Waiter, There’s Woo in My Food, Part 2: Supreme Master Ching Hai

The subject of the second post in my “Waiter, There’s Woo in My Food” series will be instantly recognizable to many vegans, Supreme Master Ching Hai.

Supreme Master Ching Hai (SMCH) presides over a multi-million dollar empire encompassing hundreds of meditation centers, her own fashion and jewelry lines, her own line of faux meats, and hundreds of vegetarian and vegan restaurants worldwide including the largest vegan chain, Loving Hut. A teacher of the Quan Yin Method of meditation who promotes veganism to her followers, Hai is more than a mere spiritual guide. She is billed as the “Supreme Master”, “god’s direct contact” who can show you how too release the master within. She is venerated by her many followers who eagerly buy up her photographs, artwork, spiritual paraphernalia and other merchandise. Her magical candy can reportedly even heal people. A controversial figure to say the least, her past is fraught with questions both over her purported origins¹ and her actions.

A VegNews article in the October 2010 issue titled Supreme Mystery suggested Hai to be a cult² leader. Hai’s followers responded quite vocally, tossing accusations of slander and bigotry on the author, Abigail Young, and the magazine. Some went so far as to allege that the article was a hit piece paid for by the meat industry or that it was an act of vengeance. Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet, also jumped into the fray lending his support to Hai and calling the article an act of violence, but of course Tuttle is no stranger to Hai. VegNews defended their decision to run the article and published letters from both sides of the controversy in a subsequent issue. Joseph Connelly, publisher of VegNews, described the resulting flood of mail, “The feedback generally fell into two different categories, those that felt the article was even-handed, almost neutral. And feedback coming almost exclusively from within the Loving Hut organization that was critical of us.” I was personally not at all impressed with the content of the rebuttals offered by Tuttle or Hai’s followers, though I encourage my readers to read the original article and responses themselves and decide.

One of the more damning charges against Hai in the VegNews article is that her followers destroyed a swath of protected seagrass and coastal mangrove, encroaching upon the Biscayne Bay National Park when they illegally constructed an artificial island with a 350 foot board walk leading out to it. Three comfortably stocked RVs and a 50 foot aviary were found onsite at the future retreat as well. The adjacent property owned by Hai under the alias Celestia De Lamour, one of her numerous Florida waterfront properties, was seized and resold to help partially pay for the repairs. Officials estimated the damages to exceed a million dollars but Hai was nowhere to be found. One of the laborers who was also charged in the case went missing, believed to have fled the country. Hai’s followers and apologists claim that this was merely the result of a misunderstanding over property boundaries though a quick look at Florida law indicates that is likely still not an adequate defense for this illegal construction and environmental damage. If Hai did ever pay for the damages she would do herself a favor by publicizing it, perhaps a nice donation to Biscayne Bay National Park and Palmetto Bay Branch Library which now inhabits the property. This incident was not Hai’s only property troubles either.³

Hai’s followers like to call attention to the organizations charity work and generous donations. While admirable, such donations can often serve a double purpose as a form of advertisement for the group. Not all organizations have been so quick to accept Hai’s money, in 1996 President Clinton’s legal defense fund refused more than $600,000 in donations for the questionable, possibly fraudulent, way in which the funds were gathered. In 2001 UNICEF also turned down a $100,000 donation from Hai’s organization after looking into the organization.

Hai’s organization is adamant that it will not accept donations, claiming to fund her activities primarily through Hai’s artistic work, though this has been questioned as a mere matter of semantics and obfuscation4. The up-keep of local meditation centers is donation based and property is also sometimes donated. Follower also will donate to causes in Hai’s honor buying her further credibility. The inflated price of some of her merchandise and encouragements for member to buy books to donate to others can also be seen as back door donations. It should however be noted that there is no franchise fee for opening a Loving Hut instead groups of local devotees pooling together their savings to fund their own Loving Hut location. There are just some simple rules including that the food be vegan and about the decor, Ching Hai pictures appear to be mandatory. This may make it appear that she profits very little from the vast enterprise but critics claim that this is simply a tactic that shifts the economic and legal risk onto the backs of individual followers and still allow for  locations to serve as points of first contact for potential initiates and some as retail outlets for her merchandise. Loving Hut locations are also encouraged to buy faux meats from EcoVegan, Hai’s own company, further sweetening the deal. A few former workers at Loving Hut have also levied various complaints including mismanagement, withholding tips, tax irregularities and utilizing underpaid and unpaid labor. In 2010 the Loving Hut in France was investigated for illegal and unethical business practices such as using undocumented & unpaid labor resulting in 9 arrests. Later that year Hai herself was arrested along with some of her followers at a posh villa in Italy. Investigators seized a luxury sports car, 40,000 euros, and at least 8 illegally imported Macaws and a veritable “Noah’s Ark” of animals. I wonder if those illegal Macaws were rescues?

Supreme Master Television (SMTV), Hai’s own 24/7 satellite and online network, is instantly recognizable to anyone who has eaten at one of her restaurants. Said to be funded by Hai herself, SMTV uses volunteer labor and there have even been accusations of marriage fraud to retain foreign workers. SMTV was broadcast & subtitled in over 40 languages, it went off the air this year but the video archives remain available. Programing included environmental politics, vegan cooking demonstrations, self-referential human interest stories, spiritual addresses and lectures, musings about “science” and occasional teleconferences with Ching Hai herself. I am no stranger to SMTV, I discovered it a number of years ago while eating at Golden Era in San Francisco, one of Hai’s many restaurants. It seems most locations associated with Hai have a TV set, often times a big screen, tuned to SMTV all day. I was first drawn in by a video demonstrating an egg-free “meringue” product that I had never seen. Imagine that, vegan baked Alaska! But after the cooking demonstration and a few feel-good stories I began to notice it getting weirder and weirder. I was already sketched out by the level of praise heaped upon this colorful guru, treating her as a god. Continuing to watch the occasional video at home over time only strengthened that feeling.

SMTV programming and Hai’s lectures often have a decidedly pseudo-scientific angle. One example is the credulous reporting of Dr. Hubers unsupported claims of a dangerous “micro fungus” in glyphosate-tolerant GE crops. Hai’s own lectures on genetic engineering also repeat many myths and falsehoods, for example that inserting animal derived genes into plants, setting aside the fact that no such products are on the market, will result in vegetables that cause obesity, heart disease, strokes and “have similar effects” to meat. Hai claims to have once been breatharian, though the the burdens of the world got to much for her, and also teaches her followers that living without eating or drinking is possible, saying “Everyone can be breatharian, I believe. Its not that difficult.” She has also promoted the breatharian author and obvious fraud Jasmuheen, among others, who’s teachings have been linked to at least three deaths. Hai’s channel has even gone so far as to promote the idea of breatharian pregnancies in its many hours spent on this dangerous nonsense. Other topics dealt with credulously include ancient astronauts, crop circles, Emoto’s “Message from Water“, cosmic alinements, 2012, Egyptian pyramids as lighthouses for UFOs, solar flare alarmism, hair analysis, animal communication, alternative medicine, and life on Venus. She also sometimes introduces her followers to seeming unique teachings of her own such as the existence of Spiritual Blessing Lines and portals to hell and “lower world” that may even be a cause of prolonged war.

In addition to SMTV, Hai’s organization has a large internet presence and is accused of operating very much like a cyber-sect, using the internet to gain greater exposure and more followers. Utilizing numerous websites Hai’s organization is able to flood search engines with positive mentions of the group. They have even branched out into smartphone apps. In addition to spreading propaganda Hai’s followers are also active in monitoring criticism. Hai’s Wiki page is under constant policing, erasing and diluting criticisms. It also appears her followers also have a habit of stacking Amazon reviews and getting followers to game the rating system.

Hai’s teachings also have an apocalyptic bent to them. Her warnings about cosmic disasters, climate change, and environmental collapse go so far as to make Al Gore appear moderate. I’m not suggesting that the scientific consensus on climate change is wrong or that it is not a dire issue but I fear that the alarmism, unfounded claims, and simplistic “solutions” Hai proposes do not actually help public understanding of this important issue and may in fact be counter productive in some areas.

So once again, why am I writing these posts? My purpose is not to be a cynic or to call for a boycott of all religiously associated restaurants, but in addition to simply finding such topics interesting I feel we need to be wary when our dollars may serve to enrich an abusive or unethical leader or perpetuate a manipulative organization. The ethics of consumption go beyond just animal flesh and byproducts. We can not simply brush legitimate criticism aside because “she does so much good” or because “at least she helps spreads veganism”. I can’t say that the above criticisms apply to all SMCH restaurants and there are many other concerns to consider so the decision to patronize SMCH-associated businesses is a choice your going to have to make for yourself. I encourage my readers to click on the provided hyperlinks, use them as a starting point for your own research.

Further reading:
Supreme Mystery in VegNews
Critics Claim Supreme Master Ching Hai’s Followers’ Restaurants Featuring Tasty Vegan Fare Front For an Exploitive Movement. by Stephen Lemons
Why Not to Write About a Supreme Master of the Universe: A day with the disciples of Ching Hai by Nancy Rommelmann
Immaterial Girl by Rafer Guzmán
God Inc. Inner peace isn’t the only thing Supreme Master Ching Hai is selling Bay Area disciples by Gordon Young
Supreme Master and the Breatharianists
Cult took my wife – now it’s funding a woodland in North Wales
Suma Ching Hai sect activities in Cambodia
Supreme Leak
A Cult I Can Live With? by Jasmin Singer
Vegan Chicago’s baloney detection guide
Global Unity: Together in Saving Lives, A collection of spiritual teachings by Supreme Master Ching Hai
The Truth about Merits: How to Gain or Lose Them by SMCH
“We sold our house and gave all the money to the Supreme Master…with what is coming in two years, you don’t need a house.”

1. Suma Ching Hai’s Spiritual Handbook  is similar to Thakar Singh’s spiritual diary, which in turn is similar to Kirpal Singh’s diary. This is of note because some followers objected to Abigail Young writing that Hai is a spiritual decedent of controversial guru Thakar Singh. Further evidence appear to support this as well. Though personally I am less concerned with the genesis of her teachings and more with the content and effect, I think Hai’s claim that her Master in the Himalayas was 450 years old should be evidence enough of this farce.

2. in this post I use the term “cult”. It is important to remember there is a wide continuum of “cultishness”, not all groups fall on the Johnstown/Heavens Gate/Aum Shinrikyo extreme of the spectrum, there is no agreed upon universal definition and there are competing lists of characteristics but for this post the definition most in mind is that laid out by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton. The three primary criteria are as follows:

a. a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;
b. a process of coercive persuasion or thought reform;
c. economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

3. SMCH headquarters constructed without a license in Taiwan
2003 Delinquent Property Tax Statement
for Regency Green Dr Northwest Harris, TX 77429

2003 Delinquent Property Tax Statement for 11420 CYPRESS NORTH H77429
2004 Delinquent Property Tax Statement Regency Green Dr Northwest Harris, TX 77429

4. A number of followers have openly admitted to giving Hai property and savings, one such example was published recently:

“We sold our house and gave all the money to the Supreme Master,” she said. ‘Don’t you need a house?’ I ask. “No no, no, with what is coming in two years, you don’t need a house.”

62 Responses to “Waiter, There’s Woo in My Food, Part 2: Supreme Master Ching Hai”

  1. Kelsey Says:

    I’m glad you are doing this series. I had heard of Loving Hut, but had no idea it had these associations. Thank you for doing this series!

  2. edanator Says:

    Great research! Thanks!

  3. The Rational Vegan Says:

    Thanks. I’ll be referring people to this article.

  4. Pele Bonita Says:

    BIG THANKS FOR THIS!

  5. instant karma glass onion Says:

    Supreme Master Ching Hai is the real deal. She puts a positive face on veganism, she put science on the forefront.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      The “science” she putts at the forefront is generally flawed at best and quite often outright ridiculous and entirely unsupported. Ancient aliens, alternative medicine, breatharianism, life on Venus, ect are just a few of her unsupported pseudoscientific “theories”.
      Her claims about the effects and causes of global warming are also excessively over blown and misleading, at points it appears she just makes stuff up that are not supported by science at all, such as saying that the methane under the ocean will suffocate all life on earth.
      Her teachings mislead people and distract them from a better understanding of the very complex nature of climate change and distracts from the multifaceted meaningful solutions by presenting simplistic feel-good solutions.

