In a Huffpost article titled Tim Noakes: Eat More Meat to Save the Environment, Noakes was quoted saying a few things about plant-based diets that ruffled a few feathers.
Twitter was a buzz. Comments sections on news sites went crazy. As far as the days of Noakes in the news go, it is business as usual.
We’re pretty sure there is massive chunk of context missing. We all know how the media love to misquote the good Professor. To avoid any confusion, we’ve shared Real Meal Revolution’s official stance on the various points he raised below.
He kicked off by saying:
"The only way we will save the planet is by going back to eating meat"
"Topsoil is disappearing owing to plant-based agriculture... I worry that you can't continue like this much longer because the myth that livestock is driving environmental issues is driven by the fossil-fuel industry and they are very powerful, obviously"
We agree that topsoil is disappearing owing to agriculture and its various practices (that is a fact), but it isn’t just plant-based agriculture. Agriculture in general is to blame. Feed lot cattle and pig farming (animal agriculture) also make use of plant based agriculture for the grain that feeds livestock.
As for water, according to research cited in this Economist article, it takes up to 15,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef compared to only 1,250 litres of water for a 1kg of wheat or maize (not saying you should eat more maize – just saying that water might be the main topic people are overlooking here).
Plant-based agriculture feeds all the vegan animals we eat.
There are specific types of agriculture that could replenish topsoil. Both in plant-based and animal agriculture. Mostly organic, free-range, biodynamic and all those other cool buzzwords are actually a real thing.
It’s not as simple as eating more meat. It is about choosing to eat meat and vegetables that have been farmed using specific techniques.
It may be better to say ‘eat less mass produced (insert all bad farming practices) produce. If you have access and can afford to’.
"People like Bill Gates and Richard Branson are very powerful, and more people are saying they are going to be eating plant-based diets because of them... but the move against meat-based diets is unfounded and irresponsible to promote at this stage."
Bill Gates is involved in a lot of the work that Monsanto is doing, so for different reasons, we believe Bill might not be the best person to take dietary advice from. We just don’t know what the effects of GMO crops will be in the long term and well, he’s a software developer.
As for Richard Branson. It is kind of similar to what happened in South Africa. A famous person that everybody loves comes out and says you should eat differently. The people follow. Lots of people benefit. The world slowly catches up?
It might also be nothing like that. Just something to consider.
One thing is for sure though – at every point along the way there are scientists on both sides of the argument (and most arguments) with robust data, testimonials, case studies and a passionate army of disciples that validate their assertions.
More importantly, if it is irresponsible to promote a plant-based diet at this stage, isn’t it also irresponsible to say ‘the only way we will save the planet is by going back to eating meat’?
Real Meal Revolution remains open minded on the topic.
"There's never been a society that can survive on a completely vegetarian or vegan diet. We have to have some animal products. Vegan people survive because you can get some of the nutrition you need from supplements, which means it's not a complete diet,"
Chinese and Thai Buddhist monks (both societies that have survived on mostly vegetarian diets), Seventh Day Adventists (who live 10 years longer than the average American) and the Hindus may disagree with that.
Sure, Buddha was plump but anyone who has visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand or China will tell you those monks are gaunt at best.
Disclaimer: Apparently some (like a microscopic proportion) Buddhists eat a bit of meat, but for clarity, you should read this article.
Hinduism isn’t 100% all-in with veganism either. The Manusmriti law book states ‘There is no sin in eating meat… but abstention brings great rewards’.
An article on Wikipedia (the Colosseum of Science, of course) gives a better explanation:
Hinduism does not explicitly prohibit eating meat, but it does strongly recommend ahimsa – the concept of non-violence against all life forms including animals. As a consequence, many Hindus prefer a vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian lifestyle, and methods of food production that are in harmony with nature, compassionate, and respectful of other life forms as well as nature.
Seventh Day Adventists live pretty long, but they also aren’t allowed to smoke or drink booze and some of them avoid caffeine and colas. They’re pretty healthy in general.
There is some grey but there certainly isn’t enough info to conclude that no society has ever survived being vegetarian or vegan.
