I must take a moment to address something that has frankly been bugging the mess out of me for the past couple of weeks.
It’s the sudden influx of Veganism on my Facebook page, by several friends who have recently watched the Netflix documentary “What the Health”. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. If not, can I join you under the rock?
Now, I’m not arguing against going Vegan, or introducing more plant-based foods into your diet. That is not an issue. You do you, and I will be the first to admit that my family needs to eat more plants. We’re working on it. (In fact, dinner tonight is a vegan roasted veggie, chickpea, and turmeric rice bowl!) My favorite article that I read in my research advocates a more plant-heavy diet for health reasons. However, I am shocked at the sheer number of my friends-list (and their friends) that use both this film and the team’s previous film “Cowspiracy” to back up their veganism. As I watched it (with my admittedly cynical eyes), red flags went shooting up everywhere. I was on my phone looking for their sources within minutes of the credits, and again the next day.
So, if you are interested, I’ve gathered some interesting pieces debunking some of the claims made in both films below. I was careful to find sources with expertise in the area of food health and environmentalism, with sources that run the gamut from a Vegan Liberal Socialist to Registered Dietician to NGO Scientist to Paleo expert biologist. I just want you to be aware that if a film is using scare tactics and incendiary claims to support it’s theories, then it is probably too good (or too damning) to be true. And that lobbyists and propaganda exist in EVERY corner of life, and their job is to influence your decision making to align with their agenda. Go vegan because you truly feel it’s the best route for your health. Go vegan if YOU feel better eating a plant-based diet. Just don’t go vegan because 5 vegans made a movie that claim the world is ending because “cows”.
As a native North Carolinian, I also feel that I need to address a particularly flameworthy claim made by What the Health regarding pig farmers in NC. The claim is that pig farmers intentionally targeted poor and primarily African American neighborhoods in Eastern NC so as to prevent literal “hogwash” from our cushy white people’s yards. Now, while I don’t discredit the research that shows that the waste lagoons in NC are harmful to humans and the environment, I want to point out a few things that the film leaves out.
First, the 4000 open waste lagoons still in operation are from before 1997. No new waste lagoons have been permitted since 20 years ago the state passed a law disallowing new construction for any hog farm using this as a form of waste disposal. Do we all wish the hog farmers would start using new methods at the farms with existing lagoons? Of course. But the fact of the matter is that Eastern NC is one of the poorest areas of the country. The extra expense in converting their methods would both put the few smaller family farms we have in NC out of business, eliminating much-needed jobs (especially migrant worker program jobs) as well as make the price of pork products skyrocket in an area where families depend on cheap proteins to feed their families. I’m not saying there aren’t solutions, but I am saying that we all have to research and weigh all of the facts in an issue instead of blindly accepting the first opinion that seems plausible enough.
Second, I want to point out a missing timeline about the growth of the Hog Farm industry in NC. Hog farming is a fairly new, replacement industry in Eastern NC. In the 80’s and 90’s, as tobacco farming became no longer financially viable, former tobacco farmers either turned to raising livestock themselves or rented their unused land out to local hog farmers who were outgrowing their own space. So, while I fully agree that the practice disparagingly affects African Americans, I bristle at the filmmakers’ claims that this was an intentional positioning to target African American communities. That is a huge leap, and a socially irresponsible one to make. But, this is the same guy who insinuated that Greenpeace was being paid off by animal producer lobbyists with literally ZERO proof, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising.
If you want to see some terrific investigative work on the rise of hog farming in NC and the damage it’s causing, this is a fantastic article. Whole Hog – Pulled Apart
I guess I just want anyone who reads this to go into their future documentary-viewing with both eyes wide open. Like the internet, you can’t trust everything you read or see. There is a big difference between cherry-picking “facts” from studies that support the theories you’ve already developed, which is what a documentary filmmaker being funded by a Vegan activism group would do…or producing an actual research-based study with a control group, and drawing conclusions after the data has been complied, which is what Scientists do.
Trust the Scientists. Unless you still believe that Jenny McCarthy was right about vaccines causing autism. Because clearly if you haven’t debunked that for yourself yet, then you are an idiot and actual science doesn’t matter.