Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Veggie-Bashing by a Pseudo-Journalist in the Jackson Sun

In an article titled "Views shouldn't oppress others" in the Jackson Sun, Angelia Stinnet (who?) uses a supposed encounter with a stereotypical "militant" vegetarian as an excuse to perpetuate myths and misinformation, as well as a fair amount of good ol' general derision, towards those who refuse to eat sentient creatures. If not for our living in the digital age, I'd suggest that whoever received her copy at press time must have had to dab the dribbles of venom off of it. She provides no context for this meeting, leaving me thinking that it was more fictional and hypothetical than anything -- a prop to deliver her ultimate message that people come first.

Let's just run through some of the words she uses to make it clear what her opinion is of the token vegetarian she claims to have met: militant, zealous, angry, righteous and superior. She basically has a message running through the whole piece that makes it clear that she wants to portray the vegetarian she met as a hateful know-it-all seeking to "oppress" other humans by insisting that they share her beliefs about not eating animals.

Dripping with sarcasm, Stinnet mentions that she didn't bother to waste her time informing the vegetarian about two studies (whose sources she neglects to cite) that she seems to think undermine any possible arguments that could be made for vegetarianism. Not that she ever elaborates upon anything really said by her token veg -- she's too busy vilifying her. Stinnet first refers to "recent research" indicating "that insufficient meat protein causes brain shrinkage in humans". I'm guessing that she had a vague recollection of some anti-vegetarian rant she read at some point that mentioned an article that appeared in the Times of India last September about an Oxford study that focused on a sample of around 100 people aged 61-87 and concluded that B-12 deficiency may lead to brain atrophy (i.e. not lack of animal-based protein, as Stinnet claims).

The Times of India article made the incorrect assumption that this Oxford study somehow proved that vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk of brain shrinkage, since the "best" sources of B12 are supposedly found in animal products. Ignoring the fact that vegetarians (albeit not vegans) do consume these animal products the Times article cites are all-important, how about taking a look at an actual medical publication's article about the study? The article in Medical News Today makes no correlation between vegetarianism / veganism and B12 deficiency, and, actually quotes one of the study's researchers as mentioning fortified cereals as a good source of B12. The article also specifies that B12 deficiency is an inherent problem with older people (remember -- the study's participants were aged 61-87) and that the study was in fact called "Vitamin B12 status and rate of brain volume loss in community-dwelling elderly". Furthermore, research has shown that high levels of the amino acid homocysteine (found in animal protein) leads to brain atrophy and is linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The other study Stinnet mentions has to do with longterm high protein dieters losing more weight and purportedly having "better overall health". I'm guessing she's perhaps talking about the Diogenes project, which has been discussed in the news in recent months and which concerns fighting obesity (and which is sponsored by everyone from Coca-Cola to Kraft and Unilever). Oodles of research has shown over the years that we consume too much animal protein (along with cholesterol) anyway, and that this consumption causes all kinds of problems like cancer and heart disease. As well, there's far more than enough protein to be had in animal-free sources.

So Stinnet is talking out her -- er -- ear, basically. She wraps up her article by again presenting her token vegetarian's rage and wrong-headedness by perpetuating that ol' stereotype that people who care about animal suffering don't care about the suffering of human animals. She writes

"It crossed my mind that she might not believe in violence against animals, but would surely send meat-eating folks to the guillotine or, at least, instantly deprive the entire human race of meat without consideration of the consequences."
What horror, "to deprive the entire human race of meat"! She accuses the young vegetarian woman of proselytizing and uses terms like "self-promoting" to describe her ('cause in trying to prevent or relieve animal suffering, you're obviously a self-absorbed egotistical chump?). After making all of these shaky leaps and associations, Stinnet waxes philosophical some more and makes it clear that all of her blathering up to that point was merely to provide a blanket of context against which she can contrast what she feels is the true life of virtue. She writes:
"The simplest truth seems that an opinion is never wrong and each of us has a right to express our views, but we are wrong when we lose sight of kindness in our effort to enforce our subjective ideals and virtues."
So an opinion is never wrong? But it is wrong to "lose sight of kindness in our effort to enforce our subjective ideals and virtues"? This sure sounds pretty. I mean, after paragraphs of anti-vegetarian snickering, she's now bringing it all home to her message about kindness? So what she's saying is that a good vegetarian or vegan shuts the hell up? My favourite part of her final ramblings, though is when she writes
"I have come to an understanding that personal virtues are only righteous if others are not oppressed or abused and when others are left with autonomy and without injury or judgement."
And this... this is where she makes it most evident that she really doesn't have any idea of why it is so many people actually refrain from eating animals and why these same people want so desperately for other people to understand these reasons and to stop eating animals themselves. She cites people like Ghandi (a strict ethical vegetarian) and Martin Luther King, Jr. as being stellar examples of "martyrs" for their causes (i.e. helping others free themselves from oppression and abuse). But who'll stand up for the non-human animals? How can you speak of autonomy and injury while bashing part of a movement dedicated to ending animal suffering and enslavement? And how can you lecture someone about not judging, when in doing so, you're passing judgment on 'em, yourself? Stinnet's problem is that her "others" are hairless and walk on two feet. There are not others outside of this -- the rest are things.


Fredrik said...

Great dissection of this article!

M said...

Thanks! :-)

Anonymous said...

The militant vegetarian is a real person and dammit if vegetarianism isn't a religion that people use to create a sense of superiority. Not eating meat makes you feel superior to all those hateful, self-indulged "MEAT EATERS!!!" and by the way, people are first. If humans didn't have animals to eat, they would eat each other. Better a tasty cow than a tender child. As long as humans have been around, they have eaten each other when animal meat was not available. Just ask those under Stalin's regime....

M said...

Wow. Heheh. If this is actually Angelia Stinnett, then thanks for presenting a well-reasoned rebuke to my review of your sub-par opinion piece.

Who would have thought that eating non-human animals was the only thing stopping us from becoming cannibals?

Anonymous said...

Stalin or Hitler always has to make an appearance when someone is spouting nonsense about veganism or vegetarianism. Always a good indicator for the strength of someone's arguments.