In the New York Times article “Relax, You Don’t Need to Eat Clean,” Aaron Carroll writes that food should be “a cause for pleasure, not panic.” He states that people should “cut fear” from their diet. To relax, Carroll suggests people eat bacon and steak.
Carroll erroneously assumes people who eat plant-based food aren’t relaxed and that the aftermath of eating animals is comforting–perhaps for people without a conscience. In fact, eating clean is relaxing, exciting, rewarding, energy-boosting, and responsible. Eating animals should instill catastrophic fear in everyone far beyond the health risks Carroll dismisses.
While Carroll is correct in his assertion that some people fret too much about gluten, salt, and fat, he misses the mark on eating animals. In fact, his comments are irresponsible and myopic.
In his recommendation, he conveniently omits the abuse and suffering farm animals endure, the unsustainable environmental havoc caused by animal agriculture, and the fear industry workers experience on the job.
Second, greenhouse gases and deforestation from animal agriculture are leading contributors to climate change and an insect Armageddon. People probably haven’t been relaxed when their houses have been underwater and they’ve been clinging to trees awaiting rescue boats nor has it been relaxing for people who sought shelter in their swimming pool as their house burned down. Climate change induced droughts that cause famine and disease? Not so relaxing. The alarming loss of our pollinators, also a result of animal agriculture, threatens life on earth.
Finally, animal agriculture also wastes massive amounts of food and the companies that turn animals into food are notorious for polluting air and water. Toxic chemicals in drinking water should cause fear, especially with an administration recklessly rolling back regulations designed to protect consumers from such lawbreaking.
Carroll’s suggestion to eat animals is particularly shortsighted because it encourages people to operate at the most elementary level of thinking without making any critical calculations. Carroll’s message is simple: All that matters is what’s in front of you. Don’t think before you eat. The only way to cut the fear that animal-based bacon and steak cause people and animals is to stop eating them. The impact of eating animals goes far beyond the cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other medical conditions it causes.
There’s a large selection of delicious plant-based meats and dairy-free products that replicate the taste, texture, and smell of animal products including Beyond Meat (featured in the photo above), Field Roast, Kite Hill, and Gardein to name a few. They’re healthier, convenient, more sustainable, and humane.
Having said that, not even processed meat from plants should be defined as clean or healthy. It’s healthier. Organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains are legitimately clean and healthy–and I don’t get scared when I eat quinoa, avocados, black beans, or lentils. But if you really want to cut so-called fear from your eating regimen and still enjoy a burger, eat plant-based meat.
Eating should never just be about what’s right for you. You should eat to avoid harming others. And despite what Carroll posits, eating clean and relaxing are not mutually exclusive.