Of course, industry is shocked and outraged. The president of the North American Meat Institute predictably argues that meat is good for us (protein, remember!), and mocks the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) for calling everything carcinogenic, including sunlight, air, coffee, and aloe vera lotion.
And if you really want to know what we’re up against, read the comments on the Daily Mail article (link above). Some typical responses:
MidlandsJunglist: “Just had a burger, went down great with a few beers. Why not just ban all food and we’ll live on vitamins and water?”
ThePunisher: “The VeggieVangelists trying it on again…”
jaylean: “What a load of rubbish. A famous vegetarian was Linda McCartney but she still died from cancer.”
These responses are exactly what the meat industry is hoping for. Confusion, resentment, anecdote vs science.
But the shift is happening. Slowly perhaps, but inexorably. One astute commenter reminded the meat-defenders, “I can imagine smokers sitting around saying that 50 years ago too.”
It’s so easy to get mired in the day to day and the impossible urgency of shifting our agricultural and food systems so they can sustain life rather than undermine it. If you ever doubt that progress is possible, watch an episode of two of Mad Men and notice the everpresence of cigarettes. Can you imagine that happening in the US today?
The WHO pronouncement that processed meat is carcinogenic, and unsafe in any quantity, is one more step in the right direction.