Dr McDougall in Shocking Vegan Interview

McDougall

Let me start by saying this: Being a vegan is fine. I find the ethical arguments compelling and I’m impressed by people who manage to avoid animal products for ethical reasons. Also, I believe that most vegan food (supplemented by vitamin B12) is healthier than a standard Western diet.

That said, I was shocked when listening to a new interview with low-fat vegan advocate Dr John McDougall. A couple of days ago he was on Jimmy Moore’s podcast and, really, you have to hear it to believe it:

The LLVLC Show (Episode 686): Dr. John McDougall Pushes Starchy Diets For All

Here’s the problem:

Agricultural bliss?

Dr McDougall believes that everybody should eat a low-fat high-starch diet comprised of potatoes, rice, beans etc. and avoid meat, dairy and even olive oil. His main argument? Throughout “all of recorded history” every successful major civilization based their food intake on that kind of food.

That’s correct. It’s called agriculture.

Agriculture supplied the plentiful source of calories that allowed populations to grow big, starting 10,000 years ago or so. But that does not mean it’s healthy. Fossil records show a decline in human health and stature at the start of agriculture.

Furthermore, history did not start 10,000 years ago. Human evolution (depending on where you draw the line) has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years if not millions of years. Back then there was no agriculture.

Finally there were no vegan cultures, ever, during all of human history. People who completely avoided animal products for a long time died from vitamin B12-deficiency. So while agriculture supplied a lot of food it was never the only source.

Refined carbs

It’s quite possible that eating unprocessed starchy food like potatoes and rice, á la McDougall, is better than a standard American diet. After all, the refined carbs, processed food and enormous amounts of sugar are lost.

Jimmy Moore repeatedly tries to discuss this, but McDougall does. not. want. to. hear. it. He just won’t discuss that possibility.

Nasty personal attacks and hypocrisy

What’s really shocking on the podcast is the nastiness and the number of personal attacks. McDougall repeatedly brings up mr Moore’s weight struggles – “I’ve seen your pictures!” – as evidence that a high-fat diet does not work.

Then mr Moore tells him that he has lost 100 pounds eating like that and weighs less now than ever before in his adult life. McDougall’s answer? “You’re a study of one”, implying that it does not count, probably forgetting his own attack one minute earlier. Then McDougall repeats the personal attack again and again. I’m impressed that Jimmy Moore did not lose his temper.

McDougall’s next argument? “I’m a doctor and you’re not”, implying that it makes him right and mr Moore wrong. I wish life was that simple!

Low Carb vs. Plant Based

What shocked me even more was Dr McDougall’s repeated insistence that people watch a YouTube video called “Low Carb vs. Plant Based“:

It ranks among the most infantile things I’ve ever seen. Is this really the best argument Dr McDougall has? “I’m thin, you’re fat, therefore I’m right”?

PS

The vegans in the video are *extremely* thin, good for them. However, I wonder if they wouldn’t benefit from more high-quality protein, to put on some muscle mass. That may be a matter of taste though.

By the way I’ve met professor Loren Cordain and Dr William Davis recently and they’re in fine shape. Check them out on the Dr Oz show earlier this year: Cordain / Davis. And Jimmy Moore is thinner than ever.

And let’s not mention the high-fat badass #1, Mark Sisson, who was somehow not chosen to appear in the video. Update: But he was on “Vegan Island” with Dr McDougall six years ago. Check out his report.

More reactions to the show:

Controversial Interview Raises Ire, Rises To Top Of iTunes Health Podcast Charts

What do you think about it?

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178 Comments

Top Comments

  1. Martin,
    I believe that many of the diseases of civilization are caused by the Western diet, that's high in sugar and refined starch, among other things.

    I'm not at all surprised if most (maybe all) people switching from a Western junk diet to a low-fat vegan diet will improve.

    Basically the Western processed food diet may be the worst ever in history. That's why "all diets work". Switch from the worst one to any other and it's an improvement.

