Has anyone read Lierre Keith's "the vegetarian myth"?

(78 Posts)
youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 13:44:46

And does anyone want to talk about feminism and vegetarianism?

I came across a line in a novel several years ago (as a post-vegetarian omnivore in a relationship with a vegetarian man - they always bring the steak to him) and the female 1st person protagonist (the author is male - another layer of confusion) expresses a political and ethical sympathy with vegetarianism, but is concerned that it is usually women who take it up, and says something about being unhappy about giving up high quality protein to the dominant, striding around gender (I paraphrase from memory)

Anyway I have thought a lot about food ethics and female hunger

I have never materially wanted for food but I have damaged myself and caused long crushing depression by being permanently hungry. How trivial, or frivolous, or vain, is real hunger, even in the rich western world, when it is insisted upon with real material and social sanctions, by a ruling class? And how self-indulgent am I being right now?

Let's talk about how we feel about ladies eating animals.

Let's talk about how we feel about ladies eating animals

I'm a feminist. I feel nothing about it in relation to gender specifically...

AutumnMadness Fri 04-Oct-13 14:02:17

I think it's fairly common knowledge that food is gendered. Blokes eat stake and chips, and ladies each lettuce and cake. A bloke eating a cupcake is obviously gay. A woman chucking down shots of vodka is naturally a slag. An interesting question would be where these stereotypes come from. But they do sound like a nice justification for the men to take the best food (in the context of scarcity).

Keepithidden Fri 04-Oct-13 14:02:28

Can you not get high quality vegetarian protein? I was under the impression it was relatively easy these days to maintain an equally good or bad diet no matter if you're ominovorous, vegetarian or even vegan.

There's a few Phds worth of debate/research in the women/hunger/feminism issues though.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 14:05:50

I hope you realise that that was an ironic use of "ladies"?

I am old. All young women were vegetarian in the 80s and early 90s. Well no, but many. They were very exercised about whether their copious eye make up had been tested on rabbits. And ate polystyrene pots of sand pie from places with names like Nettles and CowParsley. And were sad and sick and anorexic. Gross angry generalisation alert.

I am a feminist too and I am angry about female hunger and a disproportionate number of women using vegetarianism and veganism to disguise disordered eating. But maybe they don't any more now that atkins is the more mainstream way to achieve a patriarchy-sanctioned body.

Grennie Fri 04-Oct-13 15:27:02

I have seen women on the net advising each other to say they have a gluten intolerance as an excuse for disordered eating.

YoniTime Fri 04-Oct-13 16:05:58

I was one of those eating disordered vegetarian girls. There was a strong pressure from the animal right's community to become a vegeterian, and it was easy to convince young girls who had a lot of empathy for animals - and a problem with food.

Veganism, which was considered a little too extreme when I grew up, is very popular today with young women.

GretaGroovy Fri 04-Oct-13 16:13:49

I have never once considered vegetarianism as a sign of an eating disorder. As a teenager in the 80s, it was always a sign to me that someone was slightly better at being good than I could ever be (I've always loved meat). I'm actually quite horrified by the idea that it might be (yet another) form of control over food.

However I have no such qualms about dissing veganism, which I've always found to be practised by people who are slightly on the edge of a breakdown of sorts. sad

Incidentally I seem to be in a little bubble at the moment where nobody enjoys cake. Mainly they loathe the 'feminine' connotations, they don't identify with the whole cake culture/vintage teacups vibe. In addition there is the self-control issue. It's reasonably annoying to fancy a bit of cake and have other women turn their nose up at you it because they think choosing cake is girly.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:21:12


"veganism, which I've always found to be practised by people who are slightly on the edge of a breakdown of sorts. sad"

right! but Keith posits that the breakdown is caused by the veganism. I always thought that people looking for excuses to punish themselves took to veganism. But she says it leaves your brain lacking vital building blocks which leads, over time, obv, to poor mental health. including eating disorders.

I would prefer to believe that vegans are happy and healthy if they tell me so because I get very cross when happy healthy vegetarians insist that meat is unnecessary (I feel twitchy and angry as if they actually have the power to starve me, by suggesting I not eat the things I need). I honestly believe different people need different things. Vegetarianism - I really believe it works for some body types. Veganism - hmmmmm I have to believe them but... I have seen some very weird behaviour around food and some very unhappy seeming people.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:22:09

I have two girls and I don't have to face this yet as it has not occurred to them. If they want to go vegan I would be very very very worried.

DoItTooJulia Fri 04-Oct-13 16:23:21

Yy to gross angry generalisation alert!

