Veganism is a lifestyle choice which excludes consuming animals and all animal-derived foods and products. While vegetarians typically avoid just flesh foods, vegans also abstain from dairy, eggs, honey, as well as leather and fur, and all other products or activities that cause suffering to animals, such as circuses and zoos.
With only about 1% of the human population being vegan at this time, we are bound to be a misunderstood bunch! Here are 5 of 10 common myths about vegans and the vegan lifestyle, and my efforts to address them in a satisfactory fashion. Next week, I will share with you another 5, in Part II of this article.
1. Vegans lack protein in their diet.
In fact, all the protein on the planet was formed by the effect of sunlight on green plants. The cow did not eat another cow to form its muscles, which we call steak. The protein wasn’t formed from thin air, the cow ate grass. ~Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
This is a popular one. It’s a common myth that protein can only be obtained from eating meat and other animal products. This is simply false. There is an abundant amount of protein in plant-derived foods. There is protein in greens, such as kale and seaweeds. There is plenty of protein in non-dairy milks, beans and legumes. For example, the amount of protein in 1 oz. of meat equals the amount of protein in 1 oz. of tempeh, 2 oz. tofu, ½ cup quinoa, ½ oz. of almonds, ¼ cup kidney beans, chickpeas or black beans and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
In summary, deriving protein from vegan sources is simply a task of learning new things.
2. Since plants feel pain too, a vegan diet is not any kinder than a diet which includes meat and animal products.
It is true that plants respond to stimuli. I am certainly one who believes that plants feel, form communities and communicate. That being said, how does this premise justify torturing animals in the food industries?
Although plants respond, they do not have a central nervous system, which is the mechanism in mobile organisms that allows the perception of pain to occur. Organisms that move are required to feel pain so that they can avoid danger. This is a question of survival.
Furthermore, plants also do not have the experience of suffering, of feeling emotions, whereas animals do. Animals experience severe grief, depression, anxiety and fear while confined, raised and brutally killed in filthy, horrendous environments.
While we are in physical form, we have to eat something and it seems to me if we choose to eat only plant-derived foods, we are contributing to far less suffering and death in order to preserve our physical bodies. Veganism is by no means a perfect solution to lessening the suffering in the world, but in my opinion, it is simply the best we can do.
3. Vegans think they are superior to others.
To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. ~Mahatma Gandhi
This is a strange one for me, because in fact, it is quite the opposite: because vegans do not feel superior to others, including animals, we believe we should not use them for our pleasure. We believe that our life, sustaining our physical form, is not more important than another being’s life and freedom.
We did not give up animal foods because we did not like the taste. We grew up on these foods, like most other people. Rather, we gave up our participation in needless suffering. This is an act of compassion, and to be compassionate, presupposes deep humility.
4. Since vegans have to take supplements for B12, this proves that veganism is not a natural diet for humans.
Vegans don’t have to take any supplements at all. Eating a well-balanced vegan diet, rich in foods fortified with B12, can be enough. However, B12 is commonly deficient in both vegan and non-vegan diets. This vitamin comes from a bacteria typically found in the earth and in feces. Because of the way farming is carried out today, the earth is extremely deficient in many minerals. However, someone who eats almost exclusively organic and raw may get enough B12 because organic produce comes from earth which is richer than earth treated with chemicals, as is the case with conventionally grown produce.
Furthermore, our bodies produce B12 deep down in our intestines. Because it is produced so far down, it may not be absorbed in sufficient quantities by our own bodies, so we may have to ingest additional B12 to get enough.
If you are wondering whether you are getting enough B12, a blood test can give you that answer.
5. Vegans impose their views on others and don’t respect other people’s choices.
Vegans are usually quite adamant about spreading the truth regarding what is going on behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses. We are shocked that just a few years ago we had no clue about the severity of the cruelty. Now that we have become aware, we want others to be aware too. We want the suffering to stop, especially since we have discovered healthier, tastier alternatives.
Vegans typically feel that “respecting someone’s choice to eat meat” means acquiescing to severe injustices towards other living beings and infringes on their right to live in peace, safety and freedom. In fact, raising livestock is the slavery and torture of another species. How can anyone respect that?
Being only 1% of the human population at this time, it is really the 99% that impose their views on us. All day long we are inundated with advertising, for example, which is largely lies about products being healthy, like dairy. In grocery stores, vegans have to endure aisles and aisles of corpses. In restaurants and at family gatherings, we have to experience the stench of charred flesh and hypocrisy.
In the end, one of the incredible marvels of being human is that we have choices. We have the freedom to choose what we want to participate in, what we want to ingest, what kind of world we want to help perpetuate, or create anew.
I hope I’ve helped shed some light on these common myths abouts vegans and veganism. Tune in next week when I discuss another five.
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Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay. ~Jiddu Krishnamurti