David Horton Interviews:
Vegan Doctor, Michael Klaper, M.D.
David Horton: How did you first
become interested in veganism?
Dr. Klaper: Early 1980s, a convergence
occurred of a number of factors in my life.
Primarily it was a spiritual quest; I was a
young physician, in my early thirties.
I had trained at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, and my nights were spent in
the emergency and trauma units, seeing the terrible results of violence: shot
gun blasts, knifings, and I saw the terrible devastations that violence brings to
people’s lives, and not just physical violence, but emotional, sexual, mental
violence and I knew I wanted to reduce violence in all forms in my own life - in
my thoughts in my words, in my deeds.
I had always wanted things to be okay, ever since I was a little boy, on a farm
growing up. I wanted the animals to be okay, everyone to be okay, so in that
way, eliminating violence was very key to my own substance.
So I set about doing that and one day, over a steak dinner, I was expounding
to a friend my desire to lead a less violent life.
He said that was all well and good but while you’re looking around for places
in your life to eliminate violence you might start by looking at that piece of
meat on your plate and what it took to get there.
Realize that it is your desire for that taste that’s actually responsible for the
death of that animal. And a little voice over my shoulder said, "You know, he’s
They say that:
"Once you look behind the curtain, you can’t pretend you don’t know what’s
behind the curtain" and, right then, the curtain got ripped right off.
David Horton: At that time did everything come tumbling through that it might
implicate dairy products and all the rest?
Dr. Klaper: Within weeks I really looked at the entire web of the connection of
our exploitation of animals, not only meat eating, but leather wearing and dairy
Now, I had spent my first sixteen summers on my uncle’s dairy farm in
Wisconsin, so I was fully aware of what it took to produce milk and meat.
It really is amazing how we pull down those emotional blinds to permit
ourselves to keep doing what we know is harmful – to ourselves and to other
David Horton: Young people coming into this whole thing, going through the
same sort of experience you went through, what stops them? What pulls
them back? Because millions of young people have come across this and
they have pulled back.
Dr. Klaper: The whole of society tells us that cheeseburgers are good, and
that doing things that make you feel good at any cost is okay. So there isn’t a
lot of encouragement to explore the alternatives.
When young people do run into inconvenient realities, they retreat - unless
their inner desire is so strong or there is a guiding person along the way who
says it’s a safe and good path, then it’s easier to progress.
David Horton: Someone takes on a vegan diet and everything is going well,
much easier than they thought, then they want to get this message across.
There’s a big stumbling block, no one is listening. How do you see the best
way to go to fulfill this urge?
Dr. Klaper: It’s difficult. We’re also struggling with this. We live in a decidedly
non-vegan world. We all run into this and especially a young person, when he
encounters what Joseph Conrad described in the Heart of Darkness, “the
horror, the horror” then you see the tremendous extent to which an
exploitative lifestyle has infiltrated our entire being and existence.
It all starts with the self, to find that quiet place in the self that, no matter what
is happening around, I know that I’m going to maintain my center of non-
violence, and no matter what anyone else is eating at the table, “no thank
you. I’m not going to have any today.” You make your own decisions.
You walk into the shoe store and you say, “What do you have in non-leather
shoes?” Growing into your own power as a person is when you realize you
don’t have to answer to anybody - only to the truth, and your own heart. You
realize that you’re responsible only to yourself and to your own conscience.
Then, it helps to remember that as Gandhi said, “Example is not the best way
to teach, example is the only way to teach.”
So I would say to every young person, slow down, the world starts with your
example. You live a vegan diet, a vegan lifestyle -and people will ask. They’ll
come to you, you don’t have to go out and proselytize.
Just by the purity and power of your own example, by what you wear, what
you say, what you eat, what you do, who you are - it will get out, and you’ll at
least create a vegan world for yourself and watch what a wonderful influence
you have on people around you.
