A thread in which we discuss ethics relating to a vegan lifestyle
I will warn you before this thread even starts, it's in food fight for a reason, as there will be PROS and CONS discussed about following any and all parts of a vegan lifestyle.
By the way, hi, vegweb! if you feel like banning me after I start this thread it's been a good time, thanks!
Basically, I would like to discuss how veganism came about in your life due to ethics, if you think it is all you can do, if you think it is truly the best thing ethically, etc.
I will start with my story and current feelings. I first went vegan for sustainability reasons. It hit me in a biology class that if I want to be sustainable (always one of my biggest passions), I will eat lowest in the trophic levels, this led to me being vegetarian and pretty much immediately going vegan. Vegan also came with a bit of an AR reason, since ultimately it was some PETA propaganda I picked up when looking for vegan recipes (I ate all vegan at home when I was LO veg, but would sometimes eat a brownie or something prepared by others). I also wanted to be vegan to be healthier, since I knew that it would cut a lot of shit out of my diet. In the years that followed, my reasons and diet have changed immensely (but always vegan--duh).
I still find sustainability to be a HUGE reason, though I am an ardent supporter of permaculture, and in a permacultural system, the sustainability argument holds little weight (in fact, some could say it would be less sustainable to not eat animals, though I do not know where I stand on that issue). I have a hard time getting produce from a permacultural system, which is unfortunate, since I would ideally only like to support agriculture that is that sustainable. I am currently working on growing pretty much all my own food,, but it will be a couple of years.
In terms of AR, obviously I believe that factory farming is wrong. I personally have just believe that we need to end our exploitation of animals and reliance on them for ANYTHING. I was just musing the other day how I think it funny that vegans will not eat some animal product that doesn't kill the animal but supports the killing of it systematically (like milk supporting the veal industry) but they all adopt their PETS ("companion animals") from shelters which euthanize the animals if no one gets them. Sure, you saved your animals life, but by keeping the pet system going you have killed countless others. I'm not trying to indict anyone here, but just showing how fine these ethical lines can be. I certainly think that it is wrong to kill an animal for nothing but our own pleasure, though I do not think that it would be wrong to kill an animal if we had to for something like self defense or if it is needed for human health (yes, I do think that our health is more important than an animals life, sorry, in order for any species to be successful they must eat what they are designed to with no regard for another species welfare).
Which I suppose brings me to my last point, health. Health has been the biggest thing keeping me vegan for the last 7 years. Why? Because, ethically, I do not think that there would be a problem eating foods that are going into the trash that are of animal origin. I am sure most people would agree with that statement. As I have worked in numerous food service establishments in the last 7 years I have had AMPLE opportunities to eat meat, diary, and eggs that was just thrown away (what a sad sad shame for those animals lives that had to give them up just to sit in a landfill, makes me want to cry just thinking about it). I have, especially in the last few years, preached veganism for health like there is no tomorrow. As many of you know, I took on a quite serious vegan diet, eating simply, low fat, low protein, high carb, no grains, tons of veggies and fruit, etc. I basically went on and off between that diet (basically all raw) and a more conventional McDougal type approach (Essylstein, Campbell... What they all teach)... The holy grail of health, right? Well, I did feel marginally better on the raw version (I think grains are the devil, for multiple reasons and I will get into that below), but have increasingly began to feel worse and worse. I can't really explain that much other than much more limited thinking ability and incredibly strong lethargy. I also thought back to when I first stopped regularly (daily) working out and it was, lo and behold, probably about 5 months after I first went vegan.
