This is in response to an LJ friend who is vegan for ethical reasons. I wrote a novel of a response to her, and I thought I’d copy it here, as part one of my "thoughts on food" series. Here goes, let me know your thoughts. I’d also like to say that there is no judgment here- well, alright, a little judgment, but I believe people do the best they can with the tools they have, so my goal is really to learn and just try to find truth here.
Oh, for some background, she cites that it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce a pound of beef, and also that vegan diets can help reduce the risk of heart disease etc. She also talks a little about CO2 emissions, which I sort of just respond to in terms of overall environmental impact. I don’t know much about the specifics of the emissions, but I’ll research that soon.
I actually really respect your reasoning behind this, and I fully understand where you’re coming from. I feel the same way in terms of environmental and health stuff, and also the evils of commercially raised livestock, etc., only that’s precisely why I DO eat meat. I believe that a conventional American diet is unsustainable and not healthy, but I also feel the same way about a vegan diet.
It would take a while to explain this, but I’ll do my best to sum it up. I eat only pasture raised, local meat, and I buy it in bulk once a year from people I trust and from farms I’ve seen myself. I eat vegetarian when I go out to eat, which is not often. I believe that we really need to localize our economies in order to live ethically on this planet, and that includes localizing our sources of food. In order to sustainably live in Michigan, I need to eat lots of whole foods- beans, whole grains, fresh veggies in the summer and fall and stored (canned or dried) in the winter, and also some meat. This does not mean meat every meal, and it does not mean the "cuts" that are most desirable. I use stock to cook rice and other grains, and I make lots of soup in the winter. I save special cuts for guests or special occasions, etc.
Basically, when I eat, I have to take into account a couple of things- first, what is healthy for me? Second- is what I’m eating sustainable, are there any moral issues that arise from my consumption, and by eating this what am I supporting in terms of business, etc, that could be unethical. To touch on the first issue, there are different schools of thought on this- I believe that we are omnivores, and need some animal fats to be healthy. I’ve done a great deal of research on this, and so I won’t bore you with details, but I think most vegans agree that some supplementation is necessary to stay balanced, and I would argue that vegans are unable to absorb many of the nutrients from supplements due to the lack of animal products in their diets. I believe in the long term they suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, not to mention the issues I have with the use of soy products, which I believe are harmful in unfermented forms (tempeh and miso are good examples of fermented soy). For more info on just soy, check here: http://www.soyonlineservice.co.nz/