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by Tom Billings

This article deals first with common ethical vegan misconceptions of raw foods, particularly fruitarianism, after which certain aspects of ethical veganism are analyzed from the viewpoint of a raw-fooder. The catalyst for this is a set of questions/comments made by a conventional, cooked-food ethical vegan, who was considering becoming a fruitarian as the "next step" in diet. The material here is an update and synthesis of material from three separate posts to veg-raw, an e-mail list for raw-fooders. I hope you find this interesting, perhaps even challenging.

Prelude. Conventional ethical vegan, code name HX, notes that eating vegetables seems to be 'violent' as it requires killing innocent vegetables. HX thinks that eating fruit does not involve killing, hence is preferable. Thus HX thinks that fruitarianism is the ultimate diet.

Definitions. Before discussing HX's questions, it is appropriate to briefly discuss what we mean by fruitarian. Fruitarianism is a diet that consists predominantly of raw fruit; for a standard, will use a minimum of 75% fruit to qualify. The remainder of the diet will be assumed to be raw vegetarian foods. The term fruit may be interpreted in its broad, botanical definition, so it includes all seeds including grains, as well as a number of "vegetables" that are really fruits - cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers. However, most fruitarians use the term fruit in its more narrow, common sense, i.e. produced on a tree, vine, or bush. Most, but not all, fruitarians include the "vegetable" fruits (e.g., cucumbers, green/hot peppers, etc.) in their diet. For purposes of this article, we will limit discussion to the latter usage, which means (such) fruitarians do not consume (sprouted) grain.

Further, by questioning consumption of vegetables, HX appears to be considering fruitarianism in its most extreme form - 100% fruit, no veggies, and presumably no seeds either, as they are life forms as well. HX is also ruling out Natural Hygiene, which allows seeds, nuts, and veggies.

Now we come to HX's first question: was avoiding killing vegetables part of your motivation to become a fruitarian?

A: No. I was a fruitarian for several years in the 1970's. Although some of my motives for becoming a fruitarian were spritual - to become "purer", "eat spiritually higher food", I was not motivated by any desire to save the lives of vegetables, the consumption of which I regard as moral in every respect. I was looking for personal physical and spiritual enhancement, not to save the lives of celery plants, lettuce, turnips, carrots, or other vegetables. A major, but negative motive at the time was the fear of mucus - a concept foolishly promoted by some in the raw foods movement.

Since those days of dietary innocence, I have learned that modern fruit is not a "higher food" - it is hybridized, grafted, sprayed, fumigated, picked unripe and shipped long distances under refrigeration, and other processing. If one uses an intellectually honest definition of natural, then the most natural fruit is wild fruit - which is often small, fibrous, sour - dramatically unlike the large, sweet, grafted hybridized fruit one finds in the supermarket. (See my article, "Wild/Natural vs. Modern, Cultivated Fruit - A Summary Comparison" for details.) Returning to modern fruit production, it is obvious that the processing and manipulation of modern fruit devitalizes it, and the result is a weak, not-so-natural food that has un-naturally high levels of sugar. That is why humble, organic sprouts are preferable to fruit in many ways (but of course they don't taste as good).

There are two major points here. The first is that modern fruit is neither "cruelty-free" nor "karma free", due to the substantial processing and environmental damage that accrues from its cultivation. The second is that fruitarianism is not as natural a diet as some claim it is, due to the big differences in wild/natural vs cultivated fruit.

Returning more pointedly to HX's question, what one wants is a diet that is practical and minimizes cruelty. For most, this is a mixed raw diet: fruits + veggies + grains/seeds. For most people, fruitarianism is not practical, and 100% fruit is very difficult, even risky: many try 100% fruit, but very few succeed in the long-term. If one does not consider practicality, only minimizing cruelty, then fruitarianism is not the ultimate diet; breatharianism (the "air diet") is. But breatharianism is nearly impossible, although one can do yoga breathing exercises - pranayama - daily and reduce total food consumption.

Q: HX asks for a nutritional justification of fruitarianism.

