Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Science And History

Every vegan (or vegetarian) everywhere has heard one of these at least once:

"Humans can't survive without meat!"
"We evolved to eat animals!"
"Hunting animals and eating their flesh was what made us human in the first place!"
"Excluding animals from your diet just isn't natural!"

We hear some expert say that humans are so smart because we learned to hunt and eat meat and, as vegans, we collectively cringe.  (At the same time, it makes me think that if flesh consumption is vital to brain power, why aren't lions or sharks our intellectual superiors?) We see tribes of chimpanzees in Africa fashioning "spears" to stab other animals to death and then eat them, and another expert compares it to (and holds it up as proof of) our own early history.

I'm personally a pretty huge fan of Science and History in general. In fact, I can sit down and read a book from front to back by Stephen Hawking as easily as most people can read one by Stephen King. Being the analytical thinker that I am, one might see how it could be difficult for me to tackle subjects that interfere with my ethics. Why are there so few naturally vegan sources of B12? How well do vegan sources of Omega-3s actually work?

And, yes, I'm even willing to consider the prospect that humans might have evolved a necessity for consumption of very small quantities or specific kinds of animal nutrients.


I do not think this means that veganism is a waste of time and energy and just going against nature all willy-nilly. There have been several points in history when society has collectively made the decision to stop doing something they had been doing for centuries or even millenia (or start doing something completely different).


There is some archeological evidence that our ancient ancestors ate animals and it's pretty much agreed upon that this happened pretty recently in the evolutionary timeline (which spans hundreds of thousands of years). However, this doesn't necessarily denote a necessity for animal flesh in the human diet, especially when physiological evidence is taken into account.

In times of hardship and scarcity, all animals will eat just about anything to keep from starving to death. Or sometimes they do it just for the hell of it. I actually witnessed an example of this on my front porch this morning when I looked out the window and found a neighborhood cat happily munching away at the sunflower seed bread I had left out for the squirrels. Cats are carnivores, so there's no reason a cat would need to hork down a whole slice of delicious sunflower seed bread.

Imagine you're a human (not hard for most of us) living off of whatever can be scrounged up and a really bad winter hits or even an ice age. Food becomes scarce real quick when everything is frozen. You see a wolf or a tiger happily ripping some smaller animal to shreds and gorging itself on the carcass and you think, "Hey, that animal is surviving by eating that other one! Maybe if I try that I won't have to starve to death!" So you bludgeon a rabbit or something and survive long enough to make little baby cavemen that you can then teach the same thing to and it becomes more of a cultural change than an evolutionary one.

Now I want to talk about B12, the one nutrient that vegans tend to be more deficient in and is harder to find in a naturally vegan format. Let's look back again at how humans used to eat. Before modern concerns about germs and bacteria and before we started trashing our own land, we never really washed our food all that well. It turns out that B12 is found naturally in top soil, especially where other animals have been poopin'. In fact, there is a tribe that has been living in the Himalayas for at least the last 5,000 years on a strictly vegan diet, and it's said that they get their B12 by not being overly concerned with washing their fruits and veggies. Many of them live to be in their 90s, so they're obviously pretty healthy for not consuming any animal products.


Let's examine the logic behind this idea that humans are naturally supposed to eat meat, the non-vegans' favorite argument. We are chided for going against what is natural and seen as plain silly, or worse, anti-human for the digestive decisions we make. But no one ever stops to examine all the other unnatural things that modern advances in technology and understanding have brought us.

