One Man’s Evolutionary Search for the Moral Meal

Thanks to Ann Kreilkamp for linking to one of those uncomfortable posts that breaks through conditioned, seemingly obvious beliefs about compassionate eating.

I loved being strictly vegan for over eight years, and I still eat a predominantly plant based, mostly homegrown or personally known farm sourced diet, supplemented by locally sourced, picked up at the farm, very well treated and well loved raw goats’ milk and occasional free-range, organic eggs from local farmers. The more I garden and study permaculture, and the more organic farmers I meet, the move I’ve realized that a strict vegan diet isn’t the “feed the world” cure or even the most compassionate or sustainable way to eat. It sure was nice to think so, though! Just eat superfoods and buy organic, then you’re good to go, right? No one gets hurt if we all eat vegan. We can feed the world if we all eat vegan. Trouble is, that theory breaks down when you really start learning what it takes to grow food on a large enough scale to feed yourself, let alone the world.

As Daniel Zetah notes, why do cows matter more than other creatures? Beyond the obviously egregious factory farming, why are monoculture crops (even organic ones) that steal wildlife habitat and kill ecosystems “more compassionate” than personally raised and grazed animals with “one bad day”? How is a superfood shipped in from 1000’s of miles away, jacking up the price of staples for indigenous communities in South America and driving natives off ancestral land whose ecoculture they maintained for generations, or turning rainforest into a monocrop “more compassionate” than eating an egg from a chicken you lovingly raised in your own backyard? I don’t eat meat, but I have yet to meet a vegan organic farmer who remains vegan. Even Marjory Wildcraft (“Grow Your Own Groceries”) began as a strict vegan and then recognized that she was putting way more calories into growing food than she received from her best efforts. Running a deficit of return is not sustainable on an individual level, nor will it feed the world.

Number crunching of acres of soy or grain directly eaten vs. acres of grain or grass eaten by animals works in theory, but not in practice. Humans don’t have the digestive systems to break down that amount of grain in a safe, sustainable way. Too much soy causes all sorts of imbalances, and many people can no longer tolerate any grains. Without some kind of perennial vegetables, fruit/nut trees, and foraged “weeds,” eating and growing a diet of all grains and annual vegetables, or monoculture soy and corn crops, don’t lead to thriving. Not for the planet and not for most humans.

I’ve watched too many severely ill vegans reclaim their health on a paleo diet to espouse “all vegan all the time as the cure for all disease,” and I’ve witnessed enough closed permaculture loops utilizing manure, fish waste, and “blood ‘n’ bones” to recognize that we’re not really better off rising above these processes rather than returning them to the Earth. Nature has its own cycle of life that very much includes death and decay. Just because we don’t see it on our “peaceful plate” doesn’t mean that cycle ceases to exist. Without it, “life” begins to require all sorts of unnatural inputs and destructive things — chemical herbicides and pesticides, or spending hours hand killing bugs and slugs, tilling the soil, stripping the land each year instead of working more in harmony with natural succession.

Without regular inputs or carefully planned polycultures such as Daniel Zetah describes (sometimes even requiring grazing animals), the soil eventually won’t support annual crops, and certainly won’t maintain nutrient levels that provide enough minerals long term. Unhealthy soil leads to unhealthy food, and without renewing the soil, crops become more prone to insects and disease, making organic farming more difficult, not easier.

I highly recommend this piece, as it really challenges how far our compassion extends — for animals traditionally eaten? For animals in nature? For the Earth Herself? If we care for our planet as a whole, then the efficiency and closed loops of food production do matter. Just because we don’t see the consequences of our organically farmed veggies doesn’t mean those consequences don’t exist.

Growing your own food beyond hobby level makes you acutely aware of how everything we do impacts the rest of nature, and how simple answers don’t always stand strong beyond the theories. This piece challenges me, too, but it’s worth a read by anyone who loves animals and loves our planet. Ultimately, we need to choose what feels right and balanced to us. I’m still an organic eating vegetarian who grows much of my own food with permaculture principles. Sometimes I feel a little selfish and reckless about that choice, though — not because I should be vegan, but because my friends here who raise their own meat with zero waste and eat nearly all calories from their own farm are actually living with far lower impact than we are with our store-bought quinoa, tempeh and grains.

“There is no magic bullet. There is no one way to eat that is going to be devoid of guilt or devoid of suffering. There is no way to exist in this world without taking the life of other beings. And that complex truth was missing for me, and it’s still missing for a lot of people.” ~Daniel Zetah

Beyond Vegetarianism: One Man’s Journey from Tofu to Tallow in Search of the Moral Meal


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Demitra M. N. on February 3, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Oh, yes, a good and insightful article, to be sure. BUT.. however much sense Daniel Zetah has made of his own journey for himself, especially the practicality of his choices as they impact environment and specific animal species, it still does not and cannot speak for every individual’s journey. While he makes many meaningful points of understanding about the interactivity required at all levels for the lifestyle as he has chosen for himself, not everyone is aiming to recreate it in exactly the same way, and this certainly makes a difference.

