Being “mostly vegan” is like being “a little pregnant.”

A large number of vegans and vegetarians, according to available data, occasionally cheat by eating various animal foods. I know a vegan who eats fish, which technically would make her pegan, but she is attached to identifying as vegan. The majority who try these “plant-based” diets, the data also shows, don’t maintain them beyond a short period of time. It’s a small minority that remain on such restrictive diets.

It’s yet to be demonstrated if veganism, strictly maintained with no instance of cheating, can even be maintained beyond a single generation. That infertility is so common among vegans (and also vegetarians) is an indicator that long-term survival is unlikely. That is similar to what Francis M. Pottenger Jr. discovered when cats were fed contrary to the diet they evolved eating. “By the third generation, they didn’t reach adulthood. There was no generation after that” (Health From Generation To Generation).

Another researcher from earlier last century, Weston A. Price studied healthy populations following traditional diets. In his search, he traveled to every continent and he specifically looked for those adhering to an entirely plant-based diet, but he could find no example anywhere in the world. He did find cannibals. Every healthy population ate large amounts of high quality animal foods, typically not long pig though.

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Interpreting the Work of Dr. Weston A. Price
from Weston A. Price Foundation

One of the purposes of Price’s expedition to the South Seas was to find, if possible “plants or fruits which together, without the use of animal products, were capable of providing all of the requirements of the body for growth and for maintenance of good health and a high state of physical efficiency.” 12 What he found was a population that put great value on animal foods–wild pig and seafood–even groups living inland on some of the larger islands. Even the agricultural tribes in Africa consumed insects and small fish–and these groups were not as robust as the tribes that hunted, fished or kept herds.

“It is significant,” said Price, “that I have as yet found no group that was building and maintaining good bodies exclusively on plant foods. A number of groups are endeavoring to do so with marked evidence of failure.”13

12. Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, PPNF, p 109.
13. Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, PPNF, p 282.

Studies of Relationships Between Nutritional Deficiencies and (a) Facial and Dental Arch Deformities and (b) Loss of Immunity to Dental Caries Among South Sea Islanders and Florida Indians.
by Weston A. Price

The native foods in practically all the South Sea Islands consisted of a combination of two types; namely, plant foods and sea foods. The former included the roots and tops of several tubers and a variety of fruits. The sea foods consisted chiefly of small forms, both hard- and soft-shelled, and invertebrates, together with fish of various types.

One of the purposes of this trip was to find, if possible, native dietaries consisting entirely of plant foods which were competent for providing all the factors needed for complete and normal physical development without the use of any animal tissues or product.

A special effort was accordingly made to penetrate deeply into the interior of the two largest Islands where the inhabitants were living quite remote from the sea, with the hope that groups of individuals would be found living solely on a vegetarian diet. Not only were no individuals or groups found, even in the interior, who were not frequently receiving shell fish from the sea, but I was informed that they recognized that they could not live over three months in good health without getting something from the sea. A native interpreter informed me that this had been one of the principal causes of bitter warfare between the hill tribes and coast tribes of that and all of the Pacific Islands, since the hill people could not exist without some sea foods to supplement their abundant and rich vegetable diet of the mountain country.

He informed me also that even during the periods of bitter warfare the people from the mountain district would come down to the sea during the night and place in caches delicious plants which grew only at the higher altitudes. They would return the following night to obtain the sea foods that were placed in the same caches by the people from the sea. He stated that even during warfare these messengers would not be captured or disturbed.

This guide and many others explained to me that cannibalism had its origin in the recognition by the hill people that the livers and other organs of their enemies from the coast provided the much needed chemicals which were requisite to supplement the plant foods. Several highly informed sons of cannibals and a few who acknowledged that they had eaten “long pig” advised me that it was common knowledge that the people who had lived by the sea and who had been able to obtain lots of sea foods, particularly the fishermen, were especially sought for staying a famine. One native told me of having left an Island where he was engaged in fishing because of a tip that came to him that his life was in danger because of his occupation.

Weston Price Looked for Vegans But Found Only Cannibals
by Christopher Masterjohn

This experience is, in part, a testament to the extraordinary nutrition packed into shellfish.  Melissa McEwen recently wrote about this in her post “Being Shellfish,” where she noted that some shellfish are not only more nutritious than meat, but exhibit such a dearth of evidence for sentience and the capacity for suffering that some otherwise-vegans argue that eating shellfish is consistent with the basic ethics of veganism. […]

Ultimately, what this story makes especially clear is that there is an enormous difference between a small amount of animal products and no animal products.  Being “mostly vegan” is like being “a little pregnant.”  As I pointed out in my response to Dr. T. Colin Campbell and my review of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, animal products that constitute two percent or ten percent of a person’s diet may make or break the healthfulness of the diet, especially if that small percentage is something incredibly nutrient-dense like clams or oysters.

