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 are fat, some of whom are skinny, some of whom are skeptical and some of whom are infatuated with pseudoscience.

    Steve, you talk as though you know every corner of this “subculture,” but almost all of the vegans I know are vegan for ethical reasons, and don’t care about conspiracies or woo. It really is unfortunate to see you represent yourself as an “insider” with the special knowledge to condemn most of your fellow vegans as idiotic anti-science sheep.

    The fact is that all of us only know a small subsection of the one or two million vegans in the United States (I’m assuming here that you’re all Americans). So to parade around making insulting generalizations is not only offensive, it’s inaccurate. Get skeptical.

  43. Steven Novellaon 08 Jun 2014 at 6:48 am

    Steve – There are more concerns about the Vegan diet and nutrition than B12. B12 is a major concern, but even here it is not as simple as you suggest. You are assuming an ideal Vegan diet with proper supplementation, but as I stated you have to consider dietary recommendations from a public health / real world perspective. In the real world vegetarians have a higher rate of B12 deficiency:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23356638

    In children, a vegetarian diet does not appear to be a problem – if it contains plenty of dairy. A vegan diet without dairy, however, is a problem: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21912895

    “In contrast, a vegan diet, excluding all animal food sources, has at least to be supplemented with vitamin B(12), with special attention to adequate intakes of calcium and zinc and energy-dense foods containing enough high-quality protein for young children. The more restricted the diet and the younger the child, the greater the risk for deficiencies.”

    and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21092700

    “Our results suggest that an inadequate dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D may impair the bone turnover rate and cause a decrease in bone mineral density in vegans. The parameters of bone density and bone metabolism should be monitored in vegans, especially children, in order to prevent bone abnormalities.”

    So – you have to monitor B12, total protein and caloric intake, zinc, calcium, and vitamin D. And, in my opinion, if this is the case, there are likely other micronutrients missing as well. So, I think saying that avoiding poor nutrition with a vegan diet is “difficult” was completely accurate. This is especially true in growing children, which is obviously the context here.

  44. Steven Novellaon 08 Jun 2014 at 7:01 am

    Regarding meat and health, this study – although often cited as evidence for the risks of eating meat – put it into perspective: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/63/abstract

    They found no risk from poultry, and actually no increased mortality from eating meat in general, only processed meats, and only at the highest consumption level. Basically this study found that as long as you don’t eat a pound of bacon (or equivalent) every day, you’re fine.

    As mentioned, the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and overall mortality: http://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a1344

    Reducing but not eliminating things like red meat also makes more sense and follows the general rules of having a varied diet and moderation. Highly restrictive diets are usually not the best option.

  45. Steven Yenzeron 08 Jun 2014 at 9:35 am

    Hey Steve, thanks for the reply. I was focusing on the vegan diet in general, but I think you’re right that maintaining a nutritionally adequate vegan diet seems to be significantly more difficult when it comes to children — which as you say, is the context here.

    I will say, though, that the bone study you posted seems to have studied literally two children — which is hardly enough to draw a confident conclusion. Without access I can’t dig deeper into the methods of the large-scale review, but I am curious about the age of the studies it included.

    I say that because I think the world of vegan nutrition has changed drastically over just the past couple of years. Most commercial almondmilk, for example, is now supplemented with calcium and vitamin D, meaning it usually has significantly more of the former than cow’s milk. At the risk of sounding like a pseudoscience advocate, I will say that I do think this question invites additional study.

    I also want to make one other point that I think is relevant to this discussion. We’ve been comparing a perfectly varied and moderate diet to a poorly maintained vegan one. I’m not sure that’s fair. The fact is that vitamin D deficiency in childrenm for example, is common in the general population as well: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22179524

    “Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is common in children.”

    and

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24645299

    “Obesity and vitamin D deficiency represent two of the most wide-spread health concerns in the United States, especially among children.”

    From a real-world perspective, it might in fact more instructive to compare a poorly monitored omnivorous diet to a tightly controlled vegan diet. After all, most Americans assume that their omnivorous diet is nutritionally adequate, and I imagine that most vegans pay extra-close attention to their nutrition (especially when it comes to their children).

    Finally, I think you may be overly dismissive of the question of whether strict vegetarian and vegan diets protect against various diseases. There is real evidence that they do: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24871675

    “Vegetarian diets confer protection against cardiovascular diseases, cardiometabolic risk factors, some cancers and total mortality. Compared to lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets, vegan diets seem to offer additional protection for obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular mortality.”

    As you say, these benefits might also come with a reduced-meat or reduced-dairy diet. But that’s also very difficult to quantify. Does a “Meatless Monday” adherent see those benefits? What about someone who eats one vegetarian or vegan meal a day? Again, I think it warrants additional study, especially considering the rapidly increasing proportion of vegetarians and vegans.

  46. uncle_steveon 08 Jun 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Steven Yenzer,

    In no way did I suggest the vegan community is monolithically pro-woo. In fact, I started out by saying “in my experience”. I also said “too many vegans…”, I never said “all” or the “overwhelming majority” of vegans are anti-science or into alternative medicine. Unfortunately, a lot of them, maybe around half are.

    This is a problem for the movement. It’s roughly analogous to “birtherism” among Republicans. This alienates birthers not just from non-Republicans, but from the more reasonable minded people in their own party. Birthers may not be in the majority among Republicans, but there are enough of them to make the party look bad. I don’t know what exact % of Republicans are birthers, but some polls suggest it may be at least 30%.

    Back to vegans and woo. Whenever I meet fellow vegans, whether it’s through events, through friends, through the internet, a high percentage of them are shocked that I am not anti-GMO, or anti-vaccine, or anti-chemical sunscreen or that I think alternative medicine is quackery. Just this morning, I got followed by some vegan woo peddlers on Twitter who I’m not following back(this happens almost every day). Also this morning, on Tumblr, I had to unfollow a vegan blogger because he was pushing the Gerson therapy(I only followed him because he had some amazing recipes). I get unfollowed by them for being skeptical. This happens on a regular basis. I believe, like my fellow pro-science vegans, that we would all be much more popular if we were anti-GMO and anti-science. However, I am more interested in truth than popularity.

    Besides this, PETA knows it can get away with this pseudo-science about dairy because it has the support of a huge chunk of the vegan community. Maybe not the majority, but a fairly large percentage of them. Granted, I know some vegans who are anti-PETA, but they appear to have little influence. All the pro-science vegans I know have similar experiences.

