The (lack of) Evidence That Meat Causes Cancer

Several people have emailed to ask if I’m going to watch and critique What The Health, the latest vegan-propaganda movie.

Uh … no.  I see no reason to torture myself.  I’m pretty sure I can guess what kind of “science” they quote throughout: the same cherry-picked observational studies they cite in all the other vegan-propaganda films and books.  I dealt with the topic long ago in a post titled To The Vegetarian Evangelists.

I did hear that the film claims eating one egg damages your health as much as smoking five cigarettes.  To any vegans who believe that, I’ll make you an offer: I’ll continue eating three eggs per day, and you start smoking 15 cigarettes per day.  Then we’ll compare health status 10 years from now.

Nina Teicholz, author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, already shredded What The Health on the Diet Doctor blog.  ‘Nuff said.

But just for grins, I thought I’d post a speech given by Dr. Georgia Ede in which she goes through the (ahem) “evidence” that the World Health Organization (WHO) cited when it claimed meat is a carcinogen — a claim repeated in What The Health.  (If you think WHO’s stance on meat is anything other than political, you need to seriously rethink their motivation on this and almost every other issue.  Same goes for the United Nations, the parent organization of WHO.)

Anyway, here’s the speech.  Enjoy.

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46 thoughts on “The (lack of) Evidence That Meat Causes Cancer

  1. Ben Fury

    Thanks, Tom!

    Dr. Ede is brilliant. I’ve already heard this talk, but I think I’m going to go back and listen to it again. Great points to have memorized if you get stuck next to an annoying vegan relative at a family gathering, or next to one on a bus, or in a waiting room. These people seem to be everywhere these days and are eager to share their incredible “nutrition knowledge” that all seems gleaned from the cherry picked opinions of Campbell, Greger, Barnard, etc. etc. You can’t win over religious zealots of course, but sometimes you can stun them into silence with a pithy scientific remark.

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  2. Dianne

    I think that with vegans you have to wait quietly until they start to look and feel like something that sprouted under a board, and then gently suggest that maybe they should try the diet we were designed/evolved to live on. Maybe by that time they’ll be ready to listen. Maybe.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Maybe, but in my experience, very few of them are willing to attribute their health problems to the diet.

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      1. Walter

        Veganism may not be a religion, but it acts like one. Just like there are arguments that sugar is not a drug[1], but it acts like one and a difference that makes no difference is no difference.

        [1] The chemical structure and formula are different. I got into arguement based on chemistry with a drug head once.

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  3. Stephen T

    The deliberate dishonesty of some vegans is depressing, but I also think it’s their Achilles’ heel. Some of the more balanced vegans agree. Here’s part of a review of ‘What the Health’ by a vegan dietitian, Ginny Messina.

    “But unless you bring in concerns about animals, the environment, and social justice, you can’t make the case for a vegan diet as the only sensible way to eat. That’s why the scientific basis of What the Health was doomed from the start. Instead of focusing on unassailable reasons for being vegan, it focused on the ones that are most easily refuted.

    I realize that some activists believe that using any means necessary to get people to stop eating meat represents a win for animals. But putting aside the philosophical issue of whether the ends justify the means–that is, whether it’s okay to be dishonest if it saves animals–I think there are a number of problems with this argument.

    . . . the vegan movement’s credibility is undermined when we make claims that are so easily refuted. If we get caught lying or exaggerating about the health aspects of veganism, why should anyone believe us when we try to tell them about the treatment of animals on farms, in zoos, and in research labs?”

    https://www.vegan.com/posts/vegan-dietitian-review-what-the-health/

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    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Excellent point. That’s why I hope vegan wacko Dr. Neal Bernard never shuts up. In his effort to scare people away from meat, he’ll happily say things that are easily refuted and that he probably doesn’t even believe himself.

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      1. Lori Miller

        In Neal Barnard’s book “The Power of your Plate,” the chapter on the evolution of the human diet is made of whole cloth. It attributes quote and ideas to Dr. Richard Leakey that contradict Dr. Leakey’s books, and the sole reference for the chapter doesn’t support the arguments made in the chapter.

        Then there’s T. Colin Campbell’s booklet The Low Carb Fraud, which has more errors and outright whoppers than pages.

        If a vegan diet was so great, proponents wouldn’t have to make up tall tales about it.

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        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’m pretty sure they start with a moral position (killing animals for food is evil), then tell themselves it’s okay to lie to people to convince them to stop engaging in the evil.

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          1. Dianne

            So it’s more moral to make people sick or kill them with lies and bad diet advice? The only time I felt worse than I did as a vegetarian was when I tried cutting out eggs and dairy too. And I had ALL the books telling me how to do it right — but for me it wasn’t right, period, and no amount of supplements could make it right.

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            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              Nope, it’s not moral, but they’ve managed to convince themselves it’s a healthier diet.

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              1. Dianne

                That’s about like me managing to convince myself that I’m 23 years old, instead of nearly 75. Of course, if I were that good at deluding myself, somebody’d probably drop a net over me.

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              2. Lori Miller

                “If you get a lot of heavy ideology young and then you start expressing it, you are locking your brain into a very unfortunate pattern. And you are going to distort your general cognition.” –Charlie Munger

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                1. Firebird7478

                  “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” ― Carl Sagan

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      2. Stephen T

        In the article by Ginny Messina, she says that a disproportionate number of paleo eaters are ex-vegans. She doesn’t give an explanation for why this might be, but mine is that they eventually felt terrible, knew that they’d been lied to, and turned to the other end of the spectrum for the solution. This is the weakness of deliberate dishonesty. The problem is that many vegans feel terrible, but think it’s normal.

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        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’ve noticed the ex-vegan factor as well. Unfortunately, some of them bring the same all-or-nothing mentality with them when they switch diets. Then they become the Paleo Police.

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          1. Nowhereman

            Yeah, I’ve seen that with people that move over to my state from Commifornia… er, I mean California. They come here to get away from high taxes, the higher cost of living that comes with that, etc, but almost as soon as they get here, they start demanding we change our laws to make our state like they one they fled.

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    2. Thomas E.

      On a counter point to Tom, if the Vegan’s were to completely back off the rhetoric, and enter into honest discussions about farming practices can be discussed.

      Right now the discussion is completely polar, with no discussions in the middle, where we can all agree that factory farming is less than ideal, or really, downright terrible.

      If we can meat in the middle and discuss the real issues, bring up the unhealthy conditions for farming, and openly discuss what has been learned in the last 20 years by people like Alan Savory and maybe move forward.

      It would be amazing to see honest discussions about land use.

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      1. Stephen T

        Thomas, most vegans aren’t interested in improving animal welfare on farms. They regard the issue as a distraction from the cause of abolishing meat eating.

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        1. Thomas E.

          Stephen,

          sigh, yeah.

          It is funny, well sad, yeah sad really, but I guess it is reality. And it all ties into the notion that the self-anointed believe they know better than us.

          And I am sure they are the same people who have decided we should not have pets, let them run wild or such.

          Then I look at my families latest addition. 70 lbs Healer/Sheppard mix, daughter fell in love with her pictures at the pound, guess she had a habit of running away we later found out. Her coat was matted and smelled, did not walk well at all, and obviously was not allowed in the house at her previous “home”.

          So, we did what you should, I guess, fed her really good dry food, supplementing with at least one egg a day, and some good red meat.

          Guess what, her coat is no longer mated, she barely needs a bath, when she is in front of the house she never lets herself get too far from us, and she can not only walk pretty decently, she can “jog” and jump up into the dogs chair.

          She ain’t leaving.

          At the same time, when I am traveling, my wife sure feels a little safer having 110 lbs (2 dogs) of dog walking around the house. So does that make us owning them wrong? Many would say so, but I think they (the dogs) are good with the deal.

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          1. Stephen T

            A happy dog, daughter and wife. Some vegans will see a problem, but I see a domesticated animal having a good life.

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      1. Walter Bushell

        Yes, you hardly ever see advice that rice farming causes global warming by releasing methane, but you do see a lot of screaming about beef and global warming.

        And, of course, that rice loves to absorb arsenic.

        And hydroelectric dams can cause release of much methane also.

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        1. Firebird7478

          They hate it when you tell them that almonds need more water than any other plant in order to grow, or that the rain forests of Central America are being plowed under to make room for soy farms. On that one, they blame the need for soy as feed for cattle. SMH.

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  4. Desmond

    So the WHO put out their “doom & gloom” 2-page summary in October of 2015, and nearly 2 years later they still have not published the actual paper? Do these guys get paid by the hour?

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  5. Bill

    Vegan types go on and on about the environment and how unsustainable meat production is. I live in countryside here in the UK. As far as I can see,by observing the arable land around me, the thing that is NOT sustainable is intense arable farming the for the most part produces stuff that is of little food value namely grains, rape, sugar beet and potatoes. This last year the adjacent field were put down to wheat. 3 artificial fertiliser applications and 8 sprayings with god knows what it been harvested. If you add up the energy expended in machinery use, the oil required to make the fertiliser and the loss of the soil through erosion I don’t see is in the least bit ‘sustainable’ . Soil needs to be nurtured not raped, this headlong drive to plant based diets will, I think, be the real ecological disaster.

    Reply
    1. chris c

      Are we related?

      Yes I live in a similar area surrounded by a lot of intensive arable, mainly wheat, and rape for the margarine to spread on it, and other carbs. Peas (for freezing) are about the only thing they grow that I eat.

      In between are some smaller farms with grass-fed beef, sheep and various vegetables, and these all require much lower inputs. At least most of our arable guys use assorted dung as fertiliser, which may be a tad smelly at this time of year but keeps the fertility of the soil up, and obviously feeds a lot of bugs and worms judging by the invasions of gulls and crows during and after the cultivations. In Veganworld this would be absent of course, and the dependence on chemical fertilisers (and diesel for the sprayers) would be even greater.

      Some of the big farmers are good guys, care for the birds and the environment as much as they can, and work hard to be efficient, but there are still years when they make massive losses when the price of wheat drops. As one of them has pointed out, they are “paid” subsidies, but they only get to hold the money for a while before passing it on to the Foodlike Substance Manufacturing Industry in the form of lower prices.

      At least they mostly also grow healthy food, like pheasants and partridges, on the field margins.

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    2. Nowhereman

      And remember most of those grains, beets, potatoes, and other monocrops are heavily government subsidized as well.

      But as Dr. Alan Savoy showed, cattle raising done to simulate herd animal migration actually results in real benefits to the environment by activating the plant reproduction cycles that are cued to being fed and trampled on by herbivores, and the nutrients they get from the droppings.

      The really sad and tragic thing of it is that he didn’t discover anything new as almost any rancher and farmer from over a century ago could have told you this.

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  6. Bob Parker

    I lived vegan for about a year quite some time ago. At the end of it I was so healthy that my doctor doubled the dose of my blood pressure medication.
    We are not in any way genetically adapted to a vegan diet, though no doubt due to genetic difference between people there will be some who have less problems than others.
    I was attending a Thai Language School last year and we did have one young female vegan diet expert on the course. Fat as a pig she was!

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    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Name almost any diet (well, non-garbage diet) and some people will do well on it. But most of the vegans I’ve known personally had a myriad of health problems.

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      1. Walter

        Methinks you insulted garbage. City raccoons thrive on garbage. We including everyone preferentially eat the junk and throw out the food.

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  7. Nick S

    Sort of a tangent, but I think you’d enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast episode called “The Basement Tapes”, Season 2 Episode 10 of Revisionist History http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/20-the-basement-tapes

    It’s about rediscovering one of the best nutrition studies ever conducted and references Nina Teicholz

    Ditto the previous episode, “McDonald’s Broke My Heart”, about the baseless campaign that led to McDonald’s ditching beef tallow: http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/19-mcdonalds-broke-my-heart

    (This episode led me to make fries in lard, and yes, they were the best fries I’ve ever had.)

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Thanks for the links. I’ve certainly enjoyed several of his books, which he reads himself for the audio versions.

      Reply
  8. JR62

    Life is a race. If someone gives me advantage by weaken his/hers own health by veganism, I’ll say “Good for you. Please do more the same thing.” Maybe I’m too selfish, but I wouldn’t try to speak them out of veganism. It’s waste of time. Everyone needs to make one’s own mistakes.

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  9. Bill

    let us not forget the UN’s Agenda 21……….perhaps this is what is underpinning the drive towards vega……sorry can’t even write anymore.

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  10. Nick

    Can we at least agree that eating processed meats (Oscar Meyer and Hillshire Farms lunch meats, bacon with nitrates in it, etc.) is a bad idea, and probably contributes to cancer? I am an ex-vegetarian, but I just can’t take Ede seriously. I have seen other videos and articles from her, and she is a stereotypical VLC extremist who appeals to the Eskimo and Masai even though they have genetic adaptations to their diets.

    Reply

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