Carnivore Is Vegan

“I’m going to tell your audience something that not many farmers would ever admit. This happens on all farms. If you like eating avocados, for a farmer to grow avocados financially, especially biodynamically, where we’re enhancing the ecosystem and helping nature, we have to grow at least 20 to 40 acres of avocado, and we have to be able to sell those directly to our market, to our consumer.

“So here I am, farming 20 to 40 acres. That’s going to require me to kill at least 35 to 40,000 gophers to protect those trees. Humming birds, accidentally when I spray non-synthetically-derived organic spray, accidentally killing bees, accidentally killing ladybugs, and intentionally killing ground squirrels. So there are 50 to 100,000 deaths that happen just to grow avocados.

“And my point is that none of us are getting out of this without blood on our hands. It’s just at what point and how connected are you to the process, but that doesn’t excuse you from the reverence and the responsibility of life.”
~ Rich Roll, vegan farmer and influencer (clip & full video)

Which diet causes the most harm? And which the least? The least harm principle is central to veganism; as it is to some religions, from Seventh Day Adventism to Buddhism (ahimsa). Some vegans go so far as to suggest that this principle is more of a philosophy, worldview, and lifestyle than it is necessarily, primarily, and entirely a diet. Indeed, others go even further in treating it as a religion or as central to their religious or spiritual practice. For the sake of argument, we are going to use that definition. Veganism is about the consequences that the diet and everything else directly and indirectly causes or otherwise contributes to and is complicit in. So, we can’t know what is vegan merely by what kinds of foods a particular eating pattern includes or excludes. And hence we can’t know which diet is most ‘vegan’ in causing the least harm by isolating diet from all the rest.

The etymology of ‘diet’ connects the word back to the meaning of ‘lifestyle’ or ‘way of life’. For veganism, this implies empathy, compassion, loving-kindness, and moral concern; in relation to the larger living world. As a lifelong environmentalist, I take quite seriously the vegan ideal and critique. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, an animal-loving and tree-hugging sensitive male, not to mention having a streak of radical leftism. The political views of many vegans overlap with my own. Yet I’ve never been a vegan, although I briefly was vegetarian when younger, as my brothers (and their families) still are vegetarian. For whatever reason, the fair number of self-identified vegans I’ve known over the decades never swayed me to eliminate all animal foods and products, much less aspire to the broader vegan identity. Let me explain why.

Even limiting ourselves to a dietary ideology alone, we have to consider the broader context. Diets are supported, promoted, and made possible by the entire network of food system, agriculture, land management, resource usage, environmental practices, ecosystems, petrochemicals, transportation, industry, processing, packaging, economics, trade, markets, sellers, monied interests, lobbyist organizations, public policies, official dietary recommendations, institutionalized ideologies, funding of scientific research, etc. The majority of harms along with other costs are indirect and hidden and externalized onto others, sometimes privatized (e.g., poor rural housing next to chemical-sprayed farm fields) and at other times socialized (e.g., chemicals getting into the water supply to be cleaned up by a public water plant).

I’ve long been obsessed with externalized costs and the moral hazard that follows. This is a particular problem when ideology and money are mixed. Diet has been enmeshed in ideology for millennia (e.g., religious food laws) and the food system has long been central to most major economies, such as how the United States became so wealthy and profitable primarily through agriculture. Veganism magnifies this confluence. There is no other dietary ideology that is more dogmatic or more dependent on agriculture. So, to assess veganism in its mainstream form is to analyze how modern food production is shaped by and conforms to modern ideology; and how in turn it bolsters the ancient ideological impulse within food systems. It’s not only what diet does or does not cause the most harm but also how we perceive and understand harm or fail to do so.

“I’ve watched enough harvests to know that cutting a wheat field amounts to more decapitated bunnies under the combine than you would believe.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver

“As I was thinking about the vegan conclusion, I remembered my childhood on the farm and where our food comes from and how it is produced. Specifically, I remembered riding on farm equipment and seeing mice, gophers, and pheasants in the field that were injured or killed every time we worked the fields. Therefore, I realized that animals of the field are killed in large numbers annually to produce food for humans.”
~ Stephen L. Davis

“When I inquired about the lives lost on a mechanized farm, I realized what costs we pay at the supermarket. One Oregon farmer told me that half of the cottontail rabbits went into his combine when he cut a wheat field, that virtually all of the small mammals, ground birds, and reptiles were killed when he harvested his crops. Because most of these animals have been seen as expendable, or not seen at all, few scientific studies have been done measuring agriculture’s effects on their populations.”
~ Ted Kerasote

