Why I’m Not A Vegan

vegetable garden

Oh, there are too many reasons to go into them all here. The one I want to explore today, though, isn’t about health or wellness or tradition. It’s about life. It’s about the undeniable truth that all life comes from death. Many turn to veganism in an attempt to “do no harm.” A lovely, poetic, beautiful idea. Those who embrace it through veganism want their life to be from that which is freely given; they don’t want to know, deep down, that their own place in this world came at the cost of another sacred life.

Yet it does. All life does. Let’s begin by looking at the root of all life — the soil.

Wendell Berry, in his essay “Two Economies” writes:

For, although any soil sample can be reduced to its inert quantities, a handful of the real thing has life in it; it is full of living creatures. And if we try to describe the behavior of that life we will see that it is doing something that, if we are not careful, we will call “unearthly”: It is making life out of death. Not so very long ago, had we known about it what we know now, we would probably have called it “miraculous.” In a time when death is looked upon with almost universal enmity, it is hard to believe that the land we live on and the lives we live are the gifts of death. Yet that is so and it is the topsoil that makes it so.

You see, soil is — first and foremost — alive. It is not just dirt or dust. It is teeming with thousands upon thousands of tiny creatures. Indeed, one tablespoon of soil contains millions of tiny organisms hailing from thousands of different species of animal. And that living soil feeds on death. It takes death and from it feeds the fruits and vegetables in your garden, the grasses that feed your cow, the bugs that feed your laying hens. It takes death and makes life. It is the Resurrection written into the tiniest, yet arguably most essential, detail of our daily existence.

life giving soil

Lierre Keith confronted this when, as a vegetarian, she’d started her own garden. She shares the story in her compassionate and poignant book, The Vegetarian Myth:

“Feed the soil, not the plant,” was the first commandment of organic growing. I had to feed the soil because it was alive.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium — NPK — is the Triple Goddess of gardeners, the Troika of elements that rule plant growth. What did soil and plants eat and where would I get those substances? I hadn’t learned the phrase “closed-loop system,” but that was what I was after. Nitrogen was the big one. There are plants that fix nitrogen. Wasn’t that enough for my garden? Couldn’t it be? I begged. But I was begging a million living creatures who had organized themselves into mutual dependence millions of years ago. They had no use for my ethical anguish. No nitrogen-fixing plant could make up for all the nutrients I was taking out. The soil wanted manure. Worse, it wanted the inconceivable: blood and bones.

There were other sources of nitrogen I could have applied. Right now, fossil fuel provides the nitrogen to grow crops the world over. Synthetic fertilizer is what created the green revolution, with its 250 percent increase in crops. Besides the fact that nothing made from fossil fuels is sustainable—we can’t grow fossil fuel and it doesn’t reproduce itself—synthetic fertilizers eventually destroy the soil.

So synthetic nitrogen was out. And that left me facing animal products. Of course, the irony is that either source of nitrogen, synthetic or organic, comes from animals. Oil and gas are what’s left of the dinosaurs. So my choices—our choices, actually—were nitrogen from dead reptiles or from living ruminants.

My garden wanted to eat animals, even if I didn’t.

baby goat

She then goes on to share how she compromised, using goat manure as her source of nitrogen and justifying it to herself as a way to “not waste” all that manure that was just piled up and not going to be used otherwise. But with phosphorous and potassium, she reached a turning point. These aren’t as easy to come by. Bone meal, blood, and ash are the most sustainable, natural ways to acquire these nutrients for the soil. By then, she’d almost given up hope that her garden, the place where she was supposed to be nurturing life, would be a place of freely-given fruits & vegetables that “did no harm” and cost no life.

Her story continues:

There were finer points, all of them sharp and hungry, that I learned about growing fruit. I didn’t have fruit trees yet, but they were part of the mythic farm that waited in my mist-shrouded future. Calcium is always a limiting factor in the soil. When the calcium is gone, growth stops. And again, the calcium would come from … Would I finish the sentence with an organic box from the feed store, laden with embodied energy and slaughterhouse dust? Or would I learn the grammar of my great-grandparents, and feed the trees with the bones of animals that lived beside me? Would there be any solace in this information? I found one small comfort in The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips. He quotes a book called The Apple Culturist from 1871, recounting the story of an apple tree near the graves of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, and his wife Mary Sayles. The roots of the tree were found to have grown into the graves and assumed the shape of human skeletons while “the graves [were] emptied of every particle of human dust. Not a trace of anything was left.”

This story eased my mind, because the tree ate the humans. < snip...>

But I couldn’t listen to that apple tree, speaking in slow, slow sign with its skeleton roots, saying: you are the exact shape of my hunger. Our animal bones, our human blood; we belong here too, if we’re willing to accept our place. We are eaten as well as eaters, raw materials for the endless feast. That would have been the solace: a place at the table. We aren’t above, just one among many beings embraced by carbon that one day will let go.

But I had to accept death before I could take my place.

flowering grass

Have you accepted death?

I have. Monastics the world over teach simple truths. Embrace death. Don’t be a martyr; don’t seek it out. But do know that your death is inevitable and you are like the grasses growing in the fields, flowering and fading. Here today. Gone tomorrow.

And yet your death is not the end, it is merely part in a never-ending cycle. Your blood. Your ashes. Your bones. These feed the soil, too.

And so I think on these things when I garden.

Yes there’s the sun, the quiet time, the discoveries, the fruit of my labor. But there’s also this — this reminder that we are all part of a circle of death and life. We can not escape death. It is part of every bite of food we eat, whether we are vegans or not.

Are you eager to have your own metaphysical thoughts about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

You could do as I’ve done and start a garden. It’s never too late. I’ve even got listings on my Shopping Guide page for gardening supplies, seeds, and more to help make your transition easier.


(photos by, in order from top to bottom: timpeartrice, JerseyRed, HeyThereSpaceman, & Tambako)

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Comments

  1. says

    This was so beautifully and honestly written, thank you. I think by now the whole food blogging world knows why I’m not a vegan. It was a heartbreaking decision but one that I had to make to save my health. After only a few months of eating meat I was well again, clear evidence in my mind that there are people who just cannot thrive on a vegan diet.

    Unfortunately, people did not accept my decision and I was barraged with death threats against me and my family, several of my online accounts were hacked, and people ran background checks on me and my family and my web host to try to prove that I was being paid by the meat industry to denounce veganism. It has been more than 6 months since my announcement and I am harassed and attacked on a weekly basis. But, those emails are outweighed by the hundreds I receive from people just like me, who tried and tried but could not sustain health on a vegan diet.

    Life really does rely on death, whether you are an omnivore or a vegan. We have to accept that, do what is best for ourselves, the planet, and ultimately the animals.

    Thank you for this!

    • KristenM says

      You’re welcome. I remember when you “came out” and the maelstrom of mean-spirited remarks sent your way. What a shame!

    • says

      Let me get this straight-people that won’t eat any animal product because they don’t want to harm or use the animal are “OK” with issuing death threats against another human being because she decided animal products were necesarry for her health?? I know the world is crazy, but we’ve got to get priorities straight, where human life is the most valuable. Not that we should ever abuse an animal, but people are always more important!

        • liam bradfield says

          John, you are wrong, Primal diet is sustained by hunting and gathering. Eating animal products uses profligate amounts of grain, and water which comes from developing countries whcich leads to the starvation of humans a species you claim to care so much about. WAKE UP!!!

            • David says

              Grassfed local doesn’t work on a large scale. Millions of acres of rainforest are being destroyed in order to make room for cattle ranches in parts of the world where grass-fed beef is the norm.

              It takes several acres for each cow to have enough grass to graze on. To feed the world’s growing population, it just doesn’t work. Wake up!

              • Bill says

                Works fine when the land used is the land best left for grazing animals and when the meat derived therefrom fits within the overall ecological paradigm of the local regions in which grazing animals have always been a part.

                Fact is, animal husbandry is the closest we can come to reproducing the hunter/gatherer niche humans evolved to initially occupy.

                Farming and living off of crops grown from tilled soil has thrown the whole natural order out of whack.

                That’s my biggest complaint with vegans/vegetarians; they want to ignore the natural order of the cycle of life for their own selfish culinary whims while in denial of the fact that most of the fruits and vegetables they rely on for their quirky diets come from half way around the world. Quinoa from Peru? Basmiti rice from India? Tomatoes from Mexico? The diet of wealthy vegetarians.

                And for the fish eaters: http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/festival/play/5917/Empty-Oceans-Empty-Nets

                Wake up indeed.

      • natasha says

        thank you very much because i find that the vegetarians and vegans tend to do threats against the people who eat animals. they say that they are much more healthier then us and that they are better then us and so much more that are rude to us

    • Dennis Gedye says

      Really sorry to hear the virulent reaction you got, but it reinforces my belief that at least some vegans are fanatics. It’s a bit like the reaction you’d get if you were a former homosexual gone straight!
      Regards Dennis

    • Ashton says

      “It was a heartbreaking decision but one that I had to make to save my health.”

      You are an idiot. Meat causes heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.

      • FF says

        Classy Ashton! You truly are a vegan light upon the nations!

        While I may adhere to a “plant-based” diet I refuse to self-identify (publicly or otherwise) as vegan. I just run into way too many people who choose to use their “veganism” as an excuse for intolerance, prejudice and in some cases, hatred of others. I’m not suggesting that this is the case with all vegans but (at least here in LA) there is no shortage of vegans who do act this way.

        Frankly it just doesn’t make sense to me that people can act this way, when what they claim they want, is to create a more caring world.

        As far as I can tell comments like Ashton’s don’t do much other than foster a sense of superiority, among a group of self-selected people. More importantly (and unfortunately) this behavior damages the positive message vegans are trying to communicate with the broader community.

        Dear Ashton, if stupid is as stupid does than maybe you are the idiot. Just a thought.

        Be well.

        And yes I know that I’m late to the comment party for this post. What can I say, just found the article.

      • Kat Posell says

        Ashton, you’re the idiot. All recent research shows that sugar is the main contributor to heart disease and pretty much all others. The old studies that linked meat with heart disease have been debunked over and over. Also, the recent studies that claim to show red meat causes disease, actually have small amounts of fresh red meat in the diet. They’re full of things like processed meat and pizza (mostly grains), and lots of other foods where the main ingredient is grain or sugar. Shelve your ideology and do some research before you attack anyone else with your stupidness.

    • says

      People seriously thought you were being paid by the meat industry? I gotta read your blog.

      I was a vegan for a few years, did the math, ate the nutrients I needed, then got sick, lost 1/3rd of my body weight (went from 100lbs down to 66, it was horrible). Then I started bleeding from my eyes and ears and mouth and nose. My hair started to fall out, got this weird ascending neuropathy, then passed out and didn’t wake up for three days. Turns out I nearly killed myself being a vegan. So yeah, you’re right, some people just can’t thrive on the diet. I’m proof of that.

  2. says

    Very enlightening post. I hope vegans and vegetarians who are unsure about their lifestyle take a hard look at this. I hope they will consider to start making changes and realize the truth.

    I read an article a bit ago that said 75% of vegetarians start eating meat within an average of 9 years. Most do it for health reasons.

    One can not thrive without animal product. We never have and never will. It’s a fact that Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient. It is also a fact that animals are the only source.

    Kind of like how plants eat the death of animal products in order to thrive and become abundant in nutrition.

    • KristenM says

      Well, this is only one argument of many which supports why I’m happily an omnivore. Health and the need for at least SOME animal foods gets you into a whole other ballpark of material to work with. And really, this post isn’t about igniting a flame war. It’s about my musings when I contemplate the soil and how we feed it so it will feed us.

      • says

        Interesting take you have here Kristen. I can see and appreciate your perspective but think several would have a differing opinion about the ethics behind their decision. Thanks for sharing.

    • poizenivy@gmail.com says

      Vitamin B12 exists in soil, our bodies actually make vitamin B12 although scientist are not sure if we can use it. There are plenty of vitamin b12 supplements out there that are vegan. When it comes to other vitamins and minerals, vegan food has a much higher concentration then animal products or vegan foods contain those nutrients in forms that our body is better able to digest. Plenty of primate species are strictly herbivores, there is no reason to believe that our diet is lacking if we don’t consume animal products.

      • says

        But the fact still is that vegans need to supplement – and many who don’t are severely B-vitamin deficient. And children that don’t get enough B12, vitamin D, and amino acids (all found in animal fats and proteins), do not develop proper immune systems and growth patterns. In areas where I work in the developing world, it would be completely unrealistic to tell families who live in sub-saharan africa who survive on meat, milk, eggs, and sorghum, that they should be vegetarians and take supplements every day.

        Primates ARE herbivores, and so are ruminants (cows). But man is not a primate, nor do we have the digestive system of a ruminant. And the reason human beings are not primates is because we have larger brains and stand upright. These evolutionary changes happened 2 billions years ago when apelike australopithecines began to eat meat and evolved into bigger brained, larger jawed habilines. And when they discovered fire and were able to cook meat which released the amino acids, they evolved into homo erectus. That is who we are today, and that is how are bodies were designed.

        • Rachel says

          That is bang-on Stephanie. I always try to explain this to people in the vegan-meat eating debate. If they really think veganism is the “truth and the life” then they should do some thinking as to where we would be as a species without animal products!

          • SW says

            Should also point out that the majority of those “veggie meat” products are made from soy, and 92% of the soy in the U.S. is GMO. I’ve completely given up soy. I think it’s more important to eat real food (meat) than food modified in a laboratory. Completely non-GMO chicken is hard to come by, but wild fish/shellfish, grass-fed beef, those are fantastic.

        • Callie says

          A few points of note: I’m not entirely certain that Australopithecines ‘evolved into’ Homo habilis, but there’s evidence that they shared a common ancestor, according to the Smithsonian Institution:

          http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils/species/human-family-tree

          I was taught that A. afarensis and A. africanus were vegetarian. Additionally, A. afarensis‘s history goes back 3-2 million years, not 2 billion. You’re looking back to when eukaryotic organisms were just starting to flourish.

          If memory serves, the most recent common ancestor between man and chimpanzee was approx. 7 mya.

          Also, while I’m thinking about it, don’t forget that P. boisei had a monstrous jaw, and is suspected to be mostly a vegetarian species.

          (Just a note from a Bio student that studied this pretty intensely last quarter. ;) Otherwise, I have no disagreement with you.)

          • John says

            And just to simplify that (and clarify the earlier statement) we ARE part of the Primate order in case anyone is confused by stephanie’s post.

        • John says

          Yeah, you are correct we are genetically designed to eat meat, fruits, vegetables, herbs etc and actually we are not well designed to eat grains. Grains actually are BAD for you health.

        • Jess says

          Homo sapiens actually ARE primates. However, we are part of the Great Ape classification of primates, all of which consume meat to meet their nutritional requirements at least occasionally. In addition, eating meat, especially cooking meat is an element of what helped us evolve into larger-brained mammals, not just because of amino acids, which can be found in other foods, but because of the reduction of energy expense devoted to the gut and redirected to the brain, as cooked food is much easier to digest. So while there are a couple inaccuracies in your argument, I agree with your main point. Our bodies are engineered to process meat.

          • Yvette says

            So how did meat help us to grow bigger brains if we need bigger brains to use tools and cook? Other than eating insects, we need tools to hunt and eat game, as we do not have claws or shearing teeth. We need to cook because we don’t have enough acid in our stomachs to deal with the bacteria.

            I believe we are adapted to eat meat in a crisis, but we are not designed to eat it as a staple.

      • says

        While primates do indeed eat a lot of plant matter, they are absolutely not vegetarian. They hunt and kill, and they eat insects and other small creatures.

      • Westy says

        “Neither fungi, plants nor animals are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis, although many foods are a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis.”

        Just thought I would put that out there…

    • Barb says

      Wait, Toad… some of us do okay without meat. And for years. Now, I am NOT a vegan. I am lacto-ovo vegetarian. In other words I eat dairy and eggs.
      And have been this way for 23 years.
      I’m quite healthy – and honestly, for MY body, this was the right choice.
      But that’s me. I don’t disparage those who choose to eat meat. I don’t disparage those who go completely Vegan.
      My body doesn’t like meat – it makes me really sick. My mouth likes it just fine… but it’s not worth the, ummm, “end” result. I get really ill for several weeks.
      I use leather, feed my pets meat – their bodies need it – and “consume” animal products in other ways.
      My original choice to go meatless had to do with the pollution and misuse of resources I saw with raising animals for meat. The higher up the food chain you eat, the more energy was used to “make” your meal. I just wanted to be a bit gentler on the earth in THAT way and not take up more resources than necessary to fuel MY body.
      Simple.
      But it’s my choice for me.
      My husband eats meat. My daughter eats meat. And I prepare it for them…
      This is simply my choice for me, and it happens to work for my body.

    • urban says

      Listen Toad, I think part of the point of this post is that blanket, one size fits all statements DO NOT indeed fit everyone.

      Saying that one cannot thrive without animal products is asinine. Some can, some cannot. I’m a gluten free vegan marathon runner. I’m not broken, not B12 deficient, don’t kill animals for food or fertilizer, and I’ve happily eschewed animal products in my diet for 23 years.

      Try not to be an ass, you won’t get flamed as often.

    • liam bradfield says

      Not enlightening, just telling you what you already want to hear. If corpse munchers didn’t effect the planet, voiceless animals and cause humans to starve in developing nations I would say eat up, shot blod and tumor, get most of your colon removed so you can have the short intestinal tract of a real omen!

  3. Suzana Megles says

    I wrote an in depth comment and lost it because I forgot to put in my name. I wrote and asked if you were a wise vegan or did you indulge in too much pasta, meat analogues, soy ice cream, etc. – missing out on green and orange veggies and fruits.