As for absolutely needing to have animal products goes...
We believe that humans have thrived because we have the ability to survive on whatever is available. Some diets make us healthier than others. But as far as survival goes, humans have that down pat.
Why do some people report that veganism has totally transformed their health, while others say that quitting veganism and eating mostly meat has transformed theirs?
How was Vilhjalmur Stefansson (and most of the Inuit people) able to survive on only meat and blubber for years without getting sick while this guy still makes a living treating coronary artery disease, heart and kidney failure, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity with a strict regime of white rice, white sugar and fruit juice (WTF)?
We just don’t know.
Our view is that the perfect diet is probably like the perfect wine. Unique to every person. Some like red, others like white. You could even take ‘red’ down to cultivar. Are you a Shiraz or a Cab kind of girl? Burgundy or Bordeaux? Oh wait, do you drink beer?
We reckon that’s how our bodies feel about diets. We all thrive on different ways of eating. There are high level principles like low carb or low fat that work for larger groups, but when you get down to meat or no meat, dairy or no dairy, legumes or tubers, it turns into a minefield.
As far as vegans surviving “because they had supplements” goes…
Here are just a few hugely successful vegetarians and vegans. Some would definitely not have taken supplements. Some of the more recent ones probably did or still do.
Carl Lewis (1961 and still surviving) 4 x Olympic Gold Medallist
"I've found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet. Moreover, by continuing to eat a vegan diet, my weight is under control, I like the way I look."
Venus (1980 and surviving) and Serena Williams (1981 and surviving) Two of the greatest female tennis players in the history of the world.
Venus comments on her vegan diet:
“I think it is a great lifestyle for long-term sustainability. You also have to look at everything else in your regimen, what you’re putting into your body, like supplements. I’m always learning and hoping to perfect the system.”
Apparenly Venus cheats on the offseason with the occasional sushi but they both follow a mostly raw vegan diet during the tennis season.
Pythagoras (570 BC to 495 BC) Yes. He lived to 75 years old 2600 years ago. Badass.
*unavailable for quote
Da Vinci (1452 to 1519) Lived to 67. Not bad either and he was a clever clogs.
*unavailable for quote
"But you are still not getting adequate protein. You can survive on a 100% animal diet, but you cannot survive on a 100% vegan diet."
If we were casting a movie on the most epic humans ever, Frank Medrano (an outspoken vegan) would need to audition.
Just watch this:
Well done, Frank. You survived veganism.
"We became humans when we started to eat animal produce. When we became carnivores, we realised it was much easier to eat an animal than having to carry around this huge gut,"
"What's happening now is that vegans and vegetarians are trying to convert the biology of humans to the way we were 3 million years ago, and we can't do that. There is one species that tried, the panda bear, and it is one of the unhealthiest animals on earth."
We can neither confirm nor deny. We make a concerted effort to avoid discussions around evolution and creationism.
The main reason being that how we got here has nothing to do with what we should do next. Whether we evolved to be like we are or were created like we are shouldn’t be a factor in deciding what our biology is best fuelled by.
Any philanthropic vegan will tell you that thousands of years ago we were vegan. Carnivores will tell you that a little bit later we were all carnivores.
It doesn’t matter.
What did the finished product, homo sapiens, eat when they arrived on the scene (whenever and however they arrived) and what should we eat now?
That’s the only important question to ask and we should focus on that.
As for pandas…
The Noakes Foundation have released there official stance in this blog post. Interestingly, their view isn’t that dissimilar from ours, although they haven’t addressed all of Noakes' comments.
RMR and Prof’s views may not be aligned on every matter under the sun, but we certainly agree with him on the meat of the matter which is this:
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or carnivorous, reducing your carb and sugar intake is likely to help you lose weight and better manage type 2 diabetes.
If reducing your carb and sugar intake something you want to do, Real Meal Revolution can show you how. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, omnivorous or carnivorous or even flexitarian, you are all welcome.
Yours in Banting,
Jonno Proudfoot (Real Meal Revolution CEO)