Beyond Denial: Coming to Grips with Reality in the Veg/Raw Movements 

An Interview with Tom Billings 

by Tom Billings
Issue 2, February 2000
Copyright (c) 1999, 2000 by Thomas E. Billings.
 

[Editor's Note: In this interview with Thomas E. (Tom) Billings, a long-time vegetarian with extensive experience in a wide range of raw and living-foods diets, you'll have many assumptions challenged. This piece is not for those whose minds are clamped shut. Tom's involvement in raw, vegan, and vegetarian diets goes all the way back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when vegetarianism and raw diets were blossoming as part of the counterculture movement of the time. Tom is  a site editor for Beyond Vegetarianism, http://beyondveg.com, a controversial Internet website that challenges many of the traditional beliefs of raw, vegan, and alternative diets. For other H&B interviews, click here. -- Chet]

Q: Let's start at the beginning: how did you get involved in raw diets? 

A: Back in the late 1960s, when I was a teenager, I experimented with a lacto-vegetarian diet for a short period. In January of 1970, I adopted a vegetarian diet, and have been a veggie since then. Shortly thereafter I dropped dairy and became a vegan, though at the time I didn't even know the word "vegan." I read some books by Arnold Ehret that promoted fruitarianism, then switched to and followed a fruitarian diet for most of the 1970s. I was living in Florida at the time, had an organic garden, and ate fresh, raw, locally produced foods of superb quality. Despite practicing the fruitarian diet under near-ideal conditions, I experienced serious health problems. In retrospect, being a fruitarian was a real lesson for me: the diet is overidealistic, it rarely (if ever) works when followed strictly for the long-term, and many of the promoters of the diet are less than honest. 

Around 1980, I went through dietary burnout, drifted away from fruitarianism and went back to a lacto-vegetarian diet for a few years. Then I returned to raw, via a natural hygiene style-diet. For much of the 1980s I was on/off raw (alternating with cooked vegetarian). A small but important point: I describe my raw diet during the 1980s as natural hygiene-style; I did not, and do not, identify myself as a "natural hygienist." 

Moving into the 1990s, my diet shifted again, as I started to move toward sprouts and living-foods-style diets. Things worked better under such a diet, but I still experienced some problems. In the latter part of the 1990s I have added raw dairy to my diet, and am eating more cooked food. Dairy and some cooked food help me to maintain weight as well as avoid the intermittent fatigue and weakness that plagued me on 100% raw vegan regimes. Full details of my dietary experience and lessons learned are in my bio on the Beyond Veg site [1]

Editorial note: numbers in brackets [] refer to URLs cited in an appendix at the end of this interview. 

Shortcomings of the raw/veg "party line"  

Q: Your views on raw and veg diets differ significantly from the traditional "party line" of the past. How would you describe yourself and your views? 

A: If you want a label, probably the best description is to call me a dissident vegetarian. Basically I support vegetarian (and raw) diets, but disagree with the party-line approach in a number of important areas. 

Before listing the main areas of disagreement, let me state explicitly that I am pro-raw, pro-vegetarian, and that 100% raw vegan diets have a good (but not perfect) anecdotal record in the short run, but a dismal record of failure in the long run. In contradiction to the party-line claims that strict 100% raw vegan diets are "ideal," 75-90% raw vegan diets often work much better in the long run than 100% raw diets. 

Party-line theory vs. collective real-world experience and accurate science. Two important areas where I disagree with (and challenge) the party line include the claim that raw or vegan diets are "best" for everyone, and the claim that humans are natural vegetarians. The first claim is dubious, as success stories on long-term, strict, 100% raw vegan regimes are rare (with credible stories rarer still), and many people drop out from conventional vegan diets as well, while the second claim (naturalism) is false. A number of Beyond Veg site articles address these issues; see for example the articles: Parts 1 and 3 of "Paleolithic Diet vs. Vegetarianism" [2], and "Comparative Anatomy and Physiology Brought Up to Date" [3]. It should also be noted here that the two points of disagreement just mentioned are not the only shortcomings of the raw/veg party line. 

The incorrect claims (e.g., naturalism) so prevalent in the raw/veg party line bring us to the reason Beyond Veg exists: The site is intended to serve as a source of honest, accurate, and realistic information on raw, vegetarian, and alternative diets. The emphasis is on reality, and not on what we might wish were true about such diets. Some of the site articles are backed up by extensive scientific documentation, while other articles report individual or collective experience with such diets. Many of the site articles challenge and, in some cases, thoroughly discredit established rawist and/or vegetarian views, i.e., the party line. Another important goal of Beyond Veg is to encourage people to challenge and critically review their dietary philosophy. 

Q: Why should people question or challenge the raw/veg party line?  

A: A good question! First, if people actually stop and think about their dietary philosophy--carefully, critically, and clearly--then they will be less likely to believe the simplistic and overidealistic claims made by some of the less-credible raw/veg "diet gurus." As well, their later decisions regarding diet will be guided by intelligence rather than emotions. If one stops and analyzes the raw/veg dietary claims, one will see that even the allegedly "scientific" diet gurus are frequently making claims based on emotion rather than reason. 

Second, your health and well-being are on the line here. Only you can make important dietary decisions. Don't surrender your decision-making authority (directly or indirectly) to diet guru(s) whose financial (or egotistical) interests in promoting a particular diet may ultimately conflict with your interest in remaining healthy. 

Current state of the raw movement 

Yet another reason to challenge the party line comes from the sad state of the raw and veg movements at present. A look at the raw community reveals the following situations. 

* Plagiarism. One popular raw/fruitarian book that is being actively promoted is in fact a massive plagiarism of the book Raw Eating, written by Arshavir Ter Hovannessian and published in English in Iran in the 1960s. Even worse, the plagiarism is widely known and many raw vegan advocates have condoned the plagiarism and/or allied themselves with the plagiarists. The message here is crystal clear: some raw diet promoters think it is okay to lie to you if it gets you to follow their diets (and buy their books and tapes). If they lie to you about a book, it stands to reason that they may lie whenever it suits their purposes, hence such diet gurus have no real credibility. Also, this is evidence of widespread corruption in the leadership of the raw vegan diet movement. See the site article "Assessing Claims and Credibility in the Realm of Raw and Alternative Diets" [4, 5] for more details. 

* Denial of reality. Some of the raw gurus promote the diet via claims that could be characterized as "dietary snake oil," i.e., the diet will heal all diseases, will promote world peace, etc. Some of the same diet gurus blame all failures of the diet on their victims. This is amazingly arrogant when long-term failure is the norm (as it is in 100% raw vegan diets) rather than the exception. 

* Crank science. One can find individuals in the raw movement promoting the diet via supposedly scientific theories like "fruit is like mother's milk" or "humans evolved as fruitarians." Both theories are fallacious and examples of crank science. As some may be unfamiliar with the term, let me define crank science as pseudoscience (bogus, fallacious science) that is promoted with a negative attitude (e.g., hostility). If you challenge these theories, you may find yourself under attack by some very hateful people who, by the way, present themselves as the "proof" of the results of the diets they promote. The latter aspect is interesting, for if the diet will make you behave like the cranks, then you might want to follow a different diet, for that very reason! 

