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The English Disease
June 10, 2008 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Vegan girl, 12, 'has spine of 80-year-old.' The youngster, fed on a strict meat- and dairy-free diet from birth, is being treated at Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children. She is said to have a severe form of rickets and to have suffered a number of fractured bones.

Rickets has been making a comeback in the UK especially in Asian immigrants. With a mainly vegetarian diet, Asians are much more likely to be calcium deficient; and their darker pigmented skin, designed to cope with sunnier climates, also dramatically reduces the amount of vitamin D they can absorb from the UK's much weaker sunlight.

Vegans usually obtain vitamin D from the action of sunlight on the skin or by taking fortified foods and vitamin supplements which are made from yeast or other fungi.

There are concerns that the child's parents. well-known figures in the vegan community, put their own beliefs before the girl's welfare.

Professor Tom Sanders, head of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, warned that while most vegan parents give their children vitamin and mineral supplements, there was a core of hardliners putting their children’s health at risk.

He said: “Some of them think we’re still monkeys that can live on fruit and nuts.”
posted by three blind mice (237 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm pretty sure most monkeys don't live on fruits and nuts, either.
posted by Caduceus at 1:35 PM on June 10, 2008


VeganMalnourished Girl, 12, 'has spine of 80-year-old.'
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2008 [29 favorites]


It's child abuse, pure and simple. As a parent, I make sure my child gets the nutrition she needs, not what fits my ideological goals. And I was vegan for three years as an adult. Did my digestive tract good.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Can Darwin Awards be given to parents?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2008


So is your argument that feeding your child a vegetarian or vegan diet 'child abuse'?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2008


I think his argument is that feeding your child a vegetarian or vegan diet without making proper accommodation for nutrients required for good health is child abuse.
posted by kbanas at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2008 [22 favorites]


Of course, I just got that from reading the post and the associated links, so I could be way, way off.
posted by kbanas at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Not giving your child a proper diet or medical care is child abuse. Yes.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2008


I think his argument is that feeding your child a vegetarian or vegan diet without making proper accommodation for nutrients required for good health is child abuse.

I'm just sayin'.
posted by dersins at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


Shoulda fed the child some haggis. Good for growin' hair on the chest.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:44 PM on June 10, 2008


I read the links as well, but maybe I was reading a slant in the post itself that isn't there. Apologies.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:45 PM on June 10, 2008


I stay healthy on a diet of monkeys.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:46 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


According to the UK Vegan Society's page on Vitamin D, soy milk is fortified with vitamin D by law in the UK. This suggests the parents didn't feed the kid soy milk either, which seems crazy to me.

The thing is, suppose that the parents fed their children nothing but meat and bread. The children would quickly get scurvy. They should be prosecuted for failing to feed their children an adequate diet, but no one would criticize the "meat and bread" community (of course, there isn't one, but you get my point).

This is about people who let a set of beliefs -- which are totally separate from the larger community of beliefs -- override the safety and health of their child. I mean, I'm pretty sure rickets isn't the sort of thing that shows up out of the blue.

For every shock story like this, there are millions (yes, really, millions -- think observant Buddhists for example) of children being raised healthfully on 100% vegan diets. And many of them do not have access to vitamins or fortified foods (although many of them do get plenty of exposure to sunlight).

If you want to blame anything, I'd blame nutritionism [Michael Pollan article]. If you eat a balanced diet -- vegan or otherwise -- you will be healthy. It takes a lot more work to get balanced protein and certain vitamins on a vegan diet, but it can be done. Until a few decades ago, the consumption of meat was a very, very rare activity (although, to be fair, malnutrition was also a lot more common). I personally think the best option for the world as a whole would be spare omnivorism, with a diet centered primarily on fruits, vegetables and grains supplemented by the occasional dairy and meat.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:47 PM on June 10, 2008 [28 favorites]


I'm just sayin'.

That's a true statement. But the point of the linked articles seems to indicate that this is a growing problem precisely as a result of a vegan diet wholly without the kind of supplements and vitamins necessary to sustain it.
posted by kbanas at 1:48 PM on June 10, 2008


You can get vitamin D from sunlight, amirite? I cant see how this is to do with being vegan or not, must be neglect/abuse etc.

also, love the way the hospital gets its own link.
posted by criticalbill at 1:49 PM on June 10, 2008


Since we all seem to be making corrections...

He said: “Some of them think we’re still monkeys that can live on fruit and nuts.”

Um well we were never monkeys. He probably means apes, but then again we're still apes, and even then I'm fairly certain we were always omnivorous. So. Yeah. Maybe "add termites and grasshoppers to your fruit and nut diet" is what he was going for.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:49 PM on June 10, 2008


I knew a girl in college who put her dog on a vegan diet. Poor poor thing. It was always sick. It didn't even look healthy - it had little energy and its fur lacked luster. Poor thing would've killed for some Alpo.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:49 PM on June 10, 2008


but no one would criticize the "meat and bread" community (of course, there isn't one, but you get my point).

um, no, not really

I personally think the best option for the world as a whole would be spare omnivorism, with a diet centered primarily on fruits, vegetables and grains supplemented by the occasional dairy and meat.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:47 PM on June 10 [+] [!]

just sayin'
posted by criticalbill at 1:51 PM on June 10, 2008


It sounds like the real problem is that the kid didn't get enough sunlight. As a contrasting data point, I was vegetarian until my late mid-teens and I'm healthy as a horse if you factor out the questionable diet and lifestyle since then...

This really doesn't have much to do with diet. Where are all the people saying that keeping children indoors is abuse?
posted by mullingitover at 1:52 PM on June 10, 2008


Maybe "add termites and grasshoppers to your fruit and nut diet" is what he was going for.

Yeah, I reckon
posted by criticalbill at 1:53 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeesh that word looks ugly when typed in all caps. Should have clicked the preview first. But seriously, putting a dog on a vegan diet is just so self-absorbed, the thought of the type of person who would do that... well shit it just makes me mental.
posted by autodidact at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2008


Anyone can overfeed, underfeed, or improperly feed themselves and their children. There is a growing question whether all forms of malnourishment are forms of child abuse. Consider for a moment a child that is morbidly obese. Should a parent be held accountable for overfeeding a child? Some would say yes.

Cases involving vegans, in particular, gain attention because the nourishment they provide (or withhold from) their children is often characterized as political or agenda-oriented. I tend to think that malnourishment for vegan children stems less from the ideology and more from the ignorance of any given parent. There are ways to feed your children in a vegan way so long as you do it right - which is extremely difficult. If you are going to be vegan, and put that choice on your children, you must take on the added responsibility of providing adequate nourishment for your child. Moreover, a good parent would seek regular medical examination to ensure proper growth and health, a step that would seem to have been missing in the lead story to this post.

I believe you cross into abuse of the child when you reach beyond negligent ignorance and go towards grossly negligent treatment of your child or, worse yet, willful neglect of their dietary needs. Then, regardless of your ideology or diet, you are an abusive parent.
posted by Muddler at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think the main point to take away is that any lifestyle choice, if approached with an obtuse and ignorant sensibility, can lead to disaster. I certainly don't read it as an indictment of the vegan lifestyle.
posted by kbanas at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2008


I knew a girl in college who put her dog on a vegan diet. Poor poor thing. It was always sick. It didn't even look healthy - it had little energy and its fur lacked luster. Poor thing would've killed for some Alpo.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:49 PM on June 10 [+] [!]


Some dogs apparently do better on a vegetarian diet, but I don't think I would risk a vegan diet. For instance, a neighbour's Dalmatian was put on a vegetarian diet to treat some sort of internal problem that is apparently common in the breed.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:55 PM on June 10, 2008


I knew a girl in college who put her dog on a vegan diet.

My coworker has just told me that she has a vegan neighbour who feeds her cat and dog a vegan diet, but when she goes out my coworker gives the pets steak, because
posted by criticalbill at 1:56 PM on June 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


The first link and "there are concerns" are practically identical articles, to save you all some reading time.

On preview: um, no, not really
Well, my point is that the fact that these parents were vegans is sort of incidental to the issue, because what they were doing was giving their child was unhealthy. However, whenever these issues come up veganism as a whole is blamed. This incorrectly frames veganism as a freakish and unhealthy diet. If a child got sick because her parents simply didn't want to give them vegetables, it would be blamed on the parents and not on a lifestyle.

And yeah, I guess there is a bit of eponystericality in this thread.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:57 PM on June 10, 2008


I should point out that I am a vegetarian along with my wife, and we are raising a very healthy vegetarian daughter, so I might be slightly overkeen on this topic.

Having said that, we feed our assorted pets meat-based products where appropriate, so we do put health and well-being ahead of idealism.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:58 PM on June 10, 2008


If you want to blame anything, I'd blame nutritionism [Michael Pollan article].

Oh no you don't. Not when poor nutrition is part of the reason why the HIV epidemic continues to plague us.

Pollan's high horse might make sense from a developed world perspective, but in the 2/3rds World, nutritionism is essential to everything from preventing the rickets you see here to helping kids' bodies uptake HIV/AIDS drugs and inoculations.

The problem is not nutritionism. The problem is these kids have idiot parents.
posted by dw at 1:59 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeesh that word looks ugly when typed in all caps. Should have clicked the preview first. But seriously, putting a dog on a vegan diet is just so self-absorbed, the thought of the type of person who would do that... well shit it just makes me mental.

Yeah, I just felt really bad for the dog. He would obviously be hungry, and then she'd feed it a fat helping of rice and beans. The poor thing would walk over to its dish, take a few nibbles, and walk away dejectedly.

Fortunately, she eventually left the country, and left the dog in the care of someone who fed it properly.

And the whole vegan kid thing? Jeez. I wonder how many vegan kids rebel later in life and become hardcore carnivores. I'd bet most of them. Still, I think it's probably okay, as long as you give the kid proper nutrition, and give them the option of having a more normal diet if that's what they choose.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2008


Well, my point is that the fact that these parents were vegans is sort of incidental to the issue, because what they were doing was giving their child was unhealthy.

Well my point was that your point wasn't well framed, not that i didn't get it, or even agree with it, or even realise on second thoughts that i oh anyway
posted by criticalbill at 2:01 PM on June 10, 2008


Also, I'll point out that putting a kid on a vegan diet is arguably no worse than putting them on a steady diet of big macs and coca cola. Have you seen the kids lately? Buncha porkers.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:02 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


And the whole vegan kid thing? Jeez. I wonder how many vegan kids rebel later in life and become hardcore carnivores. I'd bet most of them. Still, I think it's probably okay, as long as you give the kid proper nutrition, and give them the option of having a more normal diet if that's what they choose.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:00 PM on June 10 [+] [!]


I think the average North American diet is anything but normal for our species.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:03 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


wonder how many vegan kids rebel later in life and become hardcore carnivores.

You see, these are the sort of studies that should be getting done. I'd love to see that study written up in the newspaper: "Vegan from birth, gets off on death!!!"
posted by criticalbill at 2:04 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing is, suppose that the parents fed their children nothing but meat and bread. The children would quickly get scurvy.

If the meat is fresh (that is, not canned or dried), then no, they won't get scurvy. Inuits who live on seal and whale meat and never eat fresh vegetables do not get scurvy. Fresh meat has vitamin C.

Veganism isn't to blame here (and I say this as an omnivore) - stupid parents are to blame. There are kids who are fed on a diet of fast food and potato chips, who develop diabetes at the age of 10, who are morbidly obese, etc. The fault is stupid parents.

Oh, and about cats eating a vegan diet? AAARRRGH! Cats are obligate carnivores. That doesn't mean "Oh, meat's a good idea." It means "MUST EAT MEAT." The coworker's vegan neighbor is an idiot.
posted by rtha at 2:06 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hope she gives the 80 year old woman her spine back. She probably needs it more at her age.
posted by davemee at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2008 [17 favorites]


no one would criticize the "meat and bread" community

This incorrectly frames veganism as a freakish and unhealthy diet.

Deathalicious, you're kind of wrong about the "meat and bread" people. I don't know anyone who would champion that diet without catching hell from all corners. But what's important here is that while that ADULT vegans are onto something good (provided that they add yeast), they should NEVER subject a child to one (ESPECIALLY from birth). It results in malnutrition. And that is why their ideology needs to know its place.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2008


Vegan girl, 12, 'has spine of 80-year-old.'

Does the 80 year old want it back?
posted by rhymer at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


hmmm, funny joke but which one to favourite?
posted by criticalbill at 2:09 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


This incorrectly frames veganism as a freakish and unhealthy diet.

But veganism is a freakish and unhealthy diet, because, by design, one must add nutritional supplements. This child's dreadful situation appears to be a textbook example of the consequences of the malnutrition that results without them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:09 PM on June 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


But what's important here is that while that ADULT vegans are onto something good (provided that they add yeast), they should NEVER subject a child to one (ESPECIALLY from birth). It results in malnutrition. And that is why their ideology needs to know its place.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 4:07 PM on June 10 [+] [!]


There are many, many healthy Vegan children that are suffering from malnutrition.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


WE. EVOLVED. TO. EAT. MEAT.

but I note in passing that whoever pointed out that this is no worse that fat kids whose parents feed them Big Macs and 7-Up is exactly right
posted by alexwoods at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, cripes...

There are many, many healthy Vegan children that are NOT suffering from malnutrition.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


wait, can vegan children rebel and become carnivores? The longtime vegetarian/vegans I know can't go back to eating meat because they've lost the enzymes for it.

I think most of the 'veganism as child abuse' claims are bolstered by those in the vegetarian and vegan communities that keep on touting it as a healthier way of life. Sure, it can be healthier than eating McDonalds every day, but you can eat a healthier omnivorous diet with the same amount of effort it takes to eat a healthy veg diet.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2008


Yeesh that word looks ugly when typed in all caps.

Don't worry -- you apologized in advance.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2008


And think of the carbon footprint cause by intergalactic freight, shipping food all the way from Vega. Madness.
posted by davemee at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


WE. EVOLVED. TO. EAT. MEAT.

We are omnivores. Neither extreme is completely healthy.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are vegans allowed to eat Suzanne Vega? or Sony Vega? or Louis Vega? Its a mystery
posted by criticalbill at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


WE. EVOLVED. TO. EAT. MEAT.

Not as much meat as we're eating in the United States, nor the kind of meat we're eating (fast food, etc.).

"We evolved" is always used as a justification for being complacent about whatever we happen to enjoy right now, but the principle is never carried over to actively criticizing our current ways of life that aren't the same as our ancestors'.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


You can get vitamin D from sunlight, amirite?

At a much reduced rate in Britain, however. The sun there is nice and soft, like it's supposed to be, not this blazing fireball we have in the South (like southern Canada).

But it's better than it used to be. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, there was so little sunlight in London that even Jewish children - who got a lot more fish oil in their diet than non-Jewish children - often suffered from rickets.

There seems to be something missing from this case. As pointed out above, there is vitamin D in soy milk; there are also supplements you can take.
posted by jb at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2008


The problem seems to be that some people see the world through a weird lens where a vegetarian or vegan diet is automatically perceived as healthier because of its adherance to ideology. This is the disease of orthorexia, and is a mental disorder. While one can live on a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet, the adherance to veganism or vegetarianism alone does not guarantee a healthier outcome than a thought out diet incorporating meat and dairy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:18 PM on June 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


The Royal Hospital for Sick Children is doing much better than it's peer, the Royal Hospital For Perfectly Fine Children Needing No Attention Whatsoever, which recently had all its funding pulled and closed down.
posted by davemee at 2:20 PM on June 10, 2008 [18 favorites]


So is your argument that feeding your child a vegetarian or vegan diet 'child abuse'?

A child has a certain set of needs. And these people failed to provide for those needs in a pretty spectacular way. If you were crossing the Yukon on foot with not much of a clue on how not to die out there, took a kid along and that kid lost all their fingers and toes to frost bite, I'd call that child abuse. This would be like that if you had a magic "get the hell out of the tundra and someplace warm" device and chose not to use it.

I think the average North American diet is anything but normal for our species.

You're right. Far to much grain and vegtables. Not enough hairy elephant you killed with a pointy stick. Not enough sabertoothed cats weeding out the fat and slow either.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:20 PM on June 10, 2008


The sun there is nice and soft, like it's supposed to be, not this blazing fireball we have in the South

I'm pretty sure the sun is supposed to be a blazing fireball, but what do i know... anyway even in Glasgow there's enough sun, its been frickin' roastin' lately (in London)

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, there was so little sunlight in London

this is because of smog, right?
posted by criticalbill at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2008


Pollan's high horse might make sense from a developed world perspective, but in the 2/3rds World, nutritionism is essential to everything from preventing the rickets you see here to helping kids' bodies uptake HIV/AIDS drugs and inoculations.

Don't know if you read the linked article from Pollan in the previous comment, but nutritionism is his specific term for reducing foods to their component parts and basing the whole value of a food on nutrients within it, not a more general adherence to proper nutrition (which I think we all, 'round the world, can agree is a Good Thing). Nutritionism leads to ridiculous notions like "superfoods," while nutrition is just about providing necessary materials to the body.
posted by youarenothere at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2008


There seems to be something missing from this case. As pointed out above, there is vitamin D in soy milk; there are also supplements you can take.

Not all Soy Milk is vegan, and some that are 'Omega-3 fortified' even have fish oil as an ingredient. If these parents were really hardcore, they may have skipped Soy Milk as well.

I'm not sure how you can pass it up though. Vegetarian diets are traditionally lower in B12, Iron and Calcium, and most Soy Milk has all three coming out the whazoo. It's a critical component in our diets at home.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:23 PM on June 10, 2008


Also, to avoid scurvy on an almost purely carnivorous Inuit diet requires that one eat not just fresh meat, but raw meat, including perhaps the stomach contents of the caribou, and the skin of whales.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:24 PM on June 10, 2008


Actually, I'd be really interested to hear what an actual nutritionist or doctor would say about raising a kid vegan. Is there a doctor in the house? If so, please speak up - Is it possible to raise a kid on a vegan diet, and give them all the nutrition that they need? Will this make it impossible for them to eat meat/dairy later in life if they choose? What are the negative health effects of making a child choke down tons of suppliments?

If nothing else, I'd feel bad for a kid who was raised vegan. Think of the ostracism. If it was a boy, he'd probably get his ass kicked A LOT.

(still no worse than the kid who was raised on big macs and cokes, though)
posted by Afroblanco at 2:24 PM on June 10, 2008


Professor Tom Sanders, head of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, warned that while most vegan parents give their children vitamin and mineral supplements, there was a core of hardliners putting their children’s health at risk.

So is it possible for a child to be completely vegan, without supplements, and get everything she needs? My understanding is that it is not, but if someone's got a cite I'd love to see it.
posted by moxiedoll at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2008


You're right. Far to much grain and vegtables. Not enough hairy elephant you killed with a pointy stick. Not enough sabertoothed cats weeding out the fat and slow either.

Far too much processed grain maybe. I'm not sure how you can eat 'too much vegetables'?

We are hunter/gatherers and are equipped to eat grains, plants and meat.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:27 PM on June 10, 2008


So is it possible for a child to be completely vegan, without supplements, and get everything she needs? My understanding is that it is not, but if someone's got a cite I'd love to see it.

Yes, it's called breastfeeding.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:28 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are healthy vegan diets as well as unhealthy ones. This is a case of an unhealthy one, and it's probably in the minority. But of course it's the exceptions that people take notice of and denounce. And is this one really a case of veganism, or just lack of access to the outdoors?
posted by crunch42 at 2:28 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


WE. EVOLVED. TO. EAT. MEAT.

And yet my two year old utterly refuses to do so. We're not vegetarians, we offer meat frequently. He's not interested. He eats dairy, and some legumes, and so far hasn't contracted rickets or anemia, though we're keeping our eyes on him.

When he refuses meat, too, it's different from when he refuses something else...he's almost distressed by it. Perhaps he was born without those enzymes mentioned earlier. Or he's a rather grubby incarnation of the Buddha. Either way.
posted by emjaybee at 2:29 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, vegan cats, WTF?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:29 PM on June 10, 2008


it's called breastfeeding.

zing! seriously, though. after that.
posted by moxiedoll at 2:31 PM on June 10, 2008


wonder how many vegan kids rebel later in life and become hardcore carnivores

I'm one of those.

I was raised a vegetarian and stayed that way until 18. My first year of eating meat I put on about 15 pounds, nearly all of it muscle. Now, I eat meat with practically every meal. I'm of the opinion that while it's possible to eat healthfully while on a vegetarian diet, it's difficult, especially if you're physically active.

Retrospectively, when I look at the foods I craved as a teenager, it's clear I wasn't getting enough protein. I would eat loads of peanut butter and cheese. While those foods aren't necessarily bad for you, they pale in comparison to meat in terms of protein. My parents never forbade me from eating meat, but as a teenager I had comparatively little knowledge about nutrition.

Parents that raise their children on a vegetarian/vegan diet need to make sure their kids are getting enough protein. This may involve taking supplements if they play sports or are otherwise extremely active.
posted by christonabike at 2:31 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Spine, shmine, you should see her collection of rare hardcore 7 inches. Come on, PRIORITIES, people.
posted by The Straightener at 2:32 PM on June 10, 2008


this is because of smog, right?

Yes, that was the conclusion of the article I read about it (a long time ago now), because Jewish children c1910 had much better diets than non-Jewish children as far as eating oily fish, but still got rickets (don't remember if rates were lower, but I don't think by much if they were). So the author said this suggests that sunlight (London had much worse smog then due to both domestic and industrial coalfires) was as much if not more of a factor than diet.

I didn't know this (from one of the links above): "The effective light wavelength - ultra-violet B (UVB, 290-315 nanometers in wavelength) - is not present in winter sunlight between October and March in countries above latitude 52 degrees north, which includes most of Britain. Winter time supplies of vitamin D depend on the previous summers exposure creating adequate stores in the liver, or on dietary sources."

That means even after smog reduction there just isn't enough of the right wavelengths of light in Britain during the winter.

(the soft sun comment was because I'm experiencing my first NorthAm summer in three years, and I miss Britain. It doesn't help that I'm in a concrete city now, instead of the beautiful English countryside. But the light there is so much nicer there than here - I step outside and my eyes hurt from the brightness.)
posted by jb at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2008


I will suck the bone marrow out of her parents and feed it to their daughter. FEAST!
posted by doctorschlock at 2:34 PM on June 10, 2008


Even with fair skin and a healthy diet that includes 400IU of Vitamin D per day, it is possible to become Vitamin D deficient. I speak from experience. The main problem is that I live and work in Seattle, and my desk job pretty much ensures that I never get outside during the middle of the day. In the winters I basically am never exposed to sunlight other than through a window.

My doctor now has me taking 5 times the recommended minimum daily allowance, 2000IU per day, at least during the winters. I was doing 1000IU/day last winter and still became deficient.
posted by Araucaria at 2:34 PM on June 10, 2008


This has nothing to do with a vegan diet and everything to do with mentally, uh, incomplete parents. No, that's overly generous. They are idiots.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:37 PM on June 10, 2008


The longtime vegetarian/vegans I know can't go back to eating meat because they've lost the enzymes for it.

Uh, no. Some vegans claim this. I think it's idealogical. But you don't "lose the enzymes" for eating meat.
posted by Justinian at 2:38 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why are all the names for vitamin deficiencies inherently funny-sounding?

Rickets.
Scurvy
beriberi
and so on..
posted by empath at 2:40 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


it's called breastfeeding.


The Rickets has been making a comeback in the UK article linked above says "Experts believe the problem could be linked to a failure to give vitamin D supplements to children who are breastfed. "
posted by small_ruminant at 2:40 PM on June 10, 2008


Zing! seriously, though. after that.

Okay, it's not a cite or anything, but the big three for veggies and Vegans are Protein, Iron and Calcium (and B12 to an extent). Dark leafy greens like spinach are high in Iron and Calcium, as are most beans and pulses. Beans are also great for Protein intake.

It's really not that hard, and if you add a cup or two of fortified soy milk (not sure if you consider this a supplement or not) you have no trouble meeting your daily requirements for adults or children.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:40 PM on June 10, 2008


Don't know if you read the linked article from Pollan in the previous comment, but nutritionism is his specific term for reducing foods to their component parts and basing the whole value of a food on nutrients within it, not a more general adherence to proper nutrition (which I think we all, 'round the world, can agree is a Good Thing).

Having read his last book and having heard him speak at my place of employ, I think he's lumping "nutritionism" and "nutritional science" together, at times blaming nutritional scientists for "nutritionism."

It was to the point that we had to get one of our nutritional scientists to give a presentation before his to counter his whole argument, making the same argument that I've made about HIV.

