Well Being

Vegans And Meat-Eaters: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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Last week I wrote an article about my personal experience with going vegetarian and some of the vitamin deficiencies I experienced as a result, including low levels of B12 and Iron. And wow, what a debate it sparked between vegans and omnivores! Can't we just all get along? Judging by the comment thread, it doesn't appear so.

Gina wrote:

Are you some kind of idiot? A vegan/ vegetarian is WAY more healthier than the average omnivorous lifestyle. You get all the vitamins your body needs + more! Learn your facts, or better yet, educate yourself! Good luck!

To which many people responded, including Jill:

The author is FAR FROM some kind of idiot, she is just mentioning what nutrients are needed for optimal health. Vegans often take offense to this because of the mention of these nutrients found in animal products.

JC added:

Good points about making sure that vegans are getting adequate nutrition. It should also be pointed out that most omnivores have far higher risks of nutritional deficiencies (many of which are the same for vegans).

And Mila wrote:

Although the article is not anti-vegetarian/vegan and the author is vegetarian, the title is totally offensive to non-meat eaters. Going vegetarian/vegan does NOT automatically mean you will be missing ANYTHING! I went vegetarian 9 years ago and my iron levels have always been super high and much higher then my red-meat-eating dad’s! FYI, most meat-eaters are deficient in B12!

The vegan controversy has been around for a while, but it seems like lately it's been heating up more, thanks in part to organizations like PETA that make eating meat a battleground. They are famous for telling people that killing animals for their meat (or skin or fur) is cruel and unethical, and they have even gone so far as to tell us that it can make us fat (as evidenced by their “Save the Whales” billboard depicting a fat person who obviously eats meat).

To those who eat meat, going vegan can be seen as “extreme” and it can leave people asking, “What's left to eat?” or “Why would you do that?” Some believe a diet devoid of all animal products, including meat and dairy, is simply unhealthy and could lead to malnutrition. Some even say that eating meat is natural; otherwise, why would these animals be put on the planet? (I've heard that one quite a bit in my days as a vegetarian.)

Others, like Paleo fans, believe that skipping the dairy and eating more meat is the way to go, as evidenced by the war that was created from a prior post when we asked, Why anyone would follow the Paleo diet? Wow, did that draw a lot of comments and controversy. Readers responded with everything from “For all of you who poo poo the Paleo diet and low carbing due to health reasons, enjoy your heart attacks” to “Why would anyone NOT follow the Paleo diet? It works!”

Nevertheless, the wars continue. Non-meat-eaters live this way due to ethical and/or health reasons, claiming that it's simply wrong to eat animals, and/or eating meat will give you all kinds of health issues, ranging from heart disease to diabetes, to obesity to cancer. Meat eaters don't believe that and claim that eating meat is a natural and healthy part of our diet.

So what's the right answer? To be honest, I don't know. What I do know is this: I am a vegetarian because it works for me–even after finding out I had low B12 and iron levels. Was that enough to make me give up my veggie diet? No. Did it mean that I didn't thoroughly research the vegetarian diet before launching into it? Of course not. It simply means that I had to make some adjustments based on what works for my body. Everyone is different, and to assume that we all need exactly the same diet or the same level of nutrients is probably the most damaging diet assertion of all.

Likewise, we all have different beliefs and motivations for doing things. If you believe that eating meat is right and it works for your body, then that's your choice. If you believe that it's morally wrong and it doesn't keep you at your healthiest, then that's your choice too. The only time someone is wrong in their meat-eating or non-meat-eating diet is when they don't listen to their bodies and their hearts and continue to do something that doesn't work for them.

Let the wars continue…although I wish we'd worry about taking care of our personal health, instead.

Photo: cavementimes.com