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.