Asheville experts discuss health benefits of plant-based diets

GOOD FOR YOU: Amy Lanou, chair and professor of UNC Asheville's health and wellness department, believes most or all of the foods we eat should be from plant sources. “People consuming high-carbohydrate plant-based diets tend to be about 10 percent leaner than their omnivorous counterparts,” she says. “They tend to live longer — anywhere from one to six years — and have reduced risk of a variety of cancers and heart disease." Photo by Sophie Mills

Improving health is one of the primary reasons people choose plant-based diets. For Joe Walsh, co-founder of the Asheville Vegan Society and vegan for 22 years, it wasn’t the initial rationale, but it had an impact. “I dropped about 10 pounds, and I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in. People were asking me what I was doing,” he says.

Walsh remembers clearly when he first decided to become a vegetarian. “I was 11,” he says. “I was walking down the street in Brooklyn, and my brother and I saw some animals near a door. I like animals, so I headed inside, and I saw a goat being held with a knife to his neck, and he was bleating frantically. Chickens were being thrown around roughly. The guys inside that Halal slaughterhouse told me to scram.”

He told his father that he wanted to stop eating meat, but his father replied, “You’ve got to have your protein. You can’t do that.” So at age 19, Walsh became a vegetarian. And at 29, he went vegan.

“It wasn’t as easy as it is now, but it wasn’t difficult,” Walsh says. “I gave up dairy products, eggs, cheese and cow’s milk. It took me two weeks to acclimate. ”

Walsh, whose family has a history of heart disease, says he soon saw positive results from eating plant-based. “I have more endurance as a vegan,” he says. “My blood pressure is 110/70, and my heart rate is low. … A few years ago, my brother’s cholesterol was close to 300. My cholesterol is under 150.”

VEGGIE POWER: Although Joe Walsh has experienced numerous health benefits from being on a vegan diet, he still meets people who have their doubts about eschewing animal products. “People ask me, ‘Where do you get your protein?’ I say, ‘The same place as the silver-backed gorilla gets it — plants,’" says Walsh.
VEGGIE POWER: Although Joe Walsh has experienced numerous health benefits from being on a vegan diet, he still meets people who have their doubts about eschewing animal products. “People ask me, ‘Where do you get your protein?’ I say, ‘The same place as the silver-backed gorilla gets it — plants,’” says Walsh. Photo by Audrey Keelin Walsh

He has also urged others to examine their diets more closely. “I’ve never met [a vegan] with a B12 or protein deficiency,” says Walsh. “However, I’ve known a lot of people who have had heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and erectile dysfunction, which could be remedied or prevented by a well-balanced vegan diet.”

Walsh still hears questions from doubters. “People ask me, ‘Where do you get your protein?’ I say, ‘The same place as the silver-backed gorilla gets it — plants.’”

A 2014 study by researchers at the University of Southern California found that middle-age people who ate diets rich in animal proteins were four times more likely to die of cancer than people who consume less. Meat consumers were also 74 percent more likely to die of any cause. Evidence such as this suggests that choosing a plant-based diet would lower mortality risk.

Plant-based science

Amy Lanou, chair and professor of the health and wellness department at UNC Asheville, was 16 when she became interested in nutrition. “My mom read a book called Sugar Blues, which basically said that sugar was the cause of all evil,” she remembers. “So she cleared all the sweeteners out of our house. I said, ‘I don’t know about all this.’ I went into nutrition to figure out what was right.”

Lanou decided to focus on the use of nutrition to control chronic disease risks while enrolled at the University of California at Davis. At 19, she found out that she had very high cholesterol. She went vegetarian, and her cholesterol dropped 50 points, enough to avoid medications. When she went vegan in 1996, she says, her cholesterol dropped another 50 points, plus she lost weight, and her allergies came under control.

Lanou shows her students how to make good choices in her nutrition classes. “How do you tell if a food is whole?” she asks. “If it still looks like it did originally, it’s probably whole. In a bowl of oatmeal, you still see oats, but in a bowl of Froot Loops, you have no idea what those ingredients are.”

Lanou believes most or all of the foods we eat should be from plant sources. She describes a diabetes prevention study she was involved in. “[The participants] were eating very high-carbohydrate diets and having better glycemic control in their bloodstreams than those who ate much lower carbohydrate diets,” she says.

“In Type 2 diabetes, the cells are resistant to the message from insulin. If you can change the conditions inside the cell so they recognize the glucose and take it in, then you get better control,” she says. “If you have been living with diabetes and you can reverse it, the quality of your existence will change. You won’t be afraid of losing your eyesight or your toes.”

