Paleo diets tend to be synonymous with meat eating. Mark’s Daily Apple, for example, recommends that meat, fish, fowl and eggs make up the bulk of one’s caloric intake. Eating meat every day, or even at every meal, would not be out of place in a paleo diet.
When I first started my paleo journey, I feasted on all sorts of meat, from Korean BBQ pork to juicy slabs of steak. I even started eating meat for breakfast, which was very unusual for me. Then my body got really sick of all the meat and I practically went vegetarian for two weeks after that because I couldn’t stand the thought of another chicken wing.
Today, I eat far less meat than before. And after watching several documentaries recently, I am even more convinced that I should minimise my meat intake. There are several reasons:
- The livestock industry does more harm to the environment than transport
Livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a higher share than transport, according to a 2006 UN report. Raising animals for consumption also contributes greatly to deforestation, with 70% of previous forested land in the Amazon occupied by pastures. I almost cannot believe it but apparently livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land area. The documentary Cowspiracy, which was an eye opener for me, talks about these environmental effects.
This problem is only going to get worse as countries become wealthier and demand for more meat. In particular, I foresee China contributing massively to the demand for meat. Already, they are the world’s largest pork consumer.
- Factory farming causes unnecessary suffering to animals and Singapore lacks ethical options
One thing that attracts me to the paleo lifestyle is the preference for free-range and ethical farming practices. Part of this is self-serving – we believe that killing animals that roam freely is most similar to how our ancestors did it in the past. We also know that these animals are much healthier for us. A cow that grazes on its natural diet of grass or a chicken allowed to dig up worms from the ground is more nutritious than one caged up with only corn to eat.
The reality in Singapore is that it is near impossible to consume meat ethically. Let’s start with free-range meat. The AVA will not allow the import of free-range chickens because of fear of bird flu. At the very best, chickens can roam inside an enclosure, which is why I think that our best option for eggs is the Freedom Range brand. I have not personally visited the premises but the official photos show that the chickens, while kept indoors, are not caged up. That is the best we can hope for in Singapore.
You can take a look at what goes on in our local farm Seng Choon Farm that rear 500,000 battery chickens. The irony is that the narrator seemed very proud that we no longer have “grubby, smelly farms of the old,” but instead we have moved on to a “high-tech and mechanised” system (read: battery hens).
I am quite a softie when it comes to animals so it was hard for me to watch the video. This is relatively mild compared to many others that I have seen on YouTube. I never make it past the first minute because I can’t stand watching animal abuse. In any case, I can’t bring myself to embed a horrible video on my blog. Please google these videos in YouTube (“The truth about modern farms”) if you want to know the truth about what where your food comes from.
- Eating less meat comes easy to me
I have never been a heavy meat eater growing up. My mum, who cooked Chinese dishes for us, definitely had more vegetable dishes than meat. She preferred fish to poultry. She was also quite health conscious so her food was light and had no sugar, little salt and little sauce. So I never developed the taste for intense flavours. So for me personally, I don’t feel like I am sacrificing much by choosing to consume less meat.
However, I know I would struggle if I had to give up diary and eggs as I am more used to eating them. I love yoghurt and cheese and I love eggs in all forms – semi-raw, sous vide style or used in a paleo pancake recipe.
Where possible, I would not consume meat if I did not know the origin of my food. If I cooked at home, it would be much easier as I can buy free-range meat (which are available at Pasar Bella) for my meals. But it is not so easy when eating out, especially at local hawker centres. In addition, I am imposing another restriction in addition to the existing restrictions of a paleo diet (no sugar, no wheat, no processed food). The upside is that this forces me to cook more at home, which can only benefit my health in the long run.
What are your thoughts about the ethics of eating meat? Do you know where your chicken, beef, lamb and pork come from? Do you also know that many baby piglets are castrated without anesthesia and by hand? I would be very interested to know if I was the only one feeling sorry for my food!