    When I became an ethical vegetarian in the 80’s I thought- wow I can eat all the cheese, ice cream, pasta and cookies I want. Wrong! Those were all poor choices which should have been small adjuncts to a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. Now as an ethical vegan, I eat an assortment of veggies and fruits though sometimes I buy meat analogues and soy cheese. But my emphasis is now on whole foods.

    At 80 I can lift up a 25-pound bag of bird seed or cat litter. I can paint my porch steps as I did yesterday. I take care of a dog, 7 cats, and a bunny. How many meat-eating 80 years old you know can do this? But most of all, I am grateful that no suffering food animal makes its way to my dinner plate. Thank you God for all the blessings I have received from my compassionate lifestyle. If you ordained seed and grains for us originally in the Garden of Eden – then certainly this was a healthy lifestyle for man.

    • KristenM says

      Suzana — I have never been a vegan or a vegetarian. The closest I get to it is through the religious fasting I sometimes do as a part of my Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Yet even in our strictest of fasts, we are not entirely vegan. We still eat seafood that doesn’t have a backbone — so clams, oysters, scallops, shrimp, lobster, crab, etc. are all eaten.

      Perhaps you meant to question Lierre Kieth? One of the authors I quoted in the post?

      • suzana Megles says

        Kristen, I am a Byzantine Catholic. Sadly, we don’t observe Meat fare and Cheese Fare as you do as well as the Greek Orthodox I believe and for that you are to be congratulated. Of course, as a vegan, I observe Meat Fare and Cheese Fare -day in an day out – so it is not penetential for me. It is a great privilege and a joy. I also attend the Latin Church each morning for liturgy. I am so saddened by the lack of compassionate teaching for animals from the Catholic hierarchy and I even wrote 360 bishops in this regard in 2001. Fourteen responded. I don’t look to the church for compassionate teaching. I look to St. Francis and to my heart for it. There are all kinds of excuses why we should eat meat. Thank God, I don’t buy any of them and there are lovely people like Angel Finn who recently wrote why we should be vegan on Care2.
        You probably can find her on the internet if interested. She and another at this site gave this old lady a green star for my comment. I laughed because as a former teacher way back when – the kids always loved a star for their papers- any color at all! When it comes to compassion, this lifestyle can’t be beat. If you told me as did my family in the 80’s that I would be jeopardizing my health – it wouldn’t have changed a thing. There are certain virtues that I treasure above all others and among them -near the very tippy top is compassion.

        • Char L says

          The vegan claim of compassion falls to the ground with a thud when one reads the countless stories like the one above, where a horde of virulent, sanctimonious vegans attacked, harassed and even threated DEATH to someone who had the unmitigated gall to criticize veganism.

          Beautifully written, Kristen. Leirre Keith’s book is one of my favorite of all time, and I recommend it to everyone I meet. It covers every aspect of why vegetarianism is wrong for almost everyone and for Mother Earth. I have yet to meet a vegan who would actually read it, however.

          • says

            I have met a vegan who read it, hated it, disagreed with her and learned nothing from it. It baffles me how he could learn nothing from it. I am not a vegetarian but read it and thought it was a marvelous book. I think maybe he was turned off by her politics, which are kind of radical.

            • Weeona says

              Perhaps he hated it due to her complete lack of scientific vigor or actual documented research? Could be possible. The book is a joke amongst anyone who understands science, proper research and citation. Make your points about vegetarianism but BACK THEM UP with proper facts, not buried citations and Wikipedia entries as resources.

              Also, been vegan for 8 years. 4 years veg before that. I run ultramarathons, don’t really take any supplements and my blood work is impeccable. I have well over 2 dozen vegan friends, many of whom are also athletes in some way or another. All of us are doing just fine. :) I will not I know very few health vegans. Most of my friends are animal rights vegans and that means we eat differently than the very strict health nut vegans.

              Too often the folks who don’t do well with veganism are either a) cutting out too much stuff (ie: very very very low fat, absolutely no processed stuff, etc.) and/or b) significantly undereating, calorically. It’s not veganism, per se, it’s that their diet is not dense enough in calories or some macros. Folks who do it for health seem to fall into this trap more often, in my experience. Some might very well do better as non-vegans, but no one does great on a diet that is incredibly low calorie and too low in vital macronutrients. It makes you tired, sick and prone to injury.

              • Yvette says

                Thank you, Weeona!
                I agree with you that “failed” veganism is the result of a too limited diet, too denatured, too few calories, too few micro and macro nutrients. I mean, potato chips are vegan, yes? ;)

                Though I have not let go of eggs yet, I eat no meat or dairy. I am split between health and animal rights on that. My body feels lighter and cleaner when I eat plants. I smell good, have fabulous skin, healthy hair. My blood pressure dropped significantly when I stopped eating meat, my digestion is better. And seriously, folks, drive by a CAFO and tell me that concentrating all that waste is good for anyone or anything.

          • liam bradfield says

            Leirre Keith’s book is riddled with error. She has no idea of how saturated fats work and basic organic chemistry. Her sources are questionable. You may like what she says because it is telling what you want to hear but it does not have a rigorous scientific basis. Leirre Keith also by her own admission (audio tape) claims “that when she was a vegan she binged on eggs and dairy any chance she could get” . So she really was not a vegan. Also look at her.She looks pinched ,grey, and frail, not a picture of health, She looks very stiff . She needs to get back to a plant based diet, take some yoga classes and exercise and perhaps some basic arithmetic and chemistry classes at a community college.

        • Rachel says

          The compassion argument also falls when looking at the big picture. Veganism is not a sustainable choice and is not reasonable for growing children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. Compassion has in to include this Earth and the humans living on it — not just the animals. Besides, there are compassionate ways to keep and kill animals. We’re not in Eden anymore Dorothy.

          • Missy says

            The ADA says vegan diets are healthy for all life stages, including pregnancy and lactation. I should know, I am a lactating vegan mom.

            It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods. This article reviews the current data related to key nutrients for vegetarians including protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods can provide useful amounts of important nutrients. An evidence-based review showed that vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate in pregnancy and result in positive maternal and infant health outcomes. The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Features of a vegetarian diet that may reduce risk of chronic disease include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals. The variability of dietary practices among vegetarians makes individual assessment of dietary adequacy essential. In addition to assessing dietary adequacy, food and nutrition professionals can also play key roles in educating vegetarians about sources of specific nutrients, food purchase and preparation, and dietary modifications to meet their needs.

            http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357

        • liam bradfield says

          As a Christian I agree with your sentiments. Mainline Protestants, evangelicals and Catholics have little regard for animal welfare. I don’t know much about the Eastern rite or Byzantine branches of Christianity. The 7th Adventists seem to have the most regard for animal compassion of the Christians groups that I know. I would love to see the revival of a vegan Judeo -Christianity with an empasis on animal compassion and proper environmental stewardship.

    • says

      Suzana, I’m glad veganism has worked for you, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume your food choices have made you healthier. My 92 year old grandma can do the same things and eats plenty of meat.

      • Char L says

        As did my grandparents, who lived healthily long into their 80’s and 90’s, and ate animal protein and fats every day of their lives.

        • says

          As did my grandparents who lived well into their 90s. In fact, I have met few people over 80 across the world (especially in the developing world) that didn’t eat meat. Suzana, you sound like a very healthy person and probably had good nutrition throughout your life that allowed you to develop a good constitution and strong immune system. That may have not been so had you been raised vegetarian. I work with communities of people whose children die every day from lack of animal sourced protein. The ones who live are severely stunted and have developmental problems. The suggestion that children should be raised vegetarian or vegan is untested and has no scientific basis (there has never been a purely vegan civilization or culture to observe). At this point, it is still entirely ideological.

          • Micah says

            Wait…. people still think that we NEED animal protein to survive?? I can’t believe that with all of the science available, this myth still exists. A protein deficiency is only seen in overall malnutrition, it is not seen in vegetarians or vegans.

  4. says

    Brilliant observation of the “blood-less diet” and how even the soil wants animal foods. Totally brilliant.

    Ultimately, for me, it has always boiled down to the fact that veganism is not sustainable. If one cannot acquire all the nutrients one needs while following a certain diet using only naturally existing sources(i.e. vegans and B12) it is unrealistic and unsustainable. If you need big pharma to provide you with ESSENTIAL nutrients, you’re a slave.

    I was at the health food store and I saw on the cover of a magazine that the famous vegan Alcia Silverstone just had a baby. I hope she ate better during pregnancy and plans to eat better or at a minimum supplement if she breastfeeds. I didn’t read it, but might Google her and see.

    • KristenM says

      I love the way Lierre Keith puts things. She’s a true wordsmith. She can make a point I’ve heard many, many times before (like about how the soil wants animal foods, too), but when she says it I take notice.

    • says

      I read that Alicia Silverstone credits her vegan diet with a healthy and easy pregnancy, and plans to breastfeed exclusively and then on weaning, raise the baby entirely vegan. It will be interesting to see how this child turns out. I wouldn’t personally risk it, knowing what I know about our nutritional needs.

      I loved Lierre Keith’s book, too. I reviewed it for Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation. The review is here if it interests anyone:

      http://www.westonaprice.org/thumbs-up-book-reviews/1669-vegetarian-myth

    • SW says

      WELL said Melissa, that’s brilliant in it’s simplicity. I want to eat my vitamins, not be a slave to pills just to meet my daily requirements for healthy survival.

    • liam bradfield says

      Melissa , WRONG!!!I have been eating a plant based diet for years with out supplements. I bike 8 miles a day, have a 31″ waist, 5′ 11″ 167 lbs. 117/ 76, blood pressure. seldom sick. I can send photos or if you live in California challenge you to a physical strenght and endurance test.

    • David says

      You’re implying that B12 supplements are somehow less sustainable than meat. This is far from true.

      Half a pound of beef has roughly 6 mcg of B12, which is the recommended daily intake.

      One B12 tablet has 1000 mcg of B12 – over 100 times more!

      Your body won’t absorb it all in one sitting, but you can always just take a tiny nibble off a tablet each day.

      It’s pretty much impossible to nibble small enough, but you can easily make one tablet last a week.

      In that case, you’d go through 52 tablets per year, roughly one bottle.

      The other option is to go through 182 pounds of beef (or similar meat) per year.

      Both options satisfy your B12 needs.

      Think about all the land, fuel, and water it takes to produce either option. Or think about the monetary cost. It’s pretty obvious a small bottle of supplements has a lower footprint than 182 pounds of meat.

      Yes, meat has more than just B12. However, the same amount of protein and calories in the meat could be obtained from peas and rice at a fraction of the environmental footprint. Lower on the food chain is more efficient.

      Vitamin B12 is a bacterial product, not an animal product. In meat, it comes from the bacteria in the animal’s gut. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. What matters is our environmental footprint.

  5. says

    Brilliant post. It is often hard for people to accept, when I give diet and nutrition talks, that you cannot be “organic” and “vegan.” The two things are literally mutually exclusive.

    IMHO, there is no such thing as “ethical veganism,” because it’s all a matter of where the death happens and how close it is to home, not if the death happens. Unless you live completely off the grid as a hermit, there’s no way to avoid causing harm to animals. Some of it is just easier to ignore. Crops grown in monoculture, which is what almost all vegans rely on, kill many animals both directly and indirectly–there is simply no way to avoid it. Those pesticides? Yeah, those are tested on animals. That petroleum fertilizer? Also tested on animals, and the runoff kills wildlife in and near our watersheds. Shipping does the same thing, but it’s just not as in-your-face as a slaughterhouse. It’s also important for people to understand that an environment that could keep everyone vegan using monoculture and large scale farms harms the environment hugely, which also ultimately harms animals as much as humans. Our energy sources also harm animals: wind power kills birds, oil spills decimate aquatic life, and natural gas fracking does all kinds of horrible things. Building a homes and businesses displaces the animals that lived there, often causing death.

    For me, and this is a hugely unpopular viewpoint, veganism if often just deciding to what it’s okay to turn a blind eye.

    • Kitty says

      I couldn’t agree more Shawn. I don’t even know if it’s so much as turning a blind eye, as it is people covering their ears, closing their eyes & singing “la la la la la” really loud so they don’t hear the thousands of nesting & migrating waterfowl that get slaughtered every time an organic rice field is harvested… or the highly inhumane, gruesome way wildlife is “kept out” of those fields of organic greens & lettuces. How many baby Black Swallowtail Butterflies are carelessly murdered when a grower is harvesting a field of dill, parsley, carrots, celery, etc?

      Me? I’m a strict omnivore who has a mad penchant for pork, rare beef, and tomatoes:))

      I’m with you & Kristen on this.

    • says

      Well said! This is an issue that’s gone round and round in my head and there have always been the two problems – veganism is not sustainable without supplementation, and even if you want to grow your own food, you are relying on dead animal material to feed the soil so you can grow your food.

      Death is inevitable. We should put the focus more on making our food more sustainable as a whole, instead of bickering about which type of diet is morally superior.

      We’d all be better off if there was no more CAFO meat.

    • liam bradfield says

      You cause more harm to more animals and to other humans by eating meat and dairy. It is NOT sustainable for a world of 7 billion people to eat animal foods. There may be advances like “Vat meat” or cloned meat that will have to be necessary once water shortages become critical! It is frustrating how badly reasoned carnvist arguments generally are! Pure and simple you want to eat meat and dairy, you somehow want to feel etgical about it but get real , Just admit your selfish desires are more important than the welfare of the planet, the animals, and other humans!
      WAKE UP!!!!!Use your God given reason and get over your childish , selfish attachments.
      PS Soil can be nourished by the natural process of death and decay of animals , Thet doesn’t mean we have to raise and slaughter them to have this cyle.

      • sheepgal says

        My one comment to all vegans that think that they do not kill. Have you ever heard the carrot scream as it is pulled from the soil? No of course not, but it is also living and breathing, eats and drinks, just not the way us humans do. I’ll bet their fellow carrots heard it scream!

        • Alex says

          Oh, haha! You know that YOU kill carrots too by eating animals who fed on carrots, right?

          Just throwing it out there that I will be the first person to eat rocks when science comes up with a way to process them and make them edible.

          I want people who say “You kill things too!” to know that you sound like little brats…(“she started it!” “But he did it too!!!!”….really, is that how you want to communicate with each other?)

          Yes, we DO kill things, it’s a sad fact that you literally can’t make a step without killing something, let alone live.
          But it is a difference between killing one soy plant (don’t tell me about GMOs, don’t care) for your vegibruger and killing 100 soyplants and one cow for your “normal” burger. It’s not about negating negative impact (which, as previously stated, is impossible) but about LESSENING it.
          The logic you apply here just doesn’t work and is merely used to calm your conscience (because it knows that what you’re doing is bad)
          It’s the same logic that makes comments like “It’s a personal choice!” come forth.
          Because as we all know (or should know), no, it’s not. A personal choice is a choice that affects the person who makes it and that person alone, hence PERSONAL. It stops being a personal choice when there are other sentient beings involved (more accurately their death)

      • James says

        Sorry, Liam, but that’s…. well… just not true.

        The *only* sustainable way to feed 7 billion–and growing–people is with an omnivorous diet.

        You should look up info on permaculture.

        And for animals’ place in permaculture, check out Allan Savory’s TED talk.

  6. says

    I am an ex-vegan. This a new point of view I hadn’t even thought of! Thank you for sharing. Balance is everything. And it’s important to me to live the way God intended us to. He apparently knew what he was doing. ;-)

    • Kristen says

      As a Christian and a vegan, I have to doubt that God intended death in the world- of humans or of animals, who obviously share in a sort of life that plants do not. In Eden, there was no death. Why would God want us to slaughter now?

      • Jill says

        since you are a Christian you must know that it was God who instituted death as the punishment for Adam’s sin. Adam chose death when he disobeyed God. God told Noah to start eating meat after the flood. Christ came as a substitution to die for us so that we don’t have to have the punishment of death but can have everlasting life with him. So this world is not our home…and it is not Eden. Our eternity with God is.

      • liam bradfield says

        Kristen, EXACTLY!!!!Meat eating has been provisional in the Bible, after the flood god let Noah eat carrion that washed up, after a fast God let Peter eat “unclean animals” (more of a metaphor about the law. But Christians should want to return to the innocence of Adam and Eve BEFORE the fall, It says clearly in Genesis that we are to eat seeds , nuts, fruit, and plants! God designed us to be herbivores

  7. wendy c says

    Thank you for such an informative article! Would it work to grind up soft bones after making broth from them to put in the garden?

    • Kitty says

      I dry all my bones from soup/broth, and then use a tamper on concrete patio to pulverize them. Right into the compost they go after that! They also make for really good fires, dry bones burn clean and long, and the ashes make great soil amendments too!

  8. Dana Seilhan via Facebook says

    Dunno about her, but my decision that I would never be vegan again (I was very briefly in 2005, with disastrous results) came when I realized I’m a poor converter of beta carotene. My daughter and I both suffered problems related to insufficient vitamin A, and now I’m pretty much militant against the preaching of veganism as a superior diet.

    Incidentally I’ve since learned that we’re poor converters of *all* the plant-based fat-soluble vitamin precursors. D2, K1, as well as the carotenes. How well we convert is an individual thing, but on the whole, our bodies like the preformed versions a LOT better.

