What happens when a prominent vegan defects and becomes an ardent omnivore? Death threats, of course.
After years of living as a self-professed “vegangelical,” Natasha, a well-known vegan blogger at Voracious, ended up with debilitating health problems. Her doctor urged her to incorporate animal products back into her diet. For six months, she refused. Her symptoms worsened. Finally, she began eating meat. That was her first sin. Then she did something even worse. She wrote about it.
“Eating meat everyday turned out to be incredibly easy because it was exactly what I had needed all along.”
Natasha's very long, painfully honest post covers a lot of soul-searching: her personal struggle to live an ethical and sustainable life, the supposedly progressive politics of veganism actually masking a very regressive ideology that essentially says “we can shop our way out of the problem,” the way veganism keeps people (read: women) obsessed with perfecting their bodies, the subtle (or not so subtle) racism that dismisses the eating habits of indigenous cultures and says, “Your way of eating for thousands of years is wrong.” Mostly, though, it's a personal account of Natasha's reckoning with meat.
“I wanted veganism to work. I wanted desperately for it to be right, for my ethics to outweigh my physiology.”
Natasha received a flood of support but also a ton of “you must be doing veganism wrong” feedback and suggestions to eat more tofu/nuts/spirulina/whatever. She even received threats, which, if nothing else, belie the stereotype of vegans as sickly, peace-loving hippies. (On a side note, vegan bloggers seem to hit a level of hypocrisy matched only by right-wing evangelical preachers. Natasha recounts exchanges with several other well-known “vegan” bloggers who admitted they “weren't really vegan 'behind the scenes'. They ate eggs, or the occasional fish, or piece of meat, all to keep themselves healthy, but were too scared to admit to it on their blogs.”)
I like her post because it highlights much of what repels me about veganism. The self-righteousness. The impracticality. The unsustainability. The denial of corporeal desire. The way veganism is automatically conflated with health. The way its counterpart, meat-eating, is automatically conflated with a diet heavy in sugar, carbs and processed foods (because, let's face it, that's what it usually means in America). The way veganism has become a knee-jerk lifestyle choice for a certain set of privileged hipsters.
Rather than a moment of schadenfreude, however, Natasha's story and the response to it highlights something more fundamental — and more disturbing: How the discussion over food has become so polarized. How no choice about what we put into our mouths can go uncriticized. And how, in the long run, that will prevent us from creating any meaningful, widespread improvement in all of our eating habits.