Archive for the ‘Animals & Ethics’ Category

Response to 2 of Christina Sterbenz’s 7 Reasons to Keep Eating Meat

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

On September 30, Christina Sterbenz had an article on Business Insider, 7 Reasons Why I Refuse To Stop Eating Meat. I’d like to quickly respond to a couple of her reasons.

Iron is the number one reason Sterbenz gives for continuing to eat meat:

“Yes, vegetables contain iron — but not the good kind. Consuming plants gives your body nonheme iron, a version less easily absorbed by the body….Heme iron, the better type, only comes from life forms with hemoglobin, such as red meat, pork, poultry, and fish.”

While it is true iron from meat is more absorbable than from plants, this would only be a problem for people who are prone to iron-deficiency anemia. I have not come across a vegetarian man diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia that I can remember and none have been reported in the studies on vegetarians and iron deficiency. Some vegetarian women are iron deficient but this can be corrected by changing some habits, like eating foods higher in iron combined with vitamin C, and avoiding coffee and tea at meals. But if you are absorbing enough iron (as most vegetarians are), the iron from plants works just as well as the iron from meat.

In fact, while vegetarians normally do not have iron deficiency, they do have lower levels of iron which may reduce their risk of diabetes. And the good type of iron that Sterbenz touts, heme iron, is associated with colon cancer while the iron from plants is not (more information on iron and chronic disease).

Sterbenz writes, “Also, spinach, considered one of the most iron-rich leafy greens, doesn’t have as much as many believe. But we grew to love it after a German chemist made a typo back in the day.”

Spinach is an excellent source of iron with 3 mg per 1/2 cup cooked. A full cup of cooked spinach (not hard at all to eat) meets almost the entire RDA for men (8 mg) and 1/3 the RDA for menstruating women (18 mg).

Sterbenz: “3. Vitamin B12 only comes from animals.”

Actually, B12 only comes from bacteria. But it’s true that only animal foods naturally contain vitamin B12 in any reliable amounts. This hasn’t been a boon for spreading veganism, but it has actually given vegans who supplement better vitamin B12 status than many meat-eaters. Because it’s harder to absorb vitamin B12 from animal products (due to it being attached to proteins) the Institute of Medicine recommends that all people over the age of 50 get half of the RDA for vitamin B12 from fortified foods or supplements (citation). Vegans get the “good” type of vitamin B12. 🙂

Sterbenz then says, “Almost all multi-vitamins contain B12, as well. But recent research suggests vitamins might be useless,” and links to the article, Vitamin pills ‘are useless’, which describes a study that found supplementing with beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C did not prevent cancer, heart disease or stroke. This is completely different than showing that vitamin B12 supplements are useless. On the contrary, it is well-documented, conclusive, and without controversy in the mainstream medical and nutrition community, that vitamin B12 supplements work at preventing and correcting vitamin B12 deficiency.

“Much of the pro-vegetarian research out there will try to convince you that humans are natural herbivores, that we’re not meant to eat meat. In reality, our digestive characteristics show we’re omnivorous,..”

Finally, something I agree with. But I don’t believe we’re “meant” to eat anything. We evolved eating certain foods (including lots of insects) and now that we are more ethically evolved some of us are moving society away from killing animals for food.

Referring to a picture of oysters, Sternbenz says, “You know you want them too.”

Sterbenz might be surprised to know that, no, we really don’t want them. Rather than wanting them, I think, “You’re going to put that in your mouth and swallow it?”

That said, since Sterbenz says she cares about animals, I hope she will experiment with at least replacing more meat with oysters! Since she can stomach them, and apparently loves to eat them, she could help prevent animal suffering by eating oysters instead of pigs, cows, and chickens.

Even better, eat some spinach for iron, and try a nice juicy Tofurky sausage for protein and fat. I know meat-eaters don’t think it’s the same thing, but it’s pretty close and without the entrails.

Ginny Messina also responded to this article in her post 7 Reasons to Eat Meat? Here Is Why They Are All Wrong.


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Articles from Adam Merberg

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

It’s not often that I get time to read anything of significant length other than nutrition papers, but a few days ago I indulged myself.

Adam Merberg, author of the Say What, Michael Pollan? blog, sent out his final post from that blog which led me to his new blog, Inexact Change. I ended up reading two articles:

Half-baked – a review of Michael Pollan’s new book Cooked

Adam Merberg on Michael Pollan and Veganism – interview with Rhys Southan of Let Them Eat Meat

I found both articles to be “page-scrollers”.

NPR and Animals

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

It’s been a long time since I posted something not related to nutrition. And as exciting as nutrition is, once in awhile I can use a break!

There is an animal advocacy-related issue that has been sticking in my craw for the last few years. I listen to a number of NPR shows on my iPod while exercising, driving, and doing house chores, and for the most part I really enjoy them – that is, except for the lack of sensitivity and sophistication with which they treat animal issues.

On the one hand, you have Terry Gross on Fresh Air who does stories on how intelligent some animals are, and then doesn’t blink when a researcher talks about invasive research on them. Similar experiences can be had listening to Radiolab and This American Life. But they are much better than the Planet Money crew who consider farmed animals inanimate objects at best and worthy of contempt at worst.