Have faith in the power of the truth, and your example. Martial your energy
and start by building your own inner sanctuary of your vegan stance towards
And then, decide if you want to become politically active and then decide how
you want to do it. Do you want to agitate, do you want to get the media’s
attention, do you want to get people challenging you? Or do you want to
teach, to write, to fund raise? There are many equally valid pathways.
Whatever way you choose, let it come from that calm vegan center and lead by
When you do, you will find that, fortunately, there’s strength in numbers.
There comes a point where you start looking around, and you see there are
others awake, caring human beings - many of them vegans or certainly
sympathetic to the vegan ideal: people concerned about animals, the
environment, about non-violence, and all of them on paths that lead to a vegan
diet and lifestyle.
And soon you find kindred spirits and you find organizations that have already
been in existence, and you start showing up at the meetings and the rallies,
and you do your reading and you have conversations - you get involved to the
extent you want to get involved.
But again, your own example, your own inner sanctuary is the most important
The concept of the "violent vegan" is an ultimate oxymoron. But such
aggressive vegans don’t realize the damage they do to themselves, the
animals and the movement by their over-enthusiastic, in-your-face ranting. It
doesn’t help, and in a deep way it’s not a vegan thing to do.
David Horton: People who have been a vegan for a long time give off
impressions that they are hostile. How do we build a debating atmosphere,
which is challenging yet not aggressive?
Dr. Klaper: That’s lovely point. It starts with the important step of dropping the
idea of "us" and "them." "Us" and "the meat-eaters."
Spiritual awareness begins with the understanding that, it’s all "us." I ate
meat, I wore leather. How can I shake my finger and judge adversely those
people who haven’t woken up yet?
If someone’s sleeping, they are asleep. And it’s up to me to gently help them
wake up. How do you compassionately awaken someone who is sleeping?
Like you would like to be awakened yourself! Start by feeling compassion for
your, I won’t say "opponent" your friend along the journey with you, their
position at the moment is…
David Horton: ‘Adversaries’ is too strong?
Dr. Klaper: No, they are not adversaries, it’s a congenital, societally fostered
ignorance more than anything - and even that’s a pejorative term. It’s a not
knowing, a not understanding. They just haven’t woken to the truth of it, at
You must be patient, but persistent and realize that, as in your process, it’s
one of those things that once you waken to it you say “how could I have not
But that’s the process of being human. Unless you were born and raised as a
vegan, you went through it, too. Aren't you grateful for people who helped you
What an ultimate blessing to meet a guide along your way to help you see, and
grow and change. So when you have that blessed opportunity to be that
guide for someone else, start by feeling a genuine wave of compassion
towards the people you’re communicating with.
Have confidence in the knowledge that the truth really is on your side.
Nobody really thinks that it's a good thing to inflict death and suffering upon
And the science now clearly says that we don’t really need to eat meat, so you
don’t have to use a sledgehammer.
But you might have to be content to just plant a seed - one that will sprout
later, maybe even much later. But that is not up to you. What is up to you is to
plant that seed lovingly and effectively, and letting your friend see how a
knowledgeable and compassionate vegan communicates and the example
If people express their concerns, then know the proper response. When the
great American actor Spencer Tracy was asked what is the secret of great
acting, he gave a three word answer: “Know your lines”. Same thing with
vegans when you’re trying to educate someone - have the facts.
Go to the vegan environmental and nutritional websites, learn the facts and
know what you are talking about. You don’t need to beat them over the head
with it, but when you look at, the environmental, the ethical, the nutritional
aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle, we have a lot of trumps in our hand.
Even the person who says they have to have some meat in their diet or their
body gets weak, I say, "OK" then view animal products in the diet as
medicinal. Find the smallest amount you need to consume to feel healthy and
hold your meat consumption to that.
David Horton: Do vegans have an interesting enough story for the media
because the very story we want publicized is not necessarily the story they
want to tell?
