The Conscious Case Against Veganism

Why the sustainable path may not lead to veganism.

For nearly a decade, I was an evangelical vegan – a born-again, plant-powered fundamentalist, resplendent in my animal-rights halo and heavenly faux-fur robes. I fiercely guarded my inflexible morality, never daring to reexamine the orthodoxy’s most illogical presuppositions. Yes, meat is still murder and factory farms still cause animal cruelty and suffering – none of that has changed. Somewhere along the way, however, veganism stopped being synonymous with ethical treatment of animals and people.

Over the past six months, I’ve come to believe that strict dogma is a drag. Conscientious consumption means eating and living ethically, not religiously. As Slate’s Christopher Cox says, “Eating ethically is not a purity pissing contest, and the more vegans or vegetarians pretend that it is, the more their diets start to resemble mere fashion—and thus risk being dismissed as such.”

Below are eight instances where mainstream-vegan doctrine doesn’t stand up to scrutiny:


SAD: The Standard American Diet: with its 100-calorie, reduced-fat, Omega-3-fortified, fiber-added, high-protein, low-carb, soybean- and corn-based, triple plastic-wrapped snack-packs – is the cause of this country’s obesity, heart-disease, cancer, and diabetes epidemics. This industrial diet requires industrial farming – with all the pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified crops, and exploited farm workers therein. If veganism is about eating ethically, soy-based ice cream, frozen, faux-cheese pizza, and meatless buffalo wings don’t cut it. Sure, it’s cool that cows and chickens aren’t directly harmed in the process, but what about the farm workers’ daily exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, the degradation of the environment, and our population’s chronic sickness? If there were ever a fail-safe argument for eating local, sustainable, fresh, slow-foods, this is it.

Oysters: These bivalves aren’t technically part of the Plant Kingdom, but eating oysters is ethically equivalent to downing a big bowl of kale chips. Not buying it? Remember that the primary tenet of veganism is minimizing suffering – for other animals and the planet. An oyster doesn’t have a central nervous-system; the pain it experiences when farmed from the sea is indistinguishable from that experienced by a potato when removed from the soil. What’s more, oyster farming is one of the world’s few sustainable aquacultures; environmental groups even cultivate oysters to boost marine-water quality. Unfortunately, the seabed dredging required to harvest similar bivalves, like clams and muscles, ruins underwater ecosystems – it’s best to stay away from them. But with oysters, go ahead and shuck ‘em and suck ‘em.

Faux-Flesh Faux-Pas: “Bacon” crisps, fried “chicken,” Teriyaki “beef,” pulled “pork:” I could go on. It would be easy to enumerate reasons to eschew faux flesh, but that seems silly in the face of one, summarizing thesis: Who wants to eat food that requires quotation marks to describe what it is? I mean, would you eat “apples” or “corn” on the cob? Processed food is processed food, even if it is “vegan.”

Wool: Aversion to wool from confined, miserable sheep is sensible and ethical. But not all sheep farmers are bad, and mainstream veganism’s blanket prohibition against wool fails to account for exceptions to the rule. Being vegan is about being mindful, and conscious consumerism isn’t so hard to come by that we should prejudge all wool. Is all cotton harvested sustainably? Are all synthetic fibers better than all wool? A quick Internet search yields scores of results for ethically-sourced wool transformed into hand-woven, lovingly-designed scarves, mittens, winter hats, and more.

Backyard, Egg-Laying Chickens: Flax seeds and fresh bugs, a nice plot of green grass for scratching and pecking, room to roost, and cruelty-free living in a halcyon idyll. Wouldn’t it be tragic to deny a chicken such luxury? That she happens to lay eggs only solidifies the relationship as mutual, reciprocal, and equal. Plus, a fried egg on whole-wheat toast with a side of steamed collard greens is a heaven unto itself – just don’t forget the hot sauce!

Honey: I buy local honey from bees that pollinated the urban gardens where I buy my produce. No bees means no fruits or veggies. Yes, I’m taking the honey against the bees’ will and, sure, it probably stresses them out to have it taken away. But in this case, I choose to prioritize sustainable and fresh instead of imported, cash-crop sugar or agave nectar that’s technically vegan. Because these sweeteners come from abroad, I don’t know if the sugar-plantation farm-workers receive fair hours, fair pay, and safe working conditions (reality check – they probably don’t). Whereas with honey, I actually know the San Francisco beekeeper from whom I sustain my sweet tooth.

Milk-Producing Pet Goats: Goats are even cooler than chickens, because they’re mammals, and thus a lot more fun to have around because they’re furry, good communicators, and nibble your fingers. Any critter that is loved and cared for as a pet – in vegan parlance, a companion animal – is non-exploitative. Humans’ relationships with other animals provide a sense of well-being and increased happiness, which is why we love our cats and dogs so much. Goats are cool and enjoy being milked – it’s physically pleasurable and relieves their udders; fresh, unpasteurized, pet-goat milk is delicious, mindful, and non-harming. I know the anti-dairy camp says humans are the only animals to drink the milk of other species, which is true. But that argument, for me, no longer holds up. We’re also the only species to eat high-fructose corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated oil, and we’re no better for it. I’d much rather get my fats, calcium, and protein from clover field-grazed goat’s milk. Yum, yum!


Vintage Leather: Vegans balk at thrift-store purchases, such as a faded pair of bonafide Mexican boots or a gorgeous Italian book-bag from the Fellini-era – because the leather came from a cow slaughtered decades ago. I used to think this way too – right along as I purchased some cheap, pleather jacket or some-such slave-labor shoes from Forever 21. Reclaiming worn leather endows a discarded garment with new life that respectfully and mindfully acknowledges the animal’s sacrifice. Consider it a vote-with-your-dollar political purchase. You support re-use, rather than contributing to a modern-day economy of mass-consumerism – whether it’s built on the backs of farm-animals or underage wage-slaves in developing countries.

What are your thoughts?

Images: Keith011764, Leafy Green, Allerina & Glen MacLarty,  BONGURINick Smarto, BrockVicky, Martin Cathrae, Xelcise

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DISCUSSION

162 thoughts on “The Conscious Case Against Veganism

  1. Wow! This article encapsulates so many of the thoughts and ideas I hold it’s hard to express my admiration for you. I’m impressed by your ability to articulate controversial, deeply rooted ideas like that!

    I agree 100 percent, whole-hardheartedly, and absolutely! For these reasons, among others, I’m a practicing vegetarian who occasionally eats sustainably raised fish and meat. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with an animal sacrificing themselves for us to continue to live…. As long as people recognize it’s just this- a sacrifice! It’s the Mc-Donald’s eating fast-food culture who holds no respect for life, and that very sacrifice, that I am entirely against!

    In my experience the vegans I’ve known begin with good intentions but end up just as ignorant as the people they so vehemently oppose.

    Be vegetarian, be vegan, be carnivorous, or what ever you want but be mindful and conscious. The point of this article, I think, is that following some prescribed, predetermined path like some kind of sheep is not the point of the movement and even takes away from it. As difficult as it is in the face of all this “progress,” we must keep this mentality in mind and try to stress the importance of preserving a natural world.

  2. Wow, I just came across this article and even though it’s old I had to leave a comment… this was one of the most insulting articles against veganism I’ve ever read. I don’t eat faux meats, specifically because a) they are bad for the environment and have as much of a carbon footprint as meat and b) I don’t want to eat anything that emulates meat because it sickens me. All the vegans I know also don’t eat faux meats because of the above reasons. I really hate how you have generalized vegans in this article. It’s very insulting and ignorant. PLEASE don’t generalize… it leads to misinformation. 

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  7. “The answer is clear, at least from the abolutionist perspective: The eggs don’t ‘belong’ to us. They are not ours to take or eat. There is no such thing as an ethical egg.”nnSo consumption is ethical only if what you consume “belongs” to you? What makes you think plants belong to you? Aren’t you stealing them from other animals who depend on them for food? The land where your crops are grown: why is it ethical to displace all those wild animals from it, so that your food can be grown? Farming of any sort, vegetable or animal, takes habitat from wildlife, many species of which are quickly declining.nnAnd the same is true for just about any other item you use. Your house, your car, your computer, your clothes. It takes natural resources to produce any of them, it takes industry and infrastructure. And all of that involves destroying the homes and food sources — the habitat — of wild animals.nnThe only way to ensure that you do not kill animals or steal their food or their homes is to end your own life. Reductio ad absurdum!