Nutritional science is not the problem. The problem is that we're so rich we're doing all we can to not look like we're rich -- because we can afford not to. We can choose veganism because we have the wealth to have options. Some kid eating millet, he's not going to have some Superfood or some Fruititarian diet offered to him. His parents are going to live and die by the harvest. Us, we have the farmer's market. And it makes us feel good because We Are Doing Something Good For Ourselves And The Environment And Sustainable Agriculture. But if Safeway didn't have a fully stocked grocery full of meat and vegetables, would we feel the same way? Honestly?

It's easy to jump on nutritionism, and in the process take shots at nutritional science, because what's plaguing our kids isn't rickets, it's obesity.
posted by dw at 2:42 PM on June 10, 2008


The Rickets has been making a comeback in the UK article linked above says "Experts believe the problem could be linked to a failure to give vitamin D supplements to children who are breastfed. "
posted by small_ruminant at 4:40 PM on June 10 [+] [!]


Interesting theory, but what did women do to prevent Vitamin D deficiency in their breastfed babies a hundred years ago? I think we are back to that 'going outside' issue.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:43 PM on June 10, 2008


Going outside without slathering on SPF45 in the UK in winter.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:48 PM on June 10, 2008


Where are all the people saying that keeping children indoors is abuse?

they're outside living it up while we sit here bathed in the glow of our monitors, arguing - bastards!
posted by pyramid termite at 2:51 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that while it's possible to eat healthfully while on a vegetarian diet, it's difficult, especially if you're physically active.

This is exactly my experience. When i added eggs to a almost vegan diet, my training recovery improved exponentially. Now of course I eat meat all the fucking time
posted by criticalbill at 2:52 PM on June 10, 2008


I know a girl like this. Thankfully she doesn't have rickets, but she's seriously unhealthy due to the diet she was brought up on. The problem isn't that her mom's a vegetarian, the problem is that her mom's a stupid vegetarian who doesn't know the first thing about balancing her family's diet.

Please note that I say this as someone who has every sympathy to vegetarians and vegans. The ones who understand the basics of nutrition, at least.
posted by lekvar at 2:52 PM on June 10, 2008


"I'm a level five vegan. I don't eat anything that casts a shadow."

--obligatory Simpsons reference
posted by zardoz at 2:52 PM on June 10, 2008


christonabike writes "Parents that raise their children on a vegetarian/vegan diet need to make sure their kids are getting enough protein. This may involve taking supplements if they play sports or are otherwise extremely active."

Most of my family is vegetarian, and they are nowhere near being malnourished. In many cases, they are more likely to be overnourished.

Another fun fact to throw into the mix:
"There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants." - The China Study

Interesting book, and they did their homework. Their research also found that many health problems were triggered or exacerbated by a high-protein diet.
posted by mullingitover at 2:53 PM on June 10, 2008


I'm of the opinion that while it's possible to eat healthfully while on a vegetarian diet, it's difficult, especially if you're physically active.

No, it's not difficut at all. From the wikipedia article on gladiators:


"Research on the remains of 70 Murmillos and Retiariae gladiators found at an ancient site in Ephesus has shown that, contrary to popular belief, Gladiators were probably overweight and also ate a high energy vegetarian diet consisting of mainly barley, beans and dried fruit"

In modern times, I can cite myself as a highly active vegetarian -- I get at least 25 minutes of intense exercise 6 days a week; I used to work out for 1.5 hours 3 times a week before my daughter was born. I used to take whey protein supplements, but I don't anymore, and I haven't noticed any difference in muscle tone or stamina.

When I switched to a vegetarian diet about 9 years ago, a couple of my friends noticed that I lost some muscle, but it was very slight: I went from 160 all the way down to...154. Oh noes, evil vegetarian diet!

It's really not that hard to eat a healthy vegetarian diet if you're active. All those people that people know and bring up in these threads as examples of vegetarians who are weak, have dry hair, are easily winded, etc. are probably eating potato chips, diet coke, and large cheese pizzas for every meal. It's incredibly easy to not do that.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:57 PM on June 10, 2008


WE. EVOLVED. TO. EAT. MEAT.

We also evolved to make conscious ethical decisions.

Since eating meat is not necessary, in any sense of the word, in the Western world in the 21st century, I don't do it. No doubt all the naysayers who go "Oh it's unnatural and unhealthy because you have to eat supplements" are typing their responses on computers made from pebbles, bark and different lengths of vine.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:59 PM on June 10, 2008 [8 favorites]


I think what deathalicious is saying about the hypothetical "meat and bread people" and how we would write about them is that the article isn't called "Malnourished Girl Has Spine of 80-year Old." There is a widespread backlash against vegetarianism and veganism. It could be 5% because some vegetarians and vegans are obnoxious about it, but I think it's 95% because humans have a natural empathy for animals, and deep down we feel that a lot of what we're doing when we eat animal products is wrong. The existence of vegetarians, and particularly vegans, is living proof that we don't have to raise/abuse/kill animals to live, and that we do it because we like eating their meat/milk/eggs. Hence the arguments that we have to do it, that we evolved to do it, or that it's healthier.

I'm not naturally squeamish, and I eat meat. I think the happy animal living it's life that gets respectfully slaughtered and eaten is morally okay, but very often some bad s$%# happens to get meat on the plate. I think we all know that, even if we don't watch video clips on the PETA web site. I think even the people who are really pro-meat would be hard pressed to, say, sit in a room and watch someone beat a dog to death with a baseball bat, because meat eater or not, the vast majority of people are not sadistic psychopaths. But deep down, I think we all kind of know that there's a history behind our burgers that we would probably not be able to accept if we were actually there to see it.
posted by snofoam at 3:08 PM on June 10, 2008 [14 favorites]


computers made from pebbles, bark and different lengths of vine.

shhh! Cory Doctorow might here you and we'll be subjected to hundreds of pointless Boing Boing posts about "cavepunk."
posted by dersins at 3:08 PM on June 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'm struck by the similarity to A Softer World.
posted by Gucky at 3:10 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Newspapers reporting that parents of 'vegan girl' may face police questions are scaremongering

The advertising campaign with the abrasive slogan "Feeding kids meat is child abuse", by the animal rights group Peta, may have been bordering on the absurd, but it seems we are perfectly willing to label as abusers parents who don't feed their kids meat or milk. A number of Sunday newspapers ran the story of a 12-year-old vegan girl in Scotland admitted to hospital with a degenerative bone condition under the headline "Parents of ill vegan girl may face police".

Although there is no indication that the police really are set to speak to the parents, both the Times and Telegraph found plenty of people who felt that perhaps they should, from social workers to "a leading nutritionist, who asked not to be named".

Nobody has divulged the specifics of the case, other than to say the girl was being brought up on a vegan diet, and the council has confirmed that the case is not being referred to its social work department, so we can safely surmise that the reporting of this girl's illness is a piece of scaremongering on a par with the Peta advert - although slightly less factually accurate (the Peta ad was cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority after the inevitable complaints).

posted by Artw at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Cory Doctorow might here you

Oh my fucking god I am so embarrassed. Someone shoot me, please.
posted by dersins at 3:13 PM on June 10, 2008


Oh my fucking god I am so embarrassed. Someone shoot me, please.

Then can I eat you?
posted by Evangeline at 3:15 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


But deep down, I think we all kind of know that there's a history behind our burgers that we would probably not be able to accept if we were actually there to see it.

A coworker of mine went out to a pig farm this weekend to be more "in touch" with her food. She brought back bacon. (insert joke about people with MBAs here, but seriously, ewww.)
posted by Gucky at 3:16 PM on June 10, 2008


Ugh. This kind of makes me sick. The rest of this girl's life is changed because of her parents forcing their ideals on her. No animals were harmed though. Tragic. Fucking tragic.
posted by knowles at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2008


If you live north of the equator, much less beneath the squalid cloud ceiling of the UK, you are risking vitamin D deficiency. Meat has nothing to do with it.
posted by docpops at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


A coworker of mine went out to a pig farm this weekend to be more "in touch" with her food. She brought back bacon

I got that beat. Sausage farmers!
posted by criticalbill at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2008


I've always found it sort of cruel when pet owners subject their animals to their ideological leanings, like feeding a cat a vegetarian diet. Cat's are carnivores not omnivores, and they really don't benefit from eating things other than meat (or things with meat protein), unless you count houseplants, and they only eat those because they are delicious and forbidden.

My wife, who was a vegetarian for almost 20 years, never blanched at preparing meat for the cats or crab for the puffers. It's just what's necessary to keep them healthy.
posted by quin at 3:20 PM on June 10, 2008


Then can I eat you?

Sure. Just make sure someone field dresses me before putrefaction starts to set in.

No need to marinate me, as my tissues are fully saturated with beer, whiskey, wine and butter. I'd suggest a liberal application of salt and pepper and a quick sear on the grill.
posted by dersins at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2008


Gucky, I think there is a truly broad spectrum of pig farms. I buy delicious bacon from these people and I have been meaning to visit for a while. I think pig farms you want to visit probably provide a miniscule amount of the total volume of pig people eat, though.
posted by snofoam at 3:22 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, zealous defenders of the necessity of eating animal protein are insane, moronic, or both. There's nothing healthy about it. It happens that we can certainly tolerate animal protein well, and in modest amounts it certainly seems to be harmless. But healthy? Not even close.
posted by docpops at 3:23 PM on June 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


shhh! Cory Doctorow might herehear you and we'll be subjected to hundreds of pointless Boing Boing posts about "cavepunk."

I notice he's started putting things like "steamopunk, steampunk, steampunk, steampunk!" at the ends of increasingly awful posts about thinks people have steampunked up by spraying gold and gluing on a few cogs - final stages of dementia there I think, possibly brought on by not getting enough iron.

posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on June 10, 2008


Paul Roberts' The End of Food is great, if you want more background on how and why the North American diet consists of coke and bigmacs.
posted by acro at 3:35 PM on June 10, 2008


Just popping in to feel smug about my healthy, fit 3-year-olds who are taller and heavier (but not wider) than most of their peers, and eat a diet that's fruit and vegetable heavy but also includes milk and fish and (less often) meat. What it generally does not have is partially hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, or similar crap.

Although with my luck, they'll end up with some disease caused by lack of trans fats or corn syrup or something, when they find out there's not terrible for you after all...
posted by davejay at 3:36 PM on June 10, 2008



Interesting theory, but what did women do to prevent Vitamin D deficiency in their breastfed babies a hundred years ago? I think we are back to that 'going outside' issue.


Well, according to the article, the folks most at risk are those whose bodies are not adapted to the UK sunlight situation: Asian and African immigrants with darker skin. The pale skin of many Europeans is probably an adaptation to allow more vitamin D absorption in less-sunny environments, without which the risk of beriberi significantly increases.
posted by bookish at 3:38 PM on June 10, 2008


Speaking as a hardcore proponent of pecan pie, thou shalt not libel the corn syrup!
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:38 PM on June 10, 2008


I'm sure it's possible to have a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet. But it's harder to have a healthy vegetarian diet than it is to have a healthy omnivorous diet. And it's harder to have a healthy vegan diet than it is to have a healthy vegetarian diet.

People can eat what they like (although vegetarians confuse me as they seem to be fine with killing animals for food - all those male chickens and cows, for example). Whether it's a good idea to feed children on a diet that's comparatively difficult to balance and manage is another matter entirely. Then again, plenty of parents make bad dietary choices for their children. But it seems easier to forgive ignorance and stupidity than self-righteousness and high ideals.
posted by xchmp at 3:40 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I buy delicious bacon from these people and I have been meaning to visit for a while. I think pig farms you want to visit probably provide a miniscule amount of the total volume of pig people eat, though.
Now, really, would that pig be standing there smiling with those people if it knew what was about to happen? Or did they lie and claim to be vegans?
posted by etaoin at 3:45 PM on June 10, 2008


What kind of vegan doesn't eat mushrooms?
posted by dilettante at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I had heard that spinach was high in iron, but not iron that your body can use (or something weird like that). Have any reading on it on hand? If not, I'll look around for info when I get home.
posted by ODiV at 3:50 PM on June 10, 2008


Since eating meat is not necessary, in any sense of the word, in the Western world in the 21st century, I don't do it.

Neither are owning a computer, posting to web forums or derailing threads with irrelevant personal details.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:53 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the average North American diet is anything but normal for our species.
You're right. Far to much grain and vegtables. Not enough hairy elephant you killed with a pointy stick. Not enough sabertoothed cats weeding out the fat and slow either.

Assuming by "North American" diet he meant the diet eaten by most United States and Canadian citizens, which is rich in meat. The amount of vegetables we eat today is probably pretty trivial compared to the amount of plant material we ate as cave persons (not the vegetables we know and love today of course). The very reason most people like the taste of meat and simple starches is that we evolved to like the taste of important nutrients that we ate infrequently. Nearly every book that champions a return to a hunter gatherer style diet recommends a huge increase in vegetable and fruit consumption (mostly vegetables), a modest amount of meat consumption (much less than the average amount we eat now), and no grains.

So you're right about the grains. We eat way too much grain. But elephants and tigers were probably few and far between. There's a reason that we once had a working appendix. And there's also a reason we don't use it anymore.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:54 PM on June 10, 2008


if they don't know a portabello from a toadstool they probably don't eat them, although they can still get jobs as supermarket cashiers
posted by pyramid termite at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not really competent to comment on raising a kid from years 2-12 on a strictly vegan diet. I suspect it could be done with thought and B12 and Vitamin D supplements, and careful attention to calcium and protein. But from ages 0-2 you're either breast feeding *a lot* or you're giving milk, there's simply no way around it, otherwise you can cause significant developmental delay.

The thing about this that strikes me most is that these parents went out of their way doing what they thought was "best" for their child yet they failed to take the steps needed to make sure this was safe. A set of parents who are just dumb and lazy and do the minimum amount of work needed to feed their kid in a first world country -- ie McDonalds, soda, school lunches, Lucky Charms -- yes, their kid will get diabetes but it's unlikely they'll get a vitamin deficiency. Interesting situation and yes, it deserves publicity. Not to condemn veganism necessarily but to point out what can happen to parents who clearly want what's best for their kids and are willing to put some effort into it.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:59 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Uh, no. Some vegans claim this. I think it's idealogical. But you don't "lose the enzymes" for eating meat."

Yeah, I think that's a folk nutritionism. As I noted on the AskMe thread, I've had stomach issues from eating meat, and my desire to experiment enough to pin down exactly what causes 'em is pretty slim (personal hypothesis is that the fat and protein freaks my gut out, noting that greasy dairy stuff, like some pizza, can do the same thing).

"(although vegetarians confuse me as they seem to be fine with killing animals for food - all those male chickens and cows, for example)."

Ah, I remember this argument with my farmer uncle—it's just as retarded now as when he gave it. In my ideal world, that cock and bull story would end with the males being fed and kept, with no killing—especially since hens will lay without fertilization, so aside from the 50% chance when you need to breed more hens for laying (and I'd bet that could be reduced by fertilization and incubation technology, noting that you can shift the sex of eggs with some success), there're more bred than needed. So don't try to lay your guilt on me, friend.
posted by klangklangston at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Iron from spinach is non-heme iron; iron from animal sources is heme iron. Iron from spinach is not as available for uptake by our bodies because spinach also contains oxalic acid, which inhibits iron uptake., but that can be helped along by consuming certain other foods - citrus, for instance, since vitamin C will enhance absorption.
posted by rtha at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


IMHO this incident is up there with those who choose "religious/spiritual healing" for their children.
Court Decides Christian Scientist Can Be Tried in Her Child's Death.

In Child Deaths, a Test for Christian Science.
posted by ericb at 4:06 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


But deep down, I think we all kind of know that there's a history behind our burgers that we would probably not be able to accept if we were actually there to see it.

There is a not insignificant portion of the population who has raised its own meat, or at least been party to it. Me, for instance, and just about anyone else who's grown up rurally.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:08 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Neither are owning a computer, posting to web forums or derailing threads with irrelevant personal details.

So...you kinda missed the point, there. We were discussing the relative merits of veganism/omnivorism. Several people commented in the direction that a vegan diet is "unnatural". Another commented that "we evolved to eat meat". My soft response was designed to point out the flaws in making these arguments in this particular context. But I guess I should just shut up, huh? Maybe go make a lentil burger and hug a rabbit or something?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:08 PM on June 10, 2008


"Oh it's unnatural and unhealthy because you have to eat supplements" are typing their responses on computers made from pebbles, bark and different lengths of vine.

It's fine for vegans to need supplements. The problem appears to be with a minority of vegans who think their diet is natural and normal and that supplements are unnecessary because they're eating (or feeding their kids) such a natural, proper diet. That's what I assumed has happened in this case.

You know what a natural and normal diet for a human is? What we spent several million years of our evolution eating. Whatever the hell we could find out in the grasslands and forests to survive - nuts, berries, seeds, insects...now and again we'd get lucky and kill a decent sized mammal or bird - with no regard to the animal's rights because we and our families were bloody hungry.

Both veganism and "normal" Western dietary practices are perversions of what we're designed to be eating - failure to acknowledge that and account for it is what causes problems, whether we're talking rickets or diabetes.
posted by Jimbob at 4:09 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just a counter point to the "meat and bread" community being fine:

Obese at 18 months
posted by bitdamaged at 4:09 PM on June 10, 2008


WE. EVOLVED. TO. EAT. MEAT.

Which bits of you evolved to eat meat? That long digestive system optimised for plants? The silly little teeth? The heart that can't cope with fat-heavy diets?

We evolved eating mostly plants and insects, some incidental dirt, with a bit of ritual hunting and cannibalism for special occasions. Then relatively recently we started eating lots of meat. Don't confuse what we do and what our body expects us to do.

As for the article: bad journalism, bad science.
posted by BinaryApe at 4:17 PM on June 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


No doubt all the naysayers who go "Oh it's unnatural and unhealthy because you have to eat supplements" are typing their responses on computers made from pebbles, bark and different lengths of vine.

Using a computer has nothing to do with a vegan diet being entirely artificial. Humans can survive without laptops, but a vegan diet can be turned into a brutal act of violence, a lesson which has been beaten into this poor young girl.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:19 PM on June 10, 2008


It's fine for vegans to need supplements. The problem appears to be with a minority of vegans who think their diet is natural and normal and that supplements are unnecessary because they're eating (or feeding their kids) such a natural, proper diet. That's what I assumed has happened in this case.

QFT. Level 6 vegans are to Casual Vegans what PETA is to animal rights activism and religious fundamentalists are to nice little old ladies who go to mass on Sunday morning and enjoy a lovely cup of tea in the garden afterwards.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:19 PM on June 10, 2008


We evolved ...

I think it's safe to say there is no "we." Different groups evolved differently.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:21 PM on June 10, 2008


Well who cares if her spine is like an 80-year-old's? She's probably deliciously slender and got the build and bones of any number of our collective heroes, the fashion models.

It's possible that while the parents made enough food options available to meet her nutrition needs, the girl was simply not eating enough. Maybe she is a picky eater and doesn't like the supplements/flax seed oil/hemp butter stuff her parents eat. Maybe she doesn't like going outside, maybe she's more of a book girl. Maybe her body can't absorb the food she's eating or she has a generally small appetite. If the girl didn't complain of feeling sick or some discomfort (and kids can be good at hiding illness) - how would the parents know?

And who do you trust w/r/t nutrition these days? The ZOMGOBESITY folks who con you into eating 100% overprocessed chemical sweeters and fat substitutes (if you get skinny from it, it *must* be healthy!). Or do you listen to the orthorexics who tell you that you should never ever eat wheat, dairy, corn syrup, sugar, processed grains, fish, meat, nonorganic produce, hydrogenated fats or anything with caffeine in it? Or the FDA food pyramid which is a fucking joke invented by lobbyists and non-nutritionists?


I love how every other comment is jumping on the "morbidly obese children" wagon (a fat kid does not diabetes make, read up on how that works). This young woman is the opposite of that, to the point of being nutritionally deprived. I think a little fat would do her some good. Say what you want about fat kids, but their bodies are at least functioning well enough to store up energy and nutrients in case of lean times to come.

The thing about children is that people can raise their own however they like. If you refuse to get your kids vaccinated, the worst they can do is refuse to let them into public schools. If you don't believe in medical intervention of any kind, no one can force you into it. If you yell at your kid all night and force them to study five hours after school and take performance enhancers? Drive them to become olympians so that their bodies are falling apart from injuries by the age of 15? Encourage them to diet and overexercise so that they can be a runway model? That means you're a great parent and your kids' success will be to your credit. Let people raise their own kids, you raise yours.
posted by SassHat at 4:39 PM on June 10, 2008


I think it's safe to say there is no "we." Different groups evolved differently.

"Highly Opinionated Internet Users" is totally a species.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:42 PM on June 10, 2008


I'm totally going to Burger King. Whoppers for all!
posted by kbanas at 4:45 PM on June 10, 2008


Let people raise their own kids, you raise yours.

OK then. That must mean the thread is over. Also, its lucky that no parent ever had their chldren taken away from them because of neglect, because that would shoot a massive child-sized hole in your whole rant
posted by criticalbill at 4:46 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't know from evolution but my ancestors ate meat when ever possible going back tens of thousands of years. They would have eaten more meat if they could. If they were lucky enough to live in climates where complete national needs could be met by eating available plant life - they would. However those places are not all that common and most of my ancestors did not come from those nice places. They came from cold and forbidding places. So they ate lots of fish and lots of meat. Or they starved.

The problem was this: Meat fights back and meat runs like hell. Plus you have to organize a bunch of other guys to go run after the god damned things and people bicker about who is in charge and who gets to carry out the carcass. Which isn't all that much fun if you have to it ever day. We certainly evolved to conserve calories and fat. Hunting burns a bunch of calories and fat. We have heart attacks now becuase we are SO successful at the eating meat part. I don't think heart disease is proof of a pro vegetarian ancestry as much as it is an indictment on how fucking easy we have it now and how lazy we are.

Now I grew up hunting and all that. I never much enjoyed the killing part of it. But I always felt the stalking part was very primal and frankly, yes, some what instinctual.
posted by tkchrist at 4:47 PM on June 10, 2008


Yes, the child is obese
posted by criticalbill at 4:47 PM on June 10, 2008


complete national needs

heh. Nutritional.
posted by tkchrist at 4:49 PM on June 10, 2008


Let people raise their own kids, you raise yours.

No, sorry. A lot us free-range humans have neither the intelligent, aptitude, nor inclination to do that properly.

Breeding is the EASIEST thing -- short of breathing (amazing how similar they sound) -- that humans can do. If you're going to abuse, neglect, or otherwise harm a child, I'm going to tell you how much of a worthless, soulless, irresponsible, redundant sack of protoplasm you are.

Your post reminds me of those parents who say "don't tell me how to raise my kids" when they're running absolutely wild in a store. To that end, I say "well, someone has to".
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:50 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I knew a girl in college who put her dog on a vegan diet. Poor poor thing. It was always sick. It didn't even look healthy - it had little energy and its fur lacked luster. Poor thing would've killed for some Alpo.

I am greatly offended by my dogs balls and asshole. So I make him wear pants. Some people say "that's cruel" or "that's not natural" but I say look, he's thriving. He' s happy. He's fashionable. While not without problems, like I have to take them off when he wants to pee and 90% of the time he walks around in piss soaked pants he is still happy as the dickens in his pants. Sure. I have zero proof it's what is "best" for the dog and, sure, it's more about MY values and my obsessions. But fuck it nobody wants to see those balls knocking around.
posted by tkchrist at 4:55 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm totally going to Burger King. Whoppers for all!

One octo stacker, please. Thanks. Oh, and universal health care. We're going to need it.
posted by loquacious at 4:57 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know a kid who isn't vegan but puts soymilk in his coffee. That's putting beanjuice into beanjuice. That cant be quite right, dude.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on June 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


dickens in his pants.

Hope he dosen't get his panties in a (oliver) twist.
posted by jonmc at 4:59 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Let people raise their own kids, you raise yours.

Is raise code for organ farming? Because I hear there is real money in that, although the disease screening cuts into the revenue for the child brothel.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:03 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


meat has vitamin C

well, to be more precise, "raw or minimally cooked" meat has vitamin C. the inuit and other northern peoples do not get scurvy because raw meat makes up a large part of their traditional diet.
posted by klanawa at 5:05 PM on June 10, 2008


I think we should take this story as proof that vegans suck and as an opportunity to mock people with different nutritional ideas, regardless of the validity, invalidity, sustainability, or workability of those ideas.

Oh, sorry, I'm late, aren't I?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:07 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


There is an equitable middle ground between veganism and Burger King.

I wonder though. If people choose veganism becuase of a pro-animal anti-cruelty stance then ethically they really need to take the next step and be fruit-a-tarian. If that is what it's called. You know eat only what plants "offer" and not what has to kill the plant to be harvested.

