Book Review: The Vegetarian Myth

by Ann Marie Michaels on February 14, 2011

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The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith is one of the best books I’ve read in at least a decade. Maybe two.

This book is right up there with Malcolm Gladwell’s books. It is as groundbreaking to food and health as The Tipping Point was (and still is) to marketing.

In Hollywood-ese, The Vegetarian Myth is Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma meets Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Well-researched, world-changing, and at the same time, gorgeously written and profound.

Keith has a rare ability to condense and break down gigantic volumes of information into simple tidbits that are easily absorbed. Just like cows that eat indigestible grasses and ultimately transform them into mouth-watering sirloin steaks. Or produce milk which is turned into L’Epoisse stinky cheese — a raw milk cheese I call “almost better than sex”.

The Vegetarian Myth is the book that 16-year-old girls should be reading. Instead of that piece of garbage best-seller, Skinny Bitch. (I’m not an advocate of book burning, but in the case of that book, I might change my mind.)

Lierre Keith has such a phenomenal writing talent that as you read her book, you feel like you’re sitting in the room with her. As you read, you feel as though you’re lounging with her on a cozy sofa, savoring a glass of wine, in front of a roaring fire.

She’s your best friend from college you haven’t seen in decades, telling you her story of how she was a vegan for 20 years and how it destroyed her health and irreversibly damaged her fertility. She tactfully, gracefully shares the moment she woke up to myth she believed in for most of her life.

I cried reading this book. More than once. I bookmarked so many pages and underlined so many sections, it became absurd. I could not put it down. Wanted to read it in the shower. And yes, I will admit, I read it while driving.

In L.A., mind you, where the freeway is like a parking lot. Still, you should not be reading on a freeway. But I did. Because it was so good, like the most delicious chocolate, I could not stop.

Diet for a Misinformed America

You see, I used to be a vegetarian. When I was 24, I read Diet for a New America by John Robbins.

I was so moved by that book by John Robbins (son of the founder of Baskin Robbins,) I so believed in what he wrote, that I decided to live in a vegetarian/vegan-friendly co-op, while I completed my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin.

I met some wonderful people there. We played bridge and gin rummy and watched Northern Exposure and read the New York Times. We composted. And we ate lots of beans and rice and kept giant vats of tofu in our industrial stainless steel refrigerators.

These people were thinkers. They questioned. Like me, they had gusto and passion and creativity. Like me, they were progressive liberals. Like me, they believed in human rights and animal rights. We wanted to end factory farming.

And like me, they were misled by the likes of John Robbins.

If only Lierre Kieth’s book, The Vegetarian Myth had been out back then. It would have saved me a painful root canal and many cavities.

Not to mention my early onset of rheumatoid arthritis at the tender age of 25. It started in my knees. The pain was so bad, it kept me awake at night. And it was spreading to my elbows and my fingers. I remember my mother’s reaction, “You can’t have arthritis! That’s an old person’s disease.” But I had it.

Don’t feel sorry for me. A few cavities is no big deal. And, although the cartilage in knees is still damaged and I can’t do a squat to save my life, I was able to reverse my arthritis by ending my vegetarianism, eating meat again, and working to heal my digestive tract.

Feel sorry for all the teenage girls who are embarking on this treacherous voyage of vegetarianism, drinking soy milk and eating soy burgers and thinking they are going to save the planet. They’re the ones who are going to suffer from PCOS and irritable bowel syndrome and infertility and osteoporosis and depressions and Alzheimer’s. They’re the ones who are risking their lives and health and sanity in attempt to do good — when it reality, they’re only causing more harm. Not only to them — but to animals and to the planet.

Animal Rights and the Environment

How vegetarianism (and especially veganism) destroys our health is just one part of this book. Keith also examines the myth around vegetarianism and the humane treatment of animals. Eating meat does not automatically mean you’re supporting a factory farm. There are many farms that produce meat and animal-based products that come from animals living in harmony with nature, such as grass-fed meat and dairy, pastured pork and poultry. Further, she makes the very logical point that it is impossible to avoid killing. Plants must be killed in order to eat them. And when we grow crops like soybeans and corn, insects and small animals are killed every day in the process.

She goes on to completely annihilate the theory that vegetarianism will save the planet. For me, this was the most exhilarating and fascinating part of the book.