Dr. Klaper: Absolutely. It’s a fascinating thing that, in the many interviews I’
ve done with reporters who are non-vegan, you can see them being the
reporter in their radio or press role, just trying to get at "the facts."
But it is fascinating to also tune into the person behind their role, thinking
about what’s in their refrigerator and how do their arteries look.
And you see them wondering the same thing, and you are aware that
movement, growth is happening - a seed is being planted. It’s a fascinating
process. It’s an educational process.
We’re all in the same boat. We all want a healthy sustainable planet. We all
want healthy children. We all want people to live in prosperity and to live to
advanced years in good health. We all want those things.
Yet, now we also see that the path that we’re on now is not sustainable, on
any level: nutritionally, you cannot eat cheeseburgers every day and expect to
live a healthy life. We are destroying the planet with this massively grotesque
level of meat production and consumption that the world is so devoted to.
The science is now so overwhelming that this is simply not sustainable: both
the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global climate change and sea
level rise, and the growing shortage of water and land resources, is driven by
an exploding human population demanding ever more meat to eat.
The argument unfortunately is getting easier to make, and unfortunately
because things are getting more and more dire, it’s hard to stand up and say
we need to grow more animals, cut down more forests, create more pollution
and release more methane. The other side has no stance, the truth of it is.
This is Al Gore’s most inconvenient truth. And he will not see it and I have
compassion for him but I’m also standing in the corner, tapping my foot
waiting for him. This is the elephant in the living room. How can you not see
David Horton: Do you think the ethical animal question is on the back burner
all of the time, because we’re very focused on global warming, very focused
on the environment, because people can focus on that they put animal ethics
on the back burner?
Dr. Klaper: The connections between global meat consumption and the
environmental problems we face on this planet are becoming ever more clear.
People worry as fresh water disappears everywhere around the world.
Australia is drying up, as is China and the western U.S.
It is said the next round of wars will be fought over water. Yet, only now is
meat production’s role in this global drought being realised. After all, where is
so much of all that water going? Massive amounts of irrigation water are
sprayed on hillsides and fodder fields to grow food for livestock – for meat.
Consider the huge amounts of water used to water cattle, pigs and chickens in
the monstrous feedlots and pork and chicken production facilities springing up
around the globe.
Consider the billions of liters of water used each year to flush the millions of
tons of manure these animals produce into lagoons and rivers. Consider the
billions of liters of water all the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants
use each year to process animal flesh.
Our appetite for meat drives so much of the worsening water shortages we all
face – yet the world is still so reluctant to face this truth.
People worry about the loss of forests happening around the world, including
the “lungs of the Earth” - the Amazon rainforest. Now they are starting to
realize that most of that forest is cleared to grow feedstock for cattle.
Incidentally, to illustrate how bizarre the argument has become, I recently
heard vegans being blamed as the cause of the destruction of the rain forest -
since the forests were being cleared to grow all those soybeans to make tofu
To be clear, the overwhelming majority of soy and other crops grown on ex-
forest land, including the rain forests, is destined for the gullets of cows, pigs
and chickens – not people.
Of course, global warming and sea-level rise is on everyone’s mind, and
without doubt, the massive amounts of methane and carbon dioxide released
by ruminant animals and feedlots are a major contributor to greenhouse
This is often minimized, by saying livestock production releases less carbon
than that produced by transportation and energy production.
But this is a false comparison, because so much of the fossil fuels burned by
the transportation and energy sectors is done precisely for meat production.
Consider all the tractors around the world, going back and forth plowing corn
and soybean fields to feed to cattle for meat – they all burn oil. Consider the
irrigation pumps spraying the feed corn, soybeans and pasture grass – to
Think about the millions of trucks on the world’s highways – how many of
them are carrying grains, fertilizers, irrigation equipment, cattle - and meat.
They all burn oil. Think of all the coal and oil being burned right now to
generate electricity to run refrigerators and freezers in houses, restaurants
and food storage facilities around the world – specifically to keep meat cold.
