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Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization dedicated to
reducing the suffering of farmed animals
by promoting informed, ethical eating.

Donations to VO are fully tax-deductible.
VO’s tax identification no. is #86-0736818.

Vegan Outreach
POB 1916, Davis, CA 95617-1916

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Vegan Outreach Enewsletter  •  March 14, 2002

 

Contents


Thank you so much for doing what you do. I received the boxes of Why Vegan, and our tabling at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON, Canada went FANTASTIC! There were tons of interested people and we handed out all 600 copies! The video also drew loads of attention. It went so well that we’re planning on doing tabling on March 26th and 28th too – hopefully, the new booklets will be here by then. Ideally, I would like to be able to give everyone at Brock U a Why Vegan pamphlet. Send me all that you can – I will definitely distribute them! I’ve been writing a vegan column for the Brock Press for months now, and there are a lot of people who are really interested.
     Also, you might want to suggest to tablers that they collect vegan food packaging for display, for when people say, “So what do you eat?”
ML, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, 3/8/02

 

News & Announcements

Do New Vegans Feel Worse?

 

Burger King Has New Vegan Burger!

Bruce "Olé" Friedrich of Peta notes that while the official introduction is March 18th, the burger is now available in Virginia (order without the mayo).

 

Antibiotics in the the April, 2002 issue of Vegetarian Times:

Recently, the editors of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) called for a ban on all non-theraputic uses of antibiotics in agriculture. One clincher was three studies published in the NEJM last winter on the public-health risks of pouring antibiotics into animal feed. Researchers tested ground chicken, turkey, beef and pork bought in supermarkets–and found that 20 percent of these grocery staples contained deadly salmonella. Worse, 84 percent of the contaminated samples were resistant to at least one antibiotic, and more than half were resistant to at least three.

 

The World According to Vegetarians

An excellent read.

 

Ten Weeks to Live

"[T]he pinnacle of agricultural achievement: stretching as far as the eye can see, 26,000 chickens, with no natural light and no fresh air and little room to run around, a computer allocating them water and a scientifically engineered protein and energy feed. They are just three weeks old, but are genetically selected to grow so unnaturally fast they are three weeks from slaughter. In a never-ending two-monthly cycle, the farm receives around 200,000 one-day old, yellow fluffy chicks, grows the 'crop' and sends them to slaughter."

 

American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act

To learn more and contact your representative, see SAPL's page.

 

Guides to Veg Restaurants

Happy Cow; VegEats; VegDining.

However, our webmaster Nick Altmann points out that "Our best bet is to encourage people to submit restaurants and become editors for chefmoz.org. It's really a great site, with a more robust feature set. It's also relatively unknown, so the vegan community could have a very positive influence in building its listings.

"If everyone on the Spam! mailing list would submit a listing for a single restaurant or volunteer to edit (and maintain!) a single geo-region, that'd be seriously faboo."

 

Again: Deadlines for Events!

Remember to get your literature orders in for the April 5th National Day of Leafleting High Schools about Veganism. The deadline for ordering literature for the event is March 22.

Please read the alert about what pamphlets are available and, when you write us, be very specific about which ones you want and how many. Please do not give us PO Boxes, as we are shipping some of them UPS.

Thanks to all those who have already registered, and all those who have donated in support of this great outreach event!!

 

An Open Heart Needs an Open Mind

Anyone who has tried to advocate a veg diet has faced people's unwillingness to question the propaganda they have learned regarding their current beliefs. The psychological defenses people employ vary from avoidance to name-calling.

A common tactic is to make false claims in order to short-circuit any debate. "These radicals care more about animals than people!" "They want to experiment on babies instead of rats!" This type of attack is generally successful because when done well, such simplistic claims play on people’s emotions and trick activists into trying to address the charge, instead of sticking to their original point.

 

Not Always Our Opponents

This sort of debating can come from both sides. An example of this is the reaction of many to the book The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg. Instead of debating facts, many have reacted with belittlement and bogus claims, calling the author a “Pollyanna” who would have us ignore the degradation of the environment and put us all in peril. (One of the larger "attacks" was on the pages of Scientific American (not available online); see commentary and accompanying article from The Economist.)

The saddest aspect of these knee-jerk responses is that they miss Lomborg’s point:

We have a finite amount of resources that we can use to address the world’s problems. Because of our limitations, if we avoid a rational analysis, we will not be able to optimize the effects of our action.

