Vegan Propaganda and Meat: Separating Fact From Fiction

A Young Lady Eating a Salad.

Many people love animals, and some of us make the ethical decision not to eat meat or other animal foods.

That is absolutely fine and as someone who cares about animal welfare, it’s definitely something I can respect.

While I personally don’t think a vegan diet is optimal for me, 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 tends to be a dietary pattern based around whole foods (rather than ultra-processed 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.

Unfortunately, such claims are quite common, and people may refer to them 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 disease, and nor does following any other diet.

Sadly, these kinds of statements are very common in the online space, and frankly, they are junk science.

Yes, a well-formulated dietary pattern may potentially 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. Providing the information is accurate, they are doing a great job.

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 can be healthy?

Yes, that is a kind of propaganda.

Spending large amounts of money to promote the message that animal foods cause disease, using cherry-picked and one-sided studies?

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 often responsible for such claims.

These organizations may 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.

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” Disease

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

There are various epidemiological studies showing that high intakes of red meat lead to a slightly higher rate of heart disease (1, 2).

As a result, some promote claims that “red meat causes heart disease” in any amounts.

First of all, correlation does not equal proof of causation. Secondly, higher heart disease rates in red meat eaters may be a genuine concern, or it may be influenced by other factors – such as unhealthy habits and dietary patterns.

One reason why is that these studies rarely differentiate between meat that is part of a processed food meal and meat as part of a home-cooked meal. Given that approximately 57.9% of calories in the US diet come from ultra-processed food, it’s safe to say that a fair proportion of red meat is eaten alongside some fries and cola.

But what about the “dangers” for those who eat a portion or two of unprocessed, fresh meat alongside a plate of vegetables each week?

Well, there are no studies that can account for this in a completely accurate way.

What Does Research Show?

Researchers do try to account for confounding variables such as ‘diet quality’ as best as they can.

For example, food frequency questionnaires used in observational studies will typically calculate how much fruit/vegetables, sodium, red meat (etc) each individual eats as a marker of diet quality.

Further, quite a number of studies on high intakes of red meat have found that it was associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. You can read more about that here.

On the other hand, a recent meta-analysis of 24 short-term RCTs investigated how red meat affects lipid levels and cardiovascular risk factors.

The findings? Red meat had a neutral impact on cardiovascular risk factors, and consuming more than 0.5 serving on average per day versus no red meat or lower amounts had little effect.

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

Could consuming large amounts of red meat on a daily basis have different results from this? Of course, but this just shows that, as a blanket claim, saying “red meat causes disease” is misleading.

Can red meat be harmful? That likely depends on precisely what an individual is eating, how much, the accompanying foods, and all this will then be influenced by the overall dietary pattern, individual factors, and more.

But does meat clearly “cause” disease in any amounts?

Only according to vegan propaganda.

Key Point: There are correlations between higher red meat intake and heart disease. However, strong claims that meat “causes” heart disease are unwarranted in the absence of clear evidence.

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 protein from meat 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 (and a lot more per gram).

Lean beef would contain a lot more protein per calorie, 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 not so great for the gut.

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 diet full of fortified processed food, alongside 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-glycemic and highly-processed 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, 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: excessive amounts of ultra-processed foods are best avoided, 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 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 is easy to see vegan propaganda and marketing claims that “plant-based meat substitutes” are better for us than real meat.

It is also interesting that many of these claims focus on the saturated fat content of (fatty) meat because many substitute products are also high in a source of saturated fat called palm oil.

The main point here: “plant-based” doesn’t always make something healthy, and printing “made from 100% plants” on the packaging does nothing to change that.

Many plant-based meat substitutes offer vegans and vegetarians a meat-like experience, which many will appreciate. However, they are not always the healthiest choices. Whole plant foods, such as lentils, beans, and products like tofu and tempeh, tend to be better options.

Whether you’re a meat eater or a vegan, whole foods usually win.