I'm veggie and hav been since the 80s when I was a young girl. My entire family is vegetation: my mum, dad, step mum, sister, sons. No anorexia here!

I agree that men being veggies at one time was considered odd. My dad used to get stick for being a huge hulking veggie, but my DH or DCs haven't.

Also, I've been vegan for periods of time over the years and wasn't close to a breakdown. Far from it, I was the healthiest I'd been in a long time.

GretaGroovy Fri 04-Oct-13 16:28:09

That's interesting, I had never thought about it causing borderline mental health. I always assumed it was a symptom of the need to control/punish the self.

(I take the point about generalisations though!!)

I have had periods where I've been 'starving' through ill health (in hospital so monitored) and there really are no words to describe how slow, debilitated, depressed, disordered and anxious it makes you.

Grennie Fri 04-Oct-13 16:29:13

Some women are genuinely vegan because they care about animal rights. That is fine and I can see the argument for it.

Others use it as an excuse for disordered eating.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:31:25

DoItTooJulia, I wanted to hear from someone like you, to reassure myself they exist. I have been so miserable as vegetarian (for such a long time) I really need to believe that all vegetarians / vegans aren't that miserable.

I missed the posts from Autumn and Keepithidden.

Keep - it's not the same. Artificial veggie protein is, well, artificial and has all sorts of problems. Nutrition is an area in which attempting to take a reductionist point of view, or reverse-engineer success, is notoriously counter productive or dangerous. However (see later posts) I have to believe not all humans need protein in that sense. I know I do.

Autumn - yes. And:

sweet is for women
savoury is for men
women should not eat fat
Men should order a pudding, and the waiter should bring two spoons and give one to the woman with a knowing smirk
A woman who refuses a pudding thinks she is fat and should immediately be freventnly assured for 10 minutes that she is "tiny"
anything a pregnant woman eats is a legitimate subject of intense analysis for the whole table

God this debate always bothers me as I am a vegetarian. I became vegetarian in the Late '80's and had to put up with [concerned face] "oh aren't you pale" blah blah blah ... From people. I am red haired, freckly being pale comes with territory and I eat very well. If others do not then it is not vegetarianism too blame but body image and control issues. I love food I do not diet and I have plenty of flesh on my big bones.

As a feminist I consider not wanting to over exploit animals for food as entirely in line with my philosophy. My husband is also vegetatarian as are our children. What they eat as adults will be up to them and I am keen to ensurr they eat well, on the whole they do.

As far as using vegetarianism to conceal eating disorders that may well happen and plenty of people have weird food/ conyrol issues. But I disagree that good quality proteins are missing from the veggie diet it is very easy these days to have a healthy balanced diet and also easy to have a poor meat based diet,

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:39:24

bigmouthstrikesagain, how old are your children? How do you feel about them possibly eating meat or fish from choice?

Also it can depend on the individual I have always thrived on my diet and not missed meat. My sister was veggie for a short time and found she got sores round her mouth possibly from a lack of some vitamins she needed. So in her case returning to a diet including meat and fish was the right decision. I have found all my children are healthy bright and energetic. They are certainly not spindly.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:44:07

I totally agree, bigmouth, I really believe this varies hugely from individual.
btw it is not my experience that vegetarian = thin, on the contrary, for me a starch / grain / pulse based diet leads to bulk (as well as raging hunger, perhaps the two are connected!)

As long as they don't expect me to cook meat for them it is up to them, once they are responsible for buying their own food. Currently they are 4,7 and 9.

I fully expect them to try meat and fish as they get older.

I don't know about raging hunger. Good quality wholegrains are filling in my experience, as are eggs amd cheese as I am not vegan there is plenty of protein in my diet.

Opalite Fri 04-Oct-13 16:59:43

Hmm.. a lot of things are used as exccuses for disordered eating; I'm allergic to that, I'm a vegetarian so I can't eat that, I'm gluten intolerant, I feel sick, I just ate, I'm not hungry, I don't like that food...
I'm certain that most vegetarians and vegans choose it because they care about animals and don't want to eat their bodies or contribute to the industry or because of health reasons.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 17:00:01

"I don't know about raging hunger" - good, it's working for you. You do realise that I don't doubt your experience? Do you doubt mine?

Opalite Fri 04-Oct-13 17:00:37

Vegans can get plenty of protein as well as other nutrients and it is an outdated myth that they can't

DoItTooJulia Fri 04-Oct-13 17:05:31

We eat masses of protein here. Lentils are a staple part of our diet.

We eat daal, curry with lentils, puy lentil salads, shepherds pie made from lentils (the recipe for which I came across in an 80 s cook book. It was called shepherdess pie, presumably because it was meat free) and most if the soups I make have lentils thrown in too. We eat chickpeas and other beans too. I would say that vegetarian protein is not inferior, but different.