    PETA is one of the biggest, most influential vegan/animal rights organizations. There is no pro-science vegan organization with PETA’s stature. Practically all of the most successful vegan authors are woo friendly, or in the very least overstate the benefits of a vegan diet. Vegan events often have numerous woo peddlers attending(I’ve been to many events over the years).

    Again, this is based on my experiences, but it would be interesting to see some polls on veganism and woo.

  47. Steven Yenzeron 08 Jun 2014 at 5:08 pm

    uncle_steve, I’m really not interested in engaging with you in a discussion where in the same breath yopu both acknowledge the limitations of your own experience and make baseless assertions like “around half” of vegans are pro-woo. Where the hell are you getting that number?

    I repeat my point: Neither of us has met even a tiny proportion of the one to two million vegans in the United States. Neither of us is qualified to make generalizations about the community. Say you’ve met 500 vegans, and every single one was pro-woo. Well then sure, you can say that 0.0005% of American vegans are pro-woo.

    Of course, I bet you’ve met a lot of vegans you haven’t known were vegan. And seeing as you have a clear bias toward believing most vegans aren’t skeptical, you’ve probably got a healthy dose of confirmation bias guiding your judgements as well.

    That’s the problem with anecdote, of course — it’s not very accurate. And that’s why it baffles me that you think telling more stories about this or that unskeptical vegan is an effective argument. How about I tell you twice as many stories about skeptical vegans I’ve met? Does that make you wrong? No. Would it make me right if I asserted that all, or most, vegans are skeptical? Absolutely not.

    You purport to be a skeptic, but your love for anecdote tells me you’ve got a blind spot in this area. I’m not interested in discussing this further.

  48. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 5:32 pm

    What’s your beef, Steven Yenzer?

    Describing prevailing cultural phenomena, using anecdotes, can be a useful illustrative tool to understand the scope of trend.

  49. Steven Yenzeron 08 Jun 2014 at 5:35 pm

    But that’s my whole point. Neither of you knows the scope of the trend, or whether it is a cultural phenomenon. You can illustrate these things with anecdotes once you’ve supported them with evidence, but not draw conclusions based on those anecdotes alone…

  50. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

    I am open to being convinced that I (or uncle_steve) do not grasp the scope or nuance of this specific cultural (or sub-culture) trend, and I welcome your arguments.

  51. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 6:06 pm

    (i have no horse in this race, beyond my hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhatred of PETA. I have almost nothing invested in my opinion on these matters, and am thusly open to being persuaded that my opinions are unfounded, however, the flip side of this is: I also don’t very much)

  52. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 6:31 pm

    (*I also don’t care very much, is what I meant to say… jeesh- too much coffee today. Also, I didn’t mean to come of as actively pessimistic)

  53. Steven Yenzeron 08 Jun 2014 at 6:37 pm

    So I have to prove to you that your ancedote-based assumptions are inaccurate?

    I am really not interested in debating this further. My intent was not to try to prove which of our unscientific assumptions about the vegan community was more accurate.

    My attempt was to criticize your and uncle_steve’s characterization of the vegan community. Statements like:

    - “…most of the vegans I’ve known over the years are in pretty bad shape…”
    - “…distilling their own water, never going to dentists, teeth falling out…”
    - “…of the handful I’ve met, they’re still steeped in PETA-pseudoscience PR.”
    - “From my own meaningless personal experience, I would say that vegans are generally worse off health-wise than the general public…”
    - “… All too many are weak and sickly, and believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories about mainstream medicine…”
    - “…most vegans I meet are sickly, anti-science, often anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, anti-fluoride, big Deepak Chopra fans, etc.”
    - “Anti-vax, trutherism, conspiracy EVERYTHING (Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Big Medicine, Big Science) are the bread and butter of the vegan subculture.”
    - “There are so many health problems going on in the vegan scene…”

    You both acknowledge the limitations of your own anecdotal experience, but you undeniably create the impression that you are describing vegans as a group. And that description is frankly cartoonish and offensive.

    It pisses me off to hear you say these things, because my own experience differs so significantly. I know many, many vegans, all of whom visit the dentist regularly, don’t believe 9/11 was an inside job, and are in good health. Of course, as I said, none of us has a complete picture of all or even most vegans, so none of us should imply that we have the ability to characterize them all.

    I hope the links I shared in my first comment about this, as well as the others who’ve commented, will provide some additional evidence that not all vegans are as insane, sickly, and conspiracy-minded as you believe. Unfortunately, my hopes are not high.

  54. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Also, I would reread uncle_steve’s thoughtfully composed response to your post, and compare his to yours. You are the one speaking in absolutes here, and you are the one making “the fact is…” type of unsubstantiated statements.

    Just a thought.

  55. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Of all the things you’ve listed, again, YOU ARE THE ONE MAKING ABSOLUTIST STATEMENTS. uncle and I have qualified our statements, or otherwise put them into context. Again; forrest for the trees.

    I am really not interested in debating this further.

    Me neither. Lates.

  56. jsterritton 08 Jun 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Steven Yenzer, for what it’s worth, I have your back. Gummy and Uncle are bigots. I cannot fathom what would make them think their hateful, hurtful, stupid remarks would be welcome, but they’re not…at least by me. Uncle Steve sounds like Uncle Tom: he’s not stupid and sickly like “those other” vegans; he’s “healthy and a marathon runner” of whom other vegans are jealous. Seriously, Uncle Steve asserted — based on the authority of his own personal guess — that “maybe around half [of vegans] are “anti-science or into alternative medicine.” This, ON A SKEPTICAL BLOG?! The mind boggles. Unless this is way-too-nuanced ironic humor that I don’t understand, I think an apology is due.

  57. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 10:22 pm

    You want an apology from other vegans? Good god man. For what?

    “Bigotry”? (audible facepalm) Yes, yes, your fellows who are vegans and veggies are the bigots. Do you or Yenzer not see how amazing you’re both being? Maybe this is too emotionally charged of an issue for you two? Think critically about what’s actually been written. Good gravy!

  58. the devils gummy bearon 08 Jun 2014 at 10:26 pm

    And you guys wonder why vegans get a bum rap. You guys can’t even play nice with fellow SKEPTICAL vegans, your own friggin’ comrades… Jeesh! It never ceases to perplex me, you guys.

  59. Steven Yenzeron 08 Jun 2014 at 11:14 pm

    jsterritt, I really appreciate the backup, and I had the exact same thought about the Uncle Tom-ness! Your comment was such a relief — I thought I was going a bit crazy there.

  60. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 12:15 am

    “Uncle Tom-ness”? Please elaborate on why uncle_steve is “Uncle Tom-ish”? That’s quite the charged statement. And if the two of you independently arrived at this thought, it must not be an extraordinarily unlikely coincidence. What am I missing? Are you two saying uncle_steve is a house vegan? Or does this silly little analogy just dead end in its own cul de sac?

    uncle_steve and I were comparing notes on the prevalence of woo amongst our own… It’s there, face it… Or not- just toss around “bigot” when someone, one of your own, calls attention to it… Which brings me around to this next observation- do you two not see how getting this bent out of shape and knee-jerky over this, turning on your own over basically nothing, is the kind of a detrimental tendency which shapes the perception of vegans and veganism? This out of nowhere hostility? With people who are 99.9% on your side?

    Or is this completely lost on the two of you? I mean, you guys see how your emotional investment is affecting your discourse, no? There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but Steven Yenzer, you’ve been flogging a dead horse…

    I think you guys are being a little childish, and failing to grasp why we have discussed our observations about the prevailing woo culture in veganism and vegetarianism. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a dozen anti-GMO guys or anti-Vaxers, or CAM nutjobs. uncle_steve’s analogy about birtherism in the GOP is apt. Woo in the vegan subculture can be seen from space. It is simply ridiculous to be in denial of it. And it is very childish to decry “bigot” and “Uncle Tom-ness” when other science minded vegans call attention to it. Yenzer says he’s right pissed off. jsterritt has leapt headfirst into the bigot charge.

    (you guys also don’t seem to be picking on my unsubtle tongue-in-cheek meat and mean spirited animal cruelty idioms, so maybe there actually is a nuance detection problem going on here)

  61. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 12:38 am

    Eh, come to think of it… This is why no longer chose to be involved, in any way, with other vegans and vegetarians (who are typically less grating and less prone to black and white thinking). I said I have nothing invested in this, and I don’t. I do get riled up, still, I guess. When vegans turn the crank up to 11 over essentially nothing, I admit- it really rubs me the wrong way. I just have to walk away.

    The prevalence of woo in veganism is so glaringly hard to NOT see, even from a great distance, I really don’t know what planet you guys are living on. Call me a bigot. Oh well.

  62. jsterritton 09 Jun 2014 at 2:08 am

    Gummy? Science-minded? All we do in these pages is decry the idiocy of people (like Heather from PETA) for placing anecdotes on par with evidence-based knowledge. Arguably, the leading purpose of science is to strip biases from observation in order to learn the truth. A science-minded person would by definition attempt to rid themselves of prejudices. All you do is paint with your broad brush of prejudice and offend (and amuse) with your colossal lack of self-awareness when you do it.

    You proclaim: “Anti-vax, trutherism, conspiracy EVERYTHING (Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Big Medicine, Big Science) are the bread and butter of the vegan subculture.” You go on to call this “subculture” (that you have defined and are somehow expert about) “a breeding ground for crazy going crazier which leads to worse and worser health and life decisions.”

    You are quite literally defaming an entire group of people based on some weird caricature you’ve cobbled together from an unenviable handful of people who had the misfortune of crossing paths with you. And then you take exception to being called a bigot.

    Steven Yenzer spelled it out clearly and correctly: “you undeniably create the impression that you are describing vegans as a group. And that description is frankly cartoonish and offensive.” I couldn’t agree more. You claim authority based solely on personal experience and a raft of biases and prejudices — the bane of skeptics — then use that authority to malign and offend.

    I find it backwards that you embrace the term “science-minded” for yourself, yet reject “bigot.” There’s so much evidence in support of the latter. The former, not so much.

  63. pseudonymoniaeon 09 Jun 2014 at 2:13 am

    @devils gummy @Steven Yenzer

    I have to agree with Steven on this one. Devils, you basically decided to dump on vegans in general, and yes, you most certainly did generalize e.g. “I would say that vegans are generally worse off health-wise than the general public”, and, quoting a little loosely here, “[all forms of nonsense] are the bread and butter of the vegan subculture”.

    And, while this is the internet, it definitely makes sense to me how both you and uncle_steve playing up these vegans-are-a-bunch-of-dummies stereotypes could come off as offensive. If you’ve got no skin in the game then just drop it. Steven Yenzer’s main point is simple: until proven otherwise, it’s not fair to generalize negatively about vegans simply based upon group association. This seems like a pretty uncontroversial point, but it’s also one worth defending.

  64. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 3:25 am

    Please be aware what I was initially responding to:

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

    Dick thing to pull, especially because the content of his post was entirely evidence free (however it was stated that yes indeed, there is woo, but I think the actual disagreement should have been about the prevalence).

    You do realize uncle is a vegan, yes? This is weird that you guys are sort of not registering this. I was vegan too, until recently (doctors’ orders). So, the whole playing up thing… Eh… Seem to be missing the part where two skeptical veggies are talking about prevailing woo, etc, beating dead horse, etc. My statements have upset some people here, as have uncle’s. That’s weird, but here we go into semantics about it… Again: eh. Forrest for trees. I understand what you are saying, pseudonymoniae. Perhaps another time. But I’m fine with dropping it as well.

    Oh, forgot, yenzer’s first post on here was particularly riddled with often parroted vegan-isms that just don’t hold up. But I looked past that. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Eh.

    A lot of “ehs” tonight. I have to be up in four hours. Am too groggy and bleary eyed for this. jsterritt, another time. Maybe.

  65. uncle_steveon 09 Jun 2014 at 10:29 am

    Ha ha! This is just so predictable! Virtually no substantive criticism has been made of anything that I have said. Love the name-calling though, it was hilarious! What I said about PETA has yet to be addressed(Dr Novella shared a bunch of good studies demonstrating the prevalence of certain deficiencies among vegans, not all of which has been addressed). What I said about the most prominent vegan authors and activists has yet to be addressed. Devil’s Gummy Bear, it’s really nice to meet you too! Those vegans you met who have those insane beliefs reminds me of some vegans I’ve known! Notice that although I said “some”, certain people here will take that to mean “ALL” vegans.

    And wow Steve! So skeptics can’t swap stories or observations, eh? Saying I was not being “skeptical” is rubbish. Since I was not speaking in absolutes, nor trying to pass off my observations or opinions as hard facts, this hardly represents a failure to be skeptical. Do I really need to put disclaimers after every statement I’ve said? Do I have to preface every statement with “I could be wrong, but…”. That would be ridiculous!

