Letter To A Vegan, From A Meat Eater.

Via Karl Saliter
on Jan 10, 2013
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Here is a letter, emailed to me this morning:

Hi Karl,

I hope this doesn’t come off as weird or annoying, but I want to talk to someone and you seem like the perfect person because I actually find you the least judgmental of the vegans/vegetarians I know.

Whew! Poor woman, you must know so few vegans. If I was any more judgemental, I’d need a black robe and magistrate’s wig. Well, maybe I’m getting better at hiding it. That’s something.

I have been thinking for a long time of embarking on a vegetarian experiment—I’ve been turning my eyes away from the truth for a lot of years that I really do believe it is probably wrong for me to eat meat.

Awesome! Watch this now, don’t worry, its only a song.

When asked about it or confronted about it by vegetarians I have never had any argument—it has always been just that I admit my hypocrisy. If I had to actually kill an animal or watch it be killed for my food, I would not eat meat, so to eat it otherwise, simply because it comes neatly/cleanly packaged in styrofoam and plastic wrap, is just willful blindness.

Well, from over here, yeah. Complete agreement. We all know its easier to sneak up on carrots, too. And besided, all the guts. Gross.

Photo: Dharma Yoga Playa
Photo: Dharma Yoga Playa

I do feel, however, that this is intensely personal to me, and I’m not going to become one of those loudmouth converts who proselytize and condemn everyone else from their self righteous perches. Also, I don’t see myself never having another cheeseburger or never eating Thanksgiving turkey again.

Completely agreed, and believe me, if it wasn’t for my self-imposed “wear it loosely” boundaries, I wouldn’t be able to wear the labels I so preciously adorn daily. I’d have to turn in my “no cheese” crown! Oh, and the sash. There are lines in the sand all the time, and I usually do the best I can, on a given day. There’s no police, and its kind of delicious and yummy and sexy to eat plant-based. Perfection is overrated. And self-righteous perches are for dorks.

I’m a little stuck by those ‘blocks’ and also by the fact that I am in a relationship with an avowed carnivore—I tend to raise or lower myself to the behavior of those I am with, in some ways (though not all).

Hmmm, tough one. Especially if your partner is lightning fast with concepts and sharp as a tack. I’ve been there. Maybe take it as playfully as possible, allowing lots and lots of space.  Any other ideas out there, readers?

Were you always a vegan? How did you handle those issues? If you have already written something about this, you can link me to it, rather than having to spend time answering it.

I handled those issues clumsily, when I handled them at all.

No, I was vegetarian a few years ago. I heard Dharma Mittra speak on animals and compassion. His voice was genuine; he is a true teacher. I cannot convey the power in his approach, the gentle way he conveys his message, but I remember what he said:

“All animals are our little brothers. They fear violence. They look to us for protection.”

Something happened to me when I heard that, and it made the choice to step away from eating fish meat and dairy not something I was taking away from myself. It made it gift I was giving myself. That viewpoint has remained. My only problems with my diet now is that it often sends the wrong message to my friends; I appear judgmental just from my choices. (That, and from the fact that I judge them horrifically.)

Thanks for listening—I know we aren’t close friends, but I liked you/felt drawn/connected to your brain and creativity right away and I do set a lot of store by your writing and opinions. And just the way you are.

Saludos, hope you are well (and not too resentful anymore).

Well, thanks for that.

I’m interested mostly in what the writer fears regarding others: “I do feel, however, that this is intensely personal to me, and I’m not going to become one of those loudmouth converts who proselytize and condemn everyone else from their self righteous perches.”

Photo: Ken Kanouse

Because I’ve been there. I’ve railed loudly on elephant, regarding diet here. And less loudly here and here. I’ve tried it gently, here. About horrible elephant poaching bastards here, and the great cowardice of modern hunters here.

But lately, I’ve grown quieter. I’m listening. I’m tired (of that). I know my position and nobody is trying to stuff anything down my throat, so why should I do the reverse?

