In the last 3 days, on 3 separate occasions (one in print and twice in TV interviews), I’ve heard non-vegans using ‘…but palm oil’ either to denigrate a vegan product, or just generally throw it at vegans with the implication that vegans are hypocritical for using palm oil, when palm oil contributes to deforestation and loss of orang-utan life.
Firstly, we have to acknowledge that palm oil production IS a problem and does cause deforestation and the deaths of the animals of the forest, among them orang-utans. Obviously this is not desirable and nobody would deny that it behoves us all, especially vegans who are mindful of the well-being of all animals, to either make our best attempts to avoid it, or to source products that contain palm oil from an ethical, sustainable supplier.
There are several elements to this.
What non-vegans that throw ‘but palm oil’ in our faces, forget (or just choose to ignore), is the following.
26 million rainforest acres have been cleared for palm oil production*
136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture
Perspective right there! And:
The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops
These are just the stats on rainforest destruction; I haven’t even got the space or time to talk about how much more animal agriculture destroys the rest of the environment than does palm oil.
I feel we can all agree that animal agriculture is responsible for far more animal deaths than palm oil production?
70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide. More than 6 billion animals are killed for food every hour
I totally agree orang-utans are cute AF, but it is not a worse crime to needlessly kill them than it is cows or pigs. All have the same capacity to suffer.
And another fun fact, just to illustrate how ridiculous the ‘but palm oil’ argument is:
82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries
Bottom line; animal agriculture will always be more destructive in terms of environmental damage and animal cruelty and killing than will the palm oil industry.
The other line of ‘reasoning’ the ‘but palm oil’ crowd seem to have is that we, as vegans, are not as damn well perfect as we think we are because we consume products that contain palm oil, so we are hypocrites, and may as well not be vegan.
To this I say:
Many vegans DO avoid palm oil, I know of a couple personally.
Also, as vegans, we are not trying to be perfect, we never were. This is a projection that non-vegans impose on us – I dare say fuelled by a defensiveness they have about not being vegan when on some level they are aware it would be the right thing to do. It’s impossible to be a ‘perfect’ vegan in any case. We can go for a walk and trample bugs underfoot. We use cars that have tires made with animal products; we take planes that use aviation fuel containing animal products. In terms of the environment, we all drain the resources of the planet in some way every day, just by living. All we vegans are trying to do, as far as is practical and practicable, is limit unnecessary cruelty to animals and minimise environmental ruin. The best way to do this to have maximum impact will always be to go vegan. If we make the conscientious decision to avoid palm oil too, well great! And I hope more people do. I need to make greater effort in this direction myself. But we are no less vegan if we don’t, and we are still having the most impactful positive effect on the planet and animals than a non-vegan who just avoids palm oil.
Lol…if you haven’t realised already, I don’t write the sort of blog posts that other wellness types do, i.e. give you a little helpful content and then yell ‘buy my shit.’ I mean, I totally should, being someone who relies on people to buy my shit, but ugh, I can only write about what’s on my mind.
This is what’s on my mind right now:
I heartily applaud those of you who participate in Cubes of Truth, vigils for animals about to be slaughtered, animal rights marches etc etc.
These actions are effective, I know, and this post isn’t meant to throw shade on any of them.
As much as I respect it, I’ve never participated in any action of that sort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always posting vegan advocacy stuff on social media, and continually having conversations where I’m encouraging folks to think about veganism.
I think it’s that I’ve been vegan such a long time – in the beginning there wasn’t as much of that stuff going on, and there wasn’t social media, so even if marches etc were going on, I wouldn’t have had much awareness of them.
But in the last few years, it’s probably more because I’ve become very aware that animal rights and speciesism are not single issue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tackle them in a ‘single issue’ way sometimes – Cubes of Truth, marches etc – of course we should. It’s just that I’ve come to believe very strongly that there is a bigger foundational cause of animals being ‘otherised’ by humans that also needs addressing.
I feel like we should address the cause and not just the symptom, if you will.
It can be argued (and in fact IS by many including Martin Luther King) that the driver of continued racism, sexism and even speciesism – in fact all oppressions – is unfettered capitalism, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is the state we are living in now.
Regarding how capitalism is tied to racism, King argued thus:
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.
“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
Sure, we ended slavery and had the Civil Rights movement. But there are now more people incarcerated in US jails than any other country, most of them brown-skinned (African Americans and Hispanics make up 56% of the prison population), and most of them employed while in prison, by multi-national companies, on VERY low wages – like 4 cents an hour – to do extremely menial jobs.
Where there is profit in exploitation, it will be done. And even if we think we are progressing, by trying to stop child exploitation and slavery – corporations and company owners will just find a different section of society to exploit. Capitalism is an energy that’s entire point is to grow exponentially, and fuck the consequences. A little like cancer I guess.