Well, I have a pretty strong opinion that supplements are bullshit, and since I was feeling not-so-super neurologically, I decided to get my b12 checked. LOW. You know what else was low? D... What the hell? I live in sunny San Diego and get TONS of sun. This was also at the end of the summer that I got tested, when one would probably have the highest levels of D from sunlight. So starts my distrust of veganism as the ultimate health plan. Sure, people see results reversing disease, or get healthier due to eliminating lots of other bad things from the diet, but how about long term? I started reading, and trying my best to not let my bias towards veganism sway what I was reading and I found.. A lot. So many people have health problems on vegan diets. And I found this gem http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/09/22/forks-over-knives-is-the-science-legit-a-review-and-critique/ (<--- Do not read this unless you want to forever not trust Dr. Campbell again) and read that and her critique of the chine study. Well! Looks like the basis of why veganism is healthier is a little sham-y.
Then, I found this interview, which led me to posting this thread. http://letthemeatmeat.com/post/863965328/interview-with-an-ex-vegan-tovar-cerulli I agree with what much of this guy says. I have long avoided grains because I do not thing, as a vegan, they are ethical both because of stolen habitat from animals, and then because the machines used in harvesting kill many many animals. All of my reasons for eschewing grains came flooding back to me when I was reading that guys interview, even thought here I am trying to to eat grains so that I can feel better (not working). I do believe that people (even vegans) do not think enough about where their food is coming from and how ethical it is. I am striving to grow all of my own food (lots of fruit trees :)), but until then, I am stuck eating things that I do not know everything about. It does seem like the simple thing to do is say "I'm vegan and that's what I do for the animals"... but is it really enough? Is it good for you? Is every single death and useful one? How can we make it so in our own lives?
Just FYI, I am still "vegan", I do not know where my diet is going at the moment as I still have a very strong ethical pull towards veganism, though if it was merely an intellectual thing I think that my veganism would be shot out the window. I'm just emotionally attached.
Hate me yet?
hmmm. how long did you try all those different things for? maybe you didn't do them long enough for it to have an effect on your body.
i mean, try whatever you want to try to see if it helps, but i really don't think eating eggs or whatever else is gonna make you feel better. animal products are a secondary source of energy. if you're feeling tired and not energized it seems counter productive to eat something that isn't the purest form of energy, which would be whole plant foods.
also, could it maybe be your iron? when i first went vegan i had that fog as well and then i went to the doctor and found out i was borderline anemic (my mom's anemic, so i should have definitely been more careful). once i started getting more iron in me i was totally fine.
also, also, maybe it's your body telling you you need to do something exciting! haha, well it's an idea. jump out of a plane (with a parachute, obviously). maybe it'll blow the fog and lethargy and bad stuff out of you. :D
Thanks for the B12 answer. B12 doesn't seem to make me feel one way or another. All the best in finding something that works for you. :)
I'm sorry you haven't been feeling well.
I don't care what other people eat, so if you chose to eat animal again, I don't have an opinion. I admire your knowledge of nutrition (your being a nutritionist and all), but I don't think your detailed attention to it serves you well. We don't know all there is to know about nutrition. So, when you crunch the numbers, it may seem like you should be able to mainly eat oranges, but that's our coarse understanding of things. Or avoiding grains. Humans have wild-harvesting grains for ages, more or less depending on climate and location. You appear to eat in extremes, which would affect health on any eating regime. Either way, I hope you find what will help you feel better.
personally, I feel much BETTER when I do not eat grains and when I eat tons of fruit and greens/veggies.. It's nice.
but I thought that was the problem?! You think you felt better before veg*nism? Is it possible that you had low B12 levels as an omni? I think we're sometimes quick to be leery/skeptical of our vegan diets because of what we've been taught all our lives? Feeling tired..sluggish..foggy..bloated..etc..must be missing something in my diet. I dunno...I'm just saying the same things again.
I think we've veered off from discussing ethics, though. It seems like you were saying that there are so many ways we do harm, and we can never do enough, so...? What was the point that you were trying to make there? It makes you feel disheartened about being vegan? What's the alternative?
also, sorry you don't feel good, i feel rude for not saying that before! i really do hope that you find a way to feel better, though.
I didn't get it was about ethics in general.
