Sure, eating healthier has its benefits, but not everyone is able to survive on a strict vegan, or even vegetarian, diet.
You can absolutely survive on a fully vegan diet, and humans have been doing it for millions of years. The American Dietetic Association released a statement to this effect. They are the United States' largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, and represents over 100,000 credentialed practitioners — registered dietitian nutritionists, dietetic technicians, registered, and other dietetics professionals holding undergraduate and advanced degrees in nutrition and dietetics.
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods.
As for the article you posted. You need to look at the source of your information before jumping to conclusions. Nina Planck (who wrote that NY times article), like most journalistic writers, has several financial ulterior motives for attacking vegans. For every vegan feeding their baby apple cider and soy milk there are thousand equally moronic meat eaters being jailed for the neglect of their children. Does that mean anything about eating meat, or just neglect in general?
From Nina Planck's own website and wikipedia page:
-Ms. Planck‘s London Farmers‘ Markets sell, among other things, “organic & outdoor reared meat, game in season, dairy“ and fish.
-Her website invites browsers to “Learn why butter and lard are good for you and corn oil and soy milk are not.
-She lives in New York City with Robert Kaufelt, proprietor of Murray's Cheese Store
-In 2003, she returned to the United States as the director of the New York Greenmarket program; she was dismissed after six months:
Also, there are an estimated 100 million vegetarians in the world ranging from strict vegans to lacto-ovo-pescatarians and everything in between. In every single large-scale non-industry funded nutritional study, vegans always exhibit the lowest levels of chronic lifestyle disease such as cancer and atherosclerosis. They also have the longest life-spans worldwide. Look in to the traditional Okinawans and the Adventists for a start.
Almost everything is either carnivorous or omnivorous.
You honestly don't know what an herbivore is?.... I mean, I'd love to talk about frugivores (every one of our closest relatives) and ruminants but if you can't wrap your mind around one of the most basic concepts in all of biology, it's going to be difficult.
It's no wonder that the nations with the highest meat consumption have the highest rates of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
And the longest life expectancies.
Don't forget that....
The longest population-based life expectancy ever observed is in the traditional Okinawans, which were almost entirely vegan. The longest life expectancy is the Americans are the Adventists, who range from vegan to vegetarian. Both groups also show an almost complete lack of modern Western lifestyle diseases like atherosclerosis, cancer (except those vegetarian Adventists eating dairy and egss), and autoimmune disease.
Shining examples of the health benefits of avoiding meat, not only for a longer life, but also a higher quality of health overall. Watch Forks Over Knives for more health benefits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt15...
There's also nothing outdated about assuming that in increase in the amount of meat eaten "was a very important step in the Ascent of Man". There's some argument about how much of that was fish or shell-fish, with some arguing that it was the shell-fish and similar dense calorie and protein resources that fostered tribal defense of territory...AFAIK the evidence for that is quite minimal, but the argument is reasonable.
Please note that meat eating became less important once cooking was developed. Cooking made vegetable calories much more digestible. But cooking was a relatively late accomplishment. (It also had other effects, e.g. it made meat much less likely to harbor parasites.)
That said, there is little reason to doubt that hunter-gatherers got most of their calories from vegetables, but ate as much meat as they could. (Well, not literally. People might eat, e.g., enough hippo to get sick, but they wouldn't really try to eat the whole thing.)
That is a very linear view of the development of our species and reads like an amateur paper for Anthropology 100. You've combined an outdated view of cultural evolution with and outdated model of biological adaptation and reached a 1950/1960's style conclusion. Garbage in, garbage out.
My suggestion is for you to look into modern studies of: ancient coprolite analysis, dental calculus analysis, studies of the consumption of starches like tubers, bone chemistry, the "meat made us human" myth, "man the hunter" myth, and the almost 50 years of critiques of linear evolution models in anthropology.
Meat is great for the hunter/gatherer who has the scrounge for food because you can eat the bird that found and ate the berries without having to find the berries yourself. Per calorie, hunting meat gives you more calories per calorie expended than hunting berries. So yes, it gave us slightly more time but the real time saving was agriculture. Raising crops gave us ton more calories per time expended. Raising almost any type of edible crop is far more efficient that raising or hunting for meat. If you look at modern humans, most modern humans ate primarily grains and supplemented here and there with meat and they have been doing this 20k+ years. You would have to go back further than written history to get to primarily meat eating ancestors. There are obviously exceptions but these exceptions are not in the areas that grew into modern society. Modern society grew out of a stable, stay in one place agricultural society. It was the agricultural society that gave us the extra manpower to advance.
The problem with this view is that it is all based on incomplete 1950's paleoanthropology. The research of that time was heavily biased by the weight of animal bone remains, which made it look like humans were evolving almost completely on meat. This view is considered laughable today in light of the fact that we understand that bones are the only macroscopic evidence that survives for millions of years, and hence it was obviously going to bias their view.
If you look at their dental calculus (reflecting the long-term diet that went in to their bodies) however, you have to say that as a population they were totally vegan. There isn't a shred of evidence suggesting that they ate large amounts of meat on a regular basis or even at a very small scale. Meat therefore would have likely been a starvation food, only relied on in rare cases. 1950's paleoanthropologists simply didn't have the tools to talk about the range of evidences we can study today, but the unsubstantiated cultural myths like "Meat Made Us Human" and "Man the Hunter" persist.