    Reply: #16
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  2. Dan
    You know, there's another angle to this we should all remember--the rise of LCHF and the revelation of the good science behind it that refutes so much of the trendy-but-bad science that people like McDougall have been living off of for years (perhaps with good intent and just ignorance as their excuse--even "medical doctor" "qualified" ignorance is still dumb, y'know) means that many, many people who've been making a good living and a great deal of ego boosting fame out of that BAD science are now faced with a very real threat to their livelihoods and their egos. It is no different to note, as you've done on this site, the amazing hypocrisy of Coca-Cola sponsoring diet conferences than to see that a whole lot of McDougall's belligerence and attitude is because he's like any cornered animal--threatened, angry, and afraid. It doesn't make his position any more defensible or right, but perhaps it can help us to be a little less insensitive to his fear and anticipation of pain. Presuming, as we must unless we know otherwise, that he began his rise to prominence out of good intent and with honest motives, now that he's standing on top of, well, only slight joke re. the USDA intended, a "pyramid" whose foundations are crumbling and which he has to KNOW intellectually are at least threatened with utter collapse, no wonder he's so darned arrogant and angry! Granted, a more mature and self-enlightened person would have the grace that another one did in an earlier posting (sorry I forget the name) who told Gary Taubes "You were right, I was wrong." but most people aren't like that, alas. Basically, McDougall is in the position of the classic semi-joke statement "I'm not a brat! I'm NOT! I'm NOT! I'm NOT!" When "experts" with great prestige in the vegan/vegetarian community like him are this way, we certainly must expect even more nasty attitude from those lay people who've followed that misguided cause and invested not only money and effort into it but have, because like all such cults it demands and encourages this, invested a huge chunk of their self-identity and self-worth in it. I don't know about the rest of you, but I EAT a LCHF diet and feel better and am measurably healty for it, but I am NOT ANYTHING LIKE an "LCHF-ian" or an "LCHF-itarian" or whatever. My identity is based on my values and my character and not on my diet, but for Vegans and Vegetarians, that's not so. When you question what, to you as an enlightened sensible person, is their dietary science and choices, THEY HEAR you attacking them PERSONALLY. So let's not be too harsh on the sad case of Dr. McDougall, and let's remember this when we talk to less-famous folks who, like he has, simply got sold a bill of goods or wandered down the wrong path when searching for the truth.
    Replies: #138, #163
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All Comments

  1. erdoke
    Tina,
    I am not sure that LCHF implies a lot more meat than an average SAD.
    Competition level sports excluded, 15-20 % protein is perfectly fine in an LCHF depending on activity.
    On top of that there are some interesting theories about more efficient land use by grass fed animals: http://freetheanimal.com/2013/03/sustainability-sushmainability-grass...
  2. Carol
    I just visited Dr. McDougal's website and read through the material. For most of the time since 1987 and up to about 2 years ago I followed a diet pretty close to what Dr. McDougal recommends, and during a few of those years (recently) my diet was exactly as described. The closer I got to the McDougal diet, the higher my TGs went (reaching 453), the more weight I put on, and the more foggy my brain was and the greater my hunger between meals, which ultimately I scheduled 5-6 times per day so I could function without extreme hunger cravings. I now realize that I was pushing myself closer toward diabetes. Thankfully I was able to turn this around last year thanks to LCHF. I have also seen video lectures by Dr. Loren Cordain, and I am convinced of the evolutionary arguments against grain and high-carb diets. At least for me, the vegan/veg diets are just wrong, and I have the health markers to prove it.
    Reply: #153
  3. Galina L.
    I was never a vegetarian, but a no red-meat diet with the minimization of saturated animal fats and the emphasis on a lot of whole grains and vegetables and fruits was disastrous enough for me. I also have medical records to prove it. Before that I ate a home-cooked traditional Russian food, so I can testify that removing red meat and most saturated fats from a traditional diet makes such diet worse. Removing grains and seed oils(most Russians nowadays cook with sunflower oil), and adding saturated fats made my diet much healthier judged by results.
    I also want to add that in my opinion the indicator of a wrong diet is the increase of the sense of hunger and the need to eat more volume and more frequent than before.
  4. Chupo
    LCHF ≠ lots of meat especially If you follow anything like what Dr. Gundry or Nora Gedgaudas advocate.. A serving of meat about the size of a deck of cards would be all the animal protein you'd be eating PER DAY. The rest would come from plants. Then there is Eco-Atkins which is a high fat vegan diet.

    In my opinion, veganism would be a lot more successful if Eco-Atkins were embraced. Too many people just don't do well on typical low fat vegan diets.

  5. Chupo
    My last post was meant to be in response to Tina. As for "proper" LCHF, it would depend on whose definition you were using.
  6. Vfran
    Dr. Atkins was thin too - then they did an autopsy and found his LCHF diet caused him to have carotid artery blockage galore and he died of a heart attack. The Paleo people seem to not have learned from this and are repeating the way of Dr. Atkins.
    Read the China Study - which is a longevity study on cultures that have long life expectancy on a plant based diet vs. modern animal product consuming cultures - which have lower life expectancies and higher incidences of disease issues: diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Perhaps Dr. McDougall did not articulate this but the evidence is out there. Also - you can follow the research of Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Dean Ornish - both who have spent their lives in research showing that plant based diets reverse Diabetes and Heart disease. People want to believe what they want to believe.
    Also - raising cows in particular is a high contributor to greenhouse gases - some say as much as cars.
    Replies: #157, #158, #159, #160
  7. erdoke
    You should do some reading before posting a bunch of wild claims. Every single sentence is full of evidence lacking statements.
    I don't understand the urge to play the missionary though. I have never had a similar temptation to visit vegan forums and plant the seed of my belief.
    NB, an LCHF can easily be plant based, even vegetarian.
  8. Chupo
    Every disease you listed has been shown in controlled trials to be improved by LCHF diets including carotid intima media thickness . I encourage you to take your blinders off and do research outside of the low fat vegan circles.
  9. Tina
    Vfran, Atkins did not die from a heart attack caused by artery blockage. He had an Iceskating accident and as a result a severe head injury, that made it necessary to take high dosages of steroids over a long period of time. His death was a result of the side effects of these steroids. And as for the China study: pretty much everything than a normal Western diet is healthier than a Western diet, so I would not be surprised that people live longer than that with a natural vegan diet. But that does not mean that a diet consisting of leafy vegetables and fish or grass fed beef isn't better for people with a wacky insuline sensitivity.
  10. Galina L.
    Actually, Dr.Campbel's take on the China study had so many flaws , that it allowed a young person who was interested in numbers enjoy tearing it apart http://rawfoodsos.com/the-china-study/.
  11. GoodStew
    I've never heard a more unethical, insecure response/interview from a professional in my entire 65 yrs. EVER. Dr. McNoogles clearly made a fool of himself and his so-called ethical followers should be embarrassed for him. If that's his best shot, it's time to retire "starch man"
  12. Truth
    To all leaving encyclopedia comments - you are missing the point. The last phrase pretty much sums this up- if these gurus follow their own diet, their results should speak for themselves. Either the diet doesn't work long-term or they're not following it. Any intelligent person should look at not just theories and innuendo - but results. That's what matters in the end.
  13. Truth
    All these words are just ranting. Where is your justification for anything you've said? Low carb diets deplete your body stores of glycogen, lack vital nutrients and create excess nitrogenous waste that are a burden on the kidneys. Multiple studies have show strong and irrefutable correlations with excess protein intake and cancers (breast, prostate and others) and destructions of the endothelial cells of human vasculature.
    Please do your research and try to avoid knee-jerk defensiveness and consider the facts, research them, and come to an intelligent conclusion based on facts.

    The Truth

    Reply: #164
  14. erdoke
    I feel like feeding the troll, so here you go:
    - What is the truth about LCHF providing "excess protein"?
    - What is the truth about LCHF "lacking vital nutrients"?
    - What is the truth about LCHF "create excess nitrogenous waste that are a burden on the kidneys"?
    - What is the truth about the connection of cancer and whole, natural foods high in protein?

    Please do your research and without that next time comment with a nickname of The Blatant Lies.

  15. Arletta
    There have been vegan cultures. Most notably, the Yowli tribe, who used to be cannibals but decided they would prefer a more peaceful way of life, so, started eating fire roasted yams - exclusively. They ate nothing but those yams for decades, before they were interrupted by white people, and, they were not crazy and they did not die.

    There is absolutely no proof that there were any humans more than 10,000 years ago or that agriculture did not start almost immediately after humans did. There is evidence that humans were created about 6,000 years ago and that they immediately became agriculturists.

