So, the following article was recently in the NY Times. The basic idea is how hard it is to be vegan. The bigger question is why a person would seek to be. How did vegan become the politically correct, aspirational, "healthy" diet? It seems people put enormous effort into a semi-nutritionally sufficient diet when eating vegan and yet paleo requires nothing more than a diversity of meats & veggies. Other than the annoyance that is living in modern society, paleo is super easy in contrast to veganism's perpetual quest to not enter into starvation seeking to be healthy.
What is the cause of this difference in behavior aspiration for so many people? Why is vegan considered aspirational by most SAD'ers? Is it the puritan/ascetic aspect? Is this observation also true in other parts of the country/world? (I'm in NJ).
Yeah, like a lot of farm kids, I was better friends with animals than I was with kids! I can't live without a pet in my life, I currently go on a daily "dog watch" and let my rat have a full run of my apartment. But at the same time, again with the farm kid thing, I have a very practical outlook on where meat comes and what slaughter is. My questions were always "what do you do with the feathers?" not "why do we have to kill them?" when I was little. I got the point, and I loved the result, all the while loving the animals throughout their life.
Besides the farm thing, working in a lab really cemented this. Something about having a job where my main task was to breed, raise, euthanize, and dissect rats, then going home to my own pet rats, seemed a little sick to other people, but I was fine with it. I love the lab rats like I love my own rats- they are all wonderful, intelligent, empathetic creatures that deserve my full and absolute respect. The purpose of the lab rats, however, is different than the purpose of my rats- the lab rats are needed to help further our knowledge of degenerative brain diseases, and my rats were needed to just hang out with me in the evenings and keep me company. They are not more or less important, so they shouldn't be treated any differently in regards to basic respect and care.
I think being a vegan is a way of never having to wrestle with the reality that a pig, in fact, is no less important than your dog and deserves no less respect (which is why factory farming is a travesty). You just remove yourself from the system, and therefore the conversation, permanently. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I guess it can be viewed as an "easy way out" in terms of ethics, but it does stop the conversation from progressing. The concepts of permaculture, heritage, husbandry, and humane slaughtering practices need to be talked about. Even if you are going to give up all animal products, there's a 100% chance that the whole world is NOT going to join you. That's why I love the concept of primal eating and supporting local farmers- I can be so directly connected to systems I respect, and I can support them by injecting my own money into a process that I want to see perpetuated. Vegans that throw their hands up in the air and blanket-statement "carnivores" as burger-and-milk-shake-fast-food-eating-disrespectful-slobs are not doing that (of course, there are some bad ass vegans who have done a lot of great things to improve animal welfare, not ignoring that).
Plus, vegans do PETA. Who respects PETA? Nobody, that's who. And they can be terrorist anti-humans. Any ideology that goes that far has some problems in the core that need to be sorted.
Well first off was the silly lipid hypothesis that states that anything that provides cholesterol to the body is bad and causes atherosclerosis. This is deeply misguided and myopic, pseudoscientific even, but it persists because people don't like to change their beliefs and admit that they were wrong. Second is that vegans are loud and obnoxious propagators of falsehood, pseudoscience, and sometimes outright lies http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/cmasterjohn/2010/09/22/the-curious-case-of-campbells-rats-does-protein-deficiency-prevent-cancer/ I think that we can say without any doubt that books like The China Study are full of lies, existing to push a doctrine. Oh sure Denise Minger doesn't say that, she is so nice, but I do.
There are people working day and night to perpetuate myths and abuse science for the sake of their nonsensical ideologies. How many of these vegan myths like that humans can't digest meat or that protein "rots your bones" were just fabricated for the sake of hating on a particular food? There are people who simply want to believe something and then pester their friends until they believe it too. Those who don't proportion their beliefs to evidence and act skeptically will be convinced. If enough people say something loudly enough and wag their fingers hard enough it could just become public dogma.
A smaller issue might be that some people just don't like the industrial system, and I don't like it either. But there is so much that can be done about that and the conclusion is always that one needs to eat no animal products at all ever instead of just changing the source. A non sequitur if there ever was one. Is anybody offended by a pasture-based system? Very few, but the zealots make it seem like that doesn't exist, or resort to inane tactics to try to discredit it http://huntgatherlove.com/content/myth-sustainable-meat-and-james-mcwilliams
The nutritional vegan movement is just dishonest. Nobody talks about all of the useful semi-essential nutrients in meat that help the body and particularly the brain function at optimal capacity. Carnitine, carnosine, creatine, choline, and all manner of things that start with C ;) This stuff never gets mentioned, they have been forced to admit that B12 is an issue, but then persist with this ridiculous red herring where apparently there is no need to worry because you won't necessarily become deficient in protein on a vegan diet. And lentils are a good source of iron! Well then. It is sad that parents are restricting nutritious foods from the children that are 100% proven to improve cognition http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201202/your-brain-creatine
And then when I tell them (non-judgmentally, even suggesting supplements instead) about it they say "well my child isn't stupid" yes maybe not, and maybe they're getting more magnesium or other useful brain nutrients than the general population, good job with that (I'm serious, anyone who eliminates junk food for their child is commendable), but if they started eating meat their cognition would improve even more! So it becomes obvious that these people aren't generally in favor of doing what's best for themselves, they have an emotional attachment to a particular worldview. Nutrition is an issue for everyone, but the difference with these people is that they profess to care greatly about nutrition, but then belittle important aspects when it doesn't fit their worldview.