Key Point: Whether a food is animal-based or plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean it is “good” or “bad” for health.

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 well-planned vegan diets are better than well-planned omnivorous 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. However, scaremongering that meat and eggs will kill you and cause harm in any amounts is just baseless propaganda.

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 never 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?

Beef: Nutrition Facts, Benefits, and Downsides

Photo of author

Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.

84 thoughts on “Vegan Propaganda and Meat: Separating Fact From Fiction”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    PETA has also been convicted of paying people to torture and abuse animals for their videos.

  3. 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 thyroid hormones too…….. vegan diet are healthy.

    Yes there is such a thing as propaganda, in both diets low carb and vegan, i have been involved in fitness for close to 30 years started training with weight at 13 am now 45 i did low carb back in the 90, the weight loss is there but they won’t tell you about lack of energy brain fog fatigue and much more that comes with this. Keto diet is even worst.

    I have since then added whey protein, and beef isolated protein to my training, i eat very lean red meat chicken and eggs, i got my blood checked at my age everything is fine so much for cholesterol and more.

    Another strong point is that these studies are never done with people who are very active, they never take into consideration about alcohol, smoking, drug use and more and yes process meat, and obesity.

    I train everyday so my body uses cholesterol to produce testosterone, i burn pretty much all the carb (sugar i eat) i switch to intermittent fasting and high rep training 25-35reps per set and sometimes hit 100reps. I feel energized i feel a lot better then when i was on a strict vegan diet or a keto diet.

    I eat carbs good carbs because they are important for fiber, quinoa black rice, sweet potatoes veggies and more. They supply the body with the energy it needs to train and so much more.

    Limiting carbs to much and your body will look weak muscles look awful without glycogen. This is what i learned so far from all that propaganda and i am glad someone wrote an article on this. I really hope more and more people will start reading articles like this and stop the whole confusion about those one diet fit all.

    • Hi Yannick,

      Thanks for the in-depth comment!

      There sure is a lot of propaganda about every type of diet – and what is right for one person isn’t always a one-size-fits-all choice. If the way you’re eating is working for you and you’re healthy and happy, then stick with it.

      With low carb diets, those brain fog and fatigue symptoms are very common in the first stages but they do subside over time (especially if someone is aware of them and how to minimize them before starting the diet).

      All of those diets – keto, low carb, vegan can be healthy if well formulated but they are not the right fit (based on either health or ethics) for everyone.

  4. 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.

    • Hi Kenny,

      I know what you mean! I watched that documentary too, and they seem to be blaming everything that’s wrong with the modern diet purely on animal foods.

      Fatty meat may not be so great in the context of high amounts of processed carbs and sugar – I can agree with that. But it’s those ultra-processed factory foods that cause the problems.

      In fact, if we look at people eating low carb diets, they are actually reversing their diabetes. The documentary is too biased and unbalanced.

      • They should stick to the cruelty argument and not just make stuff up. Also the meat industry in the UK and Europe is nothing like the US. They make out the whole world feed the live stock grains and keep them indoors etc. I live next to w dairy farm and the cows are out all day eating the grass and getting loads of sunlight.

        • Agree 100%.

          I can understand and emphasize with people concerned about the treatment of animals, but distorting science to make false health claims isn’t the best way to go about it.

  5. 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 its finest.

    • Hi Sharice,

      By the “very misinforming documentary” I can only assume you’re talking about ‘What the Health’!

      I fully agree that no single diet is right for everyone – and veganism is something which requires careful planning to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

  6. 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

    • Hi Jeff,

      Sure – that’s no problem. Is your step-daughter a vegan?

      I too saw the “What the Health” documentary… actually, I have no problem with the vegan diet or people who support it – but it should be an informed decision rather than one based on scaremongering.

  7. 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 must hunt to survive. Whereas to animals bred in the billions through the cruel, inhumane practices of animal husbandry, so that humans can walk into a store and choose to eat products from an unethical source. Lastly I would say in general mortality of almost totally vegan diets like the Okinawan’s, or completely vegan like the 7th Day Adventist have the lowest mortality rates.

