Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
25 Nov

The Vegetarian Myth


It isn’t often that I write book reviews (have I ever? – serious question), but it isn’t often that a truly important book like Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth pops up on my radar just begging for one.

You may remember it from a brief mention I gave back in September, or maybe from Dr. Eades’ endorsement of it. You may have even already read the book yourself. If you haven’t, read it. And if you have? Read it again or get one for a friend.

That goes double for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone on the cusp of adopting that lifestyle. If you fit the bill, especially if you’re considering veganism/vegetarianism for moral reasons, drop what you’re doing and run to the nearest bookstore to buy this book. It’s incredibly well-written, and the author has a real knack for engaging prose, but that’s not the main reason for my endorsement. The real draw is the dual (not dueling) narratives: the transformation of a physically broken moral vegetarian into a healthier moral meat eater; and the destructive force of industrial agriculture. The “Myth” in question is the widely-held notion that vegetarianism is the best thing for our health and for our planet. On the contrary, Keith asserts that a global shift toward vegetarianism would be the absolute worst move possible. It’s vitally important. It’s definitive. It’s somewhat depressing, and it’s brutally honest. It also might be the book that changes your life.

Lierre Keith is a former vegan/vegetarian who bowed out after twenty long years of poor health and paralyzing moral paradoxes. Her original goal was to explore the question, “Life or death?” as it pertained to food. She, like most vegetarians, assumed she had a choice between the two, that it was an either/or thing. Eating tofu and beans was life, while a burger represented death. Life didn’t have to involve death – that was the weak way out, and the honorable (and difficult, and therefore meaningful) way to live was by avoiding animal products of all kinds. No blood on your hands or on your plate meant a clean moral slate.

Or so she thought. See, Keith began as a moral vegetarian. She never espoused the idea that meat was inherently unhealthy or physically damaging; she was simply a young kid who “cried for Iron Eyes Cody, longed… for an unmolested continent of rivers and marshes, birds and fish.” We’ve all heard of kids who “turn vegetarian” when they find out their chicken nuggets once walked, clucked, and pecked. Well, Keith was that five year old who bemoaned the “asphalt inferno of suburban sprawl” as a harbinger of “the destruction of [her] planet.” Hers was a deep-seated commitment to the preservation of all living things, not just the cute and fuzzy ones.

That expansive scope meant she looked at the big picture, and suffered for it. She never got to enjoy that oh-so-common smug vegetarian elitism, because she was too aware. Seeds were living things, too. They may not have had faces or doting mothers, but they were alive, and that meant they could die. Killing slugs in her garden was impossible, and deciding whether to supplement the soil with actual bone meal was excruciating. Unlike most of her peers, she knew that avoiding direct animal products didn’t mean her hands were clean. They might not be dripping red, but living organisms died to make that head of lettuce possible. Fields were tilled and billions of microorganisms were destroyed, not to mention the mice, rabbits, and other wild animals whose environments are leveled to make way for industrial farming. And so whichever direction she went – home gardening, local produce, or grocery store goods – Keith was contributing directly and indirectly to death.

What’s a moral vegetarian to do?

She briefly entertains studying with a mystic breatharian, hoping to (tongue-in-cheekily) learn to subsist purely on oxygen. She spends hours picking slugs from her garden and goes to relocate them. Nothing works. She keeps coming back to death.

“Let me live without harm to others. Let my life be possible without death.” Keith realizes this vegetarian plea (which “borders on a prayer”) is impossible to fulfill. She can’t live and eat without something dying, and that’s the whole point of it all. Death is necessary and natural. Circle of life, you know? Without death of some sort, life would get a whole lot worse.

Keith ultimately sets her sights on one of our favorite human “advancements” at the Apple: agriculture! Readers of MDA already know how agriculture altered our trajectory forever, but maybe not in such vivid detail. We focus on the lowered life expectancy, reduced bone density, compromised dental health, and the stooped, shrunken skeletons of our Neolithic ancestors, but Keith shows how grain agriculture actually destroys the land it touches. The Fertile Crescent, ground zero for grain development, used to be, well, fertile. It was verdant, lush, and teeming with life – including nomadic hunter gatherers. Paradise, you might even say. Animals grazed on perennial grasses, pooped out nutrients, and gradually those nutrients would work themselves back into the soil. It was a beautiful, natural life cycle that worked great for millennia. But once grains were grown and the land was irrigated, everything changed. Perennial renewable grasses became annual grains. Animals no longer grazed and replenished the soil. The top soil was robbed of nutrients and faded away. Irrigation meant crucial annual floods were disrupted or even halted. A massive monkey wrench was thrown into the system, and rather than coexisting as a complementary aspect of nature, man thus commenced the conflict with the natural world that rages to this very day.

And that’s the crux of her argument – that modern industrial agriculture is wanton destruction. Grain-based, vegetarian agriculture is even worse, because it attempts to eliminate a crucial player in the normal life cycle of the planet. Animals, which provide manure, calcium, and other nutrients for the soil, have to be part of the equation. Whenever a culture turns to a grain-based agricultural system, these same problems arise. Annual grain crops killed the American prairie and, for the vegans out there, they kill the millions of animals, bugs, and birds that rely on specific ecosystems to survive. The vegan’s soy burger has nary an animal part, but the machines that worked the soybean fields were greased with the blood of a thousand organisms. The vegetarian’s wheat crops feed millions, but robs the land of nutrients and destroys the top soil necessary for life.

Primal readers won’t be surprised by what they read. They may be horrified at the extent of the environmental damage caused by industrial agriculture, but they won’t be surprised (given agriculture’s poor track record with our health). Keith lays out an effective case against grains (and for a Primal-ish, low-carb, high-fat diet, believe it or not) on nutritive, moral, and economical grounds that’s tough to refute. The nutritional information will come as second nature, but the sources are sound and the references are powerful.

There’s more, far more, but I’d rather not spoil the entire thing. Just read it and rest assured that it’s worth your time. The book is a must-read, and a great ally for anyone interested in promoting a healthy, sustainable, omnivorous future. Read this book and distribute it to your vegan friends.

Primal approved!

Check out excerpts on Google Books, read the first chapter here, or purchase the book here or here.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’m working my way through this book right now and it’s really a gripping read. It’s opened my eyes to a lot and makes me even more certain of the primal way. Can’t recommend it enough!

    musajen wrote on November 25th, 2009
  2. Hi Mark,

    I am a recent reader of your blog. I am a vegetarian making a transition to becoming paleo. It’s a tough road, but one I’m sure will pay off in the long run. I absolutely agree with the message conveyed by this book, but it can’t go without saying that raising cows and chickens does put a dent in our ecological footprint, more than modern agriculture does in my opinion. I understand ofcourse, that you fully endorse organic/free range meat, but I think it’s important to note that modern agriculture is not the only sin being committed.

    Sam wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • No doubt there are problems with factory farming – on an ethical, environmental and public health level. Both need sweeping reform, in my opinion.

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • free range pastures do far less damage to the soil than burrow/row farming of crops. Read the book. Remember the dust bowl?

      pjnoir wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • I absolutely agree with you, but what I was trying to say is that there are problems with both agriculture and factory farming and neither can be dismissed (as Mark noted above). Just thought I’d throw it out there to keep us on our toes :p

        Sam wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • I think that all of the destroyed riparian ecosystems are proof enough that free range pastures are pretty damaging.
        Small scale organic farms are pretty darn sustainable and can be an excellent use of under-utilized land in urban area, try grazing a cow in a vacant lot next to an apartment complex. Junk-food vegetarianism is destructive to the environment & quite un-healthy, no arguments from me, but when done in a thoughtful manner (like any other diet) can be healthy & sustainable… different strokes for different folks.

        josh wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • ” but it can’t go without saying that raising cows and chickens does put a dent in our ecological footprint, more than modern agriculture does in my opinion.”

      Maby you should read some books about permaculture, and please view a farm for a future (bbc) because this is not what she is saying.

