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Military Humanists

My Choice to be vegan

[created Nov 2000]

Before I start, don't take my word for it.  
See what the Physician's Council for Responsible Medicine has to say.
Also, check out VegSource for free veg starter kits and tons of good information. And I can't recommend Peter Singer enough.

I recently met a Vegan and was reminded that it is very possible to avoid meat or meat products. I was also reminded of several other things, below.  Understand first, though, that I am not supplying a lot of support for the argument, I leave that to the capable URL's above. Also, all of these arguments are in comparisons are eating meat vs. not eating meat.  One can obviously survive eating meat, it's just better not too, and the less meat you eat the better.  But my rationale, in short is as follows:

Step I:  Eating meat is bad.

1. Eating meat is bad for me.  Meat causes heart disease and cancer, and is unhealthy in many other ways, so one would want to avoid that purely on the issue of personal health.  

2. Eating meat is bad for the animals.  Because I have a heart and a reasonable amount of empathy and respect for all life, I have no wish to kill anything if at all possible.  I have no desire whatsoever to be culpable in any way for the torture and heartless butchery that goes on to produce the meat that people eat every day.

3. Eating meat is bad for the environment.  The meat industry both pollutes and consumes our natural resources at an alarming rate.

Step II:  I can stop.

1. I like the taste of meat in many foods.  I like the taste of meat products in many foods. I will not justify the torture and murder of animals because meat tastes good.  Reminded of those things, the flavor is sour at best.

2. I am accustomed to eating meat and meat products in every meal every day, including snacks.  Restaurants put these products in nearly every item on the menu.  Friends and family don't think to monitor the content of food especially for a minority.  In a diet without meat it is easier to be malnourished if one does not pay close attention. I date and, having been on the other end, it's often uncomfortable when one person has to work around the vegetarian habits of another.  Not only will I not ignore those tragedies listed above purely for my own convenience, I would be happy to suffer a significant degree of discomfort to prevent them.

3. Eliminating any amount meat from one's diet is difficult, and increases significantly with every kind of meat and meat-product eliminated from one's diet. It requires an uncommon knowledge of nutrition, cooking, and the local markets and restaurants to avoid meat. It may even seem an impossible task. The support is available, and green organizations and individuals are happy to teach the ability and habits. I often tell myself, "do it right or not at all," but in this case any step towards veganism is a positive step and only serves to help me to the next step. For this, regardless of any hardship or impediment, I expect the journey to be self-sustaining and eminently fulfilling.

Step III: Stop.

On 25 June 00 I had my first Vegan meal. I am not by any means consistent in my new lifestyle yet, nor do I expect to be for a while. Unfortunately, I don't ever expect to be fully successful while I am in the military. However, I will do my best. I've got a lot of studying to do and a lot of willpower to exert in the process. Hopefully I can keep it up.

1.  It's a month later, and I'm doing well.  I've eaten meat, but I have none in my house.  I'm currently a 'social meat-eater.'  That's not to say I eat meat every time I go out, but I'm guilty of indiscretions.  On the other hand, the change has been easier than I expected.  I really have no desire to eat meat.  I just happen to find myself in the situation when out with friends.  Then, sometimes, depending on the menu, I have some. 

One may argue about the nutrition of a Vegan diet, but there are side-effects that are unquestionably positive.  I never eat fast food.  It's all (supposedly) meat.  Also, I never have candy bars or sweets.  It's all got milk in the chocolate.  So, one may argue that a diet without meat or meat products isn't really better, but no one can say that a diet excluding sweets and fast food is not infinitely improved.

Also, I worried about getting protein.  I expected to eat nuts and beans to compensate.  But, surprisingly, I'm more worried about getting too much.  Soy milk has protein, so I get plenty just with cereal and through milk.  What about calcium?  I get plenty through OJ with calcium (Tropicana not Minute Made -- they use Cow Milk Lactate).  So that's no problem at all.  Other than that, what else am I missing?

The best part of all this is just feeling good, and not just physically.  Every time I check a label for meat, or tell someone about veganism (AFTER they ask), I feel like I'm making humanity more humane.

2.  Add another few weeks.  I've gotten a couple good ideas as I try to live without meat.  I've decided that the military should remove meat and meat products from its MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, look it up).  This sounds like a daunting task, but it's more of a challenge to the Vegan community.  The meals would have to look and taste like meat and they would have to be cheaper and still be durable and have a long shelf life, among other things that I don't even know.  But the bottom line is if a vegan diet really can replace a meat diet, this is a good way to prove it.  The payback would be vegan promotional commercials and ads saying, "The army functions without meat, so can you."  Say goodbye to the emaciated vegetarian diet.

I also learned a couple other interesting facts.  Related to the above, NASA astronauts have vegan diets.  Meat has a higher probability of spoilage or carrying disease.  That's bad for obvious reasons.  Also, excessive protein leeches calcium from bones, and bone deficiency is already a problem in the weightlessness of space.  It is much easier to control the protein flow with a meatless diet.  So, if NASA does it, maybe the military can too.  Another interesting fact is cow milk commercials.  Remember the slogan "Milk, It does a body good?"  Now we have "Got Milk."  I thought the other one went away just because of normal ad rotation.  Maybe they thought it was stale.  Actually, the truth is, the milk industry was sued.  Milk doesn't do a body good, so the old saying was false advertising.  At least a court saw it that way.  Hmmm.

3.  I'm at about two months now.  I just finished my first field exercise as a vegan.  The army does offer vegetarian meals, but they all have cheese.  I make concessions in my diet to serve my country, and I'm ok with that.  It was pretty obvious though, so I ended up having a several conversations about the subject.  I think I dispelled a few myths.  I also found a few facts I'm not so sure about.  Does cholesterol have any nutritional value?  Does the body digest protein from meat better than protein from nuts or beans?  Is milk Calcium better digested than calcium supplements?  I researched the answers through a variety of sources on the web, and also from dietition.com.

Cholesterol is bad.  The liver produces enough cholesterol for the body.  Any more cholesterol is too much.  Cholesterol is only found in meat products.  No meat / dairy = No cholesterol = No heart disease (or a significantly lowered possibility).

All types of protein are found in vegetable products.  It is a myth that one needs "meat protein."  all the essential amino acids are available in a diverse vegetable.  Also, soybeans have complete proteins of the highest quality.  Excess protein converts quickly to fat, and may stress the liver.

Vegetable products have significantly less fat content than meet products.  Excluding some nuts and seeds, vegetables have very low fat content.

And, of course, eating no meat or meat products will exclude most fast food and candy bars.  Imagine for a minute you eat no fast food or chocolate and imagine how healthy you would be.

4.  Four months now.  I just finished a quick run around the veg sites I know in response to an article at notmilk.com that said magnesium is necessary for calcium absorption.  I didn't see any support for that, so I'm still skeptical (yes I don't just believe everything I read).  To recap, I recommend the Physician's Council for Responsible Medicine and VegSource.  You'll notice I gave them top billing as well.

I did learn a few more things while making my rounds.  The reason protein leeches calcium from bones is because calcium forms bases that counteract the amino acids in protein to maintain pH levels in the body.  Also, Vitamin B12 consumption is a legitimate problem for vegans because it is almost nonexistent in vegetable products.  On the other hand, it is a relatively simple matter to find fortified cereals or vitamins that have the nutrient.  Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts Label or the ingredient list to ensure you are receiving the active form of vitamin B12, called cobalamin or cyanocobalamin.

5.  Well, now it's closer to 6 months.  I'm lost in the schitzel and cheese wasteland of Germany.  I was at a German restaurant the other day that had a picture on the menu of a crying pig with 2 forks stuck in its back.  It was tragic (-ally funny, but tragic nonetheless).  With little support and overwhelming cultural hurdles, I've pretty much stopped even trying to avoid cheese when I'm eating out, but I'm still staying 'clean' in the house.  Hopefully I'll find some better restaurants as I spend more time here.

6.  Now about 8 months.  I've noticed Mad Cow Disease is a huge problem.  I've been sure to remind everyone there's a simple way to avoid getting the disease.  I've noticed that this epidemic has not carried with it the same admonitions as AIDS did when it was considered to be confined to the gay community.  No one has yet come forward to say God has inflicted a curse upon all carnivores.

2003.  I'm vegetarian.  I live in Germany and I'm still a no-cookin' bachelor, so the vegan thing hasn't worked out.  I do drink soy milk, so that's one thing I implemented.  Everything else is on hold.  That doesn't make it ok.  All I'm saying is I'm not perfect.  This is well over 2 years and I'm not looking back.  Meat may smell/look good every once in a while, but I won't pick it up because how could I answer for that?  Is it important enough to kill the cow, No.

2010. Still vegetarian. It's been years, with some rough patches on the way. During Army deployment to Iraq, I had to eat some meat because I was sick already. It was really a matter of life and death. Since then, I've had some rough patches, and 2009 was particularly bad. Peter Singer is always good to remind me of my obligations (if any) to other species.

speaking of other obligations, I still eat dairy and eggs. Dairy cows and egg hens are caged their whole lives and that kind of cruelty is not something I want to be a part of. I am though. I travel. I don't cook. I don't have a lot of vegan friends. So I eat dairy and eggs. I'm not ok with it, but one of these days, I'll do the right thing. Maybe when I have a job with less travel, I can spend more time cooking to ensure I get the proper nutrition.

The real thing about this is that there is meat I don't eat that likely has less cruelty than the dairy and eggs that I do eat, like mussels or scallops. They're almost like meat plants. They've got no real capacity for suffering. Maybe... I haven't thought it through altogether, but it's definitely an inconsistency at least with one way I eat...

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