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Why the Left eat junk Resisting Big Business is the preserve of the Right

The Left sneered at Big Macs but lapped up hyper-processed vegan burgers. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Left sneered at Big Macs but lapped up hyper-processed vegan burgers. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


February 4, 2022   5 mins

Back in the Nineties, reading food packets for junk ingredients was a typical Left-wing hobby. It was a fairly safe bet that if you had opinions on pesticides in farming, preferred “unrefined” or “unprocessed” foodstuffs, or questioned the benefits of pasteurisation or “conventional medicine”, you’d have broadly progressive views.

Now, though, many of the opinions that were held by the Left-leaning devotees of mung beans and carob in my youth have become the preserve of the Right — and especially of its weirder online subcultures. Here, enthusiasm for raw milk and animal protein (especially, for some reason, raw eggs) join an aversion to touching shop receipts and views such as “feminism has harmed men and is actively anti-civilisation” and “democracy is fake“, as well as a range of even more pungent anti-progressive talking-points.

Perhaps the two food chain talking-points that recur most frequently and vehemently, though, are hostility to soy (which has become a metonym for emasculation due to its rumoured feminising content) and to “seed oils” such as canola, palm and sunflower oils.

And when a new California startup announced this week that it’s taking aim at environmentally destructive vegetable oils, it received disgusted pushback from Right-wing health-freaks. Zero Acre Farms, with backers including the Branson family and Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr, said yesterday that it’s raised $37m to launch a new, “healthier” substitute for vegetable oil, made “by fermentation”.

It was launched with a rallying call to the seed oil haters. It didn’t go down well: biotech industrial complex wants to destroy farming and sell you synthetic garbage! It’s a familiar refrain to me, having grown up around eaters of health food. But unlike in my childhood, today this line of argument no longer comes from the Left.

This reaction, and the broader political realignment on health food, both make more sense when you dig into the business of fat: who makes and sells it, who eats it — and who gains or loses.

Until the industrial era, human-edible fats were mostly obtained from dairy products or rendered meat. The dawn of science and large-scale manufacturing, though, inspired innovators to seek new sources of oil — and new ways to use industrial byproducts. In the process, mechanical methods were invented for extracting palatable vegetable oils, especially from seeds.

In turn, a new ecosystem of scientific research and marketing sprang up to promote the benefits of these new, industrially-produced ingredients. “Tonight’s the night Mrs Ed Flynn starts Polyunsaturating her husband”, declares a mid-Fifties advert for Mazola corn oil in National Geographic. According to this advert, “medical authorities” advise replacing “solid fats” — by which is meant lard and dripping — with “more highly polyunsaturated vegetable oils”, which scientific authorities now declared to be healthier and more beneficial.

I’ve seen the manufacturing of “medical authorities” from the inside. Of all the many jobs I’ve held, in the course of my extremely chequered employment history, hands down the most unpleasant was a brief stint as marketing executive at a small PR outfit that specialised in “nutraceuticals”. That is, chemically-derived additives for the junk-food industry.

The company’s work proceeded roughly as follows: on behalf of nutraceutical manufacturers, it would arrange for scientists to produce “studies” showing that the chemical in question had health benefits, or didn’t cause the harm it was being accused of. Then hapless 20-somethings (me in this case) would try and persuade journalists to write enthusiastic articles about this newly laundered “science”.

Such hapless 20-somethings would also be in charge of responding to angry letters, written in all caps, from consumers suspicious that they were being lied to. Which they weren’t. At least, not exactly. And yet what they were being fed had the same relationship to truth as aspartame does to sugar. The work felt profoundly cynical. I didn’t last long.

What I learned from that brief, inglorious experience was that the tinfoil hatters are, to an extent, right. Big Business really does use scientific discourse to launder the reputation of deeply questionable food additives, in the name of profit. And this was once a standard talking-point for Left-wing junk-food haters.

The rant would segue from grumbling about “processed food” being unhealthy, to a broader attack on the immense, well-funded commercial infrastructure dedicated to pushing high-fat, low-nutrition products into the nation’s shopping trolleys. In other words: the evils of junk food stand for the evils of Big Business, and a scientific establishment seemingly in hock to its commercial interests. In practice, the critique of processed foods is a profoundly anti-capitalist, anti-technology one. But now, the modern Left has expelled anti-capitalist, anti-technology voices entirely, instead embracing science, technology and Big Business as key delivery partners for its vision of utopia.

This has been a long time coming. Back in the mung bean days, the Anglophone Left was still the historic, improbable blend of well-meaning bourgeois idealists and the industrial working class. But as de-industrialisation shrunk and dispossessed that industrial base, the bourgeois half of the coalition grew dominant: a process commentators have for a decade now condemned as “the gentrification of the Left“.

People in glass houses are famously advised not to throw stones. And as the progressive worldview has become more monolithically elite in class terms, it’s also lost its antagonism to Big Business. Perhaps the hinge decade for this was the Blair era, when “social enterprise” emerged as a policy watchword and everyone sincerely believed that business could and should be a force for good. And in the grisly aftermath the 2008 Great Crash, the radical, anti-capitalist Left of yore both enjoyed its last hurrah and suffered utter defeat.