If MORE profit can be made by exploiting brown people, so be it. If MORE profit can be made exploiting women, so be it. Animals, the same. There is no reformation of capitalism. You can improve an area, maybe make it a little more socially conscious, this is true – but it’s a bit like a pesky air-bubble, that no matter how you try and get rid of it, that insidious energy will just go somewhere else. For example, we ended slavery in America, but that just led to the Jim Crow laws. We ended those, kinda, but now US for-profit prisons (thanks Bill Clinton!) are disproportionately full of black prisoners who didn’t get due justice- see point above.
As for the otherisation and objectification of women? We KNOW that the pornification of society has detrimental effects on both men and women, and only serves to keep some men viewing women as objects for their use – but porn makes scads of money, so no-one cares. Young girls are increasingly expected by their boyfriends to look and behave like porn stars, but who gives a toss? Too much money in porn to rock the boat.
It IS true that people ate animals before capitalism existed. Women and people of colour were otherised too. But capitalism took this to whole new levels – by its very nature it sees everything and everyone as commodities, so where money could be made off the backs of the oppressed, for the oppressors, this naturally happened.
This is an exceedingly complex subject – there are myriad ways in which capitalism has reinforced oppressions (while appearing to improve some things), and a blog post is not going to address all of those.
My point is, a move towards a more socialist society will be a move towards a more vegan one. US readers – whatever you’ve been taught, socialism IS. NOT.THE.SAME.AS.COMMUNISM! It just means prioritising people and not profits. It means caring more about the welfare of people than the welfare of the markets. Out of the vegans I know, most if not all have socialist values. You probably do too, whether you know it or not. You believe in free university tuition? Publicly-owned national services? The regulation of banks so they can’t get too big for their boots and cause another crash like in 2008? Think the rich should pay more tax, the poor less? Free health care for all? Bingo – you have socialist values, and they are nothing to be scared of. Jeremy Corbyn is known to be vegetarian and I’ve heard those that know him say he’s actually vegan. The French politician who is on the socialist left is not yet vegan, but is aware that he should be, is trying his best and talks often about the plight of farm animals.
Thus, I’ve come to believe that in order to most effectively fight for animals (and women and people of colour) and against the forces that enslave and commodify them, then working towards a more socialist society has to make up a large part of our activism.
The neoliberal/neoconservative (they are the same thing – the neoliberals are just a little more polite is all) economic models that we currently have are not gonna cut it, in terms of how we look at the ‘other.’ They both uphold the rabid capitalist narrative. If we want to see a change from the ground up, we have to change the system.
I should be writing commercial posts urging you to buy my services like other good entrepreneurs, but I’m not really one of those. If it’s on my mind – it’s coming out. To YOU, bwahahahahaaa! 🙂
For me, it’s not about loving animals.
It’s not that I don’t love some individual animals, but it’s not why I say I’m vegan. Saying ‘I love animals’ as your reason for being vegan, in my opinion, is not helpful to the greater discourse on why it’s not cool to eat animals.
There are two reasons for this.
It robs animals of their individual differences and makes them sound even more ‘other’ than people see them as already.
It obscures the moral baseline argument, which I believe holds stronger sway than ‘I love animals’ as it doesn’t rely on whether the person you’re talking too also feels they love animals. Lots of people DON’T have a connection to any animals, so the ‘moral baseline’ reasoning is arguably the one that can be best and most universally understood.
What the HELL are you talking about Karen?
Let me explain!
Take any other oppressed group. Choose from, say; women, black people, gay people, Jews etc. Try saying ‘I love (fill in this space with any of the aforementioned oppressed groups).’
Can you hear how dehumanising it sounds? Like you’ve lumped them all together? Just as you wouldn’t say ‘I love men/white people/straight people/non-Jews’ because it sounds ridiculous.
For example, saying something like ‘all women are lovely’ or ‘I love women’ is dehumanising to women and robs them of the fact that they are all made up of the full complement of human characteristics that men are – some good, some bad, some dull, some ugly, some charming etc, and they are ALL DIFFERENT. Women can be as unlovely and unlovable as some men. Because they are just as human. Because they are a living being. To say ‘I love women’ or women are all delicate/sweet/lovely is benevolent sexism and will always be as dehumanising as malevolent sexism.
Similarly, all non-human animals are different. I’m sure you’ve known a cat that was gentle, sweet and loving; and I’m sure you’ve known another that was a complete c**t.
To say all animals are lovely (which I’ve often heard people say) is to deprive them of their individual differences, and the full range of characteristics that any human or non-human animal can have, and does whatever the animal equivalent to dehumanising is, to them (de-animating?)
