We list here at least ten good reasons to avoid consuming this meat. While some of the issues are common among all meat forms, some are more pronounced or unique to beef only.
Let's first list out the Health issues associated with this red meat
1. Chronic Diseases
- Cardiovascular disorders: In addition to the saturated fats and cholesterol the red meat carries, it contains a compound known as Carnitine. This compound is broken down by the microbes in our gut and that produces trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO has been associated with atherosclerosis, the fat deposit that clogs our arteries pushing a person to an array of cardiovascular disorders.
- Risk of Colon Cancer: Numerous studies have been conducted on the subject and tests were done a massively large sample of people to see if there was a correlation between red meat and cancer. These studies have concluded that a high consumption of red and processed meats substantially increase the risk of colo-rectal cancer.
- Alzheimer’s: A study from UCLA suggests that iron accumulation is a contributing factor in development of Alzheimer’s. Specifically, they discovered that the iron used to build-up in a part of the brain which is generally damaged in the early stages of the disease. Beef being full of iron, a high-red meat diet can lead to this iron build up.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (Just three extra servings of red meat per week increases the risk of developing diabetes by 50 percent!)
Farm and Poultry animals are injected with heavy doses of anti-biotics to offset for the filthy and crowded conditions they’re raised in. Even in case of free-farm animals, there is often no discretion exercised in the use of anti-biotics because the purpose of these animals is seen to be that of growing into a meat mass, then be slaughtered and sold. They’re not grown as pets where owners will be judicious with their use of medicines.
Whatever be the reason, the end result is these doses of antibiotics leading to development of resistance in bacteria and other superbugs. We consume this meat and make ourselves vulnerable to developing our own drug resistance. It’s like making the bacteria stronger every passing day. End result: reduced effective immunity against germs.
3. Hormones and Toxins
Similar to anti-biotics these animals are fed with heavy amounts of Hormones (for increased egg/dairy/ lean muscle mass for instance). In addition, processed meat contains lot of additives, antibiotics, chemicals and dye. Some of these may be carcinogenic. The same toxins make way into the food chain and end up in our plate damaging our bodily organs and leading to abnormalities in the long run.
In addition to health risks, raising cattle for the meat industry has harmful effects on the environment as well
4. Water Intensive
Beef cattle requires 11 times more water than any other meat group (poultry, pork, dairy, or eggs). This is a serious drain on fresh water resources that are already getting scarce thanks to increasing human population and climate change.
5. Land Intensive
Beef cattle requires 28 times more land for rearing than any other meat group mentioned earlier. This is intensive on land resources which would otherwise be used for farming or for rearing more efficient meat groups. Arable land is a premium resource again thanks to increasing human population.
6. Forest loss/ topsoil erosion
If the cattle are left in a free farm and are grass-fed, it spoils the topsoil by spoiling the roots of the vegetation holding it together. Once a given grazing ground starts going barren, new grazing grounds have to be created which leads to cutting down of rain forests. This is a considerable environmental damage.
7. Greenhouse emissions
Cows, millions of them are raised in cattle farms fed on grains and grass. The gaseous emissions by meat-variety cows contains a large amount of methane which is a very potent greenhouse gas (the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period). Beef farming produces a significantly large amount of pollution than any other protein production methods, with 5x greenhouse gas emissions and 6x the reactive nitrogen.
8. Trophic level losses
cattle are inefficient converters of energy.
Anyone with a basic lesson in biology must be familiar with ecosystem, food chain and Trophic Level losses (as we proceed up the food chain, the amount of energy retrieved from a food source is much less than the amount of energy required to produce it. This is because of Entropy losses. These levels in food chain are called Trophic Levels). The losses are on an average in tune of 10-15x.
For every 10 calories fed to poultry or pork only one calorie is consumed by humans. The ratio for beef is nearly four times higher.
9. Animal Cruelty
Abattoirs and Leather industry are mass violators when it comes to animal cruelty.
Many a times, a cow would be skinned even while she’s alive and watches. Research has established that Cows feel the pain of losing their siblings same as humans. Similarly, they’re transported in most inhuman conditions. Sometimes, to keep them standing up in transport vehicles, their eyes are filled with green chilli. The treatment met out to them are too horrific to mention here.
10. Economic Concerns
Beef is an expensive meat, given how resource and energy intensive this product is. Cows, if not raised for beef, can be a great asset to a farmer as it provides Milk and manure and products which have a great Ayurvedic value. The manure prepared from cow’s waste can in turn be used for fertiliser free organic farming. There is an entire handbook on how a farm can be run with zero pesticides/fertilisers and a cow has a major role in such a farm.
Sadly, the demands of the beef industry has led to large scale theft and smuggling of cattle. It’s the only reason why it’s cheap in India (and thus a misconception that it’s a poor man’s source of protein). The details of its economic implications can be found here.
In India, there is another dimension to this issue as Cows are revered by its Hindu community. There are some conflicting claims upon whether or not its allowed for a practicing Hindu to consume beef, given the fact that a Cow is considered akin to a mother in their spirituality. What the scriptures say about this can be read in detail here. The bottomline however is that if it hurts a tolerant community then its unethical to push consumption of this meat simply to irk them.
To quote a smriti (of which people know nothing beyond its two oft quoted controversial verses),
"Those who permit slaying of animals; those who bring animals for slaughter; those who slaughter; those who sell meat; those who purchase meat; those who prepare dishes out of meat; those who serve that meat and those who eat it are all murderers." — Manusmriti