Meat “Crust” Pizza; It’s Meatza!

So here's my attempt at "Meatza," which I mentioned a couple of posts ago, and where you'll find the basic recipe.

Meatza Makings
Meatza Makings

I used two pounds of 80/20 ground beef I had in the freezer. I also had the idea to create an edge, to keep in toppings. See the recipe for the other ingredients in the "crust."

The Pre Cooked Crust
The Pre Cooked "Crust"

Here's how it looks after 10 minutes at 450.

Cooked Crust
Cooked "Crust"

I used standard Pizza sauce from Trader Joe's, and do notice that the veggies should be sauteed, which I did in lard rather than olive oil. I used mushrooms, green pepper, and very thinly sliced onion, which I did not sauté.

Ready for the Broiler
Ready for the Broiler
And Its Meatza
And Its Meatza

We all liked it very much, and I liked it better than the various paleo crust recipes I've tried, like cauliflower and such. Also, this was very easy and quick to make. To my mind, this is sort of like a good meatloaf you eat like pizza.

It's definitely worth a go.

How’s Your Blood Pressure?

Reader David rings in with some interesting blood pressure experiences on paleo. Good weight loss, but very high BP, but looks like he may have found a solution that worked in just a few days.

~~~

I am 6' even, 47 year old, ex-infantry (so my fair share of abused joints, and strongly aware of what the body can do when in condition). I've been out for about 10 years and not been working out enough, in part because it just hurt.

We eat well and have taken some herbal supplements for years, with proven effect - they have stopped my migraines. Several years ago we ditched wheat for a while to address some health issues with the kids, but once they seemed to be under control, we slid back.

About 9 months ago I hit about 195 lbs and seemed to be racing to 200, whereas my fighting weight had been about 155. Something had to change. Coincidentally, a friend of mine got me interested in glutathione and after doing some research I was intrigued. Very quickly I was able to run every day with minimal knee pain (now I am doing about 6-8 km most days, in comfort and good wind). Shortly after that initial success with the joint pain, I figured I had to dump weight too and decided to drop what grains I still had in my diet. As of today, I have lost over 30 lbs and am approaching my old fighting weight - and I feel stronger than I have for years.

So several months into this process I was feeling great, losing weight, joints were more comfortable and so on. But, I was a bit concerned with cardiovascular progress.

My resting pulse has always been on the low side and is now 46 to 56 bpm, which is back down to where it was in my 20's. BP was high though and just wouldn't come down. Yes, my work can be very high stress, and yes, I often have to go with far too little sleep, but I figured that between exercise and losing weight my BP should drop. If anything it seemed to be creeping up. I eliminated as much sodium from my diet as I could (and already ate almost no processed foods and rarely ate in restaurants even when on the road). Then I started pigging out on high potassium items, especially dried apricots and small potatoes (lots of skin for the amount of the potato itself). No change. Four days ago I hit 160/98 and was not happy. I figured I needed to do something a little more aggressive to change the sodium/potassium balance in my body and bought a potassium supplement at 50mg per day. This morning I went to the mall to get a few things. There are two stores in that mall with BP machines, so I thought I would check to see if there was any effect. The first one gave me readings of 130/81 then 123/74 five minutes later. I was amazed. I also know that this machine tends to read a bit low compared to the other one, so I figured I had better go see what it would show. 124/79. That indicates the readings were real and not just one machine needing to be calibrated.

In four days I dropped over 30 points systolic and about 20 points diastolic. My hypothesis in starting the potassium supplement was that my sodium/potassium balance was off and that for some reason, my body was holding that balance even as I lowered sodium intake and increased potassium intake. So I figured I needed to do something to surge the potassium level in my body.

I would like to know what thoughts your readership has on this. My intent at the moment is to stay with the potassium supplementation until I hit my goal of 110/70, then start weaning off the supplement to see if the body holds the BP or not. Ideally, I will hold at 110/70 without the supplement and with eating properly. In other words, I hope my body establishes a new potassium/sodium balance facilitating normal BP.

