DIETARY THOUGHTS

5 May

There’s quite lot of criticism of mankind and the harm he’s doing to his planet, and I dared say some of it is completely justified. But my beautiful wife and I have recently returned from a trip across a great deal of Europe, covering seven countries as we went, and there’s one thing that’s clear. Ninety-nine percent of the continent (or that part of the continent that we saw) is beautiful. There are more trees than you could count if you’re given a dozen lifetimes in which to do it. There are crystal rivers and sparkling streams. There is absolute and true beauty, even in some of the works of man. A bird’s nest may have a beauty of its own, but a Swiss/Austrian/Italian Alpine Chalet has, possibly, more.
Europe has been inhabited for millennia. Mankind has trawled his way, fought his way, murdered his way, across this pristine place and in my opinion not done much to mar most of it.
He started in Africa, of course, and maybe he would have stayed there had it not been for his increasing intelligence, a consequence of him having to use his brain as a survival tool in the eat or be eaten primeval prehistory that he had to survive. And without one thing, one small thing, he might never have succeeded. And that small thing was his diet.
Animal life (and we’re animals, don’t forget) must feed. Herbivores feed on vegetation – nuts and fruits in season, but that season is very short. Mostly they eat grasses, and that food takes such a great deal of digesting and replacing by constant grazing that there’s precious little time to do anything else but eat – and, of course, breed. If mankind had evolved to survive on a diet such as sheep enjoy then he would never have left the savannah and probably never survived. Wild dogs and big cats would have seen to that!
But he did survive, because he adapted to consume an omnivorous diet, and that provided him with extra time to evolve beyond the most primitive of stages in the long road that has led up to today.
And in this today it is possible for him to choose to limit his food intake out of an unrealistic sympathy for the creatures he eats before they eat him. Food without the taint of flesh can be manufactured and stored for long periods in refrigerators or tin cans. Even animal products that don’t involve the demise of the animal (dairy foodstuff) can be rejected in favour of synthesised food.
A corner can be turned.
But mankind can only turn that corner because of the long, millions-of-years long, struggle in a world that was frighteningly a matter of eat or be eaten. His body has been keenly honed by his diet, and any change he might choose to make for moral reasons should bear this in mind.
Without a long, long ancestry of eating what he could find, of surviving on seeds and flesh, sometimes on the very edge of starvation, he might still be on that old savannah and, on his knees, spend day after day sucking nutrients from the grasses left for him by the carnivores, big cats, wolves, bears, all licking their lips and waiting for him to get that bit more meat on him before they pounce.
And that’s the reality of the long struggle. It’s all very well for those with the time and expertise to dismiss the traditional diet of their own species, but when they reject it they should also bear in mind the story of how they earned that right.

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