Letter To A Vegan, From A Meat Eater.

Via Karl Saliter
on Jan 10, 2013
get elephant's newsletter

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. Sam says:

    Can you provide a link to that study? in the meantime I think it is important to say that moderation is key , animal protein in itself is not harmful. It is simply not true that animal protein equals cancer, stroke , etc…
    I guess the belief that it does specially in the vegetarian/vegan comunity comes precisely from the china study but like I said before it has been proven to be SEVERLY flawed. Veggs should really stop citing it as a reliable source of information. 

    You say that eating meat is unhealthy but the same came be said for anything , a good example is soy .  Eating too much soy can be very harmful , many doctors advice women not to consume soy products because of the posible effects it can have on the endocrine system. 
    Even a vegan diet can be harmful. Some people tolerate a vegan diet very well , others end up anemic and underweight . There is not a one diet fits all sort of thing , what works for you might not work for me . 
    Age , gender, height, genetic predisposition, family history , physical activity . etc are all factors that must be taken into account when choosing a diet and the food groups that will suit you best.
    It is simply not true that "no one needs animal protein".

  2. 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…

  3. oz_ says:

    Winnie, you seem to have completely misunderstood my point because you sort of made it for me – this is that vegetarians do not understand that their 'locally grown organic food' is NOT ecologically responsible, nor ethically supportable. In fact all the animals that once used that land have been killed, driven off, and disallowed from returning, effectively excluded on a quasi-permanent basis. This is what you call 'caring for animals'?

    Organic growing methods are NOT sustainable, let alone regenerative! I should know – I run an organic gardening co-op. So while this is better (aka less unsustainable) than industrial ag, it still is a far cry from 'caring for the environment' unless you think that a slower degradation represents 'caring.' Which would be like saying poisoning a person more slowly would be 'caring for them.'

    The ethical basis for all of this comes from one of the all time greatest environmentalists – Aldo Leopold, whose land ethic is stated thus:

    "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

    Simply stated, organic food production is clearly wrong, per this ethic.

    I was a vegetarian for years myself, and I know lots and lots of vegetarians, and yet I would estimate that less than 2% realize this truth – and based on your statements here, that clearly doesn't include you. So it's not my arguments that are crossed. It is your grasp of the ecological ethic that underpins these arguments.

    The only scheme – as I noted in my original comment – that gets around this violence toward animals and toward biotic systems in general would be a permaculture system than welcomes animals and other life forms that populate natural systems. But you're clearly not talking about that kind of system, since the vast majority (99.99%+) of vegetarians and vegans do NOT eat from a permaculture-based sustainable or regenerative food system. Hint: whole foods? Not sustainable, not a 'friend of the environment.' Hint: your local farmer's market? NOT sustainable, not a 'friend of the biotic community' – better by far than industrial ag, yes, but still – NOT sustainable, not ecologically responsible.

    You are right that much of the industrial agriculture practiced in the country is to grow food for animals. But you are wrong to think that a vegetarian lifestyle somehow automatically means 'better for the environment' or even 'better for animals' (a more accurate way to characterize the vegetarian lifestyle would be: "better for some animals, worse for others"). And you are wildly wrong to think that just because you do not dump chemicals on your soil that you are somehow practicing sustainable food production. So this is not in fact a digression, is goes to the heart of the point I was making.

    BTW, that was a straw man fallacy that you used – by asserting what I "should have" added and then arguing about that which I chose not to add! Well, I didn't add it for a reason. Every fool (if not most modern farmers) knows dumping synthetic chemicals onto soil is a bad idea – this is all but self evident after all. But way too many don't know that simply going organic doesn't qualify one for the 'ecologically responsible' award. Especially if, as in the case of way too many of the organic farmers and gardeners I know (even though they know better), the soil is being tilled and inputs from 'organically approved' sources are being applied year in and year out.

    BTW, did you know that fertilizers and pesticides approved for organic use can ba as or even more harmful to human health than their non-organic counterparts? I've found that many organic gardeners are ignorant of this fact. Wash your veggies well…

    To sum up, as I noted in my original comment, it is FAR more ecologically responsible and ethical to eat bison which has been humanely raised and killed from a ranch in the Great Plains, where bison have evolved into the large herbivore niche in that set of ecosystems (and in fact are considered a linchpin species – thus necessary to support the *other* living beings in those ecosystems), than it is to eat produce grown organically on land that has disrupted the existing ecosystem by killing off and then excluding all of the animal life forms that made that ecosystem work.

    In Leopold's land ethic terms, to eat that bison helps to "preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community" – and so is right. Vegetarianism based on organic food production is wrong.

    We can think of it this way: any non-permaculture gardening or farming is simply a method for arresting the ecological process of succession at an early stage in order to prevent natural cycles and natural systems from proliferation.

    Thus, organic gardening, while far less harmful than industrial ag, is still on an anthropocentric trajectory that denies nature and harms animals.

    My suggestion: convert your organic garden into a regenerative, permaculture-based system. Then you can eat from it with clean ethics. Until then, you simply cannot.

  4. karlsaliter says:

    Ha Ha! Oz, oddly, you sound like a textbook vegan! 🙂

  5. karlsaliter says:

    Always an nonor, Mr. S.

    I loved "Meat eaters need to stop looking sideways at veggies and veggies need to stop trying to convert people."

