Monday, May 24, 2010

Why Engage in Controversies?

It takes a special constitution to engage in, and even enjoy, controversies.  Most people do not enjoy standing on principle, while opponents throw rocks at them.  It is more comfortable to turn away from the fray and find a less disturbing diversion.  Engaging in intellectual and political battles takes energy, time, and exacts an emotional toll.  It can even be dangerous.  So, why do it?

One reason to engage in controversies is because one cares deeply about an issue.  If one cares enough about the consequences or the principle at stake, it's worth fighting for.  For some people, patritotism in time of national threat is worth their personal sacrifice.  For others, threatened civil liberties are worth a stand.  Many principles evoke strong commitments that lead some people to fight for them.  Not all principles have overwhelming public approval, like nationalism in time of war.  Some principles, such as equal rights for blacks or gays, had less than majority approval when advocates stood and died for these causes. 

Intellectual battles are usually less dangerous to one's physical being but still costly to one's personal security and often to one's professional career.  I have to admit that my academic career and my retirement years are fraught with controversies.  For 35 years, I fought "naive environmentalism" in the behavioral sciences.  Naive environmentalism is the belief that all behavioral differences among people arise from differences in their environments.  Psychological studies were, and many still are, based on this false assumption. 

My research focused on genetic differences among people that proved to be very important to understanding why each of us is unique.  Behavior genetic studies showed that intellectual and personality differences among people are mostly due to genetic differences among them, not to differences in opportunities or exposures to environments.  "How people make their own environments" became a classic paper, written with Kathleen McCartney, now Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  I was honored by professional and academic societies for my research.  These intellectual controversies cost me emotional grief, but I was fortunate to be exonerated and even honored in the end.

Since retiring to Hawaii, I have learned to grow Kona coffee and to pursue a lifelong interest in breeding and raising purebred dogs.  It's odd that each arena provides its own controversies.  In Kona coffee, the huge, emotional issue is that 10% Kona blends (90% foreign coffees) are legally permitted to use the famous Kona name.  Even coffee experts cannot taste 10% Kona coffee in a 90% foreign blend.  The name Kona sells fraudulently labeled blends. 

We, Kona coffee farmers, are understandably outraged at a state Legislature that permits such a tourist rip-off and desecration of Kona coffee's reputation.  We protest, write letters to editors of magazines and newspapers,  fly to Honolulu to testify at the Legislature -- year after year -- with no results.  The coffee blends are owned by huge food companies, with local representatives that know how to keep state legislators in line.  I served on the board and was president of one Kona coffee organization that was taken over by the blenders.  Farmers founded a new organization, the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, and I served two terms on the board.  Not one to shy away from controversies, I have done my share of  protesting and suffering for Kona coffee.

Breeding and raising Labrador retrievers taught me a great deal I did not know about feeding carnivorous pets.  Like most pet owners in the Western world, I thought dogs eat kibble and maybe some canned dog food from time to time.  Certainly, I knew better than to feed them human foods or leftovers.  Some months into raising Lab puppies on premium dog chow, I noticed some had itchiness, hot sports, inflamed ears, and one had sore joints.  The regular vet prescribed antihistamines and steroids.  I was dissatisfied that my well-bred puppies were having so many problems, so he referred me to a holistic vet.  She changed my life.

Long story made short: I learned that cooked starches are not suitable foods for carnivorous dogs. Dog chows cause all manner of minor allergies and much more serious systemic disorders in the long run.  After several years of making the BARF diet of cooked brown rice, minced veggies, and raw-meaty-bones, I realized what dogs need is simply raw-meaty-bones.  My dogs have thrived ever since. 

Why, I asked, do most veterinarians recommend and sell kibbles and canned mush, when dogs and cats need raw-meaty-bones?  That question led me into the current controversy that occupies a great deal of my time -- the pet-food conspiracy.  Here it is in a nutshell:  Global food companies produce pet foods from human food waste, a very profitable business.  Global food companies support veterinary education, research, and practice, and animal welfare organizations, thereby insuring their professional endorsement of species-inappropriate foods.  How can this damaging conspiracy be allowed to go unchallenged?

In the process of investigating raw-meaty-bones, I contacted the author of the book, Raw Meaty Bones, Tom Lonsdale, DVM in Australia.  He and I became frequent correspondents.  I heard his sad tale of controversies with veterinary authorities over pet diets that eventually led to his leaving veterinary practice.  Not only were the authorities unwilling to consider his evidence against starchy diets and the cures that can be had with raw meats and meaty bones, they forbade him to criticize the veterinary profession for its endorsement of cooked starches for carnivorous pets.  Dr. Lonsdale has suffered enormously for standing up for the truth about pet foods.

I have joined with Dr. Lonsdale and a few other intrepid vets to battle pet food giants and corruption in the veterinary profession.  Stakes are enormous.  Commercial pet food is a $50 billion/ year global business.  Vets in the US reap an estimated $4 billion/ year from pet food sales.  Pets are being sickened and killed by the millions.  Unwitting pet owners are being bilked out of $ billions/year in unnecessary vet bills.  Yes, the stakes are enormous.  This is a controversy I cannot turn away from, for love of my own dogs and cat, and for all the millions of pets who can live healthier, longer lives on diets of raw-meaty-bones. 

I also want to be counted among those who stand up for FOOD, when global food companies threaten the health of all of us, not only our pets, with highly processed, corn- and soy-based concoctions they pass off as food.  The food supply is in crisis.  It is not safe.  It is not wholesome.  It is worth fighting for.

I am fortunate to have low blood pressure and to be surrounded with friends who understand my commitments.   All the principles and truths I have stood up for in my life have been worth the time, emotional pain, and energy required.  I seem to be constitutionally suited for a life of controversies.

No comments:

Post a Comment