If veganism means the overall avoidance or lessening of the death, suffering, and exploitation particularly of animals and other sentient life (including humans), then it is rationally and morally plausible that an animal-based diet, including carnivore and maybe even lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, is potentially the most vegan diet around; assuming it is organically-grown and locally-sourced, sustainably-managed and regeneratively-farmed, pasture-raised and wild-caught. Besides hunting and gathering, pastoralism as a food system and way of life kills the fewest animals, fewer than agriculture by far. For every life taken by a meat-eater (e.g., a single pasture-raised chicken or cow) or egg-and-dairy-eater, a vegan might kill hundreds or thousands (coyotes, foxes, deer, rodents, snakes, insects, spiders, etc). In both cases, the death count is known and so false claims of unintentionality is no justifiable rationalization. There is no avoidance of moral culpability. This is not about being clever but about what is genuinely least harmful and most environmentally sustainable, as human and non-human health are intertwined. Rather than a pose of moral righteousness, our concern should be with what brings the greater overall good.

I did do a carnivore diet for a couple of months as an experiment, although I wasn’t strict about it. For a while now, I’ve been back on a diet that tends toward ketogenic, paleo, and traditional foods. My food sourcing is important to me with an emphasis on locally produced, seasonally available, organic, and pasture-raised. This means I regularly shop at the nearby farmers market. So, despite not being carnivore at present, I am heavily biased toward animal foods with plenty of meat and eggs, along with some dairy. The plant foods I eat are also almost entirely from the farmers market, in particular the fermented veggies I enjoy. That translates as eating a greater proportion of plant foods when available in the warm time of the year and more animal foods in winter. Not only is this diet extremely healthy but also highly ethical and environmentally sustainable.

Raising animals on pasture avoids all of the problems associated with industrial agriculture and factory farming. It is actually a net gain for local ecosystems, the biosphere, and the human species. The health of the soil actually improves with pasture and atmospheric carbon is captured — indeed, grasslands draw down more carbon than do farm fields or forests. Run-off, erosion, and pollution are also eliminated. On top of that, pasture provides habitat for wildlife, as opposed to mass farming and monoculture that destroys habitat and displaces wildlife, not to mention poisons, starves and slaughters immense numbers of wildlife. If you’re pro-life in the broadest sense, the last thing in the world you’d want to be is vegan, as it is inherently and inevitably dependent on industrial agriculture and mass transportation.

Vegan arguments against harm to animals don’t apply to a pasture-raised and wild-caught carnivore diet or any local animal-based diet combined with locally and seasonally available plant foods. (By the way, today was the beginning of wild mulberry season — delicious! I was knocked right out of ketosis and was glad for it. That is the reason plants evolved the highly addictive drug called sugar, so that we would eat their fruit and spread their seeds, not so that one day agriculture would make possible industrially-produced and health-destroying high fructose corn syrup.)

Veganism creates a similar disconnect as seen with right-wing ‘pro-lifers’ who oppose abortion. As I’ve pointed out, countries that ban abortions don’t decrease the rate of abortions and sometimes increase them. The main change is whether abortions are legal and safe or illegal and unsafe. But anti-abortionists refuse to accept responsibility for the consequences of the policies they support. Similarly, vegans also refuse to accept responsibility for the deaths and destruction that their diet incurs. Whether one intentionally or unintentionally causes harm, the harm is equally real. This is how symbolic ideology that makes people feel good trumps practical concerns about what actually makes the world a better place.

“What do plants eat? They eat dead animals; that’s the problem. For me that was a horrifying realization. You want to be an organic gardener, of course, so you keep reading ‘Feed the soil, feed the soil, feed the soil…’

“All right. Well, what does the soil want to eat? Well, it wants manure, and it wants urine, and it wants blood meal and bone meal. And I…could not face that. I wanted my garden to be pure and death-free. It didn’t matter what I wanted: plants wanted those things; they needed those things to grow.”
~ Lierre Keith

“There is no place left for the buffalo to roam. There’s only corn, wheat, and soy. About the only animals that escaped the biotic cleansing of the agriculturalists are small animals like mice and rabbits, and billions of them are killed by the harvesting equipment every year. Unless you’re out there with a scythe, don’t forget to add them to the death toll of your vegetarian meal. They count, and they died for your dinner, along with all the animals that have dwindled past the point of genetic feasibility.”
~ Lierre Keith

There is no reason the world’s population couldn’t live according to the meat-based diet I and many others follow. Very little of the land available can be used for farming. But most of it can be used for grazing. Also, grazing animals for food can be done alongside keeping grazing land open for wild animals as well. Keep in mind that, in North America, there once were more buffalo roaming the continent than there are now cows and the vast herds of buffalo were what kept the prairies healthy. Even in countries that don’t have good farmland, animals can always be raised locally on pasture or open land. There is no country in the world that lacks land for grazing. If not cows, then pigs, goats, camels, or whatever else.