I'd unreservedly harm an animal or person who was attacking me. No problem. As a biologist, I also see that the world is designed around one animal exploiting or eating another. We have nothing on disgusting ways to kill. I've been vegan for five years and, to my knowledge, each year my health has improved, but that's equally anecdotal and I don't think it speaks to ethics.
I don't understand how living with a chicken and eating its eggs is more ethical than living with a cat or dog, but maybe you weren't making that comparison. Some cats want to live with people. My cat, Cat, was a street cat who moved himself in with me, so people simply living with a non-human species doesn't have an ethical line for me. If you eat an egg, believing it will help, it probably will - whether or not it does. Is the question about eating eggs? Is there an ethical difference between eating eggs, thereby not allowing the bird to go through its reproductive process, and fixing a cat or dog? Something like that?
I had the first talk about becoming vegetarian back in 2007. I talked about it with my ex-girlfriend. She explained to me her reasons of being vegetarian were due to animal rights and she just felt gross eating meat. It didn't appeal to her. Even before her and I had that talk, vegetarianism was an idea I had in my head for my own life for some time but never talked to anyone about it.
Over the next few years, I kept eating chicken, beef, pork, and seafood. Lots of chicken, beef, pork, and seafood. I was disgusting and felt disgusting. In 2009, after taking her invitation to visit her, I ate meat in front of her and knew she didn't approve. I thought to myself, "well..Josh..you've been thinking about giving up meat for some time. Try it." I gave up meat for her. Yes, a pathetic attempt to try and win her heart. I thought I could do vegetarianism while using my unstable views about the world. It didn't work. I continued to eat meat and she left me. The two had nothing to do with each other. But they happened about the same time.
After she left in June of 2009, as I began to pick up the pieces, the idea popped into my head, "forget her. I'll try vegetarianism for myself. No impressing anyone." When I made that choice, vegetarianism became one of the easiest and one of the most beneficial decisions I've ever made. When I started vegetarianism, it was a combination of trying to prove something to myself and a bit of animal rights. Sure, I asked myself if I was subconsciously trying to impress her. I can honestly say, "no." As I started to get into vegetarianism - I began to lose weight, get my energy, clear my head, and started to lose my depression/blah/mental fog. I became a lot happier than I was.
After I put all of this together, I got more and more into animal rights. I watched videos like "Earthlings" from amymylove. I read books and articles..I spent time exploring the world around me.. And I can honestly say the things I've learned would have probably never come to me if I hadn't gotten into vegetarianism. People ask me what made me go veggie and I tell them, "the way I saw and see the world doesn't call for me to eat animals. To me, vegetarianism just makes sense."
I'm a lot more in-tune, passionate, protective, vocal, and supportive of animals and nature. I'm a lot more balanced and focused on these causes and maintaining the balance in my world. The way I see things now, I feel as if eating animals or destroying the environment will destroy the balance thus destroying ourselves. In a way, in regards to vegetarianism, I guess I've pieced together my ethics though the exploration..an exploration I probably would've never taken if I didn't push myself into vegetarianism/veganism. And I don't have any want to go back.
Working my way through the critique of Forks Over Knives... some initial thoughts:
-- I think it's valid to say the Norway stuff didn't fairly account for increased fish consumption, during that time.
-- I think it's valid to say that a lot of the data reported does treat 'animal-based diet' and 'high-sugar/ highly processed diet' as one and the same. But a whole-foods plant-based diet DOES neatly deal with both problem sets! Whether the problems of heart disease and diabetes are (for a given individual) caused more by one or the other, it sure seems easy to address both factors at once, with veg eating... so if I were a whole-foods omni, i might say 'hey, wait a minute, that's not the same thing!'... and ok, fair enough. But it is SO much easier to deal with both problems at once, by upping the plant foods... and they only had an hour and a half, and there's already so much ground to cover... I don't really have a problem with not separating 'animal-based diet' and 'highly processed diet', in terms of what most Americans eat; both are true, and respond well to the same interventions (eating minimally processed plant foods).
