Moral and ethical concerns around Whole30


Bojana

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Hello, Whole30 community! I have done two successful Whole30s (with a few aborted attempts here and there), and both times I succeeded, I felt that I reaped many benefits - weight loss, glowing skin, better sleep, more energy, and surprising myself to no end that life is totally fine without chocolate. I did especially well with my second Whole30, when I put myself in a better frame of mind to begin with, not thinking about everything I was giving up, but about how much good I was doing for my health. And, by the way, I have lived a 95% gluten free life, and about 80% grain free life for at least 3 years. But while I believe that this way of eating is beneficial (although, I must add, I think there are many hidden variables at work here - cooking your own food from scratch will in and of itself transform your attitude to food, and avoiding all the preservatives and colors and whatever other artificial crap is put into processed foods will in and of itself do your body a world of good), I have been struggling from the start with the fact that paleo diets are also unsustainable and extremely environmentally unfriendly. What I mean is that, if everyone in the world wanted to follow Whole30 - well, they couldn't. There simply isn't enough land, water and air to produce all the meat that would be required for everyone to eat like this. Because even if you eat the smallest possible portions of animal protein in your meals, you are eating it three times a day. And that is a luxury that about 10% of the world's population, if that, can afford. Even this small percentage of regular meat consumers has caused, as I am sure we all know, forest devastation in the Amazon and terrible pollution around shrimp farming in Vietnam, and near extinction of sword fish, to use just the most famous examples. Also, since very few of us can afford to eat free range and organic meat and eggs all the time, to a greater or lesser extent (usually greater) we are all complicit in and benefiting from the absolutely horrendous lives and deaths of animals farmed for mass production of meat and eggs. Yes, our paleo ancestors may have lived grain free, dairy free and certainly sugar and alcohol free lives, and subsided on much animal protein  (although plenty of research out there is showing there was no way they were able to consume meat daily and probably went for weeks on end on purely vegetarian diets - unless you count crickets, of course), but at that time, human tribes were few and far between, while the plan et's flora and fauna were bursting at the seams. So please please tell me how can a diet for the privileged few be followed without any sense of guilt and - more importantly - without the sense that we are relinquishing our responsibility towards our planet and all the living creatures on it, human and animal. 

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The moderators agreed to permit this non-factual vomit to remain on the forum. To be clear, "non-factual vomit" is my characterization and not the consensus of other moderators.

 

The planet earth is fully capable of producing enough meat and veggies to feed all people meal-planning template meals. The best way to make the earth move towards actually doing that is to support your local organic farmer and to support all real organic farmers. 

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During long winter months on the High Plains, the  rivers, lakes and ground remains frozen. There's little vege available save the bark off of trees, pinecones and pineneedles.  Many of my ancestors starved to death during these periods.  Nothing has changed.  The growing season is still very short.  Without meat I wouldn't be here to read Mr. Denham's posts..the half has not been told how much he's helped me change my relationship with food and life.   

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Assuming you're truly interested in hearing opposing views to the one you've clearly adopted, you might check Robb Wolf's reply to a NY Times article that raised many of the same concerns. He also links to a couple of other responses.

 

Personally, I know that I am privileged to live in the US, to have the freedom to choose what I eat and what I buy. Me choosing to eat less healthy things because not everyone in the world can eat as well as I can doesn't make sense to me -- it won't allow those less privileged than myself to eat any better, just because I'm eating worse. It reminds me of the whole, "clean your plate -- do you know how many children are starving in Africa?" argument that parents have been known to use to try to get their children to eat their food. At some point, you hear that argument, and wonder, how does whether I finish this food or not affect someone on the other side of the world? And if they're that concerned, why don't we box up the food I don't want and mail it over there?

 

I may be naively optimistic about things, but I like to think that when I buy organic produce, when I support local farmers, when I buy grass-fed beef or eggs from pastured chickens, or even, when I do buy pre-made items, that I buy the highest quality available instead of the cheapest alternative, that I am speaking with my dollar, and that if enough of us do this, that things will start to change. I'm not so naive as to think it's going to happen overnight, but we do have to start somewhere.