      If you eat the meat of grain fed animals you are right. But the emphasis in this book is on non-grain fed catle that’s part of a (permaculture)system. In a permaculturesystem everything has a function, preferably more then one. Producing food this way does put a dent in you’re ecological footprint.

      kerstster wrote on January 26th, 2010
  3. Lierre’s book is absolutely stunning in its depth and breadth. She points out the things that we cannot, as moral beings, ignore: By living, we cause other living things to die. That’s it. Point-blank. There’s a number of other related myths that Lierre dispels as well, including my favorite: “You can grow a lot more grain than you can raise animals for the same amount of land – therefore, you should only grow grain and other plants!” Never mind that this myth is easily dispelled when you consider that much of the earth’s surface isn’t suitable for farming and cannot be made suitable, but it’s perfect for grazing and herding.

    Vegetarianism, especially the vegan variety, is a truly unsustainable way of living. The problem is, we’ve got a population explosion on this planet because of the Neolithic Revolution, and our current population levels are not sustainable on any dietary system – paleo, vegan or otherwise. There’s just too damn many people on this planet. Nature knows this, and is coming up with ever more clever ways of eliminating the majority of, if not the entire, population of humans here on Earth (swine flu and AIDS being two of the latest). We are currently one step ahead in this footrace against Nature, but the ground is (literally!) disappearing under our feet as we run. One of these days, we’re going to lose this race, either through a sudden epidemic (think the “superflu,” like in Stephen King’s “The Stand”), or through mass starvation and die-off. It’s inevitable.

    Griff wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • Prefacing this comment with the statement that I am NOT a vegetarian (had pizza and wings last nite for dinner), and I should probably reserve judgement till I read the book, but that will be a long time coming as there are many other books waiting in my queue already.

      I get tweaked by an author, like Keith, who paints a doomsday attitude toward one method of doing anything. Yes, it’s self evident that if 6 billion people suddenly become Vegan, the world will become one large dust bowl before long. It’s just as accurate to say that if 6 Billion people go primal, there will be a shortage of free range game meat, and the increased demand would destroy the eco-structure. Need I go so far as to make the point that if 6 billion people went insectarian that they entire food chain would suffer catastrophic consequences?

      Mark, I enjoy your blog as a casual reader, but I can’t get behind an author like Keith who purposely paints a doomsday scenario to make a point and sell books.

      The best way to eat is moderation in all things, and if this book is an argument against grains, well I know several vegetarians who eat very few grains. Doesn’t mean they need to start consuming Bison.

      Let people be and eat what they want. They would do best if they ate like their ethnic ancestors of a few generations ago and, for some cultures, that was vegetarian. It would be better for the environment if those of us who eat way too much cut back in general The best thing that can happen is that there continues to be a diverse selection in diet amongst this planet’s inhabitants, and not to try to convert people to one dietary dogma. I will not recommend this book to any vegetarian friends because it’s not my business to challenge or impose my beliefs on them and it shouldn’t be yours either, Mark, sorry.

      Still a happy reader, just not with you on this one.

      – Charley

      Charley wrote on November 26th, 2009
      • It’s not about ‘imposing beliefs’ on anyone. It’s about access to information. That information may be the truth of the matter or it may not. It’s up to the vegetarian/vegan person to make up their mind on that. If they are rational people they’ll weigh the evidence and consider it carefully. But it’s the awareness that is important and books like this do a wonderful job of allowing people to become more aware of the ramifications of their choices.

        Nelter wrote on November 27th, 2009
      • Regarding the ‘doomsday attitude’ – we’re in the middle of a mass extinction. I’d say it’s appropriate to point out that furthering the vegetarian/vegan cause is only going to push us further into that extinction.

        Nelter wrote on November 27th, 2009
      • Here here Charley! Thank you! Live and let live. Eat and be happy.

        Lenette Nakauchi wrote on January 13th, 2010
      • Thank you Charley – I completely agree with you!

        Catleya wrote on May 8th, 2010
      • Charley makes some good points. I have read through the book–I will admit I am only part way–and I find it to have a good mix of rhetoric–that is, non-dialectical reasoning. Charley is closer on many things in his short note. Would the world become a dust bowl if we all went vegan? No–as most agricultural planting is done to sustain domesticated animals–so everyone suddenly turning vegan (obviously not happening any time soon) might actually mean less topsoil loss and less habitat destruction–it would even mean some areas of arable land being returned to a fallow state. To speak of micro-organisms as dying for the vegan diet does not approach the reality of life on an over-crowded planet. I agree–the most ecologically viable diet might well be that of a hunter-gatherer. A paper by Dr. Loren Cordain titled “Plant-Animal Subsistence Ratios and Macronutrient Estimations in Worldwide Hunter-Gatherer Diets,” published in 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, estimates the food sources and macronutrient intakes of historical hunter-gatherers based on data from 229 different groups. Based on the available data, these groups did not suffer from the diseases of civilization. Great–and the earth could then support just under a billion people on a consistent thousand-year cycle outside of natural catastrophic events. Good for people and the planet. And what do we do with the other 5.7 billion people–eat them? I am a vegan–I would like to live a compassionate life towards animals AND people. Let’s put it this way–I don’t eat meat and dairy because intelligent animals suffer and die as a result–not just micro organisms. So if my buddy says to me that he does not want to do that–and he extends his natural compassion for humans over to include animals–then good for him. I will distribute this to my vegan friends–and the logical ones will not be put off one whit by this author’s arguments. Finally–it is possible for humans to survive as only gatherers. So when the big spill comes and the oceans are sterile and the wildlife if gone and the human pop of the planet sits at around 100 million–maybe we’ll just gather–who knows.

        Charlie wrote on October 21st, 2013
    • Your statement: ‘Nature knows this, and is coming up with ever more clever ways of eliminating the majority of, if not the entire, population of humans here on Earth (swine flu and AIDS being two of the latest)’

      There is nothing natural about it…

      JT wrote on June 29th, 2010
      • Yes, it is completely natural. Do you have evidence that AIDS or swine flu were created by anything other than natural processes? If not, they’re natural occurrences and we are facing an ever-losing battle with Mother Nature. Humans are not essential to the well-being of this planet, but the well-being of the planet is absolutely essential to humans.

        Griff wrote on June 29th, 2010
        • The well being of the planet being essential to humans is obvious.
          To close your eyes to the evidence of man made disease is dangerous and that is what is being counted on by many.

          JT wrote on June 30th, 2010
        • JT: Show me hard evidence that either of those diseases is man-made, please. I doubt you’ll be able to provide any. (You seriously believe that conspiracy theory nonsense?)

          Griff wrote on June 30th, 2010
  4. I was lucky enough to be sent an early draft of this- it’s a really excellent work.

    Craig Brown wrote on November 25th, 2009
  5. Best bet is to order online- I have yet to see this book in any bookstore as it goes against anything in its catagory and would upset the sales staff like finger nails on a chalkboard at B&N or Border’s. This is a powerful, well orgainzed and written book. Please use the information wisely no fair shoving facts down the throats of vegans at a party- though tempting. LOL

    pjnoir wrote on November 25th, 2009
  6. I think even if a vegetarian read the book, they’d still not be convinced. They’re not really into facts. Because it’s so… noble to be a vegetarian after all.
    On the other hand with all those cows contributing to so-called global warming, I’m happily doing my part to reduce the population of the grass fed ones anyway. That’s noble and tasty!

    dave, RN wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • What ‘facts’ aren’t vegetarians ‘into’? That current large scale agriculture, including live transport and slaughtering techniques are necessarily cruel?
      That most meat eaters resort to ridicule and small-minded humour to justify their inability to examine their own practises?
      That animals are largely misunderstood and science is continually revealing a depth and complexity to their behaviours often traditionally used as the basis for what separates them from humans, such as self-awareness?
      I’m definitely getting this book, but ultimately the end result is the same, unless the critics see anything in absolutes, they are unwilling to modify their behaviour. For me, vegetarianism is not necessarily the healthiest diet, but I’m willing to take the hit for the irrefutable, no matter how hard you try, fact that current farming practices are unacceptable.

      Simon wrote on November 26th, 2009
      • Nobody’s arguing that current farming practices are unacceptable. They are. The Primal Blueprint calls for eating pastured, grass-fed meat and organic vegetables, not factory-farmed crap. But I think that it’s important to note that it’s the farming style and the monocultural grains that are the problem, not the meat and the vegetables themselves.

        Grains are never good, and neither are legumes. They will kill you.

        Griff wrote on November 26th, 2009
        • “Grains are never good, and neither are legumes. They will kill you.”

