“Hey, I take it you did not really want to discuss it (veganism). That is sad for the animals, and the planet, and you really.”
I has been a couple of days since that message popped in my Facebook chat from a guy I met a while ago. He is vegan and a few weeks ago we initiated a discussion on chat about this diet and way of thinking. He sent me a couple of interesting articles, but I had to head out and I didn’t want to go back to the discussion without further analysing and reading a bit more about the subject.
This is not because I needed inspiration or copy pasting from other people’s theories or beliefs, but more because I wanted to get my facts straight before being able to verbalise my opinion on the subject. I am not trying to write a scientific paper, there is plenty of evidence out there for whoever is interested, I have read quite a bit of them and I have made up my mind, this is what this article is about, my opinion on veganism and its consequences and really it is nothing more than that, my opinion.
I have been thinking and researching about the three dimensions mentioned in the statement: the animals, the planet and myself and if you allow me, I will start with myself.
I am not sure why he thought it was sad for me, but I would assume he was talking about the health benefits of a vegan diet and I will talk about that dimension. Does a vegan diet do much for your health? And the answer is no. There is no scientific evidence that a vegan diet is better for you than a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet including plenty of vegetables, fruit, nuts and grains.
There is plenty of evidence in the opposite direction though. The human beings are omnivores by definition. This means that our genetic information and evolution and the way we process nutrients and foods it’s based on a diet that includes animal sources. This means that whoever wants to follow a vegan diet, has to include in his/her diet a huge amount of supplementation to supply the body of certain vitamins and amino acids that cannot be found in vegetable sources, or that our body is not able to process when they are found in such environment. The basic ones I have been reading repeatedly are Iron and Vitamin B12. There is plenty of Iron in lentils and spinach, and other vegetable sources, however, the human body cannot metabolise them as the animal sources counterparts unless they come together with some animal amino acids.
The truth is, the human body and its needs it so incredibly complex and affected by so many factors, that it is very hard to control the effects when we eliminate a whole group of foods, and one as significant as animal food sources. Lots of people are able to complement their nutrition with food supplements and life a relatively or plentiful healthy life depending on the cases, but this is not the case for everyone. There are lots of people out there than cannot process or tolerate this type of supplements and after a long exposure to veganism, have to retreat and go back to eating meat or food from animal sources.
This is not to mention, that personally, I am in favour natural nourishing and unprocessed foods. Anyone that follows or has read my blog should know that I love to cook my food from scratch out natural ingredients and as unprocessed as possible. I believe in the power of nature to give us all that we need and I think the vast majority of human efforts to improve this, end up not being so great. I can think now of a clear example, margarine vs. butter. The greatest invention against cholesterol and heart disease from the food industry of our century, recycled from Napoleon’s idea of finding a cheaper alternative to feed the lower classes that couldn’t afford butter.
Better than butter? There is a huge amount of proof nowadays that says this is hardly the case.
I believe in balance. Balance in what you eat, balance is how your food is sourced, in respecting your environment, in consuming locally sourced, naturally produced foods that are sustainable for the environment and for the ecosystem and also empower the economy of your region. Nothing extreme has never led to anything good when it comes to humans, we do not handle extremes well, you only have to have a look at our political history to see that. Revolution is what brings chance and for that, I admire vegan people’s resolution to call attention in something awful happening around us, something that most people are unware about and that even when pointed out, we close our eyes to, and it is the farming and dairy industrial practices, that overexploit resources and torture animals in mass.
Veganism is doing a great labour in making these issues known and raising awareness and making people think. Even though I think the solution they propose is wrong (I don’t think that they way of eating would either be sustainable for the planet if everyone was vegan) they are right about many things.
This takes me to the next subject, which is the planet.
Veganism, I am sorry, it is most definitely not the answer to healing the world.
The world has been here for millions of years and in only 250.000 years, the modern man has destroyed the rental property, if you allow me the easy comparison. We have broken the ozone layer, we have poisoned the waters, we have savaged the forests and contaminated the rivers and seas. If we were to vacate, let’s face it, we would be paying a lot to restore it to its natural condition.
We have overexploited all natural resources in the last 100 years and only now we are beginning to be aware of it, and the consequences it will have for the generations to come. I believe in conservationism as the only way forward, the respect of the ecosystems in which we live.
