July 26, 2010
Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer
Dr. Michael Klaper earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine, and after working with patients, he began to realize that many of the diseases they suffered from were caused by the foods they ate. In his video, A Diet for All Reasons, he tells a story about reviewing a blood sample taken from a 290-pound patient. He was startled when he discovered the top of the vial contained thick, white fat. When Dr. Klaper asked the patient what he'd eaten that day, it became apparent that meat, dairy, animal flesh and fats were the cause of the alarming blood sample. As a result, for the past 30 years, Dr. Klaper has studied the links between diet and disease.
TC: In an interview at Abolitionist-online.com you said that when people get a diagnosis of diabetes or chest pain, they become interested in changing their diets and become very teachable. However, many people still resist changing their diet, even if a doctor tells them it will cure their diabetes or heart disease. Why do you think some people resist changing the way they eat? Why do some react defensively to the idea of a plant-based diet?
MK: A person's beliefs about their diet are connected with their most deeply-held beliefs and perceptions about who they are and what the figures of authority in their lives told them was "good food:"
1. The beliefs start with our comfort foods from childhood and become intimately tied up with our memories of what our parents fed us. Rejecting those beliefs in favor of a non-traditional approach like a vegetarian diet would mean that (gasp) "Mother was wrong!" This alone incites tremendous resistance among many people.
2. A change of our eating style to a vegetarian or vegan diet also is a statement that says we believe that what the government tells us about nutrition has been wrong (not an irrational conclusion when we witness the meat industry-influenced USDA "Basic 4" and "Food Pyramid," etc. schemes.)
3. Changing our diet also means freeing ourselves from the powerful taste addictions we have acquired to the fast food and processed foods that are cheap and loaded with salt, sugar, fat and other taste seducers that keep us craving them. Not an easy extrication to effect...
4. Finally, choosing to consume a vegetarian or vegan diet can be socially inconvenient, exposing one, and labeling one as "extreme" or "out of the mainstream."
No wonder there is inertia and resistance to change these tightly held beliefs and preferences. I sometimes feel it would be easier to talk with people about a sex-change operation than a change in their diet.
TC: After spending 16 summers on your uncle’s dairy farm, you must have a deep understanding of farm life in America. What roles do farmers play in the health of Americans?
MK: Farmers are among the ultimate Earth Stewards, almost priests and alchemists of the planet. For it is through their skill, patience, and connection with the Earth that they coax the life from dormant seeds and nurture it into mature fruits, vegetables, grains, and other edible bounties to fill our tables and sustain our bodies.
Veganic food production, agro-forestry, and other techniques that do not require animal inputs can heal the land and waters, while the plant-strong meals we enjoy make us healthier. Whatever any of us can do--in our families and communities, through the media, in the health and food production professions, in child care, and in education--to help expedite the transition to plant-based diets, helps to bring us back into balance with nature. Thus, an evolution to a vegan diet and society will elevate our farmers to truly sustainable stewardship.
TC: In the Abolitionist interview, you said some inspiring things about the power of the individual living vegan values day-to-day to make a big difference in the world, teaching by example over the long term. However, world events often seem overwhelmingly outside the influence of a well-intentioned individual (like the recent oil spill in the Gulf). How does an individual’s influence make a difference?
MK: The tragedy unfolding in the Gulf is dismal and frightening, on many levels. The repercussions will likely be felt throughout society for generations. It will probably place additional stresses--ecologic, for certain, and most likely, economic, social, and political - on us all. It will bring out the best and worst of our society--and it will surely transform us as a nation.
These events herald a time when the limitations and vulnerabilities of our society's supply systems are seen for what they are--vast and vulnerable--and the importance of strengthening your local ties is emphasized. Now is the time to find out where your food and water come from and get to know people that supply them.
In your dealings with your friends, family, business associates, customers, clients, patients--whomever you serve and interact with--your honesty and compassion and respect for all things will speak silently, but eloquently, about who you are and the power of your non-violent beliefs.
A vegan diet and lifestyle makes a statement to all that “killing is not part of my problem-solving kit. I won’t use extermination of any sentient creature--including humans--as a solution to a given problem, even involving my food, water, or other vital matters.” Such a stance of non-violent intent emanates feelings of safety towards those around you and will make any situation better.
The energy that comes from the stance of benevolence--and the people who operate from that stance--will be both a binding agent in the community and a "lubricant" that will allow important transitions to occur and vital work to be done without undue friction. The influence of each individual will make even more of a difference in these rapidly-evolving times. Love, compassion, and clarity--manifesting in many ways, including plant-based food choices--will be even more important with every passing year. An expeditious evolution to a non-violent, non-exploitative vegan diet and lifestyle will benefit all who live on this planet, and, more and more, appears to be a prerequisite for our survival.
Dr. Klaper will be a speaker at VegFest. Visit nwveg.org/vegfest.php for more details on VegFest’s exciting speaker line-up.