Examples of plant foods include fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. “Find the things that you will eat and enjoy,” Lanou advises. “I love vegetables. I would prefer to get most of my calories from starchy vegetables than from grains.”

Other health benefits abound. “People consuming high-carbohydrate plant-based diets tend to be about 10 percent leaner than their omnivorous counterparts,” Lanou says. “They tend to live longer — anywhere from one to six years — and have reduced risk of a variety of cancers and heart disease. The same diet that can reverse coronary heart disease is the diet that can reduce diabetes.”

“Whole foods are the most nutritious way to eat, and ideally, the majority are plants,” says Dr. Aubri Rote. Rote is pictured on top of the Blarney Castle in Ireland.  Photo by Ginny Frederick
“Whole foods are the most nutritious way to eat, and ideally, the majority are plants,” says Dr. Aubri Rote. Rote is pictured on top of the Blarney Castle in Ireland. Photo by Ginny Frederick

The question of protein

Aubri Rote, assistant professor in the health and wellness department at UNC Asheville, doesn’t believe it’s necessary to subsist on plants alone. “Whole foods are the most nutritious way to eat, and ideally, the majority are plants,” Rote says in an email. “I agree with what motivates many individuals who follow a vegan diet. Our food system has many inhumane practices toward animals.”

However, she does express concern about vegans getting enough protein. “If you can follow this way of eating and keep it primarily whole-food while integrating enough protein, awesome. [But] there are sources for eggs and dairy that use humane, sustainable farming practices, and these can be part of a healthy diet also.”

She notes that while there are now many animal protein options available that are pasture-raised, grass-fed, hormone-free and organic, it’s crucial to know what you’re buying. “When purchasing these items, it is important for the consumer to find out what those claims actually mean and how much they are regulated,” she says.

Walsh, however, has seen the evidence in his own life of how eating a completely plant-based diet can improve one’s health. “To me, it’s easy. If I can get by in life and do well without inflicting suffering on anybody and with the added benefit of being healthy with very little effort, then it’s a no-brainer,” he says.


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72 thoughts on “Asheville experts discuss health benefits of plant-based diets

  1. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    Don’t have to kill animals to eat eggs, cheese and milk.

    • joe walsh

      hi, Snowflake… thanks for weighing in. Unfortunately, dairy cows, laying hens etc are generally slaughtered after they reach “‘hen’opause” or their milk dries up. And then there is veal … which is a by product of the dairy industry so yes animals used for dairy and eggs do get killed… 99.99% of them anyway. Also, many chicks are killed after being “sexed” at the hatchery (i.e. the male “layers” get ground up immediately) and many die in transit (in boxes shipped via UPS etc… Some have backyard chickens that they keep as pets event after they stop laying but this is the exception not the rule.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        You’re talking about industrial production. Lots of folks raise chickens and goats humanely for their eggs and milk.

        • luther blissett

          “Lots of folks raise chickens and goats humanely for their eggs and milk.”

          Most “folks” don’t.

          Drive yourself to Morganton some time and see the chicken trucks roll in.

        • Barrie Rissman

          If you’re referring to raising so-called “backyard chickens” for their eggs as humane, you’re not aware of where those hens came from in the first place — they come from egg hatcheries, the very same ones that kill the male chicks by grinding them alive in giant macerators, gassing them, or just allowing them to suffocate in garbage bins. The industry considers the males worthless garbage because they don’t lay eggs and take too much effort to raise for their flesh.

          Regarding goats, here’s another piece of factual information of which you apparently are unaware — Mammals have to be pregnant and give birth in order to produce milk. Goats are mammals; therefore, they have to be impregnated (usually once a year, same as cows) and give birth to be useful to the farmer. What happens to the babies? If they are female, they at least have a chance of being kept in the herd for their future usefulness as living, feeling milk machines to take the place of their mothers someday. But roughly 50% of those babies are male. Males don’t produce milk. Therefore, males are of no use to the farmer. If one or two males are kept for breeding purposes, that is pretty unusual these days because why pay to feed them every day, medicate them, etc., when you can rent one occasionally to do the deed or use artificial insemination? So what happens to all those male babies? Perhaps you’ve guessed now … yes, 99% are sold for slaughter!

          So the point is there is no such thing as “humane” eggs or “humane” animal milk of any kind, just as there is no good argument against veganism … not ethically or morally, and not as pertains to the environment, human health, or social justice. I wish omnivores would stop making arguments so easily refuted by facts and logic and just tell the truth — that they refuse to stop consuming flesh, dairy, and eggs because of habit, brainwashing/cultural conditioning/tradition, or they just think their fleeting palate pleasure justifies the exploitation and murder of other beings who have every right to live their full lifespans in peace.