    The ultimate irony here is that the hostility I’ve received for what I’ve said almost proves my point for me. I think this may also play a part in the ex-vegan phenomenon. There’s a ton of them. Some may just revert to vegetarianism, while some go back to meat-eating. The reasons for why some vegans give up are varied, but the most common I’ve been told are that “they felt weak”, or “it was too difficult”. Sometimes alone, or in combination with health problems, some ex-vegans told me they found the vegans they met to be unhelpful or even hostile to their questions. And just like with Gummy Bear here, I’ve known some ex-vegans who really got turned off by the pseudo-science and conspiracy-mongering in the vegan sub-culture. This is, based on everything that I have seen(not just observations, but the fact that PETA is popular and well-funded, and the same goes for woo-friendly authors/activists), is a legitimate complaint.

    In case you have forgotten, I AM A VEGAN! An “almost” black sheep vegan because I am pro-science. I really would love to see some polls done on the vegan community, to see how much overlap there is between veganism and the pseudo-science/conspiracy community. I suspect it is pretty big! (Note the word “suspect”).

    Thought experiment: Imagine 2 vegan restaurants, vegan restaurant “A” and vegan restaurant “B”. For argument’s sake, imagine they are identical. They are in the same part of town, the same size, and are designed the same exact way. They even have the same exact menu! However, restaurant A is 100% organic, 100% non-GMO, and “all natural”, and restaurant B is not organic and boasts that it uses GMOs and not everything is “natural”.

    Okay, some more differences. As you walk in, they both have bulletin boards with fliers on them. Restaurant A has fliers that warn of the dangers of vaccination, and also fliers with info about why you need to “detox” with vegetable juice; restaurant B has fliers on its bulletin board that urges people to get vaccinated for the flu and to get their children vaccinated, and also why detoxing with vegetable juice is pseudo-science.

    Actually, let’s take this a little further. Imagine there are 10 restaurant As and 10 restaurant Bs in America’s biggest cities. Which chain do you think would do better business?

  66. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 12:45 pm

    It is, unfortunately, so very very predictable. The strange hostility so very very many vegans conduct themselves with (oh dear lord, is that another sweeping generalization??? Another proclamation??? More defaming??? Well, if the generalization fits baby).

    jsterritt, yenzer, this is the type of crap people say about vegans, and this is the kind of crap that drives other vegans away from other vegans. The level of outrage, and its strangeness, is human repellant for, not just regular folks, but it repels your allies and comrades. It irritates me personally, because I often think my values (regarding ethical treatment of animals) are perpetually get knocked back (and I’m gonna say it) by “militants”, not just PETA, but by agro-vegans. It always seems like vegans do more damage than good for the very things most (I) value most of all (animal welfare).

    Take that “generalization” and stick it in your hat too, because you two (and pseudonymoniae) aren’t bothering to note how I, and uncle_steve, our prefacing and contextualizing our observations. Read critically, use critical reading skills. Notice words such as “seems” and phrases such as “in my experience”. Our experiences are not irrelevant just because you don’t like them. I was vegan for nearly 20 years. I am intimately familiar with the scene. INTIMATELY. So, dismiss my oversavitons if you don’t like them, or craft better counterpoints thang “bigot” and “pissed off”. Sorry, you can do better.

    I’ll turn down the hyperbole if you guys get a sense of humor. “Bread and butter” was a fucking idiom joke, but uncle_steve is probably right, we need to issue disclaimers after every single sentence if you guys are going to get this bent out of shape. I have used turn of phrases and flourishes, but are your ragegasms proportional?

    I don’t know.

    Vegans get a bad rap (a lot of it is for the crazy amount of kook-ers woo, but of the reputation comes out of the vehemence and antipathy, flying off the handle at the drop of hat. This is what outsiders and other vegans often comment on, this sort of vitriol. But F it, that’s just another unfounded sweeping generalization, eh?). This is a QED moment about this. And as always, it is being lost on you guys.

    I’m with uncle_steve on this. Perhaps it irritates me more than it should these days. My health problems issues and doctors aside, I walked away and have stayed away from vegans for the above reasons. It’s not just the woo, it’s the decibels of the toxicity too. It’s a bit much.

    I’ve taken each of your points, and I will consider them, thoughtfully. And I mean that btw, and I’ll revist this later.

  67. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 12:51 pm

    My comment is in moderation. I’m just going to apologize for my grammatical butchery before it comes out. My fat fingers on my phone, in addition to just generally sucking at grammer. My sloppiness is directly proportional to my sleep deprivation :P It happens.

  68. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 2:41 pm

    jsterritt, I’m on my lunch break, so I’ll be brief.

    …offend (and amuse) with your colossal lack of self-awareness when you do it.

    I do aim to amuse. I actually do, and maybe that’s a problem with you hardline guys. As for a lack of self-awareness, I would suggest a mirror. You are taking enormous offence, why? Think about why you are getting so offended.

    If I am defaming an entire group, I will re-iterate again, and again, and after uncle has reiterated this painfully stupid point again; I am “defaming” myself and my own “group”. It is frankly amazing that you and Yenzer are drawing lines and framing this as “in-group” and “out-group”. There are problems with this way of thinking, and you are demonstrating them.

    The “entire group”, you say I am defaming is the group I am in. Take your own advice about self-awareness. If you can’t laugh at yourself, and at your own group, then I really don’t know what to tell you. That level of severity is problematic. Get a sense of humor, it goes a long way, much further than being perpetually butt-hurt and outraged when vegans and veggies point to real problems in “our group”.

    These tendencies I and others often see and comment on, with vegans, call ‘em whatever you want, but they do go on, as they’re going on here. Drawing lines in the sand, in group out group, black and white, outrage over the strangest tiniest morsels of disagreements, enormous offence taken over minor or nonexistent transgressions. It’s extreme. It often reminds me of how hot-headed people get in religion and politics. I would suggest keeping an eye on how your value-based thinking interferes with your ability to communicate rationally. Just a thought. Don’t bite my head off, please.

    Oh.. Yeah, a “handful” of vegans is not the basis of my observations. But it appears pointless to talk to you about this. I’ve been around the block. More than I’d care to admit. Vegan for decades. Intimately familiar with the spectrum in the culture. This is very ridiculous, because you won’t listen, to me or uncle_steven about it.

