Should Vegans Bump Bittman?

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New York Times reports:

All day long, he eats a vegan diet. But after about 6 p.m., anything goes.In his newest book, “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes,” Mark [Bittman] explains how increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and reducing dependence on processed foods will lead to better health not only for your body, but also for the planet. (source)

I think this is a great idea: encourage people to eat more fruits and veggies and less meat. It WILL be better for their health, the planet, and animals.

However, I’m a bit disconcerted by how many vegans and AR groups are promoting Bittman. (I even feel a little guilty when I give him the Soapbox Bump.*) Here’s my take:

  • Mark Bittman is NOT a vegan. Part-time vegans are better than no-time vegans, but they’re still nonvegans.
  • Mark Bittman doesn’t need our help promoting his articles, cookbooks, or theories. He is doing fine on his own.
  • Mark Bittman has not written a vegan cookbook. He’s written a vegetarian cookbook which includes dairy products and eggs. And he’s written a partially vegan cookbook that includes dead animals!
  • Mark Bittman doesn’t need our help promoting his articles, cookbooks, or theories. He is doing fine on his own.
  • Bittman’s reputation as a nonvegan probably suffers each time vegans hail him or his food. Thus vegans impede his efficacy at “moving the middle” (getting more meat-eaters to eat less meat).
  • Mark Bittman doesn’t need our help promoting his articles, cookbooks, or theories. He is doing fine on his own.

* The Soapbox Bump is the curious phenomenon whereby anyone who appears on the Vegan Soapbox gets a huge boost in popularity, causing them to win elections, receive massive increases in money, receive major awards, and even get laid. It’s similar to the Colbert Bump.

12 Responses to Should Vegans Bump Bittman?

  1. All day long he’s a vegan? All day? Wow! What a trooper.

    More like a fraud. If anything goes after 6 p.m., all that means is that he eats a normal omnivore dinner. It’s not hard for people to be vegan for breakfast and lunch. Fruit for breakfast, a salad for lunch. Most people eat their largest meal for dinner, and working people often scrimp on breakfast and lunch.

    I think a similar message that would offer more benefits to people and be better for the environment would be to eat vegan for 6 days, and one day a week, anything goes.

    With Bittman’s plan, a person could consume 7 chickens in a week, with my alternate plan, they would consume 1 chicken. And maybe only doing it once a week, their system would be used to eating lighter the other six days and they’d find it hard on their digestion. Whereas eating whatever you want for dinner every night doesn’t change a thing.

    Bittman’s plan is actually a non-plan. The only difference some people would have to make is putting soy milk in their lattes and choosing italian dressing instead of ranch on their salad.

  2. I feel like I’m always harder on Bittman than I should be… I mean, I’m always telling omnivores that, even if they don’t feel comfortable going veg, eating meat-free one day (or more!) a week is a great start. I absolutely agree that he has plenty of omnivores/welfarists on his bandwagon and doesn’t NEED vegan endorsement (heck, he’s got the NYT!).

    I’m probably just frustrated because I live in a very wealthy, well-educated area with very high “happy meat” saturation. “Humane” people here who are worried about animals can just trot down to Whole Foods or one of the numerous local health-food stores and buy locally-grown, “humanely-slaughtered” animal flesh (at a very handsome price) and feel their consciences washed clean. Bittman seems like just another “happy meat” pusher: yes, animals are sentient, they feel pain and loss and loneliness, they suffer – but as long as you follow these rules, you can feel A-OK about eating them!

  3. I have to admit I feel conflicted about people like Bittman who promote a vegan diet yet don’t follow it themselves. While I appreciate that he may be advancing veganism into the mainstream, I would rather devote my energy to promoting authors and animal advocates who are indeed vegan and who do need the publicity.

    ~ Recent blog post: Takin’ It to the Streets for Animals ~

  4. Living in Vegas, the first thing I thought when I heard about his “vegan till 6pm” campaign was, “what about the people who work the swing shift? They start their day around 5pm, so they’d be nonvegan the whole time!”
    :D

    Ultimately I think Bittman is probably a nice guy and he’s going to help reduce animal consumption. And he’s going to be the guy I refer nonvegans to who just don’t ‘get it.’

    But Bittman is far from ideal and I don’t want to spend a ton of time pushing his meat reduction campaign when I want meat elimination.

  5. Even though I am one of those people who went from omnivore to vegan overnight, I understand that some people need to transition to a vegan diet. I sometimes worry that many people who are in transition will lose sight of the vegan goal and get stuck in a vegetarian rut or slide back to eating meat again. Some people just don’t have very much will power.

    I don’t know that I have a good answer to this problem. I guess some plans work for some people and some plans don’t. I think that any plan that is endorsed by vegans or vegan organizations should have veganism as the ultimate goal. If Bittman doesn’t say that we should all be striving for veganism 24/7 then I say he isn’t worth “bumping.”

  6. As far as I’m concerned Bittman is a first class jerk. I’ve never forgiven the guy for his cooking show where he did blackened tofu in bacon grease and made the smarmy statement “don’t tell the vegetarians about the bacon”.

    If he is really serious about this insulting “vegan plus” idea of his then why is he pushing this idea at the same time he’s pimping a cookbook full of meatie breakfast recipes?

    Besides, vegan is NOT just about dietary choices! It’s about eliminating the use of all animals products and not just don’t eat murdered animals.

  7. I just watched Bittman on Steve Colbert… Perhaps he persuaded 10% of the listening audience to decrease their animal consumption by 10%… (maybe).

    No, he’s not about the vegan philosophy at all… just the vegan “diet”. I don’t “bump” Bittman he’s what’s left after every other rational argument is exhausted…

    ~ Recent blog post: A Pig’s Life Matters to that Pig – Meat is Murder – Go Vegan ~

  8. I just saw Bittman on the Colbert Report too, I wasn’t expecting it and didn’t recognize the guy, they start talking about nutrition and my ears perk up, then Colbert says ‘so you’re a VEGAN?’ and that’s just great to hear, Colbert makes typical bad jokes and talks of his enjoyment of eating animals, but he makes fun of everything good and ‘promotes’ everything bad on that show ;] regardless of the specific dietary plan that Bittman laid out, he did get the environmental and some of the health benefits out there in a good way.

    ~ Recent blog post: Job Growth in Nutritional Advisors ~

  9. PS – Erik Marcus votes “yes, vegans should bump Bittman”
    http://www.vegan.com/blog/2009/03/22/vegan-reflections-on-mark-bittman/

    I hear Bittman’s writing come up a lot in vegan circles, and he’s often looked at with distrust and resentment. But I think most of his critics have no appreciation of just how good of a writer he is, in terms of being consistently interesting and well-informed. I also really appreciate his ability to bring a nuanced perspective to even his shorter articles.

    But Bittman’s greatest talent is his ability to speak persuasively to exactly the sort of people he references in the excerpted passage above: people who get more calories from soda than from veggies. Bittman has a knack for identifying ways these folks can make huge changes, and he presents his ideas in terms that seem sensible and easy.

    I have deep and probably irreconcilable differences with Bittman over animal slaughter and meat eating, but I’ll readily acknowledge that he’s getting millions of Americans to take their first steps away from a meat and sweets heavy diet.

    I basically agree with Marcus that Bittman is effective in getting people with terrible diets to get healthier and eat fewer animals.

    However, I still think that:
    1. Mark Bittman doesn’t need our help. He is doing fine on his own.
    2. Vegans probably impede Bittman’s efficacy at “moving the middle” (the middle = the average American who consumes more soda than vegetables). This is because Bittman is perceived as much more mainstream than vegans. If we claim Bittman as some sort of hero that not only dilutes our vegan message, it makes him appear more “extremist” than he really is.
    3. Bittman is not vegan. Not even close.

  10. He has no business trying to hijack the term “vegan”. He is not a “vegan plus”, or even a “vegan minus”. It’s like founding a group called “celibacy plus sex” to promote sex.

  11. You definitely don’t need to bump bittman, but Bittman bumps Vegans:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/sports/13runner.html?pagewanted=all

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