Vegan Propaganda and Meat: Separating Fact From Fiction

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Many people love animals, and some of us make the ethical decision not to eat them.

That is absolutely fine and as an animal lover, it’s definitely something I can respect.

While I personally don’t think a vegan diet is optimal, I recognize that with careful formulation it is possible to be healthy on a vegan diet.

In truth, humans around the world have demonstrated good health on a variety of different diets – the main key is the avoidance of industrial junk foods.

So, this article is not an attack on veganism—which is a personal choice—but it is a criticism of scaremongering claims and mistruths.

People often refer to this information as ‘vegan propaganda’.

Dietary Dogma is the Wrong Way Forward

Firstly, ‘dietary dogma’ works both ways.

Many people want—or need—to believe that their exact dietary choice is the best way of eating for everyone.

Some of these people are on vegan diets, others are on ketogenic/paleo diets or a wealth of other dietary systems.

The truth is that no – being a vegan does not mean you are immune to developing cardiovascular disease.

Vice versa, eating the smallest amount of carbohydrate possible doesn’t mean “cancer can’t grow”.

Both of these statements are very common in the online space, and frankly, they are both complete junk science.

Yes, a healthy well-formulated diet can help protect against various diseases, but it doesn’t make someone bulletproof.

Key Point: There is a lot of hype and mistruths around all dietary systems – not just veganism.

What is Vegan Propaganda?

Vegan Propaganda: Symbols Advising Not to Eat Pork, Beef or Chicken

Leaving our personal dietary beliefs at the door, vegan propaganda is not individuals or organizations who write about the vegan diet.

There are a lot of unhealthy food products around, and those who discuss making a vegan diet as healthy as possible are helping the many people who choose to be vegan.

All they are doing is following their beliefs and trying to help others who believe in the same things.

However, the complete criticism of any other dietary system, and large marketing campaigns to try to convince people that only veganism is healthy?

Yes, that is a kind of propaganda.

Spending large amounts of money to promote that meat, cheese and eggs cause disease?

That is blatant propaganda too.

Animal advocacy groups like People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) are responsible for such claims.

These organizations do some admirable work relating to animal cruelty, but they appear to have a political agenda rather than taking an equal, non-biased and evidence-based position on meat and nutrition.

Unfortunately, some of the claims made about cholesterol, meat and animal foods ignore the bulk of recent research.

Moving on, let’s look at some of the propaganda style claims we hear from vegans in a bit more detail.

Claim 1: Meat “Causes” Heart Disease and Cancer

Picture of lettuce holding a gun to beef - meat vs vegan diet theme.

There are various epidemiological studies showing that red meat eaters have a slightly higher rate of heart disease (1, 2).

As a result, some claim that “red meat causes heart disease”.

First of all, correlation does not equal causation and secondly, higher heart disease rates in red meat eaters isn’t entirely surprising.

One reason why is that these studies rarely ever differentiate between processed and non-processed meat.

Given that approximately 57.9% of calories in the US diet come from ultra-processed food, it’s safe to say that the majority of red meat eaters are eating their meat alongside some fries and cola.

Or perhaps in a TV dinner full of refined grains and trans fat.

So, that asks the question of which culprit is causing the problem: the meat or the junk food?

What Do Controlled Studies Show?

How about the “dangers” for those who eat unprocessed, fresh red meat alongside some vegetables?

Well, there are no studies for that.

Perhaps a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) which controls for sugar/junk food consumption?

Nope, none of those either.

However, there was a recent meta-analysis of 24 short-term RCTs investigating how red meat affects lipid levels and cardiovascular risk factors.

The findings? Red meat has a neutral impact on cardiovascular risk factors.

In fact, among the participants, cholesterol, triglycerides and the total cholesterol-HDL ratio dropped over time (3).

Is red meat harmful? That likely depends on precisely what you are eating, and the accompanying foods.

But does it clearly “cause” heart disease?

Only according to vegan propaganda.

Key Point: There are correlations between red meat eaters and heart disease. However, there are no controlled trials showing proof of harm.

Claim 2: Broccoli Has More Protein Per Calorie Than Beef

Picture of broccoli - there are vegan claims that it contains more protein than meat.

The claim that various vegetables—usually broccoli—have more protein than meat is designed to show that meat protein is not necessary.

But is this common vegan claim actually true?

Beef Skirt Steaks Per 100g (4)

  • Calories: 205
  • Protein: 26.7g

This works out to 0.13 grams of protein per calorie.

Broccoli Per 100g (5)

  • Calories: 34
  • Protein: 2.8g

Broccoli has 0.082 grams of protein per calorie.