Not even 100 years ago a lot of people died from dozens of different diseases and injuries that have now nearly vanished due to vaccination, surgery and education, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would suggest that we go back to our previous mortality rate simply because it's "more natural". In the past, birth control was rarely used and was pretty hit-or-miss as to its effectiveness, and it was even illegal in the US at one point, but now 98% of women are using or have used some form of contraception, usually the pill. Try telling a woman she's being "unnatural" and should stop taking her pills and just get pregnant like nature intended and you'll probably get yelled at or even slapped (though if a vegan reacted the same way, we would be labled "crazy" or "extremist"). Less on the medical side (and I know this argument gets brought up a lot, but I'm using it anyway), child labor was pretty common up until the beginning of the last century. If we still had little children doing all our work for us, maybe us adults get get a lot more done. Oh well, too bad societies change, right? (On this last point, I know that child labor hasn't completely vanished and has just disappeared to other parts of the world out of the sensitive sight of Westerners, but the idea I'm trying to portray here is how repugnant we now see it to be, as opposed to our attitudes in the past, which could possibly [and hopefully] be the way animal consumption is seen in our future.)

So, knowing what we know about humans' tendency to eschew nature when it benefits them, it might be easier to understand why vegetarianism and veganism are becoming more and more popular, especially when seen from the aspect of health within a society that's so meat-centric. Cutting animal products from your diet greatly  decreases your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc and has been shown in multiple studies to increase lifespan. Not only that, but it has the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly and saving other living creatures from needless suffering and death.

My point is, even if veganism is not completely "natural" (which I'm totally not saying that it's not) and you might have to fortify certain foods or look really hard for naturally occurring nutrients, why not go with it now that we have the technology and understanding that it's a better way to live, just like with other medical or social advances?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

So... I made a really dumb petition.... :P

I love candy corn. I haven't had any since becoming vegan. Jelly Belly candy corn is one ingredient away from being vegan; they use beeswax to coat the outside. As we all know, there are many many many non-animal alternatives to beeswax that they could be using instead, which would make it the first truly vegan candy corn on the market. So, I'm gonna try to convince them to do switch. :D

Go here to sign the petition: MAKE VEGAN CANDY CORN, JELLY BELLY!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Myth #4: Being Vegan Means Eating LOTS of Soy, and Soy is Full of Estrogen which Makes Men GAY and Gives Women Boob-Cancer! ZOMG!!!

Men, particularly, seem to be very concerned about the amount of plant estrogen, called isoflavones, that are contained in soy, and therefor use it as an excuse to say that a veg diet is not healthy (despite the fact that everything now has soy in it; don't believe me? Start checking some labels!). Look up "soy estrogen" on Google and the first result you will see is "Soy is making kids 'gay'", which really just blows my mind at how people can be so insane.

Now.. I'm not going to go into the underlying misogyny in the fear that soy is turning our little boys into little girls...
But I will say that this whole thing seems to be blown WAY out of proportion.

As far as what science says, the jury is still out. Nobody really knows what to think. Every report and study I came across seemed to contradict the last. Some say soy estrogen helps fight breast and prostate cancer, some say it weakens your bones (which is strange to me, considering how low the levels of osteoporosis are among vegetarians/vegans and the great quantities of soy most of us consume), some say it helps repair brain damage, it helps lower cholesterol, fermented soy is better for you than non-fermented, etc., etc.... However, this H.H.S. Healthcare Research and Quality Agency meta-analysis of all the studies done on soy estrogen has found that there is no substantial evidence to suggest soy estrogen has any ill effect on human health, but that more long-term research is needed.

I have to wonder, though, if soy caused all these health problems people say they do and turn men into little sissy girls and homosexuals, why have we seen no evidence of this from parts of the world we originally got the idea of eating soy from? Asians have been eating soy in one form or another (and often many) for literally thousands of years. In fact, it's been a staple food item in Southeast Asia for so long that they've come up with hundreds of different ways to prepare it, from tofu to tempeh to miso to some plain ol' edamame. Even today, most people in the area eat at least one meal containing soy every day of the week. It's also the part of the world where people tended to live longer, healthier lives, until modernization and western money started pouring into the region and now more of them are eating meat more frequently and (surprise) now suddenly having to deal with skyrocketing levels of cancer, diabetes and obesity.

