Nina Planck, author (her very good book, Real Food, is out next month in paperback) and former vegan, politely assails the practice of not eating animal products in "Death by Veganism." It’s from the NYTimes op-ed pages, so she’s appropriately constrained.  I wish she’d put it more strongly. Something like, Veganism is a colossal arrogance, a refusal to admit to our own nature, a denial of our humanity.  Sometimes it kills people. And it’s not very much fun, besides.


98 Wonderful responses to “The Arrogance of Veganism”

  • Derrick Schneider

    “a refusal to admit to our own nature, a denial of our humanity”

    Do you mean that on an evolutionary level, we’re omnivores? Because we’re lots of things on a biological level that culture has, or can, overcome. Democracy? Racial/sexual equality? Clothes? Those are all at odds with our biological roots. And I think most biologists would argue that we’re not designed to eat as much meat as we do, at least here in the U.S., so isn’t eating too much meat a “refusal to admit our own nature”? Maybe that hyperbolic phrase isn’t your best podium.

    If a person wants to eat vegan food, it’s no skin off my nose, though they’re unlikely to get an invite to dinner at our house. If they foist that belief onto other people, like say their newborn infants, then it’s a problem, just as with any pushing of belief systems (says someone who pushes for sustainable agriculture). But people flagellate themselves for all kinds of things; veganism is just part of that.

  • ruhlman

    Peter Singer practices veganism and philosophizes about with intelligence and elegance. Anything but arrogance in fact.

    Yes, I meant because by nature we are omnivores. Does that mean we shouldn’t change? We seem to be bellicose by nature as well–does this mean we should accept war and not strive for peace? Of course not.

    My hyperbole, if you want to call it that, is less a reaction to veganism, which I find moronic (Singer’s hugely compelling arguments notwithstanding), than a reaction to humans’ regrettable tendency to think we’re above other creatures, that because we have opposable thumbs and the ability to reflect on our own consciousness and that of others, we are somehow above the caste of animals. We are not but our arrogance, more than any other of our traits, will be the end of us.

  • Claudia

    Verily, Michael – as Pollan clearly illucidates in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the human body has specifically evolved so that it MUST have sustenance from both meat and plant groups – it was hardwired into our survival mechanism hundreds of thousands of years ago. Of course, hand in hand with that, I support a more humane (and healthier) way of getting that meat to the table. (Glad to read you’ve been recently refueled by a pint of two or malted milk ball ice cream!)

  • minvervah

    I disagree with the arrogance of any way of eating. Whether that’s being an arrogant vegan who tries to make everyone around her feel bad for eating animal products or the utter conceit of consuming an omnivorous diet of inhumanely raised, non-sustainable food.

    Rather than castigate one group of eaters, let’s embrace what we as passionate eaters have in common — a love of taste, craft and life.

  • david

    Once, a long time ago, I was enjoying a very hearty breakfast with some friends at a very nice eatery in La Jolla, Ca. A group sat at the next table and when our breakfast was served, one of the people at the other table said something about how disgusting meat eaters were. I merely picked up a small bit of the beef from my plate and said, “My ancestors did not claw their way to the top of the food chain for me to eat grass,” and proceeded to finish my breakfast. There were no comments from the other table.

  • Derrick Schneider

    Of course we agree about veganism, but I think it’s wrong to call “denial of humanity” on a cultural override of a biological impluse. Culture and society and the beliefs that accompany them are as much a part of being human as anything else.

    I don’t agree with a vegan’s particular choices, and I think the vegan parents should be held accountable for their child’s death–manslaughter and child abuse at least–because then their beliefs directly led to someone else’s harm. But if a person wants to go all vegan on their own body, it’s their choice.

  • latenac

    My husband has a friend who is a vegan. His friend admitted that anyone who tells you they’re a vegan for health reasons is lying. It takes a lot of work to be a vegan and you need supplements to make it work.

    Since then I’ve had discussion with other vegans who do claim it’s healthier and when I point out the supplementing issue, they claimed they don’t supplement. They drink soy milk fortified with stuff but somehow that doesn’t mean supplementing. So the conversation ended there.

    While it is hyperbole to claim veganism goes against nature it does have a ring of truth. You are giving up your place in the food chain for a diet that you can’t get completely from nature. And that’s fine with me if you’re a consenting adult but Nina Planck is right, don’t force kids to do it.

  • t-scape

    The arrogance that I see in veganism (and please bear with me, for I know that my explanation will be lacking) is more related towards the fact that it is both pricey and unrealistically difficult to maintain. There’s something “status-symbol-y” about it to me. Yes, yes, I know that just because other people can’t afford to eat a certain way that it doesn’t mean no one should eat that way. I eat at restaurants that some people in this world can’t afford. My point is that eating vegan goes a lot further than eating at a certain type of restaurant every now and then, or deciding that you don’t like broccoli and just not eating it…it’s about how you feed yourself on a daily basis. Sometimes I cringe seeing people go so far and omit so much from their daily diets when there are so, so many who simply want to eat. And in the end, it’s pretty clear that eating vegan is not really what your body needs – if it were, it wouldn’t be necessary to fortify products or depend on supplements for adequate nutrition. Vegetarianism doesn’t seem quite so extreme to me, probably becuase it doesn’t eliminate as many foods as veganism does and seems to take into account that the body does have certain needs that animal products meet, and meet well. So i guess it’s not about choosing to omit certain foods, it’s more the extreme amount of foods that are omitted that I find kind of appalling.

    Subjecting babies and children to a vegan diet is a hairy subject because here is where many vegan parents may insist that this diet is good for you, no matter what. So, if most vegans feel that veganism is healthy for them, and the right or ethical way to eat, then it would follow that they’d believe it would be good and ethical for their children too. I just see a big fat stalemate regarding this issue. And what irks me the most is that it is a stalemate borne out of believing that an artificial and contrived diet is automatically better just because you omit all possible animal products. If you don’t do adequate research for how you choose to eat, then fine – but when children are involved, then it’s a different story.

  • RussH

    All I know is my ancestors clawed their way to the top of the food chain, and I’m not about to let them down…

  • Angrytoxicologist

    Totally agree with Michael. It’s unnatural and unhealthy and I’m glad to hear people saying it.

    For a bit more about why the whole soy thing for kids is unhealthy, see my website.

    Sorry for the promotion but as a father, cook, and public health professional, this has hit all the buttons and has me really pissed off.

  • sorcha

    As has been said, if an adult wants to be a vegan, that’s their thing. More meat for me, as the controversial billboard says. The ones who bug me are the ones who get self-righteous about it. Oh, yeah, and the ones who are clueless enough to kill their kids with it. That too.

  • sorcha

    Angry T, what about kids who are allergic to milk? My nephew had, and still has in a milder form, a painful milk allergy as a kid. Back then rice milk was the substitute most available, and it’s what he still drinks, but with soy being so prominent it’s becoming the replacement of choice for kids with milk allergies/lactose intolerance. I see quite a bit of it at our school.

  • sorcha

    David, I look at it this way – if a cow could eat me, it totally would. We’re just lucky we evolved sharper teeth and opposable thumbs first.

  • sorcha

    God, I’m spamming a lot today. Apologies; I’m in short attention span mode, I guess.

    Anyway. T-scape, I’ve known and known of people who had their *pets* on vegan diets. A friend of mine once got righteously reamed by her roommate for giving roommate’s cats tuna and thus disrupting their vegan existence.

  • gb500

    Sorcha, you’ve obviously never heard the song ‘Cows with Guns” — worth a Google search.

  • Tana

    “If God didn’t want us to eat animals, He wouldn’t have made them out of meat.”

    I have to think there is something mentally wrong with the convicted parents. Seriously more than a lack of education and far beyond arrogance. And God love Ms. Nina Planck for writing as she did. I’d love to see stronger words, too, but at least she wrote something.

  • Maya

    No one has the right to comment on how anyone else eats. Meat eaters and vegans alike need to learn manners.

    I was a vegetarian for 20 years and I’m proud that I never once commented on anyone else’s diets (unless I was with veggiehead friends and we complemented each other).

    Yet people who ate meat were constantly attacking me. “I bet you think I’m evil for eating meat, right?” To which I would reply, “I don’t have the right to tell you what to put in your body”.

    As for parents who make their children eat vegan or vegetarian, they need regular visits from social services until they shape up.

  • Maya

    Scorcha, yes cats fall victim to veggie diets quite often. Heart damage and blindness. Not pretty.

    New info is hinting that even fish may be harmful to cats – it contains thiaminase, is an allergen in many cats and may cause hyperthyroid disease. My cats are off it permanently.

  • cathelou

    Fanatics are always troubling–and that goes for meat-eaters as well as vegans. When I was in exile in Madison, Wisconsin, Land of the Terminally Earnest, I started eating more meat just because the surrounding vegan/vegetarian landscape was becoming unbearable (except for the brats and beer.)

    Still . . . we could do with eating less meat in this country. Jokes about “loving animals because they’re delicious aside,” we have become immune to the fact that when we eat meat, we consume something that was once a living, feeling creature. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. But the more plastic-wrapped chicken parts and hamburger we gobble up, the less connected we are to our food. Plus many wonderful heirloom vegetables are being buried beneath an avalanche of mass-produced, tasteless carrots, celery, and potatoes. Plus there’s all the grain you have to use to feed the cattle, and the horrible working conditions of slaughterhouses, and the damage to the environment to grow the grain, and worst of all–it TASTES BAD.

    Whew! Gettin’ fanatical there all of a sudden. Better go get me a steak.

  • cathelou

    Fanatics are always troubling–and that goes for meat-eaters as well as vegans. When I was in exile in Madison, Wisconsin, Land of the Terminally Earnest, I started eating more meat just because the surrounding vegan/vegetarian landscape was becoming unbearable (except for the brats and beer.)

    Still . . . we could do with eating less meat in this country. Jokes about “loving animals because they’re delicious aside,” we have become immune to the fact that when we eat meat, we consume something that was once a living, feeling creature. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. But the more plastic-wrapped chicken parts and hamburger we gobble up, the less connected we are to our food. Plus many wonderful heirloom vegetables are being buried beneath an avalanche of mass-produced, tasteless carrots, celery, and potatoes. Plus there’s all the grain you have to use to feed the cattle, and the horrible working conditions of slaughterhouses, and the damage to the environment to grow the grain, and worst of all–it TASTES BAD.

    Whew! Gettin’ fanatical there all of a sudden. Better go get me a steak.

  • cathelou

    Oh dear. I have no idea how I double-posted. Many apologies.

    And while I’m posting again: Maya, you are right on! And right about cats too–they are carnivores, not omnivores, and can’t survive on a vegetarian diet.

  • clarkehead

    Stepping all over my free speech is one thing. You can even censor what I watch on TV a bit, and I won’t get too pissed off. But don’t ever tell me what I should or should not eat. You start censoring what’s on my dinner table, and you’ve got a big fight on your hands.

    What’s up with this country anyway? Has it gotten this bad where we have to stick our noses in other people’s shopping carts and start debating them on what they’re putting in their bodies? It’s called “free will.” Let it happen.

    This is why the French (and the rest of Europe) laugh at us.

  • Maya

    Sorcha, sorry ’bout the misspelling!

    Cathelou, you read my mind. What I worry about is that people won’t consider moderation.

    *If EVERYONE (adults) just ate vegan / veggie / organic once a week, all animal suffering would be reduced and the environment would be much healthier.

    Ruhlman has said it many times, support local farmers. Don’t be intimidated by the “vegan” label on the restaurant menu. It doesn’t mean you’re switching to a religion.

    Now more than ever with organic food and wheat-free and vegan products in health food stores and local farms, the food is no longer like cardboard. It’s often delicious.

  • t-scape

    Man, it seems that Europeans laugh at us about way too much stuff. They laugh at how we eat, how we dress, how we think, what we choose to talk about…Maybe they need to mind their own business and allow Americans their free will?

  • Nick

    Me…I love animals……..(they’re delicious).

    There’s a pasty looking 7 y.o. girl at my daughters school who’s hippie parents have brainwashed the cruelty aspect into her. Whenever I see her I feel sorry for her. Worst of all, we had to make some ‘vegetarian’ snacks for my daughters birthday a few weeks ago because she couldn’t eat the sausage rolls I made! Pissed me off!

