Post on Nutrition Coming Soon!

I have gotten a lot of good feedback (both in comments and email) from people that are anticipating my upcoming post(s) about nutrition. Thank you for this. This feedback has helped to keep me motivated to do the work (and it’s much more work than I anticipated!).

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have committed to getting the first (and most comprehensive/important) of these posts up by Sunday, 4/8/12, possibly earlier.

I’ve been learning so much these last few weeks. I’ve also been losing weight following a low(ish)-carb vegan diet. I wasn’t even sure that a low(ish)-carb vegan diet was possible four weeks ago, but now I know that it is possible. Not only have I been losing weight, but I have also been getting all of my vitamins and minerals every day, something that I was not doing before. I feel better than I have in a long time. These two things are not coincidental. They are very related.

I realize that my personal experience is merely anecdotal evidence. But I thought I’d put it out there just to let you all know that 1) I’m still working on it and 2) I’m excited about what this information/analysis might be able to do for people following a vegan diet.

til next time

– – thanks for reading – – 


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On Nutrition

It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve posted. And, for the most part, I’m okay with that. I had a flurry of activity in the latter part of last year because I had a lot of things that I needed to get out of my head. Writing forces me to assemble random thoughts into something that at least approaches coherence. Plus, I had/have some views that I wasn’t used to seeing in the vegan blogosphere, so I’m glad that I got them out there for the world to read. The response has been mostly positive, much to my surprise. I’m also glad to see that the blog didn’t completely wither away in my absence of posting. People are still reading, and that’s cool.

So after I got a lot of that stuff out of my system, the desire to blog diminished, and I’m okay with that. I felt like I’d said the majority of the “important” stuff that I had to say. I haven’t had much desire to blog lately simply because I haven’t had anything very unique or insightful to say.

But what I’ve been focusing on a lot lately is nutrition. After being pretty lazy about nutrition for quite a while, I finally got my act together and did some research. I spent some time on (an awesome resource) looking at the vitamin and mineral (V&M) content of the foods that I typically eat (in the typical amounts that I had been eating them), and I realized that there is NO WAY I was getting enough of a whole range of V&M. And since my diet has been fairly consistent since going vegan over four years ago, this had been going on for a while.

So I’m kind of mad at myself for letting myself get lazy with my diet and for not doing this kind of research like… uhhh… FOUR YEARS AGO! But the thing is, I did do SOME of this kind of research. I had the best of intentions when I went vegan. I just didn’t sit down and do the math. I also probably wasn’t really prepared to eat in such a “weird” way. I was used to filling up on big plates of rice and pasta, and I carried that tendency into veganism. I’ve always loved carbs. I do remember thinking at one point “how the hell am I going to eat all of those beans, nuts, seeds, greens and vegetables every day?!”

I’m also kind of mad at all the “Go Vegan!” people that say that all you have to do to have a healthy vegan diet is “eat a balanced diet.” Well, “balanced” is a pretty vague word in this context. My idea of “balanced” it turns out is pretty unbalanced (too many carbs, not enough protein, fat, vitamins and minerals). So, really, I guess I’m more mad at myself for having trusted the people that say such things. They probably haven’t done the research either. They’re just trusting the people and organizations that told them the same things (“It’s easy!”).

Basically, if a person or organization isn’t willing or able to tell you how to get enough calcium, B6, copper, zinc, niacin etc. etc. etc. on a vegan diet, you probably shouldn’t be getting nutritional advice from them. If they’re not willing to tell you that eating well takes diligence (and go into specifics about it), they’re either not telling you the whole truth, or they don’t really know what they’re doing. I wish I would have thought about it like that before.

To eat a truly healthy vegan diet, it’s not the most difficult thing in the world, but you really do have to prioritize the nutrient-rich foods in your diet. You need to be eating enough of them before you can think that it’s okay to just fill up on carbs and desserts and whatnot. You can’t just cross your fingers, try to “eat a balanced diet” and expect it all to be fine. It won’t be. Yeah, it’ll work for a while, but if you’re lazy about it, or just underinformed (I was equally guilty on both fronts), you’ll eventually run into problems. And for what it’s worth, vegetarians have it only slightly easier. They still need to be more diligent than they’ve probably been led to believe (and I’ll go into specifics about that in coming posts).

Pretty much everyone that pimps a vegan diet will tell you “It’s easy!” but I’m here to tell you that that’s not necessarily true. “Easy” is a subjective word, I guess, but I’ll say this: if your definition of “easy” is something like “doesn’t require a good amount of self-education and daily vigilance,” then no, eating a healthy vegan diet is not easy. You will be missing something, guaranteed, probably a lot of things (like I was).

What I’ve realized is that a healthy vegan diet is (most likely) much lower in carbs (especially “carby” carbs and grains) than I previously assumed. When you prioritize nutrient-rich foods in your diet, you just don’t have room for all those (mostly) nutrient-poor grains (the largest source of carbs for most people). Initially my vegan diet was a little bit lower in carbs, but I’ve always been such a carb junkie that it’s not hard to figure out why I kept getting further and further away from that type of diet.

So… in my coming posts I’ll go more into specifics about what I was lacking and how I have been re-tooling my diet to rectify the situation. I’ll also post specifics about what you need to eat to get enough of certain V&M so you can see for yourself how you stack up. I hope you’re not unpleasantly surprised, but I think a lot of you might be. It’s really not as easy as most vegans like to make it seem. We’re supposed to keep repeating “It’s easy!” to win more converts, and then it’s apparently every man for himself.

I’m not a nutritionist, so please don’t take my word for anything. I’ll tell you what my sources are and you can go look at it for yourself. That’s what I should have done for myself long ago.

– – thanks for reading – –


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I’m Not Dead

Hello, SV readers.

I know I haven’t posted in a while. You may or may not care. I went on vacation and for the past 2-3 weeks I’ve been busy developing a humor website with some friends (non-vegan friends even!).

I’ll be back after the new year. Happy holidays to all.

– – thanks for reading – –


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Interview with a Meat-Eating Vegetarian

As I mentioned earlier, I will at least occasionally be doing interviews here on Speciesist Vegan. This is all part of my effort to start conversations about the gray areas between the extremes in the paleo/SAD vs. vegan divide. I think a lot of people with more moderate views and practices tend to get drowned out by all the people on the extreme ends. So I want to provide a forum where people with all kinds of diets and views can get their thoughts out there so that people can take them in and then discuss them if they like.

My first interview is with Nathan Chappell (pronounced like the building, not the comedian). Nathan knows all about living life in the gray areas. The area is so gray, in fact, that he has been known as “that vegetarian guy that eats meat.” For the last 17 years Nathan has been vegetarian and for about 10 of those years he has been eating meat that would otherwise go to waste. Well, it’s actually a little bit more complicated than that, but I’ll let him explain that part of it. I think this is the perfect way to kick off interviews on Speciesist Vegan.

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How long have you been vegetarian? Have you been making freegan exceptions the entire time?

I became vegetarian when I was 17 (I’m 34 now), but then I fell off the wagon for a couple years about half-way through, mostly because of steak quesadillas. Then I ate some fish occasionally for a couple years after that, but I’m back to being an asterisked lacto-ovo now. Being freeganish started about ten years ago while I was waiting tables. I just saw so much wasted meat. I found it really offensive, not just in principle, but because my beliefs didn’t allow me to eat meat, so it made me jealous or something to see people take their delicious ignorance for granted, and just sad to see people take meat for granted.

How would you describe your motivation for becoming vegetarian? Has it changed over the years?

I would describe my motivation as about 5’6″, brown hair, and bossy. Yep, I made the switch for a girl. But, my motivation has changed. It’s always changing. After a while it became less about the girl and more about animals. I simply couldn’t accept that it was okay to eat chickens, but not cats. I was kind of a preachy vegetarian for a bit. To really get into something I have to be firm, strict, argumentative. I have to be black or white. But then I started talking to people instead of arguing and realized that I wasn’t completely sure I was right. Or if it’s the worst thing in the world to be wrong.

I got to a point where I realized that I could (and had to) accept that people will probably eat meat for a long time. But my being on the not eating meat side could pull the center toward not eating meat, toward moderation, toward at least being conscious of our meat consumption. Recently I’ve been inclined to think that the most reasonable, provable point is the extreme inefficiency of meat production, especially the way we do it. Basically, I don’t want to support the business of meat. I don’t buy meat, I don’t let other people buy me meat. Waste is good for business. I try to lessen that.

And on a less objective note, I don’t like having too much guilt wrapped up in my eating. Health has never been a big consideration for me.

How do you label the way you eat and has that changed over the years? How much do labels matter?

I used to be very sneaky about it for fear of being kicked out of the club, but then I learned that I don’t much like clubs. I tell people I don’t know that I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian. If pressed, I say “I used to eat fish, but I don’t really like fish, so it just doesn’t make sense to make the exception. Even though I think fish are stupid.” Because I do. No offense to fish. Not that they’d get it anyways.

It’s strange, I usually love labels, but I find this one to be tough to categorize, so the only time I accurately label myself is in the form of an awkward paragraph. Labels are great as descriptors, but not as definers.

The term “freegan” definitely makes me think of dumpsters. It isn’t fair, but if I think that, I’d bet that most everyone else does too. I think the way we present our ideas or movements is important. I don’t like to give people ammunition to judge my positions too early.

Since you don’t usually actively identify yourself as someone that eats meat that would otherwise go to waste, do people ever feel like they have you in a “gotcha moment” when they find out that you do? Is there a reason that you’re not more upfront about it?

Sure, here and there, but there’s no accounting for every asshole. I’m mostly not more upfront about it because I don’t like long, qualified explanations regarding what I do. I’m also not upfront about being a vegetarian. I don’t always want to get into a discussion wherein my stated beliefs call into question somebody’s morals. I’m sort of a live and let live sort of fellow.

Do you feel like being vegetarian is a sacrifice? If so, does eating freegan meat lessen or increase this feeling?

