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For Your Health, the Planet & the Animals: VBM

I recently watched Earthlings and cried the whole way through. There has to be something I can do to reduce all of the suffering of the animals we use as food, I thought. And then I read THE CHINA STUDY and was shocked to learn how unhealthy the Standard American Diet is–even cow's milk, which I thought I should be having three servings of per day! And you know how concerned I am about water on Planet Earth. Well, when I found out that it takes 2,500-5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, that was it . . . I knew I had to take action.

Now, I don't want to do anything extreme, like go vegan. Veganism is too fringe for me, and I'm pretty sure you have to be a Communist, or at least a Socialist, to be a vegan. And I don't think vegans believe in God, and I don't trust anyone who doesn't believe in God. I mean, where do they get their morals from? How do they know what's right? And what are they living their lives for?

Also, veganism is expensive, and I'm on a budget. And it limits you in that you can't just go anywhere to watch a football game if you plan to eat anything. I hear that some places fry their french fries in lard and if I can't eat french fries when I'm at a restaurant, well, what can I eat? It's all too high maintenance.

Then there's the parenting part. I don't have a kid but I might some day and I wouldn't want to impose my beliefs on some poor, unsuspecting child. That would be like brainwashing, and that's just not right. Besides, when it comes to birthday parties it's not like my vegan kid would have anything to eat. Who ever heard of a cupcake without eggs and butter in it?

Luckily, I think I've found a way to assuage my conscience about all of the suffering, environmental devastation and negative health impacts of eating animal products all day. I call it VBM: Vegan Between Meals. Here's how it works:

  • Rather than eating all day long (I call it grazing), I'm restricting my meals to three times per day.
  • Between those three meals, I am committing to bettering my health, the Planet, and the sentient nonhumans who live here by being vegan. This means that between mealtimes I will not consume animal products, use products tested on animals, attend a rodeo or polo match, go to Seaworld, wear leather, silk or wool, or drop any toxic substances into the eyes of rabbits who are clamped down (or even not clamped down, which is far more humane and acceptable).
  • But I have to be realistic and reasonable, as it's not like the whole world is going to go vegan just because it's the right thing to do. Face it, it's just too hard to give up all that. I love my steak and my bacon. So I'll do my part between meals.
  • For instance, at mealtime, if I want to put on my suede shoes and silk suit and go to dinner at Ruths Chris Steakhouse then head to the dog track for an evening of gambling and to watch the dogs run–and they love to run–I can do that.
  • After mealtime, I return home, remove my suede shoes and silk suit and change into my cotton espadrilles and linen suit and live like a vegan until my next meal.

We all have to step up to the plate and align our actions with our beliefs. VBM is the least I can do, but I am committed to doing my part.








Mark Bittman, foodie and bestselling author, started (unintentionally or otherwise) what has become something of a movement  called VB6, where he's Vegan Before 6pm and then after 6 he eats whatever/whomever he wants.

And it's really just food he's talking about, by the way, as he cut out a lot of the animal products and processed food from his diet and his health improved enormously.

Satire was my favorite subject in school since I was in high school (yes, we had Literary Satire, taught by Mrs. Tinkhauser). Jonathan Swift was my favorite author.

You lose the effect when you say, "Ha ha, it's a joke!" It should be so disturbing due to the fact that it seems real but somehow can't be.

But I don't want to upset anyone.



14 Comments Post a comment
  1. I like the sarcasm, but it's so abnormal for this blog that it's jarring.

    July 26, 2009
  2. Mary,
    Is this a joke? Am I missing something here? I must admit I am a bit worried that people tuning in for the first time might think you are the author of this insanity. Did this person really watch Earthlings and come up with this version of doing her/his part for the animals and planet.

    Just got home from the dog park and decided to check out your blog for the day since I always come back from the park boggled by the love folk have for their dogs and not a clue of animal suffering that is ubiquitous. A man was there who just rescued 2 elderly Greyhounds who had been in over 200 races. They had incredible demeanor's and were both covered in scars. When I told him I rescue animals such as pigs, chickens, etc. who were on their way to slaughter and get them to sanctuaries he gave me this blank look, yet he rescued 2 dogs and he clearly loved them, but couldn't wrap his mind around the suffering of other animals. VBM's is sacrilegious!

    July 26, 2009
  3. Paxil #

    If Darfur received as much attention as Earthlings maybe innocent and defenseless humans would be spared. Now that I have seen the promo for Earthlings, I will appropriately pop a Paxil. This site is beginning to have that effect on me.

    July 26, 2009
  4. You had me going for a minute. Love the satire, thanks for the backstory. It was nice to have confirmation of my instincts, that it was satirical.

    July 26, 2009
  5. It's sad that some people are actually like this…

    July 27, 2009
  6. Angus #

    A modest proposal: It would be nice to see a satirical "Vegan Between Meals" website. Or how about doing a "Vegan Between Meals" YouTube rant, Mary? It could be a big hit. (Your fans would also get to see and hear you.)