Keith explains that the beginning of her awakening was the day she decided to plant a vegetable garden in her backyard. She realized very quickly that in order to plant a garden in which vegetables would grow, she needed good soil. in order to cultivate good soil, she would need fertilizer. Fertilizer choices: (1) synthetic chemical-based fertilizers derived from fossil fuels (2) animal manure.

A vegan garden cultivated with animal manure would be blasphemy. And yet, if you use a petroleum-based fertilizer in your vegan garden, is that sustainable? Clearly not.

This was the awareness that opened Pandora’s box for Keith. How can vegetarianism save the planet when there is no way to grow food without animal manure — or petrochemicals, which are not sustainable?

The Importance of Topsoil

She went on to write about why top soil is so important. Without topsoil, there can be no life. Without topsoil, we end up with deserts and floods, and we won’t be able to plant those crops of soybeans and corn anymore. Without topsoil, grass won’t even grow, so you can’t have animals either. Obviously, producing topsoil is job number one in healing the planet.

And all these vegetarians drinking soy milk and eating corn chips who think they are saving the planet by avoiding meat are actually raping the land of its topsoil.

She writes about “humanless landscapes,” such as an untouched pine forest, really aren’t the end-all be-all that environmentalists think they are. Why? Simply because they don’t produce as much topsoil as a working farm does. We’re talking a real, old-fashioned farm where the cows graze on grass and the chickens are outside.

I’ll share this passage in the book, which absolutely took my breath away:

My food builds topsoil… On Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm — the mecca of sustainable food production — organic matter has increased from 1.5 percent in 1961 to 8 percent today. The average right now in the US is 2-3 percent.

In case you don’t understand, let me explain. A 6.5 percent increase in organic matter isn’t a fact for ink and paper: it’s a song for the angels to sing.

Remember that pine forest that built one-sixteenth of an inch of soil in fifty years? Cue those angels again: Salatin’s rotating mixture of animals on pasture is building one inch of top soil annually.

Thank you, Lierre Keith, for being brave enough to write this outstanding book. I pray that it reaches the hands of many, young and old. This book, a rare one of thousands, has the power to truly transform this planet for the better.

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim Huntley February 14, 2011 at 1:07 PM

Two thumbs up to this as well!!!! I am betting that you would also love “Deep Nutrition”.

…Tim

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Hi, Tim,

I’m reading it now! And YES I LOVE IT!

I’m going to start doing regular book reviews on the blog so look for it an upcoming review.

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FoodRenegade February 14, 2011 at 1:10 PM

I also loved Lierre’s book — not just because of the content, but also because of the WRITING. She is a phenomenal writer. The book is worth reading for that alone.

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City Share February 14, 2011 at 1:11 PM

I’m dying to read it now too. Thanks for sharing this great review.

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Annie February 14, 2011 at 2:50 PM

I’m an organic meat eater, and Organic veggie eater, but before we all go hog wild about this book,.
I think we should take a look at the reviews on this book in
http://www.amazon.com.
As there are people there that have done allot of investacation on this book, besides just reading it.
Its aways good to get other Opinons.

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hannah February 14, 2011 at 1:13 PM

My husband and I have been engaging this convo for the last couple of months. Veganism and Vegetarianism are laudable in their stated goals, but I’ve always had a couple of issues with them as total lifestyle choices. Namely, as mentioned here, who says killing plants doesn’t cause the same “impact” as animals (levels of scentience in plants? of course)? And second, why does so much vegetarian and vegan food have to “imitate” meat look and texture? That’s a tough one for me.

After experiments with these concepts, I feel better having everything in its most sustainable form, and having those things in moderation. Some days+ no meat, some days=big honking burgers. Works for me.

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 1:26 PM

LOL! Same goes for me. Some days I eat rice and beans, other days chili dogs. It’s all good!

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Tiffani February 14, 2011 at 1:17 PM

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I was fortunate to hear her speak at Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma, CA (www.tarafirmafarms.com) and she was riveting. Very powerful, very angry, very mind-blowing. I recommend this to EVERYONE, whether they are vegetarian or not. Great job!

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Thanks Tiffani

Honestly it was a hard review to write, which is why it took me so long — I read it over a year ago. (Also because last year I didn’t have much time to blog.)

I just had a hard time doing her book justice, you know?