        • brigitte wallace

          No it is not possible to have egs and cheese and milk as you think without killing the animals. Cows or goats have to have babies in order to produce milk and the male offsprings, baby veal or kids are killed because they cannot get pregnant and have milk. Watch Peaceable kingdom. Cows have pregnancies after pregnancies until they are too old and no one want s to feed a cow for 10 more years after it has become too old to be fertile. it is very expensive, so they all end up killed afterall , often dragged off when they can hardly walk.
          Also with chickens as only female can have eggs and only for so many years, so what do you think happens in hte process of elimination. The amales are discarded , usually at birth. So for every egg laying hen you get you kill one male chick.

    • tony huerta

      it is true that some dairy cows and chickens are kept after production wanes but it’s pretty rare (esp in the case of cows). nice article– there are many ways to eat healthfully but going vegan or mostly vegan is great for the planet in general (less resources used, more people can be fed, less suffering, less carbon emissions etc).

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        Not necessarily great for people, though. People in many parts of the world depend heavily upon livestock or ocean harvest. Lots of people in this country put meat in the freezer for a year by having a cow or two grazing on land that would otherwise go unused. They work a job and the cow grazes all day.

        • These are rare exceptions… Look at all the amazing progress with technology. It’s mind blowing.. Some day we will look back at farming of all animals as barbaric and antiquated.

        • brigitte wallace

          A vegan diet would be better for everyone on the planet. it is about culture and mindset as well as cruelty and violence .
          Anyone who can witness a slaughter and see the brutality as morally justifiable will be able to kill and shed human blood when he or she sees it as justified.

        • luther blissett

          “Lots of people in this country put meat in the freezer for a year”

          [NARRATOR: Very few people do this.]

    • A Great article…Respectfully when Aubri Rote says there are ‘humane’ options for eggs and dairy..That is uninformed statement..
      I always hoped this was true.. The sad fact is on ANY farm ,in order to get milk from a cow.. it has to give birth. So each cow on a dairy farm has to get pregnant, give birth, have their baby taken away (usually to the slaughterhouse for veal), milked , and repeat over and over again..until she is no longer able to produce. Then she too is headed to the slaughterhouse.
      This needs to be known to everyone thinking they are making a ‘humane’ choice.

      Another issue brought up by Aubri Rote was protein..Has anybody ever heard of anyone with a protein deficiency? I hav’nt. Kwashiorkor is the scientific name for this.. It appears in third world countries where people are severely malnourished. I’m not a scientist. All I can say is there’s a growing abundance of scientific research that debunks the whole protein concern..

  2. Cindy Hamilton

    Great article. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are not widely enough recommended. I’m not sure who wouldn’t want to avoid disease.

  3. Melissa Dalton

    I became a vegan approximately eight months ago for health reasons. I love this lifestyle. I am down 142 pounds and off meds because of my healthy eating. It took a heart attack to bring me to this point and for me, this is for me. Now the thoughts of eating a poor animal that gave his life, I can’t stand the thoughts.

  4. Speciesism, like racism, sexism, and heterosexism, is promoting morally irrelevant characteristics, such as species membership, race, sex, gender, or sexual orientation over morally relevant characteristics, such as sentience and a corresponding interest in not being harmed. (Note that one can have an interest in something without having a conceptual or linguistic understanding of that interest, such as a child’s interest in not being harmed by the terms of a contract involving his future or custody.) Speciesism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and similar prejudices are all of the same substance, just of different forms.

    Since we live in the 21st century in liberal democracies, and most of us reject things like human slavery, torture-as-punishment, and sex-based oppression that were common among our forebears and are still common in less civilized parts of the world, we can understand how and why rejecting speciesism and species-based oppression and exploitation and embracing veganism are the next logical step in justice and civilization.

    Where it is reasonable and practicable, we should avoid harming or exploiting sentient others, regardless of their species, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or any other morally irrelevant characteristic. I hope more and more people join our sane and nonviolent vegan movement.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      Speciesism is just another arbitrary “-ism” in the quiver of leftist identity politics. It’s simply the weaponizing of an abstract idea to divide people into groups, where one group (or idea) is, demonized and the other provides salvation. Accrual of political power and relevance is the agenda and goal.

      Life is so much more complex and interesting than “-isms”

      • Wrong. People divide themselves into -isms and politically motivated groups, usually because one group is greedy, selfish, oppressive, egotistical, lacking empathy, exploitive, and various combinations thereof. The oppressed group and their allies start speaking up. The oppressing group was indifferent, but now becomes angry and belligerent, throwing temoer tantrums at the idea that they need to stop being so selfish, greedy, oppressive, and so on.

        You have no argument against mine because there is no respectable argument to make.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          You’re a perfect example of how identity politics work – we good; they bad.

  5. NFB

    Ah, well it wouldn’t be Mountain Xpress if there wasn’t a weekly LTR or article giving a platform in the comments section to sanctimonious and self righteous vegans to lecture everyone else how morally superior they are to mere mortals.

    Same old, same old.

    • I would love it if articles relevant to veganism were published every week! Unfortunately, it’s not even close. But given how quiet the media is generally about the unnecessary and intentional perpetual holocaust we inflict on innocent and vulnerable animals, I’m glad MX publishes vegan-related articles occasionally.

      As for vegans, we see ourselves as doing the least we can do. Just like I wouldn’t walk up to a child and punch her in the face, I’m vegan. It’s a minimum standard, nothing noble.

      • NFB

        “intentional perpetual holocaust”


        So, a chicken sandwich = Auschwitz.


          • NFB

            So a chicken sandwich is WORSE than Auschwitz.

            Wow. Just wow!

          • NFB:

            A chicken sandwich is similar to donating the cost of the chicken to Auschwitz as a vote to keep it going.

            And since you apparently want to explore the similarities, let’s explore them.

            First, I know several Jewish vegans, and ALL of them not only accept the phrase “perpetual holocaust,” but promote it themselves. Indeed, the HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR and vegan, Isaac Bashevis Singer, who agrees with the comparison, said “In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.”

            How true. And how incredibly tragic.

            Second, did you know that the Nazis initially executed Jews with guns? When the Nazi soldiers started having understandable psychological problems shooting people all day long, the Nazis looked to slaughterhouse mass processing and car factories for an answer. Only instead of the captive bolt guns and knives that are used in slaughterhouses, the Nazis used gas, a much more humane way of unnecessary and intentional mass killing.

            Third, did you know that slaughterhouse workers routinely suffer psychological breakdowns from the daily horrors they see on the killing floor, including animals being skinned and boiled alive? Some slaughterhouse workers, like some combat veterans, commit suicide. I was friends with a former slaughterhouse worker who became a vegan and then killed himself as a result of his former work and his despair at people’s attitudes.

            Working in a slaughterhouse has psychological similarities to being in a combat zone, except you don’t need to worry about being shot yourself, or seeing your best friend shot. There are, of course, other differences, but both are psychologically damaging. Only a monstrous psychopath or sadist can work in a slaughterhouse for any substantial amount of time and not be further damaged psychologically.

            You don’t even need to see those cruel horrors to become damaged. A veterinarian in Taiwan who painlessly killed over 700 unwanted dogs over 2 years killed herself with the sodium pentobarbital used to kill the dogs, leaving a suicide note saying “all lives are equal.” I deeply understand her despair.

            Fourth, we kill 65 billion land animals annually and hundreds of billions of water animals annually (worldwide numbers, of which about one sixth are in the US). That means we kill a million more animals every single hour of every day than the entire Nazi Holocaust combined. And it’s not gas chambers; it’s extremely painful and violent, with animals thrashing around, twitching in pain, and screaming in their various ways. It’s nothing short of horrific.

            Fifth, all this horrific violence is AFTER 99.99% of these animals have lived lives of literal hell, unable to move (think of sitting in economy class in a jet for four years in your own and everyone’s waste), or, if “free range” they just remove the cages and pack them together in dark filthy sheds that reek of ammonia – still a horrifc life.

            I’d MUCH rather be born a Jew in Nazi Germany, live in a concentration camp, and killed in a gas chamber than to be born one of the 60 billion animals who live in such insufferable misery and violently slaughtered and possibly boiled or skinned alive.

            Animal agriculture is, without the remotest comparison, the worst atrocity humans have ever engaged in. To dismiss it or be flippant about it as you do is absolutely disgraceful.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            “Animal agriculture is, without the remotest comparison, the worst atrocity humans have ever engaged in.”

            This is where veganazis go off the deep end. Using slaughterhouse atrocities to proclaim that raising animals is evil. That includes domesticated pets. These people are sick.

          • Huhsure

            No, you’re sick.

            Wow, ad hominem is easy! Perhaps you should try a more thoughtful response next time.

          • True that, Huhsure.

            The term “veganazi” is breathtakingly ironic, especially in response to my comment here.

          • NFB

            ” Indeed, the HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR and vegan, Isaac Bashevis Singer, who agrees with the comparison, said “In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.””

            And indeed, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR Elie Wiesel does not:

            “I am not afraid of forgetfulness. I am afraid of banalization, of trivalization, and this is a part of it … Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor on comparisons of meat with the Holocaust.