Far from helping to hold Big Finance to account, progressive ideology instead served to kill the anti-capitalist Left as a political force. The Occupy movement famously found itself paralysed by woke purity spirals: its participants spent so much time arguing about identity they never coordinated any kind of effective political action.

With anti-capitalism now effectively neutered, wokeness has been domesticated as the house ideology for a new, socially-conscious capitalism — the kind that today receives full-throated endorsement in the Financial Times. Unsurprising, then, that the food industry is falling enthusiastically on new ways to dress the marketing of ultra-processed foods in the garb of scientifically-endorsed health — which now gives it a progressive sheen. The populist twentieth-century junk-food marketing message of healthy, affordable abundance has given way to an anxious twenty-first-century one of health, environmentalism and moral purity.

Consider “Veganuary“: a kind of secular Lent founded in 2014, that encourages people to eschew animal-origin foodstuffs in favour of a “plant-based” diet, in the name of saving the planet. This festival is enthusiastically promoted by retailers of “plant-based” foodstuffs, a market predicted to see explosive growth by 2030. Whether “mycoprotein” (aka fungus grown in vats) or synthetic “meat” made from soya, such products frequently contain large volumes of just the industrially-produced oils once heavily criticised by Left-wing opponents of junk food. So “Veganuary” is, in truth, a month-long PR festival for the ultra-processed food industry, complete with articles citing scientific studies that underline the health benefits of this way of eating.

Who can tell how many such studies are “sold in” by hapless 20-somethings miserably employed in food PR firms? Certainly the progressive emphasis rarely seems to be on cooking from scratch. That’s the preserve of dissident mutterers, expelled from polite discourse to fulminate out in the badlands about Big Business, Big Pharma, fake science and the perils of junk food. As one response to Zero Acre put it: “you want us cooking our fake vat-grown “meat” in fake microbe-extruded oil product in a pod somewhere”.

“Health” subcultures are increasingly Right-inflected, because what’s left of the resistance to industrial capitalism is also Right-inflected. But will the new defenders of natural food against the ravages of technocapital give up to commerce, like their progressive predecessors? Perhaps in another decade, this backlash will have been assimilated and regurgitated as Based Gainz Ready Meals. Let’s hope the new anti-capitalists are nimbler in avoiding this fate than their mung bean-eating forebears.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

If lefties are constantly eating junk, then I’m pleased that I’ve had to move away from the left.
I’m not even talking environmental damage now but it is obvious that the food industry is joined at the hip with the pharmaceutical industry. Taking heart health and cholesterol as an example, it is now well known to many that those foods touted as good for you – anything processed, polyunsaturated vegetable oils including margarine (do people still eat this?), high carbs, sugar etc cause heart disease. Lovely jubbly- because then the pharmaceutical industry can supply statins to everyone with high cholesterol. Though whoops
. Is high LDL actually bad for you and what is high?That is what is being sold, but it is not that simple.
Heart disease is the highest killer in the world, yet med schools still release doctors who do about 10 hours nutrition instruction in all their training and they then go out and prescribe a low fat diet (low fat is usually accompanied by higher sugar). It is woeful.
Time for an article from Unherd on this. I did a deep dive last year and it is just astonishing what I learned.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

“Heart disease is the highest killer in the world” – well, we have to die of something, if cancer doesn’t get you, it’s likely to be your heart.

“Is high LDL actually bad for you and what is high?” High is when the blood test results are all printed in black, except for the cholesterol ones, which are all printed in red! I reacted to this as I would to any test -( i.e. I wanted nothing but all A+) I cut out all dairy, and that got me, just, back in the black. However, without dairy I became deficient in lysine, and rather than take lysine tablets for the rest of my life, I went back to dairy, and those red scores!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Well no, there is pushback on what high LDL really is – normal is now anything below 3.9 (if memory serves – I have it recorded somewhere). Even then, there is debate now about how high you can go above that before it is considered risky. You NEED cholesterol – it is not a bad thing.
The markers for heart disease go way beyond running on a treadmill at the cardiologists and having a cholesterol and blood pressure reading.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Further, what they are doing to you is making you sicker and sicker for years before you die, while pumping you full of meds. I’m only now starting to push back.
Rest assured that sugar is the main evil – not good fats.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 years ago

The reason I moved away from “fat free” this or that is that I began to read the labels and discovered they all contained huge amounts of sugar or sugar substitutes. The sugar additives were to add flavor back in what the lack of fats removed. Fats add flavor so just modify the amount you have in your diet and enjoy life as best you can.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Particle A or particle B LDL? If your tryglycerides are low and your HDL high you should be fine.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

High LDL isn’t a matter of total cholesterol or even total LDL. It’s a matter of which particles are predominant. If you have mostly large particles, you can have high LDL that doesn’t pose any danger to your health. If you have small particles (typical for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes), with the same total value you will have a lot more particles, and due to their smaller size they more easily pass through the blood vessel walls.
High LDL is not automatically dangerous!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Yes, I did a version of the NMR particle test, divided into large, medium and small particles. The small dense particles are the problem ones


Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

This is where I actually agree with you 100%. The US started the anti-fat thing but hundreds of top scientists disagreed. One by one these scientists were shamed and their grants were removed (this is what happened recently with the environment) until 99.9% of scientists said that fat was bad for the heart. The rest were afraid to speak.

