Throughout my entire life I’ve been an avid meat eater. My diet has always, even to this day, consisted of red meat, chicken, pork, vegetables, grains, and all the other good stuff in the food pyramid; but meat especially has almost always been included in every meal. It’s definitely a cultural thing in addition to the fact that I just genuinely enjoy it, too. My family and I are from Ukraine, and most of the dishes, like Kapusniak, a soup with pork, cabbage, and sour cream, include some sort of meat.
When I got to high school, one of my best friend’s told me that she was a vegan as soon as we met. I couldn’t fathom the idea of not only eating lettuce and apples all day (which she later told me was an inaccurate stereotype), but also not being able to enjoy any sort of animal products in general, like honey or gelatin. Often times I asked my 4’9, 92 pound friend if it was really worth it and if she was getting all the nutrition that she needed, and she seemed to think so. She loved the fact that she was helping animals and living a “healthier lifestyle”, but to be completely honest, I wasn’t buying it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe in being healthy by eating nutritious foods and exercising daily. I would probably benefit by cutting out some of the meat that I consume, too, but to completely get rid of something that’s been proven by science to be good for you, if eaten in moderation, sounds completely crazy to me.
One of the biggest problems of being a vegan is not getting the proper nutrients that a person needs to live a healthy lifestyle. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, vitamin B-12 deficiency is extremely prevalent in vegetarians, including 62% of pregnant women, between 25% and almost 86% of children, and 11% to 90% among the elderly (PubMed.gov). And this is just for vegetarians! We could expect the percentages to be much higher for vegans since they have an even smaller window of foods that they can consume. This information is important because B-12, known as the energy vitamin, helps the body with circulation, formation of red blood cells, and mental clarity and memory function. A B-12 deficiency can lead to mental fogginess, memory troubles, muscle weakness, and fatigue (Mercola).
What’s even worse is that theres only seven vegan foods that have B-12, and four of them only count if they’re fortified with it. Vegans also tend to lack Vitamin D, Protein, and Zinc, all of which are mainly found in meat. The dearth of zinc, for example, can cause growth and developmental problems, hair loss, and diarrhea (Mayo Clinic). I found an interesting article that you can read here that describes many of the risks that have to do with a vegan diet. Although technically eating more leafy greens IS good for you, don’t these other health risks make the losses outweigh the benefits?
Another argument that I never fully agreed with is the fact that vegans are saving animals by avoiding consuming animal products. Out of 318.9 million people in the United States, only 7.3 million are vegans and only an additional 22.8 million follow a planet-based diet, according to the Vegetarian Times. This means that 288.8 million people, or roughly 90% of the population, consumes meat. Whatever animal it was that the vegan didn’t eat undoubtedly went to another meat eater in the country, meaning that no animals were saved by their efforts. And what about aquatic animals such as frogs and fish that die in the pesticide runoff from growing fruits and vegetables on farms? After reading this article, I was extremely shocked to find out that about 90% of the United States’ rivers are contaminated by pesticides and 80% of fish are affected by it. Vegans can stop eating meat, but they can’t change something as great of a factor as that.
What’s even more bothersome about veganism is that it’s been the “cool” and “trendy” thing to follow nowadays. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Chicago are among the top ten cities with a growing population of people going vegan, even though there are a plethora of health risks associated with the transition. I think it’s strange that such a great number of people care so much about posting a picture of their acai bowl on Instagram from the popular new vegan cafe, because not only is it overpriced but often times it’s also not tasty. Speaking from personal experience, I hope I can go back home to Brooklyn during Thanksgiving break and this craze blows over. I definitely miss eating pizza and wings with my non-vegan friends, especially at two in the morning when you’re craving them the most.