A friend of mine does this. All organic, live, locally produced "fruit." That is ALL he eats. No supplements becuase supplements do not use sustainable methods to produce and harvest "dead" plant material.

Anyway. It looks fucking miserable but at least his principles are completely consistent. On plus side it's a very cheap and somewhat healthy way to live IF you can be in the proper climate to take advantage of it. I hated being a vegetarian. Hated it. But I hated being a vegan even more. God knows why I even tried it knowing how much I hated being a vegetarian. I can't imagine what being a fruitatarian must be like. What a pain in the ass.
posted by tkchrist at 5:09 PM on June 10, 2008


I know a kid who isn't vegan but puts soymilk in his coffee. That's putting beanjuice into beanjuice. That cant be quite right, dude.

I do this, and for certain brands of soy milk, if you don't stir the coffee pretty much constantly, it all sorta glomps together in the middle and looks disarmingly like...well. Not that I've ever put that in coffee. Not my own cup, at least.

My point is, what you say is actually kinda true - there's obviously some kind of culinary chemical reaction going on here, like oil on water. I'd be interested in hearing what SCIENCE has to say about this.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:10 PM on June 10, 2008


I think that this FPP displays an open hostility towards meat-free diets, and is basically a troll post.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:11 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


SassHat writes 'The thing about children is that people can raise their own however they like.'

Actually, it's generally accepted that there are limits. Unless you think that Austrian dude was within his rights, the issue is not 'can parents fuck their kids up however they want?', but 'is this an example of parents causing damage to their child beyond what society is willing to accept?'

Also, a fat kid does not diabetes make, really? No connection whatsoever? That's very interesting.
posted by jacalata at 5:13 PM on June 10, 2008


If people choose veganism becuase of a pro-animal anti-cruelty stance then ethically they really need to take the next step and be fruit-a-tarian.

Mmm, not really. There's no scientific or even anecdotal evidence that plants possess central nervous systems, brains, sentience, or the capacity to suffer. But as soon as some comes along (unlikely), absolutely I will have to rethink matters.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:13 PM on June 10, 2008


Oh, theres people working on it.
posted by Artw at 5:15 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fun article. Thanks Artw.

It would just be entirely inconsistent with both evolution AND the notion of creation/intelligent design for plants to be able to experience pain and semi-complex thought. Since, for the most part, they cannot escape predation or injury, they would have naturally selected those attributes right the fuck out.

Which reminds me of a Jack Handey quote. "If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason."
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:19 PM on June 10, 2008


There was a recent episode of Quirks & Quarks about vitamin D - how a half hour in the sun produces 100 times the dietary recommended amount of it (20'000 IU vs. 200 IU) and a lot of research going on if the recommendations shouldn't be upped a bit.

Link: http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archives/07-08/jun07.html

Interesting show. They talk about the evolutionary reasons (i.e. migrating from African plains - UVB index of 10-12 - to northern latitudes - UBV index of 0-8) for why the our bodies produce so much of the stuff, when we've only thought of it as facilitating calcium into bones.
posted by monocultured at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2008


I do this, and for certain brands of soy milk, if you don't stir the coffee pretty much constantly, it all sorta glomps together in the middle and looks disarmingly like...well. Not that I've ever put that in coffee. Not my own cup, at least.

I was joking. The beanjuice thing was just something that occured to me when I heard him order it.
posted by jonmc at 5:24 PM on June 10, 2008


Mmm, not really. There's no scientific or even anecdotal evidence that plants possess central nervous systems, brains, sentience, or the capacity to suffer. But as soon as some comes along (unlikely), absolutely I will have to rethink matters.

But THAT isn't the issue for fruititarian-whatchamacallits.

The issue is, if I understand this correctly, large scale farming that kills the plants destroys habitat and is by default cruel to both humans and animals by being environmentally unfriendly. Which in terms of scale is fare more cruel to destroy entire ecosystems and species along with them. The "central nervous system" thing is largely an emotional and sentimental canard.
posted by tkchrist at 5:27 PM on June 10, 2008


I was joking. The beanjuice thing was just something that occured to me when I heard him order it.

Yeah, I know, but in your mirth, you inadvertently stumbled across the Truth!
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:28 PM on June 10, 2008


and cannibalism for special occasions

Huh. Is THAT what makes President's Day so special?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:31 PM on June 10, 2008


But THAT isn't the issue for fruititarian-whatchamacallits.

The issue is, if I understand this correctly, large scale farming that kills the plants destroys habitat and is by default cruel to both humans and animals by being environmentally unfriendly.


Ohh, I gotcha. Then, yes, if that is their reasoning, "fruitarians" are being more philosophically consistent. My primary concern is my direct contribution to unnecessary suffering, which I attempt to mitigate whenever and wherever possible. A very easy way for me to bring about a net reduction in unnecessary suffering is to cease my consumption of primary (meat, eggs, dairy), secondary (leather), and tertiary (bone glue and so forth) animal products. Can I honestly say I have ruled all these things out of my life? No, I cannot (tertiary stuff primarily, and I still own quite a few leather products from my meat-eating/vegetarian days). But, we do what we can.

Anyway, I'm starting to sound like a preachy asshole, which wasn't my intent, so I'll stop now.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:34 PM on June 10, 2008


I'm not sure how you can eat 'too much vegetables'.

I'm not saying too much grain vegetables to be healthy. I'm saying too much grain and vegetables to be normal for homo sapien. There are huge swaths of human history where there is, at best, minimal evidence for our eating plants but tons of clovis points. There's a paleolithic diet based on this idea, but I don't think you're required to chase and kill an elephant with a pointy stick so I kind of questions its validity too.

It's not that I think the modern lipid and processed sugar rich western diet is the pinnacle of healthy lifestyle, but there are way to many stories where some "Milk = Toxic Waste!" type damn near kills theirself by eliminating something vital from their diet for me to hop on that bus any time soon.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:48 PM on June 10, 2008


Which bits of you evolved to eat meat? That long digestive system optimised for plants? The silly little teeth? The heart that can't cope with fat-heavy diets?

What small_ruminant eponysterically said: there is no "we." Please don't try to feed this line to people like the Inuit, who traditionally didn't eat vegetables because there weren't any available in the Arctic. You want high fat? Try whale blubber. Their health, as a people, began to sharply decline when "civilized" foods were forced on them/made available and they were "encouraged" to stop being nomadic.

Humans evolved to take nutritional advantage of as wide a variety of foods as possible - meat, plants, bugs, dairy. As a species, its made us incredibly adaptable and varied - some ethnicities can't tolerate dairy; some live mostly (or used to) on milk and meat; some (used to) only eat meat. Humans are cool like that. Just don't lie about how "we" evolved to "only" eat this thing or that thing but not those other things.
posted by rtha at 6:00 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm not a vegan, and I just ate a sandwich with cheese on it, and it was delicious, but since we're going down the path of "at many points in history we ate no plants," at what point in history did we evolve to essentially suck the tit of another species?
posted by Airhen at 6:11 PM on June 10, 2008


at what point in history did we evolve to essentially suck the tit of another species?

The minute we could get it to stand still long enough and not kick us in the head.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:28 PM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


In my ideal world, that cock and bull story would end with the males being fed and kept, with no killing [...] So don't try to lay your guilt on me, friend.

In an ideal world meat would be grown in the laboratory and there'd be no suffering or death involved. Since you're happy to ignore what actually happens in the less-than-ideal world we live in, this presumably means you can eat meat without it troubling your conscience. After all, we can imagine a world where it doesn't involve death or suffering so that means it must be OK! Enjoy your steak.
posted by xchmp at 6:30 PM on June 10, 2008


Not to beat (eat?) a dead horse, but I still think there's a lot of rationalization for eating meat in this thread. I agree with ChuckDarwin that either the thread, or at least the original article is essentially an anti-vegan troll.

I think if we were more honest with ourselves about it, we would have less "we evolved this way" and more "I know that eating meat is a hugely inefficient use of resources that requires growing X amount of grain, using Y amount of water and the animals create Z amount of methane, which is blah times more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. I know that whenever I don't know the exact source of my meat, it's probably coming from a massive factory farm, which probably pollutes the local environment. I know that the animals there are sick, eating grains they were never meant to eat, confined and pumped full of drugs, basically living the most miserable experience imaginable, either lying in their own poo, pressed up against each other, pecking each other's eyes out, and maybe not seeing the sun. I know I don't have to eat meat. But I like it. A lot. Because it's really tasty. And in this day and age, in my community, it's normal and socially acceptable to do this. So, I'm going to order the filet au poivre and enjoy it, while not thinking about these things...I'll just post about it later on mefi."

I don't know, to me, my second example is a lot more honest than the first. All the evolution and bodies designed to eat it, cultural experience mumbo jumbo is pure rationalization for something that is clearly an individual choice with well-documented consequences. I eat meat and I'm not going to tell anyone not to eat meat, but if you aren't honest to yourself about it, you're a wuss.
posted by snofoam at 6:35 PM on June 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


WE. EVOLVED. TO. EAT. MEAT.

Except for Hindus, yes?
posted by owhydididoit at 6:51 PM on June 10, 2008


"In an ideal world meat would be grown in the laboratory and there'd be no suffering or death involved."

Yup. That part's right. Too bad that this: "Since you're happy to ignore what actually happens in the less-than-ideal world we live in, this presumably means you can eat meat without it troubling your conscience. After all, we can imagine a world where it doesn't involve death or suffering so that means it must be OK! Enjoy your steak." is moronic.

It is not necessary to kill cows or chickens to have eggs or milk.
posted by klangklangston at 6:55 PM on June 10, 2008


It is not necessary to kill cows or chickens to have eggs or milk.

O RLY?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:06 PM on June 10, 2008


Yep. That's why I buy my eggs from ethical farmers. I don't actually buy milk (don't like it, never have), but that there are abuses doesn't mean those abuses are necessary.
posted by klangklangston at 7:14 PM on June 10, 2008


I love it when people sitting in chairs in front of their computers argue about what's natural. Cause we all evolved to do that too, amirite? What people may or may not have done in the past is pretty much irrelevant. Nutrition is not as complicated as some people make it out to be. If you get what you need, you'll be OK. I think Hindus and others have made it pretty clear vegetarianism is sustainable. Veganism requires a few modifications, but it's also doable. However, if you're going to do something very different than the rest of society, it's going to require educating yourself in a way that other people don't have to, because they absorb how to eat from the culture around them.

But really, the whole point of technology and civilization is to modify the environment and ourselves. What's "natural" is irrelevant, useful as a guideline but not as some sort of rule. It's natural to die from a fucking infection, but I'll still take my antibiotics thank you.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:19 PM on June 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


klangklangston: For someone who appears to be unable to understand some fairly basic reasoning, you seem awfully fond of calling people retarded and moronic. Let's go through this again.

Your justification for consuming eggs and milk is that eggs and milk do not have to involve the deaths of chickens and cows. However, with the possible exception of people who keep a few chickens in their garden, nobody produces eggs and milk without killing the majority of male animals and also killing hens and cows that are no longer productive. This applies even to ethical farms. It is not necessary to kill cows or chickens to have eggs or milk, but in practical terms these products always involve the deaths of animals.

Similarly it is possible to produce meat without killing cows or chickens. Tissue can be cultured in the laboratory. Nobody actually does this because the process isn't economical or fully developed yet. It is not necessary to kill cows or chickens to have a steak or a KFC family bucket, but in practical terms these products always involve the deaths of animals.

The reasoning in both these cases is the same. Your justification for consuming eggs and milk can also be applied to the consumption of meat. So, if you maintain that consuming eggs and milk is ethical, then you must also accept that consuming meat is ethical too.
posted by xchmp at 7:25 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whatever your stance might be, I can only point out one thing: I have yet to hear of parents who refuse to let their kids eat any available, nutritious plants, especially for weird ideological reasons. "SON OF MY VIKING LOINS, ARE YOU A LION, BOY, OR A LAMB? BY RAGNOR'S SWORD, LITTLE TIMMY, MEAT YOU SHALL HAVE AND NOTHING BUT!"

*slaughters priest, burns Norwegian church*
posted by adipocere at 7:49 PM on June 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


So...her parents weren't just Britpop fans who wanted to belong to a world that's gone?

It's funny! The band's named for a leather product! Ha...?
posted by kittyprecious at 7:52 PM on June 10, 2008


nobody produces eggs and milk without killing the majority of male animals and also killing hens and cows that are no longer productive. This applies even to ethical farms. ... So, if you maintain that consuming eggs and milk is ethical, then you must also accept that consuming meat is ethical too.