This makes perfect sense to biological anthropologists, who recognized very early on that humans do not possess a single biological adaptation to eating meat. If it were the defining characteristic on which our species evolved you would expect, at the very least, changes in the development of our gut and teeth. We certainly wouldn't have evolved to lose our incisors, nor would we have retained the intestinal tract of a frugivore. There is a great TED talk explaining modern paleoanthropology's complete dismantling of the meat hypothesis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?...
Last time I checked, Vegans don't eat 21+kg of seafood per year (which is down from traditional amounts), 18+kg of pork, and 7kg of beef per year
Those stats are for modern Okinawans who have adapted a Western diet... Traditional Okinawans ate the least amount of meat ever recorded for a population. Hence, modern Okinawans suffer from the same lifestyle diseases as Westerners and they lost their life-span advantage. Anthropologists once thought they must have had some genetic advantage to live so long, but this theory was abandoned as the population shifted to the Western diet and gradually began to suffer from the same health problems as the West.
Like many traditional diets, theirs included a healthy amount of vegetables but that alone could not account for the almost total absence of cancer and autoimmune disease. Their avoidance of meat is widely known to be the defining characteristic of their longevity.
The Okinawan Diet: Health Implications of a Low-Calorie, Nutrient-Dense, Antioxidant-Rich Dietary Pattern Low in Glycemic Load
D. Craig Willcox, PhD, Bradley J. Willcox, MD, Hidemi Todoriki, PhD, Makot o Suzuki, MD, PhD
GCN2 and FGF21 are likely mediators of the protection from cancer, autoimmunity, obesity, and diabetes afforded by vegan diets
Medical Hypotheses, Volume 83, Issue 3, September 2014, Pages 365–371
Now I KNOW you're crazy. The notion that fat and cholesterol lead to heart disease just isn't true, it's been totally debunked.
I hate to burst your bubble, but you need to start reading research performed by non-industry sponsored scientists. Bloggers, magazine writers, and journalists are paid by the industry to spread lies about the health of consumer goods. Start with this statement paper summarizing the major literature and large-scale research directly linking cholesterol intake to heart disease:
The cholesterol facts. A summary of the evidence relating dietary fats, serum cholesterol, and coronary heart disease. A joint statement by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The Task Force on Cholesterol Issues, American Heart Association.
"This American Heart Association and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute joint statement has reviewed the evidence of the direct role of cholesterol in the development of atherosclerosis and CHD. Numerous epidemiologic and laboratory studies have confirmed the continuous, positive correlation of elevated serum cholesterol levels to increased CHD risk. Clinical studies have shown that modification of serum cholesterol by diet or drugs can lower that risk. The benefits of modifying serum cholesterol levels extend to men and women, young and old, those with high-risk LDL serum cholesterol levels, and those with borderline high-risk levels. Furthermore, cholesterol interventions are cost-effective. The evidence more than justifies the current national program for cholesterol modification."
In which Universe do you live where vegans are overwhelmingly vegans for health reasons? I live in a country with a relatively high per-capita count of vegans, and I've never heard one say they chose that diet for health reasons.
There usually isn't one reason that someone does anything. In the list of reasons why people go vegan, you'll find that about half choose veganism for health reasons, among other reasons, in most modern surveys.
The only solution is to cut back on meat consumption
You're making the common mistake of comparing against a nonexistent zero base state. If people stopped eating meat, we'd still need to raise cattle. They provide lots of useful byproducts like lubricants, waxes, insulin, gelatin, glue, leather, etc. If we got rid of all cattle, we'd have to find other means of producing these things, which would incur other energy and material costs, perhaps higher than the costs we pay with cattle. Even if you were able to find a zero net-cost substitute for all these materials, eliminating cattle would not necessarily decrease methane production. You have to consider the entire ecosystem, not just the cows. Without cattle, grasses would grow longer, die, and decompose naturally. Some of the byproducts of that decomposition are (drumroll...) methane and CO2. Remember, this is a closed-loop system. Just because that final step of breaking down the cellulose to extract the stored solar energy happens in a compost heap instead of inside a ruminant's digestive tract doesn't necessarily mean you've improved things.
There is no fallacy to the logic behind eliminating animal agriculture for environmental reasons. If cattle ceased to be raised, you wouldn't need to produce and transport billions of pounds of corn across the continent (Cattle are not raised on grass). You also wouldn't need to water that corn or the cattle themselves. The pasture would either be returned to nature (unlikely) or used for more efficient food production. Instead of feeding cows 10-20 pounds of grain to get one pound of their flesh, you could just feed populations 10-20 pounds of grains.
Cattle are also not a clean food source, nor could they be seen as part of a healthy energy-harvesting system as you suggest. The EPA estimates that 2,500 cattle produce as much sewage waste as a city of 411,000 people (roughly Miami). That untreated sewage would no longer be dumped into the environment, thus causing dead zones and worse.
As for finding alternatives to wasteful animal-based products, what is the logic behind your assertion that there is harm in using alternative products? All of the products you listed can be made from non-animal sources.
The most important early product on the way to developing a good product is an imperfect version.