In terms of vegan ism, I looked on it as eating a plant based diet. My downfall was usually manchego. I have always thought drinking the milk of another species is really really weird. (I am totally aware of the hypocrite that I am, enjoying cheese) it was simply an extension of that.

My DCs are 8 and almost 1. The older one hates the thought of ever eating meat. Well just have to see if that changes. No pressure from me, but as the main cook and shopper for food, I just don't buy or prepare it.

DoItTooJulia Fri 04-Oct-13 17:07:22

Oh, and I'm not thin. I can eat al the bread and chips in the world as a veggie and even vegan!

ithaka Fri 04-Oct-13 17:10:09

OP - are you aware that large portions of the world's population are vegetarian? Some how they all manage to cope without meat - you must be quite the biological exception.

Another veggie family here - me, DH, children, mum, stepdad, sister, BIL, all their children etc etc. And wow, we are all fit, string principled individuals who choose not to chow down on dead animals. That does not make us lacking, ill, or eating disordered.

Meat in a diet is a choice (one that is bad for the environment, admittedly) not a necessity.

Mildred I don'y doubt your experience. What I am not sure about is the equation with vegetariamism.

For me being veggie solves a problem, I don't like eating animals so I don't. For my sister being veggie created a problem so she stopped being veggie (but isn't scarfingsteaks at every meal).

Vegetarianism may not suit everyone but if more people were veggie it would benefit the environment. That it leaves you feeling hungry ... It is very difficult to assign blame to the diet or your body's requirements. the widerissue of women and food and the pressure to deny ourselves or binge is complex.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 17:22:27

"Oh, and I'm not thin. I can eat al the bread and chips in the world as a veggie and even vegan!"
quite - I said the opposite of what you seem to think I said upthread - a starchy diet promotes bulk, ime

"are you aware that large portions of the world's population are vegetarian?" yes. I believe some of them are well and happy and some are not - not all of them are vegetarian by choice
of course there may be a genetic reason why certain people in certain areas do well on veggie foods (a la the milk-digesting gene, having it or not. Note I said "a la" not "eg" when you attempt some sort of snippy reply)

Mass agriculture - which is what is needed for a widespread vegan diet - is absolutely terrible for the environment. Annual crops destroy the soil. Shipping foods is wasteful. I know keeping animals is usually done horribly too btw. But grain is causing irreversible global damage

there is a huge food problem on the planet and everyone eating grain is not the answer (I mean I accept we could all survive on it. When I say it makes me unhealthy I don't mean I expect to immediatley starve)

I am getting really uncomfortable hearing all this hostility to eating meat because after what I have been through it sounds like "we want you to be depressed, ill and suicidal". I have to keep reminding myself that none of you has the power to make this happen

ithaka Fri 04-Oct-13 17:31:26

OP - you obviously have issues around feed. You have ascribed these to vegetarianism. I would think that vegetarianism cannot be blamed for your issues. None of my veggie family has food issues - the only disordered eater in my family is my MIL who 'loves her meat'.

Grain is causing damage because so much of it is required to feed the animals that the west demands for its meat rich diet. When consumed as a crop and not via an animal, it has a far lower environmental footprint.

GretaGroovy Fri 04-Oct-13 17:31:44

But who is suggesting that you eat a vegetarian diet? I mean it kindly...where is your fear coming from?

DoItTooJulia Fri 04-Oct-13 17:38:01

I was agreeing with you re the bulk!

And OP, I was interested in engaging with you on this, but I fear there is something else going on here. You asked for a debate and started off by saying vegetarianism is a cover for eating disorders, no wonder you've raised some hackles! You must see that!

Not one veggie has said that you should not eat meat or wish that you were depressed ill and suicidal. Therefore, I'm out.

Opalite Fri 04-Oct-13 17:44:24

Yourtoastmildred, a huge percentage of the worlds grain goes to feeding livestock. Grain isn't a staple for me, I am a vegan and very healthy. Shipping grain may be wasteful but surely it isn't as wasteful as the millions of animals being killed each day for meat?
There are plenty of healthy vegans and vegetarians, plenty of unhealthy meat eaters, you can be very unhealthy on a vegan diet and very unhealthy on a meat eating diet. ..

