Tag Archives: ex vegans

Veganism and multi-level marketing

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It’s the new and improved veganism taking social media by storm. It’s no longer just about animals, or about health, it’s about riches beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is join the right team and watch the money start flowing like Niagara Falls into your bank account. And it only takes a tiny sign-up fee to get started! Or at least that’s what the “vegan” wealth gurus of social media want you to believe.

So a blog post about veganism and multi-level marketing(MLM) aka network marketing? What’s going on here? The two seem worlds apart but if you’re a vegan and you’ve been on social media lately you’ve likely encountered someone claiming to be a vegan pushing some product or an “amazing” MLM “business opportunity” that they can’t stop talking about. This used to be a rare occurrence for me, but much to my annoyance I have been experiencing a lot more of it over the past year; this is what inspired me to write this post. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MLM, it’s a business strategy that’s all about endlessly bothering everyone you know to either join the scheme or buy from you so they can bother everyone they know to join the scheme, ad infinitum.

It’s for good reason that MLMs are often considered pyramid schemes with better lawyers. Research shows that almost no one except those at the top of the pyramid make any money. These schemes often target the most desperate and vulnerable people with promises of riches, with representatives encouraged by up-lines to use a “fake it till you make it” approach, complete with fancy cars and lavish vacations to lure people in. Many people are so badly burned by these scams that they end up filing for bankruptcy. Besides this, they may end up feeling like failures because they believe they either didn’t do it right or they realize they’ve fallen for a scam and are too embarrassed to admit it. As if this wasn’t bad enough, MLM reps often become increasingly alienated from friends and family when they can no longer tolerate the non-stop scam promotion.

It’s disturbing witnessing people who claim to be vegan engaging in this sort of unethical, predatory behavior. This can damage our movement in myriad ways. Besides inflicting financial harm on individual vegans, it also hurts the credibility of the movement and has the potential to drive people out of it. And the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement is not just an online phenomenon, since MLM companies will often set up shop at vegan fests around the world. Our movement in general and our fests in particular need better quality control, lest the word “vegan” become utterly meaningless or a synonym for pseudo-science and chicanery(rampant pseudo-science in the vegan movement is something I’ve addressed before).

Vegans involved in animal activism and education know how difficult it can be to raise money to fund our efforts. Credibility is everything when it comes to activism and charity. People want to know where their money is going and how much of an impact it is making. It should go without saying that for activist groups to look like they have any kind of connection with a scam is a huge credibility killer(many MLMs will donate to charities to improve their reputation). Fortunately, this isn’t a big problem for most activist groups, at least not yet, but those of us concerned about the credibility of the vegan movement should be extra vigilant when it comes to MLMs trying to infiltrate it.

MLMs and other charlatans through their actions dilute the meaning of veganism, sometimes to the point that it’s only about healthy living, or for MLM-bots, healthy living + financial independence. Animal rights are pushed aside, or if they are considered at all, the “cruelty-free” label is similarly diluted. Some MLM cosmetics companies will even falsely claim their products are “cruelty-free” when they’re not: Presenters – You Need To Stop Telling Customers That Younique is Cruelty-Free, Now.

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False health claims promising perfect health or increased energy are the typical siren songs of many MLM-bots, both vegan and non-vegan. Many vegans, fed up with mainstream medicine, are drawn to the MLM-bots and their “natural” cures. If they are struggling with their new vegan lifestyle, they may seek help from an MLM-bot out of desperation, instead of going to a qualified health professional. “Failure to thrive” is a lot more common among vegans than many vegan advocates care to admit, and is probably the main reason there are many ex-vegans out there. I believe a lot of this “failure to thrive” related attrition is due to the bad advice I see floating around on social media like thick smog around a large industrial city, which MLM-bots are big contributors to. Fortunately, critical thinking can help blow away some of this dense smog of misinformation.

This very toxic nexus of quackery, greed, and deception is radioactive to social networks. The damage it could do to the vegan community is incalculable. Just imagine you’re a non-vegan and you see this kind of thing. Especially if the non-vegan knows anything about science. Vegans are often scorned enough as it is by mainstream society, but add MLM to the mix and it looks positively nauseating. And I’ve barely touched upon the cult-like nature of many MLMs and the extremely tacky “look at all the money I’m making” videos and social media posts MLM-bots often make.

It’s time we do something about this infiltration before it thoroughly poisons our movement. Don’t buy MLM products, report MLM-bots on social media, alert charities if it looks like they are associated with an MLM or other scam, and get involved with the scam-buster and growing anti-MLM movement. Besides this, complain to vegan fest organizers if you notice MLM company representatives hawking their products at the event. Remember, for many attendees this may be their first time being exposed to veganism on a large scale. If they have a negative opinion of MLM as most people do, this may make them less likely to want to go vegan.