Sort of, but not a big one in comparison to the sacrifice that the chickens, pigs and cows make quite without their consent. I don’t think my throw-away meat eating affects that much. It satisfies my general nostalgia for meat and makes me feel like I’m doing what I believe.

In a way that’s the sacrifice, giving up the no flesh streak and trading in my high horse. I just don’t want to see the nutrients and delicious flavors go to waste. Also, I like being limited at restaurants because I am a terrible decision maker. I was recently at a vegetarian restaurant and it took me half an hour to order. I don’t have that kind of time. I’m a very busy man.

So, giving up being a strict, no-exceptions vegetarian might have actually been harder than giving up meat when you first went vegetarian?

For me, definitely.

How do omnivores respond to how you eat? Do you find that they want to argue with you and find inconsistencies in your approach? Does anyone ever call you a hypocrite? How do you respond to that?

Omnivores really seem to like the cut of my jib, particularly the ones that I know well enough to get into this conversation with. So it might be a flawed sample. But they respect my nuance, and probably feel like they don’t have to be defensive because I’m not exactly on the other team. They think about it a little more than if I state my label. Maybe they see my practices as a sign that I’m not judging them, that I’m making myself vulnerable to being called a hypocrite.

And I am a bit of a hypocrite. My actions don’t always perfectly reflect my morals. Whose do? I probably wouldn’t eat milk or eggs if they did. But I am not interested in unrealistic goals, and I am very interested in breakfast burritos. It’s tricky though. Sometimes omnivores will pretend that they’re going to throw meat away just to get me to eat it. Sometimes to pull me off my horse, sometimes just to see the incredible unicorn of a vegetarian eating meat, sometimes just to be dicks.

Some people have mentioned this as a pitfall of making freegan exceptions, the way that other people can try to manipulate you. Do you still eat it when you get the sense that they’re just messing with you?

I at least bluff that I’m not going to. Then the kind-hearted protein pushers (“I just want to make sure that you’re getting enough protein…not to mention iron!”) usually eat it or take it home. They just can’t help it. But if they insist on not eating it, I’ll totally eat it.

What about vegetarians and vegans? How do they respond to you?

They’re the ones who usually call me a hypocrite, especially new vegetarians, as they are in that black and white zone, that defensive place when they’re trying to suss out what they really believe. Then a lot of people end up accepting my viewpoint, even agreeing with it, at least logically. I think it’s just nice for thoughtful people to hear another idea that isn’t yea or nay.

So they agree with it in principle, but they don’t want to do it themselves. Why do you think more vegetarians and vegans don’t allow for freegan exceptions?

Because of the gray area. Most people aren’t happy there, if they have to recognize they’re there. Let’s face it, we’re all in some gray area, no matter how many absolutes we round up (or down) to.

You mentioned that you think you’re a bit of a hypocrite because your actions don’t always perfectly reflect your morals. I don’t see hypocrisy in that way. I think that as long as you don’t do what you say you won’t do, you’re not a hypocrite. How do you stack up given that definition?

I initially identify as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which certainly suggests that I don’t eat any flesh, but I do. Trash flesh. But I don’t beat myself up about it. It’s not really anybody else’s business, anyway.

Are there certain people that you won’t eat meat around?


One common objection that vegans make to vegetarians eating freegan meat is that they think once someone loses their disgust for meat, they’ll just slip up and fall off the wagon and become omnivore again. Does making freegan exceptions make it harder to pass up non-freegan meat in certain situations?

Yes, maybe, but I’ve never been disgusted by meat (except for haggis – that shit is gross). I’m opposed to the meat business. And I’m not in it for the streak, I’m not into perfection, I am not looking to win. I used to be, and then when I slipped, I ate meat for two years. I figured, well, shit, there goes that. I blew it, I might as well shove a bunch of beef tips in my face. Now I’m looking to live a decent life, and as long as I remember why I came back to this lifestyle, there’s no wagon to fall off. It’s my life. I tend to exist in gray areas and I like it there. I like the fluidity, the humility it demands or facilitates, the constant realization that you’re not necessarily right. It forces you to reconsider things a lot, which is something I strive for.

How did your “slip” happen? What caused you to decide to move back toward vegetarianism?

I don’t remember exactly. I was depressed. I felt like I was doing and had done a lot of things that weren’t in line with who I thought I was, so what’s one more? Eventually, as I was bringing myself out of my slump, returning to vegetarianism was just one way I began to line my life up with who I was and what I believed. It just followed naturally from getting my head right in general.

Do you have different feelings or standards for different types of meat (such as factory-farmed vs. free-range organic)?

If ALL meat was produced on small farms, and we could go out and see the animals, and you knew where it was coming from, and the livestock (or “animals”) were treated and fed well and with respect (you know, except for that slaughtering part), I would certainly reconsider. I don’t know where I’d land, but it would be something to think about. I think we would be a lot happier as a society, for sure. We’re too far removed from all of our food. So maybe that’s a business I could accept into my gray area.

There are ways to get meat that are pretty much how you just described. Are you saying that you don’t want to do that because it wouldn’t change the overall reality of meat?

Yes, absolutely. I choose to boycott the business of meat.

You mentioned that you probably wouldn’t eat milk or eggs if your actions perfectly reflected your morals. Does this cause you to limit your eating of eggs and dairy?

I simply can’t imagine it does, given the amount of eggs and dairy I consume. Although, who knows? Maybe if I didn’t see any moral problem with eggs and milk I would eat exclusively cheese and egg sandwiches dipped in ice cream.

What advice would you give to someone that is considering giving up meat (or just factory-farmed meat)? Would you recommend taking an approach to eating that is similar to yours? Are there any mistakes that you’ve made that you might be able to save others from?

Just be mindful. Know why you’re making the decision. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not perfect. Go get ’em, tiger? If you can’t handle the gray area of throw-away meat exceptions, if you think you’ll slide down that hill and go back to meat-eating, you probably shouldn’t do it. Because you’ll probably be happier not eating the meat.

But no, I don’t think I’ve made any mistakes in this area. Oh, except one, many years ago – despite what I thought the menu said (Spicy Mexican Salsa), chorizo is totally meat. (I’ve never been much of a reader).

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PeTA and Slavery

This story is not exactly breaking news, but I’d like to say something about it. PeTA filed a lawsuit alleging that SeaWorld enslaves killer whales.

Now I realize I’m not breaking new ground here by being a vegan that criticizes PeTA. Hell, there’s already a website for that (although it seems to be defunct). Nothing new here. But I wish that it just stopped with PeTA. I wish I could say that the error originates and ends with PeTA.

There are probably a lot of anti-speciesist vegans out there that think PeTA’s lawsuit is misguided on tactical grounds. How could there not be? But a lot of those same vegans probably don’t disagree with the assertion that SeaWorld having killer whales IS slavery. This is because they find any distinction between humans and non-humans to be essentially unjustified. Therefore, the concepts of murder, genocide and slavery can all be applied to animals in their minds. Well, most people find that offensive. Most (probably all) legal systems find the assertion ludicrous. But if you buy into a rigid anti-speciesism worldview, it makes perfect sense.

I find this to be problematic. It’s a problem when the movement that cares about animals uses language that alienates people to the cause. There are certainly non-vegans and people that don’t “believe in” animal rights that are sympathetic to the idea that we shouldn’t keep killer whales in a huge fish tank so that they can entertain us. But you lose their support when you try to use the 13th amendment, the legislation that freed slaves in the United States, as a publicity stunt.

“The lawsuit is the first of its kind in contending that constitutional protections against slavery are not limited to humans.” Of course it is. No one else has ever had enough disposable money to bring a lawsuit so sure to fail. There is essentially ZERO chance that the protections of the 13th amendment will be extended to animals. Can you imagine the precedent that it would set? Can you even imagine how much money is at stake?

Again, I wish that the logic used by PeTA was unique to PeTA. But it isn’t. A lot of vegans and AR people think this way. It’s a problem.

And for the record, I have no love for SeaWorld, zoos, circuses, rodeos etc. etc. I would never give my money to any of them.

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Kids and Meat

I think some of my family members are really freaked out that I would tell their kids the truth about what they’re eating. Probably some of my friends, too. I understand why parents who eat meat feel this way. They don’t want their kids to know the truth. It’s really not hard to understand why they would want to shield their kids from the knowledge that they’re eating the body of a dead animal.

Plenty of meat-eating adults have some amount of compunction about eating meat. They might not admit it to anyone, especially not a veg*an, but I know it’s true because some of them have told me (some people are honest, after all). Also, I used to be an omnivore, and I know that I had little lies that I told myself to feel okay about it all. Many omnivores cling to the idea that you basically HAVE to eat meat. When you present them with evidence and arguments to the contrary, they usually find ways to ignore it, because it’s an important idea for them to cling to. The idea allows them to think of it as a “necessary evil” akin to paying taxes (that fund plenty of things that people disagree with). They know they’re complicit in bad things, but they convince themselves that they really don’t have a viable alternative. I think a lot of them have some amount of awareness that these rationalizations are tenuous. I did.

So, since they know that it takes a delicate blend of rationalizing and self-imposed ignorance to think the way they do, and they know that kids aren’t as skilled at excusing their own poor behavior, they really feel that they’re doing the right thing by protecting their children from the truth. Most kids feel bad when they do something that they think is wrong. So parents really just feel like they’re shielding their children from bad feelings and guilt. Well, that and they’re really afraid that their kid would actually dare to do something that they haven’t been able to do: change their behavior (instead of their way of thinking) in response to something that they find morally problematic.

I know that not all parents are like this. Some do tell their kids the truth at an early age. But in most cases, they probably tell them after he or she has already been eating meat for quite some time.

