A Little Bit of Everything

I thought I’d post this since I posted it as a comment on an article and I really like it.  The article was about meat being considered more ‘macho’ than vegetarianism and a lot of vegetarians were leaving negative comments about people who eat meat.

“Although I don’t believe that eating meat makes anybody more ‘macho’, I don’t personally agree with vegetarianism.  I like to abide by the ‘Everything in moderation’ maxim.  I grew up believing that a good, balanced dinner meal consists of 1 part vegetables, 1 part starchy material (like rice, potatoes, or noodles) and 1 part meat.  Since then, the vegetable portion has grown, and I don’t panic if there occasionally isn’t meat in the meal but I still like to go to that as my basic proportions.

If others want to be vegetarians, go ahead, I am certainly not going to condemn them.  However, these are MY personal reasons for not being a vegetarian;

I am done my third year with a major in animal biology and a minor in nutritional and nutraceutical sciences and there a couple nutrients I have learned about that seem to not be available from plants.

Vitamin B12; there IS a form in plants however it is not accessible to humans.  The only non-animal sources are fortified breakfast cereals (which usually only have 25% of your daily value in 1 serving so you would have to eat 4 servings each and every day) and supplements.  Whether this is really a non-animal source is debatable though since, the vitamin would probably have to be isolated from meat products.  Vitamin B12 is important for neurological development, red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and for enzymes that affect metabolism.  Unfortunately, symptoms can be masked by an adequate folate intake but there are still significant neurological effects.  This is especially visible in newborns.  We saw a case study of a vegan mother with a newborn.  The mother wasn’t showing symptoms because she had good folate intake (which comes from green leafy vegetables) but the newborn wasn’t developing properly.

Iron;  There are two types of iron, heme and non-heme.  Non-heme is available from plants and is used by the body for a lot of functions.  Heme iron is only available from animal products and is essential for your red blood cells to be able to carry oxygen.  Iron deficiencies have to be pretty severe to lose your hemoglobin because your body holds onto its heme iron the longest, but it IS a concern, especially if you have a large amount of blood loss.  Additionally, non-heme iron from plants isn’t always absorbed well because of the presence of oxalates in phytates.  There is a misconception that spinach and beets have particularly high amounts of iron.  Spinach, because of a clerical error made when first recording the iron content, leading to people believing there was 10x more iron in it than there actually was.  Beets, because the red colour resembles blood.  

According to Health Canada’s DRI tables, daily iron requirement for non-vegetarian men is 8mg/day and for vegetarian men, 14.4 mg/day (requirement is increased for vegetarians because of low bioavailability in purely vegetation-based diets), 18 mg/day for non-vegetarian women and 32.4 mg/day for vegetarian women. With the phytates and oxalates inhibiting absorption, a serving of beets only gives you 0.8 mg of iron per 100g if raw, and 1.82 if canned while 100 g of spinach gives you 2.71 mg if raw and 3.57 if cooked (cooking can help break down some of those inhibitory compounds but not all).  Legumes are the best vegetable source of iron however they still have a lot of phytates and oxalates which inhibit bioavailability.  To improve this, you can ferment soybeans and soak other beans for long periods of time.  Other ways of increasing iron absorption from vegetables include; accompanying the vegetable with animal product (which is obviously out of the question for vegetarians), or increasing vitamin C intake.  Of course, the question is, how much help can that be?

Protein;  A lot of vegetarians eat soy.  As I mentioned above, soy is high in phytates and oxalates which inhibit absorption of protein, as well as iron.  Fermenting helps destroy some of these compounds.  Unfermented, soy has a protein source number of around 0.6, where 2.0 is considered the best protein source.  Another fact proving this is the fact that if you look at the japanese diet, a diet praised as being high in vegetable matter and fish, and low in other animal products, the majority of the soy they eat is fermented (miso, natto, tempeh).

Energy; Meat is very energy dense because fat is energy dense.  Too much fat is bad but a little goes along way.  Fat is often used to fuel the body’s normal functions while carbohydrates fuel the brain.  The main source of energy in plant matter is carbohydrates.  Some plant matter contains starch but most contains cellulose, which is the most abundant source of energy on the planet.  Unfortunately, cellulose is only digestible for herbivores.  Humans do not have enough enzymes or bacteria in their gut to be able to get any substantial amount of energy from it.  Somebody would have to eat a ton of grains, legumes, nuts, starchy foods like potatoes, and fatty fruits like avocadoes to get the same amount of energy that a regular diet of a small piece of beef in a meal can give you.

