Veganism—Healthy Choice Or Hippie Fad?
I first heard the term vegan nearly ten years ago. The first vegans I encountered were philosophers. I thought it was a practice they arrived at by an inflexible application of some high ethical principle they adhered to. Since then, veganism as a way of living has been adopted by a large section of the public. I occasionally visit the same bars and restaurants I frequented when I was a graduate student and find the menu filled with vegan delicacies. All is salad, rice, vegetables, and hummus. There are few meat burgers and the succulent steaks I once enjoyed are no longer an option. The vegans have taken over the entire dining establishment of my old stomping grounds and I, as a meat eater, am forced to go elsewhere to find a suitable bill of fare.
The church of veganism consists of two main denominations: ethical and dietary. Of the former I have met none; for the ideology is strict, requiring its adherents to abstain from all animal-made products. The dietary vegans are the most prevalent. And I cannot help suspecting them of a certain amount of fakeness and pretension. Many of them seem to think that refusing to eat all animal and animal-derived foods makes them both healthier and morally superior to everyone else. The latter belief rests on rather shaky ground. The very act of using electricity, flying in a plane, or taking a bus makes them complicit in the disturbance and death of the animals they strive to protect.
The health benefits of veganism are also uncertain. There is no evidence that proves the vegan diet healthier than one which includes meat. Humans are omnivores. We function best when we eat plants and animals. By refusing meat, vegans deprive themselves of essential nutrients. B12, for example, is a vitamin that is important in the formation of blood and the functioning of the brain. It is one that nearly all vegans are deficient in. The vegan diet is also deficient in calcium, iron, vitamin D, zinc, and Omega-3, which means vegans must go to extraordinary lengths to get these nutrients if they are to remain in reasonably good health.
To be sure, some studies show that vegans enjoy better health and lower mortality rates than non-vegans. But no causal link has been established between the vegan diet and these outcomes. The fact that vegans are healthier may result from the fact that they are health-conscious in general, which is something that can be said of many non-vegans.
Some extreme vegans go so far as to claim that eggs and meat cause harm. I have been personally confronted with this claim. There is no truth to it. Vegans say this to put people off these foods. Science has yet to discover any health benefits of not eating meat or eggs. Processed meat is a bad choice, as are cuts of meat over loaded with fat. However, the human body, in all things, responds well to moderation. Eating well-proportioned and well-balanced meals that consist of meat, fish, and vegetables in various combinations is the ideal diet.
So, what is this vegan phenomenon all about? A few months ago, I wrote an article on how to avoid becoming a hipster. For many people, indulging in dietary veganism is a way of being a hipster without committing themselves completely to the lifestyle. As there are no proven health benefits of the diet, there is really no reason for anyone to cut themselves off from the pleasures of meat, fish, and eggs. Veganism is a hippie, or hippie-lite, fad. It is not, nor ever will be a healthy way of living.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.