  8. I am a happy indulger of home hatched eggs and local honey!
    The chickens live quite happily with two roosters and all chicks are hatched at home. The eggs are big and beautiful and diverse in shape. Chickens even get to enjoy leftovers from big meals making quick composters and replenishing some nutrients
    . Not everyone has this option available to them but hobby farmers normally sell eggs right out of their home (mine are delivered by an uncle once a week along with produce grown in his yard and greenhouse).
    I have yet to see happier chickens.
    Local honey that is unpasteurized has helped me control my pollen allergies, boosting my immune system, I would prefer a spoon of honey any day to putting chemicals into my body.
    .
    Farmers like these hobbyist contribute to the preservation of unaltered genetics in chickens, plants, small populations of livestock and even fruit bearing trees ( thousands of apple types exist aside of the macs, granny smiths and red delicious).
    If you have the option I highly recommend supporting local and small farms who work hard to reap fruits of their labors.

    Aside from all the politics surrounding veganism, local fresh organic food is healthy and supports local farms. Being educated and aware of what I put into my body is important to me.

    Thank you for this lovely post.

  9. And Quorn isn’t vegan – it has egg whites in it!

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  12. You so need to do you homework. There is so much wrong in your article I find it hard to believe you were vegan. It takes just a little bit of research to refute what you have printed.

  13. Until recently I was also a vegan, I believed that what I was doing was above all else, and couldn’t possibly be wrong. During an excursion to a third world country I discovered that the life I was living was not what I believed it was. There was nothing ‘sustainable’ about my lifestyle, and although I was morally right, and on a high horse for it, I was not ethically sound. Although I could tell as much, but I had no idea how to change. During that trip I changed, took in several of the above ideas, and working on incorporating more. En Short; excellent post, thank you for writing it.

  14. I spend half the year on a caribbean Island. There’s a 365 a year growing season here. Si Bee’s don’t need their Honey for the winter. Also… chickens and roosters roam free in many spots down here. they are viewed as emergency food sources in the event of Hurricanes. It seems that some chickens find a way to make it through those things. my basic point is that while many things really grow here… from Bananas, Coconuts, Papaya, Plantain, Limones, Avocado, Grapefruit, Mango, Pigeon peas, Yucca, Yautilla, Almonds, and more… natural eggs are a healthy source of nutrition and are totally within the ‘natural cycle’ of things to eat. Chickens down here lay a TON of eggs. There is no shortage… whether they do so with the help of roosters or without. I live on an Island where the Chickens and Roosters were here before I was… and they roam free. No Debeaking, etc. What could be better. Ditto for the Bees here. No ‘Colony Collapse’ problems here in this natural environment. And NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS are the KEY. For all those posting to this article… the message, I feel, is clear. (1) relocate to a natural environment that has a 365 a year growing cycle. (2) Eat in harmony with the natural cycle of Life in such a place. NOT: I was a RAW VEGAN for 4 years. Teeth problems indicated that another way would have to be the way. I feel a Diet that is BIG on Raw Live Enzymes is esential. But that now includes Ceviche, Raw Eggs, raw Milk Cheese, kefir & Yogurt, Seared Tuna… and more. Wishing all much Radiant Health and Abundance…

  15. Hi, I totally loved your article on vegan pomegranate ice cream, looks so good! I’m buying me some of that!

    And yeah you are right about goat farming being cruel, I knew a goat farmer in France and they killed and ate the baby boys. And that was a so called local, organic outfit.

    Also it was good that you pointed out how silly those arguments are that vegans cause pesticides to be used on the crops etc, when actually a large farmed animal will eat a heck of a lot more crops, and a vegan is just as able to eat organic as that animal, so it’s so clear from your point that veganism really works best from an environmental and sustainability point of view.

    And yup, I am again in agreement that more should be done to ensure that veganic, local crop farming happens wherever possible. Even though nothing lowers your carbon footprint like being a vegan, we can always do more!!

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  17. I’m really not sure where you go the idea that vegans are against second-hand leather or wool. Or why you think there’s one “vegan rule book” that says any thing more than “does not consume animal products”.

  18. How many vegans have you ever actually met?O_O

  19. @Kelly Also, I did forget to mention that I am breastfeeding. Just another bi-product of my brainwashed silliness. No. Wait! I’m Canadian! Brainwashing hasn’t been invented this far North yet. Guess it’s just plain, regular silliness. Silly.

  20. @Kelly You may be right and I may be silly, but that doesn’t change the fact that I was getting fall down dizzy mid-way through my runs this month. I guess my body is just used to gorging on rice and beans. Could be carb lows. I’m just so silly, it’s hard to tell.

  21. I don’t understand the concept of wearing ‘vintage leather’ to prevent supporting the modern leather industry. Is leather bad? Well that’s for you to decide, it’s a by-product of the beef and veil industry, and is going to be produced regardless of if anybody buys it or not. Even wearing leather supports the industry, to a psychological effect.
    “That leather jacket looks so nice! I’m going to go buy one too!” – someone that might not buy their jacket ‘vintage’

  22. My thoughts are that this article is stock filled with generalizations. The most irritating thing about reading vegan literature (and anti vegan literature) is the defensiveness about ethical matters. As far as I’m concerned a vegan CAN have a healthier, more ethical diet than a meat eater. I also believe it can be vice versa; a vegan that eats all imported GMO soy products would still have a pretty big ecological footprint. I find this article irrelevant because it focuses on such specific arguments, and makes claims not all vegans believe in.

  23. you’ve listed a bunch of options OTHER than vegan ones (goat milk, honey), and mentioned how some stuff that vegans do isn’t the healthiest (processed foods), neither of which makes a “conscious argument against veganism”.

    undeveloped thought, lack of convincing facts, argument that neither backs up nor relates to the stated concept.

    way to go.

  24. Even if this were more cost effective and not patented, what makes you think that a dairy farm would want every calf to be female? If they didn’t kill some babies, they’d be exponentially growing the population of cows to the point where they’d have too many to care for.

  25. Scientists are developing methods so that farmers will be able to chose the sex of the kids their goats produce.

  26. “Faux meat” is also things like Quorn and textured vegetable protein, which is grown in a vat and is a relatively new food. I don’t think tofu and tempeh etc count as “faux meat”.

  27. @Kelly It’s not about protein deficiency but it’s a fact that some people need a higher proportion of protein in their diet in order to be happy and healthy. We are all individuals.

  28. “You realize that goats need to be impregnated to continue giving milk? And that milk is for their kids, not you. I can’t imagine a goat having enough milk to feed their babies and their human companion.”

    That’s a fallacy. When everything is working well, mammalian milk production is a case of supply = demand.

    Take it from me – I’m exclusively breastfeeding twins right now and they’re gaining just as much weight as a single baby would. Why? Because the double-suckling stimulates my body to produce more milk.

    There are all sorts of other ethical issues related to goat milk and the plight of the kids. “Not enough milk” is not one of them.

  29. I know of two men who followed Dr. Esselstyns diet purely to save their lives. One had so many heart problems, he was told there was nothing more that could be done. He’s now more alive and well then he’s ever been.
    What started as a diet without ethics, only the selfishness of personal health, has changed him into a vegan, for all the right reasons
    When you understand the importance of health, I think it brings compassion..

  30. A plant based diets are as varied as meat based idiets. The reasons for choosing plant based diets stem from concerns about health, environment, ethics, and finances.
    Why is this author so angry about her own predudices? I live in Ohio, I am perfectly capable of living off local foods, including protein sources. The whole “ethically raised” meat idea is only promoted to work against vegans who are finally able to get their ideas made public.
    Eating processed foods is a horrible idea, whether or not they contain meat, so why use point at vegans? Personally I couldn’t less about them, and my food choices are more varied than when I ate meat.

  31. Dear Author,

    It appears you forced yourself to be a vegan but never understood the spirit of being a vegan. The article appears to be directed at the supposed rulebooks that are prescribed for vegans.

    In all honesty, being vegan is a concept. It’s trying not to harm other animals. There’s no humane way of harming animals, if the word humane were to refer to being thoughtful and conscientious.

    That other animals steal and eat eggs of other birds, doesn’t justify why we have to do the same. Those animals are genetically programmed to do so and are limited in analytical abilities to think of other alternatives or moral implications of their actions.

    That oysters aren’t equipped with Nervous System, doesn’t mean that they don’t struggle for survival. Similar argument can be given against eating a potato. And that would’ve been a compelling argument. But you dilute your own argument by writing “go ahead and shuck ‘em and suck ‘em.” “Suck” anything is not polite and here it shows a total lack of value for the life of the animal.