Meat production is driving all this carbon burning. This is Al Gore’s most
inconvenient truth. Yet, it has remained largely invisible, until now.
In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released
its landmark report entitled: Livestock’s Long Shadow, clearly calling attention
to the need to reduce global meat production and consumption.
It is becoming ever more evident that the world’s diet needs to become
substantially more vegan – soon. And, for powerful economic reasons, it will.
If there is one silver lining to the current economic crisis, it is that the billions
of dollars that the U.S. and European countries pay in agricultural subsidies to
keep grain and meat prices artificially low will probably be ended, soon.
When that happens, the price of meat around the world will rise to great
heights, and meatless meals are going to become very popular. A more vegan
world is coming to a planet near you – soon.
By the way, these days, I seldom use the word “vegan” when speaking to non-
vegan listeners. The word, "vegan" has acquired a political charge to it, and
many of our omnivorous friends bridle at the word, thinking you are asking
them to convert to some type of new religion or political belief.
“You’re not gonna make me become one of them there vegans.” Rather than
using a word that fosters resistance and prevents a reasoned exploration of
the issues by people really who need to consider some important new ideas, I
usually speak of “plant-based diets” and “non-animal-based foods.”
That way, I find much less resistance in my listeners and people seem to
remain much more open to consider the advantages of animal-free diets and
lifestyles. In fact, I don’t even insist that everyone become vegans.
It would be nice, but the most important thing is what we do 90% to 95% of the
time. Most of our health, environmental and world hunger goals would be met
with just that change. I would gladly settle for that - and all my meat-eating
friends could relax and put down their defenses and be open to a more
vegetarian future for us all.
My fellow crusading vegans might ponder this idea and perhaps, would find
themselves making more progress in the cause we all care so much about.
David Horton: We’ve got this terrible health situation with so many, many
people we personally know, they’re on a traditional diet, high sodium, high
fat, high processed food content.
How do we wean people off it, or rather how do we not wean them off it so
much as to make what we have to offer attractive, reminding ourselves that it
isn’t very easy, especially in this country, to find those sorts of transitional
Dr. Klaper: Absolutely. As a physician, I find that when people are feeling
good, they give themselves the liberty of not looking at their indiscretions,
even though they may be doing themselves great harm by indulging them.
But when they get their diagnosis of diabetes or chest pain, then suddenly,
they become very interested, very teachable.
You hope that they don’t get to that point, but younger people are seeing their
parents, their uncles and aunts, etc. getting these medical problems, and again,
it is getting to be common knowledge, even among the young people, that too
much meat and junk food in the diet makes you fat and clogged up – and sick.
Each individual is going to have his own key to turn the lock of their own
awareness. When you hear a particular person might be ready, expressing,
“Gee, I don’t want to go on those pills” or “I don’t want to have that operation”
and they talk about their concerns, that is the time to either say something or
give them a book or DVD that will enlighten them about the connection
between their current diet and their medical concerns – and how a plant-based
diet can be a key to better health and to avoiding medical catastrophes.
Also, don’t forget that a taste is worth a thousand words. Take them to a
restaurant, order a tasty non-animal based meal and let the food do the
If, after biting into some delicious vegetarian lasagna or oriental vegetable stir-
fry, they say, “Oh, if this is vegan food, I could eat this” - you know that most
of the battle is won.
David Horton: So, you’ve got to go home, they’ve got to cook for themselves,
they can’t eat in a restaurant every night, how do they get that fixed in their
mind that they can go home and actually conduct a really good lifestyle?
Dr. Klaper: Well, it certainly helps to have someone experienced along the way
to help – that is really the key. Fortunately, there are many resources
available through your local vegetarian society – books, DVD’s, classes, even
knowledgeable, helpful people – to help people new to the path gain the
If possible, take them shopping, help them buy convenient foods, like prepared
soups, frozen dinners, etc. and help them make salads, sandwiches- anything
that tastes good to them and that is easy to prepare.