The reason I wouldn’t have an animal killed for me to eat – even if it was the most bastardly creature on the face of the planet – is the same reason I wouldn’t have another human (even a really nasty one!) killed for me to eat. I believe the moral baseline is that if it is not necessary (i.e. if you are not an obligate carnivore like lions and tigers, and if it is not in self-defence) then you do not kill anyone. Whoever they are.
Why am I bringing up this point? Even if I’m right in what I’m saying, does it really matter?
Yes! I think so.
If you do whatever the animal equivalent is to dehumanising animals, then others (who are in the habit of seeing animals as existing for them to eat), will always see them as lesser beings, and that could always be their justification for continuing to eat them. But the more they see the animal as being the same as them; with the full range of emotions, characteristics, personality traits etc – which we all know animals HAVE – the harder it becomes to harm them, or have them harmed for their consumption.
The short version of that paragraph is – the more you see yourself in the other, the less possible it is to harm them. And if you are going around saying animals are all so sweet and innocent, then even though you think you’re saying something nice, you’re still making them sound ‘other.’ You’re making them sound like they are one homogenous gloop of beings that aren’t as fully-rounded as we are. This is not helpful.
The documentary Earthlings does a great job talking about all the ‘samenesses’ there are between humans and non-human animals, and looks aside (though we can also argue that you get humans that look VERY different from each other) we’re the same as animals in every significant way.
We often argue that animals feel pain in exactly the same way that we do. So to then go and make them sound like they are some kind of benign, docile ‘other,’ in my opinion, does not further the ‘sameness’ discourse.
The more we can get across the message that animals and human animals are pretty damn much the same (the clue is in the fact that we are both animals!!), the more others will realise it is not right to harm them.
To aid this end, I feel rather than trying to advocate for veganism by saying that you ‘love animals’ to people who may not have the same frames of reference as you do (they may not have had pets, or been around animals much); better in the long run to argue the point that animals are not ‘other’ they are pretty much the same as us, and ask them to consider the moral baseline of not having any other living being killed unnecessarily.
There is nothing I love more that debate, so let me know if you disagree. I have a comment section – use it!
This subject keeps coming up again and again in my professional life.
I do feel we are (VERY) slowly but surely getting the message across that we don’t need meat for protein.
But there’s another, very much related, almost AS pervasive myth that seems to be sticking around and is not in any hurry to dissipate. And that is – we need meat for energy.
I am guilty of making the mistake of thinking we are WAY past believing that we need meat for energy. But unlike so many people, I have not been exposed to the whole Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic deal; and I guess it’s true that not everyone has their eyes glued to the peer-reviewed science-filled websites of Dr’s McDougal/Greger/Barnard/Klaper all day! (For those that may not know, independent ‘peer-reviewed’ science is the most objective, credible way of doing science that there is. It is the closest to the truth that you can get). There is precisely NO peer-reviewed science on Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic/any other high-fat, low-carb diet you care to mention that concludes that these diets are healthy long-term.
Of course it didn’t help when ex-vegan bloggers declared very loudly that they’d stopped being vegan because they felt they ‘needed’ meat, and that when they took their first bite of meat they felt like the energy was flowing back into their bodies again.
I can’t comment on what may or may not have happened to make them feel unwell on a vegan diet – there could be lots of potential reasons; just as there could be lots of potential reasons for someone feeling unwell on a meat and dairy-centric diet. But, I can say that it is NOT the meat that gave them their energy back.
Optimal energy comes mainly from carbohydrates.
Meat contains little in the way of carbohydrates. If you used meat for carbohydrates, you’d have to eat SO much of it to get the carbs your body needed it really wouldn’t be healthy in terms of the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol you’d also be consuming (not to mention hormones and antibiotics).
So which carbohydrates specifically should energy come from?
Any tubers, root veg and starchy veg (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes of all description)
I implore you to memorise this list if you suffer from fatigue; the dreaded 11 or 3 o’clock slump; or just generally feel you don’t have enough energy.
These are the foods you should look to for your everyday energy. Not meat or any animal protein. Not even nuts, or fruit and veg.
Just to be clear; nuts and seeds contain little carbohydrate, and you’d have to eat a ton to get any decent levels – which would mean you’d be consuming way too much fat.
And fruit and veg, although they contain more carbohydrates than the previous items mentioned, it’s still too small an amount per calorie to give you substantial fuel for the day – unless you eat a bucket of them – but who really wants do that?
If anything, many people report meat making them feel lethargic and ‘weighed down,’ not full of energy. But thanks to paleo et al, carbophobia is an epidemic right now of proportions it is hard to comprehend. Lots of us seem to have lost the innate knowledge that previous civilisations held – that it is grains, cereals, beans and starchy veg that give us fuel.