          • I never said there weren’t speciesist Jews or Holocaust survivors. Elie Wiesel was probably one of the many people that Isaac Singer was referring to when he said “Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise, they victimize blindly and without thought.”

            As I wrote above, how true. And how tragic. I wasn’t aware that Wiesel made that comment. I’ve lost respect for him as someone who genuinely cares about empathy and justice for the innocent.

        • Sounds like you are really out of touch with where your chicken sandwich comes from….Maybe if you visited a slaughterhouse you would think differently… that’s if you have the ability for empathy.

    • Oh, and thank you for commenting. You see, every time you comment, I get to be “sanctimonious” and explain things from the exploited animals’ point of view. If anti-vegans like you didn’t comment, I wouldn’t be able to say so much! So thank YOU for giving me a greater platform than MX ever could! Big kiss on the cheek for you!

      • tony huerta

        right on, Dan! Also, what is more holier/sanctimonious than thou than taking someone’s life for a taste preference? And to respond to another comment, Snowflake. you make some interesting points about Goats and Chickens so thanks for bringing ’em up… but as someone who has rescued and kept both , I will tell you that ALL of the ones for which I took care, came from backyard chickeners who couldn’t keep up, 4H clubs, or small family farms…. Once the chickens stop laying, they usually (not always to be fair) end up on someone’s plate. With regard to goats, they all graze heavily and require a lot of land (inefficient) but some folks rent them out to clear brush. The females need to get pregnant to lactate and if ya take the milk and substitute formula for the babies to drink is that really “natural” or equitable.. Not in my my view it isn’t; Also, with so much starvation in the world, doesn’t it make more sense to feed people grain, corn, soy etc versus cycling those foods through animals and then eating the animals. It takes anywhere from 12-18lbs of plant matter to produce a pound of meat. All of the arguments to justify eating and otherwise exploiting animals leaves out the fact that they feel pain, they form bonds and they fight for life. Go vegan, and no body gets hurt :)

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          You’re speaking from a strictly theoretical point of view. Some people raise livestock because it is the best use of their land, and/or it is their income. I knew some goat farmers whose income derived from selling milk and cheese. They would not have used the land otherwise. And their goats were their pets and family so there was no abuse involved..

          • That is, of course, better than industrial animal agriculture. It’s like owning slaves without beating them hourly, and giving them weekends off. But then the slaves are slaughtered intentionally and unnecessarily. That’s wrong. The whole institution is wrong.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            I bet you probably think keeping pets is wrong too.

          • We currently kill over 2 million unwanted healthy dogs and even more cats annually in the US. As long as that’s the case, breeding dogs and cats and purchasing dogs and cats from breeders instead of adopting dogs and cats contributes directly or indirectly to killing them, and is certainly wrong,

            Millions of dogs and cats are intentionally tortured for fun. The laws deterring and preventing such behavior are weak and worthless. This is largely because of speciesism, which I discussed in another comment here.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            What a Debbie Downer. Only seeing the bad. What a miserable world yours would be.

          • What a thoughless, cold, psychopathic reply to what I wrote, snowflake. You picked a good username. Certain aspects of it describe your character: particularly, cold as ice, and evaporating into nothing in the warmth of empathy.

    • I think you have it backwards. It’s those who think they have a right to use and abuse animals for their own pleasure think they are superior/entitled. Also I always wonder why people like you are so angry at people who advocate for compassion.?

      • Hi Liz,

        Your question seems rhetorical. That is, I don’t think you were looking for a long, drawn out response from anyone. But your question has an answer that applies to all social justice movements, including animal rights and veganism.

        Some people are angry at vegans because of the psychology of oppression and related entitlement.

        Oppressor groups generally feel entitled to oppress, and are indifferent to the oppressed group, as long as the oppressed group (or a proxy for the oppressed group) is not resisting.

        The indifference felt by the oppressor group gradually turns into anger and belligerence as resistance from the oppressed group (proxy) increases. In the case of animals, we’re proxies for the animals, so the oppressor group is still indifferent toward animals, but anger and belligerence increase toward us as we resist more for animals.

        Resistance can come in various forms. Our resistance is in explanation of the animals’ plight, speciesism, empathy, duties of justice or fairness, necessity, and other reasons, facts and circumstances. This kind of resistance is primarily a threat in the form of cognitive dissonance (a nagging conscience). There are also protests, boycotts, and even riots. Resistance can go all the way to law, police and military enforcement against the oppressor, as is the case today with white supremacy neo-Nazi groups.