Look at the diet they are currently eating and help them “tweak” it to a more
vegetarian nature, by substituting vegan alternatives for their current animal-
based ingredients. It really isn’t that hard.
David Horton: What about those addictive components? In other words
perhaps these people are a bit like junkies, they love it and how do they get
Dr. Klaper: As one who is still struggling with my desires, sweet and salt and
sugars and fats, I recognize that it’s all part of having a human tongue. We like
those things, and it’s important to get across that this is not a diet of denial
It’s okay to have sweets and treats and foods that are satisfying on the
tongue; it’s okay to have a big plate of pasta with a rich tomato sauce and
some seasonings and to enjoy it fully and be satisfied. There’s lots of vegan
treats and fruits and desserts to enjoy. Let’s do it.
In fact I’m a fan of the meat analogues, etc, as a transition food. If that’s what
it takes to get someone past their initial “Oh my God, there’s no meat on my
plate” then give them the soy meats and the veggie hot dogs - not forever and
ever, and with the idea of slowly tapering that out of the diet.
I used to eat a lot of those faux meat products, and now I eat them very rarely.
I live on soups and salads and steamed greens, healthy smoothies and
occasional restaurant meals. It’s fine for me. Tastes evolve and mature as
time goes on and we should allow for that, and not make ourselves (or others)
anxious with overly rigid nutrition rules, especially during the early transition
to vegan eating.
David Horton: The four food groups, five food groups, this problem about oil
in the diet do you think it is a very serious one, I notice you include nuts as
one of the five food groups.
Dr. Klaper: We need fats in the diet; it’s an essential nutrient. Your skin oils
are made of fats, the myelin sheaths on your nerves are made of fats – we
Fats, per se, are not evil – and they make food taste good! So, in the early
days of a transition to a more vegan diet, I am pretty liberal concerning fats, so
the person does not feel they have adopted a “diet of deprivation.”
If a person wants to put some olive oil on their salad or have an occasional
fatty dessert, I say, “fine”. If that is what it takes to help them take those first
steps to healthy eating – and more importantly – to like the vegan style of
foods so they will stay with it over the long term, then I’m all for that.
I would rather let them eat the vegan foods they like at the beginning, while at
the same time, planting the seeds that they will eventually need to include
more whole plant foods in their diet and reduce the processed foods, even if
they are vegan.
“Junk food vegans” are not healthy people. But to help them take that key first
step of enjoying the pasta with the tomato sauce instead of the meat sauce –
that is the most important thing.
David Horton: Do you think there is something that at a certain age or a
certain period of time after which you’ve been vegan, you need to remind
yourself that there’s something else we need to do?
Dr. Klaper: Absolutely. We’ve been conducting our Vegan Health Study for
several years now (people can go to www.veganhealthstudy.org if they wish
to participate) and we see most people do quite well on vegan diets.
But, there are some folks who will lose muscle mass, experience lower energy
levels and not feel at their best eating a vegan diet. They will come to me and
say, “I’m not thriving on a vegan diet.”
When we do blood tests on them, we often find that they are low in important
trace minerals like zinc, magnesium and copper. Part of that is attributable to
the high fibre content of a whole-foods vegan diet.
That is, the essential minerals are in the kale, silverbeet and the broccoli we
eat, but these trace metal atoms are tied up tightly to the plants’ fibers. You
know the old saying, “you are what you eat?” Well, the more accurate
statement is, “you are what you absorb.”
If the calcium or zinc or copper is bound tightly within the plant fibers and then
passes through the intestinal tract quickly, as happens on a vegan diet, we
may not have a chance to absorb the nutrients we need, and as the years go
by, mineral deficiencies may develop.
We must do all we can to increase the absorption of the minerals in the foods
we consume. There are several strategies for doing this.