All of this has been shown to be wrong but – here’s the problem – you can’t change billions of people overnight. So, old people, those who grew up thinking that fat was bad, will always believe that and will never change. The food industry make billions selling ‘low fat’ food, which is full of sugar to creat the solidity lost when you remove fat. Total confusion.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I have sniffed around this issue for about 10 years as my father died of a heart attack at 38, but didn’t have time to research properly. In the meantime I was mainly protein and low carb (though I treat myself to sugary things and ahem, alcohol, knowing it is the devils work) – this has kept me slim. Stress could kill me anyway of course!
I downloaded a book last year on the new thinking – The Great Cholesterol Myth – created a spreadsheet detailing the many, many tests I could be doing e.g. NMR particle test, calcium scan and went in search of a cardiologist who would align more to this thinking.
I managed to secure an appointment with the top lipidology professor at our local research university/hospital (Groote Schuur, where they did the world’s first heart transplant). He is not 100% on board with my thinking (or to be humble, should I say I’m not 100% on board with his thinking), but most of the way there.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

I’m impressed when I hear the name Groote Schuur.
I started this thing about 12 years ago with a book called The Diet Delusion. This book is about 600 pages long. It starts with Eisenhower, who had quite a few heart attacks when he was president. His doctors had the idea of reducing his fat intake but it didn’t make any difference. Then Ancel Keys took over and led the anti-fat, low cholesterol drive. He did this by ignoring all experimental results which didn’t agree with his theory. And you know the rest.

The book actually goes further than heart disease and identifies sugar (carbs) as the cause of ALL chronic complaints including cancer, diabetes, dementia, high blood pressure. The chapter on dementia is particularly interesting because it tries to show that dementia is caused by high insulin levels, caused in turn by insulin resistance.

After the book was written, the author -Gary Taubes- went a bit over the top in his life and pioneered the Paleo Diet. He used to go on lecture tours talking about eating steak and salad for just about every meal. So the book lost some of its impact.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Jane Watson
Jane Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Gary Taubes is right though. Humans evolved as hunter gatherers, dairy came later, and not to everyone. Agriculture enabled population expansion and settled communities, civilisation, industrialisation etc but the fossil record shows that it was detrimental to health for the majority.

On the subject of eggs, many low carbers eat 4 and more a day. Alzheimer’s is referred to as Type 3 Diabetes by some doctors in the low carb community. Regarding vegetarianism, Zoe Harcombe was vegetarian for many years and has made it her life’s work to counter the deliberate misinformation and phoney science pushed by advocates of ‘plant based’ diets.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Good to know that other people share my views. I didn’t know about Type 3 though.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

A medical doctor, naturopath, homeopath and etc, put me on the low carb path years ago. He had spent 20 years as a vegan and jumped to paleo and became a disciple.
I eat minimum 2 eggs a day, sometimes more.
Sugar is at the heart of almost all the big modern killers – heart disease, cancer, alzheimers and and.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, sugar is evil number one.
I went paleo for a couple of years about 15 years ago. I now do a version of my own, called ‘paleo light’. I do protein, reasonably high fat (butter and olive oil), low carbs and introduce fruit, wine and some dairy into my daily diet. And I cheat with sugary treats from time to time.
In South Africa the favourite low carb diet is called Banting, which is very high fat and protein.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

I am not a scientist but, intuitively, everything you say rings true to me. Looking at old family photos it is fairly obvious that my ancestors – who ate a diet very high in natural animal proteins and fats – did not suffer from health or weight problems. When I travel to the United States for work, no matter how carefully I eat, I feel less healthy and my weight rises. The problem lies in modern food supply and dietary habits.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
2 years ago

Banting (the man and his public information pamphlet) is referred to by Atkins in his first book, and all low carbers since. I knew elderly ladies in my youth who used to refer to dieting as Banting.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
2 years ago

Wasn’t Banting the guy who discovered insulin? Hence the diet for diabetic people?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

I think it was his cousin, or something like that! Baaaack in the day.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The diet delusion is a really good book would have sold better if he’d made it in two parts
. I got it remaindered for £3. I have a friend who controls her bipolar without any meds on meat and green vegetables.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

As a general rule if you buy ingredients, i.e. meat, fish, veg, dairy, fruit, grains, and use them to cook you will be just fine. It is cheaper and tastier and doesn’t leave you at the mercy of industrial producers, processed food or whatever is the latest fad.
I do eat vegan sometimes (often with ingredients that I have grown myself), vegetarian sometimes but enjoy meat and fish, preferably from small farms close to where I live or even better game or fish that I have shot or caught myself (sadly I don’t get time as often as I like).
This isn’t faddy eating, just normal healthy food.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
2 years ago

Wow Lesley, you actually took the trouble. I started last night but abandoned it – the misinformation is so commonplace it’s draining.

I’m shopping for some elderly relatives currently and, where their order says ‘butter’, it’s one of those ‘buttery’ concoctions of polyunsaturated gloop. Thank God they still get whole milk delivered by a milkman, but this goes on the scary boxes of cereals


This uncle lives a stone’s throw from what was my granddad’s farm
 where he used to fatten pigs on cereal and skimmed milk. This is where 50+ years of tragic dietary advice and food industry compliance have taken us.

