Keep calm: plants have protein

I’m ready for this campaign.

The pandemic is scary, but its scariest aspect is something we still don’t know: what will be our society’s ultimate reaction to it? Our treatment of animals was key to the origins of the pandemic, but it is also part of resolving the pandemic.

President Trump is struggling to keep slaughterhouses going and recently declared them to be “essential.” His views are now being backed up by armed right wing protesters demonstrating to reopen the economy. Slaughterhouses are trying to return to their bloody normal, with some sort of minimal protections for slaughterhouse workers; but protections for workers from the virus are still not mandated by the CDC. Some think that slaughterhouses will just continue to produce meat even if it means increased risks to workers.

Vegans can become the voice of calm in this crisis by stating the obvious: plants have protein. There’s nothing “essential” about meat! This is blazingly obvious to vegans everywhere, but apparently unknown to most political leaders. We’re not all going to starve to death if we close the slaughterhouses.

There’s already quite a bit of political reaction on the slaughterhouse issue. A little over two weeks ago, a letter from 36 senators to the Vice President and other high government officials asked pointedly about protection for workers. The AFL-CIO is upset about workplace protections, saying that the Department of Labor had failed to protect workers. Representatives and senators have introduced bills to force OSHA to do this. A Latino civil rights group has proposed a meat boycott in Iowa (!) — “Meatless May” — to support workers in processing plants hit hard by the coronavirus. (In the 1970’s there was a “meat boycott” to protest the rising price of meat; it prompted some people to consider vegetarianism after the boycott ended.)

Moving towards veganism will aid in dealing with the virus:

1. Slaughterhouses are sickening workers. What’s the endgame for this strategy of sending slaughterhouse workers back to work in dangerous conditions? COVID-19 is extremely contagious (R0 = 5.7). Even if the rest of the country is locked down, and even assuming that those who recover from the virus are immune, this will be disastrous. Without any protections the coronavirus will continue to spread among workers until about 80% of them have gotten the illness and become immune—at which point, “herd immunity” would presumably start to work. If you reduced the R0 value to 2.0 with face masks or spacing out the workers, the virus would still spread but “herd immunity” would start to take effect at 50% of the workers immune.

So this could infect 50% or 80% of the workers? What kind of brutal, heartless policy would point to a particular group and condemn most of them to sickness and a certain percentage to death? We can show solidarity with slaughterhouse workers by boycotting meat.

2. We’re going to have to move towards veganism anyway. Because of the virus, red meat production is already falling about 20% to 40%. There are historical precedents: out of necessity, Denmark greatly reduced meat consumption during the First World War and Norway did it in the Second World War. And death rates fell as a result of these restrictions! (See A Vegetarian Sourcebook, 1993 edition, p. 51.)

3. The factors which increase mortality in COVID-19 patients are exactly the things that can be treated or reversed with a vegan diet. People who suffer from obesity, heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and so forth are affected much more severely and are much more likely to die from COVID-19.

This issue is likely to be around for a long time, because the pandemic is likely to be around for a long time. Vegans can be the voice of calm — and the voice of reason — by stating the obvious: plants have protein.

2 thoughts on “Keep calm: plants have protein

  1. Jonathan W Maxson

    “Keep calm: plants have protein” – An important mantra and another well-reasoned post. Though I proceed at the risk of appearing sycophantic or trollish, I can think of worse ways to use my shelter-in-place time than regular class participation with you here at Compassionate Spirit, Keith. I hope you don’t mind the continued comments, but if you do, please just tell me to get on with my own blogging (though that thought overwhelms me somewhat these days).

    There is nothing for me to disagree with here, but I am moved to offer thoughts on two points. Jesus, at the Second Coming, may indeed cleanse our global temple of its entire livestock trade through the equivalent of a single papal bull, and imperfect sinners though we may be, we do well to repent and prepare ourselves as best we can in advance. The Holy Spirit, in the meantime, may advise Xi Jinping’s China, alone, to close all of its slaughterhouses, animal markets and high-risk animal research labs, through that region’s strong single-party administration, while separately advising Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump to act more through Provincial, State, County and Local block grants for those jurisdictions interested in voluntarily piloting various vegan degrees of holistic coronavirus rebound legislation. Why? Because China, where most observers believe this virus originated, is a single-party state with nearly four times the population of Canada and the US combined. China, especially, needs to step more strongly up in proportion to the gravity of its role in this global public health emergency, and by most accounts has the autocratic political capacity to do so (without facing a heavily armed right-wing rebellion). Indeed, the voluntary block grant course of action may be more appropriate for the exercise of strong executive and legislative leadership not only in North America, but in several world regions that are deeply committed to civil rights, states’ rights and multiparty representative democracy.

    That is a states’ rights and responsibilities argument. On the opposite side of the ledger – the better global governance and UN reform side – I must ask why WHO, FAO and the Codex Alimentarius Commission should not be responsible for issuing global slaughterhouse shutdown guidance long before or entirely irrespective of any single Canadian Prime Minister’s or US President’s position. The enormously complicated trade issues certainly transcend domestic political calculations (e.g., see the CBC’s 29 April 2020 article “As Trump moves to keep meat-processing plants open, Trudeau stresses workers’ safety,” and ask yourself, “What will PM Trudeau do?”) Today in Washington on C-SPAN, I heard Democratic Senators criticizing President Trump over his handling of this crisis. This is fair enough as a Congressional oversight matter – especially under the circumstances, and especially in an election year. But if you and I were already living in our pilot vegan state, would we be more likely to blame the elected executives of Iran, Italy, Spain, the UK or US for mishandling timely and reliable WHO coronavirus guidelines, or more likely to blame the WHO, FAO and China for front-end guidelines negligence? All WHO member states are in this together, of course, so to some degree my rhetorical question is a circular argument, and we would, regardless, undoubtedly want to support improved WHO response everywhere, including in the race to develop and globally distribute effective antiviral vaccines alongside universal healthcare coverage and better lifestyle choices.

    Reply
  2. Lino Rizzardi

    Thank you for the article. I always wish more can be done for saving the lives of animals. My wife and I and a young man who we’ve attended church with in the past are the only vegans we know. All of our friends and acquaintances are flesh consumers and we have had zero influence on these folks. It pains me that their mind set on the consumption of meat is what it is. I’ve been chided about it and challenged at times. It doesn’t matter I’ve lived like this for 53 years and will the rest of my life. I will never completely understand why people don’t change to a compassionate diet, for me there’s where the heart of humankind should be; and to do so makes all the sense in the world. I have a book to recommend if people would like a clear understanding of the benefits of a vegan diet. FOR LOVE OF ANIMALS by Charles Camosy. Thank you C S for your care and sensitivity towards our fellow travelers.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.