The truth is, Monsanto is well on the way to poisoning all the veggies, too, so squalking about plant-based love stuff is kind of, well, I don’t do it anymore.

I wish you the best in your journey; it isn’t my place to pretend to be anyone’s guide. Sorrow for the animals is so, so raw; it can easily lead us to mistreating the animal called “human.” I am glad you wrote and I am as unequipped to give clear answers as people writing ethical reasons to eat meat.

Want the video that will cure you of meat? Hit Gary up.

You cannot watch this with a full attention span and enjoy meat or dairy after that, I don’t think. His logic is impeccable, he’s hip and there is nothing he lays out that I disagree with.

When I really looked into what meat and dairy are, the choice was made for me, by what I found; it was simple.

Walking away from that horror show was a genuine gift to myself.

Thank you so, so much for reaching out. I hope this serves.



Like elephant animals are people too on Facebook.


Ed: Bryonie Wise


(Source: meth-amorphosis.tumblr.com via Kerri on Pinterest)



About Karl Saliter

Karl is a circus artist sculptor writer miscreant gypsy, living in Mexico. He has written two novels, "Compassion's Bitch," and "Breakfast In A Cloud," and has published neither. He often feels as if he was born under a silver whale of a frisbee moon in the back of a red cartoon pickup truck. That careening down route 66 at speed, he leapt up into the cab, took the wheel, stuck his baby elbow out the rolled-down window, and that though the truck had awesome chrome mirrors, he never looked back. He hopes you frequently feel the same.


89 Responses to “Letter To A Vegan, From A Meat Eater.”

  1. This little vegan lady approves, Karl! Lovely write-up. And the Gary Yourofsky speech is one of my favorites! Cheers! xoxo

  2. oz_ says:

    "When I really looked into what meat and dairy are, the choice was made for me, by what I found; it was simple. Walking away from that horror show was a genuine gift to myself."

    This is the kind of statement that makes me glad I went back to meat eating. Let's be clear: factory farming is horrible and should under no circumstances ever be supported, as it's a system based entirely on cruelty – but there are in fact meat animals available (more and more every day in fact) NOT subject to that "horror show," and to pose it thus oversimplifies the situation into a black and white position perfectly suitable for today's impoverished sociopolitical discourse.

    For example, rarely have I seen thought given to the fact that gargantuan amounts of land (something like 4 billion hectares globally) are under cultivation for vegetables (usually monoculture) on which all animal life (moles, voles, shrews, gophers, etc) first killed, then is excluded in perpetuity (not least by the toxic chemicals applied to the soil) – and to make matters worse many of those lands are NOT suitable for agriculture and can be used only via the aid of massive fossil fuel and fossil water inputs that do egregious damage.

    For example it is VASTLY more ecologically responsible to eat bison raised sustainably and naturally and without cruelty on the Great Plains of America that to eat veggies grown in that region which the Dustbowl showed was entirely unsuitable for agriculture – until the Ogallala was discovered and exploited, which itself horridly ecologically damaging.

    Even organic veggies fail in this scheme. One would need to eat veggies grown in a permacultural fashion – where animals are welcomed into the scheme – to elude this argument.

    Further, as Simon Fairlie has shown (http://tinyurl.com/b8cf45s), the argument that vegetarianism is ecologically superior to eating meat, intuitive though it may seem, simply doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

    Point being – this is a far more complex issue that statements such as the one quoted above admit to. And the dogmatic 'meat is murder' argument made by so many vegans only makes it harder to work through the complexities in good faith.

    As with so many social issues, it would be wise to beware of people who pretend that complex challenges have simple, ideological answers.

  3. Karl says:

    Thank you for that!