Let me put this in perspective, 90% of land in North America can only be used for wildlife and livestock, not farming. In other places (Africa, India, Australia, etc), it’s even higher at 95% of land. So, are we going to try to feed the global population with just 5-10% of the arable land and ignore the rest? In ever more intensively farming, we are destroying what is left of the arable land. That is insanity! Industrial agriculture and factory farming makes no sense, except from a capitalist model of private profit and externalized/socialized costs. A local animal-based diet (if not carnivore or omnivore, then ovo-lacto-vegetarian) is the only way to feed the world’s population, maintain optimal health, avoid the greatest harm to animals, and ensure environmental sustainability.

Veganism didn’t exist prior to modern agriculture, industrialization, and mass transport. Grazing animals, on the other hand, has been the mainstay of the human diet for millions of years. There is no traditional diet that wasn’t centered on animal foods, the source of the most energy-dense and nutrient-dense foods, guaranteeing every essential and conditionally essential nutrient, many of which are missing or insufficient on a plant-exclusive diet. And when done low-carb as was typical of traditional societies, ketosis allows people to eat less food and go for longer periods of time without eating. Many people on animal-based diets do regular fasting (OMAD, intermittent, and extended). In ketosis, I easily skip meals or go several days without food and it doesn’t bother me. Since ketosis allows for smaller intake of food, that is an additional decreased impact on the environment.

The standard American diet (SAD) that is plant-based is neither healthy for the individual nor healthy for the environment. Keep in mind that almost all junk foods are vegan: potato chips, crackers, cookies, candy, pop, etc (the main ingredients being potatoes, wheat, corn, rice, sugar, and seed oils). This vegan junk food is mass farmed, mass produced, and mass shipped, not to mention mass subsidized. Even most healthier plant-based foods, including whole foods, that vegans rely upon are shipped from distant regions and countries with very little regulation for the health of environment and workers — think about the environmentally-unsustainable and water-wasting Californian agriculture that provides much of the produce for plant-based diets, particularly in winter. Veganism contributes to pollution and the need for heavily-subsidized infrastructure.

What is ethical about this? Good intentions are not good enough. We can’t separate ourselves from the world we live in. It’s a fantasy that we can live apart from the natural cycle of life and death. Trying to force that fantasy upon the world, some might call that a nightmare. A diet is part of an ecosystem, all contained within a living biosphere. In pretending to be separate, we cause even more death and suffering. Mass extinction was always inherent to agriculture. “The end,” as Lierre Keith said, “was written into the beginning.” There is no avoiding this, as long as we continue down this path of exploitative civilization. We can embrace that ending, though, and seek a new beginning.

“Agriculture is the biggest mistake in human history,” as put by George Armelagos. And on the same note, Jared Diamond wrote that, “Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.” So, are we doomed? Only if we choose to be. Agriculture as we know it can’t continue. Can it be done differently? Others have offered more optimistic answers.

If we hope to find another way before it’s too late, we must look for inspiration in the traditional food systems that still survive. And there most definitely is hope. We already know of ways to reverse the damage and rehabilitate the land. No doubt further understandings will be gained over time that will allow even greater results. But the key is that more animals, wild and domestic, will be needed to make possible this course of action. That is to say, in place of ecological deserts of monocultural farming, we need to return to the environmental norm of biodiversity within thriving ecosystems.

“The persistence of human life on this planet depends on soil ecosystems. Ultimately, I don’t care what diet you eat as long as it leads to the enrichment of organic matter in the earth and mycorrhizal networks. Show me the plant-based diet that does this. Without ruminants ecosystems will collapse. Tilling of the soil for mono-crop agriculture is the enemy (and releases massive amounts of carbon) not cows, Bison and other animals.”
~Dr. Paul Saladino

“If we took 75% of the world’s trashed rangeland, we could restore it from agriculture back to functioning prairies — with their animal cohorts — in under fifteen years. We could further sequester all of the carbon that has been released since the beginning of the industrial age. So I find that a hopeful thing because, frankly, we just have to get out of the way. Nature will do the work for us. This planet wants to be grassland and forest. It does not want to be an agricultural mono-crop.”
~ Lierre Keith

“Viewing this global scene, as I have been doing for many years, I will stake my life on it that humanity’s best hope lies in one simple idea that no scientist can sensibly argue against – that management in this 21st century should be holistic and no longer reductionist. And Holistic Management of course includes recognizing that only livestock with Holistic Planned Grazing (or better process when developed) can address global desertification, annual burning of billions of hectares of grasslands and savannas, and regenerate the world’s dying soils and soil life essential to addressing climate change. […]

“Reductionist management, without using livestock managed on the land in a way that addresses global desertification and climate change, will inevitably lead to the doomsday predictions of Wallace-Wells. Billions of people dead and hundreds of cities destroyed and worse in the relatively near future no matter how many hopeful measures we might take.”
~ Allan Savory

* * *

Here is another argument comes up, but usually only shows up in brief comments. The following is a good response in explaining why the argument makes no sense: “No, the majority of this agriculture is for human consumption, not to feed livestock” (from the comments section of Karen Lindquist’s The Least-Harm Fallacy of Veganism). I’ll first share the comment to which the second comment is a response.

