The Vegan Elephant
By

You might think this blog is a weird place to have a conversation about dietary preferences – and why aren’t I publishing this on my gut health site? However, I think it is the perfect place – as many people following this blog have also become educated about regenerative farming methods; which involve the crucial interactions of plant, animal and soil to create a self-sustaining ecosystem.

My friend, Kesia Nagata, has been posting on my horse site for some time about her Rewilding Journey. Taking her horses to 500 acres in Northern BC, Canada and their attempts to live a more authentic, sustainable life, in harmony with nature and the seasons. A life more in line with how indigenous people have lived for centuries in whichever corner of the globe they’ve found themselves.

Well, part of that harmony – in a climate where nothing can grow for 8 months of the year – involves the sentient, compassionate, grateful, eating of animals. Kesia is not afraid to tell her truth about the brutal intimacy of killing a loved one, so that others can live. And while I can’t quite get my head around all aspects of that, and I don’t know if I could even do that myself (and stay conscious/present), I am grateful to her for being willing to walk into that process and share about all the pieces that come up when we consciously take another’s life.

Her posts about this aspect of life are beautiful and terrible and difficult and profound. They also spur angry, disgusted, or judgmental comments from readers who do not consume any animal products (vegan). And so that’s another reason I’m publishing this post here – rather than on my health blog.

Because the vegan elephant in the room is that in spite of attempts to avoid taking life, or avoid using other creatures, by consuming only plants… well… PLANTS are also fully sentient creatures engaging in thought, emotion, and communication!

Plants are people too

Can the militant vegan even have this conversation? Whenever I have raised this point in forums or discussions, I’m met with… silence. Perhaps a nod of the head, then a quick change of topic, or a rant about some other aspect of food production. Because really, if the entire platform of your religion is that YOU do not HARM other living beings, and mounting hard-science evidence shows you that actually, you are harming and killing living, sentient beings daily… what do you do with that?

And how do you handle the entire platform you have erected to make yourself feel safe, and not horrible, not a killer, not an abuser of other sentient beings… crumbling before you, when you acknowledge that plants are sentient too?

This is why I feel Veganism is more of a religion than a dietary choice. The anger and caustic judgement of ‘others’ is identical to the fundamental Christian or Muslim religions. The evangelical fervor to convert others (save an animal/save a soul), the belief that meat-eaters and meat products are dirty and sinful, whilst the Vegan is clean and pure, also parallel many religions.

I understand that. And having spent 15 years of my life as an evangelical Christian, I really understand that. When we look around us and we see the terrible pain, abuse and devastation that humans are inflicting on the planet and its creatures, something in us cries out, ENOUGH! I cannot change the entire world, but at least I can change myself. At least I can choose to not be a part of this horror. And if I can separate myself from them, then I am not them – I am not in collusion with this and my daily actions show/speak of a better, kinder, cleaner, more compassionate way to live on this planet.

My soul, my heart, my entire being cries out to STOP this barbaric cycle of eating others, just so that I can live.

Except. Plants are also fully sentient beings with thoughts, emotions and feelings – and the proven capacity to feel pain, abuse, slaughter and anger.

So now where are we?

Recently IKEA carried out an experiment that showed the sentience and emotional/energetic life of plants. They used two identical plants and asked school kids to say bullying, critical, negative things to the plant on the left and positive, complimentary, encouraging things to the plant on the right. The plants physical needs were met in identical ways (water, light, fertilizer).

Here are the two plants at the beginning of the experiment:

And after 30 days of this treatment, the two plants looked like this:

I think this is pretty conclusive proof that plants – like water – perceive and respond to energy and emotion.

Cleve Backster, back in the 1960s, was the former CIA interrogation specialist that connected polygraph sensors to plants and discovered that they reacted to harm (i.e. cutting their leaves) and even to the harmful thoughts of humans in proximity to them.

In 2008 Swiss parliament passed a law to protect the dignity of plants. The treatise established that plants have innate value and that it is morally wrong to partake in activities such as the “decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason.”

Did you know that the Jain religion prohibits the consumption of root vegetables? They believe that root vegetables are a higher order of being than other plants, and that organisms are harmed when the roots are pulled from the ground. Note that this is a religion.

Advanced plant communication

There are some truly amazing books out there illustrating exactly how trees and plants communicate with each other, care for each other, send extra nutrients (or protective substances) to their children, and warn other communities of killer bug invasions, and so on.

Some of my favorites are, The Hidden Life of Trees, Braiding Sweetgrass, Lab Girl, and The Secret Life of Plants. This video gives you a short, sweet, crash course by the delightful Canadian scientist who wrote, Finding The Mother Tree:

Plant sentience vs animal abuse

So then I do some more research and I find vegans who are willing to have this conversation about eating fellow sentient beings (i.e. plants). And this pretty much sums up the response:

I think the key statement in this comic/commentary is the very first line: “Animal abuse is unnecessary.”

Two things: First of all, there is a huge, game-changer difference between someone who gives their animal a beautiful, vibrant life and then ends that life gently and consciously, like my friend Kesia. And someone who purchases (and thereby funds/supports) factory farming or CAFO – which is a horror and abject misery from birth to death.

The conscious, compassionate/humane killing of a healthy animal, who has lived a natural, beautiful life, is a completely different ethical and moral reality, from the terrifying death of a sick animal that has been tortured from birth.

And for all the vegetarians out there (most of whom eat eggs and fish), please know that at the anatomical level, fish have neurons known as nociceptors, which detect potential harm, such as high temperatures, intense pressure, and caustic chemicals. Fish produce the same opioids (the body’s innate painkillers) that mammals do. So yes, fish do have full sentience and they do feel pain. So consider that when choosing between sick, tortured farmed fish versus humanely-caught wild fish.

Secondly, there is no mention of the devastating consequences commercial agriculture is having on rainforests, orangutan habitats, topsoil and soil biology (containing trillions of living species per teaspoon), poor and indigenous communities, and biodiversity.

If you are not growing all your own plants, or buying from a local regenerative farmer, you are no better than a battery hen consumer. I’ll expand on this statement in the section following this next one…

How Can Animal Communicators Eat Animals?

Let’s take a little break from plant life and farming and enjoy this remarkable story from world-renowned animal communicator, Anna Breytenbach, of how she went from vegetarian, to vegan, to omnivore and why.

I’ve cued this interview with her to start playing at the relevant part. Listen to her describe how she came to realize that plants are as sentient as animals:

Entrepreneur, Temitope Sonuyi, joined Anna Breytenbach for an animal communication safari and he wrote:

“Animal communication seemed a natural ally in the deeper understanding of unity and compassion across species.

Unsurprisingly, things were not so black and white, even in South Africa. I ended up being the sole vegan on the trip. At first glance I thought something must have gone terribly wrong.

On second thought, I think not… I found out that almost everyone there had attempted at some point to go vegan or vegetarian, but for health or other reasons were not able to. It seemed that the subtext of this was: “if I could lead a happy and healthy life without harming others I would”. In my own mind I took comfort in this.” – Temitope Sonuyi

Right. So we can all agree that vegans and carnivores are ALL eating sentient life, but vegans may be eating less lives. Except… now we have to delve deep into plant sustainability and regenerative plant communities.

Self-sustaining, regenerative plants

Did you hear the news going round a few years ago that Peru ran out of quinoa? The concern was that this high-protein plant had been part of Andean diets for centuries. But due to high demand from the West, subsistence-level communities in Peru and Bolivia could no longer afford to eat it.

But an investigation in 2016 showed this was not correct. Andeans did not actually run out of quinoa and even the poor people were able to purchase it. However, there were even bigger problems caused as a result of the push for vegan protein sources.

First, the farmers in Peru and Bolivia who traditionally cultivated 3,000 varieties of quinoa, began to focus on the few varieties the West wanted. This could be devastating – not only due to loss of biodiversity, but also because cultivating a wide variety helps to protect a plant species against threats like climate change and insect populations.