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Ashley February 14, 2011 at 1:32 PM

I would have to agree, even though I haven’t read the book. I was on a path to great health for the first time in years when I decided to become vegetarian. It seemed like the logical choice…after all, the experts all say it’s the healthiest choice. That lasted less than 6 months and I’ve been sick for over a year now. I’ve not been officially diagnosed, but I think removing meat from my diet while continuing to maintain all my other regular activities (like training for a mini-marathon) was the final straw to crash my adrenals. It’s like my body just gave up. Whatever it turns out to be, I know I felt good before I stopped eating meat & now I’m a mess. Kudos to Ms. Keith for speaking out in the face of the overwhelming pro-veg movement.

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jeanmarie February 15, 2011 at 10:07 PM

Ashley, I wasn’t a vegetarian anymore when I trained for my one marathon in 2002/2003, but it was just before I discovered Weston A. Price and nutrient-dense eating, and I was undoubtedly not eating enough fat or protein, so I crashed my adrenals. It feels crappy (I was “tired but wired” without any caffeine!). All that exercise depletes Vitamin A. The loose formula I follow now is high fat, moderate protein, lowish carbs. All right, really moderate carbs, I need to cut them a bit!
Anyway, I think you’re on the right track. Best wishes as you rebuild your health.

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Robert February 14, 2011 at 1:33 PM

“A vegan garden cultivated with animal manure would be blasphemy”
Why would a vegan be opposed to adding animal manure to his garden?
What harm is there in that?

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Chandelle February 14, 2011 at 2:56 PM

Store-bought manure is almost invariably a byproduct of factory farming. So to an ethical vegan it’s just as supportive of animal cruelty to use manure as is it to wear fur or eat meat. Some vegans are attempting to address this issue through humanure and veganic agriculture. To me it makes more sense to keep a small flock of chickens for eggs and compost their manure along with human waste and plant material.

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Erica February 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM

I’m about to go grab me a steak :)

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Beth February 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Here, here, let’s ditch the smart dogs and eat real food! And save young people from the heartbreak of infertility and the anguish of degenerative disease.

Your readers will also like this review, which I’m sure you saw when it came out:
http://www.westonaprice.org/book-reviews/thumbs-up/1669-vegetarian-myth.html

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Cynthia February 14, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Thank you for the great review of this book! I read it last year and encourage everyone (especially my soy/grain lover friends & family) to read it . Most people do not know the true cost of a grain based diet & that there are alternatives to factory farms where animals are humanely raised on pasture & sunshine. Lierre Kieth does an awesome job busting both the environmental & nutritional vegetarian myths!

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Jennifer February 14, 2011 at 2:22 PM

This sounds like a really interesting book. Is it really old? Amazon.ca no longer sells it, but I’ll borrow it from the library.

I seem to be encountering more and more people like me who tried the vegetarian thing and then moved towards a (in my opinion) much more balanced diet. I’m still searching for the “best” way to eat, but I am much more comfortable with eating a wide variety of real, whole foods from trust-worthy sources.

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Sherry Rothwell February 14, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Thanks for the review! I have been wanting to read this book for some time…..the first review that I read about it was from a raw vegan, so I am soooooo curious with all these different viewpoints! I too became a vegetarian after reading Diet for a New America…..that was nearly 15 years ago…..I have been slowly adding animal products to our families diet since training at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition over 2 years ago, where I finally got that being a vegetarian is a band-aid solution for what is actually a systems problem…we need to change our food system, not eat processed, transported and fortified vegetarian food products to make up for factory farming! It was reading one of the textbooks Food & Healing by Anne Marie Colbin that really hit it home for me…another great book!

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elise abrams miller February 14, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Lierre’s book is the one that changed my life and ultimately led me to your website which I love. I now call myself a recovering vegetarian and buy only grass-fed and pastured animal products. Like you I was moved to vegetarianism after reading Diet for a New America in my early twenties and like Lierre I now have degenerative spine disease. I am only 41. And I also highlighted practically the entire book!

I remember her writing about fertilizer too, and was struck by the bone meal and blood meal that made her lettuce flourish. Also, how she argued beautifully against the arrogant stance of some vegetarians who “refuse to eat anything with a mother or a face.”

I agree with you that teenaged girls should read this book. They could make a huge difference in how we produce and eat in the U.S. let alone in their own lives. The profound emotional improvements I experienced since changing my diet are the number one reason I stand by it in the face of ubiquitous conventional fat- and meat-fearing beliefs held today. Gone are my mood swings and high anxiety. It is a welcome change for me, the animals and the planet.

Thank you for posting this great review. I hope it encourages more people to read Lierre’s book.

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Thank you so much for your kind comment, Elise.

Interesting how similar our paths have been. I’m so glad you found Lierre Keith’s book and I’m glad you found me, too!

I’m wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Michelle @ Find Your Balance February 14, 2011 at 3:22 PM

I’m excited about this book, definitely.

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Allison February 14, 2011 at 3:26 PM

I am definitely going out to buy this book as soon as possible! Can’t wait, even though I know it will make me relate even less to my family and friends, as it is going to challenge even the “liberal” thinking about food. That’s the hardest part I find about eating this way, that it’s against the mainstream SAD, but it’s also against the “mainstream” alternative food movement (specifically vegetarianism and veganism). But, like this quote says: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”.

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Allison February 14, 2011 at 3:28 PM

By the way, I am a high school teacher and will be sure to inform my teenage girl students (and boys) about this book.

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Clabbermouth February 14, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Anne Marie,

Thanks for the review. I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ll put it on my list.

I have been following your blog for a while, and was surprised and excited to learn that you lived in an Austin Co-op! Which one? I’m a student at UT now, and I live at Pearl Street Co-op.

You are so right about the perception so many young people (well, lots of people) have that vegetarianism is the best choice for the environment – and that it’s really a way to cop-out of systemic change. I’ve been trying to fight that perception, but it is HARD. I’m a columnist for The Daily Texan, and this article, about how grass-fed meat is actually good for the environment, was one of the first that I wrote: http://www.dailytexanonline.com/content/place-meat-sustainable-food-system . I’m also fighting it on my blog, http://www.clabbermouth.com. And at my co-op, I take small steps: I’m the pool/grounds/garden manager, and I’m working on developing our organic vegetable garden. I’m leading a workshop in a couple weeks on fermented foods. Anything to spread the real food love.

I do know many young people, myself included, who recognize that while meat is healthy and natural, and can be sustainable, the meat that they have access to (whether they live with their parents, in a dorm with a meal plan, or in a co-op) is not. I eat it anyway, because I feel healthier eating horrible factory-farmed meat than none at all, and every time I do I promise to do everything I can to support good farmers as soon as I’m in charge of my food purchases. The trouble is, even in a 120-person co-op, most people just don’t have the same priorities we do. Having tried to change our food-buying practices here, I can’t imagine what it would be like to try to change the practices of, say, a cafeteria. But that’s why we’re all working to get the information out there. The more people who know and care, the better!

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Hi, Clabbermouth,

That’s amazing! I lived at House of Commons on Rio Grande.

It’s awesome, everything you are doing! I was in Radio TV Film at UT back in the day, although I was always in the computer lab.

Your article is wonderful and your blog looks great.

Keep up the good work!

By the way, my daughter’s name is Kate, too. :-)

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Clabbermouth February 14, 2011 at 5:22 PM

Thanks so much – and thanks for checking out my article and blog! What a small world.

Kate

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Saltpincher April 21, 2011 at 12:32 PM

I’ve been reading your blog for several years, Ann Marie, and never commented before, but I just can’t let this go. Today I’m catching up on some of your previous posts, and when I read that you lived in Austin at a vegetarian/vegan co-op that had buckets of tofu in stainless steel refrigerators I wondered, could it be possible that she lived at the HOC? And then there, in the comments, you said you lived at the HOC! I lived at the HOC! I was never a vegan or vegetarian, but I have fond memories of communal dinners at that marvelous, infuriating house. Ah, the mid-nineties…

I’ve been reading and appreciating your writing since I took up traditional foods years ago, and always enjoyed that you wrote about things and places that I knew well (I grew up in the Northwest and lived in Los Angeles for several years), but this just puts it over the top. What a coincidence!

Thanks for your energy in favor of traditional foods, and keep up the good work!

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Beth February 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Ann Marie, why don’t you post your review on Amazon! With a link to your blog!

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Bobby Khan February 14, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Beautiful review and so very true, I feel that many who “care” are short sighted in the fact that if you want to care for the planet, or the animals or anything for that matter you have to look at the big picture. But “thinker” rarely think…

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Sheila Ann February 14, 2011 at 4:07 PM

What an amazing review! I will definitely grab a copy and share with everyone I know. I hope to meet you some day at the Hollywood FM!

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Sheila Ann February 14, 2011 at 4:13 PM

OK – I just bought it :)

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Kim Schuette February 14, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Anne Marie,

I agree. Love Lierre’s book. She will be speaking in LA in August. WIll you still be in LA then or will you be off to Texas by then?

hugs…
Kim

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 6:49 PM

I will still be here I think — planning to move in the fall. Where is she speaking?

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Michelle B. February 14, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Great review. I read the Vegetarian Myth a few months ago. Great book.
I am a big history buff and I watched the National Geographic documentary America before Columbus. Guess what was one of the problems Europeans were having in the medieval period? They were running out of land due to agriculture. Europeans were destroying their forest for the wood to build castles and they needed land to grow wheat to feed their growing population of humans, not animals. In the process, Europeans were polluting their rivers and streams because the sediment was getting into the water and therefore all of the fish were dying. And this was in 1491! While in the Americas, the Native Americans had an overabundance of food due to the fact they were hunter-gathers. Clearly vegans and vegetarians do not know history

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 6:49 PM

Very interesting! Yes, I agree, vegetarians do not know history.

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Stephanie B. Cornais February 14, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Oh my! Thanks for such a informative review. This is next on my list for sure! In fact, I think it may be the next book for my blog’s online reading book club.
And p.s I too, used to be a vegetarian when I was younger. I woke up one day and really wanted to eat some bacon. I ate an entire pack and haven’t looked back. I am so glad I listened to my intuition.

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cheeseslave February 14, 2011 at 6:48 PM

They say bacon is the “gateway meat”.

I heard Christopher Kimball (founder of Cook’s Illustrated) say once that when his kids say they’re “vegetarian” he just starts frying bacon every morning. Works every time.

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Amy Love @ Real Food Whole Health February 14, 2011 at 9:45 PM

LOL!!! Love this! Filed for future use :-)

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jeanmarie February 15, 2011 at 10:06 PM

That’s great!

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susan February 14, 2011 at 7:55 PM

great review of a great book! i also was a vegetarian for years starting as a teenager, then actually went vegan in my 40′s (which i followed with a period of major binging on sugar), which really messed up my metabolism. i do think some people can be healthy vegetarians, but i wasn’t one of them. my moods and nerves, while still unstable at times, were really bad when i was vegan. i just couldn’t see it or hear it at the time. i so wanted to not eat meat!
i really liked that she talked about the environmental issues such as topsoil, and that she expressed how hard it was for her to “see the truth”.
susan v.

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Amy Love @ Real Food Whole Health February 14, 2011 at 9:49 PM

I, too, dabbled in veganism, RAW veganism, actually, because I was so desperate for good health. It was finding Nourishing Traditions that finally turned it all around for me and the real and traditional foods since then have been nothing but a miracle. We have so much in common, AM! lol Where are you going when you move back to TX- Dallas or Austin? I so enjoyed reading this review – it really made me want to go curl up right now with the book- I do own it, but I never got around to reading it- just thumbed through it a bit- but now it’s on my to-do list soon! Thanks!! :-)

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Pure Mothers February 15, 2011 at 4:52 AM

My family was vegan for only 3 months and quit after reading Keith’s book just before Thanksgiving! What a Thanksgiving we had! But, we went vegan because of Diet for A New America, The China Study and Skinny Bitch. I think you were a bit harsh on Rory Freedman’s book. She just misunderstands as you and your friends did in your 20′s.

The sustainability issue is what really got me about Keith’s book. Also that we have overshot what our planet can sustain b/c of fossil fuels. We have been multiplying like crazy b/c we have food. We only have this much food b/c of oil. It will run out and we will have to use animals to build topsoil and fertilize. Eating organic and local is the key. Soybeans will not help the earth or the animals. I agree. Fantastic book that everyone should read!

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Monica Ford February 15, 2011 at 9:39 AM

I agree whole heartedly with your review of this wonderful, mind-blowing book, AnnMarie! It rocked my world and clarified soooo much! Passionate and Radical. I highly recomend to everyone!

