What About Our Bodies

A number of folks transition to and from veganism for health reasons. In fact, health becomes a major battle ground between the omni and the vegan. I was never a health-vegan myself, because I don’t care that much for my own body in that way. But I am amazed at how this battle seems to wage forever, with no clear winner in sight (but each side wholeheartedly believes they are right).

But the arguments aren’t really about the health of individuals, no all human bodies are used as pieces in a fight for scientific narrative control.

Meat-eaters will talk your ear off about proteins and B12 and iron. They’re convinced that vegans are anemic, insane, 90lb weaklings.

Vegans counter with talk of how flesh and secretion eaters are basically walking sacks of diabetes and cancer, and a well-balanced vegan diet has all the nutrients a body needs.

Everyone becomes upset when one of their own switches to the other side. They’ll throw study after study at a person, because science says they don’t know what makes them healthy.

I’m not a firm believer in science. And even if I was, folks are drawing crazy conclusions from different studies and not thinking critically about how the armaments for both side are flawed. Certain herbivorous diets can be healthy. Certain omnivorous diets can be healthy.

But vegans and omnivores have to stop playing the placebo/brainwashing card when folks claim they feel better from switching. If an ex-vegan claims to feel better after eating animals, who am I to claim they aren’t actually healthier. If a new vegan says they feel healthier, who am I to doubt how well they know their own bodies?


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9 Responses to What About Our Bodies

  1. Rachel says:

    The most unhealthy people are those who don’t listen to their bodies. There’s a certain amount of forethought and personal experience that goes into choosing which foods you know make your body happy, and not just the taste buds. Sometimes people tell themselves they feel great, then go to the doctor for an issue probably preventable by diet if they just listened and thought.

    No matter what your diet, your body will rebel if it’s not getting what it needs.

  2. Sue says:

    When you are a vegan I think it is harder to admit that your health issues may be caused by your diet? Particularly, if you think veganism is the healthiest and most ethical diet.

  3. mark says:

    ‘I’m not a firm believer in science’, he says, writing on his computer, powered by electricity from the local power plant, miraculously not having contracted smallpox (though I’m sure that was just a coincidence — the so-called ‘scientific’ eradication of smallpox was obviously just a scam)..

    Go back to the middle ages if you want to live without science, thanks.

    • Royce says:

      There is a difference between science as an epistemic system and the technological effects of human ingenuity. Or did no one invent anything before the 17th Century?

      You don’t have to get so testy because folks don’t believe in the same things as you.

  4. Ben says:

    Additionally, Mark, I might add that the same scientific system of epistemology which “miraculously” saves us from contracting smallpox also turns a blind eye towards the use of smallpox in biological warfare against Native Americans in the 1700’s (and towards the end of WWII the American government was doing research into employing smallpox as a biological weapon as well). The question is not whether or not science saves people from smallpox (and a host of other things, such as boredom)–the answer is unequivocally that it does and has. The question is WHOM it saves, and why you and I have benefited from it in a way that most people have not throughout human history.

  5. Kim says:

    I would never tell someone that they’re wrong about how they FEEL. Just like placebos can make people think they’re better – and not only that, but actually make them better in some cases – in the same way, a person who sincerely believes that they need meat or dairy to feel good might imagine themselves being weaker on a balanced vegan diet. The power of that belief makes them actually feel less well. It’s all in their head, but that’s a very powerful thing.

    So, what I would argue with is the misconceptions that are making them feel that way. I would point them to scientific evidence that vegan diets are healthy, that getting enough protein is easy, etc. The science is not ambiguous on this: individual studies might occasionally contradict one another, but meta-analysis is what reveals reliable information. We know vegan diets are not only adequate for all humans without exception, we also know they go a long way in protecting against certain diseases. So, from a health perspective, vegan diets are the way to go. Quoting a handful of studies that challenge this does nothing to dispel the much larger body of knowledge we already have that this is factual.

    I’m not a “health-vegan”, either: I’m vegan because I don’t believe in exploiting others. That’s what it comes down to for me. So, even though we can win the health and the environmental arguments, for me that’s not really what being vegan is about. It’s about the individual animals. Even if meat-eating were environmentally neutral and veganism merely as healthy as carnism (or even less healthy), it would still clearly be wrong to engage in exploitation.

    • Royce says:

      I’m just suspicious of any claims that vegan diets are universally adequate. Meta-analysis might point to trends, but there are so many variables that it seems foolhardy to point out one as the ultimate cause of better health.

      I’m also critical of this notion that we know all or even enough to dictate what are the best diets, just because we know some of the bad ones.

      I also don’t know if veganism necessarily “wins” on health or environmental arguments. Current veganism might be better than current mass carnism, but veganism and carnism are equally variable, and could both lead to better or worse situations.

      • Kim says:

        Well, the question of adequacy and the question of superiority are two different things. Vegan diets are, without any doubt, adequate for everyone. The degree of superiority is where there remain questions: while the evidence is in that balanced vegan diets are superior for all, the question of how superior varies with each person. In other words, for some people, switching to a vegan diet may have only marginal benefits, because that person perhaps eats a mostly plant-based diet already and is in excellent physical condition, whereas for other people, it makes the difference between whether they’re going to live to see their grand-children grow up.

        As for what the best diet is, you’re right, there’s a lot of debate there. Is low-fat vegan the best way, as PCRM and others state, or is a more Mediterranean/Japanese vegan approach better? There are many, many questions about the specifics, but when you’re looking at something broad like animal products, which contain bad things the body is better off without, and good things, all of which can be found in plant foods, it’s not so complicated.

        Vegan diets are best for the environment: the only way you can calculate that carnist diets could be better is if you make the carnist food production focus on organic and local production and hunting, and make the vegan food production wasteful by making it conventional grown (with pesticides, etc.) and shipping things large distances. If you compare local, organic production, of both carnist and vegan food, then veganism wins.

        The only exceptions to that are with hunting and grazing animals on land that has low soil quality. These are relatively environmentally friendly. Of course, that can’t be the only ethical criteria we have: environmentally neutral it may be, cruelty-free it most certainly is not. And when vegan diets provide us with everything we need, why would we choose cruelty?

      • Royce says:

        I agree vegan diets are adequate for most.

        Is there a best diet for the Environment? I think there are many cases where non-vegan diets are better for their particular environments. If I lived near the ocean searching for shellfish in the surf would be better for the environment than locally raised vegetables. There is no universally best diet, only better or worse diets in comparison.

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