Nina Planck Stirs the Pot; Vegans Get Steamed: Film At Eleven

You know, I used to like Nina Planck.

Now, I am not so sure.

I wrote a review of her book, Real Food, when it came out in hardcover last year, and although I noted it was not perfect, I mostly agreed with her premise and information. I did and still do have reservations about some of her facts, because some of them come from outdated sources, but in general, I agree that the best diets for humans include mostly unprocessed whole foods, with emphasis on fresh vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts with some pastured dairy, meat and wild-caught fish.

But, I have to say that her diatribe against vegan parenting from the May 21 edition of the New York Times Op Ed pages is not only mean-spirited and filled with scare-mongering opinions, she plain old gets many of her facts wrong. Prompted by the sentencing of two vegan parents in Atlanta for the murder of their six week old infant whom they fed on soymilk and apple juice, Planck goes on the warpath against vegan parents, using this case of obvious parental neglect and abuse as an excuse to vent her ex-vegan spleen against a group of people, who on the whole, do their best to feed their families ethically and well.

And as far as I am concerned, that is just uncalled-for, in large part, because the fact that these parents were vegans was not the issue. The fact was that they had no clue how to feed an infant was the issue, and they starved him to death. Even the prosecutor in the case said, “No matter how many times they want to say, ‘We’re vegans, we’re vegetarians,’ that’s not the issue in this case. The child died because he was not fed. Period.”

The prosecutor knew the truth, which is that no responsible vegan parent in the world would feed an infant, who was born three months premature, a diet of apple juice and soy milk. (Note–have you ever looked at a carton of soy milk? Somewhere on every carton of soy milk I have run across is a statement something like the following: “Not to be used as an infant food.” One cannot easily misunderstand that, unless of course, one is illiterate, stupid, or a murderer.)

The prosecutor got it, but Nina Planck did not, and she used this tragic case of parental ignorance, neglect and cruelty, to step up on her soapbox and paint all vegan parents as irresponsible kooks.

In her essay/article/screeching rant, entitled, “Death by Veganism,” she states in her final sentence, “Children fed only plants will not get the precious things they need to live and grow.”

She also said, “A vegan diet is equally dangerous for weaned babies and toddlers, who need plenty of protein and calcium. Too often, vegans turn to soy, which actually inhibits growth and reduces absorption of protein and minerals. That’s why health officials in Britain, Canada and other countries express caution about soy for babies. (Not here, though — perhaps because our farm policy is so soy-friendly.)”

Actually, let’s hear what the ADA, The American Dietetic Association, has to say about the suitability of a vegan diet, which can include soy formula for babies who are not breastfed, straight from their own website.

The ADA’s official position on vegetarianism reads thusly: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.…This position paper reviews the current scientific data related to key nutrients for vegetarians, including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids and iodine. A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, use of fortified foods or supplements can be helpful in meeting recommendations for individual nutrients. Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.

Did you notice that the ADA website specifically mentions that the Dietitians of Canada concurred with their position? So, uh, which Canadian health officials are expressing caution against the use of soy in infant diets?

We’ll never know, because Planck doesn’t cite her sources.

And that, my friends, is why I am pretty well steamed, even if I am not a vegan.

I am steamed, and I stand with all those steamed vegan parents who are rightfully huffing about Planck’s opinion piece, because she is not only not a nutritionist or a pediatrician, she is stating her opinions as facts, and is not backing up her assertions.

She is not an authority on nutrition or health, so her argument, unless she appeals to a qualified authority, is unsupported.

When she does appeal to authority, such as the unnamed British and Canadian health officials, she does not cite her sources, so we can do some fact checking, in order to see if they really said what she says they said.

If you go to her website, Planck does tell us that talked with “many sources” in order to write her op-ed piece.

But she gives us no names; instead, she says, “Some readers asked about my sources. Among many sources for this piece, I interviewed a family practitioner who treats many vegetarian and vegan families. The doctor’s comments were useful but too long for the Times. Here they are:

‘The most significant issue with vegan infants is growth. I have seen cases of severe anemia and protein deficiency in vegan infants resulting in hospitalization and blood transfusion. Most breast-fed vegan children will do okay until solids are introduced, as long as the vegan mother is well nourished. Most commonly you see Vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies in vegan children. Vegan families must place close attention to protein sources, calcium, Vitamins D and B12, and iron. Often this can be achieved via fortified foods, but I’ve seen that not all vegan parents want to choose these types of foods. Most vegan families I’ve met don’t understand the importance of fat intake in the cognitive development of the baby.’ The doctor also reiterated what informed parents know: that soy milk is ‘completely inadequate’ for babies.”

This unnamed physician could be a great source of information; he could have done research that has been written up in a peer-reviewed journal that supports Planck’s assertions. However, we have no way of knowing that, because he is not named. We cannot look him up and see if he really is on the up and up, or is just some quack whom Planck happens to know.

In fact, we don’t know how many of her “many sources” she talks about are really qualified authorities.

In fact, we don’t even know if they are real or not; we just have to take her word for it.

I’m sorry, but since she has made one blatantly fallacious statement, which is the crux of her argument, that being that a vegan diet is completely inadequate to feed infants, I am not going to just give her the benefit of the doubt on the existence of her sources.

I mean, if a writer is going to go against the ADA’s official stance, it behooves her to get her facts straight on the issue she is on her soapbox about.

The fact is, Planck is full of it on this issue. She is making it sound like -all- vegan parents are as misinformed, incompetent, negligent and cruel as the parents of Crown Shakur, the baby who starved to death in Atlanta. She is making it sound like all vegan parents are feeding their babies soy milk from cartons which specifically state that it is not a proper infant food. She is making it sound like all vegan parents are criminally negligent, just like the two who have been sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, when the truth is, most vegan parents go out of their way to feed their infant children the best food in the world for them: breastmilk.

What does the first sentence on the Vegan Society’s webpage on infant feeding say?

“Breast is best.”

Not, “Apple juice and soy milk is the way to go.”

Apple juice and soy milk don’t even make it to the second sentence, or the third, fourth of fifth. The next best choice cited by the Vegan Society is soy-based infant formula, which is also deemed an acceptable second-best to breastfeeding by none other than the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The fact is this: no responsible parent, vegan or omnivore, would feed their infant child a diet consisting of apple juice and soy milk. Such a diet is not recognized by anyone as adequate or preferable, so why is Planck trying to scare the New York Times readers into thinking that vegan parents are a bunch of irresponsible dimwits who don’t know how to feed their kids?

Well, I hate to say it, but she probably did it to sell more copies of her book, which is coming out in paperback next month.

Okay, maybe I am being too cynical.

Maybe Planck really believes that there are a bunch of vegan parents out there starving their kids to death and she wants to warn everyone to be on the lookout for babies being fed on diets of soy milk and apple juice. Maybe she thinks she is doing some good by giving the people who may never have met a vegan in their lives the idea that they are all baby-killers. Maybe she thinks some vegan parents will read her work and see the light and stop eating such a kooky, faddish diet.

Or, maybe, she is just a bit of a kook herself.

I think I will go back to my first, albeit cynical, thought because I don’t like to think that she is a kook or a vegan-hating bigot.

Planck is just out to sell some books by engaging in a provocative bit of yellow-journalism by slinging some mud at an easy target.

The problem is–at least in my eyes–is she aimed mud at the vegans, but splattered herself thoroughly in her own muck by not citing sources for her “facts” and for stating easily discovered fallacies as truths.

I hate to say it, but I don’t think that I will be reading her next book, Baby Food, which she is researching now, on the subject of real food for babies, a subject which all of my readers -know- I am interested in.

I’d love to read it, but I just don’t think I could stomach it.

84 Comments

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  1. Wow, Barbara, you said exactly what was on my mind after reading the article. Good for you.