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Charity February 15, 2011 at 10:02 AM

Thanks for sharing this!
I’ve long thought that veganism as a way to change the world is an ineffectual cop-out… it’s a passive choice. If these people really want to affect change, they need to think about things in the context of economics. The total amount of money consumers spend on meat is made up of that spent on industrial meat and that spent on local, organic, sustainable meat. Simply not purchasing industrial meat will never bring down industrial agriculture. It just removes money from the entire system, and when money disappears it doesn’t really register in the grand scheme of things because it doesn’t reflect a shift in consumerism. It’s just not there. Basically this means that choosing no meat isn’t an option. We have to make our choice by spending money within the system. So, when allocate our money away from industrial agriculture, i.e.) when we buy local, organic, sustainable food, we create demand. We create a shift in consumerism which can be measured. We are supporting those who are making changes to our food system. We are sending a message to those big bad industrial farmers: if they want our money (which inevitably they do) they have to change their practices.

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Bodhi February 15, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I agree, one of the best books I’ve ever read.

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Sachin February 15, 2011 at 8:13 PM

Haven’t read the book, don’t plan to – just read the post.

Almost 70% of India is vegetarian – that’s twice as many people as there are in the US! I can assure you, that cases of arthritis, gastro-lining and all kinds of diseases that vegetarianism is supposed to give you are not nearly as frequent in India as they are in the US.

So many comments here are about people making drastic changes in their lives, and loosing a balanced diet in the process. That is the fundamental problem – not vegetarianism.

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Callie February 16, 2011 at 4:30 AM

Thank you!!! That’s was what I was thinking all the while reading the review and the comments. I raised my son as a vegetarian with the idea that he would choose when he was old enough. Now I’m eating fish, but he wouldn’t eat meat to save his life (NOT that he’d need to). I’ve actually read that his chance of testicular cancer has been decreased by %30 as a result of being vegetarian. People need to be careful about balanced diets for the MIND as well as the body.

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Beth February 16, 2011 at 9:47 AM

More food for thought, in the interest of taking all factors into account:

“In India, they are not really vegetarians because the food is not sterile and there are huge amounts of insect parts and insect feces–very rich in B12–in the food–to look at it with a microscope is very revealing. If they try to follow the same diet in the West, where the food is fumigated and sterilized, they get into trouble. And people in India are likely to be of a different “metabolic type.” In India, they are not obligate carnivores as a Native American would be, so they can make EPA and DHA out of the 18-carbon parent omega-3 fatty acids. (See Tripping Lightly Down the Prostglandin Pathways, on the website.) Remember also they do consume ghee and fermented dairy. ”
from http://www.westonaprice.org/faq/794-faq-miscellaneous-questions.html

“It is true that Hindu vegans living in certain parts of India do not suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. This has led some to conclude that plant foods do provide this vitamin. This conclusion, however, is erroneous as many small insects, their feces, eggs, larvae and/or residue, are left on the plant foods these people consume, due to non-use of pesticides and inefficient cleaning methods. This is how these people obtain their vitamin B12. This contention is borne out by the fact that when vegan Indian Hindus later migrated to England, they came down with megaloblastic anaemia within a few years. In England, the food supply is cleaner, and insect residues are completely removed from plant foods (16).

The only reliable and absorbable sources of vitamin B12 are animal products, especially organ meats and eggs (17). Though present in lesser amounts than meat and eggs, dairy products do contain B12. Vegans, therefore, should consider adding dairy products into their diets. If dairy cannot be tolerated, eggs, preferably from free-run hens, are a virtual necessity.

That vitamin B12 can only be obtained from animal foods is one of the strongest arguments against veganism being a “natural” way of human eating. Today, vegans can avoid anemia by taking supplemental vitamins or fortified foods. If those same people had lived just a few decades ago, when these products were unavailable, they would have died.”
http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/267-myths-of-vegetarianism.html

“People in northern India consume 17 times more animal fat but have an incidence of coronary heart disease seven times lower than people in southern India.”
http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/526-skinny-on-fats.html

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elise abrams miller February 16, 2011 at 2:52 PM

well said Beth! and great links. thanks for posting this.

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cheeseslave February 16, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Wow great quote:

“People in northern India consume 17 times more animal fat but have an incidence of coronary heart disease seven times lower than people in southern India.”

http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/526-skinny-on-fats.html

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cheeseslave February 16, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Sachin -

Please understand that while 70% of India is vegetarian, they eat LOADS of grass-fed ghee (clarified butter). I have met a few Indian vegetarians who had perfect teeth, but they cooked everything in grass-fed ghee, plus they ate lots of grass-fed yogurt and some cheese as well.

Also the people in India don’t eat as much soy as Americans do. Soy blocks mineral absorption and damages the gut lining — which affects absorption.