* Dietary racism. There are two major forms of this. One, claiming that a raw/vegan diet will make you "superior" to others whose diet is different, coupled with hatred (which may be subtle or blatant) of those whose diet is different. A second form practiced by some crank science promoters is to claim that (legitimate) science that contradicts their bogus theories is done by people with "damaged brains," or is invalid because it is "cooked science" (recall Hitler denouncing "Jewish science," for the obvious analogy to racism). See the site subarticle "Raw Vegan Extremist Behavior Patterns: The Darker Side of Rawism" for details [5]

* Extremists promoting hatred and making threats of violence: There are a few raw vegan extremists who use dietary racism as a marketing tool, and who also have (in the recent past) made threats of violence against those who question or challenge them (threats that may be rationalized away as "raw courage"). Are threats of violence a new form of "vegan compassion" or are they simply old-fashioned hypocrisy and a sign of moral bankruptcy in the raw community? 

To summarize: plagiarism (lying and stealing), denial of reality, crank science, dietary racism, and hostility/threats are the unfortunate current state of affairs among numerous promoters in the raw vegan movement. In other words: a significant part of the leadership of the raw movement is intellectually and morally bankrupt. However, the good news here is that one can simply choose to avoid the raw vegan diet gurus who are corrupt, and one might benefit from a raw diet anyway, even if only in the short run. (Please note here that some raw vegan promoters are sincere and are not corrupt.) 

Current state of the veg movement 

If one looks at the conventional vegan/vegetarian movements, one finds a similar situation. 

* Pseudoscience and logical fallacies are common in the conventional vegan community; indeed, they are so common as to be the predominant form of information. Much of the information used to promote veg diets is inaccurate or of dubious quality. A few examples of this include:

  • The logical fallacy of equating results from published studies that show negative health effects for the SAD (Standard American Diet) as being representative of all omnivore diets. (Even many "scientific" veg advocates make this error.)

  • The claim that if Westerners reduce meat consumption, it will alleviate hunger in the lesser-developed countries. This claim was discussed on the former Sci-Veg email list (now defunct). The major point of that discussion was that the world currently has a food surplus, and hunger exists due to political and economic factors that restrict food distribution. Further, those factors would not change if Westerners reduced meat consumption or switched to vegetarian diets.

  • Exaggerated or dubious claims about the environmental impacts of meat-eating. One example of this is the claim that rainforests are being destroyed for fast-food hamburgers in the U.S. Meanwhile, a mere 0.6% of total U.S. beef consumption is imported from Central America and Brazil (statistic from a 1990 paper, [6]). Note that meat from Brazil must be cooked for import into the U.S., hence cannot be used in hamburgers, which are made from fresh meat.

    Many of the veg environmental claims qualify as propaganda, and a cattle rancher's group has funded a scientific critique of the veg claims; see ref [6]. While the critique probably qualifies as propaganda as well, it is worth reading to get the "other side" of the story.

The need for reliable information in veg advocacy has been acknowledged by a prominent vegan organization, Vegan Outreach. See their essay, "Using Good Information in Advocacy" [6A] for details. (It is a sad comment on the state of veg advocacy that Vegan Outreach has been attacked, often in an ad hominem way, for daring to question the accuracy of "information" presented by certain veg promoters.)

Just as many rawists have allied themselves with plagiarists if it will sell their diet/books and tapes, many conventional vegetarian groups are willing to use pseudoscience, myths, and/or information of unknown or dubious quality, if it helps sell their diet/books or tapes. The situation is not as blatant as the plagiarism issue in the raw community, but it is still a sign of intellectual and moral bankruptcy. How "moral" or "ethical" can a dietary movement be if it is actively promoted with (known) misinformation? 

* Dietary racism thrives in the conventional vegan community, where egocentric self-righteousness is a common and negative side-effect of self-indoctrination with vegan propaganda. Those who are blinded by self-righteousness usually cannot see that their dogma has turned them into fanatics. (Note: not all vegans are fanatics, of course.) 

* There are some conventional vegan extremists who engage in acts of violence--a few of the extreme animal rights groups come to mind. These violent few are not representative of the vegan mainstream. However, far too many mainstream vegans appear to condone (by silence) some of the more outrageous (and violent) actions of extremist vegans. Is this complicity or apathy? To preserve its credibility, the mainstream vegan community should be actively criticizing the few extremists who engage in threats/violence to advance their supposedly "compassionate" agenda. 

Thus we note that the conventional vegan community suffers from the same problems as the raw vegan community, although in less severe (less extreme) form. 

The bottom line for the health seeker is clear: you can't simply trust the raw/veg party line or the diet gurus who promote it. Be skeptical, and at all times, put your own personal health interests ahead of dietary dogma (because many of the diet gurus do the opposite where their followers are concerned). Your personal health is more important than idealistic raw/veg dietary dogma, much of which is inaccurate or wrong anyway. 

The primary feature defining extremist behavior in diets 

Q: You have used the word "extremist" a number of times. Could you please define the term? How does extremism manifest itself in the raw community? 

A. First of all, when I use the word extremist here, unless otherwise indicated (by context), it means "dietary extremist." If one attempts to define the term by combining the definitions of diet and extreme, the result is somewhat unclear, as one person's regular diet may seem extreme to another person. 

Instead, a more illustrative definition of dietary extremism is obtained by an examination of the underlying pathology: dietary extremism occurs when dietary dogma dominates a person's life. Let me restate this more precisely as follows. 

An individual is a dietary extremist if: 

He/she regards dietary dogma as being more important than the health, safety, and/or well-being of people (themselves and/or others). 

A point of caution here: probably none of the diet gurus will identify themselves as extremists by the above definition. Instead, most will actively deny that it applies to them. Thus, in assessing whether a particular diet guru is an extremist or not, you must carefully evaluate the overall pattern of their attitudes and actions/behaviors. 

I should also publicly state that by the definition just given, I am a former (but now reformed) extremist. Those who read my bio on the site [1] will note evidence of extremism back in the 1970s when I was an ardent devotee of fruitarianism. Thus my comments on extremism are based on my own direct experience, and are not simply or only a reaction to the behavior of a few current fanatics. 

Earmarks of a healthy approach to diet 

Returning to the definition, most extremists are in very deep denial that they are dominated by dietary dogma. The issue of dominance is critical here, for it distinguishes whether an approach to a diet is ultimately healthy or not. Some of the characteristics of a healthy approach to diet are as follows. 

* Moderation in style and attitude. 

* Tolerance and respect for others with different diets. 

* An attitude that the diet must serve you, and a willingness to switch diets if a particular diet does not work. 

In a healthy approach, results (health) are what count, not dogma, i.e., health dominates over dogma. Of course, this is ordinary common sense. 

Signs of an unhealthy approach to diet 

In sharp contrast, an unhealthy approach (i.e., an extremist approach) to diet may include some of the following features. 

* Strident demands that one absolutely must follow a difficult, narrow diet (e.g., 100% raw vegan), often coupled with claims that all other diets are inferior or "toxic" (thereby introducing the emotion of fear). 

* Dietary racism: claims that the diet makes one "superior" (introducing egoism and hatred). 

* Demands that one endure painful detox for an indefinite period or "massive raw foods suffering" (to parody the language of one group promoting raw veganism) to succeed on the diet, i.e., you must follow the diet at all costs, even if it costs your health! Note that the latter result is often an unconscious action by the extremists. It follows from the fact that extremists will rationalize away all problems as detox, even when the person is seriously ill, and has followed the "expert's" advice but it has not worked. Here logic and common sense point to a different explanation, namely: the diet does not work as well as claimed, and a different diet should be instituted. 