  6. Funston Says:

    I’d love to see someone do “breatharianism” for a couple weeks.

    • Jade Says:

      I have a friend who is a breatharian. We were house mates for 6 months so I know he’s the real deal. You won’t find them in cities etc. They live in more natural places. In Soutg American mountains there are villages full of breatharians. But obviously if you’re breathing in polluted London air you couldn’t manage. If you’d really like to meet some I recommend you visit a village called Vilcabamba in Ecudaor (not the Peruvian Vilcabamba) where there are quite a few of them. It’s in gorgeous mountains, in a place known as the valley of longevity. It feels amazing there.

  7. Jeff J Jawk Says:

    Great write up.

    • Jade Says:

      Not really. It is always best we be objective and find out for ourselves, finding out both sides is a situation and then look into where the information comes from. Eating up someone’s words – especially is they are negative and critical – is not really a good idea. It only makes us more critical and negative too, and then you did not really come to a conclusion for yourself. It’s like gossip. Someone tells you garbage about a person. But then if you really get to meet that person and spend time with them you might realise oh my! what that other person said is kind of twisting things and this person is really nice!

  8. Randy M. Says:

    I found the article interesting and revealing, however there are many obscure methods to help people live healthier and more realized lives (to the Western mind) developed in the East that are easy to ridicule. These methods have both Taoist and Buddhist roots. But I am always suspicious of strong cult followings and I advise people to be cautious as well.

  9. barefeet Says:

    I’m a bit of a self-made expert in cults and I have to say – definitely, without a doubt in my mind, a cult. The fervernt manner in which she is defended by her followers just confirms this. All human beings have faults, but when you are involved in a cult, the leader becomes a god of sorts. All value is assigned according to place in the cult. Surprisingly, most people inside of cults are intelligent, compassionate and highly individualistic people. Cult leaders use these positive traits against their members. In this context, Veganism becomes a method of control instead of path to greater personal freedom. I really feel for people caught up in this woman’s narcissistic web because its likely that most of them really mean well.

  10. Niilo John Van Steinburg Says:

    Wonderful article! I’ve had run-ins with SMCH International, online and in real life, and your research now backs up my conclusions :o)

  11. UnitedVegan Says:

    While this is really encompassingly researched with all the critical reports on SMCHIA, I think you are really going out on a limb in discrediting all those who believe in that “pseudoscience” and kind of polarize the vegan movement or with a whole lot of different subcultures or movements that have sympathy with it.

    New age, alternative medicine, and interests in things alternative like alians which are not found in mainstream media comprises a huge variety of subcultures.

    In the end veganism is a lot about critically looking at “science”, history and all mainstream rational Westeren education, as it is inherently speciecist, no?
    Analytically you are too much on different levels. And in a way despite all the veganism you outwardly wear your are deep down typically American and have not overcome the speciecist cultural legacy yet.
    When appealing only to rationalist mainstream science your are actually polarizing a whole movement and proove people like Will Tuttle right who called the Author of Supreme Mystery racist and sexist.
    A great deal of the accuses against this “cult” in here I think also stems from a general ignorance towards Eastern religions. So if you want to only represent white, American, male, vegans here, keep going!

    • veganerd Says:

      veganism has nothing to do with looking critically at science. science is about looking critically at itself. its embarrassing for any culture or subculture to involve itself in pseudoscience. no need to make ourselves a laughing stock by having nutty ideas.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “So if you want to only represent white, American, male, vegans here, keep going!”

      Where did you read I was white, I don’t believe I state so on my blog. Why is it assumed that an atheist or skeptical view point is a “white” viewpoint?

    • Jade Says:

      Totally agree with you UnitedVegan. Great comment! Also I find a lot of so called cult experts and accusers are very critical of people and spread more negativity. As Jesus said, let he who never sinned cast the first stone. I don’t see anything wrong with what Ching Hai talks about which is mostly about love and kindness. And if her money is going to meditation centres so that more people can pray and meditate for world peace that can be only a good thing right? To have more people in the world aspiring to noble ideals and kindness instead of going to pubs, getting drunk and fighting. And the TV channel supports vegans and offers many facts – us vegans ought to unite instead of divide and create more war and cast a negative light on each other – for the sake of the animals and for ourselves. I’m sure the TV channel has influenced some people to go vegan as they have learnt some things they didn’t know about before. Do you see any other channels that promote veganism 24/7? And that are absolutely free in so many countries around the globe? It’s pretty astounding actually. And with that many subtitles. The amount of work involved is immense. And broadcasting television is not cheap, I’m sure she works really hard to do all this. As well as raise money for it all. Truly how can this be cast as wrong or bad? I was even at the CNN studio once as part of my job – they have screens of many TV news channels there (multi-screens) playing constantly and one of them is SMTV – I was surprised… And they must take it seriously enough because if it was just a joke to them I don’t see why they would bother! And the fact that she talks about world vegan, world peace makes complete sense. So I invite you all that we make peace amongst ourselves – like true vegans – instead of throwing stones as a person we have not even met or at each other.

  12. UnitedVegan Says:

    actually the last sentence was meant to say “If you want to only represent white, male, atheist, vegan, Americans, keep going!

  13. instant karma glass onion Says:

    Supreme Master Ching Hai does not preach pseudo-science, especially where global warming is concerned. the flyer that you hae included in your gif images in this post is well documented and gives references.

    It is not a cult, unless you have met any of them, you would know that they are 100% committed to veganism and non-violence.

    she cites the runaway methane problem, it is realworld science.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

    she also cites the UN Report – Livestock’s Long Shadow.
    and NASA scientist H. Jay Zwally.
    this is far from pseudo-science. so no, the science is not flawed.

    what UnitedVegan said. you are creating an imbalance and alienating vegans and prospective vegans with your off the cuff western-flavored commentary.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      Supreme Master Ching Hai does not preach pseudo-science, especially where global warming is concerned.

