I've started this blog to record my thoughts and research about food and health: how we grow our food, what we eat, the nutrition debate, food distribution, food sovereignty and environmental impact.

My life started down a new path after I read an article a couple of years ago in the New York Times magazine. I became fixated on learning all I could about our eating habits, the way our food is made, and the effects that the industrial food industry has had on our culture and our lives - physically and mentally.

This blog joins an ongoing discussion and is a place to voice interest, intrigue, and discovery. This is not a podium for lecturing, so please extend grace to each other if anything is found to be erroneous. Counter-arguments are encouraged with respect, empathy and compassion for other perspectives.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Open Letter to the Vegan Ethos

The ethical/moral stance of vegetarians and vegans towards animals is commendable. Working for the cause of justice (of all kinds) is of the highest convictions, and I am deeply concerned about fairness and respect. Not everyone feels empowered to fight for justice due to social conditioning or oppression, yet everyone is capable, when backed up against the wall, to muster that courage. Righteousness is in every story about the triumph of the human spirit; we inherently seek to overcome destructive forces with love.

There are always extremes, however, that represent the opposite swing of the pendulum. There are some black and white issues, such as animal cruelty, human torture, violence, etc., and there are some issues with a vastly greater degree of complexity, such as what is appropriate for humans to eat.

All of us should follow the lead of vegans that are bold enough to take action against the cruel and inhumane practices of the food industry. Here's the rub: the vegan ethos becomes a separate thing altogether when the urgency about the treatment of animals becomes the encapsulating bubble around morality in general. The debate over eating animals versus plants IS MORE COMPLEX than that. When someone claims superiority based on a matter of physical nature, that is not a singular fight for justice, that is religious fervor - the same damaging protocol espoused by all organized religions: to convert or be exiled.

Any person other than myself does not know what it feels like to be me. You do not know how my hunger works, or how eating three meals of wheat products every day makes me feel, or how many beers it takes to make me sick. You do not know what triggers my migraines, or if my muscles are sore for days after running one mile, or if I've ever been to the hospital for malnutrition.

You do not have the right to tell me I'm immoral because of my dietary choices (cannibalism excepted). Like I said, I am a comrade in the fight against animal cruelty, but I'm not of the persuasion that eating meat is morally wrong. Vegans need to accept the reality of nutrition and stop trying to fit it into their mold. Humans have evolved in a specific way: the exact nutrients we need to be healthy come from eating certain foods - from both plant and animal sources. I'm not making this up to suit my fancy. If you really believe that humans should no longer eat meat, you're going to have to wait another 600,000 years for our biology to change. I have another issue to raise with you, however, if that's the case: the available amount of land on our planet that is suitable for growing the crops for a vegan diet is already in use - there is no more. The solution to world hunger through more plant-based food is not viable or sustainable. I'm ready and willing to discuss other options...

I've been a proponent of several different diets - diets with meat, diets without meat, raw food, vegan food... but it comes down to your own health, and here we have a case of black and white. Health has everything to do with what you eat, so if you're not healthy, the cause is something you eat. My health was degraded significantly as I ate a diet with minimal meat and a huge increase in grains. I was even consciously trying to eat whole grains, natural products, minimal refined sugar, etc., but I never felt optimal like I used to when I ate more meat (read my entry from February 25).

So, vegans, when I was faced with the decision to restore my health by eating more meat or continue to boycott the production methods of meat at the expense of my own body, I chose to live. I have also made the decision to buy meat & dairy from places with humane & environmentally holistic practices. People have different bodies with different dietary needs. I implore vegans to work together with non-vegans to abolish the current factory farming and industrial agriculture systems, and implement a new system that is healthier, sustainable and more just towards humans and animals.