In case you were wondering; whole carbohydrates will not make you put on weight. They are FULL of fibre, and will fill you up before you can overeat.
Meat, on the other hand, does not fill you up and contains zero fibre. If you are concerned at all about weight – it’s the meat you should be ditching.
The reality is that we should all be clamouring for whole carbs to power us optimally through our busy lives.
I’m really not into the phenomenon of ‘fur shaming.’
Fur shaming often takes the form of animal activists waiting for a celebrity known to wear fur (9 times out of 10 this is a female) at an ‘appearance’ type of event, then yelling in her face about wearing fur while holding up graphic images and/or throwing flour or some other messy crap all over her.
Just writing that made me feel yucky.
Am I against animal fur being worn as clothing? Hell yes.
Do I think we should speak out against animal fur and skins being worn as clothing? Hell yes.
Am I a fan of any of the celebrities this has happened to, is that what’s sparking my outrage? Hell no.
Do I think there’s a much more intelligent (and more effective) way of educating about the cruelty inherent in the fur industry? Heeellll yes!
The thing that made me sad was a Facebook post I saw recently where someone had been a part of one such ‘fur shaming’ event. Underneath this post were comments like ‘dumb bitch, she deserved it,’ ‘what a fur hag,’ ‘fur hags always deserve what they get’ etc.
I felt sick.
What is the term for men who wear fur by the way? Don’t some male hip-hop artists and rappers wear fur? Is it more terrible if women do it?
Of course I am able to conjure up pictures of animals being skinned alive for their fur, I’ve seen Earthlings and The Ghost In Our Machine. I want this barbaric shit to stop instantly.
But how does being aggressive and sexist help educate on speciesism?
It’s like the PETA campaigns when they objectify one group of beings (women), to attempt to teach us not to objectify another group of beings (animals).
This may work for some people, but I feel there are way more effective ways of educating about this.
And has anyone noticed that there’s a glut of men on social media who have clearly learned to identify their privilege over animals and have therefore become vegan – but have no idea about their privilege over women, which manifests in their sexist language? I wonder if they didn’t learn about veganism from PETA and all the naked women campaigns?
We need to combat all oppressions and put the spotlight on all privilege.
Using terms like bitch and hag, which are so gendered and so ugly (‘hag’ as far as I can make out means a woman who is no longer sexually attractive to the patriarchy, yet STILL deigns to have a few opinions, and is therefore hated) just perpetuates and re-normalises the use of sexist language. And we know that the language around an entity informs our ideas and behaviours towards that entity. So using these terms is, like, the least clever thing you can do if you are of the opinion that women are humans too.
Hate isn’t single issue. And it’s possible to live in a state of raising awareness of all of it and trying to combat all forms of it. You don’t have to fight speciesism at the expense of women.
My other point on this is:
Leather is just as cruel as fur. In Earthlings, we see cows in the leather industry being skinned alive. Why don’t activists flour bomb male celebrities for wearing leather shoes and jackets?
My other point (that I just thought of!) is:
Would you walk into a restaurant and yell at someone eating chicken? Would you walk into a McDonalds and scream into the faces of the people eating their egg Mcmuffins? After all, the chickens will have been strung upside down and dipped in scalding water, lots of them while alive. And the eggs will have come from an industry where baby male chicks are ground up alive. Is the cruelty in the chicken and egg industries worse than in the fur industry? How the hell do you quantify that?
So why not walk into these restaurants, surprise the women (only the women of course) eating their chicken and eggs by yelling in their faces, then afterwards brag about it on social media using terms like #eggslut or #chickenbitch ?
If you want to protest fur-farming intelligently, what CAN you do?
The only thing that has EVER worked effectively is informing and educating people peacefully.
The more we share information about how cruel fur is, the less ‘cool’ it will be. The more people that think it’s not cool; the less likely celebrities are to wear it. So advocating at grass-roots level is a great place to start. Host a stand at a vegan or animal-related festival. Write letters to relevant publications explaining what goes on in the fur industry. Write blog posts (for your own website or to send to others) about fur-farming. Protest (peacefully) outside fur shops. There’s a ton of different ways we can inform on this subject without being an arse.
If you must contact a celebrity directly, tweet them with a link to Earthlings or The Ghosts In Our Machine, or with a pithy comment that may give them pause for thought (you never know!) You want to make them think, not make them hate you. If someone hates you they won’t listen to you.
Whatever you do, just please PLEASE refrain from yelling at women, then bragging about it on social media using terms like furhag and bitch.
There are too many levels on which this behaviour is problematic, not to mention ineffective.
The bulls must be completely free of shit right now because it seems it has all been dumped this week.
Actually some of the BS that I’m about to address was from last week, but whatever.
