In the spirit of fair play . . .

The cover article of the July 15 Time lived up to my expectations. Titled, “Should you be a vegetarian?” it was loaded with negative terms about vegetarianism and the majority of pro-vegetarian “experts” interviewed seemed to be quoted out of context or were easily-dismissed youth.

The use of derogatory terms about vegetarians throughout the article showed the stance the authors wanted to get across. Associating vegetarianism with “ecofeminism” and being “politically correct” is even worse than being labeled a liberal in most circles. Calling vegetarians “true believers” harkens back to the book of the same name, which considers members of any groups to be brainwashed from being individuals. Also, “dogma” was another pejorative used against those who abstain from meat.

In addition, let’s not discount the negative imagery put forward about vegetarians throughout the article: “[They] don’t live longer, they just look older.” People often guess I’m still in my 20s, even though I’m 37 years old. Perhaps if I ate meat I’d look like I was 15?

The young vegetarian can look forward to “irregular periods and a loss of hair.” And don’t forget the “yellow tinge to the skin.” As a 16-year vegetarian with a full head of hair and no noticeable yellow in my skin, I have to wonder when these effects will surface in me!

One paragraph starts with the sentence, “To impressionable young minds, vegetarianism can sound sensible.” Of course, this implies that to those who aren’t young and impressionable, vegetarianism cannot sound sensible.

Apparently to negate the fact that a vegetarian diet is nearly always more healthful, the authors decided to highlight hypothetical cases in the extreme. “There are meat eaters who eat more and better vegetables than vegetarians, and vegetarians who eat more artery-clogging fats than meat eaters.” Of course, no statistics are used to back up this outlandish statement.

In another case of reporting extremism, the authors cite a Queens couple bringing up a baby on a strict diet; deemed, “vegetarian theory gone madly wrong.” Yes, the food choices this couple has made for raising their infant do sound unhealthful – but what does that have to do with the rest of the 10 million vegetarians in the United States?

The argument about saving gray-tailed vole – “mowing an alfalfa field caused a 50 percent reduction” of the little varmints – would have been more compelling if vegetarians ate alfalfa hay (we don’t). Alfalfa sprouts that are eaten aren’t harvested by mowing. Along that theme, however, it wasn’t pointed out that most animals raised for meat are factory-farmed and fed grains, and are not out grazing in a pasture.

Therefore, if one really wants to save “Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse” out in the fields, reducing your meat intake is the best way. More of these animals are killed harvesting crops to feed livestock than feeding humans, since 70 percent of the grain grown in the United States goes to the former.

The article had many examples of misleading the public about the degree of difficulty of eating a healthy vegetarian diet. “With perfect knowledge, you can indeed eat like a king from the vegetable world.” The article goes on to imply that anything less than perfect knowledge, “can lead to deficiencies in iron, calcium and vitamin B12.” Of course, the fact that people who are not vegetarians often have vitamin and mineral deficiencies was mentioned only once, compared to the numerous citations on this subject in regards to vegetarians by the authors.

Later in the article this theme is echoed with the quote, “Being a vegetarian athlete is hard, really hard to do right.” Evidently “the spirit of fair play” hadn’t visited the authors at this point yet, for if it had, they easily could have found a study suggesting the exact opposite. D. C. Nieman of the Department of Nutrition, School of Health, at Loma Linda University summarized, “the balanced vegetarian diet provides the athlete with added reduction in coronary risk factors while meeting all known nutritional needs.”

And instead of giving a balanced summary of The International Congress of Vegetarian Nutrition, the authors give one paragraph to the entire Congress, and one paragraph to “one study [which] suggested that low-protein diets (associated with vegetarians) reduce calcium absorption and may have a negative impact on skeletal health.” One study (which contradicts the healthfulness of vegetarianism – if it is low-protein vegetarianism, that is) versus dozens of studies showing benefits of a vegetarian diet. Is this what Time considers “the spirit of fair play”?

Todd Tollefson is a contributor in Seattle. He can be reached at