      She most certainly does. She teaches that Mars was once inhabited by an advanced civilization, despite lack of evidence and a preponderance of counter evidence. This is pseudo-science.
      She claims to have once been breatharian and continues to promote the idea that one can live completely without food and water for extended periods. This is dangerous pseudo-science.
      Her claim that inserting animal derived genes into plants will result in vegetables that cause obesity, heart disease, strokes and “have similar effects” to meat is totally unsupported by science. Its pseudo-science.
      Her promotion of the tales of ancient astronauts and messages in crop circles is pseudo-science.
      The idea that Egyptian pyramids as lighthouses for UFOs is pseudo-science.
      Her alarmism regarding solar flares goes far beyond the evidence and make claims of excessive danger that isnt real. Its pseudo-science.
      Hair analysis as used in the manner reported on in my blog post is a pseudo-science.
      I could go on and on here. SMCHTV and Hai herself both promote a wide range of non-scientific and pseudo-scientific ideas, and far too many take it seriously.

      the flyer that you hae included in your gif images in this post is well documented and gives references.

      and her references are cherrypicked and often misrepresented. But we have a good chance to see how right she is, the summer of 2012 is coming up, we will see if all the ice is gone from the arctic ocean by then as Hai claims.

      she cites the runaway methane problem, it is realworld science.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

      No she isnt, saying the methane will literally suffocate all life on earth is NOT supported by a rational interpretation of the clathrate gun hypothesis. Hai’s interpretation is overly alarmists and unsupported.
      This is kinda like saying that the 2012 “polar shift” doomsday believers that think the earth will literally flip upside down are correct because the theory of geomagnetic reversal is legitimate science.

      • Jade Says:

        My dear friend. We have no proof whether this is true or not. But have you been to mars? I doubt it. So you cannot claim that it is not true either. So who is to say that your words are not dangerous in themselves? One day in the future your belief might be proven to be totally false. Saying that there are no beings living there is just the same as saying that there are some there if you look at it objectively. Because we have not had the scientific advances to actually go there yet, let alone go underground there. History has shown us over and over again that science is not fixed but keeps getting updates. Once upon a time, people believed the world was flat…

  14. Funston Says:

    There’s no such thing as “western science”, “mainstream science”, or “rational science”. It’s science if the evidence backs it up, plain and simple. And sorry this is woo. Just because she agrees with the scientific consensus on global warming does not mean she can’t be preaching pseudoscience. She is.

  15. UnitedVegan Says:

    @Funston:
    What about science that talks about adequate protein intake only being possible with eating meat? or milk as the best source of calcium? or that cancer is not caused by what you eat?

    What about “scientific” reports that negate the existence of global warming (because this is easier than claiming that fossil fuels or factory farming were major causes for it)?
    you always have to look at who pays for scientific reports and should we not as vegans be a little bit more critical towards the mainstream science? and open to new ideas?
    I think the TV chanel of the above mentioned organization is more to be understood as a platform for all kind of groups to present THEIR alternative worldviews rather than to be understood as the worldview perpetuated by its owner.

    AND @”instant karma glass onion” I do not meant to create “an imbalance and alienate vegans” but to claim that this blog is doing so.
    I meant to say that inherent in many claims of the skeptical vegan there are tendencies of a eurocentric, racist, and sexist bias which supports intolerance among vegans to other cultures and philosphies and that this blog thus is like a mouthpiece for male, atheist, caucasian vegans.

    • Anna Says:

      I meant to say that inherent in many claims of the skeptical vegan there are tendencies of a eurocentric, racist, and sexist bias which supports intolerance among vegans to other cultures and philosphies and that this blog thus is like a mouthpiece for male, atheist, caucasian vegans.

      I am very intrigued by the above claim. I have read the article about Ching Hai twice. The first time it did not impress me as sexist, racist, or anything else. After reading claims like yours, I reread the piece, paying close attention, and still could not detect any racism, sexism, or Eurocentrism. Do you care to elaborate on your basis for this claim?

    • PythagoreanCrank Says:

      UnitedVegan, you do not have a good grasp of science. It’s ok though, most do not especially myself until relatively recently. Science doesn’t say “adequate protein intake only being possible with eating meat”. That might be an opinion expressed through one scientist or even one study but their is good science behind the idea that humans can thrive on vegan diets. The long-term epidemiological data might still be missing but we have good reason to believe vegans diets are an option for those who seek it.

      Science is a self-correcting method and that hedges bets according to the weight of evidence in support of a claim. Don’t be confused about the media’s interpretation and reporting on the latest science studies. They are meaningless until experts can review and accept as consensus. For more information about science and critical thinking please check out Vegan Chicago’s guide on baloney detection.

      Also your attempt to employ very real and serious issues of discrimination as barbs against detractors is despicable and ultimately harmful for those minorities for which you front. Anna challenged your accusations and I reiterate that challenge. Please elaborate or apologize.

      • UnitedVegan Says:

        Well that was exactly my point.
        “That might be an opinion expressed through one scientist or even one study but their is good science behind the idea that humans can thrive on vegan diets.”
        It is not one scientist claiming that, but most nutiritional studies. And you don`t have to convince me, that there are studies proving the opposite as I am already vegan.
        My point was merely showing that science is right until it is prooved wrong. So a lot of what is called Pseudoscience might be prooven later or shows a paradigm change in science.
        For example when a German scientist discovered the meaning of biophotons in the 1970s he got expelled from the scientific community. Today he receives large grants from the Ministry of Research and education. His method of prooving biophotons again shows that Auras exist, that reiki healing is possible or that the meridians of Chinese Medicine do exist.
        And about what Anna said and your request, I was referring to the original article Supreme Mystery and Will Tuttle´s critique of it (http://worldpeacediet.org/vncritique.htm)
        I am totally with him that there are “disturbing racist and sexist overtones” in it. So defending this article, skepticalvegan takes side and approves of these overtones.
        This is all I can say. And as for an appology, the only thing I begin feeling sorry about is wasting all my time to discuss struggles within the vegan movement instead of taking it outthere. Spread the word and stopp messing around with this struggle against fellow vegans!

