Nutritional Fanaticism II: The Vegan Extreme

By Mike Howard

2744-meat is murder.jpgIf extreme low carbers rank #1 in dietary fervency, then call extreme Vegans a “1(a)”.

As part of my preamble (stop me if you’ve heard this before) I am NOT painting any single group with the same broad stroke and this is no different for vegans.

For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to categorize vegetarians and vegans together – recognizing that just because one is more “strict” doesn’t mean they are any more or less prone to fanatical behavior. The “cultish-ness” of a nutritional ideology isn’t so much in the dietary pattern itself, but in the way it is practiced. If there were a distinct difference in terms of how vegan cults operate vs. the extreme low carb it would be the emotional/ethical investment.

Here are some criteria of what I find to be “sensible” and what I find to be “fanatical” in terms of vegan practitioners.

Sensible Vegans

  • Decision to eschew animal products is grounded in personal ethics and not science.
  • Practice in a “non-judgmental” way.
  • Those who practice with little hypocrisy (wearing leather, feeding pets animal product, etc).
  • Those who accept the idea that a healthy diet has NOTHING to do with the presence or absence of animal product.

Fanatical Vegans

  • PETA followers/supporters
  • Those who label anyone who eats animal products “unkind”
  • Environmentally friendly elitism
  • Those who believe that eating animal products (in any amount) has negative health implications.
  • Those who use the “lipid theory” to validate veganism – namely that cholesterol or saturated fat is correlated with heart disease.
  • Use The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine as a scientific “authority”.
  • Too much protein will make your kidney’s spontaneously combust.
  • The China Study is infallible
  • Soy and other vegetable protein is every bit as good as meat sources of protein.

Typical Logical Fallacies

Straw man: “It’s better than that “stuff your face with steak and cheese Atkins diet”.

Appeal to Authority: “Just read the China Study, Dr. Ornish says…,

Ideological Support/Appeal to emotions: “Eating animals is cruel…” “Eating meat is an environmental disaster.”

Resources: The Bad

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Fat Free Vegan
PETA

Books

Likely a ton of them – although admittedly I haven’t read many of them. Here are a couple of more prominent examples;

The China Study: An interesting observational account that is skewed heavily in favour of low meat diets. Again showing that some populations have survived and even thrived on plant-based diets. For a comprehensive rebuttal to T. Colin Campbell’s tome, check out Denise Minger’s piece.

Skinny Bitch (and Skinny Bastard): The foul-mouthed bestseller by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnoin is high on noise but low on evidence. Lauded for their “no-nonsense” and “in your face” approach, I guess they figured if they used enough shock value to get their point across, people would just simply forget that their book is a heap of ostrich poop. Here’s a well thought-out critique of the book by Jamie Hale

Common Ground

I don’t care for the scare and intimidation tactics used by militant vegan groups such as PETA nor do I have much tolerance for the skewed science of the PCRM. I support and to some degree admire those who have chosen to swear off meat for ethical reasons. Yes, you can be healthy and thrive on vegetarian and/or vegan diets. Those who paint a picture of vegans as weak or frail – I hope you never say that within earshot of UFC fighter Mac Danzig or (if you happen to be on ice) former hockey enforcer Georges Laraque.

In fact, I follow the work of some world-renown strength coaches who happen to be vegan such as; Mike Mahler , Jason Ferrugia and Robert Dos Remedios.

On the flipside, there is an abundance of heavily skewed information from agenda-driven vegan groups. One must tread carefully to seek out unbiased information on vegetarianism/veganism or meat eating in general. Also, some people just simply don’t do well on meat-free diets. Nothing wrong with being a “flexitarian” in my books.

Anybody have suggestions for either sensible or cultish vegan/vegetarian sites?

Image Credit: t-shirt guru

41 Comments

  1. Jaraham

    Mike,

    I wouldn’t give up your day job as a hack journalist and decide to follow your ego into science as I think you’d get torn to shreds. The fact is that there is a ubiquitous amount of research into the health benefits of a vegan diet, and vice versa the damaging effects of consuming animal products, in particular regard to lipid deposition within arteries and it’s effect on cardiovascular functioning. It even outlines in your site ‘terms and disclaimers’ that: “The owners, editors, contributors, administrators, and other staff of Diet Blog [sic] are not qualified professionals, and are simply aggregating information found online for entertainment purposes only.”, and as a result you may wish to double check your sources.

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