I used to subscribe to VegNews (subtitle "VegetarianNEWSPOLITICSFOODTRAVELBUZZ"). I stopped my subscription about a year ago because (a) it's not really a vegetarian magazine, it's a vegan magazine, and if you're "just" vegetarian (or if, god forbid, you eat fish), you get insulted at least once per issue; (b) they promote conspicuous consumption, running an annual "Vegan Weddings!" issue and always doing tons of product features and advertising; and (c) I got tired of how they are always promoting the cult of celebrity, doing all these features like "Hottest Vegetarian!" or "Most Fascinating Vegetarian" and it's always some actor or singer like Pamela Anderson or Moby. They also always have this nauseating two-page spread with photos of the VegNews publisher and staff hobnobbing with various (vegetarian) high society types at glitzy gala events.
But anyway, I do occasionally still buy a copy off the newsstand because I like some of their recipes and their features on vegetarian restaurants in various cities. Well, no more. The August issue was so offensive in so many ways that I have decided to permanently cut VegNews out of my reading diet. Here are ten choice items:
1. In the Publisher's Note at the beginning, Joseph Connelly takes aim at the Slow Food movement for not promoting vegetarianism and not "setting a place at the table" for a prominent vegetarian. It's not made clear that Slow Food actually excluded any vegetarians who wanted to get involved -- Connelly is calling on them to make an explicit invitation. OK, but there might be a nicer way to do this than to publish a piece entitled "The
2. On p. 24, a blurb called "Go Veg, Al Gore!" This piece congratulates PETA for hassling Al Gore about not discussing the contribution of animal farming to global warming in his movie, and for not being vegetarian himself. The reader is referred to an earlier issue of VegNews where they already hassled him about it in a nasty Publisher's Note by Joseph Connelly, that one entitled "You Know It's Hot Out Here for a Wimp" (the 'wimp' being Al Gore). I guess if you make a documentary, your lifestyle has to be acceptable to everyone who might possibly watch it. PETA seems to think so, anyway, since they also openly hassled Michael Moore for being fat when Sicko came out.
3. Another blurb on the next page called "Trimming the Trans Fat" comments on New York City's law that will phase out trans fats in restaurants, with an end goal of eliminating all artificial trans fats by July 2008. OK, so far so good, except that the blurb actually puts a negative spin on it! The blurb ends with a quote from someone named Freedom Tripodi, who owns a vegan fast food restaurant in Brooklyn and is "concerned about paying more for non-hydrogenated margarines and passing the costs on to customers." Tripodi says, "If that happens, it will reinforce the argument that being vegan is more expensive, which is something that we have worked very hard to debunk." Cry me a river!
4. On page 31, a collection of quotes (clearly intended as things You Should Agree With) from a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on Dr. Neal Barnard's "Vegan Plan for Diabetes". The most irritating: "Barnard, who has long advocated a diet free of dairy products, eggs, fish and meat of any kind, said the obesity epidemic in this country is fueling a secondary epidemic of type 2 diabetes..." So this guy buys into the "obesity causes diabetes" theory so fully that he states it as a fact, and we're supposed to believe anything else he says? I don't know, I bet you can be a diabetic vegan if you try real hard...
5. Pages 32-33, "VegScene," that thing I already mentioned with all the celebrity photos. This month features gems with captions like "Actresses Amy Smart and Wendie Malick smile for the flash-bulb frenzy" and "Alexandra Paul and husband Ian Murray nuzzle together for the camera."
6. Page 42, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, is one of the "25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians" and gets high praise for recently switching from vegetarian to vegan, and because Whole Foods has implemented a "humane production system" for food animals. Wait, what? Al Gore gets berated for not being vegetarian and not pointing out why animal farming sucks, but then Mackey is a great guy because he went vegan, even though he and his company make a shitload of profits off of killing animals and selling their dead bodies for food? Just because they do it "humanely"? I don't know, this seems like kind of a double standard...
7. A vapid piece called "Veg on Every Budget" that features caricatures of vegetarian women from three different economic classes and suggests what fun vegetarian stuff they should spend their extra money on. The "High-Rolling Herbivore" has $30K of disposable income per year and spends it on, among (many) other things, "truffle-infused olive oil, Prius with hemp interior, solar-paneled summer house in the Hamptons"... and don't forget "one smokin' pair of Raffia Stiletto sandals". Wow, she sounds like a great person.
8. The very most egregious thing in this issue: an article by cartoonist Dan Piraro, who has discovered that dairy is the root of all evil. Apparently dairy is the reason why people are fat and why they have heart disease, so we should all go vegan. Here's a sample of the nice things he says: "...we all know obese vegetarians whose hearts think they are trying to pull a locomotive out of a swamp every time they attempt to get out of a chair." Charming. Later on he lists some "facts". "Fact: The calcium you get from milk comes with artery-clogging saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, and pus." (Really? Even if it's nonfat organic milk from cows not treated with growth hormones?) But here's the best fact -- "Fact: Anyone following your sizeable posterior down the street knows you're addicted to dairy." Hey Dan, here's another fact: Anyone taking the time to read your insipid article knows you're just a dumbass cartoonist with some kind of stick up your ass, pretending to be an expert on something you know nothing about.
9. "No Kidding," by Kristine Genovese, about her struggle to adopt a child. Apparently once the social workers found out she was vegetarian, this started coming up every time she talked to them about an adoption, and now they keep trying to hook her up with kids who love salad. Mind you, Genovese acknowledges that her vegetarianism has not actually held up the adoption process, but she still complains about it coming up at all. And in the process, she finds it necessary to spew out prejudice against fat people, who must all feed their kids "fried foods and sugary desserts". Genovese doubts that "overweight or obese" people would have as much trouble adopting as she did -- apparently she has missed the numerous recent cases of fat people being prohibited by the courts from adopting. She's mad because some of the other people trying to adopt were fat, and yet she doesn't think they got hassled at all because "...questioning the eating habits of an overweight person would be considered, at the very least, politically incorrect and at worst, downright cruel." Ha! Hahahahahahaha!
10. A regular feature on the last page called "What's In Your Fridge?" with a picture of a self-satisfied reader and his/her open refrigerator filled with vegan food. This month's fridge owner, Carol Banning of Los Angeles, has a lot of processed, packaged food. But hey, it's vegan! Admittedly, Carol's fridge isn't nearly as bad as the one in the last issue I saw, where this guy had a fridge that was completely full of junk food and not a single fresh fruit or vegetable in sight. But still, I'm sure we can do better than Boca Burgers, Gardenburgers, Sunshine Burgers, Silk, etc. And these companies are all getting free advertising out of it! (In case you didn't know, Boca Burger is owned by Philip Morris.)