Cereals for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, rice/pasta/pizza for dinner – and people genuinely think they are doing the right thing.

I enjoyed the post about Cranks and sprouting beans too. I spent a good hour last night trying to remember the name of that weird little cafe at Sussex University in the early 70s. Anyone?

The 70s is when I first discovered I could only manage my weight on the ‘Atkins’ diet, but it has taken the 50 yrs since for low carb to go mainstream and for Ancel Keys’ critics to be heard.

Anyone still believing the ‘cholesterol hypothesis’ should read The Clot Thickens by Malcolm Kendrick. And polyunsaturates (which humans could never have been adapted to consume in any quantity) will no doubt prove to be fundamental to many modern diseases (so too the sugar and refined carbs). Sugar and fat, in combination, is a man made aberration.

Anything our ancestors couldn’t have eaten should be treated with caution. The consequences of young wokeists eating ultra processed ‘vegan’ cattle fodder, whilst believing themselves virtuous, will be ugly.

If it’s a left/right thing, I would say that idealism, and a basic misunderstanding or denial of human nature (physical and psychological) are to blame.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Yes, I read The Great Cholesterol Myth last year and have downloaded The Clot Thickens – still to read, but I’m sure aligns with the former. I have watched Kendrick on Youtube.
As much as I believe that protein is essential, I didn’t eat red meat in 25 years and now really battle to eat it. I find modern farming absolutely nauseating, so really mostly eat free range chicken/ostrich at times. Also fish, but not octopus/squid. Never ever pork.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

I once had an interesting conversation with my GP, she had just told me that I had elevated cholesterol and should do something about it, I asked her what I should do, to which she said reduce red meat (I don’t eat any) cut down eggs to no more than six a week (on average I eat three a week), etc.you see where this is going, I hope. Anyway, she just looked at me, shrugged and told me to forget about it, worrying about it was probably more of a problem than the cholesterol.

PS – Lesley, glad to hear about the octopus and squid.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

I had a similar conversation with my GP ten years ago. My cholesterol was very slightly high – I mean it was 0.1 over the limit. She said, “You’ll have to go on statins.”

Pretending to be innocent I asked here why. She keyed a couple of figures into her computer and said “You have a 14% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.”

You have to know at this time that she hadn’t measured my blood pressure, hadn’t discussed diet, hadn’t has recent blood test results. I just smiled and went out.

BTW, I just lurve squid.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

They are maniacs. Drop the squid!

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

What’s wrong with Squid- Octopus may I ask?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Intelligent

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Thank you for that.
I must say I wish I hadn’t watched it !
“Ignorance is bliss”.
Was it Richard Dawkins who described humans as a “rather unpleasant species of African Ape”? If so he was spot on.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago

Yeh! I think I’d get more satisfaction from chewing rubber tubing.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Watch this on Netflix and never eat them again
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Octopus_Teacher

Sally Owen
Sally Owen
2 years ago

A wonderful programme and I see where you are coming from but have to admit to eating squid never octopus


Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Sally Owen

I wept…. have never been able to finish watching it.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago

Mind you, if an octopus reached out to grab my hand I’d wonder what it’s motive was. It might just be very hungry.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I don’t eat intelligent animals – this is the way I try to cope with eating any animals at all. Besides pork, I also don’t eat mutton ever (the smell), veal never – no, a beef steak about twice a year – no bones in sight please.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
2 years ago

Neither do I, but I have wondered what human beings taste like.
I gather the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea refer to them a “long pigs”.
,

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I confess to often liking animals more than people.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

I’m not even talking environmental damage now”
The climate change industry is no different. Hopefully, when the wheels come off the Covid gravy-train, people and the media will become a lot more sceptical of the application of the “science” and “expert” tags

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

An interesting fact I picked up from The Great Cholesterol Myth, is the low cholesterol causes low COQ-10 which then affects a myriad things including memory. Apparently Merck realized this years ago because they patented a combination statin/COQ-10. They let the patent lapse, because conventional medicine have still to wake up to the cholesterol myth.
A simple 10 second google confirms their patent https://patents.google.com/patent/US4933165A/en Hope I got the right one… didn’t check now.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I eat a lot of stuff I catch – having been a really serious fisherman all my life I fish several times a week and keep family and friends supplied with all the fresh fish we can eat. (I have done a good bit of commercial fishing, and usually keep a commercial license too) Fresh, wild caught, fish is super healthy. Mostly of my family eat little red meat, so have fish 5 days a week. I net, but mostly hook and line…

I tore my shoulder badly this winter so cannot dig (wjy I am here so much – cannot do carpentry for a wile yet) – but my garden needs planting right now – I have sprouting purple potatoes to go in – and collards, carrots 3 kinds kale, turnips, peas, lettuce…. then May will be putting in Tomatoes, peppers, okra, squash, beans, cucumbers, melons,….. I use no pesticides, so lose more than I eat – but not using pesticides is just a thing with me – why not just buy it if you grow it like the farmer… I grow fruit but the animals get most of it – raccoons, opossums, squirrels, mice, rats, and masses of birds as I live in the woods on the water….

I suppose a great deal of my life concerns food….But I just always have to be involved with nature…..

