I received a ping back from an ex-vegan and ex-animal rights activist, Paleosister. She writes:
> “Jack Norris, who I remember seeing speak at AR 2003 and greatly admired, writes that we should try to consume as little animal flesh (and other animal products) as possible. Quite frankly, you’re missing the point, Jack. The world is being destroyed due to agriculture; entire ecosystems are ruined—the habitats’ of animal populations destroyed—because of the foods vegans and the left are promoting.”
Some background: Paleosister is another person who failed to thrive on a vegan diet. She writes about that:
> Another common response is simply disbelief that it’s really possible to experience a physiological change with just a bite of meat….the first time I sat down to eat meat, I thought, “that is the strangest thing. I actually do feel better!” Then, for the first time in nearly a decade, I didn’t have suicidal thoughts for an entire hour!
First of all, I want to say that I feel bad that Paleosister had poor health and suicidal thoughts as a vegan. It is a serious problem that some people don’t thrive on the vegan diet, and we should not blame the victim.
I suspect that part of the problem is that vegan propaganda often includes the message that “diets based on whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables provide all the necessary nutrients.” For one thing, they don’t – they don’t contain vitamin B12. But the mantra also simplifies the situation regarding a lot of other nutrients.
For too many years, groups promoted such an idea. Instead of making sure that vegans were getting enough protein, we talked about how it was impossible not to get enough protein. Instead of telling vegans to get enough calcium, we told vegans that calcium isn’t important. Instead of telling people to get a regular source of vitamin B12, we downplayed the need. Instead of telling vegans to get a normal amount of fat, we have promoted very low-fat diets.
In fairness, much of the vegan community has changed its tune since the 1990s and now many urge vegans to make sure they get enough of these nutrients. Also in fairness, some research has indicated that low-fat vegan diets can help effectively treat heart disease and diabetes. And since studies have shown vegetarians (vegans and lacto-ovo) to have good health over time, and many of us feel just fine, we didn’t think there was a problem.
Paleosister apparently did not find any help for her health problems when she looked. I do not know what she tried, nutrition-wise, and what she didn’t. She says:
➢ It’s not the placebo effect. It’s most likely not even the effect of any nutrient we know of.
It is highly unlikely that there are any essential nutrients required by a large portion of the human population that are not currently known – the success of soy infant formulas and tube-feedings indicate this. However, there are a variety of non-essential nutrients that some people might not make enough of when following a vegan diet, especially if their bodies have been dependent on those substances from animal products up until the point of going vegan.
The fact that many children whose mother’s were vegan from conception and who are vegan from birth (except breast-milk), grow and thrive, is proof that meat, dairy, and eggs are not needed to produce healthy human bodies (at least in many cases).
I am becoming more and more concerned about promoting “healthy eating” along with veganism. So often, when someone goes vegan, they make other changes that they think are for the better – no more junk food or very low fat. It seems safer, from the perspective of animal protection, that new vegans eat as closely as they were to the way they previously had eaten so that they feel similarly; that is, unless they were previously feeling badly due to poor diet.
We should also not view ex-vegans who failed to thrive as our enemies. Who can blame someone for eating meat if they felt terrible as a vegan? I understand that we believe animals have a right not to be killed, but there would be a very strong incentive to reshape such views if we felt miserable if we didn’t eat animal flesh. It would be nice to be able to work with such people who still care about animals but cannot be vegan, rather than vilifying them; or their vilifying us for that matter.
Our message needs to become more nuanced if we want to minimize the problems we see with failure to thrive.
Now back to the point that Paleosister says I don’t get:
> The world is being destroyed due to agriculture; entire ecosystems are ruined—the habitats’ of animal populations destroyed—because of the foods vegans and the left are promoting.
No matter what humans eat, there is going to be environmental harm. I do understand that monocrops are generally bad for the environment, but I do not agree that vegan foods, in general, are significantly worse than grass-fed animal foods.
In the U.S., most animal foods are made using monocrop feeds. It does not seem realistic to feed 300 million people (or six-billion), grass-fed animal products as the bulk of their calories.
If most people switched to a vegan diet, an enormous amount of land currently grown for feed crops could be turned back into natural ecosystems, and that would be a huge gain. And at the same time it promotes an ethic of respecting the lives of animals.