    • KristenM says

      Dana, I’d say that more than half the population is in the same boat as you. In the very least, all children and the elderly are. Add to that those average-aged adults who have a poor time converting the plant-based fat-soluble vitamin precursors (roughly 30%, according to most estimates), and suddenly you’ve got a HUGE amount of people who really can NOT be vegan without facing dramatic nutritional deficiencies. So, in the very least, when it comes to arguing about veganism from a nutritional standpoint, vegans should acknowledge that veganism can not suit everyone (or even most people, for most of their lives).

      • Alex says

        What???
        There are many children and elders who live perfectly well on a plant based diet! Don’t make such unsubstantiated claims!

  9. Dana Seilhan via Facebook says

    oh and, excellent post! It occurred to me a long time ago that if nothing ever died, we would not have soil at all!

  10. Danielle says

    I think most vegans know that it’s impossible to live your life without doing any harm to other living beings, but it’s still important we try our best to minimize it. Knowing that your life cannot be one of perfect compassion does not mean you can throw your hands in the air and just not care any more. The soil may need nitrogen, but that should not be received as license to eat the tortured flesh of animals raised in factory farming or to feel any better about destroying the planet by supporting animal agriculture.

    • KristenM says

      Rest assured, I feel no such license. I advocate sustainable, natural, humane animal husbandry that actually benefits the environment more than it detracts from it While simultaneously nurturing human health and fertility. So, in this regard at least, it seems we agree.

      • Danielle says

        I feel like this article would like to assert that killing animals, either to eat them or to add their parts to the soil, is more ethical than not killing animals but I don’t see the reasoning.

          • liam bradfield says

            The Vegetarian Myth is riddled with inacccuracy so read it critically. Also L Keith was never really vegan she in her words”binged on eggs and dairy any chance she could get.The dairy is probably what degenerated her spine. She wasn’t born with a strong constitution Also watch a video of her . She looks pinched, frail, brittle, and dull grey. NOT a picture of health. Keith needs to do yoga , weight bearing exercise, eat plants, and also take some basic science and nutrition courses before proposing any ideas about a healthy diet. She looks SICK and very UN HEALTHY!

      • says

        “Rest assured, I feel no such license. I advocate sustainable, natural, humane animal husbandry that actually benefits the environment more than it detracts from it While simultaneously nurturing human health and fertility. So, in this regard at least, it seems we agree.”

        This, entirely.

  11. Kerry Vee via Facebook says

    perfectly encapsulates what I’ve been droning on and on about and never quite distilling down to such a perfect statement. Thank you.

  12. Rachel says

    This article presents a beautiful sentiment: that beings die in a peaceful way, giving back to the soil and earth so life can spring forth. I can understand the author’s point. Unfortunately it does not match up with the reality of how the meat in our country is produced.

    I choose not to eat meat because the way animals are raised in this country is not sustainable for our planet, nor it is healthy for our bodies. Not to mention, the treatment of this animals before they are slaughtered is cruel and very far from honoring the gifts they give to the earth.

    Everyone must eat in a way that honors their values and nourishes their body. Everyone is unique. But we cannot pretend the animals are raised in a natural, humane way, on an some sort of idyllic farm. This is not the reality.

    Here’s a recent article from CNN that sums up a few important facts about raising animals for meat and eggs:

    http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/07/08/55-how-animals-are-raised-for-food/

    In addition, here’s a great film that lays out the connection between meat and dairy consumption to the development of most degenerative diseases: http://www.forksoverknives.com/

    I don’t want to try to disagree with anyone’s values. I just want to share some knowledge I have gained that has shifted the way I view things. Maybe it will resonate with someone else or maybe not… :-)

    • KristenM says

      Well, you won’t hear any praise of factory farming or the rest of industrialized food production ever coming from me, or on this site. So, your point, while good, isn’t particularly relevant. There are other choices on the spectrum between veganism and industrial food, choices that are good for the environment, human health, AND animal welfare.

      • says

        Also, it’s worth repeating that industrialized agriculture for plant foods is pretty awful, too–the amount of chemicals washing down from our pesticides and herbicides kills entire ecosystems of animals. GMO corn and soy, which is most of what is grown in the US, is also being linked to all kinds of interesting things like BT toxins found in babies (http://www.gmwatch.org/component/content/article/13174). True veganism specifically says no manure, and something has to feed the soil, so what is used are largely petroleum-based fertilizers. The list of bad farming practices goes on and on for factory farming of vegetables. There’s also a lot of very good science that says animal fats are actually very good for you (at least as much science as says it’s bad), but that many of the antibiotics and other chemicals used dairy and meat are bad (just as many pesticides and herbicides used in factory farming are). Produce farm workers, often illegal immigrants with no rights, are often treated no better than the animals on factory farms, and many die each year from heat stroke and toxins (there’s a union that is trying to form to get fair treatment, btw).

        The point isn’t that plant-based foods are bad, obviously, but that factory farming is a problem overall, whether it be animal or vegetable, and there’s a middle ground of good land stewardship, sustainable farming without such harmful chemicals, and humane treatment. Different lifestyles work for different people, and we all have our own moral imperatives. But, there’s a middle ground for vegans, paleos, and omnivores: stop attacking each other, and start working together to reform our food system from factory farming to something more sustainable and humane all around, for both animals and people.

        • Denise says

          It’s also worth mentioning that the majority of GMO corn and soy are fed to factory farmed livestock and not to people.

        • Sara says

          So. Much. This. Well said Chef Shawn and Kristin M. The labels aren’t what’s important – quality, sustainability and cooperation with the environment is the key to better health. Not just for OUR bodies but for our planet and all of it’s inhabitants.

      • Rachel says

        I can see that the site promotes avoiding factory-farmed raised meats, but even the terms “free-range” and “humane” meat are very questionable and subjective. Granted, even if I knew exactly where my meat came from and how the animal was raised I probably would still not eat it. It does not sit right with me. I realize that that is not the case for everyone.

        My fear is that people will use argument that it is “nature’s way” that animals die for our food without further investigating where and how the animals where raised/treated.

        But I see your point that you support people educating themselves about their food.

        • says

          People use all kinds of poor excuses for bad lifestyles, from smoking to spousal abuse to approving GMO foods despite hard evidence of environmental, animal, and human damage. The most we, who are educated and keep up with research, can do is to put the information out there in a way that can be understood, and to encourage more people to actually look at the choices they make. Which, incidentally, is one of the reasons I love FoodRenegade!

    • liam bradfield says

      Rachel, I agree with you. However not only is every human unique , every animal is unique which is a reason to honor these unique beings by not slaughtering them. An annoying human conceit is that we are some how a special animal. “I have type O blood so I have to eat Paleo ” etc. is really just a rationalization, Every Cow is a unique soul , being , every dog and cat are unique beings, but animal has a basic diet, Dogs a re carnivores , cows are herbivores etc. Humans, like apes are designed to be herbivores, long intestines, weak stomach acid, we sweat(not pant) jaws that move laterally etc. The idea that there are some special humans that have to eat meat is vain and foolish.

  13. Don says

    Kristen,
    I must echo the words of those folks who’ve said ‘brilliant’ and also thank you for your article. You delve into things that everyone should think about regarding the basis of their lives – food.

    I thought about very similar topics when some vegetarian friends decided to take issue with my long-standing practice of deer hunting (my main source of animal protien). I came to the conclusion that life is predicated on consuming other things that are, or were, alive; hunting means I must take personal responsibility for at least some of the life which I take to sustain me.

    Growing one’s own veggies does a bit of that too. Kudos to you, Seeds of Change, Seed Savers Exchange, farmers and gardeners everywhere for taking on some of that responsibility for themselves (and others), and having fun doing it!

    Thank you again for your superb article.

    With very best regards,
    Don

  14. chris says

    Excellent post. I think being vegan and vegetarian are excellent diet choices, as long as you openly look at and accept their ethical limitations — neither make you “pure.” They may, if done right, reduce some of your culpability in suffering and waste, but nothing, short of suicide, can remove the fact that your existence is dependent on death and, in many ways, the suffering of others. This is the buddhist law of karma and dukkha, and (as a lapsed catholic), what I think is meant by “original sin” — we can never be perfect, and merely by living, we bear some guilt. Accepting that, while seeking to mitigate it, is what ethical living (and eating) is about, not reaching some state of moral purity.

    I love your statement in your comment above: “There are other choices on the spectrum between veganism and industrial food, choices that are good for the environment, human health, AND animal welfare.” Much of my problem with fellow vegetarians (I largely count myself in that camp) and vegans is this bright-line belief that one MUST be fully one or the other. Few people ONLY buy local or ONLY buy sustainable, yet are allowed to count themselves “locavores” or promoting sustainable business, but if one is not ONLY a vegan, other vegans think you are an evil apostate — a 95% vegetarian doesn’t count, for some reason.

    For 7 years, I was a strict vegetarian, but for many of the reasons you outlined, as well as out of a desire to experience culturally important regional food, I stopped being “strict.” I’m still 90% vegetarian, and largely vegan at that, but no longer see it as a dichotomy, a choice of “either/or.”

    Excellent, thought provoking post. Thanks.

  15. Elisabeth says

    Cool. I’m currently working through what it means to kill. I recently participated in the slaughter of the chickens that are now stocking my freezer. I did so because I wanted to process, up close, how this experience affected me, what questions it raised in my heart and mind, and what revelations it might lead me to. It’s an ongoing search; I haven’t made conclusions yet. I appreciate your post as a helpful influence on my thoughts.

    • Michael says

      I enjoyed the article, and I am a vegetarian and have been so for over 10 years. What stops me from eating meat is how distant I had to be from the killing process in order to be able to stomach consuming animals. I don’t have the constitution to kill an animal and therefore don’t believe I have the right to eat its flesh.

      I admire people like Elizabeth and Don (who left comments on your article) who are able to confront the realities of killing animals for food and if I ever decided to eat meat again, I think I would have to do the same.

      I don’t believe in trying to “convert” people to be a vegetarian. I know it’s a personal choice and not everyone feels the way that I do about the ethics of eating meat and the need to justify its consumption. I don’t think anyone needs to explain their diet choice, but I’m glad you did.

      • Cellvia says

        +1

        “I don’t have the constitution to kill an animal and therefore don’t believe I have the right to eat its flesh.”

        As I like to say, If you cant kill it, you shouldnt eat it.

        And may I ask how meat-eaters feel about cannibalism? This also is a sad fact of nature (and was performed by some of our ancestors) …do you practice this as well?

        And after all humans are animals too, are we not?

        • Alex says

          well said:)

          I’d like to see how things turned out if a law was passed that you’re only allowed to eat what you can kill/process/get yourself.
          There would be a whole lot of vegetarians/vegans all of a sudden. And all the pople claiming to need meat and animal products (I know that it CAN be a problem, but many people just use it as an excuse)

          And with “can kill” I don’t mean if they can do it strength-wise or if they find an animal to kill but actually just if they can stomach it. I know about 95% of the omnivores I know couldn’t.

  16. says

    Awsome!! Puts so many of my thoughts into words. The cycle of nature is to be revered. I told my family that,when it is my “time” I wish to be creamated and scattered back into my beloved nature.

  17. says

    I’ve been trying to figure out a way to write a post with this kind of title for months. You’ve done a beautiful job on this one. I need to get back to Lierre’s book because it was amazing to read. It’s like seeing my half-complete thoughts taken to their full conclusion.

  18. Casey Rosenthal says

    Your post is very poetic and I wish more people would consider the implications of their decisions in the philosophical light that you embrace here. Your primary point seems to be that vegans can’t accept death. I am sure that varies with the individual, but I feel the need to point out that minimizing death and suffering is an act, not a state of mind, and it is a virtuous act. The opposite of that is not denial, which is a state of mind, but violence. Violence is what you are doing when you kill an animal. Violence is what you are doing when you pay someone else to kill an animal for you. I understand that putting the word ‘humane’ in front of slaughter might make you feel like you have accepted a deep truth, but the truth for the animal that you have killed is quite different, and any ‘truth’ that varies so greatly from one being to another is just a point of view.

    Accepting death is a state of mind that helps you come to terms with something that is permanent, because it is in the past. That is all well and good. Accepting that you are a violent person, and that you will continue to support violence in the future, tacitly or with weapons blazing, that is another issue entirely. Life is hard, and it is much more difficult to accept that you are complicit in suffering here on Earth than it is to say “it is what it is.” We all participate in violence to some degree. That is an inevitable element of the human condition; but your choice to participate in an act of violence is not inevitable, it is entirely up to you. I hope you find the strength to accept responsibility for the suffering that you participate in, and then perhaps you will find a motivation to reduce that suffering.

    I would love to read a post written here in the same style some time from now that demonstrates the strength of character that we so seldom see in public but always admire when we do witness it: the strength to accept responsibility for our participation in a flawed system, turn our ship around, and actively make the world a little less violent.

    • KristenM says

      I guess I differ from you in that I do no see violence as inherently bad or evil. It is neither bad nor good. Violent storms can be both beautiful and frightening. And, from a religious perspective, I believe that God often transforms violence so that even if harm is intended by the perpetrator of the violence (as with Christ’s crucifixion on the cross, or Joseph’s being sold by his brothers), God can intend that violence for good, for redemption. I do not have a problem accepting my violent acts if I can see the redemption in them (such as food and health and a spiritual feast for my family) and receive their outcome with gratitude.

      • Casey Rosenthal says

        That is an interesting response. I appreciate that you receive the outcome with gratitude.

        Of course, we mean something different when we speak of the violence of a storm, because there is no volition behind it. [Zeus retired long ago.]

        I will just point out that you have again shirked responsibility for the violence that you perpetrate, killing an animal or paying someone else to kill it, by passing it off to something like your god’s will or master plan. This is a perfectly valid morality, if that is what you believe. White people used the same rationality to perpetrate violence against black people in this country for centuries. Men used the same rationality to perpetrate violence against women for most of recorded history, and still do in many places around the world. It is perfectly consistent with that line of thinking to kill with gratitude, as you stated, and perhaps that long tradition in American thinking, of accepting death and embracing violence, should be respected.

        Personally, I hope that you find a new morality. One that takes responsibility for your decisions to perpetrate violence or not, and one that leaves the world a little less violent as a result. That is the path, and the only path, to Peace.

        • KristenM says

          I do not pretend to know what God’s will is or isn’t — only that he always wills for the Best and is in the business of redemption. Doing this does not shirk my responsibility for my actions. For just as much as I believe in a good and all-powerful God, I also believe in human sin. What you’re describing is essentially the Problem of Evil (i.e., How can a Good God let Bad Things happen? He is either not so powerful or not so good.) And while I have an answer for that which suits me just fine, I think I’ll refrain because we’re getting slightly off topic here. I don’t ever intend for my blog to be a vehicle of religious debate or prostelization.

          I only brought God into the equation to try to give an example of how not all violence (even volitional violence) is bad. Since you do not embrace the same God, apparently, it seems that was not a sufficient example for you. But there are other such examples in the natural world — like any predatory mother feeding its young by killing prey.

          • says

            “— like any predatory mother feeding its young by killing prey.”

            Perhaps CR thinks those animals should stop eating meat too?

          • Casey Rosenthal says

            “A predatory mother feeding its young…” — this equates the morality of humans to that of animal instinct. It is an interesting comparison, but it goes against every consideration of ‘morality’ that I can think of.

            My point [and the point of the Christian bible as well, but that is off-subject, as you say] is that humans can *choose* to be better people by eschewing violence. *Choice* requires accepting responsibility for repercussions of one’s actions, which other animals cannot do. It is one of the very, very few things that separates ‘us’ from ‘them’.

            It isn’t a question of veganism whether or not the soil is “omnivorous.” Anyone can accept death. The question of veganism is whether or not you, as a thinking, moralizing animal, *chooses* to add to the violence in the world by killing or paying someone else to kill for you.

            It seems to me that you have not come to terms with the fact that the violence that you participate in is entirely optional. Other posts on this page seem to think that there is a ‘B12 issue’ that makes veganism unnatural. Vegans throughout history (and there have been billions) use to get B12 from microbes in dirt. Clean food is the only reason vegans supplement B12 today. Vegan supplemented B12 comes from algae, btw, not an animal source.

            According to the largest epidemiology study on food ever conducted, vegans live about a decade longer on average than omnivores, and are much more active in later years. Vegan athletes in every sport have shown that their diet improves performance and shortens recovery time. Bill Clinton is on a veg diet to cure his heart disease. Mike Tyson maintains his performance as a vegan. If those two aren’t on opposite ends of the scale, I don’t know what other evidence I could possibly provide that shows how universally healthy a balanced vegan diet can be. If it isn’t natural, then I have to ask: why do so many smart, physically fit people feel so good on a vegan diet and thrive on it?

            I am sorry to read that some people commenting here tried a vegan diet and felt their health deteriorate. I am very sorry to hear that, but the only conclusion we can come to is that you were doing it wrong. Sorry to be so glib, but vegan diets do require balance. If you try to be vegan but don’t like vegetables or don’t eat fruit, or don’t eat legumes, etc — or if, like most Americans, you eat highly processed food — then you are going to miss out on important nutrients. [Please note that a vegan diet is not equivalent to an all-fruit or raw diet.] Even still, studies show that poorly balanced vegan diets leave people deficient in 4 vitamins, whereas the typical American omnivore is deficient in 11. Balancing a vegan diet is not difficult, it just requires a subtle change in habits if you are coming from the American omnivore diet. As the single most effective weapon against the top four killers in this country, it is difficult to see how an ‘unnatural’ diet could be so healthy for us.

            Perhaps, Kristen, you are under the misconception [shared by other comments on this page] that veganism is unhealthy, or difficult, and that it is therefore unnatural. And because it is unnatural in your mind, you feel no responsibility to consider the how the effects of that unnatural act might play out in the world. Could this be the underlying issue that you have with veganism?