    Comment by Steamy Kitchen — May 23, 2007 #

  2. Excellent write-up Barbara! Many Indian families are pure vegetarians, and obviously, their kids are brought up on vegetables, pulses and grains. It’s a no brainer that feding your kid only soy-milk will eventually starve them. But that doesn’t mean a kid needs to have meat in their diet either.

    It’s funny how you’d think that a person like Planck would have gotten her facts right, especially as she claims to know-it-all!

    Comment by Meena — May 23, 2007 #

  3. I was a vegetarian for a better part of a decade (I eat fish and sea food, now).

    While I’d admit that you have to pay attention to meet your body’s nutrients needs (such as getting enough proteins, minerals, vitamins, and such), I am always amazed that some people can blow up incident of this kind of tragedy and make it to look bad for the whole group of people.

    I heard many people who describe their household as a “meat and potatoes family,” but I never heard outrages, much less criticism, against them. Yes, the baby died but the “meat and potato family” probably would not be dead by the end of the month from starvation nor a disease, but isn’t it also a bad form of diet? -Jill-

    P.S. Sorry about the rant, Barbara. I usually respect other people’s opinions, but it is ridiculous.

    Comment by Jill — May 23, 2007 #

  4. P.P.S Well said.

    Comment by Jill — May 23, 2007 #

  5. This is one of the main reasons I love your site, Barbara.

    You aren’t a vegan, you’re an ethical, reasoning human being. You not only have the ability to reason, you actually do it in a logical manner. (The excellently described recipes and reviews help a whole lot too, though!)

    Thank you for being an articulate voice for people who do think, no matter what they put in their mouths.

    Comment by starrrie — May 23, 2007 #

  6. Not every person is suited to every diet. Given the shrill tone of Planck’s editorial, I suspect she’s not well suited to a vegan diet. You’ll see similar fearmongering techniques used to scare people away from high protein diets. Yet for some diabetics, a high protein diet is the best way to control their blood sugar and let them function normally. Note that such diets are not “high animal protein”, “high fat”, or “low carb” if they are to actually work. If I try to eat such a diet, I wander about like a starved wolf, looking for more food. But a diabetic who needs that sort of diet is happy and content.

    Planck shouldn’t be getting away with such lazy journalism. The ranting of a private person is not suitable content for a major newspaper’s editorial pages.

    Comment by Emily Cartier — May 23, 2007 #

  7. Argh! Can. Not. Stand. Irresponsible. Journalism. Argh!

    (That is my very articulate response).

    Thanks for this. I’m not vegan and I do sometimes question the health of a vegan diet for pregnant women and small children – But this is just scaremongering… and the fact that she won’t share her sources is very suspicious.

    Comment by Gluten-Free By The Bay — May 23, 2007 #

  8. Thank you. This is an enlightening and well written post.

    Comment by Mithrandir — May 23, 2007 #

  9. Well said! It has to be argued that vegans have to work fairly hard to make sure they get all their nutrients but otherwise its fine by me! I just like my dairy and eggs too much!

    Comment by jenny — May 23, 2007 #

  10. Very good comment. The flaws you point out in Planck’s piece are genuine flaws. And her defense is terribly feeble. “Some doctor she knows”? Really? That’s puerile.

    Comment by Leisureguy — May 23, 2007 #

  11. I don’t want to condone Mrs Planck’s article in no way but there is something significantly wrong with some of the opinions on this page. The article was not journalism or reporting, it was opinion and was appropriatly placed in the Op-Ed section of the paper. Op-ed pieces are never 3 pages long and never goes into details about all their info and sources, it just doesn’t happen. Fact is that there are idiot vegan parents just like there is idiot vegetarian parents and idiot omnivore parents. I just think that it is a prefectly valid point of view to question a vegan diet with infants.

    Here is the Canadian recommendations when it comes to breastmilk substitute:
    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/pubs/infant-nourrisson/nut_infant_nourrisson_term_4_e.html

    Great response BTW.

    Comment by Simon — May 23, 2007 #

  12. Thanks, Barbara. Yours is a well-reasoned response to an incensing article that absolutely missed the point of the situation.

    Simon’s take I think is misguided. Yes, the article was an Op-Ed. My concept of an opinion piece in a reputable paper is that any factual claims made should be accurate, but the author comes to a conclusion and argues from a point of view, whereas news journalism is not supposed to inject this kind of concluding. Being an Op-Ed is not an excuse to be factually incorrect, which she clearly was. A reasonable person can take the real facts and argue a cautious position, such as: people should not undertake to raise a child totally vegan unless they really understand the issues involved and are totally committed to nourishing the kid properly. Since this is quite tough, most people should not undertake to raise a kid vegan. I don’t agree with this position totally but I think it can be supported by facts. Planck’s position cannot and was not; therefore, it is not really a worthy article to go into the NYT Op-Ed page.

    Barbara, have you seen this link of Happy Healthy Vegan Kids:
    http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/realveganchildren

    I liked seeing the pictures of the happy kids.

    Comment by Alexis — May 23, 2007 #

  13. Very well said. I’m so happy to see so many articulate responses from bloggers expressing outrage at this ridiculous opinion piece.

    Comment by Jul — May 23, 2007 #

  14. [...] Barbara at Tigers and Strawberries used to be a fan of Ms. Planck, but this NYT piece is changing her mind. Read about it in her post Nina Planck Stirs the Pot; Vegans Get Steamed: Film At Eleven. Interesting to know that Planck’s next book will be about baby food. [...]

    Pingback by Blogger responses to ‘Death by Veganism’ — May 23, 2007 #

  15. I would say Plank likes a steak, and prefers her kids to have breastmilk. if it doesn’t happen that way, then she becomes scared and defensive…in her world it seems like there are no greys.

    it’s so sad…vive la difference!

    Comment by cath — May 24, 2007 #

  16. “she is stating her opinions as facts”

    It’s worse than that, I’d say. She’s stating falsehoods as her opinions. In fact, there’s very little in her article that even remotely falls into the realm of “opinion.” You might as well say that it’s your opinion that 2+2=5.

    Comment by Johanna — May 24, 2007 #

  17. My point was that her article isn’t factually incorrect, her sources are. Her statement that Canadian Health officials being cautious about soy is true, as posted above. Her reading of the sources is certainly skewed a certain way, and filtered through a glass of her opinion about it, but it is not factually incorrect as far as I can see. She never cites the ADA as source, she says health officials, as far as I know that’s government officials. The knowledgeable physician part of it is a bit more difficult to believe, hence the fact that I am saying that her sources are wrong.

    All I am seeing here is a writer trying to make a point, legitimate or not is not what I am arguing for, and reading sources her way to make that point. This sounds like any Op-Ed I ever read.

    Comment by Simon — May 24, 2007 #

  18. All I have to say is, we have parents allowing their kids to subsist on nothing but Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and McDonald’s chicken nuggets and soda and we don’t see anyone crying foul over this despite the fact that this diet (too high in fat, trans fats, and sodium and devoid of decent nutrients)is setting up this child for a lifetime of health problems. Yet, this drivel is allowed to be published by one of the most read newspapers in the land?

    What has this nation come to…

    Comment by Maggi — May 24, 2007 #

  19. Thank you, thank you thank you! I have been a vegetarian for 8 years and a vegan for a couple of months, and I was so infuriated by this article. You pointed out many of the flaws I found with it, and it is always good to hear from an omni who is nonetheless open minded to veganism and doesn’t condemn it.

    Thanks!!

    Comment by Jeani — May 24, 2007 #

  20. I’ll add an “E” to my name to distinguish myself from the original (which is to say the one who’s been reading this longer) “Alexis.” I like that there’s two of us, however.

    The apple-juice-soymilk thing made me twitch, especially as a medical student. I’m still twitching, in fact. I’m not a vegan, but I am very conscientious about which meat I put in my system (source, etc).

    I decided to go to my medical society’s resource page to see what they had to say about vegan/vegetarian diets. The answer is: not much. There are many many articles on the dangers of childhood obesity, the need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and so forth. There’s nothing stating that vegan/vegetarian diets are bad for kids. In fact, one article points out that rasperries, lemons, chocolate and carrots are decent source of calcium for children. I don’t know too many kids who eat lemons, but certainly that doesn’t sound like an anti-vegan sentiment. And these are articles by “the experts” of one of the more presitigious state medical societies in the U.S.

    My own “semi-professional” opinion is that all diets are fine if they include the necessary nutrients. It’s often more time-consuming to plan on how to get those nutrients in a vegan diet, but conscientious people do just fine. Monoculture is bad in all forms, whether you’re corporate agriculture or a “vegetarian” who eats nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches. Apple juice and soymilk? That’s just sick. That said, given that vegan diets can be difficult, I do ask my vegetarian/vegan patients a few more questions about their nutrient sources than the “meat and potatoes” crowd (though I ask that crowd more about their fruit/veggie intake), just to be safe.

    You’d think Planck, with her focus on a wide variety of food sources, would be willing to accept the the thoughtfully wide palate of an intelligent vegan/vegetarian diet. But you’re probably right – it’s likely more of a publicity stunt than an actual opinion.

    Comment by Alexis E. — May 24, 2007 #

  21. as the kids say,

    w00t.

    Comment by zan — May 24, 2007 #

  22. Thank you for your comments. You could not be more right. Maybe you should write an article for the NY too!

    Comment by Polly — May 24, 2007 #

  23. In response to those that say the article was on the “Opinion” page and thus at a lower standard.

    The Times, through publication, puts an opinion at a higher level of authority. In cases where opinions are conflicting, they usually publish opposing viewpoints. In this case, no opposing viewpoint was published, the science in the main viewpoint seems incorrect, and most readers (including this one) know nothing about the topic.

    As such, the times failed to do its job and encouraged the misinformation of hundreds of thousands of readers.

    Comment by brian — May 24, 2007 #

  24. Amen, I could not have said it better. Thank you for your accurate, truthful and excellent article in response to Nina Planck’s completely misleading and incorrect diatribe. I am a vegan and know that obviously we need to balance our diets the correct way.

    Comment by Melanie Blake — May 24, 2007 #

  25. Excellent post!

    I wrote a letter to the NY Times but it wasn’t published (I’m sure a lot of people did). I first contacted Nina directly and her reply indicated that she was really not concerned with evidence or facts. I have to conclude that she is mainly interested in publicity and selling books.

    The shame really falls on the NY Times, though, for publishing this nasty little diatribe. They should have higher standards.

    The father of two children raised as vegans – both healthy & robust!

    Comment by Randall Collura — May 24, 2007 #

  26. Thank you for your intelligent response to Nina Planck’s ignorant and offensive commentary. I think you are right. She’s trying to sell books. I hope it backfires.

    Comment by Claire Harris — May 24, 2007 #

  27. Thank you Barbara for calling Nina Planck on her irresponsible and blatantly erroneous journalism. It was clear to me and many others that the case she cited was one of parental negligence and ignorance, not the fault of the vegan diet per se. I have been a vegan for nearly 8 years and was raised vegetarian. I am in excellent health and I pay attention to eating a balanced whole foods diet and taking necessary supplements like B12 and omega-3′s. There are lots of vegans who have been raised that way since birth and are doing quite well, which is living proof that a vegan diet can be healthy for all life stages. Thanks again for helping to dispel the misconceptions Ms. Planck disseminated in her op-ed piece.

    Comment by Armaiti — May 25, 2007 #

  28. Excellent post.

    Personally, I believe that our bodies are made to be omnivorous and so what? Individuals and families are both entitled and responsible to glean what works for them.

    Breast-feeding is an excellent case in point. Whether or not to do it, for how long, etc., has to fit the family, not some arbitrary standard. Otherwise, it’s about proving oneself “cool” v. supporting one’s family in a manner appropriate to its unique context.

    I was a conscientious vegetarian for three years. My doctor at that time was a vegan and she helped me craft a careful and precise food-combining, rotating, sourcing, varying plan. Guess what? I felt like hell and watched my muscle:fat ratio move in a bad direction. Throughout the time, my doctor gently suggested that my body might not do well with a vegetarian lifestyle. I resisted. Finally, she said, “Listen. Your body does not use vegetable-based protein sources efficiently. You need to eat animal protein. Period. The end.”

    So, that’s what works for me. The best news, though, is that my vegetarian years taught me heaps about cooking, the amazing and vast array of plant foods, food combining, etc. It was also my introduction to the issues of food sourcing and processing. I look back on those years as incredibly valuable, even while eating soul-startling lamb from a local organic farm.

    Subjectivity has its place, especially when it’s aimed at oneself. :)

    Comment by Dottie — May 25, 2007 #

  29. Just wanted to pop in and join in the chorus of THANKS!

    ..and kindly point out 2 things bothering me:

    - People keep referring to the parents ‘feeding’ the child soy milk and apple juice [though at times it says applesauce, which I suppose is SLIGHTLY more food-like]. Milk (from ANY source) and juice AREN’T food. This child simply did not EAT, and that is why he is no longer around.

    - Vegan diets: Too many people make them sound like they take ‘hard work.’ It’s really not that difficult to eat a balanced meal. I think the people saying so may just be so used to the typical American diet, that they don’t know how easy it is to live a healthy lifestyle by diversifying your diet. Before I became vegetarian, I pretty much ate meat and a side dish every night. Growing up, I was never exposed to Indian Food, Ethiopian Food, Thai Food, etc. There are so many delicious and healthy ways to thrive without animal ingredients.
    I say, ‘Look into it!’
    ;)

    Comment by kelli — May 25, 2007 #

  30. I’m hardly vegan, but I think she sounds like a crank. And also totally western-centric.

    Is she even aware that many children world-wide grow up healthy and happy on a vegan or vegetarian diet? I’m not Indian, but the traditional (orthodox Hindu) Indian diet was the first thing I thought of – tasty and healthy! No one “needs” meat protein. If one likes it then great. But to suggest that it’s somehow child abuse to feed your kids vegetarian is just ignorant.

    Comment by Diane — May 25, 2007 #

  31. Just wanted to add another quick “thank you” to the pile. Well stated and it’s good to know that not non-vegans are taking as much offense to this piece as we are.

    Comment by Ryan — May 25, 2007 #

  32. Excellent response — I hope you sent it to the NY Times too!

    Comment by Corbet — May 25, 2007 #

  33. Thank you for an excellent and logical response. I appreciate your ability to analyze this in a non-biased manner.

    Comment by Michele — May 25, 2007 #

  34. Thank you.

    Comment by Daniel Hauff — May 25, 2007 #

  35. Great response, Barbara! You clearly did more research than Nina Planck.

    I do hope that you will review her next book anyway. If there are errors there, many of us will want to know about them.

    Comment by Emily — May 25, 2007 #

  36. Thanks a lot for your well thought out and reasonable response to Nina Planck’s idiocy! Like many posting here I am a vegan–we LOVE the support of our non-vegan friends!

    Comment by Canaduck — May 25, 2007 #

  37. Sent here by DawnWatch. Thank you Barbara. Planck’s op-ed had a sample size of 3, thus reflexively I couldn’t take it seriously. If Planck had data showing that vegans have a significantly higher incidence of infant mortality than the general population, that my give me pause.

    I didn’t know Planck wasn’t a nutritionist. You’d think the NYTimes would choose opinions from people who actually have education in the subject matter they’re writing about.

