It was only after much disputed research leading to the US Surgeon General’s (and British) warnings against cigarettes in 1962 that the public, and the medical profession, finally stopped denying the fatal results of smoking. The same thing needs to happen, explains author David Gerow Irving, about the dangers of eating meat. “Meat and dairy products cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” he assures us in The Protein Myth, adding that many chronic diseases “can be … reversed by eliminating animal protein from the diet.” Irving takes us meticulously through the science behind these assertions, and about a quarter of the book’s 444 pages details the references upon which he bases his message.

Many well-known studies have shown clearly that meat and dairy consumption increase the incidence of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, prostate and colon cancer:

“Low protein diets inhibited the initiation of cancer … (and) dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed … casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process … the safe proteins were from plants…”

Why then do doctors, nutritionists, politicians and bylaw officers not warn the public with labels against indulging in a diet which costs western health care systems billions of dollars a year? The simplest answer is that billions of other dollars are made in raising and selling meat.

It takes a long time to reverse public attitudes based on decades of mistaken “food group” recommendations, and, most inconveniently of all, most people like the taste of meat. People will deny any number of facts in order to sustain habitual pleasure behaviors, and the information put out by organizations like the American Institute For Cancer Research is confusing about the relative benefits and dangers of meat eating. Why? Because the disease industry organizations are serving two (or more) conflicting masters: corporate partners that fund them and public health interests.

People have accepted years of brainwashing about needing protein for energy and strength, yet few could actually explain what a protein is. Protein molecules are continually made in cells, according to the instructions of genes, out of chains of smaller molecules called amino acids. They create our physiological forms and facilitate all metabolic reactions within bodies. These are the chemical compounds that have facilitated life since its emergence in the oceans 3.5 billion years ago.

We are accustomed to hearing that “you are what you eat,” but whatever you eat you are all (generally) protein. We have been told that animal sources are “better,” yet plant protein too is protein (where do we think animals get it?). To consume protein via animal bodies (along with fats, genetically engineered feeds, factory-farmed hormones, medications) is to create the imbalances that manifest in conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease because, for one thing, we need much less protein in adulthood than during the growing years and the excess (apart from fueling tumor growth) leads to “accumulation of toxic protein byproducts”.

We are slowly becoming more educated about all this: nutritionists now recommend cutting down on red meat and reducing fat. At the same time however, UN agencies and transnational corporations work to extend the cattle, pork, egg and dairy industries to new parts of the world where, as a result, scarce water is being used up and landscapes polluted by tons of toxic animal wastes.

The U.S.’s Food and Drug Agency, Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are in the business of both regulating agriculture and lobbying for farmers, which amounts to a clear conflict of purposes. Meanwhile, “nonprofit” agencies such as the cancer societies, which support enormous staff and administrative expense, have budgets intertwined with those of drug companies and agricultural lobbies keen to cleanse their public image by raising funds for the disease foundations. (Irving supplies names of corporate presidents who sit as trustees of the American Cancer Society).

Additionally, the advertisements of drug companies are crucial to the bottom line of the most esteemed medical periodicals, while profits for the companies depend on producing medications that people will continue to need. In developing these drugs, pharmaceutical companies experiment cruelly on millions of animals worldwide every year. In a nutshell: the drug industry captures, breeds and imprisons sentient animals as test subjects to market drugs that treat the ills we get from eating the billions of animals brutally raised and slaughtered in the meat industry. This takes place in a context wherein business interests and public health interests do not mix. Which interests do governments protect?

The U.S., by some standards the world’s most powerful country (and containing its biggest pharmaceutical and slaughter industries) only ranks 46th in the average citizen’s life expectancy. What could more starkly show how closely animal welfare and human health interests are negatively intertwined? Also contained in Irving’s analysis, is the staggering waste of public funds and charity donations for research that employs a lot of staff but has never cured a single disease.

The Protein Myth explores all these complex linkages, is dense with fact, and should itself come with a warning: the descriptions of the tortures endured by animals on meat farms and in research labs are not for the squeamish reader. Yet these are things we need to know about, especially if we are to spend our charity dollar wisely, design healthy diets, rein in government spending on self-interested agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations, and spare the planet the worst causes of global warming: animal-produced methane and the destruction of forests for agricultural land which services impossibly out-of-control human population growth.

We also need to remember that most of us will die of one of the major diseases: rampant cells will lose control or our hearts will suddenly seize up, but research indicates that these things will happen later rather than sooner if we avoid meat.

Drug companies and the “cure” fundraisers want us to assume unconsciously that there is a product or procedure which could make us live forever, but neither wonder-drug nor indeed a plant-based diet will accomplish immortality. The point is that with a little wisdom, humility and compassion, we can live in harmony with the rest of the living world and our companion species on this planet.

The Protein Myth shows us the connections between wisdom and biology, corporations and ethical choice. It is not an entertainment (although some of the bizarre research projects scientists dream up may make you laugh — in disbelief), but it repays the effort of close reading. Keep it on hand for the references as well as text, for all those times when you need to explain to acquaintances why you choose not to eat meat, dairy and chicken.

We have just one free copy of The Protein Myth by David Gerow Irving to giveaway. Please send us your name and we will make a draw on November 5th, 2011. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date on our contests and giveaways.