Vegetarians and Vegans Get Well Deserved Bare-Assed Spanking

"Why a group of longtime vegetarians and vegans converted to the idea that flesh and other food from animals can be healthful, environmentally appropriate, and ethical"

That's the kicker to this new piece in The Atlantic: Eating Animals.

As Americans gather around holiday tables this year, many of us will be setting places for vegetarians and vegans. In some families, diverse diets co-exist peacefully. In others, well ... maybe there's a health-obsessed uncle who relishes warning that "Meat will kill you!" Or an idealistic college student, eager to regale her complacent elders with grim details of the cruelty and environmental damage wrought by factory farms. Or omnivores who resent the suggestion that they should worry -- or feel guilty -- about eating meat.

The three of us can relate to both sides of such discussions. Though reared by omnivorous families, as young adults we each came to the conclusion that meat was to blame for health problems, environmental destruction, and cruelty to animals. Collectively, we have lived 52 years vegan or vegetarian. Yet we no longer think that vegetarianism is the answer to these ills. Now -- as a rancher, a hunter, and a butcher -- we firmly believe foods from animals can be healthful, environmentally appropriate, and ethical.

The piece goes on to profile each of the three individuals, their past vegetarianism or veganism, and what they do now (one still follows a vegetarian diet, but supports other people's choice to eat meat). That one, Nicolette, says:

At first, my new job -- touring factory farms and researching their water, air, and soil contamination -- reinforced my rejection of meat. But as I studied ecologically based food production, I learned that animals were essential to sustainable farms, which don't rely on fossil fuels and chemicals. Animals can increase soil fertility, contribute to pest and weed control, and convert vegetation that's inedible to humans, and growing on marginal, uncultivated land, into food. And as I visited dozens of traditional, pasture-based farms, and came to know the farmers and ranchers, I saw impressive environmental stewardship and farm animals leading good lives.

And Tovar says:

I realized that all food has its costs. From habitat destruction to combines that inadvertently mince rabbits to the shooting of deer in farm fields, crop production is far from harmless. Even in our own organic garden, my wife and I were battling ravenous insects and fence-defying woodchucks. I began to see that the question wasn't what we ate but how that food came to our plates. A few years later, my wife -- who was studying holistic health and nutrition -- suggested that we shift our diet, and my health improved when we started eating dairy and eggs. It improved still more when we started eating chicken and fish. Two years later, I took up a deer rifle.

Joshua adds:

Eventually I went, literally, whole hog into eating meat again; it was bacon that pushed me over the edge. Once I saw how the meat we were selling had been raised, and met the farmers who were striving to raise animals sustainably and ethically, I overcame my aversion to consuming meat. I realized I didn't have a problem with meat. I had a problem with the inhumane practices of the commercial meat industry. Once I saw how things could be done, I was happy to support the farmers who make our business possible and profitable. [...]

...not all forms of animal farming should be painted with the same brush. And it's simply inaccurate to suggest that a vegan diet is necessary for optimal health.

There's a mix of good and bad, as the article goes on to mention "overconsumption" of meat:

In short, eating animal-derived foods is not a health risk. Only overconsumption is.

I have no fucking idea what that even means. Oh, yea, great...eating animal derived food is not a health risk. Yea, and...

  • Getting a good education will probably not harm your career
  • Finding a good spouse will not automatically tank your eventual marriage
  • Doing a good job at something is not likely a risk to your well being
  • Being the best you can be is certainly no a risk to your social standing
  • Et cetera

Get it? How about: eating animal derived food is optimally healthy and, getting a good eduction will help your career, a good souse will give you better chances at a successful marriage, doing a good job enhances your sense of well being, and being the best you can be will likely get you somewhere in life? How about accentuating the positive rather than apologizing through negativity?

You see, it's like I always say. There's this underlying, all-pervasive guilt & shame, guilt & shame, guilt & shame surrounding the simple adherence to our very natures as omnivorous beings—and even in a goddammed article spanking veggies, you can't get rid of it.