There is nothing wrong with being vegetarian — but need to be smart about how we do it.

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Beth February 15, 2011 at 8:34 PM

It’s helpful to keep in mind that many if not most Indians make raw full-fat yogurt in their homes every day. This is a very nutrient-dense animal food component in India, as was the rich raw dairy was for the Swiss who Dr. Price studied in the remote mountain valleys of the Alps.

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jeanmarie February 15, 2011 at 9:57 PM

Terrific review, Ann Marie. I read the book last year and had a similar reaction, highlighting long passages in yellow so that it became almost pointless to underline. I also could not put it down. (I wasn’t driving though! ) I haven’t reacted so strongly to a book since I read Wild Swans about 15 years ago when I lived in Japan.

I’m just one of many former vegetarians who worked hard at being vegetarian (motivated in part by John Robbins book also, but I go way back to Diet for a Small Planet, when it was first published!), and in my case macrobiotic. My worst ever health was during those years, and it did damage me a lot. I’m convinced I would have avoided years of menstrual cramps, endometriosis and ultimately surgery to remove cysts and scar tissue if I’d been getting sufficient A and D vitamins from nutrient-dense animal foods. As it is, now I’m sailing through menopause free of hot flashes and other typical complaints. Thank goodness for cod liver oil, butter, cream, coconut oil and coconut milk, and lots of eggs from our own chickens, and moderate meat plus of course vegetables and some grains, mostly soaked.

@Sachin, some people do seem to thrive for a time, at least, on a vegetarian diet, depending on their previous diet and other factors. An ovo-lacto vegetarian diet is a whole lot better than a vegan diet, which doesn’t have much to recommend it, for more than maybe a “spa weekend” or something. Nothing wrong with all those vegetables, but it’s what’s missing that matters most: animal fats, and the nutrients they bring, the fat-soluble vitamins. As well, meat is a much denser source of B vitamins and minerals than vegetables or grains, which can actually deplete the body of minerals if not prepared properly. We need those fats to digest and absorb the protein and minerals. But then you’d know that if you’ve read many of CHEESESLAVE’s excellent posts. You may have come to contradict the Vegetarian Myth review, but I hope you stay for the top notch nutrition education and recipes.

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cheeseslave February 16, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Darn that John Robbins!!!!

That is so awesome about your menopause, Jeanmarie!

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Josh Cole February 18, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Thanks for the very thorough review.

Sounds like it’s worth a read. Does it say anything about soy or corn as specifically unhealthy in large doses? I’ve been wondering about that…

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Emily February 19, 2011 at 6:18 PM

LOVE this! Can’t wait to read this book.

It sounds like the book the world has been waiting for and needing desperately.

I too was a vegetarian and the decision was two-fold: better health and animal cruelty.

While on the veg diet I felt very sick…regularly vomiting, tired, gas pain, bloating, digestive nightmare…

I was into yoga and wanted to be part of “the crowd.” My boyfriend was also veggie and we decided go veg together when we started dating.

I recall CRAVING meat and being at a wedding reception, lusting over the chicken breasts at the buffet, but denying myself because I had my veggie reputation to keep up. Finally, my body won over my brain and I ditched both the veggie mindset (and my boyfriend).

I started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCDiet) to improve my digestion. Its similar to the primal diet. It saved my life.

When I eat meat, I do so consciously and give thanks before eating it. I am so humbled when I eat meat as it reminds me how dependent my life is on other life. We are all connected and depend on each other. Its natural and part of the cycle of life.

Emily

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Angela February 22, 2011 at 2:42 PM

again, that’s very odd that you were so ill, and completely atypical to everything I’ve experienced and heard from people who say they never felt better after going veg.

and a note on cravings: they are a sign of want, not need. as a lifelong vegetarian, surprise surprise, I don’t crave meat! on the contrary, it’s repulsing. but I’m glad you appreciate the animals you eat.

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Alex Lewin February 20, 2011 at 6:18 PM

Great review–thank you! I thought the book was great too. I have bought copies for a bunch of people…

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Angela February 22, 2011 at 2:33 PM

So, you were only vegetarian for a year or less before you “got” arthritis? That’s very odd.

I was raised vegetarian and have been mostly vegan for the last 4-5 years. I’m 25. I’ve never had any health problems whatsoever, not a cavity (I’m not sure why you blame your cavities on vegetarianism either), and since going vegan I don’t even get colds anymore. I played sports growing up and have always been the picture of health.