          Is this a joke, Griff? You are up against the vast amount of scientific evidence out there if you want to make that claim.
          Keith has no scientific background and is therefore wholly unqualified to make the majority of claims in her book and, like you, she makes plenty of ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims about nutrition (such as there not being any plant sources of tryptophan, which is totally, 100%, false).
          Her book is great for defensive omnivores who need pseudo-scientific proof that their destructive habits are justifiable. I’ll give her that.

          C wrote on November 26th, 2009
        • I think some things should be moderated

          C2H5OH wrote on November 28th, 2009
    • :( It’s just this kind of attitude that as a vegetarian converting to a Paleo diet that makes me cringe. I worked with so many people that I had to explain my vegetarian (sometimes vegan) diet to, and had polite conversations with them (well, THEIR attitude wasn’t always so polite) … and now that I’m changing my attitudes because of this website, I’m afraid of all the people who are going to say “I told you so!” I consider myself a person who makes decisions that work for my health and mental clarity. Please don’t lump everyone who abstains from meat into the snob category. I didn’t lump all meat eaters into the rude category.

      OrangeGirl wrote on December 29th, 2009
  7. Coming from a raw foods background I haven’t been eating grains for the most part so that hasn’t been my difficulty. I will always prefer fish but I know my body is wanting some meat which I’m trying to work my brain around. This book had been mentioned in the forums and will be at the top of my list to read.

    I have to disagree with you Dave, RN. I have been corresponding with many raw vegans over the last few years and I have found the vast majority to be extremely well read. I have even shared on some of those forums my foray into primal and not had one negative comment hurled at me. In my experience they’ve been a pretty peaceful bunch.

    Del Mar Mel wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • Del,

      I am currently reading a book you may find of interest,

      Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham.

      It discusses the evolutionary impact of cooking and discusses raw foods as well.

      David wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • Thanks David. I’m adding it to my list!

        Del Mar Mel wrote on November 25th, 2009
  8. I haven’t read the book, so I’m going off of Mark’s review. Is vegetarianism, per se, the problem, or is it industrial agriculture. In other words, if someone were to have their own garden and subsist off of organically grown vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds – as well as a backyard chicken coop for eggs, and maybe a goat or two for dairy – would that form of vegetarianism be a problem at all?

    If the answer is no, then this is an example of a misdirected effort. Sure, the author’s intentions may be in the right place, but if the end result is a vegetarian deciding to include factory-farmed meat into his/her diet, while continuing to consume industrial agricultural products, then that just makes things WORSE.

    EVERYONE should be encouraged to grow their own food, raise their own chickens, and produce their own dairy as much as possible. Failing that, people should make every effort to buy from local, small-scale farms that maintain a natural ecosystem. To me, taking this attitude is much more productive than maligning another group of people for their beliefs, whether or not you agree with them.

    We are seeing how the in-group/out-group phenomenon is failing us now in the current political climate in the US. Republicans vs. Democrats, gay vs. straight, Wall St. vs Main St., public health care option vs. private industry, etc. Forming cliques and attacking the outsiders is obviously not a productive strategy. Let’s not alienate anyone and work towards education and support instead of hurling thinly-veiled insults (vegetarian “myth”) that obfuscate more important issues.

    Uncle Herniation wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • Both of them are bad. Industrial agriculture is globally unsustainable, and vegetarianism, especially veganism, is personally unsustainable.

      You cannot live without animal products – specifically meat and eggs. You CANNOT. You will be sick all the time. Lierre’s experience was horrifying. I don’t recommend having it.

      So while we should all grow our own food, how do you suggest we raise our own animals when the majority of us live in urban areas and when that ratio is going up every year? This year was the first year in which more people in the world live in urban areas (cities) than in rural areas. That’s not going to change. It’s just going to keep on going up and up until 99% of all people live in urban areas.

      Griff wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • I would have to disagree with you Griff. A bridesmaid in my recent wedding is 100% vegan, and has been for many years. She also teaches serious kick boxing classes, while working on her PhD. She is happy, healthy, and full of energy. Now, I do not subscribe to this way of living, and don’t quite understand it, truth be told, but I see first hand it can work for some people. It takes effort, sacrifice, planning, and understanding, but it is doable.

        JorgeGortex wrote on November 25th, 2009
        • I second JG’s point. I know vegans who are in fabulous health. It was my ideal to be a raw, vegan but a couple years in I hadn’t been able to completely go with it. When I found Mark’s site it seemed like exactly what I was trending toward. Lots of veggies and some clean, natural protein. I do want to work some meat into my diet so I think reading the perspective in this book will be a good step for me. Overall, I think those eating REAL, organic foods are going to be the most healthy. Some people are able to go into realms that other of us can’t so easily but I don’t dispute real food at all.

          Del Mar Mel wrote on November 25th, 2009
        • And I’ll disagree with you right back. I didn’t start having illnesses like RA until I went vegetarian for two years. I’m glad I stopped when I did, or I might be as sick as Lierre was. And I did all that “effort, sacrifice, planning and understanding” – and I was constantly sick as a dog.

          I have never yet met a vegan who was not sick with at least three different problems that were not responding to medical intervention. Never once. Vegetarians? Yes, occasionally – but only occasionally, because they were lacto-ovo vegetarians and at least got some animal products into them.

          Griff wrote on November 25th, 2009
        • I second Griff. Even if your bridesmaid friend is in “perfect health”, which I have a hard time believing, veganism will take it’s toll sooner or later. She may be healthy now, but she also could be a major life event away from a serious tailspin in her health.

          I’m betting that people who can live for a certain amount of time on a vegan diet are running on solid reserves they’ve been blessed with since birth. What I mean is, they probably have great genes.

          The thing about vegans is their diet is completely out of balance. Carbohydrates dominate their plate. Where are they going to get their protein? From starchy carbs in for form of beans, rice, whole wheat bread etc… Unfortunately, starchy carbs are the ones you want to avoid the most. But they base their diet on these starches because they need the fat and the protein.

          Anyways, I don’t want to bash veganism. But it’s not optimal for human health. When Dr. Weston Price did his world tour of various tribes in various parts of the world, he did not run across one single tribe that was sustained by veganism. Not one!

          E.M.R wrote on November 25th, 2009
        • Griff, I’m not sure that vegetarianism not working out for you or people you know is a good argument against vegetarianism. Many people know very healthy vegetarians – the fact that you weren’t one does not mean they don’t exist.

          Liza wrote on August 2nd, 2011
      • Griff, it sounds like you’re making a blanket statement about vegans to justify your beliefs. Obviously, most people know vegans who live healthy lives. Some vegans may be unhealthy, just like some meat eaters may be unhealthy. Broad generalizations don’t help us reach common ground. They just cause tangential conversations about whether the blanket generalization applies to everyone.

        As far as urbanization goes, last I knew, people could choose where to live. And even in cities, we’re seeing more urban gardens, community gardens, rooftop gardens, backyard chicken coops, rooftop beehives, etc. Humans are industrious and are capable of getting out of the grasp of industrial agriculture if they truly want to. This can be supplemented with CSAs or farmers markets run by local farmers. These are the issues, not whether some people choose not to eat meat. Stop making vegetarianism an issue and we can move on to more productive conversations.

        Uncle Herniation wrote on November 25th, 2009
        • UH: See my response above regarding vegetarianism.

          Regarding urbanization and choosing where to live: People live where the jobs are. That’s not really something they can choose. And yes, the urban gardens are helping to some extent, but not nearly enough. We are simply an unsustainable population at this level of people.

          Griff wrote on November 25th, 2009
        • Don’t know if it has been said elsewhere, but there is absolutely no such thing as a true vegan. The average individual unknowingly ingests all kinds of insects and other critters each year. As far as I know, that counts for protein.

          Uncle Bulldog wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • “You cannot live without animal products – specifically meat and eggs. You CANNOT.”

        There you go again, Griff, with your unsubstantiated claims. I’ve been vegan for longer than Keith was and I’m in great health. How can you make the statement above when there of millions of healthy vegans in this world and when even the mainstream medical community accepts that it’s not only possible but beneficial, while consuming animal products is detrimental to human health in myriad ways?
        Someone here surely is not well-read. I’m not naming any names, Griff.