    Comment by Shalesh Kumbhat — May 26, 2007 #

  38. Sent here by DawnWatch. Thank you Barbara. Planck’s op-ed had a sample size of 3, thus reflexively I couldn’t take it seriously. If Planck had data showing that vegans have a significantly higher incidence of infant mortality than the general population, that might give me pause.

    I didn’t know Planck wasn’t a nutritionist. You’d think the NYTimes would choose opinions from people who actually have education in the subject matter they’re writing about.

    Comment by Shalesh Kumbhat — May 26, 2007 #

  39. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets, June 2003 (Vol. 103, Issue 6, Pages 748-765)

    It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. . . Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.

    Comment by Nathan Nobis — May 26, 2007 #

  40. hello! thanks for this, it’s a great read in these days of vegan-bashing.

    just a thought for those who commented that eating a healthful vegan diet takes extra work or is difficult: it’s all about habit. eating whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits is actually quite easy. it’s about what you’re used to eating and cooking. if eating meat, cheese or doritos, etc., is what you’re used to, anything else is a lot more work, right? as a vegan mom of a (healthy & robust, yes) vegan two year old, it would be crazy-weird for me to eat cheese or eggs or animal products. i wouldn’t know how to plan that kind of diet to be healthy for my family.
    thanks again.

    Comment by michelle — May 26, 2007 #

  41. I too, as a vegan, would like to say Thank You for your support. Very well written response.

    And I would also like to respond to kelli, who above wrote: “People keep referring to the parents ‘feeding’ the child soy milk and apple juice …. Milk (from ANY source) and juice AREN’T food. This child simply did not EAT, and that is why he is no longer around.”

    This was a six week old baby. They don’t EAT in the sense that you seem to be talking about. Infants get their nourishment exclusively from liquids for the first few months of their lives, so your statement is really sort of silly.

    Comment by Mindy — May 26, 2007 #

  42. “Things would be better if all the meat-eaters just DIED!!!”

    That was my first encounter with Veganism, spouted from an extremely vitriolic, hateful, and self-righteous vegan. While further encounters with vegans haven’t been quite that nasty, I can’t help but notice that the majority of them that I’ve had the misfortune to meet are besot with the desire to “convert” (their term) other people to veganism and demonize those people who fail to conform to their view of what is right. Their behavior not so different from that of sanctimonious fundamentalist Christians and no less insulting.

    This is to say that I don’t have a lot of pity for the vegans who have had their feelings hurt. Perhaps if there weren’t so many vegans who have told me that I am “cruel” and “destroying the planet” then I’d feel differently. Perhaps vegans could try seeing Plank’s article as “blowback” and adjust their behavior accordingly. To each her or his own, so cut out with the “selfish” and “cruel” and “destroying the planet” garbage.

    Comment by Jim — May 26, 2007 #

  43. To Jim: Did you even read Barbara’s well-thought out, rational and calm response? Speaking of vitriol…pot meet kettle. Your post has nothing cogent to say about her analysis, and is rude to boot.

    I’m a meat eater, but even I can see that in much of the world people are happily raised vegetarian. I’m sorry you as an individual have had your feelings hurt by vegans, but it dosn’t really change the fact that world-wide children are raised vegetarian with no ill effects whatsoever.

    Comment by Diane — May 26, 2007 #

  44. Thanks so much for this! It is so great to see the truth be represented, and so eloquently I might add. Thank you thank you thank you!

    -Justin

    Comment by Justin Berkheimer — May 26, 2007 #

  45. Hey Jim: Can you explain how eating meat is not cruel? I’m not being glib, but given the condition that factory-farmed animals are raised, I seriously would like to know how, unless you’re raising your own animals and somehow painlessly slaughtering them, the animal products you’re eating could not be classified as cruel.

    There are tactless, obnoxious vegans, just as there are tactless, obnoxious omnivores. The fact that some of them are rude doesn’t make what any of them say any more or less true.

    Comment by darrek — May 27, 2007 #

  46. Another thank you from another vegan mother with two alive and kicking vegan children (ages 5 and 11)!!

    Thank you to Dawnwatch for alerting me to this posting!!

    Comment by Mary Palisi Schuelke — May 27, 2007 #

  47. Another thank you from another vegan mother with two alive and kicking vegan children (ages 5 and 11)!!

    Thank you to Dawnwatch for alerting me to this posting!!

    Comment by Mary Palisi Schuelke — May 27, 2007 #

  48. Diane wrote:

    “Did you even read Barbara’s well-thought out, rational and calm response?”

    Yes, I did, and I agree with your analysis. I am providing a different point of view which I think is also valid.

    “Speaking of vitriol…pot meet kettle.”

    I don’t agree with you that I was vitriolic. Bitter, perhaps, but not vitriolic.

    “Your post has nothing cogent to say about her analysis, and is rude to boot.”

    If it was rude, it was rude to vegans who either wish death upon all meat-eaters or have some sympathy with that position. I think it’s acceptable to be rude to people who extrapolate their limited diet into genocidal cravings. And, I repeat, I am providing a different point of view. I agree with the original analysis and don’t have a comment on it.

    “I’m sorry you as an individual have had your feelings hurt by vegans,”

    Thank you, that’s really want I want to hear. Unfortunately, I wanted to hear it from vegans, not omnivores.

    “it dosn’t really change the fact that world-wide children are raised vegetarian with no ill effects whatsoever.”

    I do not dispute that.

    Comment by Jim — May 28, 2007 #

  49. Darrek wrote:

    “Can you explain how eating meat is not cruel?”

    Yes. This is going to be very long because it is a very important issue, and I will explore it fully.

    I understand “cruelty” as “taking pleasure in causing pain or death in another living thing.” Cruelty is grossly immoral and that is why I take great exception to someone calling me “cruel” simply because I use things that affect an animal in some way. (I’m being honest about what the vegan position is in regards to using “animal products”.)

    Consider a person who grows several tomato plants and then takes great pleasure in using Roundup on these plants and watching them die. He comes to work and tells you in detail about how they withered and how awesome that was, and that he can’t wait to do it all again next year, but with even more plants.

    Wouldn’t he be creepy and disgusting for expressing those desires? This is because what he is doing is cruelty, and this is despite the fact that “plants don’t feel pain”. The reason cruelty is wrong is because of the danger that his cruel desires will graduate up to causing suffering and death in human beings. This is the one and only position on which PeTA and I agree: people who are cruel to animals often become cruel to human beings. And I’m using my understanding of “cruel”, not yours and certainly not PeTA’s.

    In other words, cruelty is wrong becuase it endangers human beings, not because plants or animals have rights. And plants and animals certainly do NOT have rights.

    “But what about the man who works in a slaughterhouse, ripping up animals every day?” He may very well be cruel, and that would certainly be disgusting. He may also be *numb* to the job, which is not disgusting. Being numb to something excludes the possibility of taking pleasure in it. And there are plenty of disgusting jobs to do. For instance, have you ever considered who does the laundry service for hospitals? There are many large laundromats which provide this service, and, thankfully, these are laundromats that people like you and I will never have to see even though we will likely benefit from them. (Such is the fruit of living the privileged life that you and I live: we are largely shielded from the disgusting things that we depend on.) These laundry services wash the linens and the clothes that are splattered with everything that you can imagine going on in a hospital. These linens and cloths have to be cleaned! Would you prefer that the people who perform this unenviable job enjoy it or are numb to it? Would you prefer that the people who do the unenviable job of working in a slaughterhouse enjoy it or are numb to it?

