I feel like I should preface this post by saying: I don’t hate vegans and this is not about why vegans are wrong.
I believe everyone needs to make his or her own choices in life and one way of eating may not work for everyone. The point of this post is to give a counter argument to the argument for veganism and explain why I’m not vegan.
Reason to be vegan #1: It’s healthier. Studies show people who eat animal products are at higher risk for many diseases.
Why I disagree: Firstly, I believe that a vegan diet can make some people healthier. For example, if they go from eating store bought bacon for breakfast to eating oatmeal, fruit, nuts and seeds instead.
But I don’t believe animal products in general are the reason many people have discovered health benefits from a vegan diet. A vegan diet is naturally higher in veggies and fruits, which would be a great thing for someone who never ate them before.
Also, since I haven’t found any studied directly comparing a vegan diet to a whole food meat eating diet I would guess that the studies that point to vegans being healthier than meat eaters was performed with vegans vs. people eating conventional animal products and possibly a standard American diet which is full of unhealthy choices. If there was a study available that took into account (and controlled for) other health risks I would be very interested to see the results.
For instance, many people who choose vegan or vegetarianism are health conscious and typically don’t smoke or drink in excess. They are also more likely to eat more vegetables and stay away from sugar. If the meat eating group in the study were a group of health conscious, non smoking people too and especially if they chose only organic, grass fed animal products, I would highly doubt there would be any correlation between veganism and better health.
Conventional animal products are NOT healthy and DO cause health problems. Pastured animal products, on the other hand, are very healthy. Grass fed beef is ½ to 1/3 as fatty as grain fed beef. Additionally, grass fed beef provides two to six times as much healthy omega 3 fatty acids as conventional beef. Omega 3’s are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, including lowering the risk of heart disease by as much as 50%!
Eggs from pastured chickens can contain as much as 20 times the amount of omega 3’s as conventional eggs. Source
Yes, you can supplements to make up for the lack of omega 3’s but I prefer to get as much of my nutrition from food before resorting to supplements.
What is very concerning to me about a vegan diet is the huge amount of processed soy products that many vegans rely on for protein. Soy is incredibly unhealthy. Soy can cause infertility, malabsorption of nutrients, and digestive and gut problems among other things. Eating soy increases your bodies need for vitamins and nutrients including vitamin B12, something non meat eaters are often deficient in.
Also, there are other food products out there that are vegan but definitely NOT healthy. Here’s a list of just a few of the junk food that is vegan. Therefore, vegan is not synonymous with healthy. Neither is non-vegan for that matter. The important thing is to eat real food in as natural a state as possible for the best health benefits.
Reason to be vegan # 2 It’s wrong to eat animals or animal products. It’s wrong that any animal should suffer to feed me. It’s wrong that an animals life is not it’s own.
Why I disagree: I DO agree that it’s not healthy or ethical to eat conventional animal products. But I also believe that we can be ethical meat, egg and dairy consumers.
We need to remember though, that many living creatures die everyday for the production of grain or vegetables. Plowing kills moles, mice, snakes, lizards, etc. and turning any piece of land into cropland destroys the home and food supply of many other animals. Not to mention the animal and human lives that are affected by chemical fertilizers and pesticides that threaten biodiversity. The point is, again, to avoid conventional food in favor of ethically grown and raised food.
I believe ethically raised animals lives are their own. My chickens are fed and kept safe in our yard. If it weren’t for our chicken coop and run most of them would be dead. That is just the nature of an animal so low on the food chain. Their lives are fast. They turn into food for foxes and other predators. I believe they are happy.
As for their eggs, many animals take eggs from birds. If we weren’t taking them then someone else would (mice? raccoons?). Nature is perfect and works on such an intricate level that most of us are totally unaware of the interworking of plants, animals and earth in an ecosystem. Hens lay about one egg a day yet have no interest in hatching them most of the time. Why would Mother Nature have hens lay so many wasted eggs if they weren’t meant to be food for others?
Reason to be vegan # 3 It’s more sustainable. It takes 15 lbs of grain to grow 1 lb of beef. Therefore, Land is better used to grow grains directly for humans.
Why I disagree: Again, I believe we can be ethical animal product consumers. That means supporting renewable agriculture. We should all avoid conventional animal products for health and environment reasons.
Firstly, I don’t recommend eating grain fed beef. Grain fed cattle often need antibiotics just to survive their unnatural diet. Grain feeding also increases bad fat content and decreases the good. Source
The grains that are grown to feed cattle are largely GMO corn and soy, which are grown in an unsustainable way. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if the grains go to humans or animals, the practice is unsustainable already. As Dawn Gifford at Small Footprint Family writes:
“But here’s where the vegetarian argument ends: Whether you feed the corn to livestock or people doesn’t matter. A conventionally farmed corn or soybean field is a major source of greenhouse gases, air and water pollution either way. But a permanent pasture is a biodiverse, ever-cycling pump that continuously pushes carbon back into the soil where it increases fertility and builds topsoil.” Read more
Choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet over a diet full of conventional meat, dairy and eggs may be more sustainable but a diet made up of sustainably raised animal products and sustainably grown grains, veggies and fruits is just as, if not more, sustainable.
My dietary choice
I eat meat and eggs. I don’t eat dairy only because I’m allergic. We have chickens that are given organic feed and let out to forage as often as possible. I buy grassfed beef and natural or organic chicken depending on how much I have to spend that week. I also incorporate many real food vegetarian and vegan dishes into our meals. It’s tough because we have to avoid gluten too. Do you know how hard it is to find dairy and gluten free recipes that don’t include soy cheese or other nasty ingredients?
It’s not perfect but we do what we can to choose healthy, whole foods that are sustainably grown and raised while sticking to a budget.
The bottom line is that we all need to be informed about where our food comes from and make decision that are best for our families.
Do you eat animal products? Why or why not?