Quick Cranks #2

grandpa-simpson-yelling-at-cloud-simpsons-funny-pictures Gosh this upcoming post (not this one) is a whopper and I’ve been molding, adding, shaping this big lump of clay for month and months now. Oh but I don’t mean to get yer hopes up too much but it IS something I’ve never attempted before! Crap, that’s not the way I should undersell it.

Oh wells. In the meantime I just needed to vent another installment of QuickCranks. I never meant this to become a series but for my sanity and those of my loved ones I maybe need to get these things off my chest. Enjoy!

I get into all sorts of scuffles on the Twitters (I know, surprise surprise) and these past few weeks have been no exception. This @VeganTweeter guy is pretty much the embodiment of what one would expect the vegan movement to look like. Talks about himalayan salt, coconut water, food pics, food pics, ya know the whole nine. With over 21 thousand followers I don’t think that’s a totally unwarranted claim. Recently he posted this junk information about cow’s milk.

That was a weird enough claim to warrant even a few people asking for a source. He cited a Mercola article of all things until a few RDs weighed in to set things straight. Once that was shown to be false he finally relented and issued a correction. Good for him except it was too late. The original tweet was retweeted 88 times and a week late the correction was retweeted…2 times. Goes to show how misinformation can ‘go around the world while the truth will still be putting it’s boots on’. Be careful when posting stuff folks, especially if it confirms your own bias! Baloney detection, do it!

And gosh I don’t mean to pick on Mr. @VeganTweeter, really I don’t. But he continued down the pseudoscience rabbit hole publicly askingAnyone have a reputable source that states humans aren’t designed to eat meat?

No, just no. *sigh* 1998 called and wants their John Robbins back. Luckily he asked actual RDs this time and was set straight by at least one, again. That’s progress Mr. VeganTweeter, good for you, fist pound. [/no sarcasm]

Didja hear about VegExpo2014 in Vancouver Canada? No, me either. Anyway, according to their TwitterFeed (after some prodding by biotech defenders) “the goal of #vegexpo2014 is to educate the masses about dangers of #gmo and support the movement for our future.“.

The extent to which the anti-GMO conspiracists (because that is what you are if you question the scientific consensus on GMO safety) are co-opting the vegan (excuse me, “veg”) movement may be going beyond even my cynical expectations. Next time you visit a “veg” fest look for the anti-GMO tables and when you see one, remember this: “I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO”. Heh.

Also, when a vegan says something like: “Animals are important and all but gosh these GMOs are the bigger issue…” freakin’ call them on that bullshit already. You think vegan is great and all? Regulate.

Speaking of GMO, when Organic fanatics attack GMO they’re often reminded that many of their own Organic products are bred using mutagenesis which forces random mutations in hopes for some useful novel trait to emerge. It’s much less precise than transgenic or cisgenic methods (GMO) which illustrates the inconsistencies in their gripes with biotech. Well, those good Organic folks finally are coming around to petition to accept GMOs ban the use of mutagenesis. Everybody go sign that yeah! And good for you Organic, good for you. While you continue to regress your practices we’ll be happy over here making food better using, ya know, science. Let’s see which the market will reward. Good luck suckers.

I know I wrote about this back in 2010 but Bill Clinton STILL aint vegan but by the advice of one Dr. Hyman who said “It’s hard being a vegan to eat enough good, quality protein and not have too much starch,” and also “I know a lot of fat vegans.” Even the skeptics have their ire up on this derpaholic.

And you know that ridiculous pseudoscientific “paleo” diet based upon the usual fallacious appeal to nature that vegans hate and ridicule?! Well now there’s a vegan paleo cookbook and suddenly, hey that’s awesome, go vegan paleo! Wrong ideas are only wrong if they happen to disagree with your worldview I guess.

SSDD.

Quick Cranks

DraftlandWhile I continue work on new drafts, here’s some junk that’s been cranking me up lately. I know nobody believes me still when I insist veganism isn’t synonymous with animal liberation but here’s a buncha straw men anecdotes on a slippery slope in support. Yeah, that’ll do it.

Veganism is so much better for the environment. That’s why you should kill more animals with lesser environmental footprints. What a win environmental vegans, thanks!

The rawfoodist sect of veganism sure loves durian. Too bad durian is apparently murder.

Hampton Creek Foods, working on egg replacement products, gets funding from Asia’s richest businessman. Beyond Meat cranks out a beef crumbles line. And vegan commenters never fail to throw FUD into the mix about eating processed foods or “OMG GMO”! It’s the NOT VEGAN game on a whole new level. Go ahead and post something about these products on your Facebook vegan group and watch the fun as they trip over themselves to find ways to piss on it. POINTS: “processed” = 5, “gluten free??” = 3, “GMO??” = 1

Whole Foods proudly displays their animal parts with signage saying “A hearty helping of animal compassion with every order”. Vegans boycott Whole Foods for their misleading claims. Oh wait, no they just wrote a petition and the sign was taken down. We’re all cool now guys.

Chipotle declares “Vegans and Carnivores Unite” with their new vegan sofritas offering. Many vegans fawn but some aren’t buying it (literally and figuratively). In fact, forreals animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere has Chipotle squarely in their sights.

A “vegan America” is predicted by 2050 by measure of number of food trends. Looking forward to those nonGMO gluten-free kale burgers at McVegan’s in my seventies.

That reminds me of how humans slavery was abolished in the United States by the free produce boycott movement. The what? Yeah, exactly.

Thanks for joining me in this brief crankalude, please stay tuned for regularly irregular scheduled cranking.

Organic Isn’t Vegan

Organic Not VeganYou can hardly swing a bunch of kale without hitting a vegan product that is certified organic these days. Why is this, I wonder? I mean, we should all know by now that organic farming is just like regular agriculture except it uses what is “natural” as its measure. What is naturally derived, without humans (who themselves are a product of nature, BTW), isn’t a guarantee of safeness or goodness. Organic agriculture uses pesticides, isn’t healthier, and isn’t better for the environment than modern agriculture. But what does this have to do with veganism?

Vegans are typically astute ethical consumers who carefully weigh the consequences of their purchases. They are careful to reduce the chances of participating in any form of animal exploitation mostly by avoiding certain products. There are products made from animal bodies themselves, like flesh. Products that are made by animal bodies, like milk. And animal-derived products that, while not ingredients of a final product, are used in processing (for example, bone char filtration in the sugar-making process). As I’ve written in the past, this can go on to an absurd degree, but I’d concede that, in general, vegans focus is on the most obvious animals products. And, by paying such close attention to these details, many vegans feel that they are ‘voting with their dollars.’

And then there are organic products with their health halo, which might lend a glow to vegans’ ethical calculations in their consumer decisions. Many vegans seem unaware how this label tramples upon their cause. Let’s look at some of the issues:

Cost
Vegans love to advocate their cause because it means fewer animals are being slaughtered with each new adherent. Lowering the barriers to entry is something many vegans would support. But, since organic food limits itself to a relative standard of natural purity, there are added costs in producing organic food. Modern biotech agricultural solutions can help reduce expensive inputs and labor for farmers, thereby reducing cost to consumers. Inexpensive, tasty vegan food options are a win for the cause. If there were a vegan product that tasted just as good and cheaper than the animal version, what consumer wouldn’t opt for the vegan version? Because organic foods are more expensive, this makes veganism that much less possible and practical1 for no good reason at all.

Animal Care
While vegans avoid animal products altogether, they also care about welfare issues and wish to reduce animals’ suffering. For organic farms though, antibiotics that provide relief for sick animals are not allowed. Instead, health practices for animals in their care rely in part upon quack homeopathic remedies. It’s one thing to make a personal choice to employ such remedies upon yourself, but to impose that upon another creature without regard to proven scientific efficacy is a despicable practice no vegan should stand behind. Withholding modern medical treatments from animals within organic’s care is worse than the unnatural bogeyman. It’s cruel and unjust, it’s not vegan.