If you really want to worry about how much estrogen is in your food, nothing is going to effect you more than the hormones that are fed to livestock. There's a reason why most of Europe has banned the use of growth hormones and will not allow US beef into the EU. Livestock growth hormones has been linked to earlier onset of puberty in girls (which makes them more susceptible to breast cancer) and the hormone residue in manure that washes off into surrounding waterways has been shown to effect the gender and reproductive capacity of fish. Growth hormones are most certainly not healthy for the animals they're given to either; dairy cows have a higher frequency of mastitis (basically booby-rot) and chickens have been known to suffer broken legs from the crushing weight of their own bodies.

Still, if you're concerned about soy, you don't have to eat it! There are plenty of soy-free foods out there. Try almond, rice or hemp milk as an alternative to soy milk. Seitan (aka: wheat meat) is tasty and easy to cook with and is made entirely of wheat protein. Either way, stop making excuses for why you can't give up meat.

For further reading, I suggest this article: What About Soy?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Myth #3: There's No Variety in a Vegan Diet

You take out the meat and dairy and you're left with... what? Salad?? Who wants to live on salad?! Where's the variety? What is there possibly left to eat when you take out the animal products??

... You really wanna know? Well, there's...


Potato with Homemade Cashew Cheese

Pesto Pizza


Mushroom & Pepperocini
Gardein Chik'n & Mushroom Alfredo

Whole Roasted Mushroom, Artichoke & Spinach
Vegan Sausage, Wild Mushroom & Basil


Brown Rice Burger
Portobello Burger

Black Bean Burgers

Grilled Seitan Burger

Soy Burger

Spicy Chik'n Patty


Triple Chocolate & Strawberry Wedding Cake

Coconut Cherry Cheesecake






The "Old Dirty Bastard
 (Local favorite from Voodoo Donuts in Portland.
Vegan donuts FTW!!!)


Chili Cheese Fries






Curry Tempeh


Pad Thai

Fried Cream Cheese Wontons

Sweet & Sour Seitan


Field Roast Wellington

Stuffed Tofurky Roast

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Bread

Yeah... Vegans don't eat anything. We just live off of lettuce and air. 

Once, a coworker of mine, upon learning I was vegan asked, "You don't eat cheese or milk or meat... What do you eat?" I replied by describing in detail the amazing pasta dish I had made for dinner the night before, and when I got to the part involving tomatoes she said, "Ew! I don't like tomatoes!" So I replied, "Really? But there are so many dishes made with them; what do you eat??" Epic win. :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Myth #2: Vegans are Perpetually Nutrient Deficient, and If They Aren't, They Have to Take a Multitude of Supplements to Compensate

This one will almost always be coupled with the line, "But you NEED meat to survive and be healthy!" Obviously the amount of us that have lived and are currently living long and healthy lives without consuming animals isn't evidence enough to the contrary. Nope, we're just falling over dead in the streets all the time or clogging up the hospitals because we refuse to consume animals.

And it's not like most people (whether they're vegan/vegetarian, rabid carnivores or anything between) are already perpetually deficient in one or more essential nutrients anyway.
Oh, wait... most people (veg or not) actually are.

In fact, most people who take multivitamins or other supplements are not vegan. So why are their diets not scrutinized in the same way? People will often tell me, "Well, if you can't get it naturally in your diet, it means your diet is not natural and taking vitamins and supplements is CHEATING!" These same people would also probably be shocked at the results of their own blood test. Studies show that 96%  of Americans are fiber deficient, 30%  are vitamin C deficient, 56% are magnesium deficient, 98% are potassium deficient, 70% are calcium deficient, 40% are B12 deficient... and the list goes on. If you want to talk about someone not having a "natural" diet or needing to "cheat", it would be best to examine yourself first.

Nutrient deficiency has been a problem for a very long time among every population on the planet. It's why most of our table salt is now "iodized"; at the turn of the last century, the Swiss began iodizing their salt to help prevent mental retardation, thyroid conditions and goiters and it was considered the first "functional food" to include such a supplement. Soon after, most salt bought in Western countries was iodized. Now most foods, especially cereals, juices, milks and foods geared toward children, are fortified with some sort of nutrients, the most common being calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, fiber, vitamins D, A, C, E and B complex.