    My auntie is vegetarian. She doesn’t discuss it though. We don’t discuss it. There’s no point, she’s happy – we’re happy. She cooks a mean veggie lasagna which we all devour when we visit.

    My 18 month old daughter gets a rash around her mouth & chin when she drinks milk. We now give her soy and she’s fine. We’ll gradually introduce milk to get her back on track.

  • Conrad

    We can all be comfortable with the possibility that Vegan’s brains, like the koala (as state in The Omnivores Dilema), will shrink due to their food choices. Making them less than the rest of us.

  • chris

    First off on the article – I think this was a good article and point of view coming from a former Vegan. The parents of the kids should be sent away and there should be more education in the Vegan community about making these choices for kids, it’s stupidity.

    On the comments – not one person asks why people are vegans or vegetarians on these comments or discussses them – they just say stupid Sh** like “Me…I love animals……..(they’re delicious).” (sorry man) – I was a lacto vegetarian for about 8 years, but I didn’t give up meat to be a vegetarian or be part of a club – it was a boycott on the “factory farming” that goes on in this country. If people dug a little deeper into where their food comes from in the U.S., you wouldn’t be eating it either – and you should – why don’t you know where that pork is from? You can make the argument about eating organic meat, but the free range stuff just isn’t in the everyday meal – be it out to dinner, processed, etc. It would be a different story if we were all close to family farms and could take a cut of their livestock like back in the day – I would probably eat meat if that was the case, well its not.

    So up to the present day – for the past eight or so years I have been living right next to the ocean, so I now eat all sorts of seafood b/c I know where it comes from, I can actually catch it, and it is not being raised in some cage somewhere for profit – it swims around the Atlantic or crawls around in the mud…naturally. I’m actually able to catch it myself..just like they used to raise cattle and kill it for the family consumption.

    I’m going on a rant, but whatever…So what do they do in Italy? Do people inland eat seafood? No, they eat what is close by and what is grown in the region. If you have good pastures, raise meat, but they are not going import the seafood from the coast into their region…why, cause that doesn’t make sense.

    I think if you dug a bit deeper with your fellow veggie, you might learn a thing or two – and maybe not jump to conclusions about they are hippy this or farmy that…in fact I got interested in vegetarianism and the boycott through the punk scene. Some food for thought…

  • faustianbargain

    derrick, it is sad to hear that you wont be able to break bread with someone who doesnt share your food choices even if they shared other important things with you.

    maya, thiaminase doesnt occur in cooked fish. thiaminase attacks the thiamine in food and when pet food is cooked at high heat(as most commercial pet food are…there is a new zealand brand that sells pet food cooked at lower temperatures and combines lamb with fish..but then again, i wouldnt recommend lamb for dogs as some of them tend to turn allergic, but thats another subject), thiaminase is destroyed. most nutrients are destroyed in commercial pet food anyways and are generally added back in the form of is not a good idea to feed cats fish scraps or too much raw fish, however. i have worked with a colony of ferals that were mostly fed rice and fish..and the predominantly fish diet lead to eye infections among other nutritional deficiencies.

  • Maya

    Exactly, Chris! When I was in college I was subject to really nasty comments. When people noticed what I was eating, they would start up on me:

    “What about all those poor plants you’re killing?”

    “Oh, that’s why you’re so scrawny. I thought you had cancer or something.”

    “You’re a vegetarian? You know, I shot a rabbit just last week.”

    I enjoy talking about the benefits of organic and local foods, and like Chris said, in Italy they’re not wasting their breath on these issues because the overall lifestyle is more moderate and based on family-style and local dining, not factory farming. Well said, Chris.

  • Maya

    Fautsian! Hey, come visit my new blog, okay? I lost your email!
    Thanks for the info – does that include wet food? What about the thyroid issue?

  • Heidi

    I’m not sure highlighting extreme examples of malnutrition and neglect and then turning it into a vegan issue is helpful. The judge in this case said the child died because the child was starved – this could have (and does) happen to negligent non-vegan parents.

    Coming back to a more central conversation point (the one between vegetarians and non-vegetarians), people on both sides of the vegetarian debate have much to learn from each other, and much to accomplish together. It is easy to point fingers at extreme cases as referenced in the Times op-ed and then (as some do) casually dismiss all non-meat eaters as arrogant, brainwashed hippies…. Predictably (as seen in some of the comments up above) this is almost always followed up with a meat-eater rally cry of some sort – which to be frank, doesn’t exactly set the tone for much of an open dialogue or exchange of ideas.


  • Jennie/Tikka

    Hmmmm, to post or not to post, that is the question?

    Whether tis nobler to admit to carnivorism, or to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous veganism….I’m not sure what to say.

    First off – I disagree with Ruhlman. Animals are below us. Look at the human brain and its various components, and then count how many of those components are missing in animals. It is highly debatable that they share the same sort of sense of being that humans do. They lack a great deal of capacity for thought. That’s not to say that animals don’t deserve kindness and consideration as living creatures…they do; but not too much. To humanize them is also going to an extreme.

    Both extremes are unhealthy – too much meat or no meat at all.

    And lastly, (I’ve said this before) I’ve rarely met a vegetarian/vegan who wasn’t in some way covering up some intense sense of guilt. In fact, its the first thing I look for when someone tells me they don’t eat animal products – what they’ve done wrong and why they are compensating for it. And it does tend to go hand-in-hand with self-righteousness/hypocrisy. Combinations of ethics like, “Okay well yes, I’m cheating on my spouse who’s a complete angel – but I haven’t eaten meat in 6 years and that proves I’m really a nice person despite the opposite evidence” is the kind of moral relativsm I hear frequently from vegetarians.

    Extreme eating (either direction) is almost always the sign of an extreme mindset. Balance is always the right answer.

    The only vegans I feel are exceptions to this rule are the ones who are culturally that way – like my Indian friends who don’t eat meat because it wasn’t offered growing up and therefore never developed a taste for it.

