Why Vegans and Paleos Should Stop Hating Each Other

Last week after I wrote a post called 10 Foods Worth Eating Every Single Day, something interesting dawned on me:

Most of the foods that I eat — and those in a typical healthy vegan diet (as opposed to the junk-food variety) — are Paleo.

Sure, the seeds are iffy. And I probably eat beans three or four times a week, and even wheat once in a while, which Paleos wouldn’t do.

But beyond that, the foods on my list, by and large, could have been eaten by a caveman.

Guess what? The converse is true, too. Most (yes, most) of a Paleo dieter’s foods are vegan. They’re whole foods, including a ton of vegetables and nuts, a fair amount of fruits, and no dairy.

Though we focus on the differences in our diets, and fight like pissed-off hornets as a result, the healthy versions of both Paleo and vegan diets look an awful lot alike.

Here are just a few of the things we agree on:

  • Vegetables are good, and organic vegetables are better.
  • Nuts are good.
  • Fruits are good (with some qualifications).
  • Fast food is awful.
  • It isn’t natural or healthy for adult humans to drink milk meant for baby cows.
  • Whole food is crucial; we should eat food as close to its natural state as possible.
  • Processed food is evil, and there’s something very wrong with the system that is foisting it upon us.

Do you realize what a small minority these shared beliefs put us in?

Each day, 1 in 4 Americans eats fast food. Forty-four percent eat it once per week!

Only about a quarter of Americans never eat fast food, so we’ve got a lot in common already, without even considering our common avoidance of dairy. I can’t find a figure for how exclusive a group it is that doesn’t consume dairy, but and as NY Times columnist and Vegan Before 6 advocate Mark Bittman puts it, “Drinking milk is as American as Mom and apple pie.”

And we still haven’t even cordoned ourselves off from the masses who buy mostly processed, packaged foods to eat at home — the vast majority of whoever remains after we eliminate fast food and dairy, I’m sure.

Essentially, those of us who avoid fast food, pass on milk, and choose whole foods are the weirdos, in a world of processed food and rapidly expanding waistlines.

Even when it comes to meat — the “staple” of the Paleo diet (more on this in a second) — I think most Paleos would agree that what our factory farm system produces, whether due to the way the animals are confined or what they’re fed or what’s injected into them, is not healthy.

And the healthiest vegan athletes, by my judgement anyway, advocate limiting grains or avoiding them entirely. Very often they rely on pseudograins like quinoa (technically seeds) instead, which don’t jive with Paleo, but I think most Paleos would agree that seeds trump wheat and grains any day.

Basically: we’re far more alike than we are different.

So why do we hate each other?

I get that the ethical issues muddy things up a bit. Vegans hate that Paleos so proudly eat meat; Paleos hate that vegans try to tell them something that humans have done throughout our history is suddenly wrong.

But for now, let’s put that aside, and acknowledge that if all meat-eaters ate meat raised the way the Paleo diet specifies it should be, our food system would be a heck of a lot more humane (and healthy) than it currently is.

Speaking of meat, I asked my online-buddy Joel Runyon, what he thought about the vegan/Paleo feud, he had this to say:

The biggest misconception about the paleo diet is that it’s all about eating meat. Not true! Paleo is about eating whole, real food that hasn’t been processed a thousand times & packed with tons of sugar.

And as he explains on his new site, Ultimate Paleo Guide,

… that means no twinkies, oreos or your favorite breakfast cereal. Sorry, but we’re not sorry … if it’s got a bunch of chemicals that you can’t pronounce in it, it’s probably not paleo – sorry!

Gee, sounds a lot like how I eat.

We can argue forever over which diet is better. Guess what? Nobody is going to convince anyone to switch sides; the argument just entrenches each camp even more.

Who is to say what “better” even means? Do we look at pro athletes and see what they’re eating? Okay, in which sports — endurance, or speed and strength sports? Or should we instead choose not to look at the healthiest, most genetically gifted individuals on the planet, and instead focus on the masses of people who just want to stay reasonably fit and live to see their grandkids graduate high school?

Do we theorize about how humans are meant to eat, or should we look at empirical studies of how humans on these diets have actually fared? (Of which, unfortunately, there are few that isolate the variables we want and span a significant length of time.)

There’s no right answer. Sorry. But in the face of the obesity epidemic our processed-food society faces, it doesn’t matter.

That’s right — when you set ethics aside and talk about health, my view is that is that the distinction between Paleo and vegan is completely insignificant.

As time goes on and more research is done, it’ll be nice to have a clearer picture of which of these two diets leads to long-term disease prevention and health. That I wholeheartedly concede.

But most people — indeed, the 35 percent of Americans who are obese — don’t need to worry about which is better right now. They need to worry about not being obese, soon, so that the “long-term” even matters for them.

And for those people, people who are overwhelmed with the conflicting information out there and don’t know where to even begin, our blog posts and articles that trash one diet in favor of the other don’t help. Instead, they confuse, to the point of inaction.

Vegan ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll had an interesting discussion about this same topic last week on his podcast, where he talked to Andy Bellatti, MS, RD about the pointlessness of the Paleo/vegan feud. Before they even got to it, Rich mentioned a friend of his who wanted to get in shape.

Like any friend of one of Men’s Fitness magazine’s 25 Fittest Guys in the World would do, this friend called Rich. He wanted to pick Rich’s brain about exercise. Aerobic, or anaerobic?, along with other specific questions.

Rich’s answer? Get yourself outside and go for a walk. That’s how you get started. That’s as much as you need to worry about right now.

And that’s really the point I want to make with this post. Ignoring ethical arguments, which don’t have a place in a discussion that’s purely about health, the message that people who don’t know how to eat healthily need to hear is as simple as the dietary equivalent of a walk in the sunshine.

It’s a recommendation that Paleos and vegans alike will agree on: Eat whole foods.

What we could do instead of fighting

We want so many of the same things.

We want people to be healthy. We want farming to be separate from the word “factory.” We want our food system to provide us with real food, and to treat people, animals, and the earth with respect.

So instead of fighting, let’s do some things together.

The posts on No Meat Athlete about plant-based Paleo diets are a start. Dena Harris went further with it by creating PaleoVegetarians.com.

But these aren’t even what I’m referring to — these simply make Paleo fit into a vegetarian/vegan-shaped mold. They’re as Paleo as possible while still being strictly vegan or vegetarian.

Why not throw away the mold entirely? I think Vegan Before 6 is great. Why isn’t there a podcast with vegan and Paleo co-hosts, who get along and have intelligent discussions and promote eating whole foods above all else? How about a blogger who eats vegan during the week and Paleo on the weekends? How about vegan at home, Paleo at restaurants?

(If any these things exist, which they might, I’d love to hear about them. I’d probably be a fan.)

I’m not suggesting we throw away the labels. Vegan means a lot to me, for ethical reasons and for health-related ones too. I’m sure Paleos feel the same about their tribe. I’m just saying let’s work together, instead of against each other, for the good of everyone who simply wants to learn to be healthy, and doesn’t care how.

I understand that some vegans will be turned off by this post (Paleos too, but that’s no surprise, given the very rift I’m writing about!). We’ve taught ourselves to disdain everything Paleo, and I’ve met plenty of vegans for whom it’s vegan or nothing — flexitarian, pescetarian, vegetarian … none of them is any good if it’s not 100 percent vegan.

This is where I’m different. I’d rather see 100 people go mostly vegan than 25 people go all the way. 1000 people go Vegan-Before-6 than 100 go vegan. And I’d take a million Paleos over a million Standard American Dieters any day. This is why I don’t hate the Paleo diet, or its legions of adherents.

Oh yeah, and there’s a more personal reason I don’t want to hate Paleos. My dad has gone Paleo (or Primal, really) in the past year, and I’ve been happy to see the improvements — yes, improvements — in his diet and his health since he started. Which is convenient, since I really didn’t want to fight my dad anyway.

Before Paleo, he ate like most people did. Now, he pays attention to what he eats, making sure to have a salad every day, bringing fruit and a homemade sandwich to work, cooking most of his food, and avoiding most dairy and wheat. He eats meat, of course, but no more than he used to, at least as far as I can tell, and he cares about how the animals it comes from were fed and raised. He gets eggs directly from a small local farm you can go visit, and has even mentioned wanting to raise his own chickens.

I don’t think I need to point out that I’m not arguing for Paleo. I’m arguing for whole food, food that is easy to pronounce and prepare and doesn’t make a secret of where it came from. Call it whatever you want.

That’s what will make the difference in people’s health and in our food system, and it’s neither Paleo nor vegan. Whole food is both, and that common ground, along with tremendous passion we all have for healthy eating, is something we should leverage if we want to make a real difference.



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  1. Hear! Hear! Thank you for this Matt, seriously. While I confess I have participated in some paleo vs. vegan ribbing and friendly-jabs, you are absolutely right that it turns more people off and confuses more than it helps. The paleo/vegans all care enough about our bodies to look carefully and think critically about what goes in it. Choose to eat real food – as much as you can as often as you can – the rest is just packaging and labeling… which, as we know, isn’t as important as what is inside.

  2. Meta Fahrenfort says:

    Throughout history there has been a tiny little small percentage of people who could be so picky as to ‘avoid’ milk – if they happened to kill a herbivore that was lactating, I have no doubt its milk would get consumed. Youall are missing a point here: you are so wealthy that you think you have a discussion worth the time and energy. Please look around you in this world and wake up!

  3. Right On!
    I feel exactly the same way but haven’t seen it so eloquently explained.
    We host a monthly plant-based group at our home and most of the people who come aren’t vegan, some aren’t even plant-based but they are curious, several are interested in paleo or Maker’s Diet. I think anyone interested and striving toward better health by paying attention to what and how they are eating is far better than the alternative.
    There are so many emotions and deep-seated issues surrounding the way we eat that it is important to support and encourage one another.

  4. I think anytime we can stop fighting and join together in commonality, we can really make a change. I don’t want to fight with anyone, I want to leave peacefully. I realize that cannot always be done, but if we stick together on the things we do share, we have a collective force for positive change.

  5. Great post! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  6. Well put! Focusing on the similarities is always a great place to start when sides are at war. I’m neither vegan nor paleo, and I definitely DO agree with many of the points that you mentioned about healthy eating.

    Seriously in love with this post. Why can’t we all just get along?

  7. I appreciate the post and the spirit in which it is written.

    On the one hand:

    I’m an ethical vegan, and believe that we have an obligation to refrain from inflicting avoidable harm. In the 21st century, in the developed world, we don’t need to eat animals’ flesh or take their eggs to be healthy (there may be some exceptions at the margins). There’s abundant evidence that we can thrive on a moderately well-planned vegan diet; we don’t have to prove which diet is “best,” which I agree is an unproductive pursuit. There are inherent cruelties in egg and dairy operations (for one thing, you have to make the animals overproduce) and there are a myriad of institutionalized and random gratuitous cruelties on smaller farms (animals bred to overproduce flesh and babies, killed young, amputations without painkillers, horrid transport and auctions, etc.) ; the sanctuary whee I volunteer can only rescue a tiny fraction of the horribly neglected and mistreated animals from family farms.


    I appreciate that Paleos recognize that fruits and veggies should take up a good portion of the plate, that they’re more circumspect about the animal products they buy, that they typically eat less meat then the average Westerner, that they don’t consume dairy, and that they’re opposed to factory farms (hopefully this extends to factory hatcheries, breeding facilities, and livestock auctions). I have paleo friends and we recognize our many shared attitudes and habits regarding food.

  8. Love it! Love that you’re always so open, and honest. Every step in the right direction (baby steps or not), is still a step. Sometimes the hardest part is taking that first step. Yeay Matt!

  9. Excellent post, I agree wholeheartedly! Every step toward a healthier diet is something we should all celebrate. I’m constantly reminded how even advocating for more vegan options at restaurants can simply bring a lot of processed fried foods. There’s strength in numbers and we can all agree that we need more people demanding REAL (healthier) food.