~~~

Wow, that's quite a normalization in a very short time. Back in 2007 when I embarked on my own journey, one of the things that really gave me pause was my BP, which was consistently 140-150 / 90-100, sometimes higher, rarely lower than 140/90. At first I didn't alter diet much, just twice per week to the gym for 30 minutes, but intense resistance training. I have a measuring device that stores your readings and I was able to plot them on a chart as my BP readings began to come down immediately and within only a couple of weeks I was typically in the 130s / 80s, and that's about what it seems to be most of the time now.

How about you? Anyone have any insights for Dave?

Links & Quick Hits

~ Attention all: David-Dorian Ross wants everyone to know that he has "lectured on exercise science for the past 15 years, as well as having been on the executive committee of the National Association of Health and Fitness..." and on that basis rather than argument, wants you to know that I "really have no idea what [I'm] talking about on just about every point," and further, that "the 'paleo diet' -- when generically applied -- is bad science." What do you think?

~ Dr. BG's posts are often pretty challenging for the non-professional, but if you can follow along, here's an amazing rundown on cholesterol particle sizes and what they mean to you.

~ I've blogged this before, but it pays to review. Jack Lalanne always knew what he was talking about.

~ Monical Reinagel, MS, LDN, asks whether Paleo is the new Mediterranean over on The Nutrition Data Blog. Lot's of excellent comments from paleo practitioners, too. Bear in mind that Paleo Trumps Faux Mediterranean.

~ Some pretty wise words from the world's oldest living man. in addition to eating only breakfast & lunch and skipping dinner for the last 35 years, his favorite meal is liver & onions.

~ Here's another take on paleo-primal pizza: a meat crust from Chef Rachel. Meatza. I did this Friday evening with excellent results. Photos to follow. And by the way, if you missed my interview of the Chef, be sure to take a look.

No Fear: Pork Belly; It’s What’s For Dinner

Before I place a montage, there's inspiration. Back 'round the 4th of July weekend, we happened to have missed being with friends who happened to be with mutual friends. Make sense? OK, they ended up going to Gordon Ramsay's LA restaurant and posted more than a dozen pics of what they ate. This was one.

Pork Belly at Gordon Ramsay LA
Pork Belly at Gordon Ramsay, LA

The caption read: "Slow braised pork belly, crispy pig’s head, pickled red onions and pea purée." Count me in.

But this is merely the beginning; the inspiration.

My friend Robert features prominently on this blog, as does his wife, Julie. They both do. While not usually mentioned, much, most of the cooking for friends I do is for them, and they do equally for us. And we play cards -- advanced Spades, if you must know.

But sometimes the girls and their friends get tired of Robert & I winning all the time, so they have their once-monthly girl's-night-out get-together, and, you get it: Robert & I were on our own last night.

And we decided to push boundaries.

...Well, actually, he did. My original idea was grilled burgers.

He wasn't moved. I knew this when I called him yesterday afternoon about various arrangements and found him at the meat counter acquiring the pork belly I'm about to feature. We decided at that point to go outside boundaries. He decided to do pork belly, and I, Belgian endive. ...I began, not liking it much when first encountered in France -- always sauteed -- it seemed to have a bitter taste. But I got to like it, but always wondered if I could do better. I believe I did.

Pork Belly Co
Pork Belly & Co

This was a lot of fun. The pork belly is simply seasoned with a little (a little) coriander, cumin, salt & pepper. It's then roasted at 450 for 15, then down to 350 for two hours. At the end, baste it with its juices a couple of times and fire it under the broiler.

I decided on Belgian endive, sauteed, then braised for 15 minutes covered, in 350 (lower rack in the same oven). Right before it went into the oven.

Belgian Endive
Belgian Endive

I used no spices or herbs. Endive. Two slices of bacon. Onion. Pecans. I sauteed in the drippings from very lightly cooking the two strips of bacon, leaf lard & butter. Once soft, into the oven.

The other notable thing is that Robert made a roux with the pork fat drippings out of the oven. He sprinkled in a bit of dried basil, then it was 1 1/2 tbsp potato flour and about one cup heavy cream. Even more to be fearless about...

Dinner Service
Dinner Service
Plate Nuber One
Plate Number One
Plate Number Two
Plate Number Two

Note to Angela F. Braly, CEO, WellPoint, Inc.