    This is where you say, “I would prefer that they not work in a slaugherhouse at all!” I apologize to you, but there is no way at all for you to live without harming some other living thing. Being vegan simply doesn’t cut it. Millions of animals die horrible deaths every year in harvesting equipment that is used to gather the food eaten by vegans. You can claim, “A vegan diet harms less animals,” but the whole purpose to become vegan is allegedly becase you “care” about animals! In terms of mutiliating animals, the difference between an omnivorous diet and a vegan diet is merely a difference in degree.

    That is, unless, an individual chooses to plant their own crops and harvest them by hand. That would truly avoid harming anmals providied that no insects are stepped on. “That’s impractical!” you say? I have the same criticism of the diet that vegans try to guilt me with.

    The “cruel” argument is the strongest argument that vegans have. In order for it to work on me, you’ll have to get me to change my understanding of “cruelty”, and that’s going to require you to change my value system. Good luck with that!

    Darrek wrote:

    “There are tactless, obnoxious vegans, just as there are tactless, obnoxious omnivores. The fact that some of them are rude doesn’t make what any of them say any more or less true.”

    I see a world of difference between “I don’t have a lot of pity for the vegans” and “Things would be better if all the meat-eaters just DIED!!!” Sure, both of them can be “rude”. The former would be rude because it is callous whereas the latter is rude because it is an expression of desire for the mass death of human beings. It goes beyond rude. It is evil. Do you think things would be better if all the meat-eaters just died? I ask because you seem less bothered by the statement made by that horrible vegan than you are by the fact that I objected to it.

    Comment by Jim — May 28, 2007 #

  50. Jim, I am a vegan and I am sorry you have had such negative experiences with vegetarians/vegans. It is always unfortunate for obnoxious, rude, bitter people of any class to set an stereotype. Not all veg*ns are mean and insensitive like those you’ve encountered. You’ve actually probably run across many veg*ns who are not “up in people’s faces” about it and just didn’t realize they were veg*ns (vegans/vegeatians).

    Comment by flamefightress — May 28, 2007 #

  51. Flamefightress,

    Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your apology even though you are probably the last person who would need to apologize. I also realize that there are plenty of omnivores who never pass up an opportunity to take cheap shots at veg*ns for their choice of lifestyle. While I feel that omnivorous diets are the “default” for most everyone in my culture and thus not really much of a choice, I do feel sad that you are treated badly on behalf of other omnivores. We all would do better to put aside our differences and learn to accept each other.

    Comment by Jim — May 28, 2007 #

  52. Jim says “The “cruel” argument is the strongest argument that vegans have. In order for it to work on me, you’ll have to get me to change my understanding of “cruelty”,”

    You could start by looking the word up in a dictionary. Both the ones on my desk define “cruel” simply as “causing pain or suffering” (or something like that), with no mention of taking pleasure in another’s pain. You may be confusing “cruel” with “sadistic” or “malicious”.

    The slaughterhouse is actually not the worst part of it. Do you know what the lives of most farm animals are actually like? Most egg-laying hens are packed into cages so tightly that they can barely move. Rights or no rights, malice or no malice, I’d say that those hens are suffering, and that causing that suffering is cruel.

    I, too, am sorry that you’ve had some bad experiences with vegans. Unfortunately, some people are vegan not because they love animals, but because they hate people. Equally unfortunately, they tend to be more vocal than the rest of us. Please believe me when I say that they are but a small minority of vegans. It really saddens me to see thoughtful and intelligent people who have their thoughts clouded on this issue because of a few encounters with a few jerks.

    Comment by Johanna — May 29, 2007 #

  53. Jim: Thanks for the response. I’m sorry my post was a bit short, and not so polite itself. I understand your points. Extremism of any kind is often very unattractive, and certaily doesn’t gain many converts to one’s point of view!

    Comment by Diane — May 29, 2007 #

  54. Johanna wrote:

    “You could start by looking the word up in a dictionary. Both the ones on my desk define ‘cruel’ simply as ‘causing pain or suffering’”

    The dictionary reports on how words are used by many people. It does not enforce how words are to be used on people. If it did, then how could definitions ever change? This is to say that if the dictionary defines a word according to other people’s values, then why should my own values change? The dictionary is not an arbiter of capital-T Truth; rather, it is merely a reflection on how words are used. The dictionary has a definition for “cruel” that does not fit in with my values, so I reject it and make sure you understand what I’m talking about when I use the word “cruel”. If you claim that I am cruel, then what I hear is that you regard me as a menace to other humans and that I should be put in jail — it’s an act of questioning my right to liberty or even my right to life. As you might imagine, it’s not a charge that I take lightly.

    Johanna writes:

    “You may be confusing ‘cruel’ with ‘sadistic’ or ‘malicious’.”

    I think those words are synonyms for each other.

    Johanna writes:

    “The slaughterhouse is actually not the worst part of it. Do you know what the lives of most farm animals are actually like? Most egg-laying hens are packed into cages so tightly that they can barely move. Rights or no rights, malice or no malice, I’d say that those hens are suffering, and that causing that suffering is cruel.”

    Johanna, I have seen “Meet your Meat” and found it disgusting. But why did I find it disgusting? Because I was looking into the workings of a gross job. Do you want to watch “Meet your Local Sewage Treatment Facility”? This is to say that additional gross-out stories do not affect me because animals have no rights. Naturally I don’t enjoy watching suffering, but any act to combat such a thing would be only to assuage my own subjective feelings, not out of any respect for nonexistant animal rights.

    I have to point out here that one of the reasons that “Meet your Meat” is so shocking is because our cultural move from the country to the city has separated us from livestock and slaughter. An “animal rights” movement would have been ridiculous in 1800, since the majority of Americans would have been acquainted with slaughter to some degree. Hence, they would have been numb to it. Since we’re so divorced from it now, we’re no longer numb, and that makes it seem shocking to us.

    Johanna writes:

    “I, too, am sorry that you’ve had some bad experiences with vegans. Unfortunately, some people are vegan not because they love animals, but because they hate people. Equally unfortunately, they tend to be more vocal than the rest of us. Please believe me when I say that they are but a small minority of vegans.”

    I want to believe you, and I have no way of disproving what you claim. In fact, I may very well be running into vegans all day long who believe in “live and let live” and wish me no ill will because I do not ascribe to their vision of what is right. Vegans like you, in other words. And I know exactly what you’re talking about when the jerks of your movement speak louder than you and tar you with an image that is undeserved. I’m a gay man, and I am disgusted and ashamed of what some gay people do at Gay Pride parades (“The parade where every niche fetish gets its own float!”). Those people don’t represent me, but they get the T.V. time anyway. So it seems that we have something in common.

    And I thank you for your response, even though we likely won’t agree on the definition of “cruelty”. If you will accept that we use different definitions because we have different values then I think we have a good chance of putting aside our differences and finding common ground.

    Comment by Jim — May 29, 2007 #

  55. Back to the original post, I’d just like to add:

    pwned!

    Great response.

    Comment by Marleigh — May 29, 2007 #

  56. I’m not very surprised that the American Dietetic Association recommends a vegetarian/vegan diet supplemented with fortified foods, since it receives funding from organizations such as ConAgra, Monsanto, Proctor and Gamble, and American Soy Products.

    Although many vegans can probably get by with fortified foods, it’s worth noting that soy milk and vegan supplements use the inferior D2, ergocalciferol, which according to vitamin D researchers is no longer considered suitable for supplementation or fortification.

    There are so many new things being discovered about nutrition, I’m extremely wary of relying on supplements and fortification of any kind. Today omega-3 fatty acids are all the rage, and people think they can just pop fish oil pills and be done with it. But that is NOT the equivalent of eating fish from pristine waters like our ancestors did.

    Food is our best source of nutrients, and there are things in animal foods that you just can’t get from plant ones.