Remember the fiasco that was the BBC programme ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets,’ in which veganism was, in a very transparent agenda, smooshed together with eating disorders, clean-eating and just general food faddiness in order to make it look a little crazy?
This time, ‘clean eating’ was the subject of the BBC documentary programme ‘Horizon’ (a long-running British television series that covers science and philosophy).
I belong to a Facebook group called London Vegans. A few weeks ago someone from the BBC posted, asking for people to talk to them about their eating habits for a new show they were making about ‘clean eating.’
Myself and others chased them off, saying that if it was anything like the last shitshow, to forget it.
I believe it was for this very programme they were looking for content – and knowing what I know now – we were utterly justified in giving them short shrift.
I heard that this programme was on last week, but didn’t have any interest in watching it.
A (non-vegan) friend told me it was quite interesting and that she’d liked the doctor who wrote the book about China.
Hang on a minute, I thought. Dr T Colin Campbell? They interviewed him? Maybe the BBC had done a complete 180 on their previous anti-vegan agenda and bothered their arses to talk to actual experienced doctors in the plant-based field? Miracles can happen, can’t they?
Then a couple of days ago, this article appeared on Dr Campbell’s website.
Then today, Dr Caldwell Essylstyn released this one.
Dr Campbell and Dr Esselstyn are both extremely disappointed at how their segments were used, and at the fact that important information and interviews were seemingly purposely omitted.
Alarmingly, they realised it was because the guy who made the programme (Dr Giles Yeo) was promoting the goals of a pharmaceutical company, and therefore had a definite agenda to make plant-based diets appear to not be as optimal for health as we know they are.
I strongly advocate advising those people you know that are interested in being vegan, to NEVER get their information from the television. And in this day and age they really don’t need to. Reputable books and websites suffice.
These sources of health advice are independent, and their only agenda is to make you well and wise:
Books: The China Study (Dr T Colin Campbell); How Not To Die (Dr Michael Greger; Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Dr Caldwell Esselstyn); The Starch Solution (Dr John McDougall)
Documentaries: Forks Over Knives; Food Choices; Cowspiracy; Plant Pure Nation
Veganism and plant-based nutrition are the subjects I usually stick to giving professional advice on. But if I could give any other advice, and if anyone would listen, it would be this: THROW AWAY YOUR TELEVISION SETS.
I did this a few years back and it was the best thing I ever did.
Thankfully there is plenty of good, independent alternative media out there to inform and enlighten us.
The OTHER piece of BS that had me fuming was in HuffPost UK. It said vegan women had a higher risk of having premature babies.
The whole premise of this was that women who are low in vitamin B12 risk delivering prematurely.
What they don’t say is that vitamin B12 deficiency ISN’T JUST A VEGAN THING – plenty of omnis are B12 deficient. And no vegan ever need be deficient in B12 as there are these handy things available everywhere called supplements. I don’t know this for sure but I would be happy to wager that fewer vegans are deficient in B12 than omnis, as vegans learn from the beginning that they have to supplement. Omnis always just assume they’re getting plenty when this isn’t always the case.
If you think you know someone who may have been influenced by this piece (as you can bet it will have been widely shared and quoted by omnis happy to believe bad things about veganism), then Julianna Hever’s response post is here. Make sure to share this with them.
Please media, no more bullcrap this week, I can’t take it.
I know you already know this; but there are lots of Judgey McJudgeypants in the world.
I’m sure you’ve come up against some already, what with living amongst, like, people and shit.
Surprise! We have some Judgey McJudgeypants in the vegan community too!
They are in every space. No community gets away without having its fair share of Judgey McJudgeypants.
This particular vegan brand may think less of you if you don’t transition to vegan quick enough, for example; or if you appear to care too much about the health aspect or the environmental impacts of going vegan and don’t talk enough about the ethics.
They may think you should walk around wearing T-shirts with slaughterhouse images on, or that your every waking moment should be spent raising awareness of animal cruelty.
They may think you’re not vegan enough if you still have leather or wool products that you bought before you were vegan, but don’t want to throw away until they wear out because that would be wasteful.
Look – you can be judged for any darn thing you do in life, so –
PLEASE don’t let a judgey vegan put you off going or staying vegan!
You’ve gotta do you. Who else can you do?
If you need to transition slowly, that’s great! If you do it at YOUR pace you’re more likely to succeed.
If you’re not the sort of person that feels they can push slaughterhouse videos in front of other people’s faces every waking minute – don’t!! Once you get comfortable and confident with your lifestyle shift and feel you might want to share all the positive aspects of it with the wider world, there are a TON of different ways you can do this, and lots that would be a good fit for you.
