Whenever someone leaves the fold of vegans and joins the mainstream of omnivores, it causes a lot of reaction on both sides of the vegan/omni divide. How does one quit believing that animals feel and want to live? How does taste or even an orgiastic eating experience dim the knowledge, once one has attained it, of what the animals must endure to end up on your plate?
Letting go of one’s principles is no small thing to undertake. I could imagine having one’s doctor tell you that veganism is ruining your health. I was often told running was not good for me when I was younger, so I searched out a doctor who actually ran — most of the physicians who were naysaying my running were a good deal overweight and not exactly the picture of health themselves. Physicians in general are not noted for their nutritional education [see articles below]. Constant hunger that was part of the difficulty for some while eating a plant-based diet. With such abundant plant food, it is hard to envision. Perhaps all hunger is not for food, but for something else missing in one’s life.
Ingesting Death and Deception
Some seem to find returning to eating flesh a miraculous experience. Pretty amazing since, according to Registered Dietitian Ginny Messina of the Vegan RD blog, “…you have to actually digest and absorb the nutrients in food before you’ll feel any of its effects. And if you are consuming nutrients to reverse a deficiency, it will take weeks to feel the benefits.” Yet for Tasha, over at Voracious “I had only eaten a small piece of cow flesh, and yet I felt totally full, but light and refreshed all at once.” She states:
The world receded to a blank nothingness and I just ate, and ate, and ate. I cried in grief and anger, while moaning with pleasure and joy.
Brings to mind the scene in When Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what she’s having” – only, no, I do not want what she is having. An ethical stance means eating with the least harm to others.
Even more miraculously, Tasha’s hair completely changed in a few weeks, despite the fact that it takes months for hair to grow from the roots.
The changes that I experienced were manifold and occurred so quickly and decisively I almost couldn’t believe it. ……..(after) 4 weeks I noticed three very strange things: my mysterious lower back pain that had been bothering me for nearly a year had vanished, even though I hadn’t changed my shoes or done any physical therapy; the skin on my face was plump and full and the fine lines that I had figured were just a sign of being nearly 30 had faded so much they were barely discernible, even though I had not changed anything about my skin care routine; and finally, I noticed my hair was thicker, shinier, and much fuller than it had been in years, even though I hadn’t changed anything about my hair care routine.
Sound familiar? Sounds like the miracles promised in Dairy Deception, right? Lustrous hair, amazing strength, improved general health – even better mental health. Sounds like the Media Mavens have run a successful campaign, with the medical community in compliance with the deception. But after years of indoctrination into the myth that meat means strength, it is not all that hard to understand. Despite the recent spate of information decrying the harmful effects of animal products, some of these misguided souls have found it wonderful to embrace the imagined magical qualities inherent in the death of animals and their body parts. Lierre Keith stated in her book The Vegetarian Myth*, that upon eating a cream cheese topped bagel:
Oh, God, something in my brain woke and moaned. I couldn’t stop.
Who is the One with the Myth?
I am sure that is how Ms. Keith felt, but honestly, I have never had that reaction to a bagel or any other food product. Ms. Keith relates in her book that her spine was ruined by a vegan diet, but fails to explain exactly how this happened. And she had been unable to sustain a vegan diet, admitted to eating a “dairy orgy” dip well into her supposed veganism.
Then Jennifer of Vegan Lunchbox went through personal changes. I applaud all the above for being honest about what they were undergoing — if only they would. It strains credibility when instant cures happen and one claims they can feel meat “pulsing through every cell” after ingesting carrion, as did Ms. Keith. The only thing actually pulsing was the blood of the animal through his heart while he lived. And that pulsing is precisely what these folks stopped. Jennifer now is a self-proclaimed “nutritarian,” no longer identifying with veganism.
My own experiences are so opposite these folks that it makes it difficult for me to imagine their plight. I actually got much healthier and gained weight as a vegan. I turned on to food for the first time. There was so much variety and, no longer on a strict diet for genetically high cholesterol, I was free to indulge. My cholesterol went down to a healthy level – not overnight, but after six months, when it was tested. And it has remained so. Slowly, I was able to breathe better, as allergies disappeared without my even realizing it. I live in an area with high incidence of diabetes and obesity; many very young people are enchanted by my stories of healing through veganism. They have tried eating animals products; for them, it has been deadly. And so far, all the men in my father’s family have died from heart disease and clogged arteries due to their ingestion of animal products. But the real reason for my veganism was not improved health – it was finding out what the animals were asked to endure for something not only non-essential, but harmful to all concerned. No, thank you.