    I described one extreme example, as an illustration. You know these types too (I’m presuming, as a baseline, you have a similar frame of reference after decades of veganism, but I don’t know your situation, and even though I’ve elaborated a bit on mine, you can’t be bothered to grasp it, which is a problem). You can’t be a vegan for decades without encountering them, the kooks. You can’t know thousands, hundreds, and maybe some dozens of “friends” without encountering the real nutters… And this, right here, if you step back from your enormous offense, is something that is worth discussing: I assert that the (what I have described) as the fringier woowoos are much more prevalent than you or Yenzer wish them to be. I will again assert my point: many vegans fall along the conspiracy spectrum. This could be a starting point for discussion, but I don’t think you’re going to get there due to your issues with me.

    You say I am painting with a broad brush. Okay, I can kinda see where you’re coming from. I say you’re missing the woods for the trees and overreacting.

    You find me backwards? That’s fine. I’ll just say this: If you can’t address the woo in the vegan subculture on any level whatsoever (and I see no indication you are even going to acknowledge its existence) then reality is probably not your bailiwick.

  69. jsterritton 09 Jun 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Being a member of a group gives you no special right or reason to denigrate that group and perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices. In fact, denigrating a group to which you belong in an attempt to elevate and distinguish yourself as “better” than those “others” is a particularly malevolent form of bigotry (i.e., Uncle Tom-ism). Even after another commenter clearly explained that your remarks were hurtful and bigoted (and *how* and *why* they were hurtful and bigoted), you just kept on being mean, petty, and clueless. Your continued insistence that you could not possibly have been offensive is an all-too-familiar and empty defense. I get it: you guys feel comfortable hating on “those vegans” because the stakes are low, your stories are funny, and you assume your vegan/veggie bona fides place you beyond reproach. They don’t.

  70. Steven Yenzeron 09 Jun 2014 at 4:27 pm

    jsterritt, THANK YOU for your eloquent and ass-kicking arguments. And thank you pseudonymoniae for weighing in as well. I’ve exhausted my patience with this debate, but I wanted to let you know that every time I read your posts I do a little dance :)

  71. Bruceon 09 Jun 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I think there is a problem when people in a group are not able to take criticism on their group without it turning into a name calling session. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because someone says there are parts of a group that are not necessarily how they would like it to be that they think all of the group is like that.

    I would suggest some of the newer commenters spend some time here and on other skeptic blogs and forums and really consider why they are reacting so emotionally to some of the comments being made here.

  72. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Didn’t claim to be “better” from “others”.

    Grow up.

    Stepping off soapbox, not because you’re right about a single thing, jsterritt, but because I’m tired. Tiresome stuff, the two of you. Tedious and tiresome, like human repellant. Ridiculous. F’ing vegans. Every bloody time. See: bad rap, above.

    Present company excluded, uncle_steve. Good luck with these two, I don’t see any productive purpose personally. Like dealing with Mormon apologists or culties. Pointless.

  73. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Bruce, I didn’t see your post. I should have (and heeded its advice myself), before dropping “culties” on this thing. I’m seriously cranky today, very sleep deprived. Have been working overtime for some time, with no rest in sight. I should probably stay away from comment sections until after a good night’s rest, whenever that will be.

  74. Morbloreon 09 Jun 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Our 2 /12 year old son was recently diagnosed with EoE disease. He can not have any Dairy products. Trying to find food that has no Dairy in it is a real big PITA!

  75. Morbloreon 09 Jun 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Sorry I hit enter too soon. I wanted to add that if having a little bit of cheese, some white bread, milk or whatever only maybe caused them to have the MINOR symptoms listed by PETA I would gladly take them. Some people don’t know when they have it good.

  76. jsterritton 09 Jun 2014 at 5:54 pm

    While I stand in awe of the tenured commenters here, I also stand by my remarks. I recognize bigotry when I see it. I was offended by the remarks of commenters here not because I’m a vegan or vegetarian (I’m not one), but because ostensible critical thinkers and skeptics were engaging in the worst kinds of fallacious thinking (argument from anecdote, argument from ignorance, etc) all to the purpose of stereotyping and maligning vegans as a monolithic group, which they thought was hi-larious. Are we any closer to having evidence-based information on whether there is a correlation between veganism and “human repellent,” “sickliness,” or “worser health and life decisions” (all claims made by commenters here)? Has this thread gotten us any closer to even the modest goal of knowing, by science-based research, if veganism correlates with woo at all? No. We’ve only learned that two commenters here view a group of people with contempt. And that as members of that group, they feel somehow authorized and entitled to defame that group without objection. Maybe I’m thin-skinned, but I’ve encountered enough racism, sexism, and homophobia in my life to have learned not to give speech like this a free pass.

  77. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 6:31 pm

    jsterritt,

    I guess I see where this uncle tom stuff is really coming from. What you are seeing (and likely will be unable to otherwise see) is two people defaming/hate speech-ing/dumping on a “group”.

    What you are continuing to fail to see is participants of said “group” discussing legitimate issues in said “group” and with said “group”, and criticizing these actual problems of our “group”. This is a very important point, one which Bruce touched on, as did uncle_steve (as have I, but my writing is upsetting for you). You find all of this to be fallacious thinking. I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. There are legitimate complaints and criticisms to make about real problems.

    I presumed you were a vegan, i.e. familiar with veganism. My bad. I assumed you had some idea of what it was we were talking about. Perhaps you should walk your “Uncle Tom” “hating-on-a-group mentality”, and familiarize yourself with veganism, vegetarianism, PETA, and all the woo therein. You can scroll up and reread the OP for instance. Is there woo in veganism and vegetarianism? Scroll up to the top and start there.

    Or we could share citations to the multitude of real problems.

    Continuing in this line; As for critical discussion pertaining to the prevalence of woo in veganism and vegetarianism, via (I think you said evidence-based research), name calling derails efforts towards that goal, jsterritt.

    I’m not one to speak either, at this point. If I could walk back some of my hyperbole, I would.

  78. Steven Yenzeron 09 Jun 2014 at 7:12 pm

    It seems like things are cooling down a bit, so I wanted to jump back in one last time and clarify something: I never asserted, because I do not believe, that there isn’t a higher number of pseudoscience advocates within the vegan community than in the general population. That may well be true. I’ve certainly seen it among fellow vegans. But I’ve been very careful to say that I have no real evidence either way — besides anecdote.

