Jun 06 2014

PETA Responds

Last week on Science-Based Medicine I wrote an article about the embrace by PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals) of pseudoscience – in this case they are engaging in a fearmongering campaign linking dairy products to the risk of autism or increasing the severity of autism.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from PETA, essentially doubling down on their prior embrace of pseudoscience:

Dear Steven,

I want to follow up on your story last week about PETA’s campaign that points out how a dairy-free diet may help children with autism. PETA’s website and campaign serve to provide parents with potentially valuable information, albeit mostly anecdotal, from families’ findings—for example, just this week, the editor of Autism Eye magazine, Gillian Loughran, who has a 14-year-old son with autism, contacted us in support of our campaign and wrote a letter to the editor on our behalf (see below). Until such time as there is a large study into whether there is a dairy-autism link (and one we hope will not be funded by the dairy industry), it seems unwise to overlook a growing body of anecdotal information supporting that removing dairy and gluten from the diet of a child with autism may improve the child’s sleep, behavior, and concentration. We hope this letter will change your mind about PETA’s campaign—or, at least, that you will share this letter with your readers so that they can arrive at an informed opinion.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,

Heather 

There are multiple problems with this position.

I reviewed the evidence in my original SBM article. A 2014 systematic review of studies looking at the association of casein (dairy protein) exposure and autism risk or symptoms concluded:

We observed that the evidence on this topic is currently limited and weak.

Further, the best studies to date are all negative, showing no correlation when exposure to casein is blinded, including this 2010 study, and this 2014 study.

PETA’s position is that it is appropriate to spread fear and recommend major lifestyle changes based upon anecdotal evidence, when the best scientific evidence we have shows the fear is not valid. I would also add that the fear has a low (although non-zero) plausibility. Evidence always needs to be put into the context of plausibility.

I do agree that a large definitive trial would be valuable. I don’t think it is scientifically necessary, but the popular belief in a connection within the autism community would make a definitive clinical trial valuable (although if history is any guide, it won’t end the popular belief).

PETA, therefore, is defending spreading fear about a low probability risk when the current scientific evidence is negative. The problem with this, of course, is that there are countless potential risks out there with low probability and no supporting scientific evidence.

PETA, apparently, wants to spread those that support its ideological agenda.

Next is PETA’s support for anecdotal evidence. This is highly problematic, as I have discussed numerous times before. Anecdotal evidence, meaning uncontrolled subjective observations, are worse than worthless as scientific evidence. They are misleading. They are subject to confirmation bias and are more likely to lead to conclusions that support our prior belief, rather than conclusions that actually are true.

Here is the anecdote from the letter referred to by PETA:

My son, now 14, is a strapping lad who is taller than his father. He is growing, maturing and learning quite well. But when he consumes dairy products, his symptoms come back. He can’t concentrate, focus or sleep well.

At best anecdotes are a starting point for researchers. They are fine as a source of hypotheses to be tested, but they are not sufficient to test those hypotheses.

Should we base our behavior and recommendations on anecdotal evidence? That depends on the nature of the evidence. If it is reported that eating a certain product is causing people to drop dead, then it is prudent to recall the product until the truth is sorted out.

In other words, for objective, dramatic, and immediate consequences, anecdotal evidence carries more weight. (We don’t need a study telling us that jumping out of a plane with a parachute is preferred over jumping out of a plane without one.) For subjective, variable, or delayed outcomes, anecdotal evidence becomes progressively unreliable.

What about the association of dairy consumption and autism symptoms? This is exactly the kind of evidence for which anecdotal observation is most subject to confirmation bias and is therefore least reliable.

As an example – many parents believe, based on subjective experience, that sugar makes kids hyperactive. Blinded evidence, however, clearly shows no correlation.

This is the exact kind of anecdotal evidence now being cited by PETA to defend their unscientific fearmongering of dairy products.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the PETA position, however, is the assumption that avoiding casein is risk or cost free. This is far from the truth.

Parents of some children with autism, depending on the nature and severity of their symptoms, already face an increased challenge. Keeping a child on a strict diet is no easy task, and just adds further burden to the parents.

Further, avoiding major food categories carries with it the risk of poor nutrition. It is not impossible to have good nutrition on a Vegan diet, but it is difficult. When making any public health recommendations you have to consider the impact of those recommendations in the real world, not just the effect in an idealized situation.

