Barnard and Baur vs. Masterjohn and Salatin

Since its inception in 2006,  has provided a forum for intelligent discussion, grounded in facts and informed by reasoned analysis; to transcend the toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological; and to encourage recognition that the opposing side has intellectually respectable views.

 The series is based on the traditional Oxford-style debate format, with one side proposing and the other side opposing a sharply-framed motion. Before the debate begins, the audience registers their pre-debate opinion using an electronic voting system. These results are announced later in the program. Alternating between panels, each debater gives a 7-minute opening statement. After this segment concludes, the moderator opens the floor for questions from the audience and inter-panel challenges. This adversarial context is electric, adding drama and excitement. The debaters have one final opportunity to sway audience opinion through their 2-minute closing arguments. The audience delivers the final verdict by voting again whether they are for, against, or undecided on the proposition. The two sets of results are compared and the winner is determined by which team has swayed more audience members between the two votes.

 Dr. Barnard and Gene Baur defended the proposal “Don’t Eat Anything With a Face” against Chris Masterjohn and Joel Salatin.  The debate occurred on December 4, 2013.

 My attempt to watch the debate via live streaming was only partly successful as the connection was frequently interrupted.  Luckily, I was able to hear the moderator explain the rules of the debate, both for the debaters and the audience.  I tried to imagine myself as part of the live audience with an opportunity to vote before and after the debate.  The options for voting were:

  •     For the proposal “Don’t Eat Anything With a Face”
  •    Against the proposal or
  •    Undecided

My vote prior to the debate was “undecided”.

 I was able to hear bits and pieces of each debater’s opening statement and closing argument.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to view much of the inter-panel exchanges or questions from the audience.

 Each side presented their cases well, particularly, Barnard, Baur and Masterjohn. Although he seemed like a decent guy, I wasn’t impressed with the substance of Salatin’s argument or his debating style.

After the closing arguments, I realized that neither side was successful in swaying me to their side.  I still vote “undecided”.

 The main reason I eat a Whole Food Plant Based diet (WFPB) is because I believe it is the healthiest diet for human beings. I consider any benefits to animals and the environment as bonuses.  The only arguments that mattered to me during the debate were the arguments between Barnard and Masterjohn. Baur and Salatin focused on the ethical and environmental implications of eating animals.

  Although I eat a 100% Plant Based diet, I am not sure that adding very small amounts of animal food to my diet will cause any harm. I think it is likely, but I am not sure. Even T.Colin Campbell (author of The China Study) admits that there is no evidence that shows that a WFPB diet that includes up to 5% of calories from animal products is less healthy than a 100% plant based WFPB diet.

As a matter of fact, if Chris Masterjohn, or anyone else for that matter, can convince me that animal food is essential to human health, I’d eat it.

 Persuading people to consider adopting a WFPB diet can be an extremely challenging job.  Transitioning from the Standard American Diet to a WFPB diet is a monumental change. Telling someone that they can NEVER eat meat. fish, or poultry again will send many people running for the hills before they ever even consider giving a WFPB diet/lifestyle a chance.

 It’s important for people to know that you do not have to be 100% plant based to follow a WFPB diet. However, you have to be 95% plant based and eat a diet that is dominated by a variety of whole and minimally processed plant foods.  We all know that people eating 100% plant foods (vegans) can eat potato chips, mock meats, mock cheeses, vegetable oil, added sugar, vegan junk food, high sodium foods, etc… This is a far cry from a WFPB diet and these people will be at much greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, cancers and type II diabetes than people following WFPB diets who eat meat, fish and poultry in very small amounts.

 As far as health is concerned, never eating something with a face is not nearly as important as following a WFPB diet – even if that diet includes the rare animal food.  If the proposal for the debate was “Eat a Whole Food Plant Based diet”.  I would have voted “For” both prior and after the debate.

 If you are interested in the results of the debate, click here.  Barnard and Baur swayed a lot of folks.  12% of folks who voted “against” prior to the debate changed their vote to “for” afterwards.  4% changed from “against” to “undecided”.

Masterjohn and Salatin actually lost more folks than they gained.




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