International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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6th European Vegetarian Congress
Bussolengo, Italy, September 21 - 26, 1997

Consequences of Meat Protein on Human Behaviour
Armando D'Elia

Naturalist, chemist, expert in vegetarian dietetics. Honorary President of AVI Scientific Committee

Human beings use large numbers of animals for the food value of their meat proteins. The effects of these proteins can undoubtedly be seen in aggression, violence, hatred and moral insensitivity: we can therefore say that meat has a negative effect on human behaviour. The vegetarian, on the other hand, builds the foundations for an attitude of tolerance, gentleness, sociability and a spirit of sharing. Experts speaking out against the use of meat proteins can now call on support from the chemistry of neurotransmitters and from neurobiology, two scientific disciplines that explain how such foods cause certain human behaviours. As a result we can now act with greater certainty in our food choices, which to prefer and which to avoid. Among other things, we should reject the idea that violence is innate in humans: no-one is born aggressive or evil, but we can become so by eating meat.

Consequences of Meat Protein on Human Behaviour

Animal proteins listed on labels as "meat" come from the muscular tissue of land-based vertebrates, whose carcasses are used by human beings for food. To be specific, the animals are: cattle (oxen, buffalo, bison); deer (including roebucks, fallow deer, reindeer); camels, elks, dromedaries; goats, sheep; donkeys, horses; hares, rabbits; hedgehogs, hippopotamuses, kangaroos; and swine (pigs, wild boars). Humans also eat the flesh of marine vertebrates: fish - we should not forget that fish is really a kind of meat - and other aquatic animals (whales, frogs). And there is also meat from different types of birds (poultry, ducks, turkeys, ostriches, various gamebirds). But the meateater also cruelly kills and eats many invertebrates such as: molluscs (octopuses, cuttlefish, squids, limpets, snails, oysters, mussels, razor and other clams, etc); shellfish (freshwater crayfish, European lobsters, lobsters, Dublin Bay prawns, crabs, squills, spiny spider crabs); echinoderms (sea-urchins, holothurian trepangs).

All these proteins taken from the animal world means an absolute bloodbath, and it is not only unnecessary and morally repugnant, but also responsible for physical diseases brought on by toxaemia, even including cancer, and psychological disorders brought on by the influence towards aggression. What we understand by the word "meat" is muscle tissue, which always contains saturated fats, the worst for human health. Meateaters also eat liver, pancreas, thymus, saliva glands, kidney or brain - organs not made up of muscle tissue; additionally meateaters eat tripe, which is part of the complex stomach of ruminants; also many types of sausages, such as cooked pressed pork, spiced pork, baloney, ham, salami, frankfurters, stuffed pig's trotters, and so on. And meateaters eat tongue or bovine tail muscles, or sausage or dried salted beef or bacon, and so on, not to mention caviar, mullet roe, or, as in China, dogmeat, or offal or calf's intestines.

In short, a terrible massacre, a real holocaust

Eating such enormous quantities of animal proteins has a profound effect on human behaviour. Generally in nature carnivorous animals are fierce and aggressive, while non-carnivorous ones are peaceful and sociable. Another thing that can easily be seen is the gradual reduction in aggression in human beings as they move from a diet containing large amounts of meat towards one excluding high protein foods, especially meat. It is also well known that dogs, although carnivorous in nature, keep guard and attack strangers more effectively if they are fed larger than normal meat rations. Similarly, in wartime, when men are to take part in highly risky military action, they have to be given large meat rations, so that the meat is used as a drug to develop aggression, violence and moral insensitivity. In Homer's Iliad, for example, the warriors have meat-based banquets between one battle and the next. Seneca used to point out that among the big meateaters you could find tyrants, organisers of massacres, feuds and fratricidal wars, instigators of murder, slave-traders, while those who fed on the fruits of the earth behaved gently. Liebig tells how the bear in Giesen zoo became extremely restless and dangerous if forced to eat meat instead of vegetable food.

We can say, then, that physical hygiene means mental hygiene, as J. Dalemont maintains when describing the history of human diet in his work A Manual Of Mental Hygiene.

The slogan "meat means energy" is used by those who want to justify meateating, because this society, based on competition, free and unfettered competition and social climbing, demands we wear an aggressive scowl which will help us get on in the world, win our life struggles.

These brief sociobiological references already allow us to state with certainty that meat has a negative effect on human behaviour. We can say this because, as everyone can see, human beings are readily influenced by environmental factors, especially diet, an important truth encapsulated by the great Ludwig Feuerbach way back in 1855, when he famously said, "Der Mann ist vas er isst." ("Man is what he eats.") But, more than a century earlier, in 1728, a distinguished Italian expert, Bartolomeo Beccari (doctor, chemist, and chemistry teacher at Bologna University) delivered the judgement, "Quid alius sumus, nisi it unde alimur?" ("What else are we, if not what we eat?") so expressing what Feuerbach would say much later.

It was not by chance that both these great thinkers were vegetarians. Beccari, among other things, discovered gluten and isovalencies between animal and vegetable proteins. Man is not just an alimentary canal to fill with various foods, but a thinking being whose brain, like any other part of the body, must be nourished with the material necessary for its metabolism that is delivered by the blood stream. And since most of the food we eat is produced by a food industry concerned only with profit, without regard for our real dietary needs, we can say that, just as orthodox medicine is conditioned and financed by the pharmaceutical industry, so what is referred to as "the science of nutrition" is very much in the hands of the chemicalised food industry.

