Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hating Rachael Ray's way

I had to laugh when I saw fellow vegan blog, The Veg Blog, post reasons to hate Rachael Ray. Among the reasons my wife hates Rachael Ray is that she is always saying "delish" and "yummo." Do you have any reasons to hate Rachael Ray?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The anti-vegan whines some more

I’m getting tired of keeping this up (see string of blog entries below), but here is one more response by Andy C. on the Chicago Tribune Web site:

“I'm choking on all of the self-righteousness here. zak and Andrew seem to think that ALL vegans know exactly where their food comes from and that it ALL is locally grown. They also seem to think that everyone can afford to eat like this. They also seem to think that ALL meat eaters are horrible people.
Others here know for a FACT that a vegan lifestyle is the healthiest lifestyle that there is, when even doctors can't agree on the subject. They do some internet research or read a book and they think that they are experts on the subject.
Sorry folks. Humans are born omnivores and no amount of self-righteousness is gong to change that. A balanced diet that includes vegetables, grains, fruit, and meat is the healthiest lifestyle that there is, and there is a mountain of evidence out there that proves it.”

My response: Andy C., I am not suggesting that all vegans pay attention to the local food movement. I'm saying that I pay attention to that. Doctors have no room to speak on the subject of nutrition. They are not qualified or trained to do that. Nutrition scientists are, however. T. Colin Campbell, who authored "The China Study," does just that. His conclusion based on the massive and highly respected study in China: A vegan diet is the most healthy one. I'm not an expert on human physiology and have not read much on the subject, so I can't speak whether we are meant to be omnivores. I suspect we are born omnivores, but considering our lack of canines, I doubt we were meant to eat large mammals. More likely, we are meant to eat small insects. Considering our long intestines, I doubt we were meant to eat carrion, either. I don't have to eat meat products, and that's just fine with me.

Responding to the anti-vegan's response

I must be getting to the anti-vegans. Andy C. on the Chicago Tribune Web site comes back for more: (see string of entries below)

“Andrew, I simply don't believe that you can't see the difference between eating a dog and eating a cow in the context of our society. Any reasonable person can. You are simply attempting to throw gasoline on a fire. Besides, why should it matter to you that I eat cows and not dogs? Perhaps I find the thought of eating dogs offensive, or perhaps I just don't like the taste. It is irrelevant to the argument.”

My response: Andy C., my point is that there would be far fewer meat-eaters if they had a more intimate relationship with their food. Eating dogs and horses fell out of practice, probably because we established relationships with them. I would just like to see meat-eaters try to raise their animal, then slit its throat, cut out its guts and throw it on the grill for the next meal. Most meat-eaters who walk down the grocery aisle have no idea where that food came from. They think it's a slab of meat that magically appeared. Do you have the guts to cut out the heart of your next meal?

Another anti-vegan speaks up

Another anti-vegan responded to my comment on the Chicago Tribune Web site:

“I think it is wrong to say that just because one eats meat he is eating unhealthily. Most dietitians agree that one can eat lean meats and that this is a healthy addition to the diet should one choose to eat meat.
Mike's suggestion that meat eaters should be willing to eat a dog or horse because they eat other meats shows how ridiculous his argument is. Cattle, poultry, pigs, and most fish available in supermarkets are raised specifically for nutrition. I happen to eat meat, and I also happen to eat free-range organic meat so that I know the animals were treated humanely during their lives.
I'll close with the old standby- a cow can run away while a carrot can't. :)”

Here’s how I respond: MQB, how exactly is my comment ridiculous? Horses and dogs have been traditionally eaten for meat, just like cattle, pigs, poultry and fish. Some people happen to be squeamish about eating horses and dogs. Why? If you eat meat, you shouldn't cringe. The comment that is ridiculous is the one that you said, that they are raised specifically with nutrition in mind. The fish in the ocean were designed by humans for nutrition? Cows, pigs and chickens are bred to make certain body parts bigger, such as the chicken breast. The most inhumane thing you can do is kill something. You can't say the man raised his son humanely and then killed him. The act of killing ends the humane relationship.

The anti-vegan speaks

An anti-vegan responded to my comment on the Chicago Tribune Web site. This is from Andy C.:

“Do you mean from the farmlands who's fertilizer is polluting our water? Or from the land where rain forests have been razed? These activities kill countless animals and harm our planet. How about from third-world countries where children are forced into hard labor to harvest the food? Do you know exactly where your veggies come from?
Some people need to get off of their high horses.”

