It’s one of the biggest questions of our time: how much responsibility do consumers have for changing the system they eat in?
A recent statement posted by The New York Times best-selling author Max Lugavere, who boasts over 389,000 Instagram followers and another 20,300 Twitter followers, suggests it’s not as simple as voting with your dollar.
The outspoken nutritionist is a fierce advocate for omnivorous diets and regularly takes aim at the health claims ‘plant-based puppies’ espouse.
Among all the presidential noise, Lugavere took to Twitter to discuss the ethical quandaries of going plant-based, and how you’re better off just sticking to meat (in his opinion, anyway):
If you shop in a supermarket, you are on the grid and have a ‘cruelty’ footprint. Better to eat meat, nourish yourself, and use your dollars and voice to improve the system as a whole, IMO.
— Max Lugavere (@maxlugavere) October 29, 2020
He then took to Instagram to expand upon his Tweet, further riling up social media.
“Here are some very admirable and valid reasons to not eat meat or other animal products: I don’t like the way they taste. I don’t like knowing I’m eating a dead animal. I have a specific health reason why I need to avoid X or Y (usually this will be a specific allergy). My religion forbids them.”
“Other than those very respectable, very valid reasons, I see little reason to avoid animal products. The industrial production of plants harms animals and people, from the tilling and harvesting that hurts or displaced countless field critters to the spraying of crops with chemicals which can harm birds or can run off into streams and harm fish, there is really no way to opt-out of harm today unless you grow your own food.”
He does admit that “there really isn’t solid data on the deaths incurred due to industrial plant agriculture.”
“Nonetheless, a recent paper “Field Deaths in Plant Agriculture” by Bob Fischer & Andy Lamey (2018) hold no punches in their assessment that a diet of exclusively industrially-farmed plants may actually yield MORE deaths: “it’s always possible that a diet that contains animal products is complicit in fewer deaths than a diet that avoids them.”
Needless to say, he attracted some staunch criticism.
“Hey Max,” exercise physiologist Drew Harrisberg (@drews.daily.dose, 125k followers) asked. “Just wondering, why is your opinion so different to the scientific experts saying that a predominantly plant-based diet is best for the planet? The experts who use objective scientific measures to make recommendations are not aligned with your narrative at all.”
Others were less polite.
“I do eat meat but comparing cows and pigs to some critters is actually ridiculous. Your posts are getting a little polarized and arrogant lately and that‘s coming from somebody who subjectively leans towards your opinion,” one fan related.
“The constant attack on the meat-free lifestyle is irking,” another complained. “I am a vegetarian for multiple reasons including ethical, and I never criticize my carnivore friends and family. I wish you’d offer advice on how to eat healthier on a meat-free lifestyle instead of constantly making condescending remarks about it.”
They raise a good point – however right (or wrong) Lugavere is, you’re definitely not winning any favours by being a jerk. One of the biggest criticisms about vegans, for example, is that they’re too preachy. Lugavere might just be shooting himself in the foot by being preachy back.
But all of this is water off a duck’s back for the popular nutritionist. He clearly thrives off the debate. At least he shared a take that we can all agree with:
If only election anxiety burned calories.
— Max Lugavere (@maxlugavere) November 4, 2020
Hopefully the US can find the time, once 2020 is over, to think with a little more nuance about their eating habits – both vegans and omnivores alike.
We’ll raise our steak knives to that.