Just when the controversial Beyond Vegetarianism website I had created in the late 1990s was enjoying success — at least on my own terms — I “dropped out.” And this, just as the web itself was undergoing rapid expansion. Rather than branching out into sfomething different or simply taking a temporary breather, I withdrew from public participation instead, for 15 years, as it was to turn out. Why? Here are the reasons.
As mentioned in the conclusion to part one, at the time I decided to pull back from public participation on the internet around the year 2000, the Beyond Vegetarianism (a.k.a. Beyond Veg) website that I had created a few years before had more or less accomplished my original goals for it. Other sites with allied views were now joining in to add their voices to the mix, which provided more momentum in raising awareness of the paleo vs. vegan dietary issues we had helped spearhead. It was good to see this unfolding.
The initial reason why I opted out
Gradual onset of repetitive stress injury
While the influence the website was having in its corner of the internet was satisfying, I wasn’t thinking about that as a reason for moving on at the time I dropped offline. I hadn’t really stopped that long to assess where we were at in our trajectory. That came more in retrospect in helping to support my decision. At the time, I just wanted to find the solution to a case of repetitive stress injury (RSI) I had been dealing with for a while prior to Beyond Veg, but that had gradually become more and more serious.
In the late 1990s, I launched a controversial website — Beyond Vegetarianism — that was at or near ground zero for both the vegetarian and paleo diet movements on the early web. Why would someone who formerly had much to say disappear from the internet for 15 years? Especially at a time when the website was going strong, and just as the paleo movement it had helped publicize was gathering real momentum?
The first several sections of Part 1 here are a retrospective partly for people who knew, or knew of, me “back when” as the guy who created BeyondVeg.com and who was allied with the early paleo diet movement online. These sections provide perspective on my motivations at the time, which were often misinterpreted, and tie up some loose ends. When I eventually dropped off the scene at the time, it was done without much of an explanation, if any.
For those without close familiarity with vegetarianism and paleo diet, these initial sections should help give an idea of what the “veggie vs. paleo” landscape of the times was like, and the role Beyond Veg served, as I saw it.
Whatever your familiarity with any of this, though, if you’d prefer to skip the initial retrospective sections, you can jump to the main part of the story here, recounting the “prequel” years leading up to Beyond Veg, its formation and growth, and then the aftermath.
The “Beyond Veg” website I started in the early days of the web established its position then by drawing a few different lines in the sand that provoked controversy. First, by publishing the earliest widely referenced debunkings of vegetarianism’s claim (at that time) of being the original human diet. This we accomplished by also being the first online to translate and present in plain English the findings of peer-reviewed science on paleoanthropology and human evolution as they pertained to diet.
My motivation was not debunking for debunking’s sake, but because I myself had been misled into believing the above claim. And, following advice based on it had delayed my recovery from health problems by a few years. Perhaps I might help others avoid the troubles I had undergone and not also lose months or years to inferior health — time they could not get back.
I also wanted to set the scientific record straight. While many if not most in the vegetarian movement probably did not base their adherence to the diet primarily on the belief that humans’ biological dietary adaptation was originally vegetarian and presumably supported by evolution (or the Bible, some believed), still, it was part of the “canon,” more or less. At the least, vegetarianism’s status as more whole and “natural” than the indiscriminate standard American mixed diet was usually a selling point. And it was true it was more natural in terms of its inclusion of a large proportion of whole plant foods — if one also ignored its omission of meat. So Beyond Veg’s debunking of that omission as unnatural and less whole did not sit well, at all.
After fifteen years with no personal presence on the internet, events over the last year or two have pushed me into gearing up to become active again. It has been a “long time gone,” as well as a long time reaching a turning point where the time feels right and I’m now ready to surface online again beyond just lurker mode.