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Time for us to go vegetarian?

Jun 8, 1999

I THOUGHT of my father when I read about the ban on European meat and dairy products, announced last week.

He used to smoke 20 cigarettes or more a day.

The danger of dioxin in those products has nothing to do with smoking, of course.

But eating, like smoking, is now hazardous to your health.

First, there was the mad cow disease. Then there was the chicken scare in China and Hongkong.

Next was the pig virus. Now, it is dioxin.

The accumulation of these scare stories can make you pause.

For, in each of these cases, there was some mishandling of the livestock, in the way the animals were reared, treated, or fed.

There seems to be an underlying problem with the meat industry.

Something is very wrong on old McDonald's animal farm.

Are the recent stories just the beginning of other scares and studies that will show us how dangerous it is to eat meat?

Will we, in the future, think of eating meat much as we now think of smoking?

Is it time to go vegetarian?

Anyone who has eaten a meal with me will know I do not take such a suggestion lightly.

I am a 12-ounce-steak guy, a lover of lamb rack.

I travelled recently with Ambassador-at-Large, Professor Tommy Koh, and he - a figure of fish and white meat moderation - diplomatically expressed surprise at how much meat I ate.

When I was growing up, my mother would insist on food not going to waste - at least the meat dishes should be consumed.

It still remains the duty of the Asian host to provide much more than anyone can consume, and the duty of the guest to try anyway.

But my wife, Jin Hua, has been moving in a different direction.

Since we returned from the US, she has started two natural health stores.

She is not a vegetarian, from old habit and because of me (another old habit).

But she eats brown rice and mostly vegetables, organic when possible.

Our 18-month-old son, Luke, is 95 per cent vegetarian and a robust kid. The little boy has no apparent allergies and very seldom catches so much as a cold.

Under her ministrations, I have begun to eat better and feel healthier.

Some people eat with their eyes, like the Japanese, and love the perfect presentation of a meal.

Others eat with their stomachs, and crave big helpings.

Many Singaporeans eat with their mouths: Not just literally, but prioritising taste over other concerns.

It is always going to be an uphill battle for the Healthy Lifestyle Campaign in Singapore.

Simon SC Tay, a Nominated Member of Parliament and senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore, asks that this article not be quoted against him when he is caught eating bah kut teh.

The Electric New Paper. Copyright 1999
Singapore Press Holdings. All Rights Reserved.