Things Vegans Must Know About The Diets Of People In Developing Countries

It seems that many vegans in the developed world assume the diets of people in developing countries are vegan. While many dishes are indeed vegetable or plant-based, I feel that this belief takes a number of things out of context.

1. The People Mostly Aren't Vegan

While the dishes consist of mostly plant or fungus, the people aren't eating vegetable-based dishes for the sake of veganism. They are eating the dishes, because it's simple to make (from their point of view) and meat is too costly. Animal products are eaten rarely, and when they are consumed, they are consumed in bite-sized or small portions, because it's not cost-effective for one person to eat a gargantuan piece of beef steak. The amount of meat consumed should not be interpreted as vegan, as veganism requires the total elimination of animal products mainly for ethical reasons.

2. The People May Be Malnourished For Scarcity Of Food

People in developing countries are just as malnourished as people in developed countries. While people in developed countries tend to become obese and malnourished due to excessive quantities of junk food, people in developing countries tend to manifest the stereotypical images of malnutrition and poverty. People tend to grab whatever is close, cheap, and convenient. In the United States, that would mean a hamburger, fries, and soda at a fast food restaurant or some candy at the gas station for impoverished people in food deserts.

In Malaysia and other Asian countries, that would mean tofu or rice. In the USA, the junk food provides too many calories and too little vital nutrients. In developing countries, the opposite is true. There is a lot of food rich in nutrients and low in calories, and along with a very physically intensive lifestyle, people become weak and bony, nearing starvation. Vegans may say all they want that "low-calorie" is desirable, but that desirability is only understood within a high-calorie food environment. I don't think they (usually vegans in the developed world) truly understand what it's like to struggle with caloric deficits on an everyday basis. For some first-hand experience to understand these economic and nutritional struggles, I would highly recommend anyone to watch Living on One Dollar (2013). The Economics students in the film actually had to use lard to fatten their meals.

3. The People May Use Bugs As A Source Of Animal Protein

Every time vegans make a health & fitness or food documentary, they always compare meat from livestock animals and colorful fruits and vegetables, as if those things are the only two choices and are polar opposites. It is incorrect to assume that livestock animals have to be some kind of bird, swine, cattle, or fish. In reality, people eat bugs as a source of animal protein. In addition to the inaccurate portrayal of meat, there is much emphasis on what people recognize as "higher animals". Everyone cares about the cute pig that gets slaughtered, and no one cares about the ant that gets stomped or the bee that gets swatted or the mosquito that gets poisoned by natural or artificial pesticide or the termite colony that infests people's homes or the dozens of other critters that become roadkill.

If humans are to respect all animal life, then humans should not use any pesticides (natural or man-made) against the agricultural pests. Humans should not freak out when they see a spider creeping on the wall. Humans should allow mosquitoes to suck their blood and spread bloodborne diseases among the human populations, which can put a check on the exploding human population. Humans should not drive cars, because highways and streets block paths for other animals, many of which have to migrate for food or mates. Unfortunately, humans are doing all those things and making one big mess in the world.

4. The People May Not Have Regular Health Check-Ups

Vegans in the developed world are fortunate enough to get regular health check-ups. If anything goes wrong in their vegan lifestyle, then that can easily be corrected, and the vegan lifestyle can still be maintained. I think vegans should seriously keep in mind that following the vegan diet takes some health risks. These health risks may not be diagnosed in people who eat vegan food all the time but do not have adequate healthcare.

People in developing countries may or may not have adequate healthcare. Maybe the richer ones do, but the poorer ones certainly don't, and it's the poor that eat like vegans. Expecting a life of poverty as the golden ideal for the human race is kind of unrealistic. Maybe it's realistic, if a person has ascetic values. Buddhists are known for such ascetism and ethical living, but they are the exception, not the norm.

5. Developing Countries Are Becoming Richer

Developing countries are becoming richer and richer. As people become wealthier, they want to consume more luxury products, which include meats and sweets and fancy electronics. As a result, global meat consumption rises. Oceans are being overfished; rainforests are being cut down to make way for farmland for big herbivorous livestock animals. The way people obtain food is not sustainable for long, so if people keep on extracting resources like this, there will be a mass starvation. I suppose that is a good thing, because starvation may kill off a sizable chunk of the human population.


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What Guys Said 7

  • 20d

    In developing countries you don't get to have a choice about your diet isn't a choice you get to make you get to eat whatever you can afford to, or find and ironically even though Vegans praise how healthy their diet is these people are still horribly malnourished and their bodies don't at all get what they need to survive.

    I appreciate you trying to go about this logically but Vegans unfortunately mostly are not logical people at least not the ones I've met so far.