You see what a blasphemous abomination the idea of Original Sin is? You remember. That's the one where you're guilty by your very nature.

The stupid bla bla bla continues.

Although health and nutrition research has yielded diverse and conflicting findings, there is consensus among mainstream experts: overconsumption of meat, dairy, and eggs can be harmful, but the optimal human diet includes some food derived from animals. "Animal source foods ... play an important role in ensuring optimal health and function, and their consumption is particularly important for women of reproductive age, fetuses, and young children," states a comprehensive 2010 collaborative report about livestock published by Stanford University, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and five other respected organizations.

So let me get this right. Consumption of animal source food is "particularly important for women of reproductive age, fetuses, and young children." But, if you're a young woman not yet of reproductive age, yet older than a fetus or child, a male older than a fetus or child, then watch out you don't over consume!

Why even have that aforespouted balderdash in the article, if not to demonstrate some pansy-ass sentiment about "not going to extremes" and other such pussy bullshit when, right away it follows with good stuff like this:

Even vegan advocacy groups generally counsel their followers to take nutritional supplements because the majority of vegans are deficient in vitamin B-12, found almost exclusively in foods from animals, and because the human body is far less capable of utilizing the forms of iron and zinc found in plants. Yet there is little proof that pills can adequately provide essential nutrients. "Clinical trials rarely show much benefit from taking supplements," says nutrition professor Marion Nestle. And a new University of Minnesota study raises fresh doubt about the wisdom of relying on pills for iron and other nutrients. It found that middle-aged women who took nutritional supplements -- especially iron -- had shorter lifespans than those who did not. Meat and eggs, in contrast, contain ample iron, zinc, and B-12, in forms that are easily absorbed by the human body.

Meanwhile, many popular beliefs about the health-related downsides of foods from animals are being revealed as myths. Take cholesterol. Early human diets apparently included (PDF) a hefty 500 mg daily dose of cholesterol, more than what's found in two eggs. During the 20th century, consumption of eggs declined and overall animal fat consumption dropped by over 20 percent, while consumption of vegetable fat (which contains no cholesterol) increased by over 400 percent. Yet blood cholesterol levels steadily rose and deaths from heart disease increased more than fivefold. Harvard School of Public Health researchers have concluded that eating foods that contain cholesterol does not affect blood cholesterol levels. [emphasis added]

This is reminiscent of The Vegetarian Myth.

As any attentive observer of nature knows, life feeds on life. Every living thing, from mammals, birds, and fish to plants, fungi, and bacteria, eats other living things. Humans are part of the food web; but for the artifices of cremation and tightly sealed caskets, all of us would eventually be recycled into other life forms. It is natural for people, like other omnivores, to participate in this web by eating animals. And it is ethically defensible -- provided we refrain from causing gratuitous suffering. [emphasis added]

Even vegans eat other living things. They just pretend they don't. It's unavoidable.

Pay attention below, to which groups have been advocating vegetarianism and veganism.

...Over the past two centuries, various groups -- including religious sects, social reformers, naturopathic physicians, environmentalists, and animal rights advocates -- have promoted vegetarianism in the United States. Yet the diet has never really taken hold. Today, only about three percent of Americans are vegetarian and 0.5 percent are vegan. And surveys consistently show that the vast majority of Americans who do try vegetarianism or veganism -- about three-quarters of them -- return to eating meat. Rather than urging people to consume only plants, doesn't it make more sense to encourage them to eat an omnivorous diet that is healthy, ethical, and ecologically sound?

But for God's sake, don't over consume animal products!

Alright, let's end on a positive note.

From where we stand -- on a California ranch, in the Vermont woods, and in a New York butcher shop -- we welcome diverse approaches to eating and applaud thoughtful, considered choices about food, including vegetarianism and veganism. But we reject the suggestion that animals should be banished from our farms and our plates. This holiday season, we are pleased that our families (and two of us) will be enjoying pasture-raised heritage turkey, wild venison, and grass-fed beef brisket.

