A Vegetarian's Journey
By Wade Frazier
I decided to write this essay because I became embroiled in the vegetarian issue, a controversy I did not know existed until 2000, when I was surprised to read an article that attacked vegetarianism, in an alternative medicine magazine. It was framed under the rubric of myth debunking, which is a popular strategy these days. I heard people express concern over the health dangers of being vegetarian when I became one during the 1970s, but those concerns seemed groundless, and I never heard anybody voice it since. I had been a happy vegetarian for many years when I read that article, and I felt like Rip Van Winkle, sleeping through a controversy that has apparently not abated. I began surfing the Internet to read other writings by that author and his chums, and the more I read, the angrier I became. Some of their work read like Elizabeth’s Whelan’s, with links to CSICOP and other establishment defenders.
The author put in a disclaimer that the meat interests were not bankrolling him, and perhaps they were not, but his work was nearly as supportive of their interests as Whelan and Steve Milloy are supportive of their patrons. I wrote a furious letter to the editor, and I was shocked when they published it a few months later, with the author’s rebuttal. That author betrayed his own anti-vegetarian fervor by making the irrelevant observation in his riposte that Hitler was a vegetarian (which is not true). The more I read their work, the clearer their mission became. They also assail the soybean.
This subject is better served by discussing issues that have been muddled by both pro-vegetarian and anti-vegetarian advocates. Both can miss and confuse important issues. The United States has the world’s biggest flesh-eating culture, as well as history’s fattest humans, and the United States is by far the world’s largest purveyor of violence. Flesh eating has something to do with the situation, but is not the whole story. Americans are also history’s most sedentary people, and eat more “junk food” than any people on earth. When my father reversed his heart disease by our family going “health nut” in 1970, vegetarianism was not part of the regimen. Probably at least 90% of American health problems would disappear if Americans had live food (preferably organically grown) comprise at least 60-70% of their diets, and gave up tobacco and alcohol.
I became a vegetarian in 1978, going vegan, just to see what it might be like. Profound changes happened to my body, such as my body odor disappearing, and the next year was the only one during my college athletic career that I was not injured. I also lost ten pounds, as I did not even try to get any protein. I was vegan for eighteen months, and then I wanted to become an All-American in my event (the javelin throw), and I knew I could not do it at six foot, one inch and 142 pounds. I then ate six hard-boiled eggs a day and weight trained, and gained twenty pounds of muscle in three months during 1980, but my body odor also became fierce. I largely retained that muscle, and have been a vegetarian since 1987.
I was forced into giving up my vegetarian ways when I moved to Los Angeles to work in the high-rise world in 1983. After I left LA, I became a vegetarian again. Although I have not quite become a vegan again, my home diet has been virtually vegan for years, with cheese and eggs only eaten when I do not eat at home. One day, probably before long, I will become a vegan again. Although I never advertised that I was a vegetarian, it is difficult to hide that fact when I eat with other people. During the past fifteen years, people have continually called me a vegetarian (sometimes with disdain, sometimes with awe, and sometimes with humor), as if that described my primary relationship to food, and I thought it was the prescription for good health. Abstaining from flesh does not have much to do with a healthy diet. Vegetarians whose diets are mostly processed food are not eating very healthily. Eating steaks everyday is also not so good for people (and hell on the cow), but if I had to choose, not eating live food is more harmful to human health than eating flesh. Humans are the only animals that eat dead food, and the frequency of our degenerative diseases is also unique on earth (pets also eat dead food, and get human-style degenerative diseases).
Another misconception I wish to slay, which made me angriest at the work of those anti-vegetarian crusaders, is that probably less than one percent of vegetarians are the kind of activists that populate PETA and other militant organizations, such as those who “liberate” experimental animals by sabotaging laboratories. Animal experiments are evil business, and this will be a happier world when people stop killing animals to eat them, but the ends do not justify the means. Those vegetarian activists can be like those misguided “black bloc” protestors (for those who are not outright provocateurs) who have been at anti-globalization demonstrations, giving the police a convenient excuse to use billy clubs, plastic bullets and pepper spray on non-militant protestors. Those vegetarian militants are operating from the victim principle, not the creator principle. I have met many vegetarians, and never met a zealous or “doctrinaire” one (and neither has my wife, who is largely a vegetarian). The author of the “myths of vegetarianism” article, as well as his crusading pals, consistently portrays all vegetarians as fanatics, using the straw man tactic. No vegetarian I ever met preached to anybody else about vegetarianism. I have rarely gotten into “vegetarian-rap” with any of my “brethren.” They all considered their vegetarianism a personal and private decision.
Sometimes the vegetarians I met did it for health reasons (the owner of the medical lab I worked at did it for his health), and other times for ethical or spiritual reasons. All three reasons influence me today. The first time I became a vegetarian, it was for none of those reasons. The second and last time, it was for health. Flesh eating took a toll on my body that I could feel, and eating red meat made me sick, so even when I was forced into giving up my vegetarian ways for years, I avoided red meat whenever possible (just being around it can make me nauseous). Today, I am a vegetarian for ethical/spiritual reasons more than any other. My journey made me more aware and sensitive to the suffering of others, and I slowly came to realize that if I did not need to eat animals to live, I should not support robbing them of their lives. To decide to lessen our burden on the planet we live on and our fellow life forms is a profoundly personal and spiritual decision. As John Robbins and others have made clear, human carnivorism’s toll on earth’s environment is tremendous. Spiritually advanced societies are mainly vegetarian, if not exclusively.
Because of the abuse I have received over the years for being a vegetarian, I understand how such treatment can make people fanatical. To create fanatics, oppressing people is effective, as America has seen with the World Trade Center attacks and other acts of “terrorism.”
As proto-humans left their arboreal habitat millions of years ago, they changed their diet and behavior. Tool making was about increasing their food supply, and when protohumans migrated beyond the tropics millions of years ago, killing animals and eating them was the primary substitute for their formerly fruit-eating, live food diet. Making weapons to kill animals more effectively is what allowed humans to migrate to earth’s farthest reaches. However, the same technology that allowed humans to migrate to hostile environments also allowed humans to kill each other.
Humanity’s murderous ways are directly related to its carnivorous ways.
With our great ape cousins, the carnivorous/murderous relationship is also seen. Chimpanzees are the most carnivorous great apes, with around 1% of their diet being mammal flesh, and perhaps 5% being insects. They are also the only great apes known to kill each other and engage in cannibalism. The mountain gorilla eats insects as the most carnivorous part of its diet. The great ape diet is two-thirds fruit, as the human diet should be. The human sweet tooth comes from our fruit-eating heritage.
Also, humans were a little too successful with their hunter-gatherer lifestyles, and killed off all of the planet’s easily killed large animals. About 10,000 years ago the hunter-gatherer lifestyle became unsustainable on a global basis, and the Domestication Revolution began.
The anti-vegetarian-crusader analysis of nutritional research needs to be considered in the context of their ardor. If people read their work, then read the work of John Robbins, Gabriel Cousens or Gary Null, they can decide for themselves. Being a vegetarian rarely, if ever, really endangers the health. There are some issues germane to the vegetarian path, such as vitamin B-12 (which is produced by bacteria living in dirt and on animals, and carnivorous humans can also have the deficiency), protein and some other nutrients, but nobody who puts forth some effort to become informed need much concern themselves with nutritional deficiencies. If all I ate were apples, then yes, I would develop nutritional deficiencies, but that is not what being a vegetarian means. There are also several definitions of vegetarianism, and some call those who eat fish and birds vegetarians, although I do not.
People have different blood types, health histories and metabolisms, and each person needs to discover what is best for them. Pure fruit diets or pure brown rice diets are not ideal, and those are the kinds of extremes that can give people health problems and vegetarianism a bad name. I am allergic to spirulina, getting it by being disinformed by 1970s vegetarian researchers regarding how much protein I really needed. For me, getting enough protein is no big deal.
The general rule-of-thumb for an enlightened human diet is the less sentient the prey, the better off everybody is. The scale of greater-to-lesser violation of the prey is: humans, cetaceans (whales and dolphins, although they may be more sentient than humans), mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, plants, microscopic organisms and fruit; eating fruit is actually a symbiotic relationship with the plant. Prey-cannibalism is the greatest violation of the spirit, while eating fruit is the other end of the spectrum.
Comparative anatomy studies clearly show that humans are ideally fruit eaters, which our great ape cousins demonstrate. Many in the anti-vegetarian crowd have compared humans to horses, rats and pigs, but the most meaningful comparison is obviously to our closest biological cousins. Classic omnivores, the bear, panda and raccoon particularly, were originally predators that adapted to eating vegetable matter, and their anatomy does not have much correspondence to human anatomy, especially regarding suitability for a carnivorous diet. From our teeth, jaws and saliva, to stomach acid volume and concentration, to intestinal length, humans are obviously not of carnivorous design. The adaptation to meat to extend the human range and numbers came with a price, warfare and violence only part of it.
Humans can be carnivorous, and have been for many millennia. However, there is also dramatic evidence of certain diseases disappearing when societies suddenly became vegetarians (such as Denmark under Nazi occupation during World War II – colon cancer nearly disappeared). There is plenty of literature and research on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, but there are some risks, if it is not done with care. None are that serious, but they exist. Some education is recommended if a person wants to try a vegetarian diet.
Mystical students have long known that eating flesh lowers the spiritual awareness. Eastern masters have stated since ancient times that the less flesh consumed, the higher the enlightenment attained, and have advocated vegetarianism for the spiritual initiate. It partly has to do with the fear the animal experiences when it is killed. Sometimes, lowering the spiritual vibration can be useful. Channels often eat meat after channeling, to help “ground” them. Many also smoke or are overweight. Those are not ideal grounding mechanisms (I hike in the mountains with fifty pounds on my back to ground myself), although they work. Killing and eating animals definitely creates negative karma, which can directly affect the body.
Gandhi regularly discussed vegetarianism, and said that those who did so for “moral” reasons used vegetarianism to help them evolve to higher spiritual states, while those who merely did it for health reasons did it selfishly, received limited benefit from it, and were usually the ones who abandoned vegetarianism. He said that vegetarianism that was all about food and disease was, “the worst way of going about the business.” He also said,
“The Spiritualists hold, and the practice of the religious teachers of all religions… shows that nothing is more detrimental to the spiritual faculty of man than the gross feeding on flesh. The most ardent vegetarians attribute the agnosticism, materialism, and the religious indifference of the present age to too much flesh-eating and wine-drinking, and the consequent disappearance, partial or total, of the spiritual faculty in man.”
What hit me between the eyes when reading that was that the two behaviors I was forced into doing when I began my career in Los Angeles was drinking alcohol and eating flesh. In retrospect, when I discovered how worthless my profession was, I wonder how “knowing” such behavior was. Not from a conspiratorial sense, but there is often a deadening of one’s humanity that accompanies the descent into the business world, and forcing people to drink alcohol and eat flesh was part of that process. Those in “the club” were unconscious, and were making sure I became like them. It was the most ruthless work environment I ever encountered, with the personal lives of my colleagues largely disasters.
Gandhi’s pacifist activism and his vegetarianism were no coincidence. Also, it is no coincidence that meat and alcohol (and formerly tobacco) are military and corporate staples. Fruit is the ideal food for spiritual reasons also, as eating fruit is a symbiosis with plants; it does not harm them and helps spread their seeds.
After years of being a vegetarian, a perspective gradually came into focus as I looked at flesh food: it is a carcass, once part of a living, breathing creature, one not much different than me. Today, I have a visceral revulsion toward meat eating that far exceeds any thoughts I might have about its effect on my health or spirit. There is no will power in my vegetarian ways, as I can barely fathom putting flesh in my mouth. I am not laying that trip on anybody else, but that is a “hazard” of being a long-time vegetarian: flesh eating can eventually be seen as disgusting, horrifying, and a cousin to cannibalism. I passed the point-of-no-return in the 1980s.
For those who feel they must eat animal flesh, the most spiritual and ethical way of doing it is to look the animal in the eye while taking its life, and thanking it. Eating it raw and on the spot is also the “natural” way to do it. Anything less is not being a true carnivore. If that style of carnivorous behavior seems revolting, then it might be helpful to ponder why, as that is the most ethical, spiritual and healthy way to eat flesh. People can also get parasites that way, which is another reason humans are not ideal carnivores; true carnivores have far more acid and a far more acidic pH in their stomachs, which kills parasites. Cooking flesh destroys a great deal of its nutritional value, and is another unnatural human practice.
Vegetarianism is part of the path to a healed humanity and planet, and some of humanity’s darker possible futures have animal abuse as signposts of their degeneration, but nobody should be coerced, bribed or deceived into the practice. It is a deeply personal issue, and one that all people need to decide for themselves.
 The article was Stephen Byrnes’ “The Myths of Vegetarianism” in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, July 2000, pp. 72-81.
 See Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, October 2000, pp. 93-94.
 They then engaged in an advertising campaign (they have arrogated the pioneering work of Weston Price, but that is a story for another time - in 2009, John Robbins weighed in on the issue). They had an ad for their material in Nexus Magazine, in the January-February 2001 issue, p. 70, and their headline nearly said it all: “Confused about nutrition? We set the record straight.” That is a bold claim. Then their ad purported to debunk myths about nutrition, and the first “myth” they debunked was, “Animal fats cause cancer and heart disease.” Their “truth” was that animal fats “protect” against cancer and heart disease, and vegetable oils cause it. The Beef Council could not have said it better.
 See Robbins’ Diet for a New America.
 See his Conscious Eating.
 See, for instance, Gary Null’s The Vegetarian Handbook and John Robbins’ The Food Revolution.
 See Gary Null’s The Vegetarian Handbook, p.4.
 Mohandas K. Gandhi, in a speech given before the London Vegetarian Society. See Ethical Vegetarianism, edited by Kerry Walters and Lisa Portmess, pp. 136-144.
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