5 Reasons Not To Be A Vegan—Confessions Of A Carnivore

Via Jamie Ginsberg
on Jan 6, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

I recently wrote an article sharing my decision to return to eating meat this year, the reactions and comments surprised me.

Why? Because I forgot how much anger, judgment and resentment exists in the world of yoga, animals and food. I ate my first tiny bite of meat (local pulled pork with BBQ sauce that I bought for my carnivore son from the farmers market). The good news is I did not get vaporized, nor did I roll around on the floor with massive stomach pains. Instead, I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders.

You are not any less of a yogi if you do eat meat, you are not any more of a yogi if you don’t eat meat.

This is my new quote I have revised from A Tribe Called Quest and their brilliant album Midnight Marauders. “You’re not any less of a man if you don’t pull the trigger, you’re not any more of a man if you do.”

I have been “struck” by the idea that vegans are the extreme members of our yoga community, a vocal minority that wields a big stick. While I appreciate and respect the source of that vegan anger is a desire to reduce the harm to animals, it is some what like thinking that throwing paint on someone wearing a fur coat will make them stop wearing fur. Finding positive ways to create change is critical to the success of our yoga movement.

Below is a picture of my friend Jennifer Harte, she is a vegan and found a way to laugh with me as I start eating meat again.

Jennifer Harte - Yoga Teacher (Vegan) at Cleveland Yoga - Photo by Cleveland Groove

5 Reasons Not To Be a Vegan

  1. Most of the animals we eat today, have been raised for food. Besides the hunters out there, most of the meat we eat exists purely because we will consume it. There is no actual increase in violence to wild and free animals because you eat meat. Actually a lot more vegetables are killed to feed vegans than cows are killed for the omnivores, really do the math (if you actually do the math, include everybody who eats vegetables – not just vegans).
  2. Anger destroys a lot of the benefits of yoga and minimizes the positive effects of doing less harm by not eating meat. Seriously, is it yogic to tell someone they are not yogic or when we say Namaste do we mean “the light in me recognizes the light in you that believes the exact same stuff I do.” I have been hurt by more vegans in a week than carnivores over the last 9 years. Do you really want to be an angry vegan?
  3. Human Trafficking. Tomatoes and Slaves in Florida? Crazy but true, tell me you don’t think abuse is limited to the tomato industry? If we have slavery providing the tomatoes coming out of Florida are we assuming the fruits and vegetables from foreign countries is harvested under better conditions? Or do we simply ignore the human labor required to produce all of the vegetables, hiding behind the rationalization that animals die so it must be worse? Worse than contributing to the abuse of humans? Enjoy those berries from Chile, I hope when you close your eyes at night you are enjoying sleeping on that 100% organic vegan bed, the guys that picked your berries are freezing in a hut without a toilet or running water.
  4. Honey is delicious and effective in battling allergies, especially when you use local honey. When you find yourself explaining that you don’t eat honey because of the abuse to bees, remember that the pure organic cane sugar was probably harvested in a third world country by people like you.
  5. You will have to give up your cats and dogs. Real yogic vegans will not stand for the abuse of animals caused by domestication. Are you ready to stop keeping your cat caged up in your house? Unleash the dog and let it be free? Rationalizing your ownership of another being in that you feed and house it and that it loves you does not excuse stealing the freedom of that animal.
Being a vegan does not make you more yogic, nor does it make you a better person. If modifying your lifestyle to be a vegan makes you angry at people who eat meat and inspires you to insult them, maybe it is not the best choice for you. Maybe you would be a kinder person if you ate a little local bacon roasted until it was crisp? Rather than eating 85% cacao bars that are bitter, try on the sweet side of life – Add a little whip cream and milk chocolate into your life. Maybe if you sweeten your tea with a little honey you will appreciate the bees that produced that deliciousness and share more joy with people.
I have heard many words used to describe yoga. I love the word Unity, it is part of the word commUNITY. I recognize the diversity in our yoga community and welcome the ripples becoming waves of change we are causing in the world. If you really want to “Be The Change You Wish To See In The World,” as Ghandi said, you have to start by getting on your mat and doing the hard work. In this strange way, we all become equals when we follow a sequence of poses together. If you see me at the coffee shop getting a light mocha with lots of whip cream, smile and enjoy the moment with me.


