I must be honest, I’m not a nutritionist, and can only speak from my personal experience of being vegan. (Luckily for you, there is a qualified person, Janae Wise, who will be speaking Feb. 9 on this subject.) In these past six years I’ve heard lots of myths about veganism, as well as lots of excuses for why people are unwilling to stop supporting the various industries that exploit non-human animals. I offer a simple normative claim: It is not morally permissible to use non-human animals as a means to an end that suits a preference or convenience. My claim does not foreclose the possibility of using animals as means, but the end must certainly be of vital necessity. I’ll wager that all uses of animals in the world do not meet this criteria, from the food and clothing industry to medical research as well as entertainment.
Living in a country that rations healthcare resources on a free-market economics system means some of us go the extra mile to stay healthy. Veganism becomes the ultimate diet for doing this. Despite what some would say about getting enough protein, or a lack of overall food choices, veganism proves wrong all its accusers. When talking to people, I usually encounter the question, “But what about protein?” Meat is not the sole source of protein. Anybody can get sufficient protein from foods like brown rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds. It is not the case the one cannot get sufficient protein from a vegan diet, even for those who are more athletic. Mike Mahler is a great example of this. He is a kettlebell enthusiast and does strength training, but more importantly has been vegan for over 10 years. Another example is the monks in the Shaolin Temple. They are strict vegetarians their whole lives and are capable of some amazing feats. Go ahead, YouTube it, “Myths & Logic Of Shaolin Monks.”
Another thing I have heard is that, because humans have evolved as meat eaters, we should continue this. I must say, the situation of nomadic hunter/ gather persons is much different from ours as people living in cities in the twenty-first century. Our hunter/ gathering ancestors did not practice industrial factory farming, which is both toxic for the environment as well as harmful to water and agricultural resources. Hunter/ gather societies did not have a fast food restaurants either. The meat they ate was not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, but more importantly, they ate meat because they had to.
A final word on veganism. For those wanting to pursue this diet, I always recommend you begin by adding things to your diet, rather than subtracting. Start by eating more fruits and vegetables. Try using tofu or tempeh instead of beef or chicken. Once you get comfortable with the new additions, you’ll find that the old things that you used to eat will begin to phase themselves out.