The answer lies in the excruciating nexus of TikTok, Joe Rogan, a carnivore doctor, and some specious claims about how our “ancestors” ate.
There are many curious things about Evie Magazine, which brands itself as a conservative alternative to mainstream women’s magazines. There are, of course, its many weird and wrong claims about COVID vaccines and COVID more generally, which seem aimed at laundering a certain brand of disease denialism to a young, female audience. The magazine also trots out a variety of other essays about feminism (bad), “classical” femininity (good), and so on. But amidst its many odd little wares, nothing is weirder, or more amusing, than Evie’s obsession with meat—more specifically, with organ meats. And, as it turns out, the organ meat lifestyle—consuming liver, kidneys, intestines, hearts, testicles, and other edible animal organs—is a passion that’s now uniting the anti-vaccine world, Joe Rogan’s audience, the so-called alt-right, conservative outlets like Evie, and, overall, a new and presumably somewhat constipated brand of meatfluencer.
Evie has run many articles extolling the virtues of meat and denouncing vegan alternatives. Nearly all of them link back to a 2021 blog about incorporating offal-like hearts and liver into one’s diet. The insistent meat takes, and promotion of organ meat specifically, also dovetail with Evie’s larger project: rejecting whatever smacks of liberalism—Beyond Burgers, acknowledging the existence of trans people—and embracing a “traditional” or “classic” lifestyle, in this case, the classic lifestyle of a gout-addled medieval king.
As with many things Evie does, it’s also the result of a strange effect in which much larger cultural forces trickle down. The “carnivore diet”—or, more specifically, an organ meat-centric one—has proved to be a meeting place for a variety of extremely online and highly bizarre people, all intent on showing you how to live, and many promoting one regressive worldview or another in the process.
As VICE wrote in 2017, the paleo diet—meat-heavy, but with nuts and some vegetables—had begun to emerge then as the preferred diet of right- and libertarian-leaning public figures like billionaire vampire Peter Thiel. Soon after, Mikhaila Peterson, the daughter of clinical psychologist and extremely odd manosphere personality Jordan Peterson, began promoting the so-called “Lion Diet,” which is far more extreme, consisting solely of ruminant meat, salt, and water. (Eating a gazelle would be fine, but an apple would not.) Both Peterson and Fuller have claimed that this diet cured them of many autoimmune issues; objective assessments of the diet tend to point out that it’s both nutritionally unbalanced and profoundly unsustainable. (The family has made other extreme medical claims: In 2020, Jordan Peterson also spent eight days in a medically-induced coma, an unorthodox “detox” treatment for what Peterson and his daughter said was an addiction to benzodiazepines. Experts that VICE interviewed at the time questioned some of the details of Mikhaila’s claims about the care he’d received in Canada prior to going to Russia and said such an extreme method of weaning off an addictive medication is rarely used, to reduce the likelihood of relapse.)
The carnivore diet, which is now in vogue online, goes a step further than paleo and is more complicated than the “lion diet,” often cutting out most food groups besides meat, fruit, and honey. It is, as Dazed Digital recently pointed out, still awash in far-right associations, equating meat with both traditional masculinity and red-pilling, although there are any number of female carnivore diet influencers.
“The Carnivore Diet is the red pill that wakes you up to reality,” wrote one meatfluencer on Twitter, who goes by Carnivore Aurelius. “It’s hard at first. Your eyes have been closed for so long, so the light is blinding. But it exposes you to the fact that society is structured around lies. It all starts with diet. This movement is unstoppable.” More recently, he celebrated, “Everybody is waking up to seed oils, birth control and tap water poisoning them. Grand global awakening happening right now. Beautiful to watch.” (Seed oils—which include nearly all vegetable oils—are another recent target of the extremely online.)
There are a variety of carnivore diet influencers on Instagram and TikTok, all insistently energetic, very red, and constantly in the gym or doing something energetic in the great outdoors; their feeds are a wash of red plates, bulging muscles, and proclamations about the distant time they last ate a vegetable. One is the Liver King, aka Brian Johnson, an intensely muscled man from Texas who dines on a variety of raw liver, testicles, and an incredibly specific brand of hype, declaring himself “CEO OF THE ANCESTRAL LIFESTYLE.” (As he told Buzzfeed, speaking in the exuberant third person, “You know what Liver King says? Start with liver, get some really good sleep, move like Liver King, eat like Liver King, shield like Liver King. Live like the ancestral man, and you’ll have the hormone profile that’s double or triple of the manicured modern man.”)