    Comment by chicharronita — May 30, 2007 #

  57. Thank you. That it takes an omnivore to defend the eating habits of vegans is truly delightful. Well done.

    Comment by Linda Jean — June 2, 2007 #

  58. Thank you. That it takes an omnivore to defend the eating habits of vegans is truly delightful. Well done.

    Comment by Linda Jean — June 2, 2007 #

  59. Hello Barbara!

    Thank you so much for your well thought out comments regarding Nina Planck’s vegan bashing. It’s good to see individuals rally for the facts over opinion and sensationalism.

    My youngest brother was not born a healthy child. He was very allergic to cow’s milk and even my mother’s breastmilk so HAD to be fed soymilk (Soylac, I think it was), in addition to other foods, of course. In the end, he was as healthy as the rest of us growing up. My daughter and I, without really intending to, have “evolved” into vegans. We are not vegan nazis, another label we’re hearing, and we make a point of not offending those who aren’t vegan. We are both very healthy and have as much energy as anyone else. We are as boisterous and happy as before we became vegans. Also, depsite stories that vegans are all too thin, we are far from. We could even take off a few pounds, since I’ve figured out how to make many “I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan” versions of most all of our favorite baked goodies.

    One last thing. Perhaps, we’re seeing this increase in negative media (in fast food commercials, local news, etc) regarding vegetarians and vegans because the meat, dairy and other industries are fearful. We’re making an impact – many of us not even intending or caring to. People are switching over to vegetarian and (who would ever have thought it) vegan diets more and more. I’m not saying that vegetarianism/veganism is some great truth, but a saying seems to fit here:
    “All truth passes through three stages.
    First, it is ridiculed.
    Second, it is violently opposed.
    Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” -Arthur Schopenhauer(1788 – 1860)

    Thank you again! –Angela

    Comment by Angela — June 3, 2007 #

  60. Hello Jim,

    You may not be visiting this site anymore, but I think I will comment on some points you made regarding cruelty, animal rights, etc. Long before I became vegan, I killed and gutted animals for food and I did not (do not) think of myself as being cruel. I was getting food and you’re right I was somewhat “numb” to it. Although, I’ve always had the knowledge in the back of my mind that the animal felt pain when I killed it, I thought that’s just how it is and it’s part of what we do to survive. Harming something for pleasure is, to most of us, obviously evil. However, harming something because it’s your job and you’re numb to it or because you feel it’s a necessity doesn’t make it any less painful or violent for the creature. That’s all there is to it. It just doesn’t matter how we go on about the definition of the word “cruelty,” when you kick the dog, or cut, bash, or shoot an animal, it’s gonna hurt and, I’m guessing, no less than it hurts for us. When you quote that “Millions of animals die horrible deaths every year in harvesting equipment that is used to gather the food eaten by vegans,” that isn’t a “So there!” argument. I’m thinking “Wow, I’m glad he brought that to our attention. That means we need to find ways to create/use equipment so that we aren’t causing millions of animals to die horrible deaths,” just like we had to start implementing workplace regulations to keep so many employees from being maimed or killed as a result of terrible work conditions.

    You imply that because something seems impractical (ie, the comparison: vegan diets like trying not to step on bugs – which my daughter tries not to do, by the way), one should not bother with it. Many of us would still be in oppressed states and still are because of this thinking. For a long time many people were numb to public and legally officiated lynchings of blacks, beating up of wives, child beating/labor, beating up of gays, and on and on. Thoughts of the “impracticality” or “silliness” of implementing human rights for these individuals were similar to yours on animal rights when you say, “In other words, cruelty is wrong becuase it endangers human beings, not because plants or animals have rights. And plants and animals certainly do NOT have rights.” We could rewrite that statement to read, “In other words, cruelty is wrong becuase it endangers [whites/straight people/adults/men], not because [minorities/gays/children/women] have rights. And [minorities/gays/children/women] certainly do NOT have rights.” The latter part of that statement was actually the case for far too long in this country – and unfortunately is still the case with gays, a relatively “new human rights issue.” Most all of these individuals were considered property to deal with in any way the dominant individuals wished. This is exactly how many of us view animals, domesticated or wild.

    Yes, anything can get extreme, but I don’t think concern for the welfare of animals is extreme. Just like the people I mention above, because an animal doesn’t have a voice, doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain when acted against violently and doesn’t mean it’s okay to act violently against them – again, regardless of how one decides to define the word cruelty. We have the responsibility to be voices for them.

    The actual issue here seems to be the fact that you don’t think animals have rights and, in grouping them with plants, that you don’t think they feel pain, so not conferring to them the right of humane treatment is okay…?

    Coupling the idea that we don’t actually need animal flesh to survive, with the fact that animals feel pain was something for me to think about. I understand that like you say, most of us eat the way we do, including meat, by default of our culture, and that’s just how it is; so this isn’t meant to be a guilt trip – just some food for thought.

    Take care,
    Angela

    Comment by Angela — June 3, 2007 #

  61. chicharronita says: “Although many vegans can probably get by with fortified foods, it’s worth noting that soy milk and vegan supplements use the inferior D2, ergocalciferol, which according to vitamin D researchers is no longer considered suitable for supplementation or fortification.”

    Do you have a reference for this? All the literature I’ve looked at on the subject makes it very clear that D2 *is* suitable and effective as a supplement – you just need a different dose in order to have the same effect.

    chicharronita says: “Food is our best source of nutrients, and there are things in animal foods that you just can’t get from plant ones.”

    True. Which “things” in particular did you have in mind? Cholesterol? Preformed vitamin A, which (unlike beta-carotene) is toxic in high doses?

    You may be thinking of vitamin B12, a necessary nutrient that is indeed not present in plant foods. But all vitamin B12 comes from bacteria, and those bacteria produce vitamin B12 just as easily whether they live in an animal or in a petri dish. They used to live in the water supply too, until people started chlorinating it. Which is just fine with me, by the way. I’d rather take a B12 supplement than get cholera. Taking a B12 supplement isn’t a bad idea for non-vegans, either – and is in fact recommended for everyone over the age of about 50, I believe.

    Anyway, that’s the only “thing” that I’m aware of whose absence from a vegan diet needs attention. If you can tell me of any others I am missing, I would be most grateful.

    Comment by Johanna — June 4, 2007 #

  62. Angela,

    Yes, I am still reading this site, and I appreciate your comments. Keep in mind that I tolerate vegans but I am a bitter enemy of the misanthropic ideology of veganism. If you choose to continue to proselytize to me, then I warn you that I will not show veganism any respect. If you think this is disrespectful of you, then it would be better for you to not proselytize to me and instead practice some “live and let live”.

    Your argument for veganism is framed in such a way to imply that my argument against veganism is ethically similiar to arguments which were used against other humans. This is not valid is because humans have the rights to life, liberty, and property whereas animals do not. The fact that blacks used to be lynched and people were numb to it does not mean that the lynching was moral because an individual’s right to life was violated. I see lynching, veganism, and all ethical issues through the lens of my own values which upholds individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property, so it is illogical to assume that I would support or condone the lynching of blacks simply because animals feel pain. By the way, I am a gay man, so please refrain from wielding the victim status that I eschew as an rhetorical plank against me.

    To write, “harming something because it’s your job and you’re numb to it or because you feel it’s a necessity doesn’t make it any less painful or violent for the creature” is assuming the point in dispute (namely, the alleged “animal rights”). Your argument for “animal rights” relies heavily on the vegan plank which states that “animals feel pain, so animals have rights”. You also seem to believe that I don’t think animals have rights because I somehow don’t think that animals feel pain. Of course animals feel pain. So what? I don’t derive individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property from the fact that humans feel pain; otherwise, it would be morally acceptable to torture an unconscious person! This is why the “animals feel pain, so animals have rights” is a non-sequitur to me. In order for you to gain any ground with me using that argument, you will have to philosophically justify how the capacity to feel pain implies rights. Most vegans that I’ve encountered aren’t adept in logic and philosophy, but maybe you’ll prove to be a surprising exception. Make sure you also explain the inverse and contrapositive to “If A feels pain, then A has rights”. (And you should also see now why it *does* matter that we are specific about the definition of “cruelty”, because a vegan typically runs to “You don’t support cruelty, do you?” at this point.)