    • Hi Tyler,

      I can see this topic is important to you – I do understand your ethical concerns. Although I’m not a vegan myself, I know a lot needs to be done about animal welfare and factory farming is guilty of some terrible cruelty.

      Separating ethics and nutrition though, you are definitely right that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to studies. Do we have anything that proves red meat causes heart disease? Not really – only epidemiology which has so many potential confounders. If we look at randomized and controlled trials, of which there are only a few brief studies, then red meat consumption appears to have zero impact on CVD risk markers

      Should any article promoting veganism warn that vegan diets cause serious depression? That’s a sweeping statement, and I don’t think they should – but it’s the same thing. There is a correlation between vegan diets and mental health / depression.

      Is that because of vegan foods specifically, or is it because of poorly devised diets? Since many vegans live in good health, I’d say it’s the latter.

      I think that most diets can either be healthy or unhealthy depending on how they’re formulated, and there’s no one-size fits all diet.


        Here is one published study where one man is assocoating four reasons that animal fats and cholesterol are likely not just correlation. Comparing it to mental health is a sweeping statement, as their is no way to measure the relationship. They can with plaque build up in studies, and there are some by dr greger or esseltstein (I can’t remember the name for sure an am in a rush), where he reverses heart disease with a plant based diet.
        The ethics side of the debate will go over your head, and it did mine many times. We have hardened our hearts to cruelty that isn’t necessary. That’s just the way it is, and if I could change that I would.

        • The “no way to measure the relationship” is also true of meat consumption though. It’s only epidemiological data, and “meat” could be a dinner at home with vegetables and a cup of tea, or it could be a cheeseburger at McDonald’s with fries and cola.

          With the cholesterol hypothesis: atherosclerosis is easily produced experimentally in herbivores (monkeys, rabbits) by giving them diets containing large quantities of cholesterol (egg yolks) or saturated fat (animal fat). This point isn’t in contention, and it’s well-known that feeding herbivores with cholesterol causes problems.

          With humans though? Even the dietary guidelines finally took back their cholesterol warnings in 2015, with “cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern for overconsumption”:

          The study reversing heart disease with a plant-based diet is promising, although it was only small scale. This trial was actually by Ornish (unless there is another I’ve missed) – it was a whole lifestyle intervention rather than only diet though, and involved dietary change, smoking cessation, a tailored exercise program, and sleep guidelines. I think they tried to replicate the results from only diet several times but so far without success. I suppose this makes sense though, since our health is very much based on our overall lifestyle rather than only diet or exercise/sleep.

          Anyway, I agree that vegan diets can be healthy – certainly a lot better than the standard American diet.

          I also agree with much of the ethics side of the argument, particularly in regard to confined animals.

          I think the marketing spends to try to convince people that “eggs are worse than smoking 5 cigarettes” etc are very ill-informed (or disingenuous) though.

          • Sorry but what you want is better conditions for the Animals.. If you give them a nicer life then it is even WORSE if you then take their life as they have an even greater vested interest in living. They form bonds with other Animals in those situations (Like in nice green pastures) and it is even more distressing when one is taken away from “The family”.. Just like we would be if somebody came along and took a family member from us.

            It’s better to just leave them the hell alone. What right do we have to breed them into existence to put them through this? This isn’t natural, people didn’t pick up packets of meat off shelves and swipe a credit card 1000s of years ago.

          • I can’t really argue against anything you said, Stacey. You are right, and no animals want to lose their life/be eaten – whether by humans or other animals.

            At the same time though, I’m sure the animals that humans hunted 1000s of years ago felt the exact same way, and over those thousands of years we evolved to be omnivores.

