Why Mark Bittman Isn’t Vegan

In his article for Opinionator in the NY Times, Mark Bittman soundly covers all the basic reasons why vegans choose to go vegan: industrial agriculture, environmental degradation, deplorable living and dying conditions for farmed animals, and human health. He says those are all great reasons as well to adopt his lifestyle, which he has deemed “VB6” or “Vegan Before 6”.

I haven’t read his book, but the premise is to eat vegan all day until 6pm and then you eat meat, dairy, and eggs (if you want).

As I read his article, the first question that I felt rising along with my temperature was, If you are aware of all those realities enough to go VB6, why is contributing a little bit to those realities OK?

For instance, all of his travels have resulted in his meeting people who are “vegan till the weekends” or “vegan all but five days of the month.” But to someone who takes the vegan lifestyle seriously, it’s tantamount to saying, “Rape in moderation.” Or, “Murder sparingly.”

Bittman’s article is geared towards himself and others like him, aka, Squirmers. Also known as someone attempting to justify their addiction to meat and dairy products and hence, squirming out of the vegan lifestyle by eating carcass and mammary secretions from another species after 6pm.

He has all the research and all the knowledge to know that his VB6 diet is really a great move. And it is for most people who still consume meat and dairy. But it still allows people to believe good things about their bad habits. Eating meat and dairy is a bad habit for yourself, the animals you killed, and the environment.

The kicker of Bittman’s article begins when he claims he is waiting for any one of three separate realities to occur before he believes the world will adopt a strictly vegan diet (or before he adopts a strictly vegan diet).
Bittman says his three reasons are:

An indisputable series of research results proving that consuming animal products is unquestionably “bad” for us; the emerging dominance of a morality that asserts that we have no right to “exploit” our fellow animals for our own benefit; or an environmental catastrophe that makes agriculture as we know it untenable.

Bittman finishes off with a smug, “All seem unlikely”.

Joke’s on Bittman, though, because all of these things are already happening.

For the world’s need to hear that animal products are “unquestionably ‘bad’ for us,” I recommend The China Study. It’s the most comprehensive, clinical study ever conducted on human health and its intimate relationship to nutrition. It concludes that eating even small amounts of meat and animal products greatly increases your risk of premature death caused by preventable disease. It recommends low fat, high carbohydrate, whole plant foods for optimal human health. Also, check out Dr. Neal Barnard and his Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, or Dr. John McDougall’s The Starch Solution. All of these doctors, and many more, have already proven that animal products deserve no place in the human diet. What further evidence do you need?

As for the world’s need to learn about a new morality regarding human rights versus animal rights, this is old news. That killing and “exploiting”—Bittman’s emphasis— animals does nothing positive for the human psyche is not a new idea. Pythagoras famously intoned,

For as long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.

That was round about 500 B.C. And we are still massacring animals at astonishing rates, and we are still killing each other. There is nothing that will come in the future regarding morality and compassion that we haven’t known since the dawn of time. What further notion or new version of morality are you waiting for exactly?

For the world’s need to believe in a hypothetical, futuristic environmental disaster that causes agriculture to be “untenable”—don’t you think this is already happening? We don’t have to wait for some global disaster to occur—it’s already happening and we are living it every day.


dirty dishes

I was raised as part of the new green generation. I remember Saving the Rainforest with my pennies in first grade. And that was over 20 years ago. Remind me again just exactly what we are waiting for? Oh yes, environmental disasters that make us go vegan. Scientists predict that if drastic action is not taken within a decade—starting now—damage to our oceans will be irreversible. And what about the mass extinction due to unprecedented levels of marine distress?

None of this is fear-mongering. As Ruby Roth says, we don’t have to fear anything that we can change. But still, all this came way before Bittman wrote his article in 2013. Because we have science and we know what effects our eating choices have on our natural resources, we know that the pollution, greenhouse gases, and toxic waste from industrial agriculture and its associated industries like deforestation are the main culprits in the waning health of our oceans, and by extension, our global ecosystem. Our oceans are like the canary in the mineshaft. What further environmental disasters do you need to witness before you make a serious change in your lifestyle?

What Bittman doesn’t realize is that although he is being helpful by designing a new program for Squirmers to eat more plant foods, he is still playing the waiting game. Let’s just wait and see what happens in the next 20 years or so. Maybe humans will be forced to change their ways and be peaceful. Because a little bit of murder, part-time compassion, weekend peace, and a little bit of heart disease and atherosclerosis, is pretty good.

But veganism puts the influence of power gently used back into human hands (thanks, Wordsworth). Humans have the power to be peaceful now. We have everything we need right now. So, we don’t have to wait for another disaster, another death, another day.

We can start now by being V24/7.




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