You make an important point -- no one is pure. But a lifestyle that kills fewer animals (vegetarian) is more ethical, all other things being equal, than a lifestyle that kills more animals (meat-eating).

I mean, if we were instead talking about cats and dogs, I don't think anyone would be arguing: "Well, the pet industry is always going to entail killings some cats and dogs for various reasons, so you might as well breed dogs and torture/kill them for fun" No. Killings may be an inevitable part of the industry, but it's better to minimize them if you can.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:59 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Similarly it is possible to produce meat without killing cows or chickens. Tissue can be cultured in the laboratory. Nobody actually does this because the process isn't economical or fully developed yet. It is not necessary to kill cows or chickens to have a steak or a KFC family bucket, but in practical terms these products always involve the deaths of animals.

The reasoning in both these cases is the same. Your justification for consuming eggs and milk can also be applied to the consumption of meat. So, if you maintain that consuming eggs and milk is ethical, then you must also accept that consuming meat is ethical too."

Right, when that meat can be created purely in the lab, I'll eat it (assuming I like it). But it isn't. And to recognize no difference between an ancillary death, which is preventable and I have no agency in, and the death of an animal to be eaten is stupid. That absolutism can't end but for skin cell genocides.

Conversely, the attack from relativism, that the difference between eating meat and not is one of degree misses the point that this is a significant degree, just as I'd consider an enlightened omnivore a significant degree better than someone who doesn't think about what they eat.

Being a vegan isn't worth the hassle. I understand that for other people, being a vegetarian isn't worth the hassle. I think they're wrong, as it really takes minimal effort (oh no, I have to not eat everything I see!), but it's their call, not mine.

Guess what? I also vote for Democrats.
posted by klangklangston at 8:15 PM on June 10, 2008


I think that this FPP Metafilter often displays an open hostility. towards meat-free diets, and is basically a troll post.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:11 PM on June 10 [1 favorite +] [!]


Fixed, and yes.
posted by Avenger at 8:16 PM on June 10, 2008


I thought that Jaltcoh was totally wrong about the way he thought of Metafilter moderation. I think he makes a good point here.


OH NO I AM A HYPOCRITE.
posted by klangklangston at 8:20 PM on June 10, 2008


Just don't lie about how "we" evolved to "only" eat this thing or that thing but not those other things.

In fact, don't use evolution to justify any particular dietary habits. So you claim humans ate such and such in paleolithic times? So fucking what? What was the life expectancy of those dudes? Like, thirty-five years?
posted by dersins at 8:46 PM on June 10, 2008


I wish we had evolved to just all be friends.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:10 PM on June 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


And I think klangklangston is totally wrong about the Metafilter moderation but totally right about vegetarianism vs. veganism, etc.

Really, no one is pure in all this. Except me.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:12 PM on June 10, 2008


There's no scientific or even anecdotal evidence that plants possess central nervous systems, brains, sentience, or the capacity to suffer.

For that matter, there is no evidence, outside of a PETA video, of the capacity for animals to suffer. So by your reasoning, eating meat is ethical for the same reason killing plants is ethical.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 PM on June 10, 2008


For that matter, there is no evidence, outside of a PETA video, of the capacity for animals to suffer.

*blink*
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:21 PM on June 10, 2008


Well, is there? I'm quite serious about what I wrote, as someone who goes out of his way to eat organic food and ethically-sourced meat and fish, that we really don't have the capacity to understand the consciousness of other living beings — including, or especially plants, because we can't anthropomorphize them the way we can mammals.

We can both surmise the degree of suffering a dying plant feels, but I am directly questioning your assertion of scientific evidence and specifically the logic you are using, as your defense for vegetable "murder".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:39 PM on June 10, 2008


I am reminded somewhat by the talk of animals of this deliciously idiotic dog food commercial coming at it not from an ethical, vegan, or vegetarian ideal but simply from a bullshit marketing vantage. Some friends and I saw this thing and our immediate reaction was THESE ARE NOT THE THINGS DOGS EAT.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:09 PM on June 10, 2008


Also, i think if not the best, at least the most hardcore explanation of vegetarianism I've ever heard was along the lines of "It's not that I like animals, it's that I hate animals about as much as I hate people and I don't eat people."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:10 PM on June 10, 2008


So you claim humans ate such and such in paleolithic times? So fucking what? What was the life expectancy of those dudes? Like, thirty-five years?

Well, I don't claim that (and I don't think you were directing the comment specifically at me). But the paleolithic dudes died at 35 (or 20, or 15) because of lack of things like antibiotics. Women died in childbirth. Injuries that would be easily fixed these days were fatal then. Some of them surely died of malnutrition. Probably very few died (at 35) of heart disease or adult-onset diabetes. And, of course, if the tribe or clan was dependent on one or two types of food only and a drought or some other catastrophe that destroyed their food source came along, well, they were fucked.
posted by rtha at 11:56 PM on June 10, 2008


This discussion reminds me of the side effects of my first acid trip. As I was coming down (off 2 hits of very strong acid...don't ask) a few people were eating chicken in the kitchen. I was utterly horrified at the gross simplicity of it all - we put organic matter in our mouths and CHEW IT (!!!), swallow it and it is DISSOLVED BY ACID in our stomachs...and that's how we live. It was just horrifying. I had absolutely no appetite for at least 2 months.

Then I got over it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:56 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


chicken in the kitchen

Say that ten times really fast.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:24 AM on June 11, 2008


Cuisine is the most subjective thing on the planet, and people seem to be endlessly entertained by it. But most of the debates boil down to this:

You eat WHAT? EWW!

So what? It's good. I'm fine. The doctor says I'm healthy.

You're gonna DIE if you eat like that. Eat like ME, because I'm RIGHT and my diet is BETTER. Plus, your diet makes me FEEL BAD.

Your diet is cruel and it's hurting the planet.

Fuck you, hippie.

Fuck you, you callous Nazi.

........and scene.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:16 AM on June 11, 2008


Cuisine is the most subjective thing on the planet

I'd nominate religion for that particular award. At least with cuisine, you can eat it/ touch it/ poke it with a stick.

Like in this case, the effect of the kid's extreme diet is clear: malnourishment. Give a kid a kooky religion, however, and the effects aren't always so obvious.
posted by WalterMitty at 1:22 AM on June 11, 2008


at what point in history did we evolve to essentially suck the tit of another species?

In the last several thousand years.
posted by grouse at 1:58 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would posit that this poor girl's diet bordered on the 'religious'.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:17 AM on June 11, 2008


I don't feel the need to rationalise my meat consumption, like my sister doesn't need to rationalise her vegetarianism. Moral choices - like the fact that I drink booze (would be bad if I were a Muslim) and shacked up with my wife before we were married (would be bad if I were a Baptist - etc).

However, my moral choices for my kids are only my concern in so far as they don't hurt them : the state will fine me (here in the UK) if I don't send my children to school, because I'll be damaging their futures. If I beat them for wearing lipstick or not praying with sufficient fervour, the state will put me in prison. And I'm fine with that, because I know I won't and I know that others might and shouldn't.
posted by athenian at 2:24 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: Normally you contribute to discussions. Is it because this thread is pretty long that you feel like whipping the troll pants out? Because for someone who apparently "goes out of his way to eat organic food and ethically-sourced meat and fish", your earlier comment shows a gross degree of insensitivity. You want proof outside of a PETA video? Go kick a dog, and watch it cringe away from you, listen to it yelp. It'll avoid you next time it sees you, remembering that you hurt it.

If you mean you want to see some Science! to prove it, then this paper specifically adresses your request. It discusses the neural gear required to "suffer", which is what I'm guessing you meant with your "srsly, what's up with the pain thing?" follow-up comment. Even within agriculture the capacity for animals to feel pain is recognised, albeit as something to be avoided in order to maximise profit.

We may not be able to directly empathize with other animals. But there's a bucketload of evidence to suggest that they feel pain at the very least as something to be avoided. Frankly, I'm finding it hard to empathize with your viewpoint enough to even know how to unpackage what seems to me a demostration of massive callousness.
posted by Jilder at 4:27 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


In some ways it might be me who started the what humanity evolved eating aspect of this, but my point has been kind of derailed . What I meant to imply is that trying to argue what humanity is "supposed to eat" is kind of silly. I used to work with a number of vegetarians and they would make the "long digestive system optimized for plants" argument all the time. I've yet to have explained to be how unable to digest cellulose = optimized. Don't even get me started on the singular stomach thing.

In the state of nature we died. Young. If we were eaten by a sabertooth cat, well, that was at least quick. There was no magical time when we ate nuts and berries and mixed green salads and lived to be 200. Similarly, unless you're doing a couple marathons a week I'm gonna question the authenticity of your diet of pure mammoth.

Finally, NOTE TO EVERYONE! When someone who shares a demographic with you does something really really dumb, don't leap to the defense of the lifestyle. Point out that, yes, your demographic is blessed with its share of idiots and move on. Comparing these people to competent vegetarians is like comparing snake handlers with Mother Theresa.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:41 AM on June 11, 2008


I don’t really care what people feed their kids as long as they aren’t making their kids sick or malnourished. How this girl could have gone on so long with a Vitamin D deficiency and her parents hadn’t seen that something was wrong with her is stupefying. Didn’t they take her for check-ups? My kids had to go every two months when they were babies, for shots and weight checks. Pretty sure they went at least once a year when they were school age, and for sure the school required proof of physicals at certain age intervals.

Isn’t a Vitamin D deficiency seen with bowed legs and the like when children are small? If mom and dad truly didn’t notice anything wrong, what about the doctors and all the other people around this girl? Maybe they didn’t take her to doctors?

I eat meat and sometimes I eat fast food, sue me. I am not going vegetarian because someone turns animals into baby humans in their mind and tries to make me believe it too. I love animals, but I don’t know of any animal that would feel bad about eating me. I’m pretty sure if I toppled over and no one found me, my cat would have no qualms about chewing on my body for sustenance once the kibble ran out.

For every one of us that eats “kindly produced” organic meat (aren’t the animals still slaughtered in the end?), or organic produce, there are millions who don’t because it’s not economically feasible. I was buying locally produced milk, free range eggs, etc., and I was going broke. I looked at organic meat the other day and it was $7.00 a lb. “Regular” chicken thighs: 99 cents a lb. Anyone who feels it’s that important can foot my grocery bill every week and I’ll be happy to switch over.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:55 AM on June 11, 2008


Hey, what do you mean "The English Disease"? I'm offended!

*hobbles off on his bowed, twisted legs*
posted by idiomatika at 5:05 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


It takes a lot more work to get balanced protein and certain vitamins on a vegan diet, but it can be done.

..but not by many. It takes a lot of knowledge, time, money and skill. We are omnivors for a reason, we need a wide variety of nutrients and cutting out meat entirely removes a huge pool of nutrients. There are no native peoples who are vegan (or vegetarian) It is a purely social construct. BTW this is not the first story of vegetarian parents destroying their children's health.
posted by stbalbach at 6:49 AM on June 11, 2008


I'm getting a cheeseburger for lunch.
posted by tadellin at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2008


Interesting theory, but what did women do to prevent Vitamin D deficiency in their breastfed babies a hundred years ago? I think we are back to that 'going outside' issue.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 5:43 PM on June 10 [+] [!]


They didn't - 100 years ago, rickets was notoriously rapant in Britain, especially in the cities. But yes, that was due to smog cutting off sunlight.
posted by jb at 8:00 AM on June 11, 2008


We may not be able to directly empathize with other animals. But there's a bucketload of evidence to suggest that they feel pain at the very least as something to be avoided. Frankly, I'm finding it hard to empathize with your viewpoint enough to even know how to unpackage what seems to me a demostration of massive callousness.

Yeah, but what about plants? The only reason we have a theory about higher mammals feeling pain is because we are anthropomorphizing their response. Because we don't want to do that with plants, it's morally acceptable to be vegetarian or vegan.

Yet, you and I breath in bacteria and our respiratory and immune systems kill them off. Since bacteria certainly have some stimuli-response circuitry to avoid being killed, why is it morally consistent to even breathe? Why aren't more vegans and vegetarians Jainist?

I'm just curious why it's acceptable to murder plants on one hand, and castigate others for murdering animals on the other, let alone cruelly and maliciously cripple a child on that basis.

