According to a 2009 poll, around 1% of American adults reported being vegan. In 2011 that number rose to 2.5%--more than double, but still dwarfed by the 48% who reported eating meat, fish or poultry at all of their meals. In this country, most of us are blessed with an abundance of food and food choices. So taking into account our health, the environment and ethical concerns, which diet is best? Do vegans have the right idea, or are we meant to be carnivores?
Neal Barnard, M.D., is Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., who guides numerous clinical trials investigating the effects of diet on body weight, chronic pain, and diabetes. Barnard’s most recent study of dietary interventions in type 2 diabetes was funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has authored dozens of scientific publications, 15 books for lay readers, and has hosted three PBS television programs on nutrition and health, ranging from weight loss to Alzheimer’s prevention. As President and Founder of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Barnard has been instrumental in efforts to reform federal dietary guidelines. He also leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
Gene Baur, President and Co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, has been hailed as “the conscience of the food movement” by Time magazine. Since the mid-1980s, Gene has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our system of cheap food production. His book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food (2008), a national bestseller, is a thought-provoking investigation of the ethical questions surrounding beef, poultry, pork, milk, and egg production. It describes what each of us can do to promote compassion and help stop the systematic mistreatment of the billions of farm animals who are exploited for food in the United States every year.
John Donvan is the moderator for "Intelligence Squared U.S." He is an author and correspondent for ABC News. He has hosted "Nightline," "World News," "Good Morning America," and NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” in addition to producing “My Generation” for PBS. He has also served as ABC’s Chief White House correspondent and held postings in London, Jerusalem, Moscow and Amman. Recognized by the National Magazine Awards for his 2011 Atlantic profile piece “Autism’s First Child,” he is currently writing a book on the history of autism to be published by Crown in 2013.
Chris Masterjohn pursued a career in health and nutrition after recovering from health problems he developed as a vegan by including high-quality, nutrient-dense animal foods in his diet. He earned a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Connecticut in 2012 and currently researches the physiological interactions between fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has published six peer-reviewed publications and has submitted one manuscript for review. He also writes two blogs. The first, The Daily Lipid, is hosted on his web site, Cholesterol-And-Health.Com. The second, Mother Nature Obeyed, is hosted by the Weston A. Price Foundation at westonaprice.org. The opinions expressed in this debate are his own and do not necessarily represent the positions of the University of Illinois.
Joel Salatin has been featured in Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and in the films Fresh and Food Inc. He is also the author of six books including Family Friendly Farming, Salad Bar Beef, and his latest, Everything I Want To Do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front. He is a full-time farmer of the highly successful Polyface Farms, and winner of the Heinz International Award for Environmental Leadership.