  4. graceonthefly says:

    I always cringe when people say…"If you had to watch the animal die." I grew up very close to the animals that wound up on my plate. piglets were chased around the yard, grew into pigs and then became dinner, chickens and even Rabbits too. That was life. I am a vegan now, i practice yoga and Ahimsa, I sit in loving kindness meditation but I became a vegan because of the distance between me and my food. Not knowing where it came from did not sit well with me. As I dove in and discovered the horror of and the environmental impact of corporate farming I became more and more vocal….It's inevitable and necessary. Take it from someone who grew up knowing the value of the life they consumed.

  5. Ruthie says:

    all vegetarians and vegans out there, go pick up a copy of The Vegetarian Myth: food, justice and sustainability by Lierre Keith. and first, look up the definition of "cognitive dissonance."

  6. Karl says:

    Any other commands for us, Ruthie?

  7. […] Letter To A Vegan, From A Meat Eater. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  8. Robert says:

    Animals do best living as they have always lived. For example, rabbits have always eaten primarily greens, with a few other vegetables, berries and fruits mixed in. Humans have historically always eaten primarily meats (insects, animals, birds, fish) and vegetables that grew in the wild, and occasionally some fruits, berries and nuts when they were available. If you suddenly switch rabbits to a diet of meat, its likely they will not be so healthy. Same thing for humans. Paleo diet, which see. Nature is not murder, its nature. Life feeds on life. To support a previous post, check out "The Vegetarian Myth." There is a synonym for your "animal brothers and sisters." Its called "food."

  9. Karl says:

    Robert, I agree that those are some words you typed. Bit “Do Better”

    Might be a little vague.

    What are your thoughts on the China Study?

  10. HeatherM says:

    I know my position and nobody is trying to stuff anything down my throat, so why should I do the reverse?

    It's good, but everyone always imposes their beliefs on others….re: meat-eater on non-meat eater…and vice versa. Not all the time, but generally it is part of the human dilemma. My family are not vegetarians. I was the first to enter into it. In fact, some of my family come from a long-line of cattle and pig farmers. So, you can only imagine what my behavior stirred up.

    When others around you are not doing the same events like Christmas dinner, Easter, Thanksgiving and birthdays can become increasingly filled with difficulty and challenges. These were some of the issues I never thought about when making my decision some 20 odd years ago. However, they have been on-going issues to deal with since most people I know including most of my students are not vegetarians or vegans.

    That said, there is something called respect…for each person's choice.

  11. Ayoganut says:

    Sigh. I first went vegetarian at age 14 for emotional reasons. Then I became horribly anemic. I went back to eating fish and eggs for my health. I then decided I could "do" vegan. Again, anemic. I've studied natural medicine and healing diets since the age of 16 in a personal search and I have detoxed, juiced, fasted, you name it.

    I've eaten a clean diet most of my life (now 44). As an experiment two years ago I tried vegan again. I have a University degree in Nutritional Medicine so I know what I'm doing. I had blood work done before and after a four month strictly vegan diet. Once again, anemic. Not to mention lack of energy, cranky, spotty and bloated.

    So no, not everyone can be a healthy vegan. What do I do? I buy local organic good welfare meat. I make sure to spend my money on the farmers who care for their animals, do not feed them things they would not normally eat, no drugs, no chemicals etc.

    I feel the healthiest I ever have. I am grateful to the animals that allow me this. Like Native Americans, I bless and thank the animal for its life. I am grateful. I know that someday I will become worm food, then bird food, then cat or fox food. I am part of the cycle. I do my best and I do not judge people by what they eat.

    Blessings to all creatures large and small. Don't judge the Spirit by the food choices or you might miss someone amazing.

  12. Karl says:

    So hey, elephant readers, what tricks do you have for opening up conversations about food choices without pissing people off? My approaches have always been, well, the proper phrase is ham- fisted.

  13. sunshine says:

    "My only problems with my diet now is that it often sends the wrong message to my friends; I appear judgmental just from my choices. (That, and from the fact that I judge them horrifically.)"

    That line made me love you, whoever you are.

  14. Sam says:

    Hi Karl I want to comment on Gary's vid.

    I hate to say this but Gary's speech lacks objectivity , in fact it is chock-full of fallacies, rhetoric, manipulation , generalizations , appeals to emotion ,hyperbole, scare tactics, loaded questions, statistics and "facts" of questionable quality and origin , and of course a good amount of lies. It's just a mess.

    Here are a few examples of some claims that are really far from being factual or accurate:

    – We are born vegans
    We have zero carnivorous instincts
    We are herbivores

    This counters all scientific evidence .I would say this is just wishful thinking. We dont have any of the phisiological features that herbivores have ( specialized teeth and gut).
    Also what he said in this part of the lecture (and others) seems to be suggesting some kind of blank slate theory about human behavior , again, this goes against current evidence to the contrary.

    -Veggies dont harm anyone else in the process
    Veggies, peanuts , etc cant make you sick
    Veggies cant cause disease
    If you eat an apple you wont need laxatives

    Nevermind allergies, intolerance , etc this argument is just silly and shows just how ignorant he is concerning nutrition and physiology. Veggie production has an environmental impact too …a very big impact if we talk about the soy industry .

    -Animal protein causes, cancer , stroke , heart disease,
    Animal protein is one of the main causes of osteoporosis
    You dont need dairy
    Meat, cheese , milk, and eggs are the cause of all disease

    Again, generalizing and ignoring the complexity of the issue , ignoring other causes of disease that have nothing to do with animal protein. Not qualified to talk about the subject and even less qualified to offer nutritional advice.
    Low dietary calcium intake is associated with decreased bone density and osteoporosis, this is a fact.

    -Root cause of world hunger is meat eating societies.

    Simplifying the issue, lack of comprehension of the complexity of the situaton of those suffering hunger , ignoring other causes (political, overpopulation, etc)

    -Meat has transfats

    He forgot to mention that only 2-5% of body fat in ruminants is trans. He also forgot to mention that most of the trans fats we consume come from junk food not from animal products.

    Finally, other than the china study , which has been debunked he doesnt provide any citations .
    I'm sure a detailed analisis would show that 90% of the information presented is incorrect.

  15. Maru says:

    It will always freeze me to hear people actually saying that making a slave of another living and sentient being, torturing, murdering, dismembering and eating this being WITHOUT any need is a personal choice… denial at its maximum blossoming, wow… and the other one is how vegans feel superior…

    When a third party´s life is involved is NOT a personal choice… or is rape a personal choice of the raper?
    And it is precisely because we vegans DO NOT feel superior why we do not believe we can kill another for our trivial agendas… we believe we are all the same-

    Eatng animals is a crime of stratospherical proportions, either people want to see it or not…

    Sam, do you have a degree in nutrtion, because I do and Gary´s knowledeg is correct. If you like his delivery or not, that s somethng else, but he is accurate. And if he weren´t… are you saying that you eat meat because of nutritional needs… do you even know how much proptein or calcium do you actually need per day according to your gender, age, level of activity etc… how do you know he is wrong?

  16. JoeC2K says:

    "Eatng animals is a crime of stratospherical proportions, either people want to see it or not… " So the Dalia Lama is a criminal. Jesus was a criminal too.

  17. JoeC2K says:

    The Dalai Lama eats meat because he became sick when he switched to a vegetarian diet. In the Bible Jesus said "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." I'm not comparing myself to Jesus or the Dalai Lama but making the point that if they eat/ate meat then it's ok for the rest of us humans on this planet. I eat meat occasionally but statements like this just really get to me because they're so ridiculous and make those who support a sensible and healthy vegetarian diet look ridiculous as well. Seriously, the statement is comparing eating meat to crime. Humans lived for millennia on eating animal flesh. I feel that many vegetarians are just zealots and are really not concerned with ahmisa but on pushing their agenda to others to support their ego. I feel that they're more concerned with the treatment of animals than the treatment of other fellow humans… May I also say that you should perhaps try a bit less sarcasm in your posts for obvious reasons… or should I point them out to you?