The last point illustrates that in an unhealthy extremist approach, dietary dogma is more important than results, i.e., more important than your health. Needless to say, that is anti-common sense, and you should quickly dump any/all dietary promoters who reveal themselves to be extremists by this definition. 

The negative emotional basis fueling dietary extremism. Such an unhealthy basis for dietary extremism is further revealed in the negative emotions it is based on. In the case of raw zealots, the emotions are fear (of cooked food, protein, mucus), egoism and hatred (dietary racism), and obsession with dietary purity to the point where it can become an eating disorder: orthorexia nervosa (see the site article "Health Food Junkie" [7] for details). 

Most extremists are in deep denial, despite the widespread failure of long-term, strict, 100% raw vegan regimes, because they have convinced themselves that the diet they promote is "ideal" (even if they personally can't follow the diet, a situation that is probably far more common among the 100% raw vegan advocates than they will ever admit in public), and they have a long list of rationalizations to use to explain away the poor results, or in other words, to blame their victims. 

Rationalizing dietary failure elevates theory above people 

In effect, dietary extremists have deluded (or in some sense corrupted) themselves to the point that one could characterize their approach as follows. 

Dietary extremists care more for dietary dogma than people, and they will defend their dietary dogma (and rationalize) right down to: 

  • the last drop of blood,
  • the last gram/ounce of flesh, and/or
  • the very last breath, 

of the poor souls who are so unfortunate/foolish as to be "true believers" of the teachings of dietary extremists. To the dietary extremist, dogma is paramount, and followers (even "true believers") are expendable. 

The preceding may seem inflammatory to some. Unfortunately it is based on observing raw and conventional vegan extremists engaging in the following behaviors. 

* Ignoring chronic emaciation in their followers. Examples here include extremists telling such people to fast, and advising severely emaciated people to stay on a 100% raw vegan diet even when it is not working for them and they are still losing weight. 

* Telling people who have been advised to pursue urgent medical treatment that all M.D.s are evil, and one should instead eat raw foods, fruit, drink wheatgrass juice, or fast instead, and use no other modalities. (Note: I am not suggesting here that all allopathic medicine is good. Quite to the contrary, some is very dubious, to put it politely. The point is that one should choose healing modalities carefully and intelligently, considering the individual circumstances and needs, and not cling blindly to dogma of any kind.) 

* Denial and rationalization of persistently poor results. It is commonplace for conventional vegans to claim (with no credible proof) that all "failure to thrive" on the diet is really "failure to comply." 

Of course, the above behavior reflects a lack of regard for the health (and dignity) of the individual. It also raises questions regarding intellectual honesty or lack thereof. 

To put the issue in perspective, I invite people to consider: 

If the 100% raw vegan diet is as great as claimed, why do the "experts" need so many rationalizations and excuses? Particularly when an obvious explanation--the diet does not work as well as claimed--provides a straightforward and logically coherent answer. 

Moving on to your question regarding how extremism is manifested in the raw and vegetarian communities, we've looked at a few examples just above, and also in the earlier comments regarding the current state of the raw vegan community. One final point here: there is a tendency to self-identify with raw/veg diets in a pathological manner. That is, a person's top-of-mind awareness might be, "I'm a superior (raw) vegan surrounded by decadent and inferior consumers of (cooked foods and/or) animal products." That obviously is an extremist attitude; a healthier mindset is to replace such awareness with something like, "I'm an imperfect yet worthy human being, surrounded by other, similar human beings." The extremist attitude is hateful (whether subtle or blatant) and perfectionist; a healthy attitude is tolerant and accepting. 

Misleading practices of fruitarian crank science promoters 

Q. You mentioned crank science and junk science. Are these necessarily forms of extremism? Are they really significant problems for the raw and vegetarian movements? 

A. Are crank science and junk science forms of extremism? The answer depends on the motivation of the individual, and their competence. If one assumes some minimum level of competence, I think the answer is yes: crank and junk science are usually forms of extremism. One of the inferences I made while doing the lengthy research required for Beyond Veg is that it appears in order to claim a scientific basis for, say, fruitarianism, one must engage in at least some amount of misrepresentation and/or misinterpretation of scientific research. 

Under the guise of promoting a scientific basis for fruitarianism, one can find alleged "experts" engaging in the following behaviors: 

  • quoting legitimate research out of context,
  • presenting outdated or marginal research as current/mainstream,
  • misinterpreting and/or misrepresenting the meaning of mainstream scientific research,
  • applying research via logical fallacies,
  • rationalizing away the ongoing, massive failure of fruitarian diets (i.e., blaming their victims),and/or
  • other deceptive practices. 

This suggests that honesty, as well as unflinching, clear thinking about the negative health effects of fruitarian diets are less important than dogma to crank science promoters, hence they are extremists. Yet another way to look at this is that if crank or junk science lead people to diets that harm them, then they are tools of extremism. 

Uncritical acceptance and overidealism themselves perpetuate crank science. Other folks will claim a scientific basis for fruitarianism, but then it turns out they are only parroting claims from some rawist book or website, which is itself engaging in certain of the above intellectually dishonest practices. Unfortunately, rawists and vegetarians are quick to believe almost anything that can be (creatively) interpreted to support their preconceived views, regardless of how reliable (or relevant) the information actually is. Not all or maybe not even most crank and junk science is based on fully conscious intellectual dishonesty--much comes from overidealism run amok, resulting in delusionary reasoning. Nevertheless, this shows how crank science and pseudoscience are serious problems, for by their nature, they are typically a blend of some good facts, mixed with misinformation, bad logic, and logical fallacies. It can be difficult for a lay reader to distinguish bad science from good. 

Crank science and junk science are interesting issues, for they illustrate the intellectual and moral bankruptcy that has unfortunately come to characterize the raw and veg movements. To evaluate this point, let's examine what is probably the quintessential crank science claim found in raw, i.e., that fruit is like mother's milk (in nutritional composition). 

Fruit is not like mother's milk: deconstructing a crank theory 

Before getting specific, as the explanation below revolves on statistical issues (though the brief discussion here will be largely non-statistical) let me mention that I have a B.S. in Mathematics, and an M.S. in Statistics, plus several years of experience in statistical consulting in a wide variety of fields. I mention this because, as will be clear shortly, those claiming that fruit is similar to milk are woefully ignorant of statistics. 

In the site article, "Fruit is Not Like Mother's Milk" [8], I show why sweet fruit and (human) mother's milk are significantly different (in statistical terms) in nutritional profile: 

* Fat and carbohydrate levels are significantly different. 

* Amino acid profiles are different. 

* Fatty acid profiles are different for milk vs. sweet fruit. 

The article discusses other differences as well, though perhaps the most obvious, common-sense point made is that milk is, by calories, predominantly fat, while sweet fruit is, by calories, predominantly sugar. The point then is made that most people can tell the difference between fats and sugar (which have different energy paths in the body, hence the energy and nutritional profiles are different), though it appears that the promoters of the bogus "fruit is like mother's milk" theory cannot tell the difference between sugar and fat. 

A bogus statistical "proof." One promoter of the "fruit is like mother's milk" theory has presented an alleged statistical "proof" of their claim. The "proof" analyzes the nutritional profile of milk vs. other foods, using the tools of correlation and covariance. 