Opalite Fri 04-Oct-13 17:46:08

Please know that I don't want you to be suicidal or depressed or ill but I do disagree with the points you've raised, that's all

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 17:50:19

Yes, I do have issues around food, no shit sherlock.
In the first place (nothing to do with vegetarianism) from my mother being obsessed with thinking she is fat, suffering and inflicting severe fat-shame.
In the second place, being told again and again that I ought to eat a certain way that was bad for me and that it was definitely not bad for me, in fact actively good for me (vegetarianism), to the extent that I could not begin to listen to my body over the vegetarian = good message

ithaka, right, grain being fed to animals is a shocking crime against the planet. but so much of it is fed to people too. If you stopped keeping the animals that are currently (wrongly) grain fed it would still leave vast tracts of desertification.
People can't digest cellulose. herbivores can. If we all ate truly locally, we would eat whatever local plants are available - often few digestible by humans - and the local animals that can eat the local plants. This is by the way not what I do - I wish - I am not pretending it is. I am just saying that with agriculture the way it is now, it doesn't matter if you eat grain or animals, it's all an almighty fuck-up. And my being miserable and unhealthy isn't going to help

Um not sure how to respond op. You sound very angry and I am sorry that your relationship with food is making you so unhappy.

I don't entirely agree with your view point, but that is ok and par for the course in a debate. But I am not sure you want to engage in a debate judging by your responses. That is ok too but not for me. I shall bow out and hopefully someone you want to talk too will come on.

MrsMinkBernardLundy Fri 04-Oct-13 18:44:36

Most of the vegans i know (quite a few) are male.
Most of the people I know with MH issues are not vegans.

And I think you are confusing the role of gender and body facism in disordered eating with vegetarianism.

Again some of the people I know with disordered eating habits are vegetarian but not many and of the many male and female vegans/vegetarians I know most do not have an ED.

Also there are actual biological differences between men and women that do mean women are more inclined to carbs and men to protein.
although the sugar thing is a myth. men where chocolate is available eat just as much if not more than women (without the guilt and stereotyping)

DontGiveAwayTheHomeworld Fri 04-Oct-13 20:33:04

About the allergy excuse...I'm allergic to cheese. Like have to go to hospital level of allergic. Just cheese though, any other dairy is fine.

The amount of times I'm told that I should just say if I'm on a diet. Or worse, "don't worry about fat, you're so slim, a little won't hurt." Actually, a little could possibly kill me. It's not a fad, or a diet, or an excuse. I just can't eat the stuff.

So sometimes it actually is an allergy. Just wanted to point that out smile

exexpat Sat 05-Oct-13 09:54:18

OK, I have been a happy, healthy, non-eating-disordered, feminist vegetarian for nearly 30 years. The friends who first introduced me to the idea of vegetarianism were all male, and it was mainly about animal welfare and ethics. I enjoy food (possibly too much), eat a very varied diet, and definitely do not starve myself.

I also read Diet for a Small Planet around the time I turned vegetarian, so although environmental arguments weren't the main reason I stopped eating meat, they were a factor, and as far as I can tell, the environmental arguments against mass-production of meat have only got stronger since then. The UN has produced several reports on it - most recently this one, I think: 14.5% of global emissions and 30% of biodiversity loss come from livestock.

With some changes, it would be possible to produce meat in a more environmentally sustainable, ethical and animal-welfare friendly way, but it certainly wouldn't be possible to supply the entire world with the levels of meat they are eating now (or starting to eat - rising meat consumption in China is a major environmental threat). And I still wouldn't want to eat it.

I am sorry that you have personal issues with food, OP, but trying to blame it on vegetarianism is really not fair.

youretoastmildred Sat 05-Oct-13 11:09:10

I am not trying to blame it on vegetarianism, I am honest about the fact that it didn't start there.

I am quite surprised at how anxious and upset I got with this thread, clearly I am not ready to talk about food with other people, although I thought I was.

the conversation I wanted to have was about the book (but I don't think any of you have read it, have you? Not that you have to, was just wondering whether anyone had) and also about my sense (mistaken but ingrained) that part of being a woman was to be deeply concerned with everyone else, (even if at the expense of myself) - even animals.

I got very ill and unhappy as a vegetarian and carried on for too long partly because, as with so many other things, I discounted my own experiential evidence in favour of theoretical fervent insistence that "vegetarianism is healthy". I was really hurt and made bizarrely anxious by the snippy note from ithaka that I must be a biological oddity not to do well as a vegetarian. that note I read as a. clear disbelief, which I found very upsetting, and b. implying that anyone who is not a vegetarian is morally lacking, because it can't do anyone any harm and it does the wider world a lot of good.

Personally I take deep issue with both halves of that point b. I can argue it but I don't want to because I find that I am very stressed by feeling that I have to defend my right to be physically present in the world and feed myself in a way that keeps me well. It is horribly close to the sense that I was too big and must starve down. I have spent too much of my life genuinely, dangerously hungry and this thread is not good for me.