    There indeed was a brilliant argument about why consuming processed foods is not sustainable. But that argument was diluted with one of the following assumptions (I’m not entirely sure, but you can clarify):
    (1) All vegans should consume Soy ice creams and meat-substitutes. Or (2) All non-vegan food available in stores is grown local and following sustainable practices.

    I am against processed foods, like many vegetarians/vegans that I know. And striving for sustainable mode of living does eventually fit the concept of causing less harm to animals.

    What your article highlights, unintentionally I believe, is the root cause of hatred for vegans and animal advocates. Some organizations have taken a noble concept of trying to not harm animals to sort of a cult, an -ism. Even though it might have been in an honest attempt to spread the concept, every attempt at forming an ‘ism’ eventually leads to friction. Some concepts can not be indoctrinated. They need to be understood. Veganism cant be a cult or a religion. It needs to be understood for what it is.

    Just my thoughts. Hope they make some sense to someone at least.

  32. Local honey also helps to avoid local allergies, as the pollen collected by bees helps to calm your antihistamines.

  33. “The answer is clear, at least from the abolutionist perspective: The eggs don’t ‘belong’ to us. They are not ours to take or eat. There is no such thing as an ethical egg.”

    Tell that to the opossum that feasted on our hen’s eggs. Animals have been eating other species’ eggs for millions of years. Not to mention, young birds lay every single day, the chickens themselves know that not every single egg is going to hatch (they’d have more babies than they could handle). In fact, they will eat their own eggs once cracked.

    I suggest getting some chickens and you’ll learn the nature of chicken eggs – and you’ll have no problem eating them.

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  35. Just like “seasoned vegetarian” said below, you do not have to give up being a vegan just because you now want to start being a person who pays attention to how things are ethically sourced. In fact, it’s odd to me that when you come to the revelation that you want to pay attention to the source of where things come and the impact they make, you decide you need to give up being a vegan. Why wouldn’t you just now be an ethically-sourced vegan?? This is such an odd jump to make: “I have to give up veganism to be ethically-sourced!” Just be an ethically-sourced vegan. Take the responsibility upon yourself to pay attention to how vegan things are sourced and shop/eat accordingly. If you no longer have ethical issues with eating all animal products (which is what veganism is about), fine, just be an ethically-sourced vegetarianism. If you’ve come to the conclusion you don’t mind eating animal flesh afterall, just be an ethically-sourced omnivore.

    But presenting an argument against veganism itself is wrong. Your argument is against non-ethically sourced products. Not veganism as a whole. Get your argument straight. You either have reasons you don’t want to eat animals products period, so you’re an ethically-sourced vegan, or you care more about things being ethically-sourced than you do about eating animals, so you’re an ethically-sourced omnivore. Fine. Whatever. Just don’t knock veganism as a whole, knock those who are not ethically-sourced in their shopping/eating habits, no matter if they are vegan or not. Because that is clearly what your argument is against.

  36. apparently the author is just learning something that MOST vegans/vegetarians learned long ago. in fact, it appears you are just awakening your mind to the very issue that converts most people to veganism/vegetarianism: RESEARCH where all your food/clothing/purchases come from. ultimately: what is the SOURCE. i have been a vegetarian since i was 12 (which will remain an unspecific “couple” decades ago.). since then, i have learned to very carefully pay attention to where something was produced, how it was produced, how it got to my local store/market, and who was harmed in the process. apparently this logical thinking is a “revelation” to the author. but honestly, i don’t know many vegetarians/vegans who ONLY care about “not eating meat.” eating and shopping ethically is the driving force behind every single vegan/veggie i know. everyone i know pays very close attention to where that wool sweater came from, where that honey jar came from, where those eggs came from (i only eat vegetarian-fed, cage-free free range, organic eggs from local farmers obtained through friends or farmer’s market…until i can get my own chickens.)

    i’m honestly just surprised to hear that this focus on eating and shopping ethically is apparently such a new concept to this author. it’s actually humorous to me to hear this presented in such a light as “ah ha! have you ever thought about this??” it makes me think the author is very young, or at least very new at thinking for herself. i suppose if one has only ever lived by the thought of “no meat!” rather than “ethically sourced!” this is a new revelation. it’s just odd to me to hear it presented as “new thinking.” for it is the way everyone i know who has made the switch to veggie/vegan lifestyle thinks. most people i know convert to veggie/vegan lifetsyle BECAUSE they want to think about where things are sourced, and want to support ethically sourced products. it just seems this author is going about it backwards. she wanted to respect animals first, then began to learn that it’s not just about animals, it’s about the SOURCE.

    you do not have to be a vegan to respect ethical eating/shopping choices. this is not news to the seasoned vegans/vegetarians out there. but thanks for sharing your ah-ha moment. it’s just something that most of us have had a long time ago.

  37. Veganism is about not harming any (or as few as possible) animals. Your article goes off on random tangents about how it’s bad for the environment, yadda yadaa yadda. To be honest, I don’t even think you were truly a vegan, nor do you understand what it means to be a vegan. As another poster said: Anything for a buck.

  38. Fruits and berries are just ovaries or ovarian walls.

  39. All right, so you wanted to eat honey and oysters…..what’s that got to do with vegans? *yawn*

  40. Wow, what bitter hairsplitting. This desultory article says a lot more to informed consumers about the author’s cognitive dissonance.

  41. Nice effort to devalue veganism as a means to relieve your own guilt.

  42. You were never a vegan, and your self-justifying popularity-seeking claims are wrong. Anything for a buck, anything to justify what you want to do. Same goes for you vegan-haters – why is it you think it’s OK or even good to mistreat animals? Seriously. At least buy your flesh and other animal products from people who treat them well while they live their short lives.

  43. I just read on the rebuttal post that the editors have had to delete some comments because of nastiness and name-calling. When we (vegans)are representing our animal clients (for lack of better phrasing), we have to put our best foot forward. To me that means taking the high road – we can state our objections and rebuttals politely.When Mercy For Animals volunteers (and other groups) hand out pamphlets, they are polite and engaging – this will draw people in more than anger. It doesn’t mean that our inner emotions are not running high and at full-speed. It simply means that we know how to quell these emotions in order to do what’s best for the animals.

  44. After days of comments, it occurs to me that we all live very fortunate lives in highly developed countries to even be able to consider the particulars of this debate. Thanks to plentiful foods and a diverse range of foods grown all over the planet we can have a diet based on ideals and philosophy rather than just fulfilling the needs of sustanence.
    This conversation has become quite hostile. Can we reflect on our good fortune and that I bet most people commenting here agree on 98% of all non-food issues?
    I am grateful that the food readily available in my community today is significantly more healthy, more local, and causes less oppression than it did even 5 or 10 years ago. It is multitudes better than what my parents were able to feed me. I personally suffer health issues for my childhood diet of processed foods. It should not be a luxury to eat whole foods, and yet it still is.
    We all need to be proactive in our communties to ensure local whole foods, organic foods, and a diverse variety of these foods are available too all. We should all have the luxury of being able to make informed ,healthful and ethical decisions about our food.

  45. Oh dear a born again non-vegan, how amazing. I think you could do with reading some Gary Francione, you seem to be rather missing a major point.

  46. As a person of African descent, along with many other “minority” groups, dairy is a no-no, regardless of whether someone ascribes to a plant-based diet. Sometimes I cringe at the “majority” who promote local dairy options over no dairy. Life is easily doable and joyful without dairy, from animals or otherwise.

  47. Hannah, do you have a blog? That’s the one I’d rather read.

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  49. A bizarrely short statement that makes no sense. Is it rhetorical? Please elaborate to include some sense of reasoning or degree of thought to aid the forum discussion.

  50. Very poor reasoning throughout. Unfortunate article that does not help your case.

  51. I love how no one addresses your points. you are the winner. It’s like they all get quiet when you walk in the room.

  52. We must liken slavery to slavery. The African in the 19th century was regarded by the slave owner as sub-human as supported by the twisted religious teachings of the time. If we consider the slave trade from this reality, it is no different from the trade in non-human animals today.

    It is reasonable to assume and expect that William Wilberforce felt morally superior to those who found reasons not to support an end to the North Atlantic slave trade.

    We can also assume that those who owned slaves and found opportunity to confront Mr Wilberforce did so either wrongly believing in the rights of slavery or rightly believing in their own immorality, a belief that would make such a type of antagonistic person very angry (in their own guilt) towards the morally superior activist. We often see the same on internet forums today as meat eaters attack vegans spurred on by the negative lack of worth they feel compared to those who feel so positive. The imbalance is palpable.