Even worse, the high demand for quinoa resulted in environmental degradation:

“A greater — and less tractable — problem is environmental degradation. Drucker’s student Enrico Avitabile found that more than half the Bolivian farmers he surveyed say their soil is worse than it was before the boom, for two reasons. First, high prices brought into cultivation land that used to be allowed to rest as fallow, resulting in erosion and loss of nutrients. Secondly, farmers who are growing more quinoa, and getting more for it, have reduced their llama herds, so less manure is available as fertilizer and to protect the soil.”

And so this one little story, illustrates just two of the important facets of our closed loop ecosystem here on planet Earth:

1. The interdependence of plants and animals – it is not either/or.

We know from multiple, verified, high-integrity sources that both plants and animals do better when they’re raised/grown together. Will Harris of White Oak Pastures in Georgia has pictures and videos of his farm where the nourishment from feces/urine from cows (and he later added goats, pigs and chickens) creates a far superior soil, that then creates nutritious lush plant growth.

Allan Savoury in Zimbabwe has shown how the concentrated manure/urine from local cows hugely increased the yield of the villagers vegetable gardens.

And on the other side of the coin, Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass relates an experiment with native sweetgrass where they left a section of it alone, selectively harvested another section according to indigenous principles, and then the third section was harvested in the ‘normal’ manner. I thought the section left alone would do best.

But nope, the section selectively harvested using indigenous methods definitively out-thrived the other two sections. So we also can’t make the claim that – because plants are fully sentient – they shouldn’t be eaten either. Plants do better when humanely raised and harvested.

2. Plant agriculture is no less devastating than animal agriculture

Read to the end of this post, and then read it again.

Also: mono-crops, dead soil, pesticide runoff, billions of insects (animal) life killed in commercial agriculture, destruction of indigenous land and ecosystems, destruction of topsoil and mineral content, destruction of regenerative ecosystems with integrated plant and animal life. People have written entire books on each of these points.

By this point, you may be thinking that I wrote this article to convert vegans to compassionate egg eaters. Not true. I’m going into all the aspects of this issue to counter the evangelical fervor and misplaced moral righteousness of the militant vegan. If you’ve found a way to eat that makes you feel happy and your body is functioning well, awesome!

But, don’t then turn around, point the finger at everyone else, and insist that we join your religion. And… come talk to me in 20 years.

Are Vegans Standing on Moral High Ground?

British author Louise Davies writes:

“At the risk of being provocative, it is my sincere belief that the concept of a meat-eating environmentalist is an oxymoron.” – The Ecologist

Regenerative farmer Greg Hickin replies:

“I’m so sick of hearing this utter tripe. It’s such a wildly inaccurate statement and shows a real lack of knowledge and understanding of the worldwide environmental movement.

• It’s dismissive of the struggles of hundreds of millions of people, mainly peasant farmers and indigenous peoples who are fighting on the frontlines of Climate Change. Risking everything fighting against resource extraction, land grabbing, deforestation, pollution and for food and seed sovereignty.

• It’s deeply disrespectful to the hundreds of people murdered every year for protecting their bio regions. Again mainly indigenous peoples and peasant farmers.

• It ignores the important work being carried out by millions of people worldwide who are implementing Regenerative Agricultural systems and practicing Agroecology, Agroforestry, Silvopasture, Permaculture, ZBNF, FMNR Holistic Management and Ecological Aquaculture by creating truly sustainable farming systems that are climatic, topographical and culturally sensitive solutions. That also have the possibility of lifting a billion people out of poverty whilst sequestering enough carbon dioxide to reverse climate change.

• It’s an exclusionary statement that’s a tad racist, it states that only members of a movement that is predominantly white, middle class and urbanite have the right to call themselves environmentalists.

But no, apparently the best kind of environmentalism is the kind that makes you feel better than others while accomplishing nothing.”

Family farmer Kesia Nagata echoes this viewpoint:

“Truth and more truth. I live and farm in a northern climate where wild and farmed animal proteins are the only sustainable and largely only obtainable local proteins. I also live in a community that is 85% indigenous and on territory that has been carefully (and omnivorously) managed and harvested for tens of thousands of years. I also live in one of the last intact and most resilient ecosystems in the world, known globally for it’s incredibly effective grassroots environmental successes owed almost entirely to a unified dependence on wild salmon and a deep understanding of the intricacies of salmon ecology. I would love for a privileged white middle class settler to come and explain to my neighbors how veganic monoculture farms will save us from ourselves…”

And from Dr. Joseph Mercola:

“These ‘no livestock’ fundamentalists basically ignore the fact that over a billion people, especially in the developing world, rely upon, for their food and survival, raising livestock on the billions of acres of pasture and rangeland that are simply not suitable for raising crops, but which can and do support properly grazed livestock.

Besides providing about one-third of the world’s protein, animal husbandry and livestock today provide 33 to 55 percent of the household income for the world’s 640 million small farmers, 190 million pastoralists, and 1 billion urban peasants, more than 66 percent of whom are low-income women.

Shall we just tell these billion ‘backward’ peasants to go into town and line up for their Impossible Burgers and forget about raising their cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens like their ancestors have done for thousands of years?”

Plant vs animal nutrition

So let’s say I grow and eat only my own plants, so I don’t participate in any of the dilemmas outlined above. And I fertilize using only plant compost and powdered minerals.

And I accept that I too am killing other creatures, in order to live, but I feel better about killing creatures who can’t make a noise, or struggle when I kill them. OKAY. I feel better now and I can still live a healthy, clean life, right?

Perhaps.

But why did I say above, “Come talk to me in 20 years?”

I have seen people experience remarkably positive shifts in their health from switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet for a period of time. And that length of time varies according to each unique body – there’s a reason my flagship book is called, Listen To Your Gut.

What happens when you stop listening to your own body’s wisdom, and you follow the dictates of your mind instead? Our minds can have all kinds of ideas about what is right, wrong, ethical, immoral, unjust, healthy, harmful, and so on. But if we are connected to, and truly listening to our bodies… we may receive different information from the convictions held in our mind.

Raising children in one of the vegetarian capitals of the world (Vancouver, Canada) I would often run into former vegans, or former vegetarians in the park or playground. People who had been veggie for 15 years or so and then wound up in the hospital with multiple-organ failure. They still felt terrible about eating meat, but they had to do it in order to heal their body and stay healthy.

Many people – and marketing campaigns – claim that you can get Vitamin B12 from plant sources, but, integrative medicine doctor Chris Kesser writes:

“B12 is the only vitamin that contains a trace element (cobalt), which is why it’s called cobalamin. Cobalamin is produced in the gut of animals. It’s the only vitamin we can’t obtain from plants or sunlight. Plants don’t need B12 so they don’t store it.

A common myth amongst vegetarians and vegans is that it’s possible to get B12 from plant sources like seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina and brewers yeast. But plant foods said to contain B12 actually contain B12 analogs called cobamides that block intake of and increase the need for true B12.

This explains why studies consistently demonstrate that up to 50% of long-term vegetarians and 80% of vegans are deficient in B12.”

The really worrying thing to me – as someone who has already walked the long and arduous journey of healing myself of a supposedly incurable disease – is that the children of vegans (in utero and raised as vegans) suffer long-term health consequences. One study found that even 6-7 years after the children began eating meat, eggs, or dairy products, they were still deficient in B12.

Why is this so serious?

Because, as Chris Kesser points out, “B12 deficiency causes several other problems, including fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss and neurological and psychiatric problems.”

B12 deficient kids, even after they start eating animal products, score lower across the board on cognitive and fluid intelligence tests. Not to mention all the cascade problems associated with deficient myelin sheath production around the nerves.

One of the wisest, most educated holistic health docs I know – who was himself vegan for over 20 years – now eats pasture-raised eggs once a week. He said he doesn’t need much animal-source nutrition, but his body must have some.