I don't mind people saying "vegetarianism works for me" but I do mind "and it would for you" and "it is better for everyone". I really have an issue with it and the snippiness of some (not all) posters and I am going to go.

Grennie Sat 05-Oct-13 11:28:05

I have read bits of the book actually - although not all of it in fairness. What I have read, I don't agree with.

What bits do you agree with mildred?

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 05-Oct-13 14:05:53

Possibly in the past being vegan or vegetarian was a way to deprive yourself, and it was an issue that far more women did so, but it's not the case now.

As a vegan in London I know a lot of vegans, about 50/50 male/female, and none of us are particularly more or less physically or mentally healthy than anyone else. They just talk about animal welfare more often - as well as other types of exploitation.

I also thought it was common knowledge now that veggie diets are far better for the environment.

I haven't read LK's book, but I did hear her discussing the main content of it on the radio a couple of years ago and disagreed with it. The science doesn't add up. She also blamed her illness on veganism, but in another interview she said that all the while she was vegan she ate eggs and dairy every chance she got. So, seeing as she wasn't vegan, it seems odd to blame her illness on veganism.

Grennie Sat 05-Oct-13 14:10:13

Leirre Keith has an unexplained illness. It is common for people with unexplained, but debilitating illnesses to try and find a reason for it. Occasionally this can lead to strange ideas.

I do think if you are vegan, you do have to plan your diet better to be healthy. But you can be an omnivore or a vegan, and eat healthily or unhealthily.

Also of course if you eat fruit and veg that is flown in from abroad, you will not have a positive impact on the environment. If you care about the environment you have to look at both what you eat, and where it comes from.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 05-Oct-13 14:17:47

I think vegans, as conscientious consumers, do tend to think more about where their food comes from than others. Thought certainly not all!

nameimadeupjustnow Sat 05-Oct-13 14:40:49

Another happy, well-fed, feminist vegetarian here. With happy, well-fed, veggie DH & children.

Going veggie (loooong ago) solved a few niggling health problems I had as a child and young adult. It's had no obvious effect on my weight - which is dead-normal BMI as it was before (whether it has helped me stay in the normal range as I aged I do not know).

I also have a few veggie friends, and their diets could not be more different than my own. People tend to think, ahh, you're veggie, so you follow some specific veggie-diet that all veggies follow. Of course that's not true. So you saying, 'I was unhealthy on a veggie diet' makes me think that you were eating unhealthily, and that the amount of meat in your diet had little to do with it.

I am pleased you are feeling better on the diet you follow now, and if it works stick to it. I hope you can overcome your issues with food and feel healthy and well.

For me, I feel good in my health, I feel great about not eating animals, and I hope I'm doing something good for the environment. None of which in any way compromises my feminist principles.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 05-Oct-13 15:06:04

I haven't actually seen any hositility to meat eating or meat eaters in this thread.

Unlike, "veganism, which I've always found to be practised by people who are slightly on the edge of a breakdown of sorts. sad"


HotDogWater Sat 05-Oct-13 15:08:28

What an interesting thread

whatdoesittake48 Sat 05-Oct-13 16:57:30

I went vegetarian because i thought I would lose weight. I put it on. I started eating meat and stopped eating gluten and lo and behold I was healthier and thinner than ever.

just sayin'. But i make no connection between my eating and my gender aside from the requirement for women to be thin which we all deal with in different ways.

if women really are the majority of veges and vegans I think it is likely to be because of the obsession with weight. I pretended for years it was about the environment or the animals. being honest with myself - it wasn't and never was. it was about my thighs and my arse. To my shame i allowed the views of others to influence my entire way of eating.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 05-Oct-13 17:04:27

"if women really are the majority of veges and vegans I think it is likely to be because of the obsession with weight"

The vast majority of vegans I meet (don't know as many vegetarians) have become vegans out of compassion. Please don't dismiss it.

Obviously women worry more about weight than men and are more susceptible to fad diets. This has always been a feminist issue. However, I think it's that paleo thing now?

PeoniesPlease Sat 05-Oct-13 18:29:43

This is an interesting talk about the issues raised by some previous posters about livestock and the environment.

I think we don't yet have enough evidence to suggest that vegetarianism is definitely better for the environment. I agree that our current intensive approach to farming, be it arable or livestock, is completely awful for the planet.

My view is that if people are happy and healthy being vegetarian/vegan, that is great for them. I don't think it is a morally superior choice, and I think there are ways to eat very healthily which involve meat - the paleo lifestyle for example.