  10. Yes! As someone who eats Paleo-vegetarian I have been just waiting for someone to make these connections. Awesome.

  11. I totally agree with you!! I eat a plant based diet but work closely with a company who is focussed on a paleo lifestyle- there is a huge overlap! I think the biggest difference is in the terminology since I would use the words ‘plant based’ where you’ve used ‘vegan’ since I feel that vegan is more centred on the ethics with nutrition is a by product- it is entirely possible to be an unhealthy vegan (just much less common) whereas as ‘plant based’ takes ethics out of the equation and has a more nutritional ‘wholefoods’ grounding, that is where I see myself.

    • Great point! I like using the term “plant based” when describing how I eat to people too. I feel like that scares people less, or that they will judge me less.

  12. I really appreciate this post and your blog in general. I am 90% vegan, 8% vegetarian and 2%pescetarian (just guessing on this but it is probably about right). Because of my personal beliefs about health and the treatment of animals our family eats a lot of whole foods. But my kids and husband like meat so I try my best to get organic grass fed beef and free range chickens and eggs for them. And we all skip dairy except ice cream for them at times. I know it’s not perfect and I’m not perfect either but we do our best. Thanks Matt for all that you do!

  13. I agree with your sentiments about health. I do think whole foods are the way to go. And i’m happy indeed if someone adopts meatless Mondays or Vegan til 6 — but i see those straregies as vegan gateways, hopefully. I cannot fathom how enough meat could be pasture raised to satisfy demand for meat in this country. There isn’t enough land or water, unless people are willing to drastically reduce their meat consumption. More likely, the wealthy can console themselves with pasture raised while the poor continue to eat fast food and factory farmed animals. And none of this can justify the continued exploitation of animals. If we’re only talking about health, vegans and paleos do have much in common. But I’m vegan first for the animals and second for the environment; if I maintain good health, well that’s just swell, too.

  14. Amber Keinath says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. While I’m not completely in either camp, I have gone more plant based over the year. Like you said, both groups are in the minority and we should work together to help others truly get healthy through a whole foods diet. Thanks for this post!

  15. Holla!

    Flexibility and common ground is where it’s at! We’re all standing on the same platform, just looking in different directions.

    Love food, live life <3

  16. Great article and I’m 100% with you. Moving towards a whole foods diet and reconnect with the food that you eat, i.e. understanding and appreciating where it came from, is the biggest and most important step you can make.

  17. This article compares Paleo diet to a plant-based diet not a vegan diet. Vegans do not consume animals based on a philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. I wish people would stop using the word vegan to describe a fad diet that includes no animal products; it is disrespectful to those that truly follow the vegan way of life.

    This is much like yoga is not a fancy way to stretch. It’s an entire belief system.

    • You’re right about that, Sharon. Vegan does imply ethics and philosophy, which I tried to keep that out of this post as much as possible. But when I write plant-based, people tell me they wish I’d use vegan, because plant-based sounds trendy and ambiguous. Vegan, to me, is somewhat clearer in implying “no animal products,” while to some people, plant-based means a diet “based on” plants but also including some animal products. I tend to use both; for whatever reason I’ve used vegan recently.

  18. Ummm I’m pretty sure that the animals who are dying to feed the paleos notice the difference.

    • Of course they do. That’s why I’m vegan. And although this post is mostly about health and not ethics, I tried to make the point that even for the sake of animals, if someone isn’t going to be vegetarian or vegan, then I think Paleo is better than the Standard American Diet. We tend to think Paleo = animal suffering, and of course it does, but I think the SAD = more animal suffering.

  19. Salient points. I am vegan as much as possible, lacto-vegetarian on rare occasions when it’s difficult/rude to avoid. I admit it, you’re right though. I actually ate (accidentally) paleo on my journey from SAD to veganism. There are a share (small I hope?) of cavemen that just don’t get it though and think it’s all about eating as much meat as they want and for their health’s sake that scares me. Whole foods FTW.

    I get the sense you and Jason have something brewing….. 😉

  20. Thank you for this article! I had these very thoughts a few weeks ago but you really nailed it!


  21. I think real harm is done when dietary gurus promote unjustified food rules even if they aren’t unhealthy. It makes healthy eating less accessible.

  22. Calling all processed food evil? This is why we can’t all get along. A vegan cracker is processed. The judgement really is unnecessary.

    • Yes! Vegan crackers are the cause of all that’s wrong with the world!

      Actually, I would consider most vegan crackers to be processed, and should be included there as a food to avoid for the most part. There are degrees of “processed” of course, and no clear line between whole and processed (I’ve had vegan crackers made from whole flax seeds, for example), but I figured a bullet list wasn’t a place to launch into a discussion of that. But your point is fair and I should have chosen a less ambiguous word. Perhaps “refined sugar” would have been better, though it would miss a lot of non-sugar foods that I’d still consider processed.

      As for “evil”? Again, totally fair point you make. Of course I don’t actually mean evil, as in “anyone who produces a processed food is a terrible person.” I was just looking for a punchier way to say “the less processed a food is, the better, and overconsumption of overly processed foods is responsible for most of our health issues that result from diet.”

      Not my best bullet point ever, I suppose. 🙂

      • Thanks for your response. I know what you are saying. I just feel that when we use judgmental words, it creates an unnecessary rift of right and wrong…it is quite elitist. As a vegetarian of over 15 years, I am put off by it. I really do feel like people can only try their best. If that means choosing whole wheat flax seed crackers over Ritz, so be it. How lucky we are that we even have the means to buy what we think is best, you know? Sometimes it just amazes me what some will spend time arguing about…it just seems so silly. Anyway, I do enjoy your blog but felt the need to speak up.

  23. Annie Hamilton says:

    I think the key here is “healthy” vegan and “healthy” paleo. Many of the paleo folks that I know eat more meat than they did on the SAD diet. Unfortunately, for them, vegetables are nothing more than a small side dish and fruit is avoided because of the sugar. But I agree whole-heartedly, that “healthy” versions of both diets can be almost identical. Great article, Matt!

    • Yes, you’re absolutely right! Thanks for bringing that up; I don’t think I emphasized it quite enough. The tricky part is that most Paleos do Paleo for their health. Vegans (and even those who call it a plant-based diet) often have motivations that have nothing to do with health. So it’s probably even more important with vegan than with Paleo to clarify that we mean the healthy versions of these diets.

      • H. Power says:

        At least in my circle of friends and family, eating Paleo is not simply about our own, human health, but a better choice for the animals that we eat and the environment we all share. And I’ve found that even people that avoid veggies prior to switching to a paleo lifestyle start ratcheting down the overall meat consumption as their palates rebalance to eating whole, unprocessed foods. When that happens, the veggies they used to avoid start tasting satisfying to them. I’ve seen it happen over and over in the past few years.

    • Great points, Annie! I guess many Paleos will tell you that “more meat” is not a bad thing. But yeah, if you’re doing Paleo without increasing the amount of vegetables you eat over what you did on the SAD diet, then I’m sure most every Paleo out there would agree you’re doing it wrong.

  24. Eliot W. Collins says:

    I do not care to eat meat, poultry or seafood, but I do so for health reasons. That is not good enough for many veg*n. In their view, unless one has given up meat strictly “for the animals” (as opposed to their own health), then they are as bad as the omnis.

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      I also meet a few veg*ns who really liked eating meat, but gave it up “for the animals” and now they “love their mock meats”. Although these analogue meats are often not that healthy (high in salt and fat), many veg*ns do not care, as long as no animals are harmed. If I say to them, “Some veg*n meals are probably worse for you than eating meat”, then they reply, “The dead animals do not feel that way”.

      I personally do not care for mock meat or real meat. No fake fur or real fur for me either.

      • Eliot W. Collins says:

        Many veg*ns find their fake chicken nuggets to be “yummy”. In their opinion, eating veg*n junk food or being unhealthy is fine, as long as no animals are harmed. Some veg*ns even feel that putting concern for one’s own health before their concern for other sentient beings is being selfish.

  25. Thanks Matt! Those who truly eat a healthy “Paleo” diet do have a lot in common with those that eat a healthy “Vegan” diet and its always nice to share those commonalities. However, I disagree with your comment, that ethical arguments don’t have a place in a discussion that’s purely about health. Many of our health problems are a result of our total disregard for nature and our symbiotic relationship. For example, the use of antibiotics given to stressed industrialized farm animals in overcrowded unnatural environments is leading to the development of mutated and resistant organisms that effect our health, as well as the animals. Foodborne illnesses and deaths are on the rise and many can be traced back to irrigation water contaminated by animal agricultural production. The rising of livestock throughout the world (including “grass fed”) has many implications on the health of this planet and the resources available, which ultimately, has an impact on all of us and our children’s health and future. The rapid depletion of our ocean fish has significant implications… and I could go on, but I think you get the picture. The ethical arguments are very appropriate when talking about our health, the health of future generations, as well as the health of this planet.

    • Susan, excellent point! This is something I hadn’t thought of — that ultimately, the way we treat animals (and of course the planet) will affect our health in the long term. Yours is the best argument of all the comments here that ethics and health should be tied together in any discussion about diet. I wouldn’t say I totally agree with that conclusion, still, because the health impact of our ethical and environmental choices seems too indirect to me to really be considered in a discussion about what type of diet is going to help unhealthy people start eating well and get themselves into shape. But your point is well taken and will be something I think about more.

  26. Darielle says:

    WTF is this guy talking about?? Meat is positively toxic!

  27. Excellent article! I have had this discussion with a couple who are friends of mine. He eats Paleo, she eats Paleo-Vegetarian. We once compared our diets and what we eat and it is strikingly similar, with the main exception being meat and beans.

    While my family is still omnivores, they have definitely reduced their consumption of animal products since I began to eat vegan. They rarely eat eggs, all baked goods are vegan, several nights per week dinner is vegan, fewer processed foods, more veggies and fruits, etc.

    One of my favorite aspects is that my children are being exposed to a healthier way of eating and living. I like that my kids know that I eat “vegan” and what that means. They also come to my races and the older two have started running 5K’s as well! The 6 year old will run the Kids’ Race when there is one available. It’s become part of our family life, to eat healthier and exercise and go to races together. I feel good about that.

  28. Lauren G. says:

    I have a HUGE problem with divorcing “health” and “ethics”. When you eat solely for health and ignore the ethics behind your food choices, you are being extremely selfish. That’s why I consider paleo to be the most selfish diet out there – the unwavering focus on health at the expense of everything else. Sorry, but the world is not all about the individual. Being healthy is super important, yes, but so are lots of other things. The day we decide to separate “health” and “ethics” into silos is a sad day indeed.

    • Well said Lauren…

    • Lauren, I agree with you that ethics in diet are a huge part of the equation, and if you’re trying to decide which diet is best for the planet and animals and yourself, then of course you think about those things along with your own health.

      But would you not agree that Forks Over Knives has been successful and had the (great for veganism) impact it has by focusing only health and not bringing ethics into the argument? There are a lot of people who will listen to how a diet can benefit their health but tune you out as soon as you bring up animals, and I think that’s an extremely large group and one that the traditional approach to spreading veganism has alienated.

  29. http://www.compassionatecook.com/writings/podcast-media/the-newest-diet-fad-paleo-2

    If anyone is interested in another point of view…take the time to have a listen to the podcast… I’d love to hear feed back on it…

    One thing i will say…the paleo folk are so concerned with health…why eat animal based meat when all the essential amino acids and vitamins and minerals are available in plants…no cholesterol…low saturate fats…for people that are concerned with health they are totally missing the point…Here is the thing…Animal meat is not a super food…the thing i find very annoying is the belief that animal meat protein outways the amino acids that can be found easily in plants that do not contain cholesterol or the high amounts of saturated fats..so when a paloe goes on about health and how good animal protein is…they lose me…Yes a lot of people do get healthier…off course they do..they are cutting out processed foods, milk etc and cutting calories so they will lose weight… but i see it as a fad diet just another form at atkins thats been given a new name..

    • Thanks Grace. I like Colleen’s podcast, so I’m happy you linked to a related episode.

      I agree with you that Paleo is far more ego-centric than veganism, in general, as evidenced by the way it’s marketed and sold, while veganism tends to focus on the planet and animal treatment as well. And as vegans, of course we wish that everyone would choose how they eat not just for their own health but for the well-being of animals and the planet, but I find that when you bring that into the conversation, people who don’t have the same values stop listening, and there’s no intelligent conversation. That’s why I kept this post about health.