            • says

              Sigh. Here we go again. The old, tired vegan defense of “if the diet doesn’t work for you, you must be doing it wrong…”

              This young woman isn’t going to snap out of this particular delusion until the vegan diet introduces a slew of health problems in her own life and then she is forced to return to eating meat. At that point, she will be treated to her own round of “but you were simply doing the diet wrong!” comments from arrogant vegan acquaintances and she will, finally, come to see the idiocy of this argument.

              Only personal experience will convince someone with her mind this deeply closed of the truth.

            • says

              “According to the largest epidemiology study on food ever conducted, vegans live about a decade longer on average than omnivores, and are much more active in later years.”

              Casey, quoting vegan propaganda (in this case, The China Study) doesn’t prove anything. You are retrieving your information from biased arguments within your own community.

              • says

                Oh yes, I was just going to ask Casey to please cite your sources for these claims:

                “Vegans throughout history (and there have been billions) use to get B12 from microbes in dirt. Clean food is the only reason vegans supplement B12 today. Vegan supplemented B12 comes from algae, btw, not an animal source.

                According to the largest epidemiology study on food ever conducted, vegans live about a decade longer on average than omnivores, and are much more active in later years.”

                And please not that Bill Clinton has had two new blockages and 2 stents implanted recently as a result of his progressing heart disease.

              • Casey Rosenthal says

                Heather and Stephanie,

                First of all, Casey is not always a woman’s name. (^_^)

                More to the point, I have been a vegan for well over a decade, and I am an athlete. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I hope to clear up this ignorant notion that a vegan diet is unhealthy, and you kind of set yourself up with the condescending ad-hominem post above. So I will respond in kind: I can run faster than you, further than you, and am stronger than you. My bones are stronger than yours, my circulation is better than yours, and my muscles recover faster than yours. How is that for personal experience?

                You’ll note that something less than 0.5% of the USA population is vegan, and yet several times that number of athletes –professional, non-professional, and amateur– are vegan. You don’t have to believe me. You can rely on your own experience. Anyone who regularly attends marathons or triathlons (as I do) sees an over-representation of vegans. How do you explain that these people, the healthiest among us, are vegan like me? Many for well over a decade, like me?

                The China Study is peer-reviewed science, conducted at Columbia University. Science doesn’t get much more prestigious than that. I have no intention of performing a personal research project here in a comment section of a blog post for you anyway, but clearly it wouldn’t matter what evidence I put in front of you, because your mind is closed to evidence and proof. Clearly you know better than professionals like “Olympian of the Century” Carl Lewis. Clearly you are also a scientist, and you know better than the American Medical Association, which recommends a vegan diet to battle chronic American disease –you know better than the World Health Organization, which recommends a vegan diet to reduce worldwide mortality rates, chronic diseases, and nutrition deficiencies –you know better than the American Diabetes Association, which recommends a vegan diet as the only known method to possibly *reverse* type 2 diabetes.

                I don’t have to look any further than current headlines to find evidence of my assertion. Right now the American, David Zabriskie, is riding the Tour de France. Vegan. You think he didn’t do his research first? You think you know better than people who are professionally healthy?

                Sorry to convey a condescending tone, but I find that your post called for something in kind.

                The research is readily available. I accept that you are not vegan, and I am not trying to ‘convert’ you, but I do hope you agree that you have no basis to criticize a vegan diet as unhealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth, and all of the evidence, scientific and anecdotal, is against you.

                At best, you could argue that a certain diet was unhealthy for someone that you knew. Clearly, the success of so many athletic, healthy vegans proves that the ‘vegan’ aspect of their diet was not the unhealthy factor. Yes, they were doing something wrong. Yes, there are unhealthy vegans who don’t eat enough diversity. Yes, there are even overweight vegans who just eat junk food. That does not mean that ‘vegan’ is unhealthy. That only means that veganism includes diversity, like just about every other aspect of human life.

        • says

          Who says Zeus retired? There are plenty of us who still worship the Old Gods.

          Anyway, this is a great post. Even the soil is omnivorous!

        • says

          “You have again shirked responsibility for the violence that you perpetrate, killing an animal or paying someone else to kill it, by passing it off to something like your god’s will or master plan.”

          Casey, every time you eat grains, soy or any type of legume, you are “paying someone else to kill” an animal. These foods were brought to your dinner plate by the devastation of a far-away ecosystem: this includes all the plants and animals that once thrived there. If you truly want to practice what you preach, then you can no longer eat any of these foods.

          The cultivation of grains and soy, which are the foundation of the vegan diet, destroys topsoil. To understand the magnitude of devastation imposed by the erosion of topsoil takes some critical thinking and a willingness to see past the easy, pat solutions offered by the vegan community.

          Kristen is introducing here a mature understanding and awareness of the morality around eating that, frankly, seems to have gone right over your head. You are blinded by the emotions you have surrounding your belief system and you cannot see past them.

          The infatuation with vegan ideology still has your mind in its grip, so no amount of logical, sound argument or rock-solid evidence that anyone here presents is going to pierce this. Your mind is completely closed. You have to be ready to hear this information, otherwise it will just sound like weak-willed excuses from lusty, lazy carnivores.

          Almost everyone abandons veganism eventually. And when they are ready to take that step, their minds creak open once again and the arguments you are now putting on a par with slavery and rape will begin to seem very wise and truthful.

          When in the grip of a strong belief system like veganism, followers’ mindsets begin to resemble that of cult members. The parallels are stunning. Your arguments are rife with the soundbites, distortions and half-truths that are passed around the vegan community like Scripture. You believe all of these things to be true because you read them in a vegan book or heard them from a vegan leader (ex: many of our human ancestors were vegans).

          When you are finally coming out of this belief system, you will be stunned to realize how much of the information you now quote as absolute truth is actually a web of smoky half-truths and distortions and “factoids” taken out of context. You will be embarrassed. Don’t be. The truth is painful, but it will set you free. Many have walked this exact road – you will be in very good company.

          • Christa says

            What you’re missing is that the majority of those crops (corn, soy) are grown to feed animals destined for milk/egg production or slaughter for meat. The fact is if you’re concerned about soil health, soil erosion, microbes, invertbrates, or small animals like field mice, rabbits, etc….by eating meat you are contributing to more damage to these ecosystems than any vegan does. If we all went vegan we’d use a tiny fraction of the land currently in use for growing these crops…land which could be rehabilitated back to the wild spaces our animal kin need to live natural lives.

            • KristenM says

              How is this any different than my own argument for a return to pasture-based animal husbandry? (Except in my argument, we can actually BUILD topsoil QUICKLY by returning intensively-grazed ruminants to the restored pasture lands.) Return animals to pasture, and then eat THOSE animals.

                • KristenM says

                  Except that it is. So, at this point our discussion on this particular thread is over. This post is not about the healthfulness of the vegan diet or the necessity of eating animals for human sustenance. It’s about my reflections on the miracle of life-giving soil, as influenced by two of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry and Lierre Kieth.

                  So, we’ll simply have to agree to disagree here since we can’t really keep engaging in this particular discussion without going severely off topic.

            • says

              “What you’re missing is that the majority of those crops (corn, soy) are grown to feed animals destined for milk/egg production or slaughter for meat.”

              Actually, this is a perfect example (thank you, Christa) of the distortions and “factoids” passed around the vegan community. Well-intended veg leaders issue this statement, and people blindly believe it.

              One of the first things I realized when I started educating myself on this subject is that the reverse is true:

              The factory farming of animals was set up IN RESPONSE TO the massive surplus of grain, not the other way around. What you repeat here is actually false. You have been lied to.

              I implore you not to make the same mistake I did and blindly believe information passed to you from veg leaders. Start researching these issues for yourself. Ask the hard questions.

              • Christa says

                You cannot deny the fact that it takes a certain amount of grain/soy and water to raise x amount of meat. And that that grain and soy can be used to feed people directly. That’s not a factoid. That’s plain truth. Someone’s been drinking the WAPF kool-aid a little too long.

              • KristenM says

                Please, ladies, let’s refrain from calling each other “blind” or insinuate someone’s been drinking “kool-aide”. Honestly, would you talk to each other like this if you were face to face in my living room, having a cup of coffee? (See my comments policy, please.)

                Maybe you would, but I’d do just what I’m doing now and ask you both to be a little more respectful. Let’s all do our best to remember that we’re speaking to real, thoughtful people who are grappling with serious, difficult, heartfelt, and poignant issues.

                I appreciate your point of views! Really, I do. And I love a healthy debate. But let’s try to be a bit more polite, okay?

          • Casey Rosenthal says

            First of all, I don’t eat soy. You claim that is the foundation of a vegan diet. You are making many assertions about things that you clearly don’t know much about.

            Secondly, I grow most of my own food and get the rest from local farmers. So I do not destroy any “far-away ecosystems.”

            Most importantly, my carbon footprint is a very, very small fraction of an omnivore. I believe that carbon footprint is the best measure we have of the “devastation” that you are referring to above, and if it is a competition (as your tone seems to imply), then vegans will win handily.

            Sorry, but you are simply wrong in fact. I hope we can find common ground on certain factual premises before building up opinions from there.

            • Micah says

              Casey, I appreciate your well-thought and well supported arguments. You have said everything on my mind, the most important being the point about a balanced vegan diet that is also sustainable, and of a low carbon footprint. Many rounds of applause to you.

            • James says

              When you say that your “carbon footprint” is a very small fraction of an omivore’s, do you mean an “omnivore” in the sense of the popular American diet of fast food, or an “omnivore” in the sense of someone eating as sustainably as they can?

      • liam bradfield says

        Kristen, when violence is done unto you will you feel the same way? Polar bears need to feed their family is it ok for them to eat humans to do so ? Don’t sharks need to eat? Can’t you feed your family with out slaughtering animals? Your reasoning is very self centered, What is SOOOO important about YOUR family, What about the bovine families that are destroyed by eating dairy? We are all part of an interconnected whole time to think outside the box!

        • James says

          So, Liam, you don’t harm any animals in your diet?

          I take it that you grow all your own food, yes?

          You use no external fertilizers, you put your own waste back into the system? And nothing else?

          Have I gotten anything wrong yet?

  19. Ashley says

    Hello, my question for you is this:
    Nutritionally speaking, does masticating on the flesh of a dead cow or chicken or pig or fish become life in our bodies? From gardening myself and at one point being a biology student and taking courses in microbiology, I completely understand how microorganisms break down decaying matter into usable, nutrient dense, living soil. That is their purpose, their function, and what they are biologically, socioeconomically, metaphysically, created to do. It is obvious that death becomes life.
    On the issue of violence: I do not believe that meat-eaters are intentionally being violent. Though I do find what I read once interesting: that some states do not allow butchers to sit on the jury of murder trials, as they are desensitized to the business of “killing”. If you have no qualms about killing an animal for your food, than that is your right. I know I couldn’t kill an animal with a moral conscience, especially when there is no need for me to do that to meet my nutritional needs.
    What I do not understand ( and if you feel you do he an understanding please share) is how dead ( the blood has stopped pumping, the spirit gone) muscle, when put into a human body, brings life to it. That doesn’t make sense to me, though I know each person can only walk in the revelations they’ve received and the truth they are ready for.
    Blessings.

    • KristenM says

      You ask:

      Nutritionally speaking, does masticating on the flesh of a dead cow or chicken or pig or fish become life in our bodies?

      The answer: YES. Study human biology, particularly digestion, and you will see how animal flesh is converted into basic macro and micro nutrients which are in turn used to give energy to and provide the building blocks of our cells.

      • ashley says

        i will take you at your word with that, though I have come across research about how our dentition, stomach structure, jawbone, etc, are not similar to carnivores, like the lion but are more akin to the structure of herbivores, like apes.

        However, if you are correct that eating meat gives the body nutrients, then so be it, that’s good for those who choose to eat meat. However, it is not imperative to eat meat to live, i.e. protein is readily available in vegetable and grain sources.

        For me, growing up preparing and cooking raw meat always grossed me out, and i think at the very basis of my reasons for not eating meat, that is what comes into play. If I don’t want to, and I don’t have to…why do it?

        Like anything, there are persuasive arguments, statistics, and “evidence” on both sides. There are health nuts that promote being anti-dairy, and those who praise the benefits of consuming raw milk. Like the health store that has a gluten-free section and a row over sells vital wheat gluten.

        My stance is, if anyone wants to have a real conversation about the “truth” of food/nutrition in a positive light where both parties feel honored and respected, have at it. My job is not to convince or persuade, accuse or ridicule. It is simply to do my best to put into my body what I believe will benefit it most.

        I apologize if I offended you in my comment earlier and for the aggression of others’ comments. What you are promoting is infinitely better than the SAD.

        Blessings.

        • Leah says

          I hate this’we are more like an herbivore than a carnivore’ line. No one is claiming that we are carnivores, we are omnivores! We do not have any of the mechanisms for digesting vegetation that a true oherbivore, like a rabbit or cow, has. Sorry for the typos, am having difficulty typing on my phone.

          • liam bradfield says

            Rats, Racoons, Bears are omnivores, Does your jaw look like a rat? or bear? or raccoon? How long is your intestinal tract (23″ approx, omni’s have shorter tracts to rid their gut of putrifying flesh) What is your stomach acid ph? (4 to 5 ) A carnivore’s stomach secretes powerful digestive enzymes with about 10 times the amount of hydrochloric acid than a human or herbivore. The pH is less than or equal to “1” with food in the stomach, for a carnivore or omnivore. For humans or other herbivores, the pH ranges from 4 to 5 with food in the stomach. NEWSFLASH !You are not an omnivore! Now breathe a huge sigh of relif and get back to a plant based diet!

            • James says

              Newsflash, Liam!! Your argument is laughable.

              I could say, “Yeah, look at a raccoon’s jaw-see how it looks like yours?” (It does, all things considered.)

              But more simply:
              Do yourself a favor, Liam. Find a mirror. Look into that mirror, and open your mouth. Bare your teeth.

              Do you see those two pointy teeth to the sides of your incisors? (And their two companions in your lower jaw.)

              Those are called “canine” teeth. And they are for meat.

              Not vegetables. Meat.

              Because humans–like all of the Great Apes of the primates–are omnivores.

    • says

      I hate to state the obvious here, but plants are dead too. Are we so removed from the cycles of life and death (so beautifully rendered here) that we can’t see our own natural role in both?

      • says

        That’s a question I’ve had most of my life. Plants are alive and have to be killed to be eaten. From a vegetarian or vegan perspective, how is killing a plant easier or better than killing an animal?

        I most likely will never try to convince someone they should go against their conscience in choosing what to eat, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ask questions to try and understand the perspective better, expecially when the reasons seem illogical to me and I’m seeking a better understanding.

    • Ursyl says

      I am curious how dead, the chlorophyl has stopped converting and the sap has stopped flowing, plant tissue, when put into a human body, brings life to it.

      It’s called digestion. Our bodies process the nutrients we consume, whether plant or animal, for the use of our body’s life.

      Last I checked, plants are alive too, and do not stay that way once harvested for our consumption.

      • liam bradfield says

        If you eat meat you are indirectly consuming (causing the death) of many more plants than if you eat them directly. Why do carnivist get so concerned about the lives of plants. this argument is spurious , played out, tired,dull witted and stupid. You should feel foolish for even presenting it!

  20. says

    Quoting Lierre Keith pretty much told me that this article was going no where. Her story is one of dementia from self imposing a bizarre diet and calling it vegetarian. That aside, I am bewildered the logical argument that “nature eats animals so there is nothing wrong if we do” is used here. Not all of nature eats animals. Most do interact with other animals such as the way bacteria in a herbivores’ gut is essential for the herbivores’ survival. Humans do not “need” to interact any more than that. The fact that humans can survive on a diet of varied sources somehow has reached the consciousness that we must use all sources. How does the fact that an obligate carnivore such as a Lion, brutally catches and eats a gazelle becomes the rationalization that humans should do the same thing? Humans have a choice and if that choice is to eat an animal, we have an ethical obligation to cause as little harm as within our ability. The original definition of VEGAN is not absolutist. By the use of “free of animal involvement as far as possible and practical” denotes understanding that the world is imperfect including death. Manufacturing excuses so as not to be responsible for choices is a hallmark of immaturity if not immorality.

    • KristenM says

      My point is not “nature eats animals, so there is nothing wrong if we do.” Rather, it is “soil eats animals, so therefore we all do, whether we like it or not, since all life comes from (and returns to) the soil.”

      Do you not see that my point precisely IS that ALL of nature is dependent on eating animals? Even the theoretical herbivores who never accidentally ingest insects still eat plants whose life DEPENDS on the soil. We all do. And the soil eats animals.

      • poizenivy@gmail.com says

        Eating a piece of broccoli that contains calcium from animal bones that the soil consumed is completely different then eating a piece of beef from a cow that was tortured and then murdered, just so we could enjoy beef.

        • KristenM says

          What makes you think it’s impossible to eat animal foods from animals that have not been “tortured and murdered”? could you not eat eggs from happy chickens? Drink milk from happy cows?

          • says

            Given that 99% of the animal products come from factory farms, it makes it highly unlikely that you will stumble upon any happy animal products. But on the slim chance that you do, cows have to be or have been pregnant to give milk. How are you going to get the milk if the calf needs it? Wait until it has been weaned. OK, I will give you that. The cow trades milk for the food and protection. So the cow starts drying up because this is a happy farm and no hormones are used. So she gets pregnant again. Repeat cycle. How likely do you think this is to happen? (incidentally , milk breed bulls are killed as calves as they don’t produce milk and under produce meat. Do we need to talk about veal?) Ok, moving on to chickens. Happy chickens with plenty of space and bugs to eat. We have to be tricky here because the chickens really are not too keen on the eggs disappearing. So once in a while you place a fake egg in a switcheroo. Then after a few years she does not lay eggs often but since this is a happy farm you let her live out her 25 year lifespan. See scenario above. Because something is technically possible does not imply any degree of likelyhood. Sadly, because of the technical possibility, humans like the one firing squad shooter, convince themselves they are the one firing the blank.