        C wrote on November 26th, 2009
        • Think what you like, honeybun. The current science (as substantiated in detail by Gary Taubes, the Drs. Eades, and Mark) have demonstrated that what I’m saying is the truth. Lierre’s experience demonstrates the truth of the science behind what I’ve said. The mainstream medical community is a bunch of quacks who swallow what they’re told without examining it critically, so I’m sorry – not willing to believe their nonsense over the scientific evidence I’ve read and seen for myself.

          Now, you can believe it or not as you like, but I bet I’ll live a longer, healthier life than you will. You eat nothing but grains for a year, and I’ll avoid grains for a year, and we’ll see who’s better off by all the conventional measures of health come this time next year – how about it?

          And speaking of not naming names, I notice you’re not even willing to name yourself. I don’t think you have much in the way of credibility. So I’m not going to bother responding to you further. Have a nice day.

          Griff wrote on November 26th, 2009
        • No, you’re not in great health, you are probably 5’10 140lbs with no strength or work capacity to accomplish any physical task in life.

          grambo wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • ‘I’m in great health. How can you make the statement above when there of millions of healthy vegans in this world’

          …Speaking of unsubstantiated claims…

          What is “great health” to you may not be to athletic people.

          C truly chose the wrong site to spout off “facts” from the ‘mainstream medical community’ 😀

          Nelter wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • Great health, to me, means I have no self inflicted physical ailments of any kind. My blood vitamin levels are all within range –except cholesterol — which is below the normal range.
          “No, you’re not in great health, you are probably 5′10 140lbs with no strength or work capacity to accomplish any physical task in life.”
          “What is “great health” to you may not be to athletic people.”
          Where do you come up with this shite, nelter and gambo?
          I’m letting you all know that I have been vegan for longer than keith and I am perfectly fine, as far as health goes.

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • “The mainstream medical community is a bunch of quacks who swallow what they’re told without examining it critically”

          Sounds more like the majority of posts on this site actually.

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • ‘I am perfectly fine, as far as health goes.’

          I’m sure ur health is adequate for YOU while on a vegan diet. If ure lucky enough it may last you into old age.

          But you’ll never be in as good shape as you could have been.

          So just you keep tellin’ yourself that Mr/Mrs. Iinsultpeopleontehinternetz

          Then BAM! Herpes.


          Nelter wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • there is no proof for what you say. just more defensive omni talk.

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • I’ve been an unhealthy omni before, for over 20 years of my life actually. My health is much better now. Not that typing this will halt your unsubstantiated claims.

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • C, what is your height/weight/bodyfat %? What is your 400M and 5km run times? What is your max deadlift, squat and number of pull-ups? Oh you don’t do those things? You are not functionally healthy.

          grambo wrote on November 28th, 2009
  9. Wow, great, now I can do more than tell people that this book MUST be read, I can point them to your excellent review. Thanks, Mark!

    Lierre’s book is profound to me on so many levels. I was a vegetarian, then a vegan, I’m a Nutritionist, but am now leaving that profession to farm. Her book was everything I’ve ever felt, learned, experienced written with such eloquence as to leave me in awe of her talent. Lierre is able to write with compassion and understanding, bolstered by thorough research.

    I read parts of her book to my life-long farming buddy – a guy who has farmed his entire life, raising bison, cattle, and sheep on pasture and he just nodded his head in agreement to everything I read on pastures, grass, soil, ecosystems, and ruminants. He gave the book his stamp of approval with one of his “she REALLY gets it” exclamations.

    Tara wrote on November 25th, 2009
  10. As mentioned I definitely will read this. I can definitely identify with having a hard time eating creatures. That set in for me when I was very young.

    Mark, I’m curious. Carrie mentioned in her post that one of your kids gravitated to vegetarianism from a young age. Is that still the case? I know Carrie mentioned she sticks to fish only. Obviously you have had to confront some of this stuff in your household. It seems like you all manage to keep the peace so it seems you have found a peaceful way to all live healthfully and honoring one’s own inclinations. Have you written about that?

    Del Mar Mel wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • Del Mar Mel, it’s true, my son Kyle (15) is a vegetarian by choice. (My wife started him off as such and he continued after the age of two). He does eat eggs in some forms occasionally, a little cheese on a pizza, lots of nuts, avocados and nearly every day has a big glass of my Responsibly Slim protein powder (maybe 30 grams there alone) and a packet of my Master Formula vitamins. Additionally, he eats very little grains and tons of vegetables. He is a great athlete, the smartest kid in his class and has always been quite healthy. While he knows where I stand, I don’t ever get in his grill about how he eats. He’s almost 16 and has been proud to have been labeled as “the kid who doesn’t eat meat” for his entire life. While he probably will one day, for now I’d rather not be militant about my own position. In extreme cases, forcing the issue during teen years can backfire.

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • I had the same thing in mind as Del Mar Mel , For the most part of my teen life i was a vegetarian, ate meat a little once in a month when i was back from my boarding school to home for a weekend break.
        I really sucked at sports,athletics etc. i was an average student. My brother 4 years younger is a meat lover opposite of me but people cannot believe we are 4 yrs apart, most say we look like twins. He was among tall-heavy kids in class and i was among short-skinny-fat kids.
        I began changing my habits from CW to PB style and there is a great increase in physical performance and i am able to outperform many of my athlete friends.
        I really appreciate how you respect your son’s choice.
        My parents also respected my choice of not eating meat often and didn’t force me but encouraged me to have the meat that i like occasionally.

        Madhu wrote on November 25th, 2009
  11. This is very high up on my queue…looks excellent. I have a few vegan friends so I expect many interesting conversations ahead! :)

    Jeff wrote on November 25th, 2009
  12. That book seems like a good Christmas gift for my little sisters (they’ve both been vegetarian for several years). My heart goes out to vegans and vegetarians… for moral reasons I avoided as many animal products as I could for about 8 years, but fortunately about 6 months in I started to “cheat” once in awhile (never with meat or fish, though). Terrible guilt afterwards but apparently my body’s needs won out over my idealism… it probably saved me from a lot of permanent damage, and I don’t like to think of how much happened before I backslid.

    Animals used for food really are treated horrendously a lot of the time, and I would never eat anything other than free range/organic/wild caught, etc. Anyone who would buy intensively produced animal products while aware of the incredible suffering that goes into it (unless they had absolutely NO choice) is not someone I would want to get to know.

    Candace wrote on November 25th, 2009
  13. I applaud your approach with your son. Personally, I was thrilled when I saw Carrie’s post about her diet and mentioned your son. I had already been tending to eat like Carrie and the mention of your son further reinforced that I can do this without having to sit down to a steak everyday. Not that steak isn’t incredibly appealing at times but it is currently not so easy for me.

    I’ve had a tremendous education on your site and with your book. I hadn’t been paying much attention to animal foods the last few years so I had never heard of grass “finished”. After reading that I scoped out a butcher shop in La Jolla that is organic, pastured, grass finished so I figure I’ll make it in there at some point. Many thanks!

    Del Mar Mel wrote on November 25th, 2009
  14. I ordered this book for my vegetarian husband as soon as I read Dr.Eades’ review. But before the book arrived, he switched sides :) I’m currently reading this book and Lierre Kieth’s voice is compelling, passionate yet rational. I want to give it to my vegetarian friends but don’t know how to do it without offending them.

    maba wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • Ask for their help. It always works! ” I read this book that I found compelling and I want to share it with you but I am worried it will somehow offend you.”

      Whenever I want to give people advice they’re not going to like, I just say that I won’t say it because I KNOW they’re not going to like it. It usually works, curiosity wins over “being offended” and most let their guard down.

      HKay wrote on November 26th, 2009
  15. This book is next on my list.

    Ethical vegetarianism is a very tricky issue. I see two main general approaches to it: rational and emotional. My comment is about the rational side of it.

    Rationally speaking, and in my opinion, standing by vegetarianism as a more ethical lifestyle should result from taking into account much more variables than people usually consider.

    One of them is, as Griff mentioned before, the unsustainable population levels we have today.

    It could be argued that very dense cities have a lower environmental footprint that big, spread-out cities.

    Think of heating, for example. An apartment building in New York sheltering 200 people in a small area will use much less energy than 50 big houses with 4 people each. So it is not as simple as “you can choose to move to the country side and be greener”.