A: As for nutritional justification, you won't find it - pure fruitarianism does not conform to the concepts of Western nutrition. Fruitarian diets, like other vegan diets, are deficient in vitamin B-12, and low in the other B vitamins, also vitamin D. Fruitarian diets are very low in zinc; the "light" or "euphoric" mental feelings some fruitarians experience may actually be a symptom of zinc deficiency! Also, it is difficult to get enough calcium on a 100% fruit diet. This is why it is very important for fruitarians to include a mineral source - vegetables of some kind - in their diet. However, HX thinks killing vegetables is cruel, and is considering excluding them from his diet.

The ultimate test of any diet is utility: does it really work for you? That is the final test one can apply here. Although a (very) few people report that fruitarianism works for them, many others find that it does not work for them, long-term. Raw foods diets in general are difficult, and the more limited the diet, the greater the degree of difficulty.

Q: HX asks why should one eat a raw foods diet?

A: There are many answers to that question. The best answer is to actually try a raw foods diet and experience the benefits firsthand. A short list of reasons: improved health (physical, mental, emotional); many foods are easier to digest when raw - full of enzymes and higher in vitamins; meals are easy and simple when you just wash and serve; raw foods are alive and contain the lifeforce, while cooked foods are dead; as part of a program for healing from serious illness; and many other reasons.

Q: HX asks for ethical reasons that support following a raw diet.

A: The entire argument for ethical veganism can be summarized as - vegan diets are best because they are more efficient, where efficient here specifically means less resources used, less cruelty. However, most raw foods diets are more efficient than cooked foods diets! This you can prove directly - compare the amount of wheat you might eat when baked into chocolate chip cookies, versus plain, sprouted wheat. Compare broccoli cooked with salt and sauces with raw broccoli. You will generally eat a lower quantity of foods on a raw food diet. (Exceptions: if one is a glutton on raw foods, if one falls prey to sugar addiction, or if one consumes a lot of juices which are inefficient.)

Hence it follows that raw foods diets use less resources and are less cruel (less food used => less wildlife habitat lost to farming) than a cooked vegan diet. So the "most ethical" vegan diet is a raw food diet! It's unfortunate that ethical vegans are generally unaware of this, as it leaves them open to the charge of hypocrisy (as they aren't fully practicing what they preach), and they also miss out on the potential benefits of raw foods diets.

It should be noted that raw foods diets are not for everyone; in particular fruitarianism is problematic, difficult, and not recommended (by me). However, given the ethic of efficiency, ethical vegans should at least try a raw foods diet and see if it works for them. If 100% raw is too difficult, perhaps 50-80% raw will work. To have the "most ethical" vegan diet, one wants to maximize the % of raw foods in the diet. Finally, in finding the "most ethical" diet for yourself, don't let dogma override your common sense. Find the mixture of raw/ cooked that works best for you, that supports your good health.


Correction, May 1998
The above article contains a possible error, and it deserves explanation/ discussion. The answer to the last question notes that raw vegan diets are more efficient than cooked vegan diets. At the time I wrote that, I had some reservations - I considered it possible for a raw vegan to eat less weight (of food) than a typical cooked food vegan, but it is rarer than the answer to the question suggests. Specifically, I have found it possible to get by on a low weight of raw foods, but only if the foods are high calorie: nuts and large amounts of avocados. However, in terms of efficiency, the cooked food vegan can also eat avocados, and even nuts (raw or cooked, the energy value is about the same). A raw diet that is primarily low calorie foods, may eventually result in weight loss.

Let's examine the logic in the question answer. The first part of the logic - that you will say, eat less sprouted wheat than cooked, is true - raw/ sprouted foods are usually harder/coarser and they have a lot of bulk, compared to cooked foods. However, the conclusion, that one will then eat less total food (weight) on raw than cooked, does not apply. If you eat coarse low-calorie foods, you will ultimately have to eat something else - raw or cooked - to get the energy you need (the alternative is to lose weight).

So, although it is possible for a raw vegan who has a high fat diet, from nuts and avocados, to eat less weight in food than the typical cooked food vegan, it is not so common. (Indeed, the binge eating that is so prevalent in raw, makes the situation worse.) So, my claim that raw vegan diets are necessarily more efficient than cooked, is not true in general. I apologize for the apparent error in the above, and any misconceptions it might have caused.


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