  18. Maru says:

    Point them out if you need to do so to distract the attention from your opinions since there are no facts that supports them…

  19. Maru says:

    “Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man.
    Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.”
    ~ The Dalai Lama

  20. karlsaliter says:

    Joe, you might be right on " I feel that many vegetarians are just zealots and are really not concerned with ahmisa but on pushing their agenda to others to support their ego", but isn't it also possible that vegans are heartbroken at the treatment of animals?

    While "comparing eating meat to crime" might be fruitless, the way the meat is often created is nothing short of criminal. Literally. Groups like Mercy For Animals are getting people jailed simply by filming what goes on every day in factory farms, on a huge scale.

    Of course you can eat what you like. Of course you have these choices.

    The perceived zealotry of vegans most often stems I think, not from ego, but from genuine, to the bones, legitimate, sorrow.

    Nobody likes to be told "You are wrong!" I know. I hate being told that. And you are not wrong of course, you are free.

    But evil is afoot. Really. When money became the #1 motive for farms, something evil happened, and it is being visited on innocents. Vegans often speak for the muted innocents, and yes, sometimes, we speak harshly.

  21. Rose says:

    It's too bad that people do not have to personally hunt down their own food. Look that being in the eye as they draw and quarter it for themselves.
    We eat like no human beings ever have. The industrial age changed our diets into defying any connection with the number of lives we consume and the absolutely unceasing march of them down our gullets. And I think the unspent adrenalin that still courses through of bodies as a long ago needed hormone and now misdirected violence producer is part of the deadly combination of hormones and guns.
    We should not be evolving so slowly mentally. Technology has surpassed us in everyway.

  22. Pamela says:

    I have been vegan for 18 years. I was thirty when I chose to live a more compassionate life. This was my choice and I have been compassionate toward all of my "meat eater" friends and family. They have their choice and I have mine. One would think it so simple. I respect you, you respect me. However, I have been the one to face judgement and goading for my choices. It's really something to hear them say, "Oh, is that mushroom your meat?". Really? Or, "All you need to go with that is a nice big steak". I don't go around saying "Eat more beans" or "You're nothing' but a dead flesh eater and a barbarian".

    My husband eats meat occasionally, my children do as well as. I have a very large family and I am the only vegan/vegetarian, Would it me nice if "everyone" consumed less animal products? Yes, of course. Would it be better for our world and health? Of course it would. Yet, I will not force my beliefs on anyone. If you ask me why I chose to be vegan I will tell you. If you are interested in how I do it, I will tell you. Should my answers to these questions inspire you to give this lifestyle a try, then I say good for you, good for your health, good for the animal that has not been slain to feed you and good for our world!

  23. Maru says:

    That was amazing Pamela. thank you. I never find the perfect medium on how to act or react around people that eat meta. And I too, have felt attacked or ridiculed many times., yet I always feel complete and whole in my choices …

  24. Karl says:

    I think we should all go out for a huge bowl of ginger carrot soup. Unless that offends somebody.

  25. Beloved Sinner says:

    I was until very recently 100% convinced that raw food veganism was the way to go, and planned on progressively going 100% raw vegan, even buying a pro juicer and blender. But thankfully, my own experience, and that of other experienced, non-PC people, helped me, and I abandoned the idea.

    That being said, I think people should eat what they want, and be very tolerant of others who choose to eat differently. In this day and age, it's not an issue we should squabble about. I've found vegetarians are as intolerant and attacking of meateaters as vice versa (if not more.) Is that their idea of 'non-violence'?

    The China Study, as mentioned earlier by someone, is full of holes and assumptions that lead to false conclusions. For details google: china study fact or fallacy.

    Furthermore, when speaking of eating meat, there is a HUGE difference between factory-raised, stressed-out, GMO corn-fed meat, being eating 4 times a day in a fried hamburger by the average American, and healthy, grass-fed beef eaten once a day. I'd venture to say that these two are almost different animals when it comes to human health.

    Thirdly, in practice, most vegans (especially raw vegans) fall ill after a while. I know several, and they are all either very ill, or have B12 deficiencies. This is tricky to prove, since the problems only set in after a while (could be 6 months for one person, and 6 years for another.) Also, in the start, raw veganism actually heals most physical issues, which tends to convince people that it's very healthy. Indeed, I'd probably recommend a 3-month raw vegan diet to people with chronic diseases, WITH THE CAVEAT that they stop after 3 or 4 months and go back to a healthy normal diet.

    As I said, I really don't care whether people eat meat or veggies as long as they're healthy, and I love fruit juice and salads, but looking at my raw vegan friends (as well as many 'normal' vegetarians I know) – healthy they're definitely not, and some are now facing huge health challenges. Such people get silenced when they voice their opinions on Vegan coach websites (many of these 'coaches' take B12 shots themselves, and often 'cheat' by eating things they shouldn't! The 30bananas a day girl got fatter and fatter for a year and a half before starting to slim down, and SHE'S AN ATHLETE!)

    Also we should bear in mind that being vegan can mean eating French fries, chips, milk-free chocolate bars, crackers, coke, and fried seitan hamburgers. Which means that, by simple common sense, the sole fact that one is vegan means NOTHING in terms of guaranteeing good health – in fact it could mean quite the opposite!

    As for 'being environmental', I agree that we don't need even 10% of the meat and meat farms we have today, but do people really think that planting crops is more 'environmentally friendly'? In fact, agriculture is quite a recent invention, and it's COMPLETE ECOCIDE! Planting crops on large areas of land destroys practically all other plant, animal, topsoil and nutrient varieties where the field is – yet nobody cares or is even aware of that! The argument that "not planting soybeans to feed cows would save so many hectares of land being destroyed for planting soybeans" is ridiculous, since humans would have to substitute the large amounts of calories they get from beef by equal amounts of calories from corn and soya (yuck!) – meaning huge amounts of land cleared for soy/corn farming for humans!

    So as humane as 'not killing animals' sounds, I'd suggest to people to START BEING HUMANE TO THEMSELVES! Put political correctness aside, use your common sense and intuition, ask your body what it TRULY wants, and think of what's really good for your health! What sense does it make to not kill an animal, if in the process, you're killing yourself?

  26. Feliciano says:

    An interesting post about the China study at Freetheanimal dot com:

    "One thing you'll never hear Campbell mention, nor have I seen other China Study skeptics come across, is the health of one unique county in China called Tuoli. Unlike the rest of China, the Tuoli ate 40% of their diet as fat, ate 134 grams of animal protein per day (twice as much as the average American), and rarely ate vegetables or other plant foods. According to the China Study data, these people were extremely healthy with low rates of cancers and heart disease… healthier, in fact, than many of the counties that were nearly vegan. (No big shocker there, but it's something Campbell completely ignores.)"

  27. Feliciano says:

    Perhaps the people in the China Study were healthy simply because they didn't eat processed, off-the-shelf foods?

    I suggest reading Weston Price's book "Nutrition And Physical Degeneration".

    It details a doctor's account of visiting isolated tribes all over the world, 100 years ago, before contact with 'modern' man and his dietary habits. All these tribes ate meat. No cancer, diabetes, etc. among any of them. Price also details what happens to their teeth, bones, and general health just ONE GENERATION after being exposed to a Western diet. (Yes, with pictures.)

    I think it should be an interesting read, especially in view of the fact that Price did his study a century ago, when nobody in the West cared about being politically correct, non-violent, vegetarian, so he just does the study and is not biased with pre-concieved notions of the superiority of veganism or meat-eating.

  28. Mädel says:

    Wouldn´t not hurting an innocent being be enough to make a change??
    It is only about compassion.

  29. Mädel says:

    Wouldn´t not hurting an innocent being be enough to make a change??

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