          • Animals in the wild hunt usually going for the weakest in the herd. Probably humans back 1000 years ago did the same thing. Hence the saying, survival of the fittest. The mass breeding and slaughtering of animals these days is revolting. Yes, I eat meat occasionally but mostly vegetarian. Like eggs, butter, full cream milk but try and stay away from processed foods. Not doing too bad for 73 and on no medications at all. My mind set is that I have ‘no time to be sick’ got too much living to do.

          • That’s probably the most important thing for anyone, no matter what their diet is – avoiding ultra-processed foods as much as possible. I agree with your opinions on factory farming. Well done on your health!

          • I honestly don’t care about what little Peter rabbit thinks, because we don’t know. All you people can do is anthropomorphize animals and think that they think and feel like people, which you can’t prove or even begin to support.

      • Michael,

        Excellent artIcle.

        I however seen a link on a forum. This vegan gave it claiming that the data ‘debunking dietary cholesterol’ was weak being that it was based on ‘population studies’ and not clinical.

        Furthermore she provided these 2 links (claiming to confirm that dietary cholesterol raised cholesterol)
        ” Conclusions— There is a positive linear relation between LDL cholesterol and annual changes in plaque size, with an LDL value of 75 mg/dL predicting, on average, no plaque progression. HDL cholesterol shows an inverse relation with annual changes in plaque size
        ” CONCLUSIONS:
        These data indicate that moderate lifelong reduction in the plasma level of LDL cholesterol is associated with a substantial reduction in the incidence of coronary events, even in populations with a high prevalence of non-lipid-related cardiovascular risk factors.

        Have you seen this?

        The overall arguments was “virtually no vegans have CVD.. meat eaters do, so.. and that’s why you should join vegan”

        • Thanks Hannah.

          Here is a (2018) systematic review of intervention trials in human subjects:

          Conclusion: “Overall, recent intervention studies with eggs demonstrate that the additional dietary cholesterol does not negatively affect serum lipids, and in some cases, appears to improve lipoprotein particle profiles and HDL functionality.”

          Also, the biggest cause of death in vegans (as well as non-vegans) is cardiovascular disease:

          Vegans/vegetarians do have a lower (-24%) risk of heart disease according to this study, but I would say that is the healthy user bias in play (most vegans are more health-conscious than the average person).

          • Michael,

            Healthy user bias is a great point and makes total sense. Thanks.

            In regards to the 2 studies did that make sense to you? I’m no expert in interpreting those sorts of studies and I thought the argument for dietary cholesterol was long debunked. Doesn’t appear to directly state that ‘dietary cholesterol’ is the main risk factor in those studies.

            Also, is it true that ‘population studies’ hold no weight? If so, why bother? Makes no sense why so many experts, would be addressing the cholesterol myth, if they held no weight. Not sure what to trust now when I read articles citing these references.

          • No, you are right – those studies didn’t state dietary cholesterol as being the main risk factor.

            Even the US dietary guidelines no longer view cholesterol as a nutrient of concern.

            Population studies have limitations but they are still worthwhile. While we cannot establish cause and effect from observations, we can use them to create hypotheses which we can then test.

          • Michael,

            All makes sense. Thank-you.

            I’m curious if you favor a specific diet as general or ideal.

            My family and I are more on the slender side, so that’s why I didn’t want to go vegan as well. It wasn’t until all these crazy scare tactics with meat that I became thrown off a bit.

            I read studies on “hyper- responders” to cholesterol, needing to be concerned. When these individuals go paleo, their cholesterol skyrockets, as well, so it made me wonder if we are perhaps safer at the least “limiting” our intake of animal products, or should judge solely by ourwealth/weight.
            There’s a lot of divided opinions out there.

            But my thoughts have always been cut down on the sugar, and eat as many nutrient dense foods the best you can (while actually enjoying your foods)

            (Meanwhile more ‘farmer joes’ than we know eat the opposite. Eggs, bacon, sausage, buttered toast, ice creams, etc. and remain fairly lean, and, active well into thier 70’s and even 80’s)

            I never understood the vegan logic. Avoid such a ‘nutrient dense’ food. A vegan diet says it can replace meat (outside of B12) but funny how it’s such a struggle, and course those retention rates tell us this. An ideal diet shouldn’t be such a struggle.