Concerns about health, the environment, and ethical eating do not require giving up meat. What they do require is a new ethics of eating animals: one rooted in moderation, mindfulness, and respect.

Well, two outta three 'aint bad, I guess.

I say, go for it and if it comes down to a choice, just Go Ahead and Fuck Those Vegetables, just like I toldja.

Update: and if that's not enough, try this: Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands.

Comments

  1. Nathaniel says:

    Whenever I read stuff like this that draws on this guilt-based morality and preaches to avoid extremes, I can’t help but think of Nietzsche. Becoming more paleo or primal or whatever people call it nowadays, I feel as though I have become more Nietzschean as well, as I reject the notion that I should feel guilty for doing what is best for me, or for being the dominant apex predator on this planet. Fuck yeah we are the apex predator! Rightfully so! We humans are the best!

    And while I support sustainability, I am certainly not going to feel guilty for being the best. That’s weak. You can be compassionate to all other beings without feeling guilty for having power.

    And fuck “moderation;” that word pisses me off. Moderation is for people who only want to be moderately successful. I want to be the best, so I go all out. Fuck moderation.

    • Nathaniel says:

      Please allow me to take this a little further… The reason that vegetarianism and veganism are held so highly today is because of the slave morality that is so prevalent. Weakness is lauded, while aggression and power are seen as dirty.

      Well fuck that! I, for one, am not afraid to be strong.

  2. The “overconsumption” bit jumped out at me the first time I read this article yesterday or the day before. I felt the same as you did about it. Every time someone ventures into speaking a little truth it has to be couched in austerity and guilt. It becomes very tiring.

  3. Steve in Oz says:

    Vegetarianism is not only unhealthy, it is also cruel. I have made an ethical decision to eat meat in order to save animal’s lives. See the following link:
    http://theconversation.com/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659

    • Steve:

      I just saw you emailed me that last night or yesterday. I’m gonna have a look and see if it fits in with adding it as a update to the post.

      Thanks man.

  4. Reminds me off how I felt for the first 3 days after leaving vegetarianism behind. I got over it.

  5. Nathaniel says:

    Hey Richard, I don’t know if this type of comedy is your thing, but this video is relevant and pretty funny:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKTsWjbjQ8E

    • Yep, seen it many times and always funny.

      I like the underlying message. We have veg friends and I shut the fuck up when I go to their house for dinner. What do we get? Veg. When they come to my house, I have to go out of my way to accomodate.

      I derive a perverse pleasure in it, though.

      • Nathaniel says:

        I use that great line now when people ask me why I don’t like vegetarianism – I say “It’s an ethical thing; I don’t think humans should be treated like this.”

        The tables have turned. And it’s a good point, too – if we have evidence that animal foods are healthier for us (and there is much evidence of that), then why should we morally prioritize other species over ourselves? We shouldn’t. That’s just that weak slave morality mindset.

  6. Good stuff. Reminds me of a news story I once saw about eggs, reporting eggs are not unhealthy, and therefore….eat up to two eggs a week. No explanation given for the limitation. I took that to mean “we don’t admit we were wrong with our initial advise.”

    I also agree about the guilt and shame. As soon as I was liberated from the delusion of religion, it became so evident to me that people were cursed with guilt and shame, and that religions rely on that. “I’m a slave of Jesus!” And that’s a good thing? Was it Hitchens who said the analogy to a flock and shepherd was too apt? He said the shepherd liked his sheep too much (I think he meant as in eating them). I even had to unfriend someone who repeatedly posted on Facebook stuff about being nothing without Jesus. I couldn’t stomach that mentality.