I’m not convinced that switching to an all vegetation diet would be more economical or environmentally friendly; People seem to say that the space needed for vegetation consumed by one cow could feed more of the world if used for crops.  As I said above, you need a large amount of crops to equal the amount of energy available in the meat from a cow.  This would mean that more habitat would probably have to be destroyed than is destroyed now, to have enough crop fields to feed the world.  Additionally, having several fields of a single crop drastically decreases biodiversity in that area, which has a negative impact on the ecosystem.

(In response to the people who are saying that they look down on hunters, do you just mean sport hunters?  Because, if you’re talking about people who actually eat the meat, that’s a much more environmentally-friendly way of getting food.  It promotes conservation of habitat and biodiversity.  Even hunting for fur is environmentally-friendly, because conservation of habitat HAS to be important to the hunters or else they won’t be able to find animals)

Our digestive system; We are omnivores, and our digestive system is much different from those of herbivores.  Personally, I think that is an important reason why to include meat in my diet.

We have a place in the ecosystem; I personally think that as omnivores and predators, we  have a place in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem, especially since we have gotten rid of so many natural predators.  If the human race were to stop eating meat, it’s possible that the balance of the ecosystems could be thrown completely out of whack and that would be bad.

So, those are my reasons for not being a vegetarian.  Nutrition-wise, I imagine a really determined person who’s willing to do a lot of research, could get by okay.  For me though, because of the other reasons, I am not willing to do all the work to find alternatives for certain nutrients when I can simply eat a little meat with my meals and get the proper nutrition.”

-Daine

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Since my major is Animal Biology, one of my mandatory courses this semester was Animal Welfare.  Very interesting course with lots of reasons to have different opinions.  It’s had me thinking about my own thoughts on animal welfare and rights.

One thing I specifically wanted to talk about was the tendency of AR people to go, “Well, how would you like it if you were raised to be killed?” and my very interesting musing I had on what it would actually be like to be in that perspective.

First of all, I would be born in a facility and raised, not knowing much about the outside world.  I would have consistent supplies of food and water, shelter treatment when ill, and social interaction (Provided this is a responsible establishment, which is more common than people seem to think).  Even if I was in an outside paddock and could see that there was a world on the other side of the fence, I can’t imagine being interested in it at all.  Putting myself in that mindset, I would think that the outside would be very scary as it would appear much more chaotic and unpredictable next to my predictable, safe, and consistently satisfying lifestyle.

When slaughter comes, it would be quick and painless and then I would be dead and therefore unable to be bothered by the fact that I was killed for food.

I find it funny when I hear people ask “Well, how would you like to be raised and slaughtered for food?” because it’s such a narrow-minded and presumptuous question.  It just assumes that we would carry with us, our current mentality and schemas, into this new situation when the fact is; we would have a whole different perspective and outlook on the world if we were actually in the same position as food animals.

-Daine

Hey guys,

I know, I know, long time, no talk.  I’m crazy busy with university but I decided that I wanted to make another post here, and hopefully make a few more in the near future.

I just read an article about a bunch of British actresses that have joined a group created by Kate Winslet, called “The British Anti-Cosmetic Surgery League”.  What I found interesting, and deserving of a Musing, was my immediate gut instinct.  Uneasiness and dislike.  I thought it was interesting because I don’t particularly like the idea of cosmetic surgery and I doubt I’ll ever get it myself.  So, I decided to examine the feeling.

What I dislike about the idea of that league has nothing really to do with the fact that it’s against cosmetic surgery and everything to do with the principle of the thing.

