Pollan Gives Vegetarianism the Silent Treatment

January 9, 2010

Michael Pollan gets a New York Times interview plus a favorable review for his new book, Food Rules.

Once again, he bobbles the vegetarian issue, blowing an easy chance to build a bridge with the vegetarian community. Regarding criticism directed towards his maxim, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” Pollan responds:

The adverb “mostly” has been the most controversial. It makes everybody unhappy. The meat people are really upset I’m taking a swipe at meat eating, and the vegetarians are saying, “What’s with the ‘mostly?’ Why not go all the way?” You can’t please everyone. In a way that little word is the most important. It’s not all or nothing. Mostly. It’s about degree. But in the whole food discussion, I’ve learned the most from that, that little “ly” and people’s reaction to it.

Why not just say something gracious, like, “If I could expand that advice by a couple words, I’d change it to ‘mostly or entirely plants.’”

To put it another way, Pollan should either leave the door open to people becoming vegan, or given a clear and excellent reason why he’s decided to shut it. Instead, as with is books, we get a shifty and evasive stance that doesn’t engage the issue in an informed and useful way.

It’s a shame that a guy who has taught the world so much about conscientious eating consistently resorts to hand-waving evasions when given the opportunity to address vegetarianism. Either he truly doesn’t understand what would motivate a person to make a clean break from eating animal products—which is inexcusable given the amount of study he’s given to food politics—or, my guess, he doesn’t even think the topic merits discussion. Link.

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