    However, when a compassionate vegan argues for a more balanced viewpoint from other vegans, the argument tends to have less venom attached. The clear internal morality that a truly compassionate person brings to the table cannot be ignored, yet the argument for mutual benefit between human and non-human animals is still one-sided. It is not the cries for freedom that drove William Wilberforce to dedicate his life to demanding morality from others but his own compassionate judgement. Non-human animals are mute to our ears and we must act on their behalf. The choice is whether to demand that the slave is no longer whipped or that the slave is freed. The choice is an easy one for the evolved mind.

    History will be the judge of those who continue to knowingly condone the imprisonment of sentient animals whatever their species, as it was for those who continued to argue for the imprisonment of sentient humans humans 200+ years ago, whatever their race.

    An individual’s vegan journey should be a consistent path towards further compassion. It is a one way street no matter how slowly you may wish to walk it.

  53. curious: what happens to the male goats once they are too old for milk?

  54. wow, way to get in there and really address her points.

  55. the overwhelming majority of the ecosystem that is destroyed to grow soy, etc. is done so to grow feed for cattle. The rest of the ecosystem is destroyed to create grazing land for cattle. So yeah, supplying the growing beef market with land and food does a lot more harm to animals than being vegan. These numbers are already out there, collate them as you will.
    I think the point KT is making is that being vegan only means you want to reduce harm to animals as much as possible. It’s not about avoiding the SAD diet or whatever other food issues the author wants to toss out there. It’s a simple premise. Obviously there are other issues in “ethical” eating, but the article claims to be about veganism.

  56. I discovered a long time ago that being vegan has little or nothing to do with animals. It has to do with “being vegan.” This article doesn’t do much to change my opinion.

    Veganism is built on a lie. The “saturated fats will kill you” lie. Some people also see veganism as a ticket to bash the way other people choose to live. They claim their way is the environmentally responsible way without regard for how their soy foods are damaging the environment and possibly their own health. France, German, and Japan have all put restrictions/warnings on soy foods, mostly for children, while here in the US our government is pushing it for consumption!

  57. Sorry, Abigail Wick, I don’t buy it! I don’t believe you were ever a genuine, sincere vegan who cared about animal suffering. There are far too many (in such a short article) disparaging comments regarding vegans and your former vegan beliefs for you to come across as anything but disingenuous. I know that you said you formerly worked at VegNews Mag. as an editorial assistant. I wonder if you got this job as a way to find out, from the inside, so to speak, about vegans and how they think. I say this because, in so many ways, you don’t sound like any vegans (ethical, anyway) that I’ve met. You just don’t sound like “you get it” at all.

  58. You know, one of the theses on my own blog is that, if you want to stick to the vegan diet, you need to take it easy on yourself and others. Approaching the diet with a sense of stringent morality, and particularly judging others for their approaches, turns people away, and is hard to maintain yourself.

    You talk about halos and being a born-again fundamentalist. Were you a you-can’t-be-vegan-if-you-eat-honey type, rather than encouraging people in what they have done for the welfare of animals? I mean, still complaining about fake meat? Has telling people why they *should* eat one way just turned into telling them why they *should* eat another way?

    I respect your choice, and yes, I have some thrifted leather myself, and I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t go announcing it 24/7, I just do what I do. None of us are perfect, especially me. To me, veganism’s all about compassion, for animals, but also for people and yourself. That’s how I’ve stuck with the diet.

    There are other ways to see veganism. It doesn’t have to be an inflexible morality, as you say. In fact, I’d prefer that it weren’t. More people would feel free to be vegan if it were just a way to eat.

  59. PS.
    Dear Kelly:
    In honor of your Grammar Nazi post, Later today I plan on buying and cooking several steaks. Yummy. Plus I will also be using cheese (Blue cheese to be exact, it tastes great on a nice rare steak)
    I plan on cooking it out on my gas grill, while wearing my old leather jacket.
    If you would like I could post pictures.
    I may even make this a yearly thing. I know a farmer who grows beef cattle. I will gladly go and take a picture of said yummy cow while it is still alive and also take pics after its been cooked and rubbed down with some nice blue cheese, just for you.

  60. You can make any act seem evil if you just put your mind to it. I dont care what your reasoning is comparing wearing a leather jacket to rape is NUTS.
    I actually read this article because I was interested in the whole Vegan thing but after reading some of the comments in here, KEEP IT.
    Sounds like a cult more than anything else.
    PS Dont bother responding as I wont be wasting my time reading anything from a group of fanatics like the ones in here.

  61. Dear Kelly:
    Please do the world a favor and pull your bottum lip up over your head and swallow.
    If you don’t like my grammar Ill give you 3 guesses where you can kiss.
    Grammar Nazi

  62. This just seems silly. No one has ever been diagnosed with a protein deficiency. It’s in basically everything and the dietary requirements are often over exaggerated for protein anyhow. This country is so brainwashed about protein it’s scary.

  63. Pingback: Interesting Reading #710 – Tiniest cameras, Cheapest LEDs, ASUS tablet, Thorium reactors and much more! – The Blogs at HowStuffWorks

  64. Actually a lot of small-scale goat ranchers have switched to leaving the momma goats with their kids because they find it is healthier and does lead to more milk production. As long as the mothers are away from the baby’s each day for a period before milking. What most animal ranchers are finding is what farmers are relearning….follow natures patterns. You can find out more about this by reading about permaculture principles and how they apply to ruminants.

  65. Learning more about Drakes Bay Oyster Company has totally changed how I think about farming oysters. Yes, it can be done in an awful way. But it also can be done in a way that actually restores our aquatic ecosystems. Like most things we humans do….done for good or bad….

  66. I think this is a really interesting question and would be the case for a good study. Does a super local diet with 2-3 servings a week of grass-fed meat or sustainably raised eggs/dairy harm more animals than a non-local vegan diet? I don’t know the answer. In the large scale monocropping of legumes, soy and others, superfoods from across the globe….the damage that does to our ecosystem….does that, in the end, harm more animals than killing one cow every few months to sustain a diet that has some animal products? And I think that is the point of this article. To just point out that not eating animal products is only one level of what we should think about when thinking about ethical eating.

  67. Oysters are now considered functionally extinct, humans have overfished them and destroyed the reefs they are harvested from to the point that there are 80% less than there used to be. THAT is a very good argument to not eat oysters, whether or not they can feel pain buying them is still contributing to environmental devastation.

    Also the two points about processed foods say nothing about veganism itself, just that processed foods are bad and we all already know that. It’s totally possible to be vegan and eat nothing but healthy whole foods, no faux or soy products required.

    I wouldn’t wear vintage leather because it’s dead animal skin, and that’s just gross and not very fashionable at all. I wouldn’t wear wool because I don’t need to and you can never really be sure people are treating the animals ethically unless you go to visit the farms yourself. Backyard chickens and bees and goats I have less of an issue with as long as the animals are being treated humanely and not slaughtered in the end, but considering how most people treat their companion animals and how many abuse cases there are just for dogs and cats I wouldn’t trust the average person to not abuse chickens or goats or bees in the same way.

    I just have no interest in using animal products at this point, even if I could be assured they were ethically produced, what’s the point? I get everything I need and so much more from plants, anything less would feel like some kind of de-evolution.

  68. Oysters are now considered functionally extinct, humans have overfished them and destroyed the reefs they are harvested from to the point that there are 80% less than there used to be. THAT is a very good argument to not eat oysters, whether or not they can feel pain buying them is still contributing to environmental devastation.

    Also the two points about processed foods say nothing about veganism itself, just that processed foods are bad and we all already know that. It’s totally possible to be vegan and eat nothing but healthy whole foods, no faux or soy products required.

    I wouldn’t wear vintage leather because it’s dead animal skin, and that’s just gross and not very fashionable at all. I wouldn’t wear wool because I don’t need to and you can never really be sure people are treating the animals ethically unless you go to visit the farms yourself. Backyard chickens and bees and goats I have less of an issue with as long as the animals are being treated humanely and not slaughtered in the end, but considering how most people treat their companion animals and how many abuse cases there are just for dogs and cats I wouldn’t trust the average person to not abuse chickens or goats or bees in the same way.

    I just have no interest in using animal products at this point, even if I could be assured they were ethically produced, what’s the point? I get everything I need and so much more from plants, anything less would feel like some kind of de-evolution.

  69. Hahaha … Wow. You are a completely clueless. Funny and scary at the same time.

  70. Half of your arguments for being vegan are based of fake “fill in the blank”. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s not written in the constitution that all vegans have to eat processed soy products.

  71. Hey, Moses!

    Thanks for reading my article. And, you’re right–for the sake of humor I missed a chance to elaborate on processed food.

    I found your comment funny, actually. Love snark.

    xo,
    abs

  72. Thank you for reading my article and engaging in critical debate. I agree that the primary impetus for going vegan is objecting to systemic suffering of animals in the industrial American food-system and balking at the useless murder of animals for their flesh. I am 100-percent behind you on that front. In short, meat is murder. I make that clear in the introduction of my article.

    I disagree that vegans are fanatics–they are not, and I’m sorry if my article suggested that. My own, decades-long history with veganism was once very self-righteous and definitely fanatic. My evolution as an ethical eater simply expanded and provided me with opportunities to reevaluate why I believe what I believe.

    In short, I wonder why mainstream vegan doctrine has enshrined certain inviolable prescriptions–prohibition against wool, for instance–and why we adhere to this. There are innumerable exceptions to the rule, and I firmly believe a plant-based lifestyle is a virtuous, elegant ideal. Living in Northern California, though, I’ve seen how the ecological-farming revolution, local-foods revival, and flourishing of the food-security and food-justice movement encompasses more than I realized.

    My friends in Oakland got their chickens from a farmer who raises a handful of fowl friends with love and compassion. These chickens happen to lay eggs, and I consider these eggs an offering.

    Deep respect for the food-cycle; non-harmfulness for animals, the planet, and people; and a love for life’s gustatory pleasures. These three principles are a great guide that has opened me up to new food horizons.

  73. Hey, Jason!

    Thank you for reading my article and engaging in critical debate. I agree that the primary impetus for going vegan is objecting to systemic suffering of animals in the industrial American food-system and balking at the useless murder of animals for their flesh. I am 100-percent behind you on that front. In short, meat is murder. I make that clear in the introduction of my article.

    I disagree that vegans are fanatics–they are not, and I’m sorry if my article suggested that. My own, decades-long history with veganism was once very self-righteous and definitely fanatic. My evolution as an ethical eater simply expanded and provided me with opportunities to reevaluate why I believe what I believe.

    In short, I wonder why mainstream vegan doctrine has enshrined certain inviolable prescriptions–prohibition against wool, for instance–and why we adhere to this. There are innumerable exceptions to the rule, and I firmly believe a plant-based lifestyle is a virtuous, elegant ideal. Living in Northern California, though, I’ve seen how the ecological-farming revolution, local-foods revival, and flourishing of the food-security and food-justice movement encompasses more than I realized.

    My friends in Oakland got their chickens from a farmer who raises a handful of fowl friends with love and compassion. These chickens happen to lay eggs, and I consider these eggs an offering.

    Deep respect for the food-cycle; non-harmfulness for animals, the planet, and people; and a love for life’s gustatory pleasures. These three principles are a great guide that has opened me up to new food horizons.

    Thanks for your comments and I look forward to further discussion!

    xo,
    Abs

  74. “quite a few parents have been convicted of child abuse and murder ”

    The case (singular) you are referring to happened 4 years ago and the parents were convicted of starving their baby. It was not an indictment of raising children vegan (of whom I know many).

    “To have proper nutrition without meat, you need very specific plants to supply all the proteins the body needs. ”

    All you need to raise a healthy infant is a healthy mother and her breast milk. Your information on protein is dated.

  75. “I asked the managing editor why she wouldn’t eat these ethical eggs, and she responded, “I don’t do that. I just wouldn’t.”

    The answer is clear, at least from the abolutionist perspective: The eggs don’t ‘belong’ to us. They are not ours to take or eat. There is no such thing as an ethical egg.

    As a personal aside, the idea of eating zygotes is repulsive.

  76. Well, there are also non vegans/vegetarian parents who have been convicted of child abuse and murder… Does that prove anything about ALL non vegan/vegetarian parents and/or kids?

    Um, no. It only proves that *some* parents, as a result of negligence or ignorance, fail to provide proper nutrition to their babies/kids. It’s the same, whether or not they are vegan/vegetarian.

    It makes them bad parents, period. Not bad parents because they’re vegan.

    It doesn’t prove anything about vegan diets, and an informed parent who chooses to raise his/her children on a vegan diet can find many replacements to meat as a source of protein.

  77. This article really spoke to me, as I am in the thrusts of a month long vegan, local food challenge (http://www.mywholedeal.com/challenges). To be utterly honest, I have had a ridiculous time trying to meet my protein needs while staying within the restraints of my challenge–eating nothing I couldn’t pogo stick to get. While there are a ton of local businesses who produce tofu and tempeh, soy beans are not a crop readily available in our area, so they are usually shipped in from thousands of kilometres away. I have found local hazelnuts, which are crazy expensive, and, with some better planning, I think I could have done better: I could have I saved seeds and nuts and grew my own beans. Bottom line is that eating sustainably requires foresight!

    On the other hand, I have encountered an abundance of “ethically produced” meat, seafood. dairy and eggs. To me, you can never “ethically produce” something from another living creature, and, although I recognise that you were trying to highlight how silly and shortsighted you thought your managing editor to be, I wholeheartedly agree with her. Some people just do not have it in their genetic make-up to be able to exploit another creature, even in the name of companionship or sustainability.

    So, where I agree that veganism has the potential to create a pretty hefty carbon footprint when vegans rely on processed foods (just like anyone who relies on processed foods), I don’t think abandoning veganism needs to be the answer. Instead, we need to work on ways to make “ethically produced” vegan foods accessible in our communities.

    Because, like your former editor, I don’t, wouldn’t and couldn’t eat from animals, but that doesn’t make me any less mindful of the world around me.

  78. hey where’s this vegan bible you seem to be using as your strawman here? that vegan junk food is bad but were you trying to live on smart ground and soy cream? i’m pretty sure the meat, dairy and egg industry is still doing a lot more pollutin’ and pesticidin’ and general worker exploitin’ than the tofu industry. when you give me the numbers that this balance has shifted then we can talk.

  79. The line between belief system and fundamentalism is thin. Don’t eat animals. Period. Meat analogs are fun, but so is dessert – moderation is the key. Just because I love Gardein, doesn’t make me a bad person, bad vegan, or an unhealthy person either.

    Joyful vegan doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. Lighten up – stay compassionate. Self righteousness, vegan or not, is a way to live.

    Eggs, honey, goat’s milk, oysters…totally unnecessary, so why even bother with them. There are so many compelling reasons to be and stay vegan. I honestly can’t think of a single reason justifying the converse.

  80. You’re welcome! Sorry to imply that I read any dissing of vegans between the lines. Your article is actually very thoughtful and raises important points. It’s definitely best to emphasize the natural approach and to limit intake of the sorts of products you highlight. And even then there’s still jet fuel additives in all our veggies, unless grown indoors under total control. Darn those people who “own” the planet.

  81. Heyya,

    Thanks for replying to my article. I appreciate your comment and your position. I love veganism, am 95-percent plant-powered, and all for making lifestyle choices that maximize good and minimize suffering for the planet, animals, and other people.

  82. Hey Hannah,

    Thank you for replying to my article. I appreciate your position and, on most points, agree with you.

    My thrust, at the end of the day, is that the existing vegan “rule book” prescribes lifestyle and ethical choices that beg further examination.

    Local, whole, fresh foods are not available widely, you’re right about that. But the ecological farming revolution, local foods revival, and food-justice and food-security movements are transforming agriculture in America. Rooftop gardens, backyard laying hens, local and hand-crafted cheeses….these things aren’t so hard to come by.

    I used to be an editorial assistant at VegNews Magazine–a publication that, for many vegans, defines the mainstream. One day, over lunch, one of the managing editors said that her mother, who lives in a small town in California, has a few laying hens, loves them like pets, and sources their eggs and even shares them with neighbors. I asked the managing editor why she wouldn’t eat these ethical eggs, and she responded, “I don’t do that. I just wouldn’t.”

  83. To have proper nutrition without meat, you need very specific plants to supply all the proteins the body needs. These plants do not all grow in the US and many need to be processed. Even then, the protein problem is sufficient that quite a few parents have been convicted of child abuse and murder for putting their children on vegan diets.

  84. “I can’t imagine a goat having enough milk to feed their babies and their human companion.”
    That’s the beauty of reality: it doesn’t care what your limited intellect can or cannot imagine.