          • I don’t think a specific diet is ideal for everybody; we all have different needs/beliefs, and some of us do better on different foods.

            As you say, there are a lot of different opinions on cholesterol – and not all of them will be correct! To be safe, it is wise to do a medical check if using a particular diet for a specific health reason.

    • 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 for better animal welfares going to do? This was done in the 90s before the bigger vegan movement. Nothing happened. The public care. The council don’t.

      • This article wasn’t about encouraging anyone to “keep killing” – and I cannot influence such things.

        It was about confusing welfare messages with health messages. When the majority of people see claims that “an egg is worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes” they just disregard it – how can that help animal welfare?

        Yet campaigns on caged hens is working – this is a terribly cruel practice and it’s hopefully one that will be ending in the near future. The majority of people care about this kind of thing, and campaigns which focus on welfare rather than health are much more likely to work.

        It’s unrealistic to expect everyone in the world to become vegan – so why not focus on the welfare side rather than unscientific claims?

  8. 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?

    • Hi Craig,

      You have it slightly mixed up, but I understand your thought process – the study abstract’s wording is a little confusing.

      Let me try to explain; basically, the researchers were examining 24 randomized trials and pooled all the participants into two categories. First were the individuals who eat minimal levels of beef (control group: 0-35g per day) and second were the people who eat more (intervention group: 35g + per day).

      Like you said, 35g is not much at all, so they were seeing if people eating more than that amount had adverse changes to their health markers.

      From the full paper: “The total red meat servings per day in the control and intervention groups were 0 servings/d (range: 0–30 g/d) and 2 servings/d (mean: 140 g/d; range: 68–500 g), respectively.”

      In other words, there were no differences in cardiovascular risk markers between people eating between 0-35g beef per day, and those eating between 68g-500g (average: 140g) beef per day.

      Conclusion: These results are generalizable across a variety of populations, dietary patterns, and types of red meat. These results are inconsistent with much of the observational evidence related to red meat consumption and CVD, which prompts the need for future research to reconcile the apparent disconnect between RCT and observation-based conclusions.

  9. 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 “propaganda” (and lobbying) is coming from the meat, dairy, egg, corn, sugar, and wheat industries and by the slew of mouthpieces selling various “diets” and eating habits that continually justify unhealthy, unsustainable, and/or unethical eating habits…and not from the approximately ONE percent of the population that is currently choosing a vegan diet (for various reasons).

    • If we look at systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials, they are neutral/positive about animal foods. So, on health terms, those actual clinical trials are the best things we have to go by.

      Of course, all industries do lobbying – whether about meat, sugar, or anything else. However, meat and dairy lobbyists don’t put billboards up saying bread is like smoking 5 cigarettes (apparently that is how damaging one egg is, despite that being total pseudoscience.) This kind of stuff is silly, fear-mongering, and it ignores the latest science.

      As for those doctors, they are well-known for their advocacy of veganism, and I’m sure they do a lot of great work for their vegan followers, but we can’t pretend they are impartial (I’ve certainly never seen them mention any of the positive studies on animal foods). But if we are talking about health professionals advocating a particular diet for health, then a vast amount more promote omnivory.

      Normal individuals choosing a vegan diet due to ethical concerns? Sure, I can respect that.

      As for the environmental thing, factory-farming is definitely a big problem – both for the environment and for animal welfare.

  10. 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 feel better because it’s slower to digest. I have very little sugar and thats what has helped my health most, as well as eating lots of vegetables, whole grains and some fruits and meat. I grew up going to my aunt and uncles farm where the cows lived happily eating as much as they want on hay fields and in the forest. They are slaughtered with a bolt gun, they have no pain/less than being torn up by wild animals or suffering from disease… Trying to explain this to them feels pointless, but I find it harmful that not many experts are offering rebuttals for the claims, because vegans feel they are saving the world and animals, but it’s simply hurting businesses and people’s health. I don’t know how you can think it’s natural to be on a diet that you have to have b12 made in a lab.

