But at last Thursday's Eat Smart Live Longer Club meeting, I was chastised by one of our members who felt that I was hurting the club or the whole food, plant-based movement (I'm not sure which) by writing that column. I want to respond to that because I seriously disagree with that, and she didn't stay with me to hear what I thought. There may be others who think like she does too, so I think it's worth responding to.
While I think the ESLL club and the wfpb movement are important for the message they deliver and the support they provide to each other, I think it's vitally more important to move the general population toward eating fewer animal products and more plant-based products. And my motives are purely selfish for wanting that:
- I want people healthier so that my medical insurance premiums can go down instead of up when insurance companies no longer have to pay for people to be on lifelong medications for diabetes, heart disease or other chronic illnesses AND for when they're not having to cover so many people being hospitalized and making frequent doctor office visits.
- I want people healthier so that my taxes can go down when the government no longer needs to spend as much on Medicare and Medicaid, or so that those programs can be extended to cover more people and for the remainder of my projected lifetime.
- I want people to go plant-based so that fewer animal farms are needed, thus ending my having to check my greens every other month to see if they've been infected by e-coli bacteria.
- I want people to go plant-based because I am empathetic toward farm animals and the horrendous conditions they live under and the atrocious nature by which they are slaughtered.
- I want people to go plant-based so that they quit consuming high quantities of meats that then result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that spreads to the rest of the population and could be a killer of any one of us (or a lot of us through a plague) someday.
- I want people to go plant-based so that I and others won't be subjected to all the devastating effects of climate change.
- I want people to go plant-based so that there will be enough clean water available for all of us in the future.
- I want people to go plant-based in order to preserve our ecosystem upon which all of our lives depend, whether we realize it or not.
It's not just good enough that I am plant-based and experiencing great health by being so. It's not just good enough that 600 some members of the Eat Smart Live Longer Club are plant-based. It's not just good enough that 8% of the population is vegetarian and 3% is vegan.
No, I think we need a cultural shift in thinking. We need for people on a wide scale to eat mostly whole, plant-based foods. Sure there are health benefits to be gained by giving up all animal products and all processed foods, and many people do that. But to over 90% of the population, there is not the desire right now to do that. I know that because they don't do that.
But what they will do is cut back on animal and processed food consumption. And any cutback is progress. If all 300 million people in the United States cut back on animal consumption by 50%, that would be the equivalent of 150 million people going 100% vegan. So, to gain the benefits of eliminating animal-based foods doesn't mean that we all have to be vegan. It's far more likely that I can get a person to cut back some percentage of their consumption on animal products than it is that I can convince them to go totally vegan. We know that because the percentage of true vegans has been stagnant since the 1940s when the movement first started.
So, I will always take a practical approach. I myself came to this way of eating by following Mark Bittman of The New York Times, who wrote the book VB6. His message was to eat vegan for all meals during the day except one. While I never ever would have considered going totally off of animal foods back then, I knew that that was something I could do. And he made a convincing case for why I should do that. If I started that way, then why should I expect anybody else to start off totally vegan?
I will always promote living a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. And if that means telling somebody that it's okay to include some animal products in it, then so be it. It's still a good thing for the animals as long as they're eating fewer animal products than before. It's good for the environment. It's good for me. And it's good for their health. I'd rather get somebody doing that than I would to lose them because I told them to jump all in and be vegan from the get go (or from any part of their whole food plant-based journey).
J Lanning Smith
Twice the Man, Half the Weight
June 23, 2019