aged in the ships for the few weeks it takes to cross the Atlantic. Therefore the environmental impact of transportation is close to negligible. And the cattle in Brazil or Argentina don't need extra energy for heating in wintertime.

Having said that, I still prefer domestic meat because there is more information available about the production.

--Ruupert, 09-Mar-2008

Ruupert: that's what I've been actually wondering as well. Is any maths available anywhere on this?

Scott: Any single "top researcher" in the world is likely to be wrong. Even Einstein made mistakes. Anyone can write a book (and, if I had been working on something for 40 years, and nobody in the scientific community believed me, I would certainly write a book to try and convince at least the uneducated masses). Unless it has been peer-reviewed properly in scientific articles, there is no reason to assume it would be correct.

I didn't look at the book written by the inventor of the hypothesis. I looked at PubMed, and the abstracts suggest that even the researchers believe that the majority of their research results seems to be explained by the fact that the Chinese are subject to more physical exertion that their American counterparts, and they have a hypothesis that lower protein intake can also contribute to the overall healthiness. With very little effort, I can find several critiques to the China Study, most of which seem quite valid to my non-medical, but still scientific side.

However, it's a hypothesis. Not even a theory. Read up on your science. It's up to the scientific community (not you or me) to assert is validity by experimentation and measurements. Until that is done, I am simply going to rely on the currently available, most validated scientific data, which says that a healthy, balanced diet of an omnivore is what is good for people.

People who choose a position based on emotion have a way of looking everything as proving their point of view. That is simply intellectual laziness and cowardice. So is equating manslaughter with killing animals. If you can't work out the difference between those two basic things, you shouldn't be making moral claims on anything.

--JanneJalkanen, 10-Mar-2008

T. Colin Campbell has hundreds of peer reviewed papers to his credit, many of which are referenced in the book. If you want pubmed sources I'll happily provide them. I'm on pubmed all the time.

It's scientific laziness and cowardice to put your understanding of something in online critiques. But I don't want to get into name calling.

I've read many papers on PubMed regarding these issues and I agree with you. There is indeed strong evidence to support lower protein intake is better. Indeed the World Health Organization recommends that 5% of your calories come from protein. Here in America we eat many times that amount and I believe that is also true in Finland as well.

Like I said before, I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I just thought I would try to encourage you after your post about eating less meat and for some reason you are all upset.

I am an animal rights supporter - there is no doubt about that, and I understand that you want to be able to kill animals (or have animals killed for you) and eat meat. We'll have to differ on that.

Now as to this hypothesis that not eating meat is healthier, how do you show that the absence of something is healthier? It's a hard thing to study. What Campbell and his team did was analyze the data from the largest study on the human diet ever done. Back in the lab they also looked for the mechanisms by which animal proteins cause health problems, and they published their research on what they found - in peer reviewed journals - and they found many mechanisms - so I'm not sure what you're objecting to. If you want lock solid proof of something, I don't think you understand the "science" of nutrition. It just does not come down to black and white. Even in the area of eating animal protein, about all you can say is that less is better. By the way, in his book Campbell acknowledges the higher levels of physical exertion and so he only compares Chinese office workers to Americans. Still, even the Chinese office workers had higher activity levels. But the same comparisons showed the health trends I've suggested when groups of Chinese were compared to each other. I'm no genius, but...

As to using emotions for proving my point, I guess you didn't enjoy my manslaughter argument. Most people that want to kill animals don't enjoy that, so if I offended you I'm sorry. I was making an argument based solely on my feelings of goodwill toward animals and humans. I believe it does the animals a disservice to be killed by humans (pretty hard to argue with) and it does the humans a disservice to their health to eat the dead animals (a statement which is highly subjective but I believe I can make a very strong argument for).

Obviously you disagree, but that's no reason to say that I'm intellectually lazy or a coward. I took a good deal of time to share my feelings and ideas with you and I had the bravery to stand up and argue for my position by using my real name and email (not an AnonymousCoward). You, as the creator of blogging software, are the last person from which I would expect that kind of mud slinging . I've not attacked you. I've spelled out an opinion which differs from yours - and I thought from years of reading your blog that that was what you are all about. If you only want people that agree with everything you say to read your blog then it's my mistake. I also didn't puss out on the science. There are hundreds and hundreds of references in the book "The China Study" (many of which are also in PubMed). I used the book as a suggestion for one source of my arguments. Why you don't find this credible is simply because you've not looked at it. I'll tell you what - if you've got a sense of adventure I'll buy you a copy. Send me the details and I'll have it delivered to your door with my compliments (and that's a promise I'll keep.).

As for confusing killing animals with killing humans - I've not confused it. All I said was that one day I hope we show as much compassion toward animals as we do for each other. I stand by that claim. That is indeed my hope. I'm not attacking you for not feeling the same way. I would say that I used language I knew would be provocative, but that's not quite the same thing as attacking you is it. So calling me a lazy coward is a bit low handed.