        The reason there are wide variations in anger toward vegans is because there are widely varying degrees of perceived entitlement and perceived resistance or threat to the status quo. Nonvegans who don’t get angry with vegans’ advocacy have either 1) a relatively low perception of entitlement (and are usually potential vegans themselves) or 2) a relatively low perception of entitlement, or some combination of 1 and 2. Conversely, nonvegans who get angry with vegans have some combination of a high perception of entitlement and high perception of resistance or threat.

        Over a long period of time, a high sense of entitlement to oppress combined with a high level of resistance (such as the law and enforcement) causes hatred, as is the case with neo-Nazis.

        • CORRECTION: In the second to last paragraph, 2) should read “2) a relatively low perception of RESISTANCE or THREAT, or some combination of 1 and 2.”

          Should have read it before posting. :-)

        • Yeah I guess I was not expecting a reply .. just want to put a light on how ridiculous it is to be so nasty and angry at vegans.. But you sure layed it out there. Thanks. I’ll cut and paste this into my ‘notes’. Thanks for having the courage to speak your truth.

          • Glad you found it helpful. I appreciate your comments as well. Speaking up for and allying with oppressed groups comes natural to me.

    • Barrie Rissman

      Funny, I can’t think of anything more sanctimonious and self-righteous, or anyone who thinks they are more morally superior, than those who believe they have the right to exploit, abuse, and murder other beings for superficial and unnecessary palate pleasure.

  6. Grace S

    I’ve been vegan 5 years and was vegetarian for 2.5 before that. I’m also appalachian and come from a long line of farmers. The fact is that animal agriculture is not sustainable or realistic for our growing population. Even if you are able to disregard the misery your dinner goes through, can you disregard the fact that industrial animal agriculture is responsible for more environmental degradation than our cars? The future is in plants.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      How is a person raising two cows that will feed that person’s family for a year causing more environmental damage than the damage caused by that person’s car? They’re not even close.

      • Grace

        For gods sake, maybe don’t let your desire to be argumentative get in the way of your reading comprehension skills. INDUSTRIAL ANIMAL AGRICULTURE is a huge cause of environmental damage and climate change.

      • luther blissett

        How is that a representation of modern American farming practices? Do you have the honesty to admit that the self-sufficient family farm barely exists in the US these days?

        Strawflake, more like.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          Get out of your urban bubble and drive around the south. People raising small herds of cows are everywhere. All it takes is some barbed wire, grass and hay in the winter.

          • Barrie Rissman

            Therefore, by your convoluted way of reasoning, Snowflake, the slaves of small plantation owners were much better treated than those of large plantation owners, their slavery and exploitation were therefore justified, and those slave owners should have been lauded for their kindness and benevolence. It’s amazing how every one of your arguments has been thoroughly refuted here, yet you keep repeating them. Brainwashing can be so difficult to overcome in favor of logic and a little independent thought. Bummer to have to deal with reality, isn’t it.

          • luther blissett

            “People raising small herds of cows are everywhere. ”

            [NARRATOR: They’re not everywhere.]

      • Jayme Deutsch

        Yes the gases that they put off is threatening our world. The cost of raising your own beef, pork, goat, sheep or deer does not save you ANY money once processing is done, and you pay to keep it cold all year. I have done that route, yes the meat is something that you know and you can be assured that it is killed humanely. Yes is does taste better then the factory meats because it dosent die in fear, fear tainted the meat . The fact is if we raise our own it’s because we want to take part in the cycle of life and death. I have an animal rescue and farm I see all to many abused, neglected and often cast off animals from wannabe homesteaders who realize that it’s more then just throwing a couple cows to pasture. Animals have feelings and need other animals, they know when one is removed/killed. Too many people think it’s ok to chain up a goat, but goats are not lawn mowers at all! They are browsers, they eat up high, and like to eat from clean places. Off my podium. Next

        • Barrie Rissman

          What? We’re justified in killing others so we can take part in the cycle of life and death? The meat tastes better if the animals don’t die in fear? And that benefits the animals how? There is no “humane” way to kill someone who doesn’t want to die. If you think there is, then I guess you wouldn’t mind someone killing your perfectly healthy young dog, or a member of your human family, or even someone doing that to you? After all, by your way of thinking it’s “humane.” And you run an animal sanctuary? Did I read your comment wrong, or do we have some cognitive dissonance here?

          • Jayme Deutsch

            Ok so I do believe that there are gentler, kinder ways to kill. Maybe that has made me feel better about my past actions. We all live in some sort of Fantasy . Do you not believe in the science the plants also have feelings? We talk with them and they respond, they reproduce and we end the cycle? True. Death is a part of life why fear it? It all part of our next journey.