Most importantly, it is to remember that your mother was right. It is essential
to chew your food! Chewing your food “to a cream” breaks down the cell
walls of the plant and allows the nutrients to be absorbed.
So take the extra few seconds to use the 32 juicers (your teeth) that Mother
Nature gave you to make “broccoli puree” in your mouth, and you will gain
much more nutrition from the food you eat.
With all respect to my friends in the raw food community, one of the real
advantages of soups and stews and cooked foods is that as the vegetables in
the soup or stew water gently cook, the cells break down and the minerals get
leached out into the broth.
Vitamins may be minimally damaged, but that is why we eat salads, fruits and
lots of uncooked foods. So, I’m a big fan of soups and stews and smoothies
that have plant fibers that are well broken down to facilitate nutrient
I think that a diet should be at least 50% raw, 50% cooked, and if necessary I’m
certainly not averse to taking a vitamin, mineral supplement tablet once or
twice a week, to top up your supplies of these essential trace minerals.
David Horton: And B12?
Dr. Klaper: Vitamin B12 is a real issue. Plant foods don’t have B12, and if one
follows a pure vegan diet for many months or years, the B12 stores in the
body will become depleted.
If a severe B12 deficiency is left untreated, severe damage to the brain, spinal
cord and nerves can result, so this is a subject that vegans cannot ignore.
I recommend that, at least once weekly, vegans have some food that is
fortified with vitamin B12.
Fortunately, today, many soymilks and ricemilks and other foods are so
fortified. To be even more sure, I suggest that they take a vitamin B12
The most effective form is to buy from the chemist or health shop, the little 500
mcg or 1000-mcg vitamin B12 sublingual (under the tongue) “microdots.”
They are quickly absorbed and, taken once or twice monthly, produce
excellent B12 levels.
(Editors Note: Dr. Herbert M. Shelton a natural hygienic doctor does not
recommend the use of supplements). See: Diet Reform vs Supplemental
Feeding By Herbert M. Shelton.
Vitamin B12 taken as part of an oral multivitamin is less reliably absorbed, so
if a long-term vegan has any question – especially if they feel that their brain or
nerve function is not what they would like – they should have their B12 level
checked by their health care practitioner.
David Horton: I’d like to know your ideas on the links between dairy products
and asthma, cancer and osteoporosis.
Dr. Klaper: For many people, diary protein is highly allergenic, and thus is
notorious for setting off allergic reactions in these individuals. The bronchial
membranes in the lung seem to be particularly sensitive, and I have a number
of asthma patients that, when they consume dairy products, they have a
harder time breathing.
When they eliminate dairy products, their bronchial membranes become much
less reactive and swollen. There are medical studies published in journals that
substantiate these findings.
There is also an association between dairy consumption and ovarian cancer
in women, possibly involving the intake of certain milk sugars in dairy
products. International Journal of Cancer, August 2005.
David Horton: And the link between milk and osteoporosis?
Dr. Klaper: Certainly milk drinking does not seem to confer any protection
against osteoporosis. The countries with the highest dairy consumption – the
U.S., the U.K., the Scandinavian countries, etc. have the highest rates of
So right there, we see that dairy products don’t protect you from that disease.
While we are bombarded by advertisements that hype dairy products for their
calcium content, the reality is that osteoporosis is not a disease of calcium
That is, the disease of osteoporosis is actually the dissolution of an entire
complex tissue called “bone” – composed of proteins, minerals, nerves, blood
vessels, and many other components. The entire bone structure is dissolving
due to lack of weight bearing exercise, lack of trace minerals, hormone
imbalances, consuming excessive salt, caffeine and protein in the diet, as well
as genetic factors.
So, just to throw calcium down the gullet and expect it to reverse this complex
process of bone dissolution is simplistic and naïve. Yet, the dairy industry
uses this as their ticket to sell us their products.
They harp, “You know, bones have calcium, milk has calcium, therefore, you
need milk to keep your bones strong” – even though there is no convincing
scientific evidence to support such a claim.
If you want to keep your bones strong, the most important thing to do is to
use them – all of your life! Never miss a chance to walk up stairs, to ride your
bicycle, to walk as much as you can. Walk holding light weights in your hands,
carry packages from the store, stay active.
Equally important, don’t do things that promote the dissolving of your bone
structure, like cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol, consuming too much sugar,
salt, caffeine, and protein in your diet. All these things conspire against good
bone health and promote dissolution of your bone structure – paving the way
If one is concerned about calcium intake, and assuming you are dropping the
dairy from your diet, make sure you have plenty of dark, green leafy
vegetables in your diet – and chew them well.
There are also plenty of calcium-fortified foods available – from soymilks to
orange juice to breakfast cereals. Finally, one can always take a liquid or
tablet calcium supplement – so to say that you must drink the lactation
secretions of a large bovine to protect your bones is just silly.
David Horton: My next question is about children. When they come off breast
milk, parents want to get them onto a vegan diet but they’ve been told of all
sorts of dangers. What is your experience with this Doctor?
Dr. Klaper: Well, I feel that is an unneeded anxiety. In the past 29 years of
medical practice as a vegan physician, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing
dozens of vegan women go through their pregnancies. Almost every one of
them was told by their family, “That child is going to come out weighing two
pounds, and be scrawny, underweight, and have all sorts of problems.”
Well, I have seen every one of these women deliver beautiful, bouncing,
energetic 2 ½ to 3 ½ kilo babies without serious obstetrical problems. They
have easier labors, and not one needed a caesarean section.
A vegan pregnancy is a beautiful thing, and statistics show it is much lower in
medical risk. The same is true for the child’s early years.
If the child is drinking mother’s breast milk, there is no better food. I think
that, if possible, women should breast feed for the first two years of the child’s
During the first 6 months of life, they should be exclusively breast fed, and
after six months, simple foods like mashed fruits and pureed vegetables
should be introduced, all the while, the background flow of breast milk is
assuring nutritional adequacy.
Today, there are many wonderful books available on raising vegan infants and
children, such Raising Vegetarian Children by vegan dieticians Vesanto
Melina, R.D, and Brenda Davis, R.D, will provide much needed guidance in
raising healthy vegan children.
After one year of age, more complex foods like grains and legumes can be
added, but there is no hurry to do this. Waiting until at least one year of age
will let the intestinal lining mature and reduce the incidence of food allergies.
By the end of the second year, the child is eating what is on the parents’ table,
and getting the same nutrition they are. One of the best allies parents of
vegan infants can have is a baby food maker.
After 18 months of age or so, whatever the parents are having for dinner is put
through the baby food maker and out comes a nutritious puree that will
nourish the child as they learn to chew and enjoy solid foods.
Again, parents need to become knowledgeable about this most important
subject - but fortunately, today, reliable guidance is readily available through
the books and websites I’ve mentioned.
So, parents should not worry – vegan children grow up, full sized, strong and
David Horton: Are there any dangers in soy products?
Dr. Klaper: I feel that has been a bit over blown. I think much of the anti-soy
literature spewed out lately has come from animal-food industry sources and
are not to be given much weight.
At the same time, there are some estrogenic compounds in soy foods, so in
young children, they should probably be limited to a few times per week.
That said, we have seen several generation of people raised on soy-based
infant formula, and I have not seen any credible evidence that they experience
any increase in health problems. Consequently, I don’t think soy foods pose
much of a health risk.
David Horton: I want to ask you about teenagers, they are having a lot of
problems, transitional problems, sociological problems. If a teenager was
here at the moment what would you say to them?
Dr. Klaper: Actually, teenagers give me the most hope. As a teenager growing
up in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, I see that today’s teens are so much more
They’re connected by the Internet, they are corresponding with kids around
the world, they’re quicker to get the animal connection, the environmental
connections – and it’s becoming cool to be a vegetarian, and even a vegan.
