Vegan Propaganda and Meat: Separating Fact From Fiction

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A Young Lady Eating a Salad.Many people love animals, and some of us make the ethical decision not to eat meat.

That is absolutely fine and as an animal lover, it’s definitely something I can respect.

While I personally don’t think a vegan diet is optimal, I recognize that with careful formulation it is possible to be healthy on a vegan diet.

In truth, humans around the world have demonstrated good health on a variety of different diets – the main key is the avoidance of industrial junk foods.

So, this article is not an attack on veganism—which is a personal choice—but it is a criticism of scaremongering claims and mistruths.

People often refer to this information as ‘vegan propaganda’.

Dietary Dogma is the Wrong Way Forward

Firstly, ‘dietary dogma’ works both ways.

Many people want—or need—to believe that their exact dietary choice is the best way of eating for everyone.

Some of these people are on vegan diets, others are on ketogenic/paleo diets or a wealth of other dietary systems.

The truth is that no – being a vegan does not mean you are immune to developing cardiovascular disease.

Vice versa, eating the smallest amount of carbohydrate possible doesn’t mean “cancer can’t grow”.

Both of these statements are very common in the online space, and frankly, they are both complete junk science.

Yes, a healthy well-formulated diet can help protect against various diseases, but it doesn’t make someone bulletproof.

Key Point: There is a lot of hype and mistruths around all dietary systems – not just veganism.

What is Vegan Propaganda?

Vegan Propaganda: Symbols Advising Not to Eat Pork, Beef or Chicken

Leaving our personal dietary beliefs at the door, vegan propaganda is not individuals or organizations who write about the vegan diet.

There are a lot of unhealthy food products around, and those who discuss making a vegan diet as healthy as possible are helping the many people who choose to be vegan.

All they are doing is following their beliefs and trying to help others who believe in the same things.

However, the complete criticism of any other dietary system, and large marketing campaigns to try to convince people that only veganism is healthy?

Yes, that is a kind of propaganda.

Spending large amounts of money to promote that meat, cheese and eggs cause disease?

That is blatant propaganda too.

Animal advocacy groups like People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) are responsible for such claims.

These organizations do some admirable work relating to animal cruelty, but they appear to have a political agenda rather than taking an equal, non-biased and evidence-based position on meat and nutrition.

Unfortunately, some of the claims made about cholesterol, meat and animal foods ignore the bulk of recent research.

Moving on, let’s look at some of the propaganda style claims we hear from vegans in a bit more detail.

Claim 1: Meat “Causes” Heart Disease and Cancer

Picture of lettuce holding a gun to beef - meat vs vegan diet theme.

There are various epidemiological studies showing that red meat eaters have a slightly higher rate of heart disease (1, 2).

As a result, some claim that “red meat causes heart disease”.

First of all, correlation does not equal causation and secondly, higher heart disease rates in red meat eaters isn’t entirely surprising.

One reason why is that these studies rarely ever differentiate between processed and non-processed meat.

Given that approximately 57.9% of calories in the US diet come from ultra-processed food, it’s safe to say that the majority of red meat eaters are eating their meat alongside some fries and cola.

Or perhaps in a TV dinner full of refined grains and trans fat.

So, that asks the question of which culprit is causing the problem: the meat or the junk food?

What Do Controlled Studies Show?

How about the “dangers” for those who eat unprocessed, fresh red meat alongside some vegetables?

Well, there are no studies for that.

Perhaps a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) which controls for sugar/junk food consumption?

Nope, none of those either.

However, there was a recent meta-analysis of 24 short-term RCTs investigating how red meat affects lipid levels and cardiovascular risk factors.

The findings? Red meat has a neutral impact on cardiovascular risk factors.

In fact, among the participants, cholesterol, triglycerides and the total cholesterol-HDL ratio dropped over time (3).

Is red meat harmful? That likely depends on precisely what you are eating, and the accompanying foods.

But does it clearly “cause” heart disease?

Only according to vegan propaganda.

Key Point: There are correlations between red meat eaters and heart disease. However, there are no controlled trials showing proof of harm.

Claim 2: Broccoli Has More Protein Per Calorie Than Beef

Picture of a Broccoli Stalk.

The claim that various vegetables—usually broccoli—have more protein than meat is designed to show that meat protein is not necessary.

But is this common vegan claim actually true?

Beef Skirt Steaks Per 100g (4)

  • Calories: 205
  • Protein: 26.7g

This works out to 0.13 grams of protein per calorie.

Broccoli Per 100g (5)

  • Calories: 34
  • Protein: 2.8g

Broccoli has 0.082 grams of protein per calorie.

No, Vegetables Do Not Contain More Protein Than Meat

The reasonably fatty cut of beef above contains more protein than broccoli per calorie.

Lean beef would contain a lot more protein, and a really fatty steak might contain a similar amount.

