In case you missed it, the World Health Organization recently released a controversial report concluding that consumption of processed and red meats leads is linked to increased rates of colorectal cancer. According to the WHO, red meats include “beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat”, and processed meats include “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation,” such as “hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.”

The WHO report was based not on new research, but was written from a wide reading of peer-reviewed research looking at the relationship between meat consumption and different types of cancer. From an institutional perspective the report was groundbreaking. It was the first time that an institution with the institutional reach and power of the WHO has concluded

The report is a major blow to the industrial meat industry, which immediately responded in the U.S by trying to discredit the report’s findings. In this report by U.S. National Public Radio, the director of human nutrition research at the U.S.-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association argued that the studies reviewed by the WHO “draw correlation, not causation”. While the researchers attempt to destabilize any certainty with which the report can be viewed will probably be an effective P.R. strategy, it cannot refute the mounting evidence against industrial meat, and cancer is only the beginning.

Pediatricians from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health report that 2 million people in the U.S. are sickened each year anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria found in industrial meat. Deadly bacteria are created by the “systemic overuse of antibiotics in livestock production” and pose a serious global health risk. Unhealthy and unethical treatment of animals is a common feature of industrial livestock production, especially at research centers trying to re-engineer animals to produce more meat at cheaper costs. All of this is compounded by the immense environmental degradation caused by large livestock concentrations. The popular film Food, Inc. detailed the way that concentrated cattle farms pollute water systems and require huge amounts of fossil fuels to transport grain to feed the cattle. Cattle farms also give off pungent fumes that negatively affect the air that nearby residents must breathe. All of these examples show that the industrial meat industry is even more of a global threat than the WHO reports.

Most of the conversation surrounding the report has focused on the U.S., and little has been said about the meat industry in other places. India is the world largest exporter of beef, sending billions of dollars worth of Buffalo meat to places like Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. Concern with industrial meat industry in India is relatively new, and few studies of its effects are available. Based on findings from other parts of the world, one can suspect that the health and environmental effects of India’s industrial meat industry are cause for concern.