This is my reply: Andy C., I know exactly where my food is coming from. I get my vegetables from a local community supported agricultural farm that uses no pesticides. I only buy organic food, and I try to only buy local food. The fact is that the rain forests are being cut down to grow crops to feed animals, mostly cattle. Most of the animals grown for food are fed crops that we grow. The calories lost in feeding it to humans is tremendous. If everyone went vegan, we would need far less farm land.

How do you respond to the anti-vegans?

Anti-vegans are always looking for ways to display their ignorance. Take this guy, Mike, who posted a comment to the story, "Vegan mom could lose quintuplets," which was published in the Chicago Tribune:

"One thing is clear - keeping an infant or toddler healthy on a vegan diet is a bigger-than-average challenge. It requires above-average intelligence and extraordinary attention to detail, and even then the risk of malnutrition and retardation are significantly higher for Vegan babies than in the general population of meat-eating Westerners.
This is not like Celiac/Sprue and other food allergies, Julie. No one chooses those. Veganism is an uneccessary lifestyle choice that poses some serious risks to developing children. Not unlike the lifestyle choice related to refusing medical care for sick children pursued by certain religious zealots."

Here is my response to this guy's comment:
Veganism is certainly not an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Meat-eating is, though. Vegans can eat unhealthily, but meat-eaters run the risk of diseases of affluence, such as cancer and heart disease. Veganism removes the potential of dairy to promote cancer (see "The China Study"). Veganism does not require some special degree or intelligence to follow it in a healthy way. Simply eating enough calories means you'll likely be getting enough protein (again, see "The China Study"). Vegans can be comfortable with where their food comes from. I don't know many meat-eaters who will kill their meal or watch it getting killed. What is up with meat-eaters being grossed out about eating certain body parts of an animal or even certain animals? If meat-eaters are so comfortable with their philosophy in eating, they would be comfortable with eating their pet dog or horse. Why do these animals get special exemptions to the human palate and cows don't?
What would you say to a guy like that?

Monday, June 25, 2007

A vegan road trip

Here is a picture of Spiral Diner, an incredible vegan restaurant in Fort Worth.

This is the McNut Burger that my friend, Doc, ate. This is how the menu describes it: "A tasty and healthy patty made from a blend of Sunflower Seed, Carrot, Brown Rice and Spices topped with Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Vegan Mayo, Ketchup and Mustard on a toasted Organic Bun."

This is what I ate, the Jamaican Jerk BBQ San'ich. Oh my, it was so freaking good. These Spiral Diner folks are geniuses, I tell you. Here is how the menu describes the jerk sandwich: "Our most famous sandwich. Multi-Grain Tempeh marinated in our Homemade Jerk Sauce, grilled & topped with a ring of Grilled Pineapple, Lettuce, Red Onion, Pickles & Vegan Mayo served on grilled Organic Multi-Grain Bread."

Here is what my wife had, Ramsey's Perfect Protein Platter. It was good, but even she was clamoring for more of the jerk sandwich. I don't blame her. Here is how the protein platter is described: "Black Beans and Quinoa cooked together with our famous homemade salsa, a perfect blend of spices and topped off with Avocado and Tahini. Healthy and delicious."

Saturday was my sixth wedding anniversary with my hip vegan wife, Anita. I bought her tickets to the True Colors Tour 2007 in Dallas. The concert was in support of the Human Rights Campaign, which is pushing for equal rights for the gay community. It featured Cindi Lauper, Debbi Harry, Erasure and Rosie O'Donnell. The best act by far was Erasure. Getting to the concert was a major long drive for us since we live in the Rio Grande Valley, more than eight hours away. But, we made a really cool weekend of it. We got to go to the Spiral Diner in Fort Worth with my good friend, Doc, who I haven't seen much of lately, especially since moving to the Valley. He lives in Krum, about 30 minutes north of Fort Worth. Anyway, I've wanted to go to the Spiral Diner since they opened. It didn't let any of us down. Doc, who is not a vegan, even mentioned that he could give up meat if he ate meals like that regularly. I hope he has the courage to give it a try. He is right. Anyone can stay a vegan if they keep a tasty diet.

The Times public editor speaks -- finally

The New York Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, finally touched on the "Death by Veganism" column in a column of his own, but unfortunately it falls far short of his responsibilities as the newspaper's ombudsman. His main problem with the Times editors allowing the "Death by Veganism" piece to be printed is that they didn't allow for another point of view that was supportive of veganism. Here is how Hoyt addresses the scientific points in what Nina Planck wrote:
"Rachelle Leesen, a clinical nutritionist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told me that Planck’s article 'was extremely inflammatory and full of misinformation.' She and her colleague Brenda Waber pointed me to a 2003 paper by the American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization for food and nutrition professionals. After reviewing the current science, the A.D.A., together with the Dietitians of Canada, declared, 'Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.'
Planck said she was aware of the A.D.A.’s position but regarded it as 'pandering' to a politically active vegan community.
I won’t rehash the scientific dispute in a case in which Planck has her experts and the A.D.A. paper cited more than 250 studies, but I think The Times owes its readers the other side, published on the op-ed page, not just in five letters to the editor that briefly took issue with her."
I'm getting so tired of this issue, but Planck does not quote a single expert in her writing. She has no attribution whatsoever. I can't understand why Hoyt can make an offhand comment about the consensus of the scientific community and compare it to Planck having her unnamed experts as reasoning why he didn't want write about the validity of what Planck wrote.
Hoyt does say the column is on shaky ground. I agree. I don't have a problem with some nut job like Planck writing anti-vegan columns, but I do have a problem with The New York Times not holding the column to high standards of journalism and at least provide some sort of attribution to what she wrote.
Hoyt's job is to critique the quality of the journalism in the Times, but he failed to recognize bad journalism and instead waxed about providing another point of view. I'm appreciative that Hoyt tried to tackle the issue of Planck's column, but he obviously wasn't hired to his current position because of his power of critique. I'm sure the management of the Times prefers it that way.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Vegans and barbecues don't mix

Did I ever say my wife has a big family? More than 1,500 people showed up this past weekend to a reunion for one branch of her family. It was quite interesting. I learned so much about her roots and where she comes from. A big part of the reunion is a gigantic barbecue (This is South Texas after all.), and it was the most attended event. One part of the family owns a ranch, and they converted some cattle sorting area into a barbecue pit and seating area. I was quite upset at all of the smoke and dead flesh smell permeating the air, but lest my vegan sensibilities get to me, I didn't have it as bad as some others. There were some cattle pens outside of this covered sorting area with cows, bulls and calves still in them. These gentle creatures, who just wanted some green blades of grass to munch on, had to endure the smells of their kind roasting. Are we so cruel as humans that we have to make animals in our care endure the sight and smell of their relatives getting cooked? Don't meat-eaters have a decent bone left in them? One of my wife's relatives actually came up to us and said she was uncomfortable with the manure smell near the barbecue area. She said it made her think too much about where her food came from. I doubt anyone else had that thought considering how gleeful the rest of them were chomping on the slow-cooked animal flesh. When I got home late Saturday night, I was so exhausted after such a long day. I really didn't want to take a shower, but this meat smoke from the barbecue just stuck to my clothes and my skin. After I had washed off, I realized it still smelled bad. Oh yeah, I realized, I had to wash my hair, too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another good news report on vegetarianism

Note: The Dallas Morning News published a nice article on why people go vegetarian called "Vegetarianism: Who switches, why and how." To my surprise, there were no nasty meat-eater comments. I think I went to graduate school with the author. About the environmental issue, though, an important point wasn't brought up. The rain forests of South America are being torn down to grow crops for cattle feed. Because calories are lost in the production of animal flesh, growing crops to feed them to feed us will always be less efficient than feeding humans plants directly.

By Lisa Martin

As a teenager in the Czech Republic, Barbara Dillard feared that a nasty bout of hepatitis would end her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. Traditional medicine may have saved her life at age 17, but she despaired that the constant fatigue and accompanying weakness might end her aspirations. Out of desperation and after much research, she decided to try vegetarianism.
"My doctors were amazed at my recovery," says Mrs. Dillard, a Dallasite since the late 1990s. "But it wasn't easy to be a vegetarian. I even had to learn to make my own soy milk." That's because such products were not readily available at the time in the Eastern European country.
She went on to spend four years as a member of the National Theatre ballet company in the Czech Republic before moving stateside, where she is a stay-at-home mom.
Dr. Manisha Chandalia, an endocrinologist and metabolism specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, also brought a tradition of vegetarianism with her to Dallas.
"I don't have strong religious reasons for being a vegetarian, but growing up in India, nobody in my family was very keen on meat," she explains. "Here, it's more difficult for me to be a vegetarian. It's easy to become sloppy and end up with a carb intake that's too high."
Dr. Chandalia describes herself as an ovo-lacto vegetarian: someone who eats no meat, poultry or fish but whose diet includes dairy products and eggs.
Mrs. Dillard, on the other hand, is a vegan: She will not consume animal products, which means checking food labels for ingredients such as lard and gelatin.

Behind the decision

The reasons people turn to vegetarianism tend to fall into three broad categories: health, the environment, and animal rights or ethical considerations. Religious reasons also may lead a person to abstain from eating certain types of meat, such as pork or beef.
Reactions from the uninitiated to a vegetarian's dietary choice can range to fascination or abject horror.
"My family still doesn't understand how or why I'm a vegetarian," says Barbara Bush, president of the Black Vegetarian Society of Texas. "But when my father passed away, one of my aunts who's a big meat eater went out of her way to research and prepare a vegan meal. I was so touched by this gesture of support."
Ms. Bush says her co-workers often are fascinated by her choice.
"Whenever we're together at a banquet, I get a special meal, and people are always enthralled," she says with a laugh. "I try to be discreet, and I'm not a missionary out to convert people, but they always ask questions."
The inquiries often center on protein: Is she eating enough? How can she and other vegetarians survive, let alone thrive?
"If you have a crummy diet and give up meat, it's likely that you'll still have a crummy diet," says Jo Ann Carson, a professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern and a registered dietitian who earned a doctorate in nutrition.
"But most serious vegetarians and vegans go out of their way to have a healthy diet and not to eat doughnuts all day long."

Earth, animal concerns

Although health concerns initially motivated Terry Jensen of Euless to go vegan in the mid-1990s, she quickly embraced the environmental benefits of the practice.
"Food is one of the biggest users of energy and one of the greatest contributors to global warming," she says. "Not only are the greenhouse gases emitted from the animals' waste causing problems with the environment, but you also have issues of transportation of the food and the energy that consumes."
Adds Margaret Morin, co-president of the Vegetarian Network of Dallas and a former registered nurse: "The number one thing you can do to support the environment is to go vegan." For this longtime Dallasite, however, another issue motivated her decision 15 years ago to become a vegetarian: empathy for animals.
"Farmed animals are objectified as cogs in the wheel of production and forced to eke out a miserable and lonely existence until they die, usually in terror, just so humans can eat their flesh," she says. "This is incontrovertibly wrong."

Missing ice cream

For her friend, Rusty Posch of Irving, a dispatcher for Southwest Airlines and a vegan who gave up animal products almost nine years ago, the only thing he truly misses about his former lifestyle is ice cream.
"Tofutti is OK, but the rice-based ice creams don't taste as good to me," admits this longtime volunteer with the Irving Animal Shelter.
Like many vegetarians and vegans, he went cold turkey on meat. Others, including Ms. Bush, preferred to taper off, first giving up beef and pork, then chicken, then fish and finally all animal products. The choice is purely individual, one born of myriad factors ranging from convenience to cravings.
"The one advice I've given people who are tempted by fast food at work is to bring meals from home," he says. "Someone who brings in fried chicken or something, well the smell might get to you, especially in the beginning."

Lisa Martin is an Arlington freelance writer. The New York Times also contributed to this article.

Many restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area offer vegetarian entrees, but the following offer all-vegetarian menus.
•Cosmic Cafe, 2912 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas; 214-521-6157, Menu includes black-bean burgers, falafel, spinach enchiladas, mandala pizza.
•Kalachandji's, 5430 Gurley Ave., Dallas; 214-821-1048, Menu includes bean soup, vegetable curry and rice puddings.
•Spiral Diner & Bakery, 1314 W. Magnolia, Fort Worth; 817-332-8834, (A second Spiral Diner is being planned for Oak Cliff.) Vegan menu includes organic fruit smoothies, hot hummus wrap, red coconut curry noodles.
•Veggie Garden, 516 W. Arapaho Road, Richardson; 972-479-0888, Menu includes eggless egg roll, kung pao soy beef, soy shrimp fried rice.

Vegetarian (also known as ovo-lacto vegetarian): Eats no meat, poultry or fish; does consume dairy products and eggs.
Vegan: Eats no animal products. This can even include honey, because it is made by living creatures.
Pescovegetarian or pescetarian: Will eat fish in addition to dairy and eggs, but abstains from consuming meat and poultry.
Flexitarian: A relatively new term to describe someone who is primarily vegetarian but who may, for pragmatic reasons, occasionally eat animal flesh.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A healthy vegan diet no crime

Note: After all of this recent insanity concerning vegan diets, a few reasonable voices have been railing back, trying to take the passion out of the logic about the health of a vegan diet and replacing it with some genuine science. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (not The New York Times, unfortunately) published the following story on June 11, 2007, by Amy Joy Lanou, a senior nutrition scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.


It was a horrific crime. Last month in Atlanta, two parents were convicted of intentionally starving their six-week-old child to death. As part of their defense, the parents of Crown Shakur claimed that they are vegan, meaning that they do not consume meat, dairy, or other animal products. Their conviction has brought international attention to vegan childrearing.
As a nutritionist who testified as an expert witness for the prosecution in this trial, I want to clear up some disturbing misunderstandings about this case. Vegan diets are not only safe for babies; they're healthier than ones based on animal products.
Crown was not killed by a vegan diet. As the autopsy report stated, Crown died of complications of starvation. His parents fed him the wrong food for an infant — soymilk and apple juice. But the real problem was that he was not given enough food of any sort.
The other reason Crown died was that his parents did not seek medical care or even advice from a relative when it was clearly warranted. Parents have a legal and moral responsibility to protect their children and keep them well-fed. And doctors and nutritionists agree that the best food for infants is mother's breast milk. The only viable alternative for the first six months of life is infant formula. Many nutrition experts recommend soy-based formulas. Interestingly, the breast milk of vegan mothers has been shown to contain significantly lower levels of environmental contaminants, such as pesticides, dioxins, and bovine growth hormone, than the breast milk of meat-eating mothers.
First weaning foods, which should generally be introduced around six months of life, are nearly always foods from plant sources — mashed cooked vegetables, mashed fruit, or rice-cereal thinned with breast milk or formula if need be.
A few months later, more protein-dense foods can be offered. Good choices include mashed beans, lentils and peas. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cow's milk is not recommended at all during the first year or so of life. Its consumption increases the risk of diabetes.
According to the American Dietetics Association, there is no need to introduce any meats, eggs, or dairy products into an infant, toddler, or child's diet. Well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets not only provide all the nutrients necessary to support growth, they also promote good health in childhood and start disease prevention early.
That all sounds pretty darn responsible to me.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who knew? The Times did listen

Note: This is a response by the executive editor of The New York Times to my letter posted before this entry.

Dear Mr. ---,

As you've probably observed from the Letters column, you are not the only reader who had profound issues with that Op-ed. However, because it is an Op-ed, it is completely outside my bailiwick. I edit The New York Times except the Editorial and Op-ed pages. Where those pages are concerned, I'm just a reader. I've passed your message along to Andrew Rosenthal, who edits those pages. Given the voluminous response I gather arrived in response to the vegan piece, you may or may not get an individual response -- but you will not be ignored.

Bill Keller,
executive editor of The New York Times

Will The New York Times ever listen?

Note: This is a letter I wrote to The New York Times executive editor and publisher regarding the publishing of "Death by Veganism." If you don't succeed at first, try, try again. I'm trying. They just aren't listening.

Dear Bill Keller and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.:

I have written The New York Times a number of times over the last month and have not gotten anywhere. I have serious concerns over the Times publishing the column “Death by Veganism” on May 21, 2007, on its Op-Ed page. I’m not just some hack who hates the Times and is looking to start trouble. I have been a professional journalist for more than eight years, most recently as city editor for The Brownsville Herald in Texas. I love your newspaper. It is without a doubt the finest paper in the land. The issue I have with the column written by Nina Planck is that it is patently false. It spreads offensive falsehoods about vegans and tries to pass them off as true. I’m concerned that the Times doesn’t have any journalistic standards in considering what should be published on the Op-Ed page. Even authors of opinion pieces need to substantiate claims they make. Planck basically claimed in her column that science proves that a vegan diet is detrimental to the health of infants and toddlers. The consensus of the scientific community says otherwise. The American Dietetic Association states: “Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.” Planck didn’t bother to quote any doctors or nutrition scientists, nor did she mention any scientific studies on the matter. Planck does not hold a nutrition degree. Why is it that she is allowed to make declarative statements on a subject that she is not an expert on? When my reporters try to present information that isn’t sourced, I ask them why I should trust what they wrote. There is obviously a great value in getting a large number of viewpoints printed in the Times. These viewpoints, however, should not be allowed to contain false information. If an author wrote that President Bush invaded Sudan, it would be a falsehood, and it would be the duty of Times editors to either delete that information or reject the entire article. This was the case with what Planck wrote and is precisely why it hurts the Times’ credibility. I have a selfish concern here, as well. As a member of the greater vegan community, I am worried that because the Times printed Planck’s statements (even on its Op-Ed page) that a great number of people will take what she said as being true. Look at what the blogs are saying about vegans now. They quote the Times on why being a vegan is so bad. This single column basically negates years of outreach that vegans have done to dispel fears and misperceptions about a vegan diet. In previous letters, I and a great number of people asked the Times to correct the incorrect statements in Planck’s column. No serious corrections were printed expect one about Indian vegetarians not normally eating eggs. I also offered an Op-Ed reaction to Planck’s column. That, too, wasn’t printed. I attached to this e-mail the letter I wrote about what should be corrected, the Op-Ed offering I made and a letter I wrote to the Op-Ed editor. Please consider what I have said. I’m not asking for any recognition of any kind. I’m just asking the Times to do the right thing, and that would probably amount to retracting Planck’s column and training the editors to demand more attribution. Thank you for taking time to read my letter and taking my concerns into consideration.

Andrew ---
Harlingen, Texas

Be careful; vegan's a bad word

Have you ever thought that meat-eaters think "vegan" is a bad word? I often think it's the equivalent to the word "shit" to them. A few years ago, my wife decided to do some vegan outreach by baking some tasty treats. She thought at least meat-eaters would come to the realization that vegans can eat good food. One day, she brings these incredible cupcakes to work and makes the announcement that they were for everyone to eat. Each co-worker asked her, "Are they vegan?" "Yes," Anita announced with some pride. Not one co-worker tried a cupcake. Not a nibble, not a lick. They just sat there. They were the "vegan" cupcakes. Perhaps they thought they had asked, "Are they shit?" Maybe that would be a good excuse for their repulsion. Anita's co-workers would always bring food to work, and they loved to eat. It's not like they had a repulsion to food. Then, she tried a different tact. She brought the food to work and just set it down were food is normally put. It worked. Now, her co-workers would wander the offices asking, "Who baked these cookies? They are incredible." It's the ultimate vengeance when the meat-eaters realize the vegan made them food, and they liked it. What's the world coming to? It's obvious that meat-eaters don't hate vegan food; they just hate the word "vegan." What gets me is that meat-eaters eat plenty of plant food. Yet, they always ask, "Is it vegan?" as if there is something in it that they find repulsive. It's not the same as a vegan asking if there are any animal ingredients in something. Vegans don't eat meat, thank you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Talk about an insult

Gourmet magazine editor Julia Langbein demonstrates how to be a real asshole. I wouldn't normally use this word, but she really shows how not to be a friend in her blog entry titled "Sins of Flesh." She talks about how her vegan friend is such a good sport about her meat eating and that he never complains. Langbein just shoves it in his face over and over. She doesn't hesitate to offer him meat and even suggests he's a weakling. Here is a sample from the blog entry: "As one of my four friends, he comes to my many meat-centric dinner parties. When I unwrapped my gorgeous 9-lb bone-in leg of lamb for Easter lunch and discovered the leg joint was intact, he watched me dance it across the counter, puppeteering raw meat high-kicks and singing 'Luck Be a Lady.'" The vegan did eventually get upset, and what did Langbein do as a peace offering? She sent him a cheesecake. With friends like her, who needs enemies?

An appeal to The New York Times Op-Ed editor

Note: This is a letter I sent to New York Times Op-Ed Editor David Shipley regarding his comments to Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt (see post below) regarding the printing of the Op-Ed "Death by Veganism."

Dear Mr. Shipley,

I can't tell you how disappointed I have been in The New York Times' publishing of Nina Planck's "Death by Veganism" column on May 21, 2007, and the Times' reaction to complaints about the piece. I am also deeply troubled by your comments to Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt, who brought some reader concerns about the column to your attention. You replied that the science is sound that infants need animal protein. What science exactly? You were merely speaking out of your rear end without actually having looked anything up. The only thing infants need is mother's milk. Anything other than that is inferior, animal or plant. Beside that point, let's trust the actual nutrition experts to comment on nutrition science. The American Dietetic Association states "Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence." That is the consensus of the scientific community. Surely, the Times' Op-Ed page has some journalistic standards? Nina Planck did not cite one single source in her column. She did not quote a doctor or a nutrition scientist, nor did she refer to a scientific study. Planck also does not hold a nutrition degree. Why is someone being allowed to make declarative statements about a subject on the opinion page and being allowed to pass them off as being true? Does the Times bother to do any fact-checking? The Times has already published one correction on the column that Indian vegetarians don't normally eat eggs. That's a good start, but there are numerous items that need correction in the column. How about the absurd comment by Planck that babies are made of fish oil? I sent in an e-mail previously outlining all of the items that need correction. I also offered an Op-Ed reaction to Planck's piece. I attached both the Op-Ed offering and the letter concerning what items I believe deserve to be corrected. It would be helpful if the Times just retracted the column. As I wrote to Clark Hoyt, the Times wouldn’t just print anything on its Op-Ed page. Why would it allow the unsubstantiated remarks by Planck be printed? It’s equivalent to printing an Op-Ed piece detailing the superiority of the Aryan brain. After all, there is some Nazi science backing up the subject. Your reply to this e-mail would be greatly appreciated.

Andrew --- (a loyal New York Times subscriber)
Harlingen, Texas

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New York Times attempts to justify shaky "Death by Vegan" column

NOTE: I respond to an e-mail sent by The New York Times' public editor leter to Matthew Bate (pasted below).

Dear Matthew Bate,

Thank you for writing about the Nina Planck essay, “Death by Veganism,” published Monday (May 21, 2007) on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. I don’t know that Ms. Planck’s comments are “inaccurate,” I do know that they are debatable. I asked David Shipley, the editor of the Op-Ed page, for his thoughts. He said, “I think Nina Planck is on firm ground in her Op-Ed. Her reading of the science is that it is indeed the case that children (and all of us) need animal-derived nutrients, and she’s able to summon studies backing up her assertion – just as the vegans are able to summon up studies showing that you can indeed survive on plants alone.” My own view, which I expressed to Shipley, is that, given how important and fraught with emotion the subject of children’s nutrition is, the Times owed its readers an Op-Ed by another contributor debating Planck. Because there is science to support another view, it should have been aired at the same time, or very close to the same time. David Shipley’s view is that, “Op-Ed readers understand that they are reading an argument and that there is almost always another side to the argument.” I’d feel better if the Times had actually presented that other side in this particular instance.

Clark Hoyt
Public Editor

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

Regarding your letter to Mr. Bate, the point is Nina Planck in her "Death by Veganism" column did not back up any of her information with any studies that veganism is bad, not one single one. If you look at Nina Planck's own Web site justifying the information in her column, she says she got all of her information from a single family practitioner. She did not say she looked at any studies. She does not make simple opinionated arguments in her column. She makes declarative statements about veganism. The reality is that the consensus of the scientific community is that a vegan diet is healthy. It does not back up Planck's position. If a person is going to make allegations and assertions in his or her writing, it needs to have some citation. She provides none in the column. On her Web site, Planck says she had many sources, but the only one she lists is the family practitioner. She does not mention any sources in her column, not one. Planck does not have a nutrition degree of any kind, so we can not trust the declarative statements she makes about nutrition. We also know that medical doctors get little if any nutrition training in medical school. This family doctor, who was unnamed on Planck's Web site, could talk about tests he has performed and demonstrated the results of those, but he can not actually talk about nutrition. He does, however, make a serious accusation on her Web site: "I have seen cases of severe anemia and protein deficiency in vegan infants resulting in hospitalization and blood transfusion." Now, if this is true, it speaks poorly of those particular vegan parents, but because one doctor may have seen something that he is assuming has to do with veganism doesn't mean he can extrapolate that to make assumptions about all vegans. Why isn't this doctor (I hope he is basing his information on actual tests he performed.) documenting these cases and presenting his findings in a peer reviewed journal if he is so concerned about what veganism can mean for all vegan infants? I'm guessing he doesn't have the evidence to back him up. There is plenty of information out there about raising vegan children and plenty of documented evidence that infants can be raised in a healthy manner on a vegan diet, but any person (including meat-eaters) who gets pregnant needs to become informed about the child's nutrition needs. Doubt that the consensus among the scientific community that a vegan diet is healthy at all stages of life, then look at what the American Dietetic Association states: "Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence." The New York Times has every right to use its opinion pages to show a wide variety of opinions, but even the opinion pages should have some journalistic standards. By printing Planck’s column, the Times diminished its credibility. If I wrote an opinion piece about how black people are genetically inferior to white people, I would be way out of line. Planck was way out of line in her column. I do hope you can address this matter in one of your future columns.

Andrew --- (a loyal New York Times reader)
Harlingen, Texas

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Times corrects "Death by Veganism" -- sort of

Remember Nina Planck and her "Death By Veganism" op-ed in The New York Times? Well, the Times on Friday finally printed a correction, but it didn't go far enough: "An Op-Ed article on May 21, about veganism, mischaracterized an aspect of traditional vegetarian Indian diets. Generally, these diets are lacto-vegetarian; they do not include eggs." Duh. That was the least offense that Planck made. She mischaracterized veganism through and through. I'm still waiting on the Times to make a more thorough correction.

Friday, June 8, 2007

An animal rights victory

Every once in a while, there are little victories for animal rights. This one was in the Austin American-Statesman on Friday: "Leaving tethered or chained dogs outside alone will no longer be allowed in Austin. The City Council on Thursday approved the ordinance by a 7-0 vote. The new law also requires that any outdoor enclosure used as the primary living area for a dog have at least 150 square feet of space for each dog, age 6 months or older. City officials have acknowledged that the law might disproportionately affect lower-income residents. Critics have said dogs are often chained because fencing is expensive. Low-income families will get help complying with the new law; each address or family could get up to $250 in assistance. The law will become effective Oct. 1. Enforcement will start with warnings, said David Lurie, director of the city's Health and Human Services Department."
I can't tell you how many times I've seen a poor animal chained up in the neighborhood where I live. One man down the street keeps his dog chained up to a tree in the front yard. Why have a pet if you are going to be so cruel? I wish we could get a law in Harlingen like the one Austin passed. Bravo to the progressive folks in Austin.