September 27, 2019 at 1:40 am

“Yeah, I agree. Agriculture is very destructive, and we should localize. However:

“Is not the majority of this agriculture to feed livestock? And how could we feed pigs and chickens without it? They aren’t ruminants.

“Think about what would happen if we kept our meat consumption the same, but released the 70.4% of cows, 98.3% of pigs, and 99.9% of chickens in the US that live on factory farms to open grasslands? How could we possibly do this without bulldozing every last tree?”

Karin Lindquist
October 8, 2019 at 2:15 pm

“No, the majority of this agriculture is for human consumption, not to feed livestock. Livestock get the left-overs, the crop failures, and the stuff that didn’t grade to top-quality grade for use in every part of the term “human consumption” from being made into biofuel to vegetable oil to clothing. Animals also get the by-products that come from the conversion of these crops to various products for humans because the landfills would be overflowing if animals couldn’t take them, making that an environmental disaster in and of itself (as if landfills aren’t already an environmental disaster already), and because those animals turn those waste products into nutritional edible food. More here:

“Why would anyone be dumb enough to release a large number of animals that aren’t even adapted to live in such an environment? They’d die out very quickly, either from starvation because they don’t know how to forage on their own for food or they just can’t live in such an environment, or by predation. (It seems that you’ve never been on open grasslands before; trees on open grasslands are very rare. You only find trees in forests or savannahs.) The better solution to that problem you propose is via gradual phasing out of such systems and moving towards regenerative, well-managed pastured-based systems that produce and maintain the breeds and types of animals that are adapted to such a system. No “bulldozing every last tree” required. If you want a good example of what that kind of system looks like, look at operations like Polyface Farms and Brown Ranch in North Dakota. Great examples of stacked enterprises with a pasture-based system that is most certainly replicable, and FAR more efficient than any degenerative, monoculture CAFO operation.

“Think outside the box!!!! All isn’t as it appears.”

* * *

Carnivore Is Vegan:
Bad Vegan Logic: Accidental Deaths vs Intentional Deaths – Carnivore is Vegan
A Carnivore Diet is More Vegan than a Vegan Diet – Carnivore is Vegan
Vegans Use Slave Cows to Make Fertilizer
Dairy is 2000 X’s More Ethical Than Almond Milk
Stir-Fry Genocide: Mushrooms Are Not Vegan

Field Deaths in Plant Agriculture
by Bob Fischer and Andy Lamey

There’s no such thing as a green vegan
by Mary Harrington

There’s no such thing as vegan food
by Claire Taylor

Millennial veganism
by Joanna Blythman

But are you truly vegan?
by Matthew Evans

Australia’s vegan lie revealed: How plant-based diets still result in hundreds of thousands of animal deaths a year
by Lauren Ferri

Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands
by Mike Archer

The Least Harm Principle May Require that Humans Consume a Diet Containing Large Herbivores, Not a Vegan Diet
by Stephen L. Davis

The Least-Harm Fallacy of Veganism
by Karin Lindquist

Are Farm Animals Starving the Planet of Food… Humans Can’t Even Eat?
by Karin Lindquist

Want an ethical diet? It’s not as simple as going vegan, says farmer Matthew Evans
from ABC News

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability
Chapter 1: Why This Book?
by Lierre Keith

The Hidden Cost of Veganism – Lierre Keith #143
from ReWild Yourself

Lierre Keith & The Agripocalypse
by Lawrence Rosenberg

Any ‘planetary diet’ must also work for the poorest and most vulnerable
by Andrew Salter

Eating Local Meat is Actually More Sustainable than Veganism
from Heartland Fresh Family Farm

Why vegetarianism will not save the world
by Ian MacKenzie

If you care about the planet, eat more beef
by Danielle Smith

Ruminants are more important to the world than you might have thought!
by Troy Downing

Report: Cut red-meat eating by 80 percent to save the planet?
by Anne Mullens and Bret Scher

Can vegetarians save the planet? Why campaigns to ban meat send the wrong message on climate change
by Erin Biba

EAT-Lancet report’s recommendations are at odds with sustainable food production
by Sustainable Food Trust

