Evidence of Ancestral Veganism Found!

Published 4.1.2016
Sorry. The title here is an April Fool's joke that results from a mild run-in I had on a site with a misinformed vegan. The interaction remained mild only because I refused to engage, but today I feel like ranting a bit.

No, in fact, there is no evidence that any traditional or ancestral human civilization is or was vegan. There are traditional cultures that are vegetarian and near-vegan (meaning they eat almost no animal product), but there are no vegan societies. My use of the word fact was apparently what stung. But fact is the correct word to use. Vegan-promoting doctors are very careful when they speak, and they use the term "plant-based" for a reason. T. Colin Campbell combed the rural Chinese countryside looking at how people ate, which was the basis of his book The China Study. Though Campbell found groups eating very little animal products, there was NO group that ate none.

Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, who uses a low fat vegan diet to treat reverse coronary artery disease, points to traditional cultures with no incidence of heart disease but describes them as plant-based not vegan. There are no traditional vegan societies. And trust me, if and when someone every discovers one— vegans everywhere will shout the name of that people and their civilization ad infinitum. They do not, because they cannot.

The reason for the dearth of vegan cultures, for those with the ability to accept the truth, comes down to vitamin B12. There are no sources of B12 that are plants. The fact that B12 is produced by bacteria doesn't change that inconvenient (for hard-core vegan moralists) fact. The only way to ingest B12 from food is to eat meat, eggs, insects, or animal milk. Eating dirty produce is not an adequate, reliable or safe way to ingest B12. That is a myth in vegan community that refuses to die.

In modern developed societies, the concepts of supplementation and food fortification exists. B12 supplements and fortification of foods with B12 make a healthy diet based solely on plants possible. B12 supplements are readily available, easy to take, inexpensive and essential for vegans to take. This fact is why stating that any amount of animal product intake is harmful stretches credibility. For the record, that's the sentiment that set this vegan off. I didn't say veganism was unhealthy, or less healthy than eating animal products, I just noted the FACT that the essential vitamin B12 canNOT be gotten from plants. Supplementation or fortification is necessary for vegans to ingest it.

In response, the myth that eating dirty produce will suffice (a myth that Dr John McDougall has apparently helped sustain) was spouted. I'll repeat myself for emphasis because this is not a small issue. Eating dirty produce is not a safe or reliable way to get an adequate amount of B12. It is a fine way to wind up with other health issues, not the least of which is an e coli infection. Did people in the past eat produce that was less washed than in our modern society? Yes. Is there evidence they did so as their sole source of B12? No.

One of the reasons I'm a fan of Dr Michael Greger's site nutriitionfacts.org, is that he is direct and unequivocal when it comes to the necessity of B12 supplementation for vegans. Vegans must supplement vitamin B12 to be healthy. It is easy, inexpensive and essential for vegans to do.


Why does it matter?

Why does stating the fact that no society has been vegan upset some vegans so badly? So what if ancestral societies ate animals to get B12. Now humanity has the ability to produce B12 supplements making healthy veganism possible? Why the upset?

My take (based on reading and watching vegans websites and Youtube channels) is that there is a segment of the vegan population that wants desperately to believe that veganism is the best diet for human health and always has been, because for them eating a vegan diet is an ethical and moral issue. The problem is that if it were the case that veganism is the best and natural human diet, then there would be historical evidence of healthy thriving vegan civilizations and cultures. And there simply is not.

There is evidence of vegetarian societies in the past and present, but some vegans deride vegetarians for drinking "liquid meat" and killing unborn birds. No, for these extremists, veganism is the only answer, and so it grates when the fact that no evidence of an ancient or traditional vegan society exists is plainly stated.

Demanding that the person stating that fact "prove the negative" (prove that a vegan society doesn't exist) shows the lack of logic behind the thinking as well. Again I state: if evidence of a vegan traditional or ancestral society existed, everyone would know its name and location because vegans would never shut up about it. IT. DOESN'T. EXIST.

But it's worst than that. If you're an ethical vegan, then you believe that eating animals (in any form) is morally wrong. Something that is morally wrong should not be done by humanity. However, if what you've defined as immoral is necessary for human health… well, you've got yourself a problem. Because taken to its logical conclusion, you are advocating for the end of human race.

Bottom line

I had to write this piece to get this off my chest, but it pains me a bit to do so. I think there is more positives about a vegan diet than negatives. I've written a few times now that my personal credo is that a healthy diet does not require supplementation— which eliminates veganism as a choice for me. Given the size of the supplement industry there are plenty of people who don't share my aversion to supplementation. With B12 supplementation and intake of a wide variety of plants, a vegan diet can be a healthy choice, far healthier than what most people typically eat.

Very little animal product is required to meet the B12 requirement for humans. My own diet is heavy on plants and light on animal products — along the lines of Michale Pollan's, "Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants." I've also noted that if I was diagnosed with heart disease or type 2 diabetes, I'd give a supplemented vegan diet a shot. But none of this changes the fact that veganism is possible as a healthy human diet because of B12 supplementation and food fortification.

Vegans denying this are delusional, but worse they are expending energy on an argument that should not matter. So what if people in the past couldn't be healthy being vegan? Now they can. Why not focus on that fact?

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