[Scotland on Sunday]
THE latest celebrity battle cry hit the headlines with considerable clout recently, as ex-Beatle Paul McCartney rallied the troops for Meat-Free Monday. With high-profile support from fellow members of the glitterati Chris Martin and Sheryl Crow, to name just two, McCartney's campaign called for households to cut out meat on Mondays in a bid to slow global warming. Not so much a Feed the World rally, as a Feed the World more selectively, if you will.
The singer says of the campaign, "Having one designated meat-free day a week is actually a meaningful change that everyone can make; it goes to the heart of several important political, environmental and ethical issues all at once."
Reducing meat consumption, he insists, will not just slow climate change, but will also help fight global hunger and improve the welfare of animals.
While some quickly dismissed his idea as the indulgent tokenism of the overly worthy, others have backed the campaign, timed as it is with the publication of new research suggesting there are health benefits to be gained through a meat-free diet. One recent study even suggests that cutting out meat could reduce the risk of developing cancer. As part of an investigation by Cancer Research UK, more than 61,000 people were monitored over 12 years. The results found that vegetarians were 12% less likely to develop cancer than people who ate meat. The risk was almost halved for cancers of the blood, including leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, where the risk for vegetarians was believed to be 45% lower than that for meat-eaters.
Meat: the dangers
Meat consumption has been linked to the build-up of the protein beta-amyloid in the brain. The polyphenols in fruit and vegetables are believed to protect the brain from this accumulation.
A study by the Arthritis Research Campaign found that people who ate meat regularly (five or more times a week) had double the chance of getting arthritis in comparison with those who ate less red meat.
A recent study by Cancer Research UK found vegetarians were 12% less likely to develop cancer than people who ate meat.
One noted cause of gall stones is too much saturated fat, which is often found in meat. One study found that those who ate meat were 18% more likely to suffer from gall stones than those who didn't.
Although shellfish and eggs are thought of as the usual suspects, red meat can harbour dangerous bacteria including salmonella, E coli and campylobacter.
The National Osteoporosis Society advises that excessive intake of red meat can have a negative effect on bone health.