Friday, June 28, 2013

Excuses carnivores use: anemia, wrong blood types, etc.

Being a vegetarian, one hears many excuses from people as to why they continue eating meat. Two such excuses come up quite often. The first is that they are/were anemic, and need meat to ensure healthy levels of iron in the blood. The second is that they belong to a blood group for whom it is unhealthy to become vegetarians, so, alas, they must continue eating meat. Although it is understandable that sometimes people who have bad habits (which is how I and others like me view eating meat) find relief in "scientific" proof that enables them to think that what they're doing is actually good, many nutrition experts, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, believe that the above-mentioned theories are flawed, if not completely wrong.

First let’s take the anemia theory. The idea that you can’t get enough iron from a vegetarian or vegan diet is about as faulty as the one that you can’t get enough protein from that diet. (By the way, if you still believe that whole protein=meat myth, check out and you’ll see that it’s perfectly easy to get great results from plant based proteins.) There are indeed many great sources of iron for vegetarians and vegans, - a quick Google search will result in informative articles, which outline exactly which foods to eat (and how to combine them) in order to ensure normal levels or iron. Anemia can be fought with a plant-based diet as effectively as it can be with a meat-based diet. In fact, I have a couple of friends who actually improved their iron levels AFTER becoming vegan, by following the advice given on the above websites. Unfortunately, many people don’t search for this info themselves, but just rely on what their doctors tell them. Vegetarians and vegans should remember that when it comes to nutrition, your doctor's word is not gospel. Many doctors have been taught very conservative (sometimes archaic) solutions to nutritional problems. To ensure that you’re not following some outdated advice, always inform yourself by doing an online search on something before making a decision.

Another famous theory is the blood type theory, made famous by the book "Eat Right 4 Your Type" (Putnam Adult) by Peter D'Adamo, which puts people in three categories related to their blood type. In brief, according to this belief, type A people function best as vegetarians, type O people have the hardest time being vegetarians (hence the excuse, "I have to eat meat, I’m type O."), and type B individuals are somewhere in between. After doing some research on this theory, I found that many if not most nutritionists actually see very little scientific merit in it. One Chicago Tribune article quotes prominent nutritionists stating that the conclusions are "based largely on anecdotes", and that "there have been no peer-reviewed studies published showing that different blood types perform better on certain foods". But even if one believes this theory, one has to remember that even the author himself has stated that it’s not that type Os are "prohibited" from being vegetarians, it’s just that they "may want to explore a more high-protein, lower-carbohydrate lifestyle". As I have stated above, it is possible to ensure high levels of protein without eating any meat or animal products, so it turns out that the infamous blood-type excuse is not much of an excuse at all.

I have always stated that whether you eat meat or not, a balanced diet is key. You have to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients that your body requires. Vegetarian and vegan diets are not unhealthy. In fact, as even a little research will show, a diversified plant-based diet is a lot healthier for you than its meatbased counterpart. There is a ton of information online about which foods are good sources of plant-based protein, iron, and more. Hopefully this information will help you take steps to minimize your meat intake, and to eventually leave behind the cruelty of the meat, dairy, and egg industries.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

COOL PLACES AROUND THE WORLD: Dream House vegetarian restaurant, Sofia, Bulgaria

Dream House is a vegetarian restaurant located in the center of Sofia, Bulgaria. It has good, affordable lunch specials, as well as both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Most of the dishes are prepared with organic ingredients.

Address: Ul. Alabin 50a, Sofia, Bulgaria


Facebook: Currently unavailabe (7/2013). Check website above.

Vegetarian/Vegan: Most if not all of the menu is vegan, but ask to make sure.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stray dogs, a measuring stick of a society's empathy

I've recently been traveling though several countries with a large number of stray/street dogs. In my opinion, all sentient life is precious, and the life of a cow is as important as the life of a dog or a cat or a chicken. By picking and choosing whose life is more important, we open ourselves to the conclusion that it’s OK to kill a certain animal because they’re "not as intelligent", "meant to be killed", etc. This type of thinking is a stumbling block on the road to true progress, and I have already written several blog entries about the need to expand our horizon to start respecting the life of as many animals as possible.

Having said all that (to keep things in perspective), the way a society treats dogs does indeed reflect certain values, or sometimes lack thereof, prevalent in that society. Dogs are arguably our most loyal and true companions out of all animals. They are intelligent. They become attached to us immensely and become our true and faithful friends soon after coming into our lives. They rely on us, wait for us, and love us. They do all this in a very obvious way. There is no mystery in a way a dog loves the person that takes care of it. There is no mystery in the affection that dogs require, and that many stray dogs beg for food while walking the streets after being abandoned. There is no mystery in the pain in a dog’s eyes when s/he is missing his/her owner. For most people, considering all of the things I have just described, this would be the easiest animal to empathize with. A dog would be the easiest example of how we should take care of our animal friends, and to help them lead lives free of fear, pain, loneliness, and depression. So, when I see a society where dogs are easily abandoned, and when an animal that is so obviously loving and faithful, is discarded like some kind of toy that is no longer amusing, I question the compassion of that society. When stray dogs roam the streets, begging for food, and most people just pass by, not feeding them, not giving them water, not showing any kind of love for an animal that would have done anything for them had the situation been reversed, I question the priorities of that society. When instead of taking concrete steps to improve the lives of these dogs, a society chooses to exterminate them, to demonize them by treating them as a supposedly "dangerous" nuisance, I question the heart of that society.

Some people will point out that many places where there is a problem with stray dogs are poor, and that there simply isn’t enough money to spend on this type of thing. While it is true that sometimes these societies are relatively poor, this is not the only reason that this problem exists. Ignorance and prevalent norms play an equal if not greater part in perpetuating the problem, or making it worse. They are what give the welfare of homeless animals a very low priority. Instead of spending money on programs to spay and neuter strays, building no-kill animal shelters or supporting existing ones, educating the population, especially children, about the good treatment of pets, etc., municipalities with a large population of stray dogs often spend money on other things, things such as stadiums, government buildings, etc., that are ultimately less important in terms of improving life for its human residents, dogs, and other animals. All true animal lovers in these cities should constantly take action to pressure their local government to adopt humane methods of dealing with the problem (the most accepted of which is the catch and release type spay/neuter program), to create programs to educate the population not to abandon pets, and to create stricter laws and penalties relating to this type of abandonment. Many European cities (and some Mexican ones that I know of) have already seen a great decrease in the number of stray animals due to the above methods.