    I am glad that you acknowledge that millions of animals die painful deaths in the harvesting of the “vegan” food that sustains your life. Obviously you *do* need animal flesh to survive, though you also seem pretty numb to this reality. This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip — just some food for thought.

    Jim

    Comment by Jim — June 7, 2007 #

  63. “All I have to say is, we have parents allowing their kids to subsist on nothing but Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and McDonald’s chicken nuggets and soda and we don’t see anyone crying foul over this”. I beg to differ. People “cry foul” about this every DAY, all day, ad nauseum. I used to be a vegetarian, never a vegan, and I have to say I was never so defensive about it. The woman has an opinion, it differs from that of a lot of other people. A well-thought-out rebuttal letter to the Editor would be a good response. The funny thing is, that column and all the hoopla after that led me to Planck’s web site and book and for that I am grateful. LOVE the book, she in fact is very wise about food.

    Comment by Anna — June 25, 2007 #

  64. “The slaughterhouse is actually not the worst part of it. Do you know what the lives of most farm animals are actually like? Most egg-laying hens are packed into cages so tightly that they can barely move. Rights or no rights, malice or no malice, I’d say that those hens are suffering, and that causing that suffering is cruel.”. You are absolutey right about the practices in INDUSTRIAL poultry farms. But it is easy- yes, EASY- check your local farmer’s market, to vote with your dollars and purchase cruelty-free eggs that are produced by pastured hens, meat and milk from grass-fed cows. If more of us omnivores did that, demand would push supply.

    Comment by Anna — June 25, 2007 #

  65. “The slaughterhouse is actually not the worst part of it. Do you know what the lives of most farm animals are actually like? Most egg-laying hens are packed into cages so tightly that they can barely move. Rights or no rights, malice or no malice, I’d say that those hens are suffering, and that causing that suffering is cruel.”. You are absolutey right about the practices in INDUSTRIAL poultry farms. But it is easy- yes, EASY- check your local farmer’s market, to vote with your dollars and purchase cruelty-free eggs that are produced by pastured hens, meat and milk from grass-fed cows. If more of us omnivores did that, demand would push supply.

    Comment by Anna — June 25, 2007 #

  66. Anna, you raise a good point about alternatives to industrial animal agriculture, but I’m not sure it’s accurate to categorize many of them as “cruelty free.” Nice-sounding labels like “free-range” and “organic” and “grass-fed” don’t always mean as much as we like to think they mean. And since even the farmers at farmers’ markets have to make money, they still have the financial incentive to cut corners at the expense of animal welfare if it comes to that.

    Personally, I’d only feel comfortable eating meat, dairy, or eggs if (1) I raised the animals myself, (2) they were raised by someone I knew well and trusted to provide for the animals’ well-being, or (3) I visited the farm in person and was able to see the animals at every stage of their lives. Since none of those options is practical for me (I live in a city and don’t drive), and since I’m healthy and happy eating a vegan diet, I choose to avoid animal products as much as possible.

    Comment by Johanna — July 11, 2007 #

  67. I just wanted to say that adopting what the American Dietetic Association says is acceptable for feeding infants makes no sense if you acknowledge that their whole philosophy is based on the industrial-food system that Planck, and others, so vigorously object to. As I read it, Planck’s editorial relies on the same buttressing of fact and philosophy that her whole position on food– i.e. real food vs. industrial food– derives from. For the record, no traditional peoples are or ever were vegan, and children have, as far as the best anthropological evidence goes, always been fed nutrient-dense, high-fat, high-protein foods especially. I’m sorry, but anything that’s vegan cannot live up to these standards– sure, a vegan diet could, if it were heavily fortified, be “acceptable” in the ADA sense of that word, but it is certainly not optimal.
    I agree Nina should be able to provide her sources, but let’s remember it was an op-ed piece and when was the last time you saw an editorial with a works cited page?

    Comment by Chris — August 8, 2007 #

  68. “Heavily fortified,” with what, exactly? Certainly, any vegan who knows the first thing about nutrition will freely acknowledge that a vegan diet must be supplemented with a few micrograms of vitamin B12 – I talked about that in an earlier post – but that’s not “heavily fortified.”

    You know, it used to be that vegetarian-fearing omnivores would ask “Where do you get your protein?” Maybe they realized that there’s actually a pretty straightforward answer to that question (beans, grains, nuts, and vegetables all have plenty of protein in them – basically, if you’re getting enough food, you’re getting enough protein), because now we get comments like “There are things in animal foods that you just can’t get in plant ones” and “Your vegan diet needs to be heavily fortified to make up for the absence of nutrient-dense animal foods.” If you can tell me which nutrients you mean, I can tell you where I get them.

    Comment by Johanna — August 9, 2007 #

  69. Okay, so to start with, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, which are vital for the optimal health of the nervous system and found only in certain fish. Also, pre-formed fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which are also required for optimal health, especially bone development, and not found in plants, except in precursor form in the case of vitamin A. Also, the so-called Price Factor, which may well be the recently classified vitamin D3, is only found in animal foods.

    There are other aspects of the diet to consider as well, such as how a person that does not thrive with a lot of carbohydrates would fare on vegan fare, which is pretty much de facto a high-carb diet. And also, while you can get complete protein through food combinations, the benchmark high-quality proteins are still all in animal foods.

    Again, to reiterate, you will not find a traditional group of people who have a vegan diet, and in the anthropological surveys there is a clear trend for the populations that depend mainly on plant-foods to have markedly lower health than those with ample animal foods.

    Humans are omnivores, and my point is that is the diet we do best on, in general, and especially so for children, whose bodies are most sensitive to what they’re supposed to be getting. Now, I’m not saying that omnivores are ipso facto healthier than vegans in our society, because I have no doubt that a conscientiously prepared vegan diet will trump the hell out of the fast-food-ified typical american diet, I’m just saying that it’s not optimal, particularly for children.

    Comment by Chris — August 10, 2007 #

  70. >>Anna, you raise a good point about alternatives to industrial animal agriculture, but I’m not sure it’s accurate to categorize many of them as “cruelty free.”

    That’s quite true. Organic dairy farming can result in surprisingly cruel circumstances. My ex brother in law has been an organic dairy farmer for over 10 years. Organic means no hormones, antibiotics, etc… good right? Not if a cow gets an udder infection. Said cow cannot be giving medicine to treat the infection. These are usually not life threatening, so they let the infection run its course and have to “milk out” the resulting pus. Very painful for the animal.

    Of course, they can also quarantine the animal, treat the infection, and then sell the “antibiotic spoiled” cow to a non-organic farmer, but it’s a loss to the organic farmer and not practical for someone with a small herd.

    “Organic” food is not all the sunshine and roses some people would like to think….

    >>>>Okay, so to start with, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, which are vital for the optimal health of the nervous system and found only in certain fish.

    My mother should be dead, then. She’s allergic to all seafood and hasn’t eaten a fish (and certainly not “certain fish” that are the only ones with DHA and EPA) in over 35 years. She doesn’t take supplements, either. Crap, I’d better call her!!!