About Jamie Ginsberg

Jamie Ginsberg is a yoga teacher and the co-founder of Marin Power Yoga. He is a technology and education evangelist focused on using the social web to increase interaction and engagement. Jamie is a yogi (200 hour teacher training at Cleveland Yoga and Level 1 & Level 2 with Baron Baptiste) and has shot and produced videos and photography for Baron Baptiste, Yoga Journal Conferences and yoga studios across the United States. Jamie’s expertise is a rare blend of creative, business, legal and technology. Jamie has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the The University of Michigan and a Juris Doctorate from The Cleveland-Marshall School of Law. Link to Jamie here and like him on Facebook.


69 Responses to “5 Reasons Not To Be A Vegan—Confessions Of A Carnivore”

  1. I'm with you on the honey, Jamie. Did you read the recent post by the vegan beekeeper? Loved it!

  2. Astatsa says:

    I agree! Balance must be sought in all areas. Going to any one extreme is not good for the over all wellness of the body and soul. My Grandma used to always say "Everything in moderation but what is moderate for one thing is not the same for others. "

  3. Jess Wallin says:

    I think you're missing the point by suggesting that the only animals that matter are the wild and free ones. Suffering is suffering, and pain is pain, and the animals that we breed for eating suffer far more than those who are hunted in the wild. Not to mention that not all vegans are angry or blind to human suffering.

    I think that the content you've posted here is fostering the same kind of condescension and judgement that you are arguing against.

    • ValCarruthers says:

      Jess, it seems to me that Jamie is using satirically humorous style to say that for the Yoga community to really walk its talk there needs to be greater tolerance on both sides of the table.

    • Jess, the second I say "all" I know I am wrong. There is something strange in the focus on animals and how little attention we pay to the suffering of humans in the production of food. I wonder if it is a different version of the disconnect I feel with how the meat gets from the field onto a plate.

      • hya says:

        " There is something strange in the focus on animals and how little attention we pay to the suffering of humans in the production of food." Humans are killed and consumed in the production of food?…

        • chiara_ghiron says:

          yes actually, when you think of human exploitation during orange, tomato, berries harvesting

          • hya says:

            Killed and consumed??? That would be cannibalism, surely?
            Because if you mean work exploitation meat industry is not free of it by any means.

          • HYA – Human Suffering – Your food is harvested on the backs of people. Real people who have feelings and emotions. It is an extreme example, to keep compassion for pets more than humans relative.

  4. ValCarruthers says:

    My favorite point is #2: "Seriously, is it yogic to tell someone they are not yogic or when we say Namaste do we mean “the light in me recognizes the light in you that believes the exact same stuff I do.”

    We may tend to think of Yoga the practice as Yoga the club to which you can only belong if you do things like me so I don't feel threatened or confused by you. Yoga is about unity, community and diversity. The many in the One, the One in the many. And the spiritual maturity to understand that where someone is with their food choices today might not be where they'll be tomorrow. Yes there are ideals in Yoga but ahimsa begins at home, meaning that if our health and sanity require some meat for however long that may be we peacefully coexist with that until we see when, how and if it's possible to shift again.

    • Thanks Val, the first 2 times I was vegetarian it lasted for 1 year and 3 years, this last time 9 years. Like Harry Chapin sang "All my lifes a circle, sunrise and sundown…" – I do not know what the future holds tomorrow, but today it is being concious and thinking about each choice.

  5. Jeff says:

    The argument in number one is pure rationalization. All animals feel the same pain when slaughtered whether domesticated or wild. In fact, the exact opposite on the argument in #1 is actually true.

    Wild animals live a free and fulfilling life until the point at which they are hunted for food. Domestic animals raised for food live a life of boredom, and in the case of factory farming, live a life of misery.

    I'd say, if you are going to eat meat, the only meat you should eat is wild meat that you hunted your self. That way you will have a direct connection with the animal that you are sacrificing for your sustenance.

    • Jeff, I don't have the raw power to hunt, it is way too real for me. Who are we to decide whether an animal is bored or not? Miserable? I believe a good many of the people on this planet are miserable -I have hoped yoga will reduce the need for the systems for dispensing of pain killers and anti-depressants. Is it wrong to rationalize why we do something? Why do I get the feeling that vegans do not approve of this?