            • says

              This happens in my backyard daily. My chickens are happy and spend their days eating whatever they want, plus the organic feed I personally mix for them. My cow and goats spend their days grazing and enjoying the sun. They give us eggs and milk, we give them a secure place to live. I don’t see the harm occuring here.

              I’m curious to know how you are able to determine that these chickens are not happy with their eggs disappearing daily?

            • Char L says

              1. “..99% of the animal products come from factory farms..”
              I can pretty much guarantee that nowhere near 99% of the animal products eaten by people on this list come from factory farms. This isn’t the clueless general public you’re speaking to here. We are for the most part people who have years of experience studying and experiencing this issue in our own lives. As for myself, I would venture a guess of 10% of what I eat is conventional, and that from occasionally eating out.

              2. “..cows have to be or have been pregnant to give milk. How are you going to get the milk if the calf needs it?”

              The average cow produces volumes more milk than one, or even two, calves require. Happy Farms, as your pejorative implies, can have it both ways. And yes, eventually the calf is weaned, in similar fashion as it would in the wild, and the cycle begins again. She goes into heat, accepts a bull, and gives birth 9 months later. This is the natural way.

              3. “(incidentally , milk breed bulls are killed as calves as they don’t produce milk and under produce meat.”

              On Happy Farms, this does not happen. Even milk breed bulls make fine steers and produce plenty of good quality, grass-fed meat.

              4. “chickens really are not too keen on the eggs disappearing…”

              Oh dear. Chickens, in my life-long experience of raising them, don’t give two farts about you taking their eggs. With rare exceptions, they only time they put up a fuss about having their eggs taken is when they are broody, which generally lasts a few days, and then they are back to their usual cheerful selves pecking about in the farmyard.

              5. “Then after a few years she does not lay eggs often but since this is a happy farm you let her live out her 25 year lifespan.”

              I expect this happens occasionally on some happy farms, but I would guess it would be more likely to occur on one run by vegetarians. On most Happy Farms, she would make an absolutely fabulous and extremely nutritious stew, and the farmers would be ever so grateful for her generous contributions to the good of all.

              • Eva says

                Love your post. This is exactly how I got raised. We have happy cows and happy chickens and we collect milk and eggs daily, and all of our animals killed for meat, were killed in the most humane way possible. We also grew plenty of organic fruit and veg, and surpluses were sold to family/friends and farmer’s markets.

        • Carlos says

          I agree with poizenivy. KristenM’s article is flawed for a simple reason: because the soil or plants need or have animal material, this is not an excuse to kill animals, particularly the way mostly are killed today. Also, because ones accepts death does not mean it has to accept suffering and torture. And that’s what people do when they choose to eat animal body parts and secretions. I have heard the B12 argument, the plant having feelings argument, the humane and organic meat argument many times. They are all flawed. We don’t eat B12 because we can’t anymore, we use to eat it from soil with our veggies but since the introduction of pesticides, we can no longer do that. Plants may have feelings, we don’t know for certain, but when we see an animal fighting for his life, screaming, before being slaughtered (or many times abused before that), no one can deny they do have feelings. Eating organic/grass fed meat does not address the cruelty against animals, just instead of giving them crap food and keeping them confined their whole life, they eat and move a little better. But the destination is the same: the slaughterhouse. There is nothing humane about slitting an animal’s throat. Who are we kidding here? One has yet to come with a convincing argument to keep causing unnecessary animal suffering the way we do. This is not a war between vegans and non-vegetarians, it’s not personal, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about the animals and the way they are exploited to satisfy one’s addiction or taste buds. Vegans are not perfect, and that’s not what veganism is all about. It’s about end the unnecessary suffering of animals the best we can. For an in-depth understanding of the issue and answers to all most common excuses, I strongly recommend you check the Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast

          • James says

            You claim the article is flawed because of a bias that you yourself are bringing.

            Kristen is not advocating “killing animals…the way most are killed today.” She is not advocating “suffering and torture.”

            “There is nothing humane about slitting an animals throat”
            If you think that is the start of animal slaughter/butchering in a humane setting, you really should go back to school.

            You can avoid animal suffering, avoid cruelty in animal butchering, and still eat meat.

            (“Unnecessary”… that might be a debate point.)

  21. says

    I like the article, but I need to get something off my chest really… What is it with all the ‘us’ and ‘them’ lately? Not so much in the article itself, but especially in the comments. Also in the comments on related sites like http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/2011/06/most-vegetarians-return-to-eating-meat/ and on some Dutch sites I’m reading, too.

    It feels like people are saying that ‘we’ (the realfood/WAPFs) are so cool and smart and ‘them’ (the vegans) are too stupid to even make a good argument, which appearantly is not just because they are w.r.o.n.g. (obviously) but also because their minds are underfed, for they don’t eat any animal products.

    And frankly, that attitude really doesn’t make me feel good.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I really feel like the WAPF (and the like) ideas about food are the most logical philosophies around. Way more logical than veganism is. For me, the B12-issue alone is enough to know that this can never be the ‘natural’ diet. But that doesn’t mean I have to call my vegan friends stupid for following it…

    Granted, there are more than enough vegans whom one simply cannot have a proper discussion with. There are just as many WAPF-believers though, who are just followers of one guru or the other and somehow ended up withs WAPF. Stupid people are in every camp. There are also a lot of perfectly sane and sincere people on both sides. People whom you can discuss with in a grown-up, friendly manner. People who do find it really interesting what the other person has to say, because it may just broaden their horizon.

    Please let me emphasize again that I don’t feel the articles I mentioned here are the culprit; it’s really more of the comments in the style of “I was vegan before but I feel so much better now and how stupid is Alicia Silverstone for being a vegan and PETA-promoter”…. she is also trying to do the right thing, folks! And she may not be doing it the way you would, but at least it is so much better than the SAD, not-thinking-about-food-at-all-way that most Americans and Europeans go with. So why fight a war against vegans, trying to ‘get’ them on any argument? Trying to accuse vegans of not really helping the earth (which I see people do!) is really a waste of time and energy, which we all could spend so mucht better (in my eyes), by trying to inform SAD-eating people…

    Sorry for such a long comment, I just really needed to get it out and I think this is a site where a lot of intelligent and respecting WAPF-minded people are reading, so…. And really, thank you so much for writing all the beautiful blogposts! They really help.

    With warm regards,
    Nienke (Netherlands)

    • says

      While the B12 argument seems to be a no brainier, lets take a closer look. B12 is made by soil bacteria. It is in meat because they eat dirty food and water that we no longer do. The Framingham study showed us the 46% of the people eating the “normal” diet were B12 deficient at the paltry level the US has. ( very low) nearly all were deficient at the Japanese government level. Oddly, fewer (percentage wise) Vegans were deficient. This was thought to be due that they were more aware of the need to supplement.

      • says

        (I hope I understand your comment, I’m having a little difficulty with the lanquage -what does paltry mean?)

        Yes, I’m aware of the fact that ‘normal’ eating people often are B12-deficient, too. Still, that is not an argument in favor of veganism.

        As far as I know, even though soil contains B12, there is no evidence of being able to gather enough active B12 without eating animal products. Even though there are vegans eating soil for this reason, I haven’t yet seen any studies confirming this is active and sufficient.

        Even though many plants have been named as B12-sources (kelp, Comfrey etc), I still haven’t heard from them being a sufficient source of active B12, either. There may just be one or two obscure plants of algae that do provide this. It doesn’t make sense though, that these are ‘the’ sources to come by B12. In my opinion, food and health need to be logical. If the only source for a vegan diet to get B12 are these obscure sources, than this is not logical. Not all of humankind has acces to them, especially not in the old hunther-gatherer days. So it makes no sense these should be necessary for one to maintain good health.

        In my view, hunther-gatherers pretty well ate what they could get. Dead animal is an easy source of proteïn and B12 (even though they probably didn’t know ;-)), so there’s no reason to not make it a part of one’s diet. There is however, every reason to exclude bio-industrial meat and milk from the diet, but that’s a whole other story alltogether.

        • says

          pal·try/ˈpôltrē/Adjective
          1. (of an amount) Small or meager.
          2. Petty; trivial

          Plant sources of B12 are questionable as they maybe analogs that the body recognizes but can not use, blocking the useful B12.

          Most B12 deficiencies are thought to be an absorption problem, not a dietary problem. You have a slightly less chance of having a B12 deficiency by being a practicing Omnivore.

          Avoiding supplementation because it is not natural, really only makes sense if you also do not believe in using sanitation, antibiotics, fire, electricity, tools etc……..

          • says

            I’m still not sure if we’re on the same page. I’m definately not avoiding supplementation. I’m a seller even ;-), but I do advocate healthy and sane usage of supplements.

            It is my believe that one *should* be able to obtain all nutrients from a healthy diet, without the need for supplementation. BUT, most/many people simply don’t have such a healthy diet. In that case, it’s better to use supplementation (preferably from a natural foodsource) than to stay deprived of the nutrients.

            In the same manner tha SAD-eaters will need some form of supplementation because their diet isn’t natural and wholesome, so do vegans. That kind of is all the proof I need to know veganism is not a natural diet, as I said before: supplementation (in one form or the other) is needed when practicing this diet, in order to stay healthy. *Grok* didn’t have access to supplementation, therefor veganism can never be a ‘natural’ diet. That doesn’t mean someone cannot follow it (with supplements), at all – just that it’s not natural (as some vegans claim it to be).

            That’s all, really. Not more, not less.
            The fact that B12-deprivation is mostly caused by the lack of intrinsic factor or the lack of B11 in the diet doesn’t change this.

            All I’m saying is: even though veganism is no natural diet, that still is no reason to start a war against vegans. It certainly is a better diet than SAD is, and vegans certainly have given their diet a better thought than SAD-eaters did. So even though it’s not my cup of tea, I see no reason to harass vegans… align with them to stride against SAD and it’s impact on health & the planet seems so much more effective…

  22. says

    Dear Kristen,

    You are a girl after my own heart. I believed so strongly in the veg ideology that I gave almost 15 years of my life to it, culminating in a hard-core stint as a raw vegan and then fruitarian.

    Last summer, my long, long dance with veg eating finally came to a bitter end when I “accomplished” a 30-day stint of raw fruitarianism, eating tons of calories each day from fresh, ripe fruit and massive amounts of raw greens. According to all my beloved raw gurus, I should have been on top of the world. Instead, I was lethargic, riddled with brain fog, and about 25 pounds heavier.

    I had my first eggs on Day 31 in YEARS, and it was a revelation. I couldn’t believe what happened next – instead of vomiting them right back up (which I had been warned would happen by those trusty raw vegan leaders), all of my brain fog vanished and I felt a level of pure, pristine energy come over me that is simply indescribable. My heart literally pounded with joy. And all this from two poached eggs! I was FLOORED.

    Watching my health come back with a vengeance over the next few weeks, as I continued eating more high-quality, nutrient dense animal products, showed me irrefutably that eating animals is, for most of us, an absolute necessity for health.

    Today, I do not believe that most of us can absorb all the nutrients that our bodies need from plants. I have spent the past nine months educating myself massively on this subject, and have come to understand that if you want to opt out of causing harm to animals with your diet, you’re going to have to avoid eating. Sorry, but them’s the facts.

    I poured some of my passion on this subject into my own “Wake up and smell the espresso, babe!” posts on my own website (I am also a food blogger and writer):

    Part 1: http://www.my-healthy-eating-secrets.com/paleo-diet-trial-day-6.html

    Part 2: http://www.my-healthy-eating-secrets.com/healthy-eating-paleo-trial-day-29.html

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

    Warmly,

    Heather

    • Ann says

      Heather – I love your blog and will be following!

      The one question that is asked over and over, and NEVER answered, is how can all those carbohydrates be okay over a period of years? How can it be healthy to constantly put your pancreas to such hard work metabolizing what is most certainly a carb-rich, unbalanced, and obviously dangerous in terms of long-term health diet?

      Now that science has definitively proven that insulin is THE fat-storage hormone, and insulin only responds to carbohydrates and unnaturally high levels of protein, there is no reason left in the world to ever think or believe that an all plant-based diet, comprised of carbohydrates at every meal, is going to be healthy into old-age. They are also proving, more daily, that carbohydrates at more than 100 grams per day are unnecessary for optimum health, and further, that ANY TIME your pancreas is stimulated to send out insulin in efforts to metabolize carbohydrates, it is actually damaging to many of your organs.

      History tells us there have been many cultures who have lived on carbohydrate-free diets for most of the year in many parts of the world. Of the three micronutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and fat, carbs are obviously the least necessary to the human diet.

      I hear all the time vegans touting the slimming-effects of vegan diets – I see fat, sick, and overweight vegans all the time! When I hear “Meat is what makes you fat, look around you – do you see any fat vegans?” Well, yes, how about YOU open your eyes?

      To me this seems like just another form of the denial, both of self, and of relative reality that vegans dance around with on a daily basis.

  23. poizenivy@gmail.com says

    This seems like a lousy justification to eat animal products. This ignores that the animals we slaughter are sentient beings who are killed before their time in very gruesome ways. Unlike the bones that are naturally in our soil due to animals dying of natural causes. Also instead of using blood or bones, seashells can be used to add calcium to the soil (although not “vegan” discarded beach shells don’t involve killing an animal). Also if the concept is here that we want to minimize damage to our living soil veganism is the best way to do that. Animals consume crops that are mass produced using commercial farming methods that kill the soil. Even animals that consume organic food or are pasture raised take up land that could be used for farming or remain natural for wildlife to live on.

    • says

      Locally raised, pastured animals don’t eat anything but local grass. Most domestic animals couldn’t survive in the wild, so “before their time” is meaningless. I have no problem with your dietary choices–I was a vegetarian for 18 years–but you do your cause a disservice by accusing anybody and everybody who eats meat of being a torturer and murderer. It’s adolescent, inflammatory, and wrong.

      I have opted out of the factory farming system completely; all the animal products I eat are raised locally on grass and organic feed on small farms. By making no room for conscious carnivores in your world view, and lumping us together with uncaring consumers of CAFO meat, you simply make yourself look strident and stupid and alienate those you might otherwise find common cause with in the larger struggle of reforming our food systems to be more ethical and sustainable.

      • eileen says

        Thank you Peter.

        I am a former Vegetarian, now meat eater. I am still horrified at the thought of eating meat that was tortured. And I do eat that meat.

        Embracing Death is fine. Just please do not ask me to embrace torture, barbaric conditions and horrific pain inflicted on my food.

      • Char L says

        Beautifully said, Peter. My thinking is that the worldview that omnivores are complicit in torture, violence and murder is in part another symptom of how the modern world has become so estranged from the natural one. The beautiful cycles and systems of nature will not be altered by some folks refusing to accept that humans have always been a predatory species. They seem to equate killing an animal for food with torturing an animal for fun, convenience, or profit, and often represent themselves as more enlightened than us cruel meat-eaters.

        I wonder if part of the blame is not also in the lap of the Disney-esque anthropomorphic representations of animals so ubiquitous in our culture for the past 50 odd years. It may sound silly on first mention, but many of the posts here have hints of things I have heard countless times over the years from vegetarians. Sometimes the things people who have no farm experience actually believe about animals is quite frankly, hilarious, but also, very sad. Our authentic connection to each other, both human and animal, as players in the natural circle of life, is lost to ignorance and the arrogance of believing one is above it all, and can design a new paradigm of how nature should conduct Herself.

  24. Christa says

    I like this registered dietician’s take on whether or not ex-vegan’s stories make a good case against a vegan diet as being appropriate for everyone.

    http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/11/do-ex-vegans%E2%80%99-stories-make-the-case-against-vegan-diets.html

    Much the same way you accuse vegans of clinging to dogma in spite of “reality”; lapsed vegans are going to cling to any dogma they can find to justify and reassure themselves that going back on the ethics and morals they once ostensibly adhered to (Tasha, for example, was one of the most vocal and vehement vegans online for quite a while). A clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  25. says

    In high school, a friend of mine did an awesome science fair project. In short, she raised two bean plants with identical care, except the words spoken to it. One plant was praised and complimented several times a day, the other was insulted and criticized. Upon laboratory analysis, the plants produced beans that were very different in chemical makeup, with very different percentages of various nutrients and anti-nutrients. Her conclusion was that plants are indeed sentient, but on a level we don’t yet understand.

    The relationship between my vegan boyfriend and I (I was vegitan at the time, that is, vegan without the politics) did not survive the discussion that followed the science fair. To me, if plants are sentient in any way, vegans MUST ask the same questions of their lunch as they ask omnivores to consider: Did that lettuce agree to martyr itself to feed you?

    If one is willing to concede plant sentience on any level, the only “ethical” option is starvation. I sure wasn’t going to go there!

    Great post, Kristen! Thanks so much for your insights.

    • KristenM says

      OMG, Peggy. Your friend’s science fair experiment totally blew my mind. I’ve believed this in a general way for a long time. It’s why I’m so insistent on eating “food with love” and “received with gratitude”. But holy cow. That’s INTENSE. I wish it were reproduced somewhere so that I could point readers to it!!