No, Vegetables Do Not Contain More Protein Than Meat

The reasonably fatty cut of beef above contains more protein than broccoli per calorie.

Lean beef would contain a lot more protein, and a really fatty steak might contain a similar amount.

However, to get the same amount of protein as 100g of meat, you’d need to eat well over 1kg of broccoli!

This is neither cost-effective nor realistic and probably unhealthy.

Lastly, a vegetable source of protein (alone) is not a complete source of protein while meat is.

Key Point: To be honest, saying vegetables contain more protein than beef is just silly.

Claim 3: Apes Don’t Eat Meat – So Humans Shouldn’t Either

Picture of a monkey - there are misguided claims that monkeys and apes don't develop heart disease because they don't eat meat.

There are claims that because humans and our primate relatives are closely related, we shouldn’t eat meat.

This basically stems from the fact that apes don’t develop the same diseases as humans.

There are two interesting points on this issue;

1) Some Wild Apes DO Eat Meat

Various wild apes do eat meat, this can either be because they have a taste for it, or an opportunistic strike when feeling hungry.

You only need to search or look at Youtube (caution advised) to see how carnivorous some of these primates are.

2) Wild Chimpanzees and Gorillas Don’t Develop Atherosclerosis, But Captive Ones Do

Chimpanzees very rarely develop coronary atherosclerosis in the wild, a disease that is now an epidemic in humans.

However, it is interesting to note that heart disease is now the predominant cause of death in captive chimpanzees (6, 7).

These animals generally feed on a low cholesterol diet, full of fortified processed food, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

So, if it isn’t meat causing captive chimps to develop heart disease, what is?

Case Western Reserve University took a long look at this issue in relation to Western lowland gorillas in US zoos.

Heart disease is the biggest killer of these animals, so researchers decided to test a new dietary regime at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

As part of this, the high-sugar, high-starch and high-glycemic diet of the gorillas was replaced by a diet of beans, seeds, and greens.

The result?

The gorillas lost a lot of weight—65lbs in a year—despite their new diet being higher in calories (8).

In other words, once the gorillas came off the diet high in processed food and excessive amounts of high-sugar fruits, their health improved.

Both of these diets were vegan with one difference; one was full of processed food and the other wasn’t.

The lesson: junk foods are bad, whether they are meat-based or plant-based.

Likewise, cutting out processed food would improve the health of most humans too – no matter what their preferred diet is.

You can see a short video on this research here;

Key Point: It’s a myth that wild apes never eat meat – some do. Chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild very rarely develop atherosclerosis. However, captive animals – which eat large amounts of processed foods – frequently die of heart disease.

Claim 4 – Meat/Fat is Bad – and Vegan Products Are Healthier

Picture of vegan veggie burgers - generally they contain large amounts of poor ingredients.

Admittedly, this claim is not pushed by health-conscious vegans.

However, it’s easy to see vegan propaganda and marketing claims that margarine and fake “veggie burgers” (processed soy) are better for us than real butter and burgers.

Butter and burgers each only need one ingredient, which is pure butterfat and beef respectively. Both are natural foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years.

Margarine?

Well, that’s some chemical concoction of who knows how many ingredients. In general, it contains a random mix of vegetable oils, artificial colorings, flavorings, and interesterified fats – which research suggests damage the heart (9, 10, 11).

“Plant-based” doesn’t always make something healthy, and printing “made from 100% plant oils” on a tub of margarine does nothing to change that.

Soy burgers don’t get much better either, and they’re made from a highly processed combination of soy protein, flour, vegetable oil, flavorings, and gluten to stick it all together.

Whether you’re a meat eater or a vegan, real food always wins.

Key Point: Butter and beef are natural foods which our body derives vital nutrients and vitamins from. In contrast, fake vegan versions of these products are a strange blend of harmful fats, powders, and chemicals.

Scaremongering About Meat and Eggs

Picture of an egg - many vegans claim that eggs are dangerously high in cholesterol.Different people have arguments both for and against veganism, covering ethical considerations, health and more.

But there is absolutely no evidence that vegan diets are better than other diets.

Further, there is more chance they can be harmful if not carefully formulated to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

I realize that many people who spread these vegan messages are extremely passionate about their cause and love animals.

But at the end of the day, their biggest concern/focus should be on animal cruelty.

Most people are not inhumane and care deeply about animal welfare — whether they are meat eaters or vegan.

However, scaremongering that meat and eggs will kill you because they are high in fat and cholesterol is just baseless propaganda.

The bulk of recent research absolutely refutes these claims, and repeating them, again and again, is not going to change this.