If parents are convinced by PETA’s fear campaign to avoid dairy in their young children, what will be the net effect? How many children will this save from autism (the evidence so far suggests the answer is none), vs how many children will have compromised nutrition?

Further, human breast milk protein is 40% casein. In effect, PETA is telling parents not to breast feed, when the evidence suggests that breastfeeding is the best nutrition for infants.

Conclusion

It is interesting that PETA thinks the addition of one anecdote about dairy and autism symptoms would have any effect on my position. I suspect they are just desperately trying to save face in response to the criticism of their blatantly unscientific fearmongering campaign.

There is at present no reason to advise parents to avoid dairy in all children (obviously some children will have problems with dairy, such as intolerance or allergy, but those are special cases).

There is very low plausibility to the notion that dairy, or specifically casein, causes or worsens autism. The scientific evidence we do have shows no connection, and most compellingly, the best data with blinded observations are completely negative.  Anecdotal reports in this case are of the most unreliable nature, and are exactly those that have not held up to scientific evidence in the past.

Further, when considered from the point of view of a full cost and risk-benefit analysis, the cost and the risk of telling parents to avoid casein is far greater than the established risk from casein. Therefore, even a “just in case” approach is not justified.

PETA seems intent, however, on digging itself deeper into this pseudoscientific hole, which will likely just do more damage to their reputation.

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96 responses so far

96 Responses to “PETA Responds”

  1. jasontimothyjoneson 06 Jun 2014 at 9:21 am

    “at least, that you will share this letter with your readers so that they can arrive at an informed opinion.”

    Yes, I have arrived at an informed opinion, PETA are again using falsehoods and assumption to raise their profile and should be held accountable for any child that comes to harm as a result of not receiving the nutrition from dairy as a part of there diet.

  2. stevenyenzeron 06 Jun 2014 at 9:29 am

    As a skeptical vegan, I find it frustrating that PETA’s loudest campaigns are often their most unskeptical (or sexist, or stupid, etc.).

    But Steve, I also find it frustrating when my fellow skeptics propagate the myth that you repeat in your otherwise solid post: “It is not impossible to have good nutrition on a Vegan diet, but it is difficult.”

    You seem to suggest that a nutritionally adequate vegan diet is just a step away from impossible, when in fact it’s quite easy to eat a plant-based diet that is balanced and contains all essential nutrients. As I’m sure you know, the only vitamin unavailable through a plant-based diet is B12, which is easily supplemented.

    Of course, a poorly planned vegan diet can lack important nutrients, just as an omnivorous diet can. But suggesting that it’s especially, even extremely, difficult for vegans to eat appropriately is, I think, inaccurate. And it probably scares many potential vegans away from a potentially healthier (and I would argue, more ethical) diet.

    All I would ask is that in the future you refrain from such dire warnings about a vegan diet — at least until you show me a study of a bunch of malnourished vegans.

  3. Kawarthajonon 06 Jun 2014 at 10:11 am

    A vegan diet may have many benefits, although not for the reasons listed by PETA. Most important, from my point of view, is the reduction in energy/water needed to produce the food and the subsequent benefit to the environment of less pollution and greenhouse gases. This benefits everyone.

    While Steve seems legitimately concerned about the health risks of a vegan diet (i.e. vitamin & amino acid deficiency), there are also clear benefits as well. More fiber, more of certain types of vitamins, lower risk of obesity/diabetes, certain types of cancer and heart disease, to name the main benefits. I know that fried chicken, bacon and steak are tasty (hmmmmmm, I’m drooling just thinking about them), but they are not healthy.

    Of course, you don’t have to be a member or supporter of PETA to be vegan. PETA should stick to legitimate reasons for promoting veganism and not nonsensical ones. Unfortunately, that’s not their MO.

  4. Steven Novellaon 06 Jun 2014 at 10:31 am

    Kawarthajon – I agree that there is evidence that a diet with more plants and less meat than is currently typical in the Western diet has health benefit. I don’t think, however, that there is evdience to support the extreme version of this represented by the Vegan diet.

    This would have to be the focus of a longer post, but I have covered some of this evidence in the past. My quick summary is that, all of the health benefits can be achieved by reducing meat in the diet, especially processed meats like bacon. There is no evidence that moderate amounts of lean meat (chicken or even lean red meats) pose any negative health consequences. Likewise dairy in moderation is not a health risk.

    In fact it is misleading to say that these are advantages of a Vegan diet, when they are advantages of a moderate diet.