    If I may quote myself in my very first comment on this issue:

    “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.”

    What I and others took issue with was that the language you used — language I’ll quote again here — that strongly implied that you were describing the vegan community as a whole. I just don’t think it’s reasonable for you to argue that you weren’t trying to describe vegans generally. You both certainly walked back that implication, but that was what I took issue with:

    - “…most of the vegans I’ve known over the years are in pretty bad shape…”
    - “…distilling their own water, never going to dentists, teeth falling out…”
    - “…of the handful I’ve met, they’re still steeped in PETA-pseudoscience PR.”
    - “From my own meaningless personal experience, I would say that vegans are generally worse off health-wise than the general public…”
    - “… All too many are weak and sickly, and believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories about mainstream medicine…”
    - “…most vegans I meet are sickly, anti-science, often anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, anti-fluoride, big Deepak Chopra fans, etc.”
    - “Anti-vax, trutherism, conspiracy EVERYTHING (Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Big Medicine, Big Science) are the bread and butter of the vegan subculture.”
    - “There are so many health problems going on in the vegan scene…”

    That language was, frankly, offensive. Just as you would be offended if someone described the skeptic community as a bunch of overweight, pimply neckbeards — even the writer was a fellow skeptic — I was offended to read you describe my friends and I that way.

    What I asked you to do, and what I still ask you to do, is refrain from using this kind of broad language to describe a group you can’t possibly have met a significant portion of.

  79. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Yes, you take issue with my writing style. Fair enough. See: woods, trees, etc.

    However (let me work through your list):

    Most of the vegans I personally know are in pretty bad shape, including myself. I am including relatives, good friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and in-laws. Many vegans I have been in contact with were also not in great shape. Many vegans I have met and have corresponded with seem or claim to be in okay shape. Do you understand that I am not saying “all vegans are blahblahblah? Yes? Savvy? I see no need to “walk back” my direct observations of the world around me; most vegans I know actually have varying degrees of failing health. I am not claiming this is the case for the entire vegan population. I cannot possibly be any clearer on this for you. Get past it.

    As for, the couple with the teeth falling out. No, that’s a real situation, and an one (the man in this relationship has an unortunate schizotypal disorder). If this a matter of splitting hairs, then please look past my writing style, and understand that I WAS NOT SAYING that this case was a typical situation. I am NOT SAYING ALL vegans are in tin foil hats. I was using this example to illustrate the furthest extremes of the culture. If this was not clear above, it is now. So get past it.

    Further, I stand by my assertion that the extreme case I illustrated is not necessarily an isolated one. How isolated is debatable. I do not believe it is commonplace. Let me repeat this, Yenzer, because it may seem like I’m contradicting myself, (I’m not)- I do not assert ALL vegans are this extreme and I do not assert MOST are this extreme. What I assert is there SEEMS to be a higher prevalence of conspiracy theorists in veganism. The extremes appear to be atypically particular to veganism. So let me be clear again: I am not saying ALL vegans are “teeth falling out” nutters. I am saying there is a conspiracy spectrum running throughout the substrate of vegan culture. I am not saying everyone is on it, but I am saying most are. You will likely take issue with this last point, but I stand by it.

    (It is probably more of a bell curve or a quadrant or something. It doesn’t matter)

    uncle_steve presented a very illustrative thought experiment demonstrating the rather extraordinary prevalence of unortunate thinking in veganism and vegetarianism (see his restaurant example).

    Let’s do another example to illustrate this unusually high prevalence of pseudoscience/conspiratorial/anti-science thinking in veganism and vegetarianism culture (at least the one here in the states and probably the UK too). I want you to list, in order, from most visible public entity to least visible public entity (entity meaning- business, org, advocacy group, site, blog, whatever). And by publicly visible, I mean both visible to the general public, as well as the vegan/veg population. Just off the top of your head.

    PETA is, qualitatively number one on that list, no matter how much we don’t want it to be. And after PETA, there is a murky pool of ad copy and misinformation, no matter how you stack it. If there is a single pro-science, anti-conspiracy, vegan/vegetarian operation of any kind that has any relevance or visibility to the general public (or even to the veg demographic), I am unaware of it. Enlighten me (that’s not a challenge, that’s a serious request). No matter how you go down the list, it’s basically anti-science pro-conspiracy stuff.

    “…most vegans I meet are sickly, anti-science, often anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, anti-fluoride, big Deepak Chopra fans, etc.”

    I did not actually say this^, uncle did. But he isn’t off-base here. I agree with him on these points. If the word “most” (or any adverb for that matter) is troublesome for you, then I don’t know what to tell you. How much time are we going to waste splitting hairs?

    (I’m trying to work down through your list as quickly and logically as I can)

    Again, I will again assert that conspiratorial thinking is part of the vegan culture substrate. And again, my “bread and butter” was a joke-idiom. This is the second or third time I’ve stated this. Can’t be any clearer.

    There are many health problems going on in the vegan scene. Interestingly, you cut off the end of my sentance, Yenzer. There are health problems common in veganism/veg, but for a multitude of reasons, which merit discussion. Let me be clear, I did not state, or intend to imply that vegans/veg were any more or any less healthful or sickly than the general population. I will leave off here, because I’m pretty sure you will continue to take issue with this (or go back and misread something or other). I had one last point, and its on the tip of my tounge… (l’esprit de l’escalier, it’ll come back to me once I’m in my car).

    Everything needs a disclaimer. It gets silly.

    Apologizes for grammatical atrocities, I’m sure there are many, but hastily I have to hop off.
    -TDGB

  80. Ekkoon 09 Jun 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I was disappointed to see the Vegan Expo held over the weekend here in Vancouver focus on GMOs as a main speaker topic with a lopsided panel consisting of Jeremy (Seeds of Deception) Smith and Rachel (14 year old anti-GMO activist) Parent, among others. The panel could not be argued in any way to be a balanced discussion, or a science based discussion and it’s another example, like this PETA campaign, of vegan groups overextending their reach into areas unsupported by science, and purely ideologically driven. A local skeptics group actually contacted the Vegan Expo organizers to complain of how this panel was misrepresenting the issue and disseminating misinformation but to no avail.

  81. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Oh… I remember, the most visible skeptical vegan operation I’m aware of is Citizen Radio. I know Allison and Jamie. They’re buds with Rebecca Watson…

    And this goes to one of your points… Even the Citizen Radio guys persist in frequently stating bad science in support of veganism, or otherwise propping the common anti-GMO type stuff on their daily show.