If someone achieves vibrant health on a vegan diet, I will be happy for them.  We should face the facts, however, that humans with limited access to animal products have often gone to great lengths to include at least some animal products in their diet.  And they’ve done that for a reason.

Eating the Poor

Early in their careers, the Wachowski brothers (or rather sisters) wrote a movie script about eating the rich. “The script was too disturbing,” Andy (now Lilly) Wachowski said, as quoted in a 1999 New York Times piece. “We showed it to some people in Hollywood who said: ‘This is a bad idea. I can’t make this. I’m rich.’ ” They never could find anyone to fund it and so it was never made.

What immediately occurred to me simply reversing the roles in the script make it perfectly acceptable to the moneyed interests in Hollywood. A quarter century earlier in 1973 the novel Soylent Green was made into a major movie with a well known lead actor, Charlton Heston. It received multiple awards and honors and, remaining popular, has had repeated releases in every format. At this point, it has made immense profit.

So, why is it that Hollywood is fine with portraying poor people being eaten but not rich people? Well, as one Hollywood figure explained, “I can’t make this. I’m rich.”

Hollywood is a business, but not everything is about profit. Even if a movie about eating the rich could make more money than hundreds of other movies that get made every year, the profit motive can only go so far. The rich are as or more concerned with maintaining their position in society, which means maintaining the image that the dirty masses can’t touch them, literally and metaphorically. The Wachowskis didn’t only make a movie about the rich being eaten but specifically eaten by the poor and homeless. That is a step too far in a capitalist plutocracy.

Fantasies are fine, except when they hit too close to home. Class war isn’t something we are supposed to talk about. Or rather we are only supposed to talk about it when it portrays the rich winning. Hollywood companies are fine with rich people being portrayed as evil, as long as they are also portrayed as dominant and powerful. But even making portraying the reality of plutocratic rule too starkly can be considered unacceptable.

When Jonathan Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal”, many criticized the eating of babies. In his defense, he pointed out that the killing of babies was what was already happening to the poor, specifically in Ireland, and he simply made it explicit. The sensitive souls in respectable society were fine with mass torture and murder. They simply didn’t want to be forced to acknowledge it. Even so, he was able to get his writing published and widely read. But if he had written a similar piece about eating the rich, he would have been censored, his career destroyed, and probably imprisonment following. Although considered in bad taste, it was acceptable for him to write about eating the poor. As true then, still true today.

In a talk, William McDonough spoke of a visit to Birkenau in Auschwitz: “I stood in the center Birkenau camp which is a mile in diameter three, miles in circumference. And I realized that engineers and architects had come together to design a giant killing machine. If design is the worst, the first signal of human intention, this was the signal of the worst of human intention. And I thought to myself at what point is a designer standing there say wait a minute you’re asking me to do this.”

He describes how every aspect of the camp and all that supported its functioning was carefully designed by architects, engineers, and scientists. This included how humans would be processed and used, including the bodies. From slave labor in the factories to stacking the bodies, it all had to be carefully calculated and planned out. Efficiency was key. It was a modern project embodying scientific principles. Many of the chemicals still in use today were first experimented on humans in these camps.

McDonough came to the realization that this mentality applied to the modern world in general. The way we design buildings and infrastructure is toxic and self-destructive. Our society is a highly efficient killing machine that results in illness, suffering, and early death. He wasn’t being merely dramatic for effect. We see this in the increasing use of carcinogenic chemicals and the rise of cancer. The modern world is designed to be efficient and profitable, not to be sustaining of life and well being.

One might note that the greatest victims, as always, are the poor. The rich can escape the pollution of old industrial centers, distance themselves from toxic dumps, and hide away from environmental destruction. The poor, on the other hand, are trapped. In the Swiftian sense, the poor are being eaten by this system that processes and uses their life and labor to build the beautiful world of the rich. According to the Social Darwininan aspirations and capitalist realism dreams of plutocrats, that is how it should be. But you won’t find a well-funded blockbuster Hollywood movie portraying this real world dystopia in all of its gory details, much less such a movie that radically imagines an inversion of power and a reversal of victimization.

To understand how this society operates, you have to notice not only what is present but also what is missing, what is allowable and what is not.