Kathy Rudy in Translation

A few times a year, I’ll quote an anti-vegan at length, and offer responses to the points that are being raised. Today’s the day for another go-’round. Kathy Rudy, an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Duke, thinks vegans are misguided.  And she’s distilled her new book on the subject into an article that’s loaded with humdingers.

My reservations about veganism are personal, politically motivated, animal-centered, and ecological.

I think being vegan is bad for animals and the environment. Let’s please not talk about greenhouse gases or slaughterhouses, or I’m going to look very silly.

While, in my opinion, it’s really not that hard to shift to vegetarianism, I think it is really hard to be a vegan. I tried once for about a year, didn’t know what I was doing, ate a lot of processed vegan foods, and developed insulin dependent diabetes. It was not animal products that brought on my diabetes—it was the soy ice cream, the potato chips, and the many frozen vegan meals that were made with corn, soy, and sugar.

I ate like an idiot, and I’m blaming veganism for my health problems instead of the crappy food I shoveled into my mouth. I am an academic who couldn’t be bothered to read a book covering vegan nutrition before embarking on a major change of diet.

I have since learned that there are better ways to be vegan, but it takes a lot of nutritional education and a lot of money to do it right.

I’ve grown even more confused about veganism since my failed attempt.

Vegan doctors tell us no one needs animal protein, but I just don’t think that is true, at least for me. It cannot be disputed that bodies are different; some of us need a lot of sex, or exercise, or quiet time, or whatever, while others need much less of any of these. When you are inside your body, these things feel as if they are non-negotiable. That’s how I think about dairy and eggs, and sometimes even meat.

I don’t understand that animal and plant proteins contain the exact same amino acids, albeit in different proportions that are easy enough to accomodate for if you eat a reasonable variety of foods.

Most plant-based proteins—like tofu and legumes—eventually turn into glucose, while animal products are digested differently and do not.

Just for fun, I’m trying to provoke anyone with a nutrition background into having a seizure.

I worry that people who become vegans think that they are doing enough to make the world a better place for animals. First off, there are so many things available to us to today that contain unnamed animal products.

I don’t realize that it’s meat, milk, eggs, and leather that fund nearly all of animal agribusiness—even if you consume or come into contact with slaughterhouse byproducts, these substances deliver virtually no revenue to the meat industry.

We cannot escape the enmeshment our human lives have with animal bodies. Becoming vegan may be, for some, a step in the right direction for ending this abuse. But it is only a small step; there are many fronts on which the battle for animal advocacy must be fought.

I’m going to avoid the single step I could take to prevent as much animal slaughter and suffering as possible, on the grounds that choosing a vegan diet doesn’t help laboratory animals and unwanted cats and dogs.

Finally, I worry that [Ellen Degeneres’] vegan-only agenda will be alienating to lots of people.

Ellen and her wife decided to go vegan, and they tell people it’s worked out well for them. This amounts to a “vegan-only agenda” that will alienate the masses.

Buying meat, eggs, and dairy from local farms where animals have long, happy, and natural lives on pasture is animal centered, I believe, even if we kill them for their meat eventually.

By “eventually” I mean they’re slaughtered the moment they reach market weight or their egg or milk yields dip. And I have the gall to call this treatment “animal centered.”

Humans and farm animals have spent 10,000 years building a symbiotic relationship that, I believe, is good for them, and good for us. They get to spend days walking in sunshine, eating good food, mating, loving their young, enjoying the beautiful earth. We give them the chance to have this life, we pay for the land and the grass and the water, and eventually we get to eat their eggs, milk, cheese, and meat. It’s not a bad deal for either side.

I’ve just explained a dynamic where one party cutting another’s throat is “not a bad deal for either side.” I’ll additionally make no attempt to quantify the percentage of American farmed animals who get to walk in sunshine or love their young.

There has never been a healthy ecosystem on this planet that did not include animals, and growing plants without animals means a farmer needs to import chemical fertilizers (which are almost always petroleum based and few of which contain more than six elements.)

I know nothing about veganic gardening, nor do I understand that the weight of animal manure makes it inefficient to transport any distance for use as fertilizer.

If you’d like to become as confused as I am about food politics, diet, and animal use, please buy my new book, Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy. (Thanks, Loren.) Link.