TWO VERSIONS OF REALITY
I read a lot of newspapers and news magazines. However, I always read them critically. I consider myself something of a media analyst. I was a member of the respected Seattle Central America Media Project back during the Sandinista-Contra War in the 1980s. I made five trips to Central America and spent a total of six months there. I joined because of the extreme contradictions I saw between reports in the orthodox US media on the one hand and reports from eye witnesses, alternative media, and foreign media on the other hand. We read newspapers from Europe and Mexico, where reporting on Nicaragua was balanced. In the United States the press mechanically quoted the Reagan administration line about the evil Sandinistas and the heroic Contras. In the US media there was a politically correct version of the truth that only loosely correlated with the actual truth.
Yes, the Sandinistas were a tad pink, but they were certainly not communists and they were no threat to the US. Nicaraguan capitalists were not dispossessed and remained free to get rich. It was only the 25 percent of the economy that had been owned by the corrupt Samoza family that was nationalized. It was called a “mixed economy.” The Sandinistas allowed Nicaraguan newspapers more freedom than other countries at war typically allow. I saw a Nicaragua in 1985 which was an idealistic and utopian experiment where everyone was fed, where there was little crime, where everyone had good health care, and where all the children were in school. The Reagan administration could not overthrow the Soviets or Fidel, and so it chose to pick on the Sandinistas. Reagan slapped an embargo on Nicaragua, cut it off from international finance and markets, and hired and directed the nun-murdering Contras to harass the country militarily. By the last time I visited Nicaragua in 1990, Reagan had achieved his goal of “making the economy scream.” That year the Sandinistas held free and fair elections and accepted the outcome when they were voted out. A United States crony was voted in. Today half the children are not in school; many of them peddle chewing gum in the streets and sniff glue. Unemployment and underemployment are around 50 60 percent, and three-quarters of the people live on less than $2.00 per day! Few have health care. The economy is the pits. Crime is so bad you should never go out after dark.
I see the same contradictions in reporting about animal-based foods. There is a commercial version of the truth that only loosely correlates with the facts. That’s one of my primary motivations for writing this book. I hate lies, especially, as in this case, when the lies harm people, the environment, and innocent animals. Most people prefer to believe these lies because they taste good and perhaps because the food itself is addictive.
Meat marketing organizations run commercials about “real food for real people” and “nutrition you can sink your teeth into.” They advertise that “beef gives strength.” According to the California Milk Producers, “Every body needs milk.” The FTC declared this last add to be false, misleading, and deceptive. Milk producers switched to the meaningless slogan “Milk has something for everybody,” leaving it unstated just what that something might be. Egg producers boast of the “incredible edible egg.” Only incredibly bad things can be said about factory farm eggs: They are infected with salmonella and campylobacter and loaded with cholesterol and more protein than we need.
These are alluring lies, presented in flashy colors, with toe-tapping music, projected to us and our children by corporations which mindlessly value profits above all else, clever, witty, convincing advertising engineered by marketing agencies that will promote anything for a big fee. Not surprisingly, most adults and children hold tenaciously to these lies and think there is something odd about people who do not also believe them.
Colonel Sanders speaks from beyond the grave to sell us buffalo wings, cooked in ground-up chicken skin, and containing over fifty percent fat. McDonalds sells us burgers that are fifty percent fat. Burger King display all-meat patties on TV to people who have been seduced to believe their bloody pink color to be beautiful. Jimmy Dean hawks sizzling sausage made of ground-up leftovers—ears, snouts, feet, and brains and other organs.
Meat, dairy, and egg producers provide free booklets, videos, and lesson plans for teachers to use to indoctrinate children that they should eat their products at every meal. Schools serve lunches heavy on USDA subsidized animal products. Some hospitals now have McDonald’s outlets on premises!
Women smear lipstick on their lips without thinking about the sordid chemicals they gradually lick off and swallow. (www.mdvventures.com/cib2.htm.)Buy lipstick from Beauty Without Cruelty, made with no animal products and without animal testing. (http://www.beautywithoutcruelty.com.)
Educated dentists continue to put mercury amalgam in people’s mouths. It’s not a stable compound. It outgasses. People breathe it in. The body converts it to organic mercury. Think about it: We have phased out mercury thermometers. Mercury is highly toxic. You can either dispose of it as hazardous waste or put it in people’s mouths. (www.toxicteeth.org, www.iaomt.com.)
Most dentists defend the addition of industrial grade fluoride to city water, although it also contains lead, mercury, and arsenic. This stuff is the “slurry liquor” that’s left after the smokestacks of fertilizer, aluminum, steel, and uranium plants have been “scrubbed.” If cities were not paying $180 per ton for the stuff, the sellers would have to pay dearly to dispose of it. And I have to spend my money on electricity to distill my water to get these chemical’s out or drive miles to fill jugs with well water. (http://fluorideclassaction.wordpress.com, www.fluorideaction.org, www.keepersofthewell.org, www.bruha.com, www.earthisland.org/ search for “fluoride,” stopfluoridation.homestead.com, www.holology.com/water.html, www.fluoridation.com/lead.htm, www.fluoridation.com/atomicbomb.htm, www.sonic.net/kryptox/surveys/politz.htm, www.nofish.org, www.nofluoride.com, www.geocities.com/reddingsafewater/index.html). Scholarly dentists who have kept up with the scientific issues are among fluoridation’s most vocal critics.
As a species, we humans are fundamentally flawed. We are suckers for glossy, attractive, well-packaged lies. Most of us, most of the time use our big brains to construct complex rationalizations which allow us to ignore inconvenient facts. We prefer to believe what tastes good.
We stubbornly cling to views we receive from our parents, friends, and the majority culture around us. Most of us do not understand the science, history, and theology behind what we believe, and so we believe what we have become accustomed to believe based on what those we love and respect believe and what the majority culture around us believes. The same is true of highly-educated people. Education seems to equip some with the ability to create ever more complex rationalizations. College teachers often viciously attack those with different ideas.
Cattle associations lobby Congress and obtain subsidies for cattle barons in the form of low rents for public lands for grazing purposes. Veal growers enjoy rock bottom prices for the surplus milk and butter they use to fatten their calves. Meat is indirectly subsidized through the subsidies paid to growers of the corn and soy that is fed to animals. All this is considered by our government to be good social policy, although our standard, high-fat diet causes degenerative diseases that escalate medical costs. Elected representatives need money to run for office, and so they are for sale to the saturated fat industry.
Our medical industry for the most part goes along with all these lies for complex reasons. Medical schools offer few classes in nutrition and preventive medicine. Doctors are raised in the same society as the rest of us, and they grow up believing the same lies. They are bombarded constantly with drug company advertising. They have high IQs, however, most tend to use their intelligence to construct ever more complex rationalizations. Many doctors vainly rely on the fact that they “made it” through the most difficult educational regimes and pull down $20,000 or $50,000 per month salaries as proof that they “know better” than non-doctors who write books such as mine. I asked a doctor friend of mine to suggest a few medical books I could read to get a broad understanding of medicine, and he said I shouldn’t read or study anything but simply trust my doctor. That sounded to me like what a priest in the middle ages would say to his parishioner about religion: Theology is too complex for laymen; just leave it to the clergy.
For doctors it is easier to prescribe drugs for health problems than to teach patients how to change the diet and life-style that cause the problems. People go to doctors expecting to get pills rather than be told to eat greens, fruit, nuts, and flax. Doctors know that most people have a total disconnect between their diet and their health, and they do little to help the client make the connection.
Cynics suggest doctors go along with the lies because there is much more profit in the treatment of degenerative diseases than in their prevention. Ironical, health insurance and Medicare will pay $50,000 for a heart bypass operation and $10,000 for angioplasty, but it will not pay anything for counseling about what to eat to become healthy naturally. (Dean Ornish, M.D., Program for Reversing Heart Disease, p. 28.)
University medical research is underwritten by the same giant corporations that produce unhealthy, animal-based foods. For example, in 1986 the Harvard University Department of Nutrition received over $20 million from such companies as the American Meat Institute, Armour, McDonalds, the National Dairy Council, and the National Livestock and Meat Board. These companies and associations fund studies that look in all the wrong directions, focusing on drugs and operations to cure diseases at enormous cost, diseases that could be prevented at low cost through dietary and lifestyle change. (Frederick Stare, M.D., Adventures in Nutrition, p. 126, cited in William Harris, M.D., The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism, p. 101.)
Drug companies advertise heavily in medical journals. They fund the research that tests the effectiveness of the drugs they produce and sell, and often these are drugs designed to treat degenerative diseases that could be prevented and treated through eating a low-fat, green diet. They pay researchers and physicians to speak at medical seminars and endorse their products. Drug companies introduce a succession of drugs to lower blood pressure, however, most are extremely expensive. “Since there are 100 million Americans with elevated blood cholesterol levels, treating everyone with these drugs would cost $200-300 billion per year…?.” (Dean Ornish, M.D., Program for Reversing Heart Disease, p. 56-57.) The high-tech drug solution to degenerative diseases is no solution at all.
Monsanto, manufacturer of bovine growth hormone, BGH, made gifts of $30,000 to the American Medical Association and $80,000 to the American Dietetic Association in late 1993. The two associations promptly endorsed BGH and declared it to be safe. The American Medical Association did a video for physicians about treatment of high cholesterol. It was financed by the Beef Board, Pork Board, and the National Livestock and Meat Board, and it certainly did not advocate a vegetarian diet. (Neal Barnard, Eat Right, Live Longer, p. 73.) We lawyers call this a conflict of interest.
In many cases these issues are often systematically repressed or subject to disinformation. According to Corporate Crime Reporter, “[a] public relations campaign [for] National Breast Cancer Awareness Month made no mention of the fact that synthetic chemicals such as organochlorines have been linked to breast cancer. The reason is that Imperial Chemical Industries, the world’s largest manufacturer of organochlorines, was the sole sponsor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” (“Appall-O-Meter: The Disease of Disinformation,” In These Times, November 14-27, 1994, p. 7.)
When health experts do talk about fat in the diet, they simply suggest that people cut fat consumption to 30 percent of total calories consumed, which is far too high a level for good health. This is marginalism, nipping around the edges but really changing nothing. These experts are taking a moderate approach perhaps because it is politically dangerous to suggest that people should just quit eating all animal-based foods.
Those who speak out are sometimes taken to court. McDonalds sued David Morris and Helen Steel in the longest-running suit in British history. McDonalds claimed they libeled the company in a 1990 pamphlet, “What’s Wrong With McDonald’s.” The defendants accused McDonalds of
“…promoting poor nutrition, exploiting children through advertising, encouraging litter, mistreating animals and workers, and destroying rain forests.”
The “McLibel Two” defended themselves pro se, without the direct representation of attorneys, but with the assistance of scores of experts and friends. In Britain the defendant in a libel suit has the nearly impossible burden to prove his or her every allegedly defamatory statement to be completely true, and so it is not surprising that McDonalds won a £40,000 judgment against the defendants. However, the court found that most of the defendants’ allegations had been true. The defendants appealed their case to the European Court, which in large part overturned the decision. (See the ‘Verdict & Evidence’ bulletin produced by the McLibel Support Campaign, at the “McSpotlight” Web site: www.mcspotlight.org/. See Sarah Lyall, “Britain’s Big ‘McLibel Trial’ (It’s McEndless, Too),” New York Times, November 29, 1996, p. A4.)
The Texas beef industry filed suit against Oprah Winfrey and Howard Lyman because of a discussion they had on her program about beef. Howard said that in ten years human spongiform brain disease could be as common as the common cold. Oprah said she would never eat another burger. The judge threw out one cause of action: The food defamation law forbids disparaging perishable foods, and beef is either alive, frozen, or refrigerated and therefore not perishable. The remaining cause of action was common law defamation, which requires that the defendant knowingly publish something untrue. The cattlemen’s expert witnesses helped Oprah and Howard prove their case, admitting that 14 percent of beef is feed back to cattle. The FDA had released its proposed rules limiting the feeding of beef to cattle shortly before the trial. Oprah and Howard’s defense team relied most heavily on First Amendment arguments: An open discussion of health issues is necessary. Although Oprah and Howard won, the cattlemen won in the sense that they intimidated others who would speak or write about these issues. Few people have the millions of dollars Oprah was able to spend defending the case.
The Food and Drug Administrations has made changes in regulations regarding feeding cattle meat to cattle. However, certain body parts from cattle such as blood, gelatin, and milk can still be fed to any animal, including cattle. Cattle meat can be fed to other non-ruminant animals, and meat from those animals can be fed to cattle. Cattle meat pellets fed to chickens fall to the floor. It is collected along with feathers and feces, which are then made into cattle feed. Any animal product can still be used to make human food. Any animal tissue can still be used as a medium to make drugs for human consumption. (See the Spongiform Brain Disease section of this book, p. 280.)
Saturated fat industry advertisers have made parents fear that their children’s health will suffer if they don’t feed them animal-based foods. The exact opposite is true. White is black and black is white, especially where billions of dollars in corporate profits is at stake.
This leads us to the explanation as to why these distortions, pressure tactics, and lies are allowed to continue: profit and the blindness it induces, ignorance produced in part by the profit-making, and our flawed tendency to construct elaborate defenses against truths we want not to believe.
Why is the vegetarian opposition so ineffectual? First, because there is little money to be made telling people not to eat these things. No one can afford commercial advertising to counter the lobbying and false advertising of the saturated fat industry. As a result most people remain ignorant of these issues. Producers of more healthy, vegetarian foods earn only a fraction of the mega-profits the saturated fat industry makes. The saturated fat industry will always be able to out-spend its vegetarian opposition.
When it comes to the writing of history, there is an equally curious tendency toward conventionality. Conventional historians skip from gatherer-hunter tribes to the city state civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece, and Egypt, completely omitting the peaceful, agricultural, matristic civilizations of Old Europe and the Old Middle East that came between them. (See the section entitled Old Europe, Before 4300 B.C.E., a Paradigm of Partnership, p 39.)
Lawrence H. Keely ridicules the idea that there was ever a time when humans were not raiders and killers of their own species. His error is that he simply does not go back far enough. (Lawrence H. Keeley, War Before Civilization.)
Scholarly articles and books consistently ignore vegetarian themes. For example, an otherwise impressive book about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essenes, completely omits any reference to the many sources that say that the Essenes—according to my theory the ancestors of the Judeo-Christians—were vegetarian. (Hershel Shanks, ed. and author of “Essene Origins—Palestine or Babylonia?” Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reader from he Biblical Archaeology Review, p. 83 ff.)
There has been a cover-up—or at least consistent scholarly neglect—of the fact that the Judeo-Christian Ebionites who survived at least into the 400s, were vegetarian. The same is true of the two-day per week vegan fast that the Catholic Church observed for its first 900 years. It is not even mentioned in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Such an omission is incredible in a scholarly work, given the fact that the vegetarianism or partial vegetarianism of all early Christians is so well documented.
How can scientific historians neglect such an important and conspicuous theme? Perhaps they enjoy meat and see nothing wrong with it, and so they simply avoid the subject. I can offer an analogy: The Pythagoreans, Essenes, and Judeo-Christians opposed drinking alcohol; I like an occasional glass of beer or wine. I am not an alcoholic, and the occasional drink does me no harm. But I have not systematically omitted from this book the ancient opposition to alcohol of the Pythagoreans, Essenes, and Judeo-Christians. If I had, it would have been comparable to the typical omission which conventional scientists, historians, and theologians make regarding the vegetarian theme. Non-vegetarians seem uninterested in saying anything at all about vegetarian history.
Perhaps some historians and theologians are committed Christians or Jews who fear that acknowledging the existence of the strong vegetarian tradition in these religions might create controversy. Some theologians would be fired if they acknowledged the ideas contained in this book.
Another factor is the narrow specialization of most scholars. Most are not broadly educated. They confine their intellectual pursuits to the quark in the atom in the molecule in the vein on the leaf—never looking at the tree or the forest. Modern universities require scholars to narrow their focus to some small specialty in some narrow field. So graduates do not know enough about other disciplines to know how to see the bigger picture and make the connections. Thus, I would argue that a person generally educated in many areas, can be as useful as the person more deeply educated in one narrow field.
Academics live in mental universes constructed of ideas. When some fact threatens their world view, many tend to ignore it for their own psychological protection. Academics come up through a culture where believing certain things is a key to success. They care what their peers think of them. Many, when they consider adopting an unorthodox line, fear they will lose respectability. Many academics are as conventional as everyone else.
In conclusion, there are many factors at work acting to convince people to believe our conventional and twisted version of reality and to doubt the alternate reality I propose.