Dear Ms. Braly:

I'm writing about the July 27, 2009 letter you received from Tracy Reiman, Executive Vice President of PETA.

I figured that in case embarrassing typos ("...denied every everything;" "...many have their throats are cut;" paragraph four; "Dieticians;" paragraph two) from an Executive VP of a major organization with 2 million members wasn't enough to cause you to shake your head, chuckle, and round-file such letter, then I'd go ahead and point out a few other glaring problems in Reiman's logic -- not that one would necessarily expect logic to be the forte of one who engages in the sorts of antics Reiman does.

On behalf of PETA and our more than 2 million members and supporters worldwide, I am writing to urge you to offer lower health insurance premiums to vegetarians and raise the rates of your meat-eating customers. With the possibility of an increased number of public and private insurance providers entering the field and the mountain of evidence linking meat consumption to some of our nation's deadliest diseases, this change could improve WellPoint's bottom line -- while also helping to ensure that your policyholders don't flat line.

There is not a shred of evidence anywhere linking meat consumption as an independent causal factor of any disease. Most people eat meat, but they also eat all sorts of other foods, including modern foods. In direct observation of hunter-gatherers and other primitive, non-industrial peoples going back at least two centuries -- all of whom consumed meat, and most in significant quantity -- exactly zero of the "diseases of civilization" show up. There's no cancer, diabetes, stroke, auto-immune, obesity...and the list goes on.

Moreover, as Michael Eades, MD, has recently blogged extensively about, we're human because we began eating meat, not simply because we can. It was the high-value scavenging of meat, bone marrow and intracranial tissue millions of years ago by our primate ancestors that permitted our guts to shrink enough to allow our energy demanding brains to expand, all while remaining in energy balance.

It would be hard to believe that evolution would produce a being where the very thing that caused his most profound evolution is the thing responsible for killing him.

The American Dietetic Association and the Dieticians [sic] of Canada conducted perhaps the largest review ever of all studies on vegetarian diets and concluded that vegetarians are less prone to heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and obesity than meat-eaters are. Vegetarians can get all the protein, vitamins, and fiber that they need without the artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat found in animal flesh.

Well this is the most egregious -- if not outright fraudulent -- aspect of Reiman's letter. Meat eaters essentially represent the population at large. Vegetarians and vegans are -- while woefully ignorant of nutrition -- in large measure concerned about their health. You can't compare a group of health conscious with the general population and come away with any conclusion other than an expected one: being health conscious is generally beneficial, regardless of specific diet.

But I wish also to challenge the lie that vegetarianism represents the epitome of health. There is a country where the situation is almost reversed from here in America: India. Most are vegetarians. Well, in 1967 was published some research in the British Medical Journal Heart (Malhotra SL. Br Heart J 1967;29:895-905). Uffe Ravnskov, MD, summed it up:

For six years Indian researcher Malhotra registered how many died from a heart attack among the more than one million employees of the Indian railways.

According to Malhotra's report employees who lived in Madras had the highest mortality. It was six to seven times higher than in Punjab, the district with the lowest mortality, and they died at a much younger age. But people in Punjab ate almost seventeen times more fat than people from Madras and most of it was animal fat. In addition they smoked much more.

Then there's the recent Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology alarm over rapidly increasing rates of CAD in India.

The incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in developing countries, such as India. It is often advocated that a vegetarian lifestyle could reduce the burden of CAD. However, in spite of a majority of Indians being vegetarians, the incidence of CAD is highest in this population.

Unlike Reiman, however, I have a profoundly honest streak and so would not be so quick as to chalk that up independently to a vegetarian diet, especially when there's a better culprit that holds for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike: modern processed foods, sugar, chemical and heat-extracted seed oils; all of them displacing the healthful food of the past that most people cooked at home.

By giving your policyholders a financial incentive to go vegetarian -- and penalizing those whose meat-based diets fuel our nation's worst health problems and rising health-care costs -- WellPoint could save millions of dollars in the long run, ensuring your competitiveness in a broadened field of providers as your members begin to require fewer cholesterol-lowering medications, chemotherapy treatments, and diabetes drugs.

