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Frequently Asked Questions

Vegan Nutrition

Nutrition Tips for Active Vegans

We know that animal-derived foods aren’t necessary to live a long and healthy life; in fact, quite the contrary. People who are physically active should take special care to get enough protein into their diet without the use of animal proteins. After all, muscle tissue is breaking down when exercising (you know this is happening when you feel the “burn” which is caused by the buildup of lactic acid causing muscles to break down) and protein is necessary for the recovery and rebuilding process. Vegan athletes have to pay more attention to dietary choices and food combinations in order ensure the absorption of enough high-quality protein. .

What May Be Missing

In addition to protein, vegans may be missing the following nutrients in their diet:

− iron
− calcium
− vitamins B-12 and D
− zinc

Iron is quite important for building muscle and endurance. If you aren’t going to get this from beef, you’re going to have to make sure you’re eating the following on a regular basis:

− whole grain cereals fortified with iron
− legumes (beans, peas and peanuts)
− dried fruit (especially raisins)
− cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage)

In addition, you will want to combine these with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and berries; this will aid your body in absorbing and utilizing iron.

In lieu of dairy products, instead load up on fortified soy products as well as leafy greens to keep bones strong with sufficient calcium: mustard, kale and chard are powerhouse foods in this regard, as well as dried figs. Sesame seeds are also a decent source of calcium; a unique form of nut butter made from sesame, called tahini, is available in many Middle Eastern specialty stores and combines well with sweet as well as savory foods.


Rice and beans together make a complete protein – or almost any combination of grain and legumes. However, peanuts (which are actually legumes, not nuts) and soybeans provide complete proteins that are of the same quality as that derived from fish, poultry, dairy or eggs. Most tree nuts are also good sources of protein, and provide the additional benefit of healthy oils, such as omega-3 (also found in olive oil).

The Tough Ones
Vitamin B-12 is essential for metabolism and making use of the energy stored in food. Unfortunately, the only reliable source of this nutrient is in animal-based foods. Whole grains cereals and soy milk are often vitamin B-12 fortified, but one would have to consume a great deal in order to get this nutrient in sufficient amounts from these vegetable-based sources alone. Therefore, vegan athletes may need to take B-12 supplements.

The same is true of zinc, which is vital for healthy respiratory and digestive functions. Fortunately, these supplements are not expensive – so make certain you have these on hand, especially when in training.

By Sasha Britton, for Gym Source, provider of treadmills, arc trainers and home gyms for over 75 years.

FAQ about Animal Rights

Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Rights - from COK

Q. What does it mean to be in favor of animal rights?
A. Obviously, granting animals rights doesn’t mean we’ll see cats in the voting booths on Election Day or chickens behind the wheel of a car. What it does mean is that in similar situations, we ought to consider the interests of humans and other animals equally. That is, we should not grant less weight to an individual’s desire to avoid pain simply because she or he isn’t human. All animals bred for food, fur, animal research, and entertainment are capable of experiencing pain. They seek to live free of suffering. They care about their lives and those of their loved ones. As such, nonhuman animals, like humans, should be treated compassionately and live without fear of torture or death.

Q. Obviously humans should have rights, but aren’t animals inferior to us and therefore not deserving of rights?
A. Throughout history, people have tried to withhold rights from one group or another on the basis of race, gender, class, religion, or sexual orientation. Discrimination based on species (speciesism) is no more justifiable than these other forms of discrimination. Many arguments are used to justify speciesism, often based on the fact that humans are more intelligent than nonhuman animals. This fact may be useful in determining someone’s right to read Thoreau or Shakespeare, but it is irrelevant if we’re discussing someone’s right not to be treated like a commodity. However, many nonhuman animals are more intelligent than human infants and even some human adults who suffer from severe mental retardation. If someone can feel pain, does it matter how smart she or he is? We would never claim that infants or severely mentally retarded adults should be used in painful experiments, have their skin worn as clothing, hunted for sport, used for our entertainment, or eaten merely because they are less rational than we are. When it comes to experiencing pain, other animals are our equals.

Q. If the animals are raised to be eaten or used in other ways, isn’t that okay?
A. Two hundred years ago in the United States, humans raised other humans as slaves. The fact that these humans were raised to be slaves did not justify their slavery. For the same reason, raising animals for the purpose of eating them, using them for entertainment or sport, experimenting on them, or using their fur or skin does not justify their exploitation.

Q. Didn’t God give humans dominion over other animals?
A. It’s hard to imagine the divinity of any religion condoning the misery we cause animals. We deny the animals we raise for food everything that is natural to them. Most have little freedom of movement and are confined in spaces so small they can’t even turn around, let alone access sunlight and fresh air, or socialize normally. They are tormented in ways that would horrify any humane person, and almost always for purposes that are unnecessary. Most religious and spiritual people agree animal cruelty is immoral. If we agree that God is against animal cruelty, then we should end our support of industries that mistreat animals for profit.

Q. Other animals eat each other. Why can’t we eat them?
A. Predators in the wild kill other animals out of necessity. Without doing so, they would not survive. Humans, on the other hand, kill other animals by choice. Our bodies have no need whatsoever for animal flesh, milk, or eggs. In fact, medical research has consistently shown that a vegan diet is healthier than a diet heavy in animal products. Eating animals is not necessary for human survival. Rather, it is a choice we make. Is it right for us to choose to cause animals unnecessary suffering?

Q. Humans are the smartest animals and we’re at the top of the food chain. Why shouldn’t we use our strength to our benefit?
A. The “might makes right” argument has been used by many to justify cruelty and domination throughout history. Just as intelligence is an insufficient characteristic to justify human supremacy, so is strength.

