The EAT-Lancet report and the Vegan Agenda

We’re on the cusp of switching from Veganuary to Februdairy. There have been many new developments around these social media hashtags that affect us all in a profound way.

Every day we all eat food that either contribute or subtract from our health.

Few people realise that the food we’re eating is impoverishing the soil and contributing greatly to the tragic and catastrophic loss of ecosystems and biodiversity. We don’t realise because most of us are far removed from the fields that were once rich in topsoil, and are now desertified. The cheap food industry and its agrochemicals have made a large contribution to the loss of fertile soil, and many high-profile reports have left people confused about what they should eat to be healthy. Recent events have led to the realisation that there are more than one type of vegan activist, which is important to acknowledge at a time when vegans are commandeered to trespass on farms, while there are potential conflict of interests around those they look up to, and confusion around what a sustainable, compassionate and ethical food system should look like. High-profile individuals who talk about a moral duty to “save the planet” with vegetarianism/veganism, may indeed have another agenda behind their advocacy. Vegan activists need to examine their personal truth, and learn to look with more discernment at what and who they are in support of, and if this negative interaction with farmers are functional channels for change. In the UK a contact list of around 9,000 dairy farmers was just published as part of a campaign called Project Calf. It’s based on a similar idea in the form of a map from Australia that released nearly 6,000 farm and business details earlier this month encouraging vegan activists to target farmers, and film them to “expose them” without breaking the law. Agriculture Minister David Littleproud slammed the map as anonymous farm shaming “with no real outcomes for animal welfare”.

There have recently been rather revolutionary developments that may forever change the way we look at the dynamics behind our food system. Only a week after the controversial EAT-Lancet

Commission warned that we must radically change our diets to avert catastrophic damage to the planet, The Lancet’s Commission on Obesity listed three of the biggest threats to humanity.

Obesity, hunger and climate change.

Overconsumption of junk food and not having enough to eat are two sides of the malnutrition coin, said a commission of experts brought together by the Lancet medical journal. The EAT-Lancet highlighted the many problems of humanity, like high meat consumption, but rather than making a distinction in the way foods like meat is produced, they put the focus on recommendations cutting red meat significantly. And dairy to a lesser degree.

The modern western diet and its farming practices have become a highly damaging way of life that needs a complete overhaul if we are to avoid catastrophes. According to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, almost two in three Australian adults and one in four children are overweight or obese. Both the release of these reports, and the criticism that followed have highlighted that there is a denial of the following concept and its implications for our health:

It’s not WHAT we eat, it’s HOW it’s produced that matters.

The Guardian reports that the Lancet was founded in the 19th century, and caused uproar back then by publishing the unwelcome news that food was routinely adulterated. It has once again kickstarted a vital debate about how we eat. If it all sounds too gloomy, it’s worth remembering that the modern western diet is a recent invention. It’s not so very long since most people ate in the way we now need to rediscover.

Image: Regenerative agriculture was one of the top 10 most censored news stories of 2018.

The Lancet’s Commission on Obesity

This report was released on 28 January 2019. According to this article, the report recognises that three problems are caused by methods of agricultural production, transport, urban design and land use that will take an enormous toll on the population and planet.

"Government subsidies of $US500 billion ($A696 billion) to beef, dairy and other food industries worldwide should be shifted to sustainable, healthy farming and $US5 trillion ($A7 trillion) in fossil fuel subsidies moved to renewable energy and sustainable transport, the commission said. The three global dangers are linked in such ways as mass production of processed, nutrient-poor food that causes not only obesity and poor nutrition but major greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, the report said.”

The commission also said that four million deaths each year are linked to obesity. Some 815 million people are chronically undernourished. Malnutrition, be it undernutrition or obesity, was by far the biggest cause of ill-health and premature death globally, said Lancet Obesity Commissioner Professor Steven Allender, director of the Global Obesity Centre in Deakin's Institute for Health Transformation.

Prof Allender recognises that obesity, undernutrition and climate change has for too long been viewed as separate. They share many key drivers, and their outcomes interact. He

says that climate change's extreme weather events, droughts, and shifts in agriculture will drive up rates of undernutrition by increasingly threatening food security.

The problems are exacerbated by inaction by policy makers, influenced by profit-seeking food companies over public policy and a lack of demand for change by the public, the report said.

The commission said that in the US and Australia, food industry pressure succeeded in keeping sustainability out of national dietary guidelines. A 2017 study found evidence that 'big food' lobbyists were potentially swaying health policies in favour of their corporate bottom lines at the expense of public health. According to this The Guardian article:

"The equivalent of $500bn in agricultural subsidies goes each year to the wrong sort of food – corn, soya, meat and dairy, as cheap raw materials for intensive livestock production and for highly processed foods.”

“About $5tn a year goes in subsidies to the fossil fuels which industrialised agriculture uses so profligately. Big food has spent hundreds of millions advertising unhealthy food and lobbying to block the sort of measures that might help shift consumption."

The EAT-Lancet Commission

This international commission released their new dietary recommendations for health and sustainability on the 16th of January. According to the report, our civilisation is in crisis and science should tell us how to eat to save the planet. The world’s appetite for animal-based foods was particularly under fire, because the world's meat production is on an unstoppable trajectory, and according to them, a major contributor to climate change. According to the commission’s modelling, adopting the diet would improve nutrient intake, and could avert millions of premature deaths. However, critics show evidence and warn that it is a “recipe for nutritional deficit and ill health”. Keep reading…

EAT-Lancet’s recommendations was released at a time when many have developed an intense distaste for industrial agriculture practices, some of which the report supports. The Project Calf website says: "Talk to the farmers about dairy practices. Let the farmers know their dirty business is everyone's business!" However, people are equally angry about their food being grown with agrochemicals. In Berlin, Germany it is now an annual institution in January to march the streets and block them off with tractors,

because the farmers and consumers are “fed-up” with industrial agriculture and want a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers. Organisers said there were again around 35,000 protesters this year. Slow Food Europe said in a Twitter thread: "We believe that instead of propping up agro-industries, politicians should support the determination of small-scale farmers to keep climate-friendly farms, which are the future of agriculture."

Currently many countries have policies that enable Big Food and industrial agriculture to flourish, but put severe restrictions on the small-scale farming businesses and artisanal foods production, like raw milk and raw milk cheese. There is a growing market for these foods with locals. If farmers had a choice to produce these high-demand foods, we would not have these conflicts, because consumers would go to the farm, interact with the farmer and influence how the food is produced. Consumers are often willing to financially support farmers to ensure better conditions for calves. Farming in a way that is socially unacceptable may cease eventually when consumers and farmers enjoy a direct relationship over valuable, much loved food like raw dairy.

Criticism of the EAT-Lancet report

The report that supposedly tells us how to eat “to save the planet”, received a lot of criticism, and a large amount of support for that criticism, from organisations and individuals, especially on social media. For some people it is very clear that the switch to this predominantly plant-based diet is not going to solve our health or environmental problems. These people recognise that the EAT-Lancet report ignores certain important issues, and some involved in its creation may have potential undeclared conflict of interests.

The Sustainable Food Trust

The Sustainable Food Trust, a global voice for sustainable food and health wrote, in this article, that the EAT-Lancet report’s recommendations are at odds with sustainable food production.

The organisation’s chief executive Patrick Holden said, “We welcome the fact that the report highlights the urgent need for fundamental change in farming systems and diets. However, it does little to inform the public about the path to a sustainable future and in some key respects will make things worse. A key weakness in the report is the failure to fully differentiate between livestock that are part of the problem, and those that are an essential component of sustainable agricultural systems. This results in messages that are likely to add to existing confusion around what constitutes a healthy and sustainable diet.”

“The report also places blind faith in the vague and unproven concept of ‘sustainable intensification’. It assumes this will bring dramatic increases in yield and reductions in pollution claimed by the agrochemical and seed companies which expect to benefit financially from a range of new technologies, each of which will bring its own additional problems, as well as some possible advantages.”

According to Patrick, when it comes to protein and fats, the recommendations to depend so heavily on unsaturated fats compared with saturated fats are fundamentally flawed. "...Rather than getting these from UK grassland via meat and dairy products in an environmentally friendly

way as we once did, consumers currently get these from palm oil and soyabean oil, associated as they are with devastating environmental destruction, and from rape and sunflower oil, the production of which have been major causes of pollinator decline due to the high need of these crops for insecticides when grown as monocultures. Over the last decade a large number of studies in leading peer-reviewed journals, including one in the Lancet itself, have challenged the belief that saturated fats are inherently harmful. The fact that this evidence has been completely overlooked by authors suggests that, in this area at least, they may be driven more by ideology than a balanced assessment of the evidence."

Building soil organic matter and soil fertility is very important for the Sustainable Food Trust. In the article, they express concern over the report’s recommendations in relation to nitrogen fertiliser use. The report fail to advocate the benefits of forage legumes as a sustainable source of nitrogen. The report recommend maintaining current fertiliser usage levels by increasing use in developing countries to match any decreases that can be achieved in developed countries. They feel this is a fundamental error which will accelerate the rate of soil degradation and loss, and ultimately reduce yields in some of the most vulnerable communities.

The Grain-fed vs Grass-fed as an animal and human health issue

Some people are able to discern that the EAT-Lancet report fail to recognise the importance of keeping ruminant animals on a predominantly pasture-based diet, and the benefits that chemical-free pasture-based farming systems have for the environment, animals and human health. Many countries have vast grasslands that are not suitable for growing crops. The only practical way to get food from this land, without causing environmental disaster, is to graze it with a sustainable number of ruminant animals. Farmers CAN learn how to grow a large biomass of nutrient-dense forage that may be available year round, and support more animals as years go by, as the pastures regenerate with more nutrient-cycling between soil microbes and plants. Many examples show it to be possible.

Grass-fed, or pasture-raised meat and dairy have significant health benefits.

These realities are already recognised in countries like the UK, thanks to scientists like Professor Carlo Leifert, the Sustainable Food Trust and the 100% pasture-raised certification program for meat and dairy products. The Pasture for Life label was started after many Britons became fed up. They were seeking out and paying a premium price for animal products, that they were led to believe were 100% pasture-fed, when they were not. The meat and dairy were very often adulterated by grain feeding before the certification label. There are considerable differences in these two food production systems that have a direct impact on animal health, human health and the health of the farm and environment. A pasture-based food production system sequesters carbon and regenerates robust grassland ecosystems and other systems like waterways. Growing vast amounts of grain as animal feed can have devastating long-term consequences on ecosystems on the farm, from water systems down to soil microbiology. Tragically, a high proportion of grassland have been tilled for crops or was resown with ryegrass monocultures with devastating effects on soil fertility.

Fortunately many intensive farmers around the world have been persuaded by the benefits of restoring grassland biodiversity, with green cover crops for grazing, native grasses, wildflowers, herbs, and the introduction of nitrogen-fixing legumes, to enable the grass to recover from synthetic fertiliser use. These regenerative practices, together with planned grazing, helps to restore the soil microbes, beneficial insects and other small animal life that makes up a healthy ecosystem on the farm. Grassland is designed to be grazed and it is the world’s most reliable carbon sink. Without sustainable herds of grazing animals, grassland deteriorates and eventually die as Allan Savoury has discovered. When soil loses its protective green, growing cover, the land eventually becomes a dust bowl. We actually need to increase production of grass-fed meat and dairy for animal health, human health and health of the farm and environment. Ruminants don’t do well, or live very long on a large diet of grain, grown using modern farming techniques. Their rumens are designed to be a microbial digester of pasture.

The EAT-Lancet report does not explore these viable alternatives.

According to this tweet, Dr. Gary Fettke who calls himself the 'Ex-Silenced' Orthopaedic Surgeon advocating real food and a Low Carb, High Fat diet, is one of the people who are “amazed by how entrenched Willet of the EAT-Lancet Commission, as well as Harvard Public Health are with mostly undeclared conflicts of interest”. According to this article, Walter Willett is an Advisor or Scientific Advisor to at least 7 groups/commercial enterprises that promote high-grain, vegetarian diets. Gary gave a powerful presentation in August 2017 that outlines the junk science that shapes our nutrition guidelines, and the strange dynamics and ideologies behind the push for a plant-based diet high in grain in Australia. He also asked in this article: Is the EAT-Lancet (Vegan) Rule-Book Hijacking Our Health?