-- Re: the casein studies... the reviewer kinda does the same thing, doesn't she, in treating 'casein' and 'protein' as the one and the same? I don't eat a 'low protein' diet, and I didn't hear Forks Over Knives recommending one... I thought the interesting data from those experiments was that casein appeared to influence tumor growth; yes, as the reviewer points out, the rats had been given a carcinogen (which I presumably have not), so the casein itself was not acting to *cause* initial cancer cell formation; and the casein was the ONLY protein in their diets... so 5% casein = a 5% protein diet, which caused lower rates of survival overall. BUT: I'm not eating a 5% protein diet, nor is Dr. Esseltsyn recommending one... I think the data does indicate that casein influences tumor growth, which is was (I think fairly) reported by Esseltsyn to do. Avoiding casein and avoiding all protein are not the same thing, and of course would not yield identical results. That doesn't negate the correlation between casein and cancer cell growth; they are two separate variables.
-- The reviewer gets very excited about how Forks Over Knives 'sneakily' changes from using the word 'casein' to the term 'animal protein' later in the same sentence-- which is funny, given what I just said above, since the reviewer has been treating the two things as equivalent up til now-- but honestly, as an editing decision, how often do you want to repeat the same word in one sentence?! "A diet of 5% casein compared to a diet of 20% casein changed tumor growth, suggesting that casein can turn tumor growth on and off and a diet low in casein could reduce cancer risk..." Dude. No editor *isn't* going to go looking for some other ways to say 'casein'. I'm not sure that makes it 'sneaky'!
-- The reviewer gets all snarky b/c Forks Over Knives 'ignored' tribal societies like the Inuit who eat a lot of meat, in the context of a hunter/ gatherer lifestyle and traditional vs industrial food paradigm. Um, duh: they are not the target audience for the movie! The documentary focuses on the population treated by Esseltsyn et al: people in Western industrialized nations who are fat, sick, and nearly dead from a lifetime of eating too much crap (yes, both too much animal junk AND too much sugar/ processed foods). They are not all going to be willing or able to transition to living with an Inuit tribe in the arctic. So. That strategy may not be the best one to advocate-- it is irrelevant what works for those tribes, because the people watching this film have no ability to suddenly be a member of a traditional hunter-gatherer society (which is good, b/c the planet has no ability to support humanity if we tried to go back to that paradigm!)... so why WOULD the movie focus on that?! Eating plants, on the other hand, IS something most fat/ sick/ nearly-dead Westerners can do to improve coronary artery disease and diabetes. So... yeah, let's do that. Snarkiness uncalled for.
More later... long damn review! :-P
(and yes, I appreciate the irony of ME implying that someone else is long-winded! teehee)
I'm glad of like PM in that my vegetarianism started for reasons other than ethics, but evolves (a good deal because of you guys here) as I learned about factory farms.
For me, and for me only, I do have to try not to make myself too crazy: "was there fish meal used in the fertilizer of this lettuce?"...."is that incredient xdlkereioeutoiutj on the label vegan??", "do bees suffer", "am I unethical to eat non-organic", "did a rodent die because I'm eating a sandwich".
Perhaps I will evolve further, but for now it's enough for me to try to eat as vegan as I possibly can. I feel amazing most days. Some days I'm sluggish, some days I have gi issues, but I look at the big picture in that overall for a 52 old burned out nurse with stress I'm doing o.k. Sometimes when I'm out of sorts, it isn't because I eat mostly vegan, it's because I'm eating crappy, over eating, not getting enough sleep, etc. etc.
I think that if someone has made a diet change and eventually starts feeling worse, then it is time to look at things and consider another way. Fortunately you can count me among those that feel amazing. But I do know that if I start cutting things out like eating only raw, or eating ultra low fat, or cutting out grains, I wouldn't feel as amazing. I've found pretty much what works for me.
I went to the Raw Food SOS site. I can't find the blogger's name anywhere. I'm leery of "anonymous" sources, but I'll read it anyway.