Animal Welfare is Important

Picture of a young lady feeding a lamb in a field.

The idea of an animal being slaughtered for food is never nice.

Neither is a tiger catching a zebra in the African plains, or a desperate fish struggling to get away from a predator.

But the food chain is a fact of life, and many animals eat other animals.

What should not be tolerated is cruelty to animals.

Admittedly, there are big problems with the commercial meat industry and animal welfare needs improving across the board.

However, I believe there’s a much better chance of doing this if animal rights campaigners focus on the facts about animal welfare.

People care a lot more about animals than they do about misguided health claims.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Great points to make if being challenged by a vegan. As you’ve demonstrated however, it’s possible to disagree about these eating styles in a calm and factual manner.

  2. There is nothing admirable about PETA. According to their OWN records they euthanize over 90% of the animals they ‘rescue’ within 24 hours and ultimately adopt out only 1%. This is in line with their mission statement- pets are slaves, slavery is abuse, animals are better off dead. http://www.petakillsanimals.com

    PETA has also been convicted of paying people to torture and abuse animals for their videos. https://topcatsroar.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/animal-welfare-v-animal-rights-skinned-alive-is-a-myth/

  3. Thank you for this amazing article, i went to a few chronic pain doctors due to ligament laxity, one of them told me to quit meat, and start drinking green tea and go vegan, which i did he said that this diet would help my body to heal….. well the diet did not help at all, and after a few months of going vegan i was weak, out of breath easy, always feeling very tired, how could that be eating so healthy, i went for blood test and they found i was anemic, my testosterone level was very low, my thyroid hormones too…….. vegan diet are healthy.

    Yes there is such a thing as propaganda, in both diets low carb and vegan, i have been involved in fitness for close to 30 years started training with weight at 13 am now 45 i did low carb back in the 90, the weight loss is there but they won’t tell you about lack of energy brain fog fatigue and much more that comes with this. Keto diet is even worst.

    I have since then added whey protein, and beef isolated protein to my training, i eat very lean red meat chicken and eggs, i got my blood checked at my age everything is fine so much for cholesterol and more.

    Another strong point is that these studies are never done with people who are very active, they never take into consideration about alcohol, smoking, drug use and more and yes process meat, and obesity.

    I train everyday so my body uses cholesterol to produce testosterone, i burn pretty much all the carb (sugar i eat) i switch to intermittent fasting and high rep training 25-35reps per set and sometimes hit 100reps. I feel energized i feel a lot better then when i was on a strict vegan diet or a keto diet.

    I eat carbs good carbs because they are important for fiber, quinoa black rice, sweet potatoes veggies and more. They supply the body with the energy it needs to train and so much more.

    Limiting carbs to much and your body will look weak muscles look awful without glycogen. This is what i learned so far from all that propaganda and i am glad someone wrote an article on this. I really hope more and more people will start reading articles like this and stop the whole confusion about those one diet fit all.

    • Hi Yannick,

      Thanks for the in-depth comment!

      There sure is a lot of propaganda about every type of diet – and what is right for one person isn’t always a one-size-fits-all choice. If the way you’re eating is working for you and you’re healthy and happy, then stick with it.

      With low carb diets, those brain fog and fatigue symptoms are very common in the first stages but they do subside over time (especially if someone is aware of them and how to minimize them before starting the diet).

      All of those diets – keto, low carb, vegan can be healthy if well formulated but they are not the right fit (based on either health or ethics) for everyone.

  4. You’ve articulated everything I shouted at my tv whilst watching the documentary, what the health. There’s a couple of people in the film with terrible health, using tons of medication and one can’t walk without a zimmer frame. They become vegan for 2 weeks and wow, she can walk again and they ditch their addictive painkillers and all other pills. This made me laugh pretty hard. The claim at the beginning that sugar is fine and it’s meat that causes diabetes was ridiculous. Can’t believe it was said with a straight face.

    • Hi Kenny,

      I know what you mean! I watched that documentary too, and they seem to be blaming everything that’s wrong with the modern diet purely on animal foods.

      Fatty meat may not be so great in the context of high amounts of processed carbs and sugar – I can agree with that. But it’s those ultra-processed factory foods that cause the problems.

      In fact, if we look at people eating low carb diets, they are actually reversing their diabetes. The documentary is too biased and unbalanced.

      • They should stick to the cruelty argument and not just make stuff up. Also the meat industry in the UK and Europe is nothing like the US. They make out the whole world feed the live stock grains and keep them indoors etc. I live next to w dairy farm and the cows are out all day eating the grass and getting loads of sunlight.

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