Q. Where do you draw the line? Insects? Plants? Bacteria?
A. If the only morally relevant characteristic is the capacity to suffer, then the vast majority of animals abused in the United States today would qualify for moral status. All the animals used for food, fur, animal research, and entertainment possess a central nervous system and are capable of experiencing pain. There are some animals (such as insects) who we are less certain experience pain. It is up to each individual to decide where she or he feels the line should be drawn exactly. Plants and bacteria almost certainly do not experience pain, as they lack any nervous system at all. Nevertheless, even if one wanted to kill the fewest number of plants possible, one would be vegan. We eat substantially fewer plants by consuming them directly, rather than funneling them through farmed animals, who are extremely inefficient in converting plants to protein.

Q. It’s impossible to live completely “cruelty-free.” Almost everything we do causes someone suffering. Why try at all?
A. While we can’t completely eliminate the suffering we cause, by taking simple steps we can substantially reduce the suffering we are responsible for and even abolish various forms of institutionalized animal abuse. By becoming vegan, in particular, we can dramatically minimize the amount of suffering we cause each day. Being vegan is not about being “pure.” Rather, it is about doing what we can—within reason—to remove our support for animal abuse.

Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Rights - From PETA

“What rights should animals have?”
Animals have the right to equal consideration of their interests. For instance, a dog most certainly has an interest in not having pain inflicted on him or her unnecessarily. We therefore are obliged to take that interest into consideration and respect the dog’s right not to have pain unnecessarily inflicted upon him or her.

However, animals don’t always have the same rights as humans, because their interests are not always the same as ours and some rights would be irrelevant to animals’ lives. For instance, a dog doesn’t have an interest in voting and therefore doesn’t have the right to vote, since that right would be as meaningless to a dog as it is to a child.

“What about plants?”
There is currently no reason to believe that plants experience pain, devoid as they are of central nervous systems, nerve endings, and brains. It is theorized that the main reason animals have the ability to experience pain is as a form of self-protection. If you touch something that hurts and could possibly injure you, you will learn from the pain it produces to leave it alone in the future. Since plants cannot locomote and do not have the need to learn to avoid certain things, this sensation would be superfluous.

Plants are completely different physiologically from mammals. Unlike animals’ body parts, many perennial plants, fruits, and vegetables can be harvested over and over again without resulting in the death of the plant or tree.

If one is concerned about the impact of vegetable agriculture on the environment, a vegetarian diet is still preferable to a meat-based one, since the vast majority of grains and legumes raised today are used as feed for cattle. By eating vegetables directly, rather than eating animals such as cows who must consume 16 pounds of vegetation in order to convert them into 1 pound of flesh, one is saving many more plants’ lives (and destroying less land).

“Animals don’t reason, don’t understand rights, and don’t always respect our rights, so why should we apply our ideas of morality to them?”
Because an animal’s inability to understand and adhere to our rules is as irrelevant as a child’s or a person with a developmental disability’s inability to do so. Animals are not usually capable of choosing to change their behavior, but human beings have the intelligence to choose between behavior that hurts others and behavior that doesn’t.

“What about all the customs, traditions, and jobs that depend on using animals?”
The invention of the automobile, the abolition of slavery, and the end of World War II also necessitated job retraining and restructuring. This is simply an ingredient in all social progress—not a reason to deter progress.

“Don’t animal rights activists commit ‘terrorist’ acts?”
The animal rights movement is nonviolent. One of the central beliefs shared by most animal rights people is rejection of harm to any animal, human or otherwise. However, any large movement is going to have factions that believe in the use of force.

“How can you justify spending your time on animals when there are so many people who need help?”
There are very serious problems in the world that deserve our attention; cruelty to animals is one of them. We should try to alleviate suffering wherever we can. Helping animals is not any more or less important than helping human beings—they are both important. Animal suffering and human suffering are interconnected.

“Animals in cages on factory farms or in laboratories don’t suffer that much because they’ve never known anything else.”
To be prevented from performing the most basic instinctual behaviors causes tremendous suffering. Even animals caged since birth feel the need to move around, groom themselves, stretch their limbs or wings, and exercise. Herd animals and flock animals become distressed when they are made to live in isolation or when they are put in groups too large for them to be able to recognize other members. In addition, all confined animals suffer from intense boredom—some so severely that it can lead to self-mutilation or other self-destructive behavior.

“If animal exploitation were wrong, it would be illegal.”
Legality is no guarantee of morality. Who does and doesn’t have legal rights is determined merely by the opinion of today’s legislators. The law changes as public opinion or political motivations change, but ethics are not so arbitrary. Look at some of the other things that have at one time been legal in the U.S.—child labor, human slavery, the oppression of women.

“Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse/vivisection laboratory?”
No, but enough people have filmed inside and written about what goes on in these places to tell the story. You do not need to experience the abuse of animals close up to be able to criticize it any more than you need to personally experience rape or child abuse to criticize those. No one will ever be witness to all the suffering in the world, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it.

“Conditions on factory farms or fur farms are no worse than in the wild, where animals die of starvation, disease, or predation. At least the animals on factory farms are fed and protected.”
This argument was used to claim that black people were better off as slaves on plantations than as free men and women. The same could also be said of people in prison, yet prison is considered one of society’s harshest punishments.

Animals on factory farms suffer so much that it is inconceivable that they could be worse off in the wild. The wild isn’t “wild” to the animals who live there; it’s their home. There they have their freedom and can engage in their natural activities. The fact that they might suffer in the wild is no reason to ensure that they suffer in captivity.

(For more detailed discussion on these and other questions, check out Eugene Khutoryansky’s List of Questions).

© 2003 Michigan Animal Rights Society. Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons License