Monday, December 15, 2008

Without Soy, Are We Really Just Left with Fritos?

I read over at the Vegan Freaks forum that The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, previously a mainstream media advocate of veganism, has officially thrown in the towel. Seems that after a year of veganism, she has a bum thyroid and that since her endocrinologist has told her that soy has to go, she's decided that she can no longer survive as a vegan. She labels her blog post "The End of an Era" (humble, no?) and waxes on defiantly about how cutting out soy is necessary for her condition, and, that by cutting it out, she feels she can no longer get sufficient protein with her busy schedule. She claims that there aren't any restaurants in DC that serve seitan, so therefore, by going soy-free, she's ended up getting sicker since she "was basically living on Fritos and peanut butter every time [she] left the house". So for want of seitan, one is left with Fritos and peanut butter??

That's sort of sad. If I leave the house for the day, it's usually with a packed lunch and a couple of fruit. I also carry almonds, sunflower seeds or trail mix with me, most of the time.
At my desk, I frequently keep organic brown rice cakes or a Luna bar. If I eat out in my tiny not-so-veg-friendly city, I hit a salad bar or opt for a veggie stirfry, veggie wrap, a hummus plate -- there's always something healthy to eat. And it seems that Washington, DC does indeed have tons of vegan-friendly restaurants. I'm actually envious at the choices McArdle has when eating out and am quite sure that at least a few of these places don't include soy in each and every single dish on their menus.

This whole thing is just laziness spooned over a whopping bowlful of misinformation. You don't need to substitute meat with something if you stop eating it. A varied diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains is all you need to be healthy. Some even argue that too much emphasis is placed on legumes and grains and that we get sufficient protein without those, never mind bothering to eat fake meats. And where is it written that vegans need soy or seitan, specifically, to fill that meat void? The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) has a great piece on how ridiculously easy it is to obtain your daily requirements from non-animal sources. PCRM does too, in an article on "The Protein Myth". Some of the foods they list that are high in protein are soy-based, but most aren't.

McArdle basically posits that it has to be all or nothing. If she can't have soy, she can't be a vegan; if she can't be a vegan, she has to go back to meat eating, altogether. There's no grey area for her, so she's decided to return to eating what she calls "certified humane animal products" (i.e. that mythical "happy meat"), including dairy. And just to make her position clear in terms of any possible ethical reasons she had for being vegan for a year, she throws in that she's only a "moderate on animal rights" and that she believes "in animal testing". So I guess it's pointless to suggest to McArdle that just because she's chosen to go back to eating animals, that it doesn't mean that she has to go back to promoting their consumption.

It's one thing for McArdle to make decisions about her own diet that are based on misinformation. Unfortunately, by presenting her case the way she has, she's left herself looking, to those who know better, as if she's too attached to convenience to look for other options. Worse, to those who don't know better, she's left herself looking like a poster child for how veganism is too inconvenient, too complicated and just plain old too unhealthy. That's what irks me the most.

(Please note the accompanying photo of Ms. McArdle by David Shankbone that brings to mind an expression about babies and bathwater. Couldn't help myself.)

2 comments:

vegatee said...

You don't need to substitute meat with something if you stop eating it.

That's one of the main misconceptions about vegetarianism. Unfortunate.

Unfortunately, by presenting her case the way she has, she's left herself looking, to those who know better, as if she's too attached to convenience to look for other options. Worse, to those who don't know better, she's left herself looking like a poster child for how veganism is too inconvenient, too complicated and just plain old too unhealthy. That's what irks me the most.

Me too.

This post reminded me once again that I need to get back to that unpleasant task of sorting out the articles on my CD's. Bah. I'm taking my sweet ole time, aren't I? I thought winter break would provide me with plenty of time to go through all that mess, but here I am working on the bedroom remodel, finishing up projects around the house, and re-arranging furniture. :o)

M of the Maritimes said...

I just wish that people who aren't really committed about ending animal cruelty would stop picking up the torch and then flinging it to the ground so publicly when they get bored with carrying it. That's how I see it.

No rush on the articles. I still haven't had a chance to check out the links you'd sent me. I've been working so much overtime these past couple of weeks that by the time I get home, it's all I can do to thumb through a couple of books I've been reading for a project on organic foods. I'm looking forward to some downtime starting next week, though. I'm staying put for the holidays; it'll be just me and the kitties for a week and a half. :)