        • The Rational Vegan Says:

          Being vegan means acting conscientiously towards all thinking creatures, including humans. Spreading woo causes harm to humans (not to mention other animals unfortunate enough to get caught up in TCM and other nonsense) and is a decidedly un-vegan-like activity. If you really adhered to the ideals of veganism, you would be just as concerned about woo, and humans being misled and taken advantage of by cults, as we are.

          As for pseudoscience, there’s a good reason it is never “prooved” correct. If an idea is tested using the scientific method, it is considered science. It doesn’t matter if the theory turned out to be correct or not. Pseudoscience only superficially resembles actual science. When a test can be devised for a pseudo-scientific idea, it invariable fails. That’s where real science would adjust or throw out the theory. Pseudoscience doesn’t do that. It just claims the test was bogus or it can’t be replicated, or just not replicated when people are watching.

          Your unnamed German scientist did not prove reiki, auras in the woo sense of the term, or anything else. The idea that cells emit photons is not controversial. The idea though that these photons have some grand meaning is unfounded. This is no different from people slapping the word “quantum” on every scam imaginable.

          Will Tuttle–what exactly am I supposed to gather from that? He makes some off the wall declaration of racism and sexism, and so this article is? If it’s there, you should be able to simply tell us what is racist and sexist.

          • UnitedVegan Says:

            “Being vegan means acting conscientiously towards all thinking creatures, including humans”???
            Do you consider yourself doing this? Are you aware, what labeling an organization as “cult” means is this country?
            If not, read again, read some of the many books on Waco.
            Or the paper, lawyer Eugene Gallagher wrote about the incident.
            In the Waco incident more than 80 ppl died, women and children included.

            She said the FBI totally ignored the wider science community with religious expertise and only listened to R.Ross, a self-claimed cult-expert with no academic career in this field, who handcuffs and kidnaps people on request, deprogramming them from their “brainwashing” against their will, only caring about making money out of it. (5.000US$ p.p.)

            After he had been sued by a person he did this to he has been found guilty and had to declare bankruptcy.

            The Clinton incident was part of a wider scandal of a democrat fund raiser who raised 4.5 million US$, half of which had to be returned and the 600.000 US$ you mentioned were mostly returned because coming from foreign accounts which the parties are not allowed to accept, the media later made out of it what you read about it.
            Do your research thoroughly before you outlaw people like that! Labeling someone a “cult” means depriving them of more rights than what animal rightists ask for animals.
            The Deprogramming methods Ross and other people use, mean heavily criminal intrusions into people’s human rights.
            This is MUCH worse than any racism. If any “expert” would be consulted you would be talking of “new religious movements” here, not cults.
            So if you pretend to be so scientific, do your homework thoroughly, don’t repost stuff the VN article reposted like the stuff from the Berkley bachelor student or of criminals like RickRoss. You make a fuss out of nothing and do much more damage to the vegan movement and animals than any pseudo-science could ever do.

            Think deeply about your motivation in doing this. Isn’t it that you are hurt by all the people who don’t take you for real as a vegan. Are you trying to make up for this by eliminating all foreign, and un-normal elements from the movement, like other religions and alternative world views. This would be super-racist!

            • skepticalvegan Says:

              I think you need to look into the Waco incident deeper. While the government certainly did botch the raid and are responsible for some horrific things this DOES NOT excuse David Koresh nor does it mean that his group was not a cult. They clearly were. I say this as someone who has met individuals who were members and as someone who has GREAT sympathy for what happened. I actually used to believed in the conspiracy theory put forward in “Waco: The Rules of Engagement” and “A New Revelation” that government agents gunned down individuals as they attempted to flee and that the fire was directly caused by government agents. This conspiracy theory is partly based on erroneously interpreted FLIR footage and audio clips. Ive since found further evidence that this interpretation of events is likely incorrect and that it is likely that Koresh or one of his followers were responsible for the fire and subsequent deaths.
              Yes many innocent people died, but Koresh was no Messiah, he was a cult leader.

              You should also be aware that involuntary “deprogramming” is no longer an accepted method in the cult awareness and recovery movement and has even been renounced by Rick Ross. I for one am glad.

              Labeling someone a “cult” means depriving them of more rights than what animal rightists ask for animals.

              no it doesn’t, at least not in the US. At the most it puts them in a category of heightened legal scrutiny on the level of many political activists.

              If any “expert” would be consulted you would be talking of “new religious movements” here, not cults.

              actually I do use the phrasing “new religious movements” in this series of posts.
              But its a matter of semantics largely, NRM is often just a politically correct way to say “cult”. The label of cult is based on structure and behavior, I clearly listed the criteria by which they are judged a cult.

              Do you consider Scientology to be a cult? Or are they just another organization full of love and peace?

              don’t repost stuff the VN article reposted like the stuff from the Berkley bachelor student or of criminals like RickRoss.

              I link to over 65 reference in the SMCH article alone, less than a half dozen reference VegNews or Rick Ross. These two sources represented only a small part of my research.

              Think deeply about your motivation in doing this.

              I already did.
              “why am I writing these posts? My purpose is not to be a cynic or to call for a boycott of all religiously associated restaurants, but in addition to simply finding such topics interesting I feel we need to be wary when our dollars may serve to enrich an abusive or unethical leader or perpetuate a manipulative organization. The ethics of consumption go beyond just animal flesh and byproducts. We can not simply brush legitimate criticism aside because “she does so much good” or because “at least she helps spreads veganism”. I can’t say that the above criticisms apply to all SMCH restaurants and there are many other concerns to consider so the decision to patronize SMCH-associated businesses is a choice your going to have to make for yourself. I encourage my readers to click on the provided hyperlinks, use them as a starting point for your own research.”

        • PythagoreanCrank (@PythaCrank) Says:

          Well that was exactly my point. “That might be an opinion expressed through one scientist or even one study but their is good science behind the idea that humans can thrive on vegan diets.” It is not one scientist claiming that, but most nutiritional studies.