If one is ignorant of statistics, the crank science "proof" looks very impressive indeed. However, to a statistician, the alleged correlation/covariance "proof" is invalid and wrong at nearly every step. A detailed analysis of the alleged "proof" is provided in the appendix to the "Fruit is Not Like Mother's Milk" article [9], where it is shown (using logic and the definitions of the relevant statistical terms) how the alleged "proof" is invalid and incorrect. Although the material requires some knowledge of statistics to understand the details, general readers can read the section and get the flavor of the points made, i.e., the crank science "proof" uses correlation and covariance on an inappropriate data set: it treats nutritional profiles for foods--which have 71 different elements and multiple kinds of units--as single-valued random variables, an incorrect approach that renders the "proof" and its conclusions, statistically invalid, and finally, the "proof" even misinterprets the numbers actually computed! 

Crank science: the "fruit" of incompetence and misrepresentation. Because it is invalid, the crank correlation/covariance "proof" that fruit is like mother's milk is important for other reasons. First, the claim that "fruit is like milk" has been made into a cornerstone for the fallacious theory that humans evolved as fruitarians. Inasmuch as the "proof" for the claim is bogus, the (science fiction) fruitarian evolution theories are thereby discredited by their own false basis. Second, as the promoter of the statistical "proof" proclaims themselves to be very "scientific," the fact that the "proof" is wrong and has absolutely no scientific validity suggests instead that the theory promoter is notably incompetent in science. 

The sloppy, incompetent work presented as "science" in this crank "proof" is unfortunately typical. The same promoter also selectively quotes, out of context, the research writings of D.J. Chivers in an effort to promote the false claim that humans are natural fruitarians. In section 6 of the "Comparative Anatomy" paper on the site [10], the quotes used are listed with comparisons (as appropriate) showing how they are being misrepresented. More to the point, the research of D.J. Chivers actually provides instead some of the best evidence that the natural diet of humans includes animal foods. Hence, to twist and misrepresent quotes from Chivers and try to use them to support fallacious fruitarian evolution theories is to engage in blatant intellectual dishonesty. The above are only two examples--there are many more--of this crank science promoter's misrepresentations of published scientific research to advance an intellectually dishonest fruitarian agenda. 

Other party-line claims and their effects on the veg/raw movements 

So as not to pick on only one raw crank/junk science promoter, I should also mention that the Beyond Veg website includes articles that critique a number of other raw/veg party-line claims, e.g., 

  • the theories of Edward Howell that enzymes are the "life force," plus claims regarding Kirlian photos [11],
  • rawist interpretations of the Pottenger's Cats experiments [12],
  • the digestive leukocytosis data of Kouchakoff [13],
  • the idea that cooking makes "organic" minerals "inorganic" [14],
  • the claim that the Inuit ("Eskimos") are a raw-food culture [15],
  • the claim that bitter taste is a marker for toxicity [16],
  • assertions that humans evolved as fruitarians [17]

to name a few examples. (See the reference list at the end of this interview for the Beyond Veg article URLs specified in brackets above.) 

Logical fallacies are common in mainstream vegan "science." Even if we exclude the raw extremists and consider only the mainstream scientific vegan crowd, one still finds logical fallacies galore, e.g., the claims that clinical research on modern Western diets "proves" that vegan diets are better than all omnivore diets (this is discussed in the site sub-article, "Which Omnivore Diet? The 'Omnivorism = Western Diet' Fallacy" [18]). 

The conclusion is clear: a large part of raw/veg science is invalid, dubious, or applied via logical fallacies. As your own health is in the balance, it behooves you to be very skeptical, to regularly challenge the party line, and to become an educated consumer of information and claims regarding diets. 

The long-term impact of junk science. Regarding your question whether crank/junk science harms the raw/veg movements, the answer by now is an obvious "yes." Currently, both biology and medicine are being ever more strongly influenced by evolutionary research and genetics. Both of these disciplines are making major inroads into the field of human nutrition, and the results thereof are frequently not in favor of the raw/veg party line. This new information is also getting out to the public at large, and the era of the low-fat/high-carb diet paradigm appears to be ending (and not just at the level of popular fad diets). 

What this means is that for raw/veg diets to have a chance to become mainstream, they must have good, legitimate scientific backing for their claims. If the raw/veg communities continue to cling to crank and junk science, it will lead to their slow decline. 

Q. What about the future, then? Given that your views are so different from the raw/veg party line, I'm curious: what do you believe the future of the raw/veg movement will be? 

A. That's a difficult question. Obviously I cannot predict the future and can only speculate. So take my answers here as musings (based on current trends), rather than predictions. 

Denial, dogma, and extremism have seriously marginalized the veg/raw movements at present. I would begin here with the observation that the raw movement is a "health movement" in which dogma is, or has become, more important than health, and where those who attempt reform are attacked by extremists. Similarly, the vegetarian movement is allegedly a "moral movement" that is unfortunately promoted via intellectually dishonest means (junk science and logical fallacies), and where those who attempt reform are also attacked by extremists and party-hardliners. Both the raw and vegetarian movements are, at present, intellectually and morally bankrupt. Further, I am not the only vegetarian who expresses this opinion. A number of people on the former Sci-Veg email list (now defunct) apparently shared similar views, including Carl Phillips, the list moderator (who cited the lack of integrity in the vegetarian advocacy movement in his recent "resignation letter" from active public engagement on its behalf). 

With that as premise, where can we go from here? Well, common sense (or intuition) suggests that if the raw/veg movements continue in the future according to the present pattern, then these movements will, despite huckster-like promotion by some advocates, eventually decline in popularity and become ever more marginalized. The key to the long-term credibility and viability of these movements lies in whether they can reform and establish a new, different reputation--for honesty and for showing genuine interest in human welfare--rather than being seen as peddlers of narrow dietary dogma of dubious honesty. Given the current conditions in these movements, we probably need a major turnover in leadership before real change can occur. 

The future of the raw/veg movements depends on fundamental changes in our behavior. 

In the midst of such a depressing situation, there is good news: the raw and vegetarian movements can change, despite the current prevalence of extremism. If we, the rank and file of the raw and vegetarian movements change, then the so-called "leaders" of the movement will have to change (or lose their status as "leaders"). Ultimately the raw and vegetarian movements reflect our decisions and choices, and what we tolerate from the so-called "leadership." 

We also influence the raw/veg movements by our decisions to support or not support relevant organizations. Toward that end, I would make the following suggestions. 

1. Refuse to support the promoters of misinformation. If you are a member of a raw or veg organization that is promoting inaccurate information, junk science, crank science, then encourage the leaders of the organization to change. If they balk, withdraw financial support, i.e., no contributions, no membership fees, and don't purchase merchandise (books, tapes, equipment, etc.) from them. Also withdraw any volunteer support for such organizations. 

2. Refuse to support plagiarism, dietary racism, or other negative behaviors. Similar remarks apply to any organization (commercial or not-for-profit) that engages in plagiarism, that condones plagiarism, or that actively promotes dietary racism, dietary snake oil, etc. Why give money to groups that think it is okay to engage in misrepresentation? If you would never support regular racists, why would you ever support dietary racists by buying books or tapes from them? Again, simply don't support such groups/individuals. 

The best strategy is for us to refuse to "buy into" misinformation or dishonest means, and, if/when appropriate, publicly express our dim view of it. If we stop supporting extremists, if we stop "buying" or tolerating misinformation and negative behavior by the extremists, then they will either go out of business or be ever more widely recognized for what they truly are: the "lunatic fringe." 