  5. Ori Vandewalleon 06 Jun 2014 at 10:31 am

    This strikes me as something of a halo effect. PETA opposes eating animal products on ethical grounds, and that opposition sets up in their mind the association that eating animal products = bad. From there it’s cognitively easy to find other reasons why eating animal products is bad. This is lazy thinking on PETA’s part. They should focus on the ethical argument against eating animals rather than dilute their message with multiple poor arguments.

    (I think their ethical argument is weak, too, but that’s unrelated.)

  6. Bruceon 06 Jun 2014 at 11:20 am

    ” reducing meat in the diet, especially processed meats like bacon.”

    Well, from now on you can call me a bacon-denier because I will never accept a world where bacon consumption needs to be reduced.

  7. The Other John Mcon 06 Jun 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I, too, wear bacon-denial-blinders and will believe to my dying day, even in the face of undeniable evidence, that bacon is the nectar of the gods.

  8. Bruceon 06 Jun 2014 at 1:22 pm

    My evidence:

    http://www.baconismagic.ca/guest-posts/bacon-is-healthy/

    Novella and co. take note! I will never remove BACON from my diet because SCIENCE!

  9. jsterritton 06 Jun 2014 at 1:34 pm

    This is not a question of science, but one of propaganda. PETA is not confused on the science, or about how science works. They’re not being misled or misguided by misinformation on the internet. They are not just being willfully ignorant to bolster their ideological beliefs. They’re lying. Sometimes we have to stop calling it “cherry-picking” or “confirmation bias” and call it what it is: lies, propaganda, and bulls**t. I would like to see a blog-post entitled, “PETA caught out lying to your face, loses all credibility.” You’re being too nice.

  10. hardnoseon 06 Jun 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Of course observations can be wrong, but they also can be right. If a parent is desperate to help their autistic child, it really cannot hurt to avoid dairy for a while and see what happens. If I had an autistic child and I heard that lots of parents observed a connection between symptoms and dairy, I certainly would consider that their observations might be correct. I would not wait until there was enough formal research to confirm or negate the observations. Why would anyone wait years, or possibly forever, for formal research when they can do their own simple informal experiments?

    We are all vulnerable to wishful thinking, and we might sometimes think something is effective when it isn’t. But wishful thinking only goes so far. If thousands of parents tried a dairy-free diet on their autistic children, and it really did not help, eventually the idea would die out.

    The world is complex and it is often difficult or impossible to determine causality. Whether it’s expensive formal research, or just ordinary everyday observations, the “truth” can hard to find.

    But changing a child’s diet and carefully observing the results is not stupid and “skeptics” should stay out of it.

    You would prefer they wait a couple centuries until someone discovers an autism drug.

  11. Bruceon 06 Jun 2014 at 2:24 pm

    “If I had an autistic child and I heard that lots of parents observed a connection between symptoms and dairy, I certainly would consider that their observations might be correct.”

    If I had an autistic child and I heard lots of parents who had observed a connection between symptoms and dairy I would DO MY FUCKING RESEARCH AS A PARENT and make sure I knew what the hell the research was before taking something out of my child’s diet that could, in the long term, cause him more harm than good.

    “But changing a child’s diet and carefully observing the results is not stupid and “skeptics” should stay out of it.”

    Changing a child’s diet without consulting proper medical advice is the height of stupidity and could result in you being locked up for child neglect if you willfully deny them basic nutrients because someone on the internet or down the park said that it seemed to help their child.

    Hardnose, your arguments (I use that term loosely) are as usual confused and completely lacking in any kind of rational thinking.

  12. Ori Vandewalleon 06 Jun 2014 at 2:27 pm

    hardnose: What if a parent tries a dairy-free diet and their child gets MORE autistic? Should the parent blame the lack of dairy? And if the parent does blame the dairy shortage, should that parent warn other parents about the possible dangers of a dairy-free diet? And if parents hear from some parents that dairy causes autism and others that lack of dairy does, which parents should that parent listen to?

  13. RickKon 06 Jun 2014 at 2:48 pm

    hardnose said: “But changing a child’s diet and carefully observing the results is not stupid and “skeptics” should stay out of it.”

    So science should not do studies and attempt to inform the public on which treatments are objectively effective and which are not? Skeptics should not try to counter fads and woo promoters by publicizing and explaining what the scientific community has found?

    hardnose said: “If thousands of parents tried a dairy-free diet on their autistic children, and it really did not help, eventually the idea would die out.”