    And speaking of modest proposals, everyone should keep an eye out for the novel Animals, by Don LePan, which is due out in September. I've read it in manuscript form and it's powerful.

    July 27, 2009
  7. catherine turley #

    if you're not a great writer, you risk being offensive. enough said?

    July 27, 2009
  8. @ Catherine – If you don't lurk on a blog before commenting, you risk coming off like a troll. Enough said?

    July 28, 2009
  9. Christopher #

    I agree with Angus about Mary being on Youtube.

    I think a Rocket Boom ( show about veganism/animal rights.

    I like Rocket Boom's layout a lot because you can watch the show and see all the relevant source-links right below.

    July 28, 2009
  10. Mary,

    When I first read this I didn't see the back story – Was that posted after I wrote?
    I would have understood the satire (sarcasm) had I seen the back story. I truly thought there was someone out there who was serious about being vegan between meals. Sorry for taking it the wrong way.

    July 28, 2009
  11. Porphyry #

    I LOL’ed!

    Bitttman is actually taking one of the better approaches to going vegan even though he claims going vegan is not his intention. He doesn’t strongly advocate for humane meat, dairy and eggs since he thinks it’s elitist.

    “The positive aspect of this particular speech is that it's not a commercial for happy meat. Bittman's message isn't to stop buying animal products from factory farms and buy only from "free range" or family farms. His message is to cut down drastically on your meat intake (he also says animal products once or twice).”
    — Mary Martin – On Why I'm Still Wary of Mark Bittman

    His vegan before six strategy parallels Gary Francione’s suggestion to adopt veganism by starting with one or two vegan meals a day and ignoring humane animal products options entirely.

    On one hand, it’s great that a person like Bittman (a foodie) got hip to the idea of the environmental problems with industrial meat and fish and is spreading the word. That’s a good thing; non-vegans will listen to him because for some reason whenever a vegetarian states these facts, they’re written off as crackpots no matter how much evidence is brought to the table.

    On the other hand, he keeps dismissing veganism outright and ends up saying stupid things (vegan plus) and recently Tara Parker-Pope (the NYTimes Well Blog Columnist) perpetuated this stupidity by stating that he is “mostly vegan.” Mark Bittman is not “mostly vegan” or “vegan plus,” he’s not even “nearly vegetarian” or “somewhat pescatarian.” I wouldn’t even consider him a flexitarian or semi-vegetarian; while the definitions are nebulous it seems like they imply eating meat every once and a while, weekly or monthly, certainly not daily.

    While it’s flattering to veganism that so many non-vegans are trying to co-opt the term (virtually vegan, lactovegan) and write vegetarian and vegan cookbooks (The Vegan Cook's Bible) when they are not vegan or vegetarian, the problem is that Bittman waves aside vegetarian ethics outright and adds (more) confusion to what vegan means.

    He recently made vegan nutrition seem difficult because he couldn’t seem to “get enough protein” (seriously?!) even though he’s not vegan and eats whatever he wants for dinner on a daily basis, and it’s usually “indulgent,” using his own word. Mary, you’re a runner and you’re a vegan — the kind that actually doesn’t eat animal products at all. I’m not sure what your weekly mileage is, but do you have problems finishing a four mile run?

    “But once my weekly mileage surged past 25 miles a week, I was tired much of the time. Not only that, I’d often run out of energy halfway through even four-mile runs.”

    “We met, she [Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom] heard me out, then immediately declared my diet to be on the “low end” protein-wise – which, she said, “would certainly cause fatigue,” especially since I eat mostly vegetables and don’t typically consume “complete” proteins (code-word for animal products).”
    — Mark Bittman – Running Low on Protein

    I don’t want to be the voice to seem like I’m contradicting a “Ph.D. in psychology, epidemiology and surgery” and I’m not one to tell other people about their bodily experience and how they feel, but It would have taken Bittman an afternoon of research on the Internet to know that there are plenty of 24/7-vegan athletes, especially runners, thriving on vegan diets and they are not necessarily too concerned about “concentrated protein.” There are online forums of both lean and buff vegan athletes communicating with each other and working out the details without the assistance of a Ph.D consultation.

    Bittman wrote a book on vegetarian cooking so I don’t understand why he wouldn’t do some rudimentary research on vegetarian nutrition. Once aware of the “how,” it would benefit him to do some reasonable research on vegetarian philosophy and history so that he could better understand the “why.” I get the feeling he’s set on not being vegetarian so he won’t bother reading anything about it outside of environmentalism, health, and recipes. He seems to concede that vegetarians may be right about the health and environmental outcomes of meat culture, why is it so seemingly so easy for him to pooh-pooh the ethics?

    Perhaps it’s for the best. He’s a food writer and it would be difficult for him to do make his living, as it currently is, as a full-fledged vegan. (Okay, John Robbins gave up his dairy fortunes, but it’s not everyone that’s strong enough to give up their livelihood and identity over unpopular politics.) If Bittman wasn’t a food guy, he may have gone vegan already. Perhaps he’s avoiding it just to retain his audience. It may be a good strategy since if he goes vegan he will become invisible to a large audience. For now, he at least can influence people to really consider eating a lot less meat.