Inertia vs. change in the raw/veg movements: which will prevail? I would also note that, at present, there is some resistance in the raw and veg movements toward constructive change. It is easy to cling to the simplistic (yet reassuring) absolutist views of the raw extremists. It is easy to spout the pseudoscience and misinformation so common in vegan advocacy and feel self-righteous about your lunch. In contrast, it is hard to open up and admit that reality is more complex, that we don't have all the answers, and that the raw/veg diet is not a cure-all and does not make us morally superior. However, in the realization that reality is more complex than we might like, we are also freed from the trap of the simplistic and narrow mindset of the raw/vegan extremists. That realization frees you to seek your own optimal health, rather than doggedly pursue someone else's obsession that you absolutely must be (100% raw) vegan, even if it does not work for you. 

Furthermore, there is more potentially good news: the raw and vegetarian communities seem to be slowly waking up to the problems posed by the uncritical acceptance and use of inaccurate information in raw/veg advocacy, as well as the very low credibility of many raw/veg diet gurus. If we support those who are working for positive change, and ignore or boycott the extremists, then eventually the raw/veg movements will be saner, and have a chance to go mainstream. 

Waning power of the raw/veg party line in the new Internet era 

Q. Since you are encouraging us to boycott or ignore the negative elements in the raw/veg movements, that raises another question. Do you think that diet gurus will go the way of the dinosaurs? 

A. Well, we can certainly hope that extremist diet gurus--regardless of whether they are raw, cooked, veg or non-veg--go extinct. However, I don't think that all diet gurus will go extinct, for two reasons. First, there are some who are legitimate and trying, with integrity, to help people. Those few will likely find support and thrive. Second, even some of the ones who should be out of business (e.g., the dietary snake oil peddlers) may continue to promote their dogma, either as a hobby, or because they appeal to the gullible, and to people who want simplistic and absolutist-style solutions. In other words, since their market base (the gullible and/or naive) will not disappear, the negative diet gurus will continue, though perhaps on a lesser scale than today. 

However, it is clear that in the modern information age, life will slowly get harder for the peddlers of misinformation. If we look back, we note that prior to the advent of the Internet, raw-fooders (and to a lesser extent, vegans) were isolated and communication opportunities were rare. Most opportunities for interaction came through the few organizations like the American Natural Hygiene Society and the San Francisco Living Foods Support Group (now known as SF-LiFE), and the various veggie organizations. The structured format of most gatherings sponsored by those groups has not provided a forum for dissidents or for questioning the party line, as the Internet has. 

The effect of rapid turnover in new recruits to the diet. Additionally, the raw and vegan communities consist of a self-selected population, i.e., they consist of a set of long-timers who have succeeded (sort of, in the case of raw) on the diet, and a large pool of newcomers. The pool of newcomers is constantly turning over; it does so because most folks find the diet does not work long-term, at which point they usually drop out. These dropouts are "assumed away" by rationalizations and pat answers, or become the targets of moral ostracism. The net result is a narrow community that cannot see that their diets don't work for everyone. 

With the advent of the Internet, things have started to change. There are now electronic communities like the Raw-Food email list [19], where those interested in raw diets can exchange information in an unstructured atmosphere, outside the control of the raw/veg "leaders." On the Internet, people have compared notes, and are beginning to learn that problems are common on raw, and that the party line is often inaccurate. Similarly, some of the more scientific vegans are now openly criticizing and challenging the inaccurate information that is commonly used to promote vegan diets. 

Because of this, people are starting to challenge the party line and the diet gurus who promote it. In the long run, this will limit the market for the overidealistic, party-line diet gurus. Hence I suspect we will probably see an eventual if slow decline in the influence of extremist diet gurus. 

Q: What has been the reaction to the website?  

A: Mixed, but predominantly positive, at least for those who are not wedded to dietary dogmas. Most folks who read enough of the site seem to have a positive reaction. The site's approach of questioning the standard party-line beliefs is seen as a "breath of fresh air." Of course, some folks have a negative reaction. Some visit the site, read just a few pages (sometimes not even a single article), react emotionally, and bail out of the site. In a sense, the website is analogous to a Rorschach ink blot test for an individual's emotional maturity regarding raw/veg issues. More precisely, those with strong emotional attachments to raw/veg dogma often find the site to be "mentally indigestible," as it dares to challenge their beliefs. 

Snap judgements based on negative emotional reactions. Many of the negative reactions appear to come from people who have read very little of the site. Examples include: 

* People claiming the site promotes the SAD diet, when in fact the site criticizes it repeatedly. (We write about how different the SAD diet is from evolutionary diets.) 

* People claiming the site is financed by meat/dairy interests, when in fact the (quite minimal) site expenses are paid out of the pockets of two site editors, neither of whom works for or has any financial interests in meat or dairy firms. (People really should know better than to make such wild speculations, considering the very low cost of website hosting services.) 

* A crank science promoter who made a post on their email forum, attacking the site material on taurine and iron. Yet the criticisms made clearly showed that they had not even bothered to read the material, as their questions were covered in the site articles in question. 

* People reading very little of the site, then assuming their small sample of material is fully representative of the entire site, when in fact there are a diversity of views on the site, and some topics are explored in multiple articles, by different authors. 

Stereotyping balance and realism about raw diets as a "compromise" 

The factors mentioned above constitute individual reactions. The collective reaction of such adherents has been similar. Basically, fanatics attempt to stereotype the site, to discourage people from thinking about the central issues the site addresses. An example here is provided by the 100% raw advocates who denigrate the site's approach as a "compromise" because we are not 100% raw fanatics like they are. The primary focus here is the article, "Is Cooked Food Poison?" [20], which provides a good overview of both the risks and benefits of cooking. The bottom line is that some foods are improved by conservative cooking (e.g., starchy foods, carrots) while other foods are not. In contrast to the balanced approach taken on Beyond Veg, 100% raw fanatics usually present incomplete data on the toxins produced by cooking, while ignoring the benefits of conservative cooking, and the antinutrients that are present in raw foods, and which may be reduced by cooking. 

The underlying pathology here, of course, is that 100% raw promoters see the world via a simplistic binary model: raw = good, cooked = bad. This drives them to be strident promoters of 100% raw. However, reality is not interested in such simplistic assumptions, and the all-or-none binary model is not a good model of reality. 

100% raw vegan diets are also compromises. The truth is that eating a 100% raw food diet is just as much a "compromise" as eating 100% cooked food is. By eating 100% raw, the compromises one accepts are as follows. 

* Lower bioavailability of certain nutrients such as beta-carotene, energy (starch), and protein in raw foods, when compared to conservative cooking. 

* Raw foods may have higher levels of certain antinutrients than cooked, reducing bioavailability of minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium. 

* Very high bulk of common raw foods required to satisfy calorie requirements (see the site article, "The Calorie Paradox of Raw Veganism" [21] for details). 

* Possible lower vitamin/mineral content in raw produce compared to fresh-frozen veggies, due to shipping and processing, and time delays before consumption. 

* Increased risk of parasites and bacterial vectors in some raw foods. 

* Major effort required if one eats a lot of sprouts, living foods, and/or wheatgrass, all of which take time to prepare (i.e., major impact on your life). 

* Social isolation effect of 100% raw regimes. 

The "compromise" stereotype is really a conflict between unrealistic black-and-white logic vs. the reality of trade-offs. Hence those who stereotype the Beyond Veg site approach as a compromise are really indicating that they cannot fit the realistic, multifaceted approach of Beyond Veg into the narrow, binary, raw-vs.-cooked mindset they display. The facts are that 100% raw diets are "compromises" as well, in every sense of the word. 