Thousand-year-old proven healthy diet

Anyone who’s been abreast of health info over the last 20-30 years has already seen some major nutrition beliefs touted and then debunked. Here’s a couple examples you may recognize:

1. Saturated fats (butter, meat) cause heart disease, weight gain, etc. –> eat margarine! Uh, nope. Enter the ketogenic diet; burn fat by eating good fat (butter, meat, coconut oil, etc)

2. Eat macrobiotic (lots of grains, vegetables) –> it will cure disease! Nope – see B12 info above. Plus we know that grains are a favored food source for unhealthy gut bacteria (Wheat Belly, The Microbiome Diet, etc).

So as part of my journey to heal myself of pretty much the worst digestive disease in existence (I had Crohn’s throughout my large and small intestine) I did a ton of research into diet and nutrition – from a health and digestive point of view. Which I then tested on myself. I was not driven by any kind of dogma or food religion, I simply had to find what worked for my body.

This is why turning any kind of diet or food regimen into a religion is potentially harmful. Because it stops us from listening to our own bodies!

Traditional indigenous people have never eaten vegetables like kale or spinach raw – due to the oxalates. Their bodies told them this. They also didn’t eat grains without fermenting them first. Nuts were not consumed unless they were soaked and slow-roasted first.

Your average vegan today with their kale smoothies, raw salads with a side of millet or quinoa, sprinkled with almonds and a scoop of cashew cheese, is not following any of these principles. Why not? How can they possibly be listening to their bodies and not know that they are actively damaging their body with oxalates, lectins, and phytates? Because they’re not listening to their body. They’re following a religion; the dictates of their mind.

As you may have noticed (see examples above), it also doesn’t do a whole lot of good to look at current eating trends, or media-driven information. What is really valuable is to look at traditional, indigenous populations who have remained healthy and robust for hundreds or thousands of years, and ask: What did they eat?

This was the question Dr. Weston A. Price set out to answer after he retired from dentistry in the 1950’s. He had noticed the steep increase in tooth decay after processed foods spread across America. So he and his wife spent 10 years travelling all over the globe in search of tribes with NO degenerative disease (no cancer, heart disease, diabetes, immune disorders, etc.) and a tooth decay rate of less than 1%. Pretty tall order, eh?

When he found these perfectly healthy groups, he wrote down everything they ate and brought samples of their foods home to the U.S. to be analyzed for nutrient content. His resounding conclusion from these healthy groups of humans was that even tribes that were mostly vegetarian (often due to location/environment) journeyed to gather animal food products at least once per year and to preserve for their women to eat while pregnant and nursing.

If you don’t want to read Dr. Price’s 528-page book, here is a summary of his indigenous research-backed healthy eating guidelines.

Dr. Price’s Indigenous Diet

1. Eat whole, natural foods with no additives.

2. Eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do.

3. Eat naturally-raised meat including fish, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, game, organ meats and eggs.

4. Eat whole, naturally-produced milk products from pasture-fed cows, goats, sheep or camels, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as whole yogurt, cultured butter, whole cheeses and fresh and sour cream.

5. Use only traditional fats and oils including butter and other animal fats, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, palm and cold-pressed sesame and flax oil.

6. Eat fresh fruit.

7. Eat vegetables, preferably organic, in salads and soups, or lightly steamed.

8. Use whole grains and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour-leavening to neutralize phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.

9. Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.

10. Prepare homemade meat stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb or fish and use liberally in soups and sauces.

11. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.

12. Use unrefined Celtic sea salt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.

13. Make your own salad dressing using either fresh lemon juice or raw vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil or a mix of the two.

14. Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, molasses, dehydrated cane sugar juice (rapadura, turbinado)

15. Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.

16. Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.

17. Use only natural supplements.

18. Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.

19. Think positive thoughts and minimize stress.

20. Practice forgiveness.

So how do I eat? I LISTEN TO MY GUT. Always. Above all else. And not my taste buds; I ask my GI tract. I don’t ask myself, “Hmmm… what do I feel like eating?” Because that engages my mind and taps into my taste buds. I put my hand on my belly and I ask my gut: What do we need/want?