According to this tweet by Nina Teicholz a science journalist and advocate for nutrition policy based on rigorous science, the EAT-Lancet "cannot be considered a scientific report. Majority of authors (>80%) promoted vegan/vegetarian before joining EAT, so conclusions were foregone. In science, alternative viewpoints are considered. EAT is one-sided advocacy, not science." Read her article here.

According to this tweet, psychiatrist Dr. Patricia Casey of University College Dublin criticises the plant-based EAT-Lancet diet in the Irish Independent with her article: 'Killjoy diet would starve us of our intrinsic zest for life'. She wrote: "Before the science is considered, it is important to establish who is involved in writing this paper and if there are any conflicts of interest. What is the EAT Foundation, which teamed up with the 'Lancet'? It was founded by a Norwegian multi-millionaire vegan and animal rights activist Gunhild Stordalen. It has close ties to the London-based Wellcome Trust also. Its name has recently been associated with FReSH (Food Reform for Sustainability and Health). This in turn is associated with Kellogg's, Unilever, PepsiCo and Barilla, organisations which produce vegetarian or vegan-type foods. The report was entitled 'Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems'. Lead author Prof Willett has been promoting vegetarianism since the 1990s and has published three public-interest books promoting this."

P.D. Mangan, a microbiologist from California with an interest in science-based health and fitness, recognised in this tweet, that manufactured food is highly profitable, and its profitability depends on cheap sugar, grains, and seed oils “hence the enthusiasm of Big Food for EAT-Lancet and its veganism."

Plant-food evangelism

Seasoned award-winning investigative journalist Joanna Blythman has interesting perspectives and many supporters share her views. In this article, she calls on readers to scrutinise the fine print of the EAT-Lancet. She says it is not a vegetable rich diet: "it tells us to get only three per cent of our calories from vegetables while recommending that half of what we consume should come from wheat, grains, and soya." A number of authoritative nutrition experts warn that it is a recipe for nutritional deficit and ill health.

 
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As Dr Georgia Ede points out, EAT-Lancet admits that its diet doesn’t provide adequate nutrition for growing children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, ageing adults, the malnourished, and the impoverished. Where is the moral values in this?

In this article titled How vegan evangelists are propping up the ultra-processed food industry, Joanna describes why “value engineering” (keeping down ingredient costs) is the food manufacturer’s objective. It is done by replacing the costlier items like eggs, butter, meat, milk, for instance, with pre-processed industrial substitutes, artfully employed, using all the tricks in the food technologist’s manual, to create a similar effect. There is only so much that a food in its natural form can sell for, but for processed foods the sky’s the limit.

Joanna is of the opinion that plant-food evangelism is music to the ears of Big Food. Ultra-processing is a tried-and-tested formula for profit generation. But now that most the food they eat in the UK fall into this category, think-tanks are pressed to produce this food more sustainably. Joanna says that these manufacturers find themselves in the dock, judged guilty of making the population fat and sick with their creations. Then, just in the nick of time, along comes the vegan-driven, “plant food” army, handing them a “Get out of jail free” card, a chance to recast their industry as saviour of the nation’s health. Many vegan and vegetarian foods are by default highly processed, grain- and seed-oil based and they often imitate milk, cheese, meat etc.