Thus the effort to denigrate balanced, rational thinking grounded in accurate science and the real world as a "compromise" is nothing more than a stereotype promoted by people under the delusion that everything (in health) can be explained by the simplistic raw-vs.-cooked paradigm. The ultimate purpose such bogus claims serve is to provide people with an emotional excuse to avoid doing what counts the most: making a careful, rational examination of all the issues. 

Brix and "produce quality": the latest rationalization for failure of 100% raw-food diets 

Yet another reaction to the issues raised on Beyond Veg is new rationalizations which have come forth. Rationalizations are an essential part of raw diet lore, as they are needed to explain the many failures on the diet. One rationalization that is becoming more common of late is food quality/Brix. This rationalization is widely promoted, hence it is worth looking at more closely. 

The basic idea is that the "low quality of produce" that is held to be prevalent today explains many failures on raw vegan diets. That is, the assertion is that 100% raw vegan diets would succeed if one could just get raw produce of sufficiently high quality, i.e., high-Brix produce. (Brix is a scale that measures dissolved solids; it is evaluated using a refractometer. The Brix scale is regarded as a scale of produce quality, i.e., higher Brix implies higher-quality produce.) 

Burden of proof. There are many problems with using Brix/quality as an excuse. To begin with, the burden of proof applies to those making the claim. That is, those who claim that 100% raw veganism will work if the produce is high-enough Brix are obligated to provide proof for the claim. To date, absolutely no credible proof has been provided. Instead, Brix advocates have attempted to reverse the burden of proof (a logically invalid move) and angrily demand that skeptics instead disprove their claim. Indeed, one Brix advocate I had the displeasure of interacting with was incredibly hateful when his claims were challenged. When I pointed out my own personal experiences, namely that I had practiced 100% raw veganism in Florida, eating (mostly) organic fruit of wonderful flavor and quality, the Brix fanatic implied that most/all of the fruit groves in Florida were planted on land that was contaminated with toxic wastes, and demanded a written log of Brix levels and soil tests for all the food I ate back in the 1970s. It seems that fanaticism for Brix and raw veganism can override both common sense and decency. 

The high-Brix excuse: a "supply-side" solution that ignores the "demand-side." Another problem with the Brix/quality excuse is that there are logical and scientific reasons that suggest it is a weak excuse at best. For one thing, Brix is an aggregate measure--total dissolved solids--and does not accurately reflect or consider the actual nutrient distribution in a food. That is, a simple-minded focus on Brix ignores that a particular food (no matter how high the Brix) may be deficient in certain specific essential nutrients, or may contain an excess of other nutrients. Thus eating high-Brix foods in a single class of foods (e.g., sweet fruits) cannot guarantee an adequate supply of certain nutrients. 

An example may clarify this point. A mango is a sweet fruit, and there is no data that would suggest high-Brix mangos do contain, but low-Brix mangos do not contain: DHA (an important fatty acid found in animal foods) or substantial amounts of vitamin B-12, another nutrient more readily available in animal foods. As a sweet fruit, the nutritional profile of a mango, even a high-Brix one, will not be similar to that of animal foods (e.g., fish or milk), or even the profile of nuts, which are high in oils and protein. Similarly, inasmuch as high-Brix foods are usually sweeter (as they are higher in dissolved solids, which includes sugars), it may be that high-Brix mangos are (often) higher in sugar than low-Brix mangos. As many wanna-be fruitarians report symptoms that correlate with excess sugar consumption, this suggests high-Brix mangos might actually aggravate those problems. 

Thus there is no credible reason (or data) to suggest that high-Brix plant foods can somehow "make up" for the most critical nutrients that are scarce (or "correct for" those in excess, like sugar) in purist 100% raw vegan diets. This point is important, because there is reason to believe that nutrient deficiencies and/or excesses of sugar (the latter of which can trigger insulin resistance) may be among the relevant factors in the widespread failure of long-term (100% raw) vegan regimes. 

The above can be restated in a way that may make the point clearer: The high-Brix argument centers on the characteristics of produce, and completely ignores the other side of the ledger--the needs and realities of human nutrition. It could be characterized as a "supply-side" argument that totally ignores the "demand-side." The human body "demands" specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Brix advocates ignore this and offer to "supply" total dissolved solids instead. Of course, there is no guarantee that high-Brix produce and its total dissolved solids will satisfy the body's requirements for a specific profile of nutrients. Because of this, the Brix excuse is out of touch with reality, and out of touch with human nutritional needs. 

The "quality paradox"--a reality check for raw-food diets. Yet another weakness of the "quality" excuse is what might be dubbed the "quality paradox." Consider the extensive anecdotal evidence that people fail on strict, 100% raw veganism, but then do well if they add some cooked food to their diet. The 100% raw purists denigrate cooked food; they call it "poison," they often deny that it is even food, and/or they redefine it as a "stimulant." Yet when 100% raw vegan diets fail (and they usually do, in the long run), invariably a diet with some cooked food works and is the eventual result. 100% raw extremists also often resort to the hateful rhetoric of dietary racism in such cases, calling such people "failures," "cooked-food morons," "cooked-food addicts," or saying they have "damaged brains," and so on. 

However, the logic remains, and is inescapable: cooked food succeeds when 100% raw vegan diets fail. And yet we are told that cooked food is of very low quality, even poisonous (hence of much lower quality than raw foods), or is just a "stimulant" even when its effects do not meet the profile of one (i.e., short-term highs followed by prostrating lows). 

This is yet another obvious contradiction of the quality excuse, for here cooked (supposedly lower quality) works when raw (supposedly higher quality) fails. If indeed "quality" explains the common failures on raw foods, and cooked foods are really lower-quality than raw, then it follows that the failure rate on a mixed diet, raw-plus-cooked, should be even higher. Instead, we see the exact opposite, hence the "quality paradox." 

Of course, 100% raw advocates will try to rationalize the "quality paradox," and claim that everyone on cooked foods is a failure because they don't have "perfect" health. Unfortunately, "perfect" health is the holy grail of the irrational, the gullible, and the naive. In reality, "perfect" health cannot even be defined in a non-trivial manner, and hence no one (whether raw or cooked) can lay credible claim to "perfect" health. 

Is the "quality paradox" actually a mystery, or just another reality the movement needs to face? One final aspect of the quality paradox should be considered. The paradox exists only because we are assuming that a raw diet is higher quality. But is it really? Inasmuch as we note that, in case after case, a mixed raw-plus-cooked diet works better than 100% raw, it follows that we have no choice (if we wish to remain intellectually honest) but to challenge the assumption that a 100% raw diet is better. Conventional nutrition and anthropology suggest that a mixed raw/cooked diet is better, because it broadens the food base (increasing survival in evolutionary terms, i.e., a powerful evolutionary selection pressure/advantage). An increased food base also allows for the intake of a wider range of vitamins and minerals, as well. Given the dismal record of strict 100% raw vegan regimes in the long-term, the clear solution to the "quality paradox" is to admit the obvious: that the assumption "raw is always better than cooked" is false. 

My closing remarks on this topic: don't hold your breath waiting for 100% raw fanatics to admit the obvious. As noted earlier, extremists consider raw dogma to be more important than you are, and they are ready to defend 100% raw, even at the cost of your long-term health. 

Creationism and rawist philosophy 

Q: These are strong words, and you are addressing points often ignored by party-line rawists. I can see why some folks might find the website difficult to "mentally digest." Given this, and the emphasis on Beyond Veg on science and evolution, I wonder whether someone who is a creationist might find your site worthwhile? If so, how?  