  85. When I was studying abroad in Kenya, several of my professors were at the head of the area’s ecology field (some small fields are closed enough that every paper has the same names, and I was taught by have of those names in the field of East African Ecology), and every single one of them said that pastoralism (i.e. meat production) is better for the environment than farming (i.e. vegetable production), and had quite a few papers to prove it. Of course, veganism is a faith rather than a rational conclusion, so every vegan in the study abroad program refused to consider the possibility that meat was not satan.

  86. Spike, I appreciate your concern over hunger. It will be easier to feed the whole world and put that food on their plates when it is plant based.

  87. Well, if the author’s motivation for being vegan was to feel superior to others, no wonder they bailed. Long-term motivations for staying vegan tend to be things like valuing life and wanting to reduce the amount of cruelty in the world.

  88. I agree with everything Laurel said here.

    Well, except the part about being an ex-vegan. That part sucks. :(

  89. Do you have any arguments that aren’t straw men?

  90. As wonderful as it is to see veganism being discussed, I’m afraid I don’t understand the purpose of this article. Half of it is a list of non-vegan items that you, personally, like and can buy locally. The other half is a list of mass produced, processed, or non local vegan items that have human rights or environmental issues. I can see three possible purposes in writing this: 1. You are against veganism only if vegans (buying these questionable items) could instead buy non-vegan things locally. 2. You believe that the ethical issues involved in eating factory farmed animal products are drastically different and fewer, or less important than the issues you listed above. In other words, that being vegan, in any circumstance, is more ethically wrong than not being vegan. 3. You are just pointing out that some vegans (especially the new ones) only take into account animal rights issues and nothing else/treat it more like a fad diet than an ethical choice.

    If it’s the first, that would be a very small group. It’s naive to think that the average person has that kind of access. And because you’ve framed this broadly as an argument against veganism, you’ll get a lot of people buying factory farmed milk and eggs – which, as a former vegan, you wouldn’t want, right?

    If the second is true, I honestly don’t know how you could prove that. Your arguments against mass produced, processed, and non-local foods apply to factory farmed animal products as well, and the notion that compassion is finite, or that an injustice committed against one group is more important than the same injustice against another would (I think) be anathema to a former vegan.

    If it’s the last, there is no reason to frame this as an anti-vegan argument, just an “anti-single issue veganism.” Veganism, by the Vegan Society’s definition, takes into account human rights and environmental issues, but people often forget that. It’s always good to remind people that ethical eating and living goes beyond just not eating and wearing animal products. But, like I said, you made this an anti-vegan argument, not just an “anti-vegans who act or think a certain way” argument. As a vegan who buys locally whenever possible, resale clothing always, fair trade products only, and keeps no processed food in my kitchen, I take offense at the idea I am less ethical or hurting the world more than the average omnivore.

    One final note – if it was any of those arguments, you lost all my trust by talking about how much you like the taste of eggs. If you’re framing this as an ethical pro and con list, your sentimental attachment to the taste of animal products is not relevant, and it shows you as a highly biased and unreliable source.

    I look forward to your response.

  91. your generalization of vegan beliefs/eating habits and behaviour are offensive, but it’s easier to attack someone by saying they all believe the same thing (like Christians do!). if you don’t want to follow a plant-based diet anymore, then don’t, but you come across as bitter and lonely.

  92. Hi everyone. This is a fantastic discussion and important debate.
    I’m Amy, the Managing Editor, and just wanted to step in to remind everyone to be civil and polite. Otherwise we will have to moderate this thread more heavily. Thanks for sharing your views!

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  94. Thank you for this article! I’m still going to remain vegan, because I love how it feels, the broader effects, and that it supports my yoga practice. I understand it’s some work and tough to stick with if you’re not “in love with every being” so to speak. Just do the best you can, and please don’t dis vegans who are simply making a practical effort to reduce waste, pollution, and suffering where they can.

  95. Brain development and growth occurs mostly in the narrow window after birth (for about the first year) when breast milk is optimum. Saying that meat is the reason for large brains is a loaded statement.

  96. You realize that goats need to be impregnated to continue giving milk? And that milk is for their kids, not you. I can’t imagine a goat having enough milk to feed their babies and their human companion. Are you saying the babies should be taken from mom? Why else discuss that milking relieves their udders – of course it does and the kids take good care of that job. What do you suggest folks do with the kids their companion nanny goat has each year – and often goats have twins – sell them off?

    Also, backyard chickens are normally purchased from the same awful hatcheries where nearly all egg laying hens originate. They are debeaked, boys are killed and chicks can and are still be sent via USPS. The hatcheries usually cram extras in to the box to act as “living packing peanuts” and to cover the inevitable deaths from stress. Sexing isn’t always 100% accurate, you can’t tell a rooster until he’s quite old, and then those roosters are usually abandoned or killed.

    Our local companion chicken rescue could give you pages on why backyard chickens as egg/meat sources are unethical. And then there is the toll laying eggs takes on the hens. Their bones get depleted since hens have been bred to lay many more eggs than what is natural and sustainable for their little bodies. Rescues and sanctuaries feed the hens those eggs in the shell to replenish the minerals and nutrients they lost during laying.

    If people have companion sheep that they a) aren’t breeding, b) aren’t mulesing, and c) live in a climate where shearing is necessary, I see nothing wrong with gently shearing companion sheep. It is necessary to shear them to keep them from overheating and dying in some cases. This is mostly due to the fact that humans have, again, altered their genetics to have them produce more wool than wild sheep would. A wild sheep sheds his or her wool on trees, shrubs, rocks, etc. and needs no shearing. We’ve messed with that, though, and domestic sheep need our assistance. I do think it’s never a good idea to then sell the wool and profit off them. As soon as an animal becomes a quantifiable commodity he or she ceases to be a fully recognized individual.

    In the end, veganism is about animals and their needs. It’s about not taking things from them that they are using for their own purposes. That goat milk is for baby goats, not humans. Eggs either hatch into chicks or the hens consume them to boost their health. Honey gets bees through rough winters and feeds the hive/queen and keeps them healthy and strong. They don’t produce these things for no reason. Evolution doesn’t work that way.

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  98. How sad that you try and justify your actions in this way. Vegan food can be so amazing but you have to have the imagination to create tasty fresh food that doesn’t use meat.
    You can’t have understood that being a vegan simply means you do not use animals. There are plenty of alternatives, and they don’t have to be highly processed.
    Being a carnist is what you have chosen to do, please don’t generalise about other vegans.

  99. Veganism is a dedication to living a life of compassion. There is no such thing as an ex-vegan. You were never truly vegan to begin with. Are these goats whose milk you drink allowed to nurse their young. Is it just the excess milk you are drinking? Are these goats allowed a year off pregnancy and milking on a regular bases? Are the male goats just kept as pets for their entire lives? Are these chickens pets and allowed to live out their natural lives even when their production declines. Are any male chickens also allowed to live out their entire lives? Oysters are animals pure and simple. I have no idea where that even came about. Bottom line it is wrong to exploit any sentient being- human or non-human. Just following a plant based diet for health is NOT being vegan.

  100. Veganism is about first and foremost, harming less animals.

    By being vegan, less animals are killed unncessarily than not being vegan. It’s that darn simple, when it comes to animal protection.

    If animals don’t need to die for me to survive, then I’ll eat other things.

    “Faux meat” at the end of the day is simply just seitan, tofu, tempeh, etc… Foods that have been around for generations.

  101. Johnross1968: Actually, when cow’s milk is produced via the systematic rape of cows by humans via forced artifical insemination, so it’s not fanatical at all to compare rape to the wearing of leather. That leather jackets make from cow’s skin exist at all is a product of rape.

    Comparing the rape of a non-human animal to that of a human animal isn’t trivializing the rape of any one individual. In fact, the continued violation of female reproductive systems through brutal and painful factory farming methods is, in part, one of the reasons why our society continues to condone the rape. We make it okay to rape humans and non-humans every single day. Now THAT is fanatical.

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  103. Vegan: The Native American word for “Lousy Hunter”

  104. I’ve been thinking the samething about veganism being a pissing contest on who is most pure. It turns alot of people off, as does religious prostylitizing.

  105. I think we all need to stop letting a label define who and what we are and just do what we think is right for us (and the environment). When we become so infatuated with a label, it becomes an unhealthy relationship that is likely even more toxic than the processed foods.

    This is why I don’t call myself a vegan. I say that I eat a predominantly planted based diet. Vegan doesn’t describe me or tell anything about me at all. It’s just another box for people to put me in. I don’t like being in boxes.

