Thursday, July 28, 2011

Let Them Eat Meat: An Interview by an Ex-Vegan

INTRODUCTION
Rhys Southan's interview of me on his ex-vegan blog, Let Them Eat Meat, went up this morning. According to Rhys:
If anyone could convince me that I’m wrong about veganism, it’s Adam... [T]he interview is worth reading if you’re curious to see the strongest formulation of vegan beliefs that I’ve seen.
Please check out the interview if you haven't read my posts this summer. (Below I've included some not previously posted excerpts from the interview and several links to challenging articles written by Rhys).

Questions in the interview include:
  1. What do you believe is wrong with the standard consumer veganism that the most mainstream advocates promote?
  2. How would you describe the form of veganism that you advocate?
  3. Most vegan solutions for ending the exploitation and killing of animals (animal liberation) seem to require a human/animal separatism. How would your idea of veganism avoid that?
  4. Why do you refer to animals that aren’t humans as “animal others”?
  5. Is veganism a moral obligation?
  6. Do you think veganism, particularly your take on veganism, fits into Nietzsche’s idea of slave morality?
  7. When you first emailed me, you mentioned an interest in Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, which is a book that was influential on my thinking after I quit veganism... However, you believe Becker’s arguments could work for veganism. How so?
  8. Veganism is an attempt to not cause death — is this not also a denial of death?
  9. Vegans admit that veganism is imperfect, and that we can’t really follow the ethics to where they want to take us — being truly anti-speciesist and not causing animal death and suffering. What is the point of having an ethics that we can’t actually follow?
  10. Why should I accept your vision and make the one life I have to live worse in order to say that I am against speciesism?
  11. Why should people become vegan despite the ineffectiveness of becoming vegan on an individual level?

Most of my answers are abridged versions of pieces I've previously posted in June and July:
I. A Critique of Consumption-Centered Veganism
II. Socially-Centered Veganism vs. Consumption-Centered Veganism
III. Veganism Without Vegetarianism: On Guilt, Disability, and Ex-Vegans
IV. Veganism as Social Somatic Response-Ability
V. The Animal Therefore I am Not: Eating Animals and Terror Management Theory (forthcoming)
Read more »

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, My Way

I just saw this on BoingBoing.  Simple but true. 


This image was created by Adam Fields

The people who design government dietary guidelines are gagged by the fact that politics and business are so tightly intertwined in this country.  Their advice will never directly target the primary source of obesity and metabolic dysfunction-- industrially processed food-- because that would hurt corporate profits in one of the country's biggest economic sectors.  You can only squeeze so much profit out of a carrot, so food engineers design "value-added" ultrapalatable/rewarding foods with a larger profit margin.

We don't even have the political will to regulate food advertisements directed at defenseless children, which are systematically training them from an early age to prefer foods that are fattening and unhealthy.  This is supposedly out of a "free market" spirit, but that justification is hollow because processed food manufacturers benefit from tax loopholes and major government subsidies, including programs supporting grain production and the employment of disadvantaged citizens (see Fast Food Nation).

We Are Reaping What We Have Sown—The Debt Standoff

On this blog a month ago, I said the politicians were starting to scare me with the apparent eagerness of some to actually take the government to default to make a political point.For weeks we have heard political leaders on both sides tell us there would be no default.But the two sides have so backed themselves into opposite corners that they have left no opportunity to meet in the middle.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interview on Super Human Radio

Today, I did an audio interview with Carl Lanore of Super Human Radio.  Carl seems like a sharp guy who focuses on physical fitness, nutrition, health and aging.  We talked mostly about food reward and body fatness-- I think it went well.  Carl went from obese to fit, and his fat loss experience lines up well with the food reward concept.  As he was losing fat rapidly, he told friends that he had "divorced from flavor", eating plain chicken, sweet potatoes and oatmeal, yet he grew to enjoy simple food over time.

