People: have you heard of this new documentary on veganism?
My brain: *solves Rubik’s cube (video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B4VS76jDtPX/)or does literally ANYTHING else*
I’m not even sure what to say to people who are just now learning one angle of one side of an old and tired debate. The first thing that comes to mind is, "have you read A book in the past forty years?" Because literally thousands of books have tackled this ad nauseum for over half a century. I was vegan decades ago. Daniel did it 2,600 years ago. Kellogg invented the plant-eating American culture in the 1800s which persists to this day. I hate to break it to people, but vegan isn’t new, the arguments aren’t new, AND the centerpiece of American eating is already plants: grains. It isn’t steaks. Does anyone recall growing up WITHOUT fruit, juice, breakfast cereal, lunch without peanut butter/carrots/apples/etc, and dinner without bread/pasta/potatoes/etc.? All of this is vegan. Where were the hoards of animal products? We're already vegan.
I have incredibly vague recollections of rare and infrequent meat-centered meals, mostly holidays in my childhood. Was everyone else starting their mornings with pounds of bacon seven days a week? I sure wasn't. Even the Thanksgiving dinners I clearly remember were 95% NOT ANIMAL: stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, rolls, green beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. Meat was barely on my radar until recent years when I began healing all of my health problems which stem from years of emphasizing plants as my main food source. The first protein powders I started using in the early 90's were soy, and they gave me breast tenderness at age 12. Along with eating vegetable oils, higher carb intake, and an effort at eliminating saturated fat, I then went on to have horrific skin from 13-19. Thanks, veganism! Even to this day, if I start trending back to my vegetarian roots, I break out and digestion is dicey. As long as I keep higher red meat and saturated fat content, my skin is perfect and digestion is phenomenal. I was physically incapable of getting a shredded six pack until I began experimenting with meat-centered dieting.
This isn’t new. I don’t want to take the wind out of anyone’s sails. If you like vegan, cool. If you have ethical concerns, great. If you think we should pay attention to sustainability, I don’t disagree (but then we should be talking efficiency standards and entomophagy, not veganism). Maybe it's because my sister was going through her treehugger phase when I was 8-11 years old. Maybe it's because my mom went to UC Berkeley in the 1960s. But NONE of the vegan arguments are news to me, nor are they compelling. They are pitiably outdated. And those that aren't woefully outdated are shamefully misrepresenting the state of affairs at contemporary local farms. Those horror story factory farm videos you guys are just now seeing on YouTube I saw in the 1980s. And they were at least a decade old then. And yes, I agree, the conditions of factory farms in the 1970s were terrible. At massive production plants today, they still are pretty terrible, although they are incredibly more efficient, making the water cost arguments totally obsolete. But guess what: those aren't the places from which educated non-vegans get their food nowadays. We're paying as close of attention to our food as the first vegans were paying to their sourcing years ago. I've visited the farms from which I get my beef. I've seen the conditions. I've watched the land get rotated. Do you think the average vegan has done that for the crops from which he's getting his food? Not the ones I know. They can't even name any of the farms from which they're getting food, let alone having personally visited all of them.
If you cherry pick old outdated science and misrepresent the takeaway, I’m just not interested. Many former vegans like Jordan Rubin have already LONG AGO described in painful detail why it is an insufficient diet. Chris Kresser has enumerated the vital nutrients missing in veganism. And that's not even the main problem with plant-based diets. Plants can't run away from their attackers the same way that animals can. So they've had to create other types of defenses, namely poisoning their predators. This isn't hyperbole. Plants all contain some chemicals to dissuade predators from destroying them. There are some caveats here, like how the arsenic inside an apple is modest enough that we can tolerate it. The cyanide inside the apple seeds we know not to ingest. The caffeine in a coffee bean or tea leaf is fairly innocuous. And the nicotine in eggplant is only a little bothersome. However, as you begin to actually study chemistry with regard to foods you discover that plants are a minefield and meat isn't. Inherently, plants are trying to poison and they carry a fundamental risk with regard to our immune response. Secondarily, we find that the acids in them can be problematic, the lectins in them are problematic, the plant proteins resist breakdown, and that people who manage just fine with the histamines in fermented foods don't respond as well to the histamines in chickpeas, soy, and legumes.
In fact, that's a whole additional can of worms. The Western world so overdid its veganism that the top 20 food allergies only contain 3 animal products. People don't have seasonal allergies to animal smell, folks. And those same crippling pollens, which cross-pollinate with different plants, trigger new allergies to additional foods that are plants. Ask a pediatric allergist. This is a pandemic right now. I don't know how else to spell this out: plants are not inherently superior for human consumption. This immunological component seems to be the hardest part of the subject for the vegan newbs to understand. They'll learn in time. Some people DO tolerate mostly plant-based eating. Some. Not most. I've been at it long enough that I've had the great "fortune" of seeing numerous people get adverse reactions, nearly die, become infertile, immune compromised, or incapable of fat loss (hypothyroidism) simply from plant-based eating. For us, we don't have the grand luxury to keep thinking plant-based eating is better, because... it isn't. It almost ruined our lives. For us, we have cured our seasonal allergies, our complexion issues, our digestion issues, our obesity, our autoimmune challenges, our infertility, our metabolic and thyroid insufficiency, our chronic health problems by emphasizing meat to the reduction of plants. I wish plant-based eating were better. I yearn for it to be. I want it to be true. It just isn't.
Since food waste represents more than half of all food we produce, the biggest area of opportunity concerning sustainability isn't switching to veganism, by the by. It's reducing food waste. If we just reduced our food waste by 50% that would represent a larger positive global impact than 100% conversion to veganism. Moreover, feeding humans has an impossibly inherent cost; and it's NOT so clearcut whether massive production of crops is actually a lower environmental cost than just letting animals (which we'll use) naturally graze about a habitat, cyclically rotating the land for different uses. Don't forget that the laws of unintended consequences are always at play, and our efforts at food pyramids and normalizing plant-based diets has yielded the most medicated populace on earth. When people miss the necessary nutrients which are in animal products, they are more agitated, anxious, and depressed. Are we actually reducing environmental impact if the cost is people hating life while we amass piles of pharmaceutical drugs in our rivers, lakes, and streams?
Lastly, the number one way to reduce consumption is to eliminate a lot of the human populace. Since vegans aren't volunteering en masse for euthanasia, I doubt the depth of their beliefs and am further convinced that it's just a lot of newbs who grappled onto an exciting "new" idea. For those of us who've actually thought about, studied, and lived it to some extent for 30+ years, the novelty and "rightness" wore off a looooonnnnnnngggggg time ago.
Of course, if you eat FRESH high quality food (of any kind), it’s on average going to beat processed low quality garbage. Lying and saying that “plants did it” is inaccurate and just not interesting to most educated people. It's great that some people are just today learning about this subject, a subject which ramped up a hundred and fifty years ago and peaked twenty-five years ago. If they remain in the 5% of lucky people who don't develop major negative metabolic or immunological response, that's great for them. I'm happy for their outrageous lottery-like luck. It's great that young adherents are in the honeymoon phase, not knowing the debate rose and fell a few decades ago. Really, it is cool. Good for them. The excitement they have is quaint and kind of cute - I can remember when I too believed in veganism. Then I grew up and gained three more decades of understanding. And my brain would rather spend effort on something which involves intellect; and that's literally anything other than vegan-proselytizing.