While the foregoing should be enough to give WellPoint or any health insurer pause when considering the future health risks of modern vegetarians -- increasingly chowing down on highly processed junk "food" because it's "vegetarian" -- if not, then consider the words of Nora T. Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT, and author of Primal Body -- Primal Mind: Empower Your Total Health The Way Evolution Intended (...And Didn't).

Far and away, the most damaged and intractably dysregulated brains and nervous systems I have seen or dealt with in my practice have all essentially been vegans, with strict vegetarians a close second -- hands down. I have numerous other colleagues who have made the same independent observation. A diet of starch, sugar, lectins, phytates and common allergens, or food-sensitivity-generating foods, coupled with chronic deficiencies: of numerous critical essential fats (EPA/DHA, healthy saturates), fat soluble nutrients (preformed A, D, E and K), amino-acid imbalances and/or deficiencies and other key animal source nutrients -- not the least of which is utilizable B12 (and B12 analogs from seaweed don't count) -- lead to states of over-arousal, anxiety-related disorders, memory problems, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbances, brain degeneration, GI disorders and utter metabolic chaos. It is deeply problematic. These unnaturally restrictive diets, together with other carbohydrate-based diets dysregulate insulin and leptin function to the extreme.

Something to consider if WellPoint insures for psychological disorders.

In her recently published book The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, ex-vegan of 20 years, Lierre Keith, devotes page after page to descriptions of her seriously deteriorating mental and physical health as a vegan, as well as similar issues with friends and acquaintances.

One comes away with the impression that these issues are well known but not talked about in strict vegetarian and vegan circles.

(HT to Keith for the heads up)

For the fun of it: Hump Day Sexy Chick Rock

 Aw, what the hell, eh? I'd embed, but it's disabled:

Tracy Bonham: Mother Mother (Live).

Big fan of that song & performance for long times.

Links & Quick Hits

~ Reader Rafi Bar-Lev has a project brewing: Passionate Fitness. From our email discussions and from what I can see from the website, Rafi aims to create a social network for health & fitness folks. There's a forum, you can write and submit posts for the front page, and more. I plan to participate. So how about you?

~ Tom Naughton, the big Fat Head (aren't we all?), deconstructs margarine.

Farmers grow seeds. The seeds are harvested. The seeds are crushed to extract some of the oil. The rest of the oil is extracted by mixing the seeds with hexane, a chemical solvent. The hexane is (supposedly) all removed. The oil is pumped full of hydrogen gas and nickel powder. [...] The remaining oil is subjected to heat and high-pressure CO2 gas. The oil is mixed with sodium hydroxide and passed through a centrifuge. The oil is mixed with water and passed through another centrifuge. At this point, the margarine is a gray, speckled, oily mass that doesn’t smell so good. So … The oil is mixed with hydrated aluminum silicate that binds to and filters out the unwanted pigments. The mix is heated again and the oil is extracted. The oil is passed through a steam distillation chamber to remove unwanted odors. Yellow food coloring and artificial flavors are added.

Makes my mouth water.

~ Jimmy Moore highlights 27 books on health & fitness. Right now, having finished Lierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth, I'm onto Nora Gedgaudas' Primal Body -- Primal Mind.

~ Don Matesz tells you what you need to know about vitamin K, particularly K2, and even more in particular, the MK-4 subform, menatetrenone. I've blogged about K2 a number of times.

~ Dr. Mark Hyman at The Huffington Post takes on The Cholesterol Myth. What a muckraker:

• If you lower bad cholesterol (LDL) but have a low HDL (good cholesterol) there is no benefit to statins.
• If you lower bad cholesterol (LDL) but don't reduce inflammation (marked by a test called C-reactive protein), there is no benefit to statins.
• If you are a healthy woman with high cholesterol, there is no proof that taking statins reduces your risk of heart attack or death.
• If you are a man or a woman over 69 years old with high cholesterol, there is no proof that taking statins reduces your risk of heart attack or death.
• Aggressive cholesterol treatment with two medications (Zocor and Zetia) lowered cholesterol much more than one drug alone, but led to more plaque build up in the arteries and no fewer heart attacks.
• 75% of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol.
• Older patients with lower cholesterol have higher risks of death than those with higher cholesterol.
• Countries with higher average cholesterol than Americans such as the Swiss or Spanish have less heart disease.
• Recent evidence shows that it is likely statins' ability to lower inflammation it what accounts for the benefits of statins, not their ability to lower cholesterol.

Read the whole thing. As to the last point, my money is on eliminating wheat, other grains, and vegetable oils for more effective reducing of widespread and systemic inflammation, the root of heart disease. Later: oops, forgot to give my friend and reader Kathleen credit for emailing me that.

~ Dr. Eades, with perhaps his best two posts ever, particularly the second.

Are we meat eaters or vegetarians? Part I

I gleefully skewered that dumbass Kathy Freston right here (and Richard Leaky should be ashamed of himself).

Are we meat eaters or vegetarians? Part II

Meat eating made us human. The anthropological evidence strongly supports the idea that the addition of increasingly larger amounts of meat in the diet of our predecessors was essential in the evolution of the large human brain. Our large brains came at the metabolic expense of our guts, which shrank as our brains grew.

You simply must read those two posts.

~ Reader and commenter Michael Pizolato has a good idea for exercise: Primal Tag.

Saturated Fat Intake vs. Heart Disease & Stroke

Reader Alexander Thorn in the UK put together some impressive work using data from the British Heart Foundation and emailed it to me the other day. Let's take a look. You can click on all the graphs for the much larger "lightbox" image, and/or click on the links below each graph to download the files.

Sat Fat CHD

You can download the linked file here. Explains Alex:

Taking the same European countries and plotting the incidence of the various diseases against each country ranked in ascending order of the amount of saturated fat consumed as a percentage of total calories -- from 3.9% for Bosnia to 15.5% for France -- I got some very definite trend lines -- all sloping downward toward the countries with the greatest saturated fat intakes (France being the highest, of course).

Unlike Keys, I used all the countries with the relevant data available (no cheating!). While there is the odd outlier on both sides of the divide -- some countries with high disease rates and high sat fat and some with low disease rates and low sat fat -- the vast majority, I think, echo the overall trend of more disease for less sat fat that is eaten as a percentage of total caloric intake.

But Alex wasn't satisfied there. He noted that in using DALY figures, population size of the countries would make a difference. He explains.

Just thought I'd better clarify some points re the graph. The figures for CHD, stroke and other CVD are actually DALY figures - that is Disability Adjusted Lost Years - and it is per 100,000 of the countries' populations (I hadn't registered this distinction at first).

The DALY figures were already 'age-adjusted' and include not only the years lost due to mortality from the particular disease but also disability. It is calculated - as follows - from relatively accessible incidence data (ICD codes). Years of Lost LIfe (YLLs) is based on the inputs life expectancy at age of death and age at death, while Years Lost to Disability (YLDs) is based on the inputs duration of disease/injury, disability weight of disease/injury and percentage of long-term cases.

The only possible criticism I can foresee is that the population size of each country is obviously going to have a bearing on the DALY statistics. So I have just re-entered all of the data into another spreadsheet and made adjustments for the population size of each country. This has obviously made the graph less 'exciting' to look at but the trend lines for all diseases still slope downward toward the countries with the highest saturated fat intake.

And, it should also be noted: they don't slope upward, so, where in that does one imagine a testable hypothesis where increased saturated fat intake causes anything bad?

DALYs Graph

Download the file here.

Then he had the idea of plotting on a logarithmic scale. The simplest way to explain that is that it scales to percentage change rather than absolute values. So, for example, in a graph with a vertical axis from 1-100, 10 would be halfway, since the change from 1-10 in terms of percentage is the same as the change in 10-100.

DALYs logarithmic

Download the file here.

But he still wasn't finished.

Taking the same DALYs statistics from the last graphs (but this time combining the figures for CHD, stroke and other CVD) I have plotted the countries in ascending order of the total DALYs per 100,000 head of population (left to right along the x-axis) against the macro-nutrient ratio (C:P:F) for those same countries (along the y-axis) and plotted the linear regression (or trend) lines for each macro-nutrient. The relationships are pretty clear in the bars themselves but the trend lines confirm it: The less (total) fat you eat the greater the DALYs score (line slopes down toward the higher scores at the right-hand end of the x-axis) but even more telling, the more total carbohydrate you consume the greater the DALYs score (the line slopes upward toward the right-hand end of the x-axis). Protein appears to be neutral, with a perfectly level trend line.

