Good food and the love of animals

Years before Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was killed by an animal rights activist my dad already warned us to avoid people with an excess love of animals. He didn’t know about organisations like Earth Liberation Front or the Animal Liberation Front. He just knew some people in his wide circle of acquaintances that loved animals and he had noticed how they behaved and thought. Somehow he had come to the conclusion that an excess love of animals could harm other people, even though I’m sure nothing detrimental ever happened among the people he knew.

Now it seems there’s another ideological goal that has inspired people to become harmful to others: good food. Alan Dangour, a scientist working at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine did a meta-analysis of 55 studies into the composition of biologically raised food products. He concluded that biologically raised foodstuffs did not differ from ordinary food when it comes to nutrient content. They are not ‘healthier’ that is.

His article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition raised hell. Our scientist got hundreds of emails, quite a few of which were abusive. There were more reasonable reactions to his article, even one about taste, but the abuse is what hit the news.

Nobody has died yet. Pessimists will wonder whether this is just a matter of time, but that’s not really important. The point I’m trying to make is that so far we’ve always thought that for good people to behave badly one needs religion, or at least an ideology close to it. Now, in our increasingly secular society, it’s becoming clear that nothing of that stature is necessary: good food and the love of animals are examples of convictions that are neither religious, nor ideological enough, but still inspire evil.


4 Responses to “Good food and the love of animals”

  1. I wonder what “biologically raised food products” are? Is that another term for what we Americans call “organic”?

    It seems in your post that two foods having the same “nutrient content” are equally healthy. Would not two tomatoes have the same nutrient content, even if one was raised organically and the other benefitted from the use of pesticides?


  2. shirhashirim Says:

    It is indeed ‘organic’ or something near that.
    Your point is exactly what the whole discussion is about: ‘healthy’ can be defined as ‘nutrient content’ or it can be seen as a broader concept, that also includes the environment. Dangours argument used the narrower sense.

  3. Thank you.

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