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Hundreds of scientists blast ‘zealots’ pushing plant-based diets, argue meat is crucial for health


Hundreds of scientists have banded together to blast the push to adopt a plant-based diet, arguing that meat is critical to a well-balanced diet — and warning against villainizing carnivores.

Experts behind nine new research papers published in Animal Frontiers are among nearly 1,000 signatures on a declaration looking to prove the value of red meat amid a global increase in vegetarianism and veganism.

“Livestock-derived foods provide a variety of essential nutrients and other health-promoting compounds, many of which are lacking in diets even among those populations with higher incomes,” the declaration states.

“Well-resourced individuals may be able to achieve adequate diets while heavily restricting meat, dairy and eggs. However, this approach should not be recommended for general populations.”

The initiative argues that livestock systems are “too precious to society to become the victim of simplification, reduction or zealotry.”

“These systems must continue to be embedded in and have broad approval of society,” the declaration says.

Scientists behind the papers looked to debunk claims that the consumption of red meat is unhealthy and has negative environmental impacts.

Meat hanging in a plant
The group of researchers argued in their new papers that livestock is “too precious” to not consume.
Getty Images
Animal Frontiers graphic
Animal Frontiers is the official science research journal for four prominent professional animal science societies.
Oxford University Press

The group found that previous research suggesting a diet high in red meat was responsible for 896,000 deaths worldwide was flawed and should be retracted.

That study, the major Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factor Study, has helped push the public away from consuming red meat in favor of plant-based diets.

“The peer-reviewed evidence published reaffirms that [the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Risk Factors Report] which claimed that consumption of even tiny amounts of red meat harms health is fatally scientifically flawed,” argued Alice Stanton of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.

meat graphic
The research argued that red meat is necessary for a balanced diet.
Oxford University Press

“In fact, removing fresh meat and dairy from diets would harm human health. Women, children, the elderly and low income would be particularly negatively impacted,” Stanton added.

The scientists also warned that it is difficult to replace the nutritional value of meat with plant-based substitutes and that poorer communities that don’t consume as much meat often suffer from negative health impacts, such as stunting, wasting and anemia due to lack of nutrients and protein.

“Animal-source foods are superior to plant-source foods at simultaneously supplying several bioavailable micronutrients and high-quality macronutrients that are critical for growth and cognitive development,” said Adegbola Adesogan, director of the University of Florida’s Global Food Systems Institute.

"The societal role of meat" graphic
Scientists behind the research are among signatories of the Dublin Declaration.
Oxford University Press

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“Dietary recommendations to eliminate animal-source foods from diets ignore their importance, particularly the great need for these foods in diets of the undernourished in the Global South.”

The Dublin Declaration, which called for “zealots” to stop promoting a meat-free diet, includes signatures from experts across several top universities, including Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bristol, Belfast, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Surrey as well as several scientists from Britain’s leading farming university Harper Adams.

Animal Frontiers is the official research journal for four professional animal science societies: the American Society of Animal Science, the Canadian Society of Animal Science, the European Federation of Animal Science and the American Meat Science Association.