  • Evelyn

    I don’t understand what it is about veganism that makes some omnivores so angry. I’m a vegan and I’m not out to convert the world; I just want my choices to be respected like everyone else does. Articles like “Death by Veganism” distort the truth to try to make scapegoats out of vegans. Crown Shakur did not die from veganism, he died from starvation. Just leave us vegans alone; we are doing what we think is best for this world and we don’t deserve all this rancor!

  • ruhlman

    First, of course we have a right to comment on what other people eat.

    No individual should be ridiculed or hurt for eating the way they want to. But you can and should satarize, criticize, even ridicule a philosophy of eating that deserves it.

    With the single and singular exception of Peter Singer, every justification of veganism has struck me as fatuous. At best. And more often harmful. Forcing a vegan diet on pets is hilarious. If only Saturday Night Live could come up with concepts like that.

    And those vegans who think they’re casting a vote against factory farming–well, they’re not. The way to do that is to actively eat meat that’s been raised humanely and well. Being a vegan is worse than not voting in the election. Being vegan is anti-animal, potentially harmful to the animals we raise for food.

    I don’t know why vegetarianism got mixed into this stew. I have no issues with vegetarianism. Some of my best friends are vegetarian!

  • t-scape

    Vegetarianism is a different animal (sorry, no pun intended, really) than veganism.

    Why can’t we discuss eating habits? I’m not sure why this topic is such a sacred cow (oh my god! I’m killing me!); I can understand not lliking to feel attacked over your choices, but discussion is not a bad thing. Discussion doesn’t mean people are being nosy. By that line of thought, we should shy away from talking about anything other than ourselves. And as much as I like to talk about myself, I can still understand that even I would be bored after a while if that’s all I dared talk about, so as not to seem nosy.

  • majikgodss

    I am working on a PhD in Animal Science. If some of you were right, and all it takes for people to become a vegan is for them to see a “factory farm” or meat packing plant, every grad student I know would at least be a vegetarian. I don’t know of a single one in the three schools I’ve worked on graduate degrees.

    It’s easy to speak out against what you’ve only seen in a PETA video.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Well, I will offer this – my cat is vegetarian by choice….he refuses all meat we offer him (including table scraps).

    Go figure. Siamese. 😉

  • faustianbargain

    arrogance lies amongst those who think that veganism is an abomination.

    tell me ruhlman and others..what is wrong with including supplements after making a decision to lead a vegan lifestyle? are vaccinations and antibiotics against human nature too? damned if they do and damned if they dont’ no? if they dont supplement what is obviously not a completely healthy diet plan, they are irresponsible and if they do in order to live a personal philosophy, they are going against nature.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    In a nutshell:

    Veganism is a conclusion based on entirely false premises.

    Not a single founding rationale is accurate.

  • faustianbargain

    jennie/tikka, that is indeed unusual. is he an outdoor cat? maybe he hunts?

    anyways..a friend has a halfbreed wild cat(looked like a kitten at age 12 and is still alive at 15…has two teeth, but still alive and healthy) from south africa that loves to eat fruit. go figure!

  • faustianbargain

    jennie/tikka, regardless, it is still a choice. if personal choices are fortified by rationality and logic, there is no need to attack it.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Faustian – he likes to hunt the birds in the yard….but he has yet to attack one. He just likes to chase them.

    Seriously, I offered him some absolutely beautiful fresh halibut the other night (probably $25 bucks worth) and he wouldn’t go near it.

    He does like salmon, sometimes…but gets a bit weird after he eats it (he actually did a BACKFLIP). 😀

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Faustian – that’s not an attack. Everybody, I believe, does and lives in the manner they NEED to, for their own psyches. I mean no attack. It is what you need right now.

    But the reason(s) its needed is often (not always) attached to something else – its like the fever that goes with a flu.

  • faustianbargain

    well..i am sure he is sneaking in lizards or humming birds when you are not looking..:) if you are feeding the cat dry food, there shouldnt be a problem.

    the thing with cats is that they have something called ‘jacobson’s organ'(at the back of their nose, i think?) and it has to do with their sense of smell. nobody really knows what it does, but supposedly it is responsible for cats being fussy eaters. the jacobson’s organ gets the cat ‘hooked’ or addicted to a particular smell of food. only hunger and starvation will force a cat to try a new food! thats why some cats wont even tolerate different brands of wet/dry cat food. cats raised only on canned wet food/dry food wont always take to raw meat/cooked meat/fish! i have had outdoor cats that would hunt outside and supped at home only on curd rice and hardboiled eggs(ours was a strictly traditional indian vegetarian household…but my grandmother made an exception for the cats with the eggs).

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Faustian – ya know, if I did go some spectrum of vegetarian, I’d eat nothing but Indian food. It takes the pain out of losing meat! 🙂

  • latenac

    tell me ruhlman and others..what is wrong with including supplements after making a decision to lead a vegan lifestyle?

    There’s nothing wrong with it. I think the argument that I as an omnivore tend to make is that veganism isn’t natural, it’s not a diet we were meant to live on in fact we can’t be sustained on a natural vegan diet that doesn’t include supplements.

    I hear a lot of vegans talk about how healthy a vegan diet is and it actually isn’t unless you take supplements for certain nutrients. Which is fine if that’s what you want to do but don’t try to make the argument to me, at least, that it’s a natural, healthy diet.

    Factory farming videos, etc only make me want to campaign for a better life for animals, not stop eating them. And be more conscious of what I’m eating and where it came from. Fortunately my CSA has happily raised pigs, cattle, chickens and lambs for sale. I can’t help but wonder what would happen to all of these species if everyone became vegan. Some vegans I know don’t even want manure used on the veggies they eat.

  • faustianbargain

    by that argument, latenac, a meat based diet isnt complete either! no diet is really a ‘perfect diet’! there are atkins folks and then there are vegans. both of them need supplements. and then there are those who are inbetween. what is so unnatural about it?

    if someone lives a healthy life..according to them/their lifestyle/needs… on a vegan diet…with or without supplements…than the diet has achieved it’s purpose. unless you are forcefed tofu or bacon, why all this acrimony? cant we all get along?

    i am a vegetarian most of the time. i do eat meat with extreme reservations. but i will not deny meat for anyone at my table. nor will i turn down an invitation to dine with meat eaters. it makes me sad that were i an avowed vegan or vegetarian, i will not have a place at some tables. now..that may be natural, but its plain wrong.

