Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The poison keyboard

This month's Utne Reader included their list of nominations for the Utne Independent Press Awards, and guess who's on it: your favorite and mine, VegNews! And what's more, they were nominated not for design (which I think they have been in the past) but for "Health/Wellness Coverage"!

This was really too much for me. So I decided to take bold, swift action and... write a letter to the editor. Here's what I said:

I'm puzzled as to why VegNews was nominated for an Utne Independent Press Award for Health/Wellness Coverage. As a health-conscious vegetarian, I recently stopped my subscription to VegNews because they promote veganism for reasons of animal rights, not human health. Any time the two come into conflict, they side with the animals. For example, a recent issue bemoaned the impending ban on trans fats in New York City restaurants because it will raise costs for vegan fast food restaurants. They also regularly promote packaged, processed food products as alternatives to animal products, and they recently attacked the Slow Food Movement (referring to it as the "Developmentally Disabled Movement") because it doesn't have any prominent vegetarians on its board.

I could understand VegNews being nominated for Political Coverage, or for Best Design, but Health/Wellness? Not unless you mean the health and wellness of animals rather than (and sometimes at the expense of) humans.

Think they'll run it? I'm not holding my breath. My last letter to the editor (of VegNews) didn't get published and I'll bet they never even read it. Here's what that one said:

In your August issue, Dan Piraro the nutrition expert/cartoonist claims to have discovered "the reason" people are fat: Dairy! Oh, so that half cup of nonfat organic milk in my morning coffee is the reason for my "sizeable posterior"? And if I just went vegan then I'd get skinny and have a healthier heart? OK, I'll just start eating only VegNews recipes and watch the pounds melt away – after all, the amount of coconut milk in your Thai-Style Coconut Soup recipe on page 65 only has 177 grams of saturated fat! And while I'm at it, I'll head over to Food Swings in Brooklyn (page 25) and get some vegan fast food loaded with heart-healthy trans fats.

I've considered going vegan in the past but have hesitated because of concerns about margarine and soy. If you want to convince vegetarians to go vegan for health, then get a real nutritionist to make the case that a vegan diet is healthy, rather than just reinforcing our society's hatred towards fat people and pretending it's all about health. Smug articles like Piraro's that hurl insults and make unfounded judgments about people's health based on their size will only push people away.

I thought maybe the sarcasm kept my letter out of the magazine, so I decided to tone it down for Utne. But in fact, VegNews only prints letters that tell them how great they are, so I suspect that they wouldn't have run it either way. In any case, whether Utne prints my letter or not, I'll look forward to seeing the next issue where they announce that somebody other than VegNews won the award for Health/Wellness Coverage (the winner was, in fact, POZ).

And now I think I am done being bitter about VegNews.


Anonymous said...

Just read this, even though its been a few month. Must say I agree with you and everything, and more. I have two issues of VegNews but the lack of articles that are vegetarian (as opposed to vegan) positive, and the obvious attacks on anything/one not vegan, makes me think I won't buy anymore.

In their most recent issue they even have an article called WWJD (What would Jesus Do, yes ,they even use Jesus to promote veganism!) in which they tell a reader to actually used Easter as a time to try and convert their inlaws to veganism. How will they do t his? By bringing vegan food to the banquet and not telling anybody what is in it! So if somebody has a soy allergy you don't know about better have the phone ready to call 911! They even outright tell the reater that his/her meat eating family is full of 'meatheads' and they that will be enlightened by the help.

I don't know whats worse, calling Jesus a vegetarian when he clearly ate fish, or that he's being used to try and convert omnivores to veganism during a holiday when Christians celebrate his death with eggs, the symbol of his reincarnation (I know there's pagan meanings for Eaater too, but you get the idea.)

Hope you don't mind me sharing this rant with you!

Mary said...

Thanks for posting about this -- I missed it since I avoid that stupid magazine like the plague nowadays. That is so lame about "WWJD". They are really reaching!

Great point about Jesus eating fish, by the way. I guess they didn't think of that...