    Large scale monoculture do have a monstrous environmental impact through habitat loss, soil degradation, eutrophication of water bodies, leeching of chemicals into the soil, depletion of underground water stores, big increase of GHG emissions (solid preparation, grain cultivation, harvesting and transportation (to usually distant areas) is very fuel-intensive).

    It could also be argued that a vegetarian would have a lot of trouble in consistently meeting his daily caloric requirements without recurring to any sort of starches coming from large-scale monocultures.

    The above might be possible for some people, but if we increase the scale a lot, the scenario looks pretty grim if you ask me. Large scale vegetarianism would require very heavy changes in urban planning, and would probably imply switching from dense urban centers into spread out houses with big cultivated backyards.

    So advocating for large scale vegetarianism seems implausible. And small scale vegetarianism seems only plausible as long as the majority is not a vegetarian.

    And to complicate issues further, we also face the “my (human) health vs. your lack of (animal) suffering” question.

    Are animals and humans equal? Should we all have the same rights? If so, vegetarianism should be just a very first shallow step. urban living should be avoided, drugs that have been developed thanks to animal testing should not be taken, plastics and other products made from hydrocarbons, which are made from jungle-destroying and sea-polluting oil wells should never be purchased. Owning wood-made objects (even if the wood is certified) is in direct contradiction to animal welfare.

    So taking a superior vegetarian moral stand reflects, imo, an obscene oversimplification of the effects of our mere existence in the biosphere.

    It is tempting to take a more “primal” stand and consider ourselves as animals who act like animals, who are part of the biosphere and have a necessary, unavoidable and important impact on it, and who evolved to thrive on meat.

    But the question remains: are we ethically entitle to inflict animal suffering. If so, how much? And how can we do it while minimizing our environmental footprint?

    SerialSinner wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • The real root of the problem is there are too many people. The population growth is not sustainable for vegans or meat eaters in the long term unless there are changes, as suggested earlier.

      John Mathieu wrote on November 25th, 2009
  16. Oh god seems I got carried away, sorry for the massive comment.

    SerialSinner wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • Not at all, SS – I think what you wrote was eloquent and to the point. Well said.

      Griff wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • I agree-well said!

      marci wrote on November 25th, 2009
  17. Kindle has it. Boo-yah and purchased.

    emmcubed wrote on November 25th, 2009
  18. I’m thrilled this topic has been addressed. I’ve been reading the (mostly glowing) reviews about Johnathan Safron Foer’s book “Eating Animals” with some dismay. While no one in their right mind would agree that the industrial factory farm is anything short of death camp for animals, few people consider the ramifications of industrial agriculture. As I’ve mentioned here before, I was vegetarian for 20 yrs- and in excellent health, I might add. I rarely missed a day of work. Exercise and eating clean was, and still is, a big part of my life. But when I discovered this site all my moral arguments for vegetarianism were intelligently and effectively countered. The MDA, along with the works of Michael Pollen and Barbara Kingsolver, as well my schooling, forced me to reconsider my position. So here I am, a born-again carnivore, dry-brining our farmer’s market turkey for tomorrows Primal feast! I have to say the transition for me is hard- not the enjoying of the protein (yum) but the bones and blood- I’m still a bit squemish!
    I look forward to reading this highly recommended book as much as I’ve enjoyed the lively comments on this topic (and the site in general) . Thanks for bringing this up, Mark- my fave post by far!

    marci wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • I agree this post has been very thought-provoking. My situation is as follows, and I’m sure it’s not that unique.

      I became an almost-vegetarian about a year ago (I’ve eaten some fish – but I would say less than once per month). Mostly, my issue is with corporate capitalism more than animal rights, per se. I just can’t imagine eating the animals who are being raised and then slaughtered in the giant agri-business of factory meat creation. There’s absolutely NOTHING paleo or primal about it. But I also understand the problems of eating our corn-and-soy-based pseudo plant/grain diet.

      I’ve said for a while that I would eat meat if it was locally raised in a pasture. Similarly, I would like to eat the fruits and vegetables that are locally grown. Both of these are difficult for two reasons (at least). 1) It’s very expensive and 2) It’s difficult to get enough calories, which I guess is a question of cost as well.

      I would also be willing to hunt for my meat, though I’ve never done it.

      If sustainability is our goal – both personally and on a global scale – then what are we to do?

      It seems that some people here are trying to argue the point that allows them to continue living the way they already live. What if I want to live the best way? What’s that?

      Lance wrote on July 8th, 2010
      • Unfortunately, sustainability isn’t possible in tandem with optimal health. There’s just no way. We can’t support the 6+ billion people on this earth, and most of them never should have existed in the first place (and wouldn’t have but for the development of agriculture). It’s sad, and it’s harsh, but the fact of the matter is that we can either all die together of the diseases of civilization caused by agricultural foods, or a few of us can survive while the rest die of those diseases. There is just no way to make this bloated population sustainable *and* healthy.

        The “best way” is a moral issue. Unfortunately, the scientific reality of optimal nutrition and the moral belief systems about how we “should” live generally tend to be at odds with one another. If you think that the “best way” to live is by eating stuff that will make you sick and die early, then that’s your choice. But for me – I can’t be responsible for the entire population on the planet. I can only be responsible for me, and for me, the “best way” to live is one that optimizes my chances to survive.

        Griff wrote on July 8th, 2010
        • But let me guess, YOU just so happen to NOT be one of those people who “never should have existed in the first place.” It never ceases to shock horrify and sadden me to see people speaking like you do about your fellow human beings. The fact is, we as humans with our capacity for innovation and adaptation can and will overcome the so-called “overpopulation” you speak of. We may technically be animals but we differ from other intellectually inferior species in our ability to develop and cultivate new resources and new ways to do so with already discovered resources, unlike lower lifeforms that only consume resources. The “overpopulation” people always seem to ignore the facts that as a subgroup furthers their prosperity reproduction decreases accordingly- likely a survival mechanism for our species. The very idea that others “shouldn’t exist” is arrogance and conceit in it’s highest and most malignant form.

          Trav wrote on February 5th, 2011
        • Think what you like, I’m just stating fact, which has no moral component. I’m fortunate to exist, but I recognize that I and millions of others – you included – only exist because our Neolithic ancestors made a huge mistake and developed grain-based agriculture. If we had kept to what we evolved to eat, instead of one of those lovely “cultural innovations” you seem to think is so awesome, we wouldn’t be in the population situation we’re in now. We managed to circumvent the natural controls that used to keep our population levels in check.

          All our cultural cleverness – our ability to “develop and cultivate new resources”- doesn’t change the biological facts of what we can thrive on, and in this case, that development and cultivation of new resources (i.e. grains) has created the very problem we needed most to avoid. Oops.

          “So-called overpopulation”? What do you call almost seven billion people on a planet whose realistic carrying capacity can handle four to five billion at best? What is your argument, anyway? Are you just annoyed that I’ve suggested that most of us shouldn’t exist and that the only reason we do is because our Neolithic ancestors started cultivating things we never evolved to eat?

          Here’s a fun fact for you: human beings are the only animal population on earth that is no longer subject to natural population controls of predators and other natural dangers; grains don’t poison us fast enough to keep our population in check effectively, and we’ve eliminated or prevailed over all the other natural predators (other animals, diseases, natural disasters) that might have kept our population to some kind of reasonable size. Your naive faith in “cultural workarounds” amuses and saddens me by turns; we humans are violating natural law by having a population the size that we do.

          You can be shocked, horrified, and saddened all you like. I’m just stating the facts of the case: most of us should not exist. Moral issues are irrelevant to this. Whether I’m one of the ones who would have existed anyway is also a moot point; there are too damn many people on this planet for everyone to both survive AND thrive in a sustainable manner. I’m not willing to be sick anymore; I choose to thrive. If you choose not to because you think you somehow “owe” all the other seven billion people on this planet your self-sacrifice, more power to you. Just don’t expect me to jump off that cliff with you.

          Griff wrote on February 5th, 2011
  19. I’m halfway through reading this book and you’ve given me a great reminder as to why I need to pick it up and finish it.

