Where to start? Well, several others, including SuperVegan and James McWilliams, have already begun the conversation with excellent commentaries. In case you have been really busy lately and haven’t been able to get online, Mark Bittman is a food writer who has caused a firestorm in the vegan community with his new book “VB6″ (Vegan Before Six), which advocates a reduced meat vegan-style (I refuse to call it vegan) diet during the day as a way to lose weight and improve health. He has been doing quite a few interviews lately and it appears his own words have come back to bite him (oh the irony).

One of the primary things that has (rightly so) really torqued off the vegan community is his colossal misuse of the term vegan. He could have used the term veggie-style, or vegetable based, or reduced-meat, or any number of other terms to describe his new diet and made the same points about how healthy a plant based diet really is. Instead, he usurped a term that has a deep meaning for the people who follow the lifestyle with heart and soul. Vegans do not just avoid eating any products that came from animals, unless they are vegan in diet only (usually for health reasons). But vegans, true to the core vegans, will live a life that tries in every way possible to avoid being part of the economic and cultural machinery that exploits, tortures, and kills billions of sentient beings. Vegans, of course, do not consume food products that came from animals. But we also do not wear the skin of other beings or products that were manufactured using them. We do not buy personal care products or household cleaners that were tested on defenseless, captive, suffering creatures. We do not contribute to charities that do their so-called research by torturing and killing animals. And so on. It is not just a diet, although for the health conscious, it can be (President Bill Clinton is an example). So for Mr. Bittman to casually refer to himself as a vegan during the day is insulting and infuriating to many of us who live it 24/7/365.

The other major flaw in Mr. Bittman’s philosophy is that while he tries to justify his continuance of eating animals, he highlights just about every major reason not to. He readily acknowledges the suffering that goes on in producing food for humans that involves killing animals and then goes on to say that since humans still enjoy eating them, it’s ok–sometimes (does he think he should get to be the arbiter of how often that is?) In his own words, “We produce most animal products in deplorable conditions, and some of our health and environmental problems can be traced both to dominant production methods and our overconsumption.” And then immediately says “But we like to eat them…” He believes that this strategy of eating vegan-like some of the time “…can move us toward better health.” It is in this last point that he once again shows his true colors on this issue – it’s all about HIM. HE likes to eat animals, so therefore everyone should be able to, even though the suffering of sentient creatures is immeasurable and the environmental toll devastating. Even his choice not to eat animals some of the time is for his OWN benefit.

Finally, Bittman describes three scenarios where true veganism would be appropriate in his opinion – one of them is “…the emerging dominance of a morality that asserts that we have no right to “exploit” our fellow animals for our own benefit.” He closes that train of thought with “All seem unlikely.” Really?? So humans are NOT currently exploiting other creatures? What a relief that will be to the billions of land animals (and even more sea creatures) who are confined, tortured, skinned, dismembered (in many cases while still conscious) and slaughtered so he can have a burger after 6 pm. He clearly needs a new dictionary – According to Merriam Webster, to exploit is “to make use of meanly or unfairly for one’s own advantage.” Can Mr. Bittman explain how the mass-scale captivity, torture, and death of animals so that he can enjoy his dinner is NOT exploitation? I’d like to see him try. Oh, that’s right he did – and made a great case for veganism in the process.

Source article from the New York Times
photo: Jon Sullivan via Public-domain-photos.dom

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