So, more saturated fat, better, more carbohydrate, worse, and protein is not associated.

Combine DALYs to Macronutrient Percentage

Download the file here.

Now let's take a look at something related: total cholesterol. It so happened that Ricardo Carvalho rang in around this same time, calling attention to some data crunching of his own.

cholesterol mortality

Download the file here.

As I've speculated before, a total cholesterol of 200-220 seems to be the sweet spot for total C. Ricardo is calling it 200-240 and that looks like a good call, to me. Bear in mind, this does not equal causality, only association. Any individual can die of anything with any cholesterol number, or live to 101.

What this does accomplish, however, is tantamount to utter falsification of the hypothesis that either "high" saturated fat intake or "high" total cholesterol is independently causal for heart disease, stroke, or indeed, death from any cause.

The Moral Vegetarians

I'm pretty sure it was Roger Ebert, somewhere along the line, who taught me the principle that underlies this paraphrased statement:

Judge a film by what its makers intend to deliver, not by what you think it should deliver.

And so we're back again with Lierre Keith and The Vegetarian Myth. My previous mentions & reviews have been here and here and here.

This time I wish to stay on particular point and just write about her chapter on "moral vegetarians." The book is essentially four parts beyond the first chapter, where she explains her reasons for embarking on her punishment (if you've checked out some of the Vegan boards, as I have):

  1. Moral Vegetarians
  2. Political Vegetarians
  3. Nutritional Vegetarians
  4. Manifesto (that's not a derogatory usage of the word, per se)

Here's why I mentioned Ebert: I don't agree with Lierre's moral code. I'll get to that, but that's a difference in philosophy and it doesn't mean she didn't make a consistent argument according to her premises -- she absolutely does, and a devastating one. In the meantime, this chapter is really the essential meat of the book, as it should be. We are moral beings and morality informs our politics and our actions, including our nutritional choices and our idealism.

Lierre Keith certainly accomplishes what I believe she sets out to do: use the vegetarian moral code against vegetarians by exposing their ignorance. In page after page she describes beautifully the whole cycle of life, from microbe to human being, and how everything that lives has to eat, someone or thing has to die, and that everyone is just taking their turn. Even us. Eventually, we're food for worms, bacteria and other crawlies. "We all take turns at the table," says Keith.

And in taking our turn at the table -- responsibly, respectfully, sustainably -- far from inflicting harm to anything, we are actually playing a crucial role in this whole cycle that is life on the planet.

And here's where I learned the most from this book: agriculture, in terms of raw destructive power, is the cat's meow. Global warming? Ozone depletion? Pollution? Whatever you may think of those and other issues, Keith has news for you: they pale in comparison. She convincingly demonstrates that the practice of stripping land (she calls it "biotic cleansing") to grow annual monocrops is far more destructive and devastating to ecosystems and, above all, topsoil -- alive with trillions of microbes in a mere cubic yard.

And here's a good thought for you environmental skeptics out there. Many systems, in particular climate, may be far too complex to be sure of what man's contribution is, if any. On the other hand, there's no doubt about what agriculture does to ecosystems. Moreover, so much of it now is devoted to the growing of corn, such that HFCS is in virtually everything. And it's being fed to cows, an animal that is designed to eat cellulose. Paraphrasing Keith: Cows eat grass, bacteria eat the cellulose -- multiplying into the trillions -- and the cows eat the bacteria. Corn makes cows sick and it's inhumane to feed it to them.

The trickle down havoc wreaked by agriculture is a pretty easy case to make (once you have information) and Keith makes it very well.

In the end, the "moral" vegetarian has nowhere to go. If indeed their moral code is not anthropocentric, as is mine, Keith has nailed them to the wall. If, indeed, all life is more or less morally equivalent in their eyes, then in seeking to do no harm by promoting agriculture, they have instead unleashed the most destructive harm imaginable, in far greater magnitude. But it doesn't end there. There's an economic and political side, too. By promoting big-agra, they have made it very difficult for ecosystem preserving, topsoil building, humane and sustainable local polyculture operations to exist.