  106. I understand people wanting to make a difference in the world, and I’m all for the ethical treatment of animals, but eating meat is, in my opinion, necessary. We are human, but animals just the same, and we have dietary requirements that need to be met. I was vegetarian for 5 years and contrary to some of the comments I’ve read here, there was nothing insincere or fashionable about it. I thought I was doing a good thing, and I suppose in a way I was; however, I don’t think people should beat themselves up for eating meat. All being vegetarian did for me was make me fat and suck the life out of me. It was physically and mentally exhausting. Maybe the reason there are so many former vegans and vegetarians is the fact that it’s completely impractical. It’s not just about simply having the will to adhere to that lifestyle, but how it affects your lifestyle as it is. I’m no longer willing to make those sacrifices for something that is so obviously unnatural.

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  108. This seems to be directed more to the hipster community. And hey, I’m not vegan, my philosophy is, until the whole world has food on their table, you can’t bitch about what you get.

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  110. the fact is that a vegan diet cannot provide humans with enough nutrients, protein, or energy to make it a real viable option as an evolutionary choice. almost everything we are today as humans, brain size, limb proportions, teeth size, gut size, energy expenditure, can be largely attributed to a carnivorous diet.

  111. You seem to forget that there are good reasons to be vegan that aren’t related to the environment.

    Yes, it’s great that chickens can be free-range and peck/frolic outside to their heart’s content. But that chicken will still be killed before living out its normal lifespan.

    This article sounds like you’re looking for an excuse to rationalize not being vegan. If you don’t want to be vegan, that’s fine – everybody can make their own choice. But don’t pretend these are good reasons to change.

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  113. Even if we do eat meat the very least that we can do is to ensure that the animals don’t suffer from the time they are born till the time that they are killed. They should be treated with respect and dignity.

  114. So if someone who has not tried being a vegan thinks its a load of crap, they are wrong.
    If someone tries it and then comes to the conclusion its a load of horse crap they are wrong and a traitor.
    So what your saying is no matter what you life experience tells you and no matter what your reasons for thinking that vegan-ism is not for you, your wrong.
    Sounds like a cult to me.

  115. Right comparing RAPE to buying a used leather jacket is NOT fanatical at all.
    I am sorry I just reread what you said you were comparing animal exploitation to rape.
    So eating cheese or putting on a wool cap is RAPE…someone call the police.

  116. Try it without the ethics attached?

    Goodness, why would a conscious human being who reads EcoSalon want to do THAT?

    In my opinion, the ethics of food are paramount and at least deserve to be on an equal footing with health.

  117. I’m not sure we read the same article. You read a denunciation of veganism. I read an article that thoughtfully explores why the issues of vegan and non-vegan food are not black and white and why dogma is unhelpful.

  118. I agree that the depiction of vegans as frozen food, faux meat eating is a little over the top, at the same time that a woman I know who proudly announces her years of veganism recalls her inability to cook for herself whatsoever. It’s a mixed bag, indeed.

    Coming from an environmental perspective first, I find it hard to accept the reasoning behind some vegan choices that result in damage to animals indirectly — making it more palatable — and find myself agreeing on a tiny tiny level with Lierre Keith and also with the idea of life cycle analysis with respect determining our choices and acknowledging our impacts.

    Applying a vegan label to our habits does not remove us from the need — conscious individuals that we are — to show awareness of other issues that deserve attention, and I agree with the author that fashionable and inflexible vegans would do well to acknowledge where their choices perhaps aren’t as pure or compassionate as they may have first believed.

  119. And 1 reason to be a veg(fish)etarian that trumps all of the others:

    “For each hamburger that originated from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed.”

  120. I think you meant ‘being’ not ‘begin’.

  121. Yes, while meat eating led to humans being able to grow larger brains, early humans’ diet consisted of at least 60% plant material. It was a lot easier to find and eat plant material than it was to catch an prepare an animal for meat.

  122. Fantastic arguments, but I still wont eat Oysters… yuck. I will use Vintage Leather and Wool, but I generally wont buy it, if its given to me I use it. I never took Honey out of my diet… I dont know Ive always been a Vegetarian and not a Vegan.

    I like your comment that “Eating ethically is not a purity pissing contest, and the more vegans or vegetarians pretend that it is, the more their diets start to resemble mere fashion—and thus risk being dismissed as such.”

    Ive always felt that way

  123. “Faux-Flesh Faux-Pas”

    So, one of the 8 reasons is that you dont like scare quotes? That’s your argument? Amazing.

  124. Isn’t the soy grown in the cleared fields in the Amazon grown specifically to feed the cattle the rest of the Amazon is cleared for? And the soy consumed in the US primarily produced in the US?

  125. I’m ashamed of you. Why denounce veganism in order to push ethics? The points you mentioned here are interesting, and related, and even mostly correct– but if your interest is in overall sustainability, health, and cruelty free– than begin vegan is still your best choice. Most vegans I know don’t rely on fake meats, want to eat oysters (for fear of their little souls), or worry about wearing used clothes. These are weak weak weak examples.

  126. Being a strict ex-vegan, I’m sure you’ve read all the books.
    The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Veganist…and so forth. But it seems that you focus on the ethical a great deal…and discount the obvious health benefits of veganism under the veil of the non-benefits of “fake meats” and packaged vegan foods. I, as I am sure many, who have seen the health benefits first hand cannot discount veganism’s health benefits. And no, I don’t mean the veganism that comes in a box or package. I’m talking about eating as close to the source as possible without animal products. Ethics aside, it’s a little insulting to hear the vegan choice discussed in such a narrow manner. I argue you were doing it wrong; I argue you are merely justifying your lack of will. Try it without the ethics attached…your body will thank you.

  127. These arguments are mediocre at best only because most long-time vegans have considered all of this and made decisions appropriately. I think it more pertains to newer vegans who haven’t educated themselves on the lifestyle, or people who are careless–in which case, they won’t last long as vegans and why be one anyway?

    I know many vegans who don’t have a problem with people keeping chickens and eating their eggs, and I know some vegans who even say if they had and cared for the animals themselves, as pets, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem to eat eggs or drink milk–but really, how many people have the means to keep chickens and goats? As far as eating lots of fake meats or cheeses, it’s not going to kill you once in a while much like a fat piece of steak ONCE in a while probably won’t kill you, but any vegan who has been dedicated to the lifestyle for a long time will probably tell you they’ve learned to make much better dietary decisions and ate a lot of that junk only early on in their veganism, if ever.

    There’s a certain ambivalence I find present when considering your last argument about re-use, for in buying and wearing used leather, suede wool etc..you are doing two things–you are at least not letting the animal that had to die to make that item of clothing stay sitting on a thrift rack as more or less someone else’s garbage, but you’re also making the statement that it’s okay to wear it. Conundrum.

    I have been vegan for about 5 years and there’s not one thing I haven’t heard on this list, but I still make the choice to be vegan and have only become more conscious over the years. The problem with ethics is that they’ll never be perfect and there’s so many counter-arguments you can make to anything one can say. For all the lists you can make against veganism, you can make a substantial amount more for other types of diets. I don’t discredit all other types of diets as being unreasonable, but I think being a healthy, conscious, educated vegan is certainly not doing anything or anyone any serious injustices.

  128. I agree with pretty much everything you say. Although, I would make one comment. You seem to suggest that Paranthropus Robustus went extinct because it was vegan, however, I know of no research that would support this. Maybe I am interpreting what you are saying wrong though.

  129. Surely this isn’t a case against veganism, only against purist thinking in a complicated world. Hang in there, you’ll get the hang of it! Don’t blame us vegans, just admit you are still working it out.

  130. I’m not sure your reasons are correct for why a vegan would choose not to eat honey. Queens can live for as long as five years but most commercial beekeepers replace them every two years. “Replace” is a euphemism for killing the old queen.

  131. Evolution is an ongoing process, and for human beings, one that now includes conscious choices regarding food and lifestyle, the implication being that it is completely within the realm of possibility to evolve ourselves into vegan organisms if that’s what we decided to do. Sure, it would take millenia, but the point is that our evolutionary past doesn’t determine our evolutionary future, and the idea that vegetarianism/veganism denies “very essence of what being human is” is in no way supported by your argument. Try not to take those logical leaps when you’re trying to make a scientific argument. Perversion of human nutrition? Again, stick to facts. Humans or organisms like any other, and when you study them, just observe facts and leave all the judgements out. Your condescending thesis denies the very essence of what science is all about.