I once booked a session with a woman who is a chef, a vegan, and a food intuitive. I wanted to see what information she psychically received about the foods that were best for me, and ones I should avoid. She sent me food charts to have on hand before our session.

Our zoom session began and the first thing she said, after asking my permission and then tuning in to read my body, was, “Well, you already know exactly what your body wants and doesn’t want. So what else are we gonna talk about?”

Our bodies know the best, healthiest foods for us to eat, or not eat, over the course of our lives. And what we need changes throughout the seasons and stressors of life.

There is no one diet to just follow religiously forever, to remain safe and disease-free. There is only listening to our beautiful, unique body, each and every day.

4 Comments

  1. Leah Mack March 6, 2024 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Here here! I was raised in a vegan commune for a number of years with resulting health problems that I cured with a Weston Price type diet. Now I’m a regenerative farmer and I have been told by my sheep what they need from me in order to feel good about being eaten. And also by my blueberry bushes, etc. Love, gratitude, and care pretty much sums it up in both cases. Back to traditional methods and understanding the food web. Eating each other is natural. We’ll be eaten too, if we have a natural burial, anyway. For the health of ourselves, the plants, the animals, and the world, it’s industrial food that’s got to be replaced by beloved food.

    • JINI March 6, 2024 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      I love that Leah: “beloved food”

      Amen to that. I’ve been in dialogue with my sheep and also in view of my existing business/time commitments and have decided to gift my ram and some of the ewes to a local Mennonite boy who is beginning his farming journey. His Dad has done butchering before and they would do humane (1-shot, don’t know it’s coming) on-farm kills. In return, he will gift me some lamb chops and ground lamb each year. It feels good for all of us. Then I keep 7 ewes and a wether for pasture health – which was my original intention. Not having any lambs around will also solve the problems with my son’s rogue dog and we won’t have to lock them up – making them far more self-sufficient.

      And I agree, when my time comes, I would love for my body just to be laid out in a corner of the ranch for coyote, wolf, cougar etc. but unfortunately that’s not legal. But at least I will feed the soil, microbial, and plant life – no steel cemetery box for me!

  2. Bregje May 4, 2024 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Thank you,I love this article!
    It basically sums up where i ended up.
    I have tried being vegan but it triggered my crohn’s. I bought into the clean ,healthy,lean, vegan yogi idea. The youtube one, not the truly spiritual yogi .
    Luckily my body lets me know when i am of track😉
    And i felt in my gut that something was of with the enormous push for windmills( that kill milions of birds and insects and i fear what it’s doing to the ocean), solar panels, eating vegan/fake meat. I live in a neighborhood where people are religious about this and so is part of my family.
    I’ve read and researched a lot about it and came to the same conclusion as you. Unfortunately there are very few people willing to have a discussion about it so i usually just keep my mouth shut and hope that the whole foods that make me feel my best are still going to be affordable. And i think the indigenous way of living, with respect and gratitude for the lives they are taking to survive and a natural proven way of sustaining land is something that needs to be learned from rather than dismissed. If only we listened to nature instead of our infected minds

    • JINI May 5, 2024 at 11:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your story Bregje! I love that, “the youtube one” not the real one LOL. But SO TRUE. One of the many things I dislike about social media.

      And I agree with you on the alternative energy options too… I don’t know why we can’t figure something out with water; something small-scale for farms etc. Or even hydrogen.

Leave A Comment

Jini Head

About

JINI PATEL THOMPSON

I am. an international bestselling author, health product formulator, horse listener, earth singer, mother, entrepreneur, medicine woman, fungi friend, elephant acolyte and regenerative farmer.

I value friendships, loyalty, community, compassion, authenticity, health, vibrancy, strength, courage and truth-telling. More…

         

Jini’s “GET BIGGER” Newsletter
Sign up to stay INSIDE Jini’s ever-expanding universe

Jini

BLOG

WORKSHOPS

BOOKS

PODCASTS