Thursday, August 2, 2007

In defense of veganism

The magazine, Energy Times, which is distributed in health food stores, recently took up the debate about vegan diets in an article called "Omnivore vs. Vegan." They allowed for a back and forth debate between a representative for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a hack for the Westin Price Foundation. It was interesting. I'm will to bet the lady from the Westin Price Foundation would infuriate any vegan. She says stuff like this: "Science strongly supports the health benefits of vegetables, but the evidence for vegan diets is inconsistent and contradictory at best." I think the health benefits of a vegan diet are indeed well established, and there are numerous large studies that show the benefits of a vegan diet. For this lady, who has a doctoral degree in nutrition to simply lie like that, to me, is grounds for her to have her Ph.D. revoked. That is using her degree in a deceiving way. That's not to say you can't eat poorly on a vegan diet and suffer health consequences because of that. In the day and age of processed foods, any vegan can fall into the convenience foods trap. The wacko Westin Price lady also says: "Sadly, veganism won’t even help our planet. Only 11 percent of the land can be farmed, a percentage that cannot be increased without deforestation, irrigation, chemical fertilizers and other destructive ecological practices." We all know this isn't true. First of all, organic growing methods are successful at feeding people, and they only sustainable way we can keep it up for the long term. Chemical fertilizers destroy the soil. Once the soil is destroyed, then you can't grow any crops on that property. Organics protects the pollinators and builds the soil. The Westin Price lady insinuates in her comment that cattle and other livestock freely roam all of that other land, and humans benefit from that. The vast majority of cattle, pigs and chickens are raised in factory farms, not on fields of grass that supposedly can't support the growing of crops. The calories the livestock consume are from crops that are unnatural to them -- mostly corn and soy. The corn has to be processed in a special way and the cattle have be given special enzymes and antibiotics before the cows can even digest the stuff. If they subsist on the corn too long, they will get sick and die, but they are sent off to the slaughterhouse before that time. Don't forget that it takes more crops to feed livestock before they are fed to humans. Much of the calories are lost in the process of growing crops for livestock. That need to feed livestock is one of the big contributors to the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest. There are way more than enough crops being grown today. Even if no one ever ate livestock ever again, there would be enough. One of the biggest environmental challenges of our day is the waste being produced by concentrated animal feed lots. They cause massive destruction to local waterways that humans rely on for drinking water. Lastly, the author of this article, Patrick Dougherty, is clearly biased. Look at his introduction to the article: "Imagine a vegan is shipwrecked on a remote tropical island. Suddenly, the luxury of choosing foods that suit vegan beliefs is replaced with the necessity of finding any food that is available. While seaweed, edible roots and the occasional coconut might offer temporary plant-based sustenance, a starving vegan would eventually also turn to fishing, hunting for wild boars, collecting eggs and scavenging for grubs. Holding aloft a wriggling, freshly speared fish, which ordinarily might trigger revulsion in a vegan, would now bring gratification for protein, healthy essential fatty acids, food energy and a full belly." That's ridiculous that any one in this age of overpopulation would be abandoned on a remote tropical island. Even so, the vegan wouldn't have to go to the lengths the author describes, which to me sounds like he's copying "Lord of the Flies." In the "Lord of the Flies," the killing of the boar represents the loss of the children's humanity. They turn into savages. The only nutrient that the vegan would need to worry about is B-12. B-12 stores last for a long time. Provided that some fruits and vegetables weren't washed, the contamination could be there. Your own large intestine makes B-12. You could designate a place to make compost out of your waste. Once you have finished compost, you could used that to contaminate your vegetables with B-12. I imagine the island that I'm on, since it supports many birds and boars, has plenty of plant products for me, too, such as taro, cassava, sapote or citrus (depending on what part of the Pacific you are stranded on), bananas, maybe Suriname cherry, hibiscus flowers, of course coconut, other palm fruits, a crazy amount of greens (including those of the cassava), custard apples and many other plants. Provided we were able to produce fire, I think vegans could live quite comfortably on a remote tropical island that supported boars.

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