However, to get the same amount of protein as 100g of meat, you would need to eat well over 1kg of broccoli!

This is neither cost-effective nor realistic and probably unhealthy.

Lastly, a vegetable source of protein (alone) is not a complete source of protein while meat is.

Key Point: To be honest, saying vegetables contain more protein than beef is just silly.

Claim 3: Apes Don’t Eat Meat – So Humans Shouldn’t Either

Picture of a monkey Holding Some Food.

There are claims that because humans and our primate relatives are closely related, we shouldn’t eat meat.

This basically stems from the fact that apes don’t develop the same diseases as humans.

There are two interesting points on this issue;

1) Some Wild Apes DO Eat Meat

Various wild apes do eat meat, this can either be because they have a taste for it, or an opportunistic strike when feeling hungry.

You only need to search or look at Youtube (caution advised) to see how carnivorous some of these primates are.

2) Wild Chimpanzees and Gorillas Don’t Develop Atherosclerosis, But Captive Ones Do

Chimpanzees very rarely develop coronary atherosclerosis in the wild, a disease that is now an epidemic in humans.

However, it is interesting to note that heart disease is now the predominant cause of death in captive chimpanzees (6, 7).

These animals generally feed on a low cholesterol diet, full of fortified processed food, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

So, if it isn’t meat causing captive chimps to develop heart disease, what is?

Case Western Reserve University took a long look at this issue in relation to Western lowland gorillas in US zoos.

Heart disease is the biggest killer of these animals, so researchers decided to test a new dietary regime at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

As part of this, the high-sugar, high-starch and high-glycemic diet of the gorillas was replaced by a diet of beans, seeds, and greens.

The result?

The gorillas lost a lot of weight—65lbs in a year—despite their new diet being higher in calories (8).

In other words, once the gorillas came off the diet high in processed food and excessive amounts of high-sugar fruits, their health improved.

Both of these diets were vegan with one difference; one was full of processed food and the other wasn’t.

The lesson: junk foods are bad, whether they are meat-based or plant-based.

Likewise, cutting out processed food would improve the health of most humans too – no matter what their preferred diet is.

You can see a short video on this research here;

Key Point: It’s a myth that wild apes never eat meat – some do. Chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild very rarely develop atherosclerosis. However, captive animals – which eat large amounts of processed foods – frequently die of heart disease.

Claim 4 – Meat/Fat is Bad – and Vegan Products Are Healthier

A Picture of a Processed Vegan Burger.

Admittedly, this claim is not pushed by health-conscious vegans.

However, it’s easy to see vegan propaganda and marketing claims that margarine and fake “veggie burgers” (processed soy) are better for us than real butter and burgers.

Butter and burgers each only need one ingredient, which is pure butterfat and beef respectively. Both are natural foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years.

Margarine?

Well, that’s some chemical concoction of who knows how many ingredients. In general, it contains a random mix of vegetable oils, artificial colorings, flavorings, and interesterified fats – which research suggests damage the heart (9, 10, 11).

“Plant-based” doesn’t always make something healthy, and printing “made from 100% plant oils” on a tub of margarine does nothing to change that.

Soy burgers don’t get much better either, and they’re made from a highly processed combination of soy protein, flour, vegetable oil, flavorings, and gluten to stick it all together.

Whether you’re a meat eater or a vegan, real food always wins.

Key Point: Butter and beef are natural foods which our body derives vital nutrients and vitamins from. In contrast, fake vegan versions of these products are a strange blend of harmful fats, powders, and chemicals.

Scaremongering About Meat and Eggs

Picture of an egg.Different people have arguments both for and against veganism, covering ethical considerations, health and more.

But there is absolutely no evidence that vegan diets are better than other diets.

Further, there is more chance they can be harmful if not carefully formulated to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

I realize that many people who spread these vegan messages are extremely passionate about their cause and love animals.

But at the end of the day, their biggest concern/focus should be on animal cruelty.

Most people are not inhumane and care deeply about animal welfare — whether they are meat eaters or vegan.

However, scaremongering that meat and eggs will kill you because they are high in fat and cholesterol is just baseless propaganda.

The bulk of recent research absolutely refutes these claims, and repeating them, again and again, is not going to change this.

Animal Welfare is Important

Picture of a young lady feeding a lamb in a field.

The idea of an animal being slaughtered for food is never nice.

Neither is a lion catching a zebra in the African plains, or a desperate fish struggling to get away from a predator.

But the food chain is a fact of life, and many animals eat other animals.

What should not be tolerated is cruelty to animals.

Admittedly, there are big problems with the commercial meat industry and animal welfare needs improving across the board.

However, I believe there’s a much better chance of doing this if animal rights campaigners focus on the facts about animal welfare.

People care a lot more about animals than they do about misguided health claims.

More Meat Articles

Is Pork Good or Bad For You?