          If most nutritional studies are claiming that vegan diets don’t work then by what rationalization can you dispute that by acting differently? Why would you go against the consensus of science that proves vegan diets are not healthy? Sounds pretty risky and irrational to me.

          And you don`t have to convince me, that there are studies proving the opposite as I am already vegan.

          So wait, now there are studies that prove the opposite? This is the problem. The layperson is not in a position to judge the current body of science of a particular field. We need experts to parse it for us. If vegan diets we found not to be healthy I would not myself be vegan. Instead, I along with others would strive to overcome the obstacles through technology but still strive for justice. The same way we do with nutritional supplements like B12 and DHA.

          My point was merely showing that science is right until it is prooved wrong. So a lot of what is called Pseudoscience might be prooven later or shows a paradigm change in science.

          Science is a method for coming to conclusions based on evidence supporting a hypothesis which is then judged and replicated by peers. Extraordinary claims will require extraordinary evidence to overturn but the scientist who leads that charge and gets confined will reap rewards. Pseudoscience is a term for science done poorly at best or deliberate obfuscation through scientific sounding trappings at worse. Jumping to a conclusion based on one study is not good method and can be considered pseudoscientific until that study is replicated and confirmed by a consensus of peers. Then it can be considered scientific. But until then if you go around blathering about something that one particular crank published you should expect to be ridiculed. Otherwise any old theory can enjoy validity which can have dire consequences.

          For example when a German scientist discovered the meaning of biophotons in the 1970s he got expelled from the scientific community. Today he receives large grants from the Ministry of Research and education. His method of prooving biophotons again shows that Auras exist, that reiki healing is possible or that the meridians of Chinese Medicine do exist.

          Ok, so this is the part where I say that is all bullshit because if there were convincing evidence for reiki or TCM science and medicines would incorporate that into their current models except the don’t. Then you would claim there’s a conspiracy lumping even more fallacy onto your claim. Even if biophotons exist how does that proves anything about auras, reiki or meridians? That’s quite a leap. I suspect you don’t have the studies (plural as in many) for that? Please prove me wrong and cite them.

          And about what Anna said and your request, I was referring to the original article Supreme Mystery and Will Tuttle´s critique of it (http://worldpeacediet.org/vncritique.htm) I am totally with him that there are “disturbing racist and sexist overtones” in it. So defending this article, skepticalvegan takes side and approves of these overtones.

          I’ve read Will Tuttle’s response and my lengthy reply to this thread mentions the deplorable nature of it. Please cite specifically the racist and sexist overtones in the VegNews article. It’s a stretch to do so in the very least and by doing so you are co-opting the plight of groups who have legitimate claims to oppression while you wield it as a weapon. That is shameful for somebody who I’m assuming would care about justice issues. The author of that article has been relentlessly attacked and that is the hallmark of somebody grasping for straws with no valid arguments in refutation. If your defense of this cult supersedes the supposed mission of justice it claims then you have lost your way and you should re-evaluate the situation for which you are mired.

          This is all I can say. And as for an appology, the only thing I begin feeling sorry about is wasting all my time to discuss struggles within the vegan movement instead of taking it outthere. Spread the word and stopp messing around with this struggle against fellow vegans!

          The reason why there’s a growing movement of people who are vegan and argue against pseudoscience like me, Skeptical Vegan, Rational Vegan and others is that we recognize that these issues in the vegan movement are undermining it. If you are serious about animal justice then you join the fight against bad ideas. Respect your audience and don’t pander to them employing pseudoscientific trappings or selfish ploys. It is the best expression of love to your fellow humans to open yourself up honestly and strive to ensure the ideas you pass along will serve them well instead of exploiting them. Internal critique is fine when done constructively but telling somebody to STFU and get in line is a plea to maintain the challenged status quo. We are challenging this for the plight of other animals. I commend you for your passion but let the best ideas win and let’s analyze these ideas for their content and not for how well they resonate with our own inherent bias.

        • Anna Says:

          You realize your claims of racism, sexism, and Eurocentrism are incredibly weak, right? There have been repeated claims of the author of THIS blog being all of those things. Again, I say, point me to the exact quotation that displays racism, sexism, or Eurocentrism. Failing that, provide a compelling argument that we can find some kind of “gestalt” racism/sexism/Eurocentrism in THIS blog.

  16. instant karma glass onion Says:

    @ UnitedVegan:

    AND @”instant karma glass onion” I do not meant to create “an imbalance and alienate vegans” but to claim that this blog is doing so.
    I meant to say that inherent in many claims of the skeptical vegan there are tendencies of a eurocentric, racist, and sexist bias which supports intolerance among vegans to other cultures and philosophies…

    wait, hold on, i agree completely with what you have stated here. :) sorry for the confusion, the remark you quoted was indeed directed at SkepticalVegan and his pretended biases. as you have pointed out he seems very intolerant and is relying upon sensationalist commentary more than actual facts.

  17. instant karma glass onion Says:

    and her references are cherrypicked and often misrepresented.

    point out these wrongfully misrepresent facts, if you would be so kind. :| i guess you missed the part where NASA scientists confirm her statements concerning global climate change and the melting ice caps.

    http://bit.ly/wfX1o3

    She also cites the UN study Livestocks Long Shadow, so once again i find it implausible that you out of hand characterize her sources and pseudo-science and/or seriously flawed.

    she also cites the UN Report – Livestock’s Long Shadow.
    and NASA scientist H. Jay Zwally.

    once again this is far from pseudo-science. so no, the science is not flawed.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      point out these wrongfully misrepresent facts

      already did

      She teaches that Mars was once inhabited by an advanced civilization, despite lack of evidence and a preponderance of counter evidence. This is pseudo-science.
      She claims to have once been breatharian and continues to promote the idea that one can live completely without food and water for extended periods. This is dangerous pseudo-science.
      Her claim that inserting animal derived genes into plants will result in vegetables that cause obesity, heart disease, strokes and “have similar effects” to meat is totally unsupported by science. Its pseudo-science.
      Her promotion of the tales of ancient astronauts and messages in crop circles is pseudo-science.
      The idea that Egyptian pyramids as lighthouses for UFOs is pseudo-science.
      Her alarmism regarding solar flares goes far beyond the evidence and make claims of excessive danger that isnt real. Its pseudo-science.
      Hair analysis as used in the manner reported on in my blog post is a pseudo-science.
      I could go on and on here. SMCHTV and Hai herself both promote a wide range of non-scientific and pseudo-scientific ideas, and far too many take it seriously.