I tried vegetarianism, partly because I am an animal lover, and partly because of concerns about my weight. It didn't work for me, and I am now a happy meat eater smile.

OP, I'm sorry that you are struggling with these issues - there is just so much complicated shit to do with women, food, weight and health that I almost don't know where to start! I haven't read the book but it certainly sounds interesting.

I definitely think that there are factions amongst the vegetarian movement which target women and girls' fears about body image - PETA's use of naked female bodies to spread their message is really disgusting. (Disclaimer - I realise that not all veggie groups do this!)

ithaka Sat 05-Oct-13 21:52:54

OP, I can't believe you have the cheek to call my comment 'snippy' when you made such blanket, offensive comments about vegetarians & vegans.

Well, I was offended by your 'snippy' assumption that the only reason a woman would be veggie is because she fretted about her weight. Actually, no. I am one of those people who is lucky enough to stay slim, so my food choices have been motivated by something rather loftier than an obsession with the size of my thighs and arse. And yes, that was a snippy comment.

As a mother who has lost a child, my children's health matters a whole damn lot to me. Unlike you, I would not be 'very very very worried' if my surviving children announced they wanted to become vegan. I would support their ethical choices. Because being a vegan is a perfectly valid way to eat and far better for their health and the plant than chowing down on Macdonalds.

giveitago Sat 05-Oct-13 22:34:00

I know lots of vegans and they are vegan because of their stance on animals and nothing else. They are usually with vegan men and vegan friends.

I know lots of vegetarians because of family background - religious traditions.

The only feminist interest here that I see is that the women tend to stick to veggie and the men not - I do think that women tend to adhere to religious doctrine rather than men

ArmyOfPenguins Sun 06-Oct-13 01:51:46

There are feminist links with animal rights/welfare - see Carol J Adams or Gary Francione.

sashh Sun 06-Oct-13 08:46:59

Vegetarian and vegan diets can be completely healthy.

Meat eaters can have lousy diets.

I used diet in both cases to mean general heating not weight loss or other reason for restricting food.

Both though are convenient excuses for anyone trying to cover up an eating disorder and are as logical as imposing rules like "I only eat cheese when there is a blue moon", and "I only eat fruit picked by people wearing a purple sock on their left foot"

Keith posits that the breakdown is caused by the veganism I know a 4 year old vegan, he doesn't look like he is heading for a breakdown.

I didn't get the red hair, for some reason it seems to go to the boys in my family but I did get the pale skin. I have to say if I give up meat for a week or two I do fade to an almost transparent shade and there is a perception in our culture that pale =ill.

Grennie Sun 06-Oct-13 10:58:01

There are a fair number of vegans who see veganism as an integral part of their feminism. Because they care about all females who are treated badly - including those of other species.

They argue for speciesm - the idea that it is discriminatory to treat humans as more important than other animals. That a cow for example, has just as much right to care for and feed her calf as a mother, as a human mother has to care and feed for her baby.

I am not a vegan, but I actually think the arguments have some validity.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 10:09:08

Grennie, what parts have you read / not agree with? You go first, as I have read the whole book so it would take me longer.

"you must have been eating a bad diet"

Well yes that's what I think, now! however it was following the nutritional advice of the time which was heavily based on pulses and varying grains and pulses and eating whole foods and as many whole raw fruits and veg as you like, no such thing as too much fruit for instance. Not that heavy on the dairy (partly because I was told that dairy inhibits iron absorption, partly because I had some issues with the way meat farming and dairy farming seemed to be so inextricably linked). What this amounts to is a pretty low fat, high starch diet which caused me massive problems with blood sugar levels, hugely overstimulating insulin and leading to tiredness and weight gain.

"They argue for speciesm - the idea that it is discriminatory to treat humans as more important than other animals. That a cow for example, has just as much right to care for and feed her calf as a mother, as a human mother has to care and feed for her baby."

this I think is really logically mixed up because only humans consciously give a shit about other species. All other animals with canines and incisors hunt and kill with gay abandon. I think you either accept a special status that comes with being human, a sort of noblesse oblige, and refrain from eating animals as no other species chooses to do; or you think that all species are on a level, and you take your place in the melee. Rejecting speciesism takes you pretty immediately out into the forest with a rifle.