Nitrogen
Plants require nitrogen. Specifically, plants that are farmed for people to eat require nitrogen-containing fertilizer. Even though our atmosphere contains a whole lotta nitrogen, plants can’t use it unless it’s “fixed” into a form that is available to them biologically. Agriculture struggled with finding abundant sources of nitrogen until we figured out a way to harvest that from the atmosphere. But this synthetic fertilizer is not natural enough for organic, so it is forbidden. Much organic-allowed fertilizer is in the form of cow manure, including nitrogen that comes from non-organic feed. Somehow nitrogen becomes more natural once it’s passed through the bodies of animals so they’re cheating on their own standards. Is your head spinning yet?

If animal-derived products used in processing like bone char with sugar or isinglass with beer is a vegan issue then maybe Veganic is the only option. But that I think is the wrong direction and misses the point of veganism. Shouldn’t we be encouraging the use of non-animal-derived inputs while maximizing the outputs? To do that we should implement every tool at our disposal but that’s not the way organic rolls. Manure-based fertilizer is animal-derived, not vegan.

GMO
Genetically modifying organisms has already proved useful in medicine by replacing animal-derived insulin for diabetics with a synthetic one made with genetically modified bacteria. Vaccines made through GM plants or insect cells instead of chicken eggs is another example of how this technology can help reduce reliance on animal products.

In matters of agriculture though, this technology can provide unique sources for nutrients that vegans may lack. An example like omega-3 biofortified grain can both make it easier to get that nutrient from food without supplementation and also offset sourcing from fish. Many farmers use broad-spectrum insecticides, which kill indiscriminately, regardless of whether or not a bug is harmful to the crops. Plants that are genetically modified to produce their own narrow-spectrum pesticide, like Bt corn, kill fewer insects by targeting only those that pose a threat. Or what about avoiding killing insects altogether by creating a plant that can emit an odorless pheromone that scares away pests? We’re just scratching the surface as to what this technology can bring, and vegans would do well to embrace genetic modification. Genetically modifying crops to produce nutrients that are commonly derived from animals, or to reduce our reliance on pesticides, will reduce needless animal deaths.

Genetic modification is a safe, precise form of plant breeding, yet is deemed unacceptable by organic standards. Scrambling plants’ DNA to force random mutations with radiation or chemicals is just fine by them though. Are you noticing a pattern here? Supporting organic is a missed opportunity to leverage technology to grow the vegan movement.

Environment
The inefficiencies of eschewing modern technology means organic farming falls more and more behind modern agriculture in terms of yields. Getting less product from the land requires taking more land away from local wildlife to match the yields of modern farming. Doing more with less is a driving factor for agriculture and who doesn’t want that? Using genetic modification we could engineer plants to even be more efficient with nitrogen. Fungicides, composting, tillage are other practices that aren’t quite environmentally ideal. Striving to leave a small footprint as well as affect fauna as little as possible should be a concern for all vegans.

Veganism Trumps Organicism
Vegans may mean well when they buy organic products, but this dubious designation should be better scrutinized to discover how it undermines and cashes in on the vegan cause. What’s needed are rational decisions and sound scientific policy, not mythical “natural” appeals of faith-based agriculture such as organic. There is nothing organic can do that modern agriculture can’t yet there is a whole lot organic limits itself from. The “conventional” vs organic divide is a false dichotomy and causes unnecessary confusion, harm, and stunts progress for the movement. If veganism is a credible and noble way to live why is there this organic label slapped on most of the vegan products? Why are vegans being unfairly burdened with this tax? How is that helping the animals for which the cause is supposedly focused upon? Vegans are being suckered and their pockets being picked by BigOrganic Agribusiness. Ditch those archaic organic products already and support safe, innovative, and accessible food products for all.

The point I’m trying to make here though isn’t so much that organic itself is any less or more vegan really, but that the dogma must stop. Ditch the baloney!  It’s time vegans use their heads along with their hearts and make smart, reasoned choices for the considerations of their earthling cousins. If exploiting animals is natural enough for organic standards then maybe vegans should reconsider their bedfellows.

Further Reading:
Henry I. Miller exposes the disappointing truth about organic agriculture. | Project Syndicate
Organic Pesticides | The Farmer’s Daughter USA
Some Common Organic Fertilizers EARTH-KIND Gardening | Aggie Horticulture

  1. “possible and practical” qualifiers of veganism as defined by the Vegan Society