This is an industry that mainly seeks to sell "junk foods", especially those based on meat proteins, with the powerful assistance of the media. Uncritical acceptance of the activities of the food industry leads inevitably to violent behaviour towards our fellow humans and other living creatures because of the aggression induced by carcass food. As far back as 20 centuries ago, the great Juvenal (Satires X, 512), had pronounced on the close link between health of mind and body, with his eternal saying, "Mens sana in corpore sano." ("A healthy mind in a healthy body.")

A healthy mind, then, requires a healthy body, which means that we should make bodily health a priority. Much later, in the 17th century, another authoritative voice, the British philosopher, John Locke, in his work Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), stressed the validity of Juvenal's saying about the health of the mind depending on that of the body.

So it is that we see the great importance of vegetarianism, which detoxifies the body and purifies the blood supply to the brain. Consequently we are capable of more lucid and penetrating thought, leading to a real opening of the mind, with increased powers of self-control and ability to withstand intellectual and physical work, initiating an attitude of tolerance, gentleness, openness to peaceful dialogue and solutions of disputes, to love, sociability and sharing.

Electrical activity in the brain as shown by EEGs has shown that the vegetarian diet induces alpha waves, which indicate a state of neuromuscular relaxation not just of the brain but of the whole body. Leadbeater maintains that this scientific research proves the beneficial action of vegetarianism on behaviour, in that it promotes a sense of wellbeing "analogous to the state of meditation on the most profound truths".

This is why through the centuries the most intelligent, the most cultured, the most open, the most tolerant people in the world have been vegetarians, in all fields of knowledge: in science, philosophy, art, literature, medicine, and so on.

It is clear, then, that the blood supply to the brain carries with it the meat catabolites, the brain's physiology is affected, and in the behaviour we will note - I repeat - intolerance, the tendency to quarrelsomeness and aggression: hatred instead of love; separation, antisocial behaviour and violence instead of conviviality and togetherness. In this way humans get stuck in antisocial attitudes and fierce individualism, and those who want power need only divide and rule. Those in power know how to use the weapon of food to influence human behaviour towards what is most convenient for their purposes, and so they do all they can to encourage us to eat dead, poisoned, intoxicating foods, especially meat. Ultimately the target is the brain, which they want to render incapable of understanding. In conclusion, while vegetarianism favours the highest cognitive faculties, carcasses depress them, encouraging behaviours damaging to the individual and society, and reduce serotonin levels. A meal high in meat proteins reduces tryptophane levels in the brain, and so leads to aggression, anxiety and propensity to fighting; whereas the more we rely on the fruits of the earth and follow vegetarian principles, the more positive our behaviour. Our choice of food, then, influences our behaviour and emotions.

This is what Dr Rossi says, and experimental confirmation for this has come from John Fernstrom and Richard Hurthman, biologists in the Department of Nutrition and Dietary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Serotonin in fact has a particular capacity to cause sleepiness.

Some "nutritionists" against vegetarianism (for various reasons, permissible or secret) maintain that aggression is not caused by meat proteins, but rather innate in humans, a ridiculous assertion, since no-one is born aggressive and bad, but may become so under the influence of meat. The wellknown anthropologist, Luigi Lombardi Satriani, says that it is just an excuse for us to blame aggression on nature, an excuse we as a society use to escape our responsibilities. No-one is born bad, otherwise aggression would be universal, which anthropology shows to be wrong. In fact, societies with absolutely non-violent cultures have existed and still do. For example, certain tribes in Africa or groups of Indians in north-west Brazil or the Piaroa Indians in Venezuela, have built very peaceful societies, based on cooperation, without a trace of aggression in their children's upbringing, and the children's games reflect the balanced lifestyle, since they consist of dancing, singing and love. Hatred is unknown, and it is common knowledge that these people are vegetarians. Do we need better evidence that diet influences the character?

We should not forget that the powerful used to like to flaunt their supposed superiority by ostentatiously eating meat, since they believed that meat, a dietary symbol of violence, was a badge to show that they belonged to the strong. But in order to eat meat there needs to have been an earlier violent act, culminating in the killing of an animal, so that meateating, based on murder as it is, is inevitably associated with violence and brute force, whereas vegetarianism is based on the stability, tranquillity and serenity of the vegetable world which, in its powerful nobility, draws life and strength from Mother Earth to give it to humanity. Professor Carlo Sirtori, a distinguished clinician and scientist, has brought to light how meateating leads to aggression in humans, because phosphorus and calcium are to be found in meat in a ratio of 50:1. Meateating leads to a phosphorus excess which is not natural for humans, whose milk has a 1:2 phosphorus-calcium ratio. Sirtori comments that this fact leads to a fall in calcium levels, leading to irritable and aggressive behaviour, and sometimes convulsions in small children.

During the Gulf War in 1992, US marines getting ready to go into action were supplied with 50,000 turkeys in addition to the normal, abundant meat rations. The reason: "They are soldiers and have to eat a lot of meat." In other words: "They have to attack, and meat helps make them aggressive." I will end my speech by quoting the well-known words of the philosopher, Jacopo Moleschott, which confirms meat's aggressive influence: "As long as the Irishman is fed with potatoes, he will be subjugated by the Englishman eating steak and roast beef."

- translations by Hugh Rees, Milan - commissioned by Associazione Vegetariana Italiana (AVI)