  • latenac

    I personally think we’re meant to be omnivores and eat a wide ranging diet but that has little to do with my point.

    My point is as I stated vegans that I have met go on and on about how healthy and natural a vegan diet is. I don’t consider having to take manufactured supplements natural. That’s just me and maybe some others. You can’t get a complete diet through veganism without taking some of these unnatural supplements. In my book that doesn’t make it a natural diet. Nor is Atkins imho either.

    To me, veganism is more of a political statement than a natural health diet. And that’s fine I’m not averse to political statements.

    I’ve never had a vegan at my table mainly b/c I know so few. But I’d certainly invite one. It’s only the fake allergy people who are really just picky eaters I don’t invite.

    I don’t care if a vegan diet makes you happy or an Atkins one or whatever. I’m not criticizing that. I’m only criticizing the claim that it’s a natural, healthy diet. That’s all. No more no less. I would say the same thing about the polar opposite Atkins diet too.

  • ah-ha

    Tony Bourdain has a great section in a Cook’s Tour about a meal he had with some Vegan’s in Berkeley right after he had returned from a trip to Cambodia.

  • t-scape

    Eating mainly meat is just as aritificial of a diet. Severely restricting what you eat will leave you with some sort of nutritional deficiency. But if your diet is varied, you are likely not forced to *rely* on supplements for your actual nutritional needs. Arguing that “a meat based diet is not complete either” (note the “either”) just reinforces the point that focusing your food intake so severely is not going to nourish you adequately, no matter what it actually is that you’re ingesting/omitting.

    I actually think there is indeed a perfect diet – or at least something very close to it. It includes a variety of fresh vegetables, legumes, nuts, “healthy” fats, etc – and yes, animal products. But the foods themselves are not the only element to a person’s diet. How you choose the food, how you cook it, and how much of it you eat is just as important.

  • NvG

    Ruhlman, WTF?! Yes, it’s bad to feed neonates soy and whatever. Baaad. Bad, bad vegan parents. Agreed. Vegan cats? Bad idea. Check, check, and check. However, consenting adults who want to avoid all animal products? None of your business. I DON’T LIKE MEAT. It’s a texture thing, first, and second, I just happen to like plant matter better. Also, as someone who cooks for fun and relaxation, I enjoy finding new ways to prepare grains and greens. BIG DEAL.

    GET. OVER. IT.

    The hyperbolic stereotypical pasty-faced-sanctimonious-vegetarian is as hackneyed an image as it is old. It’s also bullshit. If the very fact that vegans/vegetarians exist offends your tender sensibilities, all you need to do is steer a wide berth around us. We won’t mind.

    You want to eat cattle? Fine. You’re welcome to my share. Just leave me alone with my beans and cantaloupe. Direct your outrage elsewhere.

    You know, I love your books; I generally really enjoy your writing. But this post made me roll my eyes so hard in their sockets that I swear to god they’re stuck there.

    (Where the hell’s the vodka?)

  • Maya

    Ruhlman, I stand corrected and I agree, we should have a dialogue on what we eat. Obviously it’s important and fun to talk about. Respectful, of course.

    I respectfully disagree that eating humanely raised animals is better than veganism. That’s like saying that buying a hybrid is better for the environment than riding a bike.

    I support my local farmer. I buy fruits and vegetables and dairy from them. If farmer wants to raise humanely treated animals, it still takes up land and has an impact on the environment. The land is better off as a protected wildlife area.

    If everyone went vegan, the farm animals would eventually stop being bred. I’m not a vegan, but I know that they are indeed doing a favor to the earth and the animals.

  • Maya

    Jennie, my goodness. By whose definition are animals “below” us?? I don’t mean to comment on any particular religion, but that depends on your beliefs.

    If you are agnostic or simply believe that we were “spawned” from the earth, animals are above us. We are the only animal on earth that does not contribute to the wellbeing of the ecosystem of the very planet upon which we live.

    Bees pollenate food that keeps us alive; beavers create wetlands and purify the water that keeps us alive; if all animals perished, we would perish as well. “Above” us are the beings to whom we owe our very existence.

    If you want to talk about talents and abilities, who can survive better in the forest; a baby bear, or one of us sorry saps (those of us with no survival experience) who would die of thirst within a few days of being lost in an unfamiliar wild area? That talent is far more impressive than our ability to sit on our butts and type all day.

    And if you want to discuss brain science, you should know that parts of the brain that old sciences deemed “useless” or “primitive” are now being discovered to be very significant indeed. If you want to argue otherwise, I can crack open my neuroscience textbook.

    And I’m not trying to be a wench. Generally I enjoy your posts and overwhelmingly agree with you. 🙂

  • Bob delG

    You could not have gotten a bigger rise out of the polis if you had inveighed against the arrogance of some religious group.

  • t-scape

    Bob delG….goes to show you how seriously people take their food! Do not criticize the belief system I have adopted in order to save my soul for eternity, and do not criticize what I chow down on. 😉

  • gb500

    Ah, and then there’s the Rapture — a win-win situation.

  • ruhlman

    NvG, a vodka drinker! figures!

    (and there are vegans and there are vegetarians, not vegans/vegetarians)

    bob, just tryin to keep the conversation lively!

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Maya –

    Let’s just put it this way, the day a cow can do something besides chew cud, make milk, and more cattle – is the day I’ll concede its equal to me (and that I shouldn’t grill it with a side of carmelized onions. 🙂

    Human beings contribute far more than animals ever will. Which goat will come up with the next great breakthrough in physics? Which giraffe will perform CPR when called upon? Which camel will write the next “La Boheme?” Does a rabbit answer 9-1-1? And then can they drive an ambulance to your house to save your life?

    Crack open that neuroscience textbook and let’s look at the cerebral cortex – mainly, how little of it exists in animals. Without it there is little to no thought. The rest of the brain is dedicated to mere reaction and information processing coming in from the senses. That’s not the same as processing free thought or emotion.

    Animals may have a few skills but those skills don’t include math, reading, writing, singing, performance art, painting, the sciences, cooking, medicine geology, etc., etc., etc. I suppose some among us would consider locating truffles a major contribution to welfare, but I could do without them just fine.

    No disrespect, Maya – but this has nothing to do with religion. Culture and civilzation are the products of human beings – not animals.

    If I let my dogs loose to fend for themselves they’d probably do just fine for a while….but its because of me that they have regular cooked meals, a cozy bed by the fireplace my spouse built, someone to prevent them from running into traffic, and medical treatment that their human vet provides.

    My black lab Roxxy eats poo out of the cat’s litter box….that’s NOT a sign of intelligence! 😀

  • fuck you

    Ruhlman — you are an ass. The ‘vegan’ parents were ignorant shits who found a lawyer to blame a belief system for their failings.

    Thank god you were not on the jury. You’re enough of a sucker that you probably would have acquitted them.

    I love your books and normally love your blog, but you sound like a naif. This case was not about veganism. It was about criminally negligent homicide. No vegan I have ever met would refrain from breastfeeding a child, and Nina Planck is a fucking moron for overlooking the fact that those tasty cold-water fish get their DHA from algae, which actually synthesize the LCFAs.

    Victor Herbert, the bullshit artist who popularized the notion that B12 was impossible to obtain in a vegan diet, overlooked the fact that algae also synthesize cyanocobalamin. Ignorant vegans are no better than ignorant carnivores, by the way.

    I eat meat. But I don’t lap up bullshit. I suggest the same to you.

  • Nick

    Chris, most punks I know eat broken glass, live chicken heads or cobra hearts?!?

    Sorry to you and anyone else if you take my comments about brainwashing hippies & pasty faced kids personally.

    My beef (pardon the pun) is with the over-opinionated new age f’wits feeding their kids inaccurate lies and zero nutrition cardboard.

  • faustianbargain

    jennie/tikka said: “My black lab Roxxy eats poo out of the cat’s litter box….that’s NOT a sign of intelligence! :D”

    lass(or lad?), all i have to say to you is, “ask not at whom the chimp smirks – he smirks at you.”

    intelligence is misunderstood.

  • Maya

    😉 Ha – Thomas, great question! Does the mighty fish know how to build an aquarium?

    I must congratulate Ruhlman for creating a lively discussion between vegans and meat eaters without virtual firespitting. That’s one hell of an achievement.

    Have you ever read the PETA blog? NASTY! And most of them are all on the same side!!

    Great blog, R.

  • rockandroller

    I just wanted to pipe up and say stop picking on hippies! 🙂 Not all of us are vegetarians or vegans. In fact, in many of the 60s communes, they foraged and ate ALL kinds of food, including road kill if that was all that was available. They’re more like Native Americans than vegans. I’m both a proud hippie and a proud omnivore.

  • ruhlman

    thanks, maya, appreciate it. that, ultimately, is the point here.

    I’m a libertarian and would stand on the vegans’ side if some legislator tried to tell them they couldn’t eat the way they chose. no matter how wrongheaded.

    lively discourse keeps the lines open.

  • rikku

    i think u cannot be starting a book about veganism mentioning some stupid parents who were too ignorant to be able to feed their child. the vegan issue is much bigger.
    if considering only the nutrition aspect:
    is this book taking into account all the s**t that goes into meat and dairy products in terms of antibiotics, hormones, artificial colours etc..etc.. ??
    is that ANY HEALTHY these days? sorry i’d rather be vegan.
    is this book taking into account the horrific situation in intensive farms??
    Can people eat normally knowing what happens to animals everyday?
    Sorry, i’d rather be vegan.
    and here’s a question:
    All mammals are fed milk by their own mother until they dont need it anymore and then the mother stops producing it. This includes HUMANS..who, for some unknown reason keep drinking it until they die, but not human milk. they force ANOTHER animal to produce milk for them!! is it not nonsense??

  • JunkyPOS


    “If I let my dogs loose to fend for themselves they’d probably do just fine for a while….but its because of me that they have regular cooked meals,…”

    Wow!!!…you regularly “cook” your dogs meals??? Nice!! What about the cat???

  • Ron S

    I am a firm believer that you are never truly happy in your life until you become comfortable with your personal level of hipocrisy.

    So, I say to everyone here, just relax and take it easy.

    Think about yourself and how you are acting as you slag vegans who preach to others how their lifestyle is correct and “fair” to the animals. It is a point of view you do not agree with…but is it the point of view you have the big issue with or the fact that they are preaching it. If it is the latter, then you have some self reflection to take care of before you comment too much more.

    Making comments on the health issues of being vegan are one thing, but attacking the values of those who make this decision are another.

    Take a second and reflect on yourself. Are you happy with your personal level of hipocrisy? If so, admit that you are a hipocrite. You are bitching about someone pushing their values on others, yet you are taking the time to do exactly the same thing.

    If you can’t admit that you are a hipocrite then you are just white noise to me. Someone who is complaining about a certain behavior by demonstrating exactly that behavior themselves.

    I don’t like vegans who try and push their ways on others. I don’t like being made to feel bad about what I eat. I therefore do not push my omnivore values on vegans and vegetarians.

    So…complain all you want about pushy vegans, just don’t be pushy omnivores.

    That is…unless you are comfortable with your personal level of hipocrisy…then more power to you…hipocrite.

  • rockandroller

    FYI, it’s “hypocrisy” with a “y” from the Greek for hypokrisis or play-acting. I only chastise vegans who can’t spell. Joke!!

  • Ron S


    Bad spelling and lack of a spell check are my achilles heel.


  • t-scape

    I don’t know….some people presented their opinions more forcefully than others, but what I see here is a discussion – not hypocrisy. Are we (the general we, not necessarily the participants of this discussion) pushing our beliefs on others just by arguing differing points?

  • Bob delG

    It is interesting to wonder what would happen to animal populations if vegans took control of the government and made meat eating illegal. I suppose for a while large herds would continue to exist until people got tired of feeding them. But perhaps the government would levy a animal-husbandry tax to support them and hand off responsibility to the USDA.

    Doubtless a bunch would become feral and live out it the wild. It’s not difficult to imagine cattle roaming the range like buffalo. Certainly pigs would adapt quickly to a feral lifestyle.