    How has that worked for horoscopes? How has that worked for 30C homeopathic dilutions?

    Do you feel there’s no downside to letting the parents of an autistic child spend the precious early years of their child’s life trying each of the popular treatments touted by Age of Autism or by Mark and David Grier?

    How do you feel about FDA efficacy testing? Should the requirements just be dropped and let people just try stuff and go with whatever they think works?

    Would you feel differently if instead of some parental anecdotes, it was Pfizer marketing a dairy-free vitamin protocol and was doing so by promoting the dairy-autism link?

  14. carriepoppyon 06 Jun 2014 at 3:46 pm

    The point about human breast milk is a very good point, especially since PETA encourages breast feeding: http://www.peta.org/blog/petas-top-four-breast-best-campaigns/

    As an ethical vegan, I am very disappointed that PETA keeps beating this drum.

  15. Kawarthajonon 06 Jun 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Steve:

    Thanks for your response. I’d like to see the evidence for no benefit to vegan diet, compared to light dairy/meat eating diet. I was always under the (possibly wrong) impression that vegans were generally healthier than meat eaters and that there was something about animal protein/fat that reduced people’s lifespan. I am a light meat eater (I don’t eat any pork, including bacon, and very little processed meat) and would love it if you were correct! I do eat dairy, though, especially cheese. Hmmm cheese.

    My argument about the reduced environmental impact of veganism still stands, though.

  16. RCon 06 Jun 2014 at 4:26 pm

    @Kawarthajon,

    By the reduced environmental impact, I imagine you’re talking about:
    “Most important, from my point of view, is the reduction in energy/water needed to produce the food and the subsequent benefit to the environment of less pollution and greenhouse gases. ”

    I believe that the environmental advantages of eating plant over animal are overstated. While it is true it takes more calories by definition to produce animal mass (because those animals need to eat plants and aren’t 100% efficient), what is ignored is that he vast majority of animal feed in this country comes from waste sources.

    It’s funny that you mention Pork, as pigs are often grown on basically waste vegetables, and other food products deemed unsuitable for human consumption. Basically, while it takes a couple of pounds of corn to make a pound of pig, it takes a whole lot more resources to grow a pound of corn for you than it does to grow a pound of corn for a pig. Pigs don’t mind corn worms, or corn smut.

    @hardnose
    “. If a parent is desperate to help their autistic child, it really cannot hurt to avoid dairy for a while and see what happens”
    Yes, it can hurt. The first time the ASD child looks at his parent the right way, and the parent thinks “He’s getting better,” and falls into the trap of confirmation bias, the child has been harmed.

  17. stevenyenzeron 06 Jun 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Kawarthajon:

    You’re right that studies generally show vegans are healthier than meat eaters, but I’m not aware of any studies comparing vegans to “flexetarians” or other low-meat, mostly-plant-based eaters.

    It would be very interesting to see such a study, because I would imagine people with such diets are also generally healthier overall. If both groups ate better and exercised more, it would make it easier to claim causation that it is when comparing voracious carnivores to vegans.

  18. Technogeekon 06 Jun 2014 at 4:55 pm

    A factor which I think has gone overlooked in the “it’s not easy for the parents of autistic children to change that child’s diet” argument is the question of how the child will react. It’s not uncommon children with autism to have an abnormally high sensitivity to skin contact, for example, which can carry over even to the texture of food. Combined with the problems that can be caused with a shakeup to the routine, trying to replace dairy with something they find that they dislike is just going to make things that much more difficult for all parties involved.

  19. mousemittenon 06 Jun 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Okay, I have an autistic son that does react strangely to dairy — a loss of affect, but my other kids show signs of lactose intolerance that he doesn’t exhibit. I suspect that his reaction to dairy is related in some way. Also, marshmallows cause the same kind of reaction. I do insist on a marshmallow free diet, but not dairy free because marshmallows are much worse and none of us can live without pizza.

    But the thing is, I’m responding to one child whom I know pretty well. I’m not out there telling everyone to live a marshmallow free life. If a diet works for you…good…do it. But I am not telling people our lives are scientifically sound or even reasonable! I would love a study connecting the dots between dairy and autism, but there isn’t one. Peta’s position drove me crazy!

