The New Scapegoat: W.H.O., Meat?!

By DIANA D’SOUZA, freshman

When the World Health Organization announced that processed meat are now classified as Group 1 carcinogens, my father found himself a new scapegoat. He promptly proceeded to throw all the bacon down the trash can. “Do you know that it is not even real meat? They don’t even kill real pigs. It is all processed with salt. Filthy.” Later that day, he removed all the salami and ham from our sandwiches. My brothers were distraught, as were the rest of the nation as they were caught up in yet another instance of unnecessary hype. The hype has caused some Americans to take their stance against red meat because individuals such as my dad were wary of anything remotely “cancer” related, relied too heavily on tentative experiment results, and received substandard information due to the media’s sensationalist reports.  

Cancer, regardless of where or how it is mentioned, is a term of impending doom. We see cancer on the television as we watch minutes of horrific research ads. We see cancer run down our family bloodlines, lurking in hospital rooms. It may even reside right next door when your neighbor suddenly collapses. Because we are exposed to the idea of cancer on a regular basis, we try to prevent it in any way we can. Part of the way we try to protect ourselves is by forming false notions. If so many people have cancer, they must all be doing something wrong. Oh; it must be because they were eating red meat. However, this is not entirely true. It was an accumulation of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors that led to an unfortunate illness. The media and the hype they have created has blinded us from this fact; it is outrageous to blame it all on red meat.

The hype also happens to be based on tentative data. It is essential to note that an observational study was conducted. Data is supposed to be collected with a control group and variable. Find the hypothesis, then determine if it can be proven with hard facts. Instead, thousands of people were asked to fill out questionnaires over a long period of time. Researchers then tried to find common links between the answers. They came to the conclusion that red meat is a killer. Later, the published study results made a strange deduction: red meat was probably carcinogenic and had links to colon and prostate cancer. Key word: probably. In the end, the study discovered nothing to completely back their findings. The word “probably” shows reserve and allows for a margin of error. Due to flawed research, red meat does not deserve to fall under such criticism.

Social media has also contributed to exaggerating the long term effects of eating red meat. Search up the term “red meat,” and a surge of memes with gruesome faces and cartoons on the brink of death appears. It has become a contest to see who can get the most viewers to click on their link. It no longer is a matter of giving the people the indisputable truth. Advertisers splay tabloids with flashy headlines and fluff up information in a bid to catch the viewer’s eye. False information inflates the seriousness of the issue, throwing people into a frenzy. That is how money is made. For its own selfish benefit, social media has good reason to give red meat a bad reputation. By doing so, it has created unjustifiable hype.

For the consumers, they seem to entrapped in eternal plight. Who can they trust? They stand between the media, big business, and government agencies, each of them telling the buyer what they should be consuming. But instead of gluttony, they should be stressing moderation. All too often we see people toting huge amounts of meat in their shopping carts and heaping their plates with spare ribs at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Although tempting, ingesting red meat in excess diminishes its potential nutritional value. If we learn to closely monitor our serving proportions, meat can be an excellent source of protein. Sadly, when things end negatively, we turn to a scapegoat.

Too often, we try to point a finger of blame. Red meat is the latest scapegoat for all our weaknesses: our fear of cancer, the tentative nature of our data, and the sensationalization of information. In a world ravaged by murder, war, and destruction, the least of our worries should be the bacon. Sorry, Dad.

Featured image from http://www.geo.tv

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