These are programs that show a great deal of sensitivity to most progressive issues. And while I have a pretty high tolerance for our meat-centered, animal-unfriendly culture, it really burns me to hear these otherwise-enlightened people talk so insensitively. At the very least, they could care about offending their audience, which has many animal advocates.

Much worse than being personally offended, I am concerned that millions and millions of progressive listeners who might otherwise care about animal issues are listening to intelligent, sophisticated radio show hosts and guests dismiss animals’ suffering as unworthy of concern on a daily basis. It cannot be good for what we are trying to accomplish.

After hearing This American Life’s episode “Animal Sacrifice” I reached the tipping point and decided to write them. Below is my email. I am posting it here in hopes that it will help bring some awareness to what I think is a significant, though very subtle problem for our promotion of animal liberation.

This American Life:

I am a longtime listener to This American Life and an occasional donor. I absolutely love the show and am amazed at how you can produce such interesting content week after week.

I know you probably get a lot of feedback any time you mention animals and so I hesitate to write you about this, but your website says that you pass the email around and take comments seriously, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I have been disappointed in how NPR shows, in general, treat the subject of animals. I realize that NPR is not made up of animal rights advocates, but for a network of people who are so progressive and forward-thinking on so many other issues, the views on animals are not enlightened. The Animal Sacrifice episode (which I listened to weeks ago and have been contemplating writing about ever since then) underlined this point for me. The way animal issues are dealt with on NPR must offend a large portion of the audience in ways that NPR would never be willing to do with any other issue.

I would like to give the entire network a sensitivity training on the subject, but, obviously, that is not realistic. What might be realistic would be for TAL to do a program with some serious thinkers on the issue, such as Peter Singer of Princeton University or Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States. I hope you will consider it.

And thank you again for all the great stories you continue to provide!


Jack Norris
Davis, CA

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Cholesterol Required in the Diet

Sunday, January 13th, 2013


Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SMOS) is a genetic mutation that impairs the body’s ability to produce its own cholesterol. This very small group of people (1 in 20,000) would need cholesterol in their diet. Any suggestions on how to answer this? Are there any vegan cholesterol sources?


The listing for Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome Treatment & Management at Medscape says, “Currently, no treatment has proven effective for patients with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS). Potentially, cholesterol supplementation is a logical treatment because it may be expected to raise plasma and tissue cholesterol levels…. Therapeutic trials are underway.”

Someone with SMOS should be under the care of a physician who is probably instructing them (or their parents) as to whether they need cholesterol supplementation and how much they need in their diet.

I am not aware of any vegan sources of cholesterol with which someone could supplement. My understanding is that some plants contain cholesterol, but only in miniscule amounts. For committed vegans, obtaining eggs from someone with companion chickens would be a way to get cholesterol in the diet while causing minimal or no harm to animals. Oysters, clams, or mussels might be another option.

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B12 Follow-Up: Can a Natural Diet Require Supplements?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Speaking of B12, I just updated Can a Natural Diet Require Supplements? The changes are so extensive that I decided to just link to the article rather than reproduce the changes here. I hope people who get, or have, this question about a vegan diet will find it helpful.

And please remember that you can support by buying things through the site’s links to, Barnes & Noble, and Pangea – the Vegan Store! This does make a difference for me and I am most grateful to those of you who continue to do this. Sharing my posts on Facebook and Twitter also makes a big difference and gets the word out about healthy vegan eating.

Thank you!

Vegan Outreach: Hundreds of Millions Fewer Animals Slaughtered in the U.S.

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Your Daily Dose of Vegan Outreach has reported that, “In 2009, 2010, and 2011, hundreds of millions fewer land animals were raised and slaughtered for food in the U.S. than at the peak in 2008.”

Looks like our efforts are having an impact!

PaleoVeganology: It’s Curtains For The Expensive Tissue Hypothesis

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Interesting post by PaleoVeganology arguing that the efficiency of carrying adipose tissue by way of bipedalism, and not meat-eating, is what allowed human brains to grow larger than other primates:

It’s Curtains For The Expensive Tissue Hypothesis

Cooking food has also been argued to be what allowed humans to grow their brains larger than other primates. ‒ Nutrient Composition of Foods & Diet Analysis

PaleoVeganology now Available via Email

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I’m not sure how long its been this way, but I just saw that the PaleoVeganology blog is now available by email. I highly recommend it. I am very rarely interested in reading anything about nutrition that isn’t published in scientific journals (Ginny’s articles excepted, of course), but this blog is fascinating.

Check it out:

Vegans in Vegas Video

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Ryan Henn, organizer of Vegans in Vegas, put together a 16 minute video of interviews he did with myself, Robert Lucius, Joe Connelly, Nathan Runkle, Dan Mims, Jason Wyrick, and others who attended the event. The emphasis was on men and veganism. Link

All Birthday Cake and Alcohol is Vegan

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Interesting article:

The Carpe Credo: All Birthday Cake and Alcohol is Vegan