  20. jsterritton 06 Jun 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Hardnose doubles down on Heather’s reply, essentially saying “facts are where you find them” and equating anecdotal, single-subject tests done by “desperate” parents with rigorous research done by dispassionate scientists. Heather and Hardnose both elevate the anecdotes of parents over evidence-based knowledge as if the parents hold trump cards in their autistic children. The big difference is that Hardnose is just a commenter here, sharing tired clichés and broadcasting his/her (possibly inauthentic) naiveté. Heather is speaking for PETA, defending that group’s PR decision to spread fear and misinformation. PETA clearly places their concerns about dairy animals above the well-being of children (and adults) living with autism. Hardnose should educate himself/herself and keep an open mind. PETA should be ashamed of themselves.

  21. hardnoseon 06 Jun 2014 at 7:15 pm

    “So science should not do studies and attempt to inform the public on which treatments are objectively effective and which are not?”

    I never said science shouldn’t do studies. But we also should not depend on formal research as the only source of information.

    It would be crazy to dismiss our own observations, if they are made carefully. It would be crazy to ignore everyone else’s observations and experiences, and never try anything that a non-scientist recommends.

    On the other hand, of course we have to be skeptical.

    Formal research is expensive, takes a lot of time, is fallible, and is always tied up with politics in some way. It can provide useful information, but very often we need information that formal research has not provided, and may never provide.

    If mainstream medicine has no answers for parents of autistic children, then it should not try to block their efforts to do their own informal research and communicate with each other.

  22. Mr Qwertyon 06 Jun 2014 at 7:27 pm

    hardnose:
    > It would be crazy to dismiss our own observations, if they are made carefully.

    This is broad statement that sounds like common sense but is, in this context, complete nonsense. There are situations where one can reliably rely on personal observations and then there are those where it is completely useless because it is skewed by biases, insufficient data points and noise (and in this case, also motivated thinking). This is basic science.

    hardnose:
    > It would be crazy to igore everyone else’s observations and experiences,
    > and never try anything that a non-scientist recommends.

    No one is ignoring , stop with the straw men already.

    It is indeed wise to ignore scaremongering nonsense based on personal anecdotes, as it demonstrably causes more harm than good.

  23. Rowdymhon 06 Jun 2014 at 8:27 pm

    PETA is way over the woo-line when they claim dairy is “mean to cows”, “bad”, “a causal factor in autism”, et al. As Dr. Novella points out, human milk is 40% casein. Great work!
    I have celiac and an adult child with Asperger’s. She grew up fairly GF and still Aspie, as are many in my sciencey, bacon-eating family. What helped her were unconditional love, social stories, and a university education–my own personal anecdote.

  24. tmac57on 06 Jun 2014 at 8:40 pm

    hardnose- Your arguments are an understandable result of how people get frustrated by medical conditions that are not fully understood,and that have limited treatments of modest or iffy efficacy.
    And the truth is,that people WILL go ahead and try such things as dietary changes anyway,and no amount of bloggers such as Steve Novella or others will dissuade them from these experiments on their children (and let’s be clear,they are doing uncontrolled experiments with little to no expertise or oversight here).
    So given that,what is your point? That Dr. Novella should not examine and write about these claims from PETA,or analyze the findings of what has been cited as “weak and “limited” research?
    It seems to me that more information,not less,in these situations is the best course. I get the feeling that you would have skeptics of such unconvincing research just shut up and let the parents decide.
    Is that a fair assessment ?

  25. RickKon 06 Jun 2014 at 9:32 pm

    hardnose said: “If mainstream medicine has no answers for parents of autistic children, then it should not try to block their efforts to do their own informal research and communicate with each other.”

    Who is blocking it? Does criticism stop them? Are skeptics somehow doing a disservice to parents of autistic children by, for example, pointing out that chelation therapy doesn’t work when tested and is DANGEROUS?

    hardnose, do you feel you are blocked or inhibited or your rights are infringed when people provide evidence that something you believe may be wrong?

    Are you aware that you spend a lot of time arguing against strawmen of your own creation?

  26. the devils gummy bearon 07 Jun 2014 at 2:45 am

    I hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhate PETA. I’m a lifelong veggie, since I was a little kid (vegan for some years, but no longer), and I hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhate PETA. I don’t care about other people’s diet, I never even think about mine, or care much about it (beyond what my doc has me working on). I only care about BS, anti-science, and crap based stupid. I hhhhhhhhhhhhhate PETA. Talk about an org that has done incredible damage for the very causes within their mission statement. I hide the fact I’m veggie because of the immediate association people make. And now they’re in the autism racket? I swear, these jerks will go wherever there is stupid ca-ching.

  27. grabulaon 07 Jun 2014 at 3:54 am

    @Dr. Novella

    “reducing meat in the diet, especially processed meats like bacon. ”

    Woah, woah woah…let’s not attack the one thing that has kept the world civilized please.

  28. grabulaon 07 Jun 2014 at 4:06 am

    @hardnose

    ” It would be crazy to dismiss our own observations, if they are made carefully. ”

    hardnose, this is as ridiculous as most of the tripe you post. They AREN’t made carefully, they’re mostly made credulously and with a complete lack of scientific understanding. How else could you explain your ignorance on science, much less your average housewifes?

  29. BillyJoe7on 07 Jun 2014 at 5:18 am

    hardnose,

    I assume your eat goji berries, noni, wheatrgrass, aloe, cranberry and beet juice, colloidal silver….

  30. BillyJoe7on 07 Jun 2014 at 5:19 am

    *you*

  31. grabulaon 07 Jun 2014 at 7:02 am

    @BJ7

    “I assume your eat goji berries, noni, wheatrgrass, aloe, cranberry and beet juice, colloidal silver….”

    He eats anything Dr. Novella doesn’t, it’s his MO

  32. BBBlueon 07 Jun 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Anecdotal evidence, meaning uncontrolled subjective observations, are worse than worthless as scientific evidence.

    Amen. Conclusions based on poor evidence or no evidence at all are not just wrong, they are often harmful because they may cause one to stop investigating and continue down the wrong path. This is not just important in the context of something like CAM and other health-related issues, it can kill businesses too.

  33. Paulzon 07 Jun 2014 at 3:26 pm

    An important fact here is that people with the discipline to be Vegans are also people with the discipline to take better care of themselves in general. Their improved health results are probably largely due to better habits in general than their diet.

  34. the devils gummy bearon 07 Jun 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I don’t know Paulz, most of the vegans I’ve known over the years are in pretty bad shape, not necessarily due to veganism or discipline, but due to a belief system which includes: the medical science conspiracy (they don’t go to doctors, and dump all their money down “alt” crap, as their conditions continue to deteriorate), the fluoride thing (distilling their own water, never going to dentists, teeth falling out), conspiratorial thinking amuk, magical thinking out the ass…

    Not all vegans are this far gone. Most of the ones I grew up with and met along the way are somewhere on the conspiracy spectrum. There are probably more science-minded vegans than I’m aware of, but of the handful I’ve met, they’re still steeped in PETA-pseudoscience PR.

    Also, veganism doesn’t require discipline. At all. The vegan market is basically at saturation in any metropolitan area or their suburbs.

    From my own meaningless personal experience, I would say that vegans are generally worse off health-wise than the general public, but not due to veganism. It’s a multitude of other factors.

  35. Steven Yenzeron 07 Jun 2014 at 4:55 pm

    devils gummy bear:

    Just to provide a counter-point, I’m vegan, my girlfriend is vegan, and we know lots of other vegans, all of whom are perfectly healthy and most of whom are about as conspiracy-minded as the general population — which is to say, it varies.

    You’re right that there are certainly a lot of alt-med-obsessed vegans, and perhaps the incidence of woo is higher among vegans. But I’m a hardcore skeptic, and it’s unfair for you to make assumptions about a huge population of people based your own “meaningless” personal experience — which is apparently meaningful enough to you to rip on vegans for three paragraphs.

    There are indeed more science-based vegans out there. Sites like scientificvegan.wordpress.com, skepticalvegan.com, theveganrd.com, The Rational Vegan, and many more are all a part of a robust community that you dismissed outright based on the “handful” of vegans you’ve met.

    I look forward to you revising your assertions based on this new evidence.

  36. uncle_steveon 07 Jun 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I’m a skeptical vegan and I am very anti-PETA. I want nothing to do with them, and this recent pseudo-science fear-mongering campaign about dairy is just one more reason.

    Steve is right. A reduced meat diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables is about as healthy as a balanced vegan diet. While there are few studies directly comparing a vegan diet with a healthy low meat diet, studies on the Mediterranean diet show a lower risk of heart disease and possibly some forms of cancer that compares favorably with the benefits of a vegan diet. Mediterranean diets typically include lots of fruits and vegetables, only a little meat and other animal products in moderation, so it’s a pretty good example of a low meat healthy diet.