I had my own experience with this, but I can’t say I remember much of it clearly. One memory that sticks out is when my younger brother (let’s call him Gordie) asked what the red stuff was in and around his steak. My dad said “that’s just the juice, Gordie.” Someone knew the truth (probably me or my older brother, let’s call him Raekwon) and let it out: “It’s blood!” Gordie did not like that answer at all and he did not want to eat it, which pissed my dad off, of course. I don’t remember if he ended up eating it that day or not, but I do remember that there were multiple times after that day my dad had to angrily re-grill a steak until it no longer had any “juice” coming out of it. Man, that guy can grit his teeth. My dad was probably like “Goddammit, SpeciesistVegan, how dare you tell my kid the truth!” Anyway… so… part of the reason that parents don’t want their kids to know the truth simply comes down to selfishness and convenience. It’s just easier if your kids eat what you eat.

I’m not trying to demonize parents that don’t want their kids to know the truth. They’ve found ways to justify why eating meat is okay, so why would they want to put thoughts into their kid’s head to make him or her question if it’s okay? I’m not trying to lionize parents that tell their kids the truth, either. Parents lie to kids for a lot of reasons and some parents probably tell their kids too much truth too early. There’s something to be said for childhood innocence. At the very least, I just hope that we can get to a point where parents that are omnivorous can have enough knowledge and perspective to allow their kids to become veg*an if that’s what they want to do.

All I know is that I have no interest in breaking the news to little Johnny that he has a dead animal in his mouth, so you can all chill the fuck out, god, get off my back already!

I guess this is my way of saying that SpeciesistVegan is now going to become a parenting blog.

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How to Increase Your Vegan Street Cred

Wear gaudy shoes that look very obviously NOT leather.

When you go out to eat with non-vegans, be sure to harass waiters about whether there is butter or milk in the free bread that they’ve placed on your table. Personal purity is way more important than showing your dining companions that being vegan isn’t a big deal. Oh, and whey. Don’t forget about whey. That shit’ll kill ya, bro! Also, make faces of disgust when your dining companions eat or order non-vegan food. Excuse yourself to have a cry in the bathroom if you need to.

When you refer to non-vegan food, use the most offensive term for that food as possible. Carcass, corpse, secretion, udder secretion, chicken period, dead animal, you know the drill, young vegan. Always speak in ways that sound like little soundbites that you’ve memorized.

Wear clothing, and patches on your clothing and backpack, that challenge the speciesist attitudes of this fucked up world. “Meat Is Murder” is a good choice. It’s nice and subtle and it will draw open-minded people in for a conversation so they can probe your nuanced thoughts. If you run out of things to talk about, discuss whether the opposite is also true: is murder meat?

Start bringing up veganism whenever possible. One of the great things about veganism is that it’s about food, and people love to talk about food, so you have dozens of opportunities to ruin conversations every week! Even when the topic isn’t food, a good vegan will find a way. Clothes? DUH!!! Sports? The ball might be leather. Politics? Farm subsidies. The weather? Sheep and cows are sometimes left out in the cold. Feminism? Dairy cows are female, duh! The resourceful vegan will find a way. Trust me, people really want to talk about veganism and animal torture whether they know it or not, especially while they’re eating.

Say things like “that just isn’t food to me.”

If you ever have to skip a meal or wait until later because you don’t have access to vegan food, be sure to do one of two things: either complain loudly or sit in total silence while looking really hungry. This will show non-vegans how fucking serious of a person you are. Feel the pain. Love it. You’re doing it for the animals, and they appreciate it.

You know what? Fuck this! Eating with non-vegans is just too much! Stop doing it whenever possible.

As much as possible, try to stop hanging out with non-vegans. You’ll probably have to see your parents and immediate family from time to time, but you can make the best of it by refusing to eat at the same table as them and commenting on how the Thanksgiving turkey smells like a carcass.

Vegan clothing is great, but if you’re really committed to this life, you should consider getting a “Vegan” tattoo. They’re great conversation starters (and enders). And don’t hide it. Prominent places that are rarely covered by clothing like your elbow and forearm are pretty good choices. But if you really, really love animals, you’ll get it on your fucking neck. You might think that it’s weird to put your dietary preference on your face, but a lot of non-vegans are doing it now too. It’s quite common. You just haven’t noticed it because you already stopped hanging out with non-vegans months ago, right? Right? Poseur.

When you encounter a sad picture or description of something bad happening to an animal, always try to make your emotional response to it even more emotional than everyone else’s. If your friends get mad, get livid! If your friends get sad, cry. Be inconsolable. Wail. Inflicting physical harm on yourself is the next step. You can start light, maybe wear a hairshirt or just do some light self-flagellation. But if you really care, pulling your beating heart out of your chest and eating it would be The Ultimate Sacrifice!

Overall, just try to be MORE vegan than your vegan friends and your vegan street cred will go sky high. Never miss an opportunity to express a view that is more extreme or an opinion that is harder and more unbending than what someone else just said.

Man, your vegan buddies are going to LOVE you. Your vegan street cred is going to go through the roof!

Of course, non-vegans will find you to be an insufferably douchey caricature of yourself, but whatevs, man. They eat carcass!

– – thanks for reading – –


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How Disgust Kills the Vegan Martyr

A lot of new vegans tend to think of themselves as a martyr to a cause. They want to eat cheese and eggs and maybe even meat, but they have been convinced by the logic of adopting a “cruelty free” diet. Cheese holds a power over them, but like any good ascetic, they dutifully look away. Their friends tell them “I don’t know how you do it!” and though they feign modesty pretty convincingly, inside they feel a small glow of self-satisfaction. At no time is this glow felt more intensely than when our brave young vegan martyr goes hungry for lack of vegan food.

Flash forward about six months to a year and what do we find? Probably a vegan that no longer believes that veganism is martyrdom. What happened? Who killed the Vegan Martyr?

Well, the longer you’re vegan, the more you find out about all the horrible things that happen for animals to produce and become food. And the more you adapt to a vegan lifestyle, the more you realize that veganism really isn’t that hard for the most part, and no one should be given a medal for it.  This is all very logical.

But where it starts to get illogical, probably the most significant change in our young vegan is self-imposed disgust. The last time our young vegan ate a piece of cheese, he probably liked it. Same with meat. But the longer you stay vegan, and the more you read vegan blogs and listen to vegan podcasts, the more you start to think of non-vegan food as disgusting. Why is that? You used to like it, young vegan!

Once you convince yourself that cheese tastes disgusting, it no longer takes any will power to avoid eating it. You can easily get to a point where eating some cheese becomes way harder than avoiding it. So if it involves no will power, then how can you be a martyr? This is probably right around the time you start to think that “vegan is the moral baseline” totally makes sense. Because if it really takes no will power to be vegan (once you’re properly programmed), then aren’t all these people eating meat and cheese just doing things that they know are wrong and that they could easily stop? If they’re below the moral baseline, doesn’t that make them immoral? Doesn’t that make them sinners?!

Yes! Now you’ve crossed the line! Now you get it! Veganism is not martyrdom. NON-veganism is SIN!!! Now you get it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You see, this is why so many vegans will tell you that veganism is not hard at all and that it never involves any sense of deprivation. If you can get to the point where you’re so disgusted by non-vegan food that the thought of eating it makes you want to retch, it really doesn’t take will power to avoid it.

But how real is this disgust if it has to be learned? Is relying on a self-cultivated sense of disgust kind of like “cheating?” If you don’t think that you could avoid eating something if you didn’t teach yourself to find it disgusting, do you really find it ethically unacceptable? If you really, truly find it ethically unacceptable, why do you have to force yourself to find it disgusting? Why do you have to say patently nonsensical things like non-vegan food just ISN’T food (here)?

I think a lot of vegans, especially new vegans that are in the phase of veganism when they’re still trying to cultivate disgust, are really conflicted by certain smells that their animal brain finds enticing but their enlightened “vegan brain” finds repugnant. Which brain wins? Well, the vegan brain, obviously. You MUST subjugate your natural feelings to your new-found ideas of decency. You can’t admit that some broiling meat smells good because then you’d have to admit that veganism requires feelings of deprivation, that you’re denying yourself something that you would find enjoyable. Nope, you have to pretend that 1) what is immoral and 2) what is tasty forms a Venn diagram with no overlap.

Absolutism helps breed disgust and disgust helps breed absolutism. If a thing or act has absolutely no justification and it’s unequivocally wrong, then your disgust for it is warranted. If you see someone eating a cheeseburger, be sure to wrinkle your nose and generally make a face that says “I may have just shat myself.”

You can extend this disgust to non-food items, such as friends. This way, your disgust for certain types of food can start to dictate who you hang around with. You know that friend you’ve had forever who is really fun and hilarious, but who stubbornly refuses to see the light and stop eating hamburgers? Well, you probably shouldn’t hang out with him anymore. You wouldn’t want to have to deal with the cognitive dissonance of watching a great person eat something that you want to convince yourself is disgusting. Imagine if he gave some sort of indication that he was enjoying it! Gasp!

But just remember – all of this disgust enhancement is for a good purpose. You’re doing this so that you can continue to NOT eat something that you already stopped eating because of logical arguments. You’re doing this so that you can get to a point where it interferes with your ability to interact socially with 99% of humanity. You’re doing it so that you can avoid eating non-vegan food that would otherwise go to waste (waste is good as long as it’s wasted on principle, right?).

Martyr? Yeah, right! Everyone else is just sinners!

I don’t know what’s worse, a vegan that thinks his veganism makes him a martyr, or a vegan that forces himself to think of all non-vegans as sinners. For my part, I’m trying to be somewhere in the middle. I’m trying to get over my disgust for non-vegan food because it’s something that I had to learn anyway, and for bad reasons. I’m just trying to focus on the reasons why I initially went vegan and try to forget all the crap that I put in my head after that point. Disgust is a big part of that. I need to unlearn it.

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Arbitrary Does Not Mean Poorly-defined

There seems to be some confusion about what I mean when I say that veganism is an arbitrary line. Some people are understanding “arbitrary” to mean “poorly-defined” and it’s causing them to misunderstand what I’m saying. But it’s not entirely unreasonable why they think this. If we look at the five definitions given here, I think #5 bears this out:

5. undetermined; not assigned a specific value

So let me just clarify what I’m saying. I’m not saying that what vegans propose is random or poorly-defined. Most vegans are pretty clear that what they do and what they support is eliminating animal products from one’s life as much as is practical and reasonable. Even though the last part (practical and reasonable) is a bit fuzzy, I think the overall intent of vegans is pretty clear.