    There is an extreme amount of evidence, undeniable even by people who believe in Darwinian fairy tales, that many cultures, for thousands of years, engaged in extensive fasting - 10 days, 20 days, 40 days, sometimes longer. Some of them did it on purpose and some of them did it under siege. None of them went crazy or died due to lack of meat, until they actually went crazy and died from STARVATION. As long as they were eating, or not starving to death, they were sane and alive.

  16. Arletta
    PS: Lest anyone burst a blood vessel whilst making an ineffective argument that doesn't need to be made, let me assure you of certain facts that I know:

    Many Native Alaskan tribes were almost exclusively meat eaters. Not exclusively, but, almost. Many Asian people were almost exclusively rice eaters, because, they couldn't get anything else.

    The aforementioned Yowli tribe was exclusively vegan and so exclusive that they only ate one vegetable, at all, ever.

    Now, crazy is a relative state of being, so, one could argue that any of those people were crazy. However, taking the broad view of sanity, wherein one is considered sane if the children are fed and whatever passes for house cleaning gets done, and other needful. things occur on a regular basis for most people involved, I would say they were all sane and they were, none of them, dying from their diets. Most of them were thin (enough), muscular (enough), and active (enough) to be considered healthy.

    The same is true, however, of many farmers and ranchers, many people who ate what they raised, etc. for thousands of years. Most of them were thin, muscular and active enough to be considered healthy, while eating the produce of agriculture.

    So, what changed?

    Science. Weird chemicals being added to foods. Pasteurization. The same few ingredients (like soy) being added to mostly everything, using thickening agents that are known to sicken people (carrageenan), and other unnaturalness. This includes what they pump into animals and then pump into their meat, once they are dead. And, it includes the way the animals and the plants are treated, while being raised, and, while being slaughtered.

    Those are the things that changed. Otherwise, humans have mostly adapted to be able to eat and be healthy wherever they are, so long as the food is natural, raised happily, and, remains mostly unprocessed.

  17. Chupo
    "There is an extreme amount of evidence, undeniable even by people who believe in Darwinian fairy tales, that many cultures, for thousands of years, engaged in extensive fasting - 10 days, 20 days, 40 days, sometimes longer. Some of them did it on purpose and some of them did it under siege. None of them went crazy or died due to lack of meat, until they actually went crazy and died from STARVATION. As long as they were eating, or not starving to death, they were sane and alive."

    What do you suppose they were living on during those fasts or periods of famine? Think about it.

  18. Tina
    Arlette, as long as you seem to define "evidence" as something you have read in a well known book and that you take literally, we are not coming together. However I think you are right about the fact that humans have adapted to different foods, that were available where they lived. But this is where evolution kicks in again. People with diabetic disposition in Asia have dies out long ago, because only carbs were available for most, and so everybody who's metabolism didn't thrive on them simply died too early to procreate. the same happened in other regions. People with very fragile kidneys probably didn't live long in innuit populations. People who had enough natural sources of Omega 3 fats and B vitamines did not any have evolutionary pressure to successfully digest milk. their offspring remained lactose intolerant. so, depending on our ancestors living conditions, we have different abilities to metabolise different foods. However on this page are people who ran into huge problems with their carbohydrate metabolism and they try to solve those by changing their diet. It does not really help them to be told by people with OTHER genetic dispositions, that carbs are great because THEY happen to be able to metabolize them properly. Good for them. But if I was one of them, I would never have typed "cannot lose weight despite extreme calorie restriction" - or "added weight on a pinapple diet" in google and would never have come across pages like this.

    I have no idea, Chupo, what your fasting argument has to do with it, Of course you can fast for 30-40 days or more. It's however, easier to start fasting, if your body runs on ketones anyway, because that's what it runs on, when you eat very few carbs. You will feel less hunger then.