 

As for things like swordfish or shrimp, you can do a Whole30 and never eat either -- if you're concerned about the environmental effects of eating certain species, by all means don't eat them, or find the most sustainably sourced versions possible. Again, if we all refused to eat shrimp from Vietnam, they would either change how they harvest them, or they'd quit harvesting them, because there would be no money in it (and yes, this is part of the naively optimistic thing I mentioned -- I know that realistically, there's a lot more to it than this long term, but I can only do what I can do, and if I dwell on how big the whole problem is, I just end up overwhelmed). 

 

I honestly feel like Whole30/paleo/ancestral health people do have a lot of concern for the environment and animal health. Their answers are not the same answers as vegans/vegetarians have, but I feel like if these groups who do want improvement would work together, instead of arguing with each other about what the best answer is, we'd be a lot closer to something that would be better for everyone. 

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 I have been struggling from the start with the fact that paleo diets are also unsustainable and extremely environmentally unfriendly. What I mean is that, if everyone in the world wanted to follow Whole30 - well, they couldn't. There simply isn't enough land, water and air to produce all the meat that would be required for everyone to eat like this. Because even if you eat the smallest possible portions of animal protein in your meals, you are eating it three times a day.

 

I would suggest that not everyone in the world would want to follow a Whole30 diet… in fact, there are huge numbers of people who would vehemently oppose the Whole30 for political/moral/religious reasons. 

 

 And that is a luxury that about 10% of the world's population, if that, can afford.

 

This may be true, altho I don’t have data in front of me to confirm or contradict the percentage.  But like Shannon says, just because some people can’t doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t.  People in developing countries can’t send their kids to school… does that mean I shouldn’t send my kids to school in an effort to even the playing field?  Canada has socialized medicine, which means that I can ‘afford’ to go to the Doctor anytime I need to.  Many people in other countries, even the US don’t have this luxury and can’t afford the level of healthcare that I have access to.  Should I not go to the doctor because others elsewhere cannot?  You can see that this type of comparison doesn’t work.

 

 

Even this small percentage of regular meat consumers has caused, as I am sure we all know, forest devastation in the Amazon and terrible pollution around shrimp farming in Vietnam, and near extinction of sword fish, to use just the most famous examples. Also, since very few of us can afford to eat free range and organic meat and eggs all the time, to a greater or lesser extent (usually greater) we are all complicit in and benefiting from the absolutely horrendous lives and deaths of animals farmed for mass production of meat and eggs.

 

It has been calculated that  ‘producing wheat and other grains kills at least 25 times more sentient animals per kilogram of useable protein’.  (read more here: http://www.care2.com/causes/do-vegetarians-kill-more-animals-than-meat-eaters.htmlThis would be the field mice, bunnies, foxes and other field dwelling creatures that are killed by pesticides and harvesting machines.  Large scale agriculture is also responsible for decimation of enormous swaths of land…. In order to grow wheat (or other crops), one first needs to completely decimate the existing flora and fauna to grow the one specific crop, thereby creating enormous problems for the biology of the area.

 

The reason that I’m posting this is because it shows first of all, that like with food science, there are two sides to every argument and one can find articles and research studies that support both sides of the coin.   What is required is for each individual to do their own research based on their own values and life intricacies and then make their own personal decision. 

There is no ‘one size fits all’ way of seeing the world in regards to it’s ability to sustain us.  Perhaps the beauty of the world is that there are enough opposing views so as to make a balance where otherwise there wouldn’t be. 

 

So please please tell me how can a diet for the privileged few be followed without any sense of guilt and - more importantly - without the sense that we are relinquishing our responsibility towards our planet and all the living creatures on it, human and animal. 

 

I have no guilt with the way I choose to eat and manage my existence on this planet.  I do the best I can with what I have to make as small of an impact and footprint as possible.  Can someone else make a smaller impact and footprint?  Maybe… are there people out there also making a larger impact? Sure… but that doesn’t mean that because I choose to eat meat, that I am relinquishing any responsibility to our planet or the living creatures on it.  In fact, based on my own research and views, I am doing more for the planet by eating meat than someone who is a vegetarian… but again, we each get to make our own decisions about how we walk through our lives on this planet.

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