However... The paleo movement has been trying to call grains into question, on the same tactic. Let's not just blame those silly people when there are many people saying to never eat wheat because it will kill you. I guess I can blame both, but it is the same propagation of doctrine based on shaky reasoning, unproven thus far. Many people will believe something without evidence because it sounds good to them, and if you get enough of those people then even the more skeptical people can be duped. That is the making of a myth.
Nutrition is the complicated science that laypeople have to understand...or die, and that creates a problem because so many people don't understand science or act skeptically enough. Or perhaps they don't even have time! I know a philosopher, a very smart guy whom I admire, who thinks that it is correct to defer to the conclusions of The China Study and the recent epidemiological "meat kills you" nonsense. And I get it, if he doesn't have the time to read the literature and learn these things for himself deferring to an "authority" makes sense, just like I do if I need to understand something about genetics or other sciences. But whichever authority one throws in with is usually an arbitrary matter. And if they are a liar? Then there is no way to know unless one fact-checks them. And there is a serious paucity of fact-checking.
All in all, a very sad situation. Even if meat was unhealthy it would still be a non sequitur to tell most people to never eat any of it. But the tendency of some people isn't just to recognize that something is their opinion and leave it at that but to force it down the throats of the unknowing. And not all vegans are like that, don't misinterpret, but if only 50% are then it can still add up.
It's a complete disconnect from the circle of life (queue the music!) that gets people in a vegan mood. It's not a bad thing that people get turned off to meat by imagery of factory farming and animal abuse, it's however a bad think that folks do not seek out alternatives because of ignorance of alternatives (i.e. happy livestock that have but just one "bad" day).
Heck, I think vegans even distance themselves even more from their food. They go in the direction of more commodities (think grains), bins of food (food-like products, a.k.a. people chow) at their raw natural-foods coop. People chow that has to be shipped 100s of miles from the fields to the coop to end up on their plates.
It's not surprise that paleo folks tend to be closer to their food, or that paleo draws people closer to their food.
I think veganism is seen as politically correct because of our flawed food systems that are unethical, unsustainable and unjust. Our current food systems support inhumane treatment of animal, severe degradation of our environment and an unequal and injust distribution of the world's food resources. Concerned, caring people have locked on to the idea that veganism can help solve or at least limit some of these problems instead of looking deeper at the issues and how we can change our food systems to be nutritionally complete (include meat) and still be ethical, sustainable and just. In essence, it's a somewhat shallow but very caring response to a horrible ethical delima that our world must face -- the sooner the better.
I think it's all about the animal welfare arguments, which have some validity. Witness the NYTimes recent contest seeking out a moral argument in favor of eating meat. The tone of the article was basically "How could you ever come up with an argument for eating meat?!? I mean, I guess you can try... Enter our contest!"
Honestly, I think many Americans are seduced by the concept of being vegan because of their love of animals. I have loving childhood memories of how intelligent our pet pig was. Sorry, folks, but pigs are smarter than dogs any day yet millions are raised/killed in horrific circumstances. I also had a pet chicken and she was NOT a thinking creature but her wild ancestors probably were.
I am basically psychotic, because I happily chow down on meat yet I am deeply attached to most species of birds and mammals. If I COULD manage to live a strong, healthy life without meat I'd probably be in the vegan camp.
I suppose there are some who just don't like meat--my son didn't as a child--and others who hope to lose/maintain weight that way, but in general I think it's a sincere ethical choice regardless of how practical/effective we might judge it.
I've been thinking about this for a while. Veganism certainly is enjoying a moment, isn't it? What with Forks Over Knives (pushed by Whole Foods), the NYTimes with all their gobbledy-gook, and Oprah and Bill Clinton publicly singing its praises.
I think it's a reaction to the industrialized ugliness we call a food system. I think it's also a symptom of the larger confusion about what to eat and why. Our collective health is obviously suffering, and in some sort of weird Puritanical way, it seeks to "cleanse" us all of our nutritional "sins."
But, coming from a background in Eastern philosophies, I'm willing to concede that some people are just completely against taking the life of another or subjugating them to our silly human desires (eggs, honey, milk, leather). I mean, it is kind of Orwellian if you think about it. I do think these folks are a tiny fraction of a minority. You'd have to be willing to hold out against all evidence to the contrary, including when your health fails. But when you consider that the Buddha probably ate meat (he ate whatever was given him in his begging bowl) and the Dalai Lama definitely does, that middle path Buddha talked about probably involved meat. To eschew it is straight up asceticism.
People would rather go vegan and be able to make and eat "Vegan Doughnuts" than eat whole foods all the time. I think it all boils down to America's need for sweets and junk food.
Paleo shuns eating junk food and Vegans don't care as long as there isn't meat/animal products. It's stupid.
Frustrating, too, is the lack of social support. When Ms. Salisbury baked vegan doughnuts to share with her family, “they said things like, ‘I’m going to go eat some eggs now,’ ” she said. “They were very condescending. They don’t understand and don’t make any effort to understand.”