Why shouldn't someone be a vegetarian?

Diet: "Vegetarians will not save the world"

The debate about the Greens' proposal to introduce a Veggie Day in Germany's canteens and canteens has led to countless contributions to the debate. We at WiWo Green have also dealt with the proposal. The idea behind the requirement for a vegetarian diet is that it is both ethical and at the same time beneficial to the environment.

One thing is certain: we should all eat less meat. But become a vegetarian right away?

Why it wouldn't save the world if all of us suddenly stopped eating animals, that's what the makers of the Slow Food magazine talked about with the journalist and author Ulrike Gonder.

Ms. Gonder, you are a nutritionist and a book author yourself. "The Vegetarian Myth" is the name of the book by the American Lierre Keith, which you translated and edited for the German market. Are you a vegetarian?

Ulrike Gonder: No. During my studies I gave up meat and fish for a while, but that was a long time ago. I like to eat meat, homemade sausage and occasionally fish and seafood. However, I find overly generous portions and careless handling of them terrible. The animals we eat are said to have had a good life. I can't imagine a vegan diet because I'm a big butter and cream fan.

The author followed a vegan diet for 20 years. How did a vegan end up writing a book encouraging people to eat foods of animal origin?

Lierre Keith chose a very strict diet and got very sick with it. Nevertheless, she has not doubted her concept for a long time, because she was convinced from the bottom of her heart that she was doing the right thing with her veganism: protecting animals, saving the earth, helping the hungry and eating healthily.

The fact that she is eating meat and other animal foods again today is because she began to investigate and review the vegan myths due to her illness and pain. She found out that nature works differently than the vegetarian "pied piper" as she calls it, would like us to believe. And that a purely plant-based diet is simply inadequate for humans.

Eating and being eaten is an ancient, unstoppable, but also sensible and ecologically indispensable natural cycle that humans cannot escape. Keith tried and got seriously ill. She personally knows many other vegans who have also harmed her health. Incidentally, Lierre Keith does not recommend products from industrial factory farming at any point! This is very important to her.

She gives - and I think that's very wise - no specific dietary recommendations at all. She firmly believes that we should nourish ourselves on what can sustainably grow and flourish in our environment and what builds up topsoil. These are your criteria!

If nature, if the land and the climate in our place of residence are suitable for cows, then we can also eat their milk and meat - provided we keep and treat the animals properly. In dry areas, cows make no ecological sense. In addition to the local plants, other animals such as goats or antelopes are on the menu.

What does the “vegetarian myth” consist of for the author?

Basically, that the solutions that vegetarianism offers are not. In particular, the strict form, veganism, neither creates hunger from the world, nor does it protect the earth or animals or human health. The motives of the vegetarians, says Keith, are noble and understandable in view of the environmental destruction and the meat scandals. But the solutions proposed by the vegans are misleading because they misunderstand nature: the nature of people, animals and plants, yes, basically the nature of nature.

Moral, political and health-motivated vegetarians each make up a chapter in the book. The moral is explained that no life is possible without the death of other living beings. Why does someone always have to die to feed vegetarians too?

I found the chapter on moral vegetarians to be the most important, because it shows the ideological pitfalls particularly well. The moral vegetarians like to say they did not eat anything that had a mother or a face. But this initially catchy attitude falls far too short: every living being, whether plant or animal, had a mother (some also a father).

And why do we determine the value of a living being by whether it had a face? This is extremely anthropocentric, an attitude that vegans in particular actually reject. Can you kill a worm or a tree, soil bacteria or flagellates because they don't look like us - because they don't have a face?

Keith clearly shows here how arbitrary the delimitation of vegetarians is. Not only cows and pigs are sentient creatures and worthy of protection - lower animals, plants and the soil, rivers and the climate also contribute to the eternal cycle of creation and decay that nourishes us all. We are part of this cycle because we have to eat something.

Even if you only eat a salad or a bowl of rice, you kill: for this meal not only hundreds of vital rice seeds and the lettuce plant died, but also wild birds, lizards and insects as well as myriads of soil creatures that were driven away or destroyed by the cultivation, and every one of them Lots of ground breeders, mice, fawns and hares that fell victim to the harvesting machines. There is no food without death, this is the realization that vegetarians have to face. Life and death, eating and being eaten are inseparable.

And how does Lierre Keith argue against politically motivated vegetarians?