As stated by Lomborg in his detailed (and, unlike the SciAm attacks, referenced) discussion:

Saying that my book is an everything-will-turn-out-fine statement is a rhetorical and entirely misleading treatment of my book. I point out that we should deal with environmental problems, work to decrease air pollution even further, invest in renewable energy research and development etc., as well as tackle the many other, important global problems such as poverty and starvation. The point is that I should strive to make the decisions which actually do good and not just the ones that sound good. This requires straight and honest analysis that is willing to challenge any however well established myth.

Also, on p. 5 of the actual book:

However, pointing out that our most publicized fears are incorrect does not mean that we should make no effort towards improving the environment. Far from it.... What this information should tell us is not to abandon action entirely, but to focus our attention on the most important problems and only to the extent warranted by the facts.

Or, as pointed out in Nature by Stephen Budiansky (former Washington editor of Nature), “Lomborg’s whole point is that the refusal of some environmental activists to deal honestly with the data harms the credibility of both environmental science and environmentalism.”

A willingness to be dishonest is shown by Stephen Schneider, one of Scientific American's anti-Lomborgians, when he told Discover in 1989 (quoted in the Economist editorial):

[We] are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place...To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have...Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

Where does this leave a rightfully skeptical public if a so-called “authority” admits to a willingness to lie to promote his agenda?

 

Vegans Aren’t Exempt

Even though willing to challenge the mainstream view of animals and diet, vegans aren’t necessarily open-minded about all topics. This is especially true when it comes to the propaganda regarding veganism itself.

For example, in a previous Spam, we referenced an article on vegetarianism which appeared in the Washington Post. The article is very positive towards reducing meat intake. It also references the largest meta-study of vegetarian mortality, authored by Key et al. (abstract). In this study, the vegans displayed a trend (not statistically significant) towards not living quite as long as the lacto-ovo vegetarians and fish-eaters, with their overall mortality rates the same as regular meat-eaters.

This finding appears to go against the mythology of veganism as the perfect, miracle diet, and some vegans reacted towards the article by suggesting the study was seriously flawed. While there are inevitably confounding variables in any study on nutrition and disease, the Key et al. study is, at this time, the most we know about vegan mortality rates.

How can this be?

Recently, Jack Norris, RD added an introduction to his article "Staying a Healthy Vegan." Given that the issue of vegan health was raised by this article, we thought it would be a good time to pass on the introduction (which includes a brief discussion of the Key et al. study):

 

Introduction

The vegan diet appears to be a relatively new experiment in the history of human eating. It has only been since the mid-1940s that it has been practiced in an organized fashion in the Western world. So far, the experiment appears to be successful: vegans in developed countries have been shown to have the same overall mortality rates as meat-eaters with healthy lifestyles (non-smoking, low alcohol intakes).2 These mortality rates are much lower than for the general population. However, there are areas where vegans' health can be improved.

This article has three purposes:

  1. To help people make the transition to a vegan diet.
  2. To give accurate information about the known health benefits of a vegan diet.
  3. To give vegans specific recommendations in order to maximize their health both for themselves and for improving the results of health studies on vegans.

I also wrote this article to provide information that other Vegan Outreach members and I wish we had known when we became involved in promoting veganism.

 

I was vegan for a while, but…

Vegan Outreach promotes a vegan diet in order to lessen the suffering of animals. Since the average American consumes thousands of animals over the course of a lifetime, each person who goes vegan makes a difference by removing their support from the factory farming and slaughtering of these animals. For this reason, I have been involved in vegan advocacy for over a decade.

During my years of outreach, I have been told by many people that they tried to be vegetarian or vegan, but hadn't felt healthy. I found this troubling. How can we prevent animal suffering by promoting a vegan diet for our society if some people do not respond well to it? Finding an answer to this problem was a major motivation for me to become a registered dietitian. In researching the subject, I discovered that some claims about the vegan diet include distortions or omissions which can lead people to having poor experiences.

For example, some vegan advocates emphasize that humans need only small amounts of B12 and that it can be stored in the body for years. It is true that, at the time they become vegan, some people have enough B12 stored in their liver to prevent serious B12 deficiency for many years. However, people often interpret this to mean that you only need to consume a tiny amount of B12 once every few years. Actually, to build up such stores, it takes many years of consuming B12 beyond one's daily needs. Many people do not have large enough stores of B12 to be relied upon even for short periods. This is an easy problem to solve by simply eating B12-fortified foods or taking a supplement.