So, the reason I say that veganism is an arbitrary line is not because I think it’s poorly-defined. Veganism, which is just a response to a problem, is arbitrary because it is just one of many choices one could make along a continuum of dietary/lifestyle behaviors.

To illustrate this, let’s remember that veganism is NOT a “cruelty-free” diet as so many uninformed vegans (usually newbies) are wont to claim. There is still animal death and suffering involved with our food choices. Every consumer product you buy (food or not) comes at an environmental price and at a price to animals. Animals are displaced by agriculture. Animals are killed in the planting, harvesting and transportation of vegan goods. The packaging that the food comes in has its environmental and animal costs.

And let’s also not forget that, if we were so inclined, it’s in our power to go further than veganism. We could buy more (or all) of our food locally, thereby decreasing our contribution to environmental degradation. We could take greater pains to make sure that the vegan food we do eat comes from companies that have farming/sourcing methods that take care of the land rather than destroy it. We could take greater pains to make sure that the food we buy comes from companies that do NOT profit from animal exploitation (be honest – do you really KNOW that all of the companies you buy food from do not exploit animals?). We could decide that we’re going to get over ourselves and eat non-vegan freegan food (NVFF) when possible, thereby reducing our need to buy our neatly packaged vegan food (that has a higher animal and environmental cost than most vegans like to admit). We could become as close to fully freegan as possible. These are all options. Veganism, defined simply as “I don’t eat food that comes from animals,” is just one way to address the problems we see. It works well in some ways and falls short in others. It’s not an end in itself. It’s just a lived response to an ethical problem.

In short, there is a lot of gray area between paleo/Standard American Diet and full on freeganism, and veganism is in that gray area. A lot of vegans like to think that since their diet is well-defined (don’t eat food that comes from animals), there is no way someone could accurately call their dietary choice arbitrary. But it is. And as I’ve explained before, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s only a problem when you can’t admit it and you try to tell other people that they have a moral obligation to be vegan.

One other point that I would like to bring up is that the arbitrary nature of veganism applies regardless of one’s motivation to be vegan. Some people say things like “if you take the rights/interests of animals seriously, then you do NOT use them as food or consider them property.” They think that this somehow gets around the fact that production of vegan food causes animal suffering and death. It doesn’t. This applies to all people that practice veganism as a way to eat in this world. Your lofty intentions don’t change this fact.

I’m not trying to make an argument against veganism. I am a vegan. For me, consumer veganism mixed with a little freeganism here and there is the easiest way that I know of to address a lot of the problems I see in modern food production. But I have to stress that, compared to what it would require of someone to really, really take these things seriously and live their lives accordingly, veganism is pretty easy. It’s a well-defined way to make an easily-executed commitment to an arbitrary amount of self-denial, hopefully with the result of decreased animal suffering and death. We’d do well to keep this in mind.

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Get New Words Hot and Fresh!

I just realized that I did not have a “subscribe by email” button on my blog, so I went ahead and fixed that (look to your right). You can now be notified when hot, juicy new posts are hot off my wordpress.

And don’t forget that you can subscribe to new posts or new comments by RSS feed (scroll down on the right a little bit and it’s under “Meta”). If you have a GMail account, you already have a Google Reader account. It’s really easy to start using. I love Reader. I use it to follow tons of blogs and comments on blogs. It helps ensure that everyone can be blessed with my words of wisdom in a timely fashion.

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What I Eat, What I Don’t, and Why

This post is necessarily about me, but I want to make it as much NOT about me as possible. I’m not writing this because I assume that people have a genuine interest in what *I* eat. I’m just an anonymous blogger. No, I think some people are curious just because, as far as I can tell, there aren’t a ton of people that are vegan except for freegan exceptions that are out there blogging about it. So please understand that I’m not writing this because I assume people find me fascinating. I’m writing it because I really believe that non-vegan freegan food (NVFF) is compatible with vegan ethics and I want to make it known that this is a perfectly valid “type” of veganism that is viable and workable. I think there is potentially a segment of people (probably fairly small) that might actually give veganism MORE consideration if they knew that becoming vegan doesn’t have to mean that you’ll never eat another piece of cheese as long as you live.

When I say that I make freegan exceptions, my criteria is this: 1) I did not pay for it and 2) the food would otherwise go to waste. And so far my freegan exceptions have all been vegetarian, mostly involving cheese. At first it was a little bit weird, but I’ve come a long way in being okay with it again. I just stopped vilifying the substance itself, because the substance itself is not the problem. The fact that it would otherwise go to waste makes it essentially ethically neutral as far as I’m concerned.

And there really haven’t been a ton of actual occurrences. A girl that I work with was going to throw away the last three pieces of a cheese/veggie pizza that she ordered. So I ate it. My wife kept putting off eating a mozza-covered tostada, and after the second or third time she didn’t eat it after I reminded her it was still in the fridge, I knew it was nearing the point where it would go bad. So I ate it. My friend gave me the last 1/3 of an order of tortilla chips at a baseball game and he didn’t use hardly any of the nacho cheese sauce. So I ate it. I ordered some fries at a bar last weekend and, even though it wasn’t stated on the menu, it came out with a side of chipotle mayonnaise. So I ate it. I attended a bachelor party where no one wanted to take home the cheese slices (and tons of other vegan items) at the end of the weekend, so I took it all home and ate it. That’s about it as far as “interesting” examples go.

The majority of the other examples (maybe 5 or 6 times) involve restaurants putting cheese on my food after I specifically asked them not to. About a year ago I started being more lenient with “mistakes” at restaurants. If something comes out with cheese on it (after I specifically said “no cheese”), I’ll usually offer whatever I can scrape off to any dinner companions. If they don’t want it, or if I’m alone, I just eat it. I used to scrape it off, but I actually find this less ethical than eating it. It’s food. If I don’t eat it, I’m just letting food go to waste, and that’s something that I really hate for reasons that have nothing to do with veganism. Now that I’ve realized this and now that I’ve started to get over my self-imposed dislike for a food that I used to enjoy, it’s really not a problem for me. I know a lot of vegans will dislike that I’m saying this, but I’m actually to a point where I can enjoy it again. Let’s face it: cheese tastes good. There is a reason that so many people say that it was the hardest thing for them to give up (giving up cheese for me was WAY more difficult than giving up meat). I still enjoyed the taste of it the day I gave it up, so why shouldn’t I allow myself to enjoy it again when it’s ethically neutral? And the more I do it, the more I feel okay about it. So I think it’s actually a case of “practice makes perfect.”

Some people, mainly cynical vegans, probably think that I just miss cheese and that I’m just rationalizing ways to get my fix. This is a really cynical view and I won’t take it seriously if that person can’t give me a good argument why eating it is worse than letting it go to the dump. And if you do want to try, let me just say that it’s very unlikely that you can bring up a point that I haven’t already considered. I gave this new approach tons of thought before implementing it. If your point has anything to do with “what kind of message it sends to non-vegans,” you might as well just save your fingers the work of having to type it.

But just to illustrate why these people would be wrong even if they were inclined to think this, let me share an experience I had just a few weeks ago. I was hanging out with two friends at a bar, and these two friends are actually vegan (hanging out with other vegans is fairly rare for me). They ordered some fries and they came out with finely shredded parmesan cheese on them. They immediately balked at the sight of it (which I would have done a few years ago), and I could tell that this was going to be one of those “send it back to the kitchen” situations. I didn’t want that to happen because that often means they just trash it, so I offered to just eat the top layer with all the cheese on it. By this point the waiter had pieced together that my friends were vegan, so he said that we could keep them or that he would just take them back to the kitchen and that he and the other waiters would eat them. At that point it was clear that it wouldn’t be wasted, so my desire to eat them was gone. They got their vegan fries and no food went to waste. No worries. I wasn’t bummed that I didn’t get to eat the cheese. I was really full on a fully vegan burrito already.

I’ve yet to eat meat. Since becoming vegetarian 4.5 years ago, I’ve only had meat in my mouth a handful of times and it’s always been by accident. I just have a mental block on meat. Even though I am totally okay with eating freegan meat in principle, I can’t get myself to do it. I would like to be able to do it, but all of the shit that I put into my head for 3+ years has just made it really hard for me to get to a point where I want to eat it again. I’m okay being around it, smelling it etc. but I just have too much mental/emotional baggage. I think I probably will try it eventually, though. If it’s something that I can actually start to enjoy again, I would probably make it a more regular thing. But only when it’s freegan.

One thing that I do want to get into eventually is dumpstering. I know the idea really skeeves some people out, but it’s not like people eat things indiscriminately. When I used to eat eggs, cheese, milk, etc. I used to mostly ignore “Best By” dates and just trust my nose. It never failed me then and I don’t see why food from a dumpster would be different. Best By dates are a fucking joke, for the most part, and people that throw out food just because it’s past the Best By dates are idiots. Okay, that’s too strong. But they’re making a dumb choice for dumb reasons. Best By dates are a very general guideline and nothing more. But grocery stores have good legal/liability reasons to chuck stuff past its date. The majority of the things I used to chuck when I worked at a grocery were perfectly edible.

So, anyway, I hope my experience can show people that it is possible to keep your vegan values, still eat NVFF, and not “fall off the wagon” just because you lose your disgust for something. Every good vegan claims it’s not about personal purity, but their unwillingness to prove this by eating NVFF makes these claims a lot harder to believe. I really, really, really wish there were more vegans out there doing this. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we tend to come off as puritanical and finicky.

I share the feeling, expressed by people like Adam and Dave D, that what you eat shouldn’t really be an expression of who you are as a person (sorry if you feel I’m mischaracterizing what you think – feel free to clarify your opinions if you think I am). Diet definitely shouldn’t be on a list of criteria for how one chooses friends. Vegans that don’t like to hang out with non-vegans make me want to barffffffffff.