    As you say, much of the content doesn’t come as a complete shock but at the same time it’s incredibly eye-opening to learn the full extent of the effects of a vegetarian diet – both to our health and our planet.

    Even a chapter in I felt powerfully equipped to fight back against some of the naysayers who claim meat-eating is ruining the planet. It’s actually been a great help in rounding out some of my own writing with some more detailed facts.

    Kat Eden wrote on November 25th, 2009
  20. It’s something most people worry about, they suddenly learn where their meat came from and feel remorse for the poor little “insert cute animal name”.
    The truth is, we disrespect these animals, in life by the way we raise them, and in death by not appreciating their sacrifice.
    Most “undeveloped” longstanding cultures perform ceremonies after a kill, honouring the animal for giving it’s flesh so that the community can live on.
    By not doing this, I beleive it encourages vegetarianism, and by doing this, you become more in tune with the life and death cycle of the world, the most fundamental system that many of us are ignorant of.
    Something to think about.
    Maybe a nature reserve for natural human existance is in order?

    Jack wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • This.

      An awesome response.

      Shannon wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • A nature reserve for hunter/gatherer man. At the current rate of ecosystem destruction I can almost see it coming to that.

      Nelter wrote on November 27th, 2009
  21. One of the things you said about vegetarianism I found particularly interesting: in the minds of many of it’s practicioners, the more honorable, and therefor more meaningful, approach to life was vegetarianism precisely because it was more difficult to live “free of death.”

    In today’s world, saturated with Kantian philosophy, many people regard something being more difficult, or even blantantly impossible, as prima facia evidence of it’s moral superiority. If there isn’t something to suffer over, or to act against who they really are for, they’ll invent something.

    What these people don’t realize is that, ironically, it is far, far more difficult to choose the “easy way” (ie: to take advantage of what nature affords us and to live in accordance with our nature as humans). It is more difficult because virtually every philosophical approach to morality, throughout history, has, to one degree or another, extoled the rejection of who we really are. To get over that – to truly reject the rejection-counseling notions – and to come to regard, with all of one’s being, living how we should live as honorable is truly the most difficult, and meaningful, moral test a person can go through.

    Grant wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • I’ve never heard one vegetarian or vegan claim that we can live a life free of death, or deny death, or whatever. That’s silly.
      That is just one of the absurd assertions which keith’s book is based upon.
      non human animals (at very least, the ones we routinely exploit for food or clothing) are sentient, meaning they are sensate individuals capable of having subjective experiences. Plants and microorganisms, as far as we currently know, are not sentient. They do not have brains or central nervous systems, as animals do. keith overlooks the fact that veganism is, and always has been, about living a life without exploiting animals as far as is possible and practical. It’s never been about being 100% vegan (that’s currently impossible in this society, which was set up by animal exploiters –human and nonhuman alike), and it’s never ever, been about denying death or the cycle of life. Who has ever said that it was?
      Again, more people who don’t read but are quick to attempt to justify their exploitative and oppressive habits.

      C wrote on November 26th, 2009
      • I’ve never heard one claim that death-free life is possible either, but that doesn’t stop them from holding it up as a moral ideal (and evaluating the various ways men can live based upon how closely they can approach that ideal).

        I say that any way of life which regards the impossible as the desireable is not only pointless, but actually immoral to follow.

        All vegans/vegetarianism is is a heavily-camoflagued recycling of the mystical, reality-irrelevant ethics of the major religions. These people think they’re nothing like their unenlightened cultural antipodes, but if you dig deep enough into the philosophical fundamentals you see that they’re exactly the same type of people. Both preach self-denial, both admire making things unnecessarily difficult, both extol the “virtue” of sacrifice (even if their objects are different).

        If anything, the only thing veggie-heads (and hippies/liberals of all sorts, for that matter) are mad at meat-eating, conservative, religious people for is that they don’t practice what they preach as consistently.

        Grant wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • I love how non-vegans always want to tell vegans what veganism is all about.
          It might make you feel better but it’s not reality, Grant.

          “Both preach self-denial, both admire making things unnecessarily difficult, both extol the “virtue” of sacrifice (even if their objects are different).”

          Where do you omnis come up with this shite? It’s quite comical.

          What sacrifice? What’s unnecessarily difficult?

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
  22. Elsewhere, I’ve heard Ms. Keith speaking about her acceptance of the fact that life requires death. That’s a definite improvement over her fanciful notion that it doesn’t, however I still suspect that she hasn’t completely freed herself of the trappings which could, once again, make her regard eating meat as immoral.

    She is taking the utilitarian approach. She is still hanging on to her belief that biological life, per se, is the root of morality; it’s just that as of right now she’s convinced that eating meat is the best way to serve that root. She’s saying, in effect, reject vegetarianism because that lifestyle actually causes more death than a meat-eating lifestyle does. That’s certainly true, but that isn’t what makes the latter morally acceptable.

    No matter which option she chooses, she’s still regarding an impossibility (life sustained without death) as a moral ideal, and then judging her particular options according to how close each one comes to that ideal. Why regard something which could never happen as desirable, preferable, or moral? It’s pointless. So long as she does so, the only thing keeping her on the meat-eating side is a large, complicated body of knowledge telling her that her new side is the least deadly. She’s right, but that’s not enough. What’s to keep her from falling into, for example, the rationalization – which many vegetarians already possess – that it’s not the dying per se which is the moral issue, but the pain involved in the dying? Clearly, if that were the standard, vegetarianism is the moral answer.

    How can Ms. Keith get out of this precarious situation? She needs to find a stronger grounding for her conviction of the moral acceptability of meat consumption than a utilitarian one. That means finding a stronger grounding for the issue of morality itself. In other words: from where does morality come?

    The answer to that question lies in the issue of volition. Volition is the ability to choose; to willfully guide one’s actions towards one thing and away from another. Inanimate objects don’t have volition. They simply react (or don’t react) to whatever affects (or doesn’t affect) them. Plants and animals, similarly, don’t choose anything. A tree does not turn it’s leaves towards the sun by choice; it does so automatically, as a result of it’s chlorophyll’s chemical reaction to sunlight. A bird does not build a nest because it prefers to keeps its eggs there, as opposed to buried under the ground. It simply does it automatically; as a matter of instinct. It has no ability to not build a nest, any more than it suppress exploiting the ability, inborn from birth, to build one.

    The only creature which possesses volition is the human being. Only humans have the capacity to override the myriad of plant-like biological and animal-like psychological urges afflicting us, and to do things based upon an imagined, conceptualized idea of how things would be if did them. With that in mind we can choose to take action, or we can choose to refrain. We are the only species which can do that. It is our volition which the root of the issue of morality. Morality is the science which judges volitional action. Action which didn’t have to happen, but did, because someone chose to do it. Moral/immoral actions are necessarily human actions, just as amoral actions are necessarily non-human actions.

    So what does this have to do with being a vegetarian versus eating meat? Every species has things which are good for it or bad for it, but humans are the only species which has things which are moral for it to do (or have done to it) and immoral for it to do (or have done to it). It follows, then, that the only *moral* question pertaining to the issue of vegetarianism versus eating meat is it’s effect upon human life. What humans do to animals is a moral question, but not based upon the effect our actions have on the animals per se. Ony based upon how what we do or don’t do to animals affects us. Certainly, that effect can take encompass more than just the nutritional issue – so the questions about the environmental and economic impacts of the two type diets are perfectly valid – but ultimately it’s not about how much death (of non-human living organisms) that each one causes overall; it’s how much death (or degradations in the overall quality of life) of human beings each one might cause.

    Grant wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • “She’s saying, in effect, reject vegetarianism because that lifestyle actually causes more death than a meat-eating lifestyle does. That’s certainly true, but that isn’t what makes the latter morally acceptable.”

      How is that “certainly true”?

      C wrote on November 26th, 2009
      • Seriously?

        100 pounds of beef: one dead organism.

        100 pounds of wheat: thousands of dead organisms.

        Grant wrote on November 26th, 2009
        • That’s rubbish! What about the microorganisms that are eaten by the cows? Much more than are killed to eat the plant source directly.
          And anyways, where do you get your figures… besides out of thin air?

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • Plus cows are provably sentient. Microorganisms, like plants, are not.

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • 10 pounds of grain = 1 pound of meat, it’s the average ratio.

          So, 100 pounds of beef = 1000 pounds of wheat which in turn equals tens of thousands of dead organisms.

          Rob wrote on December 2nd, 2009
  23. Beautiful. Robb Wolf bowed out on basically the same reasons years ago. It is frightening what people are convinced of.

    BMacK wrote on November 25th, 2009
  24. im linking you into our post tomorrow as well… Keep it up Mark!

    BMacK wrote on November 25th, 2009
  25. Hey! To each, his own. Some have to eat animal protein to be healthy and some don’t. Why do we have to moralize to be on the right side?

    Frenchie wrote on November 25th, 2009
  26. GRANT – I’m going to guess that you didn’t read the book because the criticism you do have would have been answered by the book. I suggest you pick up a copy. You say, “What’s to keep her from falling into, for example, the rationalization – which many vegetarians already possess – that it’s not the dying per se which is the moral issue, but the pain involved in the dying? Clearly, if that were the standard, vegetarianism is the moral answer.” Not true. There are two refutations to this. One is that in order to have life you need death. Keith says morality of life doesn’t enter in. It is nature pure and simple. Pain is part of death, or often is. If pain was the main issue then we are no better than the vegans on the website (from her book) that wish to divide up predators and prey on either side of a river to prevent death and I presume pain. Also, nature is no more moral or immoral than a comet in the sky. Keith would say you are guilty of falling into the “humanism” trap. Read the book for more details. Part 2 refutation: Keith (I believe) would also say that you are missing the central point: that agriculture causes more death, which would also mean more pain, than they know. Agriculture is death and pain. Not only that but it is death and pain that is only for profit. Agriculture, monocropping specifically, is death of animals. Death is pain, right? Death supersedes any human made rational that is anti-pain. Also, she takes down the philosopher Peter Singer (who I often enjoy) much in the same way.

    Bigby Suvins wrote on November 25th, 2009
    • You’re actually claiming that plants feel pain?

      Grant wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • That was proved long back in the late nineteenth century, by J.C.Bose.

        He showed that plants can “feel pain, understand affection etc.,”. He showed that they grow well with soothing music and get retarded with loud and harsh music.

        Anand Srivastava wrote on November 26th, 2009
        • No he didn’t. His observations don’t prove a capacity to feel pain. A sensitivity to certain things does not require that capacity in order to be sensitive.

          Grant wrote on November 26th, 2009
      • Yes Grant, plants feel pain.

        The Secret Life of Plants

        Ben Fury wrote on November 26th, 2009
        • Any book which thinks that an artistically written bald assertion is an adequate synopsis shall not be read by Grant.

          (Nor will any reply to a comment of mine which thinks that saying “read this entire freaking book” is a useful contribution to the discussion be responded to politely)

          Grant wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • Plant are not sentient. No brains, no central nervous systems, no benzodiazepene receptors or any other indicia of sentience, or the ability to feel pain. Is that seriously your only proof? The secret life of plantS? Really?
          Animals have interests. Plants do not. Do you honestly believe there is no difference in me putting a knife into a carrot and a knife into a cow? The cow will try to avoid the pain, the carrot will not.

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
    • Hello there C

      When you pluck the carrot from the carrot “plant”, it feels pain too. Plucking the garden knife into the carrot plant is the same as doing that to a cow’s throat ( sorry if u are disgusted, but that’s true)

      No, plants really have interests and even personality. If you play harsh music to them, they grow retarded. That’s what Boyce said. Ask a “plantologist” if he or she thinks plants hace thoughts and feeling too.

      And just because plants cant run away from the slaughtering human like cows, and can reproduce themselves, does not mean that plucking the carrots away from the plant is not the same kind of exploitation as say, milking a cow. Moreover, when you pluck the cabbage away from the ground, its life ends. The cabbage plant’s life will end

      FarmerH wrote on January 15th, 2013
  27. Just have to jump on the dogpile here in absolute enthusiastic support of this book.

    I don’t think I’ve written more than one book review on any book before, and I’ve so far done three and I’m probably not done yet.

    Don Matesz at Primal Wisdom blog has two excellent reviews up as well, one on the Moral Veg and one on the Political Veg.

    Richard Nikoley wrote on November 25th, 2009
  28. This book sounds fascinating. I was vegetarian many moons ago and it kinda sorta worked for a while. But then it didn’t and I suffered big time. This book won’t change my mind on anything (preaching to the converted?!) since I think I know a fair amount about the damage being wreaked, but it will still be a good read nonetheless.

    Thanks for the great review, Mark

    PrimalK wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes

      jude wrote on February 7th, 2012
  29. I like to think that by not eating meat I am affecting the supply/demand cycle for the horrific meat industry.

    i dont disagree with eating meat, just with the way we abuse and torture sentient animals to harvest our meat.

    If all the vegetarians in the world started eating meat it is undeniable that supply would have to go up to meet demand and there would be more suffering.

    Unless all meat was free range/organic and not tortured pumped with drugs and industrialised. That would be great.

    alex wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • Can’t the same be said for primals? If they went meat free, were should all those soyabeans, veggies and fruit come from? Either way we have to be aware of the fact that most of our food is made in a not so healthy way. Be it direct or indirect. There is enough meat to get your hands on that is not pumped with drugs or industrialised… Atleast here in the Netherlands it’s not so hard.

      Pim wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • those living in developed countries do not stop eating meat, and if those of developing countries (who are liable to start eating meat when their incomes rise) include it as part of their diet, they will positively be hastening mass starvation of fellow humans on this planet.Humane exploitation and slaughter is an OXYMORON.

      jude wrote on February 7th, 2012
  30. I’m surprised at the children who suddenly find out where meat comes from and become vegetarian. Children should understand and perhaps see where meat comes from.

    As a child, I used to watch the butcher in the morning say a little prayer and then slaughter a cow. All while waiting for the school bus.

    My parents told me back then that the prayer is to thank God for the meat and that the butcher is very skilled that the cows dies almost immediately. That eased my concern somehow.

    No longer religious, I still secretly murmur a prayer sometimes when I have my hands deep in bloody meat and never forget where it came from.

    You’ll probably have social services all over you if you take a child nowadays to see how a cow is slaughtered.

    It was not traumatic, it was eye-opening and educational.

    HKay wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • I am reminded of the ubiquitous shots of lions and cheetas and the like taking down a wildebeest, hyena, or what have you, often played in slow motion and with the sound off. This is considered educational television. Why is it OK to watch a lion kill its prey, but not OK to watch a human do the same? I really don’t get this attitude. (I agree with you, though.)

      Icarus wrote on November 26th, 2009
      • Well, those animals NEED to eat other animals. We humans have NO nutritional requirement for animal flesh and secretions. We can get ALL our vitamins and nutrients from plant sources. Therefore it is unnecessary for us to do so. That can’t be said for true carnivores.

        C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • What about your B12?

          Ben Wheeler wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • B12 is made by bacteria and is found in the soil. That’s how it ends up in the flesh of rotting animals (not to mention the bacteria present in rotting animals). I get mine from a fermented yeast. And B12 supplements are plant based as well.
          I’ll type it again – We humans have NO nutritional requirement for animal flesh and secretions. We can get ALL our vitamins and nutrients from plant sources. Therefore it is unnecessary for us to do so. That can’t be said for true carnivores.
          Why are the majority of B12 deficiency cases found in animal eaters?

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • B12: An essential part of a healthy plant-based diet
          by Stephen Walsh, PhD

          “Our need for B12 has nothing to do with a need for meat.

          Ultimately all B12, including that in meat and milk, comes from bacteria just as the B12 in supplements and fortified foods does.”

          C wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • Your understanding of this gets worse and worse.

          That should take up a good part of your day. If you actually did some actual research, followed the citation, a better part of a year.

          Ben Wheeler wrote on November 27th, 2009
        • Except that a growing body of science is showing that while nutrients may be found in fruit & vegetables, it doesn’t mean we are able to convert them into a usable form.

          Take beta carotene – Vitamin A for instance:

          I’d hate to think I was covering my nutritional needs, to then find out that I was one of almost half the population that simply cannot meet their needs on a purely vegetarian diet.

