I’ve typically kept my views on this subject to myself, mainly because it’s a heated argument that often turns nasty- unnecessarily nasty.
But here it is – Yes, I care about the environment. Yes, I care about animals and animal welfare. No, I am not a vegetarian or vegan nor do I believe it is a viable or sustainable solution for the majority of people.
Many people will claim that these beliefs don’t coincide – how can you care about animals and yet eat one for dinner? Well, that’s nature. I care about gazelles, but I’m not going to prevent the lion from killing one. The lion has to kill to survive, too. It’s all about balance. Do humans have to kill to survive? Many, especially vegans or vegetarians will argue no, but how correct is this belief?
Nature says “Humans are omnivores.”
Pure and simple, humans are naturally meant to eat both animals and plants.
- Look at your teeth, notice the sharp pointy ones? Now look at the teeth of an herbivore (a horse or cow), notice they’re all flat? Our teeth indicate that we were intended to consume a mixed diet.
- Humans need B12, Vitamin D, and Omega-3s to survive. The only reliable and plentiful sources for these are meat. Yes you can use supplements and to some degree they may be found in some plant based foods, but without the fat from meat your body can’t even process what you manage to take in properly.
- Human intestines aren’t as long as carnivores, but also aren’t as short as herbivores.
- The human stomach contains hydrochloric acid to break down food. This would only be necessary for a diet that includes meat.
Is a Vegan/Vegetarian diet possible for an omnivore?
It’s obviously possible, and some people thrive on the diet. But, the one thing we should all know by now is that there is no one diet that will work for everyone. People are physiologically different – these differences mean that a diet that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. This applies to the Vegan/Vegetarian diet, just like it applied to the Atkins Diet, Weight-Watchers, the South Beach Diet, and every other popular diet. There isn’t a magic bullet to fix our dieting needs.
As an example let’s go back to the Omega-3s humans need to survive, there are different types of Omega-3s and some are found in plant based foods. Supporters of vegan/egalitarian based diets claim that the body can convert the Omega-3s found in these foods into the other kinds needed by the body. This is true! BUT, only if your ancestors didn’t live on diets rich in seafood. For these people a Vegan/Vegetarian diet can be deadly, because their bodies don’t possess the ability to convert the Omega-3s.
I’ve had several patients of Northern European descent with severe mental and immune problems caused by a lack of EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fatty acids not found in plant foods (DHA is found in small amounts in some algae). People native to warmer climates in the world can manufacture these fatty acids from other omega-3s, but those of Northern European or Innuit descent cannot. Since their ancestors ate so much EPA- and DHA-rich fish, their bodies eventually lost the ability to manufacture these fatty acids. For these people, vegetarianism is impossible; they must consume either eggs or fish in order to survive. – Stephen Byrnes, ND, PhD, RNCP
Is meat consumption in general bad for the environment?
If we’re talking about factory farming and stall-fed livestock, then YES. But, if we’re talking about free-range farms with grass-fed livestock, then NO. Some vegans/vegetarians claim that they made their choice to stop eating meat because of the factory farming industry. Here’s what one ex-vegan has to say:
“It’s a hard reality for a vegetarian to swallow, but my veggie burgers did not rattle the industry cages at all. I was simply avoiding the battlefield, stepping aside as a pacifist. There is nobility in the vegetarian choice, but it isn’t changing the system fast enough. … [W]hen you vote to eat a steak or leg of lamb purchased from a small farmer you are showing the industrial system you are actively opting out. You are showing them you are willing to sacrifice more of your paycheck to dine with dignity. As people are made more aware of this beautiful option, farmers are coming out in droves to meet the demand.” Jenna Woginrich
This has also been my belief on the matter. I choose to eat meat, but I buy only free-range, and grass-fed meat. Salt of the Earth Farms, in Hiram, Ohio is the perfect example of the small farmer raising animals humanely and providing healthy meat.
Does meat consumption = murder?
This one, especially for me, is a bit more complicated to answer. I don’t believe that humans are superior to animals, so I think an animal’s life is just as valuable as a human life. However, nature intended humans to be omnivores, as I argued above, and nature provides a balanced diet for us. Therefore, it is rude to argue with what has been provided. Similarly, it is rude to take too much of what has been provided, so meat consumption should be moderated and balanced. Livestock should also be cared for in a way that provides them with the diet that nature intended for them (no grain!).
I respect those who chose to take a vegan/vegetarian diet for whatever reason, but they should be careful to address the health issues involved with the diet and carefully plan their diet with a professional who can steer them clear of serious health issues. And, that’s not to say there aren’t pitfalls to a diet that includes meat, but every person needs to make an educated decision regarding their personal health. I’ve tried being a vegetarian, and found that it just didn’t work for me. I know a lot of people will argue that it was because I didn’t do it “right,” but again I stress, there is no universal diet that will work for everyone. That being said, many of the vegetarians and vegans I know are always tired, irritable and prone to sickness.
As I said, it’s a personal choice, but it should always be an educated choice. Becoming a vegetarian or vegan is not a simple lifestyle change, and should be done under the supervision of a trained nutritionist. I’m open to other people’s choices, so I request that comments be open as well, but all derogatory, nasty, or insulting comments will be left up for the world to see unless the language is inappropriate for our general readers.
If you want to learn more, Stephen Byrnes’ article addresses these issues and more. “Myths and Information about Vegetarianism”