    This is a direct response to your point (quoting me)- “of the handful I’ve met, they’re still steeped in PETA-pseudoscience PR.”

    Please consider what I said, in its proper context, with hereto unknown, to you, info. Thanks.

  82. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Oh, and btw, I realize I left off on something I had to abandon, I didn’t have to finish my thought… Yenzer, the very last bit about healthfulness and population compared to… I know I left this in a contradiction, please don’t jump down my throat before I can finish what I was trying to say. I have to get my people to their appointments across town, and will be offline for some hours.

  83. the devils gummy bearon 09 Jun 2014 at 11:43 pm

    Let me try to pick up where I left off, when I had to leave mid-thought.

    Okay (sigh), let me quote the bloody horse you (Yenzer) are bludgeoning to death. Let’s get past this, because it has gotten silly.

    This is what I said;

    “From my own meaningless personal experience, I would say that vegans are generally worse off health-wise than the general public…”

    Go over this sentence word by word. Word… By…Word… Please. Do you detect the irony? (Hint; the giveaway is in the beginning)

    “From my meaningless personal experience…”

    You took and continue to take enormous offense at this, which is why I said you were missing the forrest for the trees. I deliberately picked my words in order to say a ridiculously non-quantitative thing in the least qualitative way possible. I thought this was obvious. I thought the absurdly jockular premise would give it away. Obviously it wasn’t clear.

    I don’t know or care if long term vegan lifestyles produce better or worse health outcomes compared to the general public. I actually don’t think they do produce worse outcomes, but I also don’t care if they do. I’m essentially agnostic. Research into this would interest me, but I don’t know… All I’m going to say is; it’s not my area, and it’s really terribly interesting to me. Am I being being clear?

    Amuse me for a moment…

    Most of the non-vegan people in my life are in various states of deteriorating health… Which is about as meaningful (read meaningless) as my original statement. It’s also, not inaccurate. I mean, I could get really loopy and play with logic, but I’m sleep deprived and loopy as is. But you see what I’m saying, yes?

    To conclude…

    I am, personally not terribly interested in the health outcomes of veganism, it’s not my area. I am not in medicine or public health. What interests me is conspiracy theory culture(s), the pseudosciences, and the misuse/misapplication/misrepresentation of the sciences. Which is why, and I’m going to really twist the screws in on this final point- it’s this last part of my (quoted) statement I want call attention to. You haven’t been able to get to it because you’ve been so preoccupied with the first part (woods/trees). Here it is:

    “…but not due to veganism. It’s a multitude of other factors.”

    This is the yolk (sorry, can’t help it) of the thing I am interested in. The conspiracy spectrum in the cultural substrate The ingredients of the conspiracy soup.

    Yenzer, you are too easily offended, and much too severe. I tend to get snarky when I’m annoyed (you said something above that really irked me the other day), and granted, I get cranky and hasty when I’m sleep deprived.

    I wasn’t clear. Fine. I’m being as clear as I can be. Can we move this along now?

  84. grabulaon 10 Jun 2014 at 2:36 am

    @Bruce

    “I think there is a problem when people in a group are not able to take criticism on their group without it turning into a name calling session”

    being human I guess…

  85. Bill Openthalton 10 Jun 2014 at 7:55 am

    Kwarthajon –

    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.

    Traditionally, animals were kept to optimize resource usage. Cows graze on land that is not used for crop production, pigs will eat potatoes unfit for human consumption, etc. Where I live most of the land is not really suitable for crops, so farmers tend to concentrate on milk production. The alternative is to quit farming (and many do).

    Uncle_steve, Steve Yenzer et al. –

    Veganism is an ideology. It is grounded in morality (the mechanisms that keep groups together), which explains why most adherents are so combative — they are a small group that has to affirm itself. Following a vegan diet doesn’t make one a vegan; one needs to believe in animal equality to be a real vegan.

    This also explains PETA’s use of non-scientific arguments to promote their ideology, because for an ideologue, the end justifies the means.

  86. etatroon 10 Jun 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Interesting turn this discussion has taken. I must be deeply cynical or jaded, but my immediate response was that the email to Steve was troll bait. Meaning, sent by a PETA propagandist. Note that she specifically requested that Steve publish her letter. They baited him into publishing it, along with a (polite but) no-holding-back response. Then wait for the pile-on in the comment thread. Now PETA has some propaganda showing Steve Novella, neuroscientist and leading voice in the skeptical community, bullying a poor parent of an autistic child. I guess we’re in the pockets of Big Dairy, etc etc.

  87. Mlemaon 10 Jun 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Is it really true that a person could eat up to a pound of bacon or other processed meat every day without detriment to their health? Considering the saturated fat – that it seems incredible! Surely this isn’t what Dr. Novella meant to suggest.
    What about the possible link to pulmonary disease?
    http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/rccm.200607-969OC#.U5U-Li9n-yt
    If a person is plowing fields with a team of horses every day, they might need this kind of fuel. But jeepers, who needs to eat what amounts to a big pile of saturated fat every day?

  88. Mlemaon 10 Jun 2014 at 5:33 pm

    As a skeptic, i think it’s important to be self-aware. That includes awareness of the consequences of my economic behavior.
    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/06/pregnant-sows-gestation-crates-abuse
    http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/11/yet-again-undercover-video-docuemts-savage-abuse-factory-pig-farm
    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/06/ag-gag-laws-mowmar-farms
    I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating meat. But the animal ought to have lived a decent animal life and died as humanely as possible. I know that’s only my opinion and there are people who disagree and who say animals only exist to make meat. And I don’t think it’s fair that a few humans should have to do all the killing and butchering either. People ought to have at least a bit more involvement in the process than just driving thru at a fast food joint and ordering a bacon cheeseburger. Even if it’s only to make sure that the meat they’re eating wasn’t tortured in life. Sorry, i think I do feel strongly about this – enough to make me get a bit testy when people get cavalier about it.