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    • 20d

      Living on One Dollar is a documentary that features life in rural Guatamala. Food is scarce, so the Economics students and the filmmakers had to use pig lard to increase the number of calories. In that situation, using animal products is a necessity. That said, it is possible to be vegan when you're living in a developed country and have access to healthcare. When people are rich or have the stuff they need, they tend to be nicer and friendlier and may care more about welfare of other things. But when people are starving, they just want their own needs met. It's essentially the Maslow's hierarchy of needs in action.

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    • 19d

      Hunting wild game is not sustainable for the whole human population, but a few hunters are okay. Because the human population is so freakin' large, humans have to reduce their level in the food hierarchy. So, instead of megafauna, humans must eat smaller animals and plants. Ultimately, humans need to control their own population growth. If humans accept death as a part of life and regeneration, then maybe humans would allow themselves to die and be consumed by decomposers.

    • 19d

      Did I ever once state the whole population of earth?

  • 22d

    in the developing countries i've been to having a choice about your type of diet (vegetarian, omnivore, vegan, pescetarian, etc) is a luxury they simply can't afford. they eat what they can afford, is available, and is safe to eat.

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  • 22d

    I like the point you made about insects being used as a source of protein in developing countries.

    In the USA we have so much land, that raising livestock is more easily done, so we culturally don't eat insects or arachnids at all.

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    • 22d

      actually if you wanted to have all grass fed cattle and you wanted to sustain the current demand for meat in just the US, the amount of area needed for cattle would require around 3.7 billion acres. However the US only has around 2.43 billion acres and that's including moutains, lakes, rivers...
      That's why we have factory farms to begin with, there's not enough space

    • 22d

      @nalaa That being said, the USA is still in a better livestock-raising position than most of the world!

    • 22d

      maybe. But let;s not pretend you have plenty of space. You don't !

  • 22d

    In India there's a huge amount of vegetarians. Millions of peeps and they do it by choice.

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  • 22d

    You are trying to explain things reasonably. But you gotta understand that vegans aren't really reasonable or intelligent people. So this was a waste of time. Good points, but you won't achieve anything

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  • 22d

    Well this proves that humans don't need to be vegans in order to be malnourished.
    Anyway, Vegans are just extreme form of Vegetarians, so it's obvious their opinion is a bit exaggerated.
    By the way, eating insects is gross... and killing mosquitoes isn't bad because they are pests.

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  • 23d

    I like this take and will probably use it in my research project on alternative medicine.

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    • 23d

      You are in school? What for?

    • 23d

      My major is in computer science.

    • 23d

      Why are you working on a research project in alternative medicine? Is this for an elective course?

What Girls Said 7

  • 9d

    thanks for the share

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  • 20d

    First, you listed great truths about animal protein in the developing world. You're right, eating a mostly meat free diet is not a choice for the majority of people in developing countries.
    However, is there a real issue with vegans from industrialized countries saying "People in developing countries choose to be vegan, and they're just fine. So, give up the steak!" ? Is this a real issue?
    Also, when did you jump off of vegans and to "people" who are these people, what do they believe. And why should people not use pesticides. I don't think most farmers in Idaho are vegans, so, why is there a conflict that they use pesticides if that does not go against their values? I'm just confused on what the last paragraph under your 3rd reason is saying?

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    • 20d

      First of all, nobody says that people in developing countries choose to be vegan. That is not my point. My point is, vegans use the people in developing countries, whose diets are largely economical, as a rhetoric for veganism in developed countries. The implication is that an all-plant-based diet is desired, even though some people just can't afford to eat pork, beef, fish, or birds in the first place and want to eat those kinds of animals if given the chance. Indeed, meat consumption is rising, because developing countries are becoming wealthier.

      For your second argument, vegans say that they are all about animal cruelty. In reality, the opposition against animal cruelty is really limited to sentient, higher-order animals. There are really too many portrayals of the cruelties of factory farming. However, vegans never look at the cruelties against bugs. Bugs are often overlooked as a menace by society at large. Bugs are squashed, trapped, sprayed on, poisoned, and swatted.

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    • 19d

      mmmmm roadkill

    • 19d

      I never said that vegans want people to eat bugs. I was referring to the vegan-promoting documentaries that never seem to regard bugs as a possible solution. Instead, these vegan-promoting documentaries just promote veganism.

      Most people around the world are already eating bugs as an animal protein source. It's the people in developed countries who are finding bugs to be repulsive. That stuff is common knowledge. Just look for bugs as food. I don't have to cite common knowledge.

      As for lab grown meat, I brought that up as a sustaining alternative to factory-farming. Vegans reject meat, largely because of the cruelties to get them. However, in several vegan-promoting documentaries, they never promote the possibility of getting lab grown meat. They just promote veganism, creating a biased picture of what it means to be environmentally friendly.

  • 22d

    Okay well you didn't have to show that picture.

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  • 22d

    I am still vegan, it has helped with my health

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  • 22d

    I disagree with parts of this but I see your point. In certain parts of the world it's impossible to get a vegetarian, no less vegan dish. Even if it's labeled "vegetarian" it usually means "no beef" while still being seasoned with seafood or poultry.

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  • 22d

    I think most vegans are very aware of all of this. Because if you've been vegan a while you probably weren't while growing up. So you've made a conscious choice to radically change the way you eat, which for most people is based on research. Research about animal welfare, global warming and well health.
    People who don't know this are probably the meat eaters that still eat the way they did when they grew up.

    I think a few of your points are little misleading.

    1) Ya ok, so what? They don't have a choice, meat is too expensive. It doesn't have an impact on the fact that those regions have far fewer diet related diseases than we do

    2) "Vegans may say all they want that "low-calorie" is desirable". Really? Who says that? Because if you look around youtube or instagram the latest trend is that you're meant to eat loads and loads of carbs. More than 2000 calories and still people lose weight

    3) "following the vegan diet takes some health risks" there's not much you can think of. I mean death a year do we have from vegan diets? How many from heart disease, high blood pressure/cholesterol... which are all associated to eating meat and dairy. Heart disease is the number killer in the US and most of the developed world. 192 of 100 000 deaths. In china on the other hand it's only 160 and in rural areas, where people generally eat less meat it's 150. So if you think eating vegan is more risky than eating the standard American diet, you got something mixed up

    5) Actually I think the more likley scenario is that we will all eventually be vegan. Growing plants and feeding it to animals to then eat the animal is an incredibly inefficient way to consume calories.
    If you were to eat a whole cow you'd get around 50 000 calories. However by the time it's being slaughtered it will have eaten 10 000 lbs of grains containing roughly 16 million calories (for corn) or 20 million calories (for soy).
    Grass fed beef of course is different but it's also not sustainable. It takes up way too much space. Cattle ranching is destroying the amazon. So eventually we'll all have to cut back on meat

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    • 22d

      1) Actually, nutritional deficiencies are big problems of the developing countries and in vegans. That's why GMO "golden rice" is grown to feed people and treat their vitamin A deficiencies.
      2) If you're absorbing only a fraction of plant material, then you are really not absorbing much of the calories. Plants are relatively inefficient in delivering calories. Losing weight is not always a good thing, if your goal is to gain lean weight or maintain the same weight.
      3) You are comparing a vegan diet with the standard American diet. If you compare the Chinese diet with the standard American diet, then the Chinese diet would be healthier, but it is NOT vegan.
      5) Like I said in the Take, many vegans always compare meat from big livestock animals and fruits and vegetables, as if those two groups are the only possible food sources. Wrong. In fact, eating bugs is MUCH MORE sustainable than eating large livestock animals.

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    • 21d

      1) Yes they're different things, but if you're only getting 500 calories a day you'll have trouble getting a macro and micro-nutrients you need

      2) Let me ask a third time, like what vegan?

      3) You used the word healthier yourself
      People understand that most chinese people are not vegan/vegetarian, the point you're not getting is that they're eating proportionally more plant foods and are overall healthier. Most Vegans know this, meat eaters on the other... hence the question why are you telling it to vegans?

      5) But you're not talking to that part of the world, you're talking predominately america/europe where bugs are not commonly consumed. I think most people understand some people eat bugs get calories, yet would never consider that option for themselves

    • 21d

      1) Vitamins and minerals are actually not needed in great quantities. Just a small amount is sufficient. So, while people in developing countries may have adequate nutrition, the meals aren't very fattening or energy-dense. Sometimes, using lard (pig fat) to increase the energy density is a necessity.
      2) It's not a specific vegan. But the general vibe they send.
      3) You are comparing vegans with meat-eaters. This is an unfair comparison. You should compare vegans with omnivore. Chinese people do have more vegetables in the diet. They are not vegan. Veganism is not required for health. Just more vegetables and fruits is required. But vegans just go extreme and say you have to be vegan to live healthy. Vegans are essentially extremists.
      5) I believe that even Europeans and Americans and Australians and Canadians must consume bugs one day as a sustainable source of animal protein.

  • 22d

    Im not vegan, but i get where you are going with this.

    Try finding vegetarian in china... sounds reasonable right? Nope, they don't get the concept. It's nearly impossible to get vegetarian in china, much less vegan.

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    • 22d

      Eh? I went to my relatives' place in China before, and most of what they served at home was plant-based. You must have eaten at restaurants too much. Restaurants like to serve meaty dishes, because people tend to use restaurants to treat guests. One time, I went out to eat at a small restaurant with my mom, and I ordered a bowl of rice noodles with eggs. I suppose that's vegetarian. :)

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    • 22d

      Im not a vegan, when im in china i prefer to go vegan because i don't trust the protein sources. So i just stick with tofu and grean beans and cabbage.

    • 22d

      ohh, im also not vegetarian

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