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

Via Jamie Ginsberg
on Jan 6, 2012
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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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. AhimsaYog says:

    Thank you. That is really helpful…this year will be one of healing for me i think:)

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. AhimsaYog says:

    Free range doesn't always mean that & humane is a total myth…there's a lot of really good info out there about this.

  15. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Annie, I will be mindful of my food!!!

  16. Great article Kate, I liked it and loved it!!!

  17. Nice! Your grandmother was on to something!!!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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…:

  23. 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."

  24. Choodak, Was the "Tongue in cheek" part that you are not preachy ;-? I am interested in exploring how animals are raised this year. I have seen the abuses and they have weighed heavily on me. I believe there are people who care about what they do and who are producing meat and vegetables in ways that are sustainable and kind.
    Do not be mistaken, your co-dependence with your cat is a "rationalization." Your cat would not have had the luxury of central heating or air conditioning, but would have survived just fine!
    I am NOT convinced the $10 single field chocolate is really fair trade in the end. It sounds like a nice story so I will try and believe it…because I LOVE chocolate.

  25. 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….

  26. 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…

  27. Thanks for sharing Jenn, I appreciate the efforts you are making to find some balance. I know first hand it is not easy!

  28. Lynn, I respect and honor your eating choices. Sounds like this is a two way street. I'd rather celebrate your choices then defend my choices as well…

  29. elephantjournal says:

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

  30. Tanya Lee Markul says:

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    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. AhimsaYog says:

    beautifully said. the carnists here are angry about vegans trying to change them & condemning their diet…but isn't that exactly what they are doing to vegans????

  34. 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.

  35. George says:

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

  36. Suri says:

    Dude , do what you have to do . Personally i dont find a vegan diet enjoyable and i do know how to cook … My statements are my personal opinion And they only lead to that kind of "conversetions" -what ever that means – if you get offended and feel the need to respond in a certain way . If i want to eat meat its my choice and i dont have to justify myself , i do what i want to do … And so does Jaimie i dont even get why has to justify himself for eating meat.

    What i intend to point out with the environmental impact thing is that vegans usually think they are super green because of their vegan lifestyle but they are not , they , like everybody else have kids, drive cars , travel by plane , buy houses , buy shoes and clothes, etc , etc in short , they are hipocrites , feeling morally superior and pure when they are just like the average person , zero specialness.

  37. Suri says:

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

  38. 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!!!

  39. Elizabeth. I have been trying to relax for 39 years!!! I appreciate your perspective and voice of moderation.

  40. Nat and Ilana – You are right!!! Education is the missing link. Unfortunately farming is very sexy (growing, creating life, playing with dirt), but not very profitable and we live in a capitalistic society. That said, we need to grow more farmers who care about the food and that takes education. We also need to vote with our feet. When we choose the local alternative the businesses will provide that more frequently (Food Inc. inspired this in me.)

  41. George, I guess that depends on how you define domesticated. I am going with the cat on my friend's sofa as domesticated, not the cow raised as a food source.

  42. 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?

  43. 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 ;-).

  44. I love it Keren, the vision of you with a bucket of wings in the closet is awesome! Thanks for sharing your experience, it sounds like you are in an amazing place and have healed yourself!!!

  45. 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!!!

  46. __MikeG__ says:

    1. We had a falling out and my plants are not speaking to me at the moment,
    2. From now on it will be I who confers yogi or not yogi status to all people on the planet. I assume your check is in the mail.
    3. government=bad
    4. bees can be raised unethically also. Colony collapse disorder, anyone?
    5. I had a cat and she went whenever she felt like it. She died eight years ago and I am still upset.

  47. __MikeG__ says:

    Ok, I am going to take your ad hominem bait.

    1. You do not know every vegan. You have absolutely no idea what every vegan thinks. You have absolutely no idea whether every vegan is a hypocrite or not. Please open you mind and get past your prejudices.
    2. Most vegans understand that there is no way to live on this planet and do no harm. For me, veganism is about health and reducing harm. Not only do I want to reduce harm by my choice of diet, I also wish for an industrial revolution where mass produced products are manufactured with the least environmental impact that is possible.
    3. Do you know that EJ is a forum for the exchange of idea? Jamie is not "justifying" himself, he is raising an issue and opening his beliefs for debate.

  48. maru says:

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

  49. 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?…