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Meatless Schools, Organic Food, B12 and the Difficulty of Being Vegan

Every Friday I post the most interesting vegan news articles and blogs I’ve read. This week in vegan news …

1. L.A. schools go meatless on Mondays, Florida goes meatless in March

In November Los Angeles became the latest city to officially endorse Meatless Mondays, encouraging people to go meat-free at least one day a week. L.A. public schools are turning that idea into action. The second largest school district in the U.S. will only serve vegetarian food on Mondays. That’s a good thing wrote Carla Hall in the LA Times:

Introducing kids of all ages to a variety of vegetarian meals helps them–hopefully–expand their sense of choices when it comes to getting protein and heightens their awareness of animal welfare.

No Meat March, hosted by The Girls Gone Green and based out of Jacksonville, Florida, is entering its third year. Julie Watkins, President of the group explains, “We just want you to use the 31 days of going meat-free as a way to explore your body and health. Try giving your body a break from foods high in fat and cholesterol to see if you like the way it makes you feel.”

2. Buy Organic? Chances are you’re still eating plastic chemicals

farmers_market_produceEating organic means avoiding all those pesky chemicals, right? Things like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates have been linked to health problems like asthma, diabetes, kidney disease and more. The chemicals have even been banned from baby bottles and kids toys, respectively. “But avoiding them is very difficult, since they’re widely used in plastics, and are ubiquitous in the food supply,” wrote Tom Philpott at Mother Jones.

The Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology conducted a test to see if there were any common sense tips they could give to help people avoid these chemicals. The surprise? The test group eating catered, fresh, organic ingredients without any contact with plastic saw their levels of these chemicals increase.

“The lesson is that you can try to reduce exposure, but there are unknown sources of phthalates that could be very large lurking in the food chain,” said Kim Harley, associate director for health effects at University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health.

Philpott concluded, “These results add to a weight of evidence that should push the FDA to take action on the role of plastic conditioners in food processing and packaging.”

3. Everything you need to know about B12

pill_closeupOver at VeganHealth.org, Jack Norris rounded up “every relevant study on vegans and vitamin B12 published since 1980.” It’s essentially everything you’ll ever need to know about B12.

“While many vegans do not supplement with B12 and remain apparently healthy for many years, they normally do not know what their homocysteine levels are, which could eventually contribute to stroke or dementia,” wrote Norris.

He also pondered a question many vegans ask–if we admit that vegans need to get vitamin B12 through fortified foods or supplements, are we saying that a vegan diet is unnatural? He quoted Tom Billings, who did an extensive review of the research on whether humans are frugivores/vegetarians or omnivores/faunivores and concluded humans are not naturally vegan or vegetarian.

You really don’t need the naturalness claim to be a vegan! That is, moral/spiritual reasons alone are adequate to justify following a vegan diet (assuming the diet works for you, of course). Further, if the motivation for your diet is moral and/or spiritual, then you will want the basis of your diet to be honest as well as compassionate. In that case, ditching the false myths of naturalness presents no problems; indeed, ditching false myths means that you are ditching a burden.
-Tom Billings

4. Vegan lawsuits and “one of the most challenging ways of life”?

supreme_court_of_united_statesThere’s an ongoing lawsuit involving a vegan who was fired from an Ohio hospital for refusing to get a flu shot (which contains animal products). Sherry F. Colb looks at the pending case and concludes that veganism should qualify as a religion. The only questions will be if  “granting Ms. Chenzira an exemption from the flu shot would endanger the patients in the defendant hospital” and determining if firing her over “ethical reasons seem arbitrary and unjustified” since the hospital exempts certain employees for other reasons already.

Vegans do have it rough, but is it really “one of the most challenging diets and ways of life there is out there”? R&B singer Ne-Yo seems to think so. He decided to go vegan for at least 30 days. So far he’s proud he hasn’t killed “someone for a hamburger.” And then this story popped up, “Living like a vegan requires hard work.” Alec Regimbald, a high school senior, tried going vegan for six months for a school project.

Even with the added health perks he documented, Regimbald ended the project saying, “I would not recommend such an extreme diet. Being vegan is costly and time-consuming, and the hindrance of not being able to eat what you want when you want is often frustrating.”

All these articles lead me to wonder, do you fellow vegans really find it that difficult?

10 Comments

  1. Great post! In regard to the those who say a vegan diet is too much of a challenge, I believe it’s because they’re not doing for the right reasons. If a high school student is only doing it for a school project, is his heart even in it? It’s hard to succeed at anything when there’s a part of you that doesn’t really want to do it. (And I love what Tom Billings had to say)!

    • Yeah. I’ve thought it’s fairly easy. There is plenty of vegan crap to eat if I want. I’ve wondered about B12 since went vegan so I loved reading what Billings had to say too.

  2. The only time that I’ve found it difficult has been while on a road trip. You often have to go much further or eat something you’re not in the mood for in order to have a meal. I mean I can only do subway or a salad so many times.

  3. Fascinating stuff. You’re really finding a niche here.

    • These articles are quite fun to write. They take a lot of time, but I get to read a ton of interesting articles (most of which I don’t even include).

  4. You always give us such great stuff, Jeff! I take a B-complex supplement with my multi-vitamin as a matter of course. No big deal. And I’m with the others who piped up here about the “challenges” of vegan life. If you’re “dying for a hamburger,” then you’ve missed the point. Even when I eat out with my family (who still try to make me eat Kentucky Fried Chicken), I can almost always find a baked potato, a side order of steamed vegetables to dump in it, and a side salad.

    Oh, and BTW, “Chloe’s Kitchen” is a wonderful cookbook. The recipes are so simple, I can even do them!

    • And black bean burgers are delicious. I’m going to eat one for dinner tonight with a big ol’ side of fries. Mmmm. Being vegan is sooo hard.

  5. I don’t find being vegan difficult, but admit it’s partly because I live in a very vegan friendly city, so I can find food-often excellent food- just about anywhere.

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