          Maybe there needs to be a way to ‘screen’ our genetic makeup to see what our genes are able and designed to thrive upon…

          Personally, my own experimentation with diet has shown that my system prefers to live on a meat-only diet. I am obeying my genes. And my lifestyle allows me to cover all my nutritional needs – but unlike vegetarians, I know for sure that the nutrients in animal products are directly usable by my body. No screening necessary.

          I respect everyone’s lifestyle choices, so long as they are doing what works for them and are doing their best to reduce their environmental impact upon the Earth.

          Girl Gone Primal wrote on November 29th, 2009
        • wtf, a meat-only sutainable diet?! you really belief that kind of bullshit? have you ever thought about how many kg of corn are fed to animals to produce one kg of meat? corn is one of the most bad ass monocultures out there, devastating the soil for years, if not ever; and it is not even the NATURAL food of cattle. it’s being fed to them simply cause the fact that it is cheap.

          subversive wrote on February 13th, 2012
  31. PS. If this is not posted somewhere else, here’s a very thought-provoking article about the ethics of eating meat:

    HKay wrote on November 26th, 2009
  32. Guess what’s under the christmas tree this year 😉 Hope I can get some of my vegatarian relatives primal!

    Pim wrote on November 26th, 2009
  33. Does anyone else find it highly ironic that this post immediately follows “Diet as Dogma”?

    Most of you paleo/primal people are just as bad as vegans/raw foodists when it comes to belittling other diets.

    Mark, thank you for exposing me to the primal diet and this book which I intend to read. However, the elitist attitude towards food that has grown around this blog has really turned me off. I won’t be coming back any time soon.

    AlainaOfArc wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • AlainaOfArc, I feel the same way and have limited my visits here for the same reason.

      I have learned much here that I am grateful for and will continue to carry with me.

      My focus has grown. I’ve moved on to Traditional Foods. Price’s research resonates with me and the community is very diverse and accepting. Besides, fermenting is fun! LOL.

      We are all just trying to do the best for ourselves and our families. When the student is ready, the teacher will come.

      Force leads to war.

      Shannon wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • Aw… cmon… it’s not that bad… it’s mostly fairly decent rhetoric.

      Nelter wrote on November 27th, 2009
    • You know, I kind of share your sympathies about it. I see many of these raw vegans saying primal diet is a disease and anyone who thrives on this diet is broken, just as primalers do to raw fooders. I wish we would all be more open to the idea that different diets suit different people best. I see it in my parents, dad says he feels heavy and queasy if he eats more than a few bites of meat, mom gets grumpy if she goes a day without.

      James wrote on April 16th, 2011
  34. Hi,
    A quick comment about a vegetarian diet: tried it for a few months after being a meat eater for all my life. What to know what happend? Lost all my muscle mass, became skinny, and people thought I looked sick!

    Jhon wrote on November 26th, 2009
  35. I think this author doesn’t know the The farmer and Filosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, whose developments in natural agriculture are outstanding, withouth the use of tilling, composting, fertilizing, etc etc, you should go and see this, read the book “The one Straw Revolution”

    Rodrigo Alemida wrote on November 26th, 2009
  36. Plus, we live in a very diversified world, with diferent climates, diferent people, with diferent constitutions, differente enviroments ofering diferent types of food. If you don’t consider Yin and Yang, you could not possibly help someone achieve great health, by just prescribing wath myght have worked for you.

    Rodrigo Alemida wrote on November 26th, 2009
  37. Here’s the thing. Vegans are obviously concerned with sustainable practices of producing food. Our current system of industrial agriculture was not set up by people adhering to vegan ideals. Since veganism began, Vegans have pioneered different, sustainable techniques, such as veganic agriculture and forest gardening because they are very aware of the problems with our current system (not to mention that a vegan, Richard St Barbe Baker, helped curb the cattle culture caused Dust Bowl problem in the 30s and spearheaded the Saharan reclamation work). To blame vegans for having to live in this current world with our current industrial agriculture is erroneous, to say the least. Everyone reading this gets their food from a store, not solely from hunting and gathering. Many recent studies have shown that vegans indeed contribute less to environmental degradation simply by not consuming animals, even much more than “locavores”.
    Veganism is the solution, not part of the problem. If it was more widely adopted then the vast amount resources that go into “raising” animals for food would be freed to benefit the environment and those in need. Remember that the vast majority of monoculture crops go to feeding livestock for human consumption, not to feed vegans.
    Paleo living could only be practiced by a small fraction of the current population. therefore it is an impractical, and elitist, solution to the many current crises we face today.

    C wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • ‘Paleo living’ eschews monoculture crops AND the animals who eat them. Animals are not supposed to eat grains. There is land that is not suited to growing veggies but is perfectly suited to grazing. Also, rotating crops and animals feeds the soil, rather than simply growing crops year after year in the same spot, which depletes the nutrients (and fertiliser from fossil fuels is not the answer, because the supply isn’t renewable).

      Paleo and primal do not simply mean ‘eat animals, no matter where they’re from or how they’ve been treated.’ You should really understand what you’re criticising.

      For thousands of years (nay, since before Homo sapiens existed – our prehuman ancestors used fire and tools to kill and eat animals – the reason we developed such large brains), humans have eaten a combination of animal products and plants. We’re naturally omnivorous and adaptable. Our digestive systems most closely resemble those of omnivores like dogs, NOT herbivores, whose multiple stomachs are fermentation vats for plant matter that humans simply cannot digest (but we can get those nutrients through consuming animals who eat those plants – bingo). This basic information is not disputed by the likes of biologists and anthropologists. The odd one will come out with something different, of course, but the exception isn’t the rule.

      There is no need to justify being omnivorous OR vegetarian. One is natural and the other is a choice, and I have absolutely no problem with people making that choice. Why should I care? Their health is their own responsibility.

      What I do have a problem with is cruelty – factory farming, destroying ecosystems through agriculture, and being a right knob to other people, which you’re doing, and other people are doing to you as well.

      Meat eating can be done responsibly, by people who care about animal welfare and sustainability – these people are not your enemies. If you have the attitude that anyone who dares justify eating the food Homo sapiens evolved on is the enemy, you’re never going to get anywhere. And that would be a shame, because I can see that you’re passionate about this.

      Ashlee wrote on May 8th, 2014
  38. What do you think animals raised for their meet, milk or eggs eat? Let me tell you: grains.

    Animal-based diets are much more unsustainable than vegan diets, since one pound of meat production requires 10+ pounds of grain. Let’s say if you eat vegan, you damage the environment 1 units. If you purely eat animal products, your damage is 10+. If you are in between, the cost is in between. This is so simple.

    Mert wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • Mert:

      Wow. Wow and wow.

      I’ve just bit my tongue over most of the veg-idiocy, but have to step in here.

      ….Simply to call attention to the fact that you either haven’t read the thread or are too stupid to understand it.

      In either case, #FAIL

      This is why I rarely bother about or am concerned about vegggggggggies.

      When I am, it’s merely for sport.

      Richard Nikoley wrote on November 26th, 2009
      • That’s funny, Richard because you are not really saying anything. Your petulant, wanna-be quippy one liners don’t add up to a logical argument.

        C wrote on November 27th, 2009
    • that’s why you eat grass fed animals

      leslie wrote on November 26th, 2009
    • We don’t advocate eating grain-fed meat. You are what you’re eating ate, too. We advocate eating grass-fed, pastured meat.

      So your straw man hypothesis is just that: a straw man.

      Griff wrote on November 27th, 2009
  39. The nutrition section is a little too WAPF-influenced for me; I did like the thorough excoriating the book gives to agriculture, however.

    It’s worth noting that agriculture has been violent and destructive from the very start, and that industrial agriculture, like the industrial revolution itself, merely accelerated the problems inherent in the system.

    Agriculture demands ever greater amounts of land to produce ever greater amounts of people; the only way to get that land is to take it from someone else. The story of Cain and Abel is the story that has been playing out since the Agricultural Revolution, 10,000: the agriculturalist takes the land of the nomad by force, sowing his fields with the blood of the people who once lived there. The culmination was in 1492, when the last place in the world left untouched by this system was taken. This is our culture – a culture of imperialism, but more importantly a culture where food is kept under lock and key and sustainability is hardly even thought of. Can we fix it? I sure hope so, but I’m not confident.

    Icarus wrote on November 26th, 2009

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