Since the deaths of 20 students and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary school, everyone we know has been arguing over which arguments to have, and when to have them. But one argument that’s emerged since Monday is so irrelevant, it’s shocking: The fact that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was vegan. Because we write about diet and veganism on Blisstree, it seems like a story we should weigh in on. But frankly, it’s only worth bringing up to say that it’s offensive.
Salon published an article yesterday saying that Adam Lanza was vegan, based on statements from Russ Hanoman, a former friend of the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza. In an interview with local news station PIX 11, Hanoman mentioned that Lanza was a vegan for moral reasons, because he didn’t want to hurt animals.
Hanoman was clearly just conveying his impressions about the family and his shock over the Newton massacre, like you’d expect. But zeroing in on this detail has spawned a new debate over think link between “extreme diets” like veganism and violence. Which just seems wholly inappropriate.
Salon’s comments section is full of speculation about vegetarianism, veganism and violence, and has sparked an old debate over whether Hitler was vegetarian, and what having more compassion for animals than humans says about someone’s mental health. On Facebook, nutritionists are starting to opine on whether Adam Lanza’s diet had anything to do with his violent tendencies, and frankly: I find it a little disgusting.
Like everyone else, I’m struggling to make sense of what happened in Newton, Connecticut. Our knee-jerk reaction is to identify something that was “wrong” with Lanza, to explain his actions and give us the beginnings of a road map to prevent something like this from every happening again, but rushing to place blame has so far spread false rumors about Asperger Syndrome and violence (did Adam Lanza have Asperger Syndrome? we don’t even know…) and has caused vitriolic debates over what responsibility parents of children with mental illness have in preventing their children from becoming violent. (Again: We don’t even know anything about his official mental health records yet.)
Trying to link a vegan diet to Asperger’s, Autism, or violence isn’t going to help us grapple with the loss of so many children and teachers, or prevent future acts of violence. (As Go Kaleo noted on Facebook, “If veganism (or other extreme restrictive diets) caused violent behavior, there wouldn’t be many people left alive.”) It’s no more productive than blaming the shootings on the lack of religion on schools or comparing what happened to abortion, and just serves to distract from the more important conversations we should be having about our culture’s tolerance of violence–and yes, eventually, our gun laws and serious problems with mental health.
So please, talk about your own food choices, do what makes you feel best, but don’t waste your time discussing whether Adam Lanza–or Hitler–was vegan.