    • Thanks, Caitlin.

      I 100% agree with you. A diet that relies on supplementation to avoid becoming sick can’t be what we are naturally supposed to eat.

      I think that your experience must be quite common, and I remember seeing some statistics lately that suggested 84% of vegans/vegetarians eventually go back to eating meat. I’m sure that many vegans are following the diet for ethical reasons, which is understandable. But it is hard to debate health and nutrition with those who have more of an ideological view, so that is probably why you noticed many people refraining from getting into such discussions.

    • 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.

        • Michael, Wow ok. Do you have any future information on that?

          Do you know if there is any data to support this?

          “95% of all meat is grain fed not grass fed. All through out our history we have been consuming adequate levels of b12 from water and dirty food. Only recently have we even been able to consume enough meat to reach B12 levels”

          • I would like to see evidence of that (I don’t think it exists).

            Visit any museum anywhere around the world, and you’ll see that in our history virtually every culture created hunting tools. We have relied on meat for a great deal of nutrients throughout our history.

          • Wrong. IN no way does our anatomy compare to a carnivore OR an omnivore. You really need to do more research . Statements like humans have been eating meat throughout our history is ridiculous. Diets are species specific. We were not designed to eat meat. Period. Do some research on the obvious.

    • 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.

      • Hi Joe,

        I’m aware of that, but there is also some misinformation surrounding those claims too.

        Cattle that are intensively fed a non-natural diet (like in the factory farms) will require supplementation. I think we can agree these farms are not good for the animals.

        Cattle raised on pasture generally will not.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 been about health. It’s about money and greed.

    And we have come too far to be able to say it’s just part of the food chain. Driving to the supermarket to buy a piece of bacon covered in plastic is not basic animal instinct. Nor is paying someone to breed a pig only to lower it deep underground into a gas chamber. To have their eyes and skin burn from the volume of gas used before they die, to satisfy my taste buds. That is not survival of the fittest. That is evolution gone too far!

    • The environment: factory-farming and intensive farming can have an impact on the environment, but it pales in comparison to things like energy, transportation, and industry in general. Animals raised in their natural environment – on pasture – contribute very little.

      Killing animals: This is never a nice thing to contemplate, but there are very few genuine herbivore species in the world. It is also important to note that intensive crop farming causes a huge amount of animal suffering too. What are these crops used for? Mainly a) Feeding us b) Producing oils for veg oils/industry and c) Feeding animals at factory farms.

      There’s a really well put together article here on reducing animal suffering via crop practices:

      Gas-stunning: I think this is cruel and dislike that some places use it.

    • “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.

  13. 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 week. Who eats only less than an ounce of red meat per sitting? This study is clearly designed with an agenda to make red meat seem as if it is not harmful to health. Anything with saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, trans fat, heterocyclic amines, animal proteins, advanced glycation endpoints, etc is bad for humans. Do you want me to provide some studies to prove to you dietary cholesterol and saturated fat promote atherosclerosis through raising LDL cholesterol?

    • Hi Jason,

      You have misinterpreted the study;

      1) It wasn’t an RCT – it was a meta-analysis (review) of 24 different RCTs and analyzed the totality of the data they supplied.

      2) It was 0.5 servings per day – not 0.5oz – so three and a half servings per week.

      3) The ‘0.5 servings’ was just a cut-off number to compare the studies where participants consumed large amounts of meat versus the ones where people consumed lower. In some studies, people were consuming one serving per day, some were consuming three servings, and in one study the participants were even consuming seven servings. There was no influence on health markers between high and low consumption.

