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Vegan Myths and Misconceptions

Vegan Myths and Misconceptions

There's a lot of misinformation or downright faulty logic at play when it comes to people and a vegan diet. This attempts to address some of the most common myths and misconceptions about it.

So here we go, in no particular order.

You actually need to eat animal products to be healthy.

Quite the contrary. Look at the World Health Organization study labeling processed meat (and probably red meat) as a carcinogen.

Compare our diet to those of Okinawans, formerly the longest-lived people on the planet, who ate almost entirely a plant-based diet (up until fairly recently, when a US base with all of its fast-food restaruants showed up). As you may surmise, the health of these Okinawans over time has deteriorated enormously since this switch in their diet.

The cultures that eat the most dairy tend to have a much higher rate of osteoporosis than countries that don't.

So milk/dairy is not necessary for strong bones. In fact, it almost seems to have an inverse effect.

And overall, a whole-foods plant-based diet performs the best in terms of health outcomes.

And you can get every nutrient you need to thrive without animal products.

Which means that eating animal products becomes a choice, not a necessity.

You can get 'Everything You Need Without Animal Products', huh? So what about Vitamin B12? What are the plant-based sources of B12?

Let's just get out of the way, for starters, that all adults over the age of 50, regardless of diet, are recommended to take B12 supplements. I'm just telling you this now, because vegans should supplement their B12 intake, regardless of age. But so should anyone, regardless of diet, if they are over 50. Eating meat, dairy, eggs will not make 50 year olds magically immune to B12 deficiency, either.

B12 is not produced by animals, or plants, but by bacteria. This bacteria often lives within the intestines of animals, and this is largely processed in the large intestine and evacuated, without most of the B12 created by those bacteria in the animal's body being absorbed. Though some animals, like guinea pigs and rabbits, do eat their own poop, for this very reason. (Bon appetit, if you're so inclined to do it the 'natural' way.)

However, B12 is in the soil as well as in well-water, and would have been abundant in the past in a less-sanitized culture, and is commonly abundant in less-sanitized cultures today.

So in a western society, you'll need to supplement your B12.

This is often cited as an argument for animal products, but bear in mind that the animals you eat are also supplemented, during feeding, with B12 supplements.

Meat isn't the problem. Sugar is the issue.

The problem is nutrient-density. Sugar has high carbs and only trace nutrients.

There's a good writeup on the importance of nutrient-density here.

Refined oils have much the same issue.

Also, sugar lacks fiber, and fiber is what makes a 'good carb'.

You also won't get any fiber from any animal products.

Where do you get Vitamin X?

Where do you think the herbivorous animals that you eat get it?

We're more intelligent than cows and pigs!

Yet their ability to suffer and feel pain is no less than ours.

We're also more intelligent than cats, spiders, and your idiot cousin. Does that mean we should eat them, too?

Does being more intelligent give you more rights over less intelligent people?

Right. Exactly.

Hypocrites! What about all the plants you murder?

That is me, every time I hear this. And I hear it a lot.

Plants don't have central nervous systems. Plants do not feel pain.

And if your argument is that less-evolved/intelligent creatures somehow deserve to be eaten, then what's dumber than a plant with no brain at all?

Also, roughly 80% of all of our soy, oats, corn, etc., is fed to the massive army of land animals we've bred for consumption.

So if your feels be all tickled by the poor plants, giving up animal products means less "plant suffering", too.

This is your attempt to play 'gotcha' with the vegans. And it's stupid. Stop using this argument.

But bacon, though....

What about it? It tastes delicious? My formerly-meat-eating self agrees with you. But so what?

Sex feels good, too. But there's a difference, an important moral one, between obtaining it consensually and obtaining it by force.

If you know of a way to get meat out of an animal consensually, I'd love to hear it.

Without animal products, you won't get enough protein.

Okay, quick nutrition lesson: Everything that is food is comprised of fat, carbs, and protein. There are various ratios of each, depending on your food.

This protein scare is not true. Kidney beans, a single cup, will cover about 86% of your daily protein requirements.

It's also nearly impossible to be protein-deficient. The only people we find with protein deficiencies are people who are calorie-deficient, too (in other words, starving/anorexic).

Even raspberries have protein. A cup of those gives you 3% of your protein RDA.

If you ate nothing but raspberries for an entire day, at 2000 calories, you'd be eating 30 cups of raspberries, and thus achieve 90% of your protein for the day.

This is not to advocate a mono-diet of raspberries, but just to illustrate that you don't really have to think about, or worry about, protein that much.

You'll get enough.

Yes, but not a complete protein. Meat is a complete protein.

It is true that of the 9 essential amino acids meat contains all 9. (In the same way that our human meat contains all 9, because they are essential to us).

But animal products aren't unique in this. Soybeans are a complete protein, just for example.

And even if you are eating "incomplete proteins", they aren't all incomplete in the same ways.

To tie a short little bow on this one: If you eat a variety of plant-based foods, you'll get enough "complete protein."

But it's hard to get complete proteins for vegans.

No, it's not. After all, the combination of brown rice + beans is a complete protein. And those should be staples in any vegan's pantry.

Yeah, but you won't build muscle.

Gorillas eat almost exclusively bananas and are 600 pounds. Horses eat grass. See why this is dumb? (The Gorilla diet is apparently really good for us, too. Go figure.)

You won't call Kendrick Farris a wimp, the American olympic weightlifter who broke a US record and was the only one from the US to qualify. He is vegan.

Also do a google search on 'vegan athletes' and see what you come up with. Bodybuilder, Weightlifter, UFC fighter, marathon runner, you name it. All represented, and we're talking about people at the top of their sport here.

Vegans are so judgmental. Like I'm a bad person for eating meat.

Unless someone was vegan from birth (rare), they were a meat-eater once, too.

So if they are calling you a horrible person simply because you eat what the majority of your culture eats or you are still figuring out how to make that transition, then you can tell them, from me, a fellow vegan, that they need to stop being a dick.

However...if you are made aware of the cruelty to animals, and you don't dispute that, but you just don't care, then you are being a dick. At least from an animal's perspective.

What's with all the shaming? Your approach won't win any converts.

Any? That's a bold statement. Maybe I won't win 'as many' as if I had some other approach, but this is not a cult.

I do not get "vegan points" based on anyone I'm able to "convert."

This is not a game that requires me to parrot talking points about things people just have to believe on faith.

And if you are dead set against giving up animal products, you do you.

Please be aware there's a difference from being shamed, and from being ashamed.

Whether you feel ashamed by that or not is up to you. Don't put this on us. Don't kill the messenger because you don't like the message.

People have been eating meat for thousands of years.

This is a faulty argument. People owned slaves for thousands of years. People thought that gods controlled the weather for thousands of years.

This does not make these things intrinsically moral, or correct.

Being vegan is more expensive than being an omnivore.

Rice and beans, oatmeal, bananas, and fresh greens? What's cheaper than that?

If you go junkfood vegan, and the entirety of your food choices are limited to frozen veggie burgers, vegan cheeses, microwaveable vegan burritos, and a freezer full of 'mock meats', then yeah...that's more expensive.

About as expensive as buying all-organic processed food like high-end organic cheeses.

But meat has traditionally been the food of the rich, or for special occasions. There's a good reason for that.

Yeah, but you can go to McDonald's and get a burger for $1.

You can go to Taco Bell and get a bean burrito for $1.

But soy has estrogen in it. If you eat too much soy, you'll get man-boobs.

Soy has chemicals referred to as phytoestrogens because they act similarly to estrogens, though the exact degree to which these trigger estrogen reactions in the body is currently in dispute. ("Phytoestrogens occupy estrogen receptor sites, however, just as a key blank will plug into a lock and not start your car, phyto-estrogens do not key or activate any significant activity to occur at the receptor level.")

However, no one seems to point out that dairy has actual estrogen in it.

So if this is really a concern for you, maybe you should give up cheese.

Additionally, if you still want to slam soy for the phyto-estrogens, you know what else has even higher levels of phytoestrogens?

Tea, coffee, and beer.

Cattle serve no other useful purpose.

I'm sure the cow feels differently about that. To any animal, they want to live, pass on offspring, avoid pain, and seek out pleasure.

To a cow, that is its purpose.

Animals were put here for our consumption.

By who? Unless you want to bring the Almighty into this discussion, animals were bred for our consumption by other humans.

So humans could also decide to stop breeding and raising animals for food.

Also, which animals? It depends on your culture. Horse meat? Deer meat? Dog meat? Pig meat? Cow meat? Which ones are acceptable, and which ones aren't?

Why is it horrific to imagine someone slaughtering and eating a dog, but not a pig?

The answer is social conditioning. We're taught what we're allowed to eat. Which leads to the next point.

Humans are omnivores.

We are behavioral omnivores, and biological herbivores.

Here's a thought experiment I call the Omnivore's Test.

Take a Tiger, a Bear, and a Human, and apply the following test:

Place a bowl of raw berries in one bowl, and a bowl of raw, unseasoned beef in the other bowl. Let each animal into the room, one at a time, and see what happens.

The tiger, a carnivore, has no interest in the berries but to him that raw unseasoned beef is delicious. He "wolfs" it down.

The bear, a true omnivore, will happily devour both bowls.

What does the human do? Turns up his nose at the raw meat, but is happy to munch on some raw berries.

Human taste receptors are tuned the same as every other herbivore: We lack the acidic receptors to properly taste the amino acids in meat. To a tiger, raw, unseasoned beef tastes like a cupcake.

But 'sweet' isn't a taste that a tiger recognizes, because as a carnivore they have no sweet receptors in their tongue, since sweet things are starches and fruits--things the carnivore's body is not adapted for, anyway.

Which is why your cat has no interest in strawberries.

To make meat taste good we have to cook it and season it with spices. And spices are almost entirely plant-based.

Or to put it another way: To make meat taste good to us, we have to fundamentally change it by cooking it and seasoning it so that it becomes appetizing.

If we were true omnivores, we'd react to raw beef the same way a bear does.

I could go on: the design of our teeth and jaw, our closest animal relatives (primates) being almost exclusively vegan (though chimps get about 2% of their calories from termites), length of our intestines, our lack of natural weapons for killing food, not to mention our complete lack of a killing instinct.

Addressing that, another common thought experiment is this: Put a toddler in a crib with an apple and a kitten. If he plays with the apple and eats the kitten, then you can finally demonstrate someone with true carnivorous instincts among the human species.

What about our canine teeth? Checkmate, vegans!

This argument seems like a good one at first, but it's actually about as ignorant as the 'plants are murdered by vegans' argument.

Our canine teeth are simply called canines. Horses have them, too.

Let me break it down for you in a handy chart:

Differences between Omnivores, Carnivores, and Herbivores

We sure don't have very much in common with omnivores.

I appreciate your position, but I could never be vegan.

So said every vegan before they went vegan.

But you don't have to go cold turkey.

Simply integrate more plant-based foods into your diet. This will naturally displace the amount of meat/dairy/eggs you eat. And you'll start getting a sense of what it would look like to be vegan.

And you'll feel better, too.

I'm vegetarian. I don't want animals to be killed, but dairy doesn't kill animals.

Short answer: It does. And it's a miserable existence if you're a dairy animal.

And even downplaying that, when a cow can no longer produce milk, after being kept impregnated for the entirety of her greatly-shortened adult life, she gets shipped off to be churned up into ground beef.

Male cattle born on a dairy farm will be shortly shipped off for veal or to be raised and then slaughtered.

They all end up the same way.

It's horrible, and there's no way around it.

And like it or not, if you pay for it, you're supporting it.

Well, I only buy organic, free-range meats for animals that are treated ethically...

This does not absolve you.

Here's the life of a cage-free, free-range chicken, in one picture.

Chickens are not happy living in such conditions.

'Free-Range' isn't a protected term for pork, so pork that is billed as 'free range' has zero enforcement behind it.

Free-range cattle require more land and resources than CAFO cattle. If we were to switch all of our beef operations to free-range, we'd need to steal land from Canada.

And on top of all of this, even if your chickens are the happiest chickens ever, the eggs come from happy chickens, your milk comes from the happiest dairy cows ever...

All of them will still go to a slaughterhouse, and spend their last moments in agony and abject terror, listening to the death throes of their species who precede them in those final moments, smelling their blood, and the last interaction they receive from a human being before they die will not be a compassionate, caring one, but a brutal, violent one.

And by the way, there's no such thing as an 'organic slaughterhouse'. Whether the animal is raised conventionally or organically, they all go to the same slaughterhouse.

No matter how they are raised, they all die the same way.

What about humane slaughter practices?

There's no humane way to murder someone.

Just as there's no way to humanely rape someone.

If someone shoots your dog, they have murdered your dog. If someone shoots a cow, they've murdered the cow.

But as soon as that cow goes to the slaughterhouse, our reasoning is that the cow can no longer be 'murdered', it can only be slaughtered.

Tomato, tomato.

Murder? That's a bit much.

It is, isn't it? But we kill 65 billion land animals a year, and none of them are 'asking for it.' What else would you call it?

Some vegans take it farther, comparing it to the Holocaust.

Dude, a cow is not a person. Stop trying to give a cow the rights of a person.

Thought experiment time: Watch slaughterhouse videos sometime. Now imagine that instead of cattle or pigs or chickens, they are slaughtering dogs.

If you're outraged by this thought experiment, you might ask yourself why.

Hitler was a vegetarian.

Stalin and Jeffrey Dahmer ate meat.

What does that have to do anything?

I'm not giving up bacon.

Now you're repeating yourself.

Here's a picture of my pork BBQ sandwich. It's got CHEESE on it. I'm sure the pig was tortured before he died and I can taste his final screams of pain, making the meat delicious. The cheese was made from the milk of a mother cow who was getting raped while she was being milked. Mmmm, sooooo delicious. Are you OFFENDED? Are you gonna cry, vegan?

Shoo, troll. Don't bother me.

Also: Snidely holding aloft your lack of empathy, as if this makes you a badass, is the kind of thing childhood bullies do--not well-adjusted adults.

How do you know if someone's vegan? Don't worry, they'll tell you.

Funny. We've never heard that before. You're the very first.

But as for the frequency of having to mention it, you'd be surprised how often food comes up in conversation, considering it's essential for life and we eat it 2-3 times a day.

And if you knew that giving up animal products was healthier, much more environmentally-friendly, on top of being an ethical win--wouldn't you want to tell people, at least your closest friends?

It's usually more like this:

Look, I love you, but stop making me feel bad about bacon.

Listen, you bacon-wrapped--

I mean...I'm not making you feel any sort of way. How you choose to feel about it is up to you.

I'm telling it like it is. Meat is murder. It's a PETA quote, and it's also true.

If that makes you feel bad, then good. Congratulations, you still have empathy. Instead of viewing it as a weakness and running away from it, or replying defensively, try sitting with it for a little while.

Speaking of PETA, I don't like them.

Lots of vegans don't like them, either. You don't have to like PETA to be a vegan.

I hate tofu.

So do some vegans. Luckily, the entire plant kingdom is at your disposal, along with fungi, in case you dig mushrooms. As you should.

Though many vegans eat tofu, not all do. It's not a requirement.

I love animals.

Then why eat them?

If we all stopped eating animals tomorrow, a bunch of animals would have to die.

This won't happen overnight. It will happen slowly, over time.

Demand will gradually decrease, fewer animals will need to be bred and slaughtered, and the population of these animals will decrease as a result of market forces.

And at its root, that's what veganism is: It's a boycott.

And it's already working, as evidenced by how much the industry is freaking out about it.

What's this really about for you? I mean, can you sum it up? Give me the elevator pitch?

Sure. Eating animal products is not necessary. It's a luxury.

We don't need to eat them to be healthy. In fact, the evidence suggests we're better off without--eating the things our bodies, like other primates, evolved to eat.

It's more environmentally wasteful than growing crops, in terms of pollution, land use, and water usage.

We eat animals primarily for one reason, and one reason only: Taste. Other reasons include habit and convenience.

And those just are not good enough reasons to murder something, or participate in a system that murders something on your behalf.

Especially not if you claim to love animals.

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