  6. Ilana says:

    I very much appreciate where you’re coming from but I vehemently disagree on every single one of these points. I was vegan before I began practicing yoga and I was thrilled to find a community that was accepting, but I do recognize that there are a lot of vegans out there who have not been as fortunate as I am and while I am turned off by the “vegan rage” I’

    equally turned off by anyone who feels the need to disparage another person’s lifestyle in order to justify choices that were difficult to make. As far as your first point, if we didn’t consider animals a commodity they wouldn’t be raised for food in the massively destructive way that is currently practiced in the United States and around the world. The point is that these animals live in such horrific conditions it’s terrifying to understand that we’ve become so disconnected from the source that we’re willing to allow these things to happen in the places where our FOOD comes from. This is also a lovely argument for purchasing ethically sourced local meat, and if you’re comfortable with being a conscious part of that practice, then by all means roll with it, I’m not telling you not to, but please spare me a really pathetic argument about violence against vegetables.

    As for the rest, it all falls in line with ahimsa and making responsible choices that make you comfortable from a moral and practical standpoint. I didn’t eat tomatoes due to a nightshade allergy, but I happen to believe in purchasing local and seasonal items so things like tomatoes and strawberries in January just don’t make much sense. I don’t pretend to be perfect, case in poi the bunch of bananas on my counter, but it’s not about perfection, it’s just about doing the best I can, and that includes how I respond to people around me. I am making a choice to heal my body and the environment, how can I pretend that this means I don’t also have to pay the same courtesy to all sentient beings? I understand veganism is a difficult choice, and so is making the choice to return to eating animal food after eschewing such a lifestyle in the past, but isn’t it more important that we’re good to eachother than we sit and nitpick at the reasons why someone else’s choices are wrong?

    • Thanks Ilana, I appreciate your thoughts and the effort and mindfulness with which you are living your life. O.k. violence against vegetables is not a great argument. But, violence against the migrant and enslaved field workers who produce food is a valid argument. I am increasingly convinced the answer is "Grow Your Own…:

  7. Anna says:

    Reason 1. Lame, so now that you eat meat will you stop eating veggies to stop killing them? You CAN’T kill a vegetable. They have no nervous system.

    Reason 2. You grouping all vegans together and assuming anyone who would become vegan would become an angry vegan. This is false and ridiculous. Yes, a lot of vegans are like that, but you can’t judge all vegans by certain people’s/group’s actions.

    Reason 3. No matter what we eat, we can’t stop human trafficking. And again, you are saying this like all vegans are blind to other social issues beside animal rights. A lot of vegans shop just as consciously aware about where geographically their food comes from as they do if it has animal products in it. And some produce, you can’t control where it comes from, like bananas.

    Reason 4. Moot point, this is something that is personal and different for each vegan. Every single vegan does not avoid honey.

    Reason 5. Being vegan doesn’t mean in any way you should give up your companion animals. This would make the problems animals face worse. More importantly, animals are domesticated by humans doing, so it is our responsibility to take care of them now. Because if we tried to put them all back in the wild, they would die.

    • Anna – Thanks for sharing…yes I do love lists and a discussion.
      1) You don't need a nervous system to experience life and death, who made up this "rationalization." Fact is plants grow better when they experience life, just like we do. I did experiments in 7th grade with growing plants that listened to music vs. plants grown in silence. The ones that listened to music grew faster!!!

      2) True, generalizations usually offend parts of the group.

      3) You can stop human trafficking. I work with a group called Imagine and we are fighting human trafficking in Ohio thru an education campaign.

      4) Not moot, let's discuss this!!!

      5) It is such a bizarre thing we do with pets…but thank you for the "rationalization."

    • George says:

      5: Cows and pigs and other animals we eat have also been domesticated for thousands upon thousands of years.

  8. AhimsaYog says:

    In regards to your quote "Be the change you want to see in the world" (one of my favorites btw)…What change do you want to see in the world?

    I am vegan and working on my anger issues…this is actually my new years resolution. I think many people look at vegans as angry without trying to understand why…I recently had a conversation with a friend about how I feel when seeing meat on a plate…I do not see food. I see a face…I see the animal who was shown no compassion at the hands of a human. Who lead a very lonely life and died a painful death. It breaks my heart. I grieve…I suppose part of my grief process is anger. I'm working through it and trying to extend the compassion I feel towards non-human animals to human animals. It's hard…we have a choice and a voice…they do not. Being vegan may not make me a better person compared to others, but it makes me a better person…a better me. A better yogi…it makes me all those things.

    • natandilana says:

      Two things that have helped me: I always have to remember that humans are animals too, and if I'd never get that angry at a dog then I sure as well can't get that angry at a human, and then I also remind myself that being vegan is NOT easy, if it were, everyone would be doing it, but not everybody is blessed with the strength to overcome their own ignorance and make the tough choices, so they are just as deserving of my compassion for their struggle as the bird hiding under a leaf from the rain.