    On a completely different topic, on ABC news just now they reported about doctors who think people with “normal” cholesterol levels should take statins. They tested people with normal cholesterol who had chronic inflammation (I think). A doc said the study showed people taking the statins “reduced their risk” of death and heart disease. That sounded to me like obfuscation. I suspect details are a little different. I suspect that they didn’t look to actual deaths and heart disease, but rather measured the change in LDL cholesterol and extrapolated a certain reduction of death and disease. Those tools on the news program are just shills for big pharma.

    • Couple of years back I recall seeing a thing or two being that the real effect do statins if effective is not in lowering cholesterol but in lowering systemic inflammation.,

      Like a Paleo diet.

  7. Some of the most interesting banter comes from the comments of blogs, and the comment section of that particular one in the Atlantic has, as of right now, over 400 comments, mostly from vegans and omnivores bitching back and forth about their positions. Sometimes I love blog articles not only for their content, but the comments that ensue because they extend the content in ways that really make me think. Richard, your blog is one where I truly relish the comment section because you are one of the best damn pot stirrers I know of.

    • “you are one of the best damn pot stirrers I know of.”

      And I will take that as a compliment.

      And I’ll try to keep my end up going forward.

      Hey, someone drop a link to this post in that comment thread if so inclined. I’d love to bring the conflagration over here.

  8. Got it slightly wrong. I found online that Crestor’s maker, AstraZeneca, funded a study that showed a reduction in heart disease. The participants had normal cholesterol but high C-reactive protein. Duh. This is part of the program to defend statins by shifting the mechanism of disease to inflammation. I think it is likely that reducing inflammation would have this effect, and statins are one way to accomplish this. A better way, of course, is to eat paleo.

    • Not sure if in this comment thread or another but yea, it looks like the marginal benefit to statins is anti-inflammatory, not cholesterol reduction.

      Take Ibuprophen. You may get a leaky bowel, but that’s a small worry compared to the side effects of statins.

  9. To me eating meat in an ethical manner means that I pay for the meat at the cash register rather than shoving a steak down the front of my pants and hauling ass out the door.

  10. “During the 20th century, consumption of eggs declined and overall animal fat consumption dropped by over 20 percent, while consumption of vegetable fat (which contains no cholesterol) increased by over 400 percent. Yet blood cholesterol levels steadily rose and deaths from heart disease increased more than fivefold.”

    The almost willful optuseness and failure to see the obvious here reminds me of the incessant clueless stories about the drop in crime during the ’90s: “Crime rates dropped tremendously during the ’90s. Yet, arrest and incarceration levels continued to rise during that period.” Oh, the mystery and the paradox of it all.

    • Someday I’ll rant about that too.

      The cause of “crime,” by which I mean hurting people — not violating statutes, necessarily, unless that condition be met, is POVERTY.

      What causes poverty other than am adverse environment human animals won’t migrate out of?

      Government. It pays politicians to have a manageable poverty class. It works for them in so many ways I almost have to lick my chops thinking about it.

      Unfortunately, I really care for people. Damn.

    • Add to that, most people think crime is higher than ever, child abductions are epidemic, and on and on.

  11. There is some good stuff in the Atlantic but a lot of eye-rolling crap like this as well. The idea of eating meat as transgressive or shocking only occurs to urban hipsters and other “sophisticates”.

    But I did have a lot of fun arguing with the Atlantic’s universal expert on all things, Megan McArdle, when she claimed a grain-fed steak was “no more natural than a birthday cake”….

    I just stop reading stupid things like that as soon as it turns stupid…

    • hey Kurt, man.

      I”m so hating to say this but I’ve always thought MM a fucking moron, and in so many ways and it goes so way back.

      She just got on my bad side back in early 200os with her “from the desk of Jane Galt” shtick and I never got over it. So I always look for her worst and ignore anything good she might have done.

    • Megan McArdle, everyone’s favorite token libertarian. When Tyler Cowan gets too edgy there’s always MM to take his place.

      • “no more natural than a birthday cake”….

        Steak makes me happy, birthday cake makes me happy…I see no difference. :D

  12. The funny thing about “over consuming” animal products is that it is damn hard to. Anyone who doesn’t believe that can try an experiment and it will cost you less than 6 bucks.

    Buy a dozen eggs, and hard boil them. Then, try to eat the entire dozen. Unless you’re a competitive eater, you are going to feel very full at egg 6-8. Even if you polish off the whole dozen, that’s 800-1100 calories (depending on the size of the egg). Because of the protein and fat, you will be very full for a very long time.

    On the other hand, have you ever eaten 1000 calories worth of potato chips and still been hungry? What about 1000 calories worth of soda?

    • John,

      So true. And how about cost? People ask how can you afford to eat paleo. I hit a sale on chuck roasts and stocked my freezer (I generally don’t spring for grass-fed). $2.50 per pound. Ever eat a whole pound of roast? If you did, it would cost $2.50 (not taking into account shrinkage in cooking) and you wouldn’t want to eat for awhile. I get the kind of thrill my wife gets when hitting a clothing sale when I eat roast with some form of cabbage, knowing how little I paid for good nutrition.

      • Even the cheapest cut of meat has way more nutrition than, say, pasta or some crap in the box. I’ve been getting chicken livers at Whole Foods for under $3 a pound. AT WHOLE FOODS! A good deal on meat is a thrill, no doubt.

        Intermittent fasting saved me a lot on my food bill. And so does cooking at home. Paleo may have actually saved me money, so far.

      • That has been my experience to. I saw a news Item that was talking about the cost of the average christmas dinner having gone up over the past year mostly alcohol and wheat, some veggies had come down and meat was pretty stable, awesome!
        About guilt, why is our (anglo american) society riddled with it. I don;t watch much news but have been listening to the news recently has I have been doing a lot of driving. It seems that no news programme is complete without a bit on lonely people at christmas, or the unwell, or the cost of christmas. blah blah blah, have a good time but just remember to feel REALLY bad about it.

      • Puritan heritage, religious guilt, etc.

    • This times 1000.

    • John, you forgot to mention that thers only one Paul Newman.

  13. Nice to see you back in form ;)

    Over-consumption of anything, including dihydrogen monoxide is a health risk.

    • Sean, every see Penn & Teller’s bit on BULLSHIT on Showtime where they went to a greenie convention and got dozens of people to sign a petition to outlaw dihydrogen monoxide?

      Lafs.

      • Yeah, great stuff.

        And although it’s rare, water intoxication can be fatal. I’ve never heard of meat intoxication though, maybe meat is safer than water? How fucking ironic would that be?

      • Back in my Weight Watchers days, when everyone was encouraged to drink water, water and more water (mostly in efforts to help us “feel full”), someone once posted on their message board, “Can too much water be bad for you?”

        I answered, “Yes. It’s called ‘drowning.’”

      • I read an article in a running magazine a while back about hydration. You know, the hydration craze where every person on TV has a water bottle with them during a 30 sec on interview and even the armed forces and hikers have plastic tubes they can suck on so they don’t get dehydrated in the 12 seconds it would take to dig out the canteen from the backpack, …..8 glasses a day, etc..

        Well, it turns out that in the past few years not a single person has died of dehydration from running, even marathons.

        Yet at least a half dozen runners in races have died from DRINKING TOO MUCH WATER while running.

        Cerebral edema.

        Drink when you are thirsty, unless its Johnny Walker Black in honor of Hitch.

        Actually we could learn a lot about healthy behavior from Mad Men, apart from the Luckys…..

      • Actually it may have been hyponatremia too.

      • Apparently, it’s often hyponatremia, at least for distance runners, but basically the same root cause. We aren’t really designed to run marathons, perhaps persistence running. I remember when Salazar ran a four-minute-mile on his 19th mile of the NY Marathon. It was a really stunning achievement. But that level of chronic as stress takes it’s toll as some curmudgeon blogger famously wrote about.

        Part of being in awesome physical condition is being very finely attuned to one’s body. I don’t think any high level marathoners have died of hyponatremia. Listen to what your body is telling you, drink when thirsty, and stop running (or whatever) if you’re experiencing the bad pain. There’s good pain and bad pain and any experienced athlete ought to know how to gauge the difference. Great athletes also push into the bad pain zone on a regular basis, of course, but they do it as seasoned marines.

      • This is the pic I always remember the most, and he’s drinking Red Label in this one (though I believe he prefers black). Black is fine, but in a side-by-side, I prefer red, just as I prefer Macallan 12 to 18-yr old.

        http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/christopher-hitchens-is-dead/

      • I used to subscribe to that blog until he posted a video of Obama with the title “Why I love this man” a while back. Fucking TEAM BLUE cheerleaders.

  14. Richard,

    Have you seen this post http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/low-carb-diets/are-we-meat-eaters-or-vegetarians-part-iii/ showing what our European ancestors ate? The only thing that isn’t clear is the time period being examined. I would assume up to 30,000 years ago or so. The problem I have with that is that isn’t that much longer than the neolithic in evolutionary terms. It would be nice if they could test bones from a bit further back in time.

  15. You know,we Catholics have this self-reputation for doing whatever we want, but then feeling guilty about it and asking forgiveness. I admit to rolling this way! We call this, by the method of least surprise, “Catholic guilt”.

    But we don’t have squishy shit on these kinda-sorta omnivores. Is it a bit of a turnon to make normal no-harm shit subversive and bad? I guess it is!

  16. Richard,

    Sin is to religion like food ‘toxins’ are to vegan dieters?

    Paul D

  17. Good one Rich. You crack me up dude.

    Careful of the appeal to nature fallacy however. But I think I know what you’re thinking now…

    Great holiday brother!!!

    • paleo-debunked says:

      The paleo diet is nothing more than appeal to nature fallacy. Duh!

      • No it’s not. Paelo promoters do not say that since meat is natural, it is natural for us to eat it. When we eat meat, we derive nutrients from it and thrive. This is not an appeal to nature fallacy. It’s a fact.

      • Fred:

        But “paleo-debumked” can’t help himself but to conflate an evolutionary basis with a “natural” basis.

        That’s because he’s fundamentally dishonest.

      • I think the appeal to nature is “meat eating is natural, therefore it is good/justified.” Of course, the vegan argument is equally fallacious: “eating plants is natural, therefore it is good/justified.” The reality is that humans are omnivores, and both plants and animals are biologically appropriate nutrition.

  18. Vegeterians would eventually destroy the earth. Sorry about the source, it must be embarrassing for him.

  19. LOVE the title , Richard. LOL !

    Also, as I mentioned before , this finding of anthropology DISCREDITS THEM. Meat and insects were STRONG features of the human diet. To deny this is to deny genuine science. Only crackpots claim animals were not significant parts of the human diet, and that we did not evolve eating them.

    http://news.discovery.com/human/human-ancestor-diet-nuts.html

  20. Aaron (halotek) says:

    Richard, glad to see you are writing a book! Your strongest strength is your no BS approach. Even people who scoff at trying to modify their diet (most poeples) will improve with your suggestions. I will probably recommend your book to people before I would reach my typical brick with people when they get sick of hearing my nutritional babble.

    As an aside, did green pastures ever get back to you about the butter oil?

  21. Liver has so many nutrients that eating too much of it will get you banned from the Olympics

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=oly&id=7380018

  22. Well, I can’t vouch for the rest of it, but I’ve found that being good and soused is a great benefit to my marriage. :P

  23. I would like it better if the article said that we should avoid consuming “food products” in place of real food.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Nikoley. A hilarious blog post, not for the faint of heart (i.e [...]

  2. [...] Vegetarians and Vegans Get Well Deserved Bare-Assed Spanking [...]