Report urging less meat in global diet ‘lacks agricultural understanding’
from FarmingUK

War on burgers continues with false environmental impact claims
by Amanda Radke

Testimony before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry U.S. Senate
by Frank Mitloehner

Sorry, But Giving Up on Meat Is Not Going to Save The Planet
by Frank M. Mitloehner

Don’t Blame Cows For Climate Change
by Sylvia Wright

Cattle and methane: More complicated than first meets the (rib) eye
by Stephan Lewandowsky and Asa Wahlquist

Beef’s ‘Sustainability’ Involves More Than Greenhouse Gases
by Jesse Bussard

Is Agriculture Feeding the World or Destroying It? Dr. Frank Mitloehner Discusses Ag, Climate Change

Environmental Hoofprint Matters — Frank Mitloehner, UC Davis
from Farm To Table Talk

Sustainable Dish Episode 83: The Truth About Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Livestock Production with Frank Mitloehner
with Diana Rodgers

UN admits flaw in report on meat and climate change
by Alastair Jamieson

Can Dietary Changes Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
by Wyatt Bechtel

Scientist: Don’t blame cows for climate change
by Paul Armstrong

Climate change policy must distinguish (long-lived) carbon dioxide from (short-lived) methane–Oxford study
by Susan MacMillan

Alan Savory @ PV1 – The role of livestock in a new agriculture that can save city-based civilization
by Julia Winter

Effective Livestock Grazing And A Regenerative Future
by Allan Savory

Climate Change – Cause and Remedy
by Allan Savory

Climate Change Best Addressed Planting Trees, Or Regenerating Grasslands?
by Allan Savory

Fate Of City-Based Civilization In The Hands Of Farmers
by Allan Savory

How We Can Offer Hope For Our Grandchildren In A Floundering, Leaderless World
by Allan Savory

Hope For The Future – First Real Hope In Centuries.
by Allan Savory

Response To “Goodbye – And Good Riddance – To Livestock Farming”
by Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Why Homo Sapiens Are A Keystone Predator In Rewilding Projects
by Caroline Grindrod

Red meat bounds down the carbon neutral path
by Shan GoodwinShan Goodwin

Can cows cause more climate change than cars?
by Frédéric Leroy

Climate, Food, Facts
from Animal Agriculture Alliance

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race
by Jared Diamond

Was agriculture the greatest blunder in human history?
by Darren Curnoe

Could Veganism Cause Extinctions?
by Patrice Ayme

It takes 21 litres of water to produce a small chocolate bar. How water-wise is your diet?
by Brad Ridoutt

Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet
Like water fasts, meat fasts are good for health.
Fasting, Calorie Restriction, and Ketosis
Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health
The Agricultural Mind

16 thoughts on “Carnivore Is Vegan

  1. At this post…
    …the blogger left this comment directed at me:

    “Why do so many folks who feel as you seem to fail to acknowledge the unnecessary cruely in ending a sentient beings life for your eating pleasure. No matter how you slaughtered and butchered them, the animals you eat wanted to live before you killed, COOKED and ate them. And unless you’re eating the animal’s flesh raw (like a natural predator), you are processing it, so your arguments against your vegan brothers doesn’t hold water.”

    I wrote a lengthy and detailed response. But not knowing if the blogger would allow it to be posted, I decided to leave it here:

    The same is true, I would argue, to an even greater extent in the even more animals that are harmed, tortured, and slaughtered through the industrial agriculture. Yes, the slaughterhouses of factory farming is part of that system of suffering. Then again, veganism is also inseparable from it. Guess what is fully independent of the entire neoliberal carnival of blood and doom. That’s right, an animal-based diet from local, pasture-raised and wild-caught animals.

    Still, no matter how we measure suffering and victimization, there is no escaping the cycle of life and death except through suicide. Death denial, in psychologically disconnecting us from the natural world, simply increases and perpetuates the unnecessary suffering we cause others in not facing this stark reality. But we can choose actions that cause less harm, the basis of my own lifestyle. We each must struggle as best we can to do what seems right to us. That is all that I know to do. No doubt I could be wrong about all kinds of things. Still, I try to be compassionate as best as I know how, under imperfect conditions.

    Let me explain where I’m coming from. I grew up in a liberal church, Unity, that has a history of promoting vegetarianism since the late 1800s. And I live in a liberal college town, the location of my childhood home. Besides my brothers and their families, I’m surrounded by vegetarians and vegans. On a personal level, I’ve always been sensitive to suffering. I quit eating chicken for a period of time as a child when I learned where it came from, that an animal was killed. All of this contributed to why I tried vegetarianism as an adult.