Just because someone says they are “vegan” and uses the #vegan hash-tag doesn’t mean they really are vegan or they are doing it for the right reasons. Fake friends are worse than obvious enemies. Don’t be misled into thinking that if so-called vegans are involved with an MLM company, it must be one of the “good” MLMs. We need to declare loud and clear that get-rich-quick schemes and supplement scams have no place in our community. As our movement continues to grow we need better quality control to ensure we’re all on the same page about what veganism really stands for. The credibility and potential of our movement is at stake and by extension the lives of millions of animals. Standing for ethics and good science shouldn’t be the exception, but should be the very foundation of our movement.

Have you had a negative experience with an MLM or a vegan MLM-bot in particular, or are you just concerned about the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Related articles:

Why I Hate Multi-Level Marketing

MLM and Social Media

Younique’s Animal Testing Statement; Not 100% Cruelty-Free

The Biggest Scam in the Fitness Industry

MLM and Appeal to Consequences Fallacy: If MLM is illegal, then why hasn’t it been shut down?

Vemma Agrees to Ban on Pyramid Scheme Practices to Settle FTC Charges

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5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

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The long-awaited sequel is here! The post I did back in November of last year titled “10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan” was so popular(a big thanks to everyone who shared it), I decided to do a followup. Many things were left out because I didn’t want the post to be too long, so I prioritized the most common things that I believe are problematic. Here are 5 more things you don’t need to be a healthy vegan:

1) Eat alkaline

This form of pseudoscience has a following both within the vegan/plant-based community and misguided health nuts among omnivores. It overlaps to a large extent with rawfoodism, though isn’t necessarily the same thing. The idea behind this diet is that most people eat diets that are too “acid-forming”, and that an acidic environment inside the body can lead to serious diseases, including cancer.

By eating an alkaline diet, you are helping to prevent this unhealthy acidic environment in your body and the diseases it causes. Some advocates go even further and claim it can be used to treat serious diseases. Basically, eating alkaline means consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables(since they are generally alkaline), which is excellent advice, though alkaline gurus recommend it for the wrong reasons. There is virtually no scientific basis to this type of diet. You can’t do much to alter your PH through diet, and your body works hard to make sure your PH stays within a very limited range to keep you healthy.

Some medical conditions can lead to a significant shift in PH, which can be dangerous; the medical conditions associated with a PH imbalance require urgent medical care. Assuming you have this type of problem, you cannot fix it through diet. There is no good reason whatsoever to embrace this fad diet and its idiotic restrictions.

2) Give up all grain including bread

One of the hallmarks of disordered eating is avoiding perfectly healthy food for irrational, pseudoscientific reasons. It’s disturbing witnessing all the over the top fear-mongering on social media concerning soy foods, olive oil, cooked food, and even staples like grain and bread. Grain-free is yet another ridiculous, unnecessary restriction that greatly increases your chances of failing at veganism. It’s no coincidence that the zealots pushing this “grain is poison” madness are very often rawfoodists, though they have allies among the paleo, high meat/protein crowd.

At its most basic, the idea behind this type of dietary restriction is that grains will ruin your health because we supposedly didn’t evolve to eat them. Grains cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and Adam Sandler movies. As always with pseudoscience based restrictions, there is virtually no evidence for these claims, except that in a generic sense there is a grain of truth to it. Eating too much of anything can lead to health problems, not just grain. Yes, grain isn’t perfect, it contains “toxins” like phytates, but there is no such thing as a “perfect” food or a “perfect” diet. If you had to abstain from something because it contains small quantities of “toxins” and therefore falls short of perfection, you’d have to give up everything and end up starving to death.

Now while a minority of the population are better off restricting carbs or eating high-protein, this approach doesn’t appear to benefit most people. This fad is best ignored. Grain won’t harm you when consumed in reasonable amounts; whole grains are one of the cornerstones of a healthy vegan diet.

3) Focus on super foods

The most important thing you should realize about “super foods” is that this is purely a marketing term, not a special class of food recognized and recommended by reputable health professionals. That said, there’s nothing wrong with eating them, just don’t get carried away with thinking there is something magical about them.

What you really should be focusing on is eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The wider the variety, the better. The criteria for deciding what is a “super food” is usually pretty arbitrary and changes with time and what is fashionable at the moment. Since antioxidants are all the rage right now, “super foods” very often have a high antioxidant content. All too often, the evidence showing some unique medicinal effect for a certain “super food” is weak or preliminary, but that doesn’t stop health guru authors, supplement pushers, and retailers from hyping them. Again, “super foods” can be part of a healthy diet, but there’s no good reason to consume them in supplement form.

