science commentary

Auschwitz for Shrimp

Nobody ever accused animal rights people of understatement.

science commentary

F or a great lesson on the thinking of ecomaniacs, check out the reviews of the Ecosphere closed aquatic ecosystem pods. These are small sealed glass spheres containing algae and Hawaiian Anchialine shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) in a complete self-contained ecosystem. A cool item for people too busy for an aquarium, and small enough to take to work. You can watch them swim while you're riding on the Metro.

The only problem is that, on occasion, these little ecosystems have been known to go out of control. Too much light makes the algae grow too fast. Oxygen builds up and the spheres explode, sending the little critters flying everywhere.

Arbeit macht fry

You might think greens would love them, but lots of them seem unable to grasp the concept of an ecosystem. Some are hysterically overwrought: one calls it an “Auschwitz for shrimp.”

Auschwitz is a common metaphor among the greens. A guy named Taras Grescoe once wrote a book titled Bottom Feeder: How To Eat Ethically In a World of Vanishing Seafood in which he called Tokyo's Tsukiji market an Auschwitz for fish. “Succulent Portuguese sardines with fat-jeweled juices or a luscious breakfast of bluefin tuna sashimi,” glowed the left-wing Publishers Weekly, is one dish Grescoe put on his Never list: the dietary equivalent of a hair shirt. Sizzling tender slabs of succulent trout are garnished with butter and a dash of parsley raised in sublime captivity in non-free-range death camps, topped off with only the finest barbed wire and surrounded by SS troops with machine guns.

The idea, gaining traction among Greens, is that Western society is a macrocosm of Nazi Germany, and the poor animals are like the Jews. Eat seafood responsibly, they argue, meaning bottom feeders and tilapia, or you're Karl Dönitz in a U-boat torpedoing schools of screaming baby fish, sending six million Ashkenazi calamari to a watery grave.

The only thing worse is eating fat. If you must eat salmon, they tell us, remove the skin, because the skin contains fat. “Fat [is] the vehicle for some of the worst toxins known to humanity,” wrote Grescoe, trying to put us off farmed salmon.

Because that worked so well for beef. Like a school of bottom-feeding tilapia everyone suddenly decided that eating fat makes you fat. It sounds logical, but it contains a big dash of magical thinking. Believe it or not, steaks used to taste good. Now beef processors superstitiously scrape off every trace of fat from our beef. Companies try to genetically re-engineer cows and pigs so they produce less fat in the mistaken belief that it's healthier. If they succeed, we'll be stuck with slim pigs and fat-free cows forever. People might not get rabbit starvation, but they will stop eating them, and we'll all have to live on a diet of sanctimony with a dash of smugness, topped off with a shivering topping of eschatological anxiety.

If I were the suspicious type, I might think that was their goal.

The war on fat made beef unpalatable. Beef sales are down, and chicken is up because people think it's healthier. Chicken wings are flying off the shelves. Not because they're healthier, but because they taste better because they've still got fat in them.

What the greens really want is the power to tell us what to eat. Now that the government controls who gets healthcare and who doesn't, they can almost taste it. Eat too much fat, or too many salt-crusted potato chips dipped in mouth watering Tabasco sauce, and they'll deny you treatment if or when you get sick. Your body is not your own any more—if they pay for it, they own it.

Fat is essential. The brain needs fat to function. The human body craves fat, and if it doesn't get it, it keeps you hungry and makes you sit at the table until you take in enough. Which means you find yourself eating two or three times as much food and not knowing why. Lack of fat also makes you depressed, which slows down your metabolism, which makes you cold ... and fat.

But the best dietary advice I ever got was from a 1939 nutrition book (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price) that reminded us that the Fiji Islanders, now suffering from 30% obesity, were once near-perfect physical specimens, with no tooth decay and no vitamin A deficiency ... until they were forced by Westerners to abandon cannibalism. He wrote: “The chief, his father, and grandfather had the privilege of reserving the eyes of captives for their personal use. ” Yeah ... you can't get those anymore.

The problem for greens is if they say too little, people don't think there's a problem. If they overstate their case, they lose credibility. The greens seem incapable of recognizing that if those two overlap, then there's not really a problem. They're fixated on their political cause, and they relate everything to Hitler, which makes them boring. Maybe memory loss is a side effect of borderline malnutrition: Hitler is the only thing about history class they can remember. The omnivore's dilemma is that books pretending we're not become best-sellers.

See also:

Book Reviews

Natural toxicants in food

Brain Lipids and Disorders in Biological Psychiatry

Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate

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oct 04, 2014; updated jan 25, 2015
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