I think the reason most people believe this myth of vegans being more nutrient deficient than non-vegans is because they tend to equate vegans/vegetarians  with "missing something" or "limiting yourself" (which those who've tried a veg diet will know is simply not the case; nori and tempeh and hummus, oh my!). Another reason is that there are plenty of people who will view veganism as just another "crash diet" and go about it in all the wrong ways, essentially giving us a bad name by destroying themselves with their own naïveté. Unfortunately a lot of those people also tend to suffer from the mental disorder of anorexia, of which the image of the tired, sickly, malnourished  body some people are quick to equate with veganism.

Yes, vegans do tend to be deficient in some nutrients , most notably B12, but that doesn't mean non-vegans aren't also deficient in the same nutrients. In fact, even though we might be more deficient in some nutrients compared to omnivores, we actually are less deficient, meaning we get more of, other nutrients such as folates and antioxidants than omnivores (who tend to struggle more with these). Either way, vegan or not, everyone can benefit from supplements and fortified foods.

There is also evidence that people who exclude animal products from their diets tend to live longer, be less susceptible to dementia in old age and have lower rates of heart disease and cancer than those on an omnivorous diet. So who's really got the more unhealthy diet here? I think I'll stick with the one that's 60% less likely to give me colon cancer, thanks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

List of Physiological Features Indicating Humans are Herbivores

 The dumbest, most cliché thing you could possibly say to a vegetarian: "Hey! So, if we weren't meant to eat meat, what are these for?" (Then point to canine teeth.)

I get stupid comments like that all the time. This list is for those people. And to answer that question (hopefully once and for all, but I'm not holding my breath), those teeth are for display purposes only, with a minimal amount of usefulness in such activities as cracking open seeds and nuts and tearing the rind off of fruit. I challenge you to go take down a buffalo with average human canines. And I'm not joking.

As far as why so many humans are actually eating meat now, that's a question best answered by society and culture rather than biology, but I'll save that for another day. To the list...

Facial Muscles
Carnivore--Reduced to allow wide mouth gape

Jaw Type
Carnivore--Angle not expanded
Herbivore--Expanded angle
Omnivore--Angle not expanded
Human-----Expanded angle

Jaw Joint Location
Carnivore--On same plane as molar teeth
Herbivore--Above the plane of the molars
Omnivore--On same plane as molar teeth
Human-----Above the plane of the molars

Jaw Motion
Carnivore--Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
Herbivore--No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
Omnivore--Shearing; minimal side-to-side
Human-----No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back

Major Jaw Muscles
Herbivore--Masseter and pterygoids
Human-----Masseter and pterygoids

Mouth Opening vs. Head Size

Teeth (Incisors)
Carnivore--Short and pointed
Herbivore--Broad, flattened and spade shaped
Omnivore--Short and pointed
Human-----Broad, flattened and spade shaped

Teeth (Canines)
Carnivore--Long, sharp and curved
Herbivore--Dull and short or long (for defense), or none
Omnivore--Long, sharp and curved
Human-----Short and blunted

Teeth (Molars)
Carnivore--Sharp, jagged and blade shaped
Herbivore--Flattened with cusps vs complex surface
Omnivore--Sharp blades and/or flattened
Human-----Flattened with nodular cusps

Carnivore--None; swallows food whole
Herbivore--Extensive chewing necessary
Omnivore--Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing
Human-----Extensive chewing necessary

Carnivore--No digestive enzymes
Herbivore--Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
Omnivore--No digestive enzymes
Human-----Carbohydrate digesting enzymes

Stomach Type
Herbivore--Simple or multiple chambers

Stomach Acidity
Carnivore--Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
Herbivore--pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach
Omnivore--Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
Human-----pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach

Stomach Capacity
Carnivore--60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
Herbivore--Less than 30% of total volume of digestive tract
Omnivore--60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
Human-----21% to 27% of total volume of digestive tract

Length of Small Intestine
Carnivore--3 to 6 times body length
Herbivore--10 to more than 12 times body length
Omnivore--4 to 6 times body length
Human-----10 to 11 times body length