There really has been no rational basis provided for killing plant life. I'd argue that, personally, killing other animal or plant life for any reason but self-defense or sustenance is cruel, and I live by that (entirely subjective) credo. Anything else is, likewise, an entirely arbitrary moral decision that is at least somewhat based on one's own theoretical supposition of what other life forms may or may not feel.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:37 AM on June 11, 2008


I'm just curious why it's acceptable to murder plants on one hand ... Anything else is, likewise, an entirely arbitrary moral decision...

Are you aware that there was a movement years ago to scientifically prove that plants have awareness and feel pain? No one was able to replicate the results -- that is, the studies lacked the hallmark of valid scientific evidence.

For more information on the details, check out Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation and go to 235. That page discusses this issue, and also refers you to an endnote with the details on how the studies were discredited.

So while you can grandstand about how we're not willing to investigate plants etc. etc., you're just wrong.

Of course, a lot of meat-eaters would love for it to be true so they could shove it in vegetarians' faces. So you're wrong when you say there's no motivation to study it. There's plenty of motivation.

The reason we're not presented with evidence of plant feelings isn't because of a cover-up or a lack of motivation to study it. The reason we're not presented with the evidence is because ... there isn't any.

There is, OTOH, a lot of evidence that animals feel pain and are aware of their surroundings.

For now, that's what we know. On principle, I don't rule out the remote possibility that the orange I'm eating for lunch can feel pain, but I have to deal with the evidence I have, which suggests it doesn't.

If one day we discover that plants, in addition to animals, feel pain, then we'll have a serious moral dilemma on our hands. But we don't face that dilemma now, since it's just not that hard to be a vegetarian and still eat a reasonable diet.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:45 AM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Finally, NOTE TO EVERYONE! When someone who shares a demographic with you does something really really dumb, don't leap to the defense of the lifestyle. Point out that, yes, your demographic is blessed with its share of idiots and move on. Comparing these people to competent vegetarians is like comparing snake handlers with Mother Theresa.

Well, that's reasonable, but it’s worth pointing out that there’s definitely something fishy about the original article and it’s somewhat of an attack piece.

I'm getting a cheeseburger for lunch.

Plan!
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on June 11, 2008


The only reason we have a theory about higher mammals feeling pain is because we are anthropomorphizing their response.

No, it's because they possess the same neural hardwiring that picks up pain in a fashion biologically identical to our own bodies. We are not anthropomorphizing - literally "to reshape them as human" - instead we are recognising a similar physiological setup. Your argument is the same as saying that animals can't possibly use muscular locomotion, because the perception muscular locomotion in animals is simply anthropomorphization. Or that our belief that animals use oxygen for respiration is purely because we like to think that they are just like us. In this regard at least they are. They have the same tools that generate the same outcome. It's not theory. It's pretty solid fact.

Whether or not plants are being irrationally murdered is entirely irrelevant to the question of animal pain. In fact, then only time I ever hear it is from meat eaters defending themselves. FWIW, I've been vege for the last twelve years, and have heard this fallacious line of argument so many times it's getting ridiculous. It a pretty big fat straw man, considering many vegans and vegetarians aren't trying to prevent the killing of another living thing, but are trying to lower the overall level of suffering their diets accrue. We acknowledge that deaths are going to happen, but we'd like to prevent as much of the large-scale horror that comes with industrialized farming as we possibly can.
posted by Jilder at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I'm just curious why it's acceptable to murder plants on one hand, and castigate others for murdering animals on the other, let alone cruelly and maliciously cripple a child on that basis."
-- i'd say that eating meat "murder[s]" ten times (or more) the amount of plants that vegetarians "murder". i don't actually care about whether or not plants have feelings (mainly because i don't believe they do)--i'm vegetarian for 3 reasons: health, animals and the environment. i hope someday to be vegan, but then i also hope to some day get in really great shape. we'll see.
posted by whatgorilla at 12:09 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


here's a topical article by mark bittman about eating less meat.
posted by snofoam at 12:42 PM on June 11, 2008


I'm a little curious as to what "strict vegan" means in the specific context of this child's parents. I know many people who call themselves vegetarians. Some of them eat fish, some will not eat eggs or dairy products or both. I know a few people who call themselves vegans. One eats eggs (there's something special about the eggs, but I forget what -- fertilized, unfertilized, or something). One vegan I know of will not eat honey. I would say most of these folks -- vegan or vegetarian -- are suspicious of supplements and I have heard rants against Omega-3. Anyway, I think "vegan" may mean a lot of things.

Also, the UK Vegan Society has something to say about this story. Basically, the Society supports supplements. (Excuse me if that link has already been posted.)
posted by CCBC at 2:28 PM on June 11, 2008


"This dog, so very superior to man in affection, is seized by some barbarian virtuosos, who nail him down to a table, and dissect him while living, the better to shew you the meseraic veins. All the same organs of sensation which are in yourself you perceive in him. Now, Machinist, what say you? answer me: Has Nature created all the springs of feeling in this animal, that it may not feel? has it nerves to be impassible? For shame ! charge not Nature with such weakness and inconsistency." - Voltaire
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:45 PM on June 11, 2008


That's why I won't eat dogs.
posted by tkchrist at 3:42 PM on June 11, 2008


Which bits of you evolved to eat meat? That long digestive system optimised for plants? The silly little teeth? The heart that can't cope with fat-heavy diets?

Our digestive system is not optimized for plants. We have no cecum (fermentation stomach). We are unable to digest cellulose. Ruminants have a digestive system that can do both, becaues they are optimized for plants. Their system is about 20x their body length. Carnivores are, by contrast, have a digestive system to body length ratio of about 3x. Ours is 9x or so, depending on the person. Nice in the middle, not optimized for either, but capable of digestion of both plants and animals.

Our teeth, likewise, reflect both cutting and tearing for carnivorous duty, and grinding for herbivorous digestion. And, in the right circumstances, our heart may be happier with a diet high in saturated fats. [Mozaffarian D, Rimm EB, Herrington DM. Dietary fats, carbohydrates, and progression of coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women,” Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 80: 1175-84]

We continue to evolve based on the available foods to us. Don't assume we stopped evolving just because we found civilization.
posted by dwivian at 4:23 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


dwivian: Do you honestly believe your diet remotely resemble what we were eating thousands of years ago?
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:42 PM on June 11, 2008


"Our digestive system is not optimized for plants. We have no cecum (fermentation stomach)."

Your second sentence does not prove the first.

We are not optimized for ruminant diets of grasses. However, our digestive system is consistent with animals that primarily eat fruit, nuts and insects.

Further, every time someone says that we are "optimized for" or "evolved for" something, they should be given a sharp electric shock, with the voltage increasing by the degree which they believe arguments from nature prove normative statements.
posted by klangklangston at 4:48 PM on June 11, 2008


So you claim humans ate such and such in paleolithic times? So fucking what? What was the life expectancy of those dudes? Like, thirty-five years?

Apparently, hunter-gatherers had similar life expectancies to what we have in modern times - in the region of 60-70 years or so.

It was only when we shifted to agriculturalism & denser, permanent settlements that diseases started to exact a greater toll on populations.

It's thought that hunter-gatherers only had to spend around four hours a day to sustain themselves, too; in contrast to the more intensive work required for farming.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:06 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jaltcoh: Nope. That's why I said that we are continuing to evolve, based on the foods around us.

Klang: Insects aren't plants.
posted by dwivian at 5:30 PM on June 11, 2008


Then eat bugs.
posted by klangklangston at 5:35 PM on June 11, 2008


UbuRoivas: 60-70 years for hunter-gathers? Is that new research? Everything I've found (like but also including what appears to be biased sources) doesn't show that at all.
posted by dwivian at 5:46 PM on June 11, 2008


klang: I do. Shrimp are quite lovely.
posted by dwivian at 5:46 PM on June 11, 2008


dwivian - I'll have to try & get back to you on that. I think I read it in Peter Watson's book: Ideas; a History of Thought from Fire to Freud, when he was describing the development of sedentary agriculturalism.

It's extensively footnoted with references to academic articles & monographs so if I remember I'll see if I can dig up (heh) the citation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:07 PM on June 11, 2008


ps - I've recently been introduced to prawn/shrimp heads. They're suprisingly edible, eg panfried in heaps of butter or oil & garlic, then drizzled with lemon or lime juice. You eat the whole head - shell, brains, eyes, legs & all.

Shame that prawn farming is a disaster for the environment, though. Dragnets on the ocean floor destroying all in their wake...
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:17 PM on June 11, 2008


our digestive system is consistent with animals that primarily eat fruit, nuts and insects.

...and meat when ever the opportunity arises. Otherwise known as omnivorous.

We became "predatory" omnivores and then herding "omnivores" thus creating more and more opportunity. Now our successes at procuring prey are killing us. NOT our digestive "evolution."
posted by tkchrist at 6:27 PM on June 11, 2008


Aren't troll pants made out of troll?

And aren't trolls animals?

And aren't animals made of meat?

Just wondering...
posted by Samizdata at 8:57 PM on June 11, 2008


Now that nobody's following this thread anymore...personally, I believe that the majority of vegetarians & vegans suffer from a form of orthorexia - relatively benign, if slightly annoying.

The litmus test for me would be: "Do they flatly refuse to eat food that has merely come into contact with meat, even if the meat has been removed, leaving little or no residue?" (imagine, say, picking a few pieces of peperoni off a pizza; and yes, I know it'll leave some molten fats behind)

A secondary question would be "Do they never, under any circumstances, veer from their chosen diet - eg by eating some risotto that has a cup of chicken stock in it?" (or perhaps occasionally sharing a meat-based dish at a group dinner)

A "yes" to either question suggests to me a Brahmin-like concern with "purity" versus "contamination", rather than any actual noticeable environmental, health, digestive or ethical effects of their actions.

Somewhat related, Bratman proposes an initial self-test composed of two direct questions: "Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?... Does your diet socially isolate you?"
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:10 PM on June 11, 2008


Shame that prawn farming is a disaster for the environment, though. Dragnets on the ocean floor destroying all in their wake..

Not to mention actual prawn farms, usually developed by ripping up sensitive mangrove communities throughout south-east Asia. Mangroves deliver vital nutrient loads to the ocean, and are potentially useful in protecting from tsunamis. But damn are the little critters tasty!

The litmus test for me would be: "Do they flatly refuse to eat food that has merely come into contact with meat, even if the meat has been removed, leaving little or no residue?"

Well, this is what has always interested me; vegetarians refusing to eat meals that have come from cookware that may have been used to cook meat earlier. Bits of meat accidentally coming into your food. If I recall correctly, Buddhists have an objection to eating meat, but only if it was killed and prepared for them specifically; if there is, for example, leftover meat-containing food that would have been thrown out, then it's better to eat it and give the animal some purpose in it's death, than to waste it. Seems like a much more sensible and morally justifiable way to go than OMG that saucepan had bacon fat in it earlier!!!
posted by Jimbob at 9:39 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


dwivian - fascinating link. It appears that median lifespan by these samples did not change greatly throughout the Paleolithic forward, not until the 20th century. It wasn't entirely clear, but I'm guessing the median lifespan included infant and child mortality, as well as accidents and wars which would have no bearing on nutrition discussions.

The height statistics are even more interesting - the paleolithic averages are ever so slightly higher than the modern.
posted by jb at 9:48 PM on June 11, 2008


Jimbob - there are, of course, many different streams of Buddhism, but a common interpretation is that only the hunter / fisherman / butcher who actually kills the animal incurs the karma. The notion that he was only filling your demand doesn't apply. Thus, meat-eaters get off scot free, whilst the often-poor fishers & hunters etc get all the negative karma.

(these people are often fishers etc because they are poor; not vice versa. the role is shunned, therefore only the truly desperate take it up. the Burmese have a way around fishermens' karma, though: all the fishermen do is move the fish from the water to the air; if the fish choose to die, that's their problem!)

but yeh, if it's about ethics, surely it is better to eat the meat than throw it away.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:08 PM on June 11, 2008


It sounds like the real problem is that the kid didn't get enough sunlight.

Don't you know sunlight has feelings? Shame on you for ever thinking of vitamin D over the sun's feelings.
posted by dasheekeejones at 3:54 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


A secondary question would be "Do they never, under any circumstances, veer from their chosen diet - eg by eating some risotto that has a cup of chicken stock in it?" (or perhaps occasionally sharing a meat-based dish at a group dinner)

So if someone refuses to compromise their morals (agreed that the picking pepperoni off pizza thing is stupid) occasionally, they're... what, ill? Sick? Wrong?

What other moral rules do we need to break in order to be healthy?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:12 AM on June 12, 2008


> There are no native peoples who are vegan (or vegetarian) It is a purely social construct.