The interview is here.  It also includes an interview of Dr. Matthew Andry about Dr. Loren Cordain's position on dairy; my interview starts at about 57 minutes.  Just to warn you, the website and podcast are both full of ads.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Weight Gain and Weight Loss in a Traditional African Society

The Massas is an ethnic group in Northern Cameroon that subsists mostly on plain sorghum loaves and porridge, along with a small amount of milk, fish and vegetables (1, 2).  They have a peculiar tradition called Guru Walla that is only undertaken by men (2, 1):
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple Food: Thoughts on Practicality

Some people have reacted negatively to the idea of a reduced-reward diet because it strikes them as difficult or unsustainable.  In this post, I'll discuss my thoughts on the practicality and sustainability of this way of eating.  I've also thrown in a few philosophical points about reward and the modern world.
Read more »

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Cause Fat Loss?

Gastric bypass surgery is an operation that causes food to bypass part of the digestive tract.  In the most common surgery, Roux-en-Y bypass, stomach size is reduced and a portion of the upper small intestine is bypassed.  This means that food skips most of the stomach and the duodenum (upper small intestine), passing from the tiny stomach directly into the jejunum (a lower part of the upper small intestine)*.  It looks something like this:
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Awful Dichotomy Between Health Care Politics and Policy

Amy Goldstein has an important article in today’s Washington Post detailing the place Don Berwick, the Medicare and Medicaid administrator, finds himself in.It is all but certain he will have to leave his post at year’s end, when his recess appointment expires, because the Senate will not confirm him for a lack of Republican support.Berwick is one of the most respected health care experts in the

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Liposuction and Fat Regain

If body fat really is actively regulated by the body, rather than just being a passive result of voluntary food intake and exercise behaviors, then liposuction shouldn't be very effebtive at reducing total fat mass in the long run.  People should return to their body fat "setpoint" rather than remaining at a lower fat mass. 

Teri L. Hernandez and colleagues recently performed the first ever randomized liposuction study to answer this question (1).  Participants were randomly selected to either receive liposuction, or not.  They were all instructed not to make any lifestyle changes for the duration of the study, and body fatness was measured at 6 weeks, 6 months and one year by DXA. 

At 6 weeks, the liposuction group was significantly leaner than the control group.  At 6 months, the difference between the two groups had decreased.  At one year, it had decreased further and the difference between the groups was no longer statistically significant.  Furthermore, the liposuction group regained fat disproportionately in the abdominal area (belly), which is more dangerous than where it was before. The investigators stated:
We conclude that [body fat] is not only restored to baseline levels in nonobese women after small-volume liposuction, but is redistributed abdominally.
This is consistent with animal studies showing that when you surgically remove fat, total fat mass "catches up" to animals that had no fat removed (2).  Fat mass is too important to be left up to chance.  That's why the body regulates it, and that's why any satisfying resolution of obesity must address that regulatory mechanism.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Veganism as Social Somatic Response-Ability

Igualdad Animal Demonstration in Spain (www.igualdadanimal.org)
No one can deny the suffering, fear or panic, the terror or fright that humans witness in certain animals... the response to the question "can they suffer?" leaves no doubt… War is waged over the matter of pity... To think the war we find ourselves waging is not only a duty, a responsibility, an obligation, it is also a necessity... I say "to think" this war, because I believe it concerns what we call "thinking." --Jacques Derrida (1997, 2002)


The Ethics of Veganism: an Open Wound called Compassion
When I advocate veganism, I’m advocating it as recognition of a phenomenon, not as a prescription of a principle. That is, veganism is a recognition of the human condition of finitude, fallibility, and meagerness in a universe shared by other finite, fallible, and meager beings. As I wrote before, veganism as a social existence with animal others is not a foreign attitude. Rather, it is a mode we are “thrown into” when we become subjected to our own curiosity and compassion for other mortal creatures. Recognizing veganism as such holds us responsible to animal others’ interests, and holds us accountable for closing off this mode for relating to animal others as “killable” instruments for some so-called higher-value (i.e. profits, “life,” “humanity”). Thus, veganism as a social attitude motivates and is facilitated by vegetarian consumption. Veganism-vegetarianism are the means and the end of a non-exclusive social responsibility.

Veganism is therefore not the application of a principle of obligation, but the phenomenon of obligation from being addressed by the animal other to respond in return as a social being. I’m not saying that a pig or salmon speak to us or voice themselves as a human might, but that we experience the phenomenon of being addressed, being called to ourselves as social and ethical beings, by recognizing the others’ different perspective, interests, and shared vulnerability. This phenomenon is with us from infancy. Just watch the expression of wonder watching the expressions of other species. It’s similar to their gaze into the face of a human. Children are not born distinguishing the moral considerability between humans and many other animals. Just recently, psychologists Patricia Hermann and others found that anthropocentirsm is a perspective acquired around the age of five, not something innate.

The veganism I advocate fits well with Ralph Acampora articulation of ethics as a phenomenon of the body’s existence as an ecologically and socially interrelational being in contrast to popular thought that ethics is the product of transcendental principles of pure reason or codes intersubjectively consented to. Reason may be valuable in that it exposes latent prejudices and inconsistencies in how one treats others, but only by presupposing our existence as social, caring, vulnerable, and potentially violent bodies. From an ethical paradigm of the interrelational lived body, the “burden of proof” is not placed upon veganism as an extension of ethics, but rather the “ethical isolationism or contraction” of a an ethics based upon self-interest.

For example, reflect upon the times when reason has been used not as a preventative measure against violence and prejudice, but as an instrument against our sociality with and care for others (e.g. “just war,” “ethnic cleansing,” “honor killings,” vivisection etc). It is through manufacturing a code and imposing it upon the world that we can justify acting violently toward others because of the class we place them into. Arguments for fending off veganism and vegetarianism are usually no more than an elaborate game of logic to preserve one’s power and privilege over others by making violence reasonable. They defy our underlying capacity to recognize others as social beings.


Humanism's Double Standard: The Unreasonableness of Consistency
Veganism is the immanent, not the abstract, relationship we have to animal others as social beings. Although my description of veganism is abstract in form, in practice, the reasons we assign to violence are the abstractions. Animal others are exploited under the justification that they belong to a separate race we’ve created and called “animals,” and they are institutionally exploited for the good of something we call “civilization” and the “economy” for something called “capital.”
Read more »

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Food Reward: a Dominant Factor in Obesity, Part VIII

Further reading

I didn't come up with the idea that excessive food reward increases calorie intake and can lead to obesity, far from it.  The idea has been floating around the scientific literature for decades.  In 1976, after conducting an interesting diet study in humans, Dr. Michel Cabanac stated that the "palatability of the diet influences the set point of the ponderostat [system that regulates body fatness]" (1).  

Currently there is a growing consensus that food reward/palatability is a major contributor to obesity. This is reflected by the proliferation of review articles appearing in high-profile journals.  For the scientists in the audience who want more detail than I provide on my blog, here are some of the reviews I've read and enjoyed.  These were written by some of the leading scientists in the study of food reward and hedonics:

Palatability of food and the ponderostat.  Michel Cabanac, 1989.
Food reward, hyperphagia and obesity.  Hans-Rudolf Berthoud et al., 2011.
Reward mechanisms in obesity: new insights and future directions.  Paul J. Kenny, 2011.
Relation of obesity to consummatory and anticipatory food reward.  Eric Stice, 2009.
Hedonic and incentive signals for body weight control.  Emil Egecioglu et al., 2011.
Homeostatic and hedonic signals interact in the control of food intake.  Michael Lutter and Eric J. Nestler, 2009.
Opioids as agents of reward-related feeding: a consideration of the evidence.  Allen S. Levine and Charles J. Billington, 2004.
Central opioids and consumption of sweet tastants: when reward outweighs homeostasis.  Pawel K. Olszewski and Allen S. Levine, 2007.
Oral and postoral determinants of food reward.  Anthony Sclafani, 2004.
Reduced dopaminergic tone in hypothalamic neural circuits: expression of a "thrifty" genotype underlying the metabolic syndrome?  Hanno Pijl, 2003.

If you can read all these papers and still not believe in the food reward hypothesis... you deserve some kind of award.