    • I think you have chosen to interpret the fact that you are seeing meat on a plate with your story on how that animal died. Why do you choose to believe that the animal was not shown compassion nor was it loved or cared for? The angry feelings you are experiencing are self-created by a story you have created, why not change the story?
      I am grateful you are being a better yogi….

      • AhimsaYog says:

        have you ever done any research on factory farming? watched any videos on factory farming? visited a factory farm? the animals who live on these "farms" or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are viewed as items not sentient beings. they are not loved or petted…their basic needs are not even cared for. if one gets sick, they leave it to suffer and die because the cost to treat it is "not worth it". Money is the main priority not compassion. Factory farming accounts for 99% of all farmed animals. I am doing my best to change that story by being vegan. Please educate yourself on exactly where meat comes from…it does not come from loved and cared for animals….loved and cared for animals are called pets.

        • I am NOT suggesting people eat factory farmed meat. I am suggesting people eat meat from local farms where the animals are cared for and raised with compassion. It is strange to say be part of the 1%, but in this case it is true. If it is the 1% that are eating non factory farmed meat…I want to be in that number!!!

          • hya says:

            " I am suggesting people eat meat from local farms where the animals are cared for and raised with compassion. "
            No care or compassion will change the fact that you get slaughtered. How do you slit an animal's throat with compassion? How can a thinking person spread those nonsensical cliches if they are completely self-contradictory to start with?

            I respect people who say "I eat meat because the suffering and death of animals is less important to me than my appetite". Fair enough. But what you are saying is just hypocrisy and burying your head in the sand.

            This is an ethical problem which is totally separate from the killing – you are lying to yourself and your readers.

          • HYA – Actually, I am sharing MY truth with you. For real. This head is not buried in the sand, this mind is wide open searching for answers. Educate me.

  9. ortjs says:

    Factory farming is the worst catastrophe for those animals and for the environment. It is better to hunt for your food. Maybe then you can respect life, all life. Humans and animals die in violence every day. We humans do not need meat to survive. Choosing to not eat animals doesn't make you a better person, but the truth is, that a vegan diet is the healthiest diet. A diet that is plant based is overall better for the world as well.

    • How many pesticides in your vegetables do we need to debunk the myth that farming vegetables is good for the planet and safe for humans. How are all of those fertilizers we pour onto farms so your vegetables are ready for you immediately treating our waterways? We humans do not need vegetables to survive…

      • elephantjournal says:

        Well, hopefully we're talking local and organic, no?

        • Suri says:

          Local and organic if you can pay for them , for the vast majority of the population thats not an option.

        • I think local and organic vegetables have to be more available than local and organic meat, but I have to find out what % of the plant life sold is local and organic. I see a lot of local and organic, because of where I shop and like Suri points out it is crazy expensive. Fruit in January is an incredible luxury, do we just say no?

  10. Jennm says:

    I just started incorporating chicken and turkey into my vegetarian diet. I must admit I felt a sense of guilt,hypocrisy and extremely happy about entering a whole new world of options! I had been vegetarian for nine years but recently I felt the urge to eat chicken and turkey. I am being very selective with what I am eating though. Free range, humane all that good stuff. If I'm going to eat it I want it to be as clean and minimally processed as possible. I love animals anD I will continue to be mindful of this.

  11. Suri says:

    Dude i get you , i was a taliban vegan myself and i used to be like that too…ridiculous …i have been eating meat for 5 years now and my health has improved dramatically . I think the three pillars of veganism are guilt , self righteousness and self punishment , really there is nothing enjoyable about a vegan diet , it makes you feel caged and weird … Just awful … I was a vegetarian/vegan for 8 years and I realized that being vegan changes nothing , that a vegan diet actually harmed me and that i was not happy … Veganism is a feel good about yourself diet , i think its more about ego than about animals .
    0.5%-1% of the population (US) is vegan , seriously the alleged positive impact on the environment is negligible and it is very possible their impact on meat production is less than minimal…so for those vegans who think that they are saving the world ….not having kids actually has a more significant possive impact on the environment , maybe if you care about the environment so much ,the ethical thing to do is not having kids.

    • AhimsaYog says:

      I think there is everything enjoyable about a vegan diet. I am trying more and different foods than ever! This lifestyle is not about my ego…at all. It's about my choices aligning with my values. A vegan can't have values that influence the way they eat and live without being egotistical? And I never feel caged and weird…I actually feel so free!

