The Vegetarian Myth

Man, oh man, is this ever an amazingly good book: The Vegetarian Myth. What is so compelling to me, as somewhat of a hack when it comes to writing, is that her writing is plain old damn good. It's really good. You can easily forget what you're reading because the enjoyment of the style, integration, honesty, and the personal bleeding that goes with every page is so captivating.

This is but the fist of likely a number of posts about this book. It is very important. Oh, did I mention that it's written by a 20-year [ex-] vegan? Yea, and her honesty about all of that -- her anguish in the clash between reality and her values -- is right there, exposed.

...And I'm only through chapter two. Well, see for yourself. Here's chapter one.

Well, my position on vegetarianism / veganism is well documented, this being the most recent.

I got wind of it via Dr. Mike Eades, and seeing that his recommendation was so strong, I had it 1-clicked to my Kindle by the third paragraph of his review.

The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.

That's her, and you will see that recognition of reality threaded throughout. In some ways, I have to say that her seeming radical egalitarian philosophy is as goofy as a football bat, but be patient. So far, what she's doing is using it to expose woeful vegetarian ignorance. I have not yet discovered if she's found reconciliation between her fundamental values of all life being just as important as all other life (with rights for microbes, I guess) and her recognition that lots of things have to die for everything to eat (even plants).

Fascinating journey, this. More to follow.

Update: Just learned that major portions of the book are online at Google Books.

Comments

  1. Lute Nikoley says:

    Just read the first chapter here at BJ’s over a couple of beers. Enjoyed it so much, I’m going to buy the book. Why? Because I like to have a good response to uninformed vegetarians and vegans.

  2. Just ordered this on Amazon and I can’t friggen wait!

    Lookin’ good Richard.

    -bryce

  3. Erin in Flagstaff says:

    I downloaded it to my Kindle too after reading Dr. Eades’ review. I’m really enjoying it. As an ex-vegetarian, I’m finding that what she has to say really coincides with my old beliefs. I certainly understand her despair at her discovery that death is a necessity. And yes, she’s a great writer.

  4. Ah, vegetarianism. I gained about 80 pounds in the years I tried to be a vegetarian. I was always always starving. Vegetables weren’t filling enough, so I ate way too many “healthy” grains. With paleo/primal I have lost 38 pounds and have no worries about how much more weight I can lose. Funny thing is I actually eat more vegetables now. Meat satisfies hunger so vegetables are now more appealing. Cooking is also easier because my husband and I now eat the same thing.

  5. I was an idealistic vegetarian for eight years so this book grabbed my attention at a gut level. Ditto on the ex-veg weight gain. I’m still trying to lose all those years of mac-n-cheese dinners and canned HFCS beans. I ate a little better than that actually but given that I was already carb sensitive the veg diet did me no favors.
    I have the book and hope to use it to convince my Veg-brother who has “carb-face and Wheat-belly”. Also have to read ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ and Sissons ‘P.B.’

  6. greencare says:

    “The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.”

    What is this supposed to mean?

    • Aaron Blaisdell says:

      It means, even plants, fungi, and bacteria are alive, so if you are a vegetarian (including mushrooms) then the someones who have to die come from those two Kingdoms of Life (yes, life).

      • It goes even far beyond that, as she develops in the webbed chapter and continues on in subsequent chapters.

        Even plants require the death and destruction wreaked by animals to flourish.

        Prey depend on predators as much for survival as do predators depaend on prey.

        And this merely screatches the surface. As Lierre accurately identifies, is is an adult view juxatposed to an infantile, Pollyanna view.

  7. greencare says:

    Please watch this video following the link below and reconsider equating animal suffering with cabbage.

    http://current.com/items/90713213_inside-the-humane-slaughterhouse.htm

    Inclusion to the moral community does not depend on “whether a being can reason, but whether it can suffer”.

    • Nancy R. says:

      But greencare, how many small animals suffer when the threshing machines come around to harvest all the “moral” grains vegetarians would have us consume? How many species and their habitats are wiped out so that we can have space for our “moral” monoculture farms? Death and suffering still occur for vegetarians to have their food.

      • Peace Is Coming For You says:

        It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. That means 16 times the amount of small animals had to die for the beef, and 15 pounds of food that could have been used to feed people, went to feed the cow. It is not possible to eliminate ALL death, but it is possible and practical to reduce the amount of suffering. Plus 70% of the amazon rainforest is gone due to deforestation, 90% of which is a result of raising livestock. Livestock contributes more than transportation to global warming. It pollutes in vast quantities our water and air, and ruins the soil. 40% of global grain production goes to livestock animals. If we stopped feeding them this grain, we could give two loaves of bread to everyone on the planet – every day. Meat is increasingly being shown to have negative health effects by the medical profession. It is linked to obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, CHD, atherosclerosis, and most industry-produced meat is diseased, laced with antibiotics, hormones, steroids, and most packaged meat has traces of fecal matter. Not to mention the food-borne illnesses associated with meat. What about cholesterol? It only comes in meat in any substantial amount. Furthermore, as for the treatment of animals, most of us are confused about our moral obligations to them. We treat our dogs and cats as members of the family, and certainly would not eat them given alternatives, but we stick forks in other animals we deem as food. We would certainly stop someone from beating or blowtorching their dog or cat, and possibly bring criminal charges, however we pay to support the torture and killing of other animals. We are very confused between what we say we feel about animals, and how we actually treat them. Our moral schizophrenia deludes us.

      • “Meat is increasingly being shown to have negative health effects by the medical profession. It is linked to obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, CHD, atherosclerosis, and most industry-produced meat is diseased, laced with antibiotics, hormones, steroids, and most packaged meat has traces of fecal matter. Not to mention the food-borne illnesses associated with meat. What about cholesterol? It only comes in meat in any substantial amount.”

        See, this is why it’s pointless to argue with you about anything.

        You’re just a regurgitator. Nothing you have said is original knowledge, information, or the product of actual thinking.

        Now, how about cure your woeful ignorance and go study the dozens of indigenous, meat-eating, hunter-gatherer and non-industrial societies that have been documented over for over 200 years.

        Come back when you’ve learned something.

      • peace, on the off chance you are not a troll I will attempt a rational response.

        you address problems with industrial meat production. you address health problems for humans who feed on this meat. this all implies that if I can produce meat without the problems you describe, the moral problem goes away. is this really what you want to say?

        I am looking out my window at hectares of beautiful green cow food. it does not take a single grain to raise a cow, and in fact the less grain a ruminant eats the healthier it is. I am also looking out my window at 3 men operating gas machines to trim the cow food, which they no doubt also fertilized to make it grow fast. the trimmed grass will go to the landfill. a ten year old boy with a herd of sheep could handle the trimming and fertilizing while providing a nice supply of meat with no fossil fuel burned and no landfill.

        yes we are confused. our grass goes to waste, our grasslands are replaced with grains, and we feed the grain to animals and vegans, which makes them sick. there is an alternative, and the meat produced by grassfed animals does NOT require medication, hormones or antibiotics, is NOT linked with the health problems you describe, and does NOT consume any human food. the humans fed on this meat do NOT get overweight, diabetes, or cancer (see medical evaluations of hunter gatherers).

        what do you think?

      • It doesn’t take any grains to feed animals that do not live in concrete factories. It takes a fence and plenty of green grass. Ruminants mow and fertilize the grass, what they are meant to eat. No GMO corn, no petroleum transport, no manure as waste in a lagoon. Manure is a valuable fertilizer, when cows live on grass. Grain feeding of ruminant animal causes excess methane production, not a problem with grass fed.

        We do not need to convine everyone to be meatless to help the environment and the food system. We need to go back to traditional methods that farms used to use before chemicals and factories.

    • Oh yes, greencare. I’m sure that just makes all the mall-hopping teenyboppers just horrified.

      Then, they’re perfectly set up to have their bodies ruined by undertaking a fantasy diet that explicitly rejects man’s biological nature and his requirements for optimal health.

      And I don’t want to hear any bullshit about veggie “health.” The only valid data on that score is the anthropological record that shows strong and robust skeletons amongst hunter-gatherers and sever degradation in comparison to agriculturists.

      Now, while I’m all for (and willing to pay more) humane treatment of animals right up to the moment of death, this video was not particularly shocking. I’ve hunted & dressed deer, fished, and raised broiler chickens and rabbits, and I was the one (at age 13 or so) who did the executions — axe for the chicks, club for the rabbits.

      We endeavored to treat them very well during their lives, and to make thinned of life very quick (as well as out of sight for those in wait). I have always abhorred animal trophies of all kinds. We were brought up to respect animals and that the only justification for killing them was for the food.

      Now, as far as videos go, how’s this for cruelty:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHXiGquzCOI

      or this?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDFh5JdYh7I

      That last one shatters the myth that we’re evolved herbivores. Yea, chips hunt other monkeys, rip them to shreds live, and eat them.

      So, given that, I think we offer a far better, more humane way for necessary prey to die.

      http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/peta-cspi-and-other-menaces/a-better-way-to-die/

      The problem with you folks is that it’s all emotion and feelings with you. You are simply not dealing properly with the reality of human existence and the requirements for survival and happy flourishing.

      In the end, y’all remind me of the born-again fundamentalists I grew up around. It’s always about denial, penance, guilt — and over man’s very nature (‘original sin’). Vegetarianism offers the very same unearned guilt trap, and there’s no mystery that it’s the young and profoundly dumb and ignorant where lies the biggest push.

      In the end, you need idiots and morons: the only life suited to the diet of a pea brain.

      • AngryHippy says:

        Thank you, you actually sound sane at least. I do agree with vegans that many modern “animal factories” are abhorant. I don’t like seeing animals (and in many cases the human employees) tortured for some extra profit. I think they should be raised and killed as humanely as possible. However, many vegans seem like extreme religious fundamentalists with pure emotion and idealism motivating them, and no rational thought.

        Morally, vegans have a point, but they seem to feel that relative intelligence is the only thing that gives living things value. The more radical vegans don’t seem to understand the ecosystems, or balance of nature at all.
        For one thing plants struggle just as hard to survive as animals, they are complex living things, and I find it hard to say they deserve death any more than animals. The fact is most animals have to kill something to survive. Unless you can survive entirely off of nectar or fruit, manure, dirt or sunlight, you have to kill something to eat.

        For another thing growing plants can be destructive to the environment too, mono crops with lots of pesticides and chemical fertalizer are very destructive to the environment. There are plenty of methods of growing food that may be less productive in the short term, but in the long term are far more sustainable. Every ecosystem is different. Sometimes grazing animals actually benefit the environment, American buffalo for example lived in harmony with their environment for millions of years, and humans and other predators ate the buffalo. Problems are only caused when you introduce alien species that aren’t well adapted to the local ecosystem.

        Vegans seem to make outrageous health claims too. A lot of my friends are vegan or vegetarian, (and most of them aren’t pushy and preachy I might add). However they don’t seem any healthier then me. I’ve known some very preachy vegans though, who seem to get sick with a cold or flu every 2 or 3 months, while they constantly told me how “healthy” their diet was. I usually only get sick once a year despite too much sugar, meat and smoking. It kind of makes my wonder about the their “healthy” diet. If I search online, I find tons of articles both pro-vegan and pro-omnivore, but not much data comparing the life spans of the two groups. Also I’ve read many articles about how bad margarine and many common vegetable oils are for you, (mostly due to how they are processed). It’s hard to tell who’s accurate, because there is so much bias on both sides. The general gist I get is that all extreme diets have trade offs, plus different people have different dietary needs.

      • Hey man, you clearly get it. You echo very much of what Lierre Keith writes in her book, The Vegetarian Myth.

      • i have one for you richard, you make sense, but in these response you mention human existance, and to me it sound like you are talking about what is good for our species on a physical level, what about spiritual, and karma, dont we create a larger karmic imprint, by eating animals instead of vegetables, vegetables, just curious as to your thoughts, im still undecided one way or the other,
        thanks
        ian

      • Well I’m a materialist save for my belief in free will, so I don’t really go in for any of that Karma stuff. On the other hand, man is an animal that seeks values and seeking rational and wholesome values has its rewards even spiritual or soulful ones — so there’s that.

  8. First I am not a vegetarian, and never will be. I am just wonder how do you explain the people who are vegan or vegetarian and seem to thrive on it? There are several world class athletes, Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses, not to mention body builder Bill Pearl. Mark Danzig is a UFC fighter who is a vegan, although looking at his diet there is very little vegetables in it, mainly just shakes. Do some people do ok on it and others just don’t?

    • Just because they appear healthy now, doesnt mean they are not causing long term dammage.

      The human body is an amazing machine, capable of handling substantial abuse. (We’ve all seen life long smokers or drinkers live to ripe old ages)

      • I am sorry, but in a long run vegans/vegetarians seem to live longer with higher quality of life closer to the old years (that is, less degenerative disease, heart disease, cancer) . They just have to eat versatile, whole-foods diet and follow their body needs. You cannot be healthy and live long on chips and tofurku – same as you cannot on hotdogs.
        I can site many studies that support my statement; in fact, American and canadian dietitians started endorsing the diet because of the weight of the scientific evidence of its health benefit.
        Cheers,
        Olga

      • “I am sorry, but in a long run vegans/vegetarians seem to live longer with higher quality of life closer to the old years (that is, less degenerative disease, heart disease, cancer) .”

        Bullshit.

        People who are generally concerned about their health, avoid unhealthy habits, are active and/or get regular exercise, cook and eat their own (real) food mostly, tend to live longer.

        It's not about the macronutrient composition, it's about lifestyle. Vegetarianism and veganism are explicitly “health” movements, for the most part, and then you think you're saying something when comparing them to the general population.

        Compare meat eating health nuts with vegetarian and vegan health nuts.

        So, don't bother citing studies to me as you're clearly not up to standards of clear thinking.

    • If they are actually vegan and not cheating regularly, I’d chock it up to:

      1 As good of quality vegan as they can get.

      2 Conditioning. Having excess lean mass counts for a lot.

      3 Supplementation galore, probably.

      4 Youth

      • my brother is a vegetarian, he trains like a beast, is 6’2′ 180lbs and shredded, but he is 25 and does take some suppliments-

  9. lisa duncan says:

    i’ve met canada’s triathelete brendan brasier, and i also consume many of his vegan products, like protein powder for my smoothies, and a fabulous sports drink that kicks any other’s ass. his brand is vega, if you want to check it out. these products are made with real foods, and are as unprocessed as possible. i find they mix awesomely with my paleo lifestyle, as i avoid whey, grains, processed dairy, soy, and hfcs with these supplements. brazier is a vegan, and just like every other vegan i’ve met in person (i worked at a health food store for 3 years), he has dull, sallow skin; sad, dark eyes; and he’s way too skinny for a normal person. i have met many others like that, some being all elbows and knees, because of their refusal to acknowlegde what their body needs- meat, and real foods!!! i also follow blood type diet, and feel fortunate to be an O- i was the kid who peeled the skin off the turkey to eat before dinner, and who got to eat steak, avacadoes and spinach at a young age (my siblings and other 5 year olds didnt really go for ‘adult’ foods like those), and i never enjoyed eating sandwiches or pasta. i’ve been reading this blog for almost 6 months, and have appreciated every post i’ve seen. thank you richard, and thank you to this community you have created :)

    • Thanks for the kind comments.

      BTW, what is the protein powder made of if not whey or soy? Not casein?

      • lisa duncan says:

        yellow pea, hemp, sprouted flax, br rice, green food blend (spirulina, wheat grass, alfalfa grass, barley g, spinach, sprouted broccoli, kale, kelp, dulse), inulin from chicory root, nat. flavours, xanathan gum. its almost all organic, and i use half the serving in my smoothies, which yields 7g protein, 5g carbs (3g fibre), and 60 cals. i mix with coconut oil, fish oil, blueberries, coconut water, apricots or cherries (or strawberries in winter), and green powder, maybe some maca. i’ve tried without protein powder, but cannot get the right mix to keep me going at work in the mornings, for more than an hour, without it.

    • Hello Lisa,
      I met Brendan Brazier too, and my impression was exactly opposite to yours. May be you met him when he had a bad day and sad eyes LOL.
      Many of us wish to be as skinny as him – but for that he trains like hell, and burns up to 5000 calories per day, so his phisique is not an argument against him being vegan.
      As for your impression of his skin, I am curious if you have any scientific studies to support the statement that he has a dull sallow skin because he is a vegan?

      Some doctors that I met are against blood-type diet that works for you, for a simple reason – there is not enough scientific evidence and peer-reviewed studies that prove it works.

      I am not trying to be oppositional here, I understand it's a human nature to filter out arguments that support your current point of view, I am just trying to get a sence, whether it was your own impression and conclusion on Brazier's looks, or is there any studies that you can site for me to support this opinion?

      Thanks,
      Olga

      P.S. Tried his diet when I trained, it was complicated to cook, but filling and satisfying.

  10. Thanks for the book critique, I started it on Google Books, and it looks interesting.

    So far, author mostly focuses on evolution/sustainability argument. I am itching to see if there is a health-related part in his myth-busting.

    Vegan or mostly vegan diet is good for health reasons, and this is what science keeps reassuring us with. After reading The China Study several times, there is no doubt in my mind, that the whole-foods diet with maximum 5% of animal protein is the most health-optimal.

    Marlys here said: “I gained about 80 pounds in the years I tried to be a vegetarian” –
    well, vegetarian diet can be healthy and junk, just like any other one. And many people who go into it for the compassionate reasons, are not informed enough about health impact of food they are eating. These impact may turn them off . They would blame their health or hunger on the vegetarian diet.

    Vegetarian whole-food diet can be very satysfying, because your body really doesn't care energy-wice, what you get your calorie from, quinoa or piece of meat. The key in this statement is “whole-food”

    Cheers,
    Olga

  11. Having been blasted myself by the vegan community, I came to view many of them as histrionic, dogmatic and rude.

    And then when I joined the paleo community, I found the folks intelligent, scientific-minded and considerate. Their treatment toward those who disagreed with them was considerate, and they seemed steady and calm.

    That was until I read the comments on this post.

    • Joanne:

      I don't have time. If you do, then by all means, show consideration, calm, steady. You can use this as you veg forum, if you like.

      I prefer to spend my time — of which I give considerable amounts — on those people who come here honestly seeking knowledge and guidance.

      • And how is my post NOT showing that I came to seek knowledge?

        2Joanne: thanks. Appreaciated your comment.

        Civilized argument based on facts is the only normal way ( in my books) to change te mind of an open-minded person. Obviously, I said something that is not acceptable (or welcome) here, oh well, I did not expect such a harsh responce.
        I will look at your links, Richard, and I appreciate the time you took to provide them.

      • Olga:

        My bad. I should not have been so harsh, and you and your comments are
        entirely welcome here.

        Onward.

  12. production of beef doesnt require any grain. I can look out the window in front of my computer and see hectares of beautiful green cow food. instead of using this grass for its natural purpose, we fertilize it, then trim it short and put it in landfills. a small herd of sheep would happily handle the trimming and fertilizing for free.

    you describe problems with the industrial meat production system.

    I have tried dog and cat and have to say that I prefer herbivores. I dont condone the torture of any animals, and pay extra for humanely raised and butchered meat, and otherwise hunt or raise my own. it is as free as possible of artificial hormones, antibiotics, etc; clean meat like this is a rarity these days and is NOT linked with the health problems you describe.

  13. Richard (and everyone). In case yo have not seen this, Sean Croxton from Underground Wellness interviewed Lierre on her book. Goes for about 90mins. Interesting listen… http://www.blogtalkradio.com/undergroundwellness/2009/10/08/the-vegetarian-myth-with-lierre-keith

  14. Author Of The Vegetarian Myth Attacked By Militant Vegans

    March 13th, while speaking in the auditorium at the 15th Annual Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, Lierre Kieth was assaulted by pie throwing goons. The 3 pies were laced with hot pepper and therefor had an effect similar to pepper spray, blinding the author for a time. The painful attack was was carried out by three masked, militant vegans unhappy with the substance of the authors new book, The Vegetarian Myth.

  15. Faith Healer says:

    I found some of the comments very interesting.

    Didn’t know plants have a central nervous system. Very interesting. Are you trying to say plants feel pain when you cut them or dig them out of the soil? I guess they suffer in silence.

    Meat eaters are weak minded and narcissistic. Anyone who reads or watches videos of animals being slaughtered and can still buy, cook and eat meat is ignorant and should be put to death.

    One really ignorant person mentioned they knew someone who was vegan and they were sick every two or three months. Is that possible? Since I have been vegan/vegetarian (Feb. 2008) I have never been sick. Of course that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but to say someone gets sick every 2 or 3 months is lying to prove a point.

    I feel (and god) vegans/vegetarians are superior people to meat etc. eaters. You are basically like the drug companies. You are doing more good than harm. Being a meat eater, you are doing more harm than good. If you can’t admit it, you have a problem with your thought process and you just aren’t a strong enough individual. If I can change my eating habits, so can everyone else.

    This is what I eat most days.

    Breakfast – candy

    Lunch – candy

    Dinner – regular dinner – meat, chicken, fish, milk, eggs etc. Basically whatever I want.

    FH

    • Ha!

      Great troll, FH. Normally I have no patience, but this one is pretty good.

      Hey, how about testing your “faith” by just eating nothing but candy?

Trackbacks

  1. […] here was my response to the comment, edited and expounded upon for additional clarity and […]

  2. […] Keith; what a find. I opened what will doubtless be a series in promotion of her work, right here: The Vegetarian Myth. And, no, I'll continue to be as ruthless with the opportunists who think they can get away with […]

  3. […] how it all comes together. Vegetarianism is a myth, a menace. No wonder they're such bedfellows with that other menace: those with the audacity to […]

  4. […] back again with Lierre Keith and The Vegetarian Myth. My previous mentions & reviews have been here and here and […]

  5. Shorter FTC: You're Too Stupid | Free The Animal « CelebrityTwitterGossip.com says:

    […] protected. No longer must you languish in uncertainty about whether I or anyone else who reviews a book, a film, or food is doing so for professional reasons with a reputation to build and maintain, or […]

  6. […] I am. She forwards a great review of The Vegetarian Myth (reviewed here, here, here, and here) in an email newsletter from Fourfold […]

  7. […] The Vegetarian Myth […]

  8. […] early into the book, and already, it’s an attention snatcher. It was recommended to me by Richard Nikoley from Free the […]

  9. CrossFit Peachtree | CrossFit in Buckhead | CrossFit in Atlanta | CrossFit in Midtown | Personal Training Atlanta | Atlanta Strength and Conditioning Coach | CrossFit Football in Atlanta | Atlanta Speed and Agility Training says:

    […] Vegetarian Myth – Eades reviewed it, Richard reviewed it, and I did, too. This should be read by anyone, not just prospective or current vegetarians. […]

  10. […] Vegetarian Myth – Eades reviewed it, Richard reviewed it, and I did, too. This should be read by anyone, not just prospective or current vegetarians. […]

  11. […] Vegetarian Myth – Eades reviewed it, Richard reviewed it, and I did, too. This should be read by anyone, not just prospective or current vegetarians. […]