The film uses "plant-based diet" instead of "vegan" word choice: I don't get the discrepancy. Just eating a plant-based diet does not make someone vegan if they're still wearing a leather jacket over their wool. The movie isn't about being vegan, it's about not eating animal products. Using the word vegan would be inaccurate.
Women in Norway During WWII had access to fish; it wasn't a vegan diet influencing breast cancer rates: I don't recall it stated the country changed to an exclusively plant-based diet, but that the availability of animals protein dropped substantially. There were a lot of factors. According to some papers, such as this one, it may have more to do with the semi-starvation calorie restriction, which doesn't have much to do with a plant-based or omni diet.
Conveying that SAD and a junk food diet are the same thing: Again, it's been a while since I saw the film, so someone correct me, but didn't one guy have his patients on a whole-foods low-animal diet before switching them to a plant-based diet? They do make a strong correlation between SAD and junk food and the guy at the beginning had three energy drinks that, while watching it, I figured was to spike his beginning results so the end results would look better.
I just read the Tovar Cerulli article- very interesting! The interviewer posed some great questions to him. Hesp, I know what you mean about the pet thing. I struggled with the cat food conundrum when I first became vegan, and still feel crappy every time I open a can of food for my cats. I tried to make my own as explained on catinfo.org, but unfortunately after years of being spoiled with the ultra-flavored processed cans of food, my cats have an aversion to straight unflavored, unprocessed meat! They will let it spoil in their dish before they eat it. I tried buying food from Whole Foods that contained meat from responsible sources, but unfortunately, I cannot afford to feed my cats this exclusively. That and I think the grain content in the food was high anyway.
I will get around to the lengthy “Forks Over Knives” critique- I'll have to print it out and read it. Thank you hotcooknmama for your comments...it makes me a little less "scared" to read the article, LOL.
In terms of why I do not believe in supplementation: nutrition is a very very very shaky science. Very influenced by bias (as we all know) and what is one thing that we can know? People somehow got by without supplements until not too long ago. Whole foods are where it's at, sorry. And like I said, I abandoned this belief to try to stay vegan. We can not know the numerous way nutrients interact, nor even what every essential nutrient is, so our best bet is to eat whole foods.
One of T. Colin Campbell's main points in the China Study is just this: support of a whole foods, plant-based, diet. He also has a deep appreciation of how we cannot fully know how the complex chemistry of nutrition operates in the body. To quote him in The China Study: "Isolating nutrients and trying to get benefits equal to those of whole foods reveals an ignorance of how nutrition operates in the body." So at least you agree with him on that.
There is much to be said about exercise and its effects on the body. Physical activity can counteract lethargy. For example, if I get up early and work out before work, I will have MORE energy later that evening than if I just slept in! It's bizarre like that. Have you thought about getting back into a daily routine?
In terms of why I do not believe in supplementation... People somehow got by without supplements until not too long ago.
(um: they were generally eating at least some animal foods) :-/
Veganism is a 20th century phenomenon because this is really the first time in history, as far as I can tell, that it's possible to get *everything* we need from plants and supplementation only. Even when protohumans were primarily fruit eaters/ plant foragers-- before emergence of hunting or fishing-- they undoubtedly ate some non-plant foods in the form of insects and grubs (on and in plant foods), bird eggs, shellfish, and other occasional foods not of plant origin (like most other primates who are primarily herbivorous today)-- hence that pesky B12 requirement. (Easy, now, everyone! no bunched drawers, please: I absolutely think that humans are primarily herbivores by design! but based on human evolution and physiology as we currently understand it, 'primarily' absolutely does not mean 'exclusively').
I'm unaware of any human or prehuman culture that didn't eat SOME animal-derived foods... Many places where Buddhism or Hinduism is common, you find a strong history/ occurrence of vegetarian eating, but not without eggs and/or milk. There are a lot of negatives that come with the modern world; but one positive is that healthy long-term (exclusive) veganism is now possible.