I don’t like the fact that vegans are perceived as a group of people that take pleasure in being perceived as “more ethical.” I don’t really like it when people try to use their veganism as a badge of how much they care, or their “superior” lifestyle choices. I think I used to like veganism because it is an obviously political expression that challenges the mores of society at large. But I don’t feel that way anymore. Now it’s just what I do, it’s just the way I eat.

As much as I disagree with the “veganism is the moral baseline” idea, I do feel that, on the whole, veganism is the ethically better choice, for the most part. I eat what I eat (and don’t eat what I don’t eat) because I feel that, given my options (and my privileged ability to eat exactly what I want – an option that not everyone has), veganism is just the best way to try to align my behavior with my values. And that’s why, after 3 years of straight-up consumer veganism, I started allowing for freegan exceptions to my veganism. I don’t think I deserve a medal for it. At this point, I would settle for just being able to pursue my path in life and not have my dietary choices be a point of contention. But that’s not realistic. Eating in a way that reflects my values is an inherently political statement, so at this point I’m just trying, as much as possible, to make that statement be one that doesn’t turn people off from the idea that they can make more ethical dietary choices if they want to.

Okay… enough about me.

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The Earth Is Big, and That’s Okay

I know that not everyone on Earth has the option of being vegan, or even vegetarian, which is why one of my maxims (which I’m still working on) is as follows: “veganism is not, and needn’t be, globally applicable to be the right choice for the majority of people. Worldwide abolition of animal use is not realistic and for many people in developing countries, animal use is the difference between subsistence and extreme hunger and poverty, sometimes the difference between life and death.”

One reason that I felt the need to be so explicit about this point is that when veg*ans don’t keep this in mind, it can lead to some weird logic, as displayed in this post, titled “Confessions of a Vegan Meat-Eater.” Not understanding this simple fact can also lead non-vegans to reject veganism for specious reasons.

Now, to be fair, it seems like Knigel (the author of “Confessions of a Vegan Meat-Eater”) learned a lot through his travels and I agree with nearly all of the sentiments he expresses toward the end of the essay (I just don’t agree with his reasons for eating meat again). I just wish that there hadn’t been a need for him to go halfway around the world to come to these conclusions. Much in the same way that, as he points out, not everyone has the opportunity to be veg*an, not everyone has the opportunity to go live in other parts of the world. Which is why I think vegans need to start talking more about the non-global nature of veganism. Most vegans will admit to it if pressed, but they don’t talk about it up front, which is a shame, because they could have saved Knigel from having what sounds like a near-psychotic break while throttling a half-dead chicken in a sink.

So, since Knigel is much more aware of this fact now, I’ll try to limit myself to commenting only on those things where I disagree with his conclusion, the logic that brought him to it, or where I feel the “typical vegan way” of framing issues was at fault for his confusion. I also hope he can take what I’m saying as constructive criticism (and this makes me think that he can).

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Nigel discovered while living in Cuba that, due to the shortage of food there, being vegetarian is really not a possibility for most people. Yet he had been thinking and arguing (arguing a LOT, from the sound of it) that eating meat is immoral. This discrepancy caused him some mental anguish. He says “instead of accepting meat consumption as moral, my discordance between belief and behavior left me in cognitive dissonance.” There would have been no discordance or dissonance if Nigel had not been thinking in such starkly black and white terms where eating animals is either moral or immoral, a way of thinking promoted by so many vegans: eating meat is immoral and veganism is the moral baseline. Learn it. Know it.

This is where the idea of eating (and killing) animals being unequivocally wrong failed him, and no doubt caused him a bunch of unnecessary psychic pain. He even refers to the killing of animals as murder, a word that most non-vegans reserve for the intentional killing of a human. One shouldn’t have to reconcile himself to the idea that he’s a murderer.

In true Bourdainian fashion, Nigel seems to base a lot of his reason for currently eating meat on the fact that, in certain places in the world, some people don’t have the option of being veg*an. And that it’s rude to insist on eating veg*an when you’re among such people. About his time in Korea, he says “I am uncomfortable telling a grandmother that I cannot eat what she has made for me.” If that’s the way you feel, and you feel that not upsetting your host trumps your ethics in that situation, then go ahead and eat the damn meat and then go back to your veg*an ways when you can. No big whoop. I recently wrote about why all of this is not a valid reason to reject veganism, so I’m not going to belabor the point again.

One question that I’d like to ask, though, is whether it’s being a good host to expect one of your house guests to choose between being a “good guest” and sticking to their ethics. Personally, as a host, I would try hard to avoid putting someone in that situation. But maybe that’s just my peculiarly Western way of thinking.

Anyway… I want to touch on a few other ideas he brings up that I feel relate to this way of thinking. Knigel refers to “the… ethnocentric arrogance that [he] felt in Cuba.” There seems to be this idea that ethnocentrism is a phenomenon that only afflicts privileged Westerners, as if it’s not possible that Cubans and Koreans have their own form of ethnocentric arrogance. He sees how his “philosophy would have been much more shallow if [he] had not experimented with different lifestyles,” but apparently he doesn’t make the connection that maybe these people he met abroad might be willing to consider veg*anism if they lived somewhere that would make it easy for them. I think there is a tendency among Western liberals to romanticize people of non-Western or economically depressed countries, as if their outlook on life is so much more “real.” To me, operating on this assumption is almost as bad as being ethnocentric and not realizing it. It’s almost like this weird anti-ethnocentric attitude where you embrace things BECAUSE they’re not what you know. And if they happen to serve as great reasons to do what you want to do anyway, well then that’s just great!

Sometimes people like to trot out this trope along the lines of “that’s such a Western way of understanding things,” with the implication being that it’s wrong simply because it’s uniquely Western. But here’s the thing: if one lives in a Western, modernized country, and their audience mostly lives in Western, modernized countries, there is nothing wrong with framing ethical discussions or arguments to their world as they experience it. In the same way it’s not fair to tell the poor, under-nourished Cuban that he is immoral for eating a chicken, it’s asinine to say that someone in a Western, modernized country can excuse their behavior because of the situation that the Cuban is in. I think as long as we, as vegan advocates (or whatever I am), make an effort to acknowledge that the ethics of eating animals is dependent on our access to vegan food, we can, in good faith, advocate for a vegan (or veganish, or vegetarian etc.) diet for people who we know have the ability to pull it off.

One thing that I have to call Nigel out on is his statement that he has (not had, mind you) “the sickest loathing for the blissfully ignorant meat-eaters who leave the dirty work to others.” It seems he’s still not over the need to feel morally superior to people that eat differently than him, even though he denounces “holier-than-thou attitudes” that “divide potential allied groups.” I think people should be aware of where their food comes from, but goat blood that runs down your hands is not really very different from cow’s blood that drips onto your hands from a cellophane wrapper as far as I’m concerned. It’s still blood. And if you live in a country where you could easily be veg*an, it’s blood needlessly spilled.

So it sounds like he still has some thinking to do about these things. And it sounds like he’s totally open to that. As I’ve stated previously, all I really need to hear from someone to consider someone an ally is that they actually care about issues of animal use, and that they’re open to the possibility of making some sort of change in their behavior. Knigel clearly fits this definition, so I wish him the best of luck in figuring out what he feels he needs to do. He’s correct in that each of us “must responsibly design our own moral compasses.” I just hope he takes his own admonition to heart and starts by giving the most weight to HIS current life situation, not the life situation of someone in a distant, impoverished land.

And I hope that the vegan community can learn something from his story as well. Framing the vegan argument as one of “ethical vegans” vs. the immoral horde is just a bad idea. Since Nigel cut his teeth on the way of thinking where everything either has to be moral or immoral, his life experience meeting good people doing the best they can forced him to conclude that eating meat isn’t immoral. It was just easier than thinking of his new friends as murderers. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

If we, as vegans, continue to argue that one should avoid eating animal products because failure to do so is immoral (and use guilt manipulation to try to achieve this end), we should expect to continue to hear stories about people giving up on veganism when they find a way to understand the issue in a more nuanced way and find a non-vegan way to alleviate guilt. And they will. It’s just a matter of time for most of them.

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A Shameless Attempt at More Traffic

If you landed here, chances are that I do have something to say about what you’re looking for. It’s just not on this page. Try looking for what you want by searching my site with Google.

This is a shameless attempt to get more traffic from search engines. My regular readers can ignore this post.


What follows is a list of words and phrases that some people who come to my site have searched for


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What Does 95% Vegan Mean?

CarpeVegan is a website that, like me, is trying to foster a new idea of what it means to be vegan (or veganish). One of CV’s more controversial ideas is that we, as vegans, should consider that someone being 95% vegan is good enough. I am definitely largely on board with this idea, but I’m still left wondering exactly how we should calculate what 95% means. Now, I’m not trying to say that we should elaborate what 95% means so that we can then “enforce” such a standard. No, that would be antithetical to the overall idea that they’re trying to put forth, as far as I’m concerned. I have just as little interest in policing the idea of who qualifies as “veganish” as I do in policing the idea of who is a “real vegan.” These things are silly.

But I still would like to explore this idea, and what it really means. If we’re going to throw it out there as an idea to be taken seriously, I think we should take some pains to elaborate what it means and give some real world examples of what a “95 percenter” lifestyle would look like.

CV’s reasoning for/vision of the 95% figure seems to be motivated largely by an effort to make veganism easier in a social sense. They say “All Birthday Cake and Alcohol is Vegan.” I think their point is that we, as vegans, shouldn’t have to fret about whether something is vegan before partaking in the food and drink that often accompanies festive social occasions.

They ask “what is the real difference between someone who eats 100% vegan vs someone whose dietary intake is 95% vegan? Does the difference really mean less animal suffering? Depends, but if the difference is just lots of misc ingredients in various meals during a given year, that is probably not the case.” Well, I’m trying to suss out what “the real difference” is so that we can talk about it. Now that I’ve actually looked into this a bit, I think they might be surprised by how much non-vegan food is “allowed” under the 95% rule.