    Such a scenario would not be unwelcome to those of us who, whipped up by our genetically programed lust for blood, wanted to refine our hunting skills on something a bit more exciting than a soy bean plant.

    Hmmm…maybe this vegan thing is not a half-bad idea? Of course, if vegans ever came to power they’d probably ban guns and fishing rods, but what the hell. No one is ever going to be able to legislate effectively against sharpened sticks and rocks.

  • Steve

    Bob, I would pay good money to see you take down a feral pig with a sharpened stick and a rock. Especially if you cooked it for me afterwards.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    junky: I’ve been cooking for them since that problem with the melamine in the dog food started (didn’t want to take any chances with our pooches). Nothing fancy – just doggy meatloaf (ground beef, rice made with chicken stock, eggs, and a smattering of herbs de Provence).

    The cat won’t go for it! The only thing he’ll eat (besides his dry food) is smoked salmon…and he gets weird after that!

  • NvG

    Ruhlman, a libertarian. It figures!

    “Vegan/vegetarian:” good to know you can forgive plant eaters as long as they ingest a heapin side of animal fixins. (or maybe just a heapin side of an animal.)

    Also, keep your grubby carnivorous paws off my vodka.

  • Bob delG

    Okay, enough fooling around (by me that is).

    Michael, I’ve done a bit of digging on the subject of vegan and vegetarian diets and whether or not they are appropriate for infants. And what I found is that if the diet is well planned it is possible to raise a healthy child without feeding it animal products.

    I cannot speak to the idea that doing so is or is not arrogant, but according to the American Dietetic Association ( and the American Academy of Pediatrics
    ( it can be done. You can raise a healthy infant on a vegan diet.

    So I’m going to have to say that Nina Plank and her editor have got some splainin’ to do. That title “Death by Veganism” seems like a bald-faced attempt to capitalize on anti-vegan public sentiment while the thesis of the piece, itself seems just plain wrong.

    That baby did not die because it was given a vegatarian diet, but because it’s parents did not feed it properly. This is a story about child abuse, not the intrinsic insufficiency of an infant diet that is limited to plants.

  • faustianbargain

    on pregnancy and the vegan diet>

    mcdougall reply to nytimes>

    on nina planck:

    Nina Planck does not have any formal training in nutritional sciences.

    She has identified the source of her assumptions about the nutritional health of a vegan diet on babies as originating from comments made by one family medical practitioner based on anecdotal observations from his vegan and vegetarian clients.

    she says in her website:

    “Today a correspondent asked me to disclose whether I am paid by the meat, dairy, fish, or egg industry. Good question. I am not. I’m an independent food writer and I study the work of scientists and nutritionists.”

    meanwhile, she also says..

    “Some readers asked about my sources. Among many sources for this piece, I interviewed a family practitioner who treats many vegetarian and vegan families.”

    enough said.

  • Bob delG


    Perhaps you, like I, suspect that Plank was writing from her gut and not listening to her brain?

    I’m no fan of veganism, but most of my objections are personal and have no obvious basis in science.
    So, I cannot in good faith condemn the practice of rejecting food derived from animals on anything other than aesthetic grounds.

    If someone chooses to feed their family without including animal products, and they do the hard work of making sure that there is a proper balance of nutrients and enough calories to keep them healthy and vigorous, then on what grounds could any fair minided person object?

  • faustianbargain

    bob dG, and I think there are other reasons too. she just had a baby and she did mention that she is an ex-vegan. her enthusiasm to criticise vegan child rearing could be because of her deep seated insecurities(fair enough, but its going a little too far to say that vegans kill their babies as if they are not fit enough to raise children..true. there are a lot of of reasons certain people who shouldnt be procreating and being vegan isnt one of them) about a vegan diet when she decided to give it up.

    her business interests are also closely related to farms and animal products( markets are mostly about produce, but her involvement as an investor with farmtochef express cannot afford a vegan stance.) am i being overly critical? probably. why not? after all, this woman just called vegans baby killers and got published in nytimes.

    my objections stem from personal experiences. raised in a third world country, i know first hand how difficult it is for poor families to raise healthy children without animal products. and they do it pretty well too. and while not denying their humanity too!! how is that for a miracle?

    what spells as supreme arrogance to me is someone sitting in the comfort of their home…in one of the richest countries of the world… and declaring that not consuming animal products is a denial of humanity. such pronouncements enrage me and i think such statements are spectacularly ignorant, unkind and particularly perverse given how embracing said humanity based on ingesting animal product has resulted in a undernourished and morbidly obese society…in more ways than one.

  • Jen

    there is nothing wrong with taking supplements, but there is something wrong with considering a vegan diet as being somehow superior to a BALANCED diet that includes meat and/or meat products. the fact that vegans must (MUST) take supplements in order to maintain their health proves how difficult it is to eliminate not just meat but any meat products (milk, eggs) from a human’s diet. for people using the argument “eating all meat is just as bad as no meat”..well, way to state the obvious. the key is balance. i don’t possibly see how you can justify eliminating breast milk from a baby’s diet. to the commenter who thinks “all land should be a protected wildlife reserve”..think carefully about what you mean when you say this…whether it is realistic, whether you know what you’re talking about. also, i’m pretty sure that in 3rd world countries where ppl cannot afford meat, that they would never deny their children meat or meat products (or breastmilk!) should the opportunity arise.

  • Queenofthegrid

    I don’t so much have a problem with vegans, any more than I have with carnivores. My only problem is when either camp starts railing against the other about the superiority of their respective food choices. I’m an omnivore and proud of it, and there is veal in my refrigerator right now! So sue me. That said, I think it is truly bizarre when I see bags of vegan and vegeterian cat and dog food. That’s wrong. Those animals are meant to eat meat. Period. It cannot be healthy for them to be denied the foods they were clearly meant to eat. That’s animal cruelty!

  • Gee

    Man, I hate The Vegans. They are essentially food fundamentalists. Great post!

