I’ll be honest: I’ve always considered the vegan diet insane. It just seems like a recipe for starvation. If you want proof of just how extreme–and dangerous–the diet can be, read the article by Robert Christgau, “Beth Ann and Macrobioticism,” about a macrobiotic woman who died of malnutrition, with carrot juice dribbling from the corner of her mouth. I know I could never subsist solely on roots, nuts and berries. As I’ve said somewhat facetiously before, Give me Oreos or give me death.
That being said, I realize the vegan diet can be extremely salubrious, and I admire individuals like Dr. John Halamka who practice it sensibly. That’s why I try to reserve my judgmental comments for the diet itself and not the people who’ve made it their lifestyle. I’m sure many a vegan would criticize my diet of Pop Tarts, hamburgers, chicken fingers and donuts, and for good reason. What can I say? I love processed foods.
But I’m going to be thinking twice about consuming processed foods and meat, thanks to commentary I heard yesterday on on NPR’s Marketplace. Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, gave the best argument yet for the vegan diet. What made his argument so effective in my mind was that it was grounded in economics rather than emotion. Professor Singer linked the global food crisis and rising food costs to the increase in meat consumption around the world.
What’s wrong with eating more meat, and what affect does it have on food prices? According to Singer, more people eating meat means more of the corn that we grow for food ends up fattening livestock as opposed to to being produced for human consumption. He writes:
..most corn isn’t eaten by humans; it’s eaten by animals and that’s the biggest part of the problem. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 756 million tons of grain plus most of the world’s soybean crop are fed to animals…
When we use animals to convert grain and soy into food we can eat, they use most of the feed to keep warm and develop bones and other parts we can’t eat. So we’re wasting most of the food value of the crops we feed them. In the case of cattle, at least nine-tenths of the grain they eat is squandered.
The solution to the world food crisis, then, he says, is to “eat less meat, dairy and eggs.”
I recommend reading or listening to Professor Peter Singer’s commentary. Let me know what you think. I am prepared to be virtually tarred and feathered by the vegans and macrobiotic practitioners who read this post.