Vegan Challenge

For the coming fourty days, I will eat and drink solely plant-based foods and drinks. I will succeed, except perhaps for a few mistakes out of ignorance (though I just took screenshots of a list of vegan E-numbers, and intend to verify them). It’s not my intention to permanently switch to a vegan or even a vegetarian diet. I don’t consider that necessary, but I do think doing such a challenge is a good idea for everyone. Since it is a topic of discussion these days, let me briefly give my views on some of the arguments.

Eating vegan is the more natural thing to do
Some vegans claim that eating vegan is a natural thing to do. They support this statement by pointing out some of our physiological adaptations to green food, such as our molars to chew, our long intestines to digest greens and our not so acidic stomach. These are supposedly signs that evolution adapted us to a fully vegan diet. For now, all I’d like to contest against this doctrine is ‘Vitamin B12’. That vitamin is vital to our nervous system, but can be found solely in animal products, in some very exceptional algae and in food supplements. The fact that humans would get serious problems (such as blindness) if we don’t regularly ingest B12 pretty much settles the argument for me. And I find the ‘natural’ argument a bit scary in fact. As if ‘cultural’ would be wrong. Depending on your definition, we humans have moved far beyond the ‘natural’. I don’t see that as morally wrong as long as we stay respectful, and I do not support such doctrines.

Eating vegan is healthier
Here’s an argument I haven’t researched that much. So far, I have lived by the principle that my body knows perfectly well what is good for it and what is not. Now that I’m thirty, I do admit that this outlook may be a little naive, since I would supposedly not yet notice the potential long-term damage I did to it in my early years. Yet following my appetite, I noticed that my food choice becomes heavier in winter, containing more meat, and more vegetable-based in summer, when I need less energy and fat to keep my body heated. I consider that a good sign. Of course, I cannot be sure if that is a mental of physical thing. Probably a combination.

Essentially, health is a complex thing. What is healthy for your brain, may be unhealthy for your heart, and what is good for your kidneys may be less good for your eyes or your nervous system. Food scientists discover new impacts of foods every day. Hence, next to following my taste, I have always tried to adopt a balanced diet and eating a bit of everything.

To stay within the discourse on health and veganism, some people use the argument that vegans get sick as soon as they eat a bit of meat. I wouldn’t deny that they get sick, but would look for the explanation in the switch of diet, rather than blaming the actual meat or dairy. And many people have allergies, intolerances or other medical conditions which would fully legitimize certain diet choices. Problems I don’t have, luckily. In the end, I’d say that avoiding illness requires a broader outlook. We should stimulate our capacity to continuously heal ourselves, which in my view is about untightening.

Vegan consumption reduces animal suffering
I’m all for the decrease of animal suffering. Whether an animal suffers or not, depends on how it is treated. Not eating meat at all means turning your back on meat farmers. Buying organic meat of the kind that focusses on animal welfare, on the other hand, stimulates a better practice. It could indirectly stimulate change in the standards of animal treatment in general. Thus using market forces, buying organic meat could decrease animal suffering in a way that eating no meat can’t. Let’s not forget also, that many of the animals we’re talking about would never have existed without us. Provided they enjoy existence, breeding animals could be a good thing. I would say that this conversation should be more about respectful animal treatment than about eating or not eating them.

Killing animals is wrong
I’m not happy that we have to kill other beings to survive, but that’s the bitter truth. Vegans, vegetarians and many others make a sharp distinction between plants and animals. Now, I agree that there are differences between the groups, but there also are plenty of things about plants we do not yet understand. And if there’s one thing in which plants do not differ from animals, it’s in the meaning of death. We are talking about the difference between being held together by life, and falling apart. I don’t see how plants and animals differ under that light. I believe that feeling the life flow out of you is a deeply relaxing experience to all creatures alike.

Vegans’ environmental impacts are lower
I find this the strongest argument against eating animal products (or for the reduction of it). Every step up the food pyramid costs ten times the amount of food and drinks as the previous step did. In other words: it takes 10 kg of grass to create 1 kg of cow, and 100 kg of grass to create 1 kg of human that fed solely on cows, while it would take 10 kg of vegetables. Keeping our position in the food pyramid low will inevitably reduce our impact on the global environment.

There is something unfair about this calculation, however, that I do want to stress. Grass can become new fertilizer. None of the ingested substances truly disappears. All of it will be given back to the atmosphere, the water and the land. The power of the global ecosystem has always been to keep the cycle intact. But: we humans have disrupted the balance, to a point where ecosystems are incapable of dealing with all of our waste. We could, theoretically, compensate for that ourselves and create new cycles that are more adapted to our taste for meat. However, we are far from having created such new cycles at the moment, and many of the valuable nutrients for our food are disappearing into the oceans. Hence it would be better for now to decrease our meat ingestion. Yet in this discussion, we should not forget that many plant products such as coffee, chocolate and plant-based oils have similar impacts on the global nutrient cycles as meat does.

Still taking the challenge
So, if I’m not against consumption of animal products per se, why still take this challenge? Well, first of all, not being anti doesn’t make you pro. I like meat, and not being discriminatory against it is by far the easiest way to go. Reducing my consumption of it is nonetheless still a good idea. Besides, I am not fond of habits that have taken control over me. I take yearly month-long brakes from coffee and alcohol, and I decided to do that with animal-based products as well at least this year. By doing so, I force myself to explore different behavioural patterns, and I expect that my outlook on food will expand. I suppose I’ll have a bigger palette of habits and dishes at my disposal after this period, which will decrease my animal-based consumption without me noticing.