  89. Mlemaon 10 Jun 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I’m also wondering about the economic inequity between meat eaters and vegans. The cost of meat is artificially low in the US, thanks to offsets at each level of production. So, I guess us meat eaters can at least feel like we got our money’s worth when we die a little earlier. :)

    “…for every $1 of product they sell, meat and dairy producers impose almost $2 in hidden costs on the rest of us. But if producers were forced to internalize these costs, a $4 Big Mac would cost about $11.”
    http://www.amazon.com/Meatonomics-Economics-Consume-Much–Smarter/dp/1573246204/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402293238&sr=1-1&keywords=meatonomics
    It’s cheap and easy to buy and eat meat in the US. The costs are too easily made invisible. Think about the fast food places. They’re not serving varied and delicious vegan options. It’s burgers and chicken at every single one of them. Because meat is actually cheaper than vegetables in the US. A head of fresh broccoli costs more than a 1/4 pounder at McD’s, and the burger is already prepared to eat. C’mon – we’re making it so much easier to be unhealthy than healthy. Is that really what we want? I would LOVE to have it be cheap and easy to get healthy food.

  90. Mlemaon 10 Jun 2014 at 5:41 pm

    We could improve the safety of our meat supply by changing it also. People have become complacent because of practices we instituted years ago. But those practices have eroded. The industry has moved toward self-policing, and there are many hundreds fewer inspectors doing the inspecting.
    “Under the new program, already in operation at about 25 chicken and turkey plants, the department is allowing poultry plant employees to do inspections on the processing lines, rather than more thoroughly trained Agriculture Department inspectors, who were previously required. Now, Agriculture Department inspectors are stationed only at the end of the line for a final check on meat before it is shipped…The shift to the new program, which is scheduled to expand to other plants, is expected to eliminate the positions of about 800 inspectors.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/us/american-meat-plants-said-to-face-shortages-of-inspectors.html?_r=0
    And the huge number of vacancies in inspection has been in existence for several years now.
    So, of course, we’re allowing meat inspection to happen overseas where the meat is often coming from.
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/06/usda-petitioned-to-block-imported-meat-from-privatized-inspection-systems/#.U5VUDy9n-ys
    And if you need more encouragement to cut back on your meat consumption, check out the USDA list of recalls and open federal cases. More than 95% of them are meat products.

    Anyway, here’s some info from Physicians for Social Responsibility
    http://www.psr.org/chapters/oregon/safe-food/industrial-meat-system.html

    This subject gets so divisive. It’s only natural, since eating meat is a deeply ingrained reward system. High in complete protein, calories (as compared to plant) and flavor! There’s no such sort of built in motivation for removing meat from the diet, even though it may be healthier. Veganism isn’t a choice a person makes for no reason at all. The choice is made for reasons of belief regarding what’s good for animals and for health, and even for the environment. In the end it should be a personal choice and no one on any particular diet should be harassed, maligned, stereotyped, shamed, etc. Live and let eat!

    Also, what about eating bugs? Really great source of protein. I might try it in the flour form – already made into something palatable :)

  91. the devils gummy bearon 11 Jun 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Wow. I sort went flaming into ridiculousness and hypocrisy the other day(s), by pulling the very knee-jerky/reactionary/inculpating things I was whinging on about. Projecting, it’s called? Sleep deprived amygdala, and my old vegany short fuse.

    Amazing what a good night of sleep will do, and a steady stream of cookies in my blood too.

    It is an ideology, Bill Openthalt, but so many things are. I think you hit this particular nail on the head:

    Following a vegan diet doesn’t make one a vegan; one needs to believe in animal equality to be a real vegan.

    And that was my departure from veganism, internally. Equality became an increasingly meaningless paradigm the more critically I examined it over the years.

  92. grabulaon 12 Jun 2014 at 12:56 am

    I think a lot of people have some biases when it comes to their concept of ‘vegan’. I have yet to meet one that isn’t also guilty of a lot of naturalistically fallacious thinking. Of course that doesn’t mean they’re ALL like that but as usual generalizations exist for a reason. I think vegan tends to be on the extreme end while vegetarianism tends to be a little more moderate (in my experience anyway) and that may be part of the issue. If you’re going to go to extreme lengths to live a specific life style you probably also have other strong feelings, and since like tends to attract like, I’m guessing a lot of those beliefs are transmitted tribally.

  93. gravitybearon 12 Jun 2014 at 9:15 am

    It’s far upthread, but I needed to respond to RC, who seems misinformed about how animals are fed, at least in the US.

    RC: “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.”

    I think RC may be thinking of Charlotte’s Web, but this is not how pork production works.

    RC: “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.”

    I think RC’s ratio is off for how much corn it takes to produce a pound of pig. The ratio is more like 3-4:1. (Interestingly, the ratio for chicken is about 2:1.) While it may be true that hogs don’t mind the worms or corm smut, that really doesn’t make it into their diet. There may be more waste for corn produced for human consumption, but I don’t think it is nearly to the extent that RC is imagining.

  94. Lumen2222on 12 Jun 2014 at 1:09 pm

    This mostly relates to the vegan/environmental benefits much earlier in the thread.

    To me, the conversations about how many pounds of plant it takes to produce a pound of meat are irrelevant to a conversation about veganism in general, or milk consumption specifically. Those are discussions that are relevant to vegetarianism, which is an entirely different diet concept and isn’t what this post is about. I point this out because I think it’s very problematic to conflate the two ideas, and it happens all the time in these kind of discussions. Vegetarianism isn’t “Vegan Lite”, and Vegans should not be allowed to attribute any and all vegetarian benefits to their more extreme lifestyle choice. If you compare veganism to vegetarianism many of the pro-vegan arguments disappear.

    If we’re talking about environmental benefits of Veganism, the more appropriate question is “How many pounds of corn go into producing a pound of eggs or a pound of milk?”

    It doesn’t follow at all that if there are health or environmental advantages to a vegetarian diet that full blown veganism is “even better” and reading some of the comments earlier in the thread it seems to me that some of the pro-vegan commenters are confusing the two ideas. Comparing veganism to a diet that contains meat is frankly pointless. You need to compare it to a wide variety of diets, including straight up vegetarianism.

    In Short: I do get mildly perturbed when bacon is disparaged, as I would miss it if it were unavailable. But what really gets me riled up is when you besmirch my one true love: Cheese.

    Don’t mess with the cheese.

  95. Bill Openthalton 14 Jun 2014 at 4:07 am

    Lumen2222 –

    Let’s strike up the band for Fletcher’s American Cheese — the cheese worth going to war for (with apologies to George Gershwin).

  96. Mr Qwertyon 18 Jun 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Interesting article I just stumbled upon:

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/04/09/peta-takes-heat-over-claims-it-killed-90-of-animals-dropped-off-at-virginia-shelter/

    “PETA Takes Heat over Claims it Killed 90% of Animals Dropped off at Virginia Shelter”

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