      Good point about meat not being some incredible food with an amino acid profile that can’t be replicated. Of course it can. Scott Jurek said essentially the same thing the first time I interviewed him, and it was great to hear it from an athlete who has accomplished so much as he has.

    • “why eat animal based meat when all the essential amino acids and vitamins and minerals are available in plants…no cholesterol…low saturate fats”

      Because those of us who have studied the science and medicine KNOW that “cholesterol” and “saturate[d] fats” are NOT a problem for human health in a healthy (non-veg*n) way of eating — they’re a red herring created by Big Pharma to sell dangerous drugs to uneducated humans! Because those of us who study the biochemistry of food and animals/humans KNOW that: no, you cannot actually get “all” the essential amino…” etc. in plant foods. (Your body MAY be able to convert plant precursors, or it may NOT — but the ‘essentials’ are not “all there.”)

      Y’all keep going on about the well-being of the planet and the animals. Humans are animals — and yet, some of you even say: “yes, I’ll happily damage my children’s health if it protects animals!” And you don’t actually mean ALL animals, just the ones you care about…. All your intensive farming of soy and grains and veg and whatever else you make ‘fake’ meat out of kills at least as many and probably more, animals as you “protect.” (Do those animals not count? Or are you just not counting them?)

      But none of that matters here — you cannot ‘call a halt to this war’ because it’s not enough for you to merely try to persuade; y’all want laws and restrictions on what we can eat. Meatless Mondays? Why is what *I* eat on some specific day ANY of your concern?! Why should I not ‘wage war’ against y’all when your goal is to restrict what *I* may eat?

      Yes, I’m with you 100% on no factory farming. However, does that differ from sterilizing fields and killing off every single animal there, from microbiota to birds and rodents, in order to grow your foods using petroleum-based fertilizers — as if those lifeforms/animals don’t exist. Your ‘ethical stand’ doesn’t bear close scrutiny. Until it does? There’s not going to be any alliance!

      In the ‘circle of life’ — EVERY animal eats other animals and gets eaten. Veg*ns deny Nature; they pretend humans can ‘step out’ of Nature and live free of it. As long as y’all pretend you’re not a part of Nature? You’ll never be able to actually deal with Nature — and with the Nature-destroying modern methods you require to *pretend* you’re outside it! Cows, say, are MEANT to be eaten. (They’re prey animals, and have ALWAYS been prey animals since the dawn of … cowness!) As long as you pretend they’re not — you cannot make headway on the best, kindest, most appropriate way of treating them until they are turned into food.)

      All your “ethics” are meaningless if they’re not based in reality.

      • It’s interesting your comments remind me of some fundamentals of Hindu Philosophy which espouses that all living beings are at some point food for other living beings. On the one hand your right even vegans eat animals indirectly as plants feed off the remains of all living beings. Trying to eat ethically is always a bit tricky and having a pure ethical stance is perhaps impossible in a world that is so integrated.

        But I do want to say one thing. I as a vegetarian have no interest in restricting what you eat. I think we all have to make our own choices. And if you choose to eat meat as ethically as you see possible that’s great. But in that same sense I’d appreciate if you allowed me to make my own choices about when to and to not eat meat.

        • Thanks Gentoku. I like your last point — “I as a vegetarian have no interest in restricting what you eat. I think we all have to make our own choices.”

          I sense that a lot of people assume that all vegans and vegetarians think everyone should (or even should have to) eat the way we do. Certainly there are vegans whose worldview that is, but it’s not how I feel at all. Of course I’d like it if more people went vegan, but I can’t imagine telling people what’s right and wrong and restricting their choices.

          The comments here have gotten very far from the point of the post. To restate it, simply: “If you want to eat meat, eat it; if you don’t, don’t. Both can be healthier than the Standard American Diet, and I think there’s opportunity to do a lot of good for people who currently eat the SAD by leveraging our similarities instead of just focusing on the differences.”

          I’m not going to close the comments (yet), but I wish people (vegans and paleos alike) would stick to discussing the point rather than which diet is better.

        • “I’d appreciate if you allowed me to make my own choices about when to and to not eat meat.”

          ?? Huh? There are no paleo/primal meat-eaters out there trying to outlaw veg*n restaurants, calling for “all-Meat-Mondays” in schools (or in the general public sphere) or trying to close down veg*n restaurants. I do NOT see any of y’all out there calling on your non-meat-eating folk to STOP trying to outlaw my folks’ chosen way of eating! Please, feel free– make whatever choices you wish — but would you ALSO please maybe speak up to your side to leave us alone?

          Matt, I think the point may include that y’all cannot say “my side is inoffensive” because some (few?) of us are not agitating for govt action or social action to restrict the other side. I don’t see “your side” out ” leveraging our similarities” — I see them out trying to outlaw my side’s differences; and you more-reasonable ones rarely speak up TO THEM!

          You’re asking “my side” to play nice, to join with you on the points we agree on… ‘kay-cool! Let’s work to outlaw factory farming. (But NOT to outlaw meat eating! Will your side go for that? No, I didn’t think so.)

          I’m asking “your side” to play nice and stop trying to curtail my side’s choices merely because we agree on some things. (I’m not sure you can — except by closing comments — get commenters to stick to your preferences… If y’all are not trying to rein in the fanatics on your side, why should my side trust you reasonable ones?)

      • Well spoken! I was a vegan for over 3 years and am now Paleo . I never bought into the don’t eat animals thing ans it’s obvious that is not the way life is set up.

      • dthilmot says:

        Ditto that. Wild song birds chopped to bits in threshers. Rodents too. What a waste. For some stupid insulin-spiking cracker. A lot of primal eaters do full fat orgnic dairy from family farms. Low-carb is all about the meat though.

      • Elenor …’Because those of us who have studied the science and medicine’ Dr Neal Barnard, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, American biochemist T. Colin Campbell, John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.,Suzanne Havala Hobbs, Dr.PH., M.S., R.D.,John A. McDougall, M.D., I could go on…but you get the point…there are always going to be experts on both sides of the fence…some saying we can and others sayong we can’t….therefore we need to make the moral and ethical choice…For me the choice is simple…I believe all life if precious, so I make the choice to live in such a way that causes as little harm as possible… “Why is what *I* eat on some specific day ANY of your concern?! Why should I not ‘wage war’ against y’all when your goal is to restrict what *I* may eat? ” I am only concerened with speaking up for those that can not speak for them selves..weather someone eats dogs, cats, dolphins, cows or pigs…it makes no difference to me…all are precious and all deserve the right to be left alone…I work in the criminal justice system and violence is violence, killing is killing and death to some one that would other wise chose life is murder…we can romanticize it and make excuses but at the end of the day…its taking what was never ours to take….someone elses life… Its not a perfect world and yes animals do get killed in the production of fruit and vegetables…but using that as an excuse to continue to eat animals is just silly…unless offcourse ethics are not part of the reason why we chose to eat a certain way…in which case I have no arguement here….when all is said and done we can live healthy lives with out harming others or causing as little harm as is possible..i guess waht annoys me is the defensiveness and the romanticizing of eating animals like its ethical to do so….p.s R.J you where never vegan…at best you where on a plant based diet….VEGANS do not go back to eating meat…because vegans are vegans for ethical reasons…and I think that is where Paleo and vegans differ greatly….

        • People who do something for ethical reasons can never change their minds based on new understanding or information? If I’m vegan because of ethical concerns about animals but then determine that I’m feeding my children a sub-optimal diet that’s causing tooth decay and may cause other developmental problems that could be avoided by including animal products in their diet, what’s the more ethical position? We are part of a global ecosystem in which we (undeniably) evolved eating meat and brain and marrow and organ meats and we ended up being what we are because of that. I respect your desire to do the right thing and live ethically, but you are mistaken in thinking that others who act differently haven’t considered the ethics and aren’t acting based on their own ethical considerations.

          I am strongly opposed to factory farming of animals for both ethical and sustainability reasons. For that reason I only eat animal products raised sustainably and humanely. But I’m opposed to monocultural “factory” agriculture for the same reasons. For that reason I primarily only eat organic produce and from small local producers as much as possible. I don’t eat any soy or grains, so that automatically excludes a lot of the heavy industrial monocultural farming which a lot of veg*ns depend on. An awful lot of veg*n diets are reliant on big agriculture. If you believe there’s no violence and killing in a vegetable-based diet I suggest reading Lierre Kieth’s Vegetarian Myth and Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World.

          One more thing: Animal meat isn’t a superfood? Really? Check this out: http://chriskresser.com/natures-most-potent-superfood and this http://freetheanimal.com/2012/07/grains-vegetarians-vegans-and-nutritional-density.html

        • Eliot W. Collins says:

          No True Scotsman Fallacy:

          Person A: No true vegan would go back to eating meat.
          Person B: I was a vegan and I went back to eating meat.
          Person A: Then you were never a true vegan.

    • I’ve been getting into podcasts and websites, and started all searches on running as I was training for my first full marathon and wanted healthful fuel to aid my recovery after the long runs and increased distances. These searches led me to three biggies that are changing and opening my mind to all new beginnings.. Scott Jurek Eat and Run, which lead to No Meat Athlete, and a podcast with Colleen guest speaking on for Veganism and running; led me to compassion cook. I am now taking her 30 day Vegan challenge, and am on day 11. On her community I was asked to listen to a podcast she posted about debunking the negative news on Soy (http://www.compassionatecook.com/writings/podcast-media/soy-is-not-evil-3 ).
      Funnily enough that link has lead me once again back to No Meat Athlete! 🙂 I love how the circle keeps going and keeps feeding my brain, and answering my questions. I had also listened to a few podcasts by the Paleo runner, and was wondering if Veganism was the correct choice! Honest! But then I kept thinking about Scott Jurek’s success, and once again I’m happy to see you comment on his success’ as well Matt. I feel stronger, healthier, and I am running faster! I placed in a small 10k race for my age group! I would never have thought that possible! I’m very excited to see where my journey will continue to go and the great success that will be on the way…and all thanks to a supportive online community! 🙂

  30. thank you so much. i have been paleo and i have been vegan. i never understood the problem with each other. both sides want people to eat whole foods, stay away from dairy and become healthier, who cares how they go about it. i had a discussion with a nutritionist friend of mine and we came to the conclusion that,in our opinion, the answer is neithet… its both!!! the answer lies somewhere in between the two. lotsa fruits n veggies, no dairy, very little grains, moderate meat n psuedograins and again, to repeat…no dairy. this is the diet i follow. who cares what we call ourselves…vegan…paleo…we should all call ourselves by one name and one name only…healthy. we are our brethren in this battle. we need to stop fighting each other n fight the real problems. thank u. love the blog

    p.s. a paleo/vegan togetherness conference would be awesome…

  31. Angelica says:

    I listened to ^^^ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast about the topic and it was very good – I was in total agreement but Matt makes good points too, for tolerance and community. I personally believe health, fitness the environment, human rights and animals/wildlife rights are all intertwined. I wouldn’t be happy just being thin or just caring about the extinction of the orangutan or that Bolivians receive fair treatment and wages for their exports or only eliminating my sod for natives and edibles. One missing link affects the whole cycle. One of my goals everday is to eat more whole foods and no animal products but my omni husband likes to say that that is a first world goal, that I’m lucky to even have the option. Maybe, but were here and eating the SAD is not good anyway. The “more is better” mentality of corporations and individuals is seeping into 2nd & 3rd world countries. It would be a benefit if those countries maintained the simpler, less/no animal product, whole foods diet. It can be done.

  32. brent patterson says:

    Great post; I noticed this a few months ago when I was going paleo. Even when I was vegan, I have never eaten as many vegetables as I do with the paleo diet.

  33. Jessica says:

    Thanks for sharing this article! I was thinking this for a quite a while but you’ve summed it up perfectly here.

  34. The simple fact is that most Paleos don’t eat the way the diet actually advocates. They tend to see it as a more liberal Atkins. They also aren’t sustinance-hunting the meat they consume, which of couse their ancestors would have done :).

    That said I don’t eat like a perfect Vegan. I eat some processed foods, I’ve been known to slip and have a bit of dairy (usually by accident). So I take the point of your post…. we should all eat healthier.

