Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lies & Vegan Athletes

[Also posted on my home blog. I see that Matt has already posted on this and Vegan Run Amok had some great comments. I suspect lots of us have something to say about this article.]

I have to admit to wanting to absolutely scream at the top of my lungs right now so I'll attempt to calm myself to write this post about an INCREDIBLY important topic. Lies, lies, and more lies. Mis-education, deliberate or otherwise, vast ignorance, and blind stubbornness are all things that I see at work when people talk about vegan athletes. Why can't we please have people who actually know about veganism talk on these topics? Instead, the Wall Street Journal decided yesterday to run a story about Tony Gonzalez being a vegan and how it did or did not affect his ability to play football. [Thanks Mom for telling me about this story. As you might suspect, I'm not a regular reader of the WSJ.]

First lie and/or piece of misleading information presented in the article, Mr. Gonzalez is NOT a vegan. Despite the fact that the author refers to him as a vegan numerous times, he is not a vegan. Tony Gonzalez eats fish and chicken. He is not even a vegetarian! What the hell, people?! Do you not know what a vegan is? Please read my my past post on this topic. You are in no way a vegan if you eat animals. Sorry. Can't be vegan. Not vegan. No! Is that sufficiently clear? It is like calling people who don't eat cow, but eat all other animals, vegetarian.

Hence, while the WSJ article claims to be about how vegans can or cannot be serious athletes, it is not at all about that. It is about how Gonzalez has chosen to avoid some animals and animal byproducts. I am very happy about that choice. I think it is good for him, the environment, and for animals. It is important, however, that we realize that he is not and can not be a poster boy for vegan athleticism, because (as I've now said a crazy amount of times) he is not in fact a vegan. My mom knew this immediately. She said the article mentioned he ate salmon, which made no sense to her if he was supposed to be vegan. Yeah Mom! She totally gets it now.

Next. His diet seems to be no where near varied enough. Where's the soy, tempeh, quinoa, seiten? Does he even know about these products? I can't tell you how many times beefers have asked me what quinoa, tempeh, or seiten was. Today everyone seems to know about soy. Where's the flax in his diet? How varied is his bean intake?

Pasta. That is what they show us he eats! Great way to feed into stereotypes. He apparently eats pasta, smoothies, and fish. Doesn't sounds like any vegan athlete I know. Can someone who is smarter than me and famous contact Gonzalez? I think if someone actually gave him the information he needed, he would make different choices and may actually become a vegan. He needs lots of calories. So how about avocados, chick peas, and coconut milk?

I was glad to see that sports nutritionist Nancy Clark didn't say it was bad to be a vegan, but I don't agree with her comment that it is "harder" to get calcium, protein, vitamin D, and iron. It isn't harder. We just eat different things. I guess if you eat at a cow restaurant for dinner every night and can barely eat anything on the menu, then yeah it would be harder. Most of us, however, don't eat at the serious beefer restaurants for every meal.

One good thing to come out of the article was that it shows casual conversations can make a real difference. Gonzalez started thinking about his diet after a man on a plane sitting next to him told him about The China Study. That is rad for a few reasons. First, kudos to the guy for talking with Gonzalez about it and kudos to Gonzalez for actually thinking about the information (and eventually reading it)! Maybe we often make a difference and never even know about it. Maybe our answer to our coworker about why we're vegan might actually make a difference. Maybe the fact that I'm bringing delicious desserts to my omnivore book club tonight might make them all run out for spinach! He! He!

Another repugnant statement that so many people (including the WSJ author) make when talking about athletes making the choice to go vegan is that eating vegan is a "risk." Huh? Eating rotting flesh isn't a risk? Eating animals that have been injected with so many hormones that they have brought on early puberty in girls isn't a risk? Eating animals that have so many antibiotics in them that the drugs have lost their effectiveness for humans (among other reason) isn't a risk? Eating animals that have repeatedly been subject to recalls because of E. coli and other bacteria isn't a risk? Y'all are crazy.

Oh, and the football season Gonzalez reduced greatly his animal and animal byproduct intake, he just happened to break the all-time reception record. Why didn't that lead the story? Instead, it was the last paragraph of the article.


Veg*Triathlete said...

The Vegan Freak forum has a thread about this (poorly researched) article and it looks like several people have already written to the author informing him that what Gonzales is eating is NOT a vegan diet, asking for a printed correction to clarify the mistake.

On a personal level, I hate how I get my hopes up at the beginning of these types of articles. The link was forwarded to me by another vegan, and I was (stupidly) expecting a god article... not one that was riddled with fundamental factual errors in addition to a negative attitude. Ugh. I had to read it a couple of times to make sense of the logical problems...

Anywho-I'm off to eat some salmon and chicken. That IS what vegans eat, is it not?

Crystal said...

This should be in an issue of "Totally Not Vegan."

How super frustrating. I mean, one would think that the author would at least know what it means to be VEGAN!

VeganHeartDoc said...

Well said. Why can't these articles talk about athletes who really are vegans, like Carl Lewis or Martina Navartilova, or Scott Jurek (who is a champion ultramarathoner).

Mark said...

fish smoothies?

That's the recovery food of champions!

PEANUT said...

AND the worst of it is that that journalist from Wall Street Journal had my name and contact info for the article but decided to go with that football guy. Pity. They could have had a real vegan with real reliable information but instead the wrong information is once again disseminated to the masses. Truly sad.

VeganHeartDoc said...

Upon re-reading the article, it sounds like he was able to follow a true vegan diet throughout the season. It states that the team nutritionist suggested he incorporate chicken and fish. However, the next paragraph discusses his shopping trip with Mr. Hinds the vegan, and the last paragraph of the article discusses how he was able to stick to the vegan diet.

That's not so bad, is it?

craig said...

Tony Gonzalez is currently getting his nutrition advice directly from T. Colin Campbell PhD author of the "China Study" I spoke to Professor Campbell recently and he said Tony currently eats no chicken anymore, and he's working on him with the fish. He says we eats fish less than once or twice a week. The only reason he still eats any meat is because of the enormous amounts of pressure put on him by the mis-educated dietitians and coaches of the NFL. This obviously still makes him a meat eater, because fish are not plants, I just thought I would let everyone know there are people working on making him a full fledged vegan.

patrick said...

Hey Vegans!
Do you really love animals?
Do you hate the institution of factory farming?
Do you believe that's there's something more to existence than just what we experience during our 70+ years on this earth?
Do you really want to experience true health?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then guess what, you SHOULD be eating meat! That's right, SHOULD!
There are so many holes in the "facts" that vegans use to justify their diet that it drives me crazy.
Did you know that every study ever sited by a pro-vegan entity that shows a correlation between meat and cancer or meat and heart disease is completely invalid? Did you know that you'd do more for an animal's well-being by eating it instead of letting it live?
Did you know that even though some of the foods in a vegan diet are in fact "complete proteins" you still don't have the appropriate digestive system to assimilate that protein?
Did you know that your ancestors (and feel free to go back as far as you'd like) all ate meat?

Well, if you didn't, it's all true, and if you really did your research instead only going deep enough to "prove" the beliefs that you already held, you would already know all this.
The only reason I post this is because I want everyone to be truly healthy and happy, even animals.

Feel free to email me at and let's discuss.