Honest Appraisal of Health
This year has been a tough one for me personally. I had health issues for the first time in many years. Luckily, no one suggested it was due to my veganism, most likely because I was taking care of a preschooler who was catching every bug that showed up in his new preschool life. I spoke to the school administrator, who told me that even very young new teachers often have a lot of absences the first year, until they build up immunity for the usual host of preschooler-infecting bugs.
Like Tasha at Voracious, my mental outlook was not as sharp, either. I thought briefly about my veganism — could it be why I was catching the bugs from my grandson? Why I was not as cheerful as usual? Why I was not sleeping so well? I always was very proud of my resistance to illness and my general health — what else could it be? I had a momentary sinking thought – what would I do if my health was on the line? I knew of vegans who are healthier by far than any omnivore I know and have remained healthy and high energy for decades. Soon a quick search into my life caused me to face a few realities:
- I was not exercising as much as I had all my life
- I was not paying much attention to eating a balanced diet
- Above all, I was undergoing some internal stress due to the illness and events surrounding my father’s death earlier in the year.
- I was not taking care of myself
- My life was completely out of balance
Constantly researching all the horrors going on in the world today, especially towards innocent beings, can be exhausting, especially if there is no counterweight towards the positive. Listening to informative but rather distressing podcasts all day long can leave one feeling drained. Handling personal attacks for the work one does is difficult and disturbing. I knew I needed to get moving, start paying attention to self-care (see Vegan Survival Kit), and setting some limits with child care and other assorted duties. You have to learn to set limits on the amount you take in on behalf of others; it does them nor you any good to go over that line. Good reminder for working in the field of animal rights, too.
You Can Still Be Vegan if You Want
Dan Cudahy, in his recent article, On Ex-Vegans, asks why some of the ex-vegans did not take the vegan path, whether due to their health or other issues, which is to do the least harm. If you are having health issues due to your diet, that diet is not your veganism — your attitude towards other living beings is where the veganism lives. Why not research the minimum you need to be healthy, confer with vegan dietitians such as Ms. Messina, and then do the least harm, in keeping with your principles? But instead, some of these folks toss out their veganism with seeming relief and virtually roll in their new blood-soaked, mainstream diets. Tired of being on the margins of society, these animal consumers find the pressures of the mob mighty refreshing.
Whatever one decides, it is their decision, but it does impact other living beings. I am always sorrowed to hear of vegans threatening other people for leaving a life of non-violence; I guess they cannot see the irony there. I am not terribly interested in ex-vegans, because it would seem they were not really vegan in the first place. A recent article by Kye Martin over at Chicago Now drove this point home, Why I hate telling people I’m Vegan. In that article, Kye relates:
Raise the beef, cut it up… sell it. Fine by me. I have no problem with what you’re doing, I simply choose not to partake.
Really? You have no problem with slaughtering animals? Raise the BEEF? Don’t you mean the steer, the cow, the animals, the living being? Oh, no — here I go being preachy and everything that makes people so uncomfortable. But it is not really about me and my comfort or you and yours. It is about the animals. And I DO have a problem with people who kill them for no reason but their own tradition and pleasure. It is madness.
Focus on the Ex-Omnivores!
Good news for Kye. She no longer has to announce she is vegan! She is not. If you limit yourself to a plant-based diet, that is not veganism. If you really don’t care about people harming animals, that is not veganism. So no, I am not too interested in those who once called themselves vegans or hate to announce they are vegans. I would prefer to pay attention to a much larger, more dynamic, world-changing and ever growing category: ex-omnivores!
Keith, Lierre, The Vegetarian Myth, Flashpoint Press – available on Amazon
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – lack of medical nutrition in medical schools
New York Times – Teaching Doctors About Nutrition
Ginny Messina’s article, Do Ex-Vegans’ Stories Make the Case Against Vegan Diets?
Dan Cudahy’s article, On Ex-Vegans