[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.