Nothing to excess

The Redwood Blog
Published:  03 November, 2015
Mike Redwood

Sadly, classical education is rather overlooked these days, but anyone who had done no more than embark on a brief journey into classical scholarship will have learned the simple term "nothing to excess" which was inscribed along the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Inspired by Spartan culture it is a maxim whose brevity and directness was praised by Plato.

The definition of toxic also has Greek origins albeit it was Paracelsus (Theophrastus Phillipus Auroleus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493–1541) who gave us the rather similar phrase: "all things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison" and so is said to be the father of toxicology.

The reason I mention this is that the WHO has joined the FAO to use its venerable status to deliberately confuse the general public worldwide about the facts of the meat and livestock industry. Back in 2006 the FAO did a totally loaded, and factually inaccurate, calculation of the impact of cattle on the environment; putting all the "bad stuff" it could find, or make up, on the shoulders of the poor cow and comparing it, supposedly, to transport. Yet in transport, it conveniently "forgot" nearly all of the "bad stuff", like making the car and building the roads. So the outcome was that every poor subsistence farmer in the world who has never used a bag of fertiliser, cut down a forest, used a reservoir or a tractor, got loaded with all these false charges and was condemned; while PETA had a field day and still refers to the report today.

This was hardly the job of the FAO. Last week, the WHO joined the party and condemned processed meat as likely to give rise to cancer. What seems to have happened is that 22 people, including quite a few with a predetermined view, sat in a room and looked at over 800 reports many of which, we are told, were very old and out of date and made a qualitative judgment, which was inaccurately supported by letting the press use old and biased press releases.

Both the Delphic saying and Paracelsus could have helped them along and, perhaps, agreed that eating a maximum of 500 grams of red meat of all types each week makes sense. It would also have pointed out that the same meat gives us protein, vitamin B12, iron and zinc which help with the red blood cells, DNA and the immune system. Iron is important for teenage girls and pregnant women. Meat is a useful part of a balanced diet.

Drink too much water and you suffer. Eat too much red meat and you may also suffer. But both in moderation make sense.

Both the FAO and the WHO need to learn some common sense and stop "taking things to excess".

Mike Redwood

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

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