There is no argument about the horrors of conventional meat and fowl operations. However, the history of mankind has always involved the consumption of animal and/or fish protein to maintain health, along with a plethora of vegetation. This all began to go wrong when we started manipulating our environment and processing our food to benefit the manufacturers, to the detriment of the health of our population.
An argument that is often cited to support the exclusion of animal protein from our diet is the idea that animal farming contributes hugely to global warming. There is no doubt that CAFOs (Confined Animal Farming Operations), (and I hardly call that kind of cruelty, farming), damage our environment as well as our guts, let alone the cruelty to the animals involved.
However all farming is not created equal! There is a good deal of evidence to support the sequestration of carbon in the soil when grass farming is employed, where animals are raised on the diet they were meant to eat and emit less because of that diet. In fact, grasslands are a more reliable source of sequestration than trees, according to an important resource on the topic of grazing and carbon sequestration. Further articles of interest: https://soilcarboncoalition.org/holdridge/; this one covers all sides, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/magazine/dirt-save-earth-carbon-farming-climate-change.html.
The meat contains a much healthier nutrient profile than animals fed diets that they weren’t meant to consume. One of the pioneers in successful grass farming is Joel Salatin, who has written many books on rotational grazing in a folksy, yet informational manner, one of the latest being Holy Cows and Hog Heaven. The younger generation of farmers who have followed in his footsteps have written their own tomes, one of those being Growing Tomorrow by Forrest Pritchard, .
As for our need for protein, to quote Dr. Mark Hyman: “…studies show that as you age you need more protein to prevent disease and death. It’s no wonder we evolved to eat meat.” His podcast on the Doctor’s Farmacy with Dr. Gabrielle Lyons goes into great detail about the need for increased protein as we age, and how we can best fulfill this need. This podcast is really worth a listen!
Some interesting side notes for those considering the vegan diet which is heavily promoted these days: 2 articles in The Conversation by scientists on the difficulty of getting enough nutrients on this diet. Vegan diet: how your body changes from day one; and Vegan diets are adding to malnutrition in wealthy countries. We all need loads of veggies, low sugar fruits, nuts and seeds, but we also need plenty of protein that the body can easily absorb (especially those of us who are “older” – ahem!)