    • Paul, I like this point. I didn’t bring it up in the post because I tried to keep it completely free of judgements about which was better from a health standpoint.

      But you’re right. I’ve seen this to some extent with my dad, where he’ll slip into thinking a hot dog from a convenience store counts as Paleo because it’s meat and because they argue so much about how saturated fat is nothing to be afraid of. I could easily see the same happening with a burger from McDonald’s. These are obviously not what’s intended by true Paleos.

      But I’m glad you were to point out that not all vegans eat healthily either. Personally, I’ve found that since going vegetarian and then vegan, I eat much healthier than I used to, somewhat “automatically,” because you have to plan more and can’t rely on fast food, even on a rare long car trip with the family. So I tend to make many, many better, more thought-out choices than I used to.

      But I know this is not everyone’s experience, and some people are vegan not out of any concern for health but only for ethical reasons — yet another thing to cloud the argument about whether vegan or Paleo is “better,” because some vegans who aren’t concerned about health at all become examples of what a vegan diet makes you look like.

    • Characterization of paleo as a ‘liberal Atkins’ is solely done by folks who really haven’t tried it and actually tend to be very skeptical of it. There’s also the issue vegan is an all or nothing diet, while paleo is not so absolute. Paleo is not my identity, vegan is often an identify for many.

      • “Paleo is not my identity, vegan is often an identify for many.”

        This is a good point. A lot of the paleo folks are big on the 80/20 rule, rather than being religious about it. But I have started trying to have at least one paleo meal a day and I’m already eating more vegetables than I was before. It’s pretty much a necessity, even if you love meat you need some variety.

        The paleo folks believe humans eating meat is natural and healthy, not an ethical issue, but they do very much lean towards promoting the more natural ways of raising animals, like grass fed cows and pasteur raised chickens.

        I think what this post is saying is don’t let perfect be the enemy of good!

  35. Hi Matt,

    A very good article. Less and less people pay much attention to their lifestyle and to what they eat. They say that they don’t have time, fast foods are everywhere and our health is abandoned.

    Once again, a very good article,

  36. Great article! When I wear my NMA shirt to group runs or races, the most common comments I get (aside from brief “Hey, nice shirt”) is Paleo eaters who want to talk about the huge change the diet made in their life. I was a little confused at first (why do they want to talk about their meat diet to someone wearing a shirt that says No Meat??) but I’ve actually had some very nice conversations along the lines of this article.

    Between them and a friend of mine who went paleo, it sounds like one of the changes people make is the type or source of meat they start eating, and their general awareness of food and where it comes from increases. And like you said, I’d rather people start trying to source meat from better places, or do Meatless Mondays, or whatever, than no change at all.

  37. Why do Paleo and Vegtypes hate each other?

    Well, most don’t, but those who do, or have an axe to grind, are quite vociferous and we hear the din.

    The tension, I surmise, largely comes from three things:

    1. It’s common for people to be wedded to their food. If it nourishes, that’s a big thing to defend, one’s physical wellbeing. If it nurtures, there’s an emotional component, and, well, “you can’t tell me that it’s not right to feel what I feel!”

    2. Vegtypes get self righteous because typically they chose this way of eating for reasons they think are defensible, and soon many identify with it; after all, one says, I AM a vegetarian/vegan – not, I EAT vegetables. One is self-identifying, the other is an action taken.

    3. Paleos get self-righteous because to eat as they do, other sentient beings must die, and be raised (farmed), pretty horribly, typically… and so there has to be a compelling reason to participate in this and to defend against the scorn of those who think that they (the meat-eaters) care not a wit about killing animals to sustain themselves.

    I started life out eating anything. In high school, one of my favorite meals was fried baloney. Though that was 100 years ago, I still remember tossing the baloney on a skillet – no oil necessary, thank you fat baloney – and waiting for the middle to pucker up, and then I’d quickly swoop in and try to pinch this little mound with my fingers and toss it over to its other side w/o burning my fingers.

    Over the years, my diet has become more and more natural. The appetite for meat seemed to drop away, and now is rarely eaten. I think that this is good, but not so much due to health as for more ethical and environmental reasons.

    Denise Minger plays a useful role in enabling meat-eaters and vegtypes to understand one another.

    She writes a very informative blog. At http://rawfoodsos.com/for-vegans/ she presents a thoughtful, fact-based article that attempts to build a bridge and also underscore what’s good and not so good in these respective worlds.

    My final thought on the matter, at least here on this comment, is that the planet now holds over 7 billion people. The resources do not exist for all of them to be meat-eaters, which, whether it is the greatest food on earth or not, is very inefficient in terms of the resource load required for production, harvest and distribution.

    From a planetary perspective, it would be helpful for more people to eat plants, and let meat be an occasional thing, and be humanely raised and grass fed.

    My 2 cents.



    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnNaLSKDf-0

      The answer is more meat, not less…

      • That doesn’t mean more meat, it actually means less compared to the SAD.

        At the current moment, it is also a false argument because animals aren’t raised that way on any large scale, but instead are raised in factory-farms.

        • A false argument is not “this has totally worked but it isn’t being employed on a large scale yet.” That’s actually a very valid argument. Now you can say “it’s not very feasible because of the way currently raise animals” (also a valid argument), but that doesn’t make the previous argument “false.”

          • It’s false for two reasons. One, because of my previous statement that it isn’t done on any level near enough to produce meat for an entire country. Two, that even if it was enacted on a country-wide scale, it would still not produce as much meat as is eaten today.

          • “this has totally worked but it isn’t being employed on a large scale yet.”

            Yes, it would be a valid argument, if it were true. However, it hasn’t worked better than conventional grazing techniques. Here’s a paper analyzing Savory’s method versus the conventional method.


  38. Hey Matt, I love your site. As a wife of a triathlete and a plant based family, I get it 😉 I plugged your site as part of nominating you for the Sisterhood of the World bloggers award – despite being part of the brotherhood 🙂 See here for more info http://plantbasedmunchies.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award/

    Thanks for all you do!

  39. Hear hear. I’ve read two interesting nutrition books recently – Wheat Belly by William Davis and Fat Chance by Robert Lustig – the former outlining the health risks of modern wheat, the latter of sugar. The underlying principle to both and also, I think, to The China Study, is that processed foods are what make us fat and sick. Anyone who cares about health, longevity and well-being needs to focus on eating natural wholefoods.

    I’m a vegetarian for environmental and aesthetic reasons and think 100% vegan is ideal. However, I believe people who choose to eat meat and/or fish as part of a whole foods diet are a thousand times better off than people who rely on processed foods (even processed veggie foods!)

  40. The essential problem is that you vegans have absolutely nothing to offer us. To the extent you eat whole foods, well, we already have that. I see veganism as a force, often a lobbying force, to restrict or even eliminate our choices to eat nutritionally dense animal sourced foods and I simply cannot and will never tolerate any sort of alliance.

    It is war, plain and simple. A war I wholehearted embrace and advocate.

    As far as individuals go, hey, everybody gets to go to hell in their own go-cart. So yea, I have vegan friends.

    • Richard, the war, as you put it, eventually will not be between vegans and meat-eaters, but between meat-eaters and their pocket book.

      As I wrote in a Comment somewhere around here, the planet simply does not have the resources to feed what is now 7 billion people a meat-concentrated diet.

      Technology is often the cited miracle cure for doing more with less when it comes to finite resources, but it won’t be able to shrink the cows and simultaneously make them produce more beef; however, it will be able to manufacture more fake-meat, like chicken nuggets.

      But, to be fair, chicken nuggets and the like are not what smart Paleos advocate; rather, they recommend grass-fed meat. To this I repeat… ain’t gonna happen for 7 billion (and growing) people.

      Of course, resources are allocated mainly by the ability to pay for them. And that brings me to my opening statement, for healthy, grass-fed meat — quite expensive now — will skyrocket in price as more people realize the downside of eating regularly produced meat and turn to grass-fed.

      Money has a way of changing minds, and taste buds are malleable — so one fine day, for many current meat-eaters, meat will no longer be the center-piece of their plate.

      My 2 cents.


      • Eliot W. Collins says:

        The real problem is too many people. I know, with GMO corn, soy and wheat we could easily feed them all

        Even now, if not for agricultural subsidies, meat from CAFO’s would still be too expensive for many to afford. Maybe we need subsidies to make healthy (and cruelty-free) food affordable for everyone.

      • [Reposted in the nested thread. Sorry for messing it up, Matt. I should know better. Please feel free to delete the other one.]

        Hi Joe:

        Um, not only do I not buy the sustainability argument in the slightest, it is precisely the opposite. The Earth could easily feed 10 billion an all meat diet and ameliorate the problems being caused by accelerating desertification worldwide.

        Take a look. Be sure and see the before & after and watch Alan Savoy’s TED talk. It’s quite spectacular.


        “Allan Savory: How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change

        “I can’t recall when I’ve ever felt so serendipitously fortunate to happen to catch a video and spend 20 minutes enthralled with it. You know, nowadays, everyone’s always telling you to watch this and watch that and unless it’s like a minute or 2, I’m usually gonna pass.

        “This time, don’t. I had no idea of the problem—that fully two-thirds of the earth’s landmass has turned to desert and it’s accelerating. It’s been accelerating for decades because everyone was wrong about what causes desertification, and the ways they used to manage it made things even worse. And the culling/killing of 40,000 elephants made it even worser, except that Allan Savory is a man of conscience. He had a part in that awful deed that he recounts, and it changed his life and since then, many lives and who knows, maybe the world someday.

        “Guess what’s the only, the ONLY solution? One chance, and one chance only. Huge, and I mean ENORMOUS herds of livestock, and tightly packed just like African herds do to defend against predators. And it works like insane. Here’s a before and after from a [former] desert in Mexico.”

        Try to overlook my rantiness at the vegans. As I said, I have no problem with individual choices, but movements that attempt to institutionalize and dominate others through political processes.

  41. Jon Weisblatt says:

    “Can’t we all just get along?!”- Rodney King

  42. I refuse to be a fighting vegan (or a righteous one), so this speaks to me.

    “if we could all get along” and respect (or at least not judge) each others differences, our combined efforts could really make some changes.

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      Many vegans feel that one is not truly a vegan unless they are “fighting” for the animals. In their opinion, if one does not eat meat, poultry, seafood or dairy only for health reasons, then they are not a real vegan.

    • “Make some changes”? What changes? Oh, right, you actually mean, “force me to stop eating prey animals.” I’ll stop “judging your differences” when y’all stop trying to manage / control / restrict MY “differences”!

      These sorts of blogposts and comments always try to seem so reasonable… “we veg*ns WANT to get along with you; now you paleos / primals / meat eaters become reasonable and STOP what you’re doing and then all will be well!” We meat eaters are NOT trying to manage / control / restrict what y’all eat. We might even join in with you to try to stop factory farming (an “ethical” and worthy goal!) — except you see that as a stepping stone to control ALL meat eating, because that’s your true goal. Not compassionate care and slaughter of prey animals until they’re dinner — you want to stop Nature. I won’t speak for all paleos — but I don’t want to pretend I can live outside Nature. Prey animals are for eating; predators are for eating!

  43. They’re Both Wrong
    First off great post, but I think the funny thing is that both a vegan diet and a paleo diet miss the point. There is one thing that makes every diet successful and the one thing that when forgotten makes every diet fail.

    That factor is mindfulness or awareness.

    When we start paying attention to what we eat, we eat better. Following rules helps us pay attention better, but they can be the thing that trip us up too.

    We get attached to these rules and identify with them completely. Then we get mad at other because our identity as a good person is wrapped up in some set of diet rules. I’m good and a vegan if you’re paleo you’re bad or visa versa.

    So instead of following rules, why don’t we follow principles. And lets make the first principle to pay attention to what we eat. The second principle lets define success as a measurement of our effort to eat healthy and mindfully. Whether than means filtering our water for microbes or cutting fast food to twice a week.

    My principle is that I only eat meat if it’s offered to me. That way I choose to not buy or endorse the purchase of meat, but I don’t grow adverse to meat or people who eat it. I do my best to eat ethically. We are people first and diets second. Let honor our humaness first(which means honoring our ability to adapt and change) and then second be open to learning from the wisdom of others around us.

