In connection with the presentation of the meat question in certain quarters, we are receiving inquiries and comments relative to what are regarded as undue claims for the transmission of disease from animals to man. A case in point has to do with the listing of a large number of diseases, more or less prevalent among cattle, swine, and fowls, with the claim—by some it is only strong implication—that by using animal products the user is likely to contract various of these diseases.
That the incidence of disease among animals is high and widespread is a well-recognized fact. It is also well established that disease can be transmitted to man through the consumption of diseased or contaminated animal products. This is particularly true of tuberculosis (bovine type) trichinosis, undulant fever, and tapeworm. However, in the case of many other diseases among animals it is difficult to prove transmission to man through their products, regardless of how they may be eaten, that is, whether well sterilized or not.
It is to be recognized, therefore, that a considerable number of the diseases prevalent among animals are not transmissible from animals to man, since man is not susceptible to those specific diseases, just as certain diseases to which man is subject are never found among animals.
Again, it should be taken into consideration whether disease that can be transmitted from animal to man is transmitted through (I) direct contact with the live animal or fowl, (2) through the eating of the animal product (meat, milk, or eggs), or (3) through animal products that have been contaminated by human handlers.
A number of the diseases listed as occurring among animals, but transmissible to man, are transmitted only by personal contact with the animal, the hide or carcass, as anthrax, rabies, stockyard fever, etc. These concern the farmer, the butcher, and those caring for stock, but are hardly to be brought into the picture when we are considering only the dietary phase of the question.
Even in considering diseases readily accepted as being transmissible from animal to man, as tuberculosis or trichinosis, we take exception to the apparent failure or unwillingness to recognize that proper sterilization will destroy the disease-producing organisms and render the animal product innocuous. That is to say, milk from tuberculous cows, which may be infective when raw, is certainly rendered noninfective when properly sterilized or pasteurized. Likewise, infected pork, which may be loaded with parasites (Trichinella spiralis), cannot transmit trichinosis to man when it has been thoroughly cooked (assuming, of course, that contamination after cooking does not occur).
In all fairness in our presentations, sterilization is to be recognized as a potential factor of safety which fortunately affords a large measure of protection to those who use animal products more or less extensively.
The last point we wish to mention at this writing is that the transmission of certain diseases, such as streptococcic sore throat, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, and diphtheria, included in the foregoing lists referred to, are not animal diseases, and therefore can be transmitted from animals to man only secondarily. Animals become contaminated or infectious through human contacts, just as clothing, fomites, milk, or other foodstuffs may be contaminated by a human carrier of these disease-producing germs. The animal kingdom therefore can hardly be rightly regarded as harboring diseases of this type.
The whole point of this brief discussion is that teachers of hygienic living should be technically informed, and so fair and honest in their presentations that no undue implications are registered, and certainly no invalid or erroneous statements made as though they were authentic. Our personal preferences and convictions may be ever so strong and we may even give utterance to them, but let them be expressed as personal views when such cannot be shown to be properly proved scientific facts.
The healthfulness and complete adequacy of a diet without meat is uncontroverted. There are sufficient sound and well-authenticated facts, of which disease among animals is only one factor, to support the virtues of the nonflesh diet, so that we may present the subject of vegetarianism wholly upon scientific grounds without a distortion of established data, or the employment of farfetched claims.
Let all who teach hygienic living in general, and diet in particular, be so well informed and so balanced and fair in their presentation, that the message they •bear will readily commend itself to the open-minded and honest in heart, as well as to those skilled in science.
H. M. W.