    • says

      Wonderful! I’ve believed for a long time that plants are just as sentient as any other living beings, even if we don’t know how to talk to them. (It’s also why I take stories of tribal shamans learning from plants at face value.) No matter what appears on my plate, at some point it was alive. Plus, plenty of plants produce substances meant to sicken and even kill predators, so the idea that plants are just giving of themselves for sustenance does not sit right with me.

    • IngaG says

      I do find the idea fascinating and worth further exploration.

      But I hope people understand this experiment has a very flawed methodology: a sample of 2 plants, one experimental and one control, is not a valid sample. All the results could as easily be explained be chance. Only when the same results are obtained with 100 plants, you may finally be able to make a claim.

      • Ingrid says

        My boyfriend did a experiment in school similar to the one mentioned above, although he used 5 plants and played music instead of talking to them.
        I believe he had heavy metal, classical, punk, country and a control plant without music. Surprisingly the heavy metal plant grew the best. I don’t recall what type of plant he used.

      • Erin says

        It could also be that speaking more positively to the plant subconsciously made the person treat the plant/care for it a little better and that’s why the plant grew stronger. Cool idea for a study for sure…

  26. jacquie says

    thank you for your post – the simplicty, elegance and thoughtfulness of words. i’m not a vegan though i am a vegetarian and i have at times been called to “justify” that – after all if i really felt that way then why did i consume (eat or buy) any animal products. but it is as you say – life of one = death of another(s) – that is the way of the bio-system. and to deny that doesn’t make sense and is in some ways fool hardy (IHMO). i wonder how many well meaning but actually more costly decisions are made on those misquided in some ways principals?

  27. says

    I think it would be in everyone’s best interest to search for the podcast interviews of Lierre Keith. Listen to what she has to say before jumping on her bandwagon. Her definitions do not correspond to any I know of ( I.E “all vegetarians eat steak once in a while”) I will not post links as I would understand that you would think I fabricated them.

  28. Shane Hubenig says

    @poizenivy In nature, with few exceptions, animals die terrible deaths. I would not be one to jusitify the cruel, cold and heartless treatment and killing of animals that factory farms of the mega-argo-industies do. A organic pasture farmer that has passion for his/her craft treats animals with dignity and respect throughout there lives and death. No animal in the “wild” gets this. Animals do not lay down and have a last sleep before returning to the earth, the tranisition from life to death is a violent and painfull end for all of them in fact. This is not bad or evil, it just is.

    I woudl agree with those (often vegans) thst we humans can raise to a higher level of awareness and be conscious of our effect on the world, but I alwasy resent the ideal that one must be vegan to do this.

    As an aside, there are all these reports about V & M defiences in meat eaters vs vegans, yet all these anidotal experiences of people feeling better and having a higher level of enegry when eating a bit of meat. There are two questions that come to my mind regarding this.

    1) Is is possible that there are some people that CAN get all they need from a good vegan diet, but some of us have just not got the bio-chemical make up to do the same and opperate on a high level?

    2) When studies are made about health levels and longevity comparing vegans to omnivores, do they ever look as a group at comparing to natural meat eaters as opposed to factory meat eaters? The longest lived people in the old as groups are all omnivories. Those healthy elderly people in Sardina and Okinawa and the Amish people, are rarely vegatarian, and yet these are the people looked to for examples of healthy, enegergentic long lives. I think too many of these studies only have average american diets to compare to. The eaters of mass produced factory farm food. I think it would be a big effort for a stufy to get together a large sample of exclusive pasture and game meat eaters to compare too.

    • says

      It is true the longest lived cultures are omnivores. But that has nothing to do with chemical, hormonal laden animal products in the United States. Also overlooked is the the amount of animal products is only a few percent of the calories eaten, not the 30-50% that the SAD is.
      “The Blues Zones” commissioned by the National Geographic is very informative.

  29. eileen says

    Sure. Fine. Marvellous. I am also a former Vegetarian.

    But while we embrace death, do we also embrace torture, horrific pain, and barbaric conditions for the animals we eat?

  30. Madelyn Morris says

    It seems to me that the ideal is to find a healthy diet that works for you, is less detrimental to the planet, does not include unnecessary cruelty and suffering, and involves taking an active role in getting to know where your food comes from, who produced it, producing some yourself, and relying primarily on whole foods and consuming less processed foods. This can mean a wide range of dietary choices that include varying amounts of animal products to none at all. If it works for you and makes you feel healthier and more connected to the natural world, good for you. But all the energy spent arguing how your diet is superior to diets that differ from yours seems exhausting to me. Live and let live. There’s a lot of different paths to take, and ultimately humans have survived and thrived on a wide range of diets. Different diets work for different constitutions and perceptions about living in harmony with the world around us. I don’t believe there’s a perfect diet, it’s entirely situational, personal, based on what is available, and constantly evolving.
    And by all means, get out into the garden and see how it shapes your perception of food, which is what I find to be the most important point in this article.
    And as an aside, you can provide a lot of the necessary nutrients and micro-nutrients to your crops by utilizing other plants and fungi – dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, etc. – as well as utilizing human urine, rather than purchasing bone and blood meal that has a higher embodied energy cost…but that’s a topic for another day

  31. says

    I’m just wondering what some of the more vehement vegetarians here believe would happen to domesticated animals if we didn’t breed them, protect them, and raise them for grazing and fertilizing the land, and providing milk, eggs, and food (and I’m not talking factory-farmed animals).

    1) They would be killed by other animals in the wild.
    2) They would become extinct.

    And this scenario would result in a complete loss of top soils and any permaculture, a loss of ecosystems and the other species that depend on them, and world-wide malnutrition and famine.

    Do you think soybeans and wheat gluten are really the answer?
    Try feeding either one of those exclusively to a baby who is weaning off their mother’s milk and see what happens – wasting, stunting, death.

  32. Lisa Masini says

    Just wondering if vegans have considered the fact that when they eat plants, they take the plant’s life when it is pulled from the soil. The plant dies. My point is that death is inevitable.
    Like the article says, life comes from death, it is all part of the cycle. In my humble opinion, the key is to treat death – whether it be the death of a plant or animal to provide sustenance – with reverence and respect and thanksgiving.

  33. MrWx says

    Disclaimer: I’m not advocating cruel or thought-less treatment of animals, etc. etc. That said…

    I want to re-iterate a point that has been made variously above. Animals are not people. In itself this isn’t a value claim, but a claim of some fundamental dissimilarity. Now I’m not saying that difference makes us special in some privileged way, per se, but…

    To make it a value claim, I would add: let’s not put the cart before the horse here. Animals are not people.

    We (people or what led to people as we are now) are part of a complex system which, for the greater portion of time, we developed alongside in a somewhat reciprocal way.

    Now, we have a great deal of influence and control and effect on the system, perhaps moreso than it does on us.

    Now, we have a pretty staggering responsibility. For a short period of time here, we’ve been mucking around with things without understanding them, at first, whatsoever. Now, with a sliver of understanding, we at least understand that we’re pretty good at mucking it up.

    Where I think the people on the various sides of this issue are on the same page is at this point, that we have a responsibility (barring sociopathy) to fix, undo damage, perpetuate homeostasis, things of that sort.

    But to return to the top bit: I think it is impossible to take any approach that simulates removing humans from the system. We are simply too imbricated in the current state of affairs to drop everything and see what happens. Miles to go before we sleep, and all that.

    And I definitely disagree with you if you’ve gone as far as the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement people (http://www.vhemt.org/). The epitome of cart before the horse. I’m not going to insist that we’re special or especially deserving of our position of privilege with respect to the complex systems of life (read: crushing responsibility), but now we’re already where we are, and I am pretty impressed with the potential, if nothing else.

  34. says

    I just want to say that I love this post and how thoughtful it is. It’s beautiful :)

    I also want to say that I agree with so much of what’s been said here about real food making sense, especially from the evolutionary perspective. And I love the compassionate comment near the end reminding us that we aren’t separate. There isn’t an “us” and “them” and we’re fighting the dogmatic vegans and stupid vegetarians, it’s something that we’re all in together. That said, I think it’s fair to write about what you believe like KristenM did here on FR and other similar posts (like the Healthy Home Economist). But again, I think we need to be civil and loving, above all!

  35. Allan says

    Finally, someone mentions VHEMT! Most important part of that ideology is the V. (Espousing the ideals of that organization is like navigating by the north star – the point is not to get to the north star, just to navigate in that direction in order to steer clear of mortal danger).

    A couple of unconnected points from my perspective:

    There seems to be a lot of confusing ideology with biology and vice versa in this discussion. Biology is alive, messy, fantasticaly complicated, and almost infinitely varied and adaptable on this planet. Ideology, on the other hand is abstract, generalized, tending to be simplistic and more or less rigid.

    The two aren’t particularly amenable to exchange.

    Ultimately nothing our species does is sustainable, nor can be sustainable, as long as we continue to breed and behave like a planetary cancer. Arguments as to which lifestyle is better for the planet are moot as long as we continue to ignore the exponential growth of our species and its inevitable consequences on the biosphere.

  36. Pamela P says

    I recently read Lierre Keith’s book and really, really, loved it, so much that I wanted to start again at the beginning when I was finished. Then I read all the negative reviews of it on Amazon and, discounting all the angry vegans, there were a few that pointed out factual errors in the book that did give me pause and made me concerned about her overall accuracy. I still think it is an amazing book and highly recommend it.

  37. says

    I’m completely stunned and surprised when I see people thinking and speaking reasonable. Choice between vegan or not should be decided upon real arguments and facts and by each person. Such decision is of highest importance if raising a child where insufficient or wrong nutrition can have devastating effects on development. You don’t want to go wrong there I suppose and also everybody needs to inform themselves from reputable sources about nutrients needed by the body, so it is simple if we put it that way. Our bodies need some elements in our nutrition to function properly, the question is which route will each of us take?

  38. says

    Great post, Kristen! Like Soli, I’ve wanted to post under this title for a long time but couldn’t find the words. No wisdom to add, just a hearty hear hear!!

    • KristenM says

      What’s surprising is that I purposefully tried to stay away from all the controversial stuff surrounding nutrition, etc. (I may one day make that case all in one post, but I didn’t feel at all argumentative when I wrote this. I just wanted to post something from the heart about the nature of soil and how it dovetails into my non-vegan worldview.) Yet despite how very non-argumentative and confrontational my perspective was I still got so many argumentative comments!

  39. says

    Very good post. I tried to be a vegetarian a few years ago but just could not do it. I never felt guilty over it, but this essay gives me a really good understanding of why it didn’t take.

    I also deeply appreciate the spiritual/metaphysical theme here … it’s worthy of some consideration and pondering.

  40. ilina says

    Some people become vegetarians to help in getting the most micro-nutrients and energy possible. I myself amn’t a vegetarian, but you need to understand this; the higher you go in the food pyramid (higher means eating a cow as opposed to a plant), the lesser energy you get. Energy is lost as you go up the pyramid (a scientific fact).

    • KristenM says

      Arguably the most important micro-nutrients are easiest to get from animal products — all the fat soluble vitamins like A, D, K, and E; magnesium and calcium, iron, B-12, choline. The truth is that the higher up the food chain you walk, the more concentrated the nutrients become. It’s why one ounce of liver is so nutrient-dense compared to an ounce of any plant food. In any case, I’ve got no qualms with vegetarians. They often eat eggs or milk or invertebrate seafood, so at least they get all these concentrated nutrients.

    • Ann says

      Disagreed – the one nutrient that science has proven again and again is unnecessary to the human diet is carbohydrates.

      Many cultures have survived and thrived for most or all of the year, for years on end, with no intake whatsoever of carbohydrates.

      In our diets today, it would be nearly impossible to thrive on such a diet, but in today’s diets 100 grams of carbohydrates per day is way more than enough for most people of average activity levels if the intake of 1. good fat, and 2. protein is high enough.

      Animal protein, and especially saturated fats from animal sources, are much more nutrient-dense by weight than vegetables, grains, beans, or tubers, so a human body is able to consume much less food overall, and especially so when the blood sugar and insulin-response are kept at a minimum by restricting carbohydrates. The constant rise and fall of insulin levels is what causes shifts in appetite throughout the day, and for many people cause weight gain (insulin is THE fat storage hormone) and eventual metabolic distresses.

      I personally keep my carbohydrates at 60 or less every day, which leaves plenty of room for lots of leafy greens, and half of an occasional sweet potato, heavily buttered, rounds that out nicely after weight training.

      I am never hungry, and eat about 1/5 the amount of food I used to eat when grains, beans, and lots of tubers were a daily part of my diet.

  41. says

    Beautifully written. Not only do I garden & raise my own chickens (for meat and eggs)I use death every day in my art…I work in porcelain, which I have aged myself. My clay is completely covered in fine mold, which get mixed into the clay and fired to create my little artworks. Death is life!

  42. Morning says

    Maybe someone else has already mentioned it but nothing can be sustained without death. I hear a lot of vegans talk about eating without death/violence but yet the only thing that keeps them thinking that is ignorance. Thousands of animals die harvesting a field of grain (including large animals such as baby fawns, in addition to the rabbits, moles, mice, ect.), so they can then eat the grain and think there was no death in a loaf of bread, but that is only because they weren’t a part of the process and only see the end result.
    As far as health goes, we have been eating less and less animal fats and proteins for the last 100 years and as we’ve done that our diabetes, cancers, and heart diseases have sky rocketed. We can debate all day on why that is (industrial food is my short answer) but until very recently in human history, we have always survived on a diet based on animal protein. It is an odd stand to take (I feel) to say that the last couple of million years of evolution was wrong. The only reason you and I are here is because our ancestors ate meat and milk, without it, we wouldn’t be where we are today with such choices as veganism (whether you think that is good or bad is another subject!).

    • Charles says

      “we have been eating less and less animal fats and proteins for the last 100 years”‘

      What planet are you from?

      • KristenM says

        She’s clearly from planet earth. Please refrain from being rude or sarcastic. The USDA’s own data reflects that consumption of animal meats and fats has fallen, while consumption of vegetable oils, sugars, and grains has skyrocketed In the last century.

        • Morning says

          Thank you Kristen. I should have been clearer. I meant traditional animal fats and proteins. It is a fact that animal fats like Lard have been villainized at the same time people started buying tubs of Crisco. Remember when they told everybody that margarine was heart health? Oh, oops. Like you said, when diabetes, heart disease, and cancer started spiking was the exact time our consumption of so many vegetable oils, sugars, and grains also spiked.

          As a side note, I LOVE your site. I post it to my facebook and other message boards online. I’m busy (who isn’t) and don’t read very many blogs but yours is one I do. Your “how to make butter” is how I figured out how to make better butter. I always use ice water now to wash. I have a Jersey and she really produces cream!

          • Morning says

            My head cold is getting to me, that should have read….Like Kristen said, the consumption of vegetable oils, sugars, and grains have skyrocketed and that has coincided with the rise of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

  43. Marly says

    I don’t want to be controverial either, but as Christians what is our understanding of this New Testament scripture in I Timothy Chapter 4, verses 1-4? It seems to be indicating God made animals for us to eat, and it is pleasing to Him as long as we do it with thanksgiving for His creations.

  44. Charles says

    Vegans choose veganism to “do less harm.” We know death happens and is part of agriculture.

    Vegans do not claim purity.

    We simply do what we can – not to avoid death – but to avoid unnecessary suffering.

    Raising billions of animals in concentration camps where we subject them to suffering, disease and an unnatural existence is unethical and immoral. it’s also unnecessary.

    • Morning says

      I raise my own food, including meat and milk, just so you know. I have both dairy goats and dairy cows and have raised a variety of meat animals. If I chose (or could not) raise my own meat & milk, there are a variety of wonderful options. In fact, support a local family farmer!

        • Char L says

          There is no paradigm I have ever seen that is more sustainable for this overpopulated planet than millions of small, mixed-use, rotational grazing farms direct-marketing to their local communities.

        • Morning says

          You and I are making the same vote with our dollars Charles. You vote against CAFO meat and milk by not buying either. I vote by raising my own meat, milk, and eggs. We are really the same in this regard. By you saying that you are against factory farmed animals and that is why you are vegan, well that is the exact same thing I am also saying/doing. We are only going about it two different ways.

          The fact is, Veganism is the one that can never truly be sustainable. To be truly sustainable you have to have animals on your land. If something happened tomorrow (to our world), I could close borders and sustain myself and my family (with the help of a neighbors bull). Someone that is Vegan could never do that, you have to bring in too much, buy too many supplements and products from far away that you can’t sustain yourself. With only a few acres I could feed my entire family, very well. Just a thought.

        • Ann says

          Six billion people are not being fed now, and it has nothing to do with food supply. There is more than enough food in the world, and there will continue to be enough, to feed each and every human on the planet, and still they starve. What does this have to do with eating meat???

          I think we all agree that corporate meat and feedlot meat production is an abomination and should be stopped as soon as possible. The way to do this is NOT to avoid meat, but to support the farms and farmers that raise meat in a conscientious and careful way, INSTEAD of buying the cheap, mass produced, and inhumanely treated commercial meats. There are farmers out there who truly care about the meats and milk that they produce, and as a measure of ethics, they feed their own families the same food that they sell us. They TRULY CARE.

          Starvation in the world is a political issue, and one of overpopulation. It is NOT one of raising meat sustainably OR of eating less meat.

          This is another vegan “bleat” that I hear again and again. It’s simply nonsense.

          As sad and unfortunate as it is, we do not live in a world where every one is going to avoid hunger and starvation, even if everyone who ate meat turned vegan tomorrow.

          There has never been a time on the planet when every mouth was fed, and every human avoided starvation because there was enough to eat.