      Also, large studies are expensive, and you can’t use a study’s funding source as a reason to disregard it. For instance, most larger studies on milk will be funded by the dairy industry. Most studies on wheat will be funded by a company who profits (e.g. General Mills) or the Whole Grains Council. Studies on bananas are usually funded by Dole. Basically, the money needs to come from somewhere – it’s the data that is important, not the funding source.

      There are some concerns people have about meat, yes. I looked at the positive studies (mostly controlled trials) and negative studies (mostly epidemiology) here:

  14. 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.

  15. 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 be killed, so why not give it a try?

    • It isn’t about “feeling good” – it is simply about not telling lies to further an agenda. Humans evolved on an omnivorous diet, and there are many nutrients that we can’t get from plants. For instance; DHA/EPA omega-3 (excepting very small amounts in algae), pre-formed vitamin A (retinol), vitamin B12, and then compounds like creatine, carnosine, carnitine.

      It’s fine for people to follow a vegan diet if they desire, and if they do that as an ethical choice then great. But the health aspects for needing to do so are far from convincing.

      • The animals we eat are supplemented in B12, so why not take the supplements ourselves? We can get all these nutrients by taking supplements instead of taking lives.

        • Because species other than us can eat those plants and extract the necessary nutrients – especially ruminants such as sheep and cattle. We don’t have four stomachs to digest our food and then regurgitate it into our mouth, chew it again, and then swallow it into the next stomach. So, their bodily functions are far different from ours, and if we were supposed to be herbivores, why must we artificially extract nutrients to survive?

        • This is not true. Many wild fish have an abundance of b12 to offer us. They are obviously not fed supplements. Even some insects are a source of b12. It is also not true that all humans should take a b12 supplement and that meat eaters are as deficient in b12 as vegans (an argument vegans like to make). None of my older friends and relatives who eat meat and/or dairy have ever needed to supplement b12. Most people don’t unless they are 1. vegan or 2. have an intrinsic factor deficiency in which diet or oral b12 supplements will not help. Those people need sublingual or injections of b12 that bypass the digestive process. Supplements are also a product of western society. I say this as a former vegan for six years who is now pescetarian for the last two.

      • The only agenda here is about trying to make people eat less meat for the animals sake. You’re so way off trying to make this thing as organizations political agenda. It’s cruel to eat animals plain and simple!

        • Yes, you summed up the whole point of this article perfectly with this sentence: “The only agenda here is about trying to make people eat less meat for the animals’ sake”

          It’s perfectly fine for people to follow vegan diets and to speak about why they feel they are important. However, making up false health claims to scare people because of “the only agenda” is not.

      • All of those can be taken via a supplement though. So again no reason to consume meat. And there is a lot of science to back up vegans being overall healthier then there meat eating counterparts. Your choosing not to focus on for the sake of your own argument. Which is fine. The research is out there.

        • Yes, nutrient deficiencies can be avoided by wise daily supplementation – that is not in debate. I am also not “choosing not to focus” on your points – this article was just a summary of some common myths. I’m not against vegan diets at all, and if someone wants to pursue a vegan diet for ethical purposes that is 100% fine. I just dislike the false science/fearmongering that is often used to push them (likewise for any other diet).

          As for the overall healthier thing – some studies do support that. But you have to figure healthy user bias into those comparisons, which as far as I know hasn’t been done in a meaningful way. The average vegan dieter eats healthier than the average person following a typical Western diet, sure. But how do they compare to a health-conscious omnivore?