I’m not saying that is true for the majority of teens, but the idea is not so
foreign to today’s teens as it was when we were in that age group.
That said, when all your friends want to go to McDonald’s and have
cheeseburgers, it can be difficult for a young person. The peer pressure in
that age group is just huge.
But those are the years when kids are defining themselves, exploring other
peoples’ ideas, checking and measuring up their values to those of others. I
would say to teenagers, don’t be afraid to express your individuality,
especially when it comes to things that really matter to you.
If your individual nature is not to hurt animals, to care about the planet, if
compassion matters to you, if violence is abhorrent to your soul – then it is
OK to make that stance. You don’t have to get into a fight with your friends
about it. All you need to do is to say, "No, thank you, I’ll have the veggie-
burger" or "I’ll choose the non-leather belt or wallet."
In the end, you only have yourself and your conscience to answer to. You
make the choices that are in alignment with your highest truth, with the call of
your heart - and your friends will respect you for it. You will wind up being
their teacher by your example.
Even if you only plant the seeds in their mind that will sprout many years later,
you will have helped them - as well as having helped the planet, the animals,
David Horton: Is there anything else you wanted to say that I
Dr. Klaper: These are very important, and perhaps even perilous times in
which we find ourselves. 25 years ago, my friend Keith Akers who wrote the
landmark, A Vegetarian Sourcebook said, “The world is going to become more
vegetarian, one way or the other.”
For the past 29 years I have been working to help that vegetarian transition
happen “one way.” Now, it looks like the current global economic situation we
are all facing may well usher in a more vegetarian world in “the other” way.
As the U.S. and European countries find themselves trillions of dollars in
debts, the hundreds of billions of dollars they give in agricultural subsidies to
create the illusion of “cheap meat” will probably be cut.
As a result, the price of beef, pork and other meat products will likely go up –
way up. As American and European beef and pork gets more expensive, they
will buy up all the Australian and South American meat they can find, so meat
prices on those continents will also go sky high.
As a result, meatless meals and veggie-burgers are going to become much
more common – and suddenly, the vegans are going to find themselves people
of great interest, because they are living proof that one can live and thrive
without meat on the table.
Society may well be turning to the vegan community in the near future, saying,
“Hey, show us how to live without animal products.” The world’s farmers
currently produce enough grains and legumes to feed 10 billion people if those
foods are fed to people – but only 2 billion if those foods are fed to animals to
To me, the realities are clear. Though many express concerns of global
famine sweeping the world, I predict a tide of vegetarianism will be sweeping
the globe – soon.
That will open many opportunities to those in the vegan community to perform
a great service for the larger society, as exemplars and teachers.
There are courses to give, gardens to grow, foods to produce, co-ops to
organize, seeds to buy and distribute – so many vegan opportunities. As
Eckhart Tolle says in his book, A New Earth, everyone does not have to be an
up-front leader. An equally important role is what he calls, “the frequency
These are the every-day people who just hold the frequency of stability,
calmness, compassion and sustainability – who provide the societal “glue”
that helps hold the communal fabric together and allow our world to keep
And just by being that person, we all can help this essential transition to a
kinder, gentler, more vegan world begin to happen.
Just holding the frequency of vegan calmness and compassion – by what you
say, what you do, and of course, what you eat and wear - you have the chance
to really help save the world for us all, including our children and those who
The vegan community has often found itself ridiculed and marginalized – but in
these remarkable times, we may well see the old prophesy that, "the first shall
be last and the last shall be first" come to pass.
Our fellow vegans will likely be called upon to play the most important, life-
saving, planet-saving, future-saving roles of their lives. We all will be part of it,
and I’m looking forward to making my contribution, along with you and all
By: David Horton; www.all-creatures.org
Article: David Horton Interviews: Michael Klaper, M.D.
Dr. Michael Klaper, M.D. www.doctorklaper.com