Skinny vegans? Yeah, right

I guess I haven't been that good of a friend, but I haven't talked that much to one of my best friends in years. It's the distance thing. He lives in the Dallas area, eight or so hours from here. I certainly have never talked that much about being vegan to him. Maybe I was afraid to because I wasn't that knowledgeable about what being a vegan really was about. I don't know. In our conversation yesterday, he brought up a point that is a common misconception about vegans. He said I must be losing weight because I'm a vegan. I'm working hard on getting healthier these days, but my weight has nothing to do with being a vegan. I still consume too many calories. I didn't cut out the hamburgers and replace them with nothing. I found other things to eat. Some vegans are skinny, and some are fat. That's just how it is. Vegans fall into the same traps of over consumption as meat-eaters. It's true we probably consume less saturated fat, more fiber and less protein, but that doesn't mean we don't eat too much. I recently gave up drinking alcohol regularly, I started doing aerobic exercises for 30 minutes each morning, and I try really hard not to buy soy ice cream too much. I also try not to eat out too much, as well. That's not that hard of a thing to do when you live in such an unfriendly place for vegans as we do. Those things will help me lose weight. I've noticed I'm starting to look a little slimmer lately. My double chin is whittling down, as are my love handles. My beer belly is still there. I still weigh way too much, but like I say, "I didn't put on these pounds quickly, so why should I expect to lose them that fast?" Yo-yo diets are not the answer. It's about making lifestyle changes. You should work at make permanent changes so the weight stays off. At least, that's what I'm hoping for. Being vegan is one thing that will help with so many health problems, but it's not the be-all answer. Vegans still have to work for their health.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Here's hoping for a vegan cooking show

I guess you can say I have a sick fascination with cooking shows. I'm a vegan, and it pains me to see meat being prepared, but I hold out hope that the chefs on TV will do something that I can do in my own cooking. I was a huge fan of the Japanese version of "Iron Chef." The chefs always did exotic things, and their preparation wasn't as meat heavy as the Americans. The secret ingredient was often some unusual fruit or vegetable, which is a delight to a vegan. The producers of the American "Iron Chef" apparently feel that viewers only want them to use meat and eggs. I can't tell you how many times I've seen beef or pork. They can't do the same ingredient over and over, you say? Aw, they start with the generic "pork," then they move on to "bacon" and then, say "pork chops." I half expect "Iron Chef" to have consecutive episodes of "left pork nostril" this week and "right pork nostril" next week. Alton Brown, off course, will say there's a subtle difference in flavor and texture behind each challenging ingredient. When it comes to the fruits and vegetables, they just get the lump job. "Citrus" was one of the episodes. There're so many varieties of citrus that they should not be treated as one episode. It's not like different cuts of flesh from the same animal. With citrus, you have the typical lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit. You also have the more exotic pummelo, Buddha's hand and Thai lemon. In the Japanese version of "Iron Chef," I would watch as the master of sauces would always add miso to his creations. I started experimenting with miso, and now I have an array of sauces on my own. Another issue I have with cooking shows is the lack of variety. How many different shows are we going to see the main personalities in on the Food Network? Whey can't they have a short weekly vegetarian and vegan cooking shows? I'm sure they could find room to squeeze one in late at night instead of the fourth rerun that week of the same Rachel Ray show. I know they probably think anything that would cater to vegetarians or vegans would be too radical. My counter to that is: Don't meat-eaters also eat things that are not meat and dairy? Why would a vegan show offend them? It's not the same as a vegan being disgusted with seeing an animal's flesh being manipulated. Meat-eaters might not want their spinach, but it shouldn't disgust them to see it prepared on television. I know meat-eaters would love to watch Isa Chandra and the Post Punk Kitchen. They rock. Why can't the Food Network even have a Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, French or other ethnic cooking shows? Why is it only Italian or Southern on the Food Network? Why can't they even have reruns of the old Japanese version of "Iron Chef?" I have this sick fascination of watching these celebrity chefs (I'm actually bouncing back and forth to the channel with my remote control. I can't stand to watch meat being prepared, so I switch to another channel for a while.) and hoping I might get something out of it. I never do except a head of hot steam. The Food Network needs to be more mindful of its programming, or even the meat-eaters will abandon them. Meanwhile, I'm hoping for a better ingredient on the next episode of "Iron Chef." Of course, I should probably expect cow udder. It wouldn't surprise me.