Note: this is one of my oldest posts, written when I was 19. Upon re-reading almost a decade later, I’m struck by my extreme naivety – but nevertheless, what I wrote back then does still resonate with me on a certain level. So, if for no other reason than to maintain a time capsule of my internet rants and raves, I decided to leave it up!
Yesterday, Alex Jamieson told the world that she is no longer a vegan. If you don’t know who she is and really don’t care, just bear with me for a minute. Alex is best known from the documentary Super Size Me, where her then-boyfriend Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days. Alex used a vegan approach to get Morgan’s health back on track after his 30 day McDiet, and she has since been a leading voice for health and nutrition in the vegan community. I would encourage you to read her post, but here’s the gist: Alex discovered that at this point in her life, her body needs some animal products to be healthy. Her post yesterday was the first time she’d publicly announced her decision to incorporate some animal products into her diet.
As you can probably imagine, much drama ensued in the comments section. Leave it to the Internet to turn something as simple as eating an egg into a veritable Armageddon. She received much adulation from meat-eaters and vegetarians alike for being true to her body and not being shamed into conforming to a label. She received some thoughtful, measured comments from vegans, as well as former vegans who shared her same experience. But she also received a hefty dose of retaliation from the vegan community, with accusations of weak will power and hypocrisy.
Reading those comments made me frustrated, and actually kind of angry. If you’ve ever gotten into a comment war on Facebook, you know the feeling: blood pressure rising with each additional word you read, false starts where you go to reply and realize that someone else has already said what you were going to say. A lot of things made me angry- the misinformation, the closed-mindedness, the lack of compassion and sensitivity (not all from vegans, mind you!). But the most frustrating thing to me is that we should be on the same side. Vegans, primals, ancestralites, raw foodies – we all have the same goals. You don’t believe me? Let me list them, and just tell me you don’t agree with these:
- Healthy, happy people
- Healthy, happy animals
- Healthy, clean environment
Anyone want to tell me you don’t share those goals? No? Good.
Sure, the primary goal may change, depending on your circumstances. For instance, most people go Paleo for health reasons. But do they not emphasize the importance of animals being raised as nature intended? Do they not set forth the goal to buy locally from small, sustainable farmers?
And many vegans choose their path for sustainability reasons, and to promote animal welfare. But do they not also choose it because of the expected benefits to their personal health? As far as I know, there aren’t many vegan ‘martyrs’ who believe that veganism will harm their personal health, yet still decide to be vegan for moral reasons.
There’s a huge chasm between the ancestral and vegan communities, and not enough effort has been made to bridge it. Our priorities among these goals differ based on where we are in life, but the important thing is that the end goals are the same. It’s clear that there are intensely passionate people on both sides; why else would we take time out of our day to get in ridiculous online comment wars? But right now, that passion is split into opposing forces. Where we should be 10 + 10 = 20, we are -10 + 10 = 0.
This might sound like idealistic mumbo-jumbo to some of you, and I’ll be the first to admit that I can be idealistic to a fault. But I’m also logical to a fault, and I want to take a step towards bridging this gap with some reason and understanding. That’s why this is the first post in a series that will explore every aspect of veganism, and how it relates to an ancestral lifestyle. I mostly want to do this because I’m curious: what are the possible issues with a vegan diet, and what are the possible benefits? Why do some people thrive on a vegan diet, while others develop health issues? Which people are more likely than others to succeed as vegans? And does eating meat really make me a compassionless earth-killer?
As I’m sure you know, I eat meat, and you can take that bias for what it is. But I’d like to think I can still approach this topic with open-mindedness and objectivity, with the end goal of increasing understanding and cooperation on both sides. I don’t really have a stake in the matter – I’m not making money on books or nutrition coaching, and I don’t care if other people eat the way I do. I don’t even have a concrete plan about how many posts I’ll do, or what my conclusions will be. Like I said, I’m curious! This will not be a ‘Definitive Guide’ by any means, but I’m sure I’ll learn something useful (: I will go where the research takes me, and even if nobody ever reads these posts, I’ll satisfy my own desire for better understanding.
I know there will always be disagreement between these communities. But in this world where public health is disastrous, species are dying out, and chickens have their beaks cut off in factory farms, I think we have
bigger fish to fry more important issues on our hands.
And to all you Paleo people out there, for gosh sakes – vegan is not a curse word.
Posts in this series:
Plant-Based Diet or Plant-Based Diet?
Are Humans Herbivores?
Is it Possible to be Healthy on a Vegan Diet? [Part One]
Is it Possible to be Healthy on a Vegan Diet? [Part Two]
A word on raw meat, carnivory, and compassion towards animals