    • Suri – "Taliban Vegan" is a new and awesome term. To be fair, I have a considerable number of vegan friends in my yoga community and they have always been overwhelmingly kind and understanding when it comes to food and especially kind to me in my latest evolution.
      I do believe that we must always take action in our personal lives to fight the popular waves we disagree with. It is what makes us so powerful as humans. When a person or group of people decide to change how they eat to make a political statement, I LOVE that. Even when they are barely in the 1%, it is important to use your voice and your actions to change the future. One small change I have seen is that the fancy hip restaurants generally have a vegan alternative on the menu. It was not like that 5 years ago. I attribute that to the yogis and consider it a huge movement!!!
      I don't know what to say on the kids issue, I am guilty of being a reproducer and feel fortunate and blessed by them ;-).

  12. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  13. Brooke says:

    As individuals we all have a choice. We can justify our poor decisions, we can justify our behaviors or we can grow up and admit we did something wrong. We can learn from our mistakes and try again. I believe anyone who would go to these lengths (and think up such silly justifications) really doesn't believe what they are doing is the right thing. Eating vegan is not about perfectionism. I cannot save every plant. I cannot stop worker abuses in other countries. What I can do is make a very simple choice not to put meat, eggs or dairy in my mouth. I can make the choice to make the least amount of harm from my actions as a human being. And when I do screw up and eat some cheese fries, I can feel guilty about it, admit I was wrong and make myself some scrambled tofu the next day.

    • Brooke, don't feel guilty about it! It is very true, I am asking myself questions and continuing to make choices all along the way!!! But do NOT think that you can not change worker abuse in other countries and in the US. Your dollar has a huge impact, be very careful who you give it to!!!

  14. maru says:

    Her arguments are ridiculous, not even woth discussing or debating. Poor bunny

  15. […] the vegans and the dead flesh eaters love each other, and the gluten-frees and the muffin munchers love each other, and the tattooed and […]

  16. JESUS says:

    WOW!!! YOU GOT 5/5 WRONG!

  17. Ashley says:

    Animals exist for us to survive. There is a difference between evil and good.

    Also, anyone know the word moderation? Apply it to everything.

  18. Nick says:

    There are actually some good reasons to not be vegan. Unfortunately, you didn't list any of them.

    In a word, Fail…

  19. Giovanna says:

    I am not an angry vegan, and can appreciate whichever choice people make regarding their eating habits, but I must say this article was a complete fail.

    1. Just because they were raised for consuming doesn't mean their pain is any less real and valid. VEGETABLES DO NOT HAVE A NERVOUS SYSTEM. We aren't "killing" vegetables, and to fall back on that argument in your FIRST reason is absolutely ridiculous. You don't want vegans to judge you for eating meat? Then don't mock vegans by saying we are killing vegetables.
    2. I am sure there are quite a few pushy vegans out there, but I am a yoga instructor, and I seriously have not met one of them. Sometimes I won't even find out a colleague is vegan too, until maybe one day we go out to dinner. Please don't generalize the entire vegan population with being self-righteous and pushy.
    3. I buy my fruits and veggies from local farms. Sure, maybe there are some vegans who are unaware where their food comes from and under what circumstances it was brought to their table, but mostly, once you become aware of one food issue (veganism – animal abuse) you are aware of where you get your food. I don't know one other vegan who doesn't buy local and organic.
    4. I buy local, raw honey, and am very aware of the source of this honey. The fact though that you say "people like you" in this argument, is really upsetting. To be so defensive must mean you are coming from a place of fear? Again, if you don't want to be condescended then don't condescend others!!
    5. ??? So if you are vegan you can only interact with animals in their natural habitat, otherwise you are not a true vegan? Please, non-vegan, keep telling me how a real vegan is supposed to act!

    I do not shove my ideals down peoples throat. I don't look down on people who eat meat. It is sad that that cannot be reciprocated. You could have instead written why YOU personally chose to eat meat again, and given your PERSONAL experience why it is a better choice for you, but instead you wrote this garbage.

  20. Amber says:

    In my eyes, the biggest problem with this article (and Jamie's comments about refocusing on human suffering) is that animals are more inefficient. That is, they eat more in grains and vegetables (and water) than they produce in meat. If we're concerned about humans and the humans who must farm for the vegans, what about the humans who must farm for the animals who are then eaten? And the humans who are deprived of land and water for those inefficient animals as well. Ultimately, if WE just ate the grains and vegetables ourselves, we would have to rely on less human labor.

Leave a Reply