Scientists say meat is essential for health. They are outnumbered, though

Livestock systems are threatened by «simplification, reductionism and fanaticism» implies a document called «The Dublin Declaration».

The declaration, which aims to support the «social role of livestock» and the meat industry, indicates that «livestock-derived foods», such as meat, dairy products and eggs, are essential for health. It claims to be supported by nine new research articles published in the journal Animal borders and boasts the signatures of nearly 1,000 doctors.

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But how much attention should we pay to this statement? After all, there are also thousands upon thousands of doctors who advocate adopting a plant-based diet. And now it is becoming widely accepted that the richest countries in the global north need to reduce their meat consumption for the benefit of the planet.

Here, let’s take a closer look at what science and many experts are saying on this issue.


Fill your plate with whole foods, many doctors and dietitians say

The Dublin Declaration makes big and bold claims about the world’s population and its need for products derived from animal agriculture. For example, it says so these products “supply a variety of essential nutrients and other health-promoting compounds, many of which are lacking in diets even among higher-income populations… Individuals with adequate resources may be able to obtain adequate diets by severely limiting meat, dairy and eggs. However, this approach should not be recommended for the general population.»

While it’s true that not all vegan diets (or diets free of «animal-based foods») are healthy (for example, a person can live on nothing but fries and soda and call themselves a vegan), there is a wide range of research that supports the idea that whole food and plant-based lifestyles are healthy.

For example, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health care organization with more than 17,000 medical members, consistently advocates the power of a well-planned, well-balanced, plant-based, whole-food diet in reducing risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and maintain good general health.

And they are not alone. Numerous studies and experts have concluded that filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes and beans is one of the healthiest ways to eat. Learn more about the benefits of a plant-based, whole-grain diet here.

«Most people consume animal products because they believe they are necessary to meet dietary needs,» Alona Pulde, MD, told VegNews. «The reality is that plant foods not only contain all the nutrients we need, they’re also bundled in significantly healthier packaging.»

Is meat healthy?

Pulde, who was one of the doctors behind the popular plant documentary Forks over knives— he also adds that meat has actually shown links to chronic disease. The World Health Organization, for example, has also classified processed meat and red meat as group 1 and group 2 carcinogens, respectively.

«Meat, especially highly processed meat, has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, gastrointestinal upset and some cancers,» Pulde adds. «It turns out that meat is not only not crucial to health, but it actually contributes directly to disease.»

Stephanie Wells, MS, RD, the founder of Thyme to Go Vegan Nutrition Services, agrees with Pulde that a well-planned plant-based diet is nutritionally adequate for most people.

«There is merit in the claim that meat provides essential nutrients for people in developing countries where malnutrition is prevalent, but that doesn’t mean meat is biologically necessary for human health,» he explains. “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated in its position paper on vegetarian diets that well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets are nutritionally adequate for all stages of life.


Is the Dublin Declaration biased?

So if there is a strong body of evidence to support the idea that plant-based diets are healthy for most people, why does the Dublin Declaration claim otherwise?

Second Sentient mediaa non-profit news organization dedicated to changing the conversation about animal agriculture, may have little to do with the animal industry bias.

A recent report by the organization found that some of the Dublin Declaration signatories have «intimate ties» to the animal agriculture industry. Frank Mitloahner, for example, runs a research facility that receives millions in grants from the livestock industry. He also found that 16 petitioners work directly with the Irish Food and Agriculture Development Authority.

Another interesting point from Sentient media is that a disproportionate number of signatories are in the global north (817, to be exact). This is an area of ​​the world that has come under heavy safety measures in recent years due to the high consumption of meat, with several experts calling on richer countries to reduce this consumption to reduce emissions.

Meat and environment

According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global emissions. It is also a major driver of deforestation and contributes to many other environmental problems, such as water pollution and waste. Because of this impact, in April 2022, a study by the University of Bonn in Germany asked rich countries to reduce their meat consumption by at least 75%, as they are putting a strain on the planet through high demand of meat.

What’s more, in 2018, the largest-ever study of food production from the University of Oxford found that going vegan was the biggest change a person could make to reduce their impact on the environment.

«Not all foods are created equal,» says Pulde, before reiterating that the bottom line is that the more nutritious plants you eat, the better. «If you’re looking for a way to be healthier while also supporting the health of our planet, try to incorporate as many plant-based whole foods as possible while limiting or eliminating the consumption of animal products.»

For more information on meat and health, read:

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