Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Strike 3 (and a mea culpa)

Many people have argued that Bill Clinton's near-vegan diet proves "the health argument" works. The main problem with this is that it suffers from selection bias, ignoring the net impact our arguments can have for animals.

And it ignores that people who go veg for health are the ones most likely to go back to eating meat. With President Clinton admitting he has given up on veganism, we see this in action once again - someone we praised up and down and put forward as our spokesman, now saying veganism is impossible and undesirable.

With that, I re-run a blog post I wrote shortly after President Clinton adopted a near-vegan diet. My apologies for thinking the health argument could work and last even in President Clinton's unique, privileged situation.

A Target Audience of One 
I was recently asked if Bill Clinton’s near-vegan diet proves that the “health argument” works.

Consider President Clinton’s situation. He is very rich and powerful and can afford to have any chef prepare him anything he wants. He is very close to his outspoken daughter, who was an outspoken vegetarian for many years. Yet it still took extremely serious health problems (emergency surgery for a collapsed vein after quadruple bypass), his daughter’s wedding, a desire to live to see grandchildren, and personal friendship with several vegan doctors to get him to finally eat a more plant-based diet. (2013 update—the latest media coverage makes it clear President Clinton eats eggs and/or fish once a week. In other words, Clinton’s case would indicate you can’t really be vegan; you need to eat animals and animal products. Also, eating eggs and fish weekly causes more animals to die than someone who eats beef and dairy at every meal.)

So yes, it is clear that the health argument has some impact on rich, powerful men with vegetarian daughters, personal chefs, vegan doctors, and nearly fatal heart problems.

Of course, it’s great to hear pseudo-veganism discussed positively (especially given the absurd attacks floating around), but we should not read more into this than is really there. Land animals are in deep trouble if significant changes in diets are limited to rich guys with personal chefs, vegan daughters and doctors, and severe health problems.

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