    Despite the solid evidence based on clarity and experience of numerous other people who have “been there, done that” like him, as I see it, the reason some of us cannot shift gears and backtrack out of a vegan lifestyle in favor of the logical and practical 3D rationale, is because not everyone enters the vegan diet for the same reasons in the first place. Each person’s overall spiritual journey with Life is that which ultimately determines the decision for them. And whether changing that decision is even an option for them, again, depends on where exactly that individual stands along their own respective path.

    My own decision to follow a non-meat-consuming path began many years before I finally actually committed myself to such a diet. So the change for me involved a lot of thought, study, and meditation prior to it’s commencement. AND.. when I did, I didn’t jump right into either, it has been a very slow process over the course of 26 years (so far) of eliminating different types of meat and and dairy products, incrementally, and learning how to feed myself differently.

    Essentially, for me it has always been about evolving spiritually beyond 3D via the frequency shifts that naturally occur as one becomes more and more of what they eat. Therefore, as I see it, in terms of lifestyles, a commitment to vegan-ism can come with it’s own meaningful logic, too, rooted as it is in the concerns and purposes of attaining higher dimensional frequencies. Not to mention, such a path eventually arrives at the point of understanding that regardless of how much energy we expend, none of us actually needs nearly as much foodstuff as we think we do; most of us are more in need of hydrating more than anything else.

    Finally, in terms of urine therapy, and healing oneself in the most natural way possible, animal meat and dairy products in the diet, affect the distilled output from our bodies in the most ‘unpalatable’ way.. lol 😉

    Thanks, Laura!

    Liked by 2 people


    • Thanks for the additional comments, Demitra. I agree, diet is highly individualized, which is why I mentioned we each need to choose what resonates for us at any given time, as that can change, too, especially depending on location. If I don’t eat any cooked vegan food in Northern Indiana, people seriously stop seeing me. It’s pretty wild. At first I thought everyone was being so rude, but then I realized my vibration was so out of sync with these surroundings that I literally needed to regulate it down a bit for most of the locals to have any interaction with me.

      It depends on where we are, why we’re here, what our body’s trying to do, and how we choose to live our lives. For me, Earth Healing is important, so I do appreciate the complexity of not only what Daniel and various organic farmers and permaculturists I know have shared, but also what you’ve added here. Blessed Be! (LOL, or should I say, Blessed Pee?!)



  2. Sooo Timely! We have been struggling with being raw and vegan and having to drive once a week or so more than 50 miles to get groceries or having to special order and watch the eek-effect of the UPS man arriving, burning even more fossil fuels. Then again, if we ate only local farm produce, we would be subsisting this time of year on turnips, collards, kale, lettuce and carrots. Too, we are not commercial beekeepers as you know, but when I get horrible skin eczema, honey is far and away the best treatment and vegans I think, would cringe. But the honey is a side effect of good bee care. Even my own remedies/lotions/potions have beeswax. And in recovery from the endocrine issues, it was decried imperative that I drink bone broth… The more I learn, the more I become confused by how to find the balance for us. Great article and thanks for the awesome intro too. As always, you are right on!

    Liked by 1 person


    • Thanks for sharing this, Ella. Funny, because when I read your comment on yesterday’s post, I immediately thought, “Bone broth. I wonder if she’s doing bone broth? Her body’s craving some bones.” Have you seen Louis Hay’s new book, “The Magic of Bone Broth”? I’ve not seen it in person, but bone broth has kept my dad alive for an extra 4+ years beyond his terminal cancer diagnosis. Every once in awhile his platelets get crazy low, and I tell my mom, “Time to get out the bone broth.” He doesn’t like it, because it reminds him of having cancer, but every time my mom forces him to eat it, lo and behold, his platelets get right back in range, even when nothing else does the trick. I figure the bones are getting thrown away and wasted, so imho in terms of ethics, if you’ve got to do an animal product, then that one’s pretty easy to justify. It’s more like Native Americans honoring the animal by using every last bit.

      And, of course, you of all people know about the spiritual relationship with bees and bee medicine. As I said, I loved being vegan and still eat mostly that way … but I’ve seen too many people recover from such a variety of things that I really can’t subscribe to one diet for everyone all the time. It’s a balancing act, for sure, and the more conscious you are, the trickier that balance becomes, because you realize just how interconnected EVERYTHING is! ❤

      Liked by 1 person


  3. Posted by Demitra M. N. on February 4, 2016 at 1:03 am

    Thank you, Laura, for your kindly response — oh boy, I do agree with you about people not taking notice of you when you frequency out of their range. It certainly is a challenge sometimes, but on the whole it’s worth the deep insights I’ve attained from the experience of having my feet planted in different dimensions at the same time.

    Thank you, Ella, for your own personal contribution to the topic.


    Liked by 1 person


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