      …we have a good chance to see how right she is, the summer of 2012 is coming up, we will see if all the ice is gone from the arctic ocean by then as Hai claims.

      “she cites the runaway methane problem, it is realworld science.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

      No she isnt, saying the methane will literally suffocate all life on earth is NOT supported by a rational interpretation of the clathrate gun hypothesis. Hai’s interpretation is overly alarmists and unsupported.
      This is kinda like saying that the 2012 “polar shift” doomsday believers that think the earth will literally flip upside down are correct because the theory of geomagnetic reversal is legitimate science.

    • PythagoreanCrank Says:

      So what’s your answer here instant karma glass onion? Are these not wrongful?

      • UnitedVegan Says:

        Well that was exactly my point.
        “That might be an opinion expressed through one scientist or even one study but their is good science behind the idea that humans can thrive on vegan diets.”
        It is not one scientist claiming that, but most nutiritional studies. And you don`t have to convince me, that there are studies proving the opposite as I am already vegan.
        My point was merely showing that science is right until it is prooved wrong. So a lot of what is called Pseudoscience might be prooven later or shows a paradigm change in science.
        For example when a German scientist discovered the meaning of biophotons in the 1970s he got expelled from the scientific community. Today he receives large grants from the Ministry of Research and education. His method of prooving biophotons again shows that Auras exist, that reiki healing is possible or that the meridians of Chinese Medicine do exist.
        And about what Anna said and your request, I was referring to the original article Supreme Mystery and Will Tuttle´s critique of it (http://worldpeacediet.org/vncritique.htm)
        I am totally with him that there are “disturbing racist and sexist overtones” in it. So defending this article, skepticalvegan takes side and approves of these overtones.
        This is all I can say. And as for an appology, the only thing I begin feeling sorry about is wasting all my time to discuss struggles within the vegan movement despite taking it outthere. Spread the word and stopp messing around with this struggle against fellow vegans!

  18. UnitedVegan Says:

    OK @glass onion, so it was only a misunderstanding.

    Actually there had been a survey at the University of Copenhagen, comparing the impact of the same information when coming from different source, namely expert vs. layperson.

    They showed the subjects first the report Livestock s Long shadow and then a video from Supreme Master TV, and found recipients regarding the first one as having more weight behind it, even though the study confirmed the information being of the same scientific standard. The researchers were surprised as they had expected the audio-visual media having more impact than a thick report of dry facts.

    The problem is this information on the Climate-Diet-Relation
    would never have been distributed to such an extend without SMCHIA .
    So either people would not be informed of this report, or when they get the information through a secondary source they value it less.

    When they even cognitively perceive this information through their cultural blinders and bias as racism they will reject it AND think they do so because of the information and not of the person/media conveying it.
    So veganism cannot win on this world
    BTW here s the report mentioned

    http://diggy.ruc.dk:8080/bitstream/1800/6727/1/coverpage_merged-1.pdf

    • instant karma glass onion Says:

      yes UnitedVegan, thanks for that information on the survey done by the University of Copenhagen and the link to the study.
      it is an eyeopener. much the same here can be found in the innaccurate, pointless, sugarcoated strawman rebuttals in evidence here. :?

      The problem is this information on the Climate-Diet-Relation
      would never have been distributed to such an extend without SMCHIA . So either people would not be informed of this report, or when they get the information through a secondary source they value it less.

      i agree totally my friend. but even worse here Ching Hai is being dismissed out of hand and wrongfully mispresented as spreading disinformation disguised as pseudo-science. there seems to be a credibility gap here with the same contaminated and spurios illogic being adhered to constantly, almost as a second religion.

  19. PythagoreanCrank Says:

    Kudos for such a comprehensive post on SMCH! We were struggling with fact-finding on Plant-Based People a while back when the VegNews article blew up and the author of that article, Abigail Young is as far as I know still MIA. We had a local restaurant called “Alice & Friends” and the propaganda was limited to a stack of pamphlets and a small TV in the lobby. We shrugged it off as quirky because we loved the atmosphere and food otherwise. When they recently converted to a Loving Hut though it became readily apparent that this was a concerted effort on behalf of a larger org. The big flatscreen tvs all over the place spewing propaganda really drove home the point that this org was a cult. Vegan apologists tend to brush it off because it promotes their vegan cause but when those types of concessions are made it strays into dogma.

    Will Tuttle’s attack on VegNews set the model for the rest of the cult minions to follow with the baseless appeal to liberal guilt. It smacks of the post-modern, itself racist, classification of science as elite and “western” which is popular amongst the newage pseudo-intellectuals cowering under appeals of cultural sensitivity. Only when it doesn’t suit their particular needs those. Otherwise they glad kowtow to pseudoscientific jargon to at the same time grasp for any form of legitimacy. Will Tuttle seems to be struggling to resurrect the faux enlightenment cult culture of the 70s when I think it’s lost its allure in our modern age save for niche group like vegans who buy those cheap catered appeals.

    We see this sorta stuff happen all the time:
    “The feedback generally fell into two different categories, those that felt the article was even-handed, almost neutral. And feedback coming almost exclusively from within the Loving Hut organization that was critical of us.”
    recently here on VeggieBoards:”Apparently Ching Hai’s followers Google her name a lot so they can defend her on various message boards. I hadn’t really believed it until now but it sure is interesting how many new members we have because of this thread…” I’m thinking along the lines of “thou dost protest too much.”

    And when I was a recent atheist I became very cranky about organized religions and cults. But now I take a more…ummm libertarian approach on it. Adults are free to worship whatever cult they want as long as they don’t harm others. The leader who weaves the twisted insidious web to ensnare and feast upon people’s inherent weaknesses is the despicable aspect that I abhor. The cure for that is not to attempt a direct fight but to inoculate the population grassroots style to think critically upon these matters. Cults suck, vegan chow or none. Exploitation is not a justifiable measure even against other forms of exploitation.

