Sunday, December 6, 2009

Is veganism a natural human diet?

In short, no.

When you cannot get all your basic nutritional requirements without a supplement manufactured in a lab, then your diet is not nutritionally complete. The only natural source of Vitamin B12 is meat, dairy, and eggs (unless your vegetables are contaminated with human feces). B12 deficiency causes tiredness, a decreased mental work capacity, weakened concentration and memory, and irritability and depression. If allowed to progress, it causes anemia and nervous system degeneration, resulting in numbness, tingling, impaired sense of smell, loss of appetite, disturbed coordination, and eventually ataxia, or a general loss of muscle coordination and balance. All of this is irreversible.


Lest you accuse me of bias, all of these sources are from vegan/veggie website, with the exception of the Wiki article on the detailed effects of B12 deficiency.

Also, almost all B12 in supplements is derived from genetically modified bacteria, for those of you who care about GMO's.


Of course, you can still make the choice to be vegan if you are okay with eating processed foods with a GMO supplement. I don't doubt that many people think that not "exploiting" animals is worth this small price. It is an ethical choice that we are able to make. But suggesting that humans can do without animal any animal products in the diet or that we are naturally vegan is a blatant falsehood. Naturally-speaking, we are without a doubt omnivores.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

My entry into the Great Debate

I am speaking here of what seems to remain the most polarizing and divisive issue in American politics: abortion. Here’s the basic rundown as to why pro-choice is the way to be.

I have a giant sign in my car’s back window that I got at an FMLA event. Of all the pro-choice signs, slogans and bumper stickers I have seen, I think it is my favorite. It reads simply, “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal”. At issue here first and foremost is safety. Women seek abortions for all kinds of reasons, most of which are less a matter of choice and more a matter of necessity. There is the oft-given example of a victim of rape or incest, and threats to the life and health of the mother, examples that even hardline anti-choicers have a hard time arguing with, at least not without making themselves look like complete douchebags. But there are also issues of abuse at the hands of fathers and husbands, financial difficulties, emotional problems, a lack of time and/or resources to care for a child, a lack of readiness or constitution to deal with the emotional and physical trauma of a pregnancy and birth… whatever their reason, many women don’t see it as a choice at all, but a dire necessity. Hence, it doesn’t matter whether you approve, whether you think it’s justified, whether you think it should be allowed; come hell of high water, she’s going to make it happen, as this recent global study indicated. Illegality has no affect on abortion rates. And if abortion is not safe and legal, this means they are going to do something risky. An illegal abortion is a risky abortion. This is about saving women’s lives.

Call me crazy, but yes, I do value the actual, already realized, fully functioning life of a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human than I do an embryo with the potential to become a fully-fledged person.

Now, I can understand the position that an embryo or a fetus is a growing seedling of human life that a person could feel very strongly about terminating. I really do see where that feeling that “abortion is murder” comes from, even if I don’t agree with it. But there are fundamental differences between “murdering” a developing fetus and murdering a human, differences that I think any rational person can recognize. First of all, one must consider the suffering (of lack thereof) of those around the "murdered" individual (and I realize that one could take issue with my calling a fetus/embryo/zygote an individual, as well as my scare quotes, but I am going to do it here for the sake of my argument). No one has formed any kind of relationship with the fetus. To love a person you must know them and no one knows the fetus. No one has had any interaction with it at all, save the mother, and it’s her decision. No one’s going to be crying about their loss, thinking about all the wonderful times they had together. No one’s world is going to be shattered or turned upside down like the loss of a loved one can do. If anyone’s upset, it’s over what might have been, which is a different matter entirely.

There is also the difference between pain and suffering. This is the same reason that I think it is okay to kill and eat a happy, healthy, properly raised chicken but I think it’s horrible to kill and eat a chicken raised in the typical, dirty, overcrowded, cruel conditions of your typical commercial chicken farm, regardless of how organic their feed was. The quick instant of pain at death (and this is assuming proper slaughter methods, not the ones typically employed by commercial slaughterhouses, but I digress) is nothing compared to the 8 weeks of inhumane conditions the birds must suffer through before they reach slaughter weight. Pain is quick and passing – not that big of a deal, really. Suffering is not quick and passing. Suffering is long-lasting and not just physical. It is also, depending on the species you are talking about, varying degrees of mental and emotional. It is the far greater ethical evil here. How does this relate to abortion? In short, an fetus, embryo, or zygote, unlike an adult woman, is incapable of suffering. I’m not going to get into at what point during a pregnancy it can feel pain because quite frankly, I don’t care. We know a woman forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will is suffering, a fact far outweighs any momentary pain that that which she is carrying may or may not feel.

Which brings me to my second primary reason for ultimately coming down hard on the side of pro-choice; a woman forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will is suffering. If we consider waterboarding and stress positions to be torture (and I do) than surely the nausea, the backaches, the discomfort, the emotional swings, and finally, the extremely painful process of having a screaming baby rip its way out of your vagina, forever altering your body and putting you at risk for all sorts of deadly complications that can strike at any birth, surely all this, when forced upon someone against their will, is torture as well. I can’t imagine that being forced upon me… it seems barbaric.

All this leads myself and others to believe that many abortion opponents actually want the woman to be forced to suffer, all for the crime of having sex that they don’t approve of. And that is wrong.

Of course there are myriad other reasons why I am pro-choice… there’s the whole patronizing idea that a woman, with her doctor’s input, can’t make her own decisions about the most intimate of issues, the unsettling fact that the same people who oppose abortion rights also oppose proper sex ed, the aura of privilege that often frames the debate on the anti-choice side… but these I feel are overshadowed by the importance of a) saving women’s lives and b) the immorality of forcing physical and emotional suffering upon a woman. And those are ideas that anyone can get behind. Right?


Wisdom from ages past

My wife just found this poem from 1598:

This idol which you term virginity
Is neither essence subject to the eye,
No, nor to any one exterior sense,
Nor hath it any place of residence,
Nor is’t of earth or mould celestial,
Or capable of any form at all.
Of that which hath no being, do not boast;
Things that are not at all, are never lost.

-Cristopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander