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Cancer Research – Why have this beef with meat?

Washed Up, by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Over the years I have supported Cancer Research in numerous ways. In fact, next May I am riding 100 miles through the streets of London at night to raise funds for the organisation.

I think it does tremendous work in the field of pioneering cancer research and is a shining beacon for other charitable organisations.

Which is why I am baffled that it has thrown its weight behind the anti-meat campaigners and is exhorting people to ditch red meat for a month.

Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, October 29, 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell
Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, October 29, 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell

Yes, I can understand the Vegan Society and Animal Rebellion – the furry arm of Extinction Rebellion – getting all hot under the collar about people tucking into steak, but Cancer Research?

The message, underlined by Animal Rebellion as they turfed the meat traders out of London’s Smithfield Market, is that red meat is a contributory factor in incidences of bowel cancer. Therefore, if we stop eating red meat for a month, that risk will be reduced.

My first question is, if meat is so very bad for you, will abstaining for a month really make such a difference? My second question is, where is the evidence that eating red meat increases our chances of getting the disease?

A counter argument is that much of the foodstuff that replaces meat in a plant-based diet is highly processed.

High quality, well-reared red meat, eaten in reasonable quantity – ie not three burgers stuffed in a white floury bun with additional bacon rashes on the side – is an important source of protein in a well-balanced diet.

The side story to the meat vs plant-based debate, as always, is the impact of bovine grazing on the environment.

It is an easy story to tell but, like all simplistic narratives, there is a far more complex back story.

Yes, cattle produce methane. But, farmers are working hard to mitigate this with new grazing techniques and better manure disposal solutions. Indeed, a local farmer here in East Winch has been busily measuring and assessing the impact of grazing animals on the local environment.

They might not sing it from the rafters but farmers are doing their bit.

I wonder how hard the Animal Rebellion protestors were working to cut down the emissions from their diesel generators when they replaced the traditional meat stalls with stands full of flowers and vegetables (many of which were imported)?

All of which leads me to suggest that Cancer Research sticks to what it knows best. Using peer reviewed, robust science to help reduce the devastating threat of cancer.

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