As a veteran observer of the “hardline” animal rights and vegan punk rock movement of the late 1980s, I witnessed my share of human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of radical vegetarianism by animal rights activists. I saw many proponents of confrontation, name-calling, and physical food-fighting “grow up” to become pork-loving, face-greasing, barbecuing hypocrites who chalked up their previous hardline stances to youthful ignorance. I personally grew weary of their simplistic arguments, and eventually discounted the potential benefits of life without steak, factory farms, animal pollution and second-hand antibiotics. Thus, I sympathize with Mr. Henry Sarria in his frustration with vegetarian activists who care much about one-sided propaganda, but little about the dietary customs and needs of average Americans in modern society (“Let Me Eat My Steak in Peace, You Militant Vegetarians,” Daily Nexus, April 9).
I would, however, like to address one glaring mistake in his argument. Mr. Sarria claims that switching to a vegetarian diet gave him physical problems, such as perceived immune system deficiencies. It seems to me that his reactions were similar to those of chemotherapy patients, first-time exercisers and newly sober persons.
Anyone who makes a radical, sudden change in diet – or in any other aspect of their physical lifestyle – may feel the radical results of such changes on a physical level. This is especially true when the change in question is one that instantly jettisons the intense hormonal and chemical components that are present in a contemporary American meat diet. Meat products are packed with additives that are designed to make animals fat and disease-free up until the point of slaughter. Such additives are passed on to the consumer, and have become part of our “regular” body makeup. I am neither a doctor nor a scientist, and cannot accurately predict what part these chemicals play in our physical constitution. However, I imagine that they affect us in significant ways.
Many people who live vegetarian live longer and have more energy, mental alacrity, and sex drive – and kill no other living beings in the process. It has been statistically proven that diets low in meat – and its incorporated chemicals – and rich in grains, fruits, vegetables, and soy promote physical and mental health and well-being. Of course, there are plenty of fat, healthy, happy persons who eat nothing but meat, bread and other scant side dishes, and flourish. As a relativist and an omnivore, I do not wish to advocate any particular diet or lifestyle. I simply hope that Mr. Sarria’s reports of a negative experience with a sudden, radical dietary shift do not cause anyone to shy away from the powerful positive possibilities of healthy, cheap and cruelty-free vegetarian or vegan eating habits.
Bo Bell is a graduate student in music and media art and technology.