A: I think that would probably depend on the type of creationist one is. Let me mention two types of creationists (please note that these are not the only two types), as follows. 

The first type of creationist is rare: someone who specifically adopts creationism for the sole purpose that it can be molded to support their dietary dogma. That is, creationism is adopted to promote a specific diet, usually raw vegan. Such creationists can be found among the extremist raw-food diet gurus (and wanna-be gurus). Needless to say, such an approach is intellectually dishonest, and someone dishonest enough to reject science to bolster their lunch philosophy probably won't like the views on Beyond Veg anyway. 

The second type of creationist is much more common, and such folks might find Beyond Veg of benefit. Let me specify the second type of creationist as someone who believes in creation as a sincere spiritual belief, a belief independent of their dietary philosophy. On Beyond Veg, we respect the sincere spiritual beliefs of others, even if we disagree with them. Thus we not only invite such creationists to visit the site, but want them to know that there is a LOT on the site that will likely be of interest to them. Beyond Veg is about more than evolution: the science-based articles include discussions of clinical research, and many articles are based on real-world experience with raw/veg diets as well. Someone who is a creationist might choose to skip over the parts that discuss evolution, and still find a lot of worthwhile information. 

Is there a connection between diet and spirituality? 

Q: What is your view of the relationship between spirituality and diet, and how does Beyond Veg fit into the picture?  

A: A big question! Let me begin by saying that Beyond Veg does not promote any particular spiritual views; it focuses primarily on health issues or non-sectarian ethics. Thus my answer here is personal opinion, nothing more, and is not a "site opinion." 

In terms of a spirituality-diet connection, although many diet gurus emphasize such alleged connections, I personally am of the opinion that any such links are indirect and weak, if they exist at all. I acknowledge that for some people, under certain circumstances, there may seem to be a linkage, but as a general rule a direct linkage is simply not there, in my opinion. Let me explain my reasoning on this point. 

Does diet really affect consciousness in a spiritually meaningful way? I have been the target of threats (including threats of violence) from allegedly "compassionate, spiritual" raw/veg diet gurus for daring to challenge the party line. Since when is gratuitous violence (that has no justification whatsoever) a "compassionate, spiritual" quality? The obvious explanation here is hypocrisy--the raw/veg diet gurus in question are neither spiritual nor compassionate. Hence, their claims of an intimate connection between diet and spirituality are suspect. 

Another problem is the nature of spiritual growth. The goal of many religions and spirituality is to "connect" in some manner with your spirit, which is usually described as a non-physical essence of some sort. Thus the goal is to go beyond the (physical) body, whereas diet is directly connected with the physical body. This suggests that any diet-spirituality connection is conditional and indirect/weak, for if one seeks to transcend the body, then one also seeks to transcend diet as well. 

It should be mentioned here that since beliefs are key in spirituality, then strong spiritual beliefs about diet might help you, if the beliefs somehow encourage you to grow spiritually. Here the benefit is indirect, and flows from the strong beliefs rather than the diet itself. It should also be noted that no established religion teaches that you can somehow eat your way into heaven or to enlightenment. 

Possible indirect spiritual impacts of diet 

Potential positive impacts. Let's consider the possible indirect spiritual impact of diets. My opinion (and direct experience) is that most cleansing diets (including raw) will give you a short period of improved health and "light" mental feelings (I refer to this period as the illusion of spiritual progress). If these "light" mental feelings (the illusion) motivate you to practice actual spiritual disciplines (e.g., meditation, prayer, etc.) and work to progress, then the diet is of indirect spiritual benefit to you. 

Potential negative impacts. However, if instead these short-term "light" mental feelings make you feel superior to others, and this strokes your ego such that you end up becoming a hostile dietary racist like certain raw vegan diet gurus who call those who eat cooked foods, "cooked-food morons" or say they have "damaged brains," then it is fair to say that the diet has poisoned you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

In such ways diet can indirectly enhance or poison your spirituality; the end result is up to you. And, truth be told, if you work hard and sincerely at spiritual disciplines, then you will probably progress, regardless of the specific details of your diet. 

Reality: friend or foe? The cost of denial 

As for my spiritual view of the goals of Beyond Veg, let me reiterate that what follows is personal opinion and is not a "site opinion" in any way. To address the question, let me first cite the Aghori [a Tantric adept] Vimalananda, as quoted in Svoboda [1998, p. 7]; note that the italic emphasis below is mine: 

"It is always better to live with reality, because otherwise, without fail, reality will come to live with you." 

In my view, Beyond Veg is all about reality and how we relate to it, on many levels. Do we live with it, i.e., accept it and accommodate it, or do we ignore it and suffer when reality intrudes? In the context of raw and veg diets, Beyond Veg takes the approach that reality must be accepted as-is, and we must accommodate it, i.e., live with reality. This takes the form of accepting the extensive scientific evidence that humans are natural omnivores, that raw/veg diets often don't work as well "as advertised," and putting actual results and human welfare ahead of idealistic dietary theory. 

In contrast, extremists are in denial of reality: they claim (based on crank science and/or myths) that humans are natural vegans/fruitarians, that raw diets are ideal or best (in spite of the ongoing routine failures thereof), that the diet will cure all or most diseases, and so on. Here, those who stubbornly deny reality and cling to fundamentalist raw/veg dogma eventually must face reality on reality's terms. And then, as Vimalananda reports, "without fail," reality will come to live with them. 

In such cases, reality might intrude in a mild way, e.g., one finds they can't succeed on the diet and must switch to a different diet. In more difficult situations, reality might intrude in a harsh manner, e.g., in the form of serious physical illness, eating-disorder behaviors, fanaticism, food obsessions and/or other extremist behaviors that suggest possible mental illness, the social isolation and dysfunction of raw purists, and so on. Reality cannot be denied forever--but that is a point many raw/veg party-line followers must learn the hard way. 

The raw/veg movements face a choice: accommodate reality or be left behind. 

The preceding discussion addresses the individual level. The quote from Vimalananda also applies, though, to raw and veg as groups or movements. For far too long the raw and vegetarian movements have been living with myths, crank and pseudoscience, fanaticism and eating-disorder behaviors (the latter being more common in raw), and so on. These movements have denied and still do continue (for the most part) to deny reality--they refuse to "live with reality." 

At present, however, there is a resurgence in evolutionary research that is transforming the biological sciences, and is starting to make inroads into medicine and nutrition. The science of genetics is advancing similarly. The impact of these new scientific discoveries is that they often challenge parts of the raw/veg party line. At some point, the raw and vegetarian movements, unless they make fundamental changes in how they relate and react to reality--in particular the new developments in paleo studies and genetics--will face even more serious marginalization than currently exists. 

Once again, reality cannot be denied forever, and (to make an analogy) Beyond Veg is merely one of the first noticeable cracks in the "dam of denial." That crack will widen, other cracks will develop, then watch out for the "flood" that might follow! Of course "flood" here refers to additional future information contrary to the raw/veg party line. 

Finally, because the underlying issue of Beyond Veg is reality, I encourage every raw-fooder, conventional vegan, or vegetarian to explore the issues examined on the site in depth. The best tool available to help one "live with reality" is honest, reliable information, and there is an abundance of well-researched information on Beyond Veg. 

Where do reality and spirituality intersect in the dietary world? 

Q: Considering your remarks about reality, is there some common ground where reality and spirituality can meet in the dietary arena?  

