Monday, July 10, 2017

Have We Become Human Foie Gras?

It's considered a delicacy, goose or duck liver pate, a.k.a. foie gras. It's made by force feeding grain to the birds in quantities that cause the liver to expand by 600% or more. Think of it as torture followed by slaughter. They do it because there's money in it, plenty of it.

But what about human foie gras? Are we being sickened for someone else's profit?  Chris Hedges, a vegan, seems to think so.

In July 1976, the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, chaired by Sen. George McGovern, held hearings titled “Diet Related to Killer Diseases.” The committee heard from physicians, scientists and nutritionists on the relationship between the American diet and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Six months later, the committee released “The Dietary Goals for the United States,” which quickly came to be known as the McGovern Report. “Decrease consumption of meat,” the report urged Americans. “Decrease consumption of butter fat [dairy fat], eggs, and other high cholesterol sources.”

“The simple fact is that our diets have changed radically within the last 50 years …,” McGovern said when the report was released. “These dietary changes represent as great a threat to public health as smoking. Too much fat, too much sugar or salt, can be and are linked directly to heart disease, cancer, obesity, and stroke, among other killer diseases. In all, six of the ten leading causes of death in the United States have been linked to our diet. Those of us within our government have an obligation to acknowledge this.”

The response to the report was swift and brutal. The meat, egg and dairy industries lobbied successfully to have the document withdrawn. They orchestrated new hearings, supplying a list of 24 experts approved by the National Livestock and Meat Board, so that, in the words of Wray Finney, then the president of the American National Cattlemen’s Association, the public would get “a balanced, correct view of this whole matter.” A new report was released in December 1977. This second edition insisted that “meat, poultry and fish are an excellent source of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.” The Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs was abolished. Its functions were taken over by the Agriculture Committee. “The Agriculture Committee looks after the producers of food, not the consumers, and particularly, not the most needy,” wrote The New York Times. And when Sen. McGovern, who had already angered the Democratic and Republican leaderships with his 1972 insurgent campaign for the presidency, was up for re-election in South Dakota in 1980, he was defeated by James Abdnor, a cattle rancher and well-funded spokesman for the meat industry.

Hedges writes that there's money - tens of billions of dollars - to be extracted from our ill health.

“You have a $5 billion stent industry,” Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a renowned cardiologist, says in the book. (A stent is a permanent wire mesh inserted into an artery to prop it open.) “A $35 billion statin [cholesterol-lowering] drug industry. They don’t want that to go away. Look, if I’m in the middle of a heart attack, there’s no question that I want a man or a woman with great expertise in stents by my side. They will save my life and a lot of my heart muscle. But the 90 percent of stents being done electively? There is zero evidence that you can prolong life or protect against a future heart attack with stents.”

“Of every US federal income tax dollar in 2015, 28.7 cents went to healthcare,” Wong writes. “That’s the biggest single chunk of the dollar, larger now even than the military (25.4 cents). Compare that to 3.6 cents for education, and 1.6 cents on the environment. Talk about priorities. And yet for all that healthcare spending, the US has the lowest life expectancy among 12 high-income nations, and some of the worst health outcomes.”

Hedges points out how major health agencies have been co-opted by the food industry.

The American Heart Association, Wong writes, “has received money from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Live Stock and Meat Board, Subway, Walgreens, Texas Beef Council, Cargill, South Dakota Beef Industry Council, Kentucky Beef Council, Nebraska Beef Council, Tyson Foods, AVA Pork, Unilever, Trauth Dairy, Domino’s Pizza, Perdue, Idaho Beef Council, and fistfuls of pharmaceutical companies—the usual suspects like AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Merck, which spent $400,000 to fund an AHA program teaching 40,000 doctors to ‘treat cholesterol according to guidelines.’ ”

One of the main sponsors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is the National Dairy Industry. AND, which is the nation’s largest trade group for registered dietitians, publishes so-called Nutrition Fact Sheets for the public. The food industry writes these Nutrition Fact Sheets for its own products and gives $20,000 for each of these sheets to AND.

It's all very disturbing stuff, troubling information. However it's not cynical to point out that we're inundated with troubling information today and, with the rarest of exception, almost all of it goes straight down the Memory Hole within weeks if not days.


Anonymous said...

You can read much more about the food politics and our diets in my favourite book to recommend, The Big Fat Surprise (Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healty Diet) by Nina Teicholz.

Toby said...

Back in the 1930s doctors knew what had to be done to protect people from most cancers: shield people from chemicals, radiation and nasty things like asbestos and cigarettes, etc. Then WWII distracted everyone and all that was put aside. After the war the medical industries quickly learned that there was more profit in "curing" cancer than in preventing it.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

I remember hearing about "the evils of the food industry", as well as the subsequent movements toward "health food" and a return to natural home-grown vegetables and fruits, back in the mid-to-late '70s.

It's been ongoing for decades---but still only among select demographics and belief systems.