I have to post about this because, honestly, the more I read the angrier I get, and people everywhere react so hatefully to what is simply a lifestyle choice! I figure that if only one person reads this and leaves more informed, this post will have been worth something.
Vegans are generally labeled as crazy hippie health nuts and mocked. They are also told that they are starving themselves, unhealthy, welcoming osteoporosis, B-12 deficiencies, and protein deficiencies. They are told that they are shunning the perfect food for humans and embracing poison (okay, that judgment generally comes from Atkins converts). They are assumed to be scrawny, pale, and sickly-looking. Added to that, they are also seen as, essentially, terrorists. They are lumped together with all violent vegan animal rights fighters the way Muslims were lumped into the "terrorist" category right after 9/11 . And, when they are not fighting these labels, they are perceived as snotty, holier-than-thou, annoying, stupid, and malnourished. What's a vegan girl to do?
First of all, she's going to delve into explanations.
I made my choice primarily because of health reasons. Fruits and vegetables are the best food a human being can possibly ingest; combined, they contain all essential nutrients, minerals, vitamins, protein, and amino acids. Some typical deficiencies we are accused of include:
- Vitamin B-12, necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system and brain, was available from plants before we began washing and cleaning them so thoroughly. Now, we can get all we need from nutritional yeast, spirulina, and fortified foods like soymilk; we don't need supplements at all.
- Protein, among other things, transports substances throughout the body, produces enzymes, and helps cell growth, repair, and replacement. Contrary to the "normal" conception, widely available sources of protein exist in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains, and soy. However, too much protein is seriously dangerous. It leaches calcium and other minerals from our bodies, leading to osteoporosis, impairs the kidneys, and accelerates aging! The longest-lived people are widely acknowledged to be the traditional Japanese. They do not overdose on animal protein. They eat fruits, vegetables, sea vegetables, rice, fish, and tofu. Traditionally, they do not eat massive amounts of animal flesh. Yet they live longer. Coincidence? Nope.
- Calcium keeps bones, nails, and teeth strong; the loss of calcium is linked to osteoporosis, which is a horrific condition. Dairy is the most widely acknowledged source of calcium. However, dairy also has a huge amount of protein in it, because it is specifically designed to grow a 40-pound calf into a 2,000-pound cow. It has so much protein in it that it truly does leach calcium from your bones. Vegans get their calcium from foods with a normal, low amount of protein in them like broccoli, leafy green vegetables, sprouts, garbanzo beans, molasses, soy, kale, collard greens, and nuts. Unless we do not plan our diets well, we do not suffer from calcium deficiencies.
- Vitamin D, which kicks calcium into action, is easily available from the sun--which is easily said, but the sun is not comfortable to bask in all year-round, and we also tend to protect ourselves with sunscreen to avoid skin cancer. If I had a private garden or balcony, I would lie nude in the sun in mid-morning, before the rays get too hot and damaging, for about fifteen minutes. I don't have a private outside area, so I take morning walks in the spring, summer, and fall wearing shorts and tank tops. Milk is not a good natural source of vitamin D, because it has to be fortified. You can buy supplemented vegan foods if you absolutely need to; you don't need fortified milk.
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids: found in nuts and seeds and their unrefined oils, along with borage oil and evening primrose oil. Fatty salmon is by no means necessary to the human diet.
Why not? Let's look at the most common arguments:
1. We have sharp canines! They are there to chew meat!
Compare your canines to those of, say, a cat or a lion. Do you really think that your puny, flat teeth qualify as canines? Please! Carnivores' teeth are there to tear off meat and swallow it. They don't spent time chewing. Their jaws function like a pair of scissors: they literally shear the flesh off with their teeth and swallow it. Like herbivores, humans chew their food in a side-to-side circular motion so they can break it down before they swallow to release the digestive enzymes. Carnivores don't need to. Our canines are pathetic but excellent for eating fruits and vegetables.
2. We evolved to eat meat. We're omnivores. Our systems can clearly handle it! We're meant to eat meat!
I cannot believe the ignorance of this argument. In order to digest meat, our stomachs use hydrochloric acid, which is indeed present in our stomachs. However, carnivores and omnivores have up to 10 times as much acid. The pH of their stomachs is generally 1 or less than 1 without food. If ours drops below 4 or 5 without food, it's time for medical intervention. We can technically digest meat, but it takes a whole lot longer. Additionally, carnivores and omnivores have a comparatively small digestive system; their small intestines are 3-5 times the length of their bodies. Their stomachs are large, which allows them to kill about once a week and then spend the rest of that time processing the food. Herbivores' and humans' small intestines are 10-12 times the length of our bodies. We are told to eat at least twice to three times a day. Some people, especially elderly people, eat five times. We have to have intestines that long because of the difficulty of breaking down fiber and to allow for adequate nutrient absorption.
Omnivores, across the board, are more similar to carnivores than to herbivores. Bears and raccoons can accurately be described as carnivores with a primitive digestive system who have adapted to a herbivorous diet. Many scientists believe that bears hibernate because their primary source of food (they are 70-80% herbivorous) is not available in the winter. In support of this theory of hibernation because of food unavailability, polar bears (who have no access to plants) hibernate in the summer, when seals cannot be hunted.