It seems more likely that people who became ill while on a vegan/vegetarian diet weren’t eating healthfully overall, not soley because of the lack of meat.

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Lauren March 8, 2011 at 11:52 AM

This was just a snippet of what you metnioned, but is there anything that is recommended for degenerative disc disease? My best friend (she is not vegetarian, but has a VERY poor diet, basically lives on fast food) and she has been having back problems for the last year or so. She just had an MRI, and found out she has Degenerative Disk Disease. I didn’t know what diet wise she may be able to do to help. She’s going to be moving back close to me soon, so I’m hoping to be able to peer-pressure her into better eating habits :-)

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Lacie March 16, 2011 at 9:37 PM

I was offended by the comments about vegetarians not knowing history, because my fiance (who is vegetarian) actually has a history degree. I am also vegetarian, and I have never felt healthier.
I feel that most people who have poor health and blame it on vegetarianism are simply going about it the wrong way. I can see how being vegan would ultimately probably not be the healthiest thing (even then if you’re careful about it you can get everything you need) but as a vegetarian I still eat butter, eggs, and cheese and milk and I really cannot see what I am not getting by being a vegetarian. I get fats, proteins, fruits and veggies. I have never felt better and my weight has stayed significantly more level than it did when I ate meat. I think people are quick to blame their problems on what seems the most obvious and the most easy to change.
The majority of America is eating crappy meat, and crappy processed food. Even a lot of the vegetarian food available is processed crap. I think the vegetarian movement is actually a healthy wake up for America because a lot of the people involved in it are the ones who are making it known that you can’t just “not eat meat” and be a vegetarian, there is more work involved in making sure you are getting the right vitamins.
And Lauren, for sure fast food will affect her body. (Weight gain from fast food would for sure make back pain worse.) I have back pain and my doctor basically told me (not in such blunt words) that I couldn’t ever get fat lol. I do not think becoming vegetarian is the right thing for everyone, but I would advocate suggesting vegetarian fed eggs and vegetarian fed beef for her (none of the yucky hormones that are in chickens and cows so much nowdays). Chances are if she eats better her general body health will be better and if her core becomes stronger (with better food and even just walks) it definitely helps with back pain! :) HTH

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jeanmarie March 16, 2011 at 10:10 PM

@Lacie, you make some very good points. I’m an enthusiastic meat-eating former macrobiotic vegetarian myself, but if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that it’s tricky to tell others how to eat, and I do believe there is plenty of biochemical individuality. If one is going to eat vegetarian, it sounds like your version of it is pretty darned healthful and has a lot to recommend it.

One little point makes me cringe, though. Chickens are NOT vegetarians by nature. I know, I raise chickens, and I talk to a lot of chicken keepers. Chickens’ natural diet includes not only grains but also green grass and lots of bugs (tiny animals). They will also eat eggs if they have half a chance (I’ve never seen them move so fast as when I accidentally dropped an egg on the ground. It was gone in seconds!). They eat mice, lizards, and sometimes chicks if they get a chance. They are not above eating each other. I still love them anyway, my little feathered velociraptors.

The best eggs come from chickens that can free-range at least part of the day outside on grass (not hard, dry, bare dirt, though they will scratch out a dirt bath at least) and soil with lots of worms, slugs and other bugs. They love to pick at my compost pile from the corners. Now those eggs really pack a nutrient punch!

Cows are, of course, complete herbivores, and thrive on green grass, hay and maybe a little grain finish (preferences vary on that point).

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Kevin June 22, 2011 at 10:12 PM

Very interesting read. It is interesting that alot of people will run with the hype instead of taking the information and doing some digging to find out if it is actually valid. that type of behavior does great harm. I do a balance of meat and non-meat days and it seems to work fine for me. Although, truth be told, the balance does favor the meat.

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paisley July 5, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Have you read “This Organic Life” by Joan Dye Gussow? Fabulous book. Part love story, part gardening tips, part cook book, and part thesis on nutrition. She has a whole section on why vegetarian eating doesn’t work from an ecological standpoint. Love it!

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FarmerKimberly July 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Another book to add to the stack next to my bed!!!

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Laura September 11, 2011 at 1:31 PM

I can’t agree more. I too have read this book driving. Paradigm-inside-out-turning. Love your take on it.

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