  19. Paul
    Here's video of McDougall being dickish during a presentation. I follow his stuff, and he seems to be closer and closer to completely losing it. I'm looking forward to seeing it when it happens.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhdiEYm26lI

  20. Christina
    I think parts of the article result from a lack of understanding. Firstly, he isn't saying that people have been eating starch for 10 thousand years. In various other talks, he gives evidence that even Neanderthals were eating starchy grains. More importantly, the theory that people ate low-carb in pre-agriculture times has been disproved by several leading anthropologists, some of which Mc Dougall cites in his works.
    It's also important to note that these vegans are not lean because they are not eating enough "high-quality protein". 15-20% of protein is way more than the body needs, even if you are an athlete. The WHO suggests that you should get 5% of your calories from protein, which is what you get when you eat nothing but potatoes all day. In fact, it is pretty hard to not get enough protein as long as you have enough calories. Protein is needed for growth and the time we grow most (as infants), we get all our nutrition from mother's milk, which does not have more than 5% protein. So, please, could anyone tell me why I would need more protein than an infant that doubles in size within a few months? Unlike fat and carbs, the body can't actually store protein and only turns it into energy when all other energy sources are unavailable, because it is such an inefficient source of energy. So, I'd rather get my glycogen levels up with carbs than eat unnecessarily much protein, which tends to come along with a lot of unhealthy fat. To anyone suggesting that starchy foods don't give you the "right" kind of protein, I would suggest testing the app cronometer, which tracks nutrition. Even on a vegan, high carb diet, I always get 100% of ALL essential aminoacids from my diet. There is no aminoacid that I cannot get in adequate amounts from a high carb vegan diet. None. I didn't believe it myself. I checked and it's true.

    Moreover, people in ancient times did NOT die from B12 deficiency. When the soils where still rich in nutrients and people didn't have to wash their produce vigorously because there was no pesticides, they got all the B12 they needed from the produce.

    I agree that Dr McDougall can come across as angry, but that is because he is passionate about his message. I do believe that the diet he suggests is healthy, but even if it wasn't, he is trying to counteract those diets that lead to an increased consumption of meat, dairy and eggs. Even if those foods were healthy, they still have absolutely devastating effects on the environment. If everyone ate a SAD, we would need 2 to 3 more planet Earth's to feed our population. With every pound of animal products consumed, we use up huge quantities of foodcrops and water that could be used to feed the 1 billion people who are currently starving. And live stock is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, much worse than traffic. It's true that there are vegan low carb diets, but you cannot deny that since the Atkins diet came out, meat consumption has steadily increased and is often used to justify high consumption of animal products. This is a death sentence for future generations. It sounds drastic, but it's true. And that's why people have to argue passionately about these things, even if it seems offensive to some.