If, right now, your concern is to better your health, lose weight or improve a specific health issue – fine! Focus on that right now (but I must warn you – you may find you’ve experienced a consciousness shift at some point in the future that connects you to the ethical side of veganism :))
I can give you a list of people as long as my arm who started out being plant-based in order to achieve better health and fitness, then a way down the line had a total expansion of consciousness where they saw animal agriculture for the horror it is; saw how blind society is to it, and started using the word ‘vegan’ proudly (me included!)
I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but I’ve heard enough stories of this happening to not judge or interfere when someone tells me they are going vegan primarily for health reasons. I just think to myself ‘mmmkay,’ and smile because I know the universe probably has other ideas for them.
And even if this doesn’t happen? Well, the world needs more healthy people, not more sick people. Healthy people use less resources.
The world also needs more people concerned with the environment, not fewer. And a healthier, cleaner planet helps animals too, so….
And seriously, why would it be so important to someone who is probably a stranger WHY you are no longer harming animals, as long as you AREN’T?
Equally, If your concern is ONLY about the ethics of a vegan lifestyle; if you are not interested in health and wellness and you want to eat vegan junk food all day, then much as it pains me to say it (being a nutritionist and always wanting to get all up in people’s faces about being healthy) – this is your business and your business only, too!
(Though please do try and substitute whole grains for white refined grains. Aaaaargh! I can’t help myself, it’s stronger than me! 🙂 )
When you make the decision to go vegan, do it YOUR way.
It’s a brilliant idea to join vegan communities, both in real life and online, and you will find great support and fellowship in this.
I am confident that you will gain so much more from a vegan community than the annoyance you may get from the odd judgey vegan – so I highly recommend you join one.
But, if anyone starts to make you feel that you’re not doing it right, or that you’re not vegan enough, or that your reasons and motivations aren’t as pure as theirs, I don’t know how to put this any other way than – SCREW THEM!
If someone persists in saying things that feel critical rather than helpful (don’t worry, your instinct will tell you which of these was their intent); then put boundaries between yourself and that person.
Look, you are going (or have gone) vegan. THIS IS AMAAAAAZING!!!!!
Keep an open mind; keep reading, talking, learning, listening (to those that are genuinely helpful), sharing information etc, and you’ll get to be exactly who and where you need to be.
A while back I posted responses to some of the comments and questions that vegans get; part 1 is here, part 2 here.
I was a little, shall we say, sarcastic with some of the responses back then because as a long time vegan, it can be hard hearing (or these days, reading on social media) the same silly things over and over again while the planet is deteriorating due to animal agriculture; and both non-human and human animals are needlessly dying – the non-human through our brutalising of them, and the human through heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes complications that occur through eating the non-human animals.
There are a few I didn’t cover back then, so I’ll tackle them now, and I’ll try and be kinder. Maybe.
1. But what if you found yourself on a desert island with a cow, and absolutely NO vegetation around and no chance of getting rescued. Would you eat the cow?
Answer: Probably. But that isn’t happening right now, so I’ll just continue to eat the abundance of plant food available to me and leave the animal products – which only HARM my body and the planet – well alone.
2. But if we didn’t eat cows, the world would be overrun with them.
Answer: No. Truly no. We would simply stop breeding them for food if nobody ate them.
3. Cont…But if we stopped breeding cows for food and milk, then there would be no more cows. I mean nobody would keep them as pets, so they would effectively become extinct.
Answer: Cows becoming extinct is preferable to them being bred to lead a miserable life in which they are raped, having their offspring instantly taken from them, only living a quarter of their natural lifespan and meeting an untimely, brutal (and in many, MANY cases) long, drawn-out death.
Besides, there are many species that have gone extinct that you never heard of. Did you cry over these?
4. But God said we have to eat meat.
Answer: To you? Personally? No, God didn’t. At least not in any religious text I know of. There are proscriptions for IF we eat meat, but that is not the same thing. In the three Abrahamic religious texts, for every verse you give me that you believe means it’s ok to eat meat, there are verses that suggest that meat-eating is against the spirit of the text as a whole. I wrote about religious texts and vegetarianism here if you are interested.
5. But I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now if I went vegan.
Answer: As long as you eat enough calories and enough nutrients (which you should be concerned with if you are omni, too) you will thrive. In general, vegans get less sick than non-vegans, with both serious diseases, and minor ones.
6. But I wouldn’t know what to eat on a day-to-day basis.
Answer: Do you have access to Google? Can you type ‘vegan meal ideas’ into the search facility? There you go.
You can do one of two things. Both are great. You can eat EXACTLY as you eat now, but with the vegan versions of everything, or, discover a whole new world of vibrant, colourful foods from all around the world that are vegan by default, and discover how to make them yourself. You’ll have fun while learning, and very soon have a whole repertoire of go-to meals you can draw from each day.
7. But I don’t like vegan food.
Answer: You don’t like bananas? Apples? Sweet potato fries? Olives? Sweetcorn? Hummous? Popcorn? This list can go on for miles.
8. But eating too many vegetable foods makes me gassy.
Answer: Gross! I mean…If this happens (and assuming you don’t have medical issues with your stomach) then it’s just because your body isn’t sufficiently acquainted with fibre. The more vegetable matter you eat (veggies, beans, wholegrains etc), the more your body acclimates to digesting fibre and the fewer problems you will have with gas. Your body is INTENDED to eat fibre, so get chomping on those beans!
The presenter talks about the upsurge in ‘clean eating’ blogs and personalities – some of whom I referred to in this post, and explores their correlation with an increase in orthorexia (orthorexia is a state of worrying about eating the ‘right’ things to the point that it impinges on quality of life).
There is a legitimate argument to be had here. No-one is denying this. But it becomes very clear, just a few short minutes into the show, that its main aims are to discredit veganism, and eating healthily.
There is no difference made in this programme between veganism, and those who are purely eating more plant-based for health reasons. In fact, some of the blogs mentioned aren’t even plant-based, espousing bone broth, eggs and ‘happy meat’ as they do.
How they can be lumped in with veganism when veganism is at core based on ethics and social justice is some lousy-ass journalism on the part of the researchers of this programme.
It happened continually throughout, however. The agenda was practically waving at you.
The presenter decides to try…well…I’m not sure whether she decides to try veganism, clean-eating, a plant-based diet or what.
At one point she pulled everything unhealthy out of her fridge, then whined that there was no ‘joy’ left in there.
The thing is, her fridge was full of crap. There was barely one unprocessed thing in that entire space. If her fridge had been full of fresh produce, great bread, yummy leftovers from the dinner she made the night before, cool dairy alternatives and homemade treats, that fridge would’ve still been full.
She then went to a branch of one of the most expensive health food shops in London (one at which, in 27 years as a vegan, I have NEVER purchased anything), pointed at a bag of £5 kale chips, and declared healthy eating to be expensive and for the middle classes.
Uh…I shop mainly at Asda. Since when did beans and rice cost more than meat and dairy???
A dietician is interviewed and leads us to believe that it’s unwise to cut out dairy as you’ll forgo a good source of calcium.
This in fact, is the science on dairy; and this page gives you lots of great plant-based calcium sources. Both these pages are run by doctors. If I know where to get this information as a humble nutritionist – why the hell doesn’t this dietician?
Talking of which, online nutritionists are of course disparaged. It’s pointed out that some of these bloggers became a nutritionist with online courses of just 20 hours.
The presenter then enrols in a course that costs just £29. Of COURSE this is a BS course. Twenty-nine pounds??? I only wish I’d found one that cheap when I did mine! This doesn’t mean all nutrition courses are BS.
And sure there are bad nutritionists; but there are bad doctors; bad lawyers; bad teachers etc, all of whom have studied for years. I’ve personally suffered the consequences of a string of bad doctors. I certainly suffered bad teachers. And bad dentists? How long ya got?
At some point near the beginning of the programme, a sentence that mixes veganism, plant-based eating and clean eating all together says that these diets are not based on science.
Why weren’t the plant-based doctors interviewed? Dr’s Greger, McDougall, Barnard, Klaper, Campbell etc. These guys would have told a totally different side.
No actual plant-based expert was interviewed at all. There was no balance or fair reporting on the health benefits of a whole food, vegan diet.
Nothing is mentioned of the fact that the prime way to stop all forms of environmental degradation is mass adoption of a plant-based diet. You’d think they’d stick this in somewhere wouldn’t ya?
The conclusion to this shambolic shit-fest came from a dietician who bleated, as you might expect, ‘…eat a little bit of what you fancy; eat in moderation; eat food that looks like food.’
How fuzzy and ambiguous is this advice? People fancy all sorts of unhealthy foods all the time. We know that moderation kills (I wrote about moderation here); and bacon looks like food to lots of people, yet it can do this.
A staff member at an eating disorder clinic said it was dangerous to cut out food groups, but never mentioned which ones! We know it’s actually optimal for health to avoid animal products and replace them with whole foods, but the positive side of eliminating certain foods was never mentioned.
I don’t even know which part of this programme was the most bullshizzy. Whoever in the BBC let this tripe go out must be absolutely TERRIFIED of vegans.
All I can say is this effort was manipulative, misleading, misrepresentative, biased, unbalanced, and seemingly went out of its way to be deliberately confusing.
Also, as Dr John McDougall says, people LOVE to hear good news about their bad habits, so I can imagine lots of people rubbing their hands together with glee after this programme aired.
It just worries me that because it’s the BBC, some people WILL believe this garbage to have credence.
Let’s not forget. The BBC is publicly funded, so they want to keep their funders happy. Most of the public are not vegan. The BBC possibly figures that making vegans look wacky, extreme and unhinged will make the general public feel warm and fuzzy and better about NOT being vegan. They will then have positive associations with the BBC and keep funding it willingly.
As someone who doesn’t tolerate sexism or anti-vegan propaganda, I fell out of love with the BBC ages ago having witnessed both from them often. But it worries me that because it is widely believed that the BBC are trustworthy when it comes to presenting information, some people will suck this shit up.
I’m extremely proud to declare that not one single penny of mine funded this excuse for a programme.
I don’t care if it’s the BBC, NPR, PBS or whatever other ‘well-meaning,’ ‘educational,’ ‘impartial,’ channel. Always question; look for the peer-reviewed science, and do your own research.
Dr T Colin Campbell in his book ‘Whole’ talks about how PBS (a reputable American channel known as being educational and impartial) didn’t end up interviewing him about his findings on diet and cancer despite showing initial interest, because they probably realised how unpopular his views would be and didn’t want to risk a funding backlash.
It would seem that no mainstream media outlet, however supposedly ‘respectable,’ is immune to this.
There was an article in The Times recently about how the ‘clean eating’ blogs and websites (there are a couple of big ones in the UK – I’m sure the US has its own fair share) have fed into eating disorders, and only served to encourage those that suffer from them to stress even more over the food they eat. It suggested that they play into ‘orthorexia’; a condition where you become so obsessed with eating ‘right’ that it impinges on your quality of life.
I guess I can see how this might happen.
What really irked me about the article however is that it didn’t seem to be too concerned about mentioning veganism in the same breath as the ‘clean-eating’ phenomenon, thereby associating it with the harmful effects that these blogs can have.
You need to know that these blogs have ZERO to do with being vegan. In some cases the ‘diets’ espoused aren’t even 100% plant-based.
Veganism is about not exploiting animals for our use; and in broader terms it’s a foundation for exposing all oppressions, about guardianship of the planet, and giving our bodies what they need and not what they don’t so that we have the energy, will, and spirit to do this.
These ‘clean-eating’ blogs seem to be about looking cool AF while slurping on a smoothie full of ingredients from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes (hello? What happened to shopping locally?)
You also need to know that the foods these blogs showcase are not the only path to great health.
My thoughts were very conflicted when these fancy, high-end ‘clean eating’ food blogs forced their way across my radar a few years ago.
My VERY first thoughts on discovering Deliciously Ella (famous UK ‘clean eating’ blogger), quite honestly, were jealous ones that I’m not proud of.
How does a 23 year old afford a house with a kitchen like THAT??? How does she afford a fancy website like that?? How does she have the time to compose those pictures and write text and recipes every day??
When I found out it was because she was born rich, that didn’t help my jealousy any.
But then I got over myself and thought about it some more.
My next thoughts were in fact about how positive it could be if lots of people were introduced to plant-based eating this way.
As I said, these websites are all about health and style. They are not about ethics, or about the impact of diet on the environment.
But MY initial main motivation for eating plant-based was health, which eventually grew into something much bigger and all-encompassing.
If I grew to embrace veganism and all it entails through seeking health, surely it could happen to others this way?
Upon further exploration of these websites, I became disheartened. Far too many of the recipes contained ingredients that I knew to be expensive, hard for lots of people to find, and questionable in terms of whether they really deliver benefits in proportion to the price they cost.
If you have the money to afford chia, baobab and cacao by the bucket load, then good for you.
However, veganism and plant-based eating are ALREADY erroneously perceived as being expensive and elitist by many people looking for an excuse to never try it.
These ‘clean-eating’ blogs only reinforce this perception.
I explored the reasons why veganism isn’t elitist here.
I also wrote an article for Mind Body Green with 8 tips on how to eat vegan inexpensively, find it here.
Health does not = smoothies with exclusive ingredients in a vintage mason jar on a photogenic piece of distressed wood.
The much less glamourous (but also less expensive, YAY!) route to health is this:
Eat your wholegrains. Lots of ’em.
Potatoes too, both sweet and regular.
Root veg like carrots and beets rule for their bright colours and the nutrients they bring.
Beans and lentils may not sound sexy, but they are where amazing energy is at.
Don’t forget your leafy greens of all persuasions, your nuts and seeds, and fruits of all varieties.
Add all the herbs and spices and condiments the earth offers and you not only have the wherewithal to eat deliciously for the rest of your life, but a great foundation for your best health ever.
I’m interested to know, what do YOU think of these websites? Please let me know in the comments!