Nutritional myths have a way of going from one extreme to the other. For example, people once believed that in order to rely on plant protein, you had to combine particular foods at every meal. We now know this is not true. But in countering this myth, statements have gone from "You don't need to combine proteins," to "It’s easy to get enough protein on a vegan diet" to the harmful "It’s impossible not to get enough protein!"

On average, vegans get enough protein. In fact, many people trying a vegan diet may choose foods that are high in protein without knowing it. Others may randomly choose foods that are not high in protein. Personally, since I do not feel right when I'm not eating at least a few protein-rich foods each day, I can see how someone else might be ready to quit a vegan diet after a few days of not consuming some protein-rich foods. I fear that many people quickly give up on a vegan diet, thinking it made them feel bad, instead of realizing they might have felt differently had they eaten more protein-rich foods."

Similarly, eating enough calories might be an issue for an uninformed person who decides to give the vegan diet a try for a few days. Someone on the standard Western diet may only be aware of vegan foods that are low in calories (i.e., salads, vegetables, fruit). Eating only these foods for a day will likely leave someone unsatisfied and thinking the vegan diet is to blame, when all they needed to do was eat more high-calorie foods. Of course, many advocacy groups are actively trying to educate people about the wide variety of satisfying vegan foods. In promoting the diet, each person could help prepare potential vegans for the real possibility that they won't feel good if they don't choose some calorie-dense foods.

Less noticeable problems can arise due to misinformation. One can select certain studies that support the idea that meat, eggs, and dairy are the cause of osteoporosis, and that calcium intake is not important. Because the arguments can sound impressive, someone might take these claim as fact. Such a person might conclude that a vegan diet must protect against osteoporosis, and that there is no need for vegans to make sure they are getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D. However, selectively choosing such studies leaves out the majority of research published on the subject. Someone who evaluates more of the research would likely conclude that vegans, like nonvegans, should ensure good sources of calcium and vitamin D on a daily basis.

The other nutritional issues of which vegans should be aware are addressed later in this article.

 

A Candid Discussion About the Vegan Diet

Few long-term, scientific studies have looked at true vegans. A summary of the research on vegetarians and vegans is included in this article. The research has not overwhelmingly supported the idea that a vegan diet is vastly superior to a diet that includes meat or a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, and some vegans have found this to contradict what they have always heard. How can this be explained?

Popular vegan literature has sometimes presented studies on groups – such as lacto-ovo vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, cultures that eat little meat, and people who have a high intake of fruits and vegetables – as indications of the health status of vegans. Although this can provide some useful information about some aspects of the vegan diet, it cannot substitute for studying actual vegans.

Additionally, certain risk factors, such as cholesterol levels, have been used to make projections about the health of vegans, but these do not necessarily tell the whole story. For example, while vegans' cholesterol levels tend to be very good, some vegans' low vitamin B12 status can potentially increase their risk for heart disease. Again, this is easily solved by ensuring a source of B12.

For a concise explanation of the different types of studies and their pros and cons, please see the section "How are associations between diet and disease established?" in Stephen Walsh's Briefing Paper for the UK Vegan Society, Milk and Breast Cancer.

There are real differences in how people respond to various diets. While many people thrive on a vegan diet, it may not be so easy for others. When someone is committed to reducing animal suffering, there are often solutions to these dilemmas. Affirming everyone’s experience is the first step in working with people towards a more humane diet.

I would like to see vegan advocates promote the diet in such a way that we minimize the chances of someone having a bad experience. In so doing, I hope that future, long-term studies on vegans will show us to have even better health than our meat-eating counterparts. Promoting veganism as though there are no nutritional concerns may initially attract more people; but we don’t want people merely to go vegan – we want them to stay vegan.

 

Position of the American Dietetic Association

In their 1997 position paper on vegetarian diets, the American Dietetic Association states, "Scientific data suggest positive relationships between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer."

 

Summary of Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet, a 1999 paper co-authored by two experts on the mortality rates of vegetarians, concludes:

Compared with non-vegetarians, Western vegetarians have a lower mean BMI (by about 1 kg/m2), a lower mean plasma total cholesterol concentration (by about 0.5 mmol/l [19 mg/dl]), and a lower mortality from IHD [ischemic heart disease] (by about 25%). They may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis. No differences in mortality from common cancers have been established. There is no evidence of adverse effects on mortality. Much more information is needed, particularly on other causes of death, osteoporosis, and long-term health in vegans.

To continue reading, click here.

 

Every Donation Prevents Suffering

Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the suffering of farmed animals by promoting informed, ethical eating.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Vegan Outreach

POB 30865, Tucson, AZ 85751-0865