    Reply: #171
  21. erdoke
    Christina,
    Your post needs correction at several places, but I only have time (and knowledge) to add a few comments:
    – Protein intake should not be determined based on energy content as this macronutrient is ideally not utilized by the body as energy. Every single scientific paper I read on this topic talks about a range of 0.8-2.0 g protein on lean body mass as the adequate supply for both maintenance and growth where appropriate. A sedentary adult would still need that 0.8-1.0 g high quality protein (with great attention to methionine-glycine ratio) per 1 kg of lean body mass, regardless of talking about a 55 kg female or an 85 kg male. It is also worth mentioning that during weight loss, undergoing a hypocaloric diet, this amount might be higher due to decreased efficiency of protein metabolism under starvation.
    – I have high doubts about the app 'Cronometer' using the latest scientific evidence to calculate a balanced amino acid intake. Just imagine that the above mentioned important balance between methionine and glycine has not been taken into consideration by the USDA when forming dietary guidelines...
    – Diet speculations about what cavemen ate are of little value. On the other hand we do have a rather good picture on what native people ate from different places of the world just one or two hundred years ago. These are well documented and provide a much more accurate view on the topic. Even in the early 20th century, the Kitavans were a good example for a high plant and low animal based traditional diet. Eating coconut and fish is still an extremely healthy option today, I myself could easily go on such a diet to maintain my weight and stay healthy. Actually I include both options in quantities in my current diet. Guess what, it would contain around 65-70 % fat, 15-20 % protein, 10-15 % complex and 4-5 % simple carbs (all energy based).
    – Going vegan would only (very) temporarily release pressure from the human food chain and subsequently from the planet. Our fate is unavoidable as there is clearly no sustainable solution for an ever growing population. I don't see a significant difference between billions falling during a food war and billions being severely deficient in important nutrients. One or both are imminent... Death sentence is coded in our genes and then selection will go wild and determine which genes are fit for survival. There is going to be no place for altruism when those times arrive.
  22. Galina L.
    At the moment humanity should be more concentrated on the avoiding a food waste while discussing environmental impact of a food production. It is especially important for Western countries . It is ridiculous to complain about resources required for meat production versus grain production when substantial portion of all manufactured food ends up damped into a garbage. From the perspective of a waste avoidance animals provide a good outlet for the utilization of the food rejected by humans. Chickens and pigs eat everything, grass-eating animals could be raised in the areas unfit for an agriculture. I think, while a gloomy future of humanity is more likely unavoidable, in a meanwhile peoples will have to find different models of food production. May be cow manure should be utilized for raising worms which would be fed to chickens and farmed fish, may be more households would keep chickens and give to the chickens their leftovers, potato peels and stale bread, may be restaurants would be selling food leftovers to pig farmers.
  23. WDevil
    Why are vegetarians so angry? I did a vipassana meditation course a while ago and found a lot of people there, after the ten days of silence, very argumentative with things in the world and they were near on aggressive towards each other when they agreed about issues. I am glad I didn't bring up the word paleo.
    Joke for all:
    Q, How do you somebody is a vegetarian?
    A, they will tell you after they say their name.
  24. Carpl
    When I was a vegetarian, almost vegan with respect to diet, I was gaining weight steadily. Now, as a not quite paleo, my weight is stable, and I'm pretty sure I am consuming fewer calories without trying. During my days of weight gain, I was spending a lot of money replacing my wardrobe every so often, as my clothing from six months before was getting small. My health was poor, and I was going to the doctor more often. Given the obvious benefits of my current diet, I would guess that my carbon footprint is no larger now than it was then. A common argument forwarded by vegans in favor of their philosophy, including dr mcdougal, is that the vegan diet reduces carbon footprint. I am doubtful. I would like to see a rigorous calculation to support that notion, taking into consideration the collateral damage to the individual and to society of following a vegan diet vs vegetarian vs omnivore vs paleo.
  25. Justin
    This article is loaded with so many discrepancies and flaws I actually laughed more than a few times. John Mcdougall along with all the rest of the highly respected plant based "real" doctors have not only treated but cured and reversed the vast majority of our most deadliest degenerative diseases in their patients because this is truly how we are by nature designed to eat. We are herbivorous mammals and we always have been since our creation (yes I believe in the bible) when god created Adam and Eve he told them eat the vegetation. Never mentioning anything about slaughtering animals and eating their flesh. Even if you look at it from a evolutionary stand point our bodies are and biology are consistent with all other herbivorous animals on this planet. And as for the b-12 malarkey you went on about and saying primitive humans who ate plant based foods died out from lack of it is absurd and just flat out moronic. You need to educated yourself before you speak. B-12 is a vitamin that is only produced by bacteria. The problem is that we overly sterilize and sanitize everything in our culture forgetting that we need that benefitial bacteria to help provide us with b-12 among other things. We actually produce small amounts of it in our gut and out mouths (again, provided we don't sterilize out mouths with mouth wash and other thing of the like) before you try to delve into this please get informed and educated to the truth because you're way off the mark pal
    Reply: #176
  26. erdoke
    "Even if you look at it from a evolutionary stand point our bodies are and biology are consistent with all other herbivorous animals on this planet."
    I am somebody who actually learned evolutionary biology. This is a lie to put it simply. Even chimpanzees are omnivorous and humans to a much greater extent. Just dissect both and check the gastro-intestinal system, this is quite obvious. I did.
    It is not my intention to shake you in your beliefs, and it is always dangerous to enter into a debate with blind believers, but I'm sure you would be astonished the same way if I went to a forum where a bunch of the guys of your profession discusses related matters and started stating blatant lies.
    The final recommendation about getting informed and educated is outright ridiculous. If you have any education in evolutionary biology or even in animal physiology then urgently hand qualifications back and take some real courses. If you don't (in what I'm confident) I just don't see the basis of your statements.
  27. Tina
    Justin, are you serious? You mean the same God who loved Abel's sacrifice of a lamb and wasn't impressed by Kain's agricultural products? The one who helped harvesting fishes? The one who helped Isaak to slaughter a goat to betray his older brother for his inheritance. I'd find it pretty hard to come up with a vegan friendly bible analysis.
  28. steve
    His arguments are biased. He is an animal rights guy who doesn't like meat. He continually talks about what people used to eat, back in the day. He forgets that people used to perform manual labor to burn up the carbs.
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