  6. 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

  7. karlsaliter says:

    Hi Edward! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Study_(boo
    Thank you for commenting, it is a very interesting puzzle to me.
    Really, I think that with the growth hormones, antibiotics, and animal treatment for 99% of meat consumed on the planet today, it is safe to say not good for you. I'm less interested in the 1% of "kind" meat. But I'm pretty provincial.

  8. karlsaliter says:

    Or maybe it is, Sam. Too often the "third party" in the discussion is considered an object to be manipulated, don't you think? I mean, if we are talking about Gary's video, isn't Maru's statement really underlining one of his most solid points?

    That is really at the heart of why so many vegans seem to be soap boxing. We flat cannot understand how the life and suffering of the animals is just a given in the conversation.

    What abut what Gary says about the pus in cow's milk, which people drink? Can we agree on that? Because that in itself is reason enough to quit milk.

  9. karlsaliter says:

    I mean like, you know, health reason, forget the third party.

  10. 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.

  11. oz_ says:

    I'm OK with that – vegans at least have their hearts in the right place, Karl. 😉

  12. Sam says:

    Hi Karl,
    But the exact same thing can be said of veggies and fruits that are not "permaculturally" produced like Oz said.
    No sensible person would ever argue that eating food with hormones and pesticides is healthy but this is our reality today, probably 90 percent of all the food produced globally is polluted in some way. Probably 98 % of the world's population dont have access or cant afford the organic alternative. What is the solution? I dont have the answer to that question but I do think there is room for improvement .

    I think eating the smallest neccesary amount of animal protein or none at all if possible ( if it suits your physiology) is a good choice , doing something about our overpopulation problem would be helpful too.

  13. Sam says:

    I'm not saying that all of what he said is wrong but his lecture is significantly flawed for the reasons I have already described above.

    I think what is important to point out is that all that noise weakens his argument.

    I dare you to watch the whole video again keeping in mind all the persuasive strategies that he is using. A good argument is made up of solid facts and should be as objective as possible.
    What do you think would happen if Gary presented his lecture to a group of scientists ( Ph.Ds M.Ds) that do reasearch on nutrition?
    I think if you want to educate then you need up to date , high quality information otherwise you you'll be spreading misinformation.

  14. Sam says:

    The suffering part is crucial.

  15. Karl says:

    Hi Sam! “room for improvement”! I live it. We are sure on the same page there!

  16. Karl says:

    Right back at ya, Timmy! Thanks for joining in, these comments are making me think.

  17. Robert says:

    I would also argue to eat what you want. I enjoy the paleo diet, and some of the brightest individuals I know also eat the way I do (Dr. Kurt Harris is one of the individuals I would suggest reading). However, unlike the religious fantacism of some vegans, I think everyone should be free to eat as they prefer. I support your right to eat vegetarian or vegan, and my right to eat an archevore (paleo 2.0) diet.

  18. Robert says:

    Vegans often speak harshly, but from concern for muted innocents or misguided self righteousness?

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. Edward Staskus says:

    Sam, the study was published in March 2012. The NY Times and CNN did stories about it. Ed

  22. Edward Staskus says:

    What is interesting about your comment to me is that I have had the same experience. I am vegetarian, and when some people find out they say, oh, that's interesting, and they move on. Some ask me why, I tell them, and we move on. Others, however, react with what I can only describe as muted hostility, as though the very fact that I don't eat what they do is judgmental on my part, when in fact I don't care all that much. I don' t think eating animals is a good idea, for several reasons, but billions of people have been eating gazillions of them for millions of years, so it is a never-ending argument. Everyone has to decide for themselves. But, some people get offended, just by the fact that I am not doing what they do at the dinner table.

  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. Maru says:

    sorrow for their fellow beings

  25. Karl says:

    Cheers Rose, beautiful perspective. There is something lost in the distancing from slaughter, the absense of which gives birth to great sorrow.

  26. Karl says:

    Timmy, I was going to say “fat-headedness,” but I decided that you are cool with me, and I’m much too spiritual to post that. 🙂

  27. Karl says:

    Sam, I will do that, with your points in front of me, because I’ll confess to wanting him to be right, but I also respect intellectual rigor. But it will take me awhile as I’m on a retreat right now. (don’t tell the Lama I’m online, ok?)

  28. Karl says:

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

  29. Feliciano says:

    The China Study, impressive as it seems, is full of holes. Here's just one:

    Campbell cites a chain of three variables: Cancer associates with cholesterol, cholesterol associates with animal protein, and therefore we infer that animal protein associates with cancer. But when we actually track down the direct correlation between animal protein and cancer, there is no statistically significant positive trend.

  30. 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?

  31. 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.)"

  32. 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.

  33. Sam says:

    Great, truth above all else man!
    Btw, that cherry chocolate looked delicious!! Envy!!

  34. Mädel says:

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

  35. Mädel says:

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

  36. Maru says:

    Ruthie, how many other boos have you read on the subject? What is YOUR PERSONAL experience?
    Your point is you are not vegetarian because of that book?

  37. Maru says:

    Killing 25 BILLIONS animals a year is NOT nature!!

  38. Maru says:

    I dare you to look at the WHOLE video EARTHLINKS and tell me it is ok to eat meat