    When discussion of Bittman comes up, he is juxtaposed against writers like Michael Pollan and Babara Kingslover who are lumped into a more pro-meat camp. Yes, Pollan speaks well of eating more plants, but somehow the audience is far more interested in humane pastured meat and riling against Big Ag than anything else. Instead of eating off the farm for a year or pig hunting, Bittman makes matters tangible for more people. He suggests eating less meat in a very approachable way, and doesn’t rest hopes on grass-fed beef, free range eggs, idealistic animal-farm models or for legislation to solve all the ills of animal agriculture. He puts the initial responsibility on the individual and has the personal benefits of 35 pound weight loss and improved blood work numbers to entice his audience. (I’m not a huge fan of the vegan health and weightless pitch, but let’s face it, it does get non-vegans past the threshold.)

    “So does Food Matters have added value? In a word: yes. Bittman provides a common voice to a movement that is totally out of touch with reality.”
    — The Arugula Files – Vegan Until Six pm? A Look at Food Matters by Mark Bittman

    “With that sentiment, she [Susanne Freidberg] joins the ranks of food writers like Mark Bittman, who has called locavores "elitist," splitting with other high-profile thinkers like Michael Pollan on this topic. Bittman calls for cutting way back on meat as the most effective way to help the environment and heal our injured food system (sorry, Catherine Friend!).”
    — Kate Munning – The Chicken and the Egg: Slouching Toward Washington

    He does deserve criticism from vegans, but I offer that it should be gentle criticism, give him the benefit of doubt that perhaps he’s working through the issues of animal ethics in his own mind and time but keeping up general non-vegan appearances out of necessity. I realize that’s a very generous allowance considering that he parallels industrial meat production with a nuclear bomb and writes competently about the grim situation with the world fisheries. Even if he doesn’t buy into vegan ethics, his own environmental associations with meat production would seem to mandate a fulltime plant-based diet. Yes, environmentalism is a matter of degree, and sure, Bittman was speaking somewhat metaphorically, but how can he sometimes set off a nuclear explosion? I don’t think that even Mary has ever stated a case for veganism as strongly.

    “I'm not a vegetarian — this is the old Nixon line, right? But I still think that this may be this year's version of this.
    (Image of atomic explosion)
    Now that is only a little bit hyperbolic. And why do I say it? Because only once before has the fate of individual people and the fate of all of humanity been so intertwined. There was the bomb, and there's now.”

    “But lists like this become kind of numbing, so let me just say this, if you're a progressive, if you're driving a Prius, or you're shopping green, or you're looking for organic, you should probably be a semi-vegetarian.”
    — Mark Bittman

    Perhaps a vegan before six website should exist, but not a satirical one. Re-co-opt the term (if there is such a term). The intermittent vegan meal concept could be laid out, bolstered with information, extending to all facets of veganism, with even a support forum set up, but with the clear goal of promoting and ultimately establishing a strategy for people to become vegan.

    Maybe “meat meals five days per month” could get worked in as well? It seems like Ezra Klien began on a “vegetarian before six” plan.

    “I've not had the willpower to eliminate bacon from my life entirely, and so I eliminated it from breakfast and lunch, and when that grew easier, pulled back further to allow myself five meat-based meals a month.”
    — Ezra Klein – The Meat of the Problem

    It's not veganism, but I do wonder how many vegans began on this reduction path.

    July 29, 2009
  12. mary #

    Hey Porphyry!
    If I thought Bittman was using VB6 as a way of going vegan, I'd be all for it. And if I thought he cared about the exploitation of sentient nonhumans and that that principle was a driver of his behavior, I might be a fan.

    If I were exhausted after running four miles I'd be worried. I have more energy than most people I know, at least until 8:30 pm, when I quickly begin my descent into unconsciousness.

    I think that the major objection is that "semi" or "mostly" or whatever word you put next to "vegan" makes it a bit of an oxymoron, and Vegan Between Meals was really written to highlight that. Plus, he's referring only to diet, which ignores the principle of avoiding harm in other areas (hence my apparently poorly-written mention of issues other than food).

    July 29, 2009
  13. Louche #

    "I oppose the eating of animals. Except when I'm hungry."
    "I'm vegan. Except when I eat animals."
    "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
    My cousin told me, "I'm vegan in my head." She said she "secretly wants to be move to the countryside and be vegan." (She lives in Brooklyn, and she's in her 30s.) She also said she's vegetarian when she's in the mood, and her moods will last for several months. Her sister told me she likes to eat meat when she's with the family. When I saw her she was devouring a chicken sandwich. I also got her mom to buy soy milk for me, so we were drinking glasses of soy milk. I told my cousin I normally don't drink soy milk in a glass, but in my cereal. Her response? "Oh, I only drink soy milk by itself. If I'm having cereal, I have to have real milk."

    So much for being vegan in her head.

    July 31, 2009
  14. Louche #

    I asked The Onion to write an article on VBM and sent them the link to your blog. <3

    August 2, 2009

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