I agree that supplements are not going to be the same as getting it from food; but with B12 and DHA, it seems to be close enough that if you ALSO focus on whole plant foods, a person can meet long-term human nutritional needs that way. I think it's important to be realistic, Walk In The Truth, and seek out what we need (wherever we can find it-- even if that means supplements) to stay healthy on the veg path, if that's where we wanna walk.
If I were living in an Amish self-sustaining community (or equivalent), I would have to rethink the sustainability of importing B12 tablets vs getting what I need from eggs and (grr) milk-- since in that hypothetical (vs my actual) living environment, the plastic/ packaging/ shipping issue might be worth avoiding, in seeking a least-harm/ sustainable route... but otherwise supplementation of B12 (and sometimes DHA, calcium, and/ or vitamin D, depending on dietary fluctuations) seems like a good trade-off, to me.
This is just thinking out loud... idk if this would be relevant to your situation at all... but I had a friend a couple years ago who wasn't feeling good on a veg diet; went to veg nutritionist; turned out she wasn't eating enough calories for her body's needs... and she was eating enough PERCENTAGE of protein, but b/c she wasn't eating enough QUANTITY of food, she was that rare vegetarian who actually *wasn't* getting enough protein! and it made her feel lethargic and crappy. She started eating more calories, and including more legumes for a while, and that did the trick and she's happily veg still/ the problem hasn't recurred... do you think anything like this could be going on, for you? Just another pssible thread to tug at... :)
I think I kinda addressed more about supps and what I think about them in a few posts, having to do with un-sustainability, animal testing, habitat loss, processing of "un-necessaries", not necessarily being healthful, etc.
I think all these are worthwhile concerns; just not bigger than the same concerns if I (in my particular life and world) got the same things from animal sources. And, for me, not bigger than the emotional issues intrinsic in eating something I could see myself naming and trying to nurse back to health if I found it hurt somewhere... I do see your points, and if I lived in an ideal permaculture venue, I'd maybe consider other ways to go (eggs milk shellfish)... But I don't. I guess everyone just has to figure out the priority thing, about 'which seems worse', based on their own values & circumstances.
When inlaws or whoever question why I eat like I do, I have a new favorite answer: 'Because it suits me.' The end! I feel good, physically; my 'what I think' matches my 'what I do' re: nonsupport of industrial animal agriculture/ noneating of stuff I wouldn't kill myself; and since I am not willing or able to go off-grid/ immerse myself in food production, I feel like I'm lowering my environmental impact to the greatest degree possible for me specifically at this point in time... If you apply your best ethical self to the issue of what to eat, and come up with a different answer than mine, well, humans are diverse and good people often see important things differently-- this way of eating is still what suits me, physically and spiritually/ emotionally, and that's the best I can do.
There will never be a no-impact human culture; if that were possible, it would've been several billion humans ago. I wouldn't try to say it's the one and only right way to eat, for everyone in every circumstance-- I think this approach is why many people have negative associations with the word 'vegan'. I hope whatever you conclude at the end of this thought process, it suits your best self as well as herbivorism suits mine, and you continue to do as little harm as possible to the world around you (to the best ability of your brain to determine such). Which I'm sure you will! So --regardless-- I will still continue to see you as being on my team, diet-wise, and there's nothing you can do about it so ha! :)
In terms of why I do not believe in supplementation... People somehow got by without supplements until not too long ago.
(um: they were generally eating at least some animal foods) :-/
Veganism is a 20th century phenomenon.........
Also vitamin knowledge is really didn't start until the mid 1900's and supplementation wasn't widespread until the our lifetime. It shouldn't be poo pooed because while people didn't supplement they also didn't live long either. Humans have doubled their life expectancy the last few hundred years, and knowledge of vitamins and nutrition might have played a role...along with advances in health care, antibiotics, etc.
All that said, whole foods are where it's at and supplementation with tons of stuff shouldn't be necessary. Personally, I take a vitamin a couple of times a week because I'm not 100% sure I eat 100% perfect 100% of the time.