    • 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 Americans diet

  16. 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 we pick up at McDonald’s or buy dyed and plastic wrapped at the grocery store. The dyeing is interesting- by the time you’re buying it, that juicy red steak may not actually be getting its color from oxymyoglobin, but from carmine, a dye derived from exoskeletons of bugs. We don’t really work for our food like wild primates or our ancestors do. Sorry, but office jobs just aren’t the same as tracking, killing, and carrying animals.
    The crops causing animal suffering argument isn’t very good since most crops are actually used to feed livestock. Additionally, even pasture raised animals result in harm to wildlife: consider predator and burrowing animal extirpations. Hunter and ethics expert Aldo Leopold wrote a fantastic essay about this.
    You seem to like the “pasture raised animals aren’t bad” argument, especially in response to the B12 argument, and overall, I would agree, but the extreme, vast majority of us aren’t eating those animal products. It’s a commonly accepted fact that 96% of animal products come from CAFOs/”factory farms”. There’s nothing healthy, natural, or humane about these facilities. They’ve contributed to ecological die offs, made surrounding land uninhabitable to humans, and may have even started the swine flu pandemic. I don’t have a problem with humanely raising and killing animals, but the humane slaughter act doesn’t even apply to the majority of animals slaughtered since it doesn’t cover birds.
    In the current system and in lack of well controlled health studies, I support well constructed vegan diets over basically all other diets.

    • Thanks for this message – I appreciate your respectful opinion and how you set this out.

      I agree with you 100% on the issues with factory farms, and I’ve written and spoken on this before.

      Regarding the crops used to feed livestock – this is true, but I think you also have to consider what these crops/land areas would be used for if they weren’t being used to supply feed for the CAFOs. Even now, we’re seeing mass production on ‘plant burgers” starting up, and these are made from these very crops – soy and wheat. If these plant-based alternatives make a significant dent in the sale of animal foods, then they’ll be using these same crops in the same way.

      As you pointed out, the majority of people are not eating pasture-raised animal products. However, based purely on land-use purposes, I struggle to see how pasture-raised operations can be worse ecologically than intensive monoculture for vast areas of land.

      I support your ideas on treating animals humanely, and it is terrible how some birds are treated. I definitely think more needs to be done to ensure better and more humane treatment of animals.

  17. Thank you for your balanced article. As a dietitian, I find it very frustrating that these people have a lot opinions on health that have a very weak or nonexistent science background. I had to have a minor in chemistry AND biology. In addition, people in today’s schools and colleges are not taught reasoning and logic skills. They are taught what to think not how to think. I can spot propaganda easily on both sides of an argument. Sooner or later, reality will trump idealism. How about learning about metabolic typing? What is best for you genetic makeup(learn about epigenetics)We are as individualistic as our fingerprints.

    I know many doctors of various sorts and they all tried veganism and gave it up because they felt sick within one year or less. Yes, these MD’S knew what they were doing too. I know of at least 20 causes of heart disease that 99.9% never talk about. For example, gum disease, high cortisol from stress and bitterness, not drinking enough clean water, consistent lifetime exercise, low magnesium and potassium levels and poor k2 and d3 levels to name a few. I could easily name many more!!!

    • Thank you for commenting, and I’m glad it came across as balanced. I do agree – a lot of claims are heard and then repeated as fact. You’re certainly right about these medical conditions being multi-factorial too, and blaming any single food is overly-simplistic.

  18. I think this article would have been more balanced if you spoke on the other side of the coin, the meat and dairy industries. As well, if you had provided the scientific argumentation to back up your claims. I am not sure how long you have been eating plant based for but I do want to mention that ethical veganism is a belief, which is very well supported by landslide data. Science works to disprove a theory. The notion that plants in abundance are healthy for the human diet has not yet been disproved. However, the notion that animal products in abundance are healthy for the human diet has been disproved. This is the difference in our scientific theories. All best.

    • Hi Nel,

      I actually don’t eat plant-based (but I eat a fair amount of plants).
      I just wanted to focus on some of the misinformation that is out there.
      For example, some of the diet promoters on the meat side won’t admit it can have any negatives at all. Likewise, many vegans who promote diets won’t accept that animal foods can have any benefits.

      Basically, the main point: ethical veganism is understandable, and it’s fine to discuss the pros and cons of any specific food/diet in a nuanced way. But people shouldn’t be misleading and fear-mongering to promote their chosen diet.

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