    I understand where you’re coming from. As I said, I’m a bleeding heart liberal and I mean that in an extreme sense. I’m a stereotypical pansy liberal and tree-hugger and proud of it, combined with heavy leanings toward radical leftism. I’m far more harshly critical and damning of this society than my brothers, maybe because they have kids and I have none. It’s hard for people to criticize a world into which they’ve forced their children into. That might be why I have some tendencies toward antinatalism and philosophical pessimism (if you want a fun experience, read Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race). My views, good or bad, come from hard-earned suffering and struggle.

    Here is how I see it. Not having kids, not owning a car, not eating an industrial agricultural diet, etc — all of this makes my carbon, death, and suffering footprint far smaller than the vast majority of vegans and vegetarians… for whatever that is worth. At best, maybe the tiny fraction of a percentage of those on a plant-based diet living near the equator while growing and gathering their own food would be doing less harm and suffering than those on an animal-based diet eating eggs, dairy, and meat from local, pasture-raised animals. Maybe or maybe not. But certainly, there can’t be regenerative and sustainable farming or ecosystems without grazing ruminants, the natural balance that existed for millions of years before and during which hominids existed.

    From my perspective, the argument against eating animal foods is similar to the argument against women’s rights. I judge by the results and not the intentions. Countries that ban abortions, on average, have higher rates of abortions than countries that don’t ban abortions (because full sex education, family planning centers, etc prevent a greater number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place and so prevent much of the need for abortions). It is irrelevant, to my mind, that the anti-choice activists have good intentions in wanting to save lives. Do they actually save lives? No.

    Likewise, I strongly suggest that vegans aren’t actually saving lives, specifically in that more animals are killed for veganism than for local, pasture-raised and wild-caught omnivory or carnivory. All lives matter and all deaths count. Vegans don’t get a moral free pass for the harm their diet and lifestyle causes. And rationalizations that it is unintentional are unpersuasive. In knowing these facts about the deaths directly coming from veganism, the vegan can’t claim innocence. Their choice with its consequences is fully intentional. Knowing that, why would I choose a vegan diet when I believe it is worse all around? You are free to disagree with me, but understand I’m being completely sincere.

    I’m morally-driven in my beliefs, values, and choices. I have a tendency toward moral righteousness that, fortunately (?), is balanced by a strong sense of self-doubt/questioning from decades of chronic depression. I have often wondered what is the point of continued life, for myself and for others, to such an extent that I’ve attempted suicide. Civilization seems like a shitty deal to me, a sad state of affairs that was driven home for me back in my early 20s by reading Paul Shepard and Derrick Jensen. For all the problems of other kinds of societies, the harm caused in hundreds of thousands of years by hunter-gatherers pales in comparison to the harm caused in the past few hundred years of modern agriculture and industry.

    There is another layer to my experience as well. When I was vegetarian, I was severely depressed and the diet didn’t help my mental health in the slightest. I’ve noticed that my vegetarian brothers and their families also deal with a lot of mental health and neurocognitive issues: depression, anxiety, alcoholism, autism, OCD, learning disabilities, etc. To be fair, many on a Standard American Diet (SAD) share these same problems with many on plant-based diets.

    But there is a far different experience for those who go on low-carb diets, especially ketogenic with nutrient-dense animal foods, such as how in clinical trials for the first time in history Dr. Terry Wahls reversed multiple sclerosis and Dr. Dale Bredesen reversed Alzheimer’s. That is on top of the numerous other medical conditions that diets like this have been effectively used in treatment, from epileptic seizures to mood disorders. Conditions such as autism are also showing great benefit. To be fair, one can do low-carb/keto while mostly or entirely eating plant foods, although it is challenging to do so while vegan… even so, not impossible.

    I see this last point as key. We live in a society with increasing and worsening physical and mental health problems. It’s becoming a crisis comparable to climate change and, in both cases, they might bankrupt us over the coming generation or else simply cripple our ability to function as a society. If we have any hope of implementing changes that can turn around this dire state of affairs, including depopulation efforts or other avenues of softening the landing as we crash, the very minimal that will be required is a mentally balanced and neurocognitively healthy citizenry and leadership. These trying times demand the best of us, our full potential. We can’t afford any diet that will harm either environmental health or human health.

    I hope we can agree on this much, even if we strongly disagree on how to accomplish it. If nothing else, you now understand my dietary choices and what motivates them. My reasons are not only moral but rational and evidence-based. I’ve carefully researched and thought through my options and their consequences. That said, I’m always learning and experimenting. I’m sure I’ll change my mind many times before I die, as I’ve changed my mind many times to get to the point where I am now. I’m always open to hearing the views of others.

    • I found it even more interesting that the same person left this next comment as well, also directed at me. This is how they defended veganism in its dependence on the highly destructive and harmful (for all species) industrial agriculture and neoliberal food system (this person didn’t even bother to try to deny or dismiss that destructiveness and harm):

      “Humans aren’t sustainable as a species. I’ve always said that population control should be part of a vegan’s creed, if they have one. I don’t believe that early hunter-gatherers maintained a balanced population by choice. Their lives were short and brutish and their populations were only kept in check at first by predators and later by the lack of prey as they wiped everything out they liked to prey on and eat. That must be why they invented gods–so they could justify being here even after they’d driven so many other species to extinction…”

      This commenter points to antinatalist inclinations, not just depopulation but elimination of the human species: “Humans aren’t sustainable as a species.” When I was severely depressed, I was drawn toward antinatalism. Many people on unhealthy diets, whether vegan diet or Standard American diet (SAD), tend to have high rates of mental illness and neurocognitive issues, including but far from limited to depression. But many who switch to low-carb, especially keto, find their mental health and neurocognitive problems go away or severely lessen.

      This fascinates me. Our diets create our sense of identity and reality. The vegan diet, in particular, seems to create a state of doom and despair in many people. To my mind, that says a lot about the diet. It not only is unhealthy in a nutritional sense for it goes far beyond this in creating a dysfunctional mindset and worldview. It’s not a happy place to spend one’s life. The dualistic thinking (good vs evil) is commonly seen in certain mental/neurocognitive diseases, from depression to borderline personality disorder, and this can make one prone to dogmatism and judgmentality, not to mention projection.

      I know this was true for me. And so I have immense sympathy. It was only when I went animal-based low-carb that my depression, along with my addictions, began to lessen. Finally, with keto, my mood and attitude about life entirely transformed. It’s like I’m a new person. I don’t feel as critical and, quite the opposite, have been feeling a greater desire for forgiveness. Even if we are doomed as a species, I’m finding that I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of others in attacking and judging them, an impulse that was hard for me to resist when I was on an unhealthy high-carb diet, including when I was vegetarian.

      In contrast, I remain constantly amazed that, after decades of suffering and struggle, my depression entirely disappeared. All of that accomplished with diet and it for damn sure wasn’t vegan. This experience is so common in low-carb/keto diets, especially those that are animal-based and nutrient-dense. Those who try such diets regularly speak of this kind of thing and we now have enough research to know why this happens. The pattern is undeniable.

      This has stood out to me since I’ve started following low-carb, keto, and carnivore Youtubers and noticed how so many of them seem high energy, happy, and optimistic with not a single one uttering antinatalistic inclinations. There also seems to be less ideological dogmatism in this crowd. They are more open simply to what works. They are driven more by curiosity and experimentation than by an overarching ideological agenda as is common with veganism.

      I’m almost shocked by how many vegans and vegetarians who say they’d maintain their diet even if it was harming them. This religious-like hatred or ambivalence about the body and bodily existence is bizarre, such psychological disconnection demonstrating severe mental health issues. I’ve known vegans and vegetarians who admitted that they would rather let their child die than allow them to eat meat… I’m fucking not kidding! Some go even further and think that the entire human species should die or at the very least a large part of the population.

      Such observations of dietary influence on human thought and behavior are hardly new. Earlier last century, Weston A. Price observed that there is no healthy traditional society that was vegetarian/vegan. And among the healthy traditional societies, there was always a heavy emphasis of animal foods with lots of fat-soluble vitamins. He pointed out that these people showed great health, both physically and mentally, not to mention in terms of moral character. They expressed pro-social behaviors. Antinatalism would have been a foreign mentality to healthy traditional societies.

      Take the Piraha, for example, who laughed at Daniel Everett when he told them of his aunt’s suicide because suicide was simply so incomprehensible to them that they assumed he was joking. There has been no record of any Piraha committing suicide or even showing symptoms of depression. What is the Piraha diet? At least 70% fish, along with other animal foods, but only occasional plant foods in spite of surrounded by lush vegetation.

      Never underestimate the power of food. We create the world we envision. And what we eat helps shape what we can imagine, along with how we think and act. The federal government has been promoting a plant-based diet for several generations now and indeed, as the data shows, Americans are eating more grains, vegetables, and fruits (while decreasing red meat and saturated fat). How has that worked out? We are now neither a healthier nor happier population.

      Still, let me be clear. I’m not dismissing vegans because they show higher rates of depression and such. That would be hypocritical of me, considering I spent most of my life chronically depressed. We live in a shitty society and shitty diets is one small if important part of that. I remember what it felt like to feel shitty while on a shitty diet and feeling all the shittier because of the shitty society that blamed me for my experience of shittiness. I sympathize with anger, hatred, and judgment toward a world of suffering and those who make it worse. That is a perfectly rational response.