  132. This article has no merit. You trivialize veganism and do not see the bigger picture. There are variations to every ism.

  133. Hi Abigail,

    Very interesting read. As I’m currently entering into a ‘Vegan’ diet, I thought I might contribute some of my thoughts..In particular, I know a lot of people go Vegan for morale/ethical reasons. I’m not one of those people (although, it is nice to know that animals need not be harmed for me to sustain myself). I’ve done plenty of research on the subject, and it really seems that consuming mostly plant-based foods is the way to go for good health (which is why I do it). That is not to say you can’t be healthy with some meat/animal products thrown in, but it isn’t entirely necessary.

    I also read a comment by Dusanmal, where he/she said:
    “Our digestive system is not designed for plant eating.”

    I know most people will take this as an exaggeration, but I just wanted to point it out as such. We are, in fact, omnivores. We are capable of eating and absorbing nutrition from a wide variety of plant species. In fact, there are entire cultures that eat primarily vegetarian diets, with small amounts of meat and animal products (i.e. milk) thrown in. Furthermore, these cultures thrive on such diets, and some have even been highlighted because of their unusually ability to produce centenarians (people who live to 100 or more).

    Also, I didn’t know that about oysters (no central nervous-system)! Very interesting! Although using that as an excuse to eat ‘em up is kinda silly.

    Cheers!

  134. You dont distinguish between vegan and ethical vegan. Only ethical vegans have these whacked out ideas. Eating vegan lowers incidence of heart disease and diabetes and a number of other heath problems. By the way science has proven that plants feel pain so what is there left for you to eat if you think those concerns are in any way rational.

  135. “veganism’s fundamental value: Avoid the use of animal products for the animal’s sake” – and that is why it is a failed evolutionary strategy for humanoids. Nature is NOT a friendly place where all species hug and sing together. That is Disney perversion. Duty of every species is first to itself. Other species are to be exploited or you get extinct (as did the only “vegan” branch of humanoid evolution Australopithecus Robustus) .
    Our digestive system is not designed for plant eating. Without agriculture and industry we were completely unable to use grains as a proper food source. Our digestive system can’t get much from them without processing and effort required to gather them from random scatter in Nature is greater than nutritional benefit. So, for 99.6% of our evolution we evolved NOT to eat them. Grain and grain products are equal anathema as plastics. It is fake human food.
    Other plant material was seasonal for that same length of evolution. We ate fruits at particular time of year. And metabolism developed to make use of it storing fat for harsh winter is now what vegans/vegetarians want to live on year round. Total perversion of human nutrition.
    Plant material is just a supplement for meat diet in predominantly carnivorous omnivore that is human. As designed through evolutionary process. And do not forget that it is scientific consensus that we are who we are because of the positive feedback of eating more meat-> growing larger brains-> able to catch and eat more meat… Vegetarianism/Veganism denies the very essence of what being human is.

  136. Lauren,

    Thank you for responding to my article. I love to hear about vegans who practice “alternatives” to “mainstream” veganism. Things like “meat” and thrifted leather always perplexed me, but I went along with it, anyway.

    xo

  137. Hey, Phoebe! Thanks for responding to my article. One quick note: I’m 95-percent vegan, and occasionally eat verifiable organic, local, sustainable dairy and eggs. Like I said in my opening paragraph. Meat is still murder. I 100-percent agree!

  138. You’ve raised a bunch of interesting points, but I think you’ve missed the mark on veganism several times here, and I’m a former vegan as well.

    First, the Western diet may encourage industrial farming, but vegan products don’t do that specifically. In fact, Purely Decadent (the example in the photo) is a line of products from Turtle Mountain, which is a member of the FTSLA, an organization working to better the quality of farm workers’ lives.

    Second, veganism is still all about the ethical treatment of animals— including people. As such, it isn’t whether or not animal products are obtained civilly (e.g., honey, wool, and goat’s milk), it’s that we’re exploiting other animals to get them *at all* that’s unethical to most vegans.

    Third, while the idea of reusing a material is well-intentioned, wearing vintage leather encourages the wearing of new leather by (or at least alleviates guilt in) the people who see it, which encourages the further exploitation of livestock and goes against the principle reason for veganism as mentioned above.

    So, while I can’t stand pissing contests either, the reasons listed against veganism here don’t seem to, um, stop the stream, so to speak.

  139. Thanks for sharing the information on how to be a vegan in lifestyle. However, I checked out how the vegan lifestyle goes and I think the comments do say true about avoiding animal products for animals’ sakes.

  140. Agree!

    Also, while i agree that veganism is specifically about avoiding animal products for the animal’s sake, there are also many vegans who are aware of all of the aforementioned points and take these into consideration when choosing food/products…especially in regards to fake “meats.”

    I have also met other vegans who do buy thrifted leather because it does not contribute to supply/demand

  141. Jason: I fully agree with you. And I would even go one step further. Whenever I hear about a former vegan–who used to be vegan for ethical/moral reasons–who reverted back to eating meat, I have a hard time believing that this person truly ever was a vegan. Yes, I am talking about frauds who try to use their fake experiences as former vegans and their fake awakening to promote meat-eating.

  142. I embrace a vegan lifestyle but fall short of calling myself a vegan because I do occasional eat local cheese that uses vegetable rennet. However, all the vegans I know wear re-purposed leather because we believe it is better for the environment than man-made materials. And I also know plenty of vegans who don’t eat fake meat at all or soy products and simply live off of a plant-based diet.

  143. Thank you. I am continually improving my life and my place in the world by thinking about causing less suffering. I consider, the environment, fair labor, and animal welfare. I feel like I have struck a very healthy and informed balance. Thanks for addressing how veganism rejects more than it accepts. I feel like it often it shuts down constructive communication and creates barriers in communities that overall have very close ideals other than the intensity of their vegan experience.

    I have a deep respect for the kind intentions of others. So while I am not vegan or vegetarian I have created a collection of vegan bags. In this way I can quietly support their passion and kind intentions. I hope others can return the favor and allow that my view of the universe is equally benevolent but is informed by additional concerns.

  144. Sorry but you lost me by putting low carb under the heading of SAD. Clearly you are misinformed about a lot so I decided to just stop reading there.

  145. THANK YOU! I’ve always regarded veganism with a high degree of skepticism for the exact reasons you describe in the beginning of your article. Christopher Cox nailed it with his quote. I appreciate your own honesty and thoughtfulness, as well as your use of logic and fact over the emotional diatribes you so often see on the topic of veganism and sustainable eating practices.

  146. Some very good points here, and as a former almost-vegan (now mostly vegetarian, sometimes pescatarian), I have pondered many of the same issues. I’m confused about one thing though. In your paragraph about goats, you say: “I know the anti-dairy camp says humans are the only animals to drink the milk of other species, which is true. But that argument, for me, no longer holds up. We’re also the only species to eat high-fructose corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated oil, and we’re no better for it.” By this logic, aren’t you actually saying we’re no better off for eating dairy? I think you meant to make the opposite point, but your reasoning got turned around somewhere. Correct me if I’m misreading this!

  147. This article is plain silly. It discards veganism’s fundamental value: Avoid the use of animal products for the animal’s sake. It’s not about the planet, ecosystems, fashion or being green.

    To say that vegans are fanatics about avoiding animal exploitation is like saying that not raping is fanatic.

    This is not to say that it is likely that many vegans avoid human exploitation, harming the environment and wasting resources. But to brag about all these things may result in “ethical purity contest”.

  148. Great article, Abigail. I was a hardcore, looked-up-every-ingredient-on-the-internet vegan for a few years in the midst of over a decade of vegetarianism and I ran into similar ethical dilemmas. The leather thing was a big one – I wondered, was it really ethical to purchase clothing/shoes/accessories made from fossil fuels in a factory with slave labor instead of vintage or ethically sourced leather, which will last much longer? I still don’t eat meat, but I do get local eggs and milk from nearby farms, and I now support the conscious consumption of (small amounts) of ethically raised meat whereas I once had that ‘meat is murder’ bumper sticker on my car ;)

    As you mention here, the best way to go seems to be simplification in the direction of whole foods and locally-sourced products. I’m still trying to make that transition, after growing up on a very typical ‘standard American diet’.

  149. Fanatism in any form is a turn-off and does not help the cause. I agree with you can have a more mainstream approach as well as a conscious!

  150. The most common sense I’ve read about veganism in a while… Making contientious choices is always better than following dogma.

 

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