Thursday, August 19, 2010

Veganism in the Media

You'd think that with all of the misinformation readily available to most with the simple click of a mouse that advice columns with anonymous advice-givers would have become superfluous. A column in the Lifestyles section of today's Richmond Times-Dispatch ("What to feed a visiting vegan") illustrated that someone thinks this shouldn't be the case. A reader wrote in to ask: "A friend I haven't seen in a while is coming for a visit and is now a vegan. What should I have on hand for the visit?"

The response starts off defining veganism as a diet, offering up the following jumble of generalizations and erroneous "facts":

Some vegans also exclude honey and foods that are processed with animal products, including refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin and some wine and beer.
I guess that if a person subscribes to Vegan Outreach's school of the vilification and watering down of "veganism" that hearing that "some" vegans exclude honey (which is an animal product, which means that it is not consumed by vegans -- learn more here). As for gelatin, I'm not sure why the advice columnist lumped it in with "foods that are processed with animal products" since it is extracted from the bones, tendons, skin by boiling these animal parts (i.e. it is made of the tissue of non-human animals and, like honey, is an animal product). On the other hand, high-fructose corn syrup, which albeit of questionable nutritional merit, is actually free of animal products. The situation with refined sugar isn't as cut and dried as the advice columnists generalizes; only refined cane sugar is sometimes processed using bone char, while refined beet sugar actually isn't, and is safe for vegans.

The columnist asserts that vegans need to "properly replac[e] the nutrients found in animal-sourced foods" as if the primary source for them are animal products and as if plant-based sources are secondary or mere replacements. In discussing protein, he or she mentions commonly known sources of plant-based protein (e.g. legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains) and then meat analogs, but then goes on to perpetuate the incredibly out-dated protein myth and to list off fortified soy-based milk substitutes as good sources of calcium. No mention is made of the many non-processed plant-based sources of calcium (e.g. collards and other greens, tahini, almonds, et al.).

There's no doubt that the individual asking what to feed a vegan would have likely fared better sifting through the information available online with a click or three of a mouse. Given the quality of the response to the question, it seems that the Richmond Times-Dispatch's respondent could have benefited from a Google search or two, as well.


DumbledoresAmy said...

Out of curiosity, do you ever send these essays to the people you are posing an argument against? I think they could benefit from reading what you have to say.

M said...

Sometimes I do or will write to the editors of publications concerning really gross misinformation. I've had some of them comment back. In a few cases, where I've posted a comment in response to an article, I've had the comment removed. More often, I'm notified by folks who've read the blog post that they've contacted the original writer or the writer's publisher and occasionally, articles get removed from the publication's website.