A Reasonable Alternative to the Vegan World View

Because I’m engaged in such an unusual diet I’m exposed to unusual thinking. I’ve learned more about food, nutrition, human health, and the health of the Earth in the past year than I had ever known – even after 20 years of relatively intense studying and experimenting with diet and exercise.

The first formal diet I ever did was an attempt to eat Vegan. In 1997 my wife, son and I went vegetable only for four months. No animal products at all. I felt absolutely great. Mind clear, body clear. Unfortunately, I was starving the entire time. No meal ever satisfied the hunger. I recall being stuffed and ravenous simultaneously after a big feed. It was only the application of an iron will that kept me on track.

After it was over I had discovered I loved unprocessed, organic Vegan food (except soy. Bleah) but needed a steak with my vegetables.

It had been instructive.

Why did I try Vegan first? Because like everyone else in the US I had been impacted by the Vegan Cultural Imperative. I had no desire to harm animals. I had questions about the long term health of eating meat. I wondered at the sustainability of animal agriculture. I had any number of thoughts about food but gave no consideration to the source of those thoughts.

How had I heard about all of those things? They were and are ubiquitous. We all hear them all the time. They are a constant undercurrent in the news and, increasingly, the culture.

Over the past several years I’ve spent some time at WeWork locations in New York City. It’s a super-hip, hyper-connected, shared work space that allows people to subscribe to the service and find communal rooms in several restored, re-sourced buildings in all the major cities in the US.

I felt like a dinosaur in there. The crowd was fully hipster – age mid-20s.

WeWork recently made all of their spaces Vegan, no longer allowing meat to be served in their buildings. That was a marketing decision. In an increasingly competitive shared-space market, a market they invented, they branded themselves the hippest of all of the competing rent-a-space companies by taking a current foundatational belief of the most elite of all cultural elites and defining their business around it. Consider how many people have to be willing to be Vegan, at least for their time at WeWork, for the business model to succeed. That is a lot of people.

My dive into a fully Carnivore, Zero Plant Diet has taken me down paths I had never considered before. I’ve learned more about food and food sourcing than I ever knew. I had already been buying much of my food directly from farmers for years, giving me an understanding of where food comes from, yet I had not really considered all the implications for the impact that food – both plant and animal – makes on the ground on which it is grown.

We have all heard that grazing animals destroy the environment. What we have not heard, and what I had not fully considered before, was how plant farming destroys the environment. One of the more interesting articles I have read was a blog post entitled “The Most Vegan Item In Your Grocery Store Is A Steak”. It laid out the case for the terrible damage being done to ecosystems and the animals that live in them due to past and present deforestation for crop fields. It also described the incredible amount of animal life destroyed yearly through the process of plowing, cultivating, and harvesting plants. As many as 7 billion animals are killed a year for our worldwide crop harvest. Many very small creatures die for that salad we eat every day. Contrast that with the single death of a steer – feeding one human for six months to a year. I’d never thought about it before because I’d never heard anyone talk about it. The Vegan ethic is a powerful, compelling story and it’s presented as truth so often and so subtly I had no idea there were competing opinions.

Even more ever-present than the death conversation is the Vegan argument on the sustainability and environmental cost of animal agriculture. As it turns out that story is far more complicated than the one we have been told. There are other, competing versions that tell a different tale. One of the most interesting is contained in the linked article below. Most notable is its presence in a relatively main stream source. I’ve been reading about the Earth healing impact of properly managed grazing operations for a while but the information was coming from fringe websites. The Guardian got a whiff of the story and told it pretty well in the article.

Intelligent, concerned, caring people can look at the evidence for either vegetable or meat consumption and disagree with each other. I find myself increasingly coming to believe that it is almost impossible to be a Vegan without creating long-term nutritional deficiencies. While it is clear we can eat plants, and possibly even thrive on them, it seems more and more obvious to me that after a decade or more of consuming only plants the body begins to degrade. It is often subtle. It may even extend life-span by creating a long term state of pseudo-undereating but it does so at the cost of strength and vitality.

I’m hesitant to say this out loud. I don’t want to upset my vegan friends, of whom I have many. Yet I now believe it needs to be said. The narrative we’ve been given is misleading at best, most likely deceptive. It needs to be corrected and if no one steps up to do it it will never be done.

What are the long term effects of eating only meat? No one yet knows. There are strong clues if you know where to look for them but the last cultures that ate only meat to the exclusion of almost everything else are long gone. The 50,000 people who are migrating to this way-of-eating (WOE) are pioneers in a plant eating world. We are experimenting. That entails risk.

It also leads to outsize reward if you get it right.

Having more information is always a good thing in my experience so I’m passing all of this on to present a way of thinking that is counter to what is common but contains truths worth considering.

Guardian on Sustainable Grazing

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