I eat meat again.
I was vegetarian or vegan for the past 7 or 8 years (militantly vegan for probably 5 years), with a 30 day trial of eating meat back in 2013. Last year I began relaxing my veganism (meaning I moved to vegetarianism) and adding eggs, butter, and cheese into my diet on occasion (mostly when traveling). Now I eat animal flesh 2 or 3 times per week. My wife doesn’t often like or eat meat except fish and I’ll likely never go back to my pre-veganism diet which was very meat heavy. I am definitely not vegan or vegetarian anymore, though.
Here are a compilation of thoughts on this, in no particular order …
1. As someone who regularly gets blood tests I know I wasn’t getting enough iron from my diet without taking supplements. It’s not that I didn’t eat foods with iron. It’s that non-heme iron doesn’t absorb well and my body absorbs it more poorly than is normal. (Why that is is private and unimportant for you to know.) Supplements, particularly iron supplements, should be a short term solution, if anything. If you need supplements there is something wrong with your diet or with your health.
2. On that note, taking supplements as “insurance” is a bad idea that is possibly doing you more harm than you’d like. If you need to supplement for medical reasons then that’s cool, but that is rare.
3. B12 is impossible to get without supplements or eating fortified foods that I don’t eat. Again, I’m not going to continue taking supplements. (Also, fortified foods aren’t readily available outside of the US. I have been living mostly outside of the US since 2009.)
4. This is not the naturalistic fallacy or appeal to nature at play. I don’t think if something is “natural” it’s better than something that is “unnatural.” I do think if you’re not getting something from your diet that you can easily and readily get then that is a problem.
5. On that note, I am not opposed to medications whatsoever. I prefer medical science to pseudoscience, obviously. In the paraphrased words of Tim Minchin: “What do you call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.” Alternative medicine is generally useless. Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy, etc. is all bunk. But we’re moving off the topic of veganism now so let’s get back on track.
6. The China Study, which many vegans — including former me — have used to tout the benefits of veganism, is incredibly flawed. If you’re interested in learning the basics of how to read a scientific research study I recommend my favorite book of 2015: Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. The China Study simply does not hold up under scrutiny.
7. I still think the factory farming industry is terrible and terrifying. Believe me, this wasn’t an easy or quick choice to make. But I choose my life and health over the lives of other animals (including other humans). To say that you don’t choose your life first is to be intellectually dishonest.
8. But that’s why I strongly support food technology like GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and lab grown meat. (Go Memphis Meats!) This immediately puts me at odds with many (most?) vegans. Remove your ideological bias and genetic engineering is not scary. Genetic engineering is not inherently unsafe just because you fail to understand it. But you also probably fail to understand organic farming. Your darling organic farms use a lot of pesticides and other synthetic substances you would likely unnecessarily hate. Here’s a list from the Federal Code of Regulations.
9. Also, Monsanto is not your enemy, no matter what your “documentarians” and “natural news” websites are telling you. Monsanto, by yearly revenue, is also smaller than Whole Foods. They’re both near $15B/year in revenue but $WFM has another ~$400MM on top of $MON so please stop making the “big evil corporation” argument with Monsanto, unless you also make it with Big Organic and Whole Foods. They are publicly traded companies and you can look them up. ($WFM and $MON are the symbols.) Can you tell I’m tired of people using Monsanto as an analogue for genetically engineered foods? They are hardly the only company in the industry. Stop spreading lies and start supporting something that can actually fix the problems in the food industry. It will do your cause a lot of good to show that you’re an evidence-based vegan and not a zealot.
10. On that note, chemicals are not scary either. Everything is a chemical. The dose makes the poison.
11. I still seek out veg restaurants and enjoy a well-made tofu dish as much as the next guy. If nothing else I think my years of veganism have given me a better understanding of a different, and tasty, lifestyle while no longer being bound to a flawed ideology.
12. You probably won’t convince me to switch back to being vegan. It would be unhealthy for me to do so. I’ve already seen factory farms and know what they’re about so that argument doesn’t hold. Hell, I’ve been stuck in traffic downwind from of a rotting-flesh-smelling-factory-farm in the middle of summer. They’re gross and terrible. I get it. But rather than trying to get your omnivorous friends to switch to veganism how about you invite them over and make them a tasty vegan meal once in a while?
13. On that note, veganism is not necessary for a healthy diet so you won’t convince me with a claim to the contrary. That’s not to say that eating bacon and burgers for every meal is healthy, of course. (And I don’t do that, obviously.) But there is a middle ground that is not pathological. A variety of veggies, fruits, grains (because gluten is perfectly okay unless you’re celiac) and some meats is as good as anything. For some, like me, it’s better.
14. Although I tried — by attending veg-fests and the like — I never felt part of the vegan community. See #8. As much as I go my own way it is nice to have an echo chamber sometimes. The vegan echo chamber is one that is impossible for me to enter nowadays. The vegan community seems generally opposed not only to anything that is not vegan, but it also seems to skew anti-science, and it doesn’t help the cause. This is not unique to veganism, because it’s also readily apparent in many other hardline communities as well. (Including other diet communities like paleo.)
15. That said, I still love and support my vegan friends and I’m probably more of an ally to the veg community than is obvious right now. You can be wrong and I can still support you. Although I probably won’t support the dozens of people who hope I get cancer and die a gruesome death. (Check the comments below, I left in a doozy or two!)
16. Traveling vegan, although it is increasingly easier nowadays than when I started, is much more stressful than I let on in the past. Last week my wife and I were visiting Warsaw and we ate at two or three vegan restaurants. But I also didn’t have to fret when I was starving and just needed food, any food. No stress at all. Instead of spending so much time trying to procure food I can now spend more time enjoying the places I visit.
If you have something to say the comments will be open for the next 7 days. If you focus on #16 instead of #1 then please try again. I won’t moderate or censor anything, even if I find it ridiculous or angry or attacking. It will be helpful to use the accompanying paragraph number if you’re responding to a certain statement I made. I will remove comments that are anonymous. If you can’t speak without anonymity then you don’t deserve to speak here.
Update (17:53 CET Wed May 25 2016): Wow! That went off the rails quickly. I have received enough vitriol to energize and inspire me for at least another week. Please keep posting your silliness.
Update (0:46 CET THUR May 26 2016):
I also updated the article to try to make the points more clear. I hope that worked.
Video about this coming soon. You don’t want to miss it. Subscribe for updates at the top of this page.
Update (8:51 CET Wed Jun 1 2016): After 172 of them comments are now closed. If you have something to respond to please do it on your own blog. I have trackbacks turned on so I will see it.