I’m also going to frame the discussion differently from them. I want to explore the idea of what it would mean for a person that isn’t aiming for 95% just because of all the birthday cake, Guinness and “oopsies” in life. I’m interested in seeing what this 95% approach would look like for someone that didn’t even really WANT to be 100% vegan. There are many reasons someone might want to do this, but the scenarios that come to my mind are: health concerns, social/family concerns, unavailability of vegan fats and proteins (for people that try to eat local), or simply people that just enjoy non-vegan food and wouldn’t be willing to give it up entirely.

I’m interested to see what other vegans think of this. It’s one thing to say that 95% vegan is pretty good. At first blush, I think that it’s so close to 100% that it’s basically just as good. But now that I look at the numbers, I’m not quite so sure.

So, without further ado, here is what I came up with. Sorry that the tables are pretty crude, but I didn’t feel like taking the time to download the plugin that would enable me to make pretty tables. To make sense of it, look at the red lines (calories per day, week, month, year). The lines below these red lines are just to give real-world examples of what would be “allowed” with the given number of calories for that length of time.

1 typical caloric intake per day
2 0.05 1500 2000 2500 3000
3 kcal/day 75 100 125 150
4 egg, large (46 g) 0.83 1.11 1.39 1.67
5 Tbsp butter 0.75 1.00 1.25 1.50
6 oz. mozza 1.06 1.41 1.76 2.11
7 cups yogurt 0.36 0.48 0.60 0.72
8 oz. gr. beef (75% lean) 0.91 1.22 1.52 1.83
9 oz. chicken breast 1.56 2.08 2.60 3.13
10 kcal/week 525 700 875 1050
11 egg, large (46 g) 5.83 7.78 9.72 11.67
12 Tbsp butter 5.25 7.00 8.75 10.50
13 oz. mozza 7.39 9.86 12.32 14.79
14 cups yogurt 2.52 3.37 4.21 5.05
15 oz. gr. beef (75% lean) 6.40 8.54 10.67 12.80
16 oz. chicken breast 10.94 14.58 18.23 21.88
17 kcal/month 2275 3033 3792 4550
18 egg, large (46 g) 25.28 33.70 42.13 50.56
19 Tbsp butter 22.75 30.33 37.92 45.50
20 oz. mozza 32.04 42.72 53.40 64.08
21 cups yogurt 10.94 14.58 18.23 21.88
22 oz. gr. beef (75% lean) 27.74 36.99 46.24 55.49
23 oz. chicken breast 47.40 63.19 78.99 94.79
24 kcal/year 27375 36500 45625 54750
25 500 kcal meals (100% NV) 54.75 73.00 91.25 109.50
26 500 kcal meals (50% NV) 109.50 146.00 182.50 219.00
27 500 kcal meals (25% NV) 219.00 292.00 365.00 438.00
28 # 100% NV meals/week 1.05 1.40 1.75 2.11
29 # 50% NV meals/week 2.11 2.81 3.51 4.21
30 # 25% NV meals/week 4.21 5.62 7.02 8.4

The top part should be pretty self-explanatory. At line 5: a person on a 1,500 calorie-per-day diet could eat .75 tablespoons of butter every day and still be 95% vegan. Rows 25-30 probably need a little bit of explanation. When calculating the number of meals “allowed’ per year and per week, I just assumed that all meals are 500 calories. It’s a fairly average-sized meal for most people. So, row 25 just means a person on a 1,500 calorie-per-day diet could eat 54.75 fully non-vegan (500 calorie) meals per year.

But this math is a little too crude, because it assumes that the person in question is gorging themselves on 100% non-vegan food, like they’re sitting around eating slabs of bacon cooked in butter topped with cheese and sour cream (with a side of deviled eggs). More realistically, the meal would probably be anywhere between 25-50% non-vegan food, so these assumptions are reflected in rows 26 and 27. The same info from rows 25-27 is given in per-week figures in rows 28-30.

Also, one small point: the figures given for yogurt are actually low because I did not subtract out the calories from sugar. In reality, one could actually eat quite a bit more than what is given above.


After compiling this info, I was surprised to see how much non-vegan food would actually be “allowed” for a “95 percenter.” If I were to follow such a diet, I could eat as many as 7 non-vegan meals per week (but probably more like 4 or 5), or 3/4 pound of mozzarella, or 8 or 9 large eggs. I could eat three dozen eggs per month, or three pounds of mozzarella. I could eat somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 large slices of Chicago Style Pizza every year. If I wanted to eat meat, I could eat around a pound of chicken breast every week!

This seems like a lot to me. In fact, if someone made a conscious attempt to eat this way, and they really tried to fit in as much non-vegan food as the “rules” would allow, I really don’t see how this is a meaningful distinction from vegetarianism. But then again, I think we’ve all met some vegetarians that eat dairy or eggs with pretty much every meal, so when you compare it against a diet like that, it actually is a pretty meaningful difference.

But I’m approaching this as someone that hasn’t eaten much in the way of non-vegan food for over four years, when I probably should be at least trying to approach it from the perspective of the hypothetical person that would be considering such a diet. If that person is omnivore or vegetarian, this way of eating would be a huge change, and the amount of non-vegan food “allowed” would probably seem pretty restrictive.

But let’s try to consider this more from how I interpret CarpeVegan’s take on it: as a way to allow people to be “veganish” but still lead a pretty normal social life. I think from that perspective, it actually fares pretty well.  After all, one could eat, at a minimum, 54 non-vegan meals per year. Realistically, one could probably eat over 100. I’d say that pretty easily covers every holiday, office potluck, birthday party and barbecue at your boss’s house. And you wouldn’t have to worry if the beer or wine someone offered you was refined with casein, gelatin, albumin, isinglass or blood. If one were to take the “vegan at home” approach, they could probably eat non-vegan the majority of the time they go out and still be above 95% vegan.

One of the big questions that sticks out to me is this: does the 95% rule leave room for the possibility of eating meat? Or does the 5% really just allow for vegetarian exceptions? Could you go home and have some turkey with your family on Thanksgiving? I know Anthony Bourdain would recommend that you do. I’m sure most of us here are aware of the Francione quote that “there is no moral difference between meat and dairy. There is as much suffering in a glass of milk [as] in a pound of steak.” I don’t agree with this entirely, but I see his point. There is certainly less of a difference than the average vegetarian thinks there is. So would a little meat here and there really “break the bank” as far as the 95% thing goes?

Okay, so now that I’ve raised a bunch of provocative issues, I just want to point out that I’m not necessarily advocating an approach like this as “the best way.” I’m still vegan (with freegan exceptions) and I don’t have any plans to change that. I don’t find veganism to be that hard or limiting. But, like I said, I think someone being 95% vegan is a pretty laudable goal. If other people agree with the 95% thing in theory, I think it’s important that they be able to defend what it looks like in practice.

If there are people out there that think they could do something like this, but that they could just never go fully vegan, then maybe an approach like this could work for them. I think the biggest challenge would be getting people to “go veganish” with this understanding from day one.

So, if you think you’re okay with “95% vegan” in theory, this is a glimpse of what that might look like in practice. If you’re vegan, does this change your mind about it? If you’re not vegan, does this kind of approach appeal to you more than veganism does?

I look forward to hearing people’s reactions.

– – thanks for reading – –


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What Do I Call Myself?

Lately I’ve been struggling with what to call myself when it comes to my position/role as a person that advocates for people taking the issues of animal use more seriously. I often have a hard time succinctly articulating (especially to non-veg*ans) why I am vegan, and a lot of it comes down to trying to choose between different terms, none of which really describe me all that well.

It should be pretty clear by now that I don’t identify as an “anti-speciesist” (although I have one guy trying to convince me that I just misunderstand the concept – and I honestly appreciate what he’s trying to do).

I’m not an “animal rights advocate” because I don’t really “believe” in animal rights, because rights really only exist when they’re respected, and hardly anyone respects animal rights, so I feel that front is sort of a losing battle (also, I’m a speciesist, so that complicates things on that front). I haven’t fully articulated my views on this yet, so please don’t beat me up too hard if you disagree.

I don’t like “animal liberationist” because I don’t ever see a day when all animals will ever be truly liberated, so it seems like we’re raising the bar a little too high with that one (it just gives off that “I’m disconnected from reality” vibe to me).

I’m not even totally comfortable using “vegan advocate” even though I am vegan and I do advocate for veganism (or some type of veganism, especially freegan veganism or even veganishism). I think the term “vegan advocate” pigeon-holes you as someone that wouldn’t be okay with people being something less than fully vegan, and that is not my position. Even though I think there are certain issues that typical vegetarians don’t take seriously enough, I can definitely admit that someone going from “typical omnivore” to vegetarian is a definite step in the right direction, a definite improvement. So that’s another reason why “vegan advocate” is ill-fitting for me. I respect vegetarians as people that are willing to act on their convictions, even though I personally feel motivated to “go farther.”

“Animal advocate” is not bad. It’s very general. I am actually advocating for animals. One problem I see with this, though, is that certain non-vegans perceiving this as being just a less-than-honest “codeword” for “animal rights advocate” is pretty much inevitable. Although one could advocate for animals without “believing” in animal rights, for sure.

In short, I’m really confused as to what to “brand” myself as.

One phrase that I’ve been using more lately is that I want to “encourage people to take issues of animal use more seriously.” I know it’s really vague, and not very forceful, but it’s the best way I can find to honestly describe my position at this point in time.

In case people haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m really not sure of a lot of things and I’m open to all kinds of suggestions for new directions, new ways to “brand” a way to get people to take these issues more seriously. I just don’t know exactly what the best way forward is. I think that’s part of why I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from so many LTEM readers.

I think a lot of LTEM readers are in similar positions. They care about these issues, but they’re dissatisfied with the more codified “movements” that claim to have the answers. I can admit that I don’t have all the answers (but I do have strong feelings about certain things). I can only say that I care and I want to keep talking about it and trying to come up with ways to get through to people that just don’t give a shit at all.

The “people that claim not to care at all” segment is the area most ripe for real progress, in my opinion. I think it’s time that we people who DO care start figuring out a way to get through to them instead of fighting amongst ourselves. Maybe we are a too-disparate group. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe we actually operate at cross purposes. But I hope not. I hope the fact that we actually care is enough of a binding force to get us to see that “WE” might actually have something to say to “THEM.”

For me, all I really need to hear from someone to consider them an ally is that they actually care about issues of animal use, and that they’re open to the possibility of making some sort of change in their behavior. I don’t care if their response is different from mine. Not everyone is willing to be vegan. I just care that they take the issues seriously enough to consider that the gravity of the situation might warrant a change in their behavior.

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There Are 365 Days in a Year

One day I was watching television with three friends (all omnivores) when Anthony Bourdain appeared on the television.

I made it clear that I dislike the guy and my friends wanted to know why. One friend asked if it was because he “rips on vegans” or something like that. I explained that it’s more than that, that he has actually suggested that vegans should kill themselves because they don’t eat cheese, that he trivializes and straw-mans the vegan argument rather than meeting it head on, and that he uses emotionally-charged analogies to try to discredit them. They excused such behavior as, you know, just funny things to say for the camera. My friend listened to my explanation, laughed a little bit, and then said something to the effect of “Yeah, but he actually does have a pretty good argument against veganism.” My friend is a smart guy, so I was all ears. I wanted to know about the wisdom he thought Bourdain had to speak on the subject, because all I’d heard from him was childish anti-vegan invective.

The supposed “good argument” was that, if you’re vegan and you go to some third-world country and some poor person offers you some non-vegan dish that they worked hard for and are very proud to give you, that you would be a total asshole to refuse it. It is a little bit more nuanced than that, but that’s the gist of it (video here).

Okay, just leaving alone the question of what a vegan should do in that situation, this little conundrum is most certainly NOT a good argument for why someone shouldn’t be a vegan the other 364 days out of the year. If this argument “proves” anything at all, it makes no sense to generalize it beyond the hypothetical situation. If you would feel genuinely bad turning down the meal, then eat it.

But taking this situation seriously is probably giving Bourdain too much credit. What he’s really trying to do is paint vegans as spoiled, finicky eaters caught up in their self-indulgent, first world ways. Bourdain has shown time and again that he’s not really too concerned with the ethics of eating, so I understand most of what he says about vegans in a “culture war” kind of way. Vegans are the modern day hippie to him, just someone to knock around to the delight of his foodie fans. He trivializes, minimizes and straw-mans everything vegans say so that he doesn’t have to take what they say seriously. It’s what most people do.

But it’s not like Bourdain has NO point at all. Many vegans do espouse an understanding of veganism in which it’s exceptionless and globally applicable. Some vegans really are intransigent when it comes to exceptions to the rule. And it’s this intransigence that can actually be used as arguments against veganism. Some people just can’t imagine saying no to a poor, rural farmer’s gift of a meat-laden dish. So they view this as something that they think should be an exception to the rule (if their understanding of veganism is that you HAVE to always say no to such things). So then they might start to feel justified in rejecting veganism as they understand it. After all, if it doesn’t apply all the time, everywhere, then how can it be “natural” or “correct?” I’m not saying that this last piece of reasoning makes sense. I’m just saying it’s not hard to see why one could think along those lines.

Not only that, but I think that this “exceptionless” mentality can backfire psychologically. I think that some people really do convince themselves that eating X is totally immoral, so if they find themselves in a situation where they “have to” eat X, what do they do? Do they start thinking of themselves as immoral? Of course not. They change their view to allow for why they’re still a good person. It’s what people do. We’re incredibly good at it. Many vega*ans inculcate in themselves a disgust for meat (or anything non-vegan), and for some of them, it may prove to be their undoing.

I know three different people that actually abandoned vegetarianism after eating meat while abroad. Two of them had only been vegetarian for a year or so, but one had been vegetarian since birth. They got sick of being served meat constantly while in South America, despite trying their best to explain (in not-so-great Spanish) that they don’t eat meat. After the ensuing lack of nutrition, they just gave in and started eating meat. When they got back to the states, they had a different understanding about the ethics of eating meat, and they proceeded to become fully omnivorous. The idea that they had built up in their heads of meat being immoral was ultimately what led them to eating meat. Kind of ironic, no?

So I asked my friend “Okay, if you think that’s a good point, why not be vegan for the other 360-odd days a year that you’re not in those situations?” He didn’t have an answer to that, and I didn’t expect one. And this is part of my problem with Bourdain and anyone that thinks like him. They will take one little exception that they have to the idea of being vegan and then pretend like it’s a valid reason to reject the idea that they should do SOMETHING to address the ethical problems surrounding animals as food. If you can’t be (or are not willing to be) fully vegan 365 days a year, then why try at all?

Bourdain just tries to laugh off the whole concept of there being an ethical component to our food choices. He thinks he can just say that death is preferable to life without cheese, that vegans are like a Middle Eastern terrorist group, that veg*ans are culturally insensitive ingrates, and that the ethics that inform veganism are unique to the “western world” (despite the fact that this is demonstrably false, and, even if it were true, would be an ad populum fallacy).

I wish more vegans were willing to argue in this way, that more vegans didn’t think of eating meat as being inherently immoral. Then maybe the idea of having some exceptions would be more popular, and people would see through the crap that the likes of Bourdain peddle as “good reasons.”

If someone can commit to being vegan 360+ days a year, I certainly don’t want them to give up on that idea because of the other 5 that they wouldn’t be. But Bourdain would.

– – thanks for reading – –


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Politics and the Vegan Language

One of my favorite essays of all time is George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” (full version here). It’s one of just a handful of essays that I’ve ever voluntarily read more than once. It’s been very influential to me as someone who writes (I’m reluctant to call myself a writer since I don’t make any money directly by doing it). I read it every year or two just to see what I still like about it (and what I don’t) and every time I read it, I read it a little differently, because my opinions about such things change over time. Despite my ever-changing feelings about it, one thing that always sticks with me is the importance of word choice. There are so many ways to say essentially the same thing, but word choice does have a profound effect on how a reader or listener receives your message.

In sociolinguistics there is a phenomenon called accommodation in which speakers “seek to emphasize or minimize the social differences between themselves and their interlocutors,” which is just a fancy linguistics nerdspeak way to say that people tend to change the way that they talk depending on who they’re talking to. In theory, this accommodation makes the speakers feel like they are more similar, and therefore, mutual trust is built. And if they like the person (and want that person to like them), they usually start to speak more like that person, often in pretty subtle ways, often without even realizing that they’re doing it.

Since we vegans have a lifestyle and views that can be pretty different from non-vegans, I think we can not afford to be lackadaisical about our word choices when it comes to talking about animals and food. Countless bottles of virtual ink have been spilled on such topics as why saying “kill two birds with one stone” or “more than one way to skin a cat” is not vegan. I find some of these essays pretty absurd and some of them pretty insightful and useful.  But my goal here is not to tread old ground. We’ve probably all read similar essays before. My point here, at least in some ways, may run counter to what these essays are saying. Many vegans feel that we should avoid sayings that cast animals in a negative light. Fair enough, I say. I think I make at least a modest attempt to avoid some of these phrases, but I don’t really think it’s all that important.

No, what this post is about is pretty much the opposite: phrases and words that vegans use that are designed to make non-vegans uncomfortable.

Do you want some udder secretions on your carcass?

Many vegans feel that we have a duty to point out, at any given chance, that what people are eating was once alive or inside something that was alive. Therefore, a hamburger is made of ground up carcass and a steak is a corpse. Milk is a secretion or udder secretion (and you get extra vegan street cred if you can mention pus somehow). The logic here is that, through language, we can get people to see that what they’re eating is, well, something that was once alive or inside something that was alive. But is this the actual effect that it has? Is anyone above the age of eight not aware that a chicken McSchnugget was once a chicken? Or that cheese comes from a cow’s udders? Are we really providing Jack with new info when we say “Hey, Jack, do you like udder secretions on your carcass?”

It is my feeling that what we are actually doing is creating divergence between us and our interlocutors (there I go with my nerdspeak again). We are “othering” them. We’re making them feel less like us, not more like us. Consciousness-raising has its time, no doubt, but do we really want to try to start off a conversation with an act of aggression and condescension? And I do think most non-vegans find these words and phrases to be condescending. You’re telling them something that they already know (and they know that you know that they know), but you’re doing it in a way that implies that you feel you’re giving them new information. When people do that to me, I find it condescending. It doesn’t make me like that person more or want to listen to what they have to say. It makes me feel defensive.

When vegans speak like this, it can also give the impression that our thoughts are really no deeper than the little soundbites that we use to convey them. When I heard people chanting “drill, baby, drill!” back in 2008, it made me think that anyone who would say it is a moron. So what do non-vegans think when veg*ans say things like “how does that carcass taste?” They must think that our reasons for being vegan can be summed up in little sayings. It must make them think of veganism as a quasi-religion where we communicate in mantras like “Meat Is Murder” and “eggs are just chicken periods.”

Now let me just clarify what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that we need to obscure truth to protect the ignorance that many non-vegans have (and want to keep) about the food they eat. If it’s relevant to something being discussed, I think it’s valid and important to tell people things they may not know about food production, such as the fact that dairy cows are repeatedly forcibly impregnated so that they will produce milk (a lot of omnivores think that cows just “naturally” produce milk – wouldn’t that be convenient?). I am also NOT saying that what vegans are saying is not a fair, accurate description of the thing it denotes. Yes, a hamburger does come from a carcass. It’s true. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to phrase what you’re saying. If we want people to listen to us, we need to make them feel at ease and make them feel that we’re listening to them, not just talking at them. We need to accommodate them and converge with them.

I am going to do a post in the near future that attempts to give a fairly comprehensive list of things that many vegans say that I think fit what I’m discussing here.

But for now, I’m going to go enjoy the world at large. I’ll see you all back in “The Vegan Bubble” later.

– – thanks for reading – –


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I was recently interviewed by Rhys Southan, creator of the anti-vegan website (calling it that doesn’t do it justice) Let Them Eat Meat. The full version of the interview is here, and a shorter version of it is here at the “veganish” website CarpeVegan, where Southan is a guest contributor (I still think it’s so cool that they let an anti-veganism ex-vegan post on their site). I really enjoyed doing it and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Also, starting within the next few weeks, I will at least occasionally post interviews with people on the topic of animal rights, veganism, vegetarianism, paleo diets – basically anyone that is doing something out of the ordinary when it comes to diet. I might even interview some regular ol’ omnivores if I feel like it would make for a good read. If you’re a freegan vegan, a veganish pescetarian, a “happy meat”-only carnivore, or if you have any kind of diet or philosophy that makes you not easily categorized, and you feel like doing an email-based interview (anonymous, if need be), drop me a line at moregreenmoregreen [at] gmail dot com

I just like the interview format. You can ask probing questions, but there’s no need for it to devolve into the type of “conversations” that often plague vegan comments sections and message boards i.e. flame wars where two people with irreconcilable philosophies slug it out for everyone to see. Interviews allow the interviewee to put their view out there, but also allow the interviewer a chance to shape the content and direction of the conversation to a certain degree. It’s kind of like a dialogue, kind of like a monologue, and it gets another perspective out there in a way that wouldn’t occur otherwise. I really like it.

I gotta admit that I’m pretty much just stealing the idea from Rhys. If you’ve never taken the time to read the interviews there, now would be a good time to start (especially the veg*an interviews and ex-vegan interviews). I think Rhys does a good job of not dictating the direction of the interview too much, but still sometimes moving it in a direction that the interviewee wouldn’t necessarily go himself. And that’s what a good interview should be, in my opinion: a collaborative effort to get ideas out there in a way that neither individual would/could do by himself.

– – thanks for reading – –


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why an arbitrary line is not necessarily a bad thing

Some non-vegans reject the harm reduction argument for veganism because they have a problem with the fact that veganism is an arbitrary line. They see this arbitrariness as a fatal flaw that justifies their rejection of veganism. And they’re right that veganism is an arbitrary line. There are many other places to draw a line in the sand.

On the “more harm than veganism” side (I’m painting in broad strokes here – I realize that there is much variation from one diet to the next in terms of harm caused), one could commit to only eating non-factory farmed meat, or being vegetarian, or only eating hunted game. On the “less harm than veganism” side, one could commit to full-fledged freeganism (vegan or not), locavore vegan, locavore freegan vegan, or a strict boycott of all animal-derived products and companies that profit in any way whatsoever from animal use (almost all vegans fall short of this mark, even if they like to think they don’t). Depending on your philosophy, these are all valid options and they all have their internal logic. Yet so many vegans insist that veganism is this absolutely logical place to draw the line and will argue that it’s not an arbitrary line. I am vegan (more or less), so I obviously find the argument for veganism compelling, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t admit it’s an arbitrary line in the sand. The eighteen locavore freegan vegans that exist in this world probably think that the average vegan is a poseur that doesn’t take the concept of harm reduction seriously enough. Damn vegans with their money and their packages of tofu!

There are many things in this life that are somewhat arbitrary, but still worth doing, many ideals that are still worth striving for. I only see the arbitrariness of that line as a problem when someone tells someone else that they have a moral obligation to be at or under that line. I don’t make that argument as a vegan. I believe that being vegan (or, really, doing anything that attempts to respect the lives of nonhuman animals and take their interests seriously) is a supererogatory act, not something that one must do out of moral obligation. If you tell someone that they have a moral obligation to do something, and that thing is an arbitrary line in the sand, THEN there definitely is a problem. I don’t fault non-vegans for taking umbrage at that. Not at all.

But even if all of these approaches are necessarily arbitrary, isn’t harm reduction still a good principle? If you reject it outright, aren’t you essentially saying that the amount of harm we cause through our diets/lifestyles is irrelevant? I’m really uncomfortable with that, and I don’t think that the people that reject the harm reduction argument (as a reason to be vegan) are truly comfortable with it either. So I find it disingenuous when non-vegans claim to reject it outright. I don’t think they actually believe that the relative amount of harm we cause is irrelevant. It can still be a valid principle even if you don’t buy into the “moral baseline” argument of self-righteous AR vegans.

So… I guess my overall point here is that vegans should own up to the fact that veganism is an arbitrary line and learn how to argue that that is not a fatal flaw, and not a valid reason to reject veganism. But then they’ll also likely have to get on board with veganism being supererogatory instead of a moral obligation, and I guess I don’t have a whole lot of hope for that. The “veganism as the moral baseline” idea is just too firmly rooted in the “movement” at this point. If you’re not willing to let go of it, don’t be surprised if people keep telling you that veganism is an arbitrary line and that they don’t want to listen to your overwrought explanation why it isn’t.

My other point is for non-vegans: the arbitrariness is not a problem unless someone tells you you’re failing by not being at that line. I’m not telling you that. Also, I think you should do some thinking about harm reduction and whether you think more harm or less harm is what we should strive for. I think any sane person will agree that less harm is better. So find ways to cause less harm through your lifestyle. Find an arbitrary line in the sand that YOU are comfortable with. Don’t trick yourself into believing that it’s a non-issue just because you’re not down with what some self-righteous vegans are spewing on the internetz.

Less harm is better. Find your own line.

– – thanks for reading – –


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seitan recipe

I’ve been kinda lazy with posting this week, and I do plan to eventually make recipes a pretty regular part of this site, so here is a great recipe for homemade seitan. If you’re scared of gluten, read this post by Pythagorean Crank.

It’s really easy to make seitan, but it is somewhat time-consuming. If you have the freezer space, double or even triple this recipe. The texture difference of freezing seitan is minimal. I first started making seitan based on the recipe on the wrapper of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten, but I’ve been tweaking it to my tastes since then. What follows is a guide to making seitan to your liking. I’ve been tinkering with different variations and you can benefit from my experimentation.

Variations/options: the addition of nutritional yeast gives the seitan a texture closer to sausage, specifically the type of sausage you get on a pizza. Basically, the yeast softens it up a bit. Also, adding nutritional yeast will give a vitamin kick to your seitan, which is good. Nutritional yeast is delicious and good for you. But it WILL make it softer and less “meaty.” Overall, I think the taste is definitely better when nutritional yeast is included.

However, if you want the seitan to have a texture/flavor/color closer to beef jerky (or stiffer meats in general), leave the nutritional yeast out and go with the higher amounts of soy sauce, black pepper and crushed red pepper. 1 tbsp of soy sauce in the broth makes for a fairly light-colored, less salty product and 4 tbsp is VERY salty and dark, along the lines of beef jerky. I think most people will be happiest with the medium amounts of either 2 or 3 tbsp of soy sauce.

280 g gluten (just slightly over two cups)
40 g nutritional yeast (about 4 level tablespoons)
1 tbsp ground sage
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
.5 – 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
.5 – 1 tbsp black pepper

2 cups water
1 vegetarian “beef” boullion cube (optional)

5 cups water
1-4 tbsp soy sauce

Put 5 cups of water and X tbsp soy sauce in a large pot and get it close to boiling as you work on the dough. Combine gluten, yeast (optional) and spices in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Put boullion cube in 1 cup of water. Microwave and stir until the cube is dissolved. Add one more cup of cold water to this boullion mixture and stir until it’s homogeneous. Pour the two cups of boullion water into the dry mixture. Immediately begin working the dough with a wooden spoon and combine until all the water is absorbed and none of the dough mixture is still dry. You may have to add a few more tablespoons of water.

Now you will have a giant ball of spiced wheat gluten. Pull off small chunks (about the size of a golf ball) and squeeze/roll it in your palms, stretching it outward. Start pulling small chunks off of this elongated piece and drop the chunks into the water. How big the chunks are depends on how big you want the pieces to be at the end and how much patience you have for this part of the process. The chunks will pretty much double in size.  For now just pick a size and go with it. At a minimum, each golf ball-sized piece should be ripped into no fewer than eight pieces. Throughout this process, stir the pot every minute or so and try to keep the water to a gentle boil. Once all the dough is in there, keep it at a low boil and continue to stir at least every 5 minutes. This part of the process could take 45 minutes or more.

Once the level of the water/broth is lower than the “meat” on the top of the pile, you need to attend to the pot more frequently. Turn up the heat to medium or medium-high and commit to spending the next 10-15 minutes stirring. Basically, you’re gonna stir until almost all of the excess liquid is either burned off or absorbed into the seitan. Just keep stirring until the final product resembles the texture of ground beef. At the end, there should be no/minimal liquid in the bottom of the pot.

Voila! You’re done! Put that shit in tacos, soups, pizzas, sandwiches, whatever. It will keep in a refrigerator for 4-7 days. It will keep in a freezer pretty much indefinitely, and like I said above, the texture difference of freezing is minimal.

A note on nutrition: gluten/seitan is a high-protein food, but it is also a pretty unbalanced protein. Most vegans hate the idea of “incomplete protein” and the idea that one should combine proteins to achieve “complete proteins” but the reality is that gluten is high in certain amino acids (methionine and cysteine) and low in others (mainly lysine). My point is not that veg*anism is hard and requires one to be super-vigilant about protein intake. Not at all. My point is that even though seitan is super rich in protein, you do still need to eat some legumes (peanuts, beans, lentils, soy etc.) to have a well-rounded diet. You don’t need to eat some legumes in the same meal as the seitan, or even the same day, but in general, vegans should have a diet that regularly (i.e. pretty much every day) incorporates legumes. You can’t just eat a ton of seitan and  think that you’re fulfilling your protein requirements. Vegans need legumes. Lysine is good. Seitan is good. Eat both and be happy.

– – thanks for reading – –


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