Here she particularly turns against the prevailing subsidy and power structures in (American) agriculture. A few companies dominate the market, so that grain and soybeans are traded below price and the constant surpluses are exported. This destroys the local subsistence economies and nature, especially in the importing countries of Africa and Asia.

The previously varied, locally and sustainably produced food is becoming more monotonous and unhealthy just because cheap agricultural surpluses are being produced in the USA for political and mercantile reasons. Producing even more grain or soybeans for human consumption, as often demanded by vegetarians, only promotes environmental degradation, hunger and the impoverishment of people.

According to various studies, you can currently read and hear in many media that a diet without meat and fish is healthier than with it. Then how could the author get sick?

It is probably one of the biggest myths of vegetarianism that it is “automatically” healthier than a mixed diet. The many studies that have shown a health benefit all emphasize that there are many reasons for this and that it is difficult to say exactly whether it is due to the fact that no meat is used. Vegetarians generally live healthier lives overall: They eat more vegetables and salads more consciously, they drink less alcohol, they exercise and relax more than the average person and, above all, they smoke much less often. All of that is healthy.

Incidentally, this affects the vast majority of lacto-ovo vegetarians who do not (or only rarely) eat meat, but do eat dairy products and eggs, i.e. animal products. There is very little data on the health of vegans, and rarely do they do particularly well. Many are too thin, many vegans no longer have a menstrual period, both clear signs of malnutrition.

If you don't know your way around and supplement your vegan diet with certain nutrients, you will inevitably get sick. Lierre Keith not only ate one-sided, lots of grain and soy, but also low-fat. This combination was obviously fatal.

Lierre Keith also believes that our earth has become sick - due to the consequences of agriculture. Would you please explain what she means by that?

Anyone who wants to practice agriculture has to plow the land and drive away or kill many of the living organisms that live there - animals and plants - in order to be able to plant and harvest their seeds. This culminates in industrial agriculture with its huge monocultures, synthetic fertilizers, intensive plant protection and irrigation.

The cultivation of annual grasses - grain, the most important staple food for vegetarians - destroys humus and harms soil life. According to Keith's research, only multi-year mixed cultures of plants and animals that live with and from each other in the sense of an ecological circular economy or permaculture, nourish each other and not only produce higher quality food than grain, but also build up topsoil - and thus future fertility - are sustainable .

Does she also offer solutions in her book on how the earth can recover?

It calls on us to become politically active, to organize and to resist. She considers personal purchasing decisions, such as a solar system or vegan organic food, to be eyewash. In their opinion, we have to change the system and blow up the economic power structures.

We should learn to ask the right questions, we should inform ourselves and really get to know nature, the earth and our homeland. And we have to become fewer because there have long been too many people on earth. Keith understands that this last point is particularly sensitive. That is why she calls on us to defend democracy and human rights - at all costs.

Final question: As a nutritionist, what is your attitude towards a vegetarian and vegan diet?

You can undoubtedly eat healthily with and without meat and also eat extremely tasty. This aspect is neglected, especially when it comes to vegans. They like to portray the mixed diet as causing illness, which of course is not true. As little as one can lump all vegetarians into one pot, one should do this with the mixed foodists.

Here the spectrum ranges from the occasional organic meat connoisseur to the clichéd currywurst eater to the freak who only eats what they have hunted. Everyone should be able to decide for themselves what they eat. In any case, there is no such thing as a healthy diet for everyone.

As a nutritionist, I hope that food and groceries will be valued again, that environmental and animal welfare issues will not only be dealt with emotionally, but also objectively and scientifically, and that people will enjoy good food more again.

If you prepare good food for meals, you can't go wrong with nutrition. We should be happy that we have had enough of everything and that everyone can choose what they want. Whether or not meat, sausage and fish are included is not so important.

With a few exceptions, I would never actively recommend a vegan diet. I consider them to be inadequate in the long term, especially for children and adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women. The problems do not always come immediately, often only after years. Vegans must at least take additional vitamin B12. In my opinion, veganism is therefore not species-appropriate for people. If there is a

As an adult freely decides, for example in view of the animal suffering in this world, then I can understand that. As a political action, I can also respect it. However, it is very annoying when the vegan diet is touted as particularly healthy or as a salvation for the world. This propaganda is not supported by the scientific data and Lierre Keith has shown very impressively in her book that this way of thinking is misleading.

Incidentally, we don't need more dogmatism at the dining table, but more relaxation, joy and enjoyment. Then you come up with it all by yourself to look for fair trade products, for good staple foods and for meat, eggs, sausage and cheese from animals that had a good life.

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