    • I think a vegan diet is all about mindfullness. Mindful of out impacts on animals, the planet, and ourselves. We start with some basic principles (beings should be given basic rights such as the right to life and the right not to be oppressed, and that we should tread lightly on the Earth), and rules form as a result.

      Of course everything is a spectrum, and actions are never absolute. But following absolute rules gives one distinct boundaries to follow, making it easier to follow some guiding principles.

      • I think rules have their place, but if we get attached to our rules we become biased. I heard HH the Dalai Llama speak last week and he talked about not getting attached to a Buddhist perspective.

        I think rules care be important we start out on the path, but when we identify with our rules we become biased. A vegan diet can be about mindfulness and it can be about ego. It all depends on how you practice with it. I don’t buy meat because I’ve vowed to support all life, but I will accept it if served to me because I don’t want to become inflexible. I want to honor the choices of others.

        • I think vegans generally start in the right place (mindfulness), but that some can become too entrenched in their rules and become egotistical. But for me, the rules I eat by aren’t just because of ethical principles and the rules that stem from those principle; I now don’t even picture meat as food, and the thought of eating meat makes me a bit queasy (and I used to love meat). I think a good number of other vegans would attest to this as well.

          As far as honoring the choices of others. I can’t fully do that right now, as oftentimes the choices of others are not based on traits like mindfulness, but instead based on selfish desires (taste, appearance, etc.). I wish more people took others into account when making a choice.

          • I wish I felt the same way. I don’t miss meat, but it still looks appealing to me.

            As for you final comment we can never know what others lives are all about or what is going on in our minds. I’m glad that you do your best to live in alignement with your need for integrity and peace.

            In my experience we must first start with accepting responsibility for our own actions. This responsibility looks at every aspect of our lives not just food. Then we can share the wisdom with others, but if others feel judged they won’t be able to really take a hard look at their choices. True change has to come from inside and my own work always starts at the center of my heart.

  44. Thanks for this, Matt! It’s nice to know we can still hang out. 🙂

  45. In a rich society, we can afford to let animals be. Other than B12 and D you can get all the nutrition you need, run marathons and ultramarathons, and reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease on a plant-based diet. I’d rather throw a couple of supplements down my throat then chew flesh or suck off the teats of a baby cow’s mom. Why I didn’t have this revelation until I hit 39 years old is beyond me but I really think you can’t separate health from ethics and be a true “vegan”.
    I’m not into attacking people for their decisions if they are made with a clear conscience. I can’t argue this either eloquently or dispassionately but my own experience started out trying to see if what Scott Jurek did would work for me in my running. It certainly has helped, but it quickly molded itself into something much more ethical and lifestyle-based than just a temporary diet. The sheer creepiness of living beings that are simply “manufactured’ for our consumption should at least give you pause but if after that pause you still want to be a “caveman” or Paleo or whatever, you are wired differently than I am at this stage. Even though my wife and kids are omnivores and think I’m a bit over the top at this stage, I can’t ally myself with meat-eaters to forward an agenda. This is despite your well-intentioned arguments, which I do get. I just can’t separate the ethics like I could have at the very beginning of my “experiment”.
    On a lighter note, I dig the NMA shirt and may even wear it in my upcoming marathon in 12 days.

  46. Carolyn in NC says:

    I remain a “flexitarian” eating vegetarian most (90%) of the time but when it comes to social settings or going to a restaurant I then use the wisdom grandmothers taught us……….”everything in moderation”. Following hard core rules isn’t what this should be about at all. The healthiest people I know eat what comes from plants that God made rather than from manufacturing plants that people made. Finding “clean meat” can be challenging and expensive.

    Dr. Oz likes to use the 5:2 way of eating. Vegetarian during the weekdays and meat only on the weekends. Makes it simple for those trying to get their bodies healthier.

  47. Thanks so much Matt! January 1, I went completely vegan. I was loving it and felt so good until…. I started getting migraine headaches. I used to get “classic migraines” in my teens and twenties, but grew out of them (maybe getting one once every two years). Now, all of the sudden I was having them all the time again. I tried a to make it work (closely monitoring protein, adding more calories; adding more healthy fats, etc), but couldn’t get them to stop.

    So, I went back to my SAD diet (Standard American Diet). The migraines stopped. But, as always, I have started to creep back into bad fast food habits. So, the Paleo thing might give me another option, which is way better than the SAD diet. So thanks for always giving me “something to chew on”. Isn’t that a HORRIBLE pun??!!

    • Whatever is causing (or curing) your migraines, I assure you, can be found and fixed by plants. You just have to figure out why you are having them! Once you figure it out, it is easy to identify what foods you should focus on (or avoid) and incorporate that into your diet.

      • A perfect example why vegans and paleos will never be alleys, nor should they.

        • What? I’m discouraging the SAD way of eating. I didn’t discourage Paleo, I just said that whatever nutrients related to the migraines can (most likely) be solved with a plant-based diet. If a mindful Paleo diet works too, they can go for it.

          You may be looking for conflict when there is none.

          • Let me sum up how it looks from an outside POV.

            smann: I tired vegan and got horrible migraines. I went back to eating SAD and they went away. Maybe this Paleo thing with it’s meat will prevent that and let me keep what I like about veganism. Neat. I may try that.
            Brent: I’m minimizing** your experiences and intelligence and assuming that if you are suffering a negative consequence that you didn’t do veganism the “right way.” There’s no need for meat, plants will cure what ails you. (True, you did not argue paleo per se, but the implication that smann should go back to veganism and not paleo is there)

            This is an annoying response no matter what the topic is or the beliefs that lead there. It is seen in the Paleo community as well, granted (not losing weight? You’re not doing it right. Eat more bacon). That being said, it is extraordinarily common to hear from ex-vegans that once they “left the fold” people came out of the woodwork to say they did not do veganism the “right way” – even if they had been vegans for years or decades. The paleo community hears a *lot* of these stories because many ex-vegans go paleo for reasons explained by our host.

            ** I don’t believe you did this intentionally, but regardless, that is the effect.

          • This is to LXV; for some reason there is no reply button for you!

            Anyways. I suggested plant-based over other diets because that was smann’s original desire. We have no idea what causes their migraines. It could be caused by a certain food only eaten when they were vegan, or it could be a lack of a certain nutrient that was supplied by the meat in the SAD diet. Either way, the problem can be solved if they wanted to continue their original desire to be plant-based. They could stop eating the problem food they ate as a vegan (maybe a sensitivity or something) or could make sure to include plant-foods that contain the nutrient they were missing out on. I see this as a win-win for them since they seemed to initially prefer a vegan diet (hence why it was done first).

            If by “right way”, you mean “healthy way”, then I agree that people should do that 🙂

            I guess you are right in that I do not see a need for meat (in the great majority of circumstances; who knows, maybe this is one). I mean, really it’s just a combination of macro- and micro-nutrients, just like any other food. And those nutrients are all available in plants (or at least supplements). That being said, if one or two servings of meat cured the migraines, then I would say great. That would still be defined as plant-based, and probably could be called Paleo as well.

    • I was vegan for over 3 years and am now Vegleo – Paleo + vegan.
      I experienced many health benifits but it took away my libido ( morning wood etc.) sad to abandon it to get my sence of manliness back for animal product ( came back in spades too)
      You don’t have to abandon all the great Vegan/vegetarian eating just add thje animal; products and you will be fine

  48. Matt, I <3 you….

    (both for this post, and your thoughtful, positive replies to the comments 🙂 )

  49. This was a really, really good post. While I don’t agree with 100% of it, I do agree that the fighting doesn’t really help either side and just polarizes people in dogmatic robots, which is sad. I know I am guilty of a fair amount of paleo bashing, warranted sometimes, but often times not.

  50. It’s bizarre how such a reconciliatory post could lead commenters to such boundary-driven, defensive postures. Lots of people are passionately missing the point here, getting all reptilian with their responses. Look, if you’re proud of yourself for your diet, be ethically consistent enough not to lash out at people who see it or define it differently.

    Great post, Matt.

  51. Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race says:

    This is a terrific post and one of many I have seen recently and makes me wonder about why this seems to be happening at the same time?

    My POV is that we need to eat health for ourselves and not some label. For a while now I have wondered if a vegan can look at a well constructed dish that includes meat and appreciate the way the chef prepared the meal or is so entrenched in their camp that they cannot see the work that went into the dish, of course this assumes that the vegan chose that lifestyle for health reason and not ethical reasons.

    When I started I think about it this way I chose to call myself plant based because while I do not eat meat, cheese, ice cream, or,whole wheat I do consume a whey/casein based smoothie at night as well as consume eggs on a nearly daily basis.

    When I go,to sleep at night I appreciate a healthy lifestyle that includes cooking whole foods at home and you can call that paleo,vegan,vegetarian, locto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, etc as long as you are choosing to eat whole unprocessed foods.

  52. I love this post! I went from “typical American diet” to The Zone to Paleo to living on green smoothies. All have their good points. Now that I have followed a set diet long enough to automatically make healthy choices, I don’t worry about which tribe I fit into. I eat mostly plants, but if I want a steak I don’t beat myself up about it. I raise my own chickens so my family has healthy eggs and meat, whether I choose to eat it or not.
    A lot of people say to heck with it and just go back to fast food rather than put up with all the debate and abuse the various healthy eating camps hurl at each other. The goal is good health, not to force others to agree with you on every tiny detail.
    Well said, Matt! And thanks for advocating actual thinking instead of just following a certain group!

  53. Eliot W. Collins says:

    Although I do not care to eat meat, poultry or seafood, I do take a fish oil supplement, as well as glucosamine sulfate (made from shellfish). I do not feel bad for the fish or shellfish. Call me “selfish”; I do not care.

    If I was convinced that eating meat would improve my health, then as a last resort, I might try a steak (for medicinal purposes only). I would not feel bad for the cows. Yes, I know, the dead cows would not like it.

    • Eliot:

      “If I was convinced that eating meat would improve my health…”

      Two ideas, for your consideration.

      1) Two Raw oysters per week and a vegan will have zero B12 issues (good zink, too) and oysters have no CNS so don’t “suffer.” Oysters are basically an “animal-like plant,” same for mussels, clams and other such.

      2) On the more daring side, back when I did the live internet and call-in debate with 30bad Harley Johnstone, hosted by the very cool & kind Steve Prussack @ Raw Vegan Radio, at a point in the debate I challenged vegans to take 4 OUNCES of beef liver and see how much raw fruit would be required to roughly equal the micronutrients (vits and mins). Here was the result:


      Hint: about 5 pounds of mixed fruit = 4 oz of beef liver; if you toss out vitamin c for both, it gets much worse. ounce for ounce, liver has over 2-THOUSAND% more nutrition than fruit. Later on, in editing v2.0 of my book, I reworked stuff and included other comparisons, like to grains & things:


      Anecdotally, both my wife & I grew up eating liver (and for me, often fresh venison because we were hunters and fishermen) and both love it. She makes me cook up about a pound every Sunday. Her typical breakfast is 1-2 OZ strips of cold leftover liver wrapped in a heated corn tortilla, and she swears she feel SO AWESOME!

      • Thanks Matt for posting that. Feel free to delete this, just wanted to get the word across to you.

        You’re standup. Respect.

      • Eliot W. Collins says:

        Thanks Richard. Right now my health is fine. For the last 13 years, I typically have been eating five pounds of mixed fruit and vegetables for dinner on most days. I do not care to eat any part of a cow, including the liver. To get B-12 I take 100 mcg of cyanocobalamin. I do not care to eat any seafood whether it has a CNS or not. So far, so good.

        With regard to oysters, some follow Leviticus 11:12, “Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.” or Deuteronomy 14:10, “And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.”

  54. You touched on the core but did not develop it. Most of the Paleo people I have met do not follow the tenants. Basically they want justification to eat meat. The few Paleo people I have met that do follow the tenants, eat meat in the prescribe quantities but really don’t care where it comes from. They don’t eat organ meats and don’t eat grubs. The Paleo diet almost by definition is self centered. There are a few passing comments about environment but by and large, people looking for support for their bad habits.

