I have put this off for a long time because it’s such a big job, still it’s very important, not just for me but for the big picture, so I figured I’d better knuckle down and get to it. Here goes.
Many advocate the vegan diet, with claims of improved health and wellbeing, stacked on top of environmental, ethical and moral superiority. But are these claims based in fact? I’m going to break down every section of this diet, so you can form your own opinion, make up your own mind, and digest it for yourself.
Many of the health claims of the vegan diet are actually true. I will not even try and dispute that as it’s more than clear – there are plenty of advocates and anecdotes. I think we can draw parallels here between the health benefits claimed by veganism and the health benefits of fasting. An interesting concept that’s arising is protein fasting. For one day a week you lower your protein intake significantly, and surprise surprise, you’re basically left with a vegan diet. I have an entire post on fasting HERE. So what can we extrapolate from this? Well a lot of people who convert to veganism feel AMAZING, until they don’t. Fasting is indisputably beneficial for your health, I absolutely advocate that regardless of your diet, you practise fasting. But what happens if you fast indefinitely? I’m sure you could give it a good guess. The vegan diet simply doesn’t supply the building materials your body requires, such as B12, heme iron, choline, cholesterol and retinol. It’s also probably worth noting here that the word ‘protein’ is thrown around so much it loses all value. Proteins are structured of amino acids, and the human body requires certain amino acids, just as it requires certain vitamins.
Obtaining these specific amino acids on a vegan diet is somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible. It’s also worth noting that just because a certain protein contains said essential amino acid, does not mean it is beneficial or even usable by our body. Take spider venom for example: it’s a protein, made of amino acids, but would you eat spider venom and say it’s nourishing you? Extreme example, I know, but it paints a pretty picture.
Staying with health, but moving to more into physiology, we have human anatomy. Let’s look at our human physiology and how it is either designed or evolved to digest animal products. I think we can see this most clearly with a comparison. This image is absolutely fantastic
We can clearly see that our digestive system is SIGNIFICANTLY closer to that of a wolf; a carnivorous animal. Obviously, there are still some differences, but I think this observation can be very enlightening. We also have to consider some other things, but I have whole entire articles written about these other things so check them out: Fat soluble vitamins and Vegetables: They Fight Back!
Environmental Impacts of Veganism
Ask any vegan and they’ll tell you they’re saving the planet, but it’s actually much closer to the opposite than you might first think.
To begin, the volume of food an herbivorous creature must consume is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than that of a carnivore, and the amount of nutrients extracted from that food is also SIGNIFICANTLY less than that of a carnivore. Now, in most cases, this isn’t a problem, in fact it’s actually very beneficial for the planet. Cows graze and graze and graze and poop and poop and poop all day, and that’s how it should be. The 4 stomachs and barrel sized capacity of the cows digestive system can handle this no problem. Unfortunately, when humans only eat vegetation, they aren’t eating grass and weeds, they’re eating carrots, squash, beans and peas, all of which are grown in a mono crop, ploughing and tilling soil and disrupting our planets soil biome, and releasing far more “green house gasses” than any amount of cow farts. Check out this extremely interesting article.
This shows us how tilling and agriculture impacts CO² levels, and it even states the solution could be to avoid tilling, and allowing GRAZING OF PASTURE ANIMALS. Animals, particularly ruminant animals like cows and sheep, or even animals like giraffe, hippo and deer are an essential part of our earths ecosystem, and their poop serves us in more way than one. I mentioned how tilling disturbs the earth’s microbiome, well, the simple solution: ruminant poop. Ruminant poop is absolutely LOADED with beneficial bacteria for the earth. These animals are like bacteria factories, they host unimaginably vast quantities of microorganisms inside their digestive systems.
We all know global shipping contributes significantly to environmental pollution, and although it’s necessary to a certain degree, there’s plenty that’s avoidable.
When I say distribution, I mean two specific things. Firstly, the transportation of, in reality, luxury items. Things like exotic fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. I understand some shipping is necessary and unavoidable, I’m sure you enjoy your pepper, cacao and coffee farmed overseas, but there’s a significant difference between shipping dried herbs and spices and shipping kilos and kilos of water dense fruit like bananas, pineapples and melons. The occasional treat I can understand. Hey, it’s Christmas! Have an orange or something? But your standard daily diet should be food that grew within walking distance of you, just think about it for a second and it really makes sense.
Wild Edible Montage
Secondly, as a vegan diet is not nutritionally complete, supplementation of various nutrients is required. The standard and generic vegan would probably be looking at B12, iron, protein powders, etc. And the more health excentric would certainly be after extras like chlorella powders, vegetable juice extracts, and other ‘health foods’. This extra and superfluous shipping is not only costly and burdensome to the wallet, but to the environment too. We have a simple alternative on our doorsteps. Eat what is around you! Wild edibles like dandelion greens and wild mushrooms, seasonal fruit, animals that are pastured in your back garden! I have a herd of cows that I can hear mooing from my bedroom! Zero shipping costs. Natural diet. Nutrient dense, and best of all, I know those cows have had the best life they could have lived. I can even go and visit them, feed them cabbages and scratch their heads.
Ethics and Morality
I struggled with this for a long time. I went through a phase of veganism/vegetarianism, and to say the least I was confused, questioning and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’ve contemplated this a lot, and I continue to think about this on a regular basis. I would often question, why should I kill an animal so that I might live? What right do I have to do such a thing? And I told myself I would not harm another animal as I had no right to harm such a creature. As my health rapidly deteriorated, I became very much aware that consuming animal products is simply not optional, and that there was clearly a MAJOR flaw in my belief system, and that I was making myself ill. I surrendered to my egotistical belief that not harming animals was better for everyone, because retrospectively, I can see it was all ego; simply trying to feel better about myself. I’ve since adopted a new stance, a new approach, and this belief is more based in fact and science. It rests easier on my heart too. First off, I had to come to grips with death in itself. Death is still a scary thing. We are the only species that can conceptualise that we will one day, cease to be. But that in its self can be a freeing realization. The true understanding of impermanence, and ultimately the knowledge that life simply cannot come without death. The Daoist philosophy feels very relevant here.
It might seem strange to others, but feels so genuine to myself, that I now appreciate animals SO much more now, particularly those that die so that I can continue to live. They provide me with sustenance, nutrition and life and I am not only humbled and grateful, but occasionally brought to tears with the appreciation and contentment I feel. My beliefs now not only serve me, my health and my conscience, but they also serve the animals I eat. I try to take responsibility for the quality of life of the animals I eat. How they live and how they die. I want the animals I eat to have lived a natural and fulfilling life. Cows and sheep that graze in meadows, grazing on their natural diet through the day. Wild salmon that live the way they naturally do, and caught responsibly at a sustainable rate.
All of the above caused a lot of guilt in my conscience, but I’ve worked through that now. And now that I’ve worked through it, I can see the big picture. Veganism actually causes a lot of suffering to animals, perhaps even more than unethical farming practices of feed lots. One thing I find inconsistent about veganism is the size of animals and where the suffering ends. Where do we draw the line on what’s an animal?
Mice? Erm, I suppose?
Crickets, insects and creepy crawlies?
Hmmm maybe not?
No? Why not?
We spray our crops with pesticides and insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, all of which kill small animals and insects. Overall, farming wheat or other crops kills FAR more animals than rearing cattle in a pasture for slaughter does. Whilst being killed with a bolt gun to the brain is far from enjoyable, it’s a hell of a lot less suffering that being sliced to pieces by a combine harvester or chemically asphyxiated by roundup or some other chemical pesticide.
I believe everyone one should have the opportunity to make their own decision about what they eat and how they live their life, but I can’t stand it when vegans use half constructed, semi factual arguments to promote an agenda that is not all its pumped up to be. Please make up your own mind on the matter, and do what’s right for yourself personally. I hope I might have helped to open your mind a little and perhaps help you think about a little deeper.