Weston A. Price Foundation founder Sally Fallon Morell

Sally is a huge advocate for nutrient-dense food and for eliminating the food industry’s imitation foods that don’t promote optimal health. Sally says that the the new dietary recommendations for health and sustainability were released by the EAT-Lancet commission and the advice has a decidedly anti-meat theme. The recommendations reduce meat consumption by 90%. As this pie chart reveals, a plant based diet of rice, wheat, corn and beans form the basis of their recommendations for our health and the health of the planet. It is certainly not reflective of the Wise Traditions diet she would recommend. Zoe Harcombe, PhD, has run the numbers and found the EAT-Lancet's so-called 'healthy reference diet' to be nutritionally deficient in these nutrients: Vitamin B12, Retinol, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Iron and essential fatty acids. Sally also agrees that pastured livestock and managed grazing is missing from the EAT-Lancet report. Bison once roamed the lush grasslands of North America for thousands of years and did not create climatic crises. Grass-fed animals are not the problem. See Sally’s rebuttal below:

 

Raw dairy as nutrient-dense food

Image: this is a partial snapshot of one of the presentations at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2019 in the UK. Learn more here or click on image to enlarge.

Raw dairy was once considered a form of deep nutrition and today it is still considered as such by many individuals and organisations. According to RealMilk.com, certified raw milk was considered “the milk cure” in the early 1900’s in California, when it was enjoyed by both adults and children for its therapeutic properties. The milk used was raw milk from pasture-fed cows, rich in butterfat. The treatment was a combination of detoxifying fast and nutrient-dense feeding. This protocol was an orthodox, accepted therapy at the time. Raw milk has never been illegal in California and is regulated for quality control. Raw dairy can be produced as a low-risk food when the right controls are applied, and it is regulated in a sensible manner. Regenerative agriculture can restore many essential nutrients, minerals and trace elements to the food both animals and people eat. Some regenerative practices even increase the food safety of raw dairy, which is why it is important. Please remember there are two kinds of raw milk.

Conclusion:

It is worthy that this major international consortium wants to present options to radically change the food we eat to avert catastrophic damage to the planet, but they must not dictate to, or restrict those who want to enjoy the health benefits of nutrient-rich pasture-raised, sustainably-grown animal products like meat and dairy.

Some people want to avoid food grown with agrochemicals with antimicrobial properties and herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertiliser, to preserve a healthy, diverse microbiome and to create nutrient-dense food for both cows and humans. In the creation of these animal foods, farmers may opt out of the use of products that support the petrochemical industry (synthetic fertiliser) and chemical companies (herbicides and pesticides).

It also seems clear that there are many types of vegan activists.

One group has a dislike for intense animal farming operations and industrial agriculture practices due to their compassion for the animals and awareness of the animal’s rights to a good life. The other seems to seek the encouragement of plant-based foods, which on closer inspection can be mostly grain- and seed oil based, because they may have vested interests in

the continuation of some industries or ideologies connected to them, in some form or another. The aggressive vegan food movement may also be the result of manoeuvring by the processed food industry to reinvent itself by creating more supporters for itself.

In spite of all the fanfare, the EAT Lancet dietary guidance seems to largely be an extension of the current status quo that is maximising profits for the food industry and driving us to eat more than we need to by focusing on heavily subsidised agricultural grains and the oils extracted from them. Some say EAT-Lancet is the same old recycled dietary guidelines, and it seems to be largely a continuation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Keeping ruminants on a pasture-based diet, supplemented with only small amounts of grain, is a form of showing compassion for the health of animals, humans and the environment.

People should be free to participate in the food system of their choice.

Governments should enable artisanal food that are in demand with a growing portion of society, like raw milk and raw milk cheese from pastured animals.

End the censorship on the benefits of regenerative farming practices.

There is a lot of science that show why these practices produce food higher in nutrients, minerals and trace elements that boost health and reduce the likelihood of disease in both animals and humans. A lot of this research is documented in the Farm and Land Conditions, Feed and the Cow Health categories of the Risk Identification and Risk Reduction Program on ARMM’s website.

Also see these articles posted around Veganuary and Februdairy 2018:

Food for thought for vegans

Nourishing fats and the vegan opposition


Festival21 event

 

Festival 21 is coming up this weekend in Melbourne on the 1st and 2nd of February. More information on the program available here.

The global launch of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health will be presented this Friday as part of Festival 21. It will be presented by the CEO of EAT, Dr Sandro Demaio.

  • Date: Friday 1 February

  • Time: 6PM to 9:30PM

  • Venue: Meat Market

  • Address: 3 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne