A vegan controversy

22 Nov

I like to keep this blog a light, fun, happy place. Sometimes my posts are a little irreverent, but for the most part, this is a place for me to talk about delicious food. I go into very little detail about why I don’t eat any meat or much dairy because nobody likes proselytizing. I don’t expect to convert most of my non-vegetarian readers just as I know they aren’t going to get me to consume meat again. However, given that this is Vegan MoFo, I feel compelled to respond to a blogosphere controversy I haven’t been able to escape today. If you don’t want to read about health and environmental aspects of eschewing meat and animal products, don’t read this post.

The controversy to which I refer is the A Vegan No More post from Tasha, formerly known as The Voracious Vegan. Anyone who peruses the vegan food blogs as much as I do has probably already seen this incredibly long post. In case you haven’t, here’s my way short (a probably a little snarky) summary:

  1. Girl becomes vegan because, largely, of her passion for animal rights and writes a blog about her eating and such.
  2. After three years, girl experiences health problems. Doctor tells her she must start eating meat again.
  3. Girl resists, instead taking iron supplements, which make her sick. Doctor reiterates that she must start eating meat.
  4. Girl finally relents and reintroduces meat and dairy into her diet. She instantly – as in while she is still chewing – feels better.
  5. She justifies her switch back to a meat-eating diet by rejecting everything she’s ever believed about veganism, from the health benefits to the environmental impact. She, instead, embraces “locavorism” (I really hate that term) as the solution.
  6. She says multiple high-profile “vegan” bloggers have contacted her to say that they sometimes “behind the scenes” eat meat or dairy. She gives no names but says one is a famous cookbook author.

Tasha followed up her initial post with this one, which responds to some of the negative comments she received, such as:

  • She isn’t real and is, instead, a plant by the meat industry. She and several commenters who know her assure us this is false.
  • She could have just added dairy and not meat into her diet. She said that would have been disingenuous because she’s always believed that being a vegetarian is no better than eating meat.
  • She “did veganism wrong” and that her health problems could have been helped with a more careful vegan diet. She claims she did everything “right” and that veganism, itself, is “wrong” for her.
  • She went from the extremism of veganism to another sort of militant nutritional philosophy. She says she is seeking middle ground.
  • She should have just kept her mouth shut to keep up a façade and not give veganism a bad name. She argues that that is ridiculous and that she has a right and a responsibility to tell her story.

I recommend reading both her posts before you make up your mind, but I wanted to provide a basic rundown for my readers.

I was honestly pretty outraged at her initial post. I’ll be upfront and remind everyone that I am not a vegan, and I do not claim to be one on this blog. I know there are a lot of “vegan” food bloggers out there who use that moniker and continue to show us the eggs or fish they had for dinner. That drives me crazy, by the way, but I keep my judgments to myself. I would prefer that people not eat meat, of course, but it isn’t really my business. I would also prefer that people not confuse others by calling themselves something they aren’t. We are all free to choose our identities, but just as I wouldn’t call myself Christian because it’s more convenient than explaining my actual beliefs, it’s disingenuous to call yourself a vegan while you chow down on an animal product. All that aside, again, I’m not totally vegan. It’s not a term I ever apply to myself and won’t until the day I can commit to being 100% animal-product-free. As of right now, I eat vegan about 90% of the time, but as my Italy recaps will tell you, I do sometimes still eat cheese or gelato or eggs.

That said, I was still pretty appalled by the former Voracious Vegan doing a complete 180 in her once incredibly strong and defensive political beliefs. Check out this post for a taste. It wasn’t that she decided to abandon a diet to which I am admittedly not 100% committed. It was her logic. First, she only received a medical opinion from one doctor, not a nutritionist or even a second doctor. MDs are great for many things, but they are NOT nutrition experts. Most will even refer patients to registered dieticians for possible dietary concerns. MDs can check for deficiencies in blood work, but patients should always seek advice from someone whose specialty is food and its effects on the body. In fact, one such professional wrote a rebuttal to Tasha’s post that I will discuss in a moment.

Second, and really my biggest complain, is that she didn’t provide any scientific backing for her pro-meat claims. She says that cholesterol is actually good for you – wait, what? The USDA is incredibly biased toward the meat industry, and even it says, “Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol” (all over their site). So, if it’s in the USDA’s financial interest to encourage Americans to eat cholesterol and saturated fats and even they say not to eat very much, how on earth can she possibly claim it’s good for you? For a really great discussion of this topic, read The China Study or Eat to Live. Another great – and much shorter! – read is this post from The Vegan R.D. She makes a lot of the points I wanted, but since she, you know, has knowledge, her health arguments are more sound. Definitely read her excellent post.After reading her discussion, I am going to read The Vegetarian Myth for a more rounded opinion.

She also claims that growing lots of grain will eventually deplete all our topsoil and is generally bad for the environment. Instead of so many grains, we should be eating meat. Again, this is just false. Monocropping (growing only one crop on a plot of land every year instead of implementing crop rotation) is a pretty irresponsible agricultural practice, as anyone who knows much about biology can probably tell you. However, this is true of any crop, not just grains. She goes on to say, “I also recognize that the massive production of grain is what led to the creation of factory farms in the first place; they simply would not have been possible otherwise. We do not grow so much grain because we want to have factory farms; we have factory farms because we are growing such an avalanche of grain.” From what I’ve read, she is partially correct. Farm subsidies created a surplus of various grains, especially corn, so the solution has largely been feeding it to livestock (which is really unhealthy for them and, ultimately, us) and corn syrup (and other corn by-products). Currently, 80% of corn grown in the United States feeds livestock (source). I agree that this is a problem, but how does it logically follow that we now have a responsibility to eat the factory farmed animals? It doesn’t. She herself also says she hates factory farms. I don’t think this argument of hers makes the point she intended.

Tasha’s lack of any scientific evidence is what turned me off. I would never presume to tell her she didn’t know how to manage her own diet. From what I could see, she ate too much fat (but I’m no angel here) and processed foods, but otherwise, the meals she posted were largely healthier than most people’s. I have no idea what eats didn’t make the blog, and I’m inclined to take her word for the seeming healthfulness of her diet. I also, unlike a lot of meat-free bloggers, don’t think that a vegetarian diet is best for everyone. Some people cannot eat meat for a variety of reasons, and being nothing more than a lay food-lover, I have no basis for saying the reverse cannot be true. If Tasha truly needed to eat meat to maintain her health, then I believe 100% that she made the right choice. I have also chosen to refrain from any kind of ad hominem attack here. I’m not posting to malign her personality. My goal is to respond to the above claims she makes. I do not have a problem with the specific choice she made.

My problem stems from her reasoning. My problem stems from her complete reversal to proselytizing that vegans are the ones who are wrong. (She says several times that she isn’t doing that, but quotes such as “Being a vegan was everything to me. I believed my actions made me an animal rights crusader; I was saving lives, and changing the world [sic] Now, I know otherwise” and “Veganism, while coming from a decent place of compassion, is ultimately short sighted and does not fix our problems” speak for themselves.) My problem stems from her rejection of science in favor of finding a new moral high horse to ride. She no longer believes veganism is right for her or the planet, so you shouldn’t either.

Ultimately, I think this quote from her first post sums up her need to draw conclusions – any at all – to justify her choices: “If I actually need to eat animals to be healthy, how can it be so wrong?” This isn’t logic; it’s wishful thinking.

So what do you think? I want to hear your opinions.

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6 Responses to “A vegan controversy”

  1. Heather November 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    This is interesting. I dont really travel much in food blog spheres (I’d probably weight 500 pounds if I did, I cant watch cooking shows for the same reasons, haha) but I think some times people might get caught up in an image they’re trying to create online and perhaps she’d grown tired of that and was looking for a ‘legit’ way to get out of it.
    There was an interesting article in marie claire a couple of months back about how some food blogs out there go so overboard in their zeal for health and nutrition that they basically are promoting a disordered eating lifestyle. Now, that view is controversial in itself, but I see ‘extreme blogging’ in lots of different venues— the ones in reading usually are art blogs or mommy blogs. There are TONS of mommy blogs out there that act like all they do is frolic with their adorable and perfect children all day while they eat organic pinecones. And all it does is subtly make others feel like they dont measure up.

    Lol….well, that tangent on the side, I think you’re right that she should have gotten a second opinion if this was in fact something she was passionate about. But my guess would be she was simply acting a part before, and has gotten burnt out. I personally think the key to a long and healthy life is moderation and being true to yourself, whether you eat meat or dairy or not. But I also had a BLT for dinner tonight, so what do I know 😉

  2. Ashley November 22, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    What an illogical woman she is. Other than my general concern for the animals she is now consuming (and degrading), my worry is that some new vegans or people concidering vegetarianism or veganism will read what she says and take it as sound advice. Bullcrap.

  3. Rose November 22, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    I agree, when I saw her post ( I just scanned it) I thought “What a whacko” she’s just phoney baloney (pun inteneded) though, her boloney sandwiches are probably real now!

    I think it’s obvious that she’s just making excuses…I tend to go with conspiracy theories in general and the idea that she’s a plant for the meat industry (another pun, hee hee) sounds plausible to me. It seems like there’s a wave of vegans turning over the past few weeks…it’s just weird.

  4. cammy April 20, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    I read her post a while ago i’m a vegetarian and i eat a 90% vegan diet at home but when out and traveling i just stick to a vegetarian diet. I feel like she has the right to eat whatever it is she feels is best for her and im not going to judge someone for that but i do also feel that she just wanted to eat meat and abandon the vegan diet and instead of just saying so came up with a ton of supposedly scientific reasons

  5. Glenn Dixon May 6, 2012 at 5:59 am #

    ok, first off – NOT a vegan, or vegetarian. Not even really considering it. BUT – for some reason this whole ‘vegan wars’ thing fascinates me. Just stumbled across the controversy this morning. Thanks for your posts on the topic.

    P.S. Rose – “plant for the meat industry” – LOL

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tasha and her “meatgasms” – Vegan-No-More « vegan animal liberation alliance - November 27, 2010

    […] the fair and balanced response A vegan controversy “……….. My problem stems from her reasoning. My problem stems from her […]

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