Scott S
Scott S
2 years ago

Big Corp have played the latest generation. A few words on Twitter to support Trans ideology or BLM wins many points amongst certain people within the community. It’s tragically funny that these people fall for it. ‘Roll up, Roll up, get your full fat, sugar saturated ice cream from *insert dubious, globalist capitalist company here*, all you people on the right side of history!’

Last edited 2 years ago by Scott S
j morgan
j morgan
2 years ago

Good article. My first red pill, 6 years ish ago, was on diet and the machinations of government health advice, and have since eaten lower carb, higher fat (animal fats, olive oil, coconut fat). Not only is my general health much better than it was, I now believe this education protected me from the COVID hysteria and government manipulation. If that makes me, an erstwhile leftist, now “right adjacent”, so be it.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
2 years ago

I’m an omnivore and so I eat meat, dairy and plants. If you want to eat a “plant based diet” then buy some plants, wash them, chop them and cook them. Vegetables are delicious and nutritious when minimally processed. The trouble with new advocates of “plant based” is the plant is the factory. Cheap ingredients like soy are processed beyond all recognition and have to be artificially coloured and flavoured with all the original nutrients destroyed and replaced by synthetics. This is food for people who don’t know how to cook, who don’t know anything about farming or food production and frankly, don’t much like food and use their food fads as a way to signal a spurious kind of virtue.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

I agree. I was born in 1952 and raised on a standard meat and two veg diet along with cheese, butter, milk and eggs. My three siblings too. I think it’s a good diet. Now well into our 60’s we are all healthy and none of us are overweight. Our mother cooked food from fresh ingredients. We’ve continued that into adulthood except we have a more varied menu. I know you can’t extrapolate from one case but at least I know it works and I worry that vegan women who are pregnant and raising their children on a vegan diet might be risking their long term health.

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

If we are trying to save the planet, they should notice where a lot of soya is grown and also palm oil. I want to know the origins of the plant based detergents in shampoos etc. too.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Whorton

My wife has a campaign against anything which uses palm oil. It’s used it in all sorts of things, soap, cosmetics as well as processed food. I’m very fond of biscuits and there are practically none which don’t include it. So I either have to make my own or as a guilty pleasure I grab an extra packet or two at blood doning and eat them in the car on the way home.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Your wife is correct.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

The problem with so many vegetables is that they are drenched with pesticides, come from GMO seeds and grow in sterile soil with fertilizers used as the nutrient. It is a hideous cycle that is destroying the earth and very difficult to break away from as an individual customer. There needs to be massive push back, if people want to protect their children from what is to come.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

Yes Lesley. We discovered a while ago how glyphosate (roundup) is being sprayed on grass in the production of hay and on wheat. Glyphosate speeds up drying so they can harvest faster. The WHO has said that Glyphosate may be linked to certain cancers. So glyphosate is being sprayed on grass which is then fed to dairy cows which turns up in our milk. It is also sprayed on wheat which ends up in our bread. However both the EU and our government say it’s safe. In fact Jean-Claude Junker personally guaranteed its safety which has nothing at all to do with the fact that it is made by the German company Bayer.
There is also a debate among farmers about the use of glyphosate in what they call direct drilling of seed. The advantage is that the soil is not ploughed thus releasing CO2. But it requires spraying to make it work.
Organic farmers counter this by not spraying but they have to plough which other farmers say releases CO2.
We were shocked when we found that it is routinely sprayed on wheat especially since previously they used to grow wheat quite successfully without. We wrote to DEFRA about it and their reply simply summarized existing policy without addressing any of our concerns.

Last edited 2 years ago by Steve Elliott
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Glyphosate is in the rivers and oceans too.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Yes, it’s anti-science to oppose glyphosate. Watch out you’ll get cancelled.

Elizabeth Fairburn
Elizabeth Fairburn
2 years ago

#

Last edited 2 years ago by Elizabeth Fairburn
Jane Watson
Jane Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

“The plant is the factory”
 excellent, I’ll quote you.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

As always, an enjoyable read from Mary. In many ways I’m the archetypal vegetarian lefty. Coincidentally, I recently fished out my old sprouting tube, unused for 40 years, and am back in the mung bean sprouting process. (This due to a summer of such extreme heat that my usual backyard-produced vegetables have taken a hit.)
There were ‘health food cultures’ before the 1970s – some old people would take some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and go for a walk every morning, and only eat ‘brown bread’. Others had a ‘plain food’; sort of penance approach to diet, which had the advantage of feeling superior to the hoi polloi. In London, in the 1970s I ate a lot in Cranks, which was middle class health food, but also watched fashion models nibbling a corner of their salad sandwiches in Fortnum & Masons. There are always lots of diet subcultures. I had books from the 50s and 60s by Gayelord Hauser and Adele Davis – both popular diet writers.
But it was the 1970s counterculture explosion that pushed ‘health foods’ to the fore. It was part of the whole folk music, ethnic = good, anti-capitalist thing: sourdough bread, yoghurt and salad, and lots of beans (anyone remember Diet for a Small Planet?)
We on the left have always been ready to believe in a new human improvement project, even if it’s by diet, whereas the thrifty right were always suspicious of any shiny new American thing. Now the left has taken the moral purity approach to diet and gone vegan, and the right are as usual suspicious of just another, rather unpalatable, money making scheme.

BTW Mary, there’s nothing wrong with a raw egg now and then – you just drop it in a milkshake: milk, a couple of bananas, vanilla essence, the (free-range, organic) egg … and if you’re of a certain age, a scoop of ice cream and some malted milk. (Young people have never heard of malted milk). As we all know, cooking protein ‘denatures’ it, so some raw animal protein now and then doesn’t do any harm!

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I do not believe it – the food nuts are still some kind of leftie. At my local Grocer the Trump voters are buying the big packs of red meat wile the Biden voters are more prone to the skinless chicken breast.

Here is different from London as the people still buy raw ingredients and cook meals with them. In London it has become more assembling packets of things semi prepared, or meals fully made to be microwaved.

And where I live, in the Deep South, in a place of great natural beauty, many of the men I work with still shoot deer and hogs and catch a lot of fish, a good few also grow some vegetables – and eat those – but I hang with the rougher sorts, deplorables.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Did you ever see that film Nashville? I distinctly remember Sissy Spacek assembling a meal from entirely packaged ingredients. I was agog – here in Hicksville, Western Australia, we were still shelling peas and peeling potatoes. After seeing that film I was compelled to visit Nashville (really, to see their Parthenon) and a very weird place downtown Nashville was – I wasn’t disappointed (and the Parthenon is fantastic).

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

If you’re getting your information about America from Hollywood, you are woefully misinformed.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Allison, did I not say I had been there? Is any Unherd reader likely to get their information about America from Hollywood? Did you not think I may have been making a bit of a joke about the Sissy Spacek scene in Nashville? Just to reassure you … I’m a librarian, I have access to loads of information that passes my desk and regularly read articles from The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Yorker, Harpers etc.; I don’t possess a TV, I read, rather than watch.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I never saw the movie ‘Nashville’ but have been there a bit – slept on the streets…., a sort of weird scene going on there, redneck Hollywood but with more soul?

I spent years living on the road out of a pack, 1970s – early 80s, hitchhiked over 50,000 miles on the map – lots more if l the local miles counted and ran into all kinds of weird stuff, when you get out there living rough, stepping into stranger’s vehicles and sleeping under bridges for years a different world reveals its self, the regular rules do not exist out there in the fringe….and the world of the fringe becomes your world…

I spend years drifting the Deep South – where I headed for winter – never liked California for winter much – although I was on the streets in SF, Oakland, LA, and up and down it many times, but the South was home to me a lot – Country music was the Norm – that and ‘Crude Southern Rock’ and I learned to appreciate it – The Song ‘The Ride’, Cave Allen Coe, is a song about the Ghost of Hank Williams Sr picking up the young singer hitching to Nashville (Hank had died in his car crash I think) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kteJZshTr7U

It was a wild scene back then, the music – it punctuates a lot of my memories from then… like, say, Molly Hatchet – Southern Rock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6Fw1KsN4wo different world from my home in London and the effete ‘Art Rock’ of ‘Yes’, ‘Pink Floyd’ and Glam, and Punk.

Watch the interview comes on half way through the video – Nashville, Rough Honky-Tonks (rough country bars). This is the music Rednecks listened to in the 70s – that and country…..It was a long way from London – and those rough bars were my bit of home if I had a few bucks – somewhere to go inside a building and some life…. I hit every kind of the worst dives imaginable, it was where I felt at home, and all I could afford…..

Nashville…. it was a scene…

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

So, we had very different Nashville experiences. I went there for their Parthenon, which was great. I’m not a fan of country music, but it happened that the country music museum was featuring Patsy Cline, and who doesn’t like Patsy Cline?
I stayed, not on the streets, but in a fabulous luxury hotel called The Hermitage Hotel. That had many advantages … one of which was that I was able to ask the waiter in the restaurant what was typical southern food, and after a while the chef sent out a sort of trolley with all kinds of typical southern foods for me to sample. That’s what I call five star! Anything less than 5 star in the humid south and you can detect a background smell of mould. Seemed to be quite a drug problem in Nashville.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
2 years ago

There’s a pretty funny meme doing the rounds of a pig in a top hat smoking a fat cigar etc, labelled ‘Capitalism’. It has leftwing Occupy Wall Street activists hurling abuse at him.
The next panel has the same pig, but this time plastered in BLM and Extinction Rebellion stickers and waving a rainbow flag. The activist is going yessss and applauding wildly.
Sums it up really…

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

I’d love to see this. Do you have a link?

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 years ago

People have been astonishingly slow to pick up on the realignment you are describing. Thanks for much for this article! For my parents’ generation, they still cling to the food misinformation that they were force fed in their young lives by capital-soaked “scientists”. Younger folks have been very keen on the uptake. A contingent of them (because some COVID never-enders enjoy surrendering their autonomy) actually make their own mind up about a great many things, from homeschooling, to “vaccines”, to electoral processes, to food and fitness. It’s heartening. The people taking it seriously are the only ones fit to lead us into a freedom-rich future.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

I’ve been a vegetatian for decades, I tried being a vegan for a while but found that I couldn’t make it work. I then saw all this vegan stuff start to appear in supermarkets (seemingly out of nowhere) so I tried some. My main conclusion was if you don’t actually like food, or if you’re still suffering from loss of taste from a past COVID infection then it might be for you. But at least, I thought, it must be nutritionally good, and then I saw a New Scientist article on vegan foods and out when that belief. I’m adding a link to the NS article, I’m afraid that it’s behind a pay wall but there may be some who have access.
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25133581-600-are-vegan-meat-alternatives-putting-our-health-on-the-line/

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

Put it this way. Compare the ingredients list on the highly processed vegan fake meat and fake fish with a slab of raw meat or fish. And as you say, the vegan abominations taste vile. At least vegetarianism is more honest, usually substituting meat with unprocessed vegetables, eggs and cheese.

Last edited 2 years ago by Judy Englander
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Heartily agree. The popularity of fake meat bemuses me. I alternate, more or less, between vegs one day and roast pheasant the next. I once bought a fake meat shepherd’s pie – Only the once. I adhere to just one principle – Only eat stuff that rots. Just eat it before it does. I cannot decide whether I am left progressive, or right reactionary. I suspect that I am just a boring old f*rt. Here is a great book: Countryman’s Cooking by WMW Fowler. The best recommendation came from his widow, rather than from me. “He liked women. Unfortunately they liked him”

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
2 years ago

I am not vegan but am happy to provide appropriate meals for my vegan house guests when they come to stay. On our own, My wife and I often prepare meals from time to time that would be classified as vegan because we like them. Serious vegans would not likely buy from a supermarket section labelled “vegan”. Their choice of eating requires, like all good food, selecting good quality raw ingredients, not something in a packet labelled by the food industry’s marketing department.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rick Lawrence
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

I agree. But unfortunately with the expanding number of vegans this stuff is bring eaten more and more, and it is being pushed as a “healthy” alternative. As you say a “serious” vegan, of which I know a number, wouldn’t touch it, but as more take up veganism as a kind of virtue signal and find that it’s not an easy food choice, especially if you eat out a lot, this is what they are turning to.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

When you visit vegans, do they reciprocate and cook you a nice meaty meal?

(No need to answer, it’s a rhetorical question).

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

Righties are carnivore and Lefties are herbivores. Sounds correct to me.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Sorry, stupid comment. I deleted it

Last edited 2 years ago by Steve Elliott
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Don’t worry, i missed it.

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

I still remember Occupy like it was yesterday. If you want to see the disintegration of the unified working class in action this clip from Occupy expresses it succintly.
https://youtube.com/watch?v=W81A1kTXPa4

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  R Wright

Wow. It’s as if it were today (except we’ve forgotten to do “jazz hands” in the interim). Crazy.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

Wait till you see what George Monbiot is proposing we eat in a few years time.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

90s cuisine was all about sun-dried tomatoes and plunger coffee. Savages.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Aren’t coffee snobs generally on the left?
I don’t shun the plunger, but usually just pour hot water into a filter paper with some coffee in it. Saves having to wash up the plunger. Oh, but the coffee is beautifully packaged, very expensive, “100% organic, 100% Fairtrade, 100% single origin Arabica” and produced by a women’s collective in Peru.

Last edited 2 years ago by Russell Hamilton
Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago

I have read this piece twice and cannot see any evidence that it is even addressing the question it poses (“Why the Left Eat Junk”) let alone answering it.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

It’s the equivalent of the fashion pages puff piece ‘what everyone is wearing this week’. The simple fact is that ‘the Left’ does not eat junk food, but has a vested interest in keeping its client community – ‘victims’ – unhealthy and disadvantaged, so opposes any real measures to curb junk food sales (a tax on the poor) or cut sugar, salt, etc (it’s the only pleasure they get). They pursue the same policy with smoking, which enables them to attack big business out of one side of the mouth, while keeping its profits up out of the other.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

Do you actually have any objective evidence to back this up?

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
2 years ago

I suggest that the changing food habits described are not just a left / right thing, they are a class thing that is totally alien to me and to most people. We just eat what our parents ate, but maybe with a little more takeaway food (Indian and Chinese) in the mix.
When I travel to the office in central London, trying to find something I would like to eat at lunchtime can be a nightmare – the place is full of outlets selling the strangest kinds of foods at inflated prices, when all I want is something I recognise, like a ham sandwich. Fortunately, I found that if I walk a quarter mile from the City into the working class areas of the east end there are multiple outlets where I can get a ham sandwich or bacon roll (almost all of them run by Muslims by the way). The available cuisine says a lot more about where you are than the number of shiny office buildings and smart suits.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

You must have very multicultural Muslims in London if they are selling ham and bacon! I agree that diet is not so much a left/right thing, it’s more a class/wealth thing. People who have money can afford organic, free-range, fresh food from pretty organic grocers – no vulgar supermarkets need to be visited. It’s interesting that you mention ‘what our parents ate’ because I was looking at what I bought this morning – fresh lychees, papaya, limes, avocados, kiwi fruit etc. and thinking that my grandparents never heard those words let alone saw the stuff!

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
2 years ago

I mentioned those outlets being mainly run by Muslims because it struck me that the ordinary working class Muslims of east London are a lot less insular than the woke set that run the porridge bars and vegan food outlets in the City. The Mulsim guys have identified a market for foods eaten by people like me and are happy to provide it, even if they disapprove of it themselves. Unlike those establishments in the City that only seem to want to cater for their own.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

It’s funny to see how times change. Basically the same thing happened with genetic manipulation, of which the mRNA vaccines are a prominent example. People used to be very critical of that in general, but now if you’re unvaccinated on the left you’re basically an unperson. Sure, sure, the manipulation isn’t permanent – but it’s a manipulation nonetheless. Should we really have opened that box?
Looking forward to many more ways in which the left will overthrow their traditional values (which is kind of an oxymoron with progressives anyway). Get ready for the practice of being chipped, eating junkfood made out of dirt, and sitting in a 10mÂČ apartment of which one wall is made up of a TV screen so you can watch your leaders and the “correct” news networks. Above all, that will be good for the environment and you will be kept safe, if you like it or not!

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
1 year ago

“Until the industrial era, human-edible fats were mostly obtained from dairy products or rendered meat.”
True of northern Europe I suppose. But the Mediterraneans have used olive oil for millennia.

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
1 year ago

“Until the industrial era, human-edible fats were mostly obtained from dairy products or rendered meat.”
True of northern Europe I suppose. But the Mediterraneans have used olive oil for millennia.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago

Mmmmmm, Soylent Green


Jamie T
Jamie T
2 years ago

There are so many hyperlinks in the first couple of paragraphs that your articles are becoming hard to read.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
2 years ago

Eating meat, drinking milk and using butter is what separates left and right? Good to know.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
2 years ago

Eating meat, drinking milk and using butter is what separates left and right? Good to know.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

I’m an omnivore eating wholefoods. I’ve got much sympathy with vegans, real ones that is who eat exclusively fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and so on. They have to work at it and become good cooks. This kind of fast-food convenience veganism is a terrible thing. More obesity, type 2 diabetes, CVD, metabolic syndrome and B12 deficiency thrown in… but big food and big pharma will be happy as one ‘feeds’ and the other ‘medicates’ the consequences.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
1 year ago

Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
1 year ago

Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
2 years ago

Bunch of hypochondriacs.

Jordan Flower
Jordan Flower
2 years ago

like i said, the seed oil disrespect to government hatred pipeline is very real.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
2 years ago

“But now, the modern Left has expelled anti-capitalist, anti-technology voices entirely, instead embracing science, technology and Big Business as key delivery partners for its vision of utopia.” I have a wide circle of acquaintances and friends who are definitely on the Left, even in a modern sense. Not one fits this description even to a tiny degree.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

Yes, the writer means ‘liberals’ who of course have never been anti-capital just reform capital hence ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’, ‘Great Reset’ and so on… just the old technocracy rewritten for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’… blah blah blah…

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

Yes, the writer means ‘liberals’ who of course have never been anti-capital just reform capital hence ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’, ‘Great Reset’ and so on… just the old technocracy rewritten for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’… blah blah blah…

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
2 years ago

“But now, the modern Left has expelled anti-capitalist, anti-technology voices entirely, instead embracing science, technology and Big Business as key delivery partners for its vision of utopia.” I have a wide circle of acquaintances and friends who are definitely on the Left, even in a modern sense. Not one fits this description even to a tiny degree.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

This was in the news today
https://www.reuters.com/world/us/new-york-citys-public-school-system-goes-meat-free-fridays-2022-02-04/
Does this have anything to say about New York politics?

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

This was in the news today
https://www.reuters.com/world/us/new-york-citys-public-school-system-goes-meat-free-fridays-2022-02-04/
Does this have anything to say about New York politics?

Ian Moore
Ian Moore
2 years ago

This is another example of how just about any conspiracy theory could end up being “truth”. Create a product, food in this case, invent some spurious benefit to “the planet”, use the commanding heights of the right on social media set to push this agenda, slap down anybody who points out that this is bullsh!t. Once you have a cause that is “morally correct” in the eyes of the new media set you can use these useful idiots to push it, on repeat, zealously and without thought to question.

Rinse and repeat, literally, for any social justice cause. It’s a method that seems to work for any product; tangible, intangible or otherwise. The defence that these alleged conspiracy theories can’t possibly be feasible because politicians and other leaders would never be on board and co-ordinated just doesn’t carry water anymore. Nearly everything these days is based on the court of public opinion, and things such as science, fact and the truth are readily ignored so that people can pick the “right” side and run with the mob. There are so many head-scratching things going on that the world appears completely mad.

Ian Moore
Ian Moore
2 years ago

This is another example of how just about any conspiracy theory could end up being “truth”. Create a product, food in this case, invent some spurious benefit to “the planet”, use the commanding heights of the right on social media set to push this agenda, slap down anybody who points out that this is bullsh!t. Once you have a cause that is “morally correct” in the eyes of the new media set you can use these useful idiots to push it, on repeat, zealously and without thought to question.

Rinse and repeat, literally, for any social justice cause. It’s a method that seems to work for any product; tangible, intangible or otherwise. The defence that these alleged conspiracy theories can’t possibly be feasible because politicians and other leaders would never be on board and co-ordinated just doesn’t carry water anymore. Nearly everything these days is based on the court of public opinion, and things such as science, fact and the truth are readily ignored so that people can pick the “right” side and run with the mob. There are so many head-scratching things going on that the world appears completely mad.

rob monks
rob monks
2 years ago

Another good article. Stuff I was unaware of.

rob monks
rob monks
2 years ago

Another good article. Stuff I was unaware of.