      But how diets profoundly affect us is not an issue of rationality. We are living in a society that is highly rationalistic, moreso than any society in all of history. We aren’t deficient in rationality, per se. That isn’t the main problem we’re facing. The happy and healthy Piraha weren’t overly concerned about rationality and they didn’t rationally choose their diet based on rational evidence. No, they simply ate and lived according to how humans have been doing for hundreds of millennia. It really is that simple.

    • One other thing stood out to me in the first comment from this blogger that I shared above. He starts with, “Why do so many folks who feel as you seem to fail to acknowledge…” The underlying message is that he doesn’t understand why people disagree with them, why they have different views. It’s simply incomprehensible. But let me make a suggestion for why this is. And I would have explained it to him, if he had asked.

      He doesn’t understand because he probably doesn’t want to understand. He apparently has made no effort to understand. That is similar to an experience I’ve had with other ideologues: race realists, climate change denialists, anti-choice advocates, religious fundies, etc. I’ve noticed that this society is full of lopsided debates. One side understands the other side, but not vice versa. The favor is not returned. There is no possibility of dialogue or mutual understanding. It’s not even really an issue of disagreement since one side doesn’t even know exactly what they’re disagreeing with.

      When one simply knows one is right, one doesn’t need to understand other viewpoints, other possibilities. It’s a mindset that begins with judgment. And it’s a mindset, as I argue, that is made more likely through a shitty diet and other shitty conditions, such as high inequality (Ketih Payne, Kate Pickett & Richard Wilkinson), social disconnection (Johann Hari & Bruce Alexander), transgenerational/epigenetic trauma (Christine Kenneally & Resmaa Menakem), etc. Payne’s analysis is particularly relevant, as he shows how inequality increases aggressive conflict and divisiveness.

      That doesn’t explain why so many of these debates are lopsided, though. In the case of diet, we can explain it by the difference between healthier and unhealthier diet. But as for the rest, we are all part of the same dysfunctional society. Why isn’t everyone affected the same way? Why is it that atheists know more about Christianity than Christians know about atheism? Why is it that women’s rights advocates know more about anti-choice arguments than women’s rights opponents know about pro-choice arguments? Likewise, even ignoring the affect of diet on mental health, why do low-carbers and carnies know more about vegan views than the vegans know about animal-based diets? Why is it so incomprehensible that moral positions can be taken on both sides?

      It occurred to me why this divide between vegan and vegetarian diets one side and omnivore and carnivore diets on the other. Much of it is probably a difference of the type and demographics of those involved with each category of diets, those are attracted to such diets in the first place and those who stick with it over the long term. That is important since most people who start a vegan/vegetarian diet don’t stick to it consistently or permanently, with the majority returning to meat-eating. When you’re talking about vegan/vegetarian advocates, this is the minority of those who tried this diet and stuck with it often for decades, such that their lives have been dedicated to and invested in it. To listen to and understand opponents would be an existential threat to their entire lifestyle, mindset, and worldview. It’s a totalizing diet.

      Most vegans/vegetarians adopted their diets when they were younger, often in high school or college. So the typical vocal advocate of such diets either still is quite young or has been on the diet for a very long time, maybe most of their life, likely their entire adult life. That isn’t the case on the opposite side. Most people only come to low-carb/keto and carnivore rather late in life, often in middle or older age and often long after having already tried numerous other diets. There are a lot more low-carbers, ketoists, and carnies who are former vegans and vegetarians than the other way around.

      These people have been around the block. So, in most cases, if they once had been dietary ideologues, they’ve gotten over that attitude after all those decades of experimentation, failure, and changing of their minds. Even among the most popular low-carb/keto and carnivore dieters on social media, most of them have only been doing it for a few years and none of them that I follow have been doing it for decades. They often are older, many of them doctors who spent their careers having advocated plant-based diets and government guidelines. Then something happened to make them see this other viewpoint.

      But they don’t tend to have the kind of identification with their diets as seen with vegans/vegetarians. If something caused them to have a new experience from some other dietary approach, if they came across entirely new evidence that challenged what they thought they knew, it would be much easier for them to switch to another diet without it being an existential crisis. Most of them have been on numerous diets before and so they are used to an open-minded approach to see what works. As such, listening to and understanding those adhering to entirely different diets is less likely to feel threatening. Many of them know what motivates vegans/vegetarians because they used to be on that diet themselves. There is an ease of familiarity, a generosity of spirit built on experience and sympathy.

  2. I never understand the silence that posts like this so often receive. It has no likes and no comments by others, although one pingback from being linked to an article in another language. I consider this to be one of the most important pieces I’ve written, but it’s so disturbing to the status quo and conventional thought that few want to think about it.

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