    • Really? Your perception and experience is very different from mine. I have been vegetarian (for about 17 years) and vegan in the past, but have eaten paleo for the past several years. Contrary to your experience I have found most paleo eaters to more closely follow the tenets and be much more educated about the science and health research than most vegetarians and vegans I have known/encountered. As a vegan, vegetarian, and paelo eater I have always strived to eat a whole-food diet, but in my experience it was more difficult to do successfully as a veg*n and my observation is that veg*ns in general eat far more processed foods than paleos.

      • Eliot W. Collins says:

        Many ethical veg*ns are happy to eat junk food, as long as no animals have been killed. They see health veg*ns or non-ethical veg*ns as being selfish, i.e., only thinking about themselves (and not the animals).

  55. Great article. I have often thought about the similarities between a healthy vegan and paleo diet, and love your idea to combine forces. I liken it to Dems and Republicans coming together to find a solution against foreign oil, the Dems for the environmental reasons and the Republicans for financial independence. 🙂

  56. Am I still going to get called evil for enjoying eating animals in 2/3rds of my meals? And animal products in 90% of them? If yes, then we probably won’t get along.

    Am I still going to get called ignorant for thinking that animal products are necessary for optimal human health? If yes, then I don’t see us getting along.

    Is my diet still going to be described in the most visceral way possible in an effort to provoke disgust? If yes, then we’re not going to get along. (Also, it’s remarkably ineffective when you’re talking to a hunter who’s field-dressed deer and who’s specialty is beef-heart chili)

    (While the article itself is remarkably well-written and fantastic, and the majority of the commenters are sane, all of the above have happened in this comment thread already.)

    Am I still going to be appalled for the way (some) vegans treat ex-vegans who decide they need/ want animal products after all? If yes, then it’s probably not going to work out.

    *That* is why vegans and paleo folks fight. Vegans (at least the noisy ones) see us as being ignorant, bacon-obsessed cow-torturers at worst (which is, I’ll admit, a view that some of the noisy paleo folks do nothing to fight) and “you’re eating 80% vegan already so why not just take that final leap and be pure and proper and healthy” at best.

    Now my sister is pretty much vegan. The way she and I eat is very similar, as you have noted. Whole foods cooked well, with an eye for ethics, health, and tastiness. She and I get along fine and enjoy each others’ cooking (yes, that means serving her grass-finished beef or pastured eggs when she’s at my place and me eating heaps of kale salad and raw food lemon bars at hers). We’re both happy with what we eat and non-judgmental about what the other eats. So it’s not that I think the food philosophies are inherently at odds, one-on-one I’ve got no objections to people who eat vegan/vegetarian at all and we can probably swap quite a few recipes (just leave the bacon out of my favorite brussels sprout salad and your good to go). But when you start talking about them as tribes of people who define themselves by what they do or do not eat, I don’t think getting along is ever going to happen.

    • +10 Well written!
      (I’ll eat the bacon out of the salad; you can have the brussel sprouts! {shudder})

    • Thank you for addressing all of the misconceptions expressed here about eating paleo. I eat paleo, and I have similar, real-life experiences with vegan family members. We get along, even when we eat together and talk about our diets. I always win the health and science section of the debate, but when my sister or mom argues that they are spiritually opposed to consuming animals, that’s when the debate ends. I am not opposed to killing animals for food. They are. I respect that.

  57. THANKYOU!! As an RD that preaches the benefits of plant based eating and eats about 95% vegan myself I am so thankful that you have written this! Plant based and Paleo are SO similar- Paleo has become some glorified atkins when in fact it is all about whole real foods. I’m not even a Paleo hater and have gone Paleo vegetarian for 30 days and was feeling great!

    I will definitely be passing this along to hundreds. Keep being awesome and bold!

  58. Kristina says:

    Oh my goodness. I just clicked a link here from Nerd Fitness, and you’ve perfectly articulated the reason why I despise nutrition labeling. Labeling yourself with regard to diet, especially as vegan or paleo, is almost as bad as labeling yourself a Democrat or Republican and then trying to have a constructive discussion with someone else. Even if you agree on something, the other person will be completely deaf to your reasoning because you’re a “stupid Democrat” or a “greedy Republican” and everything you say is thus invalidated by your label. Vegans and paleo eaters are the “extremists” anymore, even among people who want to eat organically or naturally… the minute you stop eating bread and milk, everyone freaks out, no matter what the reason. I think everyone desirous of positive food changes should stop bickering about whether or not to eat things with faces and just band together. United we stand, divided we fail to enact anything.

    • “divided we fail to enact anything.”

      That’s my explicit goal. I.e., your last sentence undercuts all you said before it.

      Vote with your own dollars, let everyone else vote with there’s, explain why you make the choices you do with your own dollars and why you care bout it, and let it shake out naturally.

      • Kristina says:

        Is the undercut that coincidental common ground doesn’t count as being united by something? I’ll own a logical fallacy if I made one. To illustrate what I evidently didn’t say correctly, I do have a friend who is vegan, and we coexist exactly as you described. She buys nuts by the pound and I buy meat, and no one gets pepper sprayed (or pied) in the face or doused in red paint. I would say that we’re united in not voting economically for the fake “food” industry, etc, and that outweighs the division between us over whether or not humans should eat other animals. But, maybe that’s just coexisting more than it is actively coming together for a common cause.

        Regardless, her food is delicious and making fun of religion over coffee with her beats the heck out of trying to convince my father in law that guns are not autonomous entities that create berserker rages in otherwise rational humans.

        • “Is the undercut that coincidental common ground doesn’t count as being united by something?”

          No. It’s that your comment was all about everyone hoeing their own row because it’s hopeless anyway (which I agree and life’s too shot), then summing it up with an admonishment over not having a group hug anyway.

          As to the rest of it, I said in my very first comment that I have vegan friends. I even cook for them, sometimes, to their liking and requirements (though that favor has NEVER been reciprocated—but I get it, nuns don’t fuck, even on special occasion).

          Xmas last I did a huge eve dinner party. 12 people. All day cooking affair. Wife wanted to invite vegan friends, so I said OK, then let’s only invite 6 people and I’ll do vegan. She asked them, they said it was xmas and they’d be happy to share in seafood with us, special like. So I did deviled eggs with salmon roe, mussels in a French white wine shallot deal (they could not get enough), pure vegan butternut squash soup (woulda use chicken stock, otherwise) and a whole wild caught salmon, baked, and they loved that too.

          Individually, it’s no problem. Similarly, I grew up one of those born again fundies, went to divinity school, etc. Atheist for 20 years and I never miss an opportunity to ridicule all that BS. And the political activism is beyond the pale. Yet, I still have friends and family that in spite of their idiocy in that regard, I love & cherish.

          • Eliot W. Collins says:

            Went to divinity school? I am impressed. Now, I guess that what JDM said may apply – “Cancel my subscription to the resurrection, send my credentials to the house of detention.”

  59. Re “And the healthiest vegan athletes, by my judgement anyway, advocate limiting grains or avoiding them entirely.” – I doubt Scott Jurek would agree with this. He eats brown rice and grinds his own grain for multi-grain pancakes 🙂 Also, Carl Lewis went on the McDougall Program which is starch-centered (including plenty of whole grains) and vegan other than honey, and actually improved his athletic performance. Ruth Heidrich has also had great success in triathlons while following a starch-centered vegan diet. More info at McDougall’s site: http://www.nealhendrickson.com/mcdougall/030900puathletesarepeopletoo.htm

  60. Richard says:

    I grew up on the typical SAD diet and, when I was 19, went vegetarian on a dare. I felt great after that month the dare called for, I felt great. So I stuck with it for another year and a half. But then, one hot summer afternoon, I passed out and got deathly ill from a B-12 deficiency. I will admit, I didn’t eat the “best” vegetarian diet I could, but I did my best with the knowledge I had and it wasn’t enough to keep me healthy and almost killed me. I went back to eating meat and, wanting to be the healthiest I could be, I found the Paleo diet. I’ve been slowly incorporating tenants from this diet into my own (2/3rds fruits and veggies, 1/3 meats mostly) and I have felt great. Here’s the thing, with both diets, my focus was on 1) eating more veggies and less processed foods and 2) doing whats going to keep me the healthiest. Right now in my life, that diet is the Paleo diet. But once I get that diet mastered, I will most likely downsize my meat choices as well while searching for plant sources of B-12. It all comes down to what is healthiest for the individual person in question. After all, you may not eat animals for ethical reasons, but if you die from an animal-free diet, how are you going to advocate for the animals? It’s a morally grey area for sure, but when you talk about diet, health should be the number one priority.

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      Richard – How did you know that you had a B-12 deficiency? What were your symptoms? How long were you a vegetarian? Was it less than two years? What test did you get?

      I suggest 100mcg of Cyanocobalamin each day and you should be fine. That is what worked for me.

      • Richard says:

        I had been really sick for days on end and felt exhausted all the time. I also lost about 30 pounds in a two week period. I ended up passing out one day while doing door to door sales in Texas and was sent to the hospital where I was told I had a B-12 deficiency. I know now how to ensure I get my B-12. The point of my post is to say I was forced to go back to dietary basics, and being a southern boy, my dietary basic involves meat. Once I’m healthy using the Paleo diet, then I will start decreasing my meat intake until I don’t need.

        • Eliot W. Collins says:

          I wonder if losing 30 pounds in two weeks would cause a B-12 deficiency, or if having a B-12 deficiency would cause one to lose 30 pounds in two weeks.

  61. First, I don’t think there has ever been a hunter-gatherer group studied in the last 200 years that ate a plants only diet. They all incorporated animal fat and protein in their diets. And I’m sure that was true for the people living in the paleolithic era, too. Even gorillas in the wild eat some animal protein in the form of insects and insect larvae and eggs that are on the plants that they eat. It’s a small amout to be sure, but it is necessary for the gorilla’s complete health.

    Second, humans have always exploited any food source they could, ergo, the use of milk and dairy products by some groups, mostly in the northern latitudes. After all, milk is a mixture of fat, protein, carbohydrates, some beneficials enzymes (raw milk only of course) and vitamins and minerals. If a person is not lactose intolerent then milk is just another source of nutrition, like a carrot which you have to dig up out of the ground. Digging things up out of the ground to eat them, is that “natural?” And, of course, milk and cheese is far more nutritious than carrots. Also, many people who are lactose intolerent can drink raw milk without the problems that commercially produced milk (pasteurization) cause.

    Finally, a study done in Taiwan, I believe, found that vegetarians there were not nearly as healthy as vegetarians in America. I was posited the American vegetarians are more health conscious overall, including proper exercise, moderate to no alcohol, and no smoking.

  62. Wayland says:

    Paleo folks seem to be completely satisfied with their diets. Animals grow old and die or get eaten by an apex predator. As humans we can humanely raise and end an animal’s life for consumption. 2 million years of eating other animals isn’t wrong just because you can contemplate the concept of life as a higher functioning primate. Eating animals forces you to face the fact that your life can end just as easily and it gives you a greater respect for this dangerous world and a greater appreciation for the life you have. Also, sustainability includes eating animals. Just remember, we aren’t at the top of the food chain; we’re on the list of edible things for apex predators. #TeamPeople

    • unfortunately, with the modern era of plastic-wrapped meat all trimmed of any reminder of what that chunk of meat used to be, I think the disconnect people have now is why they cannot mindfull consume meat.

  63. brandon clobes says:

    as a primal guy myself i loved this post, thanks for summing up what i’ve basically thought for awhile. lets get the message spread about eating whole foods down first then in the real perspective of things, it doesnt really matter!

  64. I think that there are many more people that see it this way. The post, Paleo and fruitarian lifestyles have a lot in common is one of the most read on my little blog.

    Paleos also like to eat offal a lot. As most people do not want to eat that stuff, that means that you could argue that no additional animals are killed for offal.