Perhaps no one in the meat space is more influential than Paul Saladino, the self-proclaimed Carnivore MD. (Saladino’s credentials are that he is, his Facebook bio says, “Trained in medicine at the University of Arizona and the University of Washington. Board-certified as a Physician Nutrition Specialist and in psychiatry.” Licensure records in California, where Saladino lives, though, show that his license to practice is currently listed as “delinquent” for a failure to pay fees, and that “no practice is permitted,” according to the California state medical board.)
On his extremely active TikTok and Instagram pages — both banned once, accordin to Saladino — he makes a variety of claims—for instance, that spinach and beans are essentially toxic, that hygiene products like soap and toothpaste and shampoo are unnecessary, and above all, that organ meats are crucial. “They include everything your body needs to thrive: vitamins, minerals, peptides, proteins, and growth factors,” proclaims the website for Saladino’s supplement company, Heart and Soil. “That’s why our ancestors were strong, virile, and vital! That’s how they thrived generation after generation in the world’s harshest environments.” Should you not be able to access beef heart, for instance, on a daily basis, the company sells bottles of encapsulated organ meat-based supplement products, ranging from $28 to $52 a bottle.
Two notable things happened in Saladino’s world in the past few years: First, he went on Joe Rogan, back in 2020, rocketing him to a new level of audience and fame. (Rogan himself went on a carnivore diet soon after, prompting a round of “explosive diarrhea,” as he detailed on a subsequent episode of the show, elaborating, “with regular diarrhea I would compare it to a fire you see coming a block or two away and you have the time to make an escape, whereas this carnivore diet is like out of nowhere the fire is coming through the cracks, your doorknob is red hot, and all hope is lost.” Just like our ancestors, presumably, shortly before many of them died of dysentery.)
As the pandemic has progressed, Saladino has also used his new, Rogan-inspired reach to become increasingly dismissive of the efficacy of vaccines. He’s not explicitly anti-vaccine, tweeting in August 2021 that they “may help avoid some severe Covid complications,” for instance. But he’s repeatedly suggested, too, that “metabolic health” is more important in preventing severe COVID outcomes, and claimed that “natural immunity” is better than the kind created by vaccines. (The claim that “natural” immunity is superior to vaccination is a common anti-vaccine talking point.) In other words, of course, that a hunk of liver, or a supplement in a bottle, will do more to fight Covid, a claim many health cranks have made throughout the pandemic, in one form or another.
Unsurprisingly, the carnivore diet has also become the purview of the body-hacking crowd, seeking to “optimize” themselves by engaging in extreme diets. One of the best known is Dave Asprey, the inventor of Bulletproof Coffee, who was ushered into the diet by Saladino. Asprey has become more overtly anti-vaccine, declaring on Facebook, “Show me an mRNA vaccine that will stop cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer, with a clean safety record, and I am all in. Willing to wait until then!” He’s also approvingly shared posts from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vax organization Children’s Health Defense, in particular a post praising fringe medical group America’s Frontline Doctor—in all a sort of pseudoscience turducken.
Above all, the insistently carnivorous and very online crowd exists both to eat meat and to create buzz and attention for themselves by posting about it (which explains why former Hills star and mid-2000s tabloid staple Heidi Montag, another Saladino devotee, was recently seen out and about munching on a raw bison heart in a sandwich bag for the paparazzi, which she claimed to be eating for fertility).
The meat world is broad and full of self-styled iconoclasts, and their commitment to intense and common sense-bending diets is as strong as their commitment to broadcasting every move they make, every morsel they eat, and every resulting bowel movement online.
Today, then, the anti-vaxxers, the Instagram doctors, the podcasters, and the anti-feminists find themselves at a long table, urging each other to swallow the toughest morsels, the weirdest cuts. Their commitment to not wasting edible food is admirable, and, as a metaphor, well, the whole thing couldn’t be more fitting.
All Rights Reserved for Anna Merlan