    What the Devil’s Gummy Bear says is sadly true about my experiences with other vegans. All too many are weak and sickly, and believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories about mainstream medicine. Too many vegans are into quackery. This makes me unpopular with many vegans, though luckily some vegans are on the fence.

    Incredibly, some fanatical vegans I’ve met seem proud of the fact that they are very weak and sickly(some of whom even smoke or use drugs), because they claim they are only doing it for the animals anyway, so their health doesn’t matter. It’s like a martyrdom complex. They try to get others to go vegan(some are associated with PETA!) while not realizing they are a perfect walking/talking anti-vegan advertisement. It really bothers me that they don’t see the irony in that.

    As for me, I’m healthy and a marathon runner. Interestingly enough, it seems the people who get most upset over my athletic achievements are angry “ethical” vegans, not omnivores. Maybe it’s jealousy, or because I’m not fond of PETA. The vegans I am most closely associated with are also healthy runners or athletes, but outside of this group, most vegans I meet are sickly, anti-science, often anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, anti-fluoride, big Deepak Chopra fans, etc. Athletic-health oriented vegans tend to be more science-friendly in my experience or are on the fence; after all, pseudo-science is of little use to the rigorous training regimen required of marathon runners.

  37. the devils gummy bearon 07 Jun 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I know, right?

    Of all the quacky vegans I’ve known, the two that took the cake were a couple who pretty much believed the POTUS was a hologram, all government workers were super-spy agents for the sith (including the hard working guys who picked up the trash), they believe that vaccines give you everything under the sun, but also implant nano chips (the evidence for this is that no doctor will admit this is really happening), they distil their own water because flouride, they believe that the cure for cancer is excessive tobacco smoking, they believe that government agents have long since developed perfect cloaking technology, and follow us around and watch us when we’re sleeping while wearing their invisibility cloaks. Also, massive amounts of drugs on a daily basis are necessary, and cannot be opted out of. These drugs, of course, do not include the big pharma ones, only the “natural” ones, except for the non naturally occurring ones, like acid. Home surgery is practiced.

    These guys, childhood friends (who turned on me relatively recently for being in the employ of government, which was simply too far for them- my brainwashing by big science and a university education had been testing their tolerance/suspicion for some time), they’re definitely out there, but sadly, they’re not really that out-there in the vegan subculture.

    Anti-vax, trutherism, conspiracy EVERYTHING (Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Big Medicine, Big Science) are the bread and butter of the vegan subculture. Diet and the ethical treatment of animals philosophy is dwarfed by all this other stuff.

    There are so many health problems going on in the vegan scene… For so many reasons. Some people come to veganism because of their pre-existing chronic health problems, and some people are just mental, or go mental because, all in all, it is a breeding ground for crazy going crazier which leads to worse and worser health and life decisions.

    Oh uncle_steve, it is so nice to meet you… It is so very nice to meet you :)

  38. the devils gummy bearon 07 Jun 2014 at 8:16 pm

    *Bread and margarine

  39. Mlemaon 07 Jun 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Vegan athletes have the hottest bodies :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0oVeDXzpdo
    (funny choice of song)

    PETA should stick to informing people about animal welfare. There’s plenty for them to do without embarrassing themselves playing scientists.

  40. Mlemaon 07 Jun 2014 at 9:31 pm

    RC,
    It takes 3.5 lbs of feed to produce 1 pound of pig (not all edible). About 2.2 lbs of corn (for energy), and the rest soybeans (for protein and fat). Pork is more efficient than beef (by a long shot) But none of this takes water into consideration, or the greenhouse gases produced. I think your characterization of the “environmental advantages of eating plant over animal” as “overstated” is under-supported.

    grabula.
    “How else could you explain your ignorance on science, much less your average housewives?”

    Are you asking about hardnose’s ignorance regarding “average housewives”? Because that’s what you wrote. If you instead meant the ignorance of the average housewife, then you’re the one who’s a dummy.

  41. Mlemaon 07 Jun 2014 at 9:32 pm

    PS – I’m not vegan.

  42. Steven Yenzeron 07 Jun 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Gummy Bear and Uncle Steve, you guys have constructed the most absurd parody of vegans. The fact is that “vegans” are not a monolithic group. There are many people of many different backgrounds who are vegan, some of whom