  • Claudia

    No need to “hate” vegans, Gee – and no need for them to hate carnivores/omnivores, as long as neither tries to jam their respective food philosophies down the others’ respective throats. I’m a diehard carnivore myself, but serve vegetarian dishes at the dinner table, and try to respect my nieces’ vegetarian (not vegan) beliefs – but only till they start lecturing. Then I insist they respect mine (which is also the majority of the family’s). I don’t let them get attacked because they believe eating meat is cruel to animals, but on the other hand, I won’t tolerate proselytizing at dinner, or I WILL go hunting for the BBQ sauce.

  • Danina

    Proselytizing….shudder… Why do we equate dietary choices and religion so closely? Back in my vegetarian days, I never pushed it on anybody. It was just my personal preference and I could have cared less what anybody else did, that is, until my son was born and my appalled parents started sneaking him meat. As far as the Shakurs – abuse and/or stupidity? There are no soy baby formulas that are totally vegan, but as any vegan resource will tell you, if you’re not breastfeeding, never, never, never try to make your own formula or substitute plain soy milk.

  • faustianbargain

    jen: who says that breastmilk is not part of vegan child rearing? where are you getting this from?

    i was appalled to read this entry( by blogger megnut. “is human breast milk vegan”? even non vegans would find the question ridiculous. the only observation i could make was that megnut claims to have been an almost-vegan…as does nina planck who says she was a vegan before she got pregnant. it seems to me that some people embrace an alternate lifestyle without learning fully about it and when they quit that after the obvious disappointments, some of them set out to paint the entire lifestyle and it’s proponents in bad colours. the sentiment that is shared by planck, megnut..and even ed levine at serious eats seems to be that vegans are not fit to procreate or be parents. out of nowhere(and not from learned, dedicated, practicing vegans themselves), a rumour sprouts that vegans dont breastfeed and confusion abounds. maybe we ought to think, investigate before passing judgement on who should and shouldnt raise babies?

    secondly, i am from a third world country. we were always denied meat. thats a first hand report for you.

    vegans never deny their children breastmilk. once again, too much anti vegan propoganda spreading out there is spreading misinformation.

    queenofthegrid: i agree re cats. but dogs dont always need meat. i am not sure about vegan diets, but dogs can survive on vegetarian diets. apparently, this is especially true for certain breeds of dogs that can lose hair because of allergies.

    claudia: good for you. anyone who lectures anyone else how to live their personal lives deserve a rebuttal.

    and finally, i believe that there are two vegan approved soy based baby formula. soy milk and fruit juice is not vegan approved for infants. half knowledge is dangerous.

  • Claudia

    Just to clarify things re: the couple that Nina cites in the death of their vegan diet-fed child –

    Apparently, there is more to it than whether the parents just fed their baby a vegan diet. The mother never went for a baby check up of any kind while she was pregnant, and gave birth at home – without any medical aid whatsoever – in the bath tub. Now, while I understand their have been plenty of women who have “freebirthed” without incident, I don’t know that any of those aficionados did so without EVER having a baby check while pregnant, and I don’t want to ignite a firestorm about whether freebirth is a good idea . . . that’s not my point. My point is, the parents are now being looked at as at least negligent, if not abusive, not because they fed their kid a vegan diet, but because they apparently did so without doing their homework or without the guidance of an ob/gyn or pediatrician. This story has generated some buzz here in NYC (and is not the first of its kind to make headlines).

    Of course, there are plenty of children around the world who have quite obviously made it through infancy on a vegan diet to a healthy adulthood, and there are plenty of babies who have been born at home without the benefit of a doctor, nurse, midwife or “doula”. (When I was child, living in Asia, there were still women who gave birth in the fields while they worked – not that I’d personally endorse that!)

    I think, in the case of these particular vegan parents, that it was not so much a case of abuse or willful neglect as it is simple ignorance – they did not bother to work with a pediatrician as to how much food, what kind and what supplements were needed to simultaneously adhere to a vegan diet while giving their baby enough nutrients to survive – never mind thrive. You can’t just scale down an adult vegan diet to baby size, and I believe that was the mistake made here.

    So, before we get too “het up” decrying vegan parents who put newborns on a vegan diet, I think we have to keep in mind that there are other elements to this particular story that Nina Planck did not address – such as pre-natal care, etc. – and that Nina herself might have had an axe to grind. As to “vegan” dogs and cats? Well, again, in Asia, when people do not have much (or any) meat, their dogs and cats don’t, either, and seem to survive just fine. (My cats, however, eat meat because I do – and demand steak and/or BBQ sauce, too, if they get scraps. I blame myself . . . !)

  • Skawt

    Salad is what food eats.

    I just wish I had a spray can with the delightful scent of bacon cooking. Vegan or not, everyone salivates when that aroma is present.

  • Claudia

    Oh, now I’m just disappointed in you, Skawt – an olofactory dude like you, with a jones for the odiferous, and you DON’T even have a home “bacon mister”?!! (Don’t think I’ve forgotten your speculation a few months ago on Bourdain, nubeck jackets and Eau de Warthog (!)) Forgot? Oh, no, no, no, my “scentsitive” friend – not for one moment!



  • Skawt


    You’ve given me a great idea: Clothing made from bacon. When it gets warm out and you’re hungry, eat your jacket.

    I’ll take a Smoked Maple 42 Regular.

  • sorcha

    Skawt, Archie McPhee ( was offering a bacon-scented suit for a while. Just scented, alas, not the real thing. But they do offer a staggering array of bacon-related novelties.

  • Claudia

    OMG, Sorcha, that’s too funny! (Except in 90 degree heat, of course!)

  • maria

    Jennie/Tikka said, “My black lab Roxxy eats poo out of the cat’s litter box….that’s NOT a sign of intelligence! :D”

    BTW, did you know that many feedlot-raised cows end up eating some of their own manure mixed in with their feed? Apparently, it helps cut down on costs. In the end, as you are getting vitamins from the food the cow has eaten and synthesized, so, too, are you also getting that poo.

    Ruhlman said, “I don’t know why vegetarianism got mixed into this stew. I have no issues with vegetarianism. Some of my best friends are vegetarian!”

    I’m curious, why do you have so much more disdain for vegans than for vegetarians?

  • Jessica

    Maria, cattle in feedlots don’t eat their own manure. You can’t feed ruminant by-products back to ruminants.