    All of that “food combining” garbage about how you have to make sure you eat the right kind of grain WITH your beans to get a “complete protein” is just that – utter garbage. I’m not a nutrition expert, I’ve only dabbled in this kind of information because I’m interested in eating a more veggie based diet, and even I know that. Spend 10 minutes looking it up. As long as your diet is balanced long term (over a few days to a week) with a variety of protein sources, you’re fine. You don’t need to balance each individual meal, each single bite of food. And the typical American “meat is the center of the meal” diet contains MORE protein than humans need. Pretty sure I learned THAT in the sixth grade…

    Comment by Keight — August 31, 2007 #

  71. tsk tsk Poor Ms. Planck. She must be so angry because of all that meat. I hear it’s bad for the hormones.

    Comment by Monica — September 14, 2007 #

  72. Barbara,

    I just wanted to say that it troubles me deeply to hear that Nina Planck is writing a book on baby food. I visited her blog where she advocates feeding infant and children “raw milk” (as in unpasteurized cows milk). The risk of disease transmission from unpasteurized milk is so high that is illegal in all states. The FDA notes that children are particularly at risk. While I advocate dietary tolerance, please people, do not serve your children “raw milk”.

    Comment by Michelle — November 29, 2007 #

  73. Sorry Michelle, but the consumption of raw milk is not illegal AT ALL. If you own your own dairy cow, you can do whatever you want with the milk–including consuming it raw. It is however, illegal in MOST states (but NOT all states) to sell raw milk. In California, it is legal to sell raw milk in grocery stores, and in many states, you can get raw milk by partcipating in a cow share program.

    Also, you really need to become familiar with the history behind the banning of the sale of raw milk. It’s not as cut and dried as you think. As long as you are running a sanitary and healthy dairy farm, and the milk is being tested daily, the risk of infection is about the same as eating raw oysters or eating raw fish. Sorry–but I’ll never give up sushi.

    This means that raw milk, along with raw oysters and fish, is probably not suitable for children under the age of 2.

    Of course, both of my maternal grandparents, my mother, and all her siblings were raised on raw milk (my grandparents owned their own farm for about 20 years), so there ya go.

    Comment by Roxanne — December 29, 2007 #

  74. I concur with Roxanne–that a clean raw milk dairy is as good as pasteurized milk. My Mom and uncles grew up on fresh, raw cows milk and were quite healthy.

    One of the reasons for banning the sale of unpasteurized milk had to do with the fact that unscrupulous milk sellers would adulterate their milk with other substances.

    Comment by Barbara — December 30, 2007 #

  75. Wait a minute. The baby in question was born 3 months premature? No wonder he couldn’t breast feed properly! If the child were Canadian, he could have been taken for free medical care anywhere. But unfortunately, he was American. So his parents wouldn’t have been able to afford care the care he needed. Maybe he died of our medical system, as much as neglect by his parents.

    Comment by Laurie — March 10, 2008 #

  76. Wow, I just google Nina Planck and look what I found. . .some thoughtful discussions of various diets, some ethic discussions, and some passionate people so concerned about cruelty that they don’t realize that words can be crueler than anything else (at least to humans). All in all, a great discussion. I have one question, however, why is it that vegans who call meat eating cruel never qualify their opinions by exempting Kosher meat? And why do my fellow ominivores never seem to mention it either? Can it be that so many Americans are unaware that the Old Testament and the corresponding Kosher laws forbid cruelty to animals? That’s why animals intended for kosher standards have to be slaughtered by specialy trained specialists. They are treated well and kept calm and are killed so quickly that their brains don’t have time to react to their own deaths. I am not Jewish and I don’t eat strictly kosher meat, but a milk allergy has given me the opportunity to learn quite a bit about Kosher laws. If I was concerned about cruelty to animals and the hormones and other evils of the modern meat market, I’d simply eat kosher.

    Comment by Pauline — October 14, 2009 #

  77. It’s me again. I wanted to comment on the raw milk thread. In Ohio, it is only illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption. I found this out when I purchased some raw goat’s milk clearly labeled “not for human consumption.” As the vendor said, “What you do with it when you leave the store is your business.”

    Comment by Pauline — October 14, 2009 #

  78. I think most of the posters are way too hard on Nina Planck, who has produced a book (2 now) to help turn the tide of ignorance and brainwashing our culture is drowning under and yes in the name of the “science” we have been force fed for decades. I cannot believe people are citing, for example, FDA pronouncements about raw milk- yes the people who gave us aspartame, to name just one out of hundreds of toxic additives. A lot of you just don’t “get it” yet- check back 5-10 years from you, maybe you will.

    Comment by Marin — January 10, 2010 #

  79. And friends get Your facts straight- the Indians/Hindus have dairy in their diet, usually raw or cultured. Not vegan. As a practitioner most of the vegans I see are struggling with their health, while trying to convince themselves they are “healthy” (having lost sight of just what that is- it does include emotional and mental states and neurosis). The issue here is UNTAINTED “real” food vs commercial industrial food, anyway. Stop picking on Nina and get educated by reading Nourishing Traditions, Gut and Psychology syndrome, and other books and studies along these lines.

    Comment by Marin — January 10, 2010 #

  80. “As a practitioner most of the vegans I see are struggling with their health, while trying to convince themselves they are “healthy””

    Practitioner of what? I’ve been vegan for the past ten years, and have had a yearly physical which I pass with flying colours (yes, including B12). Tons of vegans out there. They don’t live any shorter, weirdly enough. It’s interesting that there’s always an anti-vegan who knows a lot of vegans who are ‘struggling.’ It never fails.

    I am unimpressed that you choose to associate yourself with a person who wrote a bunch of mumbo-jumbo a while ago, masquerading it as fact. That would make me very suspicious of whatever you are, frankly, peddling.

    Comment by Dean — April 9, 2010 #

  81. I know this is a bit late but as a vegan I was outraged that these people (who may have been mentally ill or intellectually subnormal judging by information released about the case) were typecast as the normal vegan parents by a lot of ill-informed people. The author of the article discussed certainly did not help in this matter. Thank you for this post :)

    Comment by Jessamine — January 24, 2011 #

  82. [...] lauded Nina Planck’s book last year, but she has turned me back into a regular reader with this articulate rebuttal of the NY Times [...]

    Pingback by Spicy Grapefruit Coleslaw | recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen — May 31, 2011 #

  83. I began my mothering journey as a vegetarian and many of my peers were vegan. We were told by many physicians that we were “dream” patients because of our low-fat diets. We breastfed for an extended time period and believed that the vegetarian diet was progressive and good for the earth. As I look around now at my peers, many of those who were vegan have chronic health problems and have begun to eat traditionally to repair their bodies. Their children, after weaning, began to have health issues (bone density, falling short on the growth charts, attention issues). Soy is a very dangerous food. Every endocrinologist I saw while going through my own health crisis, told me that thyroid disease and other thyroid dysfunctions can be triggered by soy. Fermented, organic soy, that has been traditionally eaten in Asian countries is a far cry from the soy products in the states. My friends from India, who were raised vegan, tell me about the anemia and thyroid problems among Indian women. We need good fats to support our endocrine and immune systems. Humanely, lovingly raised animals have been an important part of human history and eating. We can sometimes forget that we are just as much a part of the cycle of life as all other animals. With humility, I learned to eat meat again and embrace the ways of my grandmothers. After my full circle journey, I can say that I appreciate the work of Nina Planck. It’s not always popular to point out uncomfortable truths. I do agree that the vegan diet was not the heart of the problem with the cited case, but maybe the uncomfortable op-ed will spur better discussion about nutrition and the importance of fats and grass-fed, organic meat sources.

    Comment by Sheryl — June 5, 2011 #

  84. [...] Non-Vegan Response to “Death By Veganism”Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries gives one of the better responses to Nina Plank’s “Death By Veganism” op-ed.As a side note, one of the things that [...]

    Pingback by A Non-Vegan Response to “Death By Veganism” | Accidental Hedonist — May 3, 2012 #

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