Carnivore--Simple, short and smooth
Herbivore--Long, complex; may be sacculated
Omnivore--Simple, short and smooth
Human-----Long, sacculated

Carnivore--Can detoxify vitamin A
Herbivore--Cannot detoxify vitamin A
Omnivore--Can detoxify vitamin A
Human-----Cannot detoxify vitamin A

Carnivore--Extremely concentrated urine
Herbivore--Moderately concentrated urine
Omnivore--Extremely concentrated urine
Human-----Moderately concentrated urine

Carnivore--Sharp claws
Herbivore--Flattened nails or blunt hooves
Omnivore--Sharp claws
Human-----Flattened nails

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A (slightly exaggerated) Depiction of How Non-vegans View Vegans and How Vegans View Themselves (or: FUN WITH MS PAINT!!! :D )

How vegans see themselves:

How non-vegans see vegans:

This is 5% social commentary and 95% alleviation of boredom.


I'm usually kind of conflicted about giving out free advertising, but I thought I had to say something for this new product I tried recently. It's called Match Meat and it comes in like six different delectable varieties. Holy crap, these are so fucking good!!! It's so amazingly awesome that I just want to roll around in it like a dog rolls around in his favorite cat turd! Here's a link for you all to check them out:

So I recently tried two of their products, the "chicken" and the "italian sausage." I wish I had taken pics of this stuff to show you guys, but some asshole stole my camera so I guess I'll just have to be as shamelessly verbose about this as possible.

Match Chicken: Though they advertise it as a "ground chicken alternative", you can pretty much get it all out of the package in one solid piece without it falling apart. It has a nice chewy texture without being too rubbery, it's not too dry like some faux meats (yes, I'm talking about you, Yves!) and it tastes pretty much exactly like it came from a bird. I sliced the whole piece of it into four cutlets, rubbed them down with some herb butter and baked them on a bed of sage stuffing. Holy mother fucking FUCK! It was just like one of those rotisserie chickens you can buy whole at the supermarket except without all the hormones, antibiotics, cancer, destruction, torture and death! (Though, I must say, my herb butter can pretty much rock the cock off of any meal I use it in.) Since it is technically a "ground" chicken alt, it did have a slight bit of a different consistency than a piece from an actual chicken would (kinda made it more like a fish consistency than chicken, so might be good as a fish alternative too if seasoned right) but I wouldn't say that's a negative and I think it has more to do with the way I used it. Still, every single bite was super amazing and I was seriously disappointed when it was all gone!

Match Italian Sausage: Hands down, this is THE BEST ITALIAN SAUSAGE I HAVE EVER HAD. I decided to use it to make lasagna, but as I was frying it up in the pan I couldn't keep my fingers out of it! This stuff is seriously the best vegan italian sausage you can ever get ever ever EVER! It has the same nice chewy texture as the Match Chicken, without being too dry, just with all the right herbs and spices to make a real Italian sausage. I've always thought Boca made the best burgers and would usually just chop some of those up and add my own seasonings whenever I wanted Italian sausage. No. This Match stuff is BETTER than anything I've made myself. The lasagna I eventually made out of it (and yes, one package is enough for a whole family size pan of lasagna) was PURELY ORGASMIC! Fo' Fuckin' REAL! With every bite I had an orgasm in my mouth, then my esophagus, then my stomach, then I'm pretty sure I felt a little one in a kidney, then my intestines and so on. So, you know how Daiya makes the best (affordable) vegan cheese? It's like the Daiya of Italian Sausage!