Freedom to make my own choices in regards to my life is very important to me.  It bugs me when people try to take that freedom away because they don’t agree with it and feel that others should think like them.  Why is the group targeting cosmetic surgery when they could be targeting the PRESSURE to get cosmetic surgery?  or making sure that people who decide to go under the knife have made an educated decision?  Cosmetic surgery is a choice that some people make.  Yes, there are people who make that choice out of feelings of insecurity or pressuring from others, but there are also people who make the choice after educating themselves and thinking long and hard about what they want.  Often, those people undergo the surgery not for others, but for themselves.  Isn’t cosmetic surgery just a more serious and permanent form of make-up?  Why should those people be punished because a group of influential people have decided that they don’t like the idea of cosmetic surgery and thus it must be wrong?

I’m all for empowering people to feel good about their looks.  Hey, I don’t even wear make-up.  What I am not comfortable with, is attempting to take away choice.

At the moment, it looks like this group is just making public statements and not trying to lobby the government to ban cosmetic surgery or something; I really hope things will stay that way.

-Daine

Hey guys,

It’s been a while but I thought I’d mention some thoughts I had after reading an online new article and its comments.

Basically, the article was talking about the improvement being made by a 12 yr old girl in Alberta. This girl, unnamed by the media for security reasons, teamed up with her 23 year old boyfriend and murdered her parents and younger brother in 2006, because the parents didn’t approve of her relationship.  The 23 year old was given 25 years in prison and the girl 10; the maximum sentence for a minor.

The article is talking about how the girl is doing therapy, has done well in school, and is now starting a university degree.

Many of the comments on the article are talking about how our justice system is awful and the fact that this girl isn’t in jail for life, or hasn’t been executed, is disgusting.  Personally, I find all those comments disgusting and frankly, horrifying.

All of them talk about character and knowing the difference between right and wrong, and they are SO convinced that they are better than this girl.  How?  Regardless of the reason, they are wishing death on another person.  How are they not similar to her?  Is the presence of action really what distinguishes between good and bad character?

That question is my major musing for the day.

Another thing, though, that doesn’t make logical sense to me at all, is; what is the purpose of a life sentence, or capital punishment?  They boggle my mind.  The purpose of punishment, what makes it different from causing somebody pain for the simple sake of one’s own sense of fulfillment, is the idea that somebody will learn something from it.  The purpose of that, is to have a chance to show that they have learned from it.  Hence, how do life sentences and capital punishment contribute to that at all?

One comment that was defending the choice to let this girl attend university really struck me; ‘What if this girl creates a cure for cancer? Wouldn’t that repay her debt to society?’

Here is the link to the article:

http://news.sympatico.ca/Bell.Sympatico.CMS/CmsTemplates/JE/JE_FeedsArticleTemplate_LeftZone_186.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=82E6FEE2-5CBE-4B6F-8BF1-9D85F52674E9&NRORIGINALURL=%2foped%2fcoffee-talk%2fcontentposting%3fnewsitemid%3d5da28e65-91da-4195-8339-290ec2193d56%26feedname%3dnews-coffee-talk%26show%3dfalse%26number%3d0%26showbyline%3dtrue%26subtitle%3d%26detect%3d%26abc%3dabc%26date%3dtrue&NRCACHEHINT=Guest&feedname=news-coffee-talk&number=0&newsitemid=5da28e65-91da-4195-8339-290ec2193d56&showbyline=true&abc=abc&show=false&date=true&ICPAGENO=120#IC_TOP

– Daine

Okay guys, a while ago I made a post about my thoughts on the misuse of the words ‘wild’ and ‘tame’.  I decided to redo that and here you go;

 

‘Domestic’, ‘Wild’, ‘Tame’? – What do these words mean?

Every time an animal rights activist makes a statement attacking exotic animal owners, you often hear the same words being mentioned over and over again; ‘Tame’, ‘Domestic’, ‘Wild’.  This is because the general public tends not to know the exact definition of these words and so AR groups capitalise on this and lead people to believe the simplistic meanings they have attached to the words.  They then use them as inflammatory words, evoking emotion, rather than logic, in their listeners.  As a biologist, I will start by explaining the word ‘Domestic’ as that is the one word that has a scientific basis.

The word ‘Domestic’ describes animals that have been domesticated.  The process of domestication is fairly simple and straightforward; it does not take thousands of years as some people would have you believe.  The process simply involves breeding several animals of the desired species, picking the offspring that are most friendly to humans, breeding them, and repeating this until you get the desired results.  It’s human-influenced selection as opposed to natural selection.  Granted, this process can last for a couple decades but the domestication of Russian foxes[i] shows us that the process need not take more than 50 years.