  65. What a wonderful, thoughtful post. I follow the paleo diet after years of trial-and-error (including a couple years as a strict Vegan) trying to find what worked best for my body. Eating paleo (and I eat a strict autoimmune protocol version of it) just works the best for me. But, I still have friends that went vegan back when I did, and they are perfectly happy eating that way. We do have the same mindset about conventional meat – the factory farming system is horrific and should not (nor does it need to for any good reason) exist. I support alternatives to this system by spending my grocery dollar on pastured animals raised by farmers who care greatly for their animals (to the point of caring about how they are eventually slaughtered) and the environment. Vegans spend their grocery dollars completely away from the meat industry, thus also not putting it towards factory farmed animals (and irresponsible/disgusting slaughtering practices). We are both fighting for those animals in our own ways. But, I do respect the ethical reasons behind why vegans won’t eat any meat at all.
    I’m so glad to read this post. There is a huge misconception that people who eat paleo/primal are just eating a ton of meat and little else. My plate is mostly produce, healthy fats (I use a lot of coconut oil, I must admit), with a very reasonable portion of meat on it. I think people who do paleo well eat similarly. One, in order to support these farmers raising pastured animals, I can’t afford to eat tons of meat even if I wanted to. Two, eating tons of meat is unnecessary for my health. And three, produce is so delicious and there is so much to choose from, it’s hard to bump any of it off my plate in place of meat. Also, being Buddhist, I greatly respect the animals that I eat. I will not do so mindlessly, and will not overeat meat. However, for my own personal health, I find that I just am my healthiest with meat in my diet. I respect vegans that feel the same about not having meat in their diets.
    I like this concept of being on the same side. If both of our goals are related, in that we seek the end of factory farming and processed foods, it makes more sense for us to be more united than to fight each other. So what if I eat paleo and you eat vegan – diet is a very personal choice – the real enemies are factory farming animals and the horrible processed food system that is being promoted to our children from birth. These are the things we should not be tolerating.

  66. Jason Blanchard says:

    I find it intensely amusing that in the end every vegan defaults to this supposed fantasy land in their heads where they think by not eating meat they are not involved in the deaths of animals. News flash people, every kind of agriculture results in the deaths of animals, whether its when we destroy natural land to plant crops, or a multitude of other things. Animals, bugs, plants, these are all living things that die, its called LIFE PEOPLE! Granted i know most vegans are ignorant and dont consider insects as important, or fish sometimes, which i find amusing…the cuter something looks the more we must protect it, but if its ugly and weird looking its ok if it dies. I completely agree that factory farming is an abomination and that just because were eating something doesnt mean we cant raise and treat it humanely, but in the end SOMETHING will die that is the natural circle of life. Trying to pretend like just because you dont eat meat youre a friggin saint and nothing is dying because of you is childish, grow the fuck up.

  67. Scrolled through the first 15-20 comments. What I saw: Paleo/primal adherents saying, “Cool idea!” and vegans immediately launching tirades about animal torture and ethics and their inherent superiority. I have yet to meet a vegan who’s not in your face about it from the get-go.

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      I do not care to eat meat, poultry or seafood. I promise not to be “in your face about it from the get-go”. Then again, I never call myself a “veg*n”.

  68. David Folster says:

    This is AWESOME. Thank you!

  69. I don’t hate vegetarians but I am more than sick of their religous, holier than thou attitude and socialist agenda. Frankly they are as nauseating as medical doctors who still have their head up their nutritional butts. Join forces with them? No. They will either see the paleo light, or die off.

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      Most of those who do not eat animals for religious reasons, e.g., Buddhists, Hindus, Seventh Day Adventists, etc., are really not that “preachy” about it. It was often simply the way that they were brought up. They typically do not have an agenda, unlike those who have recently “gone veg*n for the animals”. I have never met a Jew or Muslim who tries to convince others not to eat pigs.

      • Thanks for saying that Eliot. It’s true I’m a Buddhist and try very hard to not be in anyones face about it. I heard the Dalai Llama speak last week and he said for on person one truth makes sense for the community only many truths makes sense.

        I think it’s less about religion and more about identification.

        • The Dalai Lama actually eats meat for health reasons.

          Yes, I’d have to agree that I’ve yet to run across someone who ate a certain way due to religion reasons be in your face about it. I think those who get very defensive and preachy about the way they think all people should eat might need to look inward. If you need that much justification from the outside world, you may be lying to yourself about what is actually right for you.

  70. Two paleo thumbs up. Didn’t realize we had been at war! Our commonalities provide better foundations for making decisions about dietery inclusions and exclusions than the SAD (by far). I humbly submit–acknowledging the potentially acrimonious terrian you have illuminated–that for some suffering carbohydrte malapsortion or auto-immune/histamine/tyramine reactivity, that simple bone broths from humanely raised and, yes, killed (sorry!) animals, are helpful.

    We take the killing of animals for our food very seriously in our home. If an animal dies for the nourishment of our household, we labor to use all parts. This ensures complete noursishment for us, but it also prevents the slaughter of yet more animals than would a more self-indulgent (restaurant?) diet demanding only conventional steaks. Bipedal, quadrupedal, or multipedal, we will all be eaten, whether by plants, fungi, bacteria, animals, or insects. While alive, whatever our spcecies, we have a turn at the table. We should approach the table humbly and thankfully.

    • Brief addendum: it seems strange but important to highlight that all living creatures, including plants, must eat other living creatures. Plants will happily eat us when the time comes (after the modern tomb decays). Plants, gentle as they seem, stationary as they are, are carnivores, too.

  71. Love it and Thank You!! I have hated hating on vegans and forgot how much we really have in common.

  72. dogfuel says:

    well said! avoid sugar and processed foods, after that, the human body can adapt (quickly and well) to many things.

  73. I have found that the more vocal vegans I’ve met, have a problem with my eating meat strictly for the ethical / morality, and have taken a stance to state that they are morally superior beings for doing so. It is this moral high ground that ticks me off more than the dietary differences. I don’t care if someone’s a vegan, just don’t shove the broccoli down my throat.

  74. Cool post and interestingly enough I just happened to view it coincidentally after telling durian rider to hop on the bandwagon of this same message. We are definitely still the minority but soon enough if we work together with all the advocates of natural healthy living, the people will eventually start to vote with their dollars for the right kind of foods and hopefully before I die GMO’s and conventional monoculture farming will no longer exist and permaculture will reign supreme internationally.

  75. Wow. This article is too similar to one that I wrote about three months ago. And I must say that I completely agree with you Matt. People need to put their bickering aside about which diet is better and stop focusing on trivial matters like whether beans are healthy or not. Ancient civilizations have thrived on beans for years. If you don’t want to eat them based on someone else’s advice and research, don’t. The worst part of the entire situation is that the people who are fighting aren’t the real victims in the argument, it’s the new guy trying to make a positive change in his/her life. All the fighting does is create chaos for people trying to eat healthier and start a some kind of a new workout routine. The average Joe interested in learning about nutrition ends up giving up because he can’t sort heads from tails. The sooner people can settle their differences, forget their niche, and work together, the better for us all.

  76. Exactly! I couldn’t agree more! Personally I sway more towards the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, but I definitely eat my veg patch out of business and I can tolerate dairy well. But I believe it’s about doing what works best for you personally! If you’re a thriving vegan, that’s great! If you feel you do better adding some ethically-raised meat, that’s great too. Let’s all rather focus on the positives we all bring to the (dining) table. Rather than wasting our energy harboring negativity towards one another, all that cortisol is not good for anyone! We should rather be spreading our mutual love for whole, ethically raised foods and encourage others…

  77. Fantastic article! Well-written, cogent and respectful.

  78. Finally! Some level-headed, non-hysterical Common Sense!

    Let’s celebrate our similarities while tolerating our differences, and recognize that we’re all doing what we feel is best for ourselves and our planet. We all live here – lets get along!

  79. I agree that whole foods should be the main focus. Some people just seem to like a competition….Cool site will be following.

  80. I thought comments would be positive with the point of view of the blogger. But, after only a few comments, some people talk about ethics and how bad paleo is for the animals. It is always funny to hear some ethical vegans who don’t understand that animals (including humans – yes human is an animal) are meant to be eaten by bigger carnivores. That’s the circle of life. If carnivore animals become vegan, almost all animal will life will disapear. If carnivore animal x stop eating meat, he will disapear and animal y who eat animal x too. And so on. Herbivores and carnivores exist in nature. Saying only herbivores should live is foolish.

  81. I have nothing to add that hasn’t been added but… this, a million times this.

    I am so tried of looking for information about my choice of diet/lifestyle but running into vegan v.s. paleo fights all over the place. Yet we share so much. If we could only work together to get access to what we need to thrive… more support for local, organic and sustainable farming, humane ranching, labeling of GMO foods so that we can give our money to non GMO and let our money do the talking.

    We may not agree on everything, but damn we are both passionate about this and imagine what we could do if we only worked together.

    Thank you so much for this post.

  82. Laura West Kong says:

    My feelings exactly. I went from a mostly vegan diet to a paleo diet at the suggestion of my holistic doctor. Made a significant improvement in my recovery from a bout with multiple food intolerances and autoimmune issues. After I got better, I tried to go back to vegan, but discovered that I feel healthier when I eat meat a couple times a week. I’ve given up on labels and now eat what is right for me, which includes organic grass-fed/pastured meat, eggs, and dairy, wild-caught fish, and properly prepared legumes soaked and/or sprouted) and of course a boatload of local organic veggies.

    My diet is based on natural, healthy foods so I find much to agree with both healthy vegan and healthy paleo people. The rest, not so much, but then again I’ve never found much agreement about diet with people who live primarily on junk foods of any kind.

  83. Glad to see this post. In my group of ultrarunners there are quite a few Vegetarians and Paleos — we often remark how much of our food is the same!

    I was a “Flexitarian” for years, eating meat only on occasion, then a strict Vegetarian for 6 months. I have always eaten lots of vegetables. I’ve been Paleo for 4 months — again a “healthy” version, eating tons of vegetables (which I truly love). The difference in how I feel is stark. I think it all depends on the individual. Some people seem to do fine on a vegetarian/vegan diet, for me it was not sustainable.

    Thanks for addressing this topic. I love the sanity of your voice!

  84. Just found this through a Vegan turned Paleo search. I’d been following a vegan diet for almost 2 years, but haven’t been feeling well on it (I suspect too many grains and nuts, but I don’t know for sure). I started eating eggs for breakfast and ditching the grains and immediately started to feel better. I also found myself stressed out not being able to order off the menu in restaurants. Anyway, I’ve been trying to adopt a more paleo diet, but also haven’t loved that. It’s certainly easier to order chicken or fish off of a menu, but it disgusts me to prepare meat at home. What are the vegan meals that you eat that don’t include grains and beans? I would love to maintain a mostly vegan diet with a few foods from animals here and there. (I also avoid soy because of health concerns.)

  85. Thanks Matt for the great article. I agree that we have some similar views (paleos and vegans), but the ones we don’t share are somewhat major. But, the important thing (as you mentioned) is that we respect one another and not test each others’ boundaries. We shouldn’t ruffle someone’s feathers simply because they eat meat – it’s not our right. I think you went about this article with a great approach and respect that.

  86. Lora Silver says:

    I really, really appreciate this post and have enjoyed sharing it with friends. Thank you for courageously and thoughtfully introducing this topic and creating a space to talk about it. This topic has surfaced again and again in conversations of mine during the last few weeks for some reason, and I’m really inspired by what a whole-foods-centered diet can do to get people feeling better and identifying common ground with each other.

  87. Matt! Thank you so much for this great write up.
    It has helped me feel so much better about how things should be. I totally agree the vegans and Paleoz are very similar. I am one who was Vegan but then went Paleo but have been rethinking that, all I really want to do is eat more whole foods. I’m not a hi fan of eating too much meat at all. I find sometimes its hard to figure out types of veggie dishes dishes to make that he whole family will enjoy. I hate dairy because my insides hate me when I consume any type of dairy, and well eggs I like to have once and awhile.
    I am extreme interested in this vegan paleo thing, it sounds right up my alley.
    But the whole point of his comment was to thank you for clearing up so much for me that has really been weighing on my mind.
    Thank you you so much for your guidance or health and wellness.
    Be Well,


  88. I love everything about this post. Thank you for writing it!!

  89. Thank you for this article. I completely agree that we aren’t each other’s enemies, but rather that the processed food industry is the enemy. Maybe not everyone can afford organic fruits/vegetables or grass-fed beef/free range chicken, but if everyone would avoid packaged foods with ingredients they can’t pronounce and with added fats, sugars, and preservatives, the world as a whole would be a lot healthier. And it doesn’t take any more time or money to throw together a salad, steam some veggies, and/or sear up some meat than it does to hop in the car, drive to McDs, and wait in line to feed a family of 4.