          Worldwide starvation happens today, even in countries where eating animal protein was rarely part of their diet.

          Another vegan myth, propagated solely for the purpose of guilt-mongering.

          If vegans, or anyone for that matter, are so concerned about feeding the world, they should start with our own government, and then proceed to the governments of the countries withholding the food from their own people. They would probably do more good that way than to try to tell other people what to eat, which is none of their business – we’re all adults here, and can decide for ourselves what to eat.

    • James says

      Vegans object to sustainable systems that avoid immoral suffering and promote natural existence.

      Please elucidate how livestock are “unnecessary”.

  45. Kevin says

    This is an interesting post, but completely disregards the fact that there’s a difference between killing something (unnatural death) and natural death. Surely the soil feeds on either form, but unnatural death need not be the sole source of nutrients for the soil.

    Similarly, while this post has a religious tone, it also totally disregards the Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism), all of which advocate non-violence to both humans and animals (what you casually disdain as a “poetic” idea), and clearly all stipulate that vegetarianism is a prerequisite to enlightenment.

    These faiths are many thousands of years old and it seems disingenuous of you to not even mention them. While vegetarianism is not the same as veganism, the ultimate end idea is the same: animals are alive and sentient and, as humans, we should not kill them.

    • KristenM says

      How is killing something an “unnatural” death? I can think of plenty of times in nature where one creature kills another for food. Why should humans be any exception?

      Also, please don’t misread my tone. I have/had no disdain when I use the word “poetic.” I meant it! It is a beautiful, poetic idea, and I love Beauty and Poetry.

  46. Tammy says

    It is a wonderful post. I regret reading the comments.

    Everyone always wants tolerance for their own way of life, and yet rarely has any for those who live around them.

    Thanks again for your post. It was beautiful and thought provoking.

    • Eva says

      Ha. Tammy, I also thought this was a very worthwhile post and regret reading the comments.

      I cannot understand how and why all intelligent discussion about the food system in this country has become dominated by zealots.

  47. Ingrid says

    I want an apple tree to eat my body! haha! Lovely post, I really enjoyed reading it.

    I also somewhat regret reading the comments. People are quite harsh. I really don’t feel too comfortable around vegans much anymore. (Mainly because I work in a lab and grew up in a hunting family)They can be quite judgmental against me.

    Thanks again for the beautiful post!

  48. says

    Totally brilliant! We could have used this in Oakland a couple of weeks ago where evangelical vagans are trying to have all animals banned from urban farms. Good grief!

    I have also been thinking through this web of life and reflecting on the irony of humans who, through enbalming, attempt to render our flesh hostile to the life that would connect us back to the earth and make us part of the great cycle. How foolish our need to differentiate ourselves.

  49. says

    You’re proposing a false dilemma, that either one is purely vegan or purely omnivorous. Veganisn is an attempt to consider the value the life of sentient beings and develop a lifestyle that minimises harm to such beings.

    Sure, you can’t completely remove animals from the global or even local food systems. But what you can do is consciously reduce the amount of animal products you use.

    While for other reasons I found your discourse unsatisfactory, I feel it’s used as an excuse to continue the whimsical use of animals as per the status quo.

  50. says

    Well said.

    Vegans fail to realize that billions (Yes! Billions!) of animals die in the production of fruits, cereals and vegetables through clearing, tillage, pesticides, herbicides, mechanical weeding, harvesting and then there is the long distance transport issue. Vegan diets are not sustainable on most of the planet through out the year without supplements or long distance transport of food. That means petroleum or other fuels used, wildlife killed on the roads, etc. Veganism is not a “do no harm” but rather a self-denial. Omnivores is sustainable and honest.

    I don’t have a problem with someone being on a particular diet but they should be honest and not militant or evangelical – especially since that makes them hypocrites.

    • Ashton says

      At least we don’t go out of our way to delibrately murder animals just for eating them.

      And there are more reasons to be a vegetarian than moral reasons.

  51. Agustin says

    I don’t understand some of the replies made.

    Let’s make this clear, under no circumstances is veganism ever *more* damaging than animal production. Because in all circumstances if you’re producing meat, you’re growing extra crops to feed them. All the downsides of vegetable production are doubled plus you’re killing even more animals. Every year 58 billion animals are killed worldwide for food. How many crops does that require? How much extra water? Myou can google these answers.

    The purchase of B12 supplements is ridiculed for having to rely on big pharma. First, B12 is produced by a very wide variety of companies and is not a drug. No pharma is involved. Second, how is any more reliant than the companies you buy your meat from? Unless you’re tapping wells, growing crops, raising livestock and killing it yourself, you’re relying on someone, somewhere. Buying a $6 bottle of 90 days worth of B12 is far less expensive and harmful to the enviroment than getting it from meat.

    As for nutrition, it’s a myth you need animal protein. Please refer to the China Study. Please look at the sheer amount of athletes and celebrities who are perfectly healthy as vegans.

    As a vegan, my motivations is simply to do as little harm as possible. I accept I can’t be perfect towards animals. Just as I accept I will sometimes falter as a husband, a father and a Christian. But everyday I do my best and improve, and to atone for my failings. Most vegans are like this.

    Lastly, as for death threats. I can say this goes both ways. While I have no received death threats, Ive had good (and even best) friends pick fights and berate me. I’ve been called silly things like “not a real man” to having people in my face. All of this and I have *never* attempted to convert, converse or inform anyone about my veganism. Majority of people find out only when they see me order in a restaurant. The rest is because one of those people told them.

    People feel about their food as they do their religion and politics. I would never tell any of you what you should do, but this post is flawed and so are the replies. Veganism, like any human idea, has flaws. But it’s still a good idea and personal anecdotal evidence to the contrary do not say otherwise.

    Speaking of anecdotal, my first two months of veganism saw my cholesterol drop 60 points and sugar drop 50. My *year* of paleo only resulted in 20 and 12, respectively.

    • James says

      “Under no circumstances is veganism ever *more* damaging than animal production.”

      Inaccurate…. okay, wait a minute…. yeah, it’s not inaccurate…. it’s a LIE.

      I invite you to study permaculture, and to check out Allan Savory’s TED talk.

      “I would never tell you what you should do, but I will tell you that the truth is a lie.” Did I get that straight?

    • James says

      I want to backtrack a bit here:
      Calling someone a liar is going too far, so I apologize for that, Agustin.

      So to rephrase: I don’t know what the source is for your argument, but it’s wrong.

      And I’ll stop there.

  52. Annie-Eve says

    “It’s about the undeniable truth that all life comes from death.”
    That’s right, but being a vegetarian or a vegan has nothing to do with avoiding to cause death. If so, vegetarians and vegans would feel bad about eating plants too, since plants are living things.
    The difference is that animals can suffer, which plants can’t, since animals are sensitive while plants are not. Actually, vegans avoid milk and eggs, which are NOT living things. They avoid them because the way we actually get them imply to hurt (to hurt and not to kill) cows and hens.

  53. Ashton says

    This is disturbing. It’s like it was written by a serial killer. Seriously, because some bugs get killed by accident, we should all go around deliberately murdering each other and eating ourselves?

    Yeah, I know you weren’t encouraging cannibalism, but why not? Maybe we taste good!

  54. Pinkie Pinkster says

    I hope that the uninformed writers of these books will read the educated comments of the vegans and vegetarians – I look down on the meat and dairy eaters as living sad, ignorant lives and I’m glad that I’m living on a higher plain, not consuming dead animal flesh.

    • John says

      If you think meat & dairy eaters live said, ignorant lives then you must not have much going for you.

      If only the entire world can be enlightened, ethically and morally as you. /sarcasm

    • pear says

      have you ever thought that looking down on people and thinking youre on a “higher plane” may be narcism and arragnmce and ego centric which would indicate one of a lower plane according to your spiritual snobbery?

  55. Chris says

    I have been a vegan for almost two years, but I agree with the idea that veganism as a sustainable global food strategy would be difficult to implement. This is one of the reasons which trouble me a little bit about veganism. Basically, if all the world was vegan, a sustainable food system would be difficult.

    But I don’t really know if I agree with the point that animals need to die for us. The reason why we need animals is to fertilise the soil in order to grow plant-based food. For that we use their manure. I don’t understand how needing an animals manure equates to needing to kill and eat that animal. Obviously it does make more sense to also eat the animal than to just farm animals for their manure and not eat them, but I don’t think it is a justifiable reason for just automatically saying that eating animals is necessary for growing plants. Really, the most logical solution for a sustainable system would be to use human waste as a natural fertilizer. The reality is that people won’t want to eat that food, but it would be a sustainable system – humans eat plants and then fertilize the soil to grow more plants – in which animals aren’t necessary. Either way, I don’t support your arguement that death of animals is necessary to support life, because currently we eat the animals and then our waste gets dumped into sewers (the death supports the soil arguement only holds true if a) we leave the animals to rot in the fields! or b) our waste from eating animals is returned to the fields)

    Assuming it would be almost impossible to convince people to eat plant food grown in fields fertilized from human waste, and agreeing that synthetic fertilizers are in every sense bad and unsustainable long-term, the alternative is to use animal manure. In order to be truly sustainable this would require small scale farming in the way of the infamous polyface farm. Unfortunately, we all know this is not the way in which the vast majority of meat is produced in the developed world. So, unless you are consuming animal products that come from small scale sustainable farms, eating animal products is not a good solution. It is contributing to the problem.

    The reason why I am still a vegan even though I appreciate that if everyone was a vegan our food system wouldn’t be sustainable, is that collectively we consume way, way, way, way too much in the way of meat and animal products. So I don’t need to eat meat so that there will be manure to ferilize plant based food, because there are a billion other people eating more than enough meat, and the waste from most of these animals is not fertilizing anything, its sitting in vast cesspools behind factory farms. Me eating meat isn’t going to suddenly make the food system sustainable.

    I also don’t eat meat because I personally could never kill an animal, and so wouldn’t feel right about paying someone to do it on my behalf. I believe that as humans we may have evolved to eat meat as ‘hunter-gatherers’ but I also believe that we have further evolved something called compassion. What separates us from other animals is that we are capable of rational thought, to think through our actions and to understand their consequences. It is not enough for us to simply say that death is a part of life, therefore it is natural to keep an animal fenced or locked up and then slit its throat and eat it, because we are ‘supposed’ to eat meat.

    Personally, I don’t think we need to eat animal products, certainly not meat. I appreciate that everyone is different, and I know for some people it is hard to not eat meat, although I think that is more because they have grown up eating meat, rather than because it is something humans need. I don’t miss meat and I haven’t had any health problems in the last two years of veganism. I have been travelling around the world by bicycle in that time, cycling about 30,000km, which I mention only to prove that for me I didn’t need animal products to keep me fit or strong or capable of doing eight hours physical activity a day. There are many examples of top athletes being vegan, Carl Lewis a primary example. It is also interesting that many of the greatest minds in history (Da Vinci, Einstein, Newton) were vegetarian. The leading causes of death in the developed world are heart disease, cancer and stroke and these are strongly linked with the western diet high in red meat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

    I am a vegan and I also have read The Vegetarian Myth, it was actually a book I read when I was making my decision to become vegan. I wanted to get every perspective before making my decision. Although Keith does have some good opinions, I’m sorry to say that there is a lot of bad science in that book, and many of her arguements are based on the work of one or two sources that go against the majority of scientific study.

    Sorry that this comment is so long. Basically, I’m a vegan and I’m healthy and I don’t think that the ‘death is a part of life’ arguement justifies eating animals.

  56. pear says

    we were taught that plants nature and natural products were good for us but the truth is mother nature is dangerous and defends herself

    apple pips are poisonous (never eat them) lilies (flower) KILL CATS… clumpy was lucky..cats die in 3 days after eating the plant.

    plants are full of chemicals and poison and thorns for a reason. theyre not meant to be eaten they are there to protect themselves. so we are not actually herbivores,we eat what we can to survive (animals) hence our sharp flesh ripping teeth,and we need the things in meat more,medically. regarding plants..the only good thing they offer is vitamin c which is good but u can get that via tablets and this way youre not injesting the bad sugars and poison of plants so if you were concerned with your health you could try that too
    if ur a vegan,its wodnerful youre a vegan as long as its for the animals and not image or argument or a way to tell people off

    but like meat, plants and veg have their bad points

    please be wary
    unfortuantely whatever faults you say meat has,mother nature isnt always best,the truth is everything has bad and good in them..please watch out and watch your cats
    LILIES KILL CATS
    LILY FLOWERS KILL CATS

  57. pear says

    ps someone said that meat and protein was a myth..
    did he know that vitamin c and plants is a victorian myth? they are bad for u too but offer vitamin c which our science and tablets can give us instead.
    ive never met a vegan who cared about animals..ive met many who cared about telling me off.
    but im sure theyre out there the oens that do care..
    saldy veganism has become image and a form of feeling superior like that girl on a “higher plane” said..lol. oh dear!

  58. pear says

    ps someone said that meat and protein was a myth..
    did he know that vitamin c and plants is a victorian myth? they are bad for u too but offer vitamin c which our science and tablets can give us instead.
    ive never met a vegan who cared about animals..ive met many who cared about telling me off.
    but im sure theyre out there the ones that do care..
    saldy veganism has become image and a form of feeling superior like that girl on a “higher plane” said..lol. oh dear!
    and the whole we dont have rights argument..sorry but we have as much rights as the lion to kill and eat emat..we are all part of life..if the lion can kill we can..im not saying its ok or good but thats the way it is in nature
    you guys live for nature and swear by it yet it is a paradise with many snakes
    what seperates me from the lion? why should the lion have a right
    in fact you should all thank humans and slaughter because at least we are thinking about the animals suffering and ending is life humanely. tell me do you vegans really agree with something getting ripped open and disembowelled alive in nature? are you ok with the suffering.
    i believe in animals not suffering if you are a vegan you should too. and if it werent for us “awful humans” we’d be in “wonderful mother nature” killing and ripping animals apart SLOWLY
    we are at least now thinking about it and the animals arent suffering
    you may say you prefer the naturla way but REALLY? You want us to rip animals brutally like the lion?
    you are lying to yourself or are heartless if you think thats okay
    peopl arent perfect and like the lion we are doing whats natural.
    at least we are doing it the pain less kinder way.
    wuth humanity.
    thats why HUMAN is in humanity.
    weve dont alot of good,mother nature can be viscious
    stop putting humans down. nature is deadly..even plants ahve thorns in order to prick you..theyre not there for you to eat either by the way!
    be vegans but take in the truth and dont hate humans and meat eaters
    take care you all

    • says

      A lion does not imprison its victim by several of months in unnatural, unhealthy and painful environments. A lions kills in victim in a few seconds. The suffering of factory animal lasts a much, much longer. Please make a research before making connections.
      I think that you don’t understand the meaning of humanity. Humanity means the choice of the smallest amount of pain that cannot be avoided. Farming and killing animals can be avoided.

      Humanity doesn’t mean “If he can make harm, so can I”. And the most important thing : a lion has no choice except eating meat. He just can’t.
      But we CAN.

      • James says

        But you’re objecting to all meat consumption–from the natural to the industrial.

        And, from your second paragraph, you’re encouraging unnatural behavior.

  59. pear says

    ps that kill it yourself argument is invalid.
    if i killed it myself guys the animal would really suffer
    are you really up for animal suffering? if so no you arent a real vegan
    its always better to kill things humanely its why we put animals down! and ues the slaughter house.
    killing isnt ok cos you did it yourself. suffering is the thing to avoid. never should a animal suffer. and to make a wild claim that we can do it if we rip it apart like a lion,,whoo thats ok then lets rip em apart.
    no thats brutal..we are civilised unlike the lion.

  60. Maria says

    Love the article. dislike a lot of the comments! since when does everyone have to right to say what is good and isn’t good for them? we all are own own doctors and unless shut off form any instinctual behaviour we know what makes us feel good and bad, its all down to you not your neighbour or the person on the net telling you your diet is bad! Each and every kind of diet sits well with each and every kind of person somewhere. Can we not just accept that, appreciate the stories of lets say failure/accomplishment and just be happy and accepting of one another instead of trying to shut one another down? Veganism I believe is not about superiority it’s just about eating what you want to eat and embracing that fact that you have a choice as is meat-eating or anything in between. It can be that simple!!

    • says

      You see, veganism isn’t at all about food, that’s the biggest mistake of meat eaters, they think it’s only matter of diet, “You eat meat, we don’t, us an them”. No. The most important reason it to no do harm, to end the suffering of billions of slaved creatures which is unimaginable.
      This is why for us, vegans, its hard to accept your choice to eat meat and other animal products. You just don’t care you are the reason of horryfing evil happeing in every second in every place in this planet. And please don’t tell me it’s natural. Caging, torturing, feeding with soy, antibiotics, branding and so other isn’t natural at all. The progress? No, just cruelty.
      Go to forest, hunt something with every weapon you do want to choose, kill and then do what you want, that is natural and moral reasonable if we talk about the rights of nature, of life and death.

  61. Ann says

    Been vegetarian/vegan 10 years without a problem.
    If I dont need to eat animals I won’t.
    Same if I didn’t need to eat vegetables I wouldn’t but I do.

    Some suffering can be prevented, while other can’t.

  62. Katie says

    Ok. I’ve been a vegan for about 5 years and I feel good. I don’t even eat healthy all the time. I don’t exercise. I live a normal life and sometimes I feel like everyone around me is tired. Meanwhile, you can find me doing twice the amount of work as my other coworkers physically and I still have excess amounts of energy. I have no physical/health problems. I don’t take supplements/vitamins or any kind. I haven’t been sick in idk how long…cause it’s been that long. My friends and family support me and I’m happy. I support being vegan. If you become vegan you’ll most likely feel good inside and out. :) Also, if interested in the vegan ideals watch: forks over knives on netflix, earthlings, steve yourofsky-best speech you’ll ever hear on youtube, and Philip Wollen : Animals Should Be Off The Menu debate on youtube.