So then, what if your moral code is anthropocentric, i.e., one that essentially regards humans (whether by design or evolution) as being qualitatively different in an essential way from the rest of the animals, such that we possess a certain natural dominion? Does that make Keith's arguments invalid? I don't think so.

Keith does try to convince the reader that animals are as morally important as we are with a number of examples of animal and even plant "behavior" that certainly looks like human behavior, including self-sacrifice for offspring, a herd, or even a grove of trees.

But I had this nagging essential question: could any of these animal or plant entities unilaterally, willfully opt out of behaving in accordance with their designed or evolved natures? See, humans can choose to live by their natures; they can choose to strive to live above their natures; they can sink far, far below their natures; they can blow their own brains out.

Humans, unlike other animals, have to willfully determine what values are necessary for survival and prosperity, and then they have to decide whether or not they are going to pursue them. They have a choice by nature. Other animals seem to simply "know" what values they require and automatically set about to acquire them. If their environment is sufficient, they thrive, and if not, they perish. They have no willful choice in the matter.

And since a prerequisite for morality is to have a choice in matters, I have to conclude that morality applies only to human beings, and that we are naturally moral beings, since it is our very nature that demands we chose. Moreover, that choice, by nature, implies the right to choose, by nature, and so I cannot accept the notion that animals have natural rights in the sense humans do.

Alas, though very important to me from an ethical and political standpoint, I am actually quite open to dealing with folks who by virtue of the values they have chosen to live by, wish to hold themselves to what they see as a higher standard. Accordingly, though I do not ascribe morality and rights to animals, I have never been cruel to one in my life, and never would. And anyone who does is my enemy.

In the end, Keith and I don't share the same moral code, but we hold many of the same crucial values. Thanks to her book, I now have a couple of particularly important additional values to hold dear and promote than I had before.

Voluntary Subscriptions and Donations

To the right, I have finally decided to add a donations button. Donate whatever amount you like, and/or, you can purchase from the products shown at the right, from our recommended items at our Amazon store, or, you can support the work at Free the Animal with any purchase at Amazon.

In the last year I've managed to put up over 450 posts. That's a lot of work, when you think about it. And now, I have been going through the painstaking process of organizing every post I've written on health, fitness and diet since May, 2007, for the purpose of the book project. That's not to say that the book is going to be a reproduction of the blog -- it's not -- but I need those posts for reference into what areas I need to address, what research I need to look up, and just plain to make sure I don't miss anything.

So if you look at it this way, a $25 yearly subscription comes out to about 5 cents per post.

But why should you do it? After all, if you don't, I'll still be writing posts no doubt, and so why not just ride for free? And, anyway, look how many other free blogs there are out there, most of which don't even ask for donations?

Well beyond the issue of simple value exchange, those are questions you have to answer for yourself. Certainly you can't subscribe or donate to everything, but I do hope you might have a top two or three that you'd donate a reasonable amount to, then let me worry about getting there, in your mind.

And what will subscriptions and donations accomplish? In order of importance:

  1. Make me more serious than I already am about treating this as a long-term endeavor. It will put me on the hook to deliver.
  2. Provide compensation for the expenses of writing the book, i.e., books that I need to purchase for reference, and photocopying of book sections and research studies at the library.
  3. Provide me with an added moral boost; that what I'm doing here is not only helpful and beneficial for many, as has been demonstrated in posts and comments, but appreciated a bit beyond nice emails and comments.

I read a lot of blogs out there and the one thing I have noticed is that very few put out the volume I do, with often weeks passing without much of anything. Not here. Since November of 2003 when I started this blog (originally political), I have posted almost 2,500 posts -- an average of 416 posts for each of the nearly 6 years I've been at this.

So, in closing, I would submit to you that I think I've demonstrated that I have what it takes to stick around and really deliver on the exchange of value represented by a subscription or donation.

I hope you'll consider it.

1/12/2010: I have decided to forego the automatic renewing subscription option and have cancelled all renewals in PayPal (so those who selected that option will not have an automatic renewal).

One-time or anytime donation.