What Health Benefits Does Beef Have?

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K w
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K w

All you can really say from the health studies on both sides is that more research is needed. Overall, I agree that consuming small amounts of minimally processed meat and dairy is probably not harmful to our health. But there’s very little that’s actually natural about the meat most of us eat. Here’s the thing about apes. If you look at their diets, yes, many are omnivorous, but meat (invertebrates and vertebrates) makes up at most 10% of their natural diet. To them, meat is a treat, and maybe it should be to us, too. Instead, to us it’s something… Read more »

Loïc Bertrand
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Loïc Bertrand

If you think eating animals is a personnal choice, you’re forgetting someone. And yes lions eat meat but we’re not lions, we don’t need to eat meat at all to survive. Lions sometimes rape each other, it has never been an excuse for us to rape anyone. Killing animals is unnecessary so it IS “cruelty to animals”. I feel like this article is a way for you to feel very good about doing bad things. Yes, “some vegans” lie about things, yes “some apes” do eat meat. What’s the point? A vegan diet is possible, it doesn’t require animals to… Read more »

Beckett
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Beckett

Because lions are meant to eat meat, they are carnivores. We are meant to eat both plants and animals, We are omnivores, not carnivores, and not herbivores. Our body is built for eating both, our wild ancestors ate both and were in much better shape than most of us. Why compare us to apes when we could compare us to our same species thousands of years ago who ate mostly meat. An all natural balanced diet is better than an all natural vegan diet. Thats been proven, but I do think that a vegetarian diet is better than your average… Read more »

Oscar Perz
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Oscar Perz

many vegans contribute with spreading the misinformation spewed by propagandists making them complicit in the campaign to promote Veganism, so yes, they are propagandist too.

Jason
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Jason

Michael, Do you realize the RCT study you cited in the sentence below was funded by multiple animal based industries? “In fact, among the participants, cholesterol, triglycerides and the total cholesterol-HDL ratio dropped over time (3).” Funding: “During the time this manuscript was being developed and written, WWC received research support from American Egg Board–Egg Nutrition Center, Beef Checkoff, Coca-Cola Foundation, National Dairy Council, National Institutes of Health, Pork Checkoff, and USDA and had a consulting arrangement with Coca-Cola Company.” Additionally this study was based on individuals who at .5 oz of red meat a day totaling 3.5 oz a… Read more »

Joe Perkins
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Joe Perkins

The fact is, mankind is a virus on this planet. Who cares whether someone said an egg is bad for you. We’re responsible for 60% of all the planets species being wiped out since the 1970’s! Even when the UN states we need to stop beef production by 90% to try and stop the rise in temperature, what do we do? Go out for a steak dinner and say “screw you, not my problem”. Humans are not only killing ourselves, but killing all the millions of innocent living beings we share this planet with. Eating meat and dairy has never… Read more »

Steve Porkins
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Steve Porkins

“Eating meat and dairy has never been about health. It’s about money and greed.”

Complete hyperbole. Just wrong, not even worth debate. But that attitude does display why many people will never even try a vegan diet and the point of this article. Again, that statement also ignores the most recent and best research. Many keto type diets are actually very close to vegan just adding red meat and dairy.
Bottomline: If you really believe what you said, why not go on a killing spree to save the planet? Insanity lingers close by.

Margarita
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Margarita

It’s also about the taste and addiction to it!

Margarita
Guest
Margarita

Just adding red meat and dairy you said as if that could be considered vegan. That’s the least vegan thing possible to diet with.

Brad
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Brad

When it comes to the ape vs. human question, one more important point – though humans superficially resemble gorillas, there is an important anatomical distinction: as a percentage of bodyweight, a gorilla’s brain is 1/15 the size of a human’s, and an ape’s gut is much larger. The “expensive tissue hypothesis” holds that human beings were able to evolve large brains and small guts by taking advantage of the nutrient concentration that happens at the top of the food chain – in other words, by eating meat, fish, eggs, etc.

Caitlin
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Caitlin

Thank you for writing this is such a respectful manner. I tried being vegan for 6 months and despite having a very well balanced diet of beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables fruits and whole grains, and also taking b12 and iron, I was suffering from weakness, tingling in my hands, dizziness, lack of appetite. As soon as I started eating meat again I felt better. Sharing this with vegans, they just say that I was detoxing from meat and if I stayed vegan I would’ve gotten over it, or that I had symptoms of pre-diabetes and that the meat made me… Read more »

Hannah
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Hannah

That was my first reaction about the “B12”

But many vegans will counter that with cows are given B12, and that B12, is originally from bacteria, it’s in the dirt etc.

Joe Perkins
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Joe Perkins

Are you aware that due to the intensive nature of farming, cattle are often b12 deficient. The lack of cobalt in their diet which is found in the soil, means they can’t get enough to turn it into b12.
Therefore it has to be added to their diet from b12 grown in a lab!
So to say it’s not natural to supplement our own diet but then eat meat with added supplements just makes no sense.

Ben Fallstead
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Ben Fallstead

Then how do wild cows get it?

Andrew Almquist
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Andrew Almquist

Most of these arguments above are strawman fallacies (or at least soft targets) instead of actual, valid arguments made by WHO, various health organizations and researchers (that are often not vegan/vegetarian or have a vegan agenda), environmental scientists, many vegan advocates, and by a slew of medical professionals who promote eating less animal products or who support a healthy plant based diet (including Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Greger, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Klaper, Dr. Ornish, and Dr. Kahn). Also, if we are to take at a look at the present day nutritional landscape, I’d say that the vast majority of… Read more »

Craig Webb
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Craig Webb

Am I right in reading that the study of red meat consumption and it’s links to Short term RCT’s only looks at servings of 0.5/d (35 grams).

This doesn’t seem like much? Surely this amount of any nutrient would have little or no impact on someone’s health?

Hannah
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Hannah

Very sensible and balanced article, thank you.

Tyler
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Tyler

It’s easy to say to simply say bulk of studies proves this wrong, but in most cases quality over quantity is more important in these studies. If you decide to give diet advice, telling your readers that there is no correlation between animal fats/cholesterol with heart disease I highly suggest you provide the evidence. You also compare processed foods to meat and say that only one is the culprit to health problems. This is not about which is worst, it’s about eating what is healthy. Lastly your conclusion is not a valid point. You are comparing animals in nature that… Read more »

Dee
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Dee

Completely agree! This so-called animal lover isn’t doing animals any favours. I’m sick of the ‘life cycle’ argument. Do humans kill their young when they’re weak? If animals can – surely we should too! Do wild animals cage their prey and keep them as slaves? It’s unfair to compare us to animals on only the things YOU WANT to be the same. We are nothing like animals and we definitely do not need to eat animals to live. Vegans try very hard to save valuable lives. He’s spending his time typing encouraging people to keep killing unnecessarily. What is campaigning… Read more »

Jeff Jones
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Jeff Jones

Michael
I just used a fairly large chunk of this article in a private essay about eating right which I sent to my step-daughter particularly in relation to the growing popularity of the Youtube video “What the Health”… Given the possibility that she might share with others and it could come back to you I just wanted you to know. I have used your words, my own words and the words of others to support what you are saying mainly to make sure she simply eats healthy.
Jeff Jones

Sharice Bryant
Guest
Sharice Bryant

Completely agree with this. NO diet is ideal for everyone and i wish people would stop claiming veganism is the only way to go if you want to get healthy. Yes, cutting down on meat, especially red meat, brings a sense of lightness to your body and you do feel more energetic but that’s also the case if you were to eat non-meat junk food for years and changed your diet to REAL food. Thanks for this article, it will come in handy for me when I break it to my facebook that this very misinforming documentary is propaganda at… Read more »

Kenny
Guest
Kenny

You’ve articulated everything I shouted at my tv whilst watching the documentary, what the health. There’s a couple of people in the film with terrible health, using tons of medication and one can’t walk without a zimmer frame. They become vegan for 2 weeks and wow, she can walk again and they ditch their addictive painkillers and all other pills. This made me laugh pretty hard. The claim at the beginning that sugar is fine and it’s meat that causes diabetes was ridiculous. Can’t believe it was said with a straight face.

yannick
Guest
yannick

Thank you for this amazing article, i went to a few chronic pain doctors due to ligament laxity, one of them told me to quit meat, and start drinking green tea and go vegan, which i did he said that this diet would help my body to heal….. well the diet did not help at all, and after a few months of going vegan i was weak, out of breath easy, always feeling very tired, how could that be eating so healthy, i went for blood test and they found i was anemic, my testosterone level was very low, my… Read more »

Miranda Doyle
Guest

This is a very interesting article, but I must make one point: there are no tigers in Africa!

KaD
Guest
KaD

There is nothing admirable about PETA. According to their OWN records they euthanize over 90% of the animals they ‘rescue’ within 24 hours and ultimately adopt out only 1%. This is in line with their mission statement- pets are slaves, slavery is abuse, animals are better off dead. http://www.petakillsanimals.com

PETA has also been convicted of paying people to torture and abuse animals for their videos. https://topcatsroar.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/animal-welfare-v-animal-rights-skinned-alive-is-a-myth/

TeeDee
Guest
TeeDee

Great points to make if being challenged by a vegan. As you’ve demonstrated however, it’s possible to disagree about these eating styles in a calm and factual manner.

Chankey Pathak
Guest

Ah, finally a good article which I can use while debating with vegans.

Rick Van Tine
Guest
Rick Van Tine

It is all true. If you followed all the diets out there you would have to starve!