A pro-vegetarian organiser has urged more Barbadians to stop eating meat and fish and adopt a strictly plant-based diet to improve their health.
Activist-attorney Lalu Hanuman, secretary of the Caribbean Vegetarian-Vegan Charity, told Barbados TODAY that people should consider either reducing or eliminating their meat diet amid a rampant epidemic of non-communicable diseases that was not only affecting individuals’ health but also putting a strain on the healthcare system.
Many Barbadians enjoy eating high portions of red and processed meats and their dietary habits put them at great risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases, said Hanuman who declared he has been living on a plant-based diet for 52 years.
The charity has been leading a ‘Meat Kills!’ campaign to highlight the global meat industry’s effect on human and animal health and the planet’s well-being.
Hanuman said: “The record is there online if people want to research it for themselves. It has been shown that non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, colonic cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease are much less in people on a plant-based diet than on a meat diet. Of course, we’re all subject to the exposure to all kinds of chemicals in the environment so we all end up getting various illnesses, but the incidences of things like NCDs among plant-based dieters are much less. When I use the word meat I include fish as well. I know we Caribbean people draw a distinction between meat and fish but fish is also meat.”
Hanuman also drew a link between anti-microbial resistance and meat consumption.
“The World Health Organisation is on record saying that in the year 2019 alone, five million people across the globe died from antibacterial resistance and that 80 per cent of antibiotic use globally is in animals, in terms of animals being bred for slaughter. You cannot talk about antibiotic resistance and not talk about the role played by animal husbandry, which is the euphemism in effect for the murder of animals,” he said.
Further painting a bleak picture of health for meat-eaters, the activist noted health complications surrounding zoonotic diseases in which illnesses can be transmitted from animals to humans.
“Just recently, we experienced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and there were other zoonotic diseases before that, such as swine flu, bird flu and SARS,” he said.
Hanuman also argued that consuming meat affected the wellbeing of the environment, as he highlighted research that indicated the meat industry contributes 18 per cent of greenhouse emissions a year. He suggested that world leaders should consider raising this issue during the Conference of Parties (COP) meetings, calling on the conference’s delegations to be served only plant-based food.
He added: “About 70 per cent of rainfall destruction has been attributed to meat eating. Places like the Amazon are being destroyed for cattle ranching and growing soya and corn for cattle feed. Something like 80 per cent of the corn grown in America is for animal consumption . . . . Meat production uses five times more land compared to vegetable protein and when you consider water usage, twice the amount of water is used for animal protein compared to plant protein production.”
The activist described meat production as a form of animal abuse – yet another reason why people should consider not eating meat, he said.
As part of the pro-plant food campaign, Hanuman and others have fixed large ‘Meat Kills!’ stickers to their vehicles. (SZB)