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“The Men’s Journal Guide to Going Vegan” Gets Just About Everything Wrong

Filed under: Food Media Stupid

There are plenty of wrong-headed, lazy, and misinformative guides to veganism on the web. And for most, the best thing to do is ignore them. But when a major media player produces one, it’s worth calling them out on it. Hundreds (thousands?) of people are showering positive attention on this week’s “The Men’s Journal Guide to Going Vegan.” But y’know what? It’s pretty terrible.

The primary offense is that it treats veganism as a purely dietary concern. There’s absolutely no mention of giving up animal products in clothing and household goods. It’s not like this is a minor thing. Giving up leather is harder than giving up meat for most people. And there’s zero discussion of ethics. Without a firm ethical basis, why the hell would anyone go vegan?

But then it’s flat-out wrong about many of the dietary issues. Here’s some, just for fun:

“Eggs and milk are also common ingredients in pastas and bread. Nearly all commercial baked goods have an ingredient that’s not vegan, so it’s usually best to steer clear.” Uh, what? Of course you have to read ingredients, but it’s not at all hard to find vegan baked goods and pasta.

“Hemp or rice milk: better than soymilk, which is heavily processed.” Huh? I mean, you’d have to go brand-by-brand, but plenty of hemp milk is more processed than some soy milk. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with “processing.” What does this have to do with going vegan, anyway?

“Almond butter: This is your peanut butter substitute.” WTF?! Peanuts are vegan, folks. Trust me on this one.

“Chia seeds: This new vegan fad food is the offspring of those claymate Chia Pet sproutings.” Well, you heard it there first, I guess. The rest of us are still talking about Daiya.

The tagline brags “all you need to know at the grocery store and in the kitchen,” but they seem to forget all about eating restaurant food, which is the really challenging thing.

They describe vegetables and fruit as “your new meat, not in terms of protein, but in terms of the real centerpiece of your daily meals and snacks. So go to town.” It seems like vegan to them may mean someone who eats a lot of fresh produce? Another choice sentence: “Your entire body will feel lighter, as the meat built up in your gut is literally forced out by the deluge of fiber from all the vegetables.” Now, I love fresh vegetables, and maybe you do too, but I know of more than a few french-fry-and-cupcake vegans out there, not to mention plenty of rice-and-beans vegans.

The target reader seems to be someone who lives strictly on bacon and never lets a vegetable pass their lips. Looking at the rest of Men’s Journal‘s Food & Drink features, maybe that’s not so far off. Indeed, the magazine is not doing anything to back up anyone’s conversion to veganism–”you go right ahead and try that vegan food heathnut thing for three weeks,” they seem to be saying, “we’ll have a fresh batch of pork and steak recipes waiting for you when you’re done.” Jerks.

19 Comments

  1. Comment by

    organicivy

    on #

    I’m seeing more and more of these media stories calling a plant-based diet veganism. It seems to a be a new diet fad like Atkins or something and I find it very annoying. reading misinformation like the above. The thing about the peanut butter, WTF!?!?

  2. Comment by

    Zach Rock Steady

    on #

    Most of the weird stuff gets sorted out in the comments section.

    I actually kind of like that there’s no discussion of ethics. It kind of treats the ethics as a given. Like, ok, obviously being vegan is the right thing to do, now how can we manly-men be vegan in ways that are both tough and convenient?

  3. Comment by

    catres

    on #

    This sounds interesting similar but parellel universe to the Women’s World issue last week of “America’s Hottest Diet” where they highlight folks who’ve lost lots of weight on a vegan diet, promote part-time veganism or a vegan cheaters diet and “you can eat peanut butter sandwiches and pasta with tomato sauce!”
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Womans-World-Magazine/78805390574?ref=ts#!/photo.php?pid=7231722&fbid=470180470574&id=78805390574 I have a copy of the issue if you want to read it Jason.

  4. Comment by

    S

    on #

    The media LOVES a hot new fad diet and at the moment said diet seems to be “going vegan” Maybe this is not a bad thing? But the misinformation is annoying.

  5. Comment by

    scruffyduffy

    on #

    Well, it is Men’s Journal so I wouldn’t expect an amazing article from them.

    As a vegan who doesn’t ‘do it for health reasons’…I still think it is absolutely great that people do try being a vegan for health reasons…even without the moral reasons. Why? Simply b/c that’s one less cow on his/her plate. Even if they do it for a week, tell a friend, and that friend tells a friend, etc…if they all ‘go vegan’ for a week, it’s still better than nothing.

    There is this ludicrous (and, in my opinion, unfounded) emphasis on protein in the diet — so I would love to see people learn that protein overload isn’t what your body needs. I think if this were addressed, you’d get more people eating unintentional vegan meals (like a simple spaghetti and sauce or vegetables), and in turn, animals luck out…if even for that meal.

    In my utopia, humans wouldn’t eat animal products, wouldn’t wear them, and pets would be ‘family’. Maybe…someday.