    And THAT, kids, is some good ol’fashioned crankin’ for you. :)

  20. Edgware of glory | fatgayvegan Says:

    […] the restaurant located in Edgware in London, UK. Yes, it still comes with the sometimes intrusive Ching Hai information espoused in all Loving Hut locations but their menu is by far the most expansive and […]

  21. Shawn Says:

    This article is wrong.. you do exactly what you accuse Ching Hai of doing!.. which is simply nonsense.. ugh. It’s hard to read something like that. Ching Hai has had a greater impact on the world then you have, and you make her associates sound like the damn mob!.. LOL! Seriously, to the author of this, you don’t understand the life of one who has the quan yin method.. Just watching her videos I feel happier and I feel my level of consciousness go higher.. but to one such as yourself, I understand that there is resilience and hesitation to believe.. the very act of writing this as you have is a call for help. You can not see the world straight it seems.. when people are operating on a higher level such as this, then to the outside world, things may not line up all of the time.. when you dig deep enough in to anyone’s life, you will pull out some interesting things… even a master still makes mistakes, and learns. Otherwise it would not be the world we live in.

  22. Shawn Says:

    There is a LOT of criticism in this thread, and no one seems adequate to answer to it… no one here seems to believe that breatharianism is possible, but Ching Hai is not the only one to speak on breatharianism I hope you know..? I have been in a private forum where a person that I know whom wouldn’t lie about it, also told her experience with becoming breatharian earlier in her life.. more then one person in fact.. please get a grip!! lol!.. there are many people here with only negatives to share, so why?… you are scared of the unknown so you come together, and you point your finger in the easiest direction, because it’s easiest to pull up information about a really famous person who has a large responsibility.. She is not a cult figure, nor is she religious, despite the harsh accusations.. agh… so ridiculous..

  23. Shawn Says:

    “She most certainly does. She teaches that Mars was once inhabited by an advanced civilization, despite lack of evidence and a preponderance of counter evidence. This is pseudo-science.”

    What a bunch of silly attacks.. what is driving your motive to criticize Ching Hai especially?… her claims about mars and venus being inhabited aren’t based on earthly science, but on her own telepathic connection to the beings that live among them, which is shared by thousands of others in this world (or a million), etc.. whether you believe her or not is your own limitation, but calling it psuedo science doesn’t make any sense!

  24. TedTheAtheist Says:

    Shawn: Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.

    Since her claims about other planets being inhabited aren’t supported by science, then it *IS* pseudoscience. Learn the English language, please.

    Also, there is no evidence of any “telepathic communication” anywhere, at any time that we know of.

    All a bunch of BS.

    • Meatloaf Says:

      This whole blog is Pseudoscience. There is no science about veganism. And “skeptical vegan”? What should that be? Be skeptical or vegan! This is like the serious comedian or the frigid prostitute. Get a job and close this shit

  25. Kim Hopkins Says:

    I believe there are pictures taken by US government related to underground city in Mars.

  26. Sad sister Says:

    Thank you for writing this article. Unfortunately I have an older sister that has been following this cult for over 13 years. She used to be a happy person who loved life, help people and since she started practicing this, all she wants to do is help this group out. She cant seem to find something for herself, she does not keep a job long enough because she always has to be somewhere to help some activism about this. She is a walking propaganda for this cult. It is so sad to see this happen. The whole family has tried to talk to her about it but she is not interest to listen to what we have to say. We love her to death and we hope someday she will be able to realize this is not healthy for her or her 2 young and beautiful daughters.

  27. Sad sister Says:

    by the way most of us are vegetarian!

  28. Veggie Shameless « Pythagorean Crank Says:

    […] the goals, issues and members of these factions. Animal rights vegans may not give a shit about the $upreme Ma$ter Cha-Ching cultists marching alongside them. Rawfoodists leer at the Dr. Guruists, and breatharians say they’ll […]

  29. Marie Rihanna C. (@Rihanna00611) Says:

    This is a great article. And the comments are very interesting to read too. I know some people who are into new age stuff and I can get behind some of it but I think this Ching Hai cult thing is just a little too much. The more I learn about Ching Hai the more I really dislike her and I’m glad I’ve never gotten involved with the group.

    By the way, here’s a kind of interesting blog about Ching Hai and the group. There’s a few interesting posts and links to articles on it.

    http://thechinghaicult.blogspot.com/

  30. swan Says:

    oh she is harmless at best, leave her alone. the Abrahamic God Cults are much more greedy and violent, the Sassoon Jews sold opium to china for century and the Vatican is adorned with gold, guess where it came from? Abrahamic God Cults had exterminated at least 400 indian nations in Americas. essentially GuanYin is harmless. .

  31. Imogen Michel Says:

    A really interesting article, thank you for writing it. I’ve never been to a Loving Hut but I’ve heard of the chain and Ching Hai, so this information is good to know.

  32. trucheo Says:

    You know what? Meanwhile there is someone out there really doing something is beneficial for the world of vegan and peace, you’re just sitting on your fucking ass writing nonsense. Not to mention about the truth and accuracy of information in your article, I found it totally your bias. Go get your own Honorable Citizenship like her first and then talk about her.
    Lose, there’s WOO in your head

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      You didn’t address a single point in the article. But thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      • Vegan Chicago (@Vegan_Chicago) Says:

        Dear esteemed and most respected Skeptical Vegan,

        Be it Known:

        In recognition of your acclaimed international reputation as vegan champion and beyond-supreme advocate of skeptical inquiry to further the righteous cause of justice for all animals, we at Vegan Chicago officially declare that SKEPTICAL VEGAN is hereby commissioned for now and all time an Honorary Citizen of Vegan Chicago and, as such, shall enjoy a place of high honor and esteem in the minds and hearts of these citizens of Vegan Chicago, Illinois USA.

        In recognition of this honor this blog comment is hereby posted.

        David Sutherland
        Director, Vegan Chicago

  33. Jade Says:

    Love, love, only love

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