A: Yes, but not for everyone. Some folks have strong spiritual views that are quite narrow, and of course most dietary extremists are very narrow as well. However, if your spiritual views place value on human life, and you can be honest regarding the real results of diets, then reality and spirituality can meet on the grounds of trying to serve the needs of the individual. 

The key dietary question to address is what is good for an individual, right now? What will best serve the needs of each person? Obviously, the extremist dietary policy of telling everyone they must follow a standard "ideal" diet, then ignoring or rationalizing complaints when the diet does not work--such a habit serves dogma (and the extremist ego); it does not serve the individual. 

However, if your spiritual views include enough genuine compassion for people that they allow you to set aside the self-righteousness and dogmatism so common in rawism and veganism, and admit that perhaps raw/vegan diets might not be ideal for everyone--then there can be common ground to serve people, by making service (of people) the focus rather than promoting any specific dietary agenda (i.e., service of dietary dogma). Here I am suggesting an attitude that views raw and veg diets as important tools for health and healing, but certainly not the only tools, and tools that are appropriate for some, but not necessarily for all. 

Is the ethical foundation of your diet based on reality or denial? 

In order to help develop an attitude of service to people, rather than dogma, I would encourage vegans to critically examine their dietary philosophy, and to ask themselves questions that challenge the spiritual or ethical basis claimed for the diet. Consider: 

* If vegan diets are not natural and are not ideal, how moral or ethical is it to tell others that the diet will work for everyone, especially when there is extensive anecdotal evidence that the diet does not work for everyone? 

* How can I present myself as "compassionate" and/or an advocate for animals, if I ignore the genuine needs of human animals, i.e., those people who don't do well on vegan diets? (This reflects the situation that human and animal welfare may be in direct conflict if vegan diets aren't "best" for everyone.) 

* If I promote raw/veganism as a moral or ethical diet by using pseudoscience, crank science, myths, dietary racism (i.e., dishonest, negative means), then is the diet truly moral or ethical? Or is it hypocritical, instead? 

* If I promote 100% raw vegan diets for their health effects, how can I ignore the reality that most do not thrive on 100% raw vegan, long-term? Am I promoting health by claiming that all failure-to-thrive is detox, and/or speculatively blaming failures on food quality? 

The above are questions that the raw/veg party-hardliners probably prefer that you not think about. However, the above questions are key, for they reflect reality, and we must live with reality, or it will ("without fail") come to live with us--and the latter may be very unpleasant or even harmful. 

Q: Do you have any closing remarks or advice? 

A: I hope my frank remarks here will not discourage anyone from considering a predominantly raw diet or a veg diet as a possible healing or health enhancement tool. Raw (and veg) diets can be powerful healing tools. However, these tools should be used in a responsible and intelligent manner, according to individual needs and circumstances. Furthermore, I hope that my remarks here about the extremism of certain raw/veg diet gurus will help folks be appropriately skeptical and cautious, and prevent them from putting dietary dogma ahead of their own welfare--an all-too-common occurrence in the raw/veg community. I also hope that the discussion here will stimulate readers to begin the important process of reevaluating their dietary philosophy, and the role it plays in their life: Is your diet serving you, or are you the servant of perfectionistic dietary dogma? 

Finally, I would repeat that we live in an information age today. I encourage any/all readers who find this interview to be troubling or interesting to explore the Beyond Veg website for background information and details. Information is power--and the information that has been put together on the Beyond Veg website is intended to give you power over the beguiling illusions that may be promoted by raw/veg diet gurus, ones that, even if well-intentioned, are not in your best interests. The end of such illusions is the beginning of a new freedom for you, a freedom to choose dietary and healing modalities based on reality, and to truly think for yourself in working toward the diet that best serves you, whatever that turns out to be. 

To contact Tom Billings: First read the email policy on the Beyond Veg site [22] to check if your proposed inquiry falls within the range of topics that can (reasonably) be addressed in email. 

+ If your inquiry falls within the guidelines, go to the reader feedback page on the site [23] and click on the name Tom Billings to send email to the correct address. 

+ If your inquiry falls outside the guidelines, you can send email to: tebillings@looksmart.com. Note that due to (very) limited time, mail to this address is lower priority than mail directly related to Beyond Veg. 

URLs Cited  

Beyond Vegetarianism, home page: http://www.beyondveg.com/index.shtml  

[1] Dietary bio of Tom Billings; 2 html segments, beginning at: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/bio/billings-t-bio-1a.shtml  

[2] Part 1, Paleolithic Diet vs. Vegetarianism, long article (many html segments), begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/nicholson-w/hb/hb-interview1a.shtml Part 3, long article, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/nicholson-w/hb/hb-interview3a.shtml  

[3] Comparative Anatomy and Physiology Brought Up To Date, long article, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-1a.shtml  

[4] Assessing Claims and Credibility in the Realm of Raw and Alternative Diets, long article, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/claims-cred/claims-cred-1a.shtml  

[5] Raw Vegan Extremist Behavior Patterns: The Darker Side of Rawism, subarticle of [4], 2 html segments, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/claims-cred/claims-cred-1e.shtml  

[6] Current Issues in Food Production, a report funded by cattle producers (but very interesting reading for vegetarians): http://www.beef.org/library/myths_facts/mythfact_diet.html   

[6A] Using Good Information in [Veg] Advocacy, on the Vegan Outreach website: http://www.veganoutreach.org/propaganda.html   

[7] Health Food Junkie: http://www.beyondveg.com/bratman-s/hfj/hf-junkie-1a.shtml  

[8] Fruit is Not Like Mother's Milk, long article, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/fruit-milk/fruit-milk-1a.shtml  

[9] Analysis of fallacious statistical "proof" that fruit is like mother's milk; appendix to [8]: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/fruit-milk/fruit-milk-appx1.shtml  

[10] Examples of scientific studies misquoted by fruitarian extremist; examples are halfway down the linked page: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-6e.shtml  

[11] Analysis of Howell's theories on food enzymes, plus links to info on Kirlian photos; 3 html segments, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-2b.shtml  

[12] Critique of rawist claims re: Pottenger's Cats studies: http://www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-1h.shtml  

[13] Critique of rawist claims re: digestive leukocytosis: http://www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-1i.shtml  

[14] Does cooking convert "organic" minerals into "inorganic" form?: http://www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-2h.shtml  

[15] Were the Inuit ("Eskimos") a raw-food culture? http://www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-3h.shtml  

[16] Is it true that "bitter taste = toxic food"? http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-7j.shtml  

[17] Fruitarian Evolution: Science Fact or Science Fiction? 2 html segments, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-4c.shtml  

[18] Which Omnivore Diet? The "Omnivorism = Western Diet" Fallacy: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-8c.shtml  

[19] The Raw-Food email list: http://maelstrom.stjohns.edu/archives/raw-food.html  

[20] Is Cooked Food Poison? Looking at the Science on Raw vs. Cooked Foods; long article, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-1a.shtml  

[21] The Calorie Paradox of Raw Veganism, long article, begins at: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/cal-par/calorie-paradox1a.shtml  

[22] Email policy: http://www.beyondveg.com/cat/reactions/email-policy.shtml  

[23] Reader feedback: http://www.beyondveg.com/cat/reactions/feedback.shtml  

Other References  
Svoboda R (1997) Aghora III: The Law of Karma. Brotherhood of Life (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and Sadhana Publications (Floresville, Texas). 




Disclaimer: Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.