          • Barrie Rissman

            There is no reply button on your comment about your residence in Fantasyland, Jayme, so I will respond here. I thought we might get through just one discussion about veganism without the sudden emergence of a carnist compelled to become a plant rights activist and zucchini communicator in defense of their greed, self-entitlement, and unnecessarily cruel lifestyle. The latter refers to the fact that millions of vegans, including those interviewed for the article and those of us commenting here, have lived with health and vitality, some nfor decades, without killing anyone. Again I reiterate there is NO “humane” way to kill someoe who doesn’t want to die, and in fact it is despicable to exploit and murder innocent, vulnerable, defenseless beings.

            How nice for carnists who choose to live in that fantasy where they can completely ignore facts, reality, and even basic logic. First, let me dispel your apparent belief that plants have brains and central nervous systems that allow them to feel pain. Plants do not possess brains or nervous systems, and to assume on the basis of no credible evidence whatsoever that plants are sentient beings and that “psycho-botany” is a legitimate science is just foolish. If you believe that plants are sentient, do you see no difference between cutting into a cabbage and cutting the throat of a piglet, or a dog? Only a psychopath would see it that way.

            Second, to even attempt to make the argument that plants are sentient beings only ultimately weakens your own argument. This has to do with the sheer quantity of plants needed to produce meat. Producing a single pound of beef, for example, requires sixteen pounds of grain. One pound of pork requires six pounds of grain and for every sixteen ounces of edible chicken flesh that is produced, at least five pounds of innocent plants must lose their lives. Therefore, carnists eat more poor murdered plants in a year than any vegan eats in a lifetime. Shame on you for causing such large-scale plant suffering!

            In the United States alone, fifty-six million acres of arable land are dedicated to growing hay for livestock production, whereas only four million acres are used to grow fruits and vegetables for people. Thirty percent of the Earth’s land surface, which is equivalent to seventy percent of all agricultural land on the planet, is devoted to growing crops for and raising farm animals. And according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the amount of grain fed to livestock in the U.S. alone could feed about 840 million people, roughly eleven times the number of people who die of starvation every year. So not only are carnists causing the suffering and murder of all those plants, and all those animals, but also are directly responsible for world hunger and death from starvation.

            This post does not even address how much more water is needed to raise animals for food than to grow plants for food. The difference is staggering, and vegans have opted out of contributing to the growing global problem of lack of drinking water for people, particularly in third world countries, but alarmingly soon to spread further around the world, even here in the U.S. , as long as people support animal agriculture and breeding/raising animals for their flesh, eggs, and milk. Sorry to inject some facts and logic into the fantasy where carnists are not doing any harm, but we can no longer afford such unconscious selfishness.

          • Barrie Rissman

            Oh, please excuse me for neglecting to address this very bewildering comment of yours in my longer reply. I refer to “Death is a part of life why fear it?” The relevance of that remark to the subject matter escapes me. You do, of course, get to make that statement in regard to your own life and death. However, you are NOT ENTITLED to apply that belief to the murder/death of anyone else, human or animal, whose life you feel ENTITLED to take because it somehow pleases you to do so. It has nothing to do with “fear.” It has to do with morality, basic decency, and compassion.

        • There is no science supporting the claim that plants are sentient, conscious, or feel anything.

          Some plants respond to their environment, such as when sunflowers face the sun or a venus flytrap closes. But these are mechanical responses caused by chemical reactions that are several orders of magnitude too slow to possibly generate consciousness.

          Plants respond to stimuli in a similar way to how your stomach responds to food. Your stomach has no consciousness itself as a stomach (apart from your elaborate neurological attachment to it).

          Plants, like rocks and dirt, have absolutely no sense or experience of their own existence or what happens to them.

          The borderline case is spiders and insects, which do NOT have pain receptors, but do have an experience of existence. I give them the benefit of the doubt and avoid harming them when it’s reasonable to, but consider them in a completely different category from the animals we typically exploit (chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, fishes, etc) who do have pain receptors and a very full and rich experience of their own personal existence and wellbeing.

    • Barrie Rissman

      Not sure exactly what you mean by that pithy comment, but if you’re suggesting that vegans can’t or don’t get enough protein, you’re wrong. Unfortunately, most of us have been brought up to believe the myth that only animal products contain adequate protein and that we need them to be healthy. Some of us have bothered to find out that nothing is farther from the truth. (Indeed, eating animal protein has been implicated in lethal diseases from kidney failure to heart disease to diabetes, but that’s too much to go into here.) All food contains protein, and the myth of vegans needing to practice food combining to obtain so-called “complete protein” was debunked long ago. Protein deficiency simply doesn’t exist except in cases of severe malnourishment mostly in Third World countries. As long as we eat enough food, we get more than enough protein. If not, I’d be dead by now. I’ve been vegan for nearly 41 years, my annual blood work is perfect, I’ve completely avoided the family curses of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes … and I eat delicious, healthy, cruelty-free food every day that reflects my values of kindness, compassion, and social justice. No one has to be abused, exploited, tortured, or killed for us to be gloriously healthy.