It is unnatural to eat mangoes and bananas in northern Europe in the middle of the winter. It is actually ridiculous. Not so long ago, when I was little, we would only be able to eat apricots and nectarines when the summer came, nowadays, we move our produce around the world shamelessly, and in Europe, we pay extortionate amounts of money for them, but we are not paying for the actual value of the fruit, but for the cost of transportation from a tropical destination in certain conditions.
To cut it short, we live in a planet that needs death to create live. This is something human beings have trouble accepting. We will all die, and our bones will go underground to feed the earth, and the cycle will begin again. This happens to everything and everyone. Nature is cruel, there is a food chain, in which the bigger animal preys on the smaller/weaker. This has brought to life the variety and beauty of animals and species we have today and it was nature who created it.
I would love to believe that vegan theorists are cleverer than nature but somehow I have my issues accepting than any human being can improve what evolution and nature, in its infinite wisdom has taken eons to create. I love animals, I love animals way more than I love people in fact. They are very rarely cruel for sake of cruelty (except my cat when he catches a bird, but I am unsure of his true intentions) and kill generally to satisfy their appetites.
Humans on the other hand, are cruel to animals, and cruel to each other. We are a despicable race.
The industrial systems we have created to supply meat and animal products to our markets are absolutely disgusting. A vegan friend of mine made me aware of how the dairy industry works recently and I nearly burst into tears. It makes one want to go vegan. It really does. Not because eating dairy is bad for you, but because the world needs to become aware of how these places operate. Vegans and ecologist and other collectives, are doing a great job at raising their voices against this practices. The world needs more vegans, or in general, more people that care.
Does this mean that humans should not consume dairy or meat or other animal products? Not in my opinion. We are still better off consuming them, the problem is the rate and amount to which we are nowadays consuming them. There is an old Spanish saying “when you become a father, you will eat eggs”. It means that when you are the responsible adult, you will get to make the decisions, but interestingly enough, it also points at the fact that eggs (as meat and other animal products), were a luxury back in the day and the consumption of them, or meat, or other animal produce was extremely limited in quantity and frequency. The availability of animal protein has improved exponentially in the last few decades, due to the industrialization of the production leading to major increases in amounts but lowering the quality the product and torturing several species in the process. It makes us happy to be able to consume this products on a daily basis, they are tasty and affordable, but also have brought some problems that our grandparents never heard about. We are what we eat and any change in this delicate balance takes a toll in our health as a society.
Traditional farming and agriculture, a system based in a more efficient way of cropping and farming, respecting animal dignity and sacrificing the industry margins and the too cheap prices, would be a more sustainable way of eating.
I have read a very interesting article from a woman today, she was a vegan activist for a long time, and then had to go back to eating meat due to severe medical issues related to her diet. She spoke about locally sourced, and sustainable agriculture and she also spoke about the fact that extensive crops of soya and other cereals, that feed vegans, had a major environmental impact in the destruction of natural ecosystems and land exhaustion. She was also talking about fertilizers from fossil sources used to feed those crops, as oppose to animal sources (bones, blood and also faecal material) from farming.
Simplistically we eat cows, we die, and we will feed the grass that the cows will eat. This is how it was designed, and it works. The problem is that there is too many of us, thinking that we are entitled to eating meat every day.
Animal sources and much of the criticism of its effects (from increased levels of cholesterol to cancer) depends on the dosage. Pretty much as everything in this world, moderation in its consumption is key. It marks the difference between medicine and poison.
Life works in a circle and death feeds life, altering the natural balance of the ecosystem results in the destruction of the same. Humans have altered the ecosystems around them, twisting them to fit their needs and causing much pain in the process, to the planet and the animals, in this, I agree with veganism, but I do think the key to our subsistence as a race lays on balance and on reintegrating ourselves in the natural circle of life and death, and in living and consuming more locally. These changes are only possible by changing people’s mind-sets and education is key. So my dear vegan friends, thank you for your work and beliefs, I do not share your view on the how to fix the world and the system, but I appreciate the intention and the compassion, and I most definitely think that the world is a better place with people that care in it as you do.