I’m by far not the first of my friends to do something like this. Many have gone before, and I suppose that seeing them do it triggered it in me as well. But this is my choice, and I’m quite sure I will face some small conflicts with myself and society. For a short while, I will look into the faces of the pro-meat camp with the eyes of an anti. That may well turn out to be an interesting experience in itself. I do think I come equipped to disarm potential opponents.

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13 thoughts on “Vegan Challenge”

  1. protein is the thing that stops me every time from wanting to go vegan. I try it for a while, then jump straight to a hamburger with smoked bacon to simultaneously warm me up (being quite skinny) and ease hunger pains. Can’t do soy, beans, wheat… too much gas. Maybe it’ll change at some point, but I kinda need animal staples like fish, turkey and lamb to stay sane… idk.

    1. Gas! Haha. Yes, that’s a problem.

      I still have to figure out which foods have protein. Since I just started today, I don’t have a deficiency yet ; ).

      The supermarket dealt out free chocolate though. Took it for my girlfriend.

  2. I congratulate you on your endeavours. I might mention a few things though that are not found in regular nutritional outlets.
    Concerning B12, it is everywhere in a plant based diet. B12 is not in the food, it is on the food. It occurs on all plant based food. It is not necessarily washed off either. B12 is in abundance in a natural plant based environment. Pick a fruit or veggie and put it in your mouth. mmm B12.
    I had one parent that was vegetarian and one that was not. By the time I reached 4th grade I’d come to an interesting conclusion: when I lived with my veggie parent I never got sick although the living conditions would have made one think otherwise.
    I didn’t like being sick, so I experimented in 4th grade with my meat eating parent and just didn’t grab any meat on the table when it was served. That was the first year I’d lived there I didn’t get sick. I continued on with this experiment for the next 20 years before I got sick again. But this time it wasn’t the food, it was the 60 to 80 hours worked in a week.
    It’s been another 20 years now. No sickness whatsoever. I went totally vegan somewhere in there. I don’t take any drugs or supplements of any kind, nor do I have any deficiencies in my health. I rate younger than my actual years on a battery of tests.
    Just thought I would share.
    Best to you on your discovery!

    1. Hi there!

      Yours is the typical miraculous vegan narrative I’m sceptical about.

      Your claims on B12, are in my opinion simply false. Plenty of the Vegan blogs warn about the risks. B12 is a serious problem for vegans and vegetarians except for a lucky few, who happen to be built slightly differently. It is produced by bacteria that live inside herbivores’ intestines. Deficiencies could even arise after 20 years. Promoting the idea that B12 is omnipresent could bring your followers at risk.

      The mom/dad story is interesting for sure, but it applies to you personally and should in my view be seen that way. There can be plenty of reasons why one gets sick or not if one swaps living environments. Besides, what does ‘being sick’ even mean in this context? And how long did you stay at each of the houses? All of it is quite vague. Could it be a personal intolerance or alergy?

      Finally, I find the name ‘Advanced Research Technology’ quite misleading in this context.

      Thanks for sharing though ; )

      1. Your skepticism is fine and I’m glad you’ve done some research. Although my prior comment was not meant as a research item I too did some research before coming to these conclusions. I’ve been to many world-class seminars on this subject.
        B12 as well a protein are generally hot-button issues in vegan circles. Deeper study shows this is not so much a vegan concern as a carnivore concern.
        As you’ve pointed out. B12 is found in herbivore guts. How did it get there? It took quite a bit of study before I found it naturally occurs on herbs. No vegan/vegetarians I’ve known, except the ones that read carnivore literature on this topic, and I’ve known hundreds, have found themselves lacking in these key nutrients except when coming off carnivore diets. It takes the body a bit to assimilate the the change in diet. I went off red meat first and later dispensed with poultry and finally fish. I’m not saying this is the plan for everyone, but it worked well for me. I’m just sharing my story.
        As for myself, I went back and forth between parents every other year for at least a decade after becoming vegetarian. I stayed on the diet of my own free will and neither parent forced the decision. My brothers and sisters living with my carnivorous parent continued to to get sick at regular intervals during this period and up to this very day as carnivorous adults. I have not been sick in 20 years and only once to the point I had to stay home from work in the last 40.
        Having said that, I do find that if one goes vegan and does not eat a wide range of fruits, veggies, nuts, and legumes in proper balance that the diet will not lead to strength, but weakness. This usually occurs with people that eat the same foods almost daily. High gluten, white bread, consumption doesn’t work either. Whole grains and organic foods or recommended as they are more assimilable. This will be needed. Again, just sharing what I’ve found. This isn’t meant to be a research exposé. I couldn’t even fit this kind of info in a post.
        Thank you for your interest, if any 🙂 and stay well.

      2. Hi!

        Well, I have not so much time to really dig into this now. I’m glad you’re so solid on your cause here. Escept for the B12 I don’t think it hurts ; ). But there too your opinion seems nuanced, which is good. Still not convinced, though : p

        Gilles

      3. Hey, I wasn’t really trying to convince anyone, I was only sharing my experiment and experience with veganism. Don’t get too caught up in my words.
        I wish you the best.

  3. I like the way you think, and I’m interested to hear about how it goes. Enjoy your sabbatical from animal-derived food products! My sister is vegan, but it’s not something I’ve been interested in trying, or at least not strictly, since I consume my fair share of eggs and raw local honey with enthusiasm.

    1. Yes, since I owned some chickens a couple of years ago, I’ve been eating two eggs every morning. Let’s see how that works out now.

      I’m still not entirely decided on whether I consider honey vegan or not. Won’t eat it until I am.

      Oh and I totally wear leather shoes.

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