Ignore the hype and just eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day – darker, more colorful ones are generally more nutritious.

4) Go macrobiotic

The popularity of the macrobatic diet waxes and wanes. Right now, this Japanese type diet doesn’t seem all that popular, but all it would take to make it popular again is a major celebrity endorsement. Macrobiotics isn’t a vegan or vegetarian diet(it usually includes fish) but it comes close, so it is easy enough to make it vegan.

For the most part, a macrobiotic diet is pretty healthy(though it can be salty), at least when you compare it to the way most Americans eat. It emphasizes fruits and vegetables, legumes(especially soy), and whole grains. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that macrobiotics is an overly restrictive diet based on pseudoscience. Although it gets a lot of things right, it does so for the wrong reasons. An important feature of macrobiotics are these arcane, complicated food combining rules, the purpose of which is to properly balance the “yin and yang” elements of food to help you achieve optimum health. For example, perfectly healthful members of the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are excluded from this diet because they are considered too “yin”. It really should go without saying that there is no scientific basis to “yin” or “yang”; you could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods if you follow these nonsensical rules.

There really is nothing macrobiotics can add to an already healthy plant-based diet except unnecessary restrictions, so there’s no good reason to embrace macrobiotics.

5) Go paleo

Finally, the diet that combines the best of both worlds, with incredible health benefits reflecting this best of both worlds approach. However, does it live up to the hype?

The paleo diet, which mimics the way our caveman ancestors ate is thought by proponents to be the ideal human diet since we evolved to eat this way. Or at least that is what paleos want you to believe. In essence, the paleo diet is really just the latest iteration of high protein dieting; it’s more or less a successor to the Atkins diet.

The central idea to paleo is that if you want to be optimally healthy, eat like a caveman. That’s because cavemen ate the way nature intended us to eat, we “evolved” to eat a paleo diet. Since cavemen didn’t eat processed foods, the paleo diet excludes processed foods like refined sugars, oils, etc. This is generally a good idea, though some people get a little too carried away with this. Paleos also typically eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and don’t consume dairy, so it should be easy for vegans to go paleo, right? Only if you ignore the fact that paleos typically eat a lot of meat and generally forgo grain and legumes, and that the diet is followed purely for health reasons.

To me, there’s always been something very oxymoronic about this “paleo-vegan” phenomenon. After all, a great way to describe the paleo diet is “wholefoodism for meat-lovers”. People who think paleo and vegan are compatible or combine well are usually clueless hipsters obsessed with all things trendy. I struggle to think of two things more antithetical than veganism and paleoism.

A lot of half-truths, distortions and pseudoscience underpin the paleo philosophy, but I’m mainly concerned here with how paleo-veganism is often promoted as an improved version of veganism by paleo-vegan adherents. In a lot of ways, it’s certainly healthier than the way most Americans eat, but does it offer anything to vegans?

As far as I can tell, it doesn’t offer anything to vegans except unnecessary restrictions which puts them on a slippery slope to disordered eating. Like I said before, a small percentage of the population may benefit from minimizing grain and carbs, and eating more high protein foods, but one need not go paleo to accomplish this. If you eat a whole food vegan diet, embracing paleo is largely redundant, since you’re already excluding dairy, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Science doesn’t suggest that paleo-vegans are healthier than regular vegans, or that this is the best diet.

In my opinion, just ignore this fad or anyone who fancies themselves as a reborn caveman. We already knew that eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods was good for us, and that dairy isn’t necessary, well before paleo came along.

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These are just 5 more things that may screw up your vegan diet, on top of the 10 from the previous post. I could have easily added several more to this list, but it starts getting repetitive. I write these lists because I am troubled by all the bad health advice that encourages disordered eating being spread on the blogosphere and social media. I run into ex-vegans all the time and I usually find they embraced a type of extreme diet based on lots of terrible advice and/or unnecessary restrictions like those on this list. Vegans shouldn’t be made to feel guilty by fellow vegans for not following some “perfect” version of a vegan diet, when there is no good reason to follow this “perfect” diet. I want veganism to be as practical and evidence-based as possible, not difficult and esoteric.

Pseudoscience and misinformation does nothing to help vegans improve their health, or for that matter, in case you’ve forgotten, live an ethical lifestyle that does not exploit animals, which is all that veganism is supposed to be about.

Related articles:

Is the “alkaline diet” legit? Does meat cause cancer because it’s acidic?

There’s no such thing as a superfood. It’s nonsense.

 More Trouble for Antioxidants

Stop Confusing Veganism with Clean Eating (and Pass Me That Vegan Donut…)