Friday, October 16, 2015

Natural vs Vegan

I meet a lot of people from all walks of life.  I meet people from rural areas, agricultural areas, city and metro areas, and urban areas.  I meet people who live industrial lives.  I meet people who live farm lives; or even better, redneck lives.  I have even met people who live a mountain man life with no formal electricity or running water.  Then I am bombarded with the diet conundrum.  Some people eat mostly meat.  Some people eat mostly processed foods.  Some people eat farm food.  Others eat just raw vegetables.  I have met people who consume only legumes, nuts and seeds.  Some people eat food I didn't even know can be considered food.  A friend was telling me about a guy she knows who's normal lunch is a bacon sandwich, pop, chips and a Hostess treat.  On the other extreme, I know many people who's lunch consists of carrots, celery, hummus, quinoa, and kale chips. 

Last night, I was giving a presentation to a handful of vegans of different varieties.  Most of them were processed food veganists.   They are the type of vegans who consume industrially-made meat/dairy-free foods.  Processed vegan foods are easy to obtain and often ready made meals wrapped in plastic.  Some meals are even processed and packaged such where you can take off the wrapper and throw into the microwave for a minute before serving.   And although there are many types of processed vegan foods with many different types of manufacturing methods, I will pick on one specific brand to focus my point on.  The point I am going to make is that veganism, in and of itself, is not the same as natural.  Certainly you can be a naturalist vegan or you can subscribe to a vegan naturalist, but subscribing to the vegan culture does not make one natural.

Here's why:
Morning Star is a subsidiary offshoot brand of Kelloggs.  Kelloggs is a large industrial agriculture company in which their agricultural practices rely on GMOs, specifically Round-Up ready crops scattered across the Mid-West.  Kelloggs also owns other offshoot brands, geared toward vegans, such as Bare Naked and Kashi, pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars annually.  None of the products Kelloggs manufactures is genuinely natural.  Here's where the divergence between vegan and healthy happens.  Processed veganism utilize these foods as sustenance, often replacing a portabella mushroom head for a synthetic burger made of mashed soy.  Manufacturing of the soy burgers starts with GMO soy which is processed, refined, dipped in hexane, pulverized, mixed with stabilizers and preservatives, and then formed into patties where it is then cooked and packaged in plastic.  Plastics, when disposed of, potentially ends up in the ecosystem where it harms wildlife.  Furthermore, some of the preservatives include: calcium propanoate (which has been shown to cause neuroinflammation in lab studies), artificial flavorings, unsalted butter (which is anti-vegan), sodium triphosphates (which production damages ecosystems), sodium hexametaphosphate, and other not so good ingredients. Yum. Then, large manufacturing plants use thousands of gallons of diesel fuel to ship their products across the united states (killing bugs and wildlife in the process). As a naturalist, I would take an organic, hand made, locally farmed portabella mushroom sandwich over a synthetically made factory hamburger any day!
But even if a person decides to convert into an organovegan, problems with that arise.  Organic or not, bugs in processed food is more common than you might think.  In fact, the FDA allows bugs (among other animal parts) to be processed in with food.  It is rather unavoidable in large manufacturing plants such as Kelloggs.  Mice, rats, grasshoppers, flies, maggots, worms, crickets, beetles, moths, caterpillars, and other creatures, as well as their feces and body parts, mix in with the plants being processed and therefore cooked within the food.  A processed vegan's meal can contain over 60 insect fragments, hair, scales, and droppings per bite of food. A naturalist is more concerned about the toxins and byproducts put in their food rather than avoiding the consumption of living organisms.
The push for veganism is still harming the environment.  Even though I receive a lot of arguments about this, the amount of pesticides and herbicides which are used taint the water supply and leach into the ground damaging the surrounding ecosystem.  What's worse, land fragmentation due to industrial farming interrupts the natural life-cycles of many animals.  For instance, the removal of grassland to plant GMO soy kills off or moves the wildlife in the local area, urging other predators, such as fox, owls, and hawks to relocate as well.  Deemed as pests, everything from coyotes to squirrels are killed off to ensure the agricultural business maintains crop quota.  One large example is the prairie dogs in the eastern part of Colorado, which are considered a huge nuisance to most farmers, are subsequently poisoned by the hundreds.  With them, the eagles, hawks, fox, coyotes, black footed ferrets, and other animals reliant on the fragile food chain disappear with them.   Then the rabbit population explodes so more poison is brought in to take care of the issue because rabbits are detrimental to farmland.  Other loosely linked animals find themselves migrating into urban areas in the search for territory and food.  Bears, mountain lions, bobcat, lynx, coyote, and fox are all winding up in cities where they normally wouldn't be because they are being pushed out of their natural habitat; thus forcing politicians to find ways of exterminating these pests.  Colorado legislature is currently working on a bill which will push to eradicate the mountain lion, which is heavily supported by hunters and farmers.  Just recently, a bill that would bring back baiting bears to hunt was brought through but thankfully didn't pass.  As industry farming grows, the worse the problem becomes and the more bills are brought through to take care of the ecological imbalance created by industry farming.  A naturalist is more concerned about holistic farming practices, ecological preservation and sustainability rather than modes of increasing crop production world-wide.
I promote and encourage a naturalist diet and lifestyle. Now I, myself, am not 100% natural.  I can't be! I live in an urban part of Denver where the growing season is half a year long and I can't leave my house nude to go pick edible flowers in the field behind the library.  If I could, I would.  On the same token, I don't wear hair products or makeup, and I wear mostly cotton or wool clothing.  I hit up the farmer's markets during the summer and the natural supermarket during the winter.  I buy meat and dairy from local farms who believe in holistic/sustainable practices.  I stay away from industrially made items and food.  Yes, I watch TV occasionally.  Yes, I cook on a gas stove.  Yes, I have a water heater in my basement which heats up my water for showering.  But I also garden every year, I recycle everything I can, I compost, I conserve energy and water, and I buy my household consumables from a responsible manufacturing company that doesn't test on animals.  
Last night, the group of vegans I spoke with held themselves higher than me because, in their mind, am an animal murderer.  The slice of cheese I put on my sandwich condemns cows to a horrific death. I invoke rage and animosity in them for my dietary habits, which one person emphasized milk drinkers should be stabbed in the face!  But none of them realized that they were as much a culprit to animal slaughter as I am.  The major difference is that a naturalist believes in helping the environment as a whole while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Most processed vegans subscribe to a philosophy of saving animals by keeping them from being slaughtered for food, even if it requires consuming synthetic food.  Most processed vegans I have met are extremely unhealthy and start having serious issues related to deficiency or toxicity problems, i.e. sodium build-up, homocysteine build-up, biotin deficiency, iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and thiamine deficiency just to name a few.  In fact, one vegan man I knew suffered from hepatic edema, pancreatitis, and gynaecomastia after being on a processed vegan diet for two decades.  Many of these health problems could be avoided if processed foods were not consumed, vegan or not.  

As I put a load of laundry in my washing machine this morning, I thought to myself, "I wonder how many of those people last night use natural, animal-safe laundry detergent to wash their clothes?"  I would be willing to bet one hundred bucks that none of them use naturally derived, animal-safe, biodegradable products in their homes.  None of them arrived on a bike.  None of them walked in nude (albeit I hope not).  All of them wore shoes, had groomed hair, and had cell phones.  Not a single one of them insisted I turn off the light because it used electricity, for these city dwellers, that would be a silly request.  Not one of them walked into the room in such a way that they didn't leave a carbon footprint or took up space in some way.  



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