I still feel that the issue of how you keep animals for milk but not meat is not solved and that the issue of how you fertilise growing veg without animals is not solved. I don't really believe vegans eat locally in this country because in winter that's just cabbage and turnips. maybe some do, I believe it is possible, I suppose they can already have dried their beans from the summer, but can anyone in this country grow lentils? peanuts? Are all the nuts and grains available throughout the winter grown locally?

from an environmental perspective - I'd rather throw scraps to a pig and eat it than trash yet more of the planet by scraping off the top soil and covering it with annual plants that require artificial fertiliser and weedkillers to grow - but I admit that a little bit of bacon in your spuds and cabbage in winter feels like it goes a long way in terms of comfort and well being as well

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 11:57:59

"All other animals with canines and incisors hunt and kill with gay abandon"

They don't breed other animals just in order to exploit their reproductive organs and kill them though.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 12:36:16

Are you vegan, ArmyofPenguins? sorry if you have said and I missed it.

I don't think for one miserable guilty second that the way we do farming, in the main, is ok. It is indefensible. However I am not sure that being vegetarian helps that much - either practically (consumer boycotts rarely achieve much) or symbolically (you aren't even holding up a "not in my name" plaquard to dairy farming)

This troubled me when I was veggie and I tried not to use animal products (though never called myself vegan as I was not).

exexpat Mon 07-Oct-13 12:53:10

Arguing from dentition about what we are 'meant' to eat is a bit of a non-starter. Have you ever looked at a gorilla's teeth? Closely related to us, massive canines etc but does not hunt or kill anything, in fact 99% vegetarian (they do apparently eat the occasional insect etc they find while foraging).

One of the strengths of homo sapiens is that we have evolved to be able to thrive on a wide range of foodstuffs, enabling us to survive over a wider area of the earth's surface than any other mammal. Some populations have a diet composed almost entirely of meat, some eat none at all. That doesn't really tell us anything about what we 'should' eat, despite what a lot of diet books try to tell us.

Look, OP, I haven't read the book you mentioned, so don't know what its arguments are, but basically, as an adult, it is entirely up to you what you eat. Every individual's diet must depend on what they feel is healthy for them, what fits with their culture, what they are ethically comfortable with, what is available and basically just what they personally like. No one else has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn't eat. If you don't want to be vegetarian, then don't be.

Yes, there is still a bit of a feeling in this country that real men eat steak and women eat salads, and there are (as far as I know) more female vegetarians (or 'meat-avoiders' if you want to include all varieties of fish/chicken etc eating 'vegetarians') than men, but the fact remains that the majority of women in the UK, and probably the world, do eat meat. You don't need to come up with lots of arguments to justify it, unless someone is attacking you for doing it - in which case you could just tell them to piss off, if you wanted to.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:00:11

I am, yes. Whether it 'helps' or not I don't know. I don't like to see animals or humans exploited and commodified by humans so I try to avoid contributing to it.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 13:04:18

"in which case you could just tell them to piss off, if you wanted to."

ha ha that helps, thanks!

I know, arguing from dentition is silly - I wasn't arguing that, I was arguing the opposite, that we have a unique position in the world from which to choose to eat on grounds other than "because it's there", and therefore there must be an ethical component to our food choices, and this goes against a notion that we rejects "speciesism" - we are diffferent

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:06:10

Sorry, that sounded a bit pompous. smile I just meant to illustrate that my philosophy is fairly straightforward even if impossible to implement 100%.

If I lived in a situation where I was required to eat meat or fish - suddenly abandoned on a desert island for instance - then yes I would. The circumstances I presently live in allow me to make the choice to be vegetarian.

The book you refer to op (I have now read sections of it), describes a situation I am not familiar with I cannot engage with Keith's view or the evidence offered up. The book should be called 'How I stoped being a Vegan and started eating meat again - a polemic - The Californian way' I don't mind if she is happier eating meat and I am happy for her but everything else is her anger and supplanting one agenda and world view for another - I don't accept her arguements at face value. The fact there are vegan nutters posting mental ideas on the internet does not mean vegetarianism or veganism is invalidated. Nor is it an amazing revelation that nature is 'red in tooth and claw' - not an especially squemish or sensitive child I used to watch with fascination as my neighbour skinned rabbits and ran after sheep on the yorkshire moors yelling 'mint sauce' - I still prefer being veggie now and am comfortable in my adult knowledge that as an omnivore I am not required to eat meat to be healthy. I have a choice that stone age folks did not have, eating more sustainably and taking account of seasons can be a bit boring in winter (more swede dear?) but I try.