Basically, Match Meats are the fillet mignon of vegan meat alts. That also means that, along with the best taste, they're kinda pricey. I paid about $12 to $13 per package, but you can order them on their website for about $7.50 each (however, a minimum delivery order is four packages). Just like with any food, if you want better quality you're going to have to pay more (you know... at least until the revolution comes).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Myth #1: Vegans Are Whiny and Picky And Complain About EVERYTHING

At the place I work, sometimes they'll send one employee to go out and get lunch for everyone, usually pizza.  Most of the time I don't participate because I'm perpetually broke and they usually don't have a lot of things I can eat at the places they go to get food anyway, but I really wasn't in the mood to cook dinner that night for my boyfriend and myself so I decided to order a large cheeseless pizza (loaded with green olives, mushrooms and freakin' pineapples, of course!) that I would then bring home and add my own dairy-free cheese to. While giving the girl picking up the orders my money and the list of what I wanted, I completely neglected to specify that the person making the pizza kindly clean the knife before cutting it.

When the girl got back with the food, I told her that I had forgotten to specify that one instruction, but that I didn't really think it was that big of a deal. She told me not to worry because when she got to my order she told the people at the store, and I quote, "For the love of God, don't screw this up because they're VEGAN*!" (*Insert shock and horror here.) I told her, jokingly (but kinda half serious) that she really shouldn't have told them that because now they've probably squeezed bacon juice all over it just to spite me.(The pizza turned out to be fine, by the way.)

The problem I have with this situation is that the word "vegan" is automatically associated with "cranky, picky, whiny person who will complain about every little detail and make your job harder so you better get it right the first time or else it will be sheer HELL for you!" The requests I made for my food are no different than someone who might have an allergy, yet those people are not granted the same associations. For people with food allergies, it's usually, "Oh, that poor person, I better get this right so they don't get sick," even though eating a pizza covered in bacon juice could potentially make me sick as well, though they tend to see that situation more as my fault because it was my choice to be vegan. Same goes for people who simply don't like the taste of certain foods. Honestly, I've seen someone who hated onions complain WAY more and cause much more of a scene because they put onions on his pizza and he absolutely HATES onions. Because consumption of animal products has become so ingrained in our societal identity it's more common to see vegans/vegetarians relegated to "other" (as in "not one of us") even though, truthfully, EVERYONE is picky about the foods they eat.

Honestly, I've stopped telling most people I'm vegan when ordering food, unless they ask me about it first, because I know I'll automatically be associated with that stereotype and be instantly resented for it even if my veganism never actually causes any problem or a single second of extra work for the person preparing it. Most of the time you end up getting some unwarranted cliche comment about it from whoever you're talking to anyway, so it's just not worth it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A little introduction and explaination for this nifty new blog:

Why is it titled "Life Among Carnivores"?

-Because even if you can make a good argument that humans were supposed to eat other animals, most people consume WAAAAY more animal flesh than they should. Also, a lot of people really do see themselves as carnivores and revere the predatory nature of most meat eating animals and seek to emulate them. This blog is about living among those types of people.
The title was also inspired by Living Among Meat Eaters by  Carol J. Adams.

What about the description, "Surviving the predatory resistance to the vegan lifestyle?"

-"Predatory resistance" refers to the tendency of some meat eating people to single out non-meat eating people as targets for ridicule, resentment, harassment and sabotage because of their own visceral aversion and rejection to (without a full understanding of) those who live differently than they do. Also, as stated above, a lot of people identify with predators more than other human beings.
Incidences which might fall under the category of "predatory resistance" include, but are not limited to:
*Finding out a friend/coworker/family member is vegetarian/vegan and actively seeking out to sabotage their meals by covertly adding animal products to them without their knowledge.
*Constantly keeping an eye out for when a vegan/vegetarian friend/coworker/family member accidentally consumes an animal product and likes it so they can take the opportunity to prove that their vegan/vegetarian friend really does want to eat animal products.
*Seeking out vegans/vegetarians specifically for the purpose of having a debate about food and diet and telling them why they're wrong (the reverse of which vegetarians/vegans are often accused of themselves).
*Purposefully making loud, verbose assessments of the juicy, bloody, delicious animal flesh they are consuming at the time, but ONLY IF there is a vegan/vegetarian in the vicinity.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome and junk...

So, this is my first post on this thing. Sorry it can't be longer or really have any content. I don't really have the time to post anything interesting right now.

Like the background? Those are real vegan cupcakes!