Why is your belief that you should kill animals any more valid than my belief that we should let them live or even protect them?

Want to confuse the issue even more? Then read this. Turns out your average human is genetically adapted to eat starch (please don't comment on this, I'm not trying to present a newspaper article as "scientific evidence." I'm just sharing. ...and at this point I'm being partially sarcastic - though the science in that article is intriguing).

Scott Hurlbert

--ScottHurlbert, 10-Mar-2008

Scott, PubMed only finds 72 articles attributed to Mr. Campbell, not all of which are even about this subject matter. "Hundreds" is an exaggeration.

The largest study does not mean it's the best. In fact, some of the critique suggests that the data was skewed in the first place. Typically, you never prove anything in a single study, but have several, independent studies to confirm the facts. This, as far as I can tell, has not yet been done, and therefore Mr. Campbell's hypothesis is just that: an interesting hypothesis. Making it a cornerstone of your life is, in my book, roughly the same as trying to make Mary Poppins your guide to life. Not necessarily a bad thing (I love the book), but you should not tell people that flying with umbrellas is scientifically proven now.

"Why is your belief that you should kill animals any more valid than my belief that we should let them live or even protect them?"

Ah, relativism. The bane of mankind. Unfortunately, beliefs are of different validity. If the President of the USA said that small leprechauns talk to him, he would be locked away and the nucular weapons codes would be well hidden from him. But if he says that God talks to him, everybody cheers. From a scientific standpoint, both of these claims are equally invalid. But common beliefs make them unequal.

Look, I appreciate the encouragement (and I am trying to lessen the amount of animal proteins in my food to make it more balanced - I realized there was too much of the stuff). Unfortunately, you could not know that I really, really, really hate it when people buy into pseudo-scientific crap (which might or might not be a shadow of some valid science). So you get the full load. And let me assure you that this is in no way directed to your person, just your opinions. And I really appreciate it that you have the courage to be here under your own name. It's really rare, and I would very much like to continue this discussion in a pub over a beer. :-)

--JanneJalkanen, 10-Mar-2008

Thank you Janne. I too would enjoy continuing this over a beer sometime. In fact, I missed out on your last visit to California, because I happened to be out of town, or I would have taken you up on your invitation on the beer then.

For the record I said that Campbell had hundreds peer reviewed papers, but I was not certain of the actual number. His book does list hundreds of supporting peer reviewed sources for the content but that's not the same thing, obviously. The follow up studies on the protein issue have been done and is on going. The evidence is pretty convincing, especially when you get a broader picture. I'm not trying to continue the discussion but I did want to make this point. These references are just a for instance to show that I'm not "lazy" - (ha, that was typed with a big grin and in good sportsmanship):

Fontana L, Klein S, Holloszy JO Long-term low-protein, low-calorie diet and endurance exercise modulate metabolic factors associated with cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Dec;84(6):1456-62.

McCarty MF A low-fat, whole-food vegan diet, as well as other strategies that down-regulate IGF-I activity, may slow the human aging process. Med Hypotheses. 2003 Jun;60(6):784-92.

McCarty MF Vegan proteins may reduce risk of cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease by promoting increased glucagon activity.

Divisi D, Di Tommaso S, Salvemini S, Garramone M, Crisci R. Diet and cancer. Acta Biomed. 2006 Aug;77(2):118-23.

Millward DJ. The nutritional value of plant-based diets in relation to human amino acid and protein requirements. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 May;58(2):249-60.

Millward DJ. Metabolic demands for amino acids and the human dietary requirement: Millward and Rivers (1988) revisited. J Nutr. 1998 Dec;128(12 Suppl):2563S-2576S.

WHO/FAO/UNU. Energy and Protein Metabolism. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1985. (If this is online I don't see it but it should be. Anyway lots of documents refer to it and it's protein recommendations)

(some of these studies go back ages, so nothing I'm saying is new: This is a very famous paper from 1904) Chittenden, R. H. (1904). Physiological economy in nutrition, with special reference to the minimal protein requirement of the healthy man. An experimental study. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company.

I could go on but suffice it to say there is a lot of good science out there to support my position. I'm sure you would say that's true of every position but I would disagree. I have indeed seen a few articles sponsored by the meat industry that try to promote red meat as being healthy. When I look at them I see many flaws. But to be honest I see many loopholes in the studies above for those that want to find them. That's where the rubber meets the road. So, let me end all this by saying "cheers" to hashing the remaining details over a beer - in your pub or mine.


--ScottHurlbert, 10-Mar-2008

Uh, what day is your burger day? Just so I can plan my schedule next time we meet up.


--charlie, 30-Mar-2008

Hehe. It's typically a Saturday :-)

--JanneJalkanen, 04-Apr-2008

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