Everything is a social construct. Being raised to eat a meat rich/fat filled diet at the expense of fresh fruit and vegetables is a social construct. Unless we question why we eat meat, we are merely fulfilling a societal norm or construct - uncritically.

Vegans choose not to eat meat for many reasons - but not to subvert societal norms. Native peoples kill the meat they need and pick the fruit and vegetables for themselves. Western societies, where a choice can be made, gives rise to vegans and vegetarians because they have a choice. And because Western societies bring with them factory farming, which is abhorrent to many people.

Factory farming is a social construct. We do not need to consume the amount of meat we do. Therefore we don't need to farm animals the way we do.
posted by crossoverman at 4:20 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


UbuRoivas: 60-70 years for hunter-gathers? Is that new research? Everything I've found (like but also including what appears to be biased sources) doesn't show that at all.

I checked the book where I thought I'd read that, dwivian, and couldn't find any mention of longevity.

It did state that agriculturalists were more malnourished, diseased, and worse-toothed than their hunter-gatherer forebears, but nothing about how long they lived.

Perhaps I was extrapolating from that, but I remember being surprised once to read that people in pre-agricultural times lived as long as we do today, but since I can't find where that came from, I'll put it down to poor memory or something, and defer to your link.

More specifically, Mark Cohen was mentioned in those pages, and since he was one of the experts behind your link, I'm gonna back down even further & say I'm far more likely to be wrong than right about people living to 60-70 in hunter-gatherer societies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:27 AM on June 12, 2008


So if someone refuses to compromise their morals (agreed that the picking pepperoni off pizza thing is stupid) occasionally, they're... what, ill? Sick? Wrong?

I'm still trying to work this one out, PopeGuilty. And having been a vegetarian myself for at least 2-3 years, my perspective is still that it's more about an orthorexia in the style of a germophobic / obsessive-compulsive thing than it is about actual impacts on health, animals or the environment.

We probably all know the hardcore types who know all about esoteric foodmaking practices; that every brand of beer other than Coopers (in Australia) uses some kind of animal byproduct to filter the fermentation, or that gelatin is made of byproducts & that ends up in icecream etc.

Obviously, everybody is free to make their own dietary choices, but I suppose my view is that it's ok to do so on a best-effort basis, eg "I will not choose to eat meat as far as I can, but if - say - visiting relatives & they offer me meat, I won't turn up my nose & sneer that I *can't* eat that; can I have a salad instead?" (as opposed to *won't* eat that, which is the actual choice in play). Basically, 100% vegetarianism as the goal, but with 98% or so as an acceptable & inevitable compromise.

Compared with the zillion other things we do in our lives that harm our bodies, animals & the environment, the fine-grained, obsessive orthorexia displayed by most vegetarians & vegans that I've ever come across (Jimbob's blurb about "OMG bacon was fried in that saucepan!" earlier is very typical) seems to me to be less about compromising morals than about, um, well, being an annoying, anal-retentive idiot.

And don't even get me started on monocultural agriculture. Or mosquitoes, spiders or cockroaches.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:47 AM on June 12, 2008


UbuRoivas: I totally agree with you that the "98%" vegetarianism you describe is about as ethical as 100% vegetarianism. But let me just note: I've been a vegetarian for 17 years, and in 17 years, I have never once been a situation where it would have been socially awkward not to eat meat.

I'm just talking lacto-ovo vegetarianism. Veganism is a whole other thing -- obviously, that's much harder. But everyone knows about vegetarians by now. Nobody is going to force you to eat meat.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:27 AM on June 12, 2008


UbuRoivas: If I eat risotto made on chicken stock, my body rejects it. I wind up with what feels pretty much the same as having really nasty food poisoning. I had some pumpkin soup at a cafe in Redcliff recently that had been made with a sort of mixed-stock - mostly vege, but I think there was some pork in there, too. Gave me a really bad tummy upset. My body can no longer handle meat. Also, you can still taste the peperoni fats on pizza that has had such things picked off, and that will give me grief too.
posted by Jilder at 7:50 AM on June 12, 2008


Soy does the same thing to me.
posted by tkchrist at 9:28 AM on June 12, 2008


But everyone knows about vegetarians by now. Nobody is going to force you to eat meat.

This still really depends on where you are. A scant few years ago, I witnessed more than a couple incidents in the Deep South where non-meat-eating friends had a very trying time of explaining that (for example) no, a salad with bacon sprinkled on it isn't vegetarian. It wasn't hostile, but there was clearly a perceptual gap.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:31 AM on June 12, 2008


Jaltcoh: in 17 years, I have never once been a situation where it would have been socially awkward not to eat meat.

While you're unlikely to be committing a major faux pas by refusing some meat-based dish, vegetarians add an extra level of unnecessary hassle to group eating situations, whether somebody's cooking for them at a dinner party, or a group of friends are ordering pizzas. On the surface, people will be polite enough to respect your wishes, but that won't prevent them from secretly thinking you're a bit of a pain in the ass.

Beyond that, I'm thinking that while I could potentially date a vegetarian if I didn't have to eat with them or cook for them too often, I wouldn't want to live with one, and veganism is pretty much a dealbreaker, unless the person in question happens to be a Nobel Prize winning supermodel. Food is one of the great pleasures in life, and it's simply not worth spending significant time with picky eaters.

Jilder: I wind up with what feels pretty much the same as having really nasty food poisoning.

There should have been a disclaimer in my rant "unless you have some kind of medical condition that makes you effectively allergic to meat or traces of meat".

kittyprecious: This still really depends on where you are. A scant few years ago, I witnessed more than a couple incidents in the Deep South

You'll find this quite a bit overseas, too. In some places, it takes a while to get the "no meat" concept across, but that doesn't mean they'll extend their understanding of the concept to no animal-based ingredients, like stock, fish sauce, oyster sauce etc.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:29 PM on June 12, 2008


I've gotten in arguments before regarding how healthy/unhealthy it is to go through a pregnancy as a vegan, I'd be interested in the parent's relative health as well if they are feeding their daughter the same things they are eating.
posted by sararah at 12:35 PM on June 12, 2008


in 17 years, I have never once been a situation where it would have been socially awkward not to eat meat.

Well, my vegetarian girlfriend didn't have the easiest time when she traveled through bits of Eastern Europe (before the Curtain came down). Barley vegetable soup was made with beef stock. Salads had meat in them. And when she helped a neighbor with something in the guesthouse she was staying in, the neighbor - an elderly woman - insisted on giving her a can of sausages as thanks. A can of sausages, at a time and place when you could wait in line for hours to go into a store and then find...nothing.

Hell, I'm an omnivore, and I've certainly been in situations where it would have been extremely socially awkward (rude, in fact) to refuse what was being served
posted by rtha at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2008


Uburoivas: I don't have a specific medical condition. What I have is 12 years worth of vegetarianism. After a while ones body can no longer handle meat. By and large if a vegetarian is refusing to eat the soups with meat bases or pizzas that have meat picked off, it's not an orthorexic response. It's a desire not to be stuck on the can for the rest of the day.
posted by Jilder at 3:44 PM on June 12, 2008


Jilder: if your body can no longer handle even tiny amounts of meat, then it's only a matter of terminology whether you call it a medical condition or a physiological response or differently-abled-digestion or "ones body can no longer handle meat".

I was merely trying to distinguish those who can't eat small amounts of meat from those who won't.

Gotta say, I never reached that stage of meat-intolerance after 2-3 years, but maybe that was because I kept my "immunity" up by not being hyper-vigilant in the first place...? Who knows? I also happen to have an iron stomach - I haven't had Delhi Belly / Sultan's Revenge / Phaoroah's Curse / Montezuma's Volcano etc for more than a decade when travelling - so maybe that has something to do with it.

Anyway, if I extrapolate from my own experience, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. It's still hard to believe that even peperoni residue can make one ill, but I'll take your word for it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:34 PM on June 12, 2008


I read an article about ten or years ago with a kid who was a hardcore vegan (and had been one for something like ten years), but one day went in to a fast food place and ordered and ate a hamburger.

And despite the various things he was told would happen to him (indigestion, constipation, bleeding, etc.), nothing bad did happen.

Now, you do lose one enzyme associated with animal products over time -- lactase. But that only handles milk-based products. The main enzyme you need to digest meat, pepsin, is the exact same enzyme you need to digest plant proteins. As for fat, that's mainly bile.

If you're a vegetarian/vegan and you eat a heavy meat-and-fat-laden meal (e.g. a steak), you're going to have some tummy trouble (or at least some accelerated food removal). If you're a vegan who hasn't touched milk products and then eat a bunch of cheese, you're going to discover the discomfort of lactose intolerance. But if a vegan accidentally eats phad thai made with fish sauce, they're not going to notice unless someone tells them what they ate.

A lot of what's getting spread around as "what could happen" is the vegan equivalent to the "toilet seat pregnancy." Vegetarian and vegan is healthier, but these old wives' tales told about what happens when you "stray" need to stop.
posted by dw at 8:53 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read an article about ten or years ago with a kid who was a hardcore vegan (and had been one for something like ten years), but one day went in to a fast food place and ordered and ate a hamburger.

Count me extremely skeptical of this attempt to counter the experiences of many, many vegetarians and vegans with an anecdote.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:31 AM on June 13, 2008


On the surface, people will be polite enough to respect your wishes, but that won't prevent them from secretly thinking you're a bit of a pain in the ass.

As long as you put the burden on yourself to take care of your own needs and don't hassle people about it, it's not really that much of a problem.

The hassle is more likely to come from overly sensitive meat-eaters who mistakenly think it's their job to take care of vegetarians. People who haven't actually tried it tend to assume it's a much bigger problem to order vegetarian food in restaurants than it really is. And there's this weird reflex where if someone's vegetarian, meat-eaters assume they're mentally retarded and need the menu explained to them, etc. Just let people do what they want and it should be fine.

Hell, I'm an omnivore, and I've certainly been in situations where it would have been extremely socially awkward (rude, in fact) to refuse what was being served

Well, that's actually more awkward than a vegetarian explaining that they're a vegetarian and won't be eating the meat.

Well, my vegetarian girlfriend didn't have the easiest time when she traveled through bits of Eastern Europe...

I was talking about the places I've lived -- the United States and Europe. I know that in the whole world, there are places where it's hard or impossible to do. Obviously, people who are interested in traveling to exotic locations need to make sure they know what they're getting into -- that actually applies to tons of issues, no matter what your diet is. But Metafilter is primarily an American-read website, and I'm in the US, so I think talking about the US is pretty relevant. I wasn't saying it's never, ever a problem -- just a reality check that it's less of a problem than people think.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2008


people living to 60-70 in hunter-gatherer societies.

Well, (just to be a bit pedantic on median lifespan aka life expectancy), people did live to 60-70 in hunter-gatherer societies, just as they did in the incrediably unhealthy early modern period (c1400-1900), which had the worst height statistics on the link above.

It's just that many people didn't, and lots of people dying young (high infant and child mortality, lots of people dying of sickness, childbirth and accidents) pulls the median down. We know that people expected that they would live to about 70 (three score and ten) if they survived childhood and didn't have any major accidents or illnesses. 60-70 was when people started being "old" (retiring from work, passing inheritances on to their children) - men who were 40 to 50 were middle aged (respected householders, serving in local government, given more status and authority than younger men).

Talking about food, though, I found the height statistics in the link above more interesting. Life expectancy would reflect accidents and the inability to fight infections as well as nutrition and sanitation and other factors, but isn't height more closely closely connected to nutrition? In height, you do see a strong pattern of worsening nutrition between the paleolithic hunter-gatherers and the later agrarian societies.
posted by jb at 10:33 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Count me extremely skeptical of this attempt to counter the experiences of many, many vegetarians and vegans with an anecdote.

It was in the Guardian (or the Observer) in 1998. Kid was a vegan, had some connection to Morrissey (met him or was on stage with him or something). It was a monograph about him going back to meat by eating a burger at McDonalds or something.

I could be a lot more certain if you could search the Guardian/Observer's archives a little further back than 2002.
posted by dw at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2008


So, meeting Morrissey turned a hardcore vegan into a Big Mac eater?

Lucky the guy wasn't celibate instead; I shudder to think what would've happened to him.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:54 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lucky the guy wasn't celibate instead; I shudder to think what would've happened to him.

Vegan burger kid has many sons
Many sons has vegan burger kid....
posted by dw at 9:36 PM on June 14, 2008


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