Joe Rogan has a somewhat confusing relationship with veganism. First of all, he’s definitely not vegan himself; he’s a hunter, and that’s supposedly the source of most or all of the meat he eats. Moreover, he has frequently made fun of vegans in his stand-up routines and often criticizes veganism (or, really, some of its more extreme proponents) on his podcast — one particularly cringe-inducing episode featured the producers of Cowspiracy, in which Rogan appeared to believe that pointing out minute flaws in some facts upon which the film was based would undermine the environmental argument for veganism as a whole.
Rogan’s critiques of veganism seem to focus on the rather fantastical claims that its most ardent proponents tend to trot out; the people who say veganism cures cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc. He isn’t wrong to call these folks on their bullshit — we’ve done it, too, albeit in less harsh terms. But to the extent that he believes the health argument for veganism being overblown or nonexistent leaves no reasons to go vegan, he is wrong.
Rogan is 51 years old, but one could easily mistake him for 32. And the dude is massive. Health is clearly one of his top concerns. There is a genuine question as to whether he’d be able to maintain his physique if he changed his diet. This doesn’t hold up as a legitimate argument against veganism, to be sure, but it’s at least understandable.
I enjoy Rogan’s commentary on just about every topic except veganism. He’s indisputably funny, very well-read, and a great interviewer. I always find his take on issues to be nuanced; rarely, if ever, just a repeat of someone else’s position. So I listen to him — not obsessively and not that often — and sort of hold my breath when veganism comes up.
It was with this trepidation that I tuned in to his relatively new stand-up special on Netflix. I hadn’t seen his stand-up in some time, though I did recall that he can’t seem to resist poking fun at vegans — and not in a creative way. His special is funny, and I recommend it to anyone that enjoys comedy. Veganism came up and, to my shock, he was rather restrained — though he did strongly imply that vegans are unhealthy. He actually said some positive things, such as that vegans are kind enough to make a sacrifice (i.e. not eating meat, dairy or eggs) so that others may not suffer.
I thought perhaps Rogan had a change of heart, that maybe he began to think more about the ethical argument for veganism and was willing to openly acknowledge that there are good reasons to go vegan.
But then I watched this video clip of walking-pile-of-human-trash Ted Nugent on Rogan’s podcast talking about veganism.
In his predictably-ignorant tirade, Nugent says “If you really wanna kill the most things, be a vegan.” He goes on to repeat his nutty version of the “animals are killed during harvest” non-argument, concluding that factory farming is mostly fine. Instead of debunking Nugent’s ignorance, as we’ve done before, let’s instead pay attention to Rogan’s response to these claims.
“That’s a really good point,” Rogan says before he unknowingly goes on to illustrate that it’s not. In response to Nugent’s claim that hunting deer is more ethical than eating a “tofu salad” — whatever that is — Rogan points out that not everyone has land to hunt on. Most people simply cannot hunt and, even if they could, there is nowhere near enough animals within the vicinity of major cities for most people who live within them to be fed. Rogan knows that factory farms are necessary to feed the 99% of the American population who want to eat meat and animal products, but he doesn’t seem to think that contradicts the argument that vegans don’t kill fewer animals than others.
He really should know better. This was covered in Cowspiracy. Had Rogan paid attention, he’d know that most crops grown in the United States, and thus most animals killed during the harvesting of said crops, are for the purpose of feeding livestock. To purchase meat is to pay for animals to be killed during harvesting and then killed again for meat. To be vegan is to pay for the killing of just a fraction of the animals in the first step — converting energy from, say, soy into meat results in most of the calories being lost in the process — and nothing more.
It’s unclear if this interview with Nugent took place before or after his stand-up special was filmed. If it took place beforehand, perhaps Rogan had a change of heart before embarking on his comedy tour, and decided to more seriously consider the arguments for veganism. If, on the other hand, it took place after, Rogan isn’t going to come around any time soon. And it’s hard not to blame, in part, the pseudoscience peddled by vegan propaganda films like “What The Health” which, in their zeal, can end up doing more harm than good.