      Thank you, Mountain Xpress, for publishing this informative article.

  7. Lorrie H

    Great article, Mountain Xpress! Thank you, Joe Walsh for sharing your story. My favorite part of being vegan is that what’s on my plate reflects my values. It’s that simple.

  8. Cassy

    Loved this article, informative, and interesting! Thank you for sharing your story!

  9. Amber

    Great article with the exception of Dr. Aubri Rote’s concern about vegans getting enough protein. As long as one is eating a variety of foods from each of the food groups – something everyone, not just vegans, should be doing – it is easy to reach the AMDR for protein; 10-35% of total calories. Her ill-placed concern just perpetuates the idea that a diet absent of all animal products is inferior. The fact is a diet that is absent animal products and contains minimally processed foods, prevents and can even treat or reverse our most prevalent chronic diseases. It should be everyone’s diet by default, regardless of how you feel about animals.

  10. Deborah

    Important article–good info, interesting, relatable and nonjudgmental. At this point in time there has been ample research to conclude that a plant-based diet results in a decrease in disease, which I think is a very powerful rationale for deciding to invest in making the change. The more info out there to help people understand the health benefits & how to begin, the more people will jump on board; people do what is best for them. I’d love to see an ongoing segment in this magazine of various individual stories about how their life/health were changed by changing their diet.

    20 years ago I was diagnosed with a blood disorder which my father had and died from in his early 50’s. My mother has also survived 2 different cancers, and there’s a history of autoimmune disorders–Lupus, Arthritis & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome– in the family as well). I won’t go into anymore detail, but let’s just say that at the moment of my diagnosis, and a grim prognosis by the docs–(because they were honest to say they knew little about my condition)–my sister sent me a book by Dr. Andrew Weil, “8 Weeks to Optimum Health” (remember that book?) Well, I followed that book, gutted my whole kitchen because everything I ate was filled with hydrogenated oils, preservatives, artificial colors, etc.–bad stuff. I also immediately gave up red meat, although had the occasional fish and chicken. (It wasn’t easy at the time, since I was living and working on an Indian Reservation in a small town in Maine; there was a tiny, expensive ‘health food store.’) I’d always been thin and physically active, but never really thought about the food I ate, other than the fact that I was aware that if I happened to see the eyes of a whole fish laid out behind a deli counter, I lost my appetite for that fish for a month. Lots of trial and error and a long learning curve; it really isn’t that easy, until you begin the journey to see what works for you, to learn which foods give you ample protein so you’ll stay healthy and not have the urge to ‘fall off the wagon.’ I haven’t had chicken or fish in years, and I’m nearly 100% vegan. So, I think while talking with people it’s important to acknowledge that it’s a totally different way to think, be nonjudgmental, and tell them it’s ok not to be perfect, and to do what they are able, on their timeline.

    Thanks to my older sister, resident walking encyclopedia on the topic, I learned that I’m allergic and sensitive to many foods and chemicals. One being preservatives such as sulfates, sulfites, nitrates & nitrites–(which are present in processed meats, for i.e. Goodbye salami! Try explaining that to your Italian relatives up in NY!) What that meant for me is that it was changing my blood chemistry to toxic levels–(what most likely killed my father).

    In summary, I’m aware that there’s a whole other side to this issue which I haven’t commented on, which I know is a passionate hot-button for some–and rightfully so. That is, of course, the issue of the cruelty to animals–which is the only reason one really needs to turn vegan right this minute, should they choose to. Info, though, not judgement. I believe people are basically good, and do the best they can in life. Shaming them will make them defensive and turn them (and their ears) off; education is key. A magazine such as this could do a lot toward that end, like this article.

  11. Paula Blanch

    Great discussion! Pity those folk who still believe the torture, enslavement and murder of animals is their right. Every argument used by these folk is almost word for word the same used by slave traders and slave owners. WAKE UP! Just ecause you don’t physically slaughter these animals yourself, does not mitigate your role in this vile industry……oh and before you start, don’t tell me how much farmers love and care for their animals.

  12. Paula Blanch

    Oh yeah…it just occurred to me that if you genuinely believe animals are slaughtered humanely ( contradiction in terms don’t you think?) then why not take your kids to see the cute little lambs, moo cows and piggies actually experience that ” humane slaughter”? If you have no appetite for that experience, you know full well that what happens to these innocent, intelligent sentient beings!

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