Now, what is often done in the media and by AR groups is that, the words ‘domestic’ and ‘tame’ are used interchangeably.  This is a problem due to the fact that, as I have just said, ‘domestic’ has a scientific, quantifiable meaning.  In comparison, ‘Tame’ does not have an exact meaning and therefore can be thrown around subjectively.  Generally, the term ‘Tame’ is used to mean ‘not wild’, which brings us to the last term, and the one that I think is the most grossly misused; ‘Wild’.  This term can be used as both a noun and an adjective and both uses are wielded as swords by the AR groups, media, and other misinformed individuals.  I will first tackle its use as a noun.

Probably the most common sentence spoken by people who oppose exotic animal ownership is “These animals belong in ‘the Wild’!!” Well, what is ‘the Wild’, anyways?  I will choose to interpret it as land untouched by humans.  Unfortunately, there is less and less of that available.  Of course, we should be acting to stop that but there’s only so much we can do.  Personally, I think ‘the Wild’ is becoming somewhat of a myth. In addition to that, It is strange how people are convinced that ‘the Wild’ is this magical, happy place.  It is most definitely not.  The average animal will spend its short life constantly looking over its shoulder for predators or rivals, constantly worrying about getting enough food and water, and finally dying a most likely, very painful death due to disease, starvation, or being ripped apart by a predator or rival.  There is no chance to enjoy the freedom that AR activists tout as being vital to an animal’s happiness.

Used as an adjective, ‘Wild’ is applied like a stamp, marking certain types of animals as being impossible for a human to have a relationship with.  Well, that would suggest that these same animals are also impossible to domesticate which is disproven by the aforementioned Russian fox breeding project.  The only difference between animals that are domesticated, and animals that are not, is the inherent friendliness towards humans that is shown by the domesticated animals.  This does not mean that it is impossible to form a good relationship with a non-domesticated animal, but simply that it is more challenging.

In conclusion, the three words that are the subject of this article are words that unfortunately, have been badly misused for a long time and are really at the root of the misconceptions about exotic animal ownership.  If the public’s knowledge of these words and their definitions can be corrected, then it should be fairly easy to convince them that exotic ownership is just as valid as ownership of domestic dogs and cats.


[i] In 1959, Dmitri Belyaev started a breeding project at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk.  It continues today.  The project was to selectively breed foxes in the hopes of getting a fur animal that was easier to handle.  Unfortunately, the objectives had to change as the domestication process caused the majority of the foxes to lose their solid colour and show spots, which is not desired in the fur industry.

 

Okay, so I just read an article on sympatico.ca talking about how the Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Green party succeeded in toppling Harper and the conservatives.  That seems good to me because Harper has been doing some sketchy stuff.  What really pisses me off is that; right after, Ignatieff, leader of the liberal party, makes this statement; “If you vote for the NDP, if you vote for the Bloc and if you vote for the Greens, you’ll get more of this: more contempt for democracy, more neglect of the priorities of Canadian families,”

WTF kind of backstabbing is that?!

Okay, while I am writing this, somebody commented on my facebook that Ignatieff meant that if people vote for one of the other parties and not for him, Harper will still win because of the split vote between the other parties.  Still…that comment made him sound like a right arse and I’m not so sure I want to vote for him now.

What do you guys think?

-Daine

So, I just signed up for my first session of counseling!  I actually feel pretty good.  Going into it, I felt really nervous because I’d never gone before and because I wasn’t sure my particular issue could be dealt with by a university counselor.

After I filled out my information and checked the little box beside the category I felt my issue fell under, it looked a lot more like I made a good choice.

I was probably also nervous because, well…counseling seemed like something that people with problems need, and I didn’t like thinking of myself as somebody with problems.  The thing is though, a lot of people seek counseling for a lot of different reasons and I feel a lot better now because I’m no longer feeling the pressure of solving my issue all by myself.

In other news, I am currently typing this on a computer in my university library due to the fact that my laptop crapped out at the start of reading week last week. Really.  Really.  Frustrating.

-Daine