    I personally went to a whole foods diet because of my allergies, which includes dairy, rice, barley, corn, legumes, seeds, tree nuts, and berries. When I first decided to try to avoid my allergens, I did a modified Paleo since it avoids almost everything I’m allergic to. Lately though, I’ve been doing a lot of research on the benefits of a whole foods vegan diet, but given my already limited diet, I’m leery of giving up meat. This article came up in my research for the benefits of Paleo vs vegan. I think I may follow the VB6 idea to make my diet more plant based without cutting out meat completely.

  90. All ethical and environmental considerations aside, is there a case to be made for eating a moderate amount of lean animal foods– meat, fish, shellfish, or eggs (probably not dairy), while on a plant-based diet, for health reasons? To my knowledge, all of the healthiest plant-based societies ate a small amount of animal-foods. If I have access to quality, non-factory-farmed eggs and meat, and sustainable fish (for example this vegetarian-fed rainbow trout, raised in an inland fresh water tank, http://twoxsea.com/mcfarlandspringstrout/), would there be a significant health benefit of including fish, meat, or eggs as 5-10% of my diet? I’m also intrigued by including oysters in my diet. Would that be enough to preclude the need for supplements? I’m sure that small amount wouldn’t be harmful, but would such a nominal amount of animal-foods be enough to be beneficial at all? Like if I ate it 2 or 3 times a month, maybe once a week. I’m not sure if it would provide any actual benefits, or if it would be more of a placebo effect. Again, I’m speaking strictly on the basis of human health, not considering environmental or ethical concerns for the sake of this question.

  91. Just reading that article makes me want to cook some bacon. You all are treating this like a religious based rant against one another. I dated a vegan once and if necessary, I might choose to starve. You all need more iron and less devotion.

  92. Christie says:

    I agree it’s silly to be arguing when actually the two diets have much in common! Many Paleo dieters do advocate for organic “grass-fed”, “cage-free” meat which is certainly better than the hormone injected mistreated animals that most Americans eat.

    As a Paleo dieter, I believe in eating a lot less meat than the normal American (6 small servings a week or less) and always choosing organic. And though I am appalled at the way animals are treated in this country and feel that serious change is needed, I still believe that eating meat isn’t necessary unethical. I don’t scold my cat for going after birds and I don’t feel guilty for wanting to eat chicken. But that’s just my choice and everyone is entitled to their choice as well.

  93. What a relief it was for me to read this! Thank you for expressing a truly positive and non-judgmental perspective. I really needed to read something like this. If more vegans thought like you do, the last three years of my life would have been so much more bearable.

    I have “vegan” tattooed on my body. I have written two vegan blogs, one of which got a bit of attention from vegans and non-vegans alike. I have a massive collection of vegan cookbooks and zines. I have often visited the vegan meccas of Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. I went to the very first Vida Vegan Con with a cohort of vegan friends. Most of my family became vegan after I did. My son was born vegan. My companion animals have all been vegan. My partner is a well known vegan blogger in our local vegan community. I am a co-founder of an annual local vegan event. My whole life was vegan. I still strongly identify with the ethics that led me to become vegan in the first place. Never did I ever think I would experience anything to lead me to the perspective I have now.

    I was passionately vegan for more than a decade. Now I’m one of those vilified ex-vegans. While I was pregnant with my son, some serious health issues arose. Those issues never went away after he was born, despite the confidant assurances from all the medical specialists I saw.

    The year following my son’s birth, I struggled to stay vegan while attempting to cope with severe post-partum depression. I was advised to commit myself to a psych ward and was not allowed to be home alone by myself. I refused anti-psychotic medications for fear of developing an addiction to them. Due to severe colic, my son slept two hours at a time at best (and he didn’t start sleeping through the night until after his second birthday). I was always physically exhausted and I was mentally unable to cope with the most basic activities of everyday life. With my son being a month premature, I was unable to breastfeed. In addition to the depression, I had to contend with the grief and the guilt of not being able to nourish my child while being told I wasn’t making enough of an effort to produce milk for him. (At the time, I was also harassed on a daily basis by my landlord and his wife, who attempted to evict my partner and I upon discovering we’d had a baby. This went on for a year and a half.)

    I was unable to make meals for anyone but my son. I was reduced to eating the most easily accessible vegan foods out of a box or package that would stop my hunger pangs. This usually meant eating something like a cold, uncooked Tofurky sausage or a handful of crackers as a meal. Sometimes there were days when I ate only once. The stress and anxiety of struggling to remain vegan made my depression worse, which made it harder for me to get well. A lack of any support from all but two of my friends just made my depression that much harder to heal from.

    Unfortunately for me, I happen to be one of the very small minority of people who genuinely cannot eat a 100% vegan diet for health reasons. (And here is where this conversation with a few of the vegans I know hits a wall and they no longer hear me. I’ve ended up with disapproving looks and uncomfortable silences or a laundry list of nutritional questions grilling me on everything I had tried before I gave up on being vegan. My so-called non-judgy friends who prided themselves on not policing other people’s food choices suddenly became everything they seemed to pride themselves on not being.) I struggled for a year with the decision to include dairy-based animal proteins in my diet. I continued to let my health decline because I so dearly wanted to remain vegan. I felt like such a failure, and I experienced so much misery and shame about giving up on being vegan.

    My pregnancy was a catalyst for a couple of diseases that I’m genetically predisposed to. Essentially, I am prone to constantly fluctuating blood glucose levels. This leads to my body attacking the organs with hormones that help to regulate those blood glucose levels. If those organs can’t regulate my blood glucose levels, then my fluctuations get steadily worse. This leads to dangerous cycle of ups and downs that often leaves me seriously ill, and I’ve often been close to passing out due to critically low blood glucose levels. I’m at risk for going into a coma or even dying.

    Eating a high-carb diet or even a diet more than 50% carbs is dangerous for me. I have to carefully try to balance my carbs, fat, and protein to create a diet that I helps me feel healthy. This is a day-by-day process for me. If you’ve ever tried finding information on low-carb vegan or vegetarian diets, you’ll know as well as I do that it’s a challenging subject to research. There isn’t exactly a plethora of information. It is not a matter of eating more tofu or more beans. This is not a protein issue for me. This is a carb issue. My particular body chemistry does not tolerate some plant-based foods that work for other people. There isn’t anything I can do to change that, as much as desperately wish there was.

    After being diagnosed by a doctor, carefully changing my diet my diet to help stabilize my blood glucose levels and taking prescribed medication has helped. But it’s been a long and slow process and it is very far from being over. I have compromised immunity, and having a child in daycare means that this past winter I was sick every three weeks with some pretty bizarre illnesses. Just trying to eat healthfully as a vegetarian has been as much of a struggle at times as it was when I was still vegan. I am the sole person in my household with the responsibility to do all the shopping, meal preparation, and cooking. Without a car. With a very young child. And without much support from my partner. Still judging me? Shame on you!

    It’s been a year since I chose to begin including dairy-based animal proteins in my diet. And in that year I have also spent a lot of time hiding this fact from many of the vegans I know because of the criticism and judgment I will face. I continue to heal from the effects of post-partum depression. I now get more sleep. Sometimes, when I’m feeling well enough, I even have a small window of time to get exercise by myself after my son has gone to bed. That is, when I don’t have housework and all my other responsibilities to look after. Being a parent of a young toddler and working full-time, I often don’t have much time or help to prepare meals. The only other exercise I get is 20 minutes of walking to and from work each day (or when I’m running after a toddler). I still try to do everything the best that I can.

    As I figure things out diet-wise and my blood glucose levels continue to stabilize, I hope that someday I can work toward minimizing the animal products in my diet as much a possible so that I can remain healthy for myself and my family while reducing the terrible suffering I am implicit in. I am may have made the choice not to eat entirely vegan anymore, but it was not a choice made willingly. I am always painfully aware of what I am participating in by consuming animal products.

    This is not about being selfish and uncaring or a sell-out. This about me making the decisions I had to make for myself so my son still has a mother who is well enough both mentally and physically to take care of him. Until you’ve been in my shoes, you have no idea at all what you’re talking about. And if you have been in my shoes, you should know a lot better than to judge me.

    To those of you policing people like me, please stop being judgmental about other people’s food choices, no matter how much you believe you have a right to do so. You’ll never really understand everything some people experience that leads them to make the choices that they have to make. Not all of us can avoid making the choices we’re faced with. Policing other people’s food and life choices is so terribly wrong. I’m not looking for a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to being an ex-vegan. I feel enough of my own guilt without having anyone else trying to heap more of it on my shoulders for me. Please, just worry about yourself and stop judging other people. Life can be devastating at times and none of you need to be adding to that for anyone.

    And to Matt: reading your blog post has helped give me a sense of relief that I desperately need. The past few years have almost broken me. My life has so radically changed in ways I never thought possible. Never did I ever see myself in the position I am in now. Being isolated from the vegan community I was once so much a part of has been very painful. This helps me heal a little bit from that pain. Again, thank you for taking the time to honestly share your thoughts.

  94. I think people judge people far too much today. You can google your bias so easily and then judge others accordingly. My son has health issues and I learned through years of research that (as best as I can tell) he needs a very low carb diet. He needs to avoid legumes and grains. He thrives on fish and eggs and of course tons of veggies and fruit. I buy local raised eggs from a neighbor. I won’t buy factory farmed meat. I think if people embraced this article it would help others to learn and do the same instead of switching people off which pushes them right back to processed/factory food which is bad for us all. thank you for posting this. we should be banding together. I have a deep respect for a our health and the environment (which are one and the same really). I also believe that people’s bodies might require different things- and that there is more than one way to be healthy. I also think judging people’s food decisions won’t ever convince someone to change and only creates unhealthy stress. My parents and grandparent lived in a place and a time where they did not have processed food. They made everything themselves for the most part/slaughtered their own animals, fermented their food so they would have vegetables in the winter. They were healthy. I had a yoga teacher- she was vegan except for the cow milk in her chai. She was amazingly healthy. Real food is healthy. Let us encourage eating it and encourage people to stop buying garbage and maybe some day it will not be mass produced anymore. Instead of hounding people who buy factory raised meat- I have talked up the benefits of the eggs I buy to several families and because of my enthusiasm for the eggs (giving the a gift of a dozen and explaining why they were great) The people started buying local healthy eggs too. this would not have happened if I sat there and told them what they were eating was wrong. changing how you eat is a difficult enough process without all the judgement/snide comments/ exclusion/etc. my 2 cents.

  95. I am so happy to have found and read your post! I grew up on a small farm, was a vegetarian for many years and even a vegan for a year, but have since found myself turning paleo! (Though far from perfect yet) and I found I do tend to get a lot of flack from the vegan community, which I find silly, because I support anyone to eat what suits them, and found I personally thrive better on a paleo diet. I constantly find myself looking up vegan side dishes and recipes, and eating more veggies now than when I was a vegan! I think there is such a huge importance in supporting small local farms, and that both groups have so much to offer each other!! Keep spreading the love and kindness <3 we're not so different after all 🙂

  96. Iestyn Llewelyn Richards says:

    I absolutely love this article and it’s fascinating to say the least. However, I completely disagree with your acceptance to the ‘caring about where the meat comes from’ and ‘raising his own chickens’. I understand why you believe it’s better; because it is without a doubt, but it’s also completely wrong. Ethically wrong. Will he still be taking the eggs of those chickens? Will he still be drinking the milk from the cows who had their lives cut short? YES! And that’s the point. Of course it is an improvement. Of course it is beneficial for him. But for the world? For the environment? And for the animals? NO. Not at all.

  97. Thank you, thank you for pointing out the similarities!


  1. […] If you are a vegan (or paleo), there’s no reason we all can’t coexist! […]

  2. […] another one a little more meaningful than that, that has been just as popular and it’s called “Why Vegans and Paleos Should Stop Hating Each Other.” In the health and diet space, there is a war going on between the vegan community which is […]

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