It is entirely possible to eat some meat sustainably but a vegetarian diet is sustainable and healthy too. They are not incompatible ideas and I am confused by the purpose of 'The Vegetarian Myth'.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:08:33

Of course we're different, we have more power. I don't think we should take advantage.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:14:46

I think it's speciesist to believe that certain animals should exist solely for our use.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 13:19:38

Ok that is a coherent position, but I think you can use an animal without asserting that it exists solely for your use (eg you can hunt deer and rabbits while believing that they exist as part of an eco system which would become unbalanced in uncountable ways without them; in as much as anything has a "use", the rabbit's use is as much to feed other carnivores and to eat vegetation that, gives other vegetation opportunities)

Obviously you can only hold this position if you don't eat them all, or keep them in death camps.

mistlethrush Mon 07-Oct-13 13:23:19

Here is an interesting addition to the discussion. If you scroll down you get to a bit that talks of 'feed conversion'. It shows that you have to feed your pig 2,460,000 kcals of food to get 410,000 kcals of meat out at the end. This is why it is so inefficient of resources to eat lots of meat.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:25:13

When I was a meat eater I advocated eating all animals (and tried quite a few 'strange' ones). Then I decided I wouldn't eat my cat and went vegan. grin

I might hunt deer and rabbits if I get very hungry.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:32:57

I find it easier to be vegan in order to avoid contributing to the way animals are bred and used and killed, than to go hunting. Besides, I live in London and I haven't got a rifle.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 13:41:03

mistlethrush, the traditional way of keeping a pig is to feed it calories you wouldn't have eaten - the contents of your compost bin.
You might say "but the contents of your compost bin can make plant food too" - yes - but it's miserable in winter, as someone else said, "more swede dear?" plus it is hard to enrich the soil sufficiently without either animals products or artificial nitrates based on fossil fuel to create and transport them

Feeding human food (eg grain) to factory farmed animals is a nonsense - but argubably growing as much grain as we are is a nonsense in itself

humans can't digest cellulose. eating animals who can and do eat cellulose is an efficient way of eating locally

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:47:21

youretoast: are you arguing for how people should eat in an ideal world, or for the choices we can make now?

mistlethrush Mon 07-Oct-13 13:59:18

Did you miss this bit of the article OP?:

Few homesteads can produce an edible waste stream sufficient to feed a pig to market weight, and if you can’t use a pig for food recycling there are much more efficient livestock you could consider.

On a 'homestead' they just did not have sufficient 'waste' for the pig. I very much doubt, therefore, that a 'standard' household would have sufficient waste that normally goes in a compost bin - and that would give you just one pig that would last a few months if you were very sparing in your use of pork and pork-by products. From what I read of the pig rearing schemes during the war-time, getting enough scraps was a huge effort that many households contributed towards - and shared in the benefit.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 14:06:45

"effort that many households contributed towards - and shared in the benefit."

you say that like it's a bad thing!

exexpat Mon 07-Oct-13 14:10:13

Not a bad thing, but it would mean that each household would get a very, very small portion of pig in return - nothing like the amount of meat people have come to expect with industrialised agriculture.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

freyasnow Mon 07-Oct-13 15:45:23

Odd thread. I've been a vegetarian for 26 years, and used to be a vegan. I've never been particularly concerned about my weight or been under or overweight. Generally, vegetarians are concerned about various social issues which is presumably why they become vegetarians.

Collectively we need to eat less meat if we want to reduce environmental problems and world hunger. But some land is better managed through pastoral than arable agriculture, so some meat should still be produced. Who should be eating that meat I'm not sure. In some cases it should go to local populations, as should some grains which are not widespread and local populations depend on.

I don't think vegetarians in general are concerned about judging meat eaters. It's not like there aren't a million and one other ways people engage with environmental and social issues. I wouldn't want to be judged for using more hot water or whatever than somebody else, but I'm sure people are more energy efficient than me. Being vegetarian is just one option. It isn't an option that every single person needs to take to resolve the problem.

unfortunatedischarge Mon 07-Oct-13 15:57:47

I'm a vegetarian because I don't think that a human's ability to dominate and abuse animals because they are weaker, smaller or "less intelligent" for completely unnecessary meat based protein means that they have a right to dominate them.

I am a feminist because I don't believe a woman who may be (in some cases) physically smaller, weaker or "less intelligent"* should be dominated by men .

-women are obviously not less intelligent but have been told their intelligence is inferior even though they have traditionally lacked educational resources. Animals have also been called less intelligent because their brains and intelligence is different to ours. Both reasons are bull shit.

JuliaScurr Mon 07-Oct-13 16:16:11

evolution & cooking - sexual division of labour - sharing of cooked food
more nutrition extracted from cooked food
growth of big brains
agriculture - women owned by men
Engels etc
that kind of thing

mistlethrush Mon 07-Oct-13 16:17:20

I think its a good thing that they all contributed - but the amount of meat that each family got was very small. Probably going back to the sort of proportions of meat availability there was in the war would be a better diet for a large proportion of the population, and also a more sustainable way of producing food.

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