  63. says

    I am sorry, but there is nothing worse than a self righteous vegan or vegetarian. Do as you please and leave others to do as they choose. I have a client who has been vegetarian for all her life and is dealing with serious health problems now. She has begun eating pastured meats and healing bone broths with wonderful results. After having a couple of kids her body was depleted and luckily her mid wife helped her evaluate her lab work and suggested she do some reading. I love Weston Price and what a gift he gave us with all his research and writings !

  64. Mestena says

    Do some research outside of the China Study and you will find that, in fact, most vegetarians end up eventually abandoning the lifestyle due to mounting health problems.

    Vegetarianism and Veganism are modern social experiments that may, or may not, prove themselves to be valid lifestyle choices in the long-term. What we do know, however, is that no human group in the history of humanity has sustained itself on a 100% vegetarian diet, though many interest-groups will assert that humans are naturally ‘fruitarian’, vegetarian, or some combination of these. If you pore over some serious literature in the non-diet-biased fields of archaeology and anthropology, it quickly becomes clear that humans throughout history happily and gratefully chowed down on animal parts whenever the opportunity arose, and those opportunities were welcomed with gusto! Nutrient dense foods such as animal fat, meat, and eggs were life-saving for primitive people, who didn’t have the luxury of a Whole Foods store down the street.

    Now, we modern humans DO have access to great food resources, with a wide and varied stockpile of international cuisine to choose from. However, that being said, choosing to eat this way is not necessarily a smart or sustainable choice. One question I always ask the outspoken veg people in my area is this: Could you sustain your health as a veg if you only had access to the foods grown within 100 miles of your home? Inevitably the answer is a resounding ‘No!’, with some sort of grumbling, excuse following shortly, blaming the current environmental crisis on factory farms. If a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is only made possible by shipping food over long distances with fossil fuels, and taking copious amounts of supplements to stave off malnutrition, can this REALLY be called a viable, environmentally friendly lifestyle choice? I think not.

    I will be the first to agree with the veg community that the enormous concentrated livestock operations (CAFO’s) are a bane on our planet, and an absolute catastrophe in regards to animal welfare and human health. That being said, however, I would like to point out that this, too, is a large-scale, unproven social experiment, and has very much shown itself to be an inefficient option for feeding the masses. I expect to see this system come to a grinding halt in the next decade, and I will celebrate that day when it comes. But to conclude that because CAFO’s are harmful, the only other option is to stop eating meat altogether is to engage in a false dichotomy. There is a third, and better option for us, our planet, and our animal friends; small-scale, polycultural, grass-based, family farms, where multiple species of livestock and crops are raised in such a way that have been proven over and over again to actually IMPROVE the existing environment, soil, water, and air quality, and very capably feed the local community. This option, in my mind, seriously trumps the other alternatives, including a veg lifestyle dependent on consumption, large-scale produce agriculture, and trucked-in foods. Remember folks, cows aren’t supposed to be eating grains, anyway. It is unnecessary, and tends to make them ill. The oft-heard argument that the problem lies in the enormous amount of farmland dedicated to raising animals, and growing the grain to support them, is an argument that I can partially agree with, but for different reasons than you might suppose. We could eliminate 80% of the agricultural problem, if we simply put cows, chickens, and pigs back into their natural ecological, grass-based niche and STOP FEEDING THEM CORN!!!

    There are always some veg folks (or many, perhaps) which make their lifestyle choice based on a desire to decrease animal suffering by not partaking in the eating of animal products. This, to me, is an admirable outlook, and one that I most definitely share. However, my disagreement lies with the method of achieving this. To begin, I would like to propose that to consciously choose pasture-based animal products and to spend your money on them is a far more powerful action to protect animal welfare than simple passive non-participation. If you stop buying CAFO-raised beef and buy broccoli instead, the beef producers will not notice the loss of your dollar. On the other hand, if you stop buying CAFO beef and instead give your money to the small farm down the road, enabling that small farm to provide more quality, humanely raised beef, which will in turn attract more customers, THAT will be noticed by the big boys of the industry.

    And on the subject of broccoli, I have found that most people in the veg community think that a purchase of veggies instead of a purchase of meat is a vote for the health of our planet. However, if you allow yourself to look beyond the cute little label and organic certification on the produce in the grocery store, you will find yet more huge, industrial agricultural operations based on fossil fuel, heavy machinery, and monoculture crops (one crop grown on many acres). Just because they use organic fertilizer and pest control methods, doesn’t mean that the produce comes from a little family farm. Most organic produce hails from HUGE farming operations, that are rife with many of the same environmental problems that exist on the non-organic industrial farms, such as: Enormous outputs of fossil fuels to run equipment to till, plant, harvest, process, and ship the food to your neighborhood healthfood store. Less-than-safe working conditions for the laborers on the farm. Thousands of tiny animals killed with each pass of the tilling and harvesting equipment. Hundreds, or thousands of species of flora and fauna displaced to create cropland. The animals in this case are mice and moles and rabbits and other creatures that are run over by tractors, or lose their habitat to make way for farming, so they are not as “visible” as cattle, but the deaths are very real, nonetheless. This begs the question: Why is it OK to kill animals of the field so that we can eat vegetables, grains, or fruits but it is not okay to kill pigs or chickens or cows? If I kill a cow, that one death will feed my family for a year or more. To eat a veg diet for a year, there would be literally thousands of tiny lives impacted and lost to provide the grains and produce for my family. Which choice truly reduces suffering?

    Just some food for thought…Or thought for food, as it were.

  65. ease says

    What an eloquent way to say “Well, you’re killing any way, might as well go all the way.” Guess cannibalism is okay too.

    Kristin, the world needs to solutions to problems not problems to solutions.

    I realize humans’ sole purpose is to ensure an end to everything, but some of us want to do what we can to reduce suffering by being as compassionate as possible along the way.

    Live your life the way you want, but allow those who want to create a better life for others to do so without you creating excuses why we shouldn’t.

    I mean, why bother being environmentally friendly while others aren’t. Why bother shopping at a ‘mom and pop’ while everybody shops at toxic Walmart.

    The point is to evolve and do better and do what you can to do your part to create peace in the world, even if it goes against the status quo of humans’ destructive purpose.

    You are right about one thing though. Death does create life. Once our species is gone, everything else will grow back and flourish.;)

    • ease says

      Kristin: At least you’re advocating for free-range, but the vegan lifestyle is better for your health, the environment, and of course, the animals.

      I was also wondering if you’re a toady for the industry, which would explain the purpose of this article.

      Tasha @ Voracious Eats: Sorry you had such a bad experience. Threats of any kind are uncalled for. I will say it’s a step back, but that’s your choice.

      I believe everyone should give it a try though;)

  66. Lee says

    Vegans love cats, dogs, lions, tigers and all other carnivores save one, whom many vegans appear to loathe, namely the 98% of the human race who do not agree with them. Still, it is hard not to admire their religion, so long as they do not put heretics to the steak. (Sorry, that was bad.)

    • Michael Kling says

      Humans are not carnivores. Most vegans believe humans are herbivorousand meat is unhealthy to our body, ie cancer, heart desease, cholesterol issue.

      Can you please research the whole topic of veganism and its valid arguments for being vegan? Its not all about ethics,but it starts off that way.

      Also claiming veganism is a religion is just as ignorate as your belief we are carnivores. Religion does not harm any other beings on this planet and its not a personal choice like music or colour or asethics. To trivialise this like you have just speak volumes about your ignoranceon the subject.

      Also for those of you religious christians out ther who believe in creationism then ask yourself this question. If adam and eve were made in the image of god and we have no changed in anatommy from adam and eve then how come they could thrive on a garden of plants yet your christians cant? come on?

  67. JC says

    So, just a thought I had the other day. Many Vegans dont eat eggs because those eggs may produce chickens…like eating babies. I get it. What is there was a way to obtain unfertilized chicken eggs. Unfertilized eggs will never make a baby chick, but the hens will lay them anyway, nearly every day. To a vegan would it make a difference? Just curious.

    • Michael Kling says

      JC you dont get it at all.I dont eat eggs not because those eggs could produce chickens. The fact of the matter is that chickens, once they hit their laying age, will produce eggs reagrdless without the need to be fertilised. SO in essence you are eating chicken periods(unfertilised eggs).So in short the eggs you get from the supermarket are infact unfertilized chicken eggs.
      Now the reason vegans dont eat eggs has got nothing to do with eating a baby chicken but reasons below.
      1. This is a chicken period yuk
      2. Once chickens reach an age of not laying they are killed (this chicken does not give the farmer any profit so therfore useless)
      3. Obviously hatchlings in an egg farm that are rosters are then killed as they are not needed.
      4. Hens are specifically bred and strained to produce much more eggs than naturally – in the wild, hens lay only a few eggs every month if that but in farming conditions they lay over 250 eggs a year, putting huge strain on them, both in their overall health and mental health.
      5. Many vegans agree that the human body isnt designed to eat any animal products and that we are herbivores, therefiore its unhealthy
      6. Its just plan animal exploitation for human gain.

      i hope i have cleared this up for you

      • James says

        Largely your arguments are aimed at industrial farming, which I can see the point; but it doesn’t really work if one is talking about sustainable farming or gardening.

        But on two of your points:

        1. “An egg is a chicken period. Yuk”
        Okay. And every single fruit you eat–including tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas, squash and melons, olives, etc–is the fertilized eggs of a plant.

        So when you eat zucchini, you’re eating plant babies. But of course that’s less “yuk” than a “chicken period.”

        To carry it further:
        You know how in spring, there’s all that pollen everywhere? Yellow dust covering everything, getting everywhere?

        Yeah. That’s plant semen. “Yuk,” anyone?

        So hay fever is an STD.

        5. “Many vegans agree that the human body isn’t designed to eat any animal products and that we are herbivores….”
        Okay. ‘Many vegans’ thusly fail biology forever. Humans are omnivores.

  68. says

    If so many omnivores agree with vegans/vegetarians in respect to how farm animals are treated/mistreated… why don’t we work together to change things? I don’t really give a shite if you want to eat meat or seitan… if we agree that animals raised for the plate should be treated more humanely… let’s get it done. Incessantly arguing with each other accomplishes NOTHING.

  69. says

    Rock on!

    I couldn’t agree more. We are finally poised to turn our lawn into food. Have a years worth of compost and our first raised beds prepared with seedlings being hardened now. If you want to see death turn into life make a compost that never gets hot and see how many “Kitchen Weeds” show up in your garden next spring!

    And no chemicals on our lawn. I will hand weed and grow “hippie” (meaning TALL, not high)grass. If it dies out, I will plant food. If my neighbors complain I will plant (and eat) dandelions!

    After investing a pauper’s approach to the garden it remains to be seen if I can make is sustainable. But I think THAT is what makes it comforting. Organically, without chemicals, I will be fighting for survival of my food against the pests, critters and nature’s way of taking it from me.

    Nice post.

  70. Alfred says

    Wow. No matter what the subject, some will find ways to ridicule, hate and be mean to others. Good day, everyone.

  71. says

    Veganism is such a first-world issue, isn’t it?! All those trains, planes, and trucks (not to mention commercial freezers and excess packaging, and the fuel and utilities to keep it all going! ) bringing in most of your food. I would love to see a chart showing how far away all the tahini, lentils, dal, nuts, nut butters, off season fruits and vegetables, (etc) not to mention the processing most of the vegan food on the natural food store shelves goes through just to get there. My neighborhood chickens and cows are just down the road.

  72. Kris says

    Wow. All these comments are amazing. Glad to know that there is a vegan mafia out there to come and berate any website (or person) that disagrees with them.

    I would like to point out that the male of most domesticated animal species (chickens, goats, cows, etc) doesn’t like to share with other males. On a vegan farm where, for example, chickens are raised to be pets and to eat worms, what do you do with the excess of roosters? Allow them to kill one another? Kill the hens? Fight? They don’t “just get along”. And how is setting the chickens free to get eaten by my cats or hit by my car helpful to the chicken species? I find that compassion and sustainability need to be viewed through the lens of a species, not an individual. Evolutionarily, chickens (until recently) got a pretty good deal out of their relationship with humans. They are on every continent and have adjusted to eating almost any type of diet. They, as a species, have thrived, whereas other poultry without the same relationship to humans have not.

    What I want to know is, if we all become vegan, would the chicken survive our veganism? Would the cow? Would the world be overrun with cats because in most places they would become the defacto top predator? (Just a nod to my cats, who would love to rule the world)

    All of us followers of Food Renegade are opponents of the CAFO/SAD/Industrial Agribusinesses. We do not support them, nor do we a lot of times even buy much food at the super market. We like our food as local as possible and as sustainable as possible. We want things better. As my husband often says, “why just opt out of the industrial food paradigm, when you can opt IN to a better one?”

    Also, intensive rotational grazing of pastured animals is one of the best ways to fight desertification. We need to USE what we have to fight the degradation of the planet. Animals are one way to do so, and much more effective long term than chemical fertilizers. They can rebuild the soil, which a field of wheat CAN NEVER DO.

    Obviously I don’t have any references, but I can get some if anyone would like. =)

    To life and to the death that feeds it.

  73. says

    Very interesting article. Thanks for posting. But everyone should know that Seeds of Change is owned by the Mars company,which contributed quite a bit of money to defeat Prop 37, the California ballot measure that would have required the labeling of GMO foods. So in spite of the PR move to win support by giving free seed packets, I will not support Seeds of Change and suggest that others don’t either–unless you are fine with GMOs. If you do, any money that you spend with Seeds of Change would very likely go to support similar measures.

  74. Carl Shinyama says

    Hey, I’ve been seriously considering growing my own food, but have hesitated because I lacked the necessary knowledge to replenish the soil and sustain the nutrition of the soil.

    I have found this article very informative, but I still seek to learn more. For example, if I were to plant seeds, would I put the bones directly under the seed and put the manure on top of the soil? If not, what would be the proper (or most recommended) way to do so. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    I do have a (probably amateur) question, though: Why not use sea salts to go with manure? Sea salt contains phosphorus and potassium.

    • Stephen says

      usually bone meal is used instead of whole bones as this give much more surface area to weather into a usable form for plants. Sea salt has too much salt(sodium salts which plants don’t generally need implemented) for the amount of potassium and phosphorus it contains, using enough to get a useful amount of potassium or phosphate into the soil would make it far too saline for most plants. (phosphates, nitrates, potassium, and ammonia salts are generally just as “salty” but much less is required)
      I garden mostly using compost/ organic matter which i just add to the top of the soil to preserve the natural strata of microorganisms, you’ve gotta be careful not to pack it down too much though. I think most people till approximately semiannually at which point I would just mix bone or blood meal in then if needed water with a dilute solution.

      • Carl Shinyama says

        Thanks!

        I have a grinder, so I think I will grind some softer bones, like pheasant bones (which I go hunting for a couple times a year).

        My dad has a pet deer, so I can just scoop up it’s manure an apply it to the soil.

  75. Michael Kling says

    Hmmmm your post is interesting to say the least. You go to the enth degree to explain the essence of life death and the cycle needed for your garden. The problem is the world was thriving and has thrived without human intervention for centuries. Agriculture is a relatively new concept in the scope of the human race. Saying you have to buy blood and bones and other dead animal products to get a decent garden is rediculous. I have a thriving garden without the need for such man made products. Thats right it is natural for the soil to need death to feed on however its not natural to purchase this from a store and lay it on a garden bed.

    You go in to this phylisophical depth of whats natural and the eco system yet you yourself are bypassing this? Irony

  76. says

    I’m a little late to the discussion, but I just found this post now. I can’t help but comment. This is one of the more respectful posts I’ve seen out there about why a person is not vegan. Seriously. Kudos.

    I do want to share my own experience, which of course is my own and doesn’t mean that another person’s experience or view point is wrong or right. It’s just my own experience, no more or less.

    I got my first ulcer at 19 when I went from a primarily vegetarian diet to visiting family in Hungary, where we ate a lot more meat than I was accustomed to. The doctor there told me to stop eating meat and dairy, and she suggested a few other changes. All of which worked!

    A few years later, when I was 22-23 I met and then married my now husband. He’s Brazilian, and we went to lots of barbecues and to Brazilian restaurants together, in and out of Brazil. So once again I went from eating primarily vegetarian to eating more meat than usual. Brilliant results: acne, gas, ulcers, heartburn, and more less-than-awesome stuff which also included a very sad mental outlook.

    At the time that my health was the worst, I stumbled on the raw + vegan diet as an idea for a cure. I figured I didn’t have much to lose and tried it out. In 3 days, my health was better than ever, and I was floored at the difference!

    That was almost 7 years ago, and I’m now in my early 30s. I haven’t looked back because my health continues to either just be awesome or to get even better.

    I do not supplement. I am low on sleep and nursing a baby. Yet… my diet continues to support my lifestyle and keep me healthy. And I still feel fabulous!

    I do not believe that a junk-food vegan diet would have worked (or will work) for me, based on my experiments with “just vegan” but not raw. But eating unprocessed, whole foods as part of a raw + vegan diet has saved my life + energy + sanity.

    eva | raw

  77. Ryan says

    Thank you. I’m trying to find your list of gardening products but when I click on it it takes me to a blank amazon page. Do you have another link you can send me or a list?

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