The Comparative Anatomy of Eating, by Milton R. Mills, M.D., explains all this at length and in detail, and this chart summarizes individual points excellently:
Carnivore: Angle not expanded
Herbivore: Expanded angle
Omnivore: Angle not expanded
Human: Expanded angle
Carnivore: Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
Herbivore: No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
Omnivore: Shearing; minimal side-to-side
Human: No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
Carnivore: Long, sharp, and curved
Herbivore: Dull and short or long (for defense), or none
Omnivore: Long, sharp and curved
Human: Short and blunted
Carnivore: 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
Herbivore: Less than 30% of total volume of digestive tract
Omnivore: 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
Human: 21% to 27% of total volume of digestive tract
Carnivore: Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
Herbivore: pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach
Omnivore: Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
Human: pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach
Length of Small Intestine
Carnivore: 3 to 6 times body length
Herbivore: 10 to more than 12 times body length
Omnivore: 4 to 6 times body length
Human: 10 to 11 times body length
In conclusion, our systems are not formulated to eat meat!
3. There is too much suffering in the world to worry about animal cruelty! Let's deal with world hunger first, or war, and then we can tweak the little things. Animal rights are a waste of time when you could be joining the Peace Corps!
Animals raised for their dairy and meat require so much food that, were the entire world to adopt a vegan diet and subsist entirely independent of meat, eggs, and milk, we would produce enough food to feed every single person in the world. Not eating meat means that approximately 90 animals every year don't go into your stomach. That is a lot of meat and, therefore, a lot of grain that could be used for better purposes--feeding the hungry instead of stuffing our faces with food that is bad for us and makes us sick. And which comes to our mouths contaminated with horrific antibiotics, steroids, hormones, pesticides, and waste matter. Ew.
4. I have a farm/know someone who has a farm and our animals are raised humanely and wonderfully before they are slaughtered!
Yeah? They're still slaughtered. What percentage of this nation's meat comes from independent farmers and what percentage comes from factory farms? Our schools and military are supplied with billions of dollars of meat from factory farms. It's cheaper, because the conditions are so revolting. Undercover videos of kosher slaughterhouses revealed the same inhumane treatment as regular slaughterhouses. Proof of animal cruelty is everywhere on the Internet. Do you want to eat a chicken that lived in the same battery cage (with less personal space than a sheet of paper) as a dead, decaying chicken that nobody cleaned? That had disgusting infections? That had bird flu? That was picked out of a drain filled with vomit, feces, and cockroaches? I'm sorry, but I value my health more than factory farms and inhumane slaughterhouses do.
5. If we don't kill these animals, there are so many cows that we'll be overrun with them! They will eat all of our grains and invade our houses and eat crops meant for humans! And then they'll eventually die anyway, and some will be murdered by predators! So why try to get them released from slaughterhouses if they'll just die anyway? They're safe in their farms!
Safe to look forward to death. Would you put yourself through that? Would you be okay with living imprisoned, with no free will whatsoever, with your children torn away from you, to face slaughtered death? Or would you rather live on your own, eking out your living however you want to, but free to look at your own child, stretch your limbs, walk in whichever direction you choose, or actually look at the sun?
And we would not be overrun with cows, pigs, chickens, etc. Why do you think there are so many? They are forced to reproduce! If they weren't forced to, their population would decrease drastically. Don't pretend that we have as many cows to slaughter as we do because they freely reproduce that much. They're injected with hormones, steroids, etc. to make them as fertile as possible. Stop making them reproduce, and the large animal population won't be a problem. Plus, the methane gas production that is drastically cutting into the ozone hole will decrease dramatically.
6. Cows' udders would explode if we didn't milk them. They need to be milked. We're doing cows a favor and benefiting at the same time. It's a symbiotic relationship.
When women have babies and feed them with formula, do their breasts explode? Do they produce milk when they do not have newborns? No! Neither do cows. If we didn't tear calves away from their mothers, they would drink their mothers' milk until they are full-grown, and all the milk would be used as it is supposed to be.
7. Vegans are annoying and militant. They are crazy.
The most vocal vegans are no more annoying or militant than Christians who believe that they must convert others and bring them to Christ. I cannot count the number of times people have knocked on my door, interrupted me, and refused to believe me when I say that I am very confident in my own thoroughly thought-through and researched beliefs and do not want to be converted. There are terrifying fundamentalist Christians who shoot abortion doctors and there are wonderful, peaceful, kind, intelligent people. It's the same with vegans, although to my knowledge no one has committed murder for animal rights. We're just people with our own beliefs. We truly are.
8. If we aren't supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat? Yummy!
You know this answer to this incredibly idiotic question. You're made out of meat. May I eat you?
9. But it tastes so good! And we can eat it, so why shouldn't we?
We can smoke. We can do drugs. We can sexually abuse children. It feels good, so why shouldn't we?
10. Vegans are stupid. Don't they know that, in their zeal to protect life, they are killing plants? Oh, the poor carrots! Veganism is a waste of time. They should just kill themselves and save the plants and everything else.
One: plants do not have nervous systems and do not feel pain. Two: we are biologically created for plant ingestion. Three: isn't it better to do everything you can for a better world than to give up and just promote world destruction in the form of pollution, cruelty, and murder? Isn't it better to promote understanding and compassion wherever we can than to self-destruct? I think so. Don't you?
Any comments, questions, or criticisms--I'm happy to answer them!