  6. Comment by

    J

    on #

    If it makes any difference, I started eating vegan for “health” reasons, and I told everyone how I could care less about animals, with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. When you tell people you’re vegan, people inevitably start to ask if you wear leather, which is how I was introduced to the whole concept of true veganism. So I looked into the matter, and for the first time in my life I could watch MFA and PETA videos without having to dismiss them due to a perceived inability to give up animal products. Thanks to my shallow “health” kick, I was finally able to listen to my heart.

    While I see where you’re coming from, the readers of Men’s Journal may be a lot more likely to get to where you’d like them to be due to this article, flawed as it may be.

  7. Comment by

    elainevigneault

    on #

    I saw the entire article as something to celebrate, not something to criticize. Sure, they made a few mistakes, but who cares? This is a ridiculously mainstream magazine that appeals to a lot of omni men. Any positive mention of veganism is good in my book! And the fact that they provided a sample menu!?! That’s IDEAL!

  8. Comment by

    piquo55

    on #

    Okay, so this is only tangentially related to the article in that it involves confused carnivores, but I thought it might interest people.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M1mOlamBtU

    Watch 3:42 to the end. Ellen is smart and cooooooool.

  9. Comment by

    AmyArgh

    on #

    This is probably why people hate vegans. Are we really that self righteous that we care WHY people are vegan, rather than the fact that they are?

    Whether its for diet-related reasons, or ethical, it still supports our cause.

  10. Comment by

    piquo55

    on #

    AmyArgh, the issue at hand has nothing to do with self-righteousness, but rather accuracy. People are upset that the article labeled a specific diet “vegan” without addressing all that comes with the lifestyle of true veganism, which includes avoiding the purchase/consumption of all animal products.

  11. Comment by

    JasonB

    on #

    I disagree. The article is clearly about eating habits and the truth is, there is such a thing as a “vegan diet”, which is just that, a diet.
    As happy as I am that my eating choices are better for the earth and dont harm any animals, I am completely selfish in the fact that I choose to eat this way for me and me alone.
    I also believe that attacking someone who is trying to do the right thing (regardless of whether that person/magazine/whatever has another agenda or not) is one of the main causes why people do have a hard time hearing about the positive that comes with this lifestyle. I feel that this review is “cutting of its nose to spite its face”…if you will.

  12. Comment by

    drsmith07

    on #

    I just wanted to say that we should be thankful that this article was even in the magazine. To argue over something so small does not help veganism grow in our society. I enjoyed the article and feel thankful to see that veganism is more mainstream.

  13. Comment by

    iberco

    on #

    I have to agree with JasonB and others that this article isn’t about a 100% vegan lifestyle and the moral and ethical issues, but instead eating vegan for dietary reasons. Personally, I’m vegan for environmental reasons and I’m always pleased to see any publication that endorses trying it out. Especially a publication as influential as Men’s Journal. Can you imagine seeing an article like this in a men’s magazine even 5 years ago? This article shows that being vegan is no longer some strange outlier way of life, but instead the movement is making real progress.

    Granted, the peanut butter and chia seed thing is absolutely ridiculous and perhaps more research should have been done before they slapped together this ?guide.? However, the point about commercial baked goods I feel is valid. They didn?t say all baked goods, they just said commercial. If someone reads that article and knows nothing of being vegan and the best places to shop, then the baked goods he or she finds most likely do contain eggs or milk. It is only after trying vegan-ism out for a while that people learn what to look for on the ingredient label, where to shop, and how easy a vegan diet really can be. Maybe this article, as poorly done as it is, will convert some people out there! That?s what I’m hoping for?

  14. Comment by

    oram

    on #

    Yeah, the article may have some inaccuracies, but it may get people to investigate a vegan diet further. If it piques just one person’s interests – and even if it’s in vain – at least it’s keeping an animal off a plate. kudos to them for mentioning it and for not just talking about grilled chicken & fish when regarding a healthy diet.

  15. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    The problem is that this trite, ridiculous article makes veganism look like a trite, ridiculous fad.

    Please, vegans, grow some self-respect and stop being grateful for crumbs.

  16. Comment by

    inyourdreams

    on #

    You should have posted their entire statement about almond butter:

    ? Almond butter: This is your peanut butter substitute. (PB is vegan, but almond butter is better for you.) Use it for sandwiches or on toast to add protein to your breakfast. We like Once Again, found in most health-food stores; Nature?s Promise, from Stop & Shop?s organic food line; and the Trader Joe?s brand.

    They even say that PB is vegan. I get why you’re mad about this article, and being vegan becoming a fad, but you should target their article where it counts.

  17. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    Inyourdreams, good catch, but they must have added “PB is vegan, but almond butter is better for you” later! That wasn’t there when I posted this.

    I wonder what else they changed, but not enough to read it again.

  18. Comment by

    oram

    on #

    the problem is that you should get off your high horse and stop being so nauseatingly self righteous. learning is a process. drk.

  19. Comment by

    beanmail

    on #

    oram, “learning